Donald Trump′s withholding of some JFK files ′fuels′ conspiracy theories | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 27.10.2017
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Donald Trump's withholding of some JFK files 'fuels' conspiracy theories

A first review of the newly released files about the assassination of John F. Kennedy reveals no bombshells, presidential biographer Robert Dallek tells DW. He also explains why many Americans can't accept that fact

DW: What is your assessment so far, from looking through the files as much as you have been able to, are there any bombshells?

Robert Dallek: It's a massive amount of material and I have not seen an awful lot of it, although I have seen some of it, but I don't see any bombshells. I think what is there is a number of documents that were released before, but this time they are not redacted and I have not seen anything that was so dramatic.

Of course what this material will do, and even more to the point, what the material that's being held back is going to stimulate, [is] a renewal of conspiracy theories about Kennedy's assassination.

People in this country can't accept that someone as inconsequential as [Lee Harvey] Oswald killed someone as consequential as Kennedy. And also, I think, they want to believe that the world is not that random, that things don't happen so much by accident and that there has to be a larger design for a seminal event like Kennedy's killing. So I don't think it is going to change anything.

So you don't think that in these remaining files there will be any explosive information that could confirm any of the conspiracy theories that have been floated since Kennedy's assassination?

Robert Dallek (Geraldine Dallek)

Robert Dallek is a professor emeritus of history at Boston University

No, I think the files that are being held back will probably embarrass the FBI and the CIA with their missteps and their misunderstanding and maybe a failure to have kept closer track of Oswald, who after all had spent time in the Soviet Union and was very much on their minds. I think that's what the material held back will largely do. I can't imagine what grand design they could turn up and I don't think they will.

Could you briefly sum up the general accepted conclusion among historians about the Kennedy assassination?

Among professional historians, there is the conviction that the Warren Commission had it right and Lee Harvey Oswald was the only killer. In the larger public there is something like a majority that believes there is a conspiracy that is not fully revealed. The great Dutch historian Pieter Geyl said history is argument without end. And so I don't see any end to this dispute about how Kennedy was killed and 50 or a hundred years from now, I think, it will still be argued over.

What's your take on President Donald Trump's decision to not release the complete files after all, saying that he had no choice because of the pressure by government agencies. Doesn't this again fuel conspiracy theories?

It does indeed. The fact that they are holding back material fuels the notion that what's being hidden is the smoking gun about a conspiracy. I don't know what animates this president. He is terribly erratic and says he will do one thing and then he will do another. I just don't put any trust in anything he says because I think his credibility is minimal.

Robert Dallek is a presidential historian and professor emeritus of history at Boston University. His 2003 Kennedy biography "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963" was a New York Times bestseller. His biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt "Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life" will be published next month.

The interview was conducted by Michael Knigge.

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