We still don't have all the records related to JFK's assassination. Here's why.

As of this summer, there were around 4,684 documents yet to be disclosed, out of millions released over the past 60 years.

Bryan Tucker marches in a protest outside the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston
A protester in Boston calling for a reopening of the investigation into Kennedy's assassination on the 30th anniversary of his death.
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On the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, 99% of the government documents related to his killing have been released.

The government, under both President Biden and former President Donald Trump, has released more documents in the past few years related to JFK’s killing on Nov. 22, 1963.

But both Biden and Trump have also withheld some documents on the advice of the CIA. As of this summer, there were around 4,684 documents yet to be disclosed, out of millions released over the past 60 years.

The last few thousand documents continue to stir up interest in the question of whether there was more than one person involved with Kennedy’s murder. Most Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill JFK.

But this speculation and suspicion is also nothing new. Since JFK’s death, a majority of Americans have believed that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in killing the president. In fact, the number of people who believed in a conspiracy was higher from 1976 to 2003 — around 80% — than it is now — at 65% — according to the polling organization Gallup.

The number of Americans who think Oswald did act alone is up now at 29% from roughly 10% during the period from 1976 to 2003.

Here’s what we know about what information is still undisclosed and what’s come out in the last few years.

 President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, and Texas Governor John Connally ride through Dallas moments before Kennedy was assassinated, November 22, 1963
Kennedy, with first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally, ride through Dallas moments before Kennedy was assassinated, Nov. 22, 1963.

Why more documents have been released

Congress passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 due to a public outcry after Oliver Stone’s film JFK was released in 1991. The movie stars Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison, a New Orleans district attorney who believed there was an elaborate CIA-driven plot to kill Kennedy, although most scholars of the assassination believe Garrison’s theories don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Multiple government inquiries, most notably the Warren Commission report of 1964, the Church Committee report of 1976, the House Select Committee on Assassinations report of 1979, had released most of the documents related to JFK’s killing by 1992.

The 1992 law created an independent agency, the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), that released more documents and issued a report in 1998. The law also mandated that all remaining records be released by 2017, but gave the U.S. president the final authority on whether to withhold documents.

In 2013, the ARRB’s former chairman, U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim of Minneapolis, wrote the board had prompted the release of “more than 5 million pages of assassination records, now housed at the National Archives in College Park, Md., and available to the American public.”

But, Tunheim wrote, “there is a body of documents that the CIA is still protecting, which should be released.”

“The point is not that the declassification will solve the assassination. Rather, release of these documents will further enrich the existing historical record and the CIA needs to demonstrate that it is not continuing to hide relevant information from the American public simply to protect itself,” Tunheim, who chaired the ARRB when it released its 1998 report, wrote.

Former United States President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jackie Kennedy
Kennedy and the first lady in May 1961. (Abbie Rowe/The White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library/Reuters)

Why the last documents are still secret

Trump released some documents, but not all, delaying the release of the rest on the advice of intelligence advisers. But from the fall of 2017 to the spring of 2018 the National Archives released approximately 50,000 records in several batches under Trump’s directive.

Biden has released around 17,000 records over the last two years, with the last batch coming this past summer.

There are currently about 4,684 documents that have not been fully released, the New York Times reported in July. A key wrinkle is that most of these documents have actually been released, but are counted as not fully disclosed or released because they have redactions.

The Times reported that the redacted records are withholding names, address and other identifying information of people still living, along with locations of places used in intelligence work.

Tunheim, however, concluded a decade ago that “we will probably never know the complete truth around the assassination of President Kennedy.”

“Investigations at the time were not up to today’s standards. Oswald’s quick death while in the custody of the Dallas police ensured that we will never know the entire story. However, we can do better. Excessive government secrecy has a corrosive effect and citizens deserve transparency.”

Lee Harvey Oswald, center
Lee Harvey Oswald, accused of assassinating Kennedy, is in the custody of Dallas police, Nov. 22, 1963. (Dallas Police Department/Dallas Municipal Archives/University of North Texas/Reuters/Handout)