Weatherford, Texas —
The Mafia Theory
The theory: Facing deportation and seeking revenge on a president whose policies aimed to dismantle organized crime, mafia boss Carlos Marcello masterminded the assassination with help from Santo Trafficante and Johnny Roselli.
It gained prominence because... Compared to other theories, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Members of the mafia had worked with the CIA in an attempt to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro, according to documents declassified in 2007. At the time, members of the mafia had the expertise to take out important people. And, compared to today’s measures, security around prominent elected officials was primitively lax.
Has it been debunked? “Complicated” is a better word. With suspicions of CIA involvement — and JFK’s brother Bobby, as attorney general, leading the charge against organized crime — the mafia had plenty of incentive to direct its vengeance toward others besides JFK. They had the motive and the means, but we may never know for sure if they actually pulled the trigger.
The CIA Theory
The theory: The nation’s main intelligence gathering arm had a number of high-profile disagreements with the president, including one about the agency’s purported involvement in plots to assassinate foreign leaders, and another over Kennedy’s handling of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. This, the theory goes, spurred several “rogue” CIA agents to mastermind the killing of JFK.
It gained prominence because... It ties many of the other conspiracy theories together — perhaps too neatly. One particular thread of the theory holds that the agency’s involvement in a plot to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro greatly displeased Kennedy and inspired fear in some quarters that Kennedy would disband the agency. But whether it was Lyndon Johnson, the mafia or Federal Reserve (another, more far-fetched theory), the CIA came to be seen as having played an important role.
Has it been debunked? Not even close. The CIA theory remains so popular, in fact, that the agency’s website includes a page dedicated to discrediting its involvement in the assassination.