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14 FOIA Update 1 (1993)

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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Policy and Communications
Office of Information and Privacy

Vol. XIV, No. 1
   Winter 1993


Agencies Implement New JFK Statute

     Federal agencies are now implementing a new
federal statute, one somewhat akin to the Freedom
of Information Act that provides for special pub-
lic disclosure of records related to the assassi-
nation of President John F. Kennedy.
     JFK Assassination Records Collection Act
     The new statute, entitled the President John
F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of
1992, Pub. L. No. 102-526, 106 Stat. 3443 (to be
codified at 44 U.S.C. § 2107 note), was passed by
Congress last year in the midst of heightened pub-
lic interest in the Kennedy assassination after
release of the controversial film JFK. It be-
came effective immediately upon being signed into
law on October 26.
     Under this new statute, all Kennedy assassi-
nation-related records maintained by the federal
government are to be identified and processed for
inclusion in a special collection of such records
that will be made available for public inspection
and copying at the National Archives.    This in-
cludes many thousands of records compiled on the
assassination by congressional conmittees during
the 1970s, most notably the House Select Conmittee
on Assassinations, and excludes only the autopsy
records donated to the National Archives pursuant
to a deed of gift by the Kennedy family.
     To implement the JFK Assassination Records
Collection Act, all federal agencies are now re-
quired to identify and organize any records in
their possession relating to the Kennedy assas-
sination and to prepare them for transmission to
the National Archives and Records Administration.
     The Act provides for such records to be re-
viewed for sensitivity not according to FOIA ex-
emptions, but rather according to narrower nondis-
closure standards that allow for disclosure post-
ponement only where there exists an overriding
need to protect a government security interest or
the interest of an identifiable person. Any rec-
ord believed by an agency to met these standards
must be reviewed by a newly created Assassination
Records Review Board, which will hold final dis-
closure authority under the Act except in any case
in which the President personally overrules it.

     Additionally, the Act requires agencies to
create administrative records, called identifica-
tion aids, for all Kennedy assassination records
in their possession. Once an agency identifies a
record as falling within the coverage of the Act,
it must determine whether the record originated
there or elsewhere; whether the record previously
has been disclosed to the public, in whole or in
part; and whether any information contained in the
record is of such sensitivity that it falls within
a specific disclosure postponement provision in
the view of the agency.
     Agencies must specify such information on
identification aids for their Kennedy assassina-
tion records, in a compatible electronic form,
which is designed to facilitate both further re-
view and the process of public inspection.    All
identification aids will be compiled electron-
ically to form a central directory for Kennedy
assassination records at the National Archives.
     The Act provides that agencies must meet
these responsibilities as soon as practicable,
but not later than 300 days' after its enactment.
     While this statute thus creates a novel dis-
closure mechanism for Kennedy assassination rec-
ords that is distinct from the Freedom of Informa-
tion Act, many agencies are implementing it pri-
marily through their established FOIA channels--as
an activity ancillary to FOIA administration--and
FOIA officers at all agencies should be aware of
this new statute's immediate requirements.
          National Archives Coordination
     Implementation of the JFK Assassination Rec-
 ords Collection Act is being overseen and coordi-
 nated by the National Archives and Records Admin-
 istration, which holds responsibility under the
 Act for establishing the new record collection and
 for coordinating the creation of identification
 aids by all agencies on a uniform basis. Related
 questions can be directed to Mary Ronan of the Na-
 tional Archives, at (202) 501-5313.

 The four center pages of this issue of FOIA Update
 contain an updated list of the principal FOIA ad-
 ministrative and legal contacts at federal agencies.

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