President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992

President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titles JFK Records Act
Long title An Act to provide for the expeditious disclosure of records relevant to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Nicknames Kennedy Assassination (Open Files) Bill
Enacted by the 102nd United States Congress
Effective October 26, 1992
Public law 102-526
Statutes at Large 106 Stat. 3443
Titles amended 44 U.S.C.: Public Printing and Documents
U.S.C. sections amended 44 U.S.C. ch. 21 § 2107
Legislative history
Major amendments
Pub.L. 103–345, 108 Stat. 3128, enacted October 6, 1994

The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, or the JFK Records Act, is a public law passed by the United States Congress, effective October 26, 1992.[1] It directed the National Archives and Records Administration to establish a collection of records to be known as the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection. It stated that the collection shall consist of copies of all U.S. government records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, which shall be transmitted to the National Archives. Assassination records also included those created or made available for use by, obtained by, or otherwise came into the possession of any state or local law enforcement office that provided support or assistance or performed work in connection with a federal inquiry into the assassination.


The final report of the ARRB partially credited the conclusions in Oliver Stone's film JFK with the passage of the Act.[2] The ARRB stated that the film "popularized a version of President Kennedy’s assassination that featured U.S. government agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the military as conspirators."[3]

Requirements and process

The Act requires that each assassination record be publicly disclosed in full, and be available in the collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of the Act (i.e., October 26, 2017), unless the President of the United States certifies that: (1) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations; and (2) the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

The definition of "assassination record" was left broad by the Act and determined in practice by the ARRB; a final definition was published in the Federal Register on June 28, 1995.[4] The basic definition was

"An assassination record includes, but is not limited to, all records, public and private, regardless of how labeled or identified, that document, describe, report on, analyze, or interpret activities, persons, or events reasonably related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and investigations of or inquiries into the assassination."

This was supplemented with coverage of all government records relating to investigations of the assassination (including those specified in section 3(2) of the Act), as well as supplementary records required to clarify meanings of other documents (such as code names used).[4]

The ARRB determined that agencies could not object to disclosure "solely on grounds of non-relevance", with the ARRB deciding that it would determine relevance.[4]

Assassination Records Review Board

The Act established, as an independent agency, the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) to consider and render decisions when a U.S. government office sought to postpone the disclosure of assassination records. The Board met for four years, from October 1, 1994 to September 30, 1998. When the Act was passed in 1992, 98 percent of all Warren Commission documents had been released to the public. By the time the Board disbanded, all Warren Commission documents, except income tax returns, had been released to the public, with only minor redactions.[5]

The ARRB collected evidence starting in 1992, then produced its final report in 1998.[4] The ARRB was not enacted to determine why or by whom the murder was committed but to collect and preserve the evidence for public scrutiny. After the enactment of the federal law that created the ARRB, the Board collected a large amount of documents and took testimony of those who had relevant information of the events. The Committee finished its work in 1998 and in its final report, the ARRB outlined the problems that government secrecy created regarding the murder of President Kennedy.[6] During the 1990s it collected the assassination documents which have been slowly released for public scrutiny.[7]

Some of the information was gathered by way of testimony from witnesses that had eyewitness knowledge of the events. For example, the Board interviewed the physicians who treated the president's massive head wound at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.[8] This was a highly trained team of emergency care physicians, some of whom testified in secret before the Warren Commission. These transcripts have now also been made public.[9] Other information consists of a large number of documents from the FBI and CIA that were required to cooperate with the turnover of relevant records held secret by these agencies.


By ARRB law (of 1998), all existing assassination-related documents will be made public by October 2017.[10] At the moment, 40,000 documents are still not fully available to the public, among them, 3,000 have never been seen by the public.[11]

In 2013 the ARRB's former chairman John R. Tunheim and former deputy director Thomas Samoluk wrote in the Boston Globe that after the ARRB had declassified 5 million documents, "There is a body of documents that the CIA is still protecting, which should be released. Relying on inaccurate representations made by the CIA in the mid-1990s, the Review Board decided that records related to a deceased CIA agent named George Joannides were not relevant to the assassination. Subsequent work by researchers, using other records that were released by the board, demonstrates that these records should be made public." Tunheim and Samoluk pointed out that the CIA had not told the Warren Commission that George Joannides was the CIA lead for the Agency's links with the anti-Castro group Oswald had a public fight with in mid-1963; nor had they told the HSCA, to which Joannides was the CIA's liaison.[12] Tunheim said in a separate interview that "It really was an example of treachery... If [the CIA] fooled us on that, they may have fooled us on other things."[13]

See also


  1. Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "George Bush: "Statement on Signing the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992," October 26, 1992". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
  2. Assassination Records Review Board (September 30, 1998). "Executive Summary". Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board (pdf). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. xxiii. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  3. Assassination Records Review Board (September 30, 1998). "Chapter 1: The Problem of Secrecy and the JFK Act". Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board (pdf). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. 6. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Assassination Records Review Board (September 30, 1998). Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board (pdf). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  5. ARRB Final Report, p. 2. Redacted text includes the names of living intelligence sources, intelligence gathering methods still used today and not commonly known, and purely private matters. The Kennedy autopsy photographs and X-rays were never part of the Warren Commission records and were deeded separately to the National Archives by the Kennedy family in 1966 under restricted conditions. The JFK Records Act specifically excluded those records.
  6. ARRB Final Report, Chapter 1: The Problem of Secrecy and the Solution of the JFK Act
  7. Witnesses Before the Assassination Archives Review Board
  9. Testimony Of Dr. Robert Nelson McClelland
  10. "Chapter 5 The Standards for Review: Review Board "Common Law"". Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board. September 1998. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  11. "Why the last of the JFK files could embarrass the CIA". Politico. May 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  12. John R. Tunheim and Thomas E. Samoluk, Boston Globe, 21 November 2013, Assassination questions remain: With much revealed, CIA still holds back
  13. Bryan Bender, The Boston Globe, 25 November 2013, Troves of files on JFK assassination remain secret
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