The CIA was eager and desperate to adopt the version of events that was offered by the FBI, Secret Service and other parts of the government after JFK's Assassination. The official narrative claimed that a delusional misfit and self-proclaimed Marxist named Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president in Dallas with his $21 mail-order rifle.
There was no evidence of a conspiracy, foreign or domestic. The CIA’s leaders told the Warren Commission, the independent panel that investigated the murder that there was no evidence of a conspiracy that the spy agency could have foiled.
Thousands of pages of long-secret, assassination-related documents that were unleashed by the National Archives last week show that, within a few years of Kennedy’s murder, some in the CIA began to worry internally that the official story was wrong.
Key CIA officials were concerned by the mid-1970s that the agency, the FBI, the Secret Service and the White House commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren had never followed up on important clues about Oswald’s contact with foreign agents, including diplomats and spies for the Communist governments of Cuba and the Soviet Union, who might have been aware of his plans to kill Kennedy and even encouraged the plot.
The theory claimed that Oswald, who had rifle training in the Marine Corps, set out to seek vengeance on Castro’s behalf—to kill Kennedy before the American president managed to kill the Cuban leader. JFK historians and the nation’s large army of private assassination researchers are still scrambling to make sense of the latest batch of tens of thousands of pages of previously secret CIA and FBI documents that were unsealed last week by the National Archives.
The documents were made public under terms of a 1992 law that requires the unsealing of all JFK assassination-related documents by October, the law’s 25-year deadline. After the release, researchers do not appear to have identified any single document that could be labeled a bombshell or that rewrites the history of the assassination in any significant way.
Most of the documents are duplicates of files that had been released years earlier. Other documents are totally illegible or refer to CIA and FBI code names and pseudonyms that even experienced researchers will take months to decipher. Several documents are written in foreign languages.
The National Archives is required to unseal a final batch of about 3,100 never-before-seen JFK-assassination files by the October deadline, assuming the move is not blocked by President Donald Trump.
None of the files released last week undermines the Warren Commission’s finding that Oswald killed Kennedy with shots fired from his perch on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza—a conclusion supported by 21st century forensic analysis—and that there was no credible evidence of a second gunman.
The new documents do revive the question of why the CIA, so skeptical internally of many of the commission’s other findings by the 1970s, never acknowledged those suspicions to later government investigators—or to the public.
The documents released decades ago show that CIA and FBI officials repeatedly misled to Chief Justice Warren and his commission, probably to hide evidence of the agencies’ bungling in their surveillance of Oswald before the president’s murder. The CIA appears also to have been determined to block the commission from stumbling on to evidence that might reveal the agency’s assassination plots against Castro and other foreign leaders.
In 2013, the CIA’s in-house historian concluded that the spy agency had conducted a “benign cover-up” during the Warren Commission’s investigation in 1963 and 1964 in hopes of keeping the commission focused on “what the Agency believed was the ‘best truth’ — that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.”
CIA recognized long ago that the agency’s Mexico City station had Oswald under surveillance during the trip, and that he met there with Cuban and Soviet diplomats and spies. The CIA station chief said later he was convinced that Oswald had a brief sexual relationship with a Mexican woman who worked in the Cuban consulate.
The files released last week also show that the CIA and other agencies failed to pursue clues that Oswald, who publicly championed Castro’s revolution even while serving in the Marine Corps, had been in contact with Cuban diplomats years before the Mexico trip—possibly as early as 1959, when he was deployed to a military base in Southern California.
The information initially came to the FBI and the Warren Commission from a fellow Marine who recalled how Oswald boasted about his contacts with Cuban diplomats in Los Angeles, where Castro’s government then had an office.