“[The] The profound national tragedy of President Kennedy’s assassination continues to echo in American history and in the memories of so many Americans alive on that horrible day; Meanwhile, the need to protect assassination records has weakened over time,” Biden wrote in the memorandum. “It is therefore critical to ensure that the United States government maximizes transparency by disclosing all information in the assassination records, unless there are strongest reasons not to.”
Kennedy’s assassination — and the subsequent withholding of government documents related to his death — fueled conspiracy theories for nearly six decades, particularly surrounding gunman Lee Harvey Oswald. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald acted alone in killing the President on November 22, 1963 and that there was no conspiracy.
A large number of the documents released Thursday belonged to the CIA. Several focused on Oswald’s movements, his contacts, and even whether it was really his signature on a visa application to Cuba. Other documents focus on requests from the Warren Commission.
A June 22, 1962 document notes that a recent Washington Post article mentioned Oswald as having defected to the Soviet Union – indicating that Oswald was on the CIA’s radar more than a year before Kennedy was assassinated.
“A former Marine Sgt. from Fort Worth, Texas, who defected to the USSR three years ago, recently left Moscow for the United States with his infant child and Russian-born wife,” the statement said Document.
A December 1963 document described how CIA officers in Mexico City “intercepted a telephone call” that Oswald made from that city to the Soviet embassy there in October, speaking “under his own name” and “broken Russian.”
According to the document, Oswald had previously visited the embassy and claimed that someone there had promised “to send a telegram for him to Washington.” In the call, Oswald asked if there was “anything new.”
The 23-page document continued: “Our Mexico City station very often produces information like this about US citizens contacting Eastern Bloc embassies in Mexico City. Often the information we receive is extremely distressing…”
Another document, dated September 1964 and marked classified, described American officials discussing Oswald and his assassination. The officer, Felix Dmitreyevich Karasev, said he believed it was impossible that the gunman killed Jack Ruby Oswald “without the help of some U.S. officials,” the document said.
The Helsinki official went on to write: “We have tried to rebut this impression, but Karasev stuck to his views.”
With Thursday’s release, 95 percent of the documents in the CIA’s collection of records relating to the assassination of JFK will have been released in their entirety, a CIA spokesman said in a statement, and no documents will be redacted after “an intensive year-long review.” or withheld in full” of all previously unpublished information.
“We have made tremendous progress in our review of the CIA’s collection of records. We’re talking about over 87,000 documents originally included in the JFK Act collection,” the spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the documents’ release.
The CIA spokesman justified the continued redacting of some documents by saying they contained information detailing CIA intelligence sources and methods – some dating back to the late 1990s, which were given context about the methods and terminology to create the CIA.
“The CIA believes that all of its information known to be directly related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 has already been released,” the spokesman said.
Upon initial review, the released documents appeared to contain no explosive new evidence of the decades-long assassination and the far-reaching consequences that followed.
Rather, many of the documents appeared to summarize stories related to the murder that stunned the world, or showed how officials responded to requests for news (‘although noting that his news might actually be old news’). At least one document recalled how a low-level government official mistakenly believed documents about Oswald had been tampered with.
Under the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, all assassination records should have been publicly disclosed within 25 years—or by October 2017—but postponements were permitted in cases where national security concerns outweighed the public interest in disclosure.
President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that he intended to publicly disclose the remaining JFK files, only to delay the release of some of the files for national security reasons, and set a new deadline of October 26, 2021. In 2018 ended Trump authorized disclosure of 19,045 documents, about three-fourths of which still contained some redactions.
All of the remaining JFK files were originally supposed to have been released last October. Biden postponed those planned releases, citing delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, and announced they would instead be released in two batches — one on December 15, 2021, and another by December 15, 2022, after preparing for an “intense May 1.” – Year in review.”
“A temporary continued stay is necessary to protect military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations from apparent harm so serious as to outweigh the public interest in prompt disclosure,” Biden said last October .
The decision angered JFK researchers, who accused the Biden administration of using the pandemic as an excuse for the government to once again block the public, noting that nearly 60 years had passed since Kennedy’s assassination.
“It’s bizarre. It’s been almost 60 years since my uncle died,” Robert Kennedy Jr. told NBC News in October. “What are they hiding?”
On Thursday, a CIA spokesman dismissed claims that the agency was withholding information about Oswald.
“The CIA believes that all material information known to be directly related to Oswald has been released. The few remaining redactions protect the names, sources, locations and crafts of CIA personnel,” the spokesman said. “Similarly, we are not aware of any documents known to be directly related to Oswald that have not already been added to the collection.”
Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post contributor and vice president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation — which sued the Biden administration in October for delaying the release — said his group was particularly interested in looking at a batch of “30 to 40 significant ones.” Documents with Redactions” previously released and compared to what would be released Thursday afternoon.
Morley said he was not encouraged by Thursday’s release and felt the CIA was not acting in “good faith” to release all available information. Morley cited a 15-page document from 1961 – two years before the assassination – from Arthur Schlesigner, Jr. to Kennedy entitled “Memo to President CIA Reorganization”. As of Thursday, it remained partially redacted. “What the CIA has been hiding,” Morley said, is whether the CIA had an “operational interest in Oswald” at the time of the assassination.
In a memorandum Thursday, Biden said that through May 1, 2023, the National Archives and relevant agencies will “collaboratively review the remaining redactions in the records that have not been publicly disclosed.” Following this review process, by June 30, 2023, “all information withheld from publication that the authorities do not recommend for further deferral” will be made public.