13 documents you should read about the JFK assassination | News Feature | Indy Week
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A staggering 6 million documents have been released under the JFK Records Act, as well as mountains of independent research.

13 documents you should read about the JFK assassination 

Lee Harvey Oswald's mug shot

Photo courtesy of Dallas Municipal Archives

Lee Harvey Oswald's mug shot

NSAM 263: Getting out of Vietnam — On Oct. 11, 1963, Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandum 263. This ordered a withdrawal of 1,000 troops out of roughly 16,000 Americans stationed in Vietnam by the end of 1963, with the complete withdrawal by the end of 1965.

NSAM 273: Mysterious timing — Signed on Nov. 26, 1963, this was the first National Security Action Memorandum on Vietnam under President Lyndon Johnson. NSAM 273 effectively overturned Kennedy's NSAM 263 and ordered the planning of increased activity in Vietnam. The memorandum also authorized open-ended covert operations against North Vietnam. This, in turn, led to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which President Johnson used to obtain congressional authorization for a drastic escalation of the war. The draft of NSAM 273 was dated Nov. 21, 1963, the day before the assassination; however, Kennedy had not ordered its creation and did not see it. Newly sworn-in President Johnson signed 273 on Nov. 26, the day after Kennedy was buried.

Operations Northwoods: Invading Cuba — Declassified in 1997, this lengthy document has been called the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government. On March 13, 1962, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman Lemnitzer, submitted this secret plan to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.Its purpose was to justify an invasion of Cuba by means of terrorist actions against the U.S.—to be carried out by U.S. military and intelligence. Proposed actions include a "Remember the Maine" incident, "exploding a few plastic bombs" within the U.S. and "to create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner en route from the United States ..." Kennedy blocked Northwoods and, in September 1962, replaced Lemnitzer as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

CIA Document #1035-960: Using politicians and the media to counter criticism of the Warren Report — This document, dated Jan. 4, 1967, and marked PSYCH for Psychological Warfare, directs agents of the CIA to counter critics of the Warren Report by using "liaison and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors)" and "to employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics."

House Select Committee on Assassinations final report: A conspiracy behind JFK's assassination? — In 1975, investigations by the Rockefeller Commission and the Church Committee revealed the CIA had abused its power by engaging in illegal investigations and activities. As a follow-up, the HSCA was created to investigate the assassinations of JFK and MLK. The HSCA issued its findings in 1979, stating, "The committee believes, on the basis of evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy." The committee recommended to the Justice Department that the case be reopened. To date, the department has declined to do so.

E. Howard Hunt v. Liberty Lobby Inc.: The CIA's role in the assassination — On Aug. 16, 1978, Liberty Lobby Inc. published an article by former CIA officer Victor Marchetti in its magazine, The Spotlight. In that article, Marchetti stated that E. Howard Hunt, also a former CIA officer, was involved in the JFK assassination. Hunt sued Liberty Lobby for libel in federal district court and won. However, in the appeals trial, former CIA asset Marita Lorenz testified that on Nov. 21, 1963, the day before the assassination, E. Howard Hunt was in Dallas, where he delivered "sums of money for the so-called operation" to a small group of men that included former CIA agent Frank Sturgis of Watergate fame and Oswald killer Jack Ruby. The federal jury found for Liberty Lobby Inc. and awarded costs to be assessed against Hunt.

E. Howard Hunt deathbed confession: Naming names — In August 2003, former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt lay dying in his Miami home with his son, Saint John Hunt, at his side. E. Howard Hunt began describing the details of "the big event," including names. Hunt sent an audio taped confession to his son in January 2006, and directed him to release the materials upon his death, which occurred in January 2007.Two months later, Rolling Stone published Hunt's confession after The New York Times and The Washington Post declined to do so.

CIA Document #1345-1057: the New Orleans connection — Released in 1993, this document states that New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw "was in touch with the DCS [the CIA's Domestic Contact Service] from December 1948 to May 1956." In 1966, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison opened an investigation into the New Orleans connection to the assassination of JFK, which formed the basis of Oliver Stone's film JFK. Garrison's investigation centered on an association between Shaw, former FBI agent Guy Bannister, pilot David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald. In 1969, Shaw was charged with conspiring to kill Kennedy. Shaw testified under oath that he had never worked for the CIA.

Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald and David Ferrie in the Civil Air Patrol — In 1993, PBS' Frontline secured a 1951 photograph of the Louisiana Civil Air Patrol in New Orleans that shows both David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald in the same unit. Ferrie was included in New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's investigation (see previous entry). However, Ferrie denied having ever known Oswald or having had any association with him.

The Bush-Hoover Document: What did Bush the First know? — On Nov. 29, 1963, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover drafted a memo titled "Assassination of President John F. Kennedy" to Roger Hilsman, the director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. In it, Hoover stated, "information was furnished to Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency." This has piqued the interest of researchers because George H.W. Bush wasn't officially affiliated with the CIA until he was named director in 1976.

Nicholas Katzenbach-Bill Moyers memo: Nothing to see here — On the day of JFK's funeral, Nov. 25, 1963, this document was sent from Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach to Bill Moyers, press secretary to the newly sworn-in President Johnson. It states, "The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial."The Warren Commission was created four days later.

In Warren Report, Gerald Ford changes position of JFK's back wound: The single-bullet theory — In July 1997, pages from the original draft of the Warren Report were released. Among them was a page describing the path of the famous single—or magic—bullet. The memo states, "A bullet had entered his back at a point slightly above the shoulder to the right of the spine." In pen, Ford changed the report to read, "A bullet had entered the back of his neck at a point slightly to the right of the spine," thus making the single-bullet theory plausible.

Nov. 22, 1963, Hoover memo: Oswald acted alone — On the afternoon of the assassination, before investigations had been initiated, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent a memo to his executive staff stating that he had called Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, informing him that "we had the man who killed the President."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Sins of omission."

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