Last month, after I posted what I consider to be a big revelation in the Tammen case—documented proof that the FBI had Ronald Tammen’s fingerprints on file when he disappeared, and, moreover, the discovery that they no longer have them—I was expecting, I don’t know, a more enthusiastic reaction? Not cheers and fist bumps per se, but I thought the number of page views would inch up a little, and someone might even weigh in with a “wow.”

Here’s what I heard:

[crickets]

I don’t think it’s because readers have lost interest in the Tammen case. Many of you have let me know through your emails and comments that you’re happy this blog exists. So why all the quiet?

I think I know. It’s because, Good Man followers, you were probably waiting for the other shoe to drop, and rightfully so. I was holding onto a key piece of information.

A few readers might have already figured things out, because the information I was holding back is already public. And that piece of publicly available information has to do with FBI protocol.

“Everybody has to clean their closets once in a while,” one FBI employee told me when I asked him why they no longer had Ron’s prints on file.

That’s a good point. And with the FBI now tracking other biometrics, such as facial recognition and latent and palm prints, they’re probably accumulating massive volumes of data. Under the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, the record retention protocol for fingerprints is as follows (with bold added):

The NGI data will be retained in accordance with the applicable retention schedules approved by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA has approved the destruction of fingerprint cards and corresponding indices when criminal and civil subjects attain 110 years of age or seven years after notification of death with biometric confirmation. Source, Section 3.4

So under NGI protocol guidelines, the FBI would have had to wait until either Ronald Tammen was 110 years of age or seven years after his biometrically confirmed death before they could rid their closet of Tammen’s prints. In February 2008, when Detective Frank Smith, of the Butler County Sheriff’s Department, unsuccessfully sought out Tammen’s prints from the FBI, Tammen would have been 74 years of age, not even close to 110.

Not so fast, some forensics experts may be thinking. NGI was fully instituted only recently, in September 2014. The protocol of its predecessor, the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which had been in place since July 1999, stipulated this:

NARA has determined that civil fingerprint submissions are to be destroyed when the individual reaches 75 years of age and criminal fingerprints are to be destroyed when the individual reaches 99 years of age. — Source, Section 3.4

OK, that’s better. Whether Ron would have been 74 or 75…that’s close enough, right?

Maybe, except for one thing: On April 1, 2015, a high-ranking official in the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) division let me know in an email that Ronald Tammen’s fingerprints were “expunged from our system in 2002. No other info available.”

Ronald Tammen would have been 68 or 69.

Whaaaaaa?, I thought.

I followed up with this email, to which he responded to three questions in red:

Thank you so much for your quick response. Just to make sure I understand–does that mean that his fingerprints were still in the FBI’s system until 2002, at which time they were removed from your system? Yes. Also, do you happen to know who expunged them? No Lastly, I know it was a long time ago, but do you have any suggestion regarding the meaning of the language: “removed from Ident. files, 6-4-73”? Sorry, but we do not.

(The last question had to do with a notation on several of the documents I’d received from the FBI as part of my FOIA request. I’d originally been trying to determine if they’d purged Ron’s fingerprints back in 1973.)

I then asked him what the protocol was for expunging fingerprints. He said, “The FBI purges fingerprint data and records at 110 years of age or 7 years after confirmed death.”

And that’s why I’m so riled about Ron’s fingerprint records. Since Ronald Tammen wouldn’t have been 110, or even 75, years of age when the FBI purged his prints, the only logical explanation for their decision to do so, other than the possibility that someone made a colossal mistake, is that Ronald Tammen had been confirmed dead, possibly for seven years, in 2002. This, in turn, could mean that he died around 1995, depending on the date in which the FBI had first learned of his death.

And if the FBI did learn and confirm that Ronald Tammen had died? Well, that just opens up a whole new set of questions, now doesn’t it?

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “The missing fingerprints, part 2

  1. Jen,
    I’d be pulling my hair out at this point! Hope you get some answers (…and, of course, share them with your followers). Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Things like this would drive me nuts and make me very much a pissed off camper!! Keep at it! And know that your entries are truly like a ‘gift’ in my email!!! Being a Miami Alumni, I love each new ‘clue’ we get in this crazy mystery. Makes me wish you were around back when this was a bit fresher. Cheers!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice… But definitely incredibly strange. But nothing of note like that showed up in the FOA from the FBI? This is an amazing discovery… unless fifteen years ago someone just made a mistake… that we’re paying for now…. Bummer to think.

    Like

    1. Thanks! And yes, very strange. Nothing showed up in the FOIA docs, which is one of the reasons that I kept going back to them to get an explanation. They’ve declined to give one, however.

      Like

  3. By any chance did any of his family members have him declared dead? When that is done a death certificate is issued so it might be considered confirmation of death.

    I also wonder, if he had indeed died in the 1990s, we can guess that he didn’t die using his real name so how would the FBI have known about it unless someone notified them of the persons death and that he was actually Tammen?

    Hope that makes sense, I am tired lol

    Like

    1. Great questions. He was never declared dead. As far as your second question, I went to great lengths to find out. After showing them my evidence, I asked them a simple yes or no question: did they or didn’t they confirm him dead? They won’t say.

      Like

  4. Amazing research. It’s remarkable how every bit of information only opens more questions. Interesting that the harder it is to get answers, the more we want them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, Marilyn! I’ve been sitting on this discovery for more than two years. I thought I’d bring it to light because, who knows, maybe it will help us get to the bottom of things?

    Like

  6. Sorry, my last post tried to cite something you said and apparently it caused it not to run. Feel free to delete the last and edit this one, or whatever you wish:

    Your question to the FBI: Lastly, I know it was a long time ago, but do you have any suggestion regarding the meaning of the language: “removed from Ident. files, 6-4-73”?

    I’ll take a shot at this: I think that references the fact that when he was fingerprinted as a child, he had a file created, let’s call it File A. This would be easy enough to find out by an inquiry with the FBI (There should be no qualms on their end about saying whether getting fingerprinted meant you had a file in your name created). When he was identified as a missing person, he had an “Identical file”, File B created. I think the language “remove from Ident. files, 6-5-73” means those documents had been added to both File A and File B as of 6-5-53, the first mention that they thought it was the same Ronald Tammen (The first letter to the Tammens dated 5-26-53 has a handwritten notation of 6-5-53 as well as 6-5-73) and exactly 20 years later, in June of 73 removed from File A(File A being the “Ident. files” mentioned on the documents you received). I think you should definitely ask what that 20 years is all about.

    I don’t know if you are an Andy Griffith fan, but in one episode, Floyd the Barber keeps talking about something as “Big, oohhh, big, big”. That line is going through my mind now. This is big.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These are great questions. So far, I’ve spoken with a couple FBI-related people regarding these issues: one is a retired agent and the other is the FBI historian. Here’s where I am at this moment: I think they are using the word “Identical” in the same way most people use “same as.” (People in the FBI tend to talk differently than the rest of us in their memos.) So I’m thinking that they were saying that the missing Ron was the same person who was fingerprinted as a child. The “Ident. Files,” on the other hand, refers to the division that housed fingerprints—the Identification Division. (I discovered this in a book on fingerprinting by the FBI—The Science of Fingerprints.) Back in the 1940s, they were located in the DC Armory, a huge building near RFK Stadium. (I’m not sure when they moved. See: https://mashable.com/2014/12/16/fbi-fingerprint-files/#9NCI5s9zHqqG for photos.) I haven’t been able to get a straight answer regarding the 1973 date. While it seems reasonable that 20 years would signify some sort of change in status, no one has said that with certainty and I’ve found no written protocol to indicate that as well. I think something else triggered the change, even though I’m still not sure what the change was, since we know they still had his prints until 2002. I’ll be discussing my theory of what caused them to remove his prints from the Ident. Files in my next post. Oh, and did you notice the term “crim” in reference to Ron’s prints? That stands for criminal. We’ll be discussing that designation in an upcoming post too.

      Like

Comments are closed.