The CIA’s release of 2,500 presidential briefings written during the Kennedy and Johnson presidential administrations is shedding new light on the agency’s reaction to the assassination of JFK. The CIA has long contended that the briefings could not be released in any form for reasons of national security
On the day Kennedy was killed the CIA briefers wrote they could find “no more fitting words” than a poem that JFK sometimes cited about the burdens of his office:
Bullfight critics ranked in rows
Crowd the enormous plaza full;
But only one is there who knows
And he’s the man who fights the bull.
Three days later, the agency told JFK ‘s successor, Lyndon Johnson, that the CIA had confirmed press reports that accused assassin Lee Oswald had visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies on September 28. “He was trying, we are told, to arrange for visas so that he could travel to the USSR via Havana.”
As historian John Prados notes, the problem with this tightly controlled release, which the CIA is playing up, with a glossy 25-page booklet, is that “those who control declassification at the agency have demonstrated a proclivity for gutting the record in the name of information security.”
I’ll be writing more about this shortly.
You can read and download the presidential daily briefings (then known as the President’s Intelligence Checklist) in November 1963 before and after JFK was killed on this page of the CIA’s Web site.