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U.S. History

What's in the Kennedy assassination files release?

Thousands of government documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy were made public on Thursday, after President Biden issued a memorandum approving their release.

It was determined that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he killed Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. Still, conspiracies abound when it comes to Kennedy's death, and in his executive order, Biden said his administration has a "commitment to transparency and will provide the American public with greater insight and understanding of the government's investigation into this tragic event in American history."

Biden said he directed government agencies to review almost 16,000 records that had been previously released in redacted form, and it was determined that "more than 70 percent of those records may now be released in full."

Many of the documents released on Thursday came from the CIA and looked at Oswald's contacts and whether he actually signed a visa application for Cuba, The Washington Post reports. Oswald was shot and killed on Nov. 24, 1963, by Jack Ruby, and one of the documents, dated September 1964 and marked secret, contains information about a discussion several U.S. officials had about Oswald's death. The document was written by an official in Helsinki, and states that another official, Felix Dmitreyevich Karasev, didn't think Ruby could have killed Oswald "without the assistance" of U.S. authorities. "We tried to debunk this impression," the official wrote, "but Karasev held to his views."

It also appears the CIA knew about Oswald before Kennedy was assassinated; a document from June 22, 1962, notes that Oswald was mentioned in a Post article, and it was reported he had defected to the Soviet Union.

A CIA spokesperson told the Post the agency "believes all substantive information known to be directly related to Oswald has been released. The few remaining redactions protect CIA employee names, sources, locations, and CIA tradecraft." The National Archives said with Thursday's release, 97 percent of the 5 million documents it has connected to the Kennedy assassination have been made public, CBS News reports.