President Donald Trump affirmed that he plans to release the long-secret CIA and FBI files concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Trump’s move might seem to critics as yet another attempt to undermine two US intelligence agencies he has had some trouble with — one of which was headed by Trump enemy James Comey until his recent firing by the president. (Experts expect the release of the files to reflect poorly in many ways on the CIA and FBI and their handling of the enormously sensitive case.)
But those seeking to finger Trump as using the files to sow further discord are ignoring the real source of the release: Congress — and a very different Congress than the one run by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. In tweeting this weekend that he will allow the release the JFK files “subject to further information” Trump is acting in accord with a release date mandated by Congress way back in 1992, which called for the files to be made public within the next 25 years. The deadline for that congressional stipulation — called the Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act — occurs on October 26, 2017. The president retains the power to withhold the JFK files, and/or redact any parts of the files that he deems could cause a threat to US security if released. Experts believe the files will be of interest primarily for showing how the CIA and FBI conducted and protected information about the case, as opposed to providing new information about the actual assassination, which is famously the hub of myriad conspiracy theories. The Kennedy Assassination Records archive contains more than 3,000 unreleased documents, plus 30,000 others which were released previously but with redactions.