The U.S. government has released more than 13,000 files relating to the assassination of late President John F. Kennedy (JFK), including versions of documents that were previously released but with more words unredacted.
The U.S. National Archives on Dec. 15 released 13,173 files online, under the direction of President Joe Biden.
The files include an unredacted Dec. 13, 1963, CIA report (pdf) that reveals the CIA had help from Mexican authorities when they intercepted a call from Lee Harvey Oswald placed earlier that year from Mexico City to the Soviet Embassy in the city.
“This piece of information was produced from a telephone tap center which we operate jointly with the office of the President of Mexico,” the document states. The text beyond “center” had been redacted.
Another portion that was newly revealed states that even Mexican security and law enforcement officials were not aware of the arrangement.
JFK was shot dead on Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald was arrested for the assassination and denied killing the president.
While Oswald was being held at a police station in Dallas, a local nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, murdered him on Nov. 24, 1963.
Some have theorized that Ruby and Oswald knew each other. The CIA said in one of the newly released files (pdf) that it had “no indication” that Ruby and Oswald “ever knew each other, were associated, or might have been connected in any manner.” That file had already been released. The statement was not hidden before, but other portions were, including an agent’s name.
The Warren Commission, created by presidential order by Kennedy’s successor President Lyndon B. Johnson, concluded that the shots that killed Kennedy were fired by Oswald.
Surveys of Americans over the years have found most believe Oswald was not the only person involved in Kennedy’s killing.
Some key portions of some documents remain redacted. That includes a full page, and a half of another, in a memorandum (pdf) presidential adviser Arthur Schlesinger wrote in 1961.
Over 97 percent of the records in the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, which was established by the U.S. National Archives in 1992, have been made public with the latest release, the archives said.
The CIA said in a letter to the National Security Council that many of the documents with redactions became unredacted while in others, the number of redactions dropped.
Entire records are also still being withheld, per an executive order from Biden released on Thursday.
Biden said that unnamed agencies “have identified a limited number of records containing information for continued postponement of public disclosure” and that acting Archivist Debra Wall recommended keeping some of those records from the public.
Biden agreed, certifying the continued postponement of the disclosure.
“I agree that continued postponement of public disclosure of such information is warranted to protect against an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure,” the president stated.
The JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, signed into law in 1992, mandated the release of all government documents relating to the JFK assassination by Oct. 26, 2017. That deadline, though, could be delayed for records that could threaten national defense.
Former President Donald Trump on the deadline day ordered the release of many records but also said he’d acceded to proposals from agencies for the continued redaction of some records and the continued shielding of others “because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns.”
Biden has kept up the postponement of the release of some records, including with his latest order.
“President Biden believes all information related to President Kennedy’s assassination should be released to the greatest extent possible consistent with … national security,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in Washington.
Biden directed Wall to conduct a review of the rest of the redacted records so more can be made public. If Wall recommends against any proposed redactions, agencies much drop the proposals or make their case directly to the president’s counsel on a document-by-document basis for the redactions.
The archives said it was working with the Department of Justice to figure out whether information on some records withheld in full due to being under court seal or because of “grand jury secrecy” could be released.
After the review Biden directed, more information will become public by June 30, 2023.
The Mary Ferrell Foundation, which sued the Biden administration in October over the continued postponement of the release of some records, did not respond to a request for comment.
The organization said in its suit, filed in U.S. court in northern California, that Biden and his administration were illegally postponing the release of so many records, and asked the court to compel Biden to provide “clear and convincing evidence” any harm from the disclosure of each record still being withheld would outweigh the public interest.