Search Technology Is Transforming JFK Research
Two independent web sites have outperformed the National Archives
In a piece called “How to Solve the Kennedy Assassination ASAP,” I argued last year that the declassification and digitization of the U.S. government’s record of the assassination of JFK was more important than the release any document or group of documents. It’s a commonsensical thought: Access to the entire record of JFK’s assassination is more important than any individual record.
More to the point, we can say the long-time gatekeepers of the JFK story have lost their power. For the the first thirty years after Kennedy’s assassination—from 1963 to 1993, a small group of top officials in Washington effectively controlled what the American people knew of the JFK story. The real historical record of the events leading up to the murder of the 35th president and its investigatory aftermath was tightly held by the FBI, the CIA, Congress, and the White House. The public was shut out from viewing 95 percent of what the government knew.
That began to change thanks to the critical and commercial success of Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” which prompted Congress to pass the 1992 JFK Records Act. The law mandated the review and release of all JFK records by an independent agency, the Assassination Records Review Board. Between 1994 and 1998, the board released millions of pages of long-suppressed JFK files.
The near simultaneous emergence of the internet in the 1990s hastened the process. “With …the advent of searchable databases on the global network,” I wrote. “the historical record of JFK’s assassination began to be widely available for the first time.”
Technological innovation, I argued, will help transform understanding of November 22.