The FBI story on JFK’s death
Improbable leads, new insights and an old verdict vindicated
Three days after John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas, the Justice Department ordered the FBI to write a comprehensive report that would “settle the dust” of controversy and suspicion surrounding the assassination. In 14 years, the bureau compiled more than 80,000 pages of documentation. Half of that massive archive was released to the public last week following freedom-of-information lawsuits; the other half will come out next month. While the avalanche of paper will not sweep away all the doubts, mysteries and conspiracy theories, it leaves very much intact the verdict reached by the Warren Commission in 1964: Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, murdered Kennedy.
The FBI’s investigation was thorough in the extreme. No clue was too unpromising or too bizarre to pursue. Agents scoured Manhattan’s 43rd Street for a fortuneteller reported to have precisely predicted the time of the President’s death by reading tea leaves. Two FBI men sat patiently at the bedside of a witness who professed to know the names of six people involved in the killing, but was too drunk to stand. Investigators listened to a woman who was certain that her husband’s family had something to do with the slaying. Why? Because they were “mean” people. Agents checked out accusations that Lyndon Johnson and George Wallace were behind the murder. A Logan, Utah, man got a respectful hearing for his claim that Kennedy was alive and the assassination a hoax to trap the Mafia. So did dozens of men and women who had “seen” Oswald and his slayer, Jack Ruby, together.
People thought to have sat next to Oswald on a bus were tracked down all over the world. Agents heard out a woman who was sure that someone had put glass crystals and cleanser in her sitz baths after she had reported seeing Oswald and Ruby together in Michigan (neither was ever in the state). The bureau spent weeks trying to trace a bad check Oswald was supposed to have cashed in a bar in Pflugerville, Texas, and months tracking the origins of graffiti discovered in a boxcar reading LEE OSWALD – FUTURE MAN OF DESTINY, APRIL 4, 1963 (it turned out a railway workman had scribbled the words as a post-assassination prank)…
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Publication date: December 19, 1977