UPDATE: Oct. 26, 2017: Follow this link to download files.

Decades of doubts, fears, rumors and speculation may be at an end next week when files concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy come to light. Thousands of files that have been kept secret since 1963 may come to light unless President Donald Trump decides to keep them under wraps. The deadline is October 26, which was set by Congress to oblige the National Archives to release the last of thousands of secret files, most of them from the CIA, FBI, and the Department of Justice. By coincidence, Trump is scheduled to be in Dallas on that date next week, adding to speculation that he will announce the release of what historians and conspiracy theorists regard as the holy grail of documentation of a killing that galvanized the attention of the nation.

Much of the documentation concerning Kennedy’s killing has already been released. There remain 3,100 files. Earlier this month, Judge John Tunheim, who led the Congressional panel in 1992 to review the files, told KFGO radio of Minneapolis:  “I think it’s time to release everything,” adding, “We didn’t really protect that much. We never protected an entire document, except for those that we didn’t think that were relevant at all. It might have been some kind of intelligence gathering method that was still being used that they didn’t want the public to know about.” Tunheim is now the chief U.S. district judge for Minnesota. 

According to the Dallas Morning News, Tunheim said that all the files should come out, saying, “I can’t believe we’d be compromising anything from the 1950s and 1960s.” His conclusion was that accused gunman Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for killing the president. “I don’t think there are big revelations,” said Tunheim, adding that mistrust of government has been fostered by keeping the Kennedy files secret.

Historian Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics theorizedsthat any telltale documents were shredded long ago. In an article that appeared in POLITICO last week, he and author Philip Shenon wrote that releasing the documents will create “massive confusion, if not chaos.”

“And there is every indication that the massive document dump—especially if any of it is blocked by President Donald Trump, the only person empowered under the law to stop the release of the files—will simply help fuel a new generation of conspiracy theories.”

Last week, Roger Stone -- one of Trump’s most vocal supporters and the author of book that claims Lyndon Baines Johnson authored Kennedy’s death -- said earlier this month that he has been informed authoritatively that the CIA has urged the president to delay the release of the files for another 25 years. “They must reflect badly on the CIA even though virtually everyone involved is long dead,” Stone said in a statement on his website. Adding fuel to the fire, the CIA has neither confirmed or denied Stone’s contention. The CIA released a cryptic statement this month to say only that it “continues to engage in the process to determine the appropriate next steps with respect to any previously unreleased CIA information.”

Sabato wrote that releasing the documents this month will be a “logistical nightmare” while the American people will suddenly be “flooded with a huge online library of documents—tens of thousands in total—that will be, at first, mostly incomprehensible even to experienced students of the assassination.” 

The National Archives, having abandoned plans to release the secret documents piece-meal over several months, said last week that all of the documents will be released on the same day between now and October 26. Sabato and Shenon said that when the Archives tried to release just a small portion of the secret files in July, crashing its Internet servers for days. “When the files could be downloaded, many of those documents proved to be illegible, or were so full of CIA and FBI code names and other jargon that it will take months or years to make sense of them.”

The 3,100 secret files, wrote Sabato and Shenon, involve the mysterious six-day trip Lee Harvey Oswald made to Mexico City just a few weeks before he allegedly killed Kennedy. Oswald met with Cuban and Soviet espionage masters and thus came under intense scrutiny by the CIA. Documents previously released by the FBI contend that Oswald spoke openly about killing the president.

President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, Claudia A. Johnson, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson

arrive at Love Field, Dallas TX on November 22, 1963

Under the law Congress passed in 1992, millions of pages of documents about Kennedy’s murder came to light in the 1990s, revealing to historians that the CIA and FBI withheld information about how they bungled intelligence that, if acted upon, might have prevented Kennedy’s death. 

Sabato and Shenon wrote that they fear that journalists and others will “reach overly hasty, cherry-picked conclusions from individual documents or throw up their hands.” This is precisely the result, they wrote, that Congress wished to avoid. Congress had passed the law in response to Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK,” which theorized a vast government conspiracy was responsible for Kennedy’s death.

This month, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced “Americans deserve a full picture of what happened that fateful day in November 1963,” and said that he was sponsoring that calls for the release of all the remaining Kennedy files. “The assassination of President Kennedy occurred at a pivotal time for our nation, and, nearly 54 years later, we are still learning the details of how our government responded and what it may have known beforehand.” Another Republican, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina said recently that he hopes “...the FBI, CIA and Justice Department see that the American people have a right to this information.” He added that President Trump will be perceived as championing transparency and “endear himself with a large number of American people by doing this.”



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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