New JFK Assassination Documents? Meh
What's really stunning is the sensational media coverage and the National Archives' release of informants' personal data.
AS DIRECTED by President Biden, the National Archives on Wednesday released almost 1,500 new documents, some comprising hundreds of pages, on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Biden has given federal agencies one more year to release the remaining 14,000 pages.
As someone who has pursued this story hard since the late 1970s, I can tell you that the coverage of this week’s release is infinitely more shocking than the information in the pages. For starters, there doesn’t seem to be a truly new document in the batch, just cleaner, transparent versions of previous releases. Admittedly, in the short time the documents have been available, I have only been able to scan the material, but I nonetheless feel I can draw some safe conclusions:
• Lee Harvey Oswald alone (still) shot and killed JFK.
• The current state of journalism is such that it gives me still one more reason to worry about the future.
A little background: Over the last six decades there have been many JFK document releases, including:
• In 1964, the government released the Warren Report and twenty-six massive volumes of supporting material.
• In 1966, 363 cubic feet of Warren Commission and FBI investigative records became available.
• In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations released its Report.
• In 1998, pursuant to the new JFK Records Collection Act, approximately five million pages were released.
• In 2017, over 40,000 more pages.
• In 2018, 19,000 more pages.
Having read this week’s media coverage, I conclude that all those releases amounted to a phenomenal waste of taxpayer dollars, because, apparently, no one has read any of them. Not yet, anyway.
Thus, yesterday we read “bombshell” reports from The Daily Beast, The Daily Mail, Newsweek, and that bastion of journalistic accuracy, the New York Post (to name but a few) that trumpeted similar eye-catching headlines like:
Oswald Phoned KGB Agent Weeks Before the Assassination
Nicaraguan Witnessed Oswald Accept Money From Cuban Spies in Mexico
Soviet Union’s Offer to Pay $100,000 for JFK’s Murder Reported in Australia a Year Before the Assassination
CIA Hired the Mafia to Kill Castro
Even the normally reliable Associated Press got stuff wrong (albeit with an unsensational headline noting only the documents had been released).
Fact: The first three “revelations” above were revealed in 1964. The Mafia story broke in 1966. How do I know that? I utilize a couple of very secret tools that I will herein donate to the journalistic fraternity. The first is codenamed “Google.” The second is a very rare reference book that comes in handy when researching the JFK case. It’s called The Warren Report. I hope you can locate a copy. Again, try Google.
Not only were three of those “breaking news” pieces in the Warren Report, they didn’t suffer from the inaccuracies heaped on the public over the past 24 hours, to wit: Oswald didn’t just phone a KGB agent, he met with at least three of them in person. (You can see them talk about it in the 1993 PBS Frontline program Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald, which I was honored to work on as a co-lead reporter with investigative journalist Scott Malone.) And Oswald didn’t drive 1,125 miles from those meetings in Mexico City to Dallas (as reported by Newsweek, The Daily Beast and Associated Press) in his non-existent car (with his non-existent driver’s license.) He actually took a bus.
So what’s in the documents, anyhow, you ask? Well, a dose of irony, for starters.
The very conspiracy folks who have been the loudest voices in the document-release clamor are the ones who are going to be the most upset about the contents of the release:
• There is zero evidence here that the CIA killed JFK (sorry, Jim Garrison and Oliver Stone.)
• There is zero evidence that the mob killed JFK (sorry, HSCA Counsel Robert Blakey, et. al.)
• There is zero evidence of a shot from the “grassy knoll” (sorry, History Channel).
• There is zero evidence that Clay Shaw or Oswald worked for the CIA (sorry again, Jim and Oliver.)
• There is zero evidence that JFK, Jr is coming back (sorry, Q).
• There is zero evidence… (fill in your favorite theory)
All that said, serious historians may find some interesting new nuggets regarding the 1959-1962 CIA-Mafia plots, the bugging of embassies in Mexico City, the fears inside the government of possible Cuban foreknowledge of the assassination, etc. I’m going to be drilling down more on those. But those tidbits come at a big price.
Apparently, the government has been so spooked by the demands for “transparency!” that it has released the names of hundreds of contemporary confidential sources (in both Cuba-world and Mob-world) and even the names and addresses of dozens of FBI agents. Since the Cuban revolution was propelled by young people born in the late 1930s through the early 1940s, there’s a good chance some of those sources are still alive. I wish them luck. Same with the Mafia turncoats who trusted the feds to protect them.
In December 2022, the government says the last batch will be released. Given the way this batch has been covered, I feel confident that I can write some of the headlines now. Consider it a perk of subscribing to SpyTalk:
• Kennedy’s Assassin Murdered a Cop an Hour After Killing the President!
• Oswald Tried to Murder a Right-Wing General Seven Months Before Killing Kennedy!
• When He was Arrested, Oswald Tried to Murder the Arresting Officer!
• Kennedy Assassin Lived in Russia for Over Two Years!
Maybe not. Maybe a really important secret or two will surface. Maybe some monstrous conspiracy will be newly revealed. But I’m not holding my breath.
Gus Russo is the author or co-author of ten books. He has also reported or co-produced numerous documentary specials for major TV networks, including ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. However, he is most proud of his scores for the critically acclaimed horror flicks Basket Case and Brain Damage, and for his work as Informant BB-5 in Operation dghkooopp–jjjjk-hhgg.
Agree with you, Gus
Great job, Gus.