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Clinton adviser thought Russia ‘doctored’ JFK papers

Former President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jackie Kennedy. (Reuters file photo) Former President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jackie Kennedy. (Reuters file photo)

In the late 1990s, President Bill Clinton’s advisers mused how directly involved he should be in pressing the Russian government for documents related to the JFK assassination, and then, when they were released, whether Russian intelligence had “doctored” them.

These conversations, and much more, were made public Friday when the National Archives released new Clinton administration documents.

In an August 1998 e-mail exchange with the subject line “Shades of Oliver Stone” — a reference to the 1991 movie “JFK” that explored various conspiracies — Neil Kingsley, who worked in the State Department’s office of Russian & European Analysis, wrote to Carlos Pascual, special assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and pondered the politics of Clinton’s involvement.

“Seems like this could be an issue POTUS would be interested in, hot button on the Hill if word gets around we didn’t care, etc.,” Kingsley wrote. “Don’t understand the politics of this well enough to have a responsible opinion.”

Then a year later in June 1999, on the same day that Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave Clinton 80 documents related to Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination at a G8 summit in Germany, a national security adviser expressed concern over the “likelihood that the Russian intelligence agencies will have doctored its content.”

“Even worse than their probably having removed information that makes them look bad is the possibility that they might have inserted some disinformation to try to embarrass USG. Some of the Russian intel folks are unreconstructed Cold Warriors. We’ll have to think about how to handle that,” wrote Stuart Kaufman, National Security Council director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs to fellow staffer William Leary.

The documents, made public by the National Archives in August 1999, included “insights into the high-level discussions among Soviet officials about Oswald’s defection to the Soviet Union in 1959 and his activities there as well as the assassination,” according to a The Washington Post story at the time.

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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