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Documents About JFK Assassination To Be Released


The National Archives faces a deadline. By tomorrow the Archives must declassify the last of the secret government documents regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. Very few people know what, if anything, might be in those papers. We called a man who's read thousands of other documents relating to JFK, historian Robert Dallek, who says he's eager to see what's in the papers even though he's pretty sure himself who killed JFK. Dallek is no fan of conspiracy theories saying that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone.

ROBERT DALLEK: What's so difficult for so many people to believe is that someone as inconsequential as Oswald could've killed someone as consequential as Kennedy, and they have to believe that there was some larger design here, this larger purpose, that it might've in fact been the CIA and the U.S. military.

INSKEEP: I'm trying to think about what the documents might be based on the agencies that you named. The FBI. That makes sense. They would naturally have investigated the assassination. Are we talking about records of interviews with potential witnesses, different analyses and leads? That sort of thing?

DALLEK: We don't know exactly what's there, and it could be interviews that they were doing. Or maybe what it reveals are the sources they had to learn about the movements of Lee Harvey Oswald and especially his time in the Soviet Union. It's really something of a blank slate at this point.

INSKEEP: And by saying the Soviet Union, of course, you're showing us why the CIA might've had some role here. There were questions about Oswald's past overseas. People were asking immediately after the assassination could this have been a Soviet plot, could it have been a Cuban plot? These questions were asked at the time.

DALLEK: That's right. But it was also - in the years since the assassination there's been speculation that Lyndon Johnson, who was vice president then of course succeeded to the presidency, could've had a hand in the killing of Kennedy. I think that's nonsense.

INSKEEP: I suppose having been through many, many thousands of documents in your time, you're alert to the possibility that there might be something we learn about the FBI or the CIA or the government that doesn't directly have anything to do with the Kennedy assassination at all.

DALLEK: Yeah. It might demonstrate that the FBI and the CIA were somehow incompetent or had fallen short in their assessment of what someone like Oswald was doing and that maybe they fear embarrassment from the revelation of these documents. I think that would be closer to the truth of what we're going to see than any additional information about some conspiracy.

INSKEEP: Our current president is someone who's had an unusual relationship with the CIA and with the FBI. What kind of relationship did John F. Kennedy have with his CIA and FBI before his death?

DALLEK: Kennedy's relationship was complicated in that J. Edgar Hoover was still there. And there's been speculation that he kept Hoover on because Hoover had files on Kennedy and particularly on his womanizing. And therefore they were inclined not to get into some kind of conflict with the FBI. But Kennedy was distrustful of these agencies and especially of the CIA after the Bay of Pigs operation in April of 1961. And that also fans the flames of this idea that there could've been some kind of conspiracy on the part of the FBI and the CIA to kill him.

INSKEEP: Robert Dallek, it's been a pleasure. Thanks very much.

DALLEK: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Robert Dallek is the author of "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.