The truth is out. The long-awaited JFK files are here and reveal that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. There really was a second shooter, firing from the grassy knoll. And as many of us have thought for decades, we finally know that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.
October 26th 2017 was the day scores of conspiracy theorists had been dreaming of for years. The day thousands of secret documents related to President Kennedy’s death would be released, as stipulated by the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.
The Act came into being because of the 1991 Oliver Stone movie JFK, starring Kevin Costner, which popularised the notion that agents inside the FBI, the CIA and the US military were all involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the president. The records were originally supposed to be sealed until 2029—as stated at the end of the movie—but because the US government was so concerned by the conclusions presented in the film, they pushed through the 1992 Act to release them early.
Of all the documents released, one in particular got tongues wagging: the previously classified 1975 deposition of former CIA director Richard Helms. Helms was asked about Lee Harvey Oswald, but the testimony suspiciously cut off right before the juiciest part, when Helms was being asked whether Oswald was working for the CIA. Naturally, UK newspaper The Sun got a serious stiffy over this and plastered “COVER UP!” across its front page.
But The Sun didn’t do its homework (no surprises there). The rest of the deposition was released. The full testimony was declassified years ago, in fact, in 1994. And it carries on with Helms answering that Oswald was NOT a CIA agent and had never worked for the CIA.
What about the rest of the records, though? Alas, none contain the smoking gun conspiracy theorists were hoping for.
That said, some of them are continuing to be withheld, and some have been released with redactions. Something about the information being “too sensitive”. It’s enough to keep conspiracy fires burning, but President Trump has ordered the FBI and CIA to review the still-secret documents over the next 180 days, setting a new deadline for their release: 26th April 2018.
And while the released files don’t contain a smoking gun, they do still reveal some sexy-ish facts. We know now that the CIA considered using the Mafia to assassinate Cuban ruler Fidel Castro, before Attorney General Robert Kennedy shot the idea down. We know that President Lyndon B. Johnson used to go around saying that JFK’s murder was payback for the assassination of President Diem of Vietnam.
We also know that “a man talking in a calm voice” called the FBI saying he was part of a committee set up to murder Lee Harvey Oswald—just one day before Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby. The released memo reveals that Ruby was asked about this and denied being the one who called the FBI. Could this mean that others were involved in killing Oswald? Many still believe that Ruby was part of the overarching plot to assassinate JFK, his purpose being to silence Oswald before he could reveal anything about his co-conspirators.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation of all does hint at a possible conspiracy to kill JFK—just not a home-grown one. A report shows that Oswald made a phone call in Mexico City to the Soviet embassy on October 1st 1963. In the call it was mentioned that Oswald had visited the embassy a few days previously and spoken with the embassy consul, Valeriy Kostikov. The report identified Kostikov as a senior member of Department 13, a unit of the KGB responsible for arranging assassinations.
So why did Oswald meet with Kostikov? Was it to talk about a Soviet plot to kill Kennedy?
The notion that Oswald was not working alone on 22nd November 1963 is one of the few conspiracy theories that does fly with me. I remember watching Oliver Stone’s JFK and feeling utterly convinced by its interpretation of the facts. The ‘magic bullet’ that changed direction in mid-air. All those witnesses hearing gunshots on the grassy knoll and rushing over to investigate—even though the knoll was in the opposite direction to where Oswald had fired from. And the Zapruder film, which shows Kennedy being hit from the front, even though Oswald fired from behind.
I don’t think, sadly, that the files still to be released are going to shed much light. I suspect that if there was a conspiracy, most of the evidence has been destroyed. Still, I’m intrigued to see what happens on April 26th next year.
Next week: a review of Disney’s Zootropolis (yes, it will become clear why I’m reviewing a Disney movie on this site!)