Friday, April 10, 2020

The return of my ARRB Batch reviews

Hello everyone, some of you may know that I followed the activities of the Assassination Records Review Board ( ARRB ) quite closely in the 1990’s.  A lot of what I did was written up and published on John Kelin’s now defunct website called “Fair Play.”  I sent material to John Kelin and Debra Conway of JFK Lancer.  I also sent out a lot of emails.  This was back in the early days of the internet and while I was lucky enough to have a computer I did not have a scanner.  I did not know HTML or how to create and maintain a website.  I left that up to John.  One of the things I did was to go to the ARRB’s offices in Washington, D,C, and report on their open meetings.  I also followed them around the country as they held public hearings, and when they gave presentations to two professional  organizations, the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. The thing people best remember and looked forward to were the reviews I did of the documents that the ARRB released.  I did these in batches as they were released.  I did 13 batches and then stopped because, well, life. It got expensive and I was trying to get a graduate degree, a decent job, and just live.  Over time John had two children and had less time to devote to a website. He wrote a pretty good book, “Praise from a future generation,” which you should check out. 

Recently, Bill Simpich asked if the batch reviews were still on the internet somewhere.  Surprisingly, they are.  A professor in Taiwan has a link to them from the Internet Archive.  Now keep in mind this was the best I could do back then.  I was a one man Mary Ferrell Foundation ( MFF ) before we had the MFF.  Now we have that great treasure and can see scanned images of the documents.  So, I never really got back to doing batches as the amount of documents became way too much to physically acquire and comment upon.  Fortunately, technology has improved and there has been a cultural change.  No one makes physical copies anymore.  People bring in their own scanners and or digital cameras then you can make your own digital copies for free.  But, you have to be in Archives II to do that and it takes time and money to do so.

So, the good news is they’re back. A professor in Taiwan, Robert Reynolds had them on his blog. Alan Dale asked if he could put them on the ARRC site.  I said sure.  Unfortunately, he’s not done this well. (No offense meant, Alan. ) Viewing them through the AARC site which is a blog site with text in the middle bordered with stuff on both sides distorts the text from how it originally appeared.  So, it’s really best to view them through the good professor’s site / link to the internet archive and then you can see them as they originally appeared. Either way, they’re back.   

Mr. Reynolds, has a blog “Rabitt’s Warren" in which he explains that he got active in the case only in 2017 as NARA released some of what they were supposed to release.  Coming at this so late and being so distant he’s ignorant of a great deal of what happened because he wasn’t involved earlier and didn’t have the ability to interact with the ARRB and the research community. So, I’m going through his posts. He has a separate blog devoted solely to JFK and the docs. I want to explain some things and I’ll probably refute some things.  I cannot go through 40 or 50 posts about how and why the collection of over 300,000 JFK Assassination documents are in the state they’re in, and why they’re not all open in full as they should be in a day.  One point is correct.  I never really did review the First Batch properly as these came out with no problem.  The ARRB gave out copies of these first 16 CIA records at their offices, and I think NARA did too.  So, at the time everyone had these when I jumped into the deep end of the pool in 1995.  These are all available from The Mary Ferrell Foundation site.

1.) 104-10007-10037

2.) 104-10007-10040

3.) 104-10007-10043

4.) 104-10007-10046

5.) 104-10007-10195

6.) 104-10008-10109

7.) 104-10015-10052

8.) 104-10015-10093

9.) 104-10015-10153

10.) 104-10015-10154

11.) 104-10015-10165

12.) 104-10015-10181

13.) 104-10050-10002

14.) 104-10050-10077

15.) 104-10054-10023

16.) 104-10054-10204

I am working on a large project to determine exactly how many RIFS there are in the entire JFK Records Collection.  I’ve been working on this for over 2 years.  I’m nearly done, then I want to go back over it a bit.  I may have made a few errors and I don’t consider this to be definitive just yet. I do think it will be the best resource so far, and with collaborative input from the community I think it can be the definitive guide.  Another X factor is that NARA in consultation with the intel agencies released material under the JFK Act that was never really announced or published in the Federal Register as the ARRB decisions were.  Malcolm Blunt and I just happened to have been there when they did this one day, and if memory serves that is what the 6th Batch really was.  So, a lot of the RIF numbers I have for which there is no specific ARRB notice may have been released in a similar manner.  I hope to present this at a JFK conference when we get through this COVID-19 pandemic.  So, don’t any of you lovely people dare get this damn thing so that we can have hugs and drinks together soon.   

As Maddow says, watch this space.

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