Supplemental CIA files in the ARC

This is my third note on categories of CIA records in the JFKARC. The first two notes are here and here. In this note I will give a brief overview of the last two big record sets from the CIA: the Russ Holmes Collection (RHC) and the JFK Miscellaneous Records (JFK-M).

The Russell Holmes Collection

Russell Holmes was an officer in the Counterintelligence (CI) Staff. From the mid-1970s until his final retirement in 1993 he had charge of the Oswald 201 file, and during the inquiries of the Church Committee and HSCA he was a primary liaison between the committees and the agency, contributing numerous finding aids, studies, and responses to committee requests. The RHC is thus a very useful part of the JFKARC CIA records.

The Holmes Collection is delimited in the JFKARC in the same way that the HSCA and Oswald collections are delimited. One checks the JFK Database, which collects all the metadata in the Reader Information Forms (RIFs) compiled for records in the ARC. The beginning of the “Comments” field in each RIF for a CIA record includes a category marker: JFK for HSCA printed records, JFK64 for HSCA microfilm records, OSW for Oswald records. Holmes records are marked JFK-RH.

After adding up all these records, we can see that the Holmes Collection is substantial, including over 7000 separate records. The majority are duplicates of records in other parts of the ARC, but there are also many records that can be found only in the RHC and provide valuable historical background and details.

It is the organization of the RHC, however, that makes it a great resource. For example, Box 2 Folder 49 gathers together in one location all nine of the Garrison investigation memoranda compiled by the CI Staff, plus a lengthy memo from WH/COG (the Cuban Operations Group), as well as a couple of other unnumbered CI memos.

The memos are available in other places, but scattered in different folders and surrounded by piles of other documents. Having them all together in the one RHC folder is most convenient. For those interested, I have thrown all the records in this folder together into one pdf, available here.

As a caveat to readers, one or two of these memos are previously redacted copies, meaning they were already redacted when the CIA Historical Research Group processed them. And of course the serious Garrison researcher will have to look at the six or seven folders of the CI Staff Garrison studies (reel 25, folders 3-9 of the HSCA-CIA microfilm records).

In addition to convenience of reference, there are excellent finding aids available for the Holmes collection. These can be found in CIA record 104-10337-10013.

These finding aids divide the RHC into two parts, the “ancilliary files” and the “working files”. The 13 boxes of the ancilliary files (numbered 1-13) are highly organized and probably the part to browse through. The six boxes of working files (numbered 14-19) are much more miscellaneous, but there are many interesting things to discover in here as well.

JFK Miscellaneous Records

The Miscellaneous records are delimited by an initial “JFK-M” in their RIF “Comments” field. There is no convenient finding aid for these but the “record number field” and “subject field” in the RIF will give one a fairly clear picture.

These records can also be divided into two sets. One set represents CIA responses to the JFK Act and the requests and decisions of the Assassination Records Review Board, the federal board created by the JFK to oversee the assembly and release of records in the ARC. Call these liaison records.

The second set represents records produced by the CIA in response to over 50 formal and informal requests from the ARRB. These records add significant new documentation regarding both the JFK assassination and its historical background. Adding the two sets together, there are about 2500 miscellaneous records altogether, many of them quite lengthy documents.

I have tried elsewhere to give a general outline of the material in the first set of JFK-M records, the liaison records, which those interested can refer to.

I don’t yet have any account of the second set, but it includes extensive material from DD/P records which often clarifies and expands our understanding of various controversies. More on these records later.

My 2 cents

The RHC is probably the most browsable set of CIA records in the JFKARC. Much less of the highly miscellaneous documents and hard to figure out context that plague other parts of the records. There’s always something interesting to read here. The MFF website has a link to the RHC records here. The records, however, are listed alphabetically by title, perhaps the least interesting way to look at the collection.

The liaison documents in JFK-M are much more specialized, but give very valuable insights into how the entire CIA record collection was declassified, and the complex interaction of the ARRB and the CIA during the declassification process. This is my main interest and, until recently, these were the records I spent the most time with. Your interest may differ, of course.

The MFF does not have a convenient link to the JFK-M records as a whole, but the liaison records are mostly here.

One more general note on CIA records coming up, then we’ll start looking at interesting file sets! Joy!