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Kennedy Library Says Compromise May Speed Release of JFK Tapes

February 3, 1993

BOSTON (AP) _ John F. Kennedy Library officials hope to speed up the release of secret Oval Office tapes from the Kennedy administration under a compromise reached with the National Security Council.

The tapes hold 260 hours of discussions on such subjects as Vietnam and Laos, nuclear testing, disarmament, Cuba, civil rights and Lyndon Johnson’s gall bladder.

″What we’re looking at is the possibility of loosening the existing logjam with regard to transcripts, and that’s a hopeful sign,″ library spokesman Frank Rigg said.

The development follows complaints from researchers and historians, foremost among them Nigel Hamilton, the author of ″JFK: Reckless Youth,″ who blasted library officials in an opinion piece in The New York Times on Jan. 22.

″I am cautiously optimistic, because for so many years so little has been done,″ Hamilton said Tuesday.

No tapes have been released by the library since 1983, with the exception of a recording of a conversation taped during the Cuban missile crisis that was made available in 1987. The other previously released tapes related to a 1962 integration crisis at the University of Mississippi.

Library officials blame a bureaucratic Catch-22 for the logjam.

The National Archives, of which the library is part, has refused to prepare transcripts to avoid responsibility for any misinterpretations. But the NSC has refused to declassify the tapes unless the library provides transcripts.

Under an agreement Rigg said has been reached with the NSC, the agency will be furnished recordings and a list of the identities of all the speakers.

″If the National Security Council were to agree to declassifying tapes based on simply listening to the tapes, it would speed up the process,″ Rigg said.

He said that tapes would be furnished to the NSC shortly but that there was no timetable for a decision on declassifying them.

Other agencies, such as the CIA or the Pentagon, could intervene to block the release of some material, library officials said.

The tapes were given to the library in 1965 by Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline, and his brothers, Robert and Edward. Nearly 90 percent of the recordings still are classified.

Kennedy had recording equipment installed secretly, and many intimates expressed surprise when the existence of the tapes was made known in 1973. The apparatus was dismantled the day the president was assassinated.

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