Of the 2,800 files related to John F. Kennedy's assassination released last week, one document seemed especially juicy.
It was a previously classified 1975 deposition of former CIA director Richard Helms before the President's Commission on CIA Activities in which Helms was asked about Lee Harvey Oswald, the former Marine who shot Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. Oswald himself was killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby at Dallas police headquarters on live television, fueling decades of conspiracy theories.
The 1975 testimony, taken by the commission's counsel, David Belin, cut off right at the most tantalising part.
MR. BELIN: Well, now, the final area of my interrogation relates to charges that the CIA was in some way conspiratorially involved with the assassination of President Kennedy. During the time of the Warren Commission, you were Deputy Director of Plans, is that correct?
MR. HELMS: I believe so.
MR. BELIN: Is there any information involved with the assassination of President Kennedy which in any way shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was in some way a CIA agent or an age[nt]...
Several news organisations, including The Washington Post, seized on the truncated file as an example of the government's continued secrecy about the assassination.
The Sun newspaper in Britain wrote an article breathlessly headlined: COVER-UP? JFK files CUT OUT CIA director's reply to whether Lee Harvey Oswald was a secret agent...so will we ever know the truth?" The Huffington Post reported the cut-off document and speculated that if Oswald had been a CIA agent, "it would stoke even more confusion" because of Oswald's reported meeting with a KGB officer in Mexico City nearly two months before the assassination. The New York Times also found the abruptly finished document fascinating, saying it "may add to the questions" fueling conspiracy theories about the killing.
On Twitter, the suspicious-looking deposition also earned some attention. After the faux account of President Richard M. Nixon tweeted about the Kennedy files, one user replied: "Sir, have you seen the partial deposition of the Richard Helms that mysteriously cuts off?"
Here's the thing, though. The rest of the deposition was released. Just not in this latest batch. The full testimony was declassified in 1994, according to the Mary Ferrell Foundation, which has been monitoring and writing about the Kennedy assassination records for years. So, what did Helms say?
The rest of Belin's question asked Helms whether Oswald was an "agent of the FBI or any other Government agency?" Here is how Helms responds:
MR. HELMS: Mr. Belin, this question, and I think you may recall this, was raised at the time and the Agency was never able to find any evidence whatsoever, and we really searched that it had any contact with Lee Harvey Oswald. As far as the FBI was concerned, my recollection is not all that precise. I believe that Mr. Hoover testified that he had not been an agent of theirs either. He was certainly not an agent of the CIA. He was certainly never used by the CIA. Whether any CIA officer ever talked to him any place or not I don't know but I certainly felt quite comfortable - I believe Mr. [John] McCone [a previous CIA director] was asked to testify before the Commission on this point. I believe he was asked to testify. It was a hot item anyway at the time. And my recollection is that I informed Mr. McCone that we could find no evidence that Oswald had any connection with the CIA.
Belin didn't challenge Helms any further on the matter. Instead, he pivoted and asked whether the CIA had withheld any information from the Warren Commission.