JFK Assassination Records Board Ends Work; Issues Final Report
The Assassination Records Review Board, created out of a broad public conviction that the government was hiding important information, finished its work on Sept. 30, 1998. The Board collected and released thousands of previously secret government records about President John F. Kennedy's murder. The Board concluded that aggressive efforts are needed to pursue still more. Required by law to close its doors the agency said in a final 236-page report that its aggressive efforts frequently paid off, but that it is still worried that "critical records may have been withheld" from its scrutiny. The agency said it did not secure "all that was 'out there.' "
Seal of the Assassination Records Review Board
(ARRB Final Report)
Final Report of the Assassination Records
Review Board September 30, 1998
Executive Summary from the Final Report
The Assassination Records Review Board was a unique solution to a unique problem. Although the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the subject of lengthy official investigations, beginning with the Warren Commission in 1964 and continuing through the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978-79, the American public has continued to seek answers to nagging questions raised by this inexplicable act. These questions were compounded by the government penchant for secrecy. Fears sparked by the Cold War discouraged the release of documents, particularly those of the intelligence and security agencies. Even the records created by the investigative commissions and committees were withheld from public view and sealed. As a result, the official record on the assassination of President Kennedy remained shrouded in secrecy and mystery.
The suspicions created by government secrecy eroded confidence in the truthfulness of federal agencies in general and damaged their credibility. Finally, frustrated by the lack of access and disturbed by the conclusions of Oliver Stone's "JFK," Congress passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Act), mandating the gathering and opening of all records concerned with the death of the President.
The major purpose of the Review Board was to re-examine for release the records that the agencies still regarded as too sensitive to open to the public. In addition, Congress established the Review Board to help restore government credibility. To achieve these lofty goals, Congress designed an entity that was unprecedented.
Three provisions of the Act were at the heart of the design. First, Congress established the Review Board as an independent agency. Second, the Board consisted of five citizens, trained in history, archives, and the law, who were not government employees but who had the ability to order agencies to declassify government documents the first time in history that an outside group has had such power. Third, once the Board made the decision that a document should be declassified, only the President could overrule its decision. Fortunately, Congress also gave the Board a staff whose work was critical to its success.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
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