Enforce the JFK Records Act: collect the key CIA cables and dispatches

Those of us who comb through the CIA’s records about Lee Harvey Oswald’s time in Mexico City are frustrated that there is no easy way to find many of the key cables between Mexico City and Headquarters, or between JMWAVE in Miami and Headquarters.

What we have run into is the working equivalent of a CIA tutorial on how to avoid providing information mandated under the law.

The law requires that this problem be solved.

As discussed in the Assassination Records Review Board’s 1998 report,, the listing of chronological files for HQ and Mexico City begins on October 1. and the listing of chrono files for HQ and JMWAVE begins on November 21.
(Note:  If you see redactions, a keyword search at the Mary Ferrell Foundation site will usually lead you to an unredacted version of your document).

These chronological files don’t enable a researcher to put together together the heart of the Oswald story in Mexico City — which is between September 27-October 1.  The events in Miami in the weeks prior to November 22 are crucial to understanding what JMWAVE was doing with the Cuban exiles and in Mexico City.

A similar problem exists for the dispatches between HQ and Mexico City – the communications that were not considered as urgent as the cables.

The irony is that there is good news.  The Board was mistaken and the CIA was lying by omission.  Not all of the files are missing.

A number of the “missing files” that should be part of the chronos can be found at the Archives or at the Mary Ferrell Foundation website.  These files are tucked away in various folders, such as the Mexico City station files on Cuban consul Eusebio Azcue in CIA microfilm, Reel 2 or the JMWAVE files in CIA box 33.  A “date range” MFF search within the missing dates will result in many hits.

Most or all of the contents of the chrono files could have been obtained by the CIA if they had simply cross-indexed the existent files within their own Records Integration Division.
That cross-indexing can be done with the push of a button.  Even back in 1963 the CIA had a very good computerized file system.  How good?  Put it this way.  In the sixties, the Records Integration Division was the watering hole for the moles and the molehunters.

The CIA said that there was no “chronological package” of missing files for Mexico City between the dates of September 25 to September 30.  By way of inference, the Agency gave the impression that numerous files no longer existed.  Thus, no duty to look any further.

David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, has the duty to send a demand to the CIA for the missing files.

The JFK Records Act is in effect until “the Archivist certifies to the President and the Congress that all assassination-related records have been made available to the public in accordance with this Act.”

David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States a/k/a AOTUS, encourages researchers to write him comments for posting.  We should write Ferreiro’s blog and remind him of his duty.

This is yet another reason we need a new JFK Records Act with stronger enforcement powers.
From the ARRB’s Final Report
The Review Board determined that, while much of the Mexico City Station cable traffic existed in the JFK Collection, the traffic contained numerous gaps, particularly in communications between Mexico City and the CIA Station in Miami, JMWAVE.

The Review Board deemed these gaps to be significant because both CIA stations played roles in U.S. operations against Cuba.

The cable traffic that the Review Board reviewed in the CIA’s sequestered collection commences on October 1, 1963, and contains the earliest known communication—an October 8, 1963, cable—between the Mexico City Station and CIA Headquarters concerning Lee Harvey  Oswald.

In 1995, the Review Board submitted a formal request for additional information regarding the above-referenced gaps in CIA cable traffic. CIA did not locate additional traffic for the specified periods. CIA completed its response to this request in February 1998 explaining that:

In general, cable traffic and dispatches are not available as a chronological collection and thus, for the period 26 through 30 September 1963 it is not possible to provide cables and dispatches in a chronological/package form.

During the periods in question, the Office of Communications (OC) only held cables long enough to ensure that they were successfully transmitted to the named recipient. On occasion…cables were sometimes held for longer periods but not with the intention of creating a long-term reference collection.

The Review Board was not able to locate cables or dispatches from the following periods:

Mexico City Station to Headquarters (September 26–30, 1963);
Headquarters to Mexico City Station (September 26–30, 1963);
JMWAVE to Headquarters (September 26–November 21,1963);
Headquarters to JMWAVE (September 26–November 21, 1963);
and all traffic between the Mexico City Station and JMWAVE for the periods September 26–October 20, 1963 and November 22–December 30, 1963.
In addition, CIA informed the Review Board that it did not have a repository for cables and dispatches from stations in the 1960s.
Although originating offices maintained temporary chronological files, the offices generally destroyed the temporary records in less than ninety days.
After the assassination, the Office of the Deputy Director of Plans ordered relevant CIA offices to retain cables that they would have otherwise destroyed.  The HSCA used the remaining cable traffic to compile its Mexico City chronology.

Had CIA offices strictly applied the ninety-day rule, there might have been copies of cable traffic commencing as early as August 22, 1963, rather than October 1, 1963, available to CIA on November 22, 1963.


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