Monday, September 29, 2014

The AARC conference

Well, I wanted to go and be there for the whole show but I couldn't get the time off from work.  And then I had big car trouble on Thursday which turned into a big bill. And then I didn't get my car back until about 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. As things turned out I drove down on Saturday, well, really Sunday at 1:30 a.m. and arrived sometime after 8:00 a.m.  I don't plan to do this again.  I don't have the stamina for driving this long at night.

The hotel seemed really nice.  And I had never been to Bethesda before.  It was all unfamiliar territory to me that I would love to explore in the summertime.  So, I hope we will have another conference at that hotel or at least in Bethesda.  Wisconsin Avenue is the main street for the area and it seemed impossibly packed with restaurants offering a very wide range of cuisines.

I was first up on Sunday.  I brought as a visual all of the JFK Assassination Records Review Board's ARRB's decisions on a document by document basis that did not get published in The Federal Register.  By April, 1998 the ARRB was allowed to publish mere summaries.  The actual list of all of the Reader Identification Numbers (RIF) for the notices from April 8th, 1998 to October, 1998  was about 3 reams of paper.  I'm scanning these as multi-page .pdf formatted documents that I think I'll just give to Rex Bradford to put up on the Mary Ferrell Foundation website.

As to the topic of my presentation, and the documents withheld until 2017...

I have created a simple chart 

Agency #
Fed Reg

It starts with a column numbering the documents I'm looking at.  Then I list the RIF, the Agency Number, you'll need this to get the precise FBI document you want.  Then I note if a document is Postponed in Part, meaning they released part of the document but are holding something back, a code name, or symbol, something.  Then I note if a document is Postponed in Full.  Then I note if it's available on the Mary Ferrell website.  And then lastly I note how many pages it is.

This report is not finished.  However, I have all of the RIF numbers and I put them in.  That was the hard part, getting the list of RIFs and typing them all in.  Now, I have to put them into the JFK online database and see if I get a hit.  Some of these RIFs are not in the database.  JFK researchers know quite well how frustrating it is to use the database as it had not been updated or maintained as it should be.  If a RIF is not in the database it often is available from the Mary Ferrell Foundation website.  This report is about 700 pages long and in Microsoft Word all I have to do is get info on each RIF from the JFK online database and then from the MFF.  I have it done up to the notice for Dec of 1997.  However, about 2/3rds of this report will be about the 1998 information. 

So, I used this to show the entire known universe of records that the ARRB looked at and are being withheld, either in part or all of it, until 2017.  I came up with 26, 904 documents, and of that over 12,000 are CIA.  There are many other agencies holding back documents too.  

I did not speak long and opened it up to questions and comments from the floor. The great Malcolm Blunt praised my previous work in covering the ARRB.  When Malcolm Blunt praises you, well, it doesn't get any better than that in the JFK researcher community.  John Newman also spoke about the abundance of U.S. Army records.

It is heart breaking to see Jim Lesar who is tragically going blind.  He really could not see anyone from the stage as he spoke, even looking to his right at about 3 o'clock when Robert Groden was at a microphone and basically right in front of him.  I'm very worried about him.  His face seemed quite pale too.  Otherwise his mind was sharp and he knew the details of trying to get records in his quest with Jefferson Morley to get CIA records on George Joannides.  He listened to my talk from the front row.  

Malcom Blunt spoke in a break out room, that unlike the last JFK Lancer conference actually occurred in a room.  It was also, unlike the Lancer conference recorded.  Randy Benson himself was manning a camera to record Malcolm Blunt's experiences in getting documents at Archives II.  Jim DiEugenio, Ed Lopez, and I think, Dan Hardway, listened to Malcolm's presentation. 

I saw Max Holland on Sunday.  He was in the back in the main ballroom they used, and he went to Malcolm's event.  

As my bad luck would have it, not only did I miss about 90% of the AARC conference but there was absolutely no chance of seeing anything at "the other" conference.  I do hope that that was being recorded as well as it appeared that Randy Benson was recording the AARC conference.  I really wish I could have seen John Newman's presentation, and Doug Horne's at the other conference.  

In leaving the conference I drove by Bethesda Naval Hospital.  And the place looked as big, and as imposing as I imagined it to be from the photos I've seen of it.  

Once back home I saw that the conf got some good publicity.  I'll have more to say once I get copies of the DVDs Randy Benson makes for the ARRC one, and hopefully, someone recorded the other one too.  

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