NARA 21, part 10: CIA mid-length docs

An earlier post on this blog counted 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).

This note counts redactions in a set of longer CIA docs which I call mid-length, not knowing what else to call them. These are docs ranging from 2 to 10 pages. Again, this doc set is limited to CIA docs that have a current status of “Redact” and a doc restriction of 5(g)(2)(D) in the May 2021 update of the JFK database.

Most of these mid-length docs are similar to the short docs, just a handful of redactions. A few are heavily redacted, for what seems to be a variety of reasons. As I have observed elsewhere, the lack of extensive redactions in these records means that there won’t be much new information coming out in the next scheduled release of redactions from the ARC.

Important disclaimer: The counts I am giving in this note cover docs that remained redacted after the ARC releases in 2018. A few mid-length docs in this set were released in full in December 2021, but I am sure that even if the December releases were filtered out of the count, the figures below would not change substantially.

How many mid-length docs?

Like the short docs, there are a few problems in counting the number of pages in mid-length docs. There were again several files posted by NARA in 2018 that did not actually have documents, just a text notice stating “Image temporarily not available.” ITNA documents will get a separate post of their own. The main problem in counting pages is that page counts in NARA 21 do not always match page counts for the pdfs NARA put on line in 2018. This post again puts aside these inconsistent docs and comes up with a total of 4462 mid-length CIA docs.

Results of redaction count

The table below lists my count of how many mid-length docs have how many redactions:

redactions count percent
1 1459 ~33%
2 897 ~20%
3 574 ~13%
4 357 ~8%
5 252 ~6%
6 183 ~4%
7 135 ~3%
8 144 ~2.5%
9 61 ~2%
10 53 ~1%
11 47 ~1%
12 38 ~1%


If you haven’t fallen asleep yet, you might want to compare these figures with the numbers for short docs. The mid-length docs are still lightly redacted, but there are more redactions here than in the short docs. There are several reasons for this. Multi-page records have a basic difference from single page records: a number of them are actually “compound documents”, i.e. there is more than one document included in the record. This is common in the ARC, and it is easy to see why. The idea of a “document” is actually tricky to define. When a routing sheet is attached to a document, is it now one doc or two? There are cases where routing sheets are individual records, but the large majority, of course, are attached to some other piece of paper.

Another frequent reason for larger numbers of redactions in the mid-length docs is that more than a few include two copies of one document. If this document is redacted, then of course there are automatically two redactions in these records. There are cases where a record includes as many as 5 copies of a single doc. This naturally multiplies the redactions, but the redaction boxes are of course all covering the same information.

The most extensive redactions occur in lists. Book messages are cables or dispatches that are sent to multiple stations. Some of these cables were sent to just about everyone. Station locations are one of the things that the CIA has tried to protect. The messages in these cables are sometimes quite routine, but removing all the station names can leave dozens of tiny holes in the cable. Other times the same cable may simply mark out a whole block of these, making it impossible to count how many locations are concealed under the box. Such list-type texts can zoom up the redaction counts to over a hundred, which is a lot for five page document. In most cases there is virtually nothing relevant to assassination topics in these redactions.