Why did subsequent FBI reports fail to mention what officials had learned in 2002?

This is going to be a short post. What I’d like to do is compare several documents that were produced by the FBI after Ron’s fingerprints were expunged in 2002. The first one should be fresh in your mind: it’s the email sent to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) by the FBI’s records and information management specialist in April 2021. Even though the email’s language is vague about key details, such as what caused them to expunge Tammen’s fingerprints, it does provide some specifics that the specialist had obtained as she “researched [NARA’s] request for information.” (I wonder where she looked, since I was asking the FBI for everything they had on Tammen since 2010, and didn’t get nearly as much of the juicy stuff that she got.)

So that’s Exhibit A: The email written April 15, 2021, by the FBI’s records and information management specialist.

Exhibit B is the narrative that I received from my lawsuit settlement—you know, the settlement where I signed my life away so that I can never utter the name Ronald Tammen to the FBI ever again? The narrative about Tammen’s case is maintained in a database that members of law enforcement can access all over the country. I’m not allowed to say its name because they’ve told me I’m the first non-law-enforcement type to access anything from that database, which I seriously doubt, but I’ll play by the rules, even though they clearly aren’t.

The narrative contains some inaccuracies, which proved useful, because they led me to its source: The Charley Project, a website dedicated to missing persons. I also learned that the write-up was first posted on March 1, 2005, so it was available to the entire world at that time. Although the Charley Project write-up has since been updated, when I compared it to my narrative in 2014, it was almost a word-for-word match. The case number of the narrative begins with 2008, so I believe that’s the year it was created (i.e., plagiarized) by the FBI, though I couldn’t get confirmation on that. At the bottom of the pages, it says that it was “current as of 10/25/2012.” 

So, in 2002, something of consequence caused the FBI to expunge Tammen’s fingerprints 30 years ahead of schedule, and whoever typed up this “report” in 2008 didn’t consider it worthwhile to inform fellow law enforcement professionals about what it was. But then, come to think of it, why do you suppose they created this file so late in the game? 

Exhibit C is a fax that was sent from the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) to Frank Smith, former cold case detective for Butler County, Ohio, who had reopened the Tammen case in 2008. Smith had noticed the fingerprint shorthand on Tammen’s FBI files and requested a “hand search to see if any fingerprint cards can be located.” 

The fax, dated February 28, 2008, said “A SEARCH OF OUR CRIMINAL AND CIVIL FILES HAS FAILED TO REVEAL ANY FINGERPRINTS FOR YOUR SUBJECT. A COMPLETE SEARCH OF OUR ARCHIVE MICROFILM FILES HAS FAILED TO REVEAL ANY FINGERPRINTS FOR THIS MISSING SUBJECT AS WELL.”

Gosh, if they’d just done what their records and information management specialist had done and looked up Tammen’s name and birth date, they would have immediately discovered that his fingerprints had been expunged in 2002. All of that searching high and low for Tammen’s fingerprints could have been avoided.

Actually, I’m being facetious. I’m quite sure that the author of this memo had looked up Tammen’s name and birth date and knew that his fingerprints had been expunged. The person just elected not to inform Detective Smith—a fellow law enforcement professional—of that information. 

If I had to guess why in 2008 the FBI created the file for law enforcement with the plagiarized narrative, I’d say that it was Detective Smith’s efforts that had motivated them to do that as well. When Smith and his counterparts in Walker County, GA, were asking the FBI to compare the DNA of the dead body in Georgia with Marcia Tammen’s DNA, the FBI may have deemed it necessary to create the file—if for no other reason than for show.

4 thoughts on “Why did subsequent FBI reports fail to mention what officials had learned in 2002?

  1. “A SEARCH OF OUR CRIMINAL AND CIVIL FILES HAS FAILED TO REVEAL ANY FINGERPRINTS FOR YOUR SUBJECT. A COMPLETE SEARCH OF OUR ARCHIVE MICROFILM FILES HAS FAILED TO REVEAL ANY FINGERPRINTS FOR THIS MISSING SUBJECT AS WELL.”

    If I really, really, really, didn’t want to brazenly lie to a fellow LEO, I could say that, knowing that the fingerprints that had been on file were already destroyed. It’s not discussed much, but when people are put under oath and affirm they’ll tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth”, that’s the kind of linguistic/mental reservations they are supposed to be swearing to avoid.

    Other than pscyhopaths, almost nobody wants to brazenly lie. This case is rife with instances where by all appearances people are dancing around the truth just to avoid outright lying.

  2. Regarding exhibit B, “…he left behind $200 (the equivalent of over $1,300 in today’s money).”

    According to usinflation.com and smartasset.com the value of $200 may provide an estimate of the date exhibit B was written. Below is a list of values for the various years mentioned in your post. Years 2001 & 2002 are the only years where the value was “just over $1,300.”

    (The two calculators differ slightly and I rounded to full dollars).

    2000 $1,290
    2001 $1,326
    2002 $1,348 ✔️
    2005 $1,463
    2008 $1,613
    2012 $1,720
    2014 $1,773
    2021 $2,006 (for fun)

    From another Leo.

    1. Oh, that’s an interesting strategy! I contacted the author and she told me that she first posted her writeup on 3-1-2005. (Also, fwiw, the $200 isn’t accurate, though she would have likely gotten that figure from another article somewhere. According to a letter at that time from the Oxford National Bank, he had a balance of $87.25.) But I like your sleuthing skills! And as I recall, that little bit of embellishment about today’s money did come from someone with the FBI. But they couldn’t have written (i.e., stolen) their narrative before 2005. At some point, I did a word by word comparison of the two write-ups to demonstrate how similar they were. I’ll try to find it.

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