SISS records from the ARC now on line at Mary Ferrell

Some interesting ARC docs have recently been posted online at the Mary Ferrell Foundation website. These docs are records of executive session testimony before the SISS (Senate Internal Security Subcommittee), which conducted a “limited inquiry” into the JFK assassination in late 1963. The session records were acquired by the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) all the way back in 1995, and are noted in the ARRB’s Final report (see here and here).

I should note here that I don’t believe these docs have anything to do with the forthcoming 2022 releases at NARA. It seems that all these docs were available at NARA long ago without any redactions. On the other hand, thanks to MFF, this is probably the first time these docs have been made available online.

These records are historically very interesting: they include interviews, ranging in date from 1959 to 1965, with people like Ruth Paine, Ed Butler, Rolando Masferrer, June Cobb, Peter Deriabin, Waldo Frank, Robert Webster, and so on. According to the ARRB Final Report, there were thirteen of these interviews (and several boxes of SISS news clippings on Oswald) that were to be added to the JFK Collection, but the JFK database lists only 12 records from SISS (agency prefix 204-).

What is interesting is that the SISS docs put up at MFF are 17 in number, four more than the Final Report mentioned. Only twelve of these docs have RIF sheets attached. These are the ones listed in the JFK database. For the remaining five, four have no RIF sheets, but a slip is attached at the bottom of the top page which says “RELEASED PER PL.=102-526 (JFK ACT). The last record, which is also the most recent, an interview with Peter Deriabin in 1965, has no RIF sheet or slip.

It has happened before that ARC documents with blank or no RIF sheet have been released under the JFK Act. One example is this document, released in April 2018, which had a RIF sheet on top, but one which was never filled out. The SISS interviews sans RIF sheets, however, seem to be a different case, worth some research.

The dates of these transcripts are also worth noting. Five of the interviews were conducted after the JFK assassination, the rest were mostly done years before. The interviews most directly relevant to the assassination are with Ed Butler (11/24/63), Ruth Paine (12/05/63), and Abba Schwartz (12/06/63).

Butler was the head of INCA, an anti-Communist group in New Orleans, who was responsible for arranging Oswald’s radio debate in 1963. Paine of course had Marina Oswald living with her at the time of the assassination, and Schwartz was head of the State Department’s Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs. SISS grills Schwartz over Oswald’s passport and visa to return to the U.S. in 1962, and since I knew the least about this issue, I found this a particularly interesting read. After poking through the 26 volumes of Warren Commission testimony, however, I believe that the same ground was gone over, in more detail, in the WC hearings.

In any case, by making these documents available on line, the Mary Ferrell website once again proves why it is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the ARC and the the JFK assassination.