The FBI records center is making "steady progress" toward completing its review of Ted Kennedy's 3,000-page file and plans to release it well before the end of the year, a records official said Monday.
The FBI, as a courtesy, plans to give the Kennedy family advance notice before making the file public and may allow immediate family members to raise objections to parts of the record -- a veritable encyclopedia on the late Massachusetts senator that could date back decades.
Despite concerns the review could redact some of the more alluring aspects of Kennedy's life, FBI spokesman Dennis Argall said officials are aiming to disclose as much as possible, as is the case with any public figure's file.
He said the family members would be able to raise concerns about sections that "implicate" their privacy once the FBI is finished with its internal review.
"The FBI's under an obligation to balance the public's right to know with the surviving family's privacy interest," he said.
But Argall said just because something's embarrassing is not reason enough to strip it from the file. And he said the late senator's privacy is not a concern, since he is dead.
"His doesn't count anymore," Argall said.
Argall, who works in the FBI Records Management Division, said the bureau is hoping to release the entire file at one time, rather than in bits and pieces. He said there was "no limit" on the timeframe for the documents in the original media requests, so the file could "at least" date back to the 1960s.
That would more than cover the reign of J. Edgar Hoover, the former FBI director known for his interest in the Kennedy family's personal business.
"It could be the kind of juicy gossip that the FBI specialized in from the era of the Nixonian enemies list," said Boston University Professor Tobe Berkovitz.
But he said information about Kennedy obtained through questionable means might not make it past the final cut. "The FBI was doing a lot of snooping back in those days which was pretty borderline in terms of legality," he said.
But Berkovitz speculated that the file could still contain revealing details about major incidents in Kennedy's life -- like the 1969 accident on Chappaquiddick island, where Kennedy drove off a bridge into a pond, leaving passenger Mary Jo Kopechne to drown. Kennedy later pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, but the incident haunted him the rest of his life.
Argall said that while the immediate Kennedy family could be consulted on parts of the file, the family will not have access to the entire, 3,000-page record before it goes public.