Secret government files relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy were supposed to be released by next week. But now President Joe Biden has postponed the release once again, this time blaming delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The documents will now be released in two batches, one later this year and a larger one late next year, Biden said in a White House memo.
The memo doesn’t actually go into detail on how the pandemic affected the review process, only noting that the national archivist had requested the delay in the release of the documents because the pandemic “has had a significant impact on the agencies” reviewing the redactions in the document. “The Archivist has also noted that ‘making these decisions is a matter that requires a professional, scholarly, and orderly process; not decisions or releases made in haste,’” Biden writes in the memo, saying he agreed with the recommendation that more time was needed.
In addition to authorizing the delay in the release of the documents, the memo also details that Biden has called on the National Archives to put forward a plan to digitize the more than 250,000 records that have already been released regarding Kennedy’s assassination. Although more than 90 percent of records having to do with the assassination have been publicly released, many are only available to people willing to travel to the National Archives site in Maryland.
The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act dating back to 1992 had said all files should be publicly released by October 2017. But it allowed for delay when there were concerns over national security. Then-President Donald Trump authorized the release of almost 20,000 documents but delayed the disclosure of other files, setting the deadline of Oct. 26, 2021.
People who have been eagerly awaiting the documents were none too happy with the new delay. Jefferson Morley, who edits JFKFacts.org, criticized the move, likening the White House explanation for the delay as the “COVID dog ate my homework” excuse. “Let’s not make hasty decisions? After 29 years of stonewalling, they don’t want to make a hasty decision,” Morley told the Washington Post. “They are saying very clearly they do not intend to obey the law … it’s a ruse.”