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UVa Center for Politics releases new findings from JFK files

The CIA and the government of Mexico covered up a phone-tapping operation in the 1960s that helped bring John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to justice, according to the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

The center has been reviewing the 13,173 documents released by the National Archives in December after the passing of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.

Larry Sabato, founder and director of the Center for Politics, said that while the documents are unlikely to reveal “any evidence of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy,” they are still shining light into the dark corners of the so-called intelligence community of the ‘60s.

“There’s a great deal of information in these records about how the intelligence community worked in those days, about what they were doing, what the center of our policy – foreign and domestic—was really all about” Sabato told The Daily Progress on Thursday.

Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, while visiting Dallas. An investigation led by then-U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded in a 1964 report to President Lyndon B. Johnson that Oswald was the lone killer.

Thousands of documents that helped contribute to that finding were classified for years. With the recent release, Sabato said, people are starting to make sense of how the Warren Commission came to its conclusion.

According to the Center for Politics, Oswald was staying in Mexico City weeks before he would assassinate the president. The released documents reveal a secret Mexican-American phone-tapping operation caught the future assassin making a phone call to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City and requesting a visa for a planned escape to Cuba, the center reported.

“People didn’t know about the fact that the Mexican government had set up the tapping system and monitored it for the United States,” Sabato said. “For many years, really right up until this release, we could never get a straight answer out of the CIA and others connected to the government about how we had the transcripts of the phone conversations that Lee Harvey Oswald had with the Soviet and Cuban embassies in Mexico City, where he went just six weeks before he assassinated Kennedy.”

Sabato, who is also the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at UVa, has been sifting through declassified files on the Kennedy assassination for nearly a decade. His most notable findings include documentation that Oswald said that someone should kill former President Dwight D. Eisenhower; a conversation where Oswald told colleagues in the Soviet Union that someone could become rich and famous for killing an American president; and a mysterious call urging a British reporter to call the U.S. Embassy with “big news” 30 minutes before Kennedy’s assassination.

The latest batch of files to come out are only the tip of the iceberg, Sabato said – not just for those interested in Kennedy’s death but also the era in which he lived.

To date, other findings from the recently released documents include a 1968 conversation between civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and his attorney recorded by the FBI in which King said he was “depressed by riots” in Memphis, where he was assassinated less than a month later. Another recorded conversation between Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa and King revealed Hoffa had asked King to tell Kennedy’s brother and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to “lay off” an investigation into Hoffa’s connection to organized crime in the early ‘60s.

Sabato said his 10-year deep dive into declassified Kennedy files started as a search for the truth about his assassination but has morphed into a study of American intelligence.

“We’ve never been the same since the ‘60s,” Sabato said. “Everybody agrees on that. They disagree on whether that’s good, bad or indifferent.”

Sabato launched his newest Kennedy course, “Lessons in Leadership: JFK and the Most Personal Office,” at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the onset of UVa’s spring semester on Wednesday.


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