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New Documents Reveal officials destroyed far more evidence related to the Kennedy Assassination Than Prior Believed

Even in modern times the illegal possession, loss, or destruction of government files has appeared in recent news and has been a consistent means of depriving the public access to documents that may incriminate or embarrass leading bureaucrats. Over the last five decades hundreds of thousands pages of documents have been released concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, nevertheless thousands of documents were by intent or ignorance destroyed or lost. Whether you consider the dozens of files lost within Lee Harvey Oswald’s 201 file or those destroyed by at least one medical expert that conducted the autopsy, some officials have desired that feasibly important files never reach public eyes. Upon this lack of knowledge some reasonable ideas turn and the illegal destruction or loss of files leaves but two unsavory possible reasons reasons, malfeasance or ignorance. The destruction of documents by officials has rendered public claims that were scoffed at or diminished by those who support the official version of events greater credibility. Yet, more recent less redacted files support the contention that the amount of documents destroyed has been largely underestimated despite the claims of several government leaders.

J. Edgar Hoover in the 1940’s

The destruction of J. Edgar Hoover’s confidential private office files and sometimes the most incriminating documents in his collection has been a much discussed matter. The Bureau’s creator and leader ruled over a portion of the US intelligence and law enforcement structure for decades and several presidents while amassing a huge collection of private files and evidence. Roughly twenty years ago the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on its website that 17,000 pages of Hoover’s most secret files gathered over nearly sixty years were provided to the public, but most had “already been released”.[i] They claimed the 165 files that numbered 17,000 pages would be useful to future historians despite the fact that most of the information was known before the National Archives took possession of them. However, the destroyed amount of J. Edgar Hoover’s files by his subordinates, and reportedly at his command, following his death has never been truly quantified. 

Helen Gandy

The press long ago reported the story of, and some official sources confirmed, files that were destroyed, some by Helen Gandy who reportedly served as Hoover’s personal secretary for several decades. Gandy testified to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government during the 1970’s and informed them she had at Hoover’s request destroyed “his personal correspondence”.[ii]

Multiple related Bureau leaders such as William Sullivan affirmed that some of this “correspondence” may have related not just to personal matters, but to derogatory and potential blackmail files on American citizens that Hoover considered possible threats. However, Gandy denied that any destroyed files were of substantive use to Congressional investigations, yet she did not provide any specific number of files destroyed. Despite Gandy’s reassurances, all such material that was created in Hoover’s official position, and funded by the government, were part of the evidentiary and historical record, and no one had the right to destroy them without consultation of higher authorities. Seemingly, that was the end of the matter, but documents within the files related to the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy released last year by the National Archives offer some additional information.

Once such file concerns Mr. Raymond Smith, who was interviewed by Senate officials and stated that he was among those moving a heavily laden truckload of many filing cabinets to J. Edgar Hoover’s residence. Smith, and his supervisor Tony Codi, were tasked to transport the potentially thousands of files and did not use the usual moving crew but other unknown people who were at the residence to offload the cabinets. One cabinet that fell open during the later transport via the side gate of the former FBI Director’s home contained several manila folders and Smith testified they were quite heavy. Smith offered that one day was not enough to transport all the documents taken into Hoover’s basement and he was used a second day to transport another smaller truckload of files with additional boxes as well.[iii]

Justice Department employee Thomas Peyton reaffirmed the claims of Smith and stated of having observed roughly one hundred boxes of contents and several filing cabinets delivered to a basement recreation room.[iv] FBI Washington field office Chief Clerk Thomas Dudney recalled weeks following Hoover’s death that he was instructed by FBI Agent Kunkel to destroy roughly six boxes of files and he personally did so over two days with assistance. While there were many of personal correspondence and other items of no real importance, several files were observed and, significantly, the many filing cabinets of information were never reviewed by most transporting them for destruction. Presumably, the public was denied hundreds and perhaps thousands or more of useful files that were instead destroyed at the request of J. Edgar Hoover. No significant official inquiry has attempted to determine if any material survived or tried to recreate the knowledge purged by officials, yet these illegal and unjustified actions might pale in comparison to another official purge of documents revealed by recent files.

Defense Secretary Robert McNamara

During the summer of 1961, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was convinced the United States military required a unified military group to represent and collate information from the several military intelligence groups.[v] Through McNamara’s influence, and with the approval of President Kennedy and support from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his department established the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to “combine a number of intelligence functions heretofore carried out independently by the separate military departments”. Among its “principal objectives” was “obtaining greater unity of effort among all components of the Department of Defense in developing military intelligence and as strengthening the over-all capacity of the Department for collection, production and dissemination of Defense intelligence information.”[vi] The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was apprehensive regarding the DIA’s creation due to its absorbing the collective military’s intelligence functions. That “Inevitably was of concern,” likely due to the CIA’s use of military assets and bases across the globe. During early 1963, notable Agency officer Lyman Kirkpatrick informed his superiors of a conversation with DIA leader Joseph Carroll regarding “clandestine collection” and “current intelligence production.” Multiple later CIA leaders, including Deputy Director of Science and Technology Albert Wheelon, would additionally perform reviews of CIA and DIA relations and criticize its military minded approach to intelligence collection. November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy would be assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

“By 1964…the number of key directorates had doubled…with the addition of directorates” for “scientific and technical intelligence.” It appears this quickly expanding agency would have amassed a sizeable collection of files regarding military intelligence that may have offered a wealth of information regarding the history of that era. Yet, despite the sizable amount of files likely generated by the DIA or those it collected from related agencies pertaining to important historical matters, most later investigators of President Kennedy’s assassination were instead concerned with files destroyed or concealed by the FBI and CIA. While officials had legitimate and sometimes verified reasons to focus on those and a few other related groups such as the Secret Service, it was not until much later officials finally questioned the DIA and sought missing pieces of the historical record it might provide. With the massive expansion of the DIA and its resources by the late 1970’s the group finally came to the attention of House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigators.

Official congressional requests to obtain related files from National Security Agency (NSA) and Defense Intelligence Agency employees offered a startling admission, which changes the landscape of the evidentiary record. DIA official Mr. Roger Denk informed congressional officials the DIA “has destroyed all of its files which might related to the assassination and that, therefore, he had nothing to offer”.[vii] Thus, the collection efforts of US this key military intelligence agency and even any extraneous file that might relate to the assassination was purged without higher approval, nor was there any explanation for what motivated such action. Additionally, we do not know exactly when this purge occurred and how many potentially thousands or tens of thousands of files were destroyed. Despite several investigations by the US legislature concerning the assassination of President Kennedy, the DIA took it upon itself to decimate the record and provided no sufficient explanation for its actions. While the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence groups were often derided in the media for covering up potential connections and files of interest, the DIA exceeded all of them in its hubris by deciding to permanently damage the historical record for reasons unknown.

It appears that some military intelligence officials have attempted to sanitize the historical record of all information regarding the assassination of President Kennedy. The destruction of all related evidence held by the DIA is no mere conspiracy theory, it is a confirmed fact by officials themselves. There is no beneficial purpose that such abrogations of duty and law have occurred, only potentially illegal ones. The question as ever remains, why and to what specific end?


C.A.A. Savastano

[i]. Federal Bureau Of Investigation, July 11, 2005, A Byte Out of History: J. Edgar Hoover’s “Official and Confidential” Files, fbi.gov

[ii]. Secretary Says She Destroyed Hoover’s Letters on His Orders, December 2, 1975, The New York Times, nytimes.com

[iii]. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, October 23, 1975, Interview of Raymond Smith, National Archives and Records Administration Record Number: 32989549, archives.gov, pp. 1-6

[iv]. Ibid, Interview of Thomas Peyton, pp. 1-3

[v]. Office of the Secretary of Defense, July 6, 1961, Memorandum for the President, Subject: The Establishment of a Defense Intelligence Agency, Georgetown National Security Archive, nsaarchive2.gwu.edu

[vi].Department of Defense Office of Public Affairs, August 2, 1961, News Release: Department of Defense Announces New Defense Intelligence Agency, Georgetown NSA, nsarchive2.gwu.edu

[vii].National Security Agency, June 15, 1978, HSCA Request for NSA Material on Kennedy Assassination, NARA No. 144-10001-10263, archives.gov, p. 1