Nearly 1,500 secret documents tied to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy have been published online by the nation’s top archivists, in accordance with a deadline set by the White House this fall.
The tranche of reports, memos, and diplomatic cables from the CIA, FBI, State Department, and other agencies have never before been seen by the public. They represent a small fraction of federal paperwork linked to the killing of the 35th U.S. president, who was twice shot, once in the rear of his head, as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, on Nov. 22, 1963.
The assassination has long been the focal point for popular conspiracy theories dismissive of the Warren Commission’s official findings, which name Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year-old former Marine who had once defected to the Soviet Union, as Kennedy’s sole assassin.
In October, citing the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on federal activities, the White House again delayed the release of the long-classified files, around 10% of which remained today unpublished.
After today’s release, some 14,000 files remain, the National Archives said.
Each of the remaining files was at some point flagged as potentially containing information whose release, agencies argued, could foreseeably harm U.S. national security or diplomatic relations.
The agencies who are custodians of the records have one year to finish a security review of those still withheld—at which time they will either be published in full or, more likely, in a redacted form. Some may not be published at all, and will be identified on a public index listing the reasons they’ve been withheld in their entirety.
Officially, JFK documents are withheld as needed to “protect against an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure,” according to a Biden administration memo, signed by the president in October.
The protracted rollout of the JFK papers’ publication over many decades has effectively undermined the stated purpose of the endeavor, launched by Congress nearly three decades ago in the hopes of allaying all the lingering doubts surrounding Kennedy’s brutal and untimely death.
Polls over recent decades have consistently shown that a majority of the country still believe there were multiple conspirators, if not gunmen; that Oswald, who was himself assassinated two days after Kennedy, was, in the end, the “patsy” he claimed to be.