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JFK assassination files to be released: What could the documents reveal?

America’s National Archives will release 3,000 documents on his killing, but will that satisfy conspiracy theorists.

world Updated: Oct 26, 2017 12:35 IST
Agencies
Kennedy assassination,Kennedy files John F Kennedy,Lee Harvey Oswald
President John F Kennedy waves from his car in a motorcade in Dallas. Riding with Kennedy are First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, right, Nellie Connally, second from left, and her husband, Texas Governor John Connally, far left on November 22, 1963.(AP File Photo)

The assassination of John F Kennedy has spawned decades of conspiracy theories challenging the official version that the US President was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.

America’s National Archives has until Thursday to disclose remaining files related to Kennedy’s 1963 assassination. The trove is expected to include more than 3,000 documents that have never been seen by the public and more than 30,000 that have been previously released but with redactions.

Here’s all you need to know about the assassination:

A president dies

Kennedy was the fourth US president to be cut down by an assassin’s bullets. His death at age 46 on November 22, 1963 proved a traumatic turning point as the United States headed into a period of turbulence over civil rights and the Vietnam War.

The shocking images of Jacqueline Kennedy cradling her mortally wounded husband in the back of an open presidential limousine froze the moment in the public consciousness.

Investigation

A 10-month investigation led by then Supreme Court chief justice Earl Warren concluded that Oswald, a former Marine who had lived in the Soviet Union, acted alone when he fired on Kennedy’s motorcade, hitting the President with two shots, one through the upper back and the other in the head.

Oswald, arrested two hours later after murdering a Dallas police officer, was shot to death two days later by nightclub owner Jack Ruby as he was being transferred from the city jail.

The findings of Warren Commission, the investigative body established by President Lyndon B Johnson, was challenged in 1979 by a special House investigative committee that concluded Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy” and that there were likely two shooters.

What to expect from files?

The anticipated release has had scholars and armchair detectives buzzing. But it’s unlikely the documents will contain any big revelations, Judge John Tunheim told The Associated Press last month. Tunheim was chairman of the independent agency in the 1990s that made public many assassination records and decided how long others could remain secret.

Larry Sabato, author of The Kennedy Half-Century, and other JFK scholars believe the trove of files may provide insight into assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s trip to Mexico City weeks before the killing. Oswald had reportedly visited the Soviet Union and Cuban embassies there. His stated reason for going was to get visas that would allow him to enter both the Communist countries, according to the Warren Commission.

Still, much about the Oswald’s trip remains unknown.

Conspiracy theories

A welter of theories have arisen over the years. If all of them were to be believed, Fidel Castro, Mafia, Russian spy agency KGB, American inteligence agency CIA and even American President Lyndon B Johnson would be the cuprits.

1) Filmmaker Oliver Stone’s controversial 1991 movie “JFK” implicated President Johnson, the Mafia and the CIA. Political consultant and Trump’s friend Roger Stone’s book ‘The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ’ alleged that Johnson was the driving force behind Kennedy’s assassination

2) A belief that Cuban leader Fidel Castro wanted JFK dead surfaced during the Cold War era. In 1975, a CIA memo had questioned whether Oswald was motivated to kill Kennedy after reading an AP article in a newspaper that quoted Fidel Castro as saying “US leaders would be in danger if they helped in any attempt to do away with leaders of Cuba”.

3) The ‘Umbrella Man’--a person holding a black umbrella on a sunny day of Kennedy’s assassination -- had immobilised JFK with a poison dart, allowing Oswald to kill him, according to another conspiracy theory. This elaborate plot was, however, proved unfounded after the bystander was identified as Louie Steven Witt, who told authorities in 1978 he was carrying the umbrella to heckle JFK, not murder him.

4) Other theories said the fatal bullet that hit JFK appeared to be originating from inside the car, suggesting that the driver William Greer shot at Kennedy when it looked like he was firing at Oswald.

5) It was also speculated that KGB had sent an impostor of Oswald who shot Kennedy. This far-fetched theory was also discarded after Oswald’s body was exhumed in 1981, proving it was really him.

6) Trump himself tapped into the public fascination with the case during last year’s presidential campaign, bizarrely linking Republican rival Senator Ted Cruz’s father to the Kennedy assassination. “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being -- you know, shot,” Trump said in a May 2016 telephone interview with Fox News. Cruz called the accusation “nuts”.

(With agency inputs)