Final Report
of the
Assassination Records Review Board

September, 1998

Letter of Transmittal to President Clinton

Letter of Transmittal to Majority Leader Lott

Letter of Transmittal to Speaker Gingrich

Assassination Records Review Board

The Honorable John R. Tunheim

Henry F. Graff

Kermit L. Hall

William L. Joyce

Anna K. Nelson

Assassination Records Review Board Staff

Laura A. Denk, Esq.
Executive Director

Tracy J. Shycoff
Deputy Director

Ronald G. Haron, Esq.
General Counsel

K. Michelle Combs
Associate Director for Research and Analysis

Eileen A. Sullivan
Press and Public Affairs Officer

Douglas P. Horne
Chief Analyst for Military Records

Robert J. Skwirot
Chief Analyst for CIA Records

Kevin G. Tiernan
Chief Analyst for FBI Records

Irene F. Marr, Senior Analyst

Sarah Ahmed, Analyst

Marie Fagnant, Analyst

James C. Goslee, II, Analyst

Benjamin A. Rockwell, Analyst

Peter H. Voth, Analyst/Assistant Computer Specialist

Charles C. Rhodes, Computer Specialist

Jerrie Olson, Executive Secretary

Catherine M. Rodriguez, Technical Assistant for Research and Analysis

Janice Spells, Administrative Assistant

Table of Contents


Executive Summary

Chapter 1: The Problem of Secrecy and the Solution of the JFK Act

Chapter 2: Establishment of the Review Board and Definition of "Assassination Record"

Chapter 3: Public Activities of the Assassination Records Review Board

Chapter 4: Developing the Review Process

Chapter 5: The Standards for Review: Review Board "Common Law"

Chapter 6, Part I: The Quest for Additional Information and Records in Federal Government Offices

Chapter 6, Part II: Clarifing the Federal Record on the Zapruder Film and the Medical and Ballistics Evidence

Chapter 7: Pursuit of Records and Information from Non-Federal Sources

Chapter 8: Compliance with JFK Act by Government Offices

C. Congressional Records

D. Conclusion

Review Board Recommendations


Appendix A: The Members of the Assassination Records Review Board

Appendix B: The Staff of the Assassination Records Review Board

Appendix C: President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992

Appendix D: Assassination Records Review Board Guidance for Interpretation and Implementation of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992

Appendix E: Meetings of the Review Board

Appendix F: Summary of Review Board Votes on Records



This Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board details the Board's extensive work in fulfilling its statutory mandate. The JFK Act, however, necessitates that the Review Board's report be different from reports of other assassination-related commissions and committees. Previous assassination-related commissions and committees were established for the purpose of issuing final reports that would draw conclusions about the assassination. Congress did not, however, direct the Review Board to draw conclusions about the assassination, but to release assassination records so that the public could draw its own conclusions. Thus, this Final Report does not offer conclusions about what the assassination records released did or did not prove. Rather, it identifies records that the Board released and describes the processes and standards that the Board used to release them. The Board believes that its most substantial contribution has been to enhance, broaden, and deepen the historical record relating to the assassination. The American public ultimately will be the beneficiaries of the JFK Act and the Review Board's work in ensuring access to the extensive reach of the JFK Collection.

The first two chapters of the Report describe the Review Board and its establishment. Chapter one describes the context in which Congress passed the JFK Act and briefly introduces some of the records that Congress directed the Review Board to examine and release if appropriate. Chapter two describes how the JFK Act both enabled and delayed the Review Board's start-up. Chapter two also explains the Review Board's first challenge--defining the statutory term "assassination record"--so that its search for records would be broad enough to ensure public confidence in the Board's work but narrow enough not to consume Board time and resources on unrelated documents.

Chapter three explains how the Review Board interacted with a very interested American public. Chapter three outlines the ways in which Review Board members and staff worked with members of the public to develop policy and seek records.

Chapters four through eight of the Report describe the heart of the Review Board's work--the identification and release of assassination records. Chapter four explains how the Review Board developed a review process that would ensure consistent review of an enormous volume of records. Chapter five describes in detail the standards that the Review Board established for the release or, in some cases, protection of federal records. Chapter six lists the numerous requests for additional information and records that the Review Board made to federal agencies to ensure that it did not leave important stones unturned. Throughout its brief history, countless individuals and groups made requests of the Board for specific information. The Board had to respond to these by asking whether meeting these requests would yield additional documents. Chapter seven describes the Board's quest for additional information and records, albeit from non-federal sources, and thus expands upon chapter six. Chapter seven also describes the types of assassination records that the Review Board sought from state and local governments as well as foreign governments. Chapter eight provides details about the cooperation, or lack thereof, that the Review Board received from each federal agency with which it dealt, outlining in detail the Review Board's "compliance program."

The last part of this report consists of the Review Board members' conclusions and their recommendations to the President, to Congress, and to existing and future federal agencies. The Board recognizes that for decades to come the federal government will continue to face the challenge of finding the most efficient way to declassify its records, an activity the Board believes is essential to maintaining our freedom. Although the problems caused by government secrecy are magnified in the context of an assassination of a President in which there is great public interest, these problems are indeed present throughout the federal government. The remedies for excessive secrecy can be universally applied with positive results.