Trump keeps the JFK suspense going – and it’s a cliffhanger for the CIA
The conspiracy theories will continue, perhaps forever, but at least until the latest 180-day deadline on the final tranche of JFK assassination documents.
President Donald Trump last week declassified more than 2,800 records on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He held back a final tranche of 200 documents.
What Trump, the former reality TV star, has given us is further suspense. He appears ready to release the final records within 180 days. The trend established in the thus released documents implies Trump’s avowed enemies in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may be damaged.
...addresses of any mentioned person who is still living. I am doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2017
What we did not get with last week’s file release was any new information that proves there was a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. There is no proof that Lee Harvey Oswald, who emerges as more deranged and dangerous than we first thought, worked with anybody else. But buried in the released files a horrifying question is raised - did the only man arrested in connection with the 1963 assassination work for the CIA? We’ll return to that.
Oswald’s links to the USSR featured prominently in media coverage. I must rain on the parade of those who think these revelations are anyway news.
Way back in 1963, almost at the moment Oswald became the most infamous political assassin since Brutus, it became known he had links to the former USSR. Indeed, many conspiracy theories emanated from the claim made by Oswald at Dallas Police Headquarters the day after the assassination: “I’m just a patsy [in America a patsy is a person who was set up to take the blame]”.
What he in fact said was: “They're taking me in because of the fact that I lived in the Soviet Union. I'm just a patsy."
Oswald had attempted to defect to the USSR in 1959 and the authorities were at first receptive to the former US Marine during this tense Cold War period. But the authorities there quickly realized Oswald was, in the words of respected scholar James Reston Jr., “a whack job."
Oswald did however meet Marina Prusakova, who was originally from Severodvinsk, while he was living in Minsk, the capital of modern day Belarus, in 1961. They married and returned to the United States.
The latest revival in an old legend of the USSR’s orchestration was caused by fragments of new information from CIA and FBI reports about Oswald’s visit to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City in September 1963.
This visit was also previously known about. A comprehensive dismissal of the ‘new’ USSR theory by Mr. Reston Jr., a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, was published in the Los Angeles Times the day after the file release.
Mr. Reston's rebuttal is thus; “The Russian conspiracy theory is absurd."
The files contain no new evidence to support claims the Mafia, Fidel Castro’s Cuba, or right-wing nuts conspired to kill JFK. There are expansions on some old conspiracy theories – the government of the USSR believed Vice President Lyndon Johnson led a right-wing plot to kill Kennedy.
The files contain a memo from FBI Director J Edgar Hoover saying the Soviets believed Vice President Johnson could have been behind the killing of John F. Kennedy. The note, from December 1, 1966, cites a US intelligence mole in the USSR as saying the KGB was “in possession of data purporting to indicate Johnson was responsible for the assassination.” But Moscow feared it would get the blame for JFK's death and even be targeted in a retaliatory nuclear missile attack by the Americans, says the note.
Johnson himself, the files reveal, had his own theory. He thought Kennedy had been killed through “divine retribution” for the CIA’s role in the assassination of the South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem just weeks before. It is the reference of this file, and many others like it, to the ghastly secret foreign interventions of the USA at the time that get to the heart of the importance of these files.
The files enhance the most plausible narrative of the assassination of President Kennedy, that there was a rush to bolster the lone gunman theory to avoid the discovery of the multitude of morally reprehensible activities of US intelligence agencies.
Any file release of this breadth has historical significance. They educate us further on just how widespread the disgraceful behavior of US government agencies was in the early 1960s.
Last week’s documents enhance our knowledge of the entanglement between the CIA and notorious mobsters like Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli in attempts to kill Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro.
A May 1962 CIA briefing document shows how the agency offered to pay the Mafia $150,000 to assassinate Castro. The agency would pass poison pills to criminals who would deliver them to individuals in Cuba who would drop them in Castro’s drink.
In the days after the shooting J. Edgar Hoover, among others, became rightly terrified the whole Pandora’s Box would be opened by the unexpected tragedy in Dallas. We see Hoover’s frantic efforts to contain.
On 24 November - the day Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner with Mob connections, shot Oswald in at a Dallas police station – Hoover dictated in a memo: “There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead.”
Referring to Nicholas Katzenbach, the deputy attorney general at the time (1962 to 1965,) Hoover continued: "The thing I am concerned about, and so is Mr. Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin."
President George Bush Senior introduced a law ordering all documents relating to the Kennedy assassination be released by 26 October this year, except in special circumstances. As the release has gathered pace in recent years, it has become clear the FBI kept the focus on Oswald to prevent unwanted and unintended facts becoming public.
Documents released earlier this year showed the CIA colluded in a cover-up, preventing the Warren Commission becoming aware of its collusion with the Mafia.
Last week’s release shows that there were also crucial errors, which damaged the lone gunman theory.
In the released memo, Hoover excoriated the Dallas Police Department for not having prevented Oswald's killing by Ruby. The FBI had warned the police that Oswald's life was in danger, but nothing was done.
"Oswald having been killed today after our warnings to the Dallas Police Department was inexcusable," Hoover dictated. "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. 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."
As the files trickle out we do not see damaging facts about the Soviet Union, or Cuban plots or Mafia hitmen on the grassy knoll. We see damaging facts emerge about a democratic government, the FBI and the CIA.
President Trump has pledged to take on the establishment since he emerged as a political force and he has pursued a feud with the FBI and the CIA. The head of the FBI is gone.
He has likened intelligence chiefs to “Nazi Germany,” after damaging information was leaked about his Presidential campaign and Russia.
Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
There was an instruction in Bush’s 1992 law that said some JFK files could be held back if intelligence services like the FBI and CIA advised that they could damage the national security or reputation of the United States.
These pleas were made by the agencies last week. However, this is not why Trump held back the remaining 200 documents. He was unhappy with the amount of redactions.
Trump "has demanded unprecedented transparency from the agencies and directed them to minimize redactions without delay," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday night. Last Friday Trump committed to releasing all the files.
...in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2017
Looking at the narrative that the drip, drip release of documents has created one comes to believe that Trump would like to see the CIA and FBI, and perhaps even the Democrats (who were in power at the time) damaged by further disclosures.
If it emerges that Oswald was connected to the CIA, for instance, the damage to that agency could be irreparable.
The documents refer to a cross-examination of former CIA director Richard Helms by the Rockefeller Commission in the 1970s.
The commission was set up in 1975 by President Gerald Ford and led by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, to investigate the CIA.
The JFK assassination and possible CIA links formed part of the inquiry.During a previously confidential discussion about Vietnam, attorney David Belin asks Helms:
"Well, now, the final area of my investigation relates to charges that the CIA was in some way conspiratorially involved with the assassination of President Kennedy. 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 agent…?”
The page cuts off at that point mid-sentence, and there are no further pages included.
Conspiracy theorists are already getting ahead of themselves – some believe remaining files will show that the CIA was somehow involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. That is highly unlikely.
But, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility, considering all the subterranean activities of the US intelligence agencies in the early 60s, is that Oswald had come into contact with the CIA on one of their other schemes.
And if even a tangential association were to emerge, then the damage to the President Trump’s enemies would be, as he would say himself, bigly.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.