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US to release JFK files today: What could they reveal?

world Updated: Oct 26, 2017 10:07 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Kennedy assassination,Kennedy files John F Kennedy,Lee Harvey Oswald

A vendor shows a magazine talking about theories surrounding the killing of former US president John J Kennedy. On Thursday, long-secret files related to the assassination are expected to be released.(AP photo)

Just weeks before Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F Kennedy in November 1963, he visited the Soviet and Cuban missions in Mexico City. The American spy agency, CIA, knew about it, and many experts and historians believe it could have prevented the assassination. What exactly did they know?

President Donald Trump, a purveyor of conspiracy theories, is eagerly awaiting the release on Thursday of a bunch of previously unseen documents — called the “JFK Files” — that are expected to shed light on a slice of American history that is mired in theories, stories and, in large measure, just pure fiction.

“The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow,” the president tweeted Wednesday. “So interesting!” Presumably, therefore, he is not changing his mind and will allow the documents be released, overruling the CIA and FBI that fought against it to protect sources and procedures.

The documents, said to be about 3,100, were collated by National Archives under Congress by a 1992 law — JFK Assassination Records Collection Act — that came a year after the release of Oliver Stone movie “JFK”. The film gave new life to conspiracy theories and renewed calls for full transparency.

The release is unlikely to settle for all times to come the mother of all conspiracy theories — that Oswald did not act alone and was part of a deeper conspiracy — but academics, students of history and chroniclers of spy agencies hope to find useful information on Oswald’s six-day stay in Mexico City.

“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 has written a book on Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination and whose findings remain the official position of the US government, told the Washington Post.

“Oswald was meeting with Soviet spies 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 that they 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”.

First Published: Oct 26, 2017 10:06 IST