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May 2024

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The JFK Files
Featured Article

The JFK Files


For almost six decades now, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has been a controversial tragedy haunting the American psyche. A majority of Americans remain convinced that our government has never told us the complete truth about what happened on November 22, 1963. Justly so, because relevant government documents have been absurdly classified for decades. Flushing them out has been like wrestling meat from a shark. If there’s nothing incriminating to hide, why sequester these files for over half a century?
The whole remaining cache was supposed to have seen sunlight last year, as mandated by the JFK Records Act passed in 1992. That act granted 25 years to slowly trickle them out, until the ultimate deadline, October 2017. But there was one big catch: The President could allow the affected agencies—read CIA and FBI—an additional six months to review them. Although a staggering 19,045 documents were released in April, Trump declared that 520 files would still be kept under lock and key until at least 2021 “to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement or foreign affairs that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure.”
If that smells like a pile of evasive bullshit, your nose is well attuned. What “sources and methods” (the usual excuse) from five decades ago could be so endangering to present-day “national security” or “foreign affairs”? And how could they possibly outweigh the “public interest” in laying to rest doubts about the most disputed and obsessively studied event in American history? The rationale is preposterous. But after five decades of relentless research by an army of journalists, scholars and activist citizens, we do have some clues about what those 520 “family jewels” contain. This body of research is a massive opus—hundreds and hundreds of books and documentaries—of varying quality. It’s a complex field, but it can be understood by following the trajectories of two essential characters: Lee Harvey Oswald and E. Howard Hunt.
Born in New Orleans in 1939, the alleged assassin of JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, joined the Marine Corps in 1956 and was subsequently stationed at the top-secret U-2 spy plane base in Atsugi, Japan. There he began spouting Communist jargon, without getting any flack from his hard-core anti-Communist Marine superiors. Some of his fellow Marines suspected it was an act, that maybe he was being “sheepdipped” for an intelligence mission, similar to other Marines who had been recruited as false defectors to the Soviet Union. In 1959 Oswald took a U.S. Army Russian language exam—peculiar training for a buck private. He soon received the chance to practice his Russian when later that same year he defected to the Soviet Union, telling an officer at the U.S. embassy in Moscow that he would reveal everything he knew from his stint as a radar operator for the U2 flights. The most closely guarded secret was the exact altitude at which the U-2s flew. For four years the spy planes had penetrated Soviet air space with total impunity; Russian antiaircraft missiles and interceptor jets were incapable of attacking them. But that suddenly changed after Oswald’s defection. In May 1960 Francis Gary Power’s U-2 was shot down over Russian territory, sabotaging an imminent peace summit between President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Khrushchev.
Two years later Oswald returned to the U.S. with his Russian bride, Marina. He landed in Dallas, where a Russian exile, oil man and alleged CIA informant, George de Mohrenschildt, shepherded him and Marina around town. Despite his defection and threats to divulge top-secret information to the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, Oswald was never investigated or prosecuted for treason. Then, incredibly, he landed a job at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall in Dallas—a firm processing photos from the U-2 flights over Cuba! Incredible because the records prove that Hoover’s FBI was keeping firm track of Oswald this whole time.
In April 1963 Oswald abandoned Marina in Dallas and moved back to his hometown, New Orleans, where he started a one-man Fair Play for Cuba operation, distributing pro-Castro flyers with an address—544 Camp Street—that turned out to be identical to that of Guy Bannister, an ex-FBI agent and fanatical leader in the anti-Castro exile movement. This is what New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison later discovered in 1967, among other clues, leading to his independent investigation of the case (depicted in Oliver Stone’s film JFK). Oswald then made a mysterious trip to Mexico City, where he visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies, before returning to Dallas and getting a job at the Texas School Book Depository.
Up until the assassination on November 22, an imposter claiming to be Oswald made several incriminating appearances—at a gun range and a car dealership—while the documentary record clearly establishes that the real Oswald was elsewhere. Some of these impersonations occurred while Oswald was in the Soviet Union. In fact, in 1960 FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wrote a memo stating that there “is a possibility that an imposter is using Oswald’s birth certificate.”

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