Back in 1968, Jim Garrison (New Orleans District Attorney) was interviewed by Johnny Carson about the JFK assassination. During this interview, Jim Garrison mentioned an Executive Order that keeps JFK murder evidence unavailable until a distant future.

The statement below starts at 2 minutes 42 seconds in this YouTube video:

The Executive Order, which forbids every person in this audience, and every person who's listening to this program, which forbids them to look at this evidence until September in the year 2039, was issued by the President of the United States.

I was looking for Executive Orders signed by U.S. Presidents but for example this Federal Register of Executive Orders goes back only to 1994.

Additionally the Wikipedia page about year 2038 says the following:

September – According to the film JFK, previously classified documents relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy will be released to the public. However, the actual date is 2017.

The film "JFK" referred to by above page was made by Oliver Stone and came out in 1991 (with Kevin Costner starring as Jim Garrison).

Question: Does an Executive Order keep JFK murder evidence unavailable until 2039, 2038 or 2017?

1 Answer 1


The documents were scheduled to be released in 2017 unless the President stopped it. The 2017 date (specifically October 26, 2017) came from the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act. This act was passed by Congress and President Bush signed it on October 26, 1992. (More on the JFK Assassination Records Processing Project page.)

October 26th, 2017 passed, and some of the records were released. But not all of them... As I said, only the President could prevent documents from being released, and that he did—at least for now. Here's what Trump said in a memo on October 26th:

The American public expects — and deserves — its Government to provide as much access as possible to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records (records) so that the people may finally be fully informed about all aspects of this pivotal event. Therefore, I am ordering today that the veil finally be lifted. At the same time, executive departments and agencies (agencies) have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns. I have no choice — today — but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our Nation’s security. To further address these concerns, I am also ordering agencies to re-review each and every one of those redactions over the next 180 days. At the end of that period, I will order the public disclosure of any information that the agencies cannot demonstrate meets the statutory standard for continued postponement of disclosure under section 5(g) (2)(D) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) (the “Act”).
The NY Times: J.F.K. Assassination Files Released, Highlighting Hoover, L.B.J. Among Others

180 days later, on April 26, 2018, some more documents were released..

After that, also in 2018, a further deadline was announced: "The President [Trump] has determined that all information that remains withheld under section 5 must be reviewed again before October 26, 2021 to determine whether continued withholding from disclosure is necessary."

In 2021, more documents were released. However, according to POLITICO, many documents still remain classified:

More than 14,000 classified documents somehow related to the president’s murder remain locked away, in part or in full, at the National Archives in clear violation of the spirit of a landmark 1992 transparency law that was supposed to force the release of virtually all of them years ago.

In December 2022, over 13,000 more documents were released, which means 97% of everything is public. See also the Archives.gov article.

Obviously, this wasn't around in 1968, when the interview was given. I'm not sure where the 2038/2039 date comes from exactly, but Wikipedia says this:

The unpublished portion of those records was initially sealed for 75 years (to 2039) under a general National Archives policy that applied to all federal investigations by the executive branch of government, a period "intended to serve as protection for innocent persons who could otherwise be damaged because of their relationship with participants in the case.” The 75-year rule no longer exists, supplanted by the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 and the JFK Records Act of 1992.
Wikipedia: Warren Commission

According to the Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board, in 1991 the release date was going to be 2029:

While the movie [JFK, 1991] was largely fictional, the information that Stone conveyed in the movie’s closing trailer was true: the HSCA [United States House Select Committee on Assassinations] had reinvestigated the murder and issued a provocative report, but their records were sealed until the year 2029.

  • 3
    @coderworks Yeah, I intend to update the answer in a week, after they're released. If I forget, somebody remind me!
    – Laurel
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 17:08
  • 4
    @coderworks The answer has been updated! But not everything was released. So now I intend to update this answer in April. If I forget then, somebody needs to remind me.
    – Laurel
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 17:49
  • 2
    OK, now someone remind me in two years to update this... I'm not going to remember, probably.
    – Laurel
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 19:37
  • 1
    @coderworks They released more docs in 2021, but I'm not sure what hasn't been released.
    – Laurel
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 0:26
  • 4
    At this rate I'll be updating this answer well into 2039...
    – Laurel
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 6:57

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