U. professors say newly released JFK papers reinforce the original narrative


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The United States government released previously protected documents detailing the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.


Earlier this week, 7,377 new documents were released pertaining to the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. 

In October of 1992, the United States Congress passed legislation entitled The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The law created a file of government records related to the assassination and dictated that the files be stored in the National Archives and Records Administration for 25 years. At this time, the files would be made available to the public unless deemed detrimental to national security by the current president.

President Donald J. Trump approved the release of the documents after the 25-year period, except for several documents, which were held back due to national security risk. 

Like many others, Louis Masur, a professor in the Department of American Studies, was eager to access the newly released documents online.

“People are still combing through them, there were thousands of documents,” Masur said. “While there are no smoking-gun revelations, what they do show is a deeper context for the investigation at the time and concern of authorities from the very beginning to make sure that the American public believed (that) Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.”

Masur said he believes that the American government anticipated possible conspiracy theories. The new files add stories and color and continue to fuel questions about the role of the mafia and Oswald’s relationship to the then-Soviet Union.

Regarding whether the new files changed anything about Kennedy’s assassination, Masur said, “I don’t think these documents resolve any of these questions, but I do think it keeps certain questions alive.”

Masur said he believes the full history of the assassination will never truly be known, and that it is a complicated web of stories, noting that the American public has always been preoccupied with conspiracies. 

Ross Baker, a distinguished professor in the Department of Political Science, said he has studied politics and American government for many years but has also yet to see much come of the new files. Baker said that if anything of true importance to the case was in the documents, it would have been front page in the media right now.

“They identified Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole shooter. It turned out he was an expert shot,” Baker said. “He had been trained by the Marines, and that was not an impossible shot to take.” 

Baker also noted that several documents were redacted and not released.

“There is something in the intelligence business called methods and practices,” Baker said. 

Essentially, Baker said this serves to protect the source of information and the practices used to obtain it.

From what most people have read, the documents do not have a lot of convincing evidence. The articles just further add to the story that many Americans already understand, and that is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, he said.

Jefferson Decker, an assistant professor in both the Department of American Studies and the Department of Political Science, also had a few comments on the Kennedy documents that were released as well as those that were held back from the public.

“There is a process of checking over documents to make sure that information that should not be public is not released to the public,” Decker said. “That includes things that are classified as national security issues today or things that can include personal privacy.”

He said in a case like such, it is important to hide the names of people who stood trial, were used as witnesses or who were on the jury so they could not be threatened or swayed by any means.

Decker said he believes that it has prompted people to ask questions about what the government’s responsibilities of telling the general public information are, especially in a time dominated by “fake news."

“We are at a time in our history where we should be talking more publicly about how we know things and how we make judgments based on documentary evidence, why certain conspiracy theories get generated in the first place and how seeming to withhold evidence can give conspiracies legs,” Decker said.


Nicholas Bartelotti

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