Last week we came close to a milestone as President Trump released all but the last few hundred public documents related to the Kennedy assassination.
Considering that the assassination took place 54 years ago, and we live in what is touted as a transparent society in which the people are sovereign, it’s not really much to be proud of.
But, on the other hand, when you realize that the Warren Commission had originally sealed many of the documents from its original investigation for 75 years, people my age are lucky we didn’t have to live till 2039 to see what the government thought we couldn’t handle.
Of course, most people — even assassination buffs such as myself — won’t be able to take time to read through all the 2,800 documents included in the latest document dump (which followed an even bigger dump in July), but eventually researchers will be able to sort through the mass of evidence to determine how much of it supports the official conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin and how much supports the popular notion of a conspiracy.
My random research has turned up a few intriguing documents, and what is interesting is that quite often there is no apparent reason why such documents would have been classified top secret in the first place. For instance, four out of 163 pages from a Nov. 1963 report labeled “DOD Correspondence & Material Re: Oswald” were kept secret until last month. Why?
Three of the pages contain interesting leads, but have no value as classified documents at all.
One reports that the District Intelligence Office in Charleston, S.C., took a report from a patient at the U.S. Naval Hospital there shortly after the assassination. A Mr. Robert Rawls reported that he had been in a bar in New Orleans sometime from 10 days to two weeks before the assassination “when he heard a man try to bet $100.00 that President Kennedy would be dead within three weeks.”
This is certainly suspicious behavior, especially when you consider that District Attorney Jim Garrison of New Orleans would later charge that a conspiracy to kill the president had been launched in New Orleans by people who frequented bars in the French Quarter. Whether anyone in the Secret Service, which received this report from the Department of Defense, or anyone associated with the Warren Commission, pursued this lead is left unclear, but considering that Oswald had been declared the lone assassin by no less than FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, it is unlikely that it was thought to be worth following up.
A second document that had been previously redacted from the file of DOD correspondence appears to be a Telex from November 1963 describing the statement of one Robert Kermit Patterson, who operated an electronics shop in Dallas with Donald C. Stuart. According to Patterson, Jack Ruby had hired Patterson and Stuart to do work on the microphones at Ruby’s Carousel Nite Club. Ruby, of course, is the man who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald two days after the assassination, and the official record claimed that Ruby and Oswald were not acquainted with each other. Yet according to the report, Patterson claimed that when he and his partner went to do the job, “Ruby told Oswald to write names of Patterson and Stuart in Carousel guest book.”
Could be mistaken identity, of course, but it is one of many instances where people reported seeing Ruby and Oswald together prior to the assassination.
The question again is what information did the investigators not take serious because they had already come to a conflicting conclusion.
Remember also that the FBI and CIA, the two agencies trying to withhold even the last few hundred documents from public view, were themselves suffering under significant conflicts of interest.
Hoover had been spying on both John and Robert Kennedy and had extensive material on their extramarital affairs that could have played a role in the assassination (especially JFK’s affair with a mobster’s girlfriend) yet could not be investigated openly. As for the CIA, Kennedy had threatened to splinter the agency into a thousand pieces after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and he fired CIA director Allen Dulles, who then inexplicably was appointed to the Warren Commission by President Johnson. Deputy CIA Director Charles Cabell, who was also fired by Kennedy, happened to be the brother of Dallas mayor Earle Cabell, who rode in Kennedy’s tragic motorcade after greeting the president and his wife at the airport that morning.
These are just a few of the many tendrils of data and speculation that any informed reader of the Warren Commission must take into account when judging the historical accuracy of the Warren Report. Like many others, I have long since concluded that the president died as the result of a conspiracy, but I do not expect any conclusive evidence to emerge from the last documents, which President Trump has promised will be released in 2018. There are already so many smoking guns pointing in so many directions — most prominently the Mafia, CIA, Lyndon Johnson, Cubans — that one almost concludes that the most logical scenario is that, as in a famous Agatha Christie mystery, they all did it!
Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org