Five decades after his death in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy continues to capture the public imagination. Dozens of books, films and television shows have centered on the tragic event, yet some feel the full story hasn’t yet been told.
According to the Associated Press, researchers continue to call on the CIA to declassify thousands of documents pertaining to what the government knew about Kennedy’s accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, before that fateful day. The documents are also believed to shed light on the actions of a dead CIA agent named George Joannides, who was a key player in certain events both before and after the assassination.
“This is not about conspiracy, this is about transparency,” said Jefferson Morley, a former reporter for the Washington Post who is involved in a lawsuit against the CIA to get the documents released. “I think the CIA should obey the law. I don’t think most people think that’s a crazy idea.”
Critics charge that the CIA’s refusal to declassify documents only fuels the various conspiracy theories that have been bandied about over the years.
“There is no question that in various ways the CIA obfuscated, but it may be they were covering up operations that were justifiable, benign CIA operations that had absolutely nothing to do with the Kennedy assassination,” said author Anthony Summers, who will release the sequel to his JFK book “Not In Your Lifetime” this year.
“But, after 50 years, there is no reason that I can think of why such operations should still be concealed,” Summers told AP. “By withholding Joannides material, the agency continues to encourage the public to believe they’re covering up something more sinister.”
Joannides was the CIA case officer assigned to an anti-Castro group called the Student Revolutionary Directorate, which had an altercation in the streets of New Orleans with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a pro-Castro organization that counted Oswald as a member. After the fight, it was discovered that Oswald was passing out pamphlets that contained the address of a known anti-Castro operation, leading many to believe that Oswald was part of a CIA effort to sabotage the pro-Castro group from the inside.
Joannides also served as a CIA liaison to the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations, which concluded in 1978 that JFK was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.” According to committee counsel G. Robert Blakey, “He was put in a position to edit everything we were given before it was given to us.”
As the AP noted, the classified CIA documents are currently held in a National Archives center in College Park, Md. The JFK Records Act, passed in 1992, states that the documents will be declassified in 2017, unless it is decided that releasing them would pose a threat to “military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations.”
According to Morley, the CIA wants to keep the documents classified to cover up the fact the agency had ties to him before the assassination. “The idea that Lee Harvey Oswald was some unknown quantity to CIA officers was false,” Morley said. “There was this incredible high-level attention to Oswald on the eve of the assassination.” If Oswald indeed killed JFK, Morley told AP, “These top CIA case officers are guilty of negligence.”