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III. The Job Ahead

A. Remaining Records to be Reviewed

As the agency-by-agency review reveals, the Review Board has made significant progress in the review of identified assassination records. We believe that we should be able to complete the review of nearly all records by the end of this fiscal year with the important exception of the records that were requested of the FBI and the CIA in the course of the HSCA investigation.

CIA Sequestered Collection

. The Review Board has completed its review of the Oswald 201 File, the file created and maintained by the CIA on Oswald and the assassination. The Review Board is now faced with the task of reviewing the agency's "Sequestered Collection," the large collection of files that was assembled by the CIA in response to requests made by the HSCA. (As discussed above, the Review Board's Public Hearing on August 6 focused on how best to approach its review of these records. See pp. 18-19 above.) These records find their relevance to the assassination defined in part by the course of the HSCA investigation. The Sequestered Collection consists of 17 boxes of miscellaneous "working files," 63 boxes of CIA and HSCA-originated records, as well as 72 reels of microfilm. Unfortunately, these records are in a confused order, poorly described, and replete with duplicates. Some of these records are clearly of great significance, some are of only marginal interest, and the relevance of others cannot be identified.

FBI Collections.

The FBI divides its assassination records into two general categories, first, the "Core and Related Files," consisting of nearly 600,000 pages of files collected in the course of the massive FBI investigation into the assassination. The Review Board should complete its review of this significant collection by the end of FY 1997. The second, which the FBI refers to as its "HSCA records," is a large collection of records that were identified as being of interest to the HSCA and which remain to be reviewed by the Board. Like the CIA's Sequestered Collection, this voluminous body of records (approximately 280,000 pages) ranges widely in its relevance to the assassination.

An Approach to the Review of the CIA and FBI "Segregated" Collections.

In its review of the FBI's "Core and Related Files" and the CIA's "Oswald 201 File," the Board has subjected every requested redaction to a rigorous test: did the evidence of the harm that would result from the release of the information outweigh the public interest in the information?

In contemplating its review of the CIA's "Sequestered Collection" and the FBI's "HSCA Collection," which collectively can be referred to as those agencies' "Segregated Collections, "the Board recognized that it needed to develop a different approach, one that would take into account the varied degree of relevance of individual records to the assassination. Only in this way could the Board ensure that it would appropriately expend its resources. As a first step, the Board carefully analyzed each collection in order to determine what priority should be assigned to the categories of records. In addition, the Board developed a set of guidelines for the review of these records which recognized that some categories of records did not require the intensive word-by-word review that had been the rule for the core collections. The development of these guidelines began with the August 6, 1996 public hearing and culminated in their adoption at the October 16, 1996 Board meeting. The ARRB staff will distinguish between records whose relevance to the assassination is clear and those not believed to be relevant (or "NBR"). Applying these new standards will permit the ARRB staff to identify and review the most significant remaining records in order of priority.

These detailed guidelines will reduce the loss of valuable Review Board and ARRB staff time expended to review, on a word-by-word basis, those documents that have a remote relationship, if any, to the Kennedy assassination. Those documents that are identified as relevant to the assassination will be reviewed word-by-word. These standards of relevance are designed to ensure that the greatest number of true assassination records is properly identified, reviewed, and made public in the JFK Collection at NARA.

Foreign Records.

The search for records maintained by foreign governments has been compromised by frustrating delays on the part of the State Department in relaying cables to and from our posts abroad. Nevertheless, the Review Board believes that it will be successful in obtaining significant new releases of assassination records if it is given sufficient time.

Identification of New Records and Ensuring Compliance.

One of the most important and most difficult responsibilities of the Review Board is to identify additional records that are relevant to the assassination. This is a task that must logically come late in the process after the Review Board has gained a full understanding of the records that have already been identified. Although the Review Board has made a significant number of requests for additional records and information, much remains to be done before it can be confident that it has completed this responsibility.

Beginning in November 1996, the Review Board initiated requests to approximately 25 U.S. government agencies and departments asking that they fully cooperate with the Review Board in discharging its responsibility of assuring Congress and the American people that the goals of the JFK Act have been accomplished to the greatest possible extent. These requests were initiated to confirm that the U.S. government has identified, located, and released all records relating to the assassination of President Kennedy.

The Review Board requested the relevant Federal agencies and departments to provide a complete and specific accounting of their efforts to locate and release assassination-related records, including a full explanation of the destruction of any records. The purpose of this accounting is to confirm that the U. S. Government is not withholding material information regarding the assassination of President Kennedy or regarding Oswald.

In response, each agency and department designated a Compliance Official, who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that each entity has complied with its obligations under the JFK Act, including identification, location, and organization of assassination records and the transmission of those records to the National Archives. The Review Board also received agreements from each agency and department to adhere to the compliance procedures outlined by the Review Board.

In addition, the Review Board requested each agency to submit an Initial Statement of Compliance explaining the steps taken by the agency to locate and process assassination records. Once these Statements of Compliance are submitted, the Review Board will schedule an interview with the Agency Compliance Official as well as any individuals who helped prepare the statements. The interview will be used as an opportunity to learn about the scope of the agency's search and the location of agency assassination records and to resolve any outstanding questions regarding the search, including any subsequent tasks to be completed by the agencies. The Review Board anticipates that these interviews will be conducted in January and February 1997.

The agencies and departments were notified by the Review Board that they would be expected to complete the process of identification, location and declassification of its assassination records by July 1, 1997. At that time, the agencies will submit to the Review Board a Final Declaration of Compliance certifying, under oath, their compliance with the provisions of the JFK Act. This final declaration will set forth all of the information in the initial Statement of Compliance and will also supplement the initial Statement of Compliance by detailing any further steps that were conducted by the agencies in identifying and locating assassination records. The agencies' Final Declarations of Compliance will be included in the Review Board's final report to Congress.

The Review Board anticipates that it may conduct depositions, under oath, of Agency Compliance Officials along with any other agency officials responsible for complying with the JFK Act on or about August 1, 1997. The decision to take a compliance deposition from an agency will be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the importance of the agency to the work of the JFK Act and the sufficiency of the agency's efforts to account fully for its compliance with the JFK Act. Should the Review Board decide to require a compliance deposition of an agency, the responsible agency designee(s) will be expected to testify under oath on any and all issues relating to the agency's record search, including the scope of the search, the identity of files searched, the destruction of any relevant records, and any other matters in the Final Declaration of Compliance.

B. Recommendations for Legislative Action

The Review Board recommends that the JFK Act be extended for one additional year to enable it to complete its important work.

The Review Board has been entrusted by Congress with the significant responsibility of ensuring, to the best of its ability, that the historical and documentary record relating to the assassination of President Kennedy is complete and fully available to the American people. The Review Board has worked diligently and carefully to comply with the provisions of the JFK Act, painstakingly reviewing records and evaluating complex evidence submitted by agencies in support of postponing the release of these records. The Review Board's scrupulous attention to detail and careful weighing of national security concerns have required a significant amount of time that it believes was not foreseen by the drafters of the JFK Act.

As we have shown throughout this report, the JFK Act was unduly optimistic regarding the time that would be required to fulfill the Review Board's mandate as set forth by Congress. Neither Congress nor anyone else could have sufficiently appreciated the volume and complexity of work that would be required for the Review Board to complete the work mandated by Congress. The Review Board does not believe, however, that any additional yearly fiscal appropriations to the Review Board would have had a substantial impact on its ability to complete its work. Although additional appropriations will be required to finance the Review Board's continuing work, the Review Board does not anticipate the need for any increase over and above previous budgetary allocations. As a result of the Review Board's protracted start-up, a budget carryover of no-year funds from its first year would be sufficient to fund a full quarter of continued operation. The Review Board would consequently require only $1.6 million of additional funds to continue operating for one year.

Three unforeseen difficulties have impeded the Review Board in completing the workload created by Congress. The first was the inability of Federal agencies, particularly the CIA and FBI, to review and process the statutorily-defined "assassination records" in the time allotted and to make them available for Review Board action. Section 5(c)(1) of the JFK Act provided that all Federal agencies should complete their review and identification of "assassination records" within 300 days of the date the law went into effect (October 26,1992). Accordingly, all agencies should have completed the initial identification and review process by approximately September 1, 1993. In fact, no agency had completed its review at that point, and the majority of agencies have still not completed that initial review.

The second impediment was the delay in the appointment and staffing of the Review Board. Section 7(a)(2) provided that the President was to appoint Review Board members 90 days after the enactment of the statute, that is by approximately January 25, 1993. In fact, the Review Board members were not appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate until April 11, 1994. (During this 90-day period the Bush administration was replaced by the Clinton administration. Although the delay caused by the change in administration is fully understandable, it significantly affected the schedule originally contemplated by Congress.) Because of the lateness of the appointment of the Review Board, Federal agencies were unable to obtain the early guidance of the Review Board on the questions of the definition of "assassination record" and the standards for postponements under Section 6 of the JFK Act. Accordingly, much work of the agencies needed to be revised, which, in turn, slowed down their processing and re-reviewing of assassination records. In addition, the protracted start- up of the Review Board, which resulted from certain statutory restrictions and requirements, prevented the Review Board from being able to engage in the efficient review of records until the second half of its first year.

Finally, and importantly, the JFK Act properly affords the agencies the opportunity to provide evidence to the Review Board in support of recommended postponements. The Review Board believes that, in order to protect important national security secrets and safety concerns for informants and agents, the agencies need to have every reasonable opportunity to present evidence about the importance of redacted information. This process, which is an important component of the JFK Act, has been very time consuming for both the agencies and the Review Board. Although it could have acted much more swiftly by not affording the agencies the opportunity to collect and provide evidence, the Review Board would have neglected its duties to make informed judgments.

In summary, the agencies, for different reasons, have not completed the work assigned to them by the JFK Act. The Review Board attributes such delays by the CIA and the FBI not to any intended disregard or disrespect for the law, but to an enormous volume of work that they have not been able to complete within the short deadlines provided by Congress. The Review Board believes that in order for it to be faithful to its historical responsibility and commitment to release to the public all known assassination records, it requires an additional year. Therefore, it respectfully recommends to Congress that the JFK Act be extended for one year by amending Section 7(o)(1) by striking "1996, except that the Review Board may, by majority vote, extend its term for an additional 1 year period if it has not completed its work within that period" and inserting "1998."

List of Appendices

1. Financial Report

The expenses for all official activities of the Review Board and its personnel follows.

2. List of Formal Determinations

Actions taken by the Review Board for all documents reviewed through the October 1996 meeting.

3. List of Regulatory Actions

List of notices and proposed final rules.

4. Appeals to the President

5. The Pace of Document Review

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