Long redacted CIA docs, 2022

This post picks up from my previous one, and continues grinding through comparisons of CIA redactions in 2021 and 2022 in order to get a better idea of what they are still holding out on us. This note takes a second look at “long” (>10 pages) redacted docs. (Those interested can find my first article on the long docs here.) Percentage-wise, far fewer long docs were released in December 2022 than either short or medium docs.

Long docs

Redacted CIA long docs means three things: > 10 pages, 5(g) redactions, and 104 prefix. I assume 10 pages needs no explanation.

A 5(g) redaction means there is material that federal agencies have appealed to continue redacting past October 2017, which the JFK Act set as the release date for all redactions in the collection.

However, for the purposes of this review I have excluded the 179 records comprising the microfilm duplicate of the Oswald 201 file. NARA has labeled these 5(g), but CIA, ARRB, and finally NARA labored long over the thankless task of checking whether these were indeed 100% duplicates.

The final word from NARA is yes: the content is 100% duplicates of other records already released, and they are not going to be released until NARA is through with these other NON duplicates.

Fair enough. NARA gets to set its priorities. Ultimately, however, this duplicate material should be released. I want to see it.

104 prefix refers to the unique (supposedly) record number assigned to each ARC document, which takes the form XXX-XXXXX-XXXXX. The first three numbers are the prefix. CIA records have the prefix 104. It might seem unnecessary to go over this, since I said CIA docs in my title.

However, there is a complication. CIA is responsible for reviewing and releasing not just their own 104 docs. They are also responsible for reviewing records from other agencies where they supplied the redacted information. There are several hundred of these, the most numerous being FBI, Church Committee, and HSCA documents.

For the purposes of this note, I will exclude these records. Yes, I know they are there. Yes, I know which ones are still redacted. However, I’m looking at 104 records today. I’ve got my priorities too. I will deal with the 124, 157, 180 ad nauseam records later.

2021 (or 2018) and 2022 comparison

Let me make this clear. I first looked at the situation in the ARC AFTER the 2018 release and BEFORE the 2021 release. At that time, after making the adjustments described above, I counted 849 CIA records over ten pages long with 5(g) redactions. However, while counting these things, NARA went and released more documents in December 2021.

They released redactions in 1491 records to be precise, including 958 CIA records. Of those records, 56 were longer than 10 pages. Following this release, the total number of long redacted CIA docs left in the ARC was 793. So what is the situation now?

Redacted long docs by category, 2022

The last time I did this, I broke down the documents by sub-categories, as recorded in the ARC database. I will list these categories below and repeat my short explanations from last time verbatim. Repetitive I know, but you’re not paying for this webpage by the byte:

# category count (2021) count (2022) example
1 JFK 148 56 104-10070-10079
2 JFK 64 426 321 104-10188-10001
3 JFK M 127 87 104-10332-10007
4 JFK RH 66 30 104-10414-10124
5 JFK WF 9 4 104-10307-10006
6 DCI 2 1 104-10272-10029
7 OSW 15 1 104-10004-10213

The category abbreviations here are used in the comments field of the JFK database for seven categories of CIA records. I will soon add a page on CIA record categories in the ARC. In the meantime, here is a very brief description of the seven.

1) JFK refers to records in the hard copy version of the HSCA “Segregated CIA collection”. These documents were provided to the HSCA by the CIA during HSCA’s 1976-78 investigation of the JFK/King assassinations.

2) JFK 64 are records in the microfilm version of the HSCA “Segregated CIA collection”. These overlap with the hard copy records, but also include many files that were not in the hard copy set. Many of these records were designated by the ARRB as NBR (not believed relevant to the assassination), and were withheld in full until the 2017-2018 releases.

3) JFK M refers to “miscellaneous” records. These are almost all records generated or retrieved during the ARRB’s tenure and include memos, letters, requests, and responses back and forth between the ARRB and/or CIA from 1992 to 1998.

4) JFK RH refers to records in the Russ Holmes CIA collection. Holmes was a member of the CIA Counterintelligence Staff who was designated as keeper of the Lee Oswald 201 file in the 1970s and collected many copies of documents relevant to the JFK assassination and the various investigations into it as part of his working files.

5) JFK WF refers to the working files of the CIA’s Latin American Division from its own investigation into aspects of the assassination after the Church Committee’s report was published.

6) DCI refers to minutes of the daily morning meeting held by Director of Central Intelligence. An FOIA suit was filed in the 1980s for minutes from meetings where the JFK assassination was discussed (from 1963-1978). The suit was still pending when the JFK Act was passed, and CIA and the plaintiffs agreed to fold the minutes into the ARRB releases.

7) OSW refers to documents from Lee Oswald’s 201 file. Current redactions in this file are discussed here. Only one long document is still redacted in this file, and although it is long, it has only a single redaction left in it.

Some comments

Where are most of the redactions now? Microfilm records and “miscellaneous” records now make up 80% of the long docs. The main components of the remaining 20% are HSCA hard copy docs and Russ Holmes papers. Overall, the number of redacted long docs has gone down by about 36%. This is not nearly as big a reduction as the short docs (down 80%) or the medium length docs (down 70%).

What is not reflected in these numbers is the amount of material redacted in these long docs. It is still substantial. As I noted the last time I looked at these docs, these are where almost all of the whole page redactions are. Originally there were about 100 docs that redacted whole pages. There are still about 90 docs left with whole pages redacted. Some of these whole page redactions were released in full, so we now know exactly what they were covering. The majority were not, a very rough estimate would be that between 1000-2000 pages are still redacted in whole.

I say roughly, because there are some technical problems with counting whole page redactions, the main one being that they’re long, and I fall asleep or lose track when I’m counting. Also, many of the long docs are low quality copies and the blurred images make my eyes water.

These particular records (microfilm) have one interesting feature in common. They were all designated as NBR, “not believed relevant” when the they were reviewed by the ARRB, the independent board who assembled and released the ARC. For a discussion of why the ARRB instituted the NBR designation and the different types of records that were designated NBR, see here.

These NBR documents include the most heavily redacted CIA records left in the collection, such as three files on WIROGUE-1, described as “an ethnic Georgian”, who was sent as a CIA paramilitary agent to the Congo, where he trained Congo pilots despite the fact that he had only recently learned to fly himself. I discussed the WIROGUE-1 files in my earlier article on long docs. The redactions in these files remain almost entirely unchanged.

The same is true for the other heavily redacted files I discussed in that article, including the 201 files for Richard Gibson, and the long file on “Contacts with Cuban Officials. I have, however, found some records which have shed many of their blank boxes, and these can lead one into some curious byways. For example, the 400+ page file on Claire Booth Luce has released the majority of its extensive redactions, and in reading these I discovered that the file included a personal history statement from Melvin Lasky! The file actually doesn’t include that much about CBL. A lot of it seems to be devoted to PDQUICK, a conference held in Berlin, organized by many familiar figures from the anti-Communist left, which CIA secretly provided financial backing for.

I understand that CBL was a figure of interest because of her contacts with anti-Castro groups, a research subject for the HSCA. This file of course has zero relevance for any of that. Instead, takes us back to the early days of the Cold War. As far as the JFK assassination is concerned, this is truly NBR material.

My 2 cents

Assuming the remaining redactions in the ARC are not all released in one fell swoop, I believe that these giant, ancient files will eventually be the last redacted items in the collection. They should be released, that was the deal and the law. That is all the basis that is needed. It is also all the basis there is. Don’t let anyone tell you most of this stuff has any significance or relevance for JFK.