Murder and mayhem worthy of Machiavelli - all in JFK files

President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy sitting behind Texas Governor John Connally moments before he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on Nov 22, 1963.
President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy sitting behind Texas Governor John Connally moments before he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on Nov 22, 1963.PHOTO: REUTERS

Just released papers detail plot to kill Cuban leader Castro, among other revelations

WASHINGTON • The United States government has released a mammoth, long-awaited trove of secret files on the killing of former president John F. Kennedy, popularly known as JFK, offering intriguing new insights into events surrounding one of the most infamous assassinations in history.

While many of the 2,891 records released by the National Archives on Thursday were raw intelligence and uncorroborated, they were almost certain to reinvigorate rampant conspiracy theories about the Nov 22, 1963, slaying of JFK in Dallas, Texas.

An outlandish Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plan to recruit the mafia to kill anti-US Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) foreknowledge of the plot to murder Kennedy's killer, and Kremlin suspicions of a homegrown right-wing conspiracy were among the highlights, even as some files were withheld for further review on national security grounds.

One file from 1975 detailed how in the early days of Kennedy's presidency, the CIA offered US$150,000 to Italian-American mob boss Sam Giancana to organise the killing of Castro.

Giancana in return sought the CIA's help to place a listening device in the room of his mistress - a Las Vegas entertainer - in the belief that she was having an affair.

Other possible ideas to kill the Communist leader - said to be a keen diver - included contaminating his diving suit with disease causing bacteria, or booby-trapping a seashell with a bomb.

The plan was scrapped when it was determined "there was no shell in the Caribbean area large enough to hold a sufficient amount of explosive".

An FBI report about former president John F. Kennedy's killer Lee Harvey Oswald released by the National Archives.
An FBI report about former president John F. Kennedy's killer Lee Harvey Oswald released by the National Archives. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

While many of the 2,891 records released by the National Archives on Thursday were raw intelligence and uncorroborated, they were almost certain to reinvigorate rampant conspiracy theories about the Nov 22, 1963, slaying of JFK in Dallas, Texas.

  • Main revelations

  • WILL AMERICANS BELIEVE IT?

    In then Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover's memo two days after John F. Kennedy's assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald, he expressed anxiety that the killing would generate doubts: "The thing I am concerned about is having something issued so that we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin."

    LINKS WITH RUSSIA, CUBA

    Hoover fretted that discoveries that Oswald had contacted the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City and sent a letter to the Soviet Embassy in Washington could "complicate our foreign relations".

    SOVIET UNION 'THE SCAPEGOAT'

    One paper said some in Moscow assumed the killing was a "coup" by the "ultraright" that would be blamed on the Soviet Union.

    THE VICE-PRESIDENT

    An unnamed informant said Russia's KGB had proof "President (Lyndon B.) Johnson was responsible for the assassination". Johnson was Kennedy's vice-president.

    MORE SUSPENSE

    In a 1975 deposition, former Central Intelligence Agency director Richard Helms was asked: "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 an agen…" The document ends there, with his answer missing.

    NYTIMES

Another document included a transcript of a Nov 24, 1963 conversation with then FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who said his agency had informed police of a threat against the life of Kennedy's killer Lee Harvey Oswald the night before Oswald was murdered. Police, however, failed to act.

While many theories over the years have related to Oswald's ties to Cuban or Soviet operatives, an FBI memo in 1963 indicated that Kennedy's death led to deep mourning in the USSR.

"Officials at the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organised conspiracy on the part of the 'ultraright' in the United States to effect a 'coup'," according to a source.

The Soviets feared the killing would be used as a pretext to "stop negotiations with the Soviet Union, attack Cuba, and thereafter spread the war".

The Warren Commission, which investigated the shooting of the charismatic 46-year-old president determined that Oswald, a former Marine sharpshooter, acted alone in carrying out the assassination.

The released files are vast in number and scope, covering everything from FBI directors' memos to interviews with members of the public in Dallas who came forward trying to provide clues after that singularly unforgettable moment in US history.

President Donald Trump said in a memorandum that he had agreed to hold back for further review some records relating to the killing following pushback from intelligence agencies.

"I have no choice - today - but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our nation's security," he said.

Mr Trump gave agencies six months - until next April 26 - to make their case for why the remaining documents should not be made public.

The 2,891 records approved for release in compliance with a 1992 Act of Congress are viewable on the National Archives website, in full and unredacted form.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2017, with the headline 'Murder and mayhem worthy of Machiavelli - all in JFK files'. Print Edition | Subscribe