The JFK files are now (soft of) available.
The documents have been released to the public but there are major omissions, and parts that still won’t be understood for some time.
They are a major breakthrough, shedding light on one of the most momentous days in world history. They depict the confusion and cover ups that followed, and the strange events of that day.
Despite that, much still remains unknown. The files are going to take weeks to read through – and, more importantly, some of them have been kept hidden.
What do we know now?
The JFK files that have been released paint a picture of a disorganised, confused, anxious US government.
They also reveal the establishment as it attempted to deal with the fallout from the shooting. Nothing has yet pointed to a conspiracy, but plenty points to a worry that there was one. The documents show officials messaging each other to ask whether Lee Harvey Oswald was in the pay of the CIA, for instance – and not receiving an answer.
The publication of nearly 3,000 previously classified files relate to the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963. They reveal that the FBI had warned Dallas police about a threat to kill Lee Harvey Oswald. They also claim that Soviet officials feared an “irresponsible” US general could launch a missile strike in the wake of the crisis.
The US government released 2,800 documents on 26 October. However, President Donald Trump delayed the release of others. He said he had “no choice” but to consider “national security, law enforcement and foreign affairs concerns”. These concerns were raised mostly by the FBI and CIA.
No smoking gun has yet been found that suggests there was anything untrue about the official sequence of events on that day in November. Nothing yet suggests that Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t work alone, that he had killed JFK as part of a plot or that his own killing was part of a similar conspiracy.
Government had no idea what was going on
What the documents do show is that the government had very little idea what was going on, and certainly considered all of those possibilities themselves. In the files are anxious letters that attempt to deal with the rumours that the assassination was something to do with Cuba, Russia, or another government. The FBI’s struggle to monitor further threats that might follow on from Oswald.
The files show that even the FBI is concerned about a conspiracy – and ensuring that nobody was worried that there was a plot beyond the official story. In one document, director J Edgar Hoover rants that “There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead”.