Opening the Conspiracies Box
Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 25, 2017
Thursday has been declared Conspiracy Day, at least so far at the President John F. Kennedy assassination is concerned.
We can wait a bit longer for the Trump Russian conspiracy to play out, and, I’m sure, we’ll hearing lots more about many people’s favorite public conspiracies. Did Harvey Weinstein have something to do with Deflate-gate?
A week before Halloween, the public pundit rumble is already in high gear over the promise for the National Archives to release tens of thousands of documents that have been held since 1963. This last batch, which apparently concentrates more on actions involving the CIA, the FBI and the Justice Department is bound to give rise to tons of additional conspiracies even about this matter, not to calm things with release of, say, facts.
Indeed, Politico published an essay by former New York Times writer Phil Shenon, who wrote a book about the Kennedy assassination that “The federal government’s long campaign to try to choke off rampant conspiracy theories about the November, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy is threatening to end this month in massive confusion, if not chaos. . . There is every indication that the massive document dump — especially if any of it is blocked by President Donald Trump, the only person empowered under the law to stop the release of the files — will simply help fuel a new generation of conspiracy theories.”
This will delight my longtime friend and super-sleuth researcher Margot, who has attended several Kennedy conspiracy conventions just to revel in the number of new, annual conspiracy theories (Hey, you never know, one of them could prove true!).
The idea that the Conspirator in Chief Donald Trump is the one to decide whether to unleash all of these documents at once is hilarious. Trump himself took a big set of turns in the spotlight for claiming that Barack Obama had been born in Kenya, despite his birth certificate. On the JFK matter, it was Trump who during the campaign aired totally unsubstantiated theories about a link between Ted Cruz’s father and JFK’s death.
The CIA and Justice could be asking that some of the 3,100 new documents and 30,000 others that have only been partly disclosed in the past be kept back and remain secret for another 25 years. But that effort will itself probably will be wrapped in secrecy and we will never really understand what they do.
Meanwhile, Trump’s friend and sometimes Russia adviser Roger Stone, who wrote a book that said President Lyndon Johnson had been the mastermind of the Kennedy assassination, said that the CIA is trying to delay release of some of the trove. “They must reflect badly on the CIA even though virtually everyone involved is long dead,” Stone said on his website. Either way, the CIA has not said.
Shenon argued that releasing the documents at once will be a logistical nightmare, with the public suddenly flooded with a huge online library of documents that will be, at first, mostly incomprehensible even to experienced students of the assassination. Shenon and Larry J. Sabato, an academic who also wrote about the Kennedy death, said they “had a taste of the chaos to come back in July, when the Archives tried an online release of a relatively small portion of the secret documents, including about 400 never-before-seen files. The Archives’ computer servers were instantly overwhelmed, making it impossible to download any of the material for days. When the files could be downloaded, many of those documents proved to be illegible, or were so full of CIA and FBI code names and other jargon that it will take months or years to make sense of them.”
Worst case, apparently, is that by Friday we will still believe only that there are conspiracies within conspiracies that are keeping us from knowing all of the information behind the assassination. Many of the unread documents apparently involve why Lee Harvey Oswald went to Mexico City several weeks before the Dallas shooting death, and whether he met with Soviet or Cuban spies, all under watch by the CIA. You know, the stuff of conspiracies.
Previous releases of documents did show historians how much the CIA had withheld from the public.
In any case, the insatiable appetite of social media, cable television, political pundits looking for an advantage against the other side, even international snoops, the release likely will prove a zoo. We can expect overly quick, overly generalized conclusions without the kind of serious review these documents probably deserve. Senior members of Congress, including both the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, have joined in recent days to urge Trump to release all of the remaining JFK assassination files.
“Americans deserve a full picture of what happened that fateful day in November 1963,” said Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee chairman, in announcing last week that he was sponsoring a Senate resolution calling for release of all the remaining documents. “The assassination of President Kennedy occurred at a pivotal time for our nation, and, nearly 54 years later, we are still learning the details of how our government responded and what it may have known beforehand.”
Bring it on.