herald

Wednesday 17 January 2018

UK paper received 'big news' tip-off minutes before Kennedy killed

President Kennedy and his wife moments before the assassination.
President Kennedy and his wife moments before the assassination.

A British newspaper received an anonymous phone call about "big news" in the United States minutes before President John F Kennedy was assassinated, newly released files reveal.

A batch of 2,800 declassified documents includes a memo from the CIA to the director of the FBI, dated November 26, 1963, about a call to the Cambridge News on November 22 - the day Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas.

Deputy CIA director James Angleton's note refers to the caller telling Cambridge News to phone "the American Embassy in London for some big news, then hung up".

The memo says Britain's MI5 intelligence service calculated that the call came 25 minutes before the fatal shooting.

It said the reporter who took the call "is known to them as a sound and loyal person with no security record".

The file was released by the US National Archives in July but went unreported. It is also among a batch of papers that were declassified on Thursday.

Cambridge News reporter Anna Savva said yesterday that the paper has no record of the incident.

"We have nothing in our archive - we have nobody here who knows the name of the person who took the call," she said.

Lee Harvey Oswald talks to the media as he is led down a corridor of the Dallas police station for another round of questioning.
Lee Harvey Oswald talks to the media as he is led down a corridor of the Dallas police station for another round of questioning.

Prank

It's unclear whether it was merely a prank and the timing coincidental.

The CIA memo says that several people in Britain had received similar anonymous phone calls "of a strangely coincidental nature" over the preceding year, "particularly in connection with the case of Dr Ward".

That is an apparent reference to osteopath Stephen Ward, a key figure in the Profumo Affair, the sex-and-spy scandal that almost toppled the British government in 1963.

The documents disclosed this week capture the frantic days after the hit on JFK's motorcade, in which federal agents madly chased tips, however thin, juggled rumours and sifted through leads worldwide.

They include cables, notes and reports stamped "secret" that reveal the suspicions of the era - concerning Cubans and Communists. They cast a wide net over varied activities of the Kennedy administration, such as its covert efforts to upend Fidel Castro's government.

In the chaos that followed the assassination pinned on Lee Harvey Oswald - shot dead two days later in police custody by club owner Jack Ruby - FBI Director J Edgar Hoover vented his spleen in a secret report.

Conspiracy

It began: "There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead."

But, reflecting on Oswald less than an hour after he died, Hoover already anticipated conspiracy theories.

"The thing I am concerned about is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin," he said.

In a 1975 deposition, JFK's deputy CIA chief Richard Helms is asked "is there any information which in any way shows Oswald was in some way a CIA agent" - but the document ends short of his answer.

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