Kennedy’s widow asked FBI not to release personal files

Raised concerns on media ‘fishing’ expeditions’

Victoria Kennedy asked for the opportunity to ‘review any proposed release of file materials.’ Victoria Kennedy asked for the opportunity to ‘review any proposed release of file materials.’
By Bryan Bender
Globe Staff / June 16, 2010

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WASHINGTON — A lawyer representing Victoria Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy’s widow, asked the Justice Department earlier this year not to release any of the late senator’s voluminous FBI file, expressing concern that those seeking it were on “fishing expeditions’’ meant to “rummage’’ through her husband’s private life.

“Absent a specific reason why such files should be disclosed to the public, it is our position that these files should remain sealed and unavailable,’’ Kenneth R. Feinberg, a prominent Washington attorney who is representing Victoria Kennedy in the matter, wrote to Thomas J. Perrelli, the associate attorney general, April 23.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe, also stated that Victoria Kennedy “is rightfully concerned that these [media] requests are merely ‘fishing expeditions’ designed to rummage through FBI files compiled over half a century or more, in an effort to uncover confidential information pertaining to Senator Kennedy.’’

The plea, however, did not sway the FBI, which decided the public interest in such a high profile public figure outweighed the family’s concerns.

More than 2,200 pages were made public by the FBI Monday, outlining hundreds of threats to Kennedy’s life after two older brothers, John and Robert, were slain in the 1960s and detailing copious records the FBI kept on his foreign travels and meetings.

The files, which were obtained by the Globe and other organizations under the Freedom of Information Act, also included uncorroborated reports about potential Mafia plots, bizarre claims about what really happened when Kennedy’s car careened off a bridge on Chappaquiddick in 1969 — killing Mary Jo Kopechne — and an unverified tip the bureau received about a New York sex party that supposedly was set up to ensnare the Kennedy brothers and movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe.

Feinberg’s letter to the Justice Department also requested that Victoria Kennedy “be given the opportunity to review any proposed release of file materials in order to challenge the appropriateness of such release.’’

Feinberg and the FBI’s records division could not be reached to comment on whether she was provided the files before they were made public or whether she sought to shield specific documents once it became clear the FBI planned to honor the media requests. FBI officials had previously said they allowed the Kennedy family to raise objections on particular files that might have privacy concerns for surviving members.

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