The National Archives have just released nearly 1500 new documents pertaining to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. These documents that are now available to the public include never-before-seen investigative notes, memos, and cables prepared by the CIA, FBI, State Department, and Defense Department.
After President John F. Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, an investigative commission was set up overseen by Chief Justice Earl Warren. After ten months, the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he fatally shot President Kennedy from the Texas School Book Depository.
Two days after Kennedy was assassinated, local Texas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald while he was in police custody. The Warren Commission concluded that Ruby also acted alone in the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. Conspiracy theories have since arisen surrounding JFK’s assassination, and many people doubt the Warren Commission’s conclusions.
The newly released records from the Warren Commissions’ investigation contain no new revelations that support any sort of conspiracy or coverup surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. In fact, these new memos are overall underwhelming for JFK historians and researchers. The vast majority of the 1,491 documents released seem to be duplicates of previously released records, with only a few redacted words now revealed.
Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia and a leading Kennedy assassination scholar, doesn’t believe that new documents released will contain any sort of new crucial piece of evidence pertaining to the assassination. Rather, the speed at which the government releases these documents adds fuel to people’s conspiracy theories. He tells CNN, “[t]he reason it’s so important is not so much that we’re going to find a smoking gun that changes the entire theory of who killed Kennedy. The lack of transparency and the fact that getting these documents after 58 years is like pulling a whole mouthful of teeth- it tells you why we have so many conspiracy theories.”
One of the newly released CIA cables describes how Oswald phoned the Soviet embassy while he was in Mexico City, trying to obtain a visa that would allow him to visit the Soviet Union. While in Mexico City, he also visited the Cuban embassy, trying to get a travel visa that would let him visit Cuba and wait there for a Soviet visa.
Another memo, dated a day after Kennedy’s assassination, indicates that Lee Harvey Oswald communicated with an identified KGB officer while at the Soviet embassy in September 1963.
One CIA document marked “Secret Eyes Only” follows American government plots to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, including one that involved the use of “the criminal underworld with contacts inside Cuba.”
Several new FBI files were also released, reporting on the bureau’s efforts to investigate major mafia figures and showing how the FBI kept regular tabs on anti-Castro groups operating in Florida and Puerto Rico in the 1960s. These particular FBI reports could be of value to historians researching counterespionage during the Cold War.
In 1992, Congress passed the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, which requires all previously withheld documents surrounding the assassination to be released by October 2017. More than 90% of these records have now been publicly released, but 520 documents are still fully withheld from the public. The majority of these withheld documents are tax records, including Lee Harvey Oswald’s tax returns. The remaining files are set to be released on December 15, 2022.