On October 25, 2017, President Donald Trump tweeted in presidential fashion that he would be allowing the long awaited release of the last of the JFK assassination records. These records were designated as such during the 4 year term of the Assassination Records Review Board (AARB). Congress commissioned this board to review a number of documents that were thought to be relevant to the JFK assassination. During that term, the AARB succeeded in in disclosing millions of pages of files. They included everything from reports made for and by the Church Committee, to evidence collected by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. However, thousands of documents were withheld in full, while tens of thousands were only partially disclosed.
The law which brought the AARB into existence, a response to Oliver Stone’s Oscar Award winning Film JFK, mandated that all files be released by Oct 26, 2017. Until that time, agencies could keep secret any document it deemed as sensitive to the national security. After such time, only the president could make such a judgement. With the clock tickiing, legions of prominent researchers and eminent scholars waited skeptically. Slowly they warmed up to the idea that they might actually see the long withheld files.
Of course, notwithstanding the tweets from President Trump, the vast majority of withheld documents were not released. In a last minute scramble, a number of agencies petitioned the president. Despite mainstream media claims that over 2800 files of 3100 were finally allowed to be seen by the public, only 52 new documents were actually made public. The rest of the release was simply a removal of various redactions. Most of these were inconsequential to furthering the public understanding of the case. Not to mention any potential cover-up which might have taken place.
Why the JFK files matter
JFK’s assassination resulted in an immediate transformation of US foreign policy. During his term as a Senator, Kennedy was a staunch anti-imperialist. He took this attitude with him to the White House. In his book JFK and the Unspeakable, Jim Douglas suggests that the Cuban Missile Crisis changed his Cold Warrior mentality. A closer examination at Kennedy’s writing renders a slightly different portrait.
Mr. President, the most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism – and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism.
-John F. Kennedy, 1957
This sentiment was expressed through all of his actions as president. From his support for Congolese independence, to the ordered withdrawl of all troops from Vietnam by 1965. Kennedy’s foreign policy was at once a reflection of American sentiment and a rebuke of the previous interventionist regime.
President Kennedy couldn’t manifest his vision for a world built on self determination. Instead, the members of the National Security State who rejected his vision, wasted no time in convincing a new Johnson administration of what way to proceed. Some actors, such as William Harvey, David Atlee Phillips, and David Morales still have files concerning their role in the Kennedy years which have yet to be released. The CIA suggests that the release of these files could have consequences to US National Security Interests. What could these consequences be?