Top Secret John F Kennedy Documents Declassified

The CIA has declassified a 19,000-page trove of documents from the time of John F Kennedy’s presidency. Known as the “President’s Daily Brief,” these documents are a compilation of the daily reports that the U.S. President would receive from the spy agency first thing in the morning. In the past, these briefings have been tightly guarded secrets. Now, for the first time, the CIA has released some of the oldest ones, starting from the time of the presidencies of John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson.

According to CNN, the documents contain intelligence appreciations from the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis through to the Vietnam War, and are considered by historians to be an invaluable tool for evaluating how presidents like Kennedy actually made decisions. Speaking to the Portland Press Herald, William Imbolden, from the Clements Center for National Security, agrees.

“When we’re reading these, it’s a mirror image of what the president’s concerns were.”

John F Kennedy’s presidency has always been a solid favorite among the conspiracy minded, with events like the Bay of Pigs and Kennedy’s own assassination looming large among the favorites of conspiracy theorists. It seems likely, however, that this new trove of documents is unlikely to prove too satisfying to those seeking to prove that the CIA had a hand in the death of John F Kennedy. There are two entries for the day of his assassination and the first one, obviously, gives no indication of any forthcoming disaster and the second, rather touchingly, contains nothing but an excerpt from one of John F Kennedy’s favorite poems.

“Bullfight critics ranked in rows/Crowd the enormous plaza full/But only one is there who knows/And he’s the man who fights the bull.”

Much, however, can probably be made of the many redactions in the reports. One of the pages from the morning briefing on the fateful day of Kennedy’s death is still classified, which should allow conspiracy theorists worldwide to do what they do best.

What the reports do confirm, however, is the long acknowledged distance between John F Kennedy and his deputy Johnson. A large number of the documents are marked ‘eyes only’ for President Kennedy, implying that Johnson would not have received a copy. There are also documents that contain instructions to the effect that the Vice President should not “under any circumstances” be placed on the distribution list. This would seem to add weight to the idea that Kennedy made a habit of keeping his deputy in the dark.

The documents have been released under President Obama’s directive that all classified material be automatically be appraised for release after 25 years. They can be found at the CIA’s website.

[Picture via Getty Images/Hulton Archive]