9 Big Questions About the JFK Files Trump Is Supposed to Release

Mainstream news organizations say there’s nothing new in the assassination files. Don’t believe it.

Photo Credit: JFK Library

1. What’s in the new JFK files that will be released this week?

Tens of thousands of pages of CIA and FBI records that may shed light on the motive, means and opportunities of the person or persons responsible for killing President John F. Kennedy.

2. Is there 'smoking gun' proof of conspiracy?

Probably not. Nonetheless, I’ve been studying the JFK assassination for 30 years, and I think the preponderance of evidence indicates Kennedy was killed by enemies of his policies. Other explanations are possible. The new JFK files will either buttress that claim or undermine it.

Some journalists like Geraldo Rivera and Phil Shenon have declared that the JFK files will confirm the Warren Commission’s theory of a lone gunman. Without seeing the files, that seems premature.

3. Will Trump release all of the files?

While the president’s tweet last weekend suggested he would, I’m skeptical. Many reporters missed it, but Trump wrote himself a big loophole in that tweet.

TheWashington Post has reported that the National Security Council has recommended postponing the release of some JFK files. I expect that will happen and we will not see all the CIA and FBI records scheduled for release.

If so, remember this: The JFK files Trump withholds will be more important than what he releases.

4. What are the most plausible JFK theories?

One leading theory, favored by mainstream news organizations, is that an ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald, who was of long-standing interest to senior CIA officials, shot and killed JFK for reasons known only to himself.

The other most plausible theory is that JFK was killed by his enemies, who manipulated Oswald into taking the blame.

Shortly after Oswald denied that he shot Kennedy, he was killed in police custody by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner with organized crime connections.

5. What are journalists, scholars and researchers looking for in the new files?

I’m looking for evidence that clarifies the two leading JFK theories; for evidence that speaks to the motive, means and opportunity of  Oswald, and possibly others, for assassinating Kennedy.

6. Who would have wanted to kill JFK?

The new files may shed new light on Oswald’s attitude toward JFK, which ranged from expressions of support for his civil rights policies to an alleged threat against his life in Mexico City in October 1963 six weeks before JFK was killed.

The new JFK files will certainly have information about high-ranking CIA undercover officers known to be hostile to President Kennedy and his willingness to make peace with Fidel Castro’s communist government in Cuba.

Those officers (and the number of pages in their still-secret files) include William K. Harvey (123 pages), David Phillips (606 pages), Howard Hunt (303 pages) and David Morales (47 pages). (You can learn more about these CIA men and their role in the JFK story at the Mary Ferrell Foundation, the most reliable and comprehensive website about the JFK assassination.)

The question is, did these CIA men resist, refuse or defy JFK’s Cuba policy in 1963? The new JFK files will provide answers.

7. Who had the means—and the ability—to pull off the assassination of a U.S. president?

The new files probably contain information about how the CIA organized political assassinations in the 1960s. Bill Harvey was in charge ZR-RIFLE, the CIA’s assassination program from 1960 to 1963, while David Phillips was involved in an assassination operation in Chile in 1970.

A question related to means is: Do the new JFK files document CIA and Pentagon planning for so-called "false flag” operations designed to stage a spectacular crime and blame it on Cuba? In the 1990s, JFK researchers uncovered extensive records of Operation Northwoods, a secret Pentagon plan to provoke a war with Cuba via a false flag operation.

If the new JFK files contain more evidence of false flag operations in 1963, that might tend to confirm the hypothesis of Oliver Stone and others that Kennedy was killed by enemies in his own government who arranged for blame to fall on Oswald, a supporter of Castro.

8. What about 'opportunity'?

The JFK files will shed new light on who had the opportunity to manipulate Oswald as he made his way to Dallas.

One of the biggest findings of JFK researchers since Stone’s movie is that the CIA’s pre-assassination monitoring of Oswald was much more extensive than the CIA ever told investigators or the public.

As I show in my new book The Ghost,CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton personally controlled Oswald’s CIA file from November 1959 to November 1963. My Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA for the records of a mid-level officer named George Joannides disclosed that his Cuban agents publicized Oswald’s pro-Castro activities in New Orleans three months before JFK was killed.

The new files will shed light on CIA operations in Mexico City and possibly New Orleans in 1963. Such information could confirm or refute the hypothesis that certain CIA officers manipulated Oswald.

9. Why would the CIA voluntarily release files incriminating Agency personnel in JFK’s assassination?

They won’t, if the White House gives them permission. To repeat: The JFK files Trump withholds will be more important than what he releases.

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Jefferson Morley is a senior writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute. He is the editor of the JFK Facts blog and author of The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin's Press). Follow him on Twitter @JeffersonMorley.