The NDC and Open Government

In Section 5.4 of its 2012 – 2014 Open Government Plan, NARA discussed how it would assume a leadership role in the inter-agency process of reviewing historically valuable records for declassification and develop common processes among agencies to ensure a more efficient and effective review.  As a result of these efforts, the National Declassification Center (NDC) was able to meet the President’s quality assurance goal.

It’s time to update the Plan for 2014 – 2016.  The NDC is committed to processing the referrals properly identified during the quality assurance review that was completed in 2013.  To accomplish this, the NDC will implement a referral tracking system that will automatically notify appropriate representatives of other departments and agencies when their referrals in archival and presidential records are queued up and available for their review.

We also will continue to solicit input from the public as to those collections of un-reviewed historical records should be prioritized for inter-agency review and processing.

We are currently asking the public to submit their Open Government ideas for consideration.  Ideas may be submitted as a reply to this blog post or to

You may also want to check out the kick off post on NARAtions, The Blog of the United States National Archives here:


21 thoughts on “The NDC and Open Government

  1. The most requested historical topic for declassification prioritization on the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) blog has been the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. In light of the very strong public interest evident during the 50th anniversary of that tragedy last fall as well as on the PIDB blog, the National Declassification Center should prioritize the remaining classified records related to the assassination for declassification.

  2. Every single document dealing with the Vietnam War should be available to the public – yesterday. Any military action where 58,000 Americans lost their lives is kind of important.

  3. What possible justification can there be for the government to withhold information on a 50+-year old murder case that the government and the mainstream media contend is an open-and-shut case of murder by a non-conspiring “lone nut?”

    The continued, corrosive secrecy has served only to convince the public that the real truth is not what the government has said it is.

  4. Please notify the appropriate representatives of the CIA that the 1,100+ JFK assassination-related records, held under the JFK Records Act, should be queued up and available for NARA review and release in the near future.
    Please continue to solicit input from the public about their views on the JFK assassination records.
    Please read the comments posted here as carefully as you read the correspondence of the CIA’s attorneys. Despite what they will tell you, the presumption of the law on JFK records is full disclosure.
    Please think about the importance of President Kennedy’s assassination in our culture, and ask yourself–not as the National Archivist or an official of the Archive–but as a U.S. citizen, what is the public interest and what are NARA’s true priorities.
    And please let us know what you decide!
    Thanks for listening.

  5. JFK historian/researcher/investigative journalist/webmaster Jefferson Morley has a list of the top JFK files & records he & his readers feel should be released before all other withheld material remaining listed at his website To citizens these withheld files are an enslavement of American history that prevents American children (including yours) the opportunity to receive a complete, unrestricted education on the life, death & events occurring during the Presidency of John F. Kennedy. Just as slavery of humans was abolished during the lifetime of Abraham Lincoln, the slavery of citizens’ history concerning the JFK assassination needs to be abolished by your organization immediately to physically demonstrate America is true to its democratic foundation.

  6. In the news today was a report of the Senate voting to declassify aspects of a CIA report regarding interrogation tactics. Then you have Morell’s testimony leaving you want to ask “what was he thinking”… I make mistakes at work. I’m sure you do to. It’s ok. Unless we don’t learn from those mistakes. How can the citizens of the US learn from what happened in the 60’s without all the facts.

  7. There is no higher priority for the NDC than the immediate and full release of all documents relating to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Truth does not have an expiration date.

  8. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Warren Report, a document most of the American public does not believe, according to polls. The government organized and funded this attempt at whitewash. This would be a perfect year for the government to open all records so we can get closer to the truth and get past the “lone nut” lies.

  9. I am sick and tired of the government keeping documents about the JFK assassination secret over 50 years after the fact. Our government claims that a lone nut did it. So what could possibly be in these files that cannot be released half a century later? These files should have been released decades ago. Release them now!

  10. I too urge the NDC to expedite the declassification of ALL records, documents, recordings, photographs, artifacts, EVERYTHING related to the assassination of John Kennedy.

  11. I would want any classified document relating to the Kennedy Assassination being released, Watergate and MK Ultra program

  12. I wanted to reply to the numerous comments regarding Kennedy records created and maintained by NARA as part of the JFK Assassination Records Collection. An entire FAQ regarding these records may be found here:
    Please note also that NARA does not have authority to unilaterally declassify information that is the equity of another agency and that records in JFK collection have already been reviewed.

    Congress created the Kennedy Collection when it passed the Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. This statute directed all Federal agencies to transmit to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) all records relating to the assassination in their custody. The Kennedy Act also created a temporary agency, the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), to ensure that the agencies complied with the Act.

    In addition to records already open at NARA prior to the passing the Kennedy Act, the Collection now consists of previously withheld records of the Warren Commission, records of the Office of the Archivist, and newly released materials from the Kennedy, Johnson, and Ford Presidential Libraries. Other agency records in the Collection include records of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, records of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a small amount of material from a variety of other agencies, including the Office of Naval Intelligence. The Collection now includes over five million pages of records.

    With a very few exceptions, virtually all of the records identified as belonging to the Kennedy Collection have been opened in part or in full. Those documents that are closed in full or in part were done so in accordance with the Kennedy Act, mentioned above. According to the Act, no record could be withheld in part or in full, without the agreement of the ARRB. The guidelines for withholding records are outlined in the provisions in Section 6 of the Act. The full report of the ARRB is available online. A copy of the Act is in Adobe Acrobat PDFAppendix C of the ARRB Report mentioned above. In all cases where the ARRB agreed to withhold a record or information in a record, they stipulated a specific release date for the document. In addition, according to Section 5(g)(2)(D) of the Act, all records in the Kennedy Collection will be opened by 2017 unless certified as justifiably closed by the President of the United States.

  13. First, I want to thank Don and all the other staff at National Archives for the work they do on behalf of our country. Second, with regard to the JFK assassination records, we clearly have very strong public interest in these records, probably the most public interest for any records at the Archives. In 2006 CIA released JFK assassination records early that did not have to be released under the JFK Records Act until 2010 or later, so there is precedent for early release of JFK assassination records. In response to the strong public interest and for the benefit of our country, we ask for similar early release of the remaining records. We could turn the tide of distrust that has built up over the decades with such an act of good faith openness.

  14. Unprocessed collection of State Department Intelligence and Research reports from the 1960s and 70s are worth getting high priority. They will shed light on many issues, including the Vietnam War.

    1. Bill,

      as an archivist who processed State Department records for many years, I agree. I will pass on this suggestion to the NDC team that queues records series for processing and reach out to State records management to see if they have any INR series eligible for transfer.


  15. Moved from Meredith Stewart’s blog of April 6,2014…Please don’t allow any more time to pass before releasing any and all John Kennedy assassination related records including those of George Joannidies. Come on 50 years,how much more time do you need?

  16. In his November 25, 2013 article in the Boston Globe, Bryan Bender reported NARA’s claim that “some 1,100 distinct” JFK Act documents are being withheld in their entirety until 2017, and that Judge John “Tunheim and his team did not have access to [these documents which] remain shielded from public view.” Tunheim was Chairperson of the Assassination Records Review Board which, in 1994, implemented the JFK Act. So, if anyone would know, he would. If accurate, it’s a flagrant violation of the JFK Act, which provides that the disclosure of JFK Act records can be postponed only if the Review Board itself voted on the determinations and published them in the Federal Register. JFK Act, §9(c)(4)(A).

    The NDC’s Don McIlwaine replied to comments on this blog calling for the immediate release of JFK assassination records. But, contrary to the Boston Globe story, his position assumes that the Review Board properly determined the status of the still-withheld records, and did publish those determinations in the Federal Register. And his note does not include any reference to what is being withheld, and by whom; namely, the CIA.

    The central issue here is that the JFK Act requires disclosure of the thousands of pages of CIA records still being withheld in their entirety, when they are more than 50 years old. The JFK Act, unanimously passed by Congress in 1992, carried “a presumption of immediate disclosure . . . to enable the public to become fully informed about the history surrounding the assassination.” JFK Act, § 2(a)(2). Regarding records then already 30 years old, Congress found that: “only in the rarest cases is there any legitimate need for continued protection of such records.” Id., § (a)(7). These records are now more than 50 years old, yet the CIA continues to withhold thousands in their entirety, and many more thousands remain redacted.

    Even if NARA’s claim that the Review Board voted to withhold these records until 2017 is true, it misses the point. Congress expressly provided that all records with postponed declassification need periodic reviews. Id., § 5 (g); § 9(d)(1) and (2). The last review was done several years ago, and recent major changes in circumstances warrant a new review and declassification.

    • First the 50th anniversary of the Warren Report is approaching. This will once again rekindle public debate. The public has a right to have all JFK Act records made available so there can be a fully informed public debate.

    • Second, in 2009, President Obama issued a new Executive order that greatly limited the amount of information that can be kept secret after 50 years have passed. Therefore, many of the records that NARA/CIA is keeping secret can no longer be withheld under FOIA, and FOIA lawsuits will spring this material loose. My organization, AARC, plans to bring such suits.

    • Third, Senator Dianne Feinstein recently revealed that the CIA subverted the inquiry of the Senate Intelligence Committee into torture allegations. This action repeats the CIA’s conduct in 1978 and 1979 when they corrupted the investigation into JFK’s murder by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The current exposures of CIA’s actions enhance the need for a full public debate and possible congressional investigations into their conduct.

    Finally, NARA is supposed to be an independent federal agency, not subservient to the CIA. At the very least, NARA should request that President Obama declassify the CIA’s JFK assassination records. If they do not, NARA needs to re-do its motto:


    Jim Lesar, President AARC.

  17. Besides releasing the unreleased files, it’s equally important to release the portions of the files that are blacked out.

    All informants’ names should be provided unless there is truly an extraordinary reason not to do it. Presently, some names are freely released, while other names are only released at death. This procedure just perpetrates a pattern of cover-up that needs to end. These informants are the very people that need to be interviewed before they are dead.

    Bill Simpich

Leave a Reply to Dan AlcornCancel reply