It’s been nearly 54 years since John F. Kennedy was assassinated when travelling in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Though the public had the full official story by the mid-70s, to this day, there is still quite a bit of speculation about if there was a bigger conspiracy at play. Since the announcement that thousands of files from the investigation will be released tomorrow, people are getting pretty excited about what kind of news they might reveal.
How much new information can they actually tell us though? And why are they releasing those files now? Allow us to explain.
President Trump tweeted on Saturday that he would be releasing the classified JFK files this week. If you’re unfamiliar with the case, that may have seemed like some crazy proclamation from the president. Is Trump some kind of conspiracy theorist who wants to shed the light of day on the long-classified Kennedy case? No. The files have been set to be released automatically on October 26, 2017, since George H.W. Bush signed a law in 1992 that all files related to the investigation be made public within 25 years unless the president deemed it a threat to security. Trump was simply announcing that he would not be stopping them (although there were people lobbying him to block the files).
Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017
What’s the official story?
On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas while in the city to campaign for his reelection the following year. When the procession entered the downtown Dealey Plaza around 12:30pm, Kennedy and Texas governor John Connally were both shot by former marine Lee Harvey Oswald. JFK was hit in the neck and head, and was pronounced dead at 1:00pm at a nearby hospital. Oswald was arrested and charged with murder later that afternoon.
Two days later, Oswald was shot and killed during a jail transfer by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on live television. It was determined that Oswald acted alone and unaided–something that many conspiracy theorists dispute.
So how much information are we talking about here?
According to the National Archives, 88 per cent of the Kennedy Assassination Records are already out in the open and have been since the late 1990s. We can’t underestimate just how big this investigation is though. Tomorrow, the NA is set to release 3,810 documents, including 441 that were withheld in full and 3,369 that were previously released with portions redacted.
What are the biggest questions that need answering?
The two major points of contention in the official story are that Oswald had planned the assassination on his own and that he was the only gunman. His death seems to be way too convenient to be true. He was killed before he could be tried or put through intensive interrogation. Who would he have ratted out (Mafia? US intelligence?) if he had been tried?
There’s also the revelation that the facts of the murder don’t add up. While the investigation conducted by the Warren Commission posits that Kennedy was shot and killed by the same bullet that struck Connally, analysts over the years call the trajectory highly unlikely, almost impossible. Since the official ‘Single Bullet Theory‘ seems like a fabrication, conspiracy theorists (and a lot of the general public) believe there must have been two shooters.
What could we possibly learn from these files?
Investigative journalist and author Philip Shenon says that the answers to these questions may lie in the trip Oswald made to Mexico City a few weeks before the assassination. Previously declassified documents confirm that during that trip, Oswald met with Cuban and Russian spies and other groups who may have wanted Kennedy dead. They also show that the CIA was watching Oswald–a known Marxist at the height of the Cold War–at the time. Shenon expects that the new files will reveal how much the CIA knew about Oswald before the assassination.
As for the second gunman, Shenon doesn’t see the documents settling that. He believes that all the documents will be consistent with the evidence released so far that points to Oswald being the only shooter.
So are we in for any big bombshells?
First of all, there are close to 4,000 documents being released tomorrow. It will likely take years to analyse everything that’s in them.
Second, if you’re looking for a grand movie-like reveal of a whole conspiracy plot that will be followed by the American government going ‘Whoops, you got us,’ you should probably lower your expectations.
Third, if there really is a conspiracy, why would the government actually release the documents that directly oppose their official story? We’re just sayin’.
If you’re interested in checking out the docs for yourself, they’ll be on the National Archives website.