JFK files: J. Edgar Hoover called killing of Oswald 'inexcusable'

Longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said it was "inexcusable" that suspected JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed before he could be fully interviewed.

Hoover made the comment in what appeared to be a dictated aide-memoire dated on the afternoon of Nov. 24, 1963, hours after Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby. The memo was part of a cache of 2,891 documents released by the National Archives Thursday evening.

"[Oswald's death] will allow, I am afraid, a lot of civil rights people to raise a lot of hell because he was handcuffed and had no weapon," Hoover said. "There are bound to be some elements of our society who will holler their heads off that his civil rights were violated -- which they were."

Hoover said that the FBI had warned the Dallas police of threats to Oswald's life and that the city's police chief, Jesse Curry, had assured the bureau that Oswald would be properly protected.

"However," Hoover's memo reads, "this was not done."

Oswald was being transferred to the Dallas County Jail when he was shot by Ruby, who stepped out from a crowd of onlookers and shot Oswald in the abdomen. Oswald died hours later at the same Dallas hospital where Kennedy had been pronounced dead two days earlier.

Hoover said that an FBI agent was on standby at the hospital "in the hope that [Oswald] might make some kind of a confession before he died, but he did not do so."

Hoover, who headed the FBI and its predecessor agency for 48 years, added that after Oswald's death he wanted "something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin." He suggested that "instead of a Presidential Commission, we can do it with a Justice Department report based on an FBI report."

Hoover's suggestion was unheeded, as President Lyndon Johnson established the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination the following week.