Redaction of more than 300 files pertaining to JFK’s assassination add fuel to the conspiracy theory fire
By: Sam Mathers, News Editor
On Thursday night, President Donald Trump was set to release the remaining classified documents pertaining to the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. The release however, was met with dismay, as some 300 files were redacted, and another classified review process set up as a result of pleas from FBI and CIA officials not to release them. More than 2,800 previously classified files were made public, sparking intrigue around the world.
Mysterious Call to Cambridge
A memo from deputy director James Angleton to F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover revealed that an anonymous tip was called into the Cambridge News mysteriously close to J.F.K.’s assassination. According to the document, “the caller said only that the Cambridge News reporter should call the American embassy in London for some big news and then hung up… the important point is that the call was made, according to M1-5 calculations, about 25 minutes before the President was shot.” After the document was released, the Cambridge News office dug into the story, contacting former journalists that worked for the paper in the 1960s. Many retired reporters are skeptical, saying they do not recall the tip off, and that something of such nature would have definitely been discussed, if not published. The Cambridge News ran a story about the call in 1981, suggesting that the journalist may have been alone in the office and sworn to secrecy by the C.I.A.
Edgar Hoover’s Concern Over Public Opinion
A report detailing J. Edgar Hoover’s concerns around the death of Lee Harvey Oswald shows that Hoover was worried about the public believing Oswald’s guilt. Hoover sent an agent to the hospital hoping Oswald would make a deathbed confession, but that did not take place. Hoover also discusses the Dallas Police and how they had virtually no case against Oswald until the F.B.I. provided them information, saying: “We traced the weapon. We identified the handwriting. We identified the fingerprints on the brown bag.” Hoover discusses how he “dispatched to Dallas one of [his] top assistants in the hope that he might stop the Chief of Police and his staff from doing so damned much talking on television,” continuing, “the thing that I am concerned about…is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”
National Alert in the Soviet Union
A report on the Soviet Union’s reaction to the assassination of J.F.K. reveals that officials did not believe it to be the work of one man, but rather a “carefully planned campaign in which several people played a part.” It also reveals the Soviet Union went into a state of national alert following Kennedy’s death in fear that the assassination might be used to stop negotiations with the Soviet Union and to attack Cuba, effectively spreading the war. They expressed concern that “without leadership, some irresponsible general in the United States might launch a missile at the Soviet Union.” The document also notes that a source revealed that the KGB was in possession of “data purporting to indicate President Johnson was responsible for the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy.”
While the 2,800 files contained an abundance of information, as CNN reported, the redaction of those 300 files gave conspiracy theories “a new lease on life,” adding fuel to the fire for those who believe the government has something to hide. Kennedy’s assassination has been particularly prone to conspiracy – in fact, a 2013 Gallup poll shows that 61% of Americans believe there were others involved in the assassination, contrary to the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Oswald acted alone. Since 1963, that number has never dropped below 50%, and in the 1976 and 2001 surveys were as high as 81%.
Even Trump himself has suggested alternative theories on the J.F.K. assassination. During his 2016 election campaign, Trump implicated Ted Cruz’s father, stating that Rafael Cruz was “with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot” in a telephone interview. He went on to express his disbelief that more people weren’t talking about this, despite it being reported (in the National Enquirer tabloid).
With that, let’s take a look at some of the famously weird J.F.K. conspiracy theories:
The shadow government theory suggests that the American government is not run by publicly elected officials, but rather individuals operating in secret behind the scenes. It suggests that the American government is essentially pretending to act in accordance with the constitution simply to appease the public. The shadow government is said to be made up of rich industrialists, right-wing politicians, generals, mobsters, and at the time of Kennedy’s assassination, anti-Castro extremists infuriated by the Bay of Pigs invasion. The shadow government wanted more military involvement in Vietnam and were concerned about Kennedy’s regulation of the Federal Reserve, so they plotted the J.F.K.’s death in the summer of 1963. The shadow government ordered the assassination of the President, then used the Warren Commission to cover it up.
The Umbrella Man
November 22, 1963 was a beautiful and sunny day. Curiously though, one man stood under an open, black umbrella. A strange sight all on its own, this theory is made more mysterious by the fact that the motorcade passed the Umbrella Man at the same moment J.F.K. was hit by the first bullet. This led many to believe that the Umbrella Man was acting as a signaler, giving a “go-ahead” for a shooter on the ground, or that the umbrella was actually used to fire a dart that would paralyze J.F.K. and make him an easier target.
Fifteen years later, a man named Louie Steven Witt came forward claiming to be the Umbrella Man, and explaining that he brought it as a symbol of protest. J.F.K.’s father, Joseph Kennedy had been a supporter of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who was a Nazi appeaser and was often seen carrying a black umbrella. Witt came forward with the apparent umbrella in question, to show that it had not been rigged to fire any type of ammunition, calling his situation an extreme case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For some, this explanation was a little too easy.
Missing Brain and Body Alterations
John F. Kennedy’s brain was removed during the autopsy and stored in the National Archives. In 1966, it was discovered to be missing. Some have suggested this is because his brain would show that he was shot from the front, not the back as concluded in the Warren Commission. Others have suggested that it was not his brain at all – Douglas Horne, the Chief Analyst on the National Archives Record Review Board stated that he is 90-95% sure that the photos in the National Archives are not of J.F.K.’s brain.
Others have suggested that while en route from Dallas to the autopsy site at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, J.F.K.’s body was removed from the original casket and taken to an unknown location to be tampered with. According to author David Lifton, the body was altered to bring about false conclusions about the trajectory and number of shots. The wound in Kennedy’s neck that was described as a neat, small hole, appears in photographs to be incised fairly untidily. This incision is said to be the result of a tracheotomy; however, some have suggested that the wound was tampered with, either to remove a bullet or to make it appear to be an exit wound. It has also been suggested that the actual body in the autopsy photos is fake. Photos show the back of Kennedy’s head to be in tact, despite the severe gunshot wound he surely suffered.
In a series of tweets two days after the initial release, Trump stated that he would be releasing the rest of the files “for reasons of full disclosure, transparency, and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.” The rest of the files are set to be released over the next six months.