The White House released most of the final JFK files last night after President Trump promised the nation “great transparency” on the issue.
Intelligence officials at the FBI and the CIA have been given six months to explain to the president why certain information had to be blackened out, or “redacted” in the language of Washington officialdom.
A White House spokesperson made clear that Trump was “unhappy” with the redactions and told CNN that he believed that agencies were "not meeting the spirit of the law."
In a public memorandum Trump declared:
The American public expects — and deserves — its Government to provide as much access as possible to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records (records) so that the people may finally be fully informed about all aspects of this pivotal event. Therefore, I am ordering today that the veil finally be lifted. At the same time, executive departments and agencies (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. To further address these concerns, I am also ordering agencies to re-review each and every one of those redactions over the next 180 days. At the end of that period, I will order the public disclosure of any information that the agencies cannot demonstrate meets the statutory standard for continued postponement of disclosure under section 5(g) (2)(D) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) (the “Act”).
So far however the files have provided little of the hype promised by the President when he tweeted earlier this week that the revelations were “So interesting!”
Historical nuggets abounded but thus far nothing that will change the way we think about the assassination.
Mexico, unsurprisingly, cooperated extensively with US authorities, even prior to the assassination. With the Cold War casting a chill over international relations the country had no doubt whose side it was on and went to great lengths to bug the Soviet and Cuban embassies in the early 1960’s.
Other letters detail the country’s cooperation with US efforts to find out what Oswald had been up to whilst visiting Mexico earlier that year: one letter to the Department of Justice in December 1964 declares that “a check of all bank records in Mexico… had been completed and no information was found that OSWALD had sent or received money during the time he was in Mexico."
The Kremlin, not usually an institution to think well of American leadership, was party to rumors from LBJ was involved somehow in the assassination.
“Our source added that 'now' the K.G.B. was in possession of data purporting to indicate President Johnson was responsible for the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy,” the 1966 memo read.
The assassination caused untold worry in Moscow: one document reveals that one Soviet admitted they feared at the time that it was a right wing coup that could propel into power, "some irresponsible general [who] might launch a missile at the Soviet Union."
FBI Director J Edgar Hoover’s private musing are revealed: after Oswald was shot by nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, Hoover raged at the incompetence of Dallas police.
"Oswald having been killed today after our warnings to the Dallas Police Department was inexcusable," Hoover thundered.
"It will allow, I am afraid, a lot of civil rights people to raise a lot of hell because he was handcuffed and had no weapon. There are bound to be some elements of our society who will holler their heads off that his civil rights were violated — which they were."
He did however believe that the inquiry into the assassination should be handled by his bosses at the Justice Department and as such he was disappointed by Johnson’s decision to create the Warren Commission.
Curiously, in 1975 CIA Director Richard Helms for the Rockefeller Commission is asked, "Is there any information involved with the assassination of President Kennedy which in any way shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was in some way a CIA agent or an agent..."
The question tails off and no answer from Helms is recorded as being given.
Another document relating to the CIA explains in detail how they might go about killing Fidel Castro: one suggesting is to plant a bomb near where the dictator normally went diving, another was to place a deadly fungus in his wet suit, another was to put pills in his drink and a final option was simply to hire a gunman.
New details are still being uncovered as journalists and historians trawl through the files, although as many of the files are damaged and liberally laced with intelligence agency jargon it’s expected to be some time before everything can be gleaned from them.