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Kennedy Family Continues to Keep Secret Government Records in Violation of the Freedom of Information Act

(Washington, DC) On February 12, 2013, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on behalf of author/historian Max Holland against the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The suit challenges the withholding of Robert F. Kennedy’s records while he served as Attorney General, including “assassination records” relevant to the November 22, 1963 murder of his brother, former President John F. Kennedy. (Holland v. National Archives and Records Administration (No. 13-00185)). These records are currently under control of the Kennedy family under the auspices of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester,Massachusetts.

Judicial Watch filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests in fall 2012 with NARA after press outlets reported that the JFK Library was in possession of more than 60 boxes of records from Robert F. Kennedy’s tenure as the U.S. Attorney General. Contained in these boxes are diaries, notes, phone logs, messages, trip files, memoranda, reports, and other records concerning the Cuban missile crisis, the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement, and law enforcement activities of both the FBI and Justice Department.

Although it has been reported that numerous government archivists and historians believe these records—an undetermined number of which are government records—should be made publicly available, none of the records are available for review and they remain under control of the Kennedy family.

In response to Judicial Watch’s September 26, 2012, FOIA request,NARA produced a list describing a group of records that were referenced by the press reports, including records involving the JFK assassination. Judicial Watch subsequently filed a FOIA request with NARA on December 5, 2012, on behalf of author/historian Max Holland seeking access to the following records:

Copies of the seven records identified in the enclosed “Documents from the Robert F. Kennedy Papers: Attorney General’s Confidential File which have been identified by the JFK Assassination Records Review Board as ‘assassination records.’”

NARA was required by law to respond to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request by January 9, 2013.  However, as of the date of Judicial Watch’s complaint, NARA has failed to provide any records responsive to the request or indicate when any responsive records will be produced. NARA has also failed to demonstrate that responsive records are exempt from production, prompting Judicial Watch’s lawsuit.

November 22, 2013,will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. The circumstances surrounding his assassination have been a source of controversy and public fascination for decades.

To complete the public record on the Kennedy assassination, Congress established the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), an independent agency, to “gather and open” all “assassination records” concerned with Kennedy’s death, as mandated under the President John F. Kennedy Records Collection Act of 1992, 44 U.S.C.§ 2107 (Supp. V 1994).

According to Judicial Watch’s FOIA lawsuit, seven records deemed to be “assassination records” by the ARRB, which issued its final report in 1998, remain secret to this day. They include some of the president’s personal records; documents describing Central Intelligence Activities in Cuba; a Cuban Information Service message dated1/26/63entitled, “THE PLANES THAT WERE NOT THERE;” a State Department incoming cable from Mexico; and a document entitled, “Information on Lincoln Bubble Top Automobile sinse [sic] returning fromDallas.” (A Lincoln Continental with a removable bubble top was the presidential limousine used by President Kennedy).

Judicial Watch and its client, author/historian Max Holland have, requested all of these records be disclosed pursuant to FOIA law.  “Over a six-year period in the 1990s, the U.S.government spent millions of tax dollars and untold man-hours in an effort to gather in one place all assassination-related documents,”Holland said. “It was and remains outrageous that relevant government documents in the papers of the attorney general at the time are somehow out of reach.”

“The JFK records are clearly government records and they should be disclosed in accordance with FOIA law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This lawsuit is about much more than the Kennedy assassination. It goes to the heart of how much control a presidential family may assert over public records. These records do not belong to the Kennedy family – the records belong to the American people.”

Holland, a 1972 graduate of Antioch College, is author and editor of Washington Decoded, an online publication. He is writing a history of the Warren Commission for Alfred A. Knopf publishers, a manuscript which received the J. Anthony Lukas Work in Progress award in 2001. He is a contributing editor to The Nation and the Wilson Quarterly, and sits on the editorial advisory board of the International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence. Holland is also the author, editor, or co-author of six books, most recently Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat (University Press of Kansas, March 2012) and Blind over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis (Texas A&M University Press, September 2012).

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