On the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, it is critical to turn to public documents, many of which contributed to the evolution of “conspiracy theories” regarding the actors and motives behind the President’s murder. Investigations, official and citizen-driven alike, have produced an enormous amount of conflicting and contrary information. However, citizen inquiries pale in comparison conspiracy-wise, especially when one considers the conclusions of the official version of the assassination (Warren Commission) and Congress’ own inquiry (House Select Committee on Assassinations). As one NPR commentator recently commented, “inconsistencies haunt the official record” of President Kennedy’s assassination.
Beginning with the FBI report, below is a timeline that reflects official and public investigations of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
1963 ~ Federal Bureau of Investigation (December 9, 1963). Investigation of Assassination of John F. Kennedy November 22, 1963.
Conclusion: Oswald, the lone shooter of President Kennedy, Gov. Connally, and Patrolman Tippit.
1964 ~ Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (Warren Commission):
Conclusion: Oswald, the lone shooter and the magic, traveling bullet / No conspiracy.
1965 ~ Lord Devlin, Death of a president: The established facts, Atlantic Monthly (March. pp. 112–118):
So it seems to me to be quite unreasonable to suggest that the Commission, when it embarked upon the second part of its task, should have looked for a conspiracy to which Oswald was not a party. There are three factors on the surface of events which at the beginning must have made it look more likely than not that Oswald had accomplices:
The first superficial factor is the doubt whether a crime of this magnitude and difficulty can be successfully committed by a man who is acting entirely alone.
The second factor is the killing of Oswald by Ruby, which by a curious coincidence gives rise to an improbability of the same sort. To British eyes at first—though the view has been changed by the Commission’s descriptions of activities at the Dallas police headquarters—to kill a man while in the custody of the police at their headquarters would be a far more difficult task than to kill a statesmen in a public parade.
The third factor is Oswald’s Communist background.
1966 ~ Mark Lane’s (1966, 1967) Rush to Judgment (video of the text at youtube) / Conclusions: Disputes “preconceived” theories made by the Warren Commission and FBI of Oswald’s involvement in the assassination and direction of the shots (e.g., picket fence) & Garrison Investigation / Conclusion: Clay Shaw is one of the conspirators in the JFK assassination.
1968 ~ Panel Review of Photographs, X-Ray Films, Documents and Other Evidence Pertaining to the Fatal Wounding of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1962 (Ramsey Clark Panel)
Conclusion: Fatal shot from behind the President.
1975-1976 ~ House Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights (also referred to as the Edwards Committee; Reprinted in FBI oversight: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary, 95th Congress, first session, Y 4.J 89/1:94-2/):
Conclusion: Investigates the “Hosty note” that Lee Harvey Oswald left at the FBI Dallas field office for Special Agent James Hosty on November 6, 1963. The Committee reported that after the assassination, Agent Hosty allegedly destroyed Oswald’s note on the instructions of his superior, Special Agent in Charge J. Gordon Shanklin. The FBI kept the note secret for 12 years (see pt. 2., “Circumstances surrounding destruction of the Lee Harvey Oswald note”).
1976 ~ Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities or Church Committee, Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Together with Additional, Supplemental, and Separate Views (6 volumes). Book V. is The Investigation of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: Performance of the Intelligence Agencies (sometimes referred to as the Hart-Schweiker Subcommittee Report after Gary Hart (D-CO) and Richard Schweiker (R-PA), members of the Church Committee):
The Committee emphasizes that this Report’s discussion of investigative deficiencies and the failure of American intelligence agencies to inform the Warren Commission of certain information does not lead to the conclusion that there was a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. (p.2)
At the outset of its investigation, the Select Committee had evidence that the Warren Commission was not given information about CIA attempts to assassinate foreign leaders. As the Select Committee later discovered, the Warren Commission was also unaware of the full extent of the agencies’ involvement in operations directed against Cuba. (p. 9)
Before the Warren Commission issued its report on the assassination of President Kennedy on September 24, 1964, both the CIA and the FBI had assured the Commission that they would never close the case. When appearing before the Warren Commission, CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Helms stated (emphasis added):
Q. . . . after the Commission completed its report you would keep the matter open if there was anything new that developed in the future that could be properly presented to the authorities?
A. Yes. I would assume the case will never be closed. FBI Director Hoover made a similar statement before the Warren Commission:… so far as the FBI is concerned, the case will be continued in an open classification for all time (p.77).
1978-1979 ~ House Select Committee on Assassinations. Investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy: Hearings before the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives:
Conclusions: HSCA determined “on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The Committee is unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy.”
1991 ~ Oliver Stone’s film JFK released.
1992 ~ President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, P.L. 102-526 passed.
1998 ~ Assassinations Records Review Board (AARB). Final Report. Per the JFK Act (President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992), the AARB did not investigate the assassination but focused on “release assassination records so that the public could draw its own conclusions” (p.xxi) The Act allows for delay in release of assassination records beyond the year 2017 if “the President certifies” that (1) “continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military, defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations” and (2) “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure” (Assassination Records Review Board 1998, p. 8):
Conclusions: See letters from the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC) to the National Archives and Records Administration urging declassification of remaining JFK records (mostly CIA) for the 50th anniversary of the assassination (1) AARC Press Release of Jun 12, 2012; (2) AARC’s letter to NARA of Jan 20, 2012; and (3) NARA’s Response to AARC of Jun 12, 2012.
AARB staff member Douglas Horne has unique insight into the Board and its search for records. Appendices to his multivolume Inside the AARB are provided by the Mary Ferrell Foundation.
To date, the number of assassination records that have been destroyed and/or are missing, never preserved, is unknown.