Redacted CIA docs from the 1990s

My most recent note took a second look at redacted CIA docs from the 1940s, to see what is now open after the December 2022 releases. This note does the same thing for redacted docs from the 1990s. My original post on this subject from 2021 is here.

“Miscellaneous” CIA records: a recap

All of these 1990s records are notes, memos, letters, and cables about matters relating to the JFK Act and the ARRB, and are classified in the JFK database as “JFK-M”, where the M stands for miscellaneous.

The converse is not true, however, Not all of the JFK-M records are about JFK Act and ARRB matters. Not all of the JFK-M records are from the 1990s.

Unfortunately, in my original note on 1990s, I sort of mixed things up, listing some record sets just because they were labeled JFK-M, even though they were not 1990s records. I will correct this here.

Redacted CIA records from the 1990s come in 10 sets, organized by “disk number”, the first 8 digits of the record number. Each disk number represents a particular type of record, described below.

In the table below, I give the disk number, the total number of records for that disk number, the number of redacted records in 2021 and the percentage they make up of the total, then the number of redacted records in 2022 and the new percentage. The descriptions all have links to representative records from the new releases:

disknum # docs # 2021 % 2021 # 2022 % 2022 description
104-10326 104 101 ~97% 98 94% Cables on ARRB/JFK Act matters
104-10328 39 1 3% 1 3% ARRB determinations
104-10330 139 34 ~24% 18 13% CIA-ARRB correspondence
104-10331 383 185 48% 55 14% CIA-JFK Act correspondence
104-10332 25 20 80% 16 64% Declassification issues
104-10333 18 16 89% 10 56% ARRB matters
104-10335 17 10 59% 4 24% ARRB formal requests
104-10336 39 25 64% 7 18% ARRB informal requests
104-10337 15 11 73% 6 40% CIA matters
104-10338 16 3 19% 2 13% 3rd agency referrals

I had some errors for 104-10338 (“3rd agency referrals”) in my previous note on 1990s redactions, these new numbers are my corrected count.

Some comments

If we look at the total number of records and redacted records for these record sets, about a quarter of 800 plus records are still redacted. The cable set still has lots of redactions, and I think redactions will continue here. These are cables to CIA stations abroad in the 1990s, in many cases specifically requesting the station to contact liaison services, asking them to look for materials or for permission to release materials, to contact retired officers resident abroad, etc.

The host countries would almost certainly object to release of these, and this would be the reason cited for continuing to hold them back.

Other materials also have varying degrees of sensitivity. Cover remains very sensitive. There are a couple of documents on this subject that include many whole page redactions. If Biden’s reviewers are convinced that release would permanently damage CIA’s ability to maintain cover for its personnel and activities, they will continue to withhold these documents.

On the other hand, some lengthy redactions in some 1990s document are now almost all released. These are mostly CIA requests in the early stages of releasing to redact or withhold documents which are now, in 2022, released in full.

These 1990s documents thus allow us to finally understand CIA-ARRB discussions and disputes, and to judge for ourselves the validity of the arguments and whether the decisions were justified or not. These documents are essential reading for people like me.

There are a lot of duplicate documents in the 1990s records, and I am certain that there are still at least a few “zombie redactions” here. Regardless of what decisions are reached on other redacted documents, anything released in one copy should be released in all copies. Released is released.

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