How to Read the JFK Assassination Files

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tags: conspiracy theories, JFK, FBI, CIA, National Archives, Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK assassination



The files, which are supposed to be released on the Archives website, are being made public under a deadline set by a 1992 law, the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act . The law, which Congress hoped would help tamp down the raging conspiracy theories revived or created by Oliver Stone’s film “JFK” the year before, was responsible for the release of millions of pages of other documents in the 1990s. What has remained secret at the Archives until this week were documents that the CIA, FBI and other agencies felt might somehow damage national security if made public. But short of Trump’s intervention, all of those documents must be made public, too – every word – to meet the 25-year deadline set by the law. That is the deadline that arrives on Thursday.

How to begin to go through that massive document dump—tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of pages? It will be daunting even for historians, researchers and others who study the assassination and have been eagerly anticipating, for decades, the chance to see the files.

For most people who are not longtime students of the assassination, there will be almost instant frustration with the files because it will be impossible to make sense of most of the documents—at least not quickly. Many will be jam-packed with CIA and FBI codenames, pseudonyms and other jargon, while other documents will be in foreign languages or refer to people and places never previously connected to the assassination – probably because those people and places had nothing to do with JFK’s murder but got swept up in earlier investigations. And, based on past releases, some of the documents will be virtually impossible to read because—apparently—the ink on the paperwork had so faded by the time digital copies were made.




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