ARC Release 6: Different versions

[First posted on January 28, 2018, at]

As I noted in an earlier post, there are a number of records listed twice in NARA’s spreadsheet of the JFK ARC documents which it has posted on line.

These double listings come in two varieties: in one case there are actually two files posted at NARA: one from release ‘A’ and one from release ‘B’, both files presenting the same document, but with various differences between them.

In the second case, the same record is listed twice, but each listing refers to the same file, so there is only one file on line.

Today I return to a look at the cases where there are two different files on line. This situation is actually not new to release 6. Last November I already noted a number of cases where there were two files that provided different versions of the same document.

In those cases, the differences were clear: one version might have a reader information form (RIF sheet), and the other one not. One version might have redactions and the other one dropped them.

In release 6, this situation continues. This link provides a list of different versioned files posted in release 6, followed by a list of the earlier cases in releases 1-5, with a brief description in each case of the differences between the two versions.

In release 6, the differences between the two versions are sometimes very small. An example of this is the files in two versions released under case numbers 45839 and 45840; the only difference between these documents that I can see is the case number.

When there is a significant difference between the two versions, it is often, perversely, that the release 6 versions offer a redacted version of documents previously released in full. The last six files on my list are all like this!

In a few cases, the differences between the two versions are larger. The first two files on my list, 104-10330-10088 and 104-10332-10021, both come in two different versions, presenting somewhat different material. The comments in the NARA spreadsheet do not offer any explanation of where the two versions of these documents came from.

Of course, the JFK ARC documents available before the 2017 releases are often highly redundant in the first place.

The same document may be released multiple times because the investigation that acquired a document acquired 3 or 4 copies of it. The entity responsible for overseeing the releases, the ARRB, interpreted the Assassination Record Collection Act of 1992 to require that all of these copies become part of the collection, regardless of whether they were identical or not.

Another way this could happen is that two different investigations into the assassination obtained copies of the same document; these copies are present in the records of both investigations. Again, the ARRB interpreted the ARCA to require that both copies should be part of the collection, listed, of course, as separate records.

On the other hand, I don’t see why this has resulted in NARA posting versions of the same document with and without rif sheets, or with and without various other minor, non-textual changes and redactions.

In addition to the files on my list, there are also a few cases where two files having the same record number are simply different documents. This seems to defeat the purpose of the record numbers, which are supposed to be unique for each document in the collection.

In fact, I think there is a reasonable explanation for these cases, which I’ll discuss in my next post.