The government made thousands of files related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy public on Thursday, marking the latest installment in the collection’s delayed release.
Many of the documents in Thursday’s release show the intelligence community grappling with — and griping about — investigations into the assassination, and further underscore covert activities in the Cold War.
Thursday’s release included nearly 13,000 CIA documents, all formerly withheld in part except for two, and more than 200 NSA documents previously postponed from release on the original deadline last month.
In one 1963 file, the CIA refers to knowledge about Lee Harvey Oswald’s infamous visit to Mexico City prior to the Kennedy assassination and the reaction from the agency when the news came that Oswald was the potential assassin.
“When the name of Lee Oswald was heard, the effect was electric,” wrote John Whitten of the CIA.
Seeking to shed light on the assassination, Congress passed a law in 1992 mandating the release of all secret files related to the Kennedy assassination and gave the government 25 years to do so, leaving the decision to further withhold the files up to the sitting president. The 25-year deadline hit in October, and President Donald Trump at first decided to release most, but prevent some of the documents from being released.
Trump went on to say all files would become public, with some names being withheld. Thursday’s release was the latest publication of the secret files, following a release of files last week and another batch released on the deadline last month.
Tangentially related records
The collection includes many files only tangentially related to the Kennedy assassination, including documents on US activities in Cuba and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., which was examined alongside the Kennedy assassination by a congressional committee.
Some provide details about the intelligence community’s more controversial activities.
One document, for example, shows that the CIA knew of a Bulgarian independence activist confined in a military hospital in Panama under the false pretense of being a psychopath. The activist drew the attention of Greek authorities, French intelligence and the CIA. The file referred to him alternatively as Kelly, D.A. Dimitrov and Gen. Donald A. Donaldson.
The document said the US “was considering an ‘ARTICHOKE’ approach to Kelly to see if it would be possible to reorient Kelly favorably” by dispatching agency doctors to drug him and change his behavior, but ultimately decided to do nothing.
Project Artichoke was a predecessor to Project MKUltra, an experimental CIA mind control program. The 1977 file put together the information on the Bulgarian because the “apparently alive” independence activist was talking about the Kennedy assassination.
Documents in previous releases showed the US considering putting lives on the line in Cuba in an effort to pressure the Castro-led Cuban government.