US publishes thousands of files on Kennedy, withholds others | News | DW | 26.10.2017

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US publishes thousands of files on Kennedy, withholds others

US President Donald Trump has decided to keep some files on the assassination of John F. Kennedy secret following appeals from the FBI and the CIA. The remaining trove of nearly 2,900 records has been published.

The US National Archives released the secret documents on Thursday, just hours before the legal deadline for their publication was set to expire. The long-awaited release is expected to shine additional light on the fatal Dallas shooting in 1963, which investigators attributed to Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine was himself shot and killed before the trial.

Many Americans believe that part of the story is being kept away from the public eye. Some conspiracy theories link the Kennedy assassination with the US intelligence apparatus, the military, or the Italian mafia.

Among the documents released on Thursday, there was a transcript of a November 24, 1963, conversation with J. Edgar Hoover, who was FBI director at the time.

Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas

John F. Kennedy and his wife moments before Kennedy was shot

The FBI informed police of a threat against the life of Oswald the night before he was killed. However, the police did not act on the tip, Hoover said.

US President Donald Trump approved the release of a 2,891-document trove, but decided that hundreds of additional documents will remain secret. According to White House officials cited by news agencies, Trump made this decision after the FBI and the CIA urged him to do so.

Read more: Donald Trump to allow release of JFK files

"I am ordering today that the veil finally be lifted," Trump said in a White House memo on Thursday. "At the same time, executive departments and agencies have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns."

"I have no choice — today — but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our nation’s security," Trump added.

Watch video 04:15

@dwnews - Kennedy files welcomed with jokes, conspiracy theories

WikiLeaks offers money

Trump also ordered the federal agencies to further review the unreleased documents within the next six months and make their case for keeping them secret. After the new deadline expires, documents should stay secret "only in the rarest of cases" sources said.

"There does remain sensitive information in the records," including, for example, the identities of informants and their roles, an official told AFP.

Following the release, WikiLeaks offered a $100,000 (€86,000) reward for the still-unpublished documents on the Kennedy assassination, as long as those documents show "violations of law, inefficiency or administrative error." The group's founder, Julian Assange, said the delay was "inexcusable."

Ever-present speculation

In 1964, the Warren Commission declared that Oswald, a former Marine sharpshooter, had been the lone gunman. A separate congressional probe in 1979 found no evidence for supposed involvement by the CIA. However, alternative theories on the assassination have fueled hundreds of books, movies and publications on the event.

Read more: 'Jackie': an intimate portrait of the first lady after JFK's assassination

In 1992, Congress ordered that all records on the Kennedy investigation be made public and set the final deadline for October 26, 2017. With some 30,000 documents already released — albeit with redactions — experts do not believe that the remaining files contain earth-shattering revelations. However, the pressure from the intelligence agencies to keep some records secret is sure to fuel further speculation.

The only reason that so many files were released on Thursday is because Trump himself is a conspiracy theorist, Barbara Perry, an expert on JFK and the Kennedy family, told DW.

Perry, who is also the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia, said it was no surprise that hundreds of documents had been withheld.

"I am surprised it has even come this far already, but I am not surprised that there are still things to come," she said. "I don't expect any bombshells, but one never knows."

dj/ng (AP, Reuters)