In 1992, U.S. President George H. W. Bush signed into law an act establishing the Assassination Records Review Board. This board was tasked with compiling the entire collection of records at the U.S. National Archives relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The law set a 25-year deadline, expiring this year, for the release of 3,100 documents that remained locked away and unseen, as well as releasing the full, un-redacted versions of documents already made public.
The law did leave a loophole, though, for the president to block the release of some documents upon the recommendations of the FBI and the CIA. Last week, President Trump authorized the release of the bulk of the documents, but, upon receiving CIA and FBI recommendations, did allow the withholding of some documents for six months.
The more than 2,800 documents released were mainly from the 1960s and 1970s and directly related to the investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald and his role in the 1963 assassination of Kennedy. These include a file from the CIA on the activities of Oswald while he was visiting Mexico City prior to Kennedy’s death. There are tons of shocking revelations that actually feed conspiracy theories rather than quash them. Did Oswald act alone? Was he part of a grander conspiracy? Read on to discover some of the most stunning revelations found in the newly released JFK records.
15. JFK’s Assassinator Might Have Met With Cubans
Less than a week after Kennedy’s assassination, Thomas C. Mann, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, sent a cable from the embassy in Mexico City to Dean Rusk, the U.S. Secretary of State. In that cable, Mann raised his belief that Oswald was both deranged and disgruntled, a dangerous loner. He believed Oswald met with Cuban representatives in Mexico City a few months prior and received some sort of payment. Mann would years later tell investigators that Secretary Rusk replied with a perplexing order to cease any investigation into Oswald’s activities in Mexico. A suspicious directive to be sure, certainly reinforcing one of the theories that a conspiracy scheme was planned in Mexico. One would think that a thorough accounting of the alleged assassin’s activities would be a prudent course of action. Nevertheless, the U.S. Department of State wanted no part in any ensuing investigation. Did Rusk know something and not want to get involved any deeper?
14. Cuban Diplomats Were Definitely Not Saddened By Kennedy’s Death
Operatives in Ottawa, Canada, sent a report to the Director of the CIA that indicated the initial reaction of the Cuban ambassador upon hearing the news of Kennedy’s assassination. They reported that the ambassador and his staff’s response upon hearing of the assassination was one of “happy delight.” However, once they received further information linking Oswald to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, they appeared apprehensive and concerned over a possible retaliation from the United States. They were right to be concerned. If there had been definitive proof at the time that Cuba was behind a plot to kill and succeeded in killing the U.S. President, a military response was sure to follow. If it had been known on the world stage that Cuba did indeed participate in the murder of a world leader, then not even the Soviet Union would have backed Castro in the ensuing war with the United States.
13. Fidel Castro Insisted He Had Nothing To Do With The Assassination
Years after the assassination, Cuba’s Fidel Castro met with congressional investigators and told them that any idea that he was involved was “insane.” The 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations report contained a comprehensive interview with Castro. Castro stated, “From the ideological point of view it was insane. And from the political point of view, it was a tremendous insanity. I am going to tell you that nobody, nobody ever had the idea to do such things.” He continued, “That would have been the most perfect pretext for the United States to invade our country which is what I have tried to prevent all these years, in every possible sense.” He was adamant in his denials even though the CIA had hatched several failed plans to assassinate Castro.
12. The Killer’s Trip To Mexico Was Monitored By The CIA
The day after the assassination, the CIA was actively investigating a meeting Oswald had during his stay in Mexico City, two months prior. A CIA document describes a meeting between Oswald and a Soviet consul, Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov. According to intelligence sources, Kostikov was actually a case officer in a department comprised of members of the KGB’s Department 13 (responsible for sabotage and assassination). The title of the CIA memo was “Contact of Lee OSWALD with a member of Soviet KGB Assassination Department,” and reportedly the writer of the memo turned it over to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The CIA also reportedly intercepted a phone call from Oswald to Kostikov at the Soviet embassy in Mexico City, confirming the meeting. The record of the phone intercept lists Kostikov as an “identified KGB officer,” and that Oswald spoke in “broken Russian.”
11. President Johnson Said The Assassination Was Justice
Richard Helms was the textbook definition of a spymaster. He was a spy during World War II and an espionage expert in the years afterwards. By the time Kennedy was elected president, Helms was deputy director of the CIA, later to be named director. In 1975, he met with congressional investigators and told them of a conversation he had with President Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s successor. He reported that President Johnson “used to go around saying that the reason President Kennedy was assassinated was that he had assassinated [Vietnamese] President Diem and this was just justice.” Helms claims he would say things like that often in the early days of his Presidency: “Where he got this idea from I don’t know. I don’t how many of you had the privilege of trying to argue with Presidents about things like that but you tend to be a loser.”
10. Was The Assassinator A Government Operative?
During Richard Helms’ deposition by investigators, he was asked about the theories speculating that the CIA was in some way involved with a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. The investigator asked, “Is there any information involved with the assassination of President Kennedy which in any way shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was in some way a CIA agent or an agent?” And from that point on, the document is redacted, blacked out, ends. The document is cut off at the point where investigator David Berlin point-blank asks if the CIA was involved or if Oswald was affiliated at any time with them or another agency. Another document, a 1967 cable, from the National Archives contained a quote from a Cuban intelligence agent who, when asked if he though Oswald was a good shot, replied, “Oh, he was quite good.” When asked why he thinks that, he replied, “I knew him.”
9. The FBI Was Also Following Oswald’s Mexico Trip
A 1964 cable reveals that the FBI was investigating Lee Harvey Oswald’s bus trip to Mexico. The report contained specific seat numbers on the bus that Oswald rode on to Mexico City, and details about certain passengers in those seats, located in front and behind him. The report names twenty-two sources where interviewed about the bus trip, including other passengers. The FBI was very interested in who might have been traveling with Oswald and who he talked to during the bus ride. Many of the remaining files that have been withheld until early next year concern Oswald’s September 1963 trip to Mexico City. It is known from records that he did visit the Cuban embassy, meeting with officials in an attempt to obtain a Cuban visa, from where he could then travel to the Soviet Union. It looks like we’ll have to wait until 2018 learn the details.
8. A British Newspaper Was Tipped About The Assassination Half An Hour BEFORE It Occurred
On November 22, 1963, a senior reporter at the Cambridge News in Cambridge, England, received an anonymous phone call. The unknown caller said that the “reporter should call the American Embassy in London for some big news.” He then hung up. MI-5, British Intelligence, reported similar anonymous calls of a “strangely coincidental nature” had been made throughout the United Kingdom. An investigation revealed that the phone call was placed was received at 6:05 P.M. GMT, a full 25 minutes before the assassination had taken place. The mysterious phone call was documented in a memo from the CIA to the FBI, via Agent Sam Papich, an FBI agent who worked closely with the CIA. Papich had gone on-record saying that he doubted the Warren Commission’s findings that Oswald acted alone. He told a journalist, “This would have been very fancy shooting even for the best marksmen in the FBI. But everything we had on Oswald indicated that he was a crappy shot.”
7. The FBI Believed Oswald’s Death Would Be Viewed As A Civil Rights Violation
The legendary and infamous J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director, issued a memo two days after Kennedy’s assassination. In that memo, Hoover stated the details of Jack Ruby’s murder of Lee Harvey Oswald in the underground garage of the Dallas Police Department. He further commented on what he believed the aftermath of Oswald’s death could entail. Hoover noted that Oswald’s murder would be seen as a violation of his civil rights. “It will allow, I am afraid, a lot of civil rights people to raise a lot of hell because he was handcuffed and had no weapon,” Hoover wrote. “There are bound to be some [elements] of our society who will holler their heads off that his civil rights were violated — which they were.” Oddly, Hoover also emphasized the need to “convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.” He was adamant that “there is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead.”
6. Soviet Officials Believed There Was A Conspiracy
In 1966, J. Edgar Hoover sent a report to President Johnson where he detailed the reactions of the Soviet and Community Party officials to the news of Kennedy’s assassination. The report detailed findings of intelligence operatives from 1963, and stated that the news of Kennedy’s death “was greeted by great shock and consternation and church bells were tolled in the memory of President Kennedy.” The report further indicated that the “Communist Party of the Soviet Union believes the assassination was part of a well-organized conspiracy on the part of the ‘ultra right’ in the United States to effect a ‘coup.’” Communist Party officials “seemed convinced that the assassination was not the deed of one man, but that it arose out of a carefully planned campaign in which several people played a part,” the report said.
5. The KGB Believed The American President Had Kennedy Killed
The KGB, the super-secretive Soviet spy and security agency, maintained a theory that they believed that President Lyndon B. Johnson was instrumental in ordering Kennedy’s assassination. In a memo from J. Edgar Hoover, dated December 2, 1966, he wrote that the FBI had a source in Russia that indicated that the KGB was in possession of some unknown data that seemed to implicate President Johnson as “responsible for the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy.” Due to this data, the KGB was investigating the “personal relationship” between Johnson and other Kennedy family members, specifically Robert and Ted Kennedy. The memo continues that, prior to Kennedy’s death, Johnson was practically unknown to Soviet officials. The memo continued that it was believed by the source that the Soviets played no part and had no connection to Oswald.
4. A Witness Says He Saw Oswald and Jack Ruby Together
In 1976, a congressional investigator wrote a memo to the House Select Committee on Assassination where he relates his efforts to confirm the story of a witness. This witness claimed he saw Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, the man who would later kill Oswald, together at the Key West International Airport sometime before the assassination. The investigator, Gaeton Fonzi, traveled to Key West but was unable to confirm the story. Most law enforcement investigators believe this to be a false lead. So many factors had to align perfectly in order for Jack Ruby to have killed Oswald that day in the police garage. It’s hard for many to believe Ruby planned beforehand to silence Oswald after the Kennedy assassination. Any one of a number of things could have happened that would’ve prevented Ruby from being able to even get near Oswald, and it was only by sheer luck that Ruby was able to do it at all.
3. An Informant Claims Oswald Was A Government Agent
An FBI informant named Orest Pena gave a deposition to the House Select Committee on his knowledge of the assassination. In a 1978 summary of that deposition, New Orleans FBI informant Pena refused to answer the question of whether he had any relationship with the CIA; however, he did state that he believed “Oswald was an agent of the U.S. government.” Pena claimed he witnessed Oswald and Pena’s FBI handler speaking together and that it appeared that they knew each other quite well. He further stated that Oswald moved to Dallas at the same time that his handler was transferred to Dallas. Coincidence? Maybe, but maybe it was an orchestrated move. Was Oswald working for the FBI, possibly embedded with some pro-Cuba agents, to gather intelligence? Who do we believe? Was Oswald working for the CIA? Was that why the CIA was keeping tabs on him? Or was the CIA monitoring him but were unaware of his affiliation with the FBI?
2. Government Documents Might Confirm Informant’s Claims
New Orleans FBI informant Orest Pena’s claims that his handler knew Oswald well were supported when it was revealed that documents do indicate the FBI knew of Oswald. Pena’s handler was Special Agent Warren DeBrueys. A document was released from October 25, 1963, where Agent DeBrueys reported from the New Orleans FBI field office that he would “maintain contact with Cuban sources for any indication of additional activity” by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, “which appears to have become inactive since the departure from New Orleans of Lee Harvey Oswald.” The document goes on to say that a copy was sent to the Dallas field office “inasmuch as that office is presently conducting inquiries to locate Lee Harvey Oswald, subject of a separate investigation, Dallas file number 100-10461, and if Oswald has relocated in the Dallas territory it is possible he may inaugurate a FPCC branch in that area.” The document never states what the “separate investigation” entailed.
1. Another Informant Claims He Saw Oswald Receive Ammo From Another Man
In 1964, an informant came forward to the FBI and claimed ties to the Minute Men, an aggressive anti-Communist group in the Fort Worth area. The informant reported that a member of the Minute Men came to his house one night, about six weeks prior to Kennedy’s assassination, asking for ammunition. The informant says another man was with him, but both stayed outside in the yard and never entered his home. The informant says he retrieved the ammunition and gave it to them and thought no more about it. At least, not until he and his wife saw Oswald’s photo in the newspaper. They both believed Oswald closely resembled the man who came to his house those weeks prior. The FBI document stated that the informant and his wife “felt the Minute Men were involved in the assassination although they claimed that very little was said by members they know following the assassination except to express satisfaction that it happened.”
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