John F. Kennedy

Trump Withholds JFK Files, Again

Historians will have to wait another three years, and maybe longer, before they can get their hands on the rest of the government's assassination documents.

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Abraham Zapruder

Today Donald Trump decided to shield thousands of files about the JFK assassination from full public scrutiny.

If that sounds familiar, it's because the same thing happened last October. The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 instructed Washington to declassify everything by October 26, 2017, but it also allowed the president to withhold documents on national security grounds. At the last minute, Trump bowed to pressure from the intelligence community and kept more than 368,000 pages under lock and key. But he also gave the agencies until today to review those files, at which point he'd decide whether to release them.

There are a lot of serious historians and journalists—and, yes, a lot of kooks too—who'd like to get their hands on those documents. But they're going to have to keep waiting. This morning Trump announced that "continued withholdings are necessary to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs." Many files are being released today, but many redactions remain. [Update: McClatchy has the totals: 3,461 documents are being released in full; 15,584 are being released with (often substantial) redactions; 520 are being kept completely private.]

Trump's order also set up another deadline. If the agencies want to keep any of this material classified past October 26, 2021, they'll need to make their case for concealment six months before then. So in another three years we'll get to do this will-they-won't-they routine yet again.

This isn't just of interest to conspiracy theorists and conspiracy debunkers. The assassination was central to the history of the American '60s, and there are plenty of details around it that haven't been filled in. And even if you don't care much about the assassination, you should want the government to have at least enough respect for transparency to stop hoarding information about an event that happened nearly 55 years ago.

Before today's announcement, Jefferson Morley, author of a recent biography of former CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton, asked a bunch of people who have written about the assassination whether they thought Trump would reveal the remaining files. Since I wrote a book about the history of American conspiracy theories, he included me in the roundup. My comment:

Asked about the April 26 deadline, Jesse Walker, author of United States of Paranoia, wrote "I know better than to try to predict the behavior of Donald Trump. All I'll say is that I hope some advocate of government transparency can get booked on Fox and Friends that morning."

Oh Fox News booker, where were you when we needed you?

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  1. “continued withholdings are necessary to protect against identifiable harm embarrassment to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs.”

    1. We know that, they know that, and yet do they know that we know that they know that we know that?

        1. Damn.

      1. You’ve been watching reruns of the Honeymooners, haven’t you?

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  2. Dear Lord, are there *still* revelations to be made about that tragic episode?

  3. The Russians put him up to it

  4. I’ve always figured that most of the old classified documents that go unreleased they just have no idea where they actually are. They have a record of them but they don’t actually exist anywhere known to the archivist so basically instead of admitting that they’ve either been destroyed, lost or stolen and creating a embarrassing scandal/investigation that will uncover how terrible we are at tracking documents they just keep reclassifying them. Or the said classified documents highlight how incompetent and retarded are betters actually are they refuse to release them.

    1. My second theory is probably wrong though because they routinely release things, that would embarrass and shame anyone else, as if its business as usual.

      1. Top. Men. have no problem releasing stuff that’s embarrassing to rival Top. Men., or if there is any short-term political advantage to be had by doing so.

        There is no honor among Top. Men.

  5. To be fair, there could actually be legitimate national security reasons to keep the information secret.

    One such reason from a government point of view, is that it was an inside job and exposing that fact might cause the American public to demand more limitations of power on government.

    Another reason might be that JFK was the Lizard King and we humans needed to show the overlords who is boss without sending the Sheeple into hysteria.

    1. Inside job sounds about as plausible as any theory out there. And if so, there will never be a time that does not affect “national security.” If we learned today that LBJ [he has as much motive as the USSR or the mob] was in on it, just imagine the repercussions. Much better to continue to blame it on a crazy lone wolf with strong Soviet connections and a bitch of a mother.

    2. Yea, I’m beginning to think members of the government were more responsible for the assassination than I’d previously assumed.

      Anyway, what’s the time frame when it stops being ‘too soon’?
      USA 2063: “My fellow Americans, it’s finally time to tell you this: 100 years ago members of the US intelligence community and the Vice President murdered the elected US President. For national security purposes, we couldn’t reveal this information until the socialist transition had fully taken place and every citizen had a medical chip implanted that will explode on our orders. Thankfully, that time came 20 years ago and you’ve had time to adjust. But subjects, if it makes you feel any better, Kennedy won with fraudulent votes and mob shenanigans anyway. Once again, justice prevailed.”

      1. That’s probably about right :/

      2. By then they will have taken down all the JFK statues and removed his likeness from the fifty-cent piece, because he was a right wing tax-cutter who endangered the disadvantaged.

    3. I have always assumed that the Russians and Cubans organized the Kennedy Assassination in revenge for the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy’s attempts to kill Fidel Castro. The cover up was intended to avert nuclear war. The American public would have demanded war if they had known that the Russians and Cubans had killed Kennedy.

      Continued refusal to release everything we know is probably due to a desire to avoid whipped up anti-Russian and anti-Cuban feeling in American public opinion. Secondary reasons might include not wanting to reveal how we know that the Cuban and Russian intelligence agencies did it. We may still have active agents who would be compromised by the information release, agents recruited by agents active in 1960.

  6. Before today’s announcement, Jefferson Morley, author of a recent biography of former CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton

    Has anyone read that biography? JJA was a powerful, fascinating, and strange man, so I am sure it is worth a look.

    1. I haven’t read the book yet, but I liked a spin-off article from it that appeared in The Intercept.

      1. In December 1974, CIA Director William Colby fired Angleton after the New York Times revealed the then-unknown counterintelligence chief had overseen a massive program to spy on Americans involved in anti-war and black nationalist movements, a violation of the CIA’s charter.

        Oh man, the halcyon days when any federal agency gave a fuck about what its charter did or didn’t authorize.

        1. Also, The Cleveland Cram File was my nickname during that single disastrous semester at OSU.

          1. What a coincidence. “Single Disastrous Semester” was my nickname in college.

  7. He’s waiting for the right political timing to do the most damage to Ted Cruz in case he mounts a primary challenge.

    1. When Tony’s right, he’s right.

    2. Nth D chess. The master at work, eh tony?

      1. Tony does not know how to play chess but Tony is a masterbater.

  8. “”Trump announced that “continued withholdings are necessary to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs.”””

    That is definitely not Trump’s wording. Sounds more like something the deepstate would hand him to read.

  9. I think the only “conspiracy” that is true is that the Feds knew he was planning to assassinate JFK but failed to stop him in time. At worst, they helped him plan it and egged him on (like they do with terrorists today), with the full intent of arresting him before anything happened.

    I do not think there was another shooter. I do not think it was an intentional hit by the government.

    There are two reasons the JFK conspiracy is so prevalent, and why it is bipartisan. On one side we have righties that just don’t trust anything the government tells them. The second is that lefties are in denial that a Soviet-loving avowed communist killed Kennedy, who they wrongly worship as a progressive icon despite nothing to back that up, just like they ignore the fact that a Palestinian Islamist killed Bobby. They, and the media, still like to blame their deaths on domestic “right-wing hate”.

    1. just like they ignore the fact that a Palestinian Islamist killed Bobby

      That part’s pretty easy to ignore because it’s not true. Sirhan Sirhan is a Palestinian Christian from a Greek Orthodox family.

      1. Sirhan Sirhan never became a US citizen and said that he shot Bobby because of his support for Israel.

        He actually changed religious organizations several times, so saying that he was christian (full stop) is not accurate.

    2. My guess is that the govt knew relatively early on that Carlos Marcello was behind it (Oswald’s uncle in New Orleans worked for him and Ruby’s was in with the Dallas mob which was part of the New Orleans mob). But the deep state types and politicians all had tons of other connections with Marcello – and they don’t want those known since they are clearly corruption and can look conspiratorial (all the Oliver Stone movie characters were on Marcello’s payroll – including the DA/Costner character).

  10. WHAT ARE THEY HIDING????

  11. My guess is that there’s no real threat to “national security” in these documents, it’s just that if you dig into the details you’re going to find the names or personal details of some FBI or CIA informants that nobody knew (and nobody cares) were working with the feds. These people are now in their 80’s and 90’s but still the government thinks any secret at all is a secret worth preserving. We can’t have people knowing that Joe Blow, a history professor at UCLA, was secretly keeping an eye on and reporting on the more radical students he knew of and one of them was Oswald’s neighbor’s hairdresser’s brother. If they knew this, they might start wondering how many other informants the government has and whether it’s more or less than the Stasi.

    1. That is almost certainly a reason they would use that isn’t conspiratorial.

  12. I’ve watched a number of conspiracy theory videos on the JFK thing over the years. The thing about it is that I don’t have a clue what actually happened… All I know is that the official story has holes, and a lot of it makes no sense.

    There was surely either gross incompetence in 1000 ways, OR a cover up. Probably both. The fact that the official story has so many holes is why people believe the various alternate theories. Frankly I wouldn’t dismiss it being the CIA with LBJ’s permission. Or it could have been the mob! Or the Russians! All are within the realm of possibility.

    The ties Oswald had to various government agencies is what really makes my spidey senses tingle though.

    No matter what really happened, these douche bags should declassify it all. It’s long enough to where even if it was the CIA all the important players are dead or crapping in diapers again. Even if George Bush Sr. was one of the guys involved (popular theory with some vague evidence) he’s basically dead now anyway. Just let it all out!

    1. Another reason to keep the real story under raps is that Oswald was a CIA agents that was trying to “useful idiot’ his way into the KGB or GRU. Oswald had some snap and shot JFK without the CIA being able to control him. Bad press for CIA is how that will read.

      Or maybe JFK was a manchurian candidate.

      Letting government keep secrets until all the major players are dead is ridiculous in a free nation. 50 years is too long.

      1. It’s possible! Oswald definitely had too many links to the FBI/CIA to not think it is at least highly possible he was working for them in some capacity.

        I agree that 50 years is PLENTY of time. If the government is embarrassed about something, that’s all the more reason it should come out sooner!

  13. The problem is that some of the people involved are still alive.

  14. Maybe Oswald called the FBI and said, “I’m shooting the Prez in Dallas…I’ll at the book depository.”
    And the guy who answered the phone at the FBI said, “Riiight….sure you are”!

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