I am shaking. Shaking! You’re not going to believe the news I have for you today. After all we’ve been going through over the years trying to find out why the FBI expunged Ron Tammen’s fingerprint record in 2002, I now have an answer for you.
But first: do you know how I came to find the answer? The FBI, you say? Oh, you kidder, you. No, I arrived at the answer thanks to our awesome friends at the National Archives.
If you’ll recall in the blog post Purged, we learned that if the FBI had been following their own records retention policy in 2002, they should have held on to Ron’s fingerprints until he was at least 99 years of age. And then, near the end of that post, I said that I was planning to tattle to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regarding the FBI’s (alleged) unauthorized disposition of Ron’s fingerprints.
Well guess what? I did that. And guess what else? They got back to me yesterday. In a brief email that arrived at around 4 p.m., and in the most low-key manner imaginable, they explained to me why the FBI was permitted to expunge Ron’s records from their system before the normal period was up. The reason: N1-65-88-3, Item 1a.
I couldn’t believe it—someone actually gave me a reason.
I spent the next few hours Googling N1-65-88-3 (let’s forget the “Item 1a” part for now). From what I gathered, the “65” refers to the FBI, the “88” refers to the year in which that particular records schedule was first implemented, and the “3”…well, in the few documents online in which a 3 follows the 88, I found only one reason for it to be there: a court order. That’s right—we’re back to the court order explanation.
As it turns out, it could be that the number 3 refers to a type of court order. For example, I found that N1-65-88-1 refers to a court order for the destruction of background investigations by a certain year. N1-65-88-2 refers to visa applications, though it doesn’t mention a court order to do so.
As for Ron’s court order, the Federal Register, a daily government publication that announces proposed and final policies of federal agencies, has cited N1-65-88-3 only four times since the year 1994. And when they did so, it was to describe a court order for the “Federal Pre-Trial Diversion Program.” What’s the federal pre-trial diversion program, you ask? Apparently, it’s when the government decides not to prosecute someone—a first-time offender, for example—but enrolls them in a supervised program of some sort. So someone commits a crime, they’re enrolled in the program, and then, if they’re successful, the charges are dismissed and their fingerprints are expunged. I have no idea if this applies to Ron’s situation. I’m only saying that the same number they used for Ron was used to explain an expungement four other times in the Federal Register. Interestingly, another records disposition authority request cites N1-65-88-3 and the Federal Pre-Trial Diversion Program as the reason for the expungement of documents. (Note that it also references Item 1B. I have yet to see an Item 1a. )
Last night, I sent a follow-up email to a department of the National Archives that handles questions about records schedules. In it, I ran through my definition of each number—the 65, 88, and 3—and then asked them what “Item 1a” referred to.
Here’s the lion’s share of their response:
“Thanks for your question. The FBI Records Officer and/or FOIA officer are your best resource for questions concerning records expunging. The schedule provides the authority to dispose of the records, but more detailed information on specific records can only be answered by the FBI. The schedule allows the FBI to dispose of already scheduled temporary records earlier when there is a court order or a privacy act conflict…”
Frankly, a privacy act conflict for a guy who went missing in 1953 would be fascinating too. But if it’s all the same to you, I’m going to hold off on writing the FBI right now. As you know, the FBI and I have a rather (ahem) strained relationship, and I’ll need to figure out the best way to approach them, especially since the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is looking into my other FOIA request with them for Ron’s Additional Record Sheets. I need to mull over my strategy. There are other avenues I can take as well.
In the meantime, let’s look at what we do know and how this new revelation makes so much sense.
The word “expunge” fits.
First, the word “expunge” carries legal implications that the word purge does not. It means to delete records as if they never existed—as in the expunging of criminal records. If there was a court order to erase Ron’s fingerprints from existence, then I believe the word we want to use from here on out is most definitely expunge. As you may recall, this was the word choice used by the FBI’s spokesperson the first time he told me that Ron’s fingerprints were removed from their system in 2002. Interestingly, the term he didn’t use when explaining the possible reasons for expunging fingerprints was a “court order.”
We’d already ruled out the other two possible reasons.
Again, in Purged, I wrote that it occurred to me that, based on the 2002 records retention protocol, we could no longer presume that Ron was dead. Even if they had confirmed him to be dead, they’d need to keep his fingerprints until he was at least 99 years of age. Therefore, the remaining option would be a court order. This finding supports that conclusion.
Ron’s case is special.
If Ron’s fingerprints were expunged by a court order, potentially due to some special court-approved diversion program, it confirms to us that Ronald Tammen is not your run-of-the-mill missing person. He was special. But, then, we already knew that, didn’t we?
What do you think? Is this the big deal I think it is?
I’m just thanking how horrible his quality of life was if he had to leave his whole identity and how he never contacted his family I don’t know if I could ever live that kind of life
I don’t know…maybe? I’m hoping that if he started a new life, he chose to do so for a reason. I’m sure he would have been conflicted, but I’m hoping his quality of life wasn’t horrible.
I couldn’t sleep and did a little websearching. When Googling “NARA job N1-65-88-3,” the third hit is Jenny’s blog entry that we are posting on now. 🙂 The fourth hit is:
Click to access 22256X3ADMH-3.PDF
That’s a record disposition schedule for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that tells what the disposition item numbers mean for a particular HUD schedule. I searched for more record disposition schedules that defined the item numbers. I found this for another HUD schedule:
Click to access 22256X20ADMH-1.PDF
What I take away from these documents is that the item number refers to the type of record: travel records, publication files, motor vehicle files, etc. Some item numbers then have categories a, b, c, etc. with more specific detail. In the first link above, the category letters relate to the format of the item: master documents, copies, camera ready files, digital files, etc. In the second link above, the category letters relate to date ranges or some other more specific info about the file’s content.
This suggests that for the FBI disposition schedule (which is not obviously online) item 1 might just mean the type of record–in this case, fingerprints. Item 1a, 1b, etc. could relate to something more specific about the fingerprints. For example, what date range they were required, how they were acquired, what database they are in, etc. In other words, the item 1a might not be particularly noteworthy.
Fascinating! First–I can’t believe we’re only #3 on Google!😆 Second–I feel like I should reimburse you for your time spent reading these dreary documents. Thank you so much for this breakdown. So yeah, you may be right. It could be bureaucratic minutia once we get to the item numbers and letters.
To further complicate matters, I’m also finding zero commonalities between what the FBI’s records schedule ostensibly says under the “3” (i.e., “court order” and “pretrial diversion program”) and what the General Records Schedule for 1988 says, which I think is what all of the agency records schedules were based upon. I’ve posted the complete General Records Schedule for 1988 here: https://ronaldtammen.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/June-1988-Records-Schedule.pdf. If the “3” stands for “General Records Schedule 3,” that covers “Procurement, Supply, and Grant Records,” which means records documenting “the acquisition of goods and non-personal services…” That’s a huge category–it appears to cover any procurement and supply-related documents–but doesn’t appear to have anything in common with fingerprints, in my view. So NARA may have given the FBI a lot of latitude here or I’m missing something. Not only do I need to get my hands on the FBI’s Records Schedule, but I think I’m going to need an expert to walk me through these documents. Thankfully, I have someone in mind.
Thinking more on the “mass expungement” question…There may be a way to find out if something like that happened in around 2002. In addition to FOIAing NARA for the document detailing Ron’s expungement, I could FOIA all records disposition authority requests submitted by the FBI in 2002 (for starters). Who knows…everything may be contained within the same document, as we saw in the document submitted in 2000 in which they’d lumped a bunch of files together.(https://ronaldtammen.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/n1-065-01-001_sf115.pdf) At least it’s worth a try…
For the bunch of files expunged together from a 2000 request, does the available paperwork say how were linked? Were they all being expunged for the same reason or did they just somehow get expunged together for clerical issues? I don’t think that this has anything to do with Ron, but it might help in understanding the process.
They were all lumped together under the pretrial diversion program. I could try to learn more about what linked those cases together, if anything’s left, that is.
But another sentence jumps out concerning the 2000 document. It refers to the Privacy Act of 1974, and says specifically that: “Additionally, continued maintenance by the FBI may conflict with Title 5, United States Code, Section 552a (Privacy Act of 1974), as amended.” I believe that this is a description of Title 5 of the Privacy Act: https://www.justice.gov/opcl/privacy-act-1974.
The NARA rep also mentioned the possibility of a conflict with the privacy act. I can’t imagine that the FBI would have an issue with maintaining the fingerprints of a missing person due to a Privacy Act conflict. However, it would definitely be a concern of a CIA operative who was still alive and well.
That’s a great point about the Privacy Act of 1974. Maybe N1-65-88-3 Item 1a is a code for expungement due to the Privacy Act. That would explain why this specific code never appears in the NARA database. If something is being deleted for privacy reasons, probably the whole issue would be secret and would not appear in the NARA database.
You have done excellent work on a very interesting issue, Jenny!
Thank you! You and the posse have been posing great questions! 🙌🔥
Regarding N1-65-88-3, maybe the 3 does not relate specifically to a court order. Maybe the 3 is the category number regarding expungment for privacy reasons or sealing of records. The items under this numerical heading of 3 might involve specific privacy reasons, some of which require a court order. Item 1b could mean expungement for a pre-trial diversion program, which would require a court order. Item 1a might involve personal safety reasons or national security reasons or both, or even CIA requests. Also, where there is an item 1a and 1b, there is usually an item 2 and perhaps even an item 3, etc. If info could be determined on item 2, etc., it might lead to more knowledge of what numerical heading 3 actually means.
Good point—It’s interesting that I haven’t seen 1a mentioned anywhere in citations. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a copy of the FBI’s records schedule to explain those distinctions. The 1988 general records schedule descriptions for those categories (3, 1a) don’t seem to fit at all.
Just wanted to say that I agree with Blue’s comment above about the records becoming automatically searchable being the impetus for the FBI expunging the records.
I doubt that a diversion program was involved. To me, it’s far more likely that the implementation of IAFIS spurred the CIA to tie up some loose ends by way of getting rid of the fingerprint records. Keeping that on the up-and-up between the CIA and the FBI would have required a court order to expunge the prints. Getting a court order wouldn’t have required actually going to court; the matter would have simply been discussed with a judge, who then could issue the order for expungement and have the order itself sealed.
Courts in general give great deference to the government on matters of national security. I doubt that any federal judge would have given much pushback
All of this, though, makes me wonder if Ron was still alive when his prints were expunged. I can think of a few reasons why it would be important to expunge his prints if he was deceased, but many more reasons if he was still alive (even if retired or out of the country).
All of this new info on the fingerprints also makes me think that Ron was alive in 2002. As KRT said, there are more and stronger motivations for expunging the fingerprints with Ron alive than with Ron dead. It’s also possible that it was a “mass expunge” of multiple people involved in a secret program, some of whom were still alive. But, even then, it seems less risky to just expunge prints of the living participants.
I agree with you and KRT — it makes much more sense to expunge his prints if he’s still living. A person can do all sorts of things to change his/her identity, but they can’t escape their fingerprints (unless they go to some painful extremes like John Dillinger, that is). Hmmm…I wonder if there’s anything FOIAable that might demonstrate a “mass expungement” sometime around 2002. If you have thoughts/suggestions, let me know, OK?
Thanks — this makes a lot of sense too. Perhaps the FBI/CIA didn’t even need to go before a judge. Perhaps there’s a ready-made court order in which anyone who was working covertly for the CIA will have his/her fingerprints expunged at a certain time. As you and Blue indicate, perhaps they obtained the court order as soon as IAFIS was implemented for all past and future operatives. If the record is sealed, I can’t do much about that, but as I mentioned to Jay McG, I’ll be FOIAing the FBI’s records schedule to see if I can get more intel regarding their reasoning. I’d welcome your suggestions/ideas on any additional FOIAable info that might help us clarify things.
I’ve been reading all the comments regarding the pressure that Ron was seemingly under, and the possibility that he had been arrested, under sodomy laws for example.
This initially seemed like a likely scenario, but I now have 2 doubts about that theory. Firstly, wouldn’t Ron have needed a lawyer to get him out of trouble (unless he was immediately offered recruitment into Switzer’s program?)? Surely a lawyer would have contacted the police/college if his client had disappeared under such mysterious circumstances, and I would expect there to be a paper trail.
Secondly, where was Ron’s money going? It seems like he had a reasonable income, not much expenditure, and yet (as I understand it) he seems to have been feeling financial pressure. He wouldn’t be the first college student to fritter money away, but he doesn’t seem to be a big drinker or partier. Where was his cash going? I think he was being blackmailed.
Great points. Let’s start with point #2: Where was Ron’s money going? I think he was being blackmailed too, and it might have been his brother Richard who was doing the blackmailing. I’ve been trying to figure out how Richard was able to support his college education by just caddying in the summers and perhaps during brief breaks at home. Meanwhile, Ron was caddying plus being a counselor in Fisher, plus playing gigs–with the Campus Owls and with his own side bands–plus donating blood, plus loans, plus whatever else–maybe hypnosis studies. You’re absolutely right that Ron wasn’t a drinker or partier. Currently, I’m working with members of Richard’s family to obtain a Social Security earnings statement for Richard to see if he had other income sources during that period. Ron’s and Richard’s younger brother Robert doesn’t recall any additional sources of income for Richard, however he was only 7 when Ron disappeared. So far, we haven’t heard back from Social Security, but I’ll let you know when we do.
As for lawyers, I can’t imagine Ron having the cash on hand to pay a lawyer, but, oh my gosh, what if that’s where his money was going? Honestly, though, I don’t think so. He was doing all of those activities early in the semester. If Ron was caught in a sting, I think people (e.g., Switzer) may have stepped in early, though I don’t know how he would have found out so early.
I don’t think Ron was paying a lawyer, although it’s possible. I think if Ron had been in trouble with the police, there would have been a record somewhere, or someone would have publicised the fact when he disappeared.
If he was being blackmailed I think it was probably at a much more basic level. I doubt he had been caught by the police and bailed out by Richard, for example. I think it is much more likely that Richard either caught Ron with a boy either at college or before, or even just read a diary Ron kept or read a letter Ron received. The two brothers were so close in age, and a younger brother snooping in his elder brother’s room or belongings doesn’t seem at all unlikely.
In some ways, I feel bad for suspecting Richard so strongly, but the alleged disparity between their financial situations is very suspect. And, from what you have reported, Richard’s behaviour after Ron’s disappearance indicates guilt to me. It’s horribly easy to imagine an escalating situation where Richard firstly taunts Ron, then extorts money from him, then reacts badly if Ron refuses to pay any more and threatens to expose him. I’m not even sure Richard necessarily would have intended to actually expose him, but I can easily imagine a young man threatening such a thing if he was involved in a physical fight.
Richard’s behaviour after Ron disappeared certainly seems like it could have been based on a mixture of guilt and defensiveness. It can’t have been pleasant to see the effect of the disappearance on his parents.
This all makes so much sense to me about Richard and how he could have been the source of Ron’s turmoil. Totally get that. What’s throwing me off is the court order. Unless the FBI can falsely claim that reason for an expungement to hide the real reason (e.g., that Ron was perhaps a CIA operative), something must have tipped the judicial scales at some point. Also, I’m not sure everything was publicized when someone was caught in a sting by law enforcement back then. In the 50s, cops had been known to entrap and blackmail gay men, though that was probably more in bigger cities. I’m just thinking hypothetically, but I’m not quite ready to rule out some sort of run-in with the police.
I need to find out more about N1-65-88-3, Item 1a. I have the NARA records schedule from 1988, but it’s more general, and as the NARA rep told me, the FBI would have to answer the specifics. Among other things, I’m going to FOIA the FBI’s records schedule–hopefully that will tell us more.
I am absolutely on-board with the idea that Ron was recruited into some government agency, and you are right to say that a run-in with the law can’t be ruled out. I do find it difficult to imagine that the details of that wouldn’t have emerged after Ron’s disappearance, as surely an arrest would have involved multiple police officers, civilian staff, lawyers, etc. Could an arrest really have been covered up?
Regarding the expungement, I have had one thought that may be a bit ambitious or at least off-topic, but is there any way of finding out if any similar expungement request was made regarding Richard Colvin Cox? I don’t even know if his fingerprints would be on file somewhere, but it would be such a strong link between both cases if they had both been subjected to expungement on the same basis, and it would indicate that an extensive government program was involved.
Good morning! Yeah, you’re right — it’s likely that word would have gotten around about a prior arrest/run-in with police. Surely Logan Corbin, my Oxford cop friend, would have told me about anything like that if he’d known about it. Still…cover-ups can and do exist and blackmail was a powerful way to keep secrets. Let’s put it in the “maybe, but not likely” category for now?
Regarding Richard Cox’s fingerprints, absolutely, that’s something I really need to find out. We know that the FBI had to have Cox’s fingerprints on file when he disappeared because he’d been in the Army before he attended West Point and they’d probably printed him at West Point too. And when he went missing, the FBI should have moved those prints into their criminal file, which means that they would have also maintained Additional Record Sheets in his fingerprint jacket to document any actions taken. If they’ve already expunged Cox’s fingerprints, that information should still be on his Additional Record Sheet scans, which theoretically should be held until at least 2027 (he was born in 1928). But the FBI is pushing back on giving me those scans, which I find really interesting. So far, I’m appealing that decision. If I lose my appeal, I believe I should be able to find a FOIA lawyer to sue them. There may be other ways to chip away at this question too. But yes, Richard Cox has taken on a new level of importance here, in my view.
It’s really impressive how much you have been able to find out, and how you have been able to make such sense out of so many fragmented pieces of information. You should have been in the police!
I must admit, You surprised me when you said Richard Cox was born in 1928 – I never seem to remember that these cases really are so old now, and on the verge of disappearing completely from first-hand living memory…
Lol! Thanks so much, but no, no, no…not police material. As for Cox and Tammen, your last line says it all. That’s why I’m trying so hard to dig up whatever I can.
Good morning Jennifer,
Keys, wallet, psych book opened.
Did Ron, Jr. know his days as Ron were numbered?
A new identity, a different name, background and life. He always wanted to make a difference.
Did Ron tell us at the desk what we needed to know all along?
Hi Jule! It’s amazing, isn’t it? Some readers have wondered whether he’d staged the scene, but I really don’t think so. What he left behind says a lot though. He could have been given instructions (post-hypnotically or whatever) to leave those items behind, especially pertaining to his ID. And, of course, he wouldn’t need his car or bass anymore. As for the open psych book, I think that was all Ron’s doing. I think he was curious about what he was going through hypnotically, and was just being his own studious self, which I really love. As for what he knew, I’m hoping that he’d decided to join up with the CIA, though he probably didn’t know the day/time when they’d come for him.
Thank you so much for your blog. I really admire how you are able to keep track (and make sense) of so much information! I discovered your blog after developing an interest in the Richard Cox disappearance, and becoming intrigued in the similarities between the cases.
In Ron’s case, after reading through all your hard work, I am wondering whether Ron really guessed that he would have to disappear. Is it possible that he got into trouble because of his homosexuality, and got caught in 2 separate traps? I am wondering if turned to Switzer, seeking some sort of “cure” through hypnosis, and thereby became ensnared in the CIA recruitment program. At the same time, I’m intrigued by Ron’s relationship with his brother Richard: did Richard help get Ron out of trouble or discover his homosexuality? That would give Richard quite a bit of power, either to demand payment for bailing him out, or to blackmail him. Is it possible that their fight was the result of Ron refusing to pay any more, or just losing his temper at his little brother taunting him for being gay?
I’m wondering what exactly was said as they fought. I keep imagining Richard, in the heat of the moment, threatening to expose Ron to his family. In desperation, Ron could have reached out to those who already knew his secret for help. In turn, that might have led to Switzer or a CIA contact telling Richard that he was compromised and would have to disappear immediately.
Basically, I suspect that Ron felt he had no choice as Richard was going to expose him, and exposure would have caused him even more trouble than was usual for gay men who were being exposed, because Switzer and his CIA contacts would be very unhappy at the attention being drawn to him. One way or another, Ron would have to disappear. He was trapped by his involvement with Switzer, and his relationship with his young brother. When both these traps came together, his disappearance became inevitable.
Does this seem plausible to you? I just don’t think Ron envisaged having to disappear : I think he had to make a very fast decision. In fact, I’m not sure he felt he had any choice at all.
Thanks again for sharing all your work. It’s really amazing how you have breathed life into this case again after seven decades!
Hi Jay — Welcome to my blog site, and thanks for your thoughts! I can picture the scenario you describe up to a point. But, if I’m understanding you correctly, I don’t think that Ron was running away from Dr. Switzer and the CIA. He had to have help to disappear. I don’t think a 19-year-old guy back then would have been capable of carrying off such a well-executed exit. The same goes for Richard Cox. I can imagine that Richard Tammen might have been exerting some sort of pressure on Ron–financial or otherwise–and I can see Switzer stepping in to either recruit Ron or, God forbid, to use him as a hypnotic subject for MKULTRA. But in my view, Ron’s disappearance was carried out by the CIA. Thanks again for your thoughts!
Thanks for your reply! I don’t think Ron was trying to escape Dr Switzer – I think he was already committed to working with him. I’m just not convinced that he thought that work would involve him disappearing completely out of his life.
I think it’s possible that he turned to Switzer for help to “cure” his homosexuality through hypnosis (a type of aversion therapy?). I think Switzer either agreed to use Ron as a test subject, or enlisted him in a CIA program by telling him that it would be a very good way to protect his secret.
I wonder about the fight Ron had with his brother that day, and the telephone call they had that night. I think it’s possible Richard threatened to expose Ron as gay. It’s conjecture of course, but could they have fought about this (i.e fought because Ron refused to be blackmailed any more)? I’m wondering if Ron’s call to Richard that night was a last-ditch attempt to beg for his silence. And I’d really love to know if Ron called anyone else after that call.
I think Ron reached a crisis that day, and I think he called on Switzer or someone else in authority for help and said he was in trouble because Richard was going to expose him. I think that’s why the woman from Hamilton appeared, with instructions to take him away. I think Ron was told that he had to leave immediately and had no other choice. Otherwise, there was a big risk that his homosexuality would be disclosed by his brother, and Ron would be open to questioning about everything in his life, including his dealings with Switzer. I think Switzer and his bosses would want to avoid that scrutiny at all costs.
To me, this scenario explains a few things:
1. Ron and Richard fought because Richard was blackmailing him. I think this explains Ron’s financial woes and explains his ultimate departure.
2. It also explains Richard’s subsequent reactions to Ron’s disappearance. I think Richard felt guilty because his blackmail precipitated Ron’s disappearance, and I think his guilt manifested itself in his belligerent and/or defensive behaviour.
3. It also explains why Ron left his car and all of his belongings, and why he seemingly went about his business fairly normally that day. I think his departure was a result of sudden panic that his brother was going to reveal information which would bring a lot of unwelcome attention to Ron and possibly Switzer. I think Ron went about his business as normal while trying to find a way to deal with Richard, before and after their fight. Ron’s life fell apart very quickly that day, and he was pulled out of his life very suddenly.
4. I also think it goes some way to explaining Ron’s academic performance. Could he have been unconcerned about the draft because he was confident that Switzer and his bosses would keep him out of the army? I think he knew that his future career was already set, and that his work with Switzer was all that was important. That’s possibly why his academic performance seemed to decline.
Sorry, I’ve been very long-winded! 🙂
Oh, oops! I get what you’re saying…sorry for my confusion. This is an interesting and novel take–I like it a lot. I especially like the question you raise about whether there might have been a second phone call after Ron spoke with Richard. Thanks so much for taking the time to clarify. As you say, it could help explain a lot, particularly regarding Richard’s reported actions.
I suspect the phone call with Richard is crucial. I think Ron was either telling Richard that he had to leave immediately (if that is what their earlier fight had been about) or he phoned Richard to make a final plea to him to keep quiet about his homosexuality.
I think the latter is more likely, given the apparent suddenness of Ron’s departure and Richard’s subsequent behaviour. I think the phone call went badly, and Ron then called someone to say he was in trouble. I think I read on one of your posts that the call to Richard was at 9.30? That gives one hour for Ron to call for help, and the woman from Hamilton to appear on campus to collect him.
I’ve also been thinking about the pillowcase from Ron’s bed. If he felt he was about to be in serious trouble with the police, he may have feared that his room would be searched. It’s possible that he called some contact (Switzer or the woman from Hamilton) to collect him and/or any materials /documents he had which would connect him to Switzer/the CIA. I’m wondering if he could have called his contact to say he was in trouble, and then gathered the materials up in the pillowcase. He would have had very little time and may just have grabbed it from his bed. He may also have thought that it would have looked less conspicuous to be carrying a pillowcase through the building at 10.30 than to be seen carrying a suitcase or box.
The 45 minutes Ron spent in the car with the woman before they drove off seems significant. It’s possible that Ron had to be talked into leaving: he may have thought he would be able to just return his documents/books and then face the consequences of exposure by Richard. Instead, the woman may have persuaded (or forced) him to leave. I think that’s why all his personal belongings remained in his room, and his car remained on campus.
You wrote on one of your posts, that most crises are not sudden occurrences. They creep up on you. I think you are right. I think Ron had been working with Switzer because he thought it was the best way to conceal his sexuality. Something happened between his freshman and sophomore year to affect his grades so badly. I think his poor academic performance was because he was focused on his work with Switzer, and on trying to appease his brother.
After keeping the lid on his troubles for so long, I think everything reached a climax on the day of his disappearance. The threats from Richard got too much for him, and they fought. He then made a last appeal to Richard to be silent. When that didn’t work, he felt he had to turn to Switzer (or another contact connected to Switzer). Once they knew that Ron was compromised, the decision to leave was no longer in his hands. He was told he had to leave, immediately, leaving everything behind.
This is all conjecture of course, and all based on your great work. I can’t wait to see what else you uncover!
Wow. This is a really interesting synopsis/theory. I’d only suggest one edit: that the phone call with Richard was reported to have occurred at around 8 p.m.–roughly at the same time Ron went to get his sheets. So that could buy someone even more time in which to respond. And thank you for this possible explanation for that pillow case, which is a detail that has always really bothered me. Definitely a scenario worth pondering. Thank you!
Jen —I’ve been reading the blog for almost 3 years now. Fred Reeder was my professor junior year and told us Ron’s story and shared your work. It is unbelievable how far you’ve come! Whenever I see a new post I literally stop whatever it is I’m doing and read immediately. This is not a theory comment, I just wanted to say thank you for everything you do, and I cannot wait to hear more!
Oh my gosh, thank you so much, Dania! Fred is a friend and colleague—in fact, I’m talking to him tomorrow. I’ll be sure to tell him about your comment—thank you again!
Thank you, dear brother!
Too many theories. Another one. Arrested on a sodomy law. Offered diversion into conversion therapy, not realizing he’d stumbled into the clutches of St. Clair Switzer and MK Ultra.
Ohhhhhhhh……that’s very interesting…..
This is getting beyond interesting. It’s X-Files Non-fiction now.
Only thing I’ve never understood in the way of Ron going deep under for the Gov, is why he could never ever come up for air to say anything to his family.
That is, if he lived a full life of course.
But, tie it together with Richard Cox a little tighter, and you may have 2 birds with 1 stone when it’s all said and done.
Now I’m curious about how many more people just like Ron and Richard in age range and time frame vanished in similar fashion.
Good grief this is interesting.
Thanks for the ride.
Good to hear from you again, and thanks for these comments! I think if Ron was arrested in a gay sting of some sort, he would have been so ashamed. The stigma against gay men back then was too huge. That could have been the reason he never reconnected with his family. (Just theory.)And I agree with you…I think one reason I’m getting so much pushback is because it isn’t just Ron and possibly Richard Cox. There may be others out there.
David Paulides has authored an extensive series of books (called “Missing 411”) about people missing under strange circumstances. Ron’s case is discussed in one of the books, I believe in the third volume entitled “North America and Beyond.” The Missing 411 series could be a good resource for finding similar disappearances, although the books tend to focus on people who go missing while outdoors. It kind of surprised me that Ron was in the books.
Oh, yes, great point. I think I have the one that includes Tammen’s case, but it’s been so long since I bought it, I need to double check. I’ll check into others as well. Thanks!
Oh, why not? A theory: Ron ran afoul of a sodomy law. In 1950’s America, a total disaster. He was offered a diversion into MK Ultra. He took it. All the boxes check: Criminal, CIA, FBI, has to remain in hiding. Most everything else follows. I think.
Yeah, I was wondering about that too. Maybe it happened around spring break, when his life seemed to be falling apart.
First thought: Wow.
Second thought: Would any LEO at any level have cause to verify someone’s fingerprints were on file with the FBI before declining to subsequently-ergo redundantly-fingerprint the detainee?
Another great question. So a while ago, I tried to obtain info that should have caught any instances in which law enforcement pulled Ron’s prints. I checked both their online and offline historic file, which they told me was nearly complete. The FBI told me there was nothing. But…I think I’ll revisit that request to see if I may have missed something.
Regarding records of pulling prints, I don’t know for sure how this works. However, it seems to me that once a fingerprint set is in the electronic database (the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, IAFIS), the entire database would be part of the search when comparisons are made to an unknown print. So, once digitized Ron’s prints could have been a hit for an unknown print even if no request had been made specifically to pull and compare to Ron’s prints. Perhaps the implementation of IAFIS in 1999 spurred a decision to get Ron’s fingerprints out of the system, and maybe also remove the prints of some other people. Maybe IAFIS made it too “dangerous” to keep Ron’s prints on file.
I agree with you. Under IAFIS, Ron’s digitized prints would have been automatically part of the search when a new print arrived, since he was still part of the criminal file. (Now, with Next Generation Identification, I think that’s become a controversial issue. It’s my understanding that all fingerprints in the system–criminal and civil–are checked, which is a privacy issue.) So, yeah…maybe they stumbled on his prints at some point and decided to do something about it.
One thing that I feel a need to clarify that you and others were probably wondering about: We know that in 1973, when the FBI compared Ron’s fingerprints with the guy from Welco Industries, Ron only had one set of fingerprints in his file, and they were the ones from 1941. If Ron was arrested back in 1953, there should have been a second set of fingerprints. I guess I feel that if Ron was arrested and then bailed out in some way, perhaps someone stepped in and destroyed those prints before they were sent to FBI headquarters, without even knowing that the ones from 1941 existed. It’s just a thought…but I did want to address it.
As I think about this more, I think that conversion of the fingerprint files into an electronic easily searchable database would have been a big worry to entities trying to keep secrets on missing people.
What about Richard Colvin Cox’s fingerprints? Is it known if they are still in the FBI’s fingerprint database? He’d only be 92 years old now so if the FBI were following their own policies they should still be in NGI.
Great question. I don’t think I’m permitted to request fingerprints–only law enforcement can do that. HOWEVER, that’s why I requested Cox’s Additional Record Sheets. As I wrote in my previous blog post (Lies, deceit, etc.) the FBI said I wasn’t allowed to request anything on Cox because of my lawsuit settlement. Of course, I disagree with them entirely, and, if I lose my appeal, I think I should be able to find a FOIA lawyer who agrees with me. And I would be totally up for suing them if it comes to that.
Was he an FBI informant?
Hmmmm….we could add that to our list of maybes!
That brings up another interesting question. If the FBI had been the agency who wanted the fingerprints expunged, would they have needed a court order? I tend to think that if the FBI had wanted to expunge the prints, they would have just secretly done so. But, I don’t know. If the FBI had wanted to do something that went against their own protocol, would they have needed a court order to do this?
Great question…I don’t know the answer but can try to find out. Another thought I’ve had: let’s say it’s the CIA who wants the prints purged. The FBI seems to follow the usual protocols that other feds follow. But the CIA can do anything it wants and say it’s classified. Could they have told them to purge the prints and then to use whatever N1 number best applies? Is there a catchall number that’s used by the CIA for its special cases? Just some ideas.
I suppose the CIA could go before a judge and request that fingerprint files be expunged because they belong to a spy, etc. But, that doesn’t seem secretive enough. I agree that there might be more of a backdoor method for the CIA to get the FBI to expunge files.
If a court order where involved, what would have convinced a judge to expunge a file related to someone who has been missing for about half a century? Maybe an argument related to the individual’s personal safety, such as their being an informant or spy. Or perhaps an argument related to national security. I don’t think an argument related to a long-ago crime (probably past the statue of limitations) or a long-ago pre-trial diversion program would make a strong enough argument to be worth the cost of going to court.
Great points. I think I need to look more into the whole court-ordered expungements issue—especially the hows and whys.
Very interesting! So, a court order would mean that an individual(s) or an entity/agency/company went before a judge and made a successful argument that Ron’s fingerprints should be expunged by the FBI. If this happened, maybe the court proceedings are sealed, otherwise Jenny would have found out about them during her years of research. Also, is there something else (some other type of file) that might have also been expunged in a court order? Is there something else besides the fingerprint records (and Ron himself, of course) that is obviously missing?
Then, there’s the “why” question. Simply leaving Ron’s fingerprints in the FBI database would have drawn less attention from researchers like Jenny. So, why get rid of the fingerprint files? Two possible answers come to mind for me. First, as of 2002, maybe Ron’s actual fingers were still around (living or dead) and could have generated prints that someone never wanted identified as belonging to Ron. Pure speculation, but maybe Ron was still alive and he (or “somebody”) didn’t want his body identified when he died, became ill, got arrested, etc. My second thought is that maybe it was the Additional Record Sheet that “somebody” wanted gone. When fingerprints are expunged, is the Additional Record Sheet expunged, too? More pure speculation, but maybe a fingerprint search had linked a body (living or dead) to Ron’s fingerprints on file and “somebody” did not want anyone to ever know about this fingerprint search and its results.
These are really insightful thoughts—thank you! I need to ponder them for a while.… very helpful.
Wow, Jenny, this is a bombshell, congrats! Absolutely fascinating to contemplate what it all means. To me, the most compelling thing you pointed out is that this indeed make’s Ron’s case “special.”
Thank you so much! Also…I think it presents all kinds of new doors to knock on.
Wow! Your posts never disappoint!
I am a little confused though on one aspect of the “expunging” of fingerprints relating to a diversion program.
I could maybe see this happening if he had his fingerprints taken as the result of an arrest and then he was acquitted (such as through a diversion program). That would be part of removing any trace of the criminal charge.
But would they do that in Ron’s case, where if I recall correctly they took his prints as a child?
I do think it’s very possible they were expunged due to a court order, but I dnt see how a diversion program or even a criminal act on Ron’s part would have pre-empted it. It sounds more like someone else in a high place trying to cover their tracks to me.
Please let me know if I’m off base, as I’m just using my own logic and its not based on law enforcement/court ecperience.
Thank you! Your comments are never off base. Yes, you’re correct that they printed him as a child. When he disappeared, they would have added his prints to the criminal file (because that was where all missing people’s prints were put). I think we have any number of possibilities. Personally? I wonder if an arrest precipitated his personal crisis, which led to Switzer and the CIA swooping in. But all theories are valid and welcome.
Wow! What an interesting development!
“… special court-approved diversion program, it confirms to us that Ronald Tammen is not your run-of-the-mill missing person. He was special.”
Indeed, we already knew he was, but to get some better perspective and confirmed clarification makes it even more compelling. My mind right now is in serious overdrive just thinking about this.
The key phrase, “Special court-approved diversion program,” leaves us with more to be desired and how it relates to Ron. That can take theoretical possibilities in a multitude of directions!
Mine too! I have no idea where to look for the court info. Which court? I can at least FOIA the form that the FBI had submitted to NARA to see if it says anything else. Some of those request forms had more background info than others.
J, you are soooo on a roll with this case. And I’m sure you’ll find out which court.
Btw, this Friday, I get fingerprinted for the FBI.
Thank you, Brett! Have fun with being fingerprinted! 👍
I hope they don’t put me in an Ident Criminal file! 😉
Be sure to say that to them. See what they do. (Kidding!) 😆
I was of the opinion at this point that his finger prints being expunged was a clerical error, that no one would admit to the mistake, and that this would be a dead end. Glad to see your tenacity and use of the “pet door” has paid off. There’s always someone, inadvertant or not, who can shed light on every detail.
Haha–thanks! And yeah…I think it also shows that, in cases like this one, it’s always worthwhile to keep looking for more info. Even when someone flat-out tells you “no further info available,” which I’ve been told numerous times.