It’s been more than 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Since then, hundreds of conspiracies surrounding the shooting have emerged--fueling debates over who was responsible, why it happened and more.
But with President Donald Trump’s promise to release the final batch of documents, which will be posted online Thursday by the National Archives, conspiracy theorists and historians alike could finally have answers to the questions they have long asked about that tragic day in American history.
The release comes 25 years after the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 was signed into law, mandating the release by a specific deadline of all JFK files that are currently held by the government.
Here are three questions the JFK files could help answer:
Was there a second shooter?
Many conspiracy theorists believe that Oswald did not act alone.
Indeed, the theory -- better known as the “grassy knoll” hypothesis -- posits that another shot was fired from an area to the right of the president's motorcade. Conspiracists argue that Oswald, who was perched on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository with a Carcano Model 91/38 infantry rifle, could not have delivered such a fatal shot from that angle.
Shortly after the assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s vice president, signed an executive order to create the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, more commonly known as the “Warren Commission,” named after Chief Justice Earl Warren, who led the panel.
Ten months after its creation, the Warren Commission found no evidence of a second shooter. However, to further investigate JFK’s murder and look into this theory, the House voted to establish a U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1976, according to the Washington Post. The committee concluded that there was “probably” a second shooter on the grassy knoll.
Even one acoustical study, which analyzed two police channel recordings from that day in relation to a gunshot-like sound from the grassy knoll, concluded that “the gunshot-like sound occurred exactly synchronous with the time of the shooting.”
While both findings have been discredited -- forensic evidence convinced experts that this wasn’t true, historian and best-selling author Doug Wead told Fox News on Thursday -- conspiracists continued to grow the theory.
“It would be wonderful if this theory could be resolved-- hopefully we will see some of that in the documents,” Wead said, but added that this information may be redacted.
"Anybody who thinks this is going to turn the case on its head and suddenly show that there were three or four shooters at Dealey Plaza -- it's not the case,” Gerald Posner, the author of "Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK," told CNN.
Instead, the files could clarify exactly what happened after the first shots were fired.
What was Lee Harvey Oswald doing in Mexico City two months prior to Kennedy’s assassination?
Experts think that the some 3,000 documents could shed light on Oswald’s six-day trip to Mexico City shortly before Kennedy’s assassination.
While conspiracists argue that Oswald was ordered by Soviet or Cuban agents to kill Kennedy, especially because the one-time Marine defected to the Soviet Union, the same 1976 committee did not find any evidence of Soviet, Cuban or CIA involvement in his assassination, according to the Washington Post.
Additionally, both the CIA and the FBI did not find any evidence of Cuban or Soviet involvement, according to the Post.
However, the most recent batch of JFK files, which were released in 1993, revealed that Oswald not only visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City in 1963, but also met with Valeriy Kostikov, a KGB officer who worked for KGB’s Department 13, which, according to a Washington Post article from 1993, is the “department charged with sabotage and assassination.”
What’s more, the documents could reveal that Oswald was a “false flag” used by the Mafia, Wead said.
In other words, if the documents reveal that someone from the Mafia was present during Oswald’s trip, it could add to the long-held theory that Oswald thought he was working on behalf of the Soviets but was actually recruited by the Mafia to kill Kennedy.
“I don’t think the documents will immediately reveal much. But my interest will be if there was a Mafia presence in Mexico City,” Wead said. “While I tend to not believe the Mafia theory, I would like to eliminate it.”
At one time, there was enough evidence to suggest that the Mafia had ties to Kennedy’s assassination to prompt the House Select Committee to hold the belief for a number of years. Eventually, however, the Committee rejected it.
The documents released Thursday could reveal what Oswald’s meetings in Mexico City entailed.
An inside job?
Some conspiracists argue that the CIA and even Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s vice president, were behind the assassination.
While the House Select Committee on Assassinations also ruled out any CIA involvement, some conspiracists believe that the CIA was behind the assassination because they opposed Kennedy’s handling of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 -- a CIA-sponsored mission to overthrow Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Other theorists argue that Oswald was set up by the CIA as a scapegoat.
Still, experts argue that the documents released Thursday will do nothing but challenge this theory.
“There’s going to be no smoking gun in there,” Posner told CNN of the documents.
“I rate this theory extremely low,” Wead said, adding that the possibility of a rogue organization within the CIA carrying out a task like this is highly unlikely.
“And to make sure that participants who knew about it retained the secret--I don’t see that happening,” he said.
Wead also discredited the theory that LBJ was involved.
Wead does believe, however, that Americans in the coming generations will have answers to JFK’s assassination.
“Much like how we now know more about FDR than we ever did before, I think we will eventually have the answers to JFK.”
But until then, “the mystery is always more seductive than the reality,” he said.