More RFK files to be made public Thursday

WASHINGTON _ The National Archives on Thursday will release most of the remaining withheld files of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, among the most sought-after government documents from the Cold War.

The 26 boxes, which have been locked away in a vault by RFK’s heirs since 1973, amount to nearly 7,500 pages and cover the operations of the Justice Department as well “as memos, correspondence, reports, and notes from Robert F. Kennedy’s participation in White House meetings,” the Archives said in a statement.

They will be available to researchers at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Dorchester beginning Dec. 5


“The release completes the archival processing of files from Robert F. Kennedy’s years as Attorney General and has been done in collaboration with the family of Robert F. Kennedy,” the Archives said.

As President Kennedy’s younger brother, RFK played a uniquely influential role in the Kennedy Administration.

In addition to serving as the nation’s top law enforcement official between 1961 and 1964, he also handled a series of sensitive domestic and foreign policy portfolios -- from Civil Rights to Cuba -- and helped manage the CIA’s covert operations.

“As President Kennedy’s Attorney General, closest advisor and confidant, Robert F. Kennedy played a vital role in the Kennedy Administration’s policy decisions,” said David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. “I know that researchers and the public will benefit from exploring these documents.”

The National Archives noted that four boxes among the collection of RFK’s so-called “classified” and “confidential” Justice Department files will remain closed because they have been deemed to be of a personal nature.

The Justice Department files, nearly 60 boxes, were placed “on deposit” at the JFK Library under a memorandum of agreement with the National Archives reached with RFK’s heirs in 1973.

But despite keen interest from historians, the library, which falls under the jurisdiction of the National Archives, was not able to secure an agreement from the family to begin making them public until last year.


The announcement was welcome to news to scholars who have been anxious for years to review the files.

``This is one of the last great treasure troves of documentation on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations,” said Peter Kornbluh, a senior researcher at the National Security Archives at George Washington University.

He said he hopes the cooperation between the Archives and the Kennedy family can be a model for releasing other collections of historically valuable government records.

Bryan Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBender