More than five decades after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, thousands of government files detailing the activities and testimony of shadowy spies, long-deceased witnesses and others with possible knowledge of the events remain shielded from public view.
The government gave a first-ever peek at what's still out there Thursday, as the National Archives released a list of the 3,063 documents that have been "fully withheld" since JFK's murder in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
The documents listed — released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from POLITICO, other news organizations and researchers — were collected by the Assassination Records Review Board, an independent panel created by the 1992 JFK Records Act.
That same act requires that all the documents on the list be released by October 2017 unless the next president decides to keep them classified.
Based on what has been revealed previously, many of the files are expected to have no direct bearing on Kennedy's death in Dealey Plaza but could reveal intelligence operations involving Cuba, secret relationships between U.S. spy agencies and unsavory characters during the height of the Cold War, as well as other secrets the U.S. government might have resisted disclosing publicly as part of a full and open investigation at the time.
Cold War scholars have long suspected that many of the still-withheld files will not necessarily shed new light on whether Oswald acted alone. They could, however, help explain why some top officials at the time might have sought to prevent a thorough investigation, out of concern it would require airing the dirty laundry of covert activities.