The thousands of documents concerning the government’s investigation of John F. Kennedy’s assassination have revealed details about covert CIA plans and operations. President Donald Trump released about 3,000 formerly classified documents on Thursday, but retained some out of concern for their effects on national security. But among the documents released, there was revealed that a unknown party called the FBI threatening to kill Lee Harvey Oswald on the day before he was shot. The CIA considered having Cuban leader Fidel Castro killed by mafia thugs. And the US contemplated sabotaging airplane parts headed to communist Cuba.

Journalists, authors, and conspiracy theorists have at least 52 previously unreleased full documents and thousands of others to consider ever since President Trump released them on Thursday. 


CIA plot against Castro

A 1975 report by the Rockefeller Commission recounted that the CIA had made plans to assassinate Cuba’s President Fidel Castro soon after John F. Kennedy’s became president. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother, wrote “approach Sam Giancana [a mafioso well-known at the time] with a proposition of paying $150,000 to hire some gunman to go into Cuba and kill Castro.”

Attorney General Kennedy claimed that doing so would render future prosecution of Giancana, an Italian-American, difficult. “Attorney General Kennedy stated that the CIA should never undertake the use of mafia people again without first checking with the Department of Justice because it would be difficult to prosecute such people in the future,” the report reads. The Rockefeller Commission report also noted the the CIA contemplated using mafia criminals to kill Castro with a poison pill.

Sabotaging aviation parts

Before Kennedy’s death, a 1962 national security council document made a reference to “Operation Mongoose:” a covert operation that was intended to overthrow Castro’s government. Minutes of the secret meeting about the operation on September 14,1962, “General (Marshall) Carter said that the CIA would examine the possibilities of sabotaging airplane parts which are scheduled to be shipped from Canada to Cuba.”

Terror in Miami

The CIA also contemplated the staging of terrorism in Miami as part of Operation Mongoose in 1960 but blame it on pro-democracy Cuban exiles. “We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized. Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of a Cuban agent and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”

Death threat against Oswald

A memo written by then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover on November 24, 1963, showed the veteran lawman addressed the death of Kennedy’s putative assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, at the hands of nightclub owner Jack Ruby. “There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead,” Hoover begins. The FBI director wrote that the FBI’s Dallas office received a call “from a man talking in a calm voice,” saying he was a member of a committee to kill Oswald.

Hoover said that the agency pressured the Dallas chief of police to protect Oswald, but Ruby was able to kill the gunman. “Ruby says no one was associated with him and denies having made the telephone call to our Dallas office last night,” Hoover said. In his memo, Hoover said that his agency had wiretaps of Oswald’s communications with Cuba and the Soviet Union (Oswald had lived in the Soviet Union and was married to a Russian), and that he was concerned there would be public doubt about Oswald’s guilt and that President Lyndon Johnson would appoint a commission to investigate the assassination.

Yet another top secret document from 1975 for the Rockefeller Commission gave insight into testimony provided by former CIA Director Richard Helms. Helms said that he thought that former President Richard Nixon believed the CIA had orchestrated the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, who died following a coup linked to the CIA. “There is absolutely no evidence of this in the agency records and the whole thing has been, I mean rather — what is the word I want — heated by the fact that President Johnson used to go around saying that the reason President Kennedy was assassinated was that he had assassinated President Diem and this was just … justice,” Helms said. He added, “where he got this from, I don’t know.”

When Helms was asked if Oswald was in “some way a CIA agent or an agent,” the document was thereafter redacted. 

In another document, a 1967 FBI cable, a man quipped that Oswald must have been a good shot in order to pull off the assassination. His interlocutor, a Cuban intelligence officer, replied, “oh, he was quite good.” When asked why he said that, the officer said, “I knew him.”

“Organized conspiracy”

Shortly after Kennedy’s death, FBI director Hoover sent a top secret memo to the White House, which the 1970s Church Committee obtained. Detailing the reaction in the Soviet Union to the president’s assassination, it said, “According to our source, officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the part of the ‘ultraright’ in the United States to effect a ‘coup.'” The memo said, “They seem convinced that the assassination was not the deed of one man, but that it arose out of a carefully planned campaign in which several people played a part.” The Soviet officials said that Oswald was a “neurotic gunman” who had no connection to the USSR.

Fateful calls

A CIA memo dated November 22, 1963 -- the day of Kennedy’s death -- surveyed a CIA intercept of a call Oswald made to the Russian embassy in Mexico City. In the call, Oswald spoke “in broken Russian” to “identified KGB officer” Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov. The FBI believed that Oswald wish to get help with a passport or visa.

In another revelation, a call was received by the Cambridge News -- a newspaper published in the United Kingdom -- just half an hour before Kennedy’s death. The unidentified caller said that the editors should expect “big news” soon from the United States. The newspaper was contacted after President Trump released the Kennedy documents and said that it had no knowledge of the call. 



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

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