[First posted on January 1, 2019, at rgr-cyt.org.]
NF18 is a list of redacted documents in the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection (the ARC) held at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This is an important document for those who are interested in how much material in the Collection remains unreleased.1
This post looks at how NF18 fits into the latest ARC release on 26 April 2018. The results of this comparison show that NF18 was by no means a complete list of all redacted documents in the ARC.
The status of NF18
NARA released NF18 in excel format on 29 January 2018 to John Greenewald, owner of “The Black Vault” website, in response to his FOIA request. Apparently the spreadsheet was accompanied by a note or letter, which Greenewald quotes as saying: “We conducted a search and were able to locate an EXCEL spreadsheet that lists everything that has not been released since December 15th, 2017 (the last release date).”2
While not very elegantly stated, this simply means that the NF18 spreadsheet lists all redacted documents remaining in the ARC after the six 2017 releases, which began in July 2017 and ended in December 2017.
This is confirmed (indirectly) in the March 2018 report from the office of NARA’s Inspector-General, James Springs (recently discussed here). That report states: “Currently, 21,890 documents [in the ARC] have not been fully released which represents about 7 percent of the collection.” The 21,890 record figure is consistent with NF18, which lists 21,890 unique document numbers.3
In other words, NF18 was NARA’s best effort at a comprehensive list of redacted documents in the ARC as of January 2018. As of March 29th, this was still the IG’s understanding.
NF18 in the 26 April 2018 releases
Following a six month review requested by President Trump, on 26 April 2018 more records were released and a new, cumulative spreadsheet was published for all of the now seven releases of ARC records. NARA’s press release on this set of records stated that 19,045 documents were in the 26 April release.4
If NF18 is indeed a complete list of all the ARC records with redactions, all of the new releases should be from records listed on NF18. 5
This turns out, however, not to be the case. To see that this is so requires two steps. First, one must determine how many records are unique to the April release: i.e., were not released in any of the 2017 sets. There are 1078 such records. Second, one must compare THESE files to NF18. Any records not in NF18 are then records that had redactions, but were not listed in NF18. Somewhat to my surprise, there are 320 such documents. A spreadsheet of these files is posted here.
In terms of the size of the ARC, this is not a large number: it is only one one thousandth of the 319,000 plus ARC documents. It also indicates that after coming up with its January 2018 total of redacted documents, NARA continued looking for more redactions all the way up to deadline. In addition, most of these newly discovered redactions were released in full and all of them were posted online at NARA.
In terms of finding out how many redacted ARC documents remain at NARA, however, it must remind us that tracking down every last one of these has been a difficult task, and we should not be surprised if more turn up in the months and years ahead.
Do discoveries of more redacted documents have any significance for those interested in researching the JFK assassination? This is a subject I’m slowly working on. Given the extremely broad scope of the material in the ARC, more documents released in full doesn’t automatically mean more information on the JFK assassination is available. Nor need it automatically diminish our confidence in previous studies, done when this material was unavailable.
- I have done a number of posts on NF18. See here for more details. ↩
- See http://www.theblackvault.com/documentarchive/j-f-k-assassination-records/ ↩
- For reasons I do not know, NF18 contains a substantial number of duplicate record numbers; the 21,980 unique figure is after subtracting these duplicates. ↩
- The press release is here. Note that there is a minor problem with this figure. I will write a short post on this problem in the near future. ↩
- I assume for the purposes of this post that NARA did not post records that have already been released in full. It posts only unredacted, or less redacted, records. NARA’s JFK Project page (here) partly supports this assumption: “We only posted documents in April of 2018 if the agency informed us that the document had more information released as a result of the re-review ordered by the President.” This claim will get a closer look in a future post. ↩