Redacted CIA docs, 1943-1949

[Revised 11/20/2021 to explain ‘dated’ and ‘undated’ status more clearly]

This note is a continuation of my previous post on the dates of redacted CIA docs in the ARC. As I noted there, according to the May 2021 update of the JFK database, CIA docs make up 86 percent of the redacted docs in the ARC. About two thirds of these docs are from the 1960s, which is the core time frame of the ARC.

This new note looks at redacted CIA documents in the collection which predate the 1960s. Many of the documents from this earlier period are simply not relevant to the JFK assassination. Others are relevant at a distant remove, relating to earlier history of people and events which were judged relevant to the assassination in the 1960s.

Standard disclaimer for all posts on ARC redactions: what is written on 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.

A note on record dates in the ARC

Record dates in the ARC come from the “document date” field in the JFK database. As noted in a previous post, this is sometimes wrong or missing. And some types of “compound” records are not easily tied down to a particular date. Consider how to date the personnel file of someone who worked for CIA more than twenty years. Should the date be the beginning year or the end year? What if the file is not even chronological?

“201” files, which provide biographical information on people of interest to the CIA, present similar issues. Should the file be arranged by the year of the information, or by the date the information was acquired by the CIA? Many of these files are preceded by log sheets provided for HSCA reviewers from 1976 to 1978, adding yet another a complication to dating.

Individual documents, rather than compound records, may seem simpler, but these have their own issues as well. All such problems make sorting documents by date less than definitive. Those unfamiliar with the collection should bear this in mind while reading this note.

Dated and undated docs

In the notes following I will refer to records where the doc date field in the JFK database is blank as “undated”. (The actual number in the NARA spreadsheet is ‘0000-00-00’.) If a year is ‘0000’, I will also count this as undated (there are a few records in the database which have month or day but no year). Undated records often have dates in them. Undated refers only to their status in the JFK database.

Redacted documents from the 1940s

I had originally planned on a very short note for the 1940s. Only 36 redacted CIA documents have doc dates from the 40s. These are typical of the non-assassination documents in the ARC, however, and worth a look if you want to understand this earlier material.

It also turns out that there are many records with no year in the doc date field which are actually stuffed full of 1940s material. As a result, this note is much longer than I intended and will cover solely the 1940s. The 1950s will come later.

Assassination related docs (sort of)

The docs from this early period can be divided into two general categories. The first group are dated docs from the early years of assassination related figures. An example is ARC 104-10166-10145, from the CIA “201” file on George de Mohrenschildt, an Oswald acquaintance in Dallas.

De Mohrenschildt tried to find intelligence-related work during WWII through Commodore Vanderbilt (Cornelius Vanderbilt IV) but failed to pass security reviews. This record is from a series of letters in De Mohrenshildt’s 201 file which deal with M’s job search; it comes from someone in the office of the COI, predecessor of the OSS. The from and to names are redacted.

ARC record number 104-10073-10094 has an even more distant relation to the JFK assassination. This 1948 dispatch consists of excerpts from three 1948 letters censored in Japan by American officers during the U.S. occupation.

The letters are accompanied by a cover letter from a CIA station chief to the “FBI chief” (sic).1This is what the record’s RIF says but it is probably something like FBZ “Foreign Branch Z” (or T). The station chief notes that two of the excerpts, concerning Brazil, may be of interest to the “Rio Station”. The only redaction in this four page record is the name of the station.

The casual reader might well wonder what in the world this is doing in the ARC. The answer is in letter two from V.K. Bellikoff in Yokohama, addressed to E. Gregory in “Sidney” (sic) Australia. The document’s RIF gives the subject of this record as “Eliz. Gregory.”

It turns out Eliz. Gregory is Elizabeth Gregory, wife of Peter Gregory and mother of Paul Gregory. The Gregory family were members of the Dallas Russian colony who befriended Lee Oswald and Marina Oswald on their arrival in 1963.

At one point Elizabeth Gregory apparently was the subject of a CIA 201 file, which the HSCA requested from CIA. This is probably where the dispatch came from, but I have found little on Elizabeth in the ARC other than this record.

These documents have at least some relation to Oswald, even if it is a barely discernible one. Other documents do not have even this. An example is 104-10074-10007, a report on William Foster’s visit to France in 1947. Foster was CPUSA secretary general at the time.

Again, the casual reader might wonder what this document is doing in the ARC. It apparently comes from the CIA file on John Pittman, a long-time CPUSA member who in 1947 was the Paris correspondent for the “Daily Worker”, the CPUSA newspaper. Pittman interpreted for one meeting which Foster attended in Paris, as cited on pg. 3 of the document.

I believe that the HSCA submitted a request for the CIA file on Pittman as part of their study of defectors to the USSR. (Not sure why they thought Pittman was a defector!) The CIA made the file available to the HSCA, but as the HSCA log shows, it was never reviewed. Nonetheless, it still counts as part of the collection.

Personnel related docs

Most of the remaining redacted CIA documents from the 1940s are personnel related. Three lengthy dated records from the 1940s were designated NBR (not believed relevant) by the ARRB and only released in 2017-2018. Two of these are files for Ross Crozier, staff/contract employee who worked the Cuban side of the street (104-10215-10214 and 104-10215-10215), and one is a file for Scotty Miler of the Counterintelligence Staff (104-10219-10000).

Miler’s file is all 1940s material, all of it from the OSS. Miler was a code clerk in Shanghai in the 40s. It turns out that there is only one redaction in all 75 pages of this record: Miler’s social security number. Miler died in 2007, so even this can be released, the question is, why? It seems so pointless.

Crozier’s files are dated 1948, but I can’t find one document from that year. Earliest docs are from 1949. Most of the docs in the files are from the 1950s with just one or two from the very early 60s.

There are several dated records on Lucien Conein in this period, a dozen or so pages. The presence of Conein’s files is due to another HSCA request. I never understood why they were interested in him, he has no discernible relation to the Kennedy assassination. If we look at the records with blank doc date fields, however, we can find thousands of pages of NBR Conein files, most of it from the 1940s. It is baffling what these docs are doing here. Conein is certainly a fascinating character, however, and one could easily write a full blown biography from all this material

Another case where NBR records with no date in the doc date field have hundreds of pages from the the 1940s is the personnel file of J. Walton Moore, the head of the Domestic Contacts office in Dallas. De Mohrenschildt knew him, though he was not sure if Moore was FBI or CIA or what.

Moore is another one of these guys with a China background, but his background goes way back: his parents were missionaries in Shantung and Moore grew up in China. He even attended the Chefoo school! Most interesting.

Moore’s personnel file has few redactions from this period; most of the personnel redactions come from his stay in Calcutta. Moore’s dated material from China is strangely more redacted, including redacting names of people rotating in or out of China with him. Don’t get that either.

There are also several redacted 1940s documents from the NBR personnel file of E. Howard Hunt. Hunt is yet another guy who served in the OSS in China. Looking in the undated material, there is a personnel file stuffed with 1940s documents. Hunt had a most varied career.

There are also dated documents from the 1940s for Anne Goodpasture, Winston Scott’s right hand woman in the Mexico City station. Like all these other guys, her undated NBR personnel file has loads of 1940s material, going all the way back to 1944. Goodpasture might seem to be the antithesis of Hunt, spending most of her career in one place, but I find her just as interesting a person as Hunt.

Comments

The gist of this note: many of the redacted CIA docs from the 1940s are irrelevant to the JFK assassination, or bear only the most tenuous connection.

Some will perhaps respond that relevant or not, the JFK Act requires the release of these documents. Whether release is required or not does not reach the point of this note: these old documents will not, cannot shed light on the JFK assassination.

The relevance of documents in the JFK collection to the JFK assassination is often overestimated. Many people write as if every document in the collection was essential to understanding the events leading up to the assassination, and as if every redaction were concealing vital information. This is simply not so.

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