WASHINGTON — Thousands of pages of long-classified documents about the investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy will be released to the public this week on the order of President Trump.
The documents — expected to be released by Thursday — will likely contain multiple references to the activities of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City, where he traveled in September 1963, just two months before he shot and killed Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
Those documents, said Kennedy assassination expert and author Gerald Posner, could be embarrassing to prominent Mexicans, who may have provided information to the CIA and other U.S. agencies in the days before and after the assassination.
“There may not be deep, dark secrets in there, but the release could be embarrassing to people who were involved," said Posner, author of the 1993 book Case Closed, which determined that Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy. "You have to remember that Mexico City in the 1960s was a hodge-podge of intrigue where everyone was spying on everyone else.
"There may be people who were informing to the CIA at the time who have moved on to careers in politics and business, and the revelation that they were informing will be embarrassing to them," Posner said.
The documents, contained in more than 3,000 files, were to be released automatically by Oct. 26 under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 unless Trump decided to stop them. Each file could contain hundreds of individual documents.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he would allow the release of the documents. "Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened," Trump tweeted.
Odd alliance for disclosure
Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant, political consultant and author, told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones last week that he urged Trump to release the documents and that CIA Director Mike Pompeo "has been lobbying the president furiously not to release these documents."
Posner and Stone, who have different conclusions about who killed Kennedy and why, have joined together for public events in recent weeks arguing for the release of the documents.
Although the files contain information that is decades old, their release could still potentially compromise the sources and methods used by intelligence agencies.
Kennedy's assassination rocked the nation, and Lyndon Johnson, the new president, created a special commission led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate the killing. The Warren Commission concluded in 1964 that Oswald acted alone.
However, multiple aspects of the assassination have fueled conspiracy theories for more than 50 years. They include:
• Oswald's murder on Nov. 24, 1963, by nightclub owner Jack Ruby led to speculation that Ruby targeted Oswald as part of a larger plot.
• The revelations in the 1970s about the various attempts by the Kennedy administration — led by the president's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy — to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro spurred theories that Castro had President Kennedy killed before Kennedy could kill Castro.
• A former Marine sharpshooter, Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and returned in 1962. Some conspiracy theories speculated that Soviet leaders may have recruited Oswald, who met his wife, Marina, while he lived in Minsk.
• Oswald passed around leaflets in New Orleans, his hometown, in support of the pro-Castro "Fair Play for Cuba Committee" in August 1963.
• Oswald traveled in Mexico City in September 1963, where he met with officials at that city's Cuban embassy as he tried to get a visa to travel to Cuba and then to the Soviet Union. Documents related to this period are part of the new trove set to be released this week, Posner said.
• The Kennedy administration attempted to recruit members of the Mafia to kill Castro, leading to theories that the Mafia was somehow involved in the Kennedy assassination.
The Church Committee
In 1975 and 1976, a Senate investigation led by then-senator Frank Church, D-Idaho, revealed abuses by the CIA and FBI and many of the details of plots to kill Castro. A House investigation report in 1979 concluded that Kennedy was probably killed as the result of a conspiracy.
If Trump allows the documents to be released, they will be free of any redactions, so readers will be able to see them as they were originally written. That, Posner said, is one reason that those named in them have reasons for concern.
Also, Posner said, there will be news about issues unrelated to the assassination itself.
"All of those will cause a flash of excitement," he said. "For one thing, there’s supposedly a handwritten letter by Jackie Kennedy about the (JFK) funeral. There’s a letter from (former FBI Director J. Edgar) Hoover that’s been closed for all these years. There’s the testimony of (former CIA counterintelligence chief) James Jesus Angleton from the 1970s before the Church Committee."
Posner cautioned that the National Archives' computer servers may be frozen by the huge amount of interest in the new documents. That raises the potential for more conspiracy theories, as tidbits of information flood the Internet without the proper context.
By the time more accurate analyses of the documents are done, Posner said, false stories will spread before the truth can catch up to them.