The National Archives have released 2,891 records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Oct. 26, but has withheld another portion causing controversy and backlash from the public.
This release of records falls in line with the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, which had put a withholding period for some of these records until Oct. 26, 2017, unless the president of the United States authorized further withholding. It is here where the topic of discussion starts, because President Donald Trump did authorize such withholding for another six months. Based on executive offices and agencies’ request in order to avoid harming national security, law enforcement or foreign affairs. According to the National Archives press release, “These instructions will allow the National Archives to release as much information as possible by the end of the temporary certification period on April 26, 2018.” Thus, many crucial documents will be kept from the public six months further, causing indignation from the people, leaving the question to whether the government has the right to keep withholding this information from the public eye and whether or not it should do it.
The answers to these questions might lie in the United States government’s history, which will probably lead to other questions. Does the government have the power to do things behind the curtains? Should the government then treat these matters with caution and discretion? In a perfect world, the answer to the first question would be much of ano, but in current reality according to history, the answer to both questions is yes. The U.S. government’s decisions throughout history regarding diplomatic and military matters have always had a sense of secrecy. In many cases, these have been a secret until revealed to the public decades later.
Two important examples of the U.S. government secrets and controversial decisions behind doors is the now known Operation Northwoods plan in 1962 and the USS Maddox incident. The code named Operation Northwoods was a plan by military leaders intended to create support from the public toward a war with Cuba. According to an article by ABC News’ David Ruppe’s, the plans included “the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.” Although the Kennedy administration did not approve it and never came to fruition, it is now known that the plan was undisclosed for almost four decades.
Then it follows the USS Maddox incident in 1964, where allegedly North Vietnam had attacked the USS Maddox (a U.S. destroyer) in Aug. 2 and Aug. 4 of that year. Now, it is widely believed by some witnesses that the second attack was false. In a New York Times article by Elisabeth Bumiller she writes, “President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the attacks to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but historians in recent years have concluded that the Aug. 4 attack never happened.”
Hence the revaluation of our perspectives regarding the extent of the power of our government. This takes us to the Kennedy classified documents and the present feeling of zero guarantee to ever have all the information available to the public, as Trump says on his memorandum, “At the end of that period, I will order the public disclosure of any information that the agencies cannot demonstrate meets the statutory standard for continued postponement of disclosure.”
We can only wonder what information meets this statutory standard for continued postponement of disclosure, and if that withheld information contains information that would damage national security, credibility or even international affairs.