Before I try to answer this most complex of questions, let me say a couple of things.
First, let us stipulate that 99.99 percent of JFK conspiracy theories are BS. Let me repeat that: 99.99 percent of JFK conspiracy theories are BS.
That is to say: they are objectively and factually wrong. Let me name a few: the Federal Reserve did not do it. The Secret Service Man did not do it. The KGB did not do it, George H.W. Bush did not do it (and no, he was not lurking in Dealey Plaza).
Other theories are more debatable. Lee Oswald remains the single most plausible candidate for assassin but the forensic case against him, never strong in criminal defense terms, has only grown weaker over the years, while the possibility that he was manipulated or framed has grown.
The case against President Lyndon Johnson, while popular on the Internet, is contrived and conjectural, relying heavily on a witness who has changed her story often. The case against Fidel Castro, still touted by CIA sources, is weaker yet.
Like the agency’s interference in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee torture investigation, the CIA interference in the 1978 House Committee on Assassinations has made the case for CIA complicity stronger, as Robert Blakey told Frontline in 2003. That said, there is no proof that any specific CIA officers were involved in manipulating or framing Oswald or otherwise enabling JFK’s murder.
Collectively, these facts do not necessarily mean that all conspiracy theories are wrong. One theory out of a thousand (.01 percent) might someday prove right, and we don’t know it because we don’t yet have all the facts.
But, the weary bystander may ask, is that really possible or likely at this late date?
After 51 years of speculation, six investigations, and thousands of books it may seem unlikely that the government can still be hiding something significant about the JFK story. But it is demonstrably—and unfortunately—true.
The CIA, for example, has 1,100 JFK assassination-related records that it won’t make public until October 2017. If you don’t believe me, consult Fox News, or the Associated Press, or the Huffington Post, or the Washington Times, or International Business Times, or the Boston Globe and decide for yourself.
(If you think those records should be made public ASAP, sign the petition here.)
Second, and more importantly, the whole “JFK conspiracy” meme is starting to feel off-point, if not “last century.” I don’t have a JFK conspiracy theory nor do most people interested in the subject. Call me crazy but I’m more interested in the facts than in the theories.
My only JFK theory is that the CIA will surrender its records on the subject in October 2017 and we will obtain a clearer understanding of whether certain CIA officers engaged in malfeasance toward JFK in late 1963. The deceased officers whose long-secret files are scheduled to be released in the years ahead include James Angleton, Richard Helms, Bill Harvey, David Phillips, Howard Hunt, David Morales, Anne Goodpasture, and George Joannides.
After spending a decade in FOIA litigation with the CIA, I admit my theory remains unproven.
The perennial question has to be faced squarely and answered precisely.
Q. Was there a conspiracy to assassinate JFK?
A. There is no proof beyond reasonable doubt that any two identifiable individuals conspired to kill President Kennedy.
But that is a peculiar question that puts a peculiar burden on the citizenry to prosecute a complex crime long after the fact. An equally valid question on the 51st anniversary of the Dallas tragedy is:
Q. Is the government’s official story of a lone gunman credible?
A. Not according to most people.
All polls on the subject confirm this fact. Which is not to pass judgment on the conspiracy question. On a question on which there is no consensus, the historical truth is in the eye of the beholder. JFK’s death is a Rorschach test of the American mind.
One thing, however, is certain: American criminal law—and the concept of conspiracy—is not necessarily an effective method of establishing historical truth.
Exhibit A: O.J. Simpson. In a court of criminal law, the famous football player was “not guilty” of murder. But when the families of his victims brought suit in civil court, the preponderance of evidence showed that Simpson was responsible for the wrongful death of his ex-wife and her friend.
If we look at the case of the murdered president as a civil case, not a criminal matter, we might see the issue in a different light. Perhaps the role of the CIA in JFK’s assassination is like Simpson’s role in his ex-wife’s death: technically “not guilty” but, nonetheless, legally culpable.
To state the question neutrally: who was responsible for the wrongful death of JFK?
I think the digital phenomenon of JFK 3.0 will help us answer this question definitively. Until then, my informed guess is:
His ideological enemies within U.S. government, most likely in the CIA and/or Defense Department/Joint Chiefs of Staff. #JFK51
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