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The Assassination Records Review Board was a unique solution to a unique problem. Although the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the subject of lengthy official investigations, beginning with the Warren Commission in 1964, and continuing through the House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978-79, the American public has continued to seek answers to nagging questions raised by this inexplicable act. These questions were compounded by the government penchant for secrecy. Fears sparked by the Cold War discouraged the release of documents, particularly those of the intelligence and security agencies. Even the records created by the investigative commissions and committees were withheld from public view and sealed. As a result, the official record on the assassination of President Kennedy remained shrouded in secrecy and mystery.
The suspicions created by government secrecy eroded confidence in the truthfulness of federal agencies in general and damaged their credibility. Finally, frustrated by the lack of access and disturbed by the conclusions of Oliver Stone's JFK, Congress passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Act), mandating the gathering and opening of all records concerned with the death of the President.
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 first two chapters of the Report describe the Review Board and its establishment. Chapter three explains how the Review Board interacted with the American public. Chapters four through eight describe the identification and release of assassination records. The last part of this report consists of the Review Board members' conclusions and their recommendations.
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