Although it doesn’t quite reach the level of disappointment of Geraldo Rivera’s live, nationally-televised opening of Al Capone’s (empty) vault, the release of some, but not all, of the last remaining government documents regarding the JFK assassination Thursday night has been greeted with a yawn by the masses and howls of outrage by the obsessed.
President Donald Trump had been ballyhooing the doc dump for days, right up to the deadline. “The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow. So interesting!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday, only to about-face the next day, saying that protecting national security left him no choice but to withhold some 300 documents.
If the aim in releasing those documents was to tamp down conspiracy theories, consider it a flop of Zune-like proportions. Promised a feast by no less than Trump himself, we were instead delivered a can of sardines and a packet of ramen.
University of Virginia historian and JFK expert Larry J. Sabato spoke for many:
54 yrs since #JFK assassination, 25 yrs since mandated release TODAY, and we’ll have to wait another 6 months to MAYBE see the good stuff.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) October 26, 2017
From left to right, Ds, Rs, & Inds are very unhappy w/ tonight’s #JFKfiles withhold. And people said Americans would never be united again.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) October 26, 2017
So what did we get to see? Mostly permutations of things we already knew:
The CIA considered enlisting Mafia gunmen from Sam Giancana’s Chicago Outfit to take out Castro, but Robert Kennedy was opposed to the plan, worrying that such a service rendered would make Giancana difficult to prosecute in the future.
And as part of the anti-Castro Operation Mongoose, the CIA floated the idea of Operation Northwoods-style false-flag attacks on American soil in order to discredit Castro:
We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized. Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of a Cuban agent and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.
So, nothing completely groundbreaking. But still, a few more juicier tidbits were allowed to emerge in the documents:
What the Soviets thought about all of this
From Premier Nikita Khrushchev on down, the Reds scoffed at the idea Oswald acted alone, thinking that it “arose out of a carefully planned campaign in which several people played a part,” most likely people on the far right of the political spectrum.
In one May 1964 document, a spy tells the CIA that he “got the impression that Chairman Khrushchev had some dark thoughts about the American Right Wing being behind this conspiracy.” Khrushchev refused to believe that the Secret Service was “inept” enough to allow Kennedy to be killed, and went on to accuse the Dallas Police Department of being an “accessory” to the slaying. The CIA’s asset put forth the theory that both Oswald and Ruby were “mad,” and the Soviet leader would have none of it: “[he] said flatly that he did not believe this.”
Another document detailed the great fear and consternation with which Soviets greeted the news of Kennedy’s death. It was reported that church bells tolled in Moscow, and that Soviet guards allowed ordinary citizens to enter the American embassy to offer condolences. (And only to offer condolences. Those who might have thought to gloat or sneer were steered away.)
At the highest levels of government, there were fears that a rogue general would seize power, blame Moscow, and start a nuclear war. It was reported that Kennedy was widely mourned by the Kremlin—they believed he was a man interested in keeping peace.
Somewhat unbelievably, they also claimed to have known almost nothing about LBJ at the time.
Come on, really? By that time, Johnson had been a senator for fifteen years, and Senate Majority Leader for the last six years of that tenure, not to mention vice president for three years. And the omniscient, omnipotent KGB barely had a file on the guy? Pull the other one, Boris…
By 1965, the Soviets claimed to have done their homework on LBJ’s “character, background, personal friends, family, and from which quarters he derives his support in his position as President of the United States.”
Once they had all that info, they concluded that “President Johnson was responsible for the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy.”
Roger Stone agrees:
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) October 26, 2017
The FBI was warned that Oswald was a target
The night before Oswald was shot and killed, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was told that “a man talking in a calm voice and saying he was a member of a committee organized to kill Oswald” called the FBI’s Dallas office.
“We at once notified the chief of police and he assured us Oswald would be given sufficient protection,” Hoover wrote in a memo. “This morning we called the chief of police again, warning of the possibility of some effort against Oswald and again he assured us adequate protection would be given.”
And then an epic understatement: “However, this was not done.”
In the same memo, Hoover fretted that Oswald’s demise so soon after the assassination would spawn conspiracy theories. “The thing I am concerned about, and so is Mr. [Deputy Attorney General Nicholas] Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin,” he wrote.
There’s certainly nothing about the wording of that sentence to add fuel to the conspiracy theory fire…
Yet another suspect as the “real killer”
An informant told the FBI that Dallas cop J.D. Tippit was the gunman. The informant claimed that Tippit, who was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald 45 minutes after Kennedy’s assassination, was head of the Dallas chapter of the far-right John Birch Society, and had been seen in Jack Ruby’s nightclub with an unknown third party, possibly Oswald, in the weeks before the shooting. (All of which Nikita Khrushchev might have accepted as gospel.)
Of course, there are also those who believe that Oswald did not kill Tippit. And so it goes with the JFK conspiracy theories, a field that seems likely only to grow with this latest failed attempt at clarification.