On Thursday night, the American government released more than 2,800 documents pertaining to the 1963 assassination of American President John F. Kennedy. These documents, which had been classified for the past 54 years, held the promise of revealing long withheld secrets about what served as perhaps the most historic American tragedy of the modern era until the terror attacks of 2001. Conspiracy theorists and history buffs alike, as well as those of us that may fall somewhere in between, crowded around computers, tablets and smart phones, eager to be among the first to set eyes on these documents long thought to be of such import, they had to be kept from the American public.
Of course, by the time you read this article, it will be clear that, for the most part, the historic JFK document dump of 2017 wasn’t quite as historic as many would have hoped. That could be because, despite keeping many details under wraps, the evidence mostly supports the commonly accepted narrative associated with Kennedy’s death, but not to worry conspiracy theorists, there’s still hope. Although President Trump touted the release as something he was permitting (it had been scheduled to occur for around 25 years) at the last moment, his administration yielded to pressure from intelligence agencies and chose to keep some 300 documents classified, pending another six-month review. Apparently, 54 years just wasn’t enough time to get it all redacted.
Although no mind-blowing revelations surfaced in the Thursday night release (thus far), there were still plenty of interesting tidbits. Some witness testimony supported the idea of a second shooter, for instance, and although many Americans believed the Soviets were responsible for the shooting, the documents reveal that the Soviets themselves believed it to be the result a massive right-wing conspiracy… or maybe even LBJ himself.
Believe it or not, a lot of it just gets weirder from there. Here are the five most interesting things SOFREP found while digging through Thursday night’s document dump so far:
The Soviets believed the assassination was part of an “ultraright” coup attempt.
In this memo from J. Edgar Hoover to Marvin Watson, special assistant to the president, the idea of Soviet involvement in the assassination does not seem to be of any concern to American officials, who recognized that the Soviets feared reprisal from American defense officials. According to the FBI’s sources, the Soviet government perceived Kennedy as a man who was interested in maintaining peace, and they lamented his loss. A number of Soviet sources also discounted the idea that Oswald had ties to the Soviet government.
The Soviets were also concerned that LBJ may have been involved.
This portion, from the same document as above, also indicates that Lyndon Johnson was not only an unknown for the Soviet Union, but some within the Soviet intelligence apparatus may have believed that Johnson was responsible for the assassination in the first place. Among some conspiracy theorists, the idea that LBJ was the man behind the assassination has been popular for decades, and although this testimony amounts to little more than hear-say from a source of questionable credibility, it’s sure to whet the palate of those who subscribe to this line of thinking.
A Rockefeller Commission Deposition that cuts off just when things get interesting
The Rockefeller Commission, or its more formal title, the “United States President’s Commission on CIA Activities within the United States,” was a response to a 1974 article in the New York Times outlining illegal activities the CIA had apparently been conducting within the United States. President Gerald Ford ordered the formation of the commission, which progressed under the leadership of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, hence its name.
This document from that commission doesn’t provide any damning evidence regarding the JFK assassination, and includes all three pages it indicated that it should in the cover sheet, but the content of the deposition provided by former CIA employee Richard McGarrah Helms abruptly cuts off before Helms can respond to a question about the CIA’s involvement in the president’s death. Coincidence? Probably, but it will be sure to spark the interest of some conspiracy theorists.
An FBI source claimed a Communist conspiracy… and two shooters
This testimony provided by Oren Fenton Potito, the former National Organizer for the “National State’s Rights Party,” to the FBI on January 16th, 1964 claims that Oswald received assistance a man named Rubenstein, who he refers to as Ruby, in planning and executing the assassination. He goes on to claim that the evidence supports this conspiracy, as well as the idea of a second shooter.
Of course, what we’re looking at here is effectively a witness statement, rather than actual evidence. It will undoubtedly be pointed to by those who believe there must have been a second gunman on the grassy knoll, but one should look upon this testimony with a critical eye. The “National State’s Rights Party” was widely considered to be a white supremacist organization with strong anti-Semitic beliefs. That combination of extreme-conservative views and antisemitism makes his accusations toward communists rather suspect, as well as his claims of Rubenstein’s involvement.
The Secret Service investigated everybody, and that includes some pretty interesting characters.
One of the more interesting documents released on Thursday included more than 400 pages of investigations into individuals that were perceived as potential threats to President Kennedy. Among them are possible suspects of varying credibility, threat level, and mental stability. For the most part, these brief summations of individuals and the result of their investigations aren’t all that interesting, but as you sift through the hundreds upon hundreds of documents, some pretty interesting ones start to pop out at you.
Joseph Odenwald Jr. managed to penetrate Fort Knox security? That’s a story many of us would surely like to hear more about… and if John Carl Alexy has some kind of voltage machine doomsday weapon, we may want to look into that one as well. Sadly, however, none of these forms shed any new light on the (potential) mystery surrounding Kennedy’s death any more than the rest of these documents do.
Images courtesy of U.S. Government Archives
Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons