JFK Assassination Files: FBI Director Hoover Wanted Public Convinced Oswald Was Real Assassin as Soon as Possible

Lee Harvey Oswald during a press conference after his arrest in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Thousands of documents about the John F. Kennedy assassination, previously unseen by the public, have just been released. STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

A memo written by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, released among 2,800 declassified records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, has shown how in the days after Lee Harvey Oswald was shot, the FBI planned to convince the public that he was the real assassin as soon as possible.

In the document, dictated shortly after Oswald was shot by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, Hoover explains how both he and then-Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach were concerned that Oswald should be established as the president's killer as a matter of urgency.

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"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," Hoover said in the 1963 memo.

The former FBI director went on to explain that establishing which facts could and could not be made public was important because of the possible foreign policy implications. "There are several aspects which would complicate our foreign relations," Hoover says in the memo.

These were namely that the FBI was aware Oswald had contacted both the Cuban embassy in Mexico City and the Soviet Embassy in Washington. Hoover explained that having the interception of these messages—one of them to the "man in the Soviet Embassy in charge of assassinations and similar activities on the part of the Soviet government"—made public would have "muddied the waters internationally."

Both communications were deemed unimportant by Hoover with regard to the Kennedy assassination but did show the U.S. was breaking diplomatic protocols that preclude eavesdropping on foreign embassies.

The Hoover memo also complains about the amount of information about the shooting being made available to the press through Dallas police. "We want them to shut up," Hoover said.

Roughly 300 documents of the tranche of what would have been 3,100 documents pertaining to the assassination of President Kennedy have been withheld after President Donald Trump Thursday agreed to requests from national security agencies to keep some of the records secret.

A 1992 law mandated the release of the documents. Trump has directed the agencies that requested some records to be withheld to review their reasons for doing so within the next 180 days.