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The National Archives unseals thousands more JFK files

  • President John F. Kennedy’s hand reaches toward his head within seconds of being fatally shot as first lady Jacqueline Kennedy holds his forearm, Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. ap file photo



The Dallas Morning News
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

DALLAS — The National Archives has unsealed thousands-more pages from the Kennedy files. And while assassinations buffs weren’t likely to find any major revelations — no proof of a second gunman, a Cuban plot, or evidence the killer could have been stopped — they’ll have plenty to chew on.

The 3,539 records include FBI and CIA reports on Soviet spies, the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Lee Harvey Oswald’s trip to Mexico City a few weeks before he murdered President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

This batch likely will be the last released pending a final review of records. Many remain sealed at the request of the FBI, CIA and other agencies that pressed for more time ahead of a deadline set a quarter century earlier.

For decades, debate has raged not only over whether Oswald acted alone but whether the FBI and CIA could have stopped him. The latest documents, unsealed Dec. 15, provide fresh proof that he was in their sights: a 1975 CIA memo marked “top secret” shows that Oswald was on a “watch list” of people whose mail would be intercepted from Nov. 9, 1959, to May 3, 1960, and again from Aug. 7, 1961, through May 28, 1962.

Previous batches of documents have revealed the deep ties between U.S. and Mexican intelligence agencies, and the lengths the United States went to in attempts to undermine or assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. A trove released Oct. 26 included a CIA report showing that Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev believed Dallas police had been an “accessory” to the assassination, because he found it implausible that presidential security was so “inept” for Kennedy to be killed without a conspiracy.

The documents have also revealed serious lapses in the surveillance of Oswald, a former Marine sharpshooter who had defected to the Soviet Union, then returned, then sought to go back. He was in Mexico City seeking visas to Cuba and then the Soviet Union.

The FBI scrambled for information on Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby in the days after he shot and killed Oswald.

Agents around the country contacted gambling sources for any insights, mostly coming up empty. But in Chicago, agents learned that Ruby had been close with Ross Prio, a “top hoodlum” in the city. And he was friends with gun shop owner Joe Scaramuzzo, who had sold three of the four guns used in a 1954 shooting at the U.S. House of Representatives by Puerto Rican nationalists.

Most of the 5 million pages of Kennedy records were released in the 1990s, a bonanza for assassination buffs on a host of related topics, including FBI monitoring of anti-war groups, King, the Weathermen and others.

Congress created the five-member Assassination Records Review Board in 1992 as part of a law requiring the release of all Kennedy assassination documents within 25 years. The law authorizes the president — the one in office in 2017, that is — to block release if he deems it would harm U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, military or diplomacy interests.

Just under a third of the newly released materials — an estimated 85,000 pages worth — had been categorized as irrelevant to the JFK assassination itself, and withheld in full until now.