JFK files: J. Edgar Hoover said public must believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone

"There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead."

J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, dictated that line in a memo he issued on Nov. 24, 1963, the day Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald as Oswald was being transported to the Dallas County Jail after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The memo is one of at least 52 records never previously made public that were included in the release Thursday of about 2,800 unredacted government documents related to Kennedy's murder in Dallas two days earlier. President Donald Trump approved withholding an undisclosed number of other documents pending a 180-day national security review.

Scholars and other experts have repeatedly said it's unlikely that there's anything groundbreaking in the documents. But as journalists and historians pored through the enormous database of material Thursday night and Friday morning, some interesting nuggets were turning up, among them Hoover's Nov. 24 memo.

Hoover appeared to be particularly concerned that the public would have to be compelled to believe that Oswald was a lone actor — not part of a larger conspiracy.

RELATED: Kennedy assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald

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Kennedy assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald
(GERMANY OUT) Attentat / Kennedy-Attentat: Lee Harvey Oswald steht im Vorgarten eines amerikanischen Wohnhauses und hält ein Gewehr in der Hand. An der Seite trägt er eine Pistole mit Halfter. Mit der rechten Hand hält er sich ein Schriftstück, möglicherweise eine Zeitung, vor die Brust. Am 22. November 1963 tötet Oswald den amerikanischen Präsidenten bei einem Besuch im texanischen Bundesstaat Dallas. Nach seiner Verhaftung wird der 24-jährige von dem Nachtclubbesitzer Jack Ruby ermordet. Undatiertes Foto. (Photo by Thomas & Thomas/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Dallas. Texas. Location of the scene where John Kennedy was assassinated during an official journey, 1963, United States, National archives. Washington, . (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)
American president John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963) is struck by an assassin's bullet as he travels through Dallas in a motorcade, 22nd November 1963. In the car next to him is his wife Jacqueline (1929 - 1994) and in the front seat is Texas governor John Connally. (Photo by Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The view from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, from which Lee Harvey Oswald is thought to have assassinated President John F. Kennedy, 22nd November 1963. This photograph was taken approximately one hour after the assassination. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 22: CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite reports President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, TX on Friday, November 22, 1963. (CBS via Getty Images)
23rd November 1963: Mugshot of Lee Harvey Oswald (1939 - 1963), alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, taken by the Dallas Police department, Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
In the aftermath of the assasination of US President John F. Kennedy, American politician and Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908 - 1973) takes the oath of office to become the 36th President of the United States as he is sworn in by US Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes (1896 - 1985) (left) on the presidential aircraft, Air Force One, Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963. Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy (later Onassis) stands beside him at right. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
Lee Harvey Oswald (1939 - 1963) (R), alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, is detained by a police officer while under arrest, Dallas, Texas, November 1963. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A model used by the Warren Commission to illustrate three shots allegedly taken by Lee Harvey Oswald is seen in the Sixth Floor Museum formally the site of the Texas School Book Depository October 8, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. The the Warren Commission, established by President Lyndon Johnson, studied and rep leased an official report on the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. November 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK in Dallas's Dealey Plaza. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Lee Harvey Oswald (1939 - 1963) (C) is taken into custody by police after allegedly shooting President John F Kennedy, Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
A map of Oak Cliff in Dallas, showing the location of eyewitnesses to the movements of Lee Harvey Oswald in the vicinity of the killing of police officer J. D. Tippit, 22nd November 1963. Tippit was shot by Oswald whilst attempting to bring him in for questioning in relation to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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In the 1964 Warren Report on Kennedy's assassination, Hoover was firm in stating that he hadn't seen "any scintilla of evidence" suggesting a conspiracy — a sentiment he expressed in other public forums, as well, but not in words as blunt as those he used the day Oswald was killed.

Referring to Nicholas Katzenbach, the deputy attorney general at the time, Hoover dictated: "The thing I am concerned about, and so is Mr. Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin."

It's not clear from the memo whether Hoover thought there might have been a conspiracy but didn't want it to be known or whether he sincerely believed Oswald acted alone and hoped to head off public fear and confusion.

Hoover also indicated that his concern may have been influenced, in part, by diplomacy, dictating that there could be serious international complications if the public thought Oswald might have been part of a larger plot.

Katzenbach is known from previously released documents to have shared Hoover's concern, writing in a memo the next day, on Nov. 25, 1963, that "the public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial."

In the memo, Hoover excoriated the Dallas Police Department for not having prevented Oswald's killing by Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner. The FBI had warned the police that Oswald's life was in danger, but nothing was done, he complained.

"Oswald having been killed today after our warnings to the Dallas Police Department was inexcusable," Hoover dictated. "It 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. 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 argued against appointing an independent commission to review the evidence, contending that the matter should be left to the Justice Department, the FBI's parent agency. Lyndon Johnson, the new president, announced the creation of the Warren Commission a few days later. 

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