The Kennedy Presidency, its Aftermath, and the Rise of the Security State

Primary Number: X

ConStudies Number: CNST 30033

ConStudies CRN: 32726

Primary CRN: X

Instructor: Iffland, Craig (CIFFLAND)

Day/Time: Th 3:30pm-6pm


Location: Mendoza 203

Sixty years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, in broad daylight, in the presence of hundreds of witnesses, while traveling in his presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. On that day, a historic presidency came to a tragic end. Two days later, the alleged assassin (Lee Harvey Oswald) was murdered by a Dallas nightclub owner (Jack Ruby) while being escorted from his cell by a host of police officers, raising the possibility of a conspiracy. The official investigation into Kennedy’s assassination (“The Warren Report”) was met with fierce public skepticism, precipitating numerous Congressional investigations that revealed extensive covert operations (both in the US and abroad) conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that would have been relevant to those charged with investigating the assassination. When combined with an already heightened public skepticism of the assassination itself, these revelations proved to be an enduring catalyst for a slow and steady decline of public trust in government that continues unabated to our present day. In this course, we examine the origins and rise of the “security state” in the United States, its role in significant events in the Kennedy presidency, including the investigation into his assassination, and the extent of its power both before and after Kennedy’s presidency. Ultimately, students will be asked whether and to what extent the demands of national security conflict with the constitutional prerogatives of a representative democracy.