MINNEAPOLIS – The federal judge who chaired a board to decide what John F. Kennedy assassination documents to redact and release to the public says—spoiler alert—the lone gunman theory is the only one that could be proven in court.
Last week, the government released 2,800 files relating to the assassination of JFK, but some 200 files still remain secret. President Trump announced on Twitter that the remaining files will be released once certain names and addresses are redacted.
Judge John Tunheim, who serves as Chief U.S. District Judge for the District of Minnesota, had an integral role in releasing JFK assassination records to the public.
From 1994 to 1998, he had the nation’s highest security clearance.
As chairman of the JFK Assassination Records Review Board, he collected every government file related to the assassination—and with the board—decided if they could release them to the public. He has not only seen the 200 files still being withheld but decided what in them should be redacted.
Chris Hrapsky sat down with Judge Tunheim to about the records, the assassination, and the alleged conspiracies.
REPORTER: It’s been 50-plus years since the Warren Commission concluded that it was a single gunman that killed the president. And only a third of the American people believe that.
JUDGE JOHN TUNHEIM: It’s fascinating. I think people want to believe in conspiracies because they think it attaches a greater importance somehow to an event. But I think also the fact that the investigations were done as quickly and probably not as thoroughly as they are done today. And there are a lot of holes in the file, lot of gaps.
REPORTER: Is it true that the president’s brain was missing at some point?
JT: Well that’s an interesting question. . . The brain was removed, which is not an uncommon thing. They did slices for further study. . . Brain tissues—when they were all done with it—they were all put together and shipped off with the other autopsy materials, which went to the White House physician. Later he turned that over to Robert Kennedy, who later turned it over to the National Archives. In that three or four step process things went missing.
REPORTER: How was the JFK Assassination Records Review Board formed and why?
JT: The movie JFK was out in 1991 and [Oliver] Stone (director) came out on a trailer at the end of the movie when it was in theaters and said ‘Everything in this movie is proven by files that the government is hiding from you. Write your congressman.’ And people flooded Congress with demands to open the files. So Congress passed this law requiring the Executive Branch to set up this process to review the files and to release whatever could be released.
REPORTER: In your opinion why is this important?
JT: The problem is so many people don’t believe the Warren Commission in part because so many of the records were being hidden.
REPORTER: Were you able to review everything that was top secret?
JT: We had the highest security clearance so we could see everything because agencies were required to turn everything over to us and they would make arguments to us as to whether records should be released or protected. . . We protected some things like names of some intelligence agents, intelligence gathering methods, some law enforcement data, a few personal privacy issues, but primarily if it had some direct relationship to Oswald, the assassination. . .we took the position that anything goes. . . There are a lot of records they wanted to protect, not because it was something that would damage national security but because it would be embarrassing to the CIA.
REPORTER: Based on everything that you’ve read, which is the whole file that has been a secret, do you believe that President Kennedy’s assassination was a conspiracy or done by a lone gunman?
JT: I think, first of all, the only hard evidence supports Oswald. It was his rifle, his prints were all over it, he worked in the building. He was in the building during the assassination. The bullets in the vehicle that hit Kennedy were tied to that gun. This is all evidence that would have convicted Oswald beyond a shadow of a doubt. I think he was the sole shooter that day.
REPORTER: But then why Jack Ruby?
JT: That’s probably the best evidence of a conspiracy is Ruby. He was tied to organized crime. He did small things for organized crime, but he was also widely known as a blabbermouth.
REPORTER: There are so many entities with interests in seeing JFK’s demise which makes the conspiracy so plausible. There was the CIA, Cuba, the mafia, Teamsters, Russia, it was everywhere. LBJ was a theory.
JT: [Kennedy] had a lot of enemies, yeah. But when you actually look at the massive evidence through the years, there’s no evidence of a conspiracy. . . I think everyone should keep an open mind in case there are further disclosures in the future, but up until this point, there’s no real hard evidence of a conspiracy that could convict anyone of a conspiracy.