Professors and students at Oklahoma Christian University received a long-anticipated look at over 2,800 of the JFK files late last Thursday after the files remained classified for over 50 years.
The documents, many of which contained information on assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and the inner workings of the FBI in the 1960s, were due to be released exactly 25 years after the signing of the 1992 JFK Records Act. President Donald Trump authorized the release of some documents Oct. 26 in cooperation with the act but ordered others to remain classified after consulting with FBI officials. On Friday night, Trump announced via Twitter his intentions to make all of the documents public after a six-month review period.
Associate Professor of History Gary Lindsey said the installation of the 1992 JFK Records Act was motivated by safety concerns at the time. He said some tensions from the recently ended Cold War were still present, and many people named in the documents might still be alive.
“There were concerns the documents might hold information which could compromise the U.S. militarily or internationally, potentially causing significant problems for the country,” Lindsey said. “If you wait 25 years, people who might be named in the documents would likely be dead.”
According to Lindsey, the government should be transparent and release all non-security threatening documents, regardless of what they say.
“Certainly from a Christian perspective, as we are here at Oklahoma Christian, we shouldn’t be afraid of the truth and whatever it shows,” Lindsey said. “I believe we should go ahead and make all of the documents public. I don’t know if it will solve any of those lingering questions about the assassination and who was involved, but truth is truth, and we shouldn’t be scared of it.”
Senior political science and pre-law student Haylye Plaster said she believes it is unlikely the documents contain shocking information. She said the release of the remaining files is likely being delayed due to safety concerns.
“At this point, with it being so long ago, nothing is going to be shocking,” Plaster said. “If there was a smoking gun in the papers, it would have probably been leaked by now. I think they’re just trying to protect names and stuff of that sort.”
While no major revelations concerning Oswald and the assassination have been discovered within the released files thus far, many of the documents give insight into the inner workings of the FBI in the 1960’s. In 1964, the FBI proposed Operation Bounty — a secret plan to take out communism in Cuba by having citizens kill communist leaders. The plan would have dropped leaflets over the island, promising reward money for those who could prove they killed a communist leader.
According to Plaster, the actions of the government at the time were not inappropriate because of the potential danger communism posed. She said the threat of communism in the 1960s was similar to the threat of terrorism today.
“For the time period, it doesn’t seem extreme to me,” Plaster said. “I don’t even think it would be extreme today because we’re being aggressive in the middle east, not with communism but more for terrorism. I think it relates a lot because the fear then was communism taking over and the fear now is terrorists planting bombs and shooting at us.”
Senior history and pre-law student Hailie Ridley said college students should continue to watch for updates on the remaining, classified files. According to Ridley, there is still potential for a major discovery to be made.
“If something comes out of it that we didn’t know before, we should be interested in it because it changes how we evaluate our history so far,” Ridley said. “Especially if it turns out Oswald, as some believe, was not the shooter.”