CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: We would like to hear first this morning from Steve Tilley, who is the liaison to the board from the National Archives and the person who is the person in charge of the JFK collection within the National Archives.
He is going to provide us with an update on the records that are currently in the collection and what is expected in the near future.
Mr. Tilley, welcome.
MR. TILLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's always a pleasure to appear before the board and provide information on the collection and how it stands.
For the record, I will just identify myself. I'm Steven Tilley, and I am employed with the National Archives and Records Administration, and I am the person in charge of the JFK collection at the National Archives.
My duties also include, however, being the liaison to the review board for the National Archives and also being the liaison to the other Federal agencies that are involved in processing records under the act.
When the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 was passed and signed into law by President Bush, the National Archives already had many years of experience in dealing with the issue of the Kennedy assassination.
The National Archives has had custody of the records of the Warren Commission since the transfer of those documents in November of 1964, and over the course of the years since that transfer, we have provided access to the open records of the Commission to the public, we have conducted periodic reviews of the closed records, 10-year reviews of the closed records, which are required under instructions promulgated by the Department of Justice, and we also respond to the Freedom of Information Act requests for the records of the Warren Commission.
The records of the Warren Commission were opened in the years following the transfer, primarily in the interest of dealing with the initial criticism that was surfaced after the publication of the Warren report in September of 1964.
The Justice Department put together an interagency task force which reviewed the documents of the Commission and released approximately 65 percent -- and that's a rough estimate, obviously; I wasn't there then -- of the records were made available at that time in an attempt to provide the public with an understanding of what the Warren Commission report was based on.
Unfortunately, I guess, or perhaps fortunately for our purpose here today, the criticism of the Warren Commission report was not stilled, as we all know, and there has been continuing controversy over the assassination in the years that have followed that, and that continuing controversy has, of course, led to the existence of other investigative panels that were established in order to try to come to grips with the vexing questions of the assassination.
The first of those investigations was the Clark panel, named after Attorney General Ramsey Clark, which was impaneled in the late '60s in order to -- primarily, their mission was to examine the medical evidence that pertained to the assassination and their job was to see if, in fact, the Warren Commission's conclusions were correct on that issue.
Later, after the revelations of Watergate, additional investigative panels were established to look into certain aspects of the assassination, and one of the things that came out of the Watergate inquiry was the fact that it appeared that the Central Intelligence Agency had perhaps been involved in some activities that was outside its charter, and in order to address those issues, in 1975, President Ford established the Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States, which has become known, of course, as the Rockefeller Commission, after Vice President Rockefeller, who chaired it.
But those same allegations that had led to the impaneling of the Rockefeller Commission also led the Congress to get involved in the controversy, and in 1976, the Senate established the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities.
That long name is known to most people who research this issue as the Church Committee, headed by Senator Frank Church, and a parallel investigation occurred in the House of Representatives at that time. The House Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Representative Otis Pike, also delved into certain aspects of the assassination.
Now, these three groups were primarily investigating the possibility of CIA involvement in the assassination, and their focus was somewhat narrower than the Warren Commission, but they still had played a major role in extending the information available on the assassination.
These efforts finally culminated in 1978 with the establishment of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the purpose of which, of course, was to look into both the assassination -- not only the assassination of President Kennedy but also the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Now, I just give that history as a background, because I think it is important for everyone to know that all of the records that I have just described, the records of these entities, are now part of the JFK collection, and now, I would like just to tell how some of those records came into our possession and what the status of those documents are.
First, let me say that the Kennedy act, as it was passed by the Congress, provided the National Archives with seven responsibilities. For the purpose of our discussion today, though, I think I'll limit myself to three which deal directly with the access to the collection itself.
The first requirement that the National Archives had under the act was that, within 45 days of the statute being signed, the archives was required to prepare and make available standard identification forms for use by all government offices in describing assassination records prior to the transfer of those records to the National Archives.
Furthermore, we were required to ensure the creation of a database of these assassination records forms to serve as an electronic finding aid to the collection, and let me just say here that the database that has been established, which was established on December the 10th of 1992 by the archives, consists of the forms that were created by the agencies during their review of closed documents, documents that were closed at that time.
The database does not contain the full text of any documents themselves. The database just consists of the forms that were created.
Also, the database does not contain any forms about any records that were open for research and in the possession of the National Archives on the day the law was signed, October 26, 1992.
Therefore, all open Warren Commission records at that time are not in the database, and other documents that were in the possession of National Archives at that time and open for research are not in the database.
We do have standard archival finding aids that we have created over the years which do allow us to search those records and provide assistance on those documents.
So, it's not like there is a black hole here. We can research these documents, as anyone who has dealt with us knows, and we can provide assistance on those records, but the database consists solely of records that were closed to the public on the day the law was signed.
Now, when we established the database on the 10th of December of '92, on that day we also distributed data collection system information, such as a training program showing agencies how to enter data into the database, data disks, and other information to allow them to conduct the work necessary to create the database.
At this time, the database contains approximately 120,000 documents, and of course, the creation of the database has greatly facilitated the ability of the staff of the National Archives to provide assistance to researchers in finding documents -- and particularly in locating individual documents, which is often the case, where researchers are trying to find a single document or documents about a certain individual or a certain event that might be interspersed throughout the records of several different agencies.
Now, unfortunately, at the present time, the database is only available at the National Archives building and accessible only to the staff of the National Archives, but we are working very hard on trying to make the database available to the public both in our research room at the National Archives and our new facility in College Park, Maryland, and also eventually to have this available on-line over the Internet or some other server across the country. So, that's something we're eventually shooting for.
Our second responsibility under the statute was to establish the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, and we did that on December 28, 1992, through a notification in the Federal Register, and that announcement also solicited open assassination records from all Federal agencies, asking them to transfer any records they may have had about the assassination that were open to us for inclusion in the collection.
Now, since we already had the custody of the majority of the open records, the creation of the collection was largely a technical act, if you will, and what it did was define the following open records as the collection itself.
As I mentioned earlier, the records of the Warren Commission -- by the time the collection was established on that date, we estimate that only 2 percent of the records of the Commission were closed on that date. The vast majority of those closed documents were records of other agencies and not records of the Commission itself.
We were, I believe, in our discussions with the board, the board is aware that we were basically holding only four or five documents that were Commission-originated documents at the time the collection was established and none of them in full, all in part.
The collection also included the records of the Secret Service.
Now, the Secret Service case file on the assassination had been transferred to the archives in 1979, after the completion of the work of the House Select Committee, and it contains approximately 11,000 pages of documents.
Many of those documents are duplicates of records that are among the records of the Warren Commission. Many of these Secret Service-originated documents that are among that file were made available to the Warren Commission and are incorporated in the Warren Commission's files.
The third major set of records in the collection were the criminal division of the Department of Justice case file on the assassination, contained approximately 65,000 pages of documents, and that file included official mail and interagency correspondence with the Department of Justice, correspondence from the public, and replies to those inquiries, and once again, copies of a large number of FBI documents relating to the assassination.
Fourthly -- and something that was actually, a major addition to the collection, although it had come in before the act was signed -- was the first portion of the Lee Harvey Oswald 201 Personality File of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The CIA had been processing this file for opening under their openness program that had been announced by then-Director Robert Gates in 1991 and had finished approximately 22,000 pages of that file before the bill was signed into law, and they transferred that information to us in September of 1992.
Now, this portion of the file -- these documents do not contain record identification forms, because they were open at the time the law was signed.
However, documents from that portion of the file were postponed by the CIA, and those documents, those postponed documents, or the postponed documents which have portions deleted, remain in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency, and those documents that had deletions or were postponed in full will be part of the collection database in the future.
Finally, the fifth major grouping of records were personal papers and donated historical materials that were in the custody of our presidential libraries.
There was a good amount of material that was open at that time, that was already available for research, in the custody of our presidential libraries.
An example of that was all of John Connally's papers at the Lyndon Johnson Library had been opened for research prior to the signing of the law at Governor Connally's express instructions.
Once it became obvious that there was going to be a statute, he made it be known that he wanted all the records in his files made available in full, and that was done.
So, we had a significant amount of material from our libraries at the time the collection was established.
I might also say that President Ford had also done the same thing and made it be known to his library that he also wanted total cooperation under the statute, and we had a significant amount of material from his Congressional files related to his work on the Warren Commission, and we were also able to open a portion of the Rockefeller Commission files, not a large portion, but at least some documents from the Rockefeller Commission were opened or we were able to open at a later date, after we reviewed them, because they were all closed at that time, but it was based on the President's cooperation under the statute.
The third major requirement for NARA, along with all other Federal Government offices holding assassination records, was to identify, review, and make available to the public all assassination records that could be disclosed within a 300-day review period.
These were records that were closed at the time the bill was signed into law, and these are the documents that were required to be entered into the database under the statute, and a further requirement was that each document had to have its record identification form attached to it to provide the information for a researcher as to clearly identifying the document, showing its status -- if it perhaps is released in part, showing that status -- showing when it was reviewed last, and this is to provide as much information as possible to the researcher about that particular document.
At the end of the 300-day review period, which was August the 23rd of 1993, the newly-opened records under the statute were made available to the public at our building in downtown Washington, D.C., and these newly-opened records include the following.
The remainder of the CIA's 201 personality file on Lee Oswald, a file which, incidentally, dated back to 1959.
In addition, we also made available CIA records relating to other aspects of the assassination, which is known as the segregated collection of CIA records, and without boring anybody with too much detail, basically it had been segregated by the CIA during the time of the work of the House Select Committee, and as part of the agreement with the Committee, it remained segregated at the CIA through the remainder of the time after the Committee had finished.
It's considered to be records of the House Select Committee on Assassinations and not CIA records, through some court action, but it's still CIA-originated material.
Secondly, we received several records from several components of the Department of Justice, from the criminal division and the civil rights division, but none from the FBI at that time.
Third, we opened the records of the House Select Committee on that day -- of course, only the portions that related to the assassination of President Kennedy, the Martin Luther King records, of course, being outside the scope of the act.
That was a significant opening. Those records had never been available before. They were closed for research under standard rules of the House of Representatives, and their inclusion in this statute was a significant agreement by the House to the openness under this law.
Fourth, we opened some previously-closed records of the Warren Commission. This had been -- these were the 2 percent that I mentioned earlier, and this resulted in only four documents now being postponed at this time and part of original -- of Warren Commission-originated documents.
And fifthly, we opened some records of the National Archives itself, frankly some records we probably didn't know we had at the time, that related to the assassination, particularly some correspondence of the Archivist's office dealing with transfers of records and work with the House Select Committee, basically administrative records of the National Archives.
Also, though, we also released more material from the holdings of the three presidential libraries -- the Kennedy, the Johnson, and the Ford libraries -- and as I mentioned earlier, significant among that disclosure were some records from the Rockefeller Commission.
Now, the opening on the 23rd of these newly-released records drew over 140 individuals to the National Archives on that day, a large number of whom were journalists, and the opening on that day received worldwide attention.
The interest -- I guess I shouldn't say this, considering -- the interest from the press did drop some in the months ahead, but as we have continued to add records to the collection, there has been significant interest in this material.
What's even more interesting to me, having worked with this material for a long time, is how the interest of the public itself continues to grow.
I have a very small staff. We're known as the JFK access staff, and there are only three of us, and last year, we processed over 600 written inquiries for information about the collection.
This does not include all the telephone calls and all the walk-in researchers that we have handled, and that doesn't include all the work that has been handled by our non-textual division, which contains some material, the motion pictures and the sound recordings that we have, but it looks like, right now, for this fiscal year, we are on a pace to do almost 900 written inquiries.
So, there's obviously a significant interest in the assassination out there, and what's particularly striking to me is the number of young people who seem to be interested in the assassination, and I mentioned to one of the staff yesterday that, later this year, we expect eight people from Harvard University, who are working on some sort of a group project, to come down and spend some time with us.
So, there is a lot of interest among students, college students and high school students, in the records of the collection. Obviously, this interest has been generated by the fact that there is so much new information available in the collection.
After the opening in August, we had additional records come open, pretty much on a periodic basis since that time.
In September of '93, the archives released transcripts of telephone conversations of President Lyndon Johnson for November and December of 1963.
The library had decided, in the interest of full disclosure, that all telephone conversations of that period would be assassination records and, therefore, released the transcripts of all conversations of those two months.
And then, in November of 1993, additional records were made available, including 350 pages of documents from the Defense Intelligence Agency, approximately 8 cubic feet of records, and cubic feet, of course, is an archival term. We estimate approximately 2,500 pages of documents in a cubic foot of records.
We have -- a hundred pages of National Security Agency records were opened at that time, the records of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys were opened, and then we also opened the tape recordings of the transcripts that were made available early in 1993.
We also opened the Secret Service records of the White House gatepost logs that were provided by the Kennedy Library, which had been reviewed and then opened for the collection.
The first release of FBI records took place in December of 1993, and those records consisted of the FBI's headquarters file on its investigation of Jack Ruby.
Significant releases of FBI records have taken place in the months since then, and we have had, basically, approximately 250 cubic feet of records now of FBI materials available. That and the CIA are probably the largest body of materials that we have.
The FBI has released their headquarters and field office files relating to Lee Oswald, their headquarters and field office files of its investigation into the assassination itself, its work with the Warren Commission, with the House Select Committee, with the Pike Committee, liaison with various other investigative bodies, plus related files on individuals such as Marina and Marguerite Oswald, David Ferrie, and Clay Shaw.
So, there is a wide variety of information there that's now available from FBI files, and of course, additional FBI files are under review as we speak today.
In September of '94, we had a significant increase in the records of the CIA, when the CIA released another portion of its segregated collection of files.
These documents had also been made available to the House Select Committee but were on microfilm at that time, and the review process had been slowed by the fact that the CIA had to print the documents off onto paper before the review could take place.
These records, I think, are significant in the fact that, while some of them were duplicative of what had been released earlier, they contain a significant amount of information about the activities of Cuban exile groups and the work of the Central Intelligence Agency with those groups, and I will say that there has been a great deal of interest in that particular set of records since they were made available in September.
We have also added the records of the Church Committee to the collection. The initial transfer took place in January of 1994, and we have had increases in that over the previous months since then. We now have 40 boxes of records, approximately 40,000 pages of material.
There is still a small amount of material still being reviewed by the Committee. It's the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence which has the oversight of this material since, of course, the Church Committee no longer exists, and the staff there is still working on a small amount of material still to be transferred.
I should also point out that we do not have the data disks for the Church Committee records yet. They will be transferred with the last bit of information that we receive. But we have created a finding aid in order to help us search those records that we make available to the researchers.
The significance of the Church Committee, I think, is that it was the -- one of the first releases of any testimony taken by the Intelligence Committee, and the transcripts of the testimony that have been made available, which cover many of the main players in some of these events, people like Edward Lansdale and Robert McNamara and people like that -- these were significant new documents that were made available for the first time under the statute.
We also have the records of the Pike Committee. They have just recently come in, and there's only three boxes of the Pike Committee, and let me say right here, Mr. Chairman, that I just wanted to make clear that, with the Church Committee and the Pike Committee, we do not have all the records of those committees.
Those committees looked at a number of different issues that involved Central Intelligence Agency activities, and the JFK aspect was only one portion of their investigation. We only have the records that pertain to that part of their investigation. We don't have all of the records of those committees.
Now, once again, you have duplication, and one of the prime factors that people must realize is that many records are duplicated throughout the collection.
Each one of the investigative bodies went back to the FBI and got copies of their documents, and they went to the CIA and asked for documents, and of course, then they came to the National Archives and asked for copies of Warren Commission documents, and in doing so, they received copies of some of the same documents they had received from the other agencies.
So, there is a lot of duplication of material, but what is new here is that there are some unique documents among each of these collections, and of course, what's really unique is the documents created by the investigative panel itself.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Mr. Tilley, I wanted to ask you a question.
At our last public hearing in Washington, the testimony from the FBI was that a release was imminent of additional materials, House Select Committee materials that they had been reviewing. Can you provide us with an update on that?
MR. TILLEY: Mr. Chairman, what I can tell you is that we were expecting that transfer, and it's sort of been on again and off again over the last few days, and we are hoping that there may be something in the next week or so where that transfer will take place, but at this time we don't really have anything hard and firm on that.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: And how much material do you expect from that transfer?
MR. TILLEY: Well, my understanding is that there are about 149 or 150 pages from the Lee Harvey Oswald file and approximately 16 boxes of records relating to some organized crime figures. Those records were made available to the House Select Committee.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Can we expect this release sometime within the next week?
MR. TILLEY: I hope so, yes. That's my understanding. It may take place next week.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Do members have questions for Mr. Tilley?
DR. NELSON: I have one question, Mr. Tilley, and that is, with this vast amount of material coming into the archives, is it your sense that the agencies continue to answer the Freedom of Information requests, or are they relying on the documents simply coming out in a body?
Is the archives answering any Freedom of Information requests?
MR. TILLEY: Oh, yes, yes.
We have received many, many Freedom of Information Act requests, and we are responding to them as we can, but for the most part, the documents that are being requested from us are records of other agencies or are already open, and under the Kennedy act and under the FOIA, we have no --we don't have the authority to open the records of those committees.
So, what I have done is I've tried to ask people to be patient and let the board -- in some instances let the board's work go forward, and once the board has finished its work, maybe the documents will be available, because the FOIA process is such a long, complicated process, as so many people know, and there may be a quicker resolution through the work of this board.
MR. MARWELL: Mr. Tilley, you mentioned the imminent release of some FBI records. Can you tell us what's on the horizon with other agencies? Are there any other major releases that you expect in the next period of time?
MR. TILLEY: No, I don't.
I mean I do know that there are additional files of the FBI that are being reviewed that deal with the issue of organized crime and other issues that have been raised with the FBI by the House Select Committee. Other than the one we just discussed, there is nothing imminent from them.
I am getting records that had been out on coordination from other agencies, and they have been coming in on a periodic basis, and we are dealing with those as they come in, but at this time, there are no major groups of records that are pending in the near future to be transferred from any agencies.
DR. HALL: Mr. Tilley, I'd like to shift you, if I may, away from the question of what's come in and what's there and move you to a somewhat more policy-based and philosophical, perhaps, issue, and I am wondering if you can help me and perhaps help the other members of the board by explaining to us the basis upon which the National Archives and presidential libraries hold and maintain materials, and here I have special interest in the nature of deposit agreements, donations, deeds of gifts, how they operate, and whether you can also address the issue of the relative responsibilities of these entities, the archives and the presidential libraries, for holding those materials and perhaps returning them to those who have given them to the library or archives, and finally, whether you have within your knowledge any instance in which material that might be deemed an assassination record that has, in fact, been taken from the archives or a presidential library and returned to an individual.
MR. TILLEY: Well, the Office of Presidential Libraries within the National Archives maintains the presidential library system, and there is a statute which governs -- that established the presidential library system.
I'm not sure what the title of it is, but there is a statute which established that system, and the heart and soul of that system was always the issue of donations of records.
Before the passage of the Presidential Records Act in 1978, it was established policy that the records of a president belonged to the president as his private property, and every president prior to President Reagan took his papers with him when he left office, and it was with the establishment of the Roosevelt Library that the system -- the presidential library sort of came into being, and basically -- very, very basically, the way it worked is that the president would take his papers with him at the end of the administration and then he would deed those papers back to the United States under a deed of gift, and that deed of gift sets forth certain provisions of access to those papers, as established by the president, and at the same time, the president would help in the building of a facility to house those materials, a foundation would be established which would raise money and build a library and/or museum that would then house the facilities, and that facility would then be maintained by the National Archives.
Now, in addition to the papers of the presidents, the staff of the libraries also have a regular program where they solicit the papers of members of the administration in order to fill out their holdings, to add to the historical record that they can make available to the public, and those holdings are also established and controlled under deeds of gift.
But this is a process where the archives has some -- has guidance on it, and they provide guidance to their staff on how this process should be handled, but it's often a difficult process getting some of the donors to agree to sign deeds at a certain particular time and et cetera, et cetera.
So, we often, in the interest of at least taking possession of important collections of papers, we will agree to deposit agreements or even courtesy storage in order to begin the process, and I know that the libraries will say that -- even though they don't like to begin with deposit agreements or courtesy storage -- that they will do so in order to get possession of a significant collection and then with the hope, always, of getting a donor to sign a deed sometime in the future.
Now, when the JFK act was under consideration in the Congress, the National Archives worked very closely with the committees considering those bills in order to protect the integrity of the donor system, and the archives feels very strongly that we must continue to be able to provide donor agreements to the people with private papers in order to obtain their donations, and through doing that, we must allow them some control over the access to these documents, although eventually they become available for research at some time in the future, and we worked very strongly with the committees in order to try to protect that system, and there is a particular section of the statute which -- Section 11(a) -- which does address the issues of donated materials and donor agreements.
At the same time, the archives also is very, very understanding of the need to cooperate with the work of this board in order to see that assassination-related documents do become available as soon as possible, and we have worked very closely with our donors, the staffs of the three main libraries involved in this effort have worked very closely with their donors in order to try to get them to agree to the release of documents and to agree that documents become part of the collection and then become open for research by the public.
Obviously, this has not been a perfect situation. There have been some rocky relationships and some problems, but we are continuing to work very hard on getting this done.
In response to the last portion of your question, we are aware of one particular instance where some records have been returned to a donor. The records were simply covered by a -- I don't even think there was a deposit agreement.
I think they were strictly in courtesy storage --I may be wrong in that, but I think that's my recollection -- and the donor came and asked for the materials to be returned, and we have done so under our understanding of the way the system works.
But we have also made the board fully aware of the issues surrounding that and how that has occurred, and of course, we are willing to assist the board in anything the board deems necessary to pursue that issue.
DR. JOYCE: Mr. Tilley, in the course of your relations with the presidential library system, when materials that you're aware of have been put in those libraries on the basis of either a deposit agreement or courtesy storage, has there been any effort made to review whether any of those records might be Federal records and not the property of those who would have deposited the records there or simply had them there on the basis of courtesy storage?
MR. TILLEY: Well, that's a thornier issue, I think, to a certain extent.
Obviously, there are some documents in donated papers -- we're all aware of that, anybody who has done any research in private papers over the years -- that sometimes there are some papers that people create on government service that get involved in their personal papers.
But we work very hard to try to make sure that it's very clear what the issue of these documents are, whether in fact they are private papers or whether or not there are any Federal records that can be deemed to be Federal records and should not be part of private papers.
But for the most part -- sometimes, I think, the libraries try to deal with that when they actually get a deed signed; at other times, I think it's not always as clear-cut as that.
But we are aware that that is a concern of the board and will continue to work with you on it.
DR. JOYCE: In that connection, do you think there is any room here or leverage, perhaps, for the board to consider some of these records, or are you aware that some of them seem to be unambiguously Federal records in terms of any access questions that may arise, that this would be a useful way for us to approach the situation as a potential remedy of it?
MR. TILLEY: Well, I think it's certainly something that's worth looking into.
I don't think -- the statute really doesn't address that, I think, it doesn't go into detail on that issue, but it's certainly something, I think, that the board maybe might want to look into as a chance to perhaps alleviate some of these more difficult questions concerning these donated materials.
DR. JOYCE: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Tilley. We appreciate your report this morning, and I have enjoyed working with you.
MR. TILLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Before we go on to our additional witnesses, I just wanted to give you a brief update on what you can expect from the review board in the upcoming several months.
First of all, we do expect, soon, to issue our final regulation on our guidance to agencies on what constitutes an assassination record. As many of you know, the review board and staff has been working on this issue for the past four or five months.
We have published a draft regulation in the Federal Register, and we have held a public hearing and gathered comments through a comment period that ended about two weeks ago.
It's up to the board now to reach its final conclusion on what is included in this definition of an assassination record. It is guidance for Federal agencies and for others in interpreting what the topic means. So, you can expect to see that soon.
You can expect that the board will be having a public hearing at some point, probably in Washington, a hearing at which we will bring in people who were investigators with prior investigations into the assassination of President Kennedy to gather their input on what records we should be looking for. We hope to organize that hearing relatively soon.
Our staff will be working within agencies to help agencies go through records that they have. We expect that process to be beginning very soon, and we expect that our own review process of postponed records will start shortly. We have already seen some records and started a preliminary review.
Staff has been reviewing records, particularly House Select Committee records and Warren Commission records, but we have what we estimate will probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 records that we will begin our review process on very soon, and that review process will result in an order from the board which will either be a release order -- that release order, if an agency does not agree with us, can be appealed to the President in, I think, a 30-day period.
Once that period of time is elapsed, then that record will be fully available to the public if there has been no decision to reverse the decision of the board.
There may well be postponement orders, as well. Those orders, we expect, would identify a particular date in the future by which the information in the record would be made public, and we would provide substitute records to disclose as much as possible about the information being withheld.
So, that process is about to begin, and you can expect to see action from the board soon in that regard.
I think, also, you will see, in coming months, releases of information and materials, many releases coming from agencies. That shows, I think, that the process is working well.
Hopefully, not all material that has been identified for keeping secret will have to come through us, that agencies will reconsider their decisions, as they have been doing over the past two or three years, and make a lot of that information public.
That's, I think, important to demonstrate that this process is working well, that we are overseeing the process, that agencies themselves are making redeterminations on records and the need for secrecy of records.
This is all part of the effort to open all of the still-secret files related to the Kennedy assassination and, I think, an indication that that process is working and the agencies are rethinking the need for secrecy of many of these records. So, we're looking forward to those releases in the months to come.