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10,000 more FBI records unsealed from JFK assassination files

Portrait of 35th President John F. Kennedy at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 11, 1963. (Office of the Naval Aide to the President/National Archives)

The National Archives released another 10,744 records on Friday from the Kennedy assassination files — documents kept under seal for decades and due for release three weeks ago.

All of the documents come from the FBI’s files. The trove includes 144 that had never been released, and 2,408 that remain partly classified, with much of the material blacked out 54 years after President John F. Kennedy’s murder in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

There’s a one-page memo from an assistant director of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dated Dec. 17, three weeks after the assassination, informing the FBI that at the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa, news of Kennedy’s death was met with “jubilation.” The Mounties’ tipster also passed along that Cuba’s foreign minister instructed diplomats in Canada to keep such jubilation to themselves.

The material reflects the myriad leads the FBI pursued for decades, based on tips of varying levels of credibility and detail.

A memo released Friday from 1988 refers to a claim by jailed French mobster Christian David who maintained that three Corsican assassins were involved in Kennedy’s murder. The FBI’s legal attache in Paris wrote that David’s attorney, Henri Juramy, had provided a sealed envelope, to be opened only if he were set free.

David was facing trial for the 1966 murder of a French policeman.

“The envelope contains the name of the third person involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” the memo reads. “Legat (legal attache) Paris considers the merits of Juramy’s proposal suspicious” and recommends bringing in an FBI agent “well backgrounded in the Kennedy assassination investigation to make a determination of the relevance of his sources and information.”

David’s claim has been known for years but the memo adds new details on the FBI’s interactions.

This is the fifth release of records this year. A 1992 law gave federal agencies 25 more years to release all remaining Kennedy files. The deadline was Oct. 26. President Donald Trump agreed to another six months of review after last-minute appeals, mostly from the CIA and FBI, citing the potential for irrevocable damage to national security.

Dozens of the newly released FBI memos deal with efforts to monitor anti-Castro Cuban exiles in South Florida. Names that come up include Max Lesnik, a former friend of Castro who was exiled after a falling out with the dictator.

Some of the material provides tantalizing clues that could stoke conspiracy theories, though it’s unclear whether they were kept under seal for that reason or, perhaps, to downplay the extent of cooperation between U.S. and foreign authorities.

A memo from Detective Sgt. M. Ashdowne of Scotland Yard dated Sept. 8, 1989, showed the London police tracking down a lead for the FBI:

A resident of a “good class area of Brighton” had seen a BBC documentary on the assassination that jogged her memory from a brief stint as a legal secretary in New Orleans. She phoned Joseph Giarrusso, a councilman who had served as police chief during the 1960s, after recalling a letter she’d come across.

The letter indicated payments being sent to the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald. By whom, she couldn’t recall, Scotland Yard reported.

Many of the new files concern investigations of mob figures such as Joe Bonnano, a major crime boss who died in 2002 at age 97. A memo four years before Kennedy’s assassination lists hotel and rental car records of Bonnano associates from 1956 and 1957.

The fact that Paul Scarcelli paid $102.81 for a Hertz rental in Binghamton, N.Y., on Nov. 18, 1957, likely provides little fodder for Kennedy scholars.


(David Tarrant contributed to this report.)


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