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Analysis: JFK Assassination Documents Go Public, But Much Held Back

Forces Network gives an update on the John F. Kennedy assassination case, in light of the recent release of government files...

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Last November 22, Forces Network published a feature on the Kennedy assassination.

That article finished by saying that still-withheld materials relating to the crime were due to be put in the public domain this month:

"Journalist Jefferson Morley has detailed efforts to lobby the (CIA and government) to release these missing documents by October, 2017. They are set to anyway, but theoretically some or all of these could be kept under wraps for national security reasons. It would seem that for now, the answer is to watch this space."

And now here we are. October 2017 has arrived and much of this material is coming out.

President Donald Trump tweeted:

But 'just about everything' may prove to be contentious.

Morley's site JFKfacts.org contains the following post:

"In defiance of the law, President Donald Trump is delaying the release of hundreds, if not thousands of files on the John Kennedy assassination that were due to come out Thursday."

The law referred to is the JFK Records Act, or, more precisely, the 'John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992'. It requires the public disclosure, at the National Archives in Maryland, of all records gathered in the process of investigating the assassination, 25 years to the day after the creation of the law. 

That deadline was Thursday.

So how can the continued withholding of documents be allowed? Well, while the law states that all records must be released, it does also say that this is:

"…unless the President certifies that: (1) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations; and (2) the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure."

The Washington Post has reported that Trump has indeed bowed to national security concerns from the CIA and FBI and that a six-month review is necessary. A White House memo states:

"I am ordering today that the veil finally be lifted. At the same time, executive departments and agencies have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns. I have no choice — today — but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our nation's security."

What, then, has been gleaned so far from the 2,800 pages that have been released?

One thing that was actually released in July of this year but is now being circulated along with other material, concerns an anonymous call to a Cambridge newspaper. According to CIA Deputy director James Angleton:

"The British Security Service (MI5) has reported that at 1805 GMT on 22 November an anonymous telephone call was made in Cambridge, England, to the senior reporter of the Cambridge News.

"The caller said only that the Cambridge News reporter should call the American Embassy in London for some big news, and then hung up."

The call took place 25 minutes before the assassination of Kennedy.

kennedy with his family
Kennedy with his family

Another record relates to a phone call to Dallas moments before a second assassination. FBI Director J Edgar Hoover reported that: 

"Last night we received a call from our Dallas office from a man talking in a calm voice and saying he was a member of a committee organised to kill Oswald."

Mr Hoover said he relayed that warning to Dallas police and was assured that Oswald would be sufficiently protected. Oswald was shot dead the next day by Jack Ruby.

That greatly troubled Hoover, because he clearly felt it could fuel conspiracy theories:

"The thing I am concerned about, and so is [deputy attorney general] Mr Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin," he said.

The collection also discloses a meeting of a group of Kennedy's senior aides, including brother Robert, the attorney general, on September 14, 1962, at which they discussed a range of options against Fidel Castro's communist government in Cuba.

Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy was a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency after his brother's death - until he was assassinated himself in 1968

The members of the meeting were told that the CIA would look into the possibility of sabotaging aeroplane parts which were to be shipped to Cuba from Canada. McGeorge Bundy, JFK's national security adviser, cautioned that sensitive ideas like sabotage would have to be considered in more detail on a case-by-case basis.

The collection includes more than 3,100 records - comprising hundreds of thousands of pages - that have never been seen by the public. About 30,000 documents were released previously - with redactions.

Only time will tell if significant answers turn up in the new documents, or if they provide useful clues to assassination researchers. 

The Press Association contributed to this report.

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