NARA 21, part 9: Update on CIA short docs

In an earlier note in this series, I looked at the redactions in a set of ARC docs which I dubbed CIA short docs. CIA short docs are one page CIA docs where NARA 21, the May 2021 update of the JFK database, lists a current status of “Redact” and a doc restriction of 5(g)(2)(D).

In my earlier note I counted redactions in all the cables in this set. Since then I have finished counting redactions in all the short docs, not just the cables. This note summarizes what I found.

Standard disclaimer for all posts on ARC redactions: what is written about ARC redactions today will not necessarily be true tomorrow. Tracking redactions in the ARC is like aiming at a fast moving target, as NARA reviews the collection, updates its database, and prepares for more releases in December.

How many short docs?

I previously said there were 5740 CIA short docs, but this figure needs amending. Among the docs I looked at, there were several files posted by NARA in 2018 that did not actually have documents. Instead there was just a text notice stating “Image temporarily not available.” These documents are certainly redacted but I am not sure how many redactions remain in them. In addition, there were also a number of records that NARA 21 listed as one page documents, but in fact were longer, sometimes much longer. Putting all these problematic files aside, I came up with 5672 documents.

Results of redaction count

The table below lists my count of how many short docs have how many redactions:

redactions count percent
1 2780 ~49%
2 1275 ~23%
3 794 ~14%
4 353 ~6%
5 187 ~3%
6 94 ~2%
7 72 ~1%

The remaining 117 documents (these are docs with more than 7 redactions apiece) make up about 2% of the CIA short docs.

Comments

In my earlier note on redactions in one page cables, 44% of the cables had one redaction. Looking now at all of the short docs, we see that about half of them have only one redaction. This means cables are slightly more redacted than the general run of documents, which includes dispatches, memos, notes, etc. All of this is going to change in December of course.

For now, however, the overall picture is clear. Short docs are lightly redacted indeed. Over 70% of the short docs have only one to two redactions. These are not block redactions. The majority of redactions in these documents are names of CIA staff and personnel and CIA facilities (i.e. overseas stations); one redaction for one name.

This does not even consider the problem of relevance. Some of these documents are relevant to the JFK assassination, but depending on how one defines relevant, many of them are not. The documents on James Earl Ray, for example, are utterly irrelevant. The documents from CIA staff personnel files are mostly irrelevant. These make up the oldest part of the redacted documents and a number of these are OSS documents. OSS is not relevant to the assassination, plain and simple.

Redaction of the names of cable authors and reviewers, in most of the cases here, is also irrelevant, simply because these cables are irrelevant to the assassination. Authors of cables relevant to the assassination were released decades ago.

Remember that the Assassination Records Review Board went through all of these documents. All of these redactions were authorized by the ARRB. This microscopic examination of remaining redactions has convinced me that they did a very thorough job indeed, if this is all they authorized for redaction.

Based on the minimal amount of redaction, claims that there is material in the short docs which could “blow open the case” are absurd. And remember also that, as pointed out previously, the CIA short docs make up HALF of all redacted CIA documents.

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