Trump says he will allow release of JFK files next week

US president John F Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. The long-secret files on the killing are scheduled for release next week.

world Updated: Oct 21, 2017 23:30 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,John F Kennedy,1963 assassination
US President Donald Trump delivers remarks to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on October 20.(Reuters)

Classified files about the 1963 assassination of former US president John F Kennedy, which spawned legions of conspiracy theories, are expected to be released in full next week. Unless President Donald Trump changes his mind.

“Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened,” Trump announced in a tweet on Saturday.

The documents pertain to the investigation — from the CIA, the FBI and justice department — include 3,100 papers that were never made public and 30,000 that were never seen fully, un-redacted. Most of them were written in the 1960s and 1970s, but some were from the 1990s.

The national archives is scheduled to release the papers on October 26 or thereabouts, in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, 1992. The act — passed a year after Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, dealing with a conspiracy theory, hit the theatres — mandated the release of the papers after 25 years unless the president decided otherwise.

There had been speculation that Trump might give in to pressure, especially from the CIA, and block the release of the papers.

Conspiracy theorists doubt the official conclusion that assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone. They believe Kennedy was a victim of a conspiracy and an elaborate cover-up, which included the killing of Oswald days after by Jack Ruby, a night-club owner with mafia links.

Experts who have written about the assassination believe the classified documents will shed some light on a trip Oswald had undertaken to Mexico City seven weeks before he shot Kennedy in Dallas. He had visited the embassies of Cuba and Soviet Union there. The Warren Commission, which was investigating the assassination, had concluded that Oswald merely wanted visas to go to Cuba and the Soviet Union.

But experts have said there is a lot of information that needs to come out about that visit. “I’ve always considered the Mexico City trip the hidden chapter of the assassination. A lot of histories gloss right past this period,” Philip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter who wrote book on Warren Commission, told the Washington Post.

“Oswald was meeting with Soviet and Cuban spies, and the CIA and FBI had him under aggressive surveillance. Didn’t the FBI and CIA have plenty of evidence that he was a threat before the assassination?”

He went on to suggest the agencies could have prevented the killing “if they had acted on that evidence” and that “these agencies could be afraid that if the documents all get released, their incompetence and bungling could be exposed. They knew about the danger of Oswald, but didn’t alert Washington”.

New reports said an unidentified staffer of the national security council, which is overseeing the release of the papers, had confirmed some unnamed government agencies were indeed blocking the release of these document to protect sources, some of whom could be alive.

There are many theories and Trump subscribes to one that links the father of Senator Ted Cruz to Oswald. The Cruz family has strenuously denied any links to the killers.

Roger Stone, a long-time Trump adviser and co-author of the book The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ, which points fingers at president Lyndon B Johnson — vice-president at the time of the assassination — has alleged Oswald was trained by the CIA, which is why the spy agency wants to prevent the release of the documents.

First Published: Oct 21, 2017 19:19 IST