The release of Warren Commission files pertaining to the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy includes fascinating documents but lacks any semblance of a “smoking gun” to placate conspiracy theorists.
Questions have abounded since presumed assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on Nov. 24 while being transported in Dallas police custody.
The JFK Records Act of 1992 had required the final release of the commission’s 40,000 documents — 3,600 records never disclosed — to the public in 25 years.
However, the president also was given the right to withhold some documents for national security reasons. President Donald Trump released 2,800 records, but allowed the CIA, FBI, the National Security Agency and the Defense Department to vett the others over the next six months.
Oswald, part of a pro-Castro “Fair Play for Cuba” group, had visited the island two months before the assassination. He had lived in the Soviet Union in 1959. On Sept. 28, he had called the Soviet embassy from the Cuban consulate in Mexico supposedly about a visit.
Yet the records indicate the Soviet Union and Cuba did not want to risk war with the United States, despite their contacts with Oswald. The records also portray CIA efforts to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, including overtures to the Mafia for assistance.
One memo from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover suggests the Soviets were involved, but another states the KGB — the Russian spy agency — believed Lyndon Johnson, the vice president from Texas, was behind it.
We also learned Hoover relayed an anonymous tip about a conspiracy to kill Oswald to Dallas police, but to no avail.
We now know David Belin, the Des Moines attorney who grew up in Sioux City and was the Warren Commission counsel, asked the CIA’s Richard Helms, “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 document ends there.
Some of the released materials contain information previously revealed by the 1975 Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities chaired by Frank Church, D-Idaho, and shed light on CIA assassination attempts against foreign leaders.
In addition, the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations, fueled conspiracy theories concluding there was “probably” a second gunman on the “grassy knoll” as the Kennedy motorcade moved through Dallas.
During the presidential campaign, Trump perpetuated a discredited National Enquirer story that Rafael Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., was involved with Oswald, passing out Fair Play for Cuba leaflets.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot,” Trump said. “I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this? Right? Prior to his being shot. And nobody even brings it up. I mean, they don’t even talk about that — that was reported.”
No new information supports that claim, despite claims by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Various theories have been attributed to Presidents Johnson and Richard Nixon.
Trump confidante Roger Stone, a former Nixon aide, had co-authored a book, “The Man Who Killed Kennedy,” claiming Johnson did so to become president. It quotes Nixon as saying, “Lyndon and I both wanted to be President, the difference was I wouldn’t kill for it.”
Yet Helms later testified Johnson and Nixon believed Kennedy was murdered in retaliation for the death of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem following a coup linked to the CIA.
“There is absolutely no evidence of this in the agency records and the whole thing has been, I mean rather … heated by the fact that President Johnson used to go around saying that the reason President Kennedy was assassinated was that he had assassinated President Diem and this was just ... justice. … Where he got this from, I don’t know.”
The release did not include the supposed 332 pages concerning E. Howard Hunt, the former CIA operative involved in the ring that burglarized Democratic Party headquarters in Washington’s Watergate Office Complex in 1972.
Hunt previously led the CIA’s failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba to overthrow Castro. Kennedy was blamed for not providing air support. Hunt maintained before he died in 2007 that several CIA affiliates plotted “The Big Event” to kill Kennedy.
In 1964 Chief Justice Earl Warren, who headed the commission, told a reporter the full record might eventually be released, “But it might not be in your lifetime.”
The long-awaited released was a huge tease, but nothing more, leaving many questions unanswered.