WIROGUE unleashed! Whole page redactions going fast

[revised 7/11/2023]

This note begins a survey of remaining CIA records with whole page redactions. Most of these records are multivolume files, and are worth a look if you are interested in the JFKARC as a historical resource. They are by no stretch of the imagination JFK related, so put away your index cards if that’s all you’re interested in.

The December 2022 release, and now the June 27 release, have opened perhaps as many as 2000 whole page redactions, but there are still more to go, so think of this series of notes as a countdown of files with the most blanks.

What is a whole page redaction?

A whole page redaction (WPR) is a page from which all information is removed, covered up with the ubiquitous blank redaction box the JFK ARC now uses. There are, however, many messy borderline cases which make straightforward page counts a pain in the butt.

Here is an example using page 68 of the 2018, 2022, and 2023 versions of record number 104-10177-10226, a file on a CIA asset named Ricardo Morales:

So the first page is from 2018, the second is the 2022 release, where we get to see all of four words. Don’t really know why they chose to release this. I suspect, however, that having already admitted in 2018 that the record as a whole concerns Ricardo Morales, they released that name in most of the places it occurs in the record.

The third page is the restored page from the 27 June 2023 release.

Here is another example using using page 49 of the 2018, 2022, and 2023 versions of 104-10177-10226:

Again, first page is 2018, second is 2022, but here no text is released, instead we get two smaller boxes drawn inside the original box. No idea what this is about. No text released, so this whole page redaction is still a whole page redaction. This is an annoyingly common feature of the new releases, occurring in dozens of pages.

The third page is the restored page from 27 June 2023. As you can see, it is hard to figure out what those little boxes added in 2022 depict.

Here is one last example using page 127 of the 2018 and 2022 versions of 104-10177-10226:

In the example, the 2018 version had text on the page but all the text said was “this page is secret, classified by 054792.” I don’t treat classification markings as text. Instead, I count this too as a whole page redaction, and I count the 2022 version, which has released text from the actual document, as a partial release of a whole page redaction.

Again, the third page is the restored version from June 27.

What kinds of files have whole page redactions and why?

The majority of records that still have whole page redactions in the ARC are 201 files and OP files. A 201 file is a biographical dossier of someone the CIA is interested in. OP is short for Office of Personnel, so OP files are personnel files. (Neither of these two types is intended to collect operational information, though both may sometimes mention operational details.)

Why are these documents still subject to such extensive redaction?

I assume that basically the redacted material meets whatever criteria have been approved for continued postponement of text in the ARC. Some of these criteria include names of CIA employees who retired under cover, information from foreign governments or foreign liaison details which the concerned parties do not want published, etc.

However, the redaction of whole pages is a broad solution, especially in the case of ARC records. There are strong legal restrictions on what can be withheld in these. I assume that record reviewers are performing some sort of balancing act here, where they measure the relevance of the documents to anything even remotely JFK related versus the potential damage which release of the information may cause in any of the areas which the JFK Act allows them to consider.

Under this theory, the more distant the relevance, the more freedom they have to consider whether to hold back. There is indeed a notable lack of relevance in all of the records where whole page redactions occur. They were all designated as NBR (no believed relevance to the JFK assassination) by the ARRB, the federal board which assembled the JFK collection and reviewed the classified material for release.

For those not afraid of boring blog posts, I have a whole series of notes on CIA’s NBR files here.

When the JFK Act’s 2017 release date arrived, NBR records were scheduled for release in full. Both the CIA and FBI promptly applied for further postponement of thousands of pages in the NBR records. This is where the WPRs still in the ARC came from, though the total number of pages is now significantly reduced.

Whole page redactions in the 2022-20223 releases

The 2022-2023 releases from NARA have made massive reductions in these thousands of whole page redactions, as we will see in this series. In the examples above, we can see that in 2018 and 2022, Ricardo Morales’ 201 file still had many, many WPRs. Originally 129 pages long, in 2018 68 pages were completely redacted. In 2022, 20 pages were completely redacted. In 2023, only one whole page is redacted. The other, shorter, redactions in this record have also been mostly released.

This has been true across the board, with the exception of only a very few files. Currently, the most redacted file on the JFKARC is record number 104-10188-10001. a collection of documents on U.S. contacts with Cuban officials. There is probably a very strong basis for keeping most of this redacted, as most of these contacts with the CIA were not authorized by the Cuban government. Revealing these contacts could have serious consequences for the file subjects and perhaps their families as well. [The description above is probably wrong. A separate post is coming on this document.]

This first note will focus on what were previously the most redacted records in the JFKARC: three folders from the 201 file of a CIA agent with the cryptonym “WIROGUE.”

Who was WIROGUE?

WIROGUE/1 is 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.1There is a capsule biography of WIROGUE here.

At one point WIROGUE came in contact with another CIA agent in Leopoldville, QJWIN, who was of interest to both the Church Committee and the HSCA as possibly being part of a CIA plot to assassinate Congo leader Patrice Lumumba. How this was supposed to relate to the JFK assassination is still not clear to me, and WIROGUE is not mentioned in any of the Church or HSCA reports or supplemental volumes.

In any case, three volumes of WIROGUE’s file, all designated NBR, were almost completely redacted, 487 pages kept back out of 506 total. That changed with the June 27th release (Release 5). Here is a brief picture of the WIROGUE files in the ARC, as currently released.

The WIROGUE files

WIROGUE has a six “volume” 201 file in the ARC and an OP file, all listed below. WPRs were essentially the same in 2018 and 2022, so I only give a links to the 2022 and 2023 releases. The 2022 links are to the MFF copies, which allows much faster viewing than NARA. These are large files. Thee first three of these files kept back 487 pages out of 506 total. The 2023 releases have changed that completely.

record # (2022) 2023 link record info # pages wpr (2018/2022) wpr (2023)
104-10182-10003 2023 link 201 (bulky) 186 183 1 (?)
104-10182-10002 2023 link 201 (vol 1) 144 136 68
104-10182-10004 2023 link 201 (vol 2) 176 168 10
104-10182-10057 2023 link 201 (vol 3) 212 0 0
104-10182-10052 2023 link 201 (vol 4) 199 0 0
104-10182-10069 2023 link 201 (vol 5) 135 1 0
104-10291-10003 2023 link op file 13 0 0

Some comments

As the page counts above show, even in 2023 there are still significant redactions in volume one of WIROGUE’s 201 file. The 65 whole page redactions in this file place it second in the ARC for WPRs. Only the sensitive file on U.S. contacts with Cuban officials has more. In addition, there are many pages that still have large partial redactions, with whole messages redacted in numerous cables and dispatches.

Much of this content may be operational, or liaison related. WIROGUE, true name David Tzitzichvili, was originally recruited for the REDSOX program, which involved infiltrating agents into Soviet Block countries. Under this program, Tzitzichvili had the cryptonym of AEASPIC. This part of Tzitzichvili’s career is still heavily redacted.

Volume two is much more open, and includes a very lengthy biography of Tzitzichvili’s career which was beyond colorful (It starts on page 101 of the pdf). From a Foreign Legionaire to a blackmarketeer to a death row prisoner in WWII Germany, to a Post WWII bank robber in France, this was one of the most interesting things I’ve read in the ARC. There is another even longer, but more tabular debriefing at the end of the doc, designed mainly to trip up Tzitzichvili if he lied about anything, it ends with a very sharp evaluation of “Dave” as a covert agent. When asked if he would go with David on a mission, the debriefer wrote:

“NO, there is no rely on this man. … It is dangerous to go with him, even if warned he is or might be a double agent. … It is still more dangerous to go with him if knowing his weaknesses, however taking him for a “honest” crook. … It is suicidal … for a person who would be sent with him without being informed of his weaknesses, in full trust of his knowledge, experience, rationality and all other necessary qualities which he does not have.”

“Despite of this rather negative impression, it must be said that David could still prove to be a satisfactory performer, and an acceptable calculated risk on many one-man special operations, this especially in view of the rather general shortage of “excellent” stock of candidates.”

The remainder of this file covers Tzitzichvili’s stay in the U.S. where, after training, he sat around waiting to be sent into the Soviet Union. Eventually the entire project was canceled, and Dave never set foot inside the Iron Curtain. Instead, he was picked up for sabotage and paramilitary work in Kinshasa and renamed WIROGUE. Perhaps I need not say that this was a typical “one-man mission”! So ends volume two.

The final WIROGUE file, previously almost totally redacted, is a “bulky” file, which includes mostly longer documents not needed for chronological reference. This file is now almost completely released, only a handful of single item redactions remain. A lot of the documents here are in German, which I cannot read without a dictionary. I will leave commentary on this file to others. Most of the file seems to relate to efforts to resettle WIROGUE after his return from Africa.

My two cents

Was it reasonable to hold back so much of Dave’s 201 file for so long? It is certainly unclear what risks its release posed. On the other hand, it is devoid on its face of any relationship to the JFK assassination, nor does it really have any relationship to the historical background of the assassination, except that most of the events in the files did happen prior to JFK’s death.

The WIROGUE files are a good example of what might be called de jure assassination records. They were requested by the HSCA, and reviewed by HSCA staffer Dan Hardway.2There may be notes by Hardway in the ARC which give some clue what he was looking for. Or, since Hardway is still around, one could even write and ask him. For the ARRB, the independent agency created by the JFK Act to assemble and release the JFK Collection, such files were, by the language of the JFK Act, automatically assassination records.

The ARRB was unable to figure out what Dave’s 201 file had to do with anything, however, and finally designated it as NBR (see above), so that only now in 2023 do we finally get to see them. As tales of the cold war, they certainly make a great read.