Whether out of a deep respect to Oliver Stone or just a desire to finally see a positive headline when he Googles himself, President Donald Trump declassified documents pertaining to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
More than 30,000 documents have been released (or in some of cases rereleased) since July 24, 2017, prompting the event "What has the Government Been Hiding? 54 Years of Secrets & the Release of the JFK Record," a discussion of these documents and the time period of time itself at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
“We should be clear: There were a batch of about 3,000 super-secret documents that we’ve not seen a word of in this most recent release, and most of those documents are still secret today,” said Philip Shenon, a former investigative journalist for The New York Times and author of A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, at the event Nov. 18. “The documents we’ve gotten are mostly documents that have been released in the past in part. We’ve got fuller versions of them.”
The “super-secret” documents that we’ve not seen either in part or in full contain information on “the great untold story” of the Kennedy assassination, Shenon says. This includes Lee Harvey Oswald's trip to Mexico City just six weeks before the assassination.
“He was there for six days; we only know about a few hours,” said Larry Sabato, fellow event speaker and author of The Kennedy Half-Century.
“To my mind, all roads lead to Mexico City,” Shenon said.
During this trip, Oswald, who was under surveillance by the Central Intelligence Agency, met with a woman named Silvia Duran, Cuban intelligence agents, a KGB assassination specialist and Mexican supporters of Fidel Castro, and he might have discussed his intention to kill Kennedy during a dinner party. According to previously and recently released documents, Shenon says, it’s clear that both the FBI and CIA were determined to keep the details of this trip away from public eyes — and so far, it seems that they still are.
Both Sabato and Shenon mentioned that the threat of nuclear war was still thick in the air after the Cuban missile crisis, meaning that if Oswald was indeed the agent of some foreign government, the public may have demanded war. So to shore up trust in the government and avoid a potential nuclear holocaust, the U.S. government did its best to scrub any mention of foreign involvement in the assassination. Neither of speakers, however, was convinced any government would see Oswald as spy material.
Sabato also said these agencies and others probably just didn’t want the embarrassment. How could they explain to the American public that a wife-beating “delusional misfit” living in poverty in Oak Cliff and poverty was able to kill the leader of the free world?
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“You got to be nuts to defect to the Soviet Union,” Sabato joked. “And yet they had let him slip through their fingers. They [U.S. intelligence] knew they had let him slip through their fingers, and they didn’t want to face the questions that would come from the public. This was a preventable assassination.”
One new revelation, however, came in a document released earlier this year. It points to a possible motive behind the assassination floated around at the CIA, Shenon said. It’s dated a few years after the assassination and suggests that Oswald became enraged after reading an article about U.S. attempts to assassinate Castro, which compelled him to strike first. But political pressure placed on the team that compiled the Warren Commission report meant the trail was likely already cold by then.
It’s practically artic in 2017, and Shenon said that the batches of documents released since October haven’t shown anything particularly new or different, but the process of going through each of the more than 30,000 documents wasn't going to be a quick one.
“It’s going to take years,” Sabato said. “Some of them you can interpret immediately, and they’re interesting and there’s a nugget everyone can seize on. In other cases, [there’s] so many acronyms, and it’s just a vacuum cleaner of gossip and intercepts that nobody can figure out what it is or it will take years to figure out what it is.”