Gaps in the ACRS: A note from NARA

[First posted on March 13, 2019, at rgr-cyt.org.]

I have done a couple of posts about the agencies whose records are missing from the Assassination Collection Reference System (ACRS), the on-line database of finding-aids for the JfK Assassination Records Collection at NARA.1 I emailed NARA about the problem a while ago and have recently heard back from them.

In my email, I specifically asked about the omission from the ACRS of all records from the following agencies:

  • the Investigative Reports Repository (agency prefix 194)
  • the National Security Council (agency prefix 145)
  • the National Security Agency (agency prefix 144)
  • the Immigration and Naturalization Service (agency prefix 136)
  • the United States Secret Service with the agency prefix 154
  • the Department of Justice with the agency prefix 117

I heard back from Gene Morris at Archives II Textual Reference Branch (whom I wrote to in Feb 2018 about the missing FBI records from disks 124-10203, 10204, and 10223). Mr. Morris replied:

I personally spot checked the records for each of the agencies you cited and they are all here and open and available for public review and they have been for some time.

So the records are indeed available. Unfortunately, it looks like the only way you can find out what’s there is to visit NARA’s College Park facility in person. According to Mr. Morris:

There are no plans to add any of the missing records to the database as we do not have the resources or funding to do so. They do appear in the Collection Register, so their existence has been made known. Actually the National Security Council records you cited are not listed there. The entry must have fallen off during an update and not been noticed. I’ve arranged to have it fixed and should be corrected next week.

As for why these records didn’t make it into the ACRS, Mr. Morris explained:

The records arrived with either the RIFs attached or at least printed out. The metadata, the information contained within the individual RIFs was placed on discs and transferred to us at the same time. As with the FBI RIFs we discussed previously, the information on the discs with the metadata was corrupted and could not be merged with our database. Given the technology of the time and the rather cumbersome process involved, it was decided to simply work around the issue. Since we had the RIFs and the paper records were open for public review, we could just treat those files like the other files not in the database.

As I said in an earlier post,2 the ARC is one of the most important documentary collections for cold war history, and the ACRS is a tremendous aid for anyone who wants to do research in it. To leave the ACRS unfinished not only hobbles serious researchers, it leaves the door open to false and misleading claims about the content of the ARC. Such claims have already appeared more than once.

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