The National Archives on Thursday made public more than 2,800 page of documents related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Here are some highlights:
Nov. 27, 1963: A chilling memory
A Secret Service agent interviewed Robert C. Rawls, who was in a bar in New Orleans a week to 10 days before Kennedy's assassination. Rawls heard a man betting $100 that Kennedy would be dead within three weeks. He thought nothing of it until the assassination. Rawls was drunk at the time and couldn’t remember the name of the guy, what he looked like, or what specific bar it was in.
1963: Secret Service lists surveillance targets
There's a 413-page document that details everyone that Secret Service was watching between March and December 1963, including Puerto Rican nationals, Klansmen and others. Each had a description of why they were angry at the president and their threat level. The document is a window into how Secret Service viewed potential threats.
Another Secret Service document notes more than 400 people the agency suspected might want to harm the president. One Puerto Rican nationalist interviewed in a Veterans Administration hospital praised Kennedy's killer Lee Harvey Oswald for thinking big. “Diagnosed schizophrenic paranoid,” the Secret Service notes said. “Considered dangerous by doctor.”
Nov. 23, 1963: If JFK went to Dallas, 'he would never leave there alive'
Henry Gourley of Vancouver, British Columbia, called police in Bellingham, Wash., on Nov. 23, 1963, to say he’d had drinks at the Hildon Hotel inn three weeks before the assassination. He heard three men talking and saying if Kennedy ever went to Dallas "he would never leave there alive." The men were on their way to Cuba. Gourley is certain that Oswald was one of the three, from a picture on TV. But one of the friends Gourley was drinking with tells FBI his "imagination runs away with him." The FBI agent decides the guy imagined it.
April 6, 1964: The birth of a conspiracy theory
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.
The documents include an April 1964 memo from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who notes the Warren Commission was investigating an alleged meeting at the Carousel Club in Dallas attended by Officer J.D. Tippitt and others a week before the assassination, after a tip from conspiracy theorist lawyer Mark Lane. Hoover insists the investigation has already found nothing to suggest that such a meeting “ever took place or was ever likely." Tippit was killed by Oswald after he saw the alleged assassin walking in downtown Dallas shortly after Kennedy was shot.
Attempts to overthrow Castro
Among the documents are ledgers of payments to Cuban exile groups working to overthrow the government of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who defeated a brigade of exiles who tried to overthrow him through a failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. Kennedy had vowed to depose Castro.
Additionally, the documents include a 1975 history of U.S. attempts to overthrow Castro written by then-White House counsel Philip Buchen, a longtime friend and law partner of President Gerald Ford. It noted that the first attempt to kill Castro came in 1959, shortly after he came to power.
A link between JFK and Richard Nixon
So much of the information included in the latest document release includes details of the multiple efforts to overthrow governments in Cuba, first the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and then communist Fidel Castro. In one 1958 FBI document, the bureau’s Havana station reported the activities of Frank Fiorini, also known as Frank Sturgis, in running guns to overthrow Batista. The long yarn is one of the references to Sturgis, a soldier of fortune type who would feature in multiple attempts to overthrow Castro during the 1960s. In June 1972, Sturgis would be arrested along with three other anti-Castro exiles trying to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington’s Watergate office complex, which would start the two-year political scandal that would end the presidency of the man Kennedy defeated in 1960 – Richard Nixon.
Another document from 1976 showed that Sturgis called the CIA and alleged that a meeting in Cuba in the months before Kennedy's assassination. In attendance: Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Che Guevara.
Oct. 11, 1978: Disputing testimony about Lee Harvey Oswald
A letter from Tennent Bagley, former CIA deputy chief of the Soviet Bloc Division, to Robert Blakey, the chief counsel of the House Special Committee on Assassinations, claimed multiple errors in the testimony before the committee by John Hart, a CIA representative. Hart had testified about the information provided by Yuri Nosenko, a Soviet defector, about Lee Harvey Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union from 1959 to 1962.
“Having been publicly dishonored by unfounded statements” before the committee, Bagley demanded a chance to testify. He submitted a detailed challenge to Nosenko’s credibility. Nosenko said the Soviet KGB had not tried to recruit Oswald, which contradicted the testimony of another Soviet defector, Anatoly Golitsyn. The CIA was torn throughout much of the 1960s between the accounts of the two defectors, which often conflicted. CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton favored Golitsyn, but by 1969, the agency acknowledged that Nosenko was a legitimate defector.
Contributing: Ray Locker, Jessica Estepa, Ledyard King, Bart Jansen, Wendy Benjaminson, Julia Fair, Brad Heath, Paul Singer, Rich Wolf, Bill Theobald, Steve Reilly
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