Amid the thousands of new files released yesterday – though less than expected – were two intriguing memos to, and from, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on November 24th, 1963 – the day that Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald as the gunman was being transported to the Dallas County Jail after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
In a memo issued by Hoover, he appeared to be particularly concerned that the public would have to be compelled to believe that Oswald was a lone actor – not part of a larger conspiracy.
“There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead.”
In the 1964 Warren Report on Kennedy’s assassination, NBC notes, Hoover was firm in stating that he hadn’t seen “any scintilla of evidence” suggesting a conspiracy – a sentiment he expressed in other public forums, as well, but not in words as blunt as those he used the day Oswald was killed.
Referring to Nicholas Katzenbach, the deputy attorney general at the time, Hoover dictated:
“The thing I am concerned about, and so is Mr. Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”
It’s not clear from the memo whether Hoover thought there might have been a conspiracy but didn’t want it to be known or whether he sincerely believed Oswald acted alone and hoped to head off public fear and confusion. Hoover also indicated that his concern may have been influenced, in part, by diplomacy, dictating that there could be serious international complications if the public thought Oswald might have been part of a larger plot. Katzenbach is known from previously released documents to have shared Hoover’s concern, writing in a memo the next day, on Nov. 25, 1963, that:
“the public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.”
Interstingly, Hoover was angry at Oswald’s murder (especially after the police had been warned by The FBI that Osawld’s life was in danger)…
“Oswald having been killed today after our warnings to the Dallas Police Department was inexcusable,” Hoover dictated.
“It will allow, I am afraid, a lot of civil rights people to raise a lot of hell because he was handcuffed and had no weapon.
There are bound to be some elements of our society who will holler their heads off that his civil rights were violated — which they were.”
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