As the editor of a website devoted to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I often get asked, “So who killed JFK? What’s your theory?” “I don’t know.” I invariably disappoint. “It’s too early to tell.”
Fifty-plus years after JFK’s death, my answer is laughable but serious. The JFK story remains unsettled well into the 21st century, no matter what the various conspiracy and anti-conspiracy theorists may proclaim. Indeed, the complex reality of how a president of the United States came to be gunned down on a sunny day, and no one lost his liberty — or his job — continues to live and grow in popular memory. Who cares? Only the millions of Americans whom our national mythmakers seek to entertain and educate. Shots rang out again in Dealey Plaza in October 2015 as Hollywood director J.J. Abrams restaged the crime scene for a movie version of Stephen King’s time-travelling epic, 11.22.63. Then LBJ, played by Woody Harrelson, rolled down Elm Street for Rob Reiner’s NBC mini-series on JFK’s successor. Coming soon: Jackie Kennedy’s ordeal in the awful days after her husband died in her arms, with Natalie Portman playing the iconic woman who was traumatized by blood, guilt, and suspicion. (Like her brother-in-law, Robert Kennedy, Jackie privately voiced skepticism about the official theory of a lone gunman.) The JFK story never gets stale for Americans because it is constantly recycled by our mythmakers, renewed by new facts, and revisited by citizens who wonder if we will ever have a credible narrative of a terrible crime. The resulting pace of change in public understanding of this traumatic inflection point in American history is glacial. Key details are still shrouded in official secrecy, but the JFK story continues to evolve.
The reasons are out there for anyone who cares to look. The historical record of JFK’s death is growing more complete, as the October 2017 deadline for declassification of all of the government’s assassination-related records approaches. This deadline was written into law by the JFK Records Act of 1992, passed by Congress to quell the furor over Oliver Stone’s all-too-believable movie JFK. The act compelled the “immediate” release of an estimated 4 million pages of JFK records over the last 20 years. This mountain of material has debunked some common myths about JFK conspiracy theories. It has also created pressure for accountability.
One result is that the CIA’s own account of JFK’s assassination is changing. As Politico’s Phil Shenon reported in October 2015, a once-secret report written in 2013 by the CIA’s house historian David Robarge “acknowledges what others were convinced of long ago: that [CIA director John] McCone and other senior CIA officials were ‘complicit’ in keeping ‘incendiary’ information from the Warren Commission...
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