10/26/17 Edit: On Thursday, the day the final Kennedy Assassination files were meant to be released, President Trump ordered 2,800 JFK records be made public. The rest are subject to a six month review. So we get to do this again in April.
Over the weekend, President Trump continued his practice of taking something that has nothing to do with him and making it entirely about him. In this case, it was the last of the classified files on the Kennedy assassination being released later this week after decades of being held secret.
While Trump is insinuating that he’s making some kind of out-of-the blue decision to blow the doors off the cover-up of the JFK assassination, in reality, it’s been in the works since 1992.
Naturally, people had questions. What’s in the JFK files? Why is the government releasing them now? Why were they kept secret for decades?
And then there’s maybe the most important question: will they prove that Kennedy was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy?
Anyone looking for the smoking gun that proves we’ve been lied to for 50+ years is likely to be severely disappointed by the new files. Because it’s almost certain they won’t change any of the fundamental facts about President Kennedy’s assassination.
But they might change our perception of the agencies who wanted them “long blocked and classified.”
Formed just a week after Kennedy’s death, the Warren Commission was tasked with figuring out what happened and how. Their conclusion, released less than a year later, has proven to be a surprisingly durable and logical theory: gunman Lee Harvey Oswald fired three bullets from an Italian rifle into the open top of President Kennedy’s car, striking him twice, including once in the head.
Countless conspiracy theories have risen up to deflate the Commission’s conclusions – over 200 different theories, implicating over 80 different shooters, all of whom are thought of by someone as having been the ones to *actually* kill JFK.
Obviously, John Kennedy wasn’t shot by 80 people. But if the secret files contain some nugget that implicates just one of those theorized shooters, doesn’t the “official story” all fall apart?
It’s theoretically possible, sure. But in all the searching for what “really” happened on 11/22/1963, nobody has found an alternative theory that survived historical, scientific, and logical scrutiny in a way that the Warren Report has, even after all these years.
Oswald was a trained Marine marksman, firing a reliable sniper rifle at a slow-moving, unobstructed, unprotected target a short distance away. He fired three shots over the span of eight seconds, with the clock starting with the first shot. None of this is impossible, or even outlandish. In fact, it’s disconcertingly simple.
Whatever Oswald’s motive for firing the shots (and the Warren Report made no effort to determine it), it’s clear that he had every opportunity to fire them quickly and accurately. Nothing in any book or TV documentary has changed that in the last 50 years, and it’s almost certain that nothing in the new files will, either.
However, the files are still worth our time and attention, not for outlandish conspiracies, but for context.
For one, they might fill in some of the gaps regarding Oswald’s motive, particularly his shadowy travels among Communist elements in Mexico weeks before the assassination. Oswald had gone there to attempt to get a visa to travel to Cuba, and from there, back to the Soviet Union. Little is known about that trip, and the files might shine new light on what Oswald did there – and what we knew about it.
And that’s the crux of why these files have been unreleased for so long: they might be highly embarrassing to the FBI and CIA.
It’s speculated by JFK scholars that these agencies withheld a great deal of information from the Warren Commission, probably to save face in light of massive intelligence failures. The CIA and FBI are already known to have covered up their knowledge that Oswald was in Mexico City, and had sat on information regarding the connection for six weeks before the assassination.
If the files contain even more evidence that the CIA and FBI failed in their duties to watch a dangerous man with myriad connections to Russia and Cuba, it would tar the careers of the men involved, even posthumously. It would raise new questions about what these agencies were doing during that time, how they were destabilizing other countries at the cost of protecting their own. They might even reveal direct connections between Oswald and US intelligence.
There’s still no compelling evidence that US intelligence agencies had anything to do with Kennedy’s actual murder. But just proof that the killer of a US president and the parts of the government designed to protect him were in communication for any reason would be a tall order to explain. Those implicated would want their involvement and knowledge covered up for as long as they could, to protect themselves and their employers. Even after death, they’d want to be protected.
After all, anyone can make up a conspiracy. But a reputation – that’s something you have to earn.