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Why Did the CIA Reclassify Parts of Some JFK Files in 2018?

The Central Intelligence Agency reclassified portions of once-public JFK assassination files in April 2018, according to a study by the Mary Ferrell Foundation, the largest online archive of government files on JFK’s assassination.

Is this CIA incompetence? Or CIA trickery?

I would guess the former because the reclassified information seems to be trivial. But the latter can’t be ruled out. In any case, re-classification is not harmless. It removes information from the online public record of President Kennedy’s assassination, a blatant violation of the JFK Records Act.

Take a look.

In December 2017, the CIA declassified the name of a Miami businessman who reportedly offered to put up $50,000 in 1964 toward the Mafia’s “asking price” of $150,000 for the assassination of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Here’s the declassified passage.

The businessman was Jose-Mario Pepin Bosch, the boss of the Bacardi Rum empire. Bosch died in 1994.

Four months later, in April 2018, the CIA reclassified the name of the deceased in the public version of the document.

Another example of reclassification is more troubling.

A  December 1963 cable about Lee Harvey Oswald, released in 1994, is entitled “File note for a sensitive and restricted cable.” In April 2018, the CIA reclassified the title of the document. If you look for this document the National Archives database, the title is “Restricted.” This might be trickery.

[To reporters and researchers who want to verify this instance of CIA reclassification, go to the National Archives JFK Assassination Collection Reference System. Download the first spreadsheet (104-10019-10006jfk-rif-104-10001-10000-thru-104-10215-10450.xlsx). Search for the December 1963 Oswald document by its Record Information Form (RIF) number: 104-10019-10006.]

A Church Committee record on the arrest of Sylvia Duran, released in December 2017, has four redactions. The version released in April 2018 has five redactions. The acronym COS (Chief of Station) is newly redacted. On what grounds is this anodyne acronym withheld from the public record?

Another Church Committee document, released in 2017, on Robert Maheu, the former FBI agent who introduced CIA officials to Mafia figures willing to assassinate Fidel Castro, has five redactions. The version released in April 2018  has 13 redactions — including the removal of non-sensitive words such as “CIA source”, “COS”, and even just “source.” This sort of redaction is so pointless as to be strange.

In this 1964 memo about syndicated columnist Drew Pearson’s conversation with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, the source “CIA Station Chief in Cairo” is redacted. But the CIA had already released the very same phrase in the December 2017. This strikes me as incompetence.

Here’s a 1966 memo about Lee Harvey Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union, released in April 2018, in which the word “British” is redacted several times. Five months earlier, the CIA disclosed the word “British” in this version of the document.   Is it important to hide the fact that British authorities passed information to the U.S. 55 years ago?  Apparently the CIA’s redactors can’t agree on the answer to this simple question.

Such is the madness of the government’s secrecy culture. Even when directed by law to disclose on a subject of maximum public interest, the CIA seeks to conceal already public information–yet another reason why President Biden need to declassify all the JFK records on October 26.

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6 thoughts on “Why Did the CIA Reclassify Parts of Some JFK Files in 2018?”

  1. Steven E. Michaud

    Go, Jeff, go!

    I sincerely appreciate your continuing efforts with this case that is foundational to this country.

  2. None of the examples you give here actually show re-redactions in the April 2018 releases. 157-10004-10218 (cable re: Sylvia Duran) is backwards: December 2017 has six redactions, April 2018 has four. As I noted, this cable was released in full long ago.
    Three other examples you give have also reversed the release dates.
    157-10004-10280 (re Maheu): 13 redactions is December, 5 redactions is April. 119-10017-10244 (re Pearson): “station chief” is redacted in December, released in April.
    119-10003-10181: “British” withheld in December, released in April.
    For the change in record title, this is not a 2018 change, it is a change in the updated JFK database. There are about a dozen other titles changed like this in the updated database, most don’t seem to have any particular significance. Less descriptive yes, but the database is packed with non-descriptive and inaccurate titles. The cable referred to in this record has been released in full, so the point of a change here is what?
    The Jose Bosch example puzzled me especially. You have confounded two pages (cards) in this 23 page document, page 8 and page 12. These seem to be duplicates, one redacted and one not. This is certainly odd, but the redaction is the same in both December 2017 and April 2018. The CIA has not reinstated redactions in any of these cases.
    I believe you are right, however, for what must be a very small number of cases; I have found one example where information released in 2017 was indeed re-redacted in April 2018: record 104-10147-10131. In the original release, three words were redacted; in the November 2017 release, the 3 redactions (all the word “ISOLATION”, cryptonyn for a CIA facility) were released; in the April 2018 release, they were redacted again. A careless or silly change certainly, but not a frequent or particularly meaningful one.

      1. I’m puzzled by your reply. The documents and data at the MFF website do not support what you have written. May I suggest you double check? For instance, try a rif search at MFF for document 157-10004-10280, cited above. According to MFF, the 13 redaction version you mention is from December 2017, the 5 redaction version you mention is from April 2018. This is the opposite of what you said, and shows the release of previous redactions, not their reinstatement.

  3. Robert Reynolds

    The Church committee record on Sylvia Duran’s arrest is 157-10004-10218. This is a copy of MEXI 7037 (JFK Doc 70). The Oswald 201 copy of this cable was actually released in full back in 1995 by the ARRB (see 104-10015-10066 at Mary Ferrell under the ARRB 1995 releases). The redacted name here is ECHEVARRIA.

    Generally the SSCIA docs seem somewhat more redacted than copies of the same docs released by the CIA. Lack of coordination seems an issue here.

    In any case, you’ve got the dates of the two releases of SSCIA 157-10004-10218 reversed. The december 2017 version has six redactions, not five. The April 2018 version has four.

    If they are going to be consistent, this copy of the cable should be open in full.

  4. Why are you so quiet on the Pappas Brothers carcano, considering who there stepfather is this 57 year old hidden gem could be huge…

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