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    US-Soviet Nuclear War 'Was Possible' in Days After Kennedy's Murder - Historian

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    The US government has declassified a tranche of some 2,800 documents about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but withheld an estimated 300 more pending further analysis. Radio Sputnik discussed the documents, and what secrets they have revealed, with Dr. Thomas Whalen, a historian from Boston University.

    Sputnik: Dr. Whalen, why did President Trump block the release of some of the documents? What are the intelligence agencies so concerned about?

    Thomas Whalen: I suppose there would probably be embarrassing revelations to the FBI and particularly the CIA. Whether you are a conspiracy theorist or not, the FBI and CIA did not exactly acquit themselves well during the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath.

    Sputnik: Do you think the withheld files will be released in April 2018 following review, as promised?

    Thomas Whalen: It's a very bizarre situation. It looks like President Trump is pushing back, but we'll just have to see. Even in the documents that have been released, there are many redactions. I suppose the CIA and the FBI will be arguing that this compromises sources or source gathering information, but come on! It was 1963 when this event happened. I think most of the principle [actors] are no longer on this earth.

    Sputnik: JFK's assassination and the ensuing investigation have generated many conspiracy theories. Do you think these documents will quell them?

    Thomas Whalen: No. It seems like it's going to raise additional questions…[For example, in the documents is a file saying that] the Dallas FBI headquarters received a call warning that Jack Ruby, who assassinated the president's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, is going to be dead, just days before [Oswald] himself was shot on live television. The FBI seemed very concerned about this, because if that was the case, then there was a conspiracy – that would be a smoking gun. But it's kind of cut short, so we're not quite sure.

    Sputnik: Do you personally believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was alone behind the assassination?

    Thomas Whalen: I think he was the assassin. The question I've always had is: was there a connection? Was he acting on behalf of a foreign intelligence agency? Organized crime? I think these documents are raising questions, and raising some doubts. Who was Lee Harvey Oswald? Was he for example working in concert with the Cuban government? I think the important thing here is not necessarily these documents, but what's in the Cuban archives, and I don't think we're going to find that out for a long, long time.

    Sputnik: So who do you think was actually behind it then? You've named a few possible suspects.

    Thomas Whalen: All I can say is that a lot of the speculation centered around [Cuban leader Fidel] Castro. The United States government was particularly afraid because if there was a Cuban connection and it was made public, the American public would have demanded some sort of military intervention on Cuba, or a move against Castro, and that would have brought in the Soviet Union. [When] President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Kennedy said we would not invade Cuba. Well if we invaded Cuba, the Soviet Union would have had to respond, and it would have led to a similar situation that occurred in August of 1914, when another political assassination led to a tragic world war.

    Sputnik: The documents also reveal that US intelligence had information that the Soviet Union was concerned that a leaderless US might launch a nuclear attack against the USSR. How likely was this scenario?

    Thomas Whalen: Well, anything was possible in those kind of topsy-turvy days. That was the concern. The Soviet Union at the time, strategically speaking, was quite inferior to the United States in terms of overall nuclear weapons. That was probably one of the reasons Nikita Khrushchev backed down in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and Prime Minister of the USSR, and the U.S. President John Kennedy at the Soviet embassy in Vienna. (File)
    © Sputnik /
    Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and Prime Minister of the USSR, and the U.S. President John Kennedy at the Soviet embassy in Vienna. (File)

    The Soviets were quite concerned about getting the blame, and you see that in the papers. There were a couple of defectors from the Soviet Union that gave contradictory reports. The United States felt one of the defectors was deliberately sent to the country to kind of put American fears that the Soviet Union had been involved in the assassination at ease.

    So this is real cloak and dagger stuff – something out of spy novels going on here, revealed in some of these papers, at least [in terms of] the rumors and the gossip here…It's really eye-opening. I was a little bit surprised by some of the revelations here, but you also have to be cautious, because a lot of the documents that I could see were gossip – unconfirmed reports requiring more digging. They're maddeningly incomplete, so hopefully the other part of the documents, the other part of the equation, will be released on time and when President Trump says they will be.

    Editor's note: In its official statement on the release of the files, the White House promised to "minimize redactions" on the rest of the files, and to release them "by the deadline of April 26, 2018."

    Tags:
    expert commentary, expert analysis, historian, assassination, John F. Kennedy, United States, Soviet Union
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