April 26: NARA 18, the last release?

[First posted on April 27, 2018, at rgr-cyt.org.]

NARA has come through with a new release of 19,045 ARC documents. There are many things to be said about this release, but for now I will simply put up a very important link to NARA’s JFK Assassination Records Processing Project

This page provides important explanations that, unfortunately, will probably not get mentioned at most of the websites that have been posting about the assassination records for the last couple of years. The most interesting to me is the explanation of what happened to the 795 files listed as withheld in NARA’s response to John Greenewald’s FOIA request. According to NARA, 520 of these are not releasable under the ARCA statute. They are either tax returns, protected from public release under section 6103 of the IRS code, deeded as gifts to various libraries (e.g. William Manchester’s notes and interviews for Death of a President), or contained federal grand jury materials under court seal.

NARA’s FOIA response also listed 180 CIA records “withheld.” According to the documents’ metadataļ¼Œthese were all volumes from the CIA’s 201 file for Lee Harvey Oswald. This was odd, because the massive 201 collection was entirely declassified over 25 years ago. I actually realized yesterday what these were (really, I did!), and NARA confirmed it today: these were the microfilm version of the 201. Everyone always assumed that the microfilm version was identical to the original documents, and simply rushed on to other documents, but poor NARA was stuck with the incredibly boring job of comparing the microfilm to the originals, page by page and line by line. According to the project page, they made the official determination that the two were identical on February 5 (Hence the response to Greenewald still listed them). Being identical, NARA did not post them. If you want copies, try Mary Ferrell, but beware–the Mary Ferrell copies are in some cases 25 years old, with many, many redactions that were actually lifted long ago.

Although that is all interesting, the most important news of all comes in the middle of the page: “We will be updating the JFK Assassination Collection database with updated access status and posting the updated database on the web.” This is the most urgent task facing NARA. The sooner it happens, the better.

All in all though, I have to give NARA credit for one thing: they take their statutory responsibilities dead serious.