In October of 1992, George H.W. Bush signed the JFK Records Act, calling on the National Archives to establish a collection of documents related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and stipulating that those documents be made public 25 years later. That means October 26, 2017, is circled on the topless-Alex-Jones calendar in the home of every American conspiracy theorist.
But the release of those records is no sure thing. The Act gives one person, the president himself, the power to keep those records under lock and key, meaning the man who rose to political prominence on the back of a conspiracy theory, and who admires one of the country’s nuttiest conspiracy theorists, has a decision to make.
If President Trump does choose to keep secret the roughly 3,600 documents, most from the FBI and CIA, he’ll have to have a good reason and he’ll have to act soon. Martha W. Murphy, the official in charge of the JFK documents, told Politico this week that the current plan calls for the gradual unsealing of the documents this summer, months before the October deadline.
The CIA and FBI are also moving forward in anticipation of the release, with both agencies reviewing documents to determine whether any should be withheld from the public disclosure. But if either agency wants to hold anything back, it will have to appeal to Trump, who will make the final call.
Though the White House acknowledged to Politico that it is familiar with the issue, it has not signaled whether Trump will let the entire trove be turned over to the public or if he’ll seek to keep some of it hidden.
Despite the secrecy around these documents, Politico provides a few indications of what will be found once they’re released.
Many of the documents are known to come from the files of CIA officials who monitored a mysterious trip that Oswald paid to Mexico City several weeks before the assassination – a trip that brought Kennedy’s future killer under intense surveillance by the spy agency as he paid visits to both the Soviet and Cuban embassies there. The CIA said it monitored all visitors to the embassies and opened surveillance of Oswald as soon as he was detected inside the Soviet compound for the first time.
Other documents are known to identify, by name, American and foreign spies and law-enforcement sources who had previously been granted anonymity for information about Oswald and the assassination. At least 400 pages of the files involve E. Howard Hunt, the former CIA operative turned Watergate conspirator who claimed on his deathbed that he had advance knowledge of Kennedy’s murder.
Beyond the conspiracy theory surrounding JFK’s real killer, there’s a chance these documents, with all their information about Oswald’s movements prior to November 22, 1963, could shed light on another one of Trump’s favorite fairy tales: the involvement of Ted Cruz’s father in JFK’s killing.