The assassination of John F. Kennedy

February 5, 2022

JRK drives along the motorcade through Dealey Plaza before the assassination. (Melissa Vital (’23))

Since November 22, 1963, several conspiracies regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy have circulated throughout the nation. On this day during a motorcade in Dallas Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK in the neck, and also injured the Governor of Texas. Oswald himself died two days later when he was shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while being transferred to county jail.
The conspiracy theories regarding the assassination do not revolve around who shot JFK, but rather question if Oswald was working alone. Many of these theories, including Lyndon B. Johnson or the military ordering the hit, have been debunked. However, one popular theory that remains in the limelight today is that the CIA was involved.
At the time, the CIA was attempting to kill Fidel Castro, the President of Cuba, which Kennedy did not support. Oswald himself supported a Soviet-backed Cuba, which means he would have supported the actions of the CIA. This explains their possible alliance.
Eventually, the Warren Commission investigated the assassination. The commission included the head of the CIA, Allen Dulles. If the CIA was in fact involved, a high-ranking member on the commission could have covered up their actions. This caused the committee to ultimately come to the conclusion that nobody was working with Oswald.
Years later, after the event of Watergate and the emergence of a lack of trust between the government and the public, the House Select Committee on Assassinations was formed to review both the assassination of JFK and of Martin Luther King Jr.. After Watergate, the Zapruder film also emerged, allowing the general public to watch the assassination. While this committee too determined that the CIA and the Cuban government were not involved, they did believe that there was a second gunman.

One popular theory on who the second gunman could be is shown through was labeled as “Umbrella Man”. During the assassination, there is a man seen ominously holding an umbrella, although the weather was sunny. The theory goes on to say that the mysterious figure shot not a bullet, but a poison dart at JFK, which allowed Oswald to shoot him. This theory has long since been disproved. Louie Steven, the man holding the umbrella, brought the umbrella as a joke, to make fun of JFK’s support of Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister.
Going off of the CIA’s possible involvement, many theorists believe Cuba and the Soviets themselves might have been directly involved. Prior to the assassination, Oswald took a trip to Mexico City, where it is believed he received his orders to move forward with the assassination. Many of the documents that contain Oswald’s actions while in Mexico City are still classified. A deeper look into Oswald’s actions in Mexico City also convey the idea that the CIA and the FBI may have known that Oswald was a threat prior to the assassination. According to New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, “these agencies could be afraid that if the documents all get released their incompetence and bungling could be exposed.” While the CIA may not have been directly involved, it is possible that they did nothing to prevent what they knew could be a possible assassination. Some believe that the Cubans and Soviets would not have involved themselves, however, because they preferred JFK over Lyndon B. Johnson.
Throughout the years, researchers and theorists have complained that the federal government continued to prevent the public from examining all the evidence, because “10,000 documents [are] either partially redacted or withheld entirely”, according to CNN. In October Biden issued a delay in the publication of some documents because the possible harm they could cause outweighed public interest.
This reveals the overarching dilemma regarding JFK’s assassination. The general public does not trust the actions of their own government. A lack of transparency, not only regarding the assassination but in day-to-day life has left the nation with dwindling faith in their own government. While it may never be uncovered if the CIA was involved or if Oswald truly acted on his own, the trust between the government and the public can be rebuilt. In order for this to happen, politicians and public agencies need to reanalyze their methods of protecting the public and reestablish a firm foundation of trust with American citizens.

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