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JFK Files: What We Have Learned

Maria Mellor

JFK Files
Courtesy Creative Commons

The assassination of John F Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, has been a hot topic for conspiracy theorists for the past half century. 2,800 documents were released following an order from president Donald Trump last week, revealing elements of top-secret information never before seen by the public. With around five million cables, memos and documents, many are still currently sifting through the new information. College News has collected together the points of interest in the JFK files that have been found so far. 

The facts

There are several aspects of the assassination of JFK that remain undisputed even after the release of the government files. On November 22 1963 while traveling in an open-top car through Dallas in a presidential motorcade, Kennedy was shot twice—once in the back and once in the head. Lee Harvey Oswald was named as responsible and was taken into custody by the police. The arrest took place an hour after the shooting when Oswald was going into a theater without paying.

Two days later, whilst being transferred to a county jail from Dallas Police Headquarters, local nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot Oswald in the abdomen. He died in the same hospital where doctors had tried to save the life of Kennedy only days before.

The revelations

Before the assassination

It had been revealed in the JFK files that the FBI were aware of Oswald a month before he fatally shot the president. While they may not have known what he was planning to do, the New Orleans division of the FBI were attempting to locate Oswald with suspicions that he was attempting to establish a pro-Castro, Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in Dallas. He was considered a “person of interest”, however he was not found.

Additionally, we have learned that 25 minutes before the assassination, a British newspaper received an anonymous tip-off. A reporter from Cambridge Evening News was told that they should call the American Embassy in London for some “big news”.

The memo states: “After word of the President’s death was received the reporter informed the Cambridge police of the anonymous call and the police informed MI-5. The important point is that the call was made, according to MI-5 calculations, about 25 minutes before the President was shot.”

The Assassination

The main point of contention for conspiracy theorists is whether or not Oswald worked alone in assassinating the president. Both Cuba and the Soviet Union were suspected by the FBI due to Oswald’s connection with them.

Oswald had been honourably discharged from the Marine Corps when he defected to the Soviet Union. The JFK files show that Oswald was found to have been in contact with a KGB officer connected with “the KGB’s 13th department (responsible for sabotage and assassination)” in 1963, prior to the assassination. Soviet officials were adamant that Oswald had no connection with the Soviet Union. They feared that Kennedy’s assassination would provoke the United States to launch a missile at the Soviet Union and denounced Oswald as a “neurotic maniac”.

Likewise, Cuba told America that they had no involvement in the plot. However, it was revealed in the JFK files that Cuban Ambassador Cruz’s initial reaction to the assassination was one of “happy delight”. Around the same time, the CIA planned several schemes to kill Fidel Castro. Some of them were fairly bizarre, as detailed in one of the documents, such as contaminating a skin-diving suit with fungus and tuberculosis, and various forms of poison.

After the assassination

It has been revealed in a memo written by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that they were warned of a potential death threat to Oswald. The night before Jack Ruby shot Oswald, the FBI received a phone call from a man “saying he was a member of a committee organized to kill Oswald.” They were assured that Oswald would be given sufficient protection. “However,” Hoover wrote “this was not done.” This memo has fuelled many pre-existing conspiracy theories that Oswald was killed as part of a cover-up.

Hoover himself was worried about the conspiracy theories that would stem from Oswald’s death. He said: “The thing I am concerned about… is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”

He goes on to explain why the JFK files that have just been released were previously kept secret: “There are several aspects which would complicate our foreign relations.” Hoover was aware of Oswald’s connections to Cuba and the Soviet Union, and made the decision to not release this information to the public as to not “muddy the waters internationally.”

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