The release of nearly 3,000 previously classified government files related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, with each file containing several pages, made public almost all the government knew about that awful day in 1963.
But not quite all.
Incredibly, intelligence agencies still insisted on withholding about 300 files they say might harm national security.
Really? After 54 years and despite all that has changed in the world, including the collapse of the Soviet Union and the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, what could those files contain except evidence that might embarrass the FBI or the CIA, which clearly did not take Lee Harvey Oswald as seriously as they should have?
Few events in history have created a larger industry of books, movies, television specials, symposia and websites. Few have spawned more outlandish theories or succeeded in moving public opinion away from the official story.
Yet, a Gallup Poll in 2013 found that 61 percent of Americans believe Oswald did not act alone. That is in large part because of the government’s insistence on keeping files related to the assassination secret.
No one should be naïve enough to believe that the declassification of all files would put all of this to rest, and yet, it is high time all those files became public.
We’re glad President Trump has at least ordered a six-month review of the remaining files. We hope they become public in April.
Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., quoted the Roman poet Virgil in this regard, saying, “Evil is nourished and grows by concealment.” In this case, evil has been assigned to various people involved that day, mostly in ignorance. Whatever light remains to shed, no matter how dim, should shine forth.
In a democracy, few things are as offensive or shocking as having someone negate the public’s will through violence. The JFK assassination hit the nation particularly hard because of the youth and vibrancy of the president and his wife, and because the subsequent turmoil of the ‘60s led some to make the administration a symbol of happier times.
Memories distort easily, of course. The early ‘60s had their tumult, from Soviet missiles in Cuba to civil rights demonstrations and Kennedy’s quiet build-up of forces in Vietnam. We now know much about the president’s personal flaws.
But what many people believe they don’t know is how exactly he was taken from us. That remains an important question, even though much of the nation’s current population was not yet born when he died.
The files released Thursday show the extent of the investigation into Oswald and the frustrations of federal officials as they chased every lead. They apparently reveal evidence of U.S. plans to assassinate Castro.
As we said on an earlier anniversary of this horrible tragedy, this was a murder and aftermath filmed and televised for all to see. The images of a new widow with two small children gave the nation a trauma that can’t be erased. Nov. 22, 1963, still tugs at the hearts of many who were alive that day.
The nation needs closure, and the government needs to stand for transparency. It needs to release the remaining documents.