The National Archives and Records Administration released 1,500 secret documents related to John F. Kennedy’s assassination Wednesday. The 1963 killing shocked the nation and continues to arouse fascination in historians and conspiracy theorists alike.
The National Archives’ document dump was slated to come a year ago, but President Joe Biden delayed it, blaming the coronavirus pandemic. Another launch date was scrapped a month ago. Some files, originally promised to be released with those that came out Wednesday, will be withheld until December 2022. Congress mandated that all the Warren Commission documents be made public by 2017 in 1992. According to the National Archives, more than 90 percent of the records relating to the assassination have been released.
Though these documents may not reconfigure the assassination in the American imagination, here are some of the juiciest bits from the once-hidden cables.
Lee Harvey Oswald met with the KGB before the assassination
JFK’s assassin, former Marine Lee Harvey Oswald, met with a KGB agent in Mexico City only a couple months before he killed the president, according to a CIA memo.
“According to an intercepted phone call in Mexico City, Lee Oswald was in the Soviet Embassy there on 23 September and spoke with Consul Valeriy Vladimirovich,” the memo reads.
Oswald would call the same Soviet embassy a week later, identifying himself by name in broken Russian, CIA officers wrote.
“Hello, this [is] Lee Oswald speaking,” he said to the USSR diplomat who answered the phone. “I was at your place last Saturday and spoke to a consul, and they said that they’d send a telegram to Washington, so I wanted to find out if you anything new. But I don’t remember the name of that consul.”
According to the transcript of the call, Valery Kostikov, a KGB officer, told Oswald, “They say that they haven’t received anything yet.”
“Have they done anything?” asked Oswald.
“Yes, they say that a request has been sent out, but nothing has been received yet,” said Kostikov. Then he hung up.
Oswald drove back into the U.S. via the Texas-Mexico border in October 1963.
An anonymous caller said the Soviets would finance Kennedy’s killing a year before it happened
A person phoned the U.S. embassy in Australia a year before Kennedy’s assassination, warning that the Soviets would pay $100,000 for it. The CIA never received word of the tip, the New York Post reports.
One 1964 State Department memo read, “Cabled to Canberra asking full details of the telephone conversation of 23 November and the call made 15 October 1962. It should be noted that CIA had not previously known of the 1962 telephone call.”
Two days after the assassination, another person called about the possibility of the Soviets financing the hit on Kennedy, this time phoning a U.S. Navy attache, according to CIA cables. The man identified himself as Polish and a driver for the Soviet embassy in Canberra, and CIA agents believed he was the same person who called a year earlier.
But, CIA officers wrote, “In the opinion of the Australian authorities, the caller was a crank,” and Australian intelligence was unable to identify a Polish employee of the Russian embassy there.
Fidel Castro loomed large in the CIA’s investigation
U.S. intelligence officers pursued a line of inquiry that involved Oswald visiting the Cuban consulate in Mexico City to plot with the Cubans. A Mexican employee of the Cuban embassy in Mexico City arrested by Mexican authorities said Oswald “professed to be a Communist and an admirer of Castro.”
That theory was later disproved when a Nicaraguan man confessed he had fabricated seeing Oswald at the embassy in order to “involve the United States in a way which would result in the overthrow of Castro,” according to a cable to the Secretary of State.
The CIA also theorized that an Associated Press interview may have influenced Oswald. While the assassin was living in New Orleans, a local newspaper published an interview with Fidel Castro in which the Communist leader warned the U.S. against aggression against Cuba and assassination of its officials, promising retribution.
Another CIA document, this one marked “Secret Eyes Only,” outlines the agency’s own schemes to assassinate Fidel Castro, which “involved the use of the criminal underworld with contacts inside Cuba,” the AP reports.