This is my fourth post on NBR records in the JFK Assassination Records Collection. (See here for a general introduction to records designated NBR “not believed relevant”).
The CRC financial records
The documents I discuss in this post are financial records of the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC). The CRC was “an umbrella group of anti-Castro groups formed with the support of the U.S. Government.”1The description comes from the September 24, 1997 memo by ARRB analyst Manuel Legaspi, available at the Mary Ferrell Foundation website here. The date printing on this document is incorrect; my dating is based on NARA metadata for ARRB electronic records.) The council members were for the most part leaders of a number of separate groups. If the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba had succeeded in overthrowing Castro, the American hope was that CRC leaders would form the new Cuban government.
CRC received substantial covert funding from the U.S. government via the CIA during most of its existence. Despite being covert, such funds were still subject to financial reporting requirements. As a result, the ARC includes thousands of pages of accounting records which describe how, where, when, and why CRC spent its government funds.
CIA provided these records to the House Special Committee on Assassination (HSCA) during its investigation of President Kennedy’s assassination. As part of the post-investigation agreement between HSCA and CIA, these documents were microfilmed and put in segregated storage at the CIA. The Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) eventually took up the question of how to handle these records in 1997.
The final decision was to release monthly financial summaries from the records for the years 1960-1965, and to designate the remaining detailed financial records as NBR, postponing their release until 2017. These records finally saw the light of day in 2017 along with all the other NBR documents.
CRC and the JFK assassination
It is worth a note here on why the HSCA and ARRB considered ANY records from CRC relevant to the JFK assassination.
CRC was, naturally, home to a variety of anti-Castro organizations and figures. These organizations and figures play a major role in JFK assassination conspiracy theories, either as the actual assassins, or in some sort of middle man role.
The central role of anti-Castro forces in conspiracy theories made any and all records regarding them a central focus of ARRB review and declassification.
This post attempts to describe the ARRB handling of the CRC financial records, to identify which records in the ARC belong to this set, to track their release history, and to evaluate what response there has been to the records release.
ARRB handling of CRC financial records
The ARRB review of CRC financial materials was done by Manuel Legaspi, a member of the ARRB’s CIA review team. A two page memo by Legaspi is available online at the Mary Ferrell website (here). A second memo from Legaspi dated 11-13-1997 (RIF 104-10330-10145) is also available at NARA. I have not seen this, but based on other ARRB materials, I believe this was a formal NBR proposal to the Board, presented in November 1997.
Legaspi identifies the CRC records as reels 64, 65, and 66 of the Microfilm section of CIA’s Sequestered JFK Collection. (I briefly discussed the Sequestered Collection in an earlier post here). At the time of Legaspi’s review, none of the CRC financial records had been released.
Legaspi describes the records as “highly detailed monthly financial records” with “general summary statements” at the beginning of every monthly report. He concludes that the records “would be of very marginal utility as assassination records. In my estimation, the problems that would be encountered in reviewing these materials are not worth the resources that would be used to release these records, at least in the short term.”
Instead, Legaspi recommended that the Board assign the general reports “assassination record” status and designate the remaining records NBR, a recommendation which the Board adopted.2I have not, however, found the specific Board minutes which record this decision.
A count of CRC financial records in the ARC
CRC-related records in the ARC are vast in number. Searching the title, subject, and comments fields of the Assassination Collection Reference System (ACRS), the online database of records in the ARC, I came up with 1747 CIA records that use the phrase CRC. Most of these records relate not to finances but to CRC activities and personnel. The ARRB released most of these non-financial records in 1995-1998.
As Legaspi noted, CRC financial records are in reels 64-66 of the CIA microfilm collection. The monthly summary reports, which ARRB released in June 1998, are scattered throughout reels 64 and 65. The detailed reports take up all of reel 65 and the first part of reel 66. One can check this by looking at the accession number in the comments section of the RIF metadata attached to each ARC record, which gives box and folder numbers for most CIA records.
I have an excel file listing ARC metadata for the summary reports available here.
These begin in July 1960 and end in June 1965. Three months in this period have no summaries: September 1962, July 1964, and January 1965. All summaries are one to two pages long.
As noted above, these files were released by ARRB in June 1998, as shown by the print dates on the rif sheets, and were almost all released again in May to August 1999.
There are two main types of summaries in this set, sometimes labelled “A statement” and “I statement”. Legaspi notes there are two types of summaries. There are gaps throughout the records for both types. Legaspi also notes a third type of statement called a reconciliation. There are only two or three of these.
According to the summaries, there were substantial amounts moving through the CRC accounts, reaching over 1 million dollars in June 1961, and in February 1963. Signficant amounts continued to show up through October 1963, but from November 1963 on, the accounts never had more than 100 thousand dollars. The last summary from June 1965 shows the accounts zeroed out.
I have a list of the detailed CRC financial reports in the same excel sheet linked to above (here).
The records that the ARC designated NBR in 1998 are far more detailed than the summaries. Unlike the month-by-month summaries, they are sometimes more miscellaneous, with a number of them multi-year reports. Because of the miscellaneous nature of the files, I’m a little less sure I have identified all the documents Legaspi refers to. The detailed material I have found totals over 4400 pages. In the Michelle Combs memo referred to in this note, however, she suggested there were 5400 pages of CRC financial reports. Even with the 100 plus pages of summary reports added in, there is still a difference of over 900 pages. This increases my uncertainty that I have found everything. On the other hand, Legaspi specifically mentions 93 folders of material, and counting the list I have compiled I get 92 folders.
Like the summaries, there are usually two detailed reports a month, but with some missing. Detailed reports from 1960 are few: September/October and December are the only ones available. After this, however, there are reports for every month except October and November 1963 and January 1965. There is at least one report for every other month until June 1965, when the reports end, like the summaries.
The miscellaneous reports are very complex. Many of them are related to funds for widows and orphans of the Cubans who took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion. There are numerous documents relating to these families that still have redactions, no doubt due to the personal nature of their problems.
Money was also provided through the CRC for clandestine activities and with the plethora of names and identifying details, it is not surprising that Legaspi concluded that a word by word review of the documents would take an inordinate amount of time and energy, both of which the ARRB had more urgent need for elsewhere. Nonetheless, with all the human drama of the Cuban resistance to Castro, it is surprising that no one has bothered to try and put together a detailed historical account from such detailed material. Or perhaps not; the interests of most assassination researchers and enthusiasts lie elsewhere.
- 1The description comes from the September 24, 1997 memo by ARRB analyst Manuel Legaspi, available at the Mary Ferrell Foundation website here. The date printing on this document is incorrect; my dating is based on NARA metadata for ARRB electronic records.)
- 2I have not, however, found the specific Board minutes which record this decision.