Gov’t teacher David Smith says released JFK files offer little insight for enthusiasts

Since his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, the controversy and conspiracy of President John F. Kennedy’s death has been one of the most notorious in U.S. History, with topics of debate ranging from who carried it out to the CIA’s methods of covering up the real story. But when the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records were recently released, the public finally got a taste of the truth, or lack of it.

The National Archives released 2,891 documents on Oct. 26 and 3,810 records on July 24, which, in total, consist of approximately 5 million pages of records. The National Archives established the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection under an act of Congress in 1992, which called for the release of all additional records related to John F. Kennedy to be made public at the discretion of whoever was president 25 years later. When the day came, President Donald Trump was the one in office. Although he hinted at the possibility of releasing them all, Trump blocked the release of the final quarter of these documents, at least temporarily, citing national security concerns.

After the assassination of JFK on Nov. 22, 1963, the newly sworn-in president, Lyndon B. Johnson, ordered an investigation and established the Warren Commission through an executive order. It received its “nickname” because of its chairman, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. The commission’s 889 page report, along with 26 additional volumes of supporting documents had a goal of putting to rest any of the theories about the assassination, other than the government’s official findings.After the assassination of JFK on Nov. 22, 1963, the newly sworn-in president, Lyndon B. Johnson, ordered an investigation and established the Warren Commission through an executive order. It received its “nickname” because of its chairman, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. The commission’s 889 page report, along with 26 additional volumes of supporting documents had a goal of putting to rest any of the theories about the assassination, other than the government’s official findings.

Instead, it added to the speculation. Critics argued that much of the information regarding the assassination was being withheld. The purpose of the John F. Kennedy Records Collection Act was to finally give the files to the people so they could reach their own conclusions.

The assassination of JFK has been of great interest to me since I heard about it in my fifth-grade class on that terrible Friday afternoon in 1963. I did not start looking seriously at the case until I was in college and saw the film of the assassination. Countless books have been written and theories developed over those few seconds. As my students are well aware, I couldn’t wait for the release of these files, hoping that there would be some closure at last. That has not been the case, as they have raised even more questions.

After the arrest and subsequent murder of the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, much of the focus of many of the investigations has been on the movements of Oswald before and during the day of the assassination.

Oswald was, indeed, a lonely character who defected from the U.S. to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He became disillusioned with the Soviet Union and returned to the United States. He would try and fail to murder Gen. Edwin Walker, an extreme conservative who had run and lost a bid to be governor of Texas. This fact that was often used by the Warren Commission to portray Oswald as a lone-wolf assassin who had the mental capacity to kill officials.

I have always been a fascinated by Oswald’s trip to Mexico City before the assassination, from late September to early October of 1963. One of the FBI documents reports on Oswald’s movements in Mexico City; it was obvious that he was under surveillance and it is believed that Oswald was seeking a visa to Cuba.

Files show that JFK had plans to remove Castro, the leader of Cuba. Oswald may have thought that by killing JFK first, Oswald would ensure his being accepted into Cuba.

The files have not changed a great deal of the speculation. They were disappointing for some who had hoped to find the “smoking gun” that would give a definitive answer to “who” and “why.” For others, including myself, it was a step in looking at what the government agencies were doing during those dark days.

There may never be a final answer, but we need to heed the words of JFK, “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.” I think he would want us to look for the truth.

~david smith, contributor

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