ARC Confusion at NARA

[First posted on January 24, 2018, at]

Most of my posts about the JFK records act releases at NARA are on very trivial subjects, but the problems I discuss are, nonetheless, quite confusing (to me). The subject of the post today is confusing++.

There are three entries on the NARA Release 6 spreadsheet that are problematic. The first of these entries is row 4172 on the spreadsheet, identifying a document with record number 124-10223-10189 and filename docid-32570769.pdf

This is a four page list of informants on the NY state CPUSA in the late 1950s. It is an excerpt from a longer document, the full version is at Mary Ferrell. The MF version redacts some of the FBI informant numbers, this excerpt releases them all.

The second problematic entry is row 31532 on the spreadsheet, identifying a document with record number 124-10223-10189 and filename docid-32555585.pdf

Although this is the same record number as on row 4172, it is a different file with totally unrelated content. It is a memo on Rene Jesus Castillejo Cova, sent by the FBI legat in Caracas (don’t ask what it’s about, too confusing). This document is also available at Mary Ferrell in a redacted version.

The third problematic entry is row 31573 on the spreadsheet, which lists a document that has record number 124-10223-10289 and filename docid-32570769.pdf

This is, of course, the same filename as on row 4172, but a different record number. Same filename means it is the same file: the list of CPUSA informants.

The only way I was able to straighten this out was to check on-line at the Mary Ferrell Foundation, a great resource which I use constantly.

There are three problems here. The second entry has the wrong record number. Per Mary Ferrell, the Castillejo document is record number 124-10223-10289, not 124-10223-10189. The record number for the third entry on row 31573 is also wrong. It should be 124-10223-10189, not 124-10223-10289.

Yes, the two record numbers were swapped: the entry at 31532 listed the record number for the informant list and the filename for the Castillejo document; the entry at 31573 listed the record number for the Castillejo document and the filename for the informant list.

The third problem: NARA has listed the informant document, file docid-32570769.pdf, twice: once on row 4172 and once on row 31573.

This last point is not actually a mistake, but it is highly confusing. In this case, NARA posted two different versions of file docid-32570769.pdf. How do I know? I downloaded docid-32570769.pdf on October 26, and again today. They are the same document, but different files. The text of the two files is exactly the same, but the earlier version, downloaded on 10-26, has a stamp on the bottom of the first page indicating it was released as part of case #NW 54464 on 10-10-2017; this case# appears on the footers of all pages of the file.

In the version of the file now up at NARA, which I just downloaded, there is no stamp on the first page, and the footer says NW 45785. This is one of the “replaced” files I discussed a couple of posts ago.

So, I caught the errors in the record numbers on my list of errata, but I missed the replacement on my list of replaced files here. Bad on me.

Why is the same document the subject of two different NARA cases? Why did NARA post it twice in two trivially different versions? Why is this trivial stuff so confusing?