Conspiracy theorists have been trying to pick apart the assassination of President John F Kennedy for decades, and they’re about to receive a huge shipment of help. This October, a massive dossier of relevant documents and recordings compiled by the CIA and FBI will be made available to the American public for the first time. That is, unless President Trump decides to keep them classified.
88% of the government documents regarding JFK’s assassination have been available to the public since the late 1990s, but the remaining files are scheduled to be declassified on October 26, 2017 — the 100th anniversary of President Kennedy’s birth.
According to the National Archives, where the dossier is kept, the release will include 3,810 documents in total. That’s twice the size than the mother load was initially thought to be. Newsweek reports that a third of the documents are from the CIA, another third are from the FBI, and the remaining third includes information from the Justice Department, the State Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and several committees established during the 60s to investigate the assassination and possible ties to Cuba and Russia.
In 2003, a national poll showed that 70% of Americans believe President Kennedy was shot as part of a large plan, rather than murdered by a single gunman who was acting alone. The leading conspiracy theories suggest a few explanations. Some believe Nikita Khrushchev ordered a hit on Kennedy because he was embarrassed about the Cold War. A retired KGB officer told the press years after Kennedy’s murder that Russia was involved.
Other conspiracy theorists blame Cuba, the Italian mob, President Lyndon Johnson, and the CIA.
It’s exceedingly ironic that President Trump should oversee the release of these records, given that he is both a gleeful conspiracy theorist and rumored to be colluding with Russia himself. In fact, the metadata on the dossier proves that Russia is a key topic — 71 of the documents reportedly involve Russia in some way.
As for the president’s fixation on conspiracies, Trump has said on record that he believes climate change is a hoax, he argued for weeks that [President Obama was involved in a conspiracy to hide his actual birth certificate, and he even suggested during the 2016 election that Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s father was involved with Kennedy’s murder in the 1960s.
Though the documents are scheduled to be released later this year, President Trump does have the ability to delay their declassification, even indefinitely. The JFK Assassination Records Act of 1992 decreed that all remaining information on JFK’s murder gathered by the United States government was to be made public within the following 25 years, but even that statute can be changed.
Whether the average American citizen will be able to read the dossier’s secrets will depend on whether our president wishes us to; on one hand, Trump loves a conspiracy theory, and government officials who have seen the documents have said the CIA doesn’t come off well — like the press, his political opponents, most of Hollywood, people in coastal cities, and Republicans who oppose his whims, Trump considers the CIA an enemy of his administration. He may jump at the chance to make the organization look foolish.