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FBI Really Wanted America to Believe Oswald Killed JFK, Files Show

The 2,891 recently released files shed light on the hectic aftermath of the assassination, as well as a significant memo from J. Edgar Hoover.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In compliance with the October 26, 2017 deadline, the National Archives released thousands of classified government records on John F. Kennedy's assassination Thursday, sending historians and conspiracy theorists scouring through the trove of new information.

President Trump vowed to release the collection of documents in full but decided late in the game to withhold hundreds of records that intelligence agencies warned would damage national security, the New York Times reports. Still, the 2,891 documents the archives made public offer some wild anecdotes about the people who were caught up in the investigation into JFK's death. According to the Washington Post, the files show that agents tried to track down a suicidal stripper named Kitty, revisited insane plots to poison Fidel Castro, and interviewed a suspected presidential assassin who turned out to be a fifth grader.


One of the major revelations comes in the form of a memo J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the FBI, made after Lee Harvey Oswald was killed. According to NBC News, Hoover dictated a memo saying, "The thing I am concerned about, and so is [deputy attorney general Nicholas] Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin." It's not clear if Hoover used those words in an effort to curb public confusion and conspiracy theories, or if he thought the assassination could have been part of a larger plot.

Experts expected the files would shed light on a trip Oswald took to Mexico City just weeks before killing JFK, where he's rumored to have met with Cuban and Russian spies, come under "intense surveillance" from the FBI, and "spoke openly" about wanting to kill JFK, Politico reports. But according to the New York Times, the files didn't quite deliver those goods—instead exposing how hectic the response to JFK's killing was, and other leads the CIA and FBI attempted to pursue.

The documents were declassified under a 1992 law that forced the government to publicly release all of the files related to JFK's assassination. The portion Trump decided to keep secret is set to be reviewed by intelligence agencies, and—unless it poses a definitive threat to national security—will finally drop in late April, the Times reports.

You can dig into the files that were released over at the archives' website, but you'll have to sift through intelligence-bureau jargon, code names, and foreign languages. For an amateur looking to make sense of the stash, it's best to take some advice from an expert.

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