The Kennedy 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 1978-1979, the American public has continued to seek answers to nagging questions raised by this inexplicable act.....These questions were compounded by the government 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 commisions 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 conclusions of Oliver Stone's "JFK", Congress passed the "President John F. Kennedy Assassinations Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Act), mandating the gathering and opening of all records connected with the death of the President.
The major purpose of the Review Board was to re-examine for release the records the agencies still regarded as too sensitive to open to the public.....In addition, Congress established the Review Board to help restore government credibility......To achieve these lofty goals, Congress designed an entity that was unprecedented.
Three provisions of the Act were at the heart of the design......First, Congress established the Review Board as an independent agency. Second, the Board consisted of five citizens, trained in history, archives, and the law, who were not government employees but who had the authority to order agencies to declassify government documents, the first time in history that an outside group has had such power. ..Third, once the board made the decision that a document should be declassified, only the President could overrule it's decision.......Fortunately, Congress also gave the Review Board a staff whose work was critical to it's success.
The JFK Act required all government agencies to search for the records in their possesion concerning the assassination and place them in the National Archives......The Act provided for the appointment of the members of the Review Board within 90 days, but the transition between the Bush and Clinton administrations caused an 18-month delay between passage of the Act and the swearing-in of the Board members......Only then could the Review Board hire staff and arrange for office space......The delay had two ramifications.......First, the Act stated that the work of the Review Board was to be completed in three years, an unrealistic goal since more than 18 months had already elapsed. (The Review Board's work was eventually extended to four years)......Second, agencies were sending documents to the National Archives before the Review Board established it's guidelines for their release......Consequently and unfortunately, once the Review Board did provide guidance to the agencies, much of their initial work had to be revised, further slowing the processing and re-reviewing by the Review Board and it's staff.
The above was taken from the Preface of "The Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board"