Testimony Before the

Assassination Records Review Board

Oliver Stone's movie JFK, which so badly mangled the evidence about the Kennedy assassination, did have one positive result: the creation of the Assassination Records Review Board.

Charged with overseeing the release of records relating to the assassination, the board has proceeded to pressure government agencies, and cojole private citizens, to make public documents, films, and other materials related to the assassination.

This page is devoted to the testimony offered to the ARRB. It ranges the gamit, from sensible suggestions offered by authors like Richard Trask and Priscilla McMillan, to seemingly dull but absolutely essential information offered by archivist Steve Tilley, to crackpots demanding the release of materials that they claim the federal government holds, but which in fact never existed.

Fair Play Web Site Logo Detailed Accounts of ARRB Document Releases -- A detailed chronicle of document releases have been done by Joe Backes, and has appeared regularly on John Kelin's Fair Play web site. The documents, of course, have been released in batches. An interesting account of one batch of released documents, written by Board member Anna Nelson, is found on the web site of the Organization of American Historians. Search ARRB Testimony
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Witnesses Before the Assassination Archives Review Board

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The Assassination Records Review Board
The following information was supplied by the ARRB. It was current as of Summer, 1997. An article by the Board's Chairman, John Tunheim, provides a retrospective on the Board's work, which ended in September of 1998, and the Review Board's Final Report provides a more detailed summary of the Board's accomplishments.


The Assassination Records Review Board is an independent federal agency created to oversee the identification and release of records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The Review Board was established by the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection act of 1992 (PL 102-526), and was signed into law by George Bush. The five members of the Board were appointed by President Clinton, confirmed by the United States Senate, and sworn in on April 11, 1994.

The law gives the Assassination Records Review Board the mandate and the authority to identify, secure, and make available all records related to the assassination of President Kennedy.

The board has until October 1, 1996 to fulfill its mandate, plus an additional year at the Board's discretion to complete its responsibilities.

The Review Board Members

The Honorable John R. Tunheim; Chair; United States District Court Judge; District of Minnesota.

Dr. Henry F. Graff; Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University.

Dr. Kermit L. Hall; Dean, College of Humanities, and Professor of History and Law at The Ohio State University.

Dr. William L. Joyce; Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University.

Dr. Anna K. Nelson; Adjunct Professor of History at The American University.

The Law

The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act was enacted by the Congress and signed into law by President George Bush on October 26, 1992. The law states, "All government records concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy should carry a presumption of immediate disclosure."

The law mandates that all assassination-related materials be house in a single collection in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The Act defines five categories of information for which disclosure may be postponed, including national security, intelligence gathering, and privacy--provided there is "clear and convincing evidence" of some harm which outweighs public disclosure.

The law requires all federal agencies to make an initial assessment of whether they possess records relating to the assassination. The agencies themselves will conduct an initial review to determine whether their records may be disclosed immediately, or whether disclosure should be postponed. They agencies must then give all records that are not disclosed to the Review Board. The Review Board will then evaluate all agency decisions to postpone the release of records. Once the Board completes its review of an agency's recommendation for postponement, all records, including those that have a postponed release date, will be transferred to NARA. The Act requires that all assassination records must be opened by 2017, with the exception of records certified for continued postponement by the President.

Authority of the Assassination Records Review Board

The Senate report of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection act of 1992 stated that "the underlying principles guiding the legislation are independence, public confidence, efficiency, and cost effectiveness." In order to achieve these objectives, the Act gave the board the specific powers to:

- direct government offices to provide identification aids and organize assassination records;

- direct government offices to transmit assassination records to the National Archives;

- obtain assassination records that have been identified and organized by a government office;

- direct government offices to investigate the facts, additional information, records, or testimony from individuals which the Board has reason to believe is required;

- request the Attorney general to subpoena private persons to compel testimony, records and other relevant information;

- require any government office in writing for the destruction of any records relating to the assassination of President Kennedy;

- receive information from the public regarding the identification and public disclosure of assassination records; and

- hold hearings, administer oaths, and subpoena witnesses and documents.

Background and Need for the Law

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while traveling in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. His tragic death, and the subsequent murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the president's alleged assassin, led to the creation of the Warren Commission, seven days after the assassination.

Amid continuing public doubts that all of the facts surrounding the assassination had not come to light, the House of Representatives established the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1976 to reopen the investigation.

In addition to these two major federal investigations devoted to the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy, three other federal investigatory bodies have dealt with the assassination to some degree. President Ford created The Rockefeller Commission in 1975 to investigate Central Intelligence Agency activities within the United states. Part of the Commission's efforts related to the Kennedy assassination. Also in 1975, Congress created the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (the Church Committee) and the House Select Committee on Intelligence (the Pike Committee). Some of the work of these committees was related to the assassination.

Despite these official investigations, and with private researchers continuing their efforts, the public was not satisfied that all of their questions about the assassination of President Kennedy had been answered. The result was the passage of The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which included the creation of the Assassination Records Review Board.

Accomplishments of the Review Board

Through October, 1996, the Review Board had acted to transfer nearly 10,000 to the National Archives and Records Administration for inclusion in the JFK Collection. At the end of 1996, that collection totaled approximately 3.1 million pages.

Government Records Related to the Assassination -- By the end of 1997, the Review board will have reviewed and processed nearly all of the assassination records that have been identified by federal agencies, with the important exceptions of the FBI and CIA. The overwhelming majority of previously redacted information will have been made public.

These Records Include:

- Thousands of CIA documents on Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of President Kennedy that make up the CIA's Oswald File

- Thousands of once-secret records from the investigation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, including the controversial Staff Report on Oswald and Mexico City.

- Thousands of records from the FBI's core and related assassination files

Private and Local Records -- The Board has identified and secured significant assassination-related records in the hands of private citizens and local government, including copies of the official records of District Attorney Jim Garrison's investigation of the assassination, the personal papers of Warren Commission Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin, as well as long-lost films taken in Dallas on November 22, 1963 that the public had never seen.

The Job Ahead

Sequestered Collections -- Additional time will permit the Board to complete its review of the huge and critically important collections of records at the CIA and FBI that were requested by the HSCA in the course of their investigation.

The Records of Some Agencies and Congressional Committees -- Additional time will allow the Board to finish its work with several agencies and Congressional committees (NSA, Secret Service, Senate Intelligence Committee).

Search for Additional Records -- Additional time will permit the Board's search for additional records held by government agencies, private individuals, and local governments to be concluded with greater confidence. Some of these records have been identified, but not yet acquired by the Board.

Foreign Records -- The Board has started the process of collecting and reviewing records held by a number of foreign countries (Russia, Belarus, Mexico, England, Germany, France, Japan. Cuba). Contact has been made with several countries. Additional time will increase the likelihood of success.

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