Following is the first in a series of commentaries by distinguished authors, researchers, and historians associated with the AARC. We begin with AARC Board member, the esteemed Malcolm Blunt.
29 August, 2017 © 2017 – Malcolm Blunt
Both the Church Committee* and the House Select Committee on Assassinations gained access to the CIA Office of Security files of Lee Harvey Oswald. In 1993, despite a directive from CIA Director Robert Gates seeking an all-encompassing search of ALL CIA components for ANY material/records relevant to the assassination of President Kennedy, the Oswald OS files remained hidden. This huge search by CIA did not surface Oswald’s security files and the Assassination Records Review Board remained uninformed about their existence. Not until 1997 when an ARRB staffer stumbled across evidence that two previous congressional investigations had access to these files did CIA “discover” them. CIA told the ARRB that the reason the Oswald security files were not previously located was because those records were not at the Agency Archival Record Center in Alexandria, VA; they were in fact at CIA HQS in Langley within Office of Security Archival Holdings. How were they missed in the Gates search of 1993?
In 1998 CIA handed over LHO’s Security files to the ARRB. Upon delivery staffers there discovered that of the 7 volume set, one volume, Volume 5, was missing. Prior to sending over the files to the ARRB the CIA’s Historical Review Group, now “consolidated” (disbanded) and reformed as part of IMS (IMG) Information Management Services (Group), also spotted this curious anomaly and had sought to try and work out some sort of explanation for the disappearance. Internal HRG memos show that they first thought that there never was a volume 5, it was simply a case of miss-numbering by clerical staff. Another thought came to mind within CIA/HRG: perhaps the absence of Volume 5 of the Oswald security file might be explained by “consolidation” of those records. In other words, Volume 5 could have been consolidated within Volume 4 and/or Volume 6.
We can detect that some concern was generated within the Agency for obvious reasons; CIA might receive much criticism and subject itself to accusations of “foul play” with regard to the missing volume. CIA eventually decided to go with the following: “Volume 5 of Oswald’s Security file may never have existed.” — Clearly the Historical Review Group, which was responsible for the release of all JFK related CIA material, found itself in an acutely embarrassing predicament. It does seem that there was genuine puzzlement within the HRG about this as they struggled to find an explanation. Some partial explanation may reside in the files of Scott Breckinridge and the OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) who acted as liaison between CIA and the HSCA in the seventies. One Breckinridge note describes the OS volumes to which Betsy Wolf, the HSCA researcher tasked with reading Oswald’s security files, had access. In this typewritten note Scott Breckinridge specifically mentions Wolf’s access to Volume 5.
In fact, HSCA records indicate that she reviewed approximately half of the materials within Vol. 5.
So what are we to make of this? In response to official requests from the US Government and despite specific directives from CIA Directors Gates and Tenet, which were acted upon by HRG Chief John Pereira in 1993 and J. Barry Harrelson in 1997, the Oswald Security files seem to have been turned inside out and outside in. Volume 5 existed during the tenure of the HSCA as confirmed by the Chief Counsel of OLC, Scott Breckinridge and the handwritten notes of Betsy Wolf. Sometime between the HSCA closure in 1979 and the late surfacing of those files in 1997, one volume, Vol. 5 disappeared. This beggars the question; for what possible reason? The intact files were previously given to both the SSCIA and the HSCA, so why did the CIA “not find them” until a direct, specific request from the ARRB in 1997? And then, why turn them over minus volume 5? How were the files missed during the Gates search of 1993 and the Tenet search of 1997? The two DCI orders were to search ALL CIA components.
In 1977, while overseeing the process whereby CIA OGC (Office of General Counsel) received the Office of Security Oswald files, Russ Holmes documents in his inventory all 7 OS volumes on Lee Harvey Oswald. Seven volumes in — seven volumes out. As of that accounting, all volumes were present and nothing was missing.
RELATED: Important CIA comments on HSCA draft reports: Scott Breckinridge (CIA OLC) to G. Robert Blakey DOWNLOAD
RELATED: 19 March, 1998: STATEMENT CONCERNING ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY PURSUANT TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE JFK ASSASSINATION RECORDS COLLECTION ACT OF 1992 DOWNLOAD
RELATED: OFFICE OF SECURITY DOCUMENTS PULLED FROM OS OSWALD FILES PRIOR TO REVIEW BY CHURCH COMMITTEE DOWNLOAD
RELATED: CIA and OPENNESS: Speech by Dr. Robert M. Gates, Director of Central Intelligence, Oklahoma Press Association, 21 February, 1992 DOWNLOAD
* An eight-binder index of the Church Committee is still withheld in full. Access to that material may shed light on the issues addressed within this article.
Right click and choose ‘view image’ to expand images.
Our second in a series of commentaries by distinguished authors, researchers, and historians associated with the AARC:
With the October releases coming up, we should keep in mind what the ARRB has already told us we will not find.
For those of us who research the Mexico City story, it has always been very frustrating to find that there is no organized way to find the cables and dispatches between Mexico City and Headquarters, or between these two entities and JMWAVE in Miami, except within carefully circumscribed dates.
What we have run into amounts to a CIA tutorial on how to avoid providing information that is mandated under the law.
Commentary and Analysis by AARC Board member Malcolm Blunt.
2 October, 2017 © 2017 – Malcolm Blunt
The CIA Historical Collections Division (HRP) for all of it’s faults was by the agency’s standards a beacon of light as far as declassification is concerned. In 2011 I was fortunate to meet CIA Review Program staffers at NARA, College Park, MD, and at the Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina. At these venues they were presenting packages of historical documents and one was able ask them questions one on one. Of course, I was concerned about the 2017 releases and Miss L., a senior HRP officer, told me point blank that CIA was going to appeal to the president on many documents, adding and emphasizing, “in my opinion, some of that stuff should never be released.” Miss L. felt strongly that out of all of the intelligence agencies working to comply with the ARCA, CIA had done the most in the way of releasing previously redacted documents. I have to say that to a large extent she was correct.
The Historical Collections Division is the latest casualty of sequester cuts. The office handling Freedom of Information Act requests will take over the work.
In relation to the dearth of releases from ONI, DIA and NSA, CIA did a hell of a lot, and looking at CIA’s internal admin files (so called Project Files) the Historical Collections Division (HRP) was trying to work within the spirit of the ARCA. One can see they had major difficulties with other CIA components like the Directorate of Operations who were strongly against letting go of some documents.
The people I met seemed genuinely interested in declassifying more documents and recognized the historical importance of their task. In 2013 this short period of CIA openness came to an abrupt end due to Washington politicians squabbling about budget issues and threatening to shut down the government (sequestration???). At that time competing forces within CIA sensed an opportunity to neutralize this “problem child” (the HCD/HRP) by closing the division down using the excuse “for budgetary reasons.” So the one part of CIA which was actually doing a good job found itself “consolidated” within IMS (Information Management Services), the part of CIA which handles FOIA’s or should I say mishandles FOIA’s; an outfit which has successfully stonewalled many researchers over the years. So once again the agency (CIA) shoots itself in the foot; we all lost what could have developed into a much improved situation on document releases and CIA lost a real opportunity to project itself in a more positive light.