View Full Version : Family Gets a Say on FBI Kennedy File

04-12-2010, 08:36 PM
Edward M. Kennedy’s family will be given a rare opportunity to raise objections before the public disclosure of thousands of pages of the late Massachusetts senator’s exhaustive and secret FBI file, according to bureau officials and advisers to the family.

The accommodation, though uncommon, will help ensure that the release of material on Kennedy gathered by agents throughout much of his life will not violate the privacy rights of his surviving relatives, those involved in the process said.

“In certain circumstances [such as] the family of victims of crimes or, as in this case . . . a public official, [the FBI] may coordinate the release of certain material with the family,’’ said Dennis Argall, an FBI spokesman, adding that the practice was rare. “The family of a deceased person may have a privacy interest.’’

Three FBI officials said the bureau has nearly completed its review of 3,000 pages of Kennedy’s FBI file. Those pages constitute only the first installment in an unusually large collection of FBI documents about one of the most famous politicians in modern history, the heir to one of America’s most storied political dynasties, and the frequent source of fodder for the tabloids.

The FBI’s Record Information Dissemination Section, in Winchester, Va., began expediting requests for the file soon after Kennedy’s death at age 77 from brain cancer in August. Those requests were filed by the Globe and other news media under the Freedom of Information Act.

Before releasing the documents, however, the FBI says it will give the Kennedys a chance to weigh in. And while the family will not have any legal power to demand that information be withheld, the bureau said it will take into consideration any privacy concerns.

“But the reason [for objecting] can’t simply be that it is embarrassing’’ information about Kennedy himself, Argall noted, adding that he does not expect the process to cause significant delays in releasing the information.

There are no formal guidelines for consulting family members on the release of FBI files about individuals; Argall said the move is made on a case by case basis.

But he pointed to a 2004 case in which the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that photos of former White House adviser Vince Foster taken by law enforcement officers after he killed himself in 1993 could be withheld from the public to protect the privacy of loved ones.