WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump blocked the release of hundreds of records on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, bending to CIA and FBI appeals, while the National Archives came out Thursday night with a hefty cache of others.
“I have no choice,” Trump said in a memo, citing “potentially irreversible harm” to national security if he were to allow all records to come out now. He placed those files under a six-month review while letting 2,800 others come out, racing a deadline to honor a law mandating their release.
The documents approved for release capture the frantic days after the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination, during which federal agents madly chased after tips, however thin, juggled rumors and sifted through leads worldwide.
They include cables, notes and reports stamped “Secret” that reveal the suspicions of the era – around Cubans and Communists. They cast a wide net over varied activities of the Kennedy administration, such as its covert efforts to upend Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba.
For historians, it’s a chance to answer lingering questions, put some unfounded conspiracy theories to rest, perhaps give life to other theories.
Despite having months to prepare for disclosures that have been set on the calendar for 25 years, Trump’s decision came down to a last-minute debate with intelligence agencies – a tussle the president then prolonged by calling for still more review.
The delay sparked a round of finger-pointing among agencies and complaints that Trump should have released all records.
Roger Stone, a sometime Trump adviser who wrote a book about his theories on the assassination, urged Trump to review personally any material that government agencies still want to withhold. Trump should at least “spot check” any extensive redactions to make sure agencies are not “dabbling in acts of criminal insubordination,” Stone said in a statement.
As for the unreleased documents, Trump will impress upon federal agencies that “only in the rarest cases” should JFK files stay secret after the six-month review, officials said.
In the meantime, experts will be poring through a mountain of minutiae and countless loose threads in search of significant revelations.
In the chaotic aftermath of the assassination, followed two days later by the murder of the shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald while in police custody, FBI Director J, Edgar Hoover vented his frustration in a formerly secret report found in the files. It opened: “There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead.”
But, reflecting on Oswald less than an hour after he died, Hoover already sensed theories would form about a conspiracy broader than the lone assassin.
“The thing I am concerned about, and so is (deputy attorney general) Mr. Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin,” he said.
He also reported: “Last night we received a call from our Dallas office from a man talking in a calm voice and saying he was a member of a committee organized to kill Oswald.”
Hoover said he relayed that warning to Dallas police and was assured Oswald would be sufficiently protected. Oswald was shot dead the next day by Jack Ruby.Copyright 2017 Associated Press