The FBI’s plagiarized narrative

A word-by-word comparison of the 2008 FBI narrative to the source from which it was copied

For my last post this weekend, I want to hammer home just how similar the narrative that I received from my 2014 lawsuit settlement is to a write-up on Tammen’s case on The Charley Project website. Because The Charley Project write-up has been edited over the years and now includes information obtained from this blog, let’s time travel back to the halcyon days of 2008, a simpler time when all of us were 13 years younger and perhaps a little more naive, including the folks at the FBI. Who knows, maybe they had no idea back then that the use of another person’s words without attribution is frowned upon.

Thanks to the website Wayback Machine, I’m including a screen shot of the verbiage from The Charley Project’s web page on Tammen from March 23, 2008—an arbitrary date in 2008 for which they had a page capture—as well as a link to that page. I’m also including the two pages of the narrative that the FBI emailed to me in 2014, claiming that I had unprecedented access to such information. The true author of the verbiage is Meaghan Good, who has told me that she first posted the Tammen write-up to The Charley Project website on March 1, 2005. What the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) seem to think I’ve had unprecedented access to has been available to literally every man, woman, and child since 2005. Can you see why I’m bitter?

Screen capture of The Charley Project’s write-up on Ron Tammen, dated March 23, 2008
Page 1 of FBI narrative on Tammen case, ostensibly typed in 2008, based on its case number
Page 2 of FBI narrative on Tammen case

To make things easier on you, I’ve copied the write-up from The Charley Project page, and have inserted in blue the places where the FBI narrative strays from the original. If a word is omitted or a sentence is moved, I indicate that as well. Here you go:

Tammen [*THE VICTIM] was last seen in old Fisher Hall, a former Victorian mental asylum converted to a dormitory at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio on April 19, 1953 [4/19/1953]. He was a resident hall advisor at Fisher Hall, and lived in room 225. At 8:00 p.m., he requested new bedsheets because someone had put a dead fish in his bed.

Sometime around 8:30 p.m., Tammen [*THE VICTIM] apparently heard something outside his room that disturbed him, and went out into the hallway to investigate. He never returned. His roommate came in at 10:00 p.m. and found him gone. The roommate originally assumed Tammen [*THE VICTIM] was spending the night at his Delta Tau Delta fraternity house, and did not report his disappearance until the next day.

There is no indication that Tammen left of his own accord. [*previous sentence moved to end of paragraph] His clothes, car keys, wallet, identification, watch, high school class ring and other personal items were left behind in his dormitory room, and he also left the lights on, the radio playing, and a psychology textbook lying open on his desk. His gold 1938 [*year missing] Chevrolet sedan was not taken from its place in the school parking lot, he left his bass fiddle in the back seat of the car, and he left behind $200 (the equivalent of over $1,300 in today’s money) in his bank account. Tammen is believed to have [*IT IS BELIEVED THE VICTIM] had no more than $10 to $15 on his person the night he disappeared, and [*ALSO, HE] was not wearing a coat. [*first sentence in paragraph moved here;]

However, authorities have not found any indication of foul play in Tammen’s [*HIS] disappearance either. They do not believe he could have been forcibly abducted, as he was large enough and strong enough to defend himself against most attackers. They theorize that he could have developed amnesia and wandered away, but if that was the case he should have been found relatively quickly.

A woman living outside of Oxford, twelve miles east of the Miami University campus, claims that a young man came to her door at 11:00 p.m. the evening Tammen [*THE VICTIM] disappeared and asked what town he was in. Then he asked directions to the bus stop, which she gave him, and he left. However, the bus line had suspended its midnight run, so he could not have gotten on a bus. The witness says the man she spoke to was disheveled and dirty and appeared upset and confused. He was not wearing a coat or hat, although it was a cold night and there was snow on the ground. He was apparently on foot, since the woman did not see or hear a car. The man matched the physical description of Tammen [*THE VICTIM] and was wearing similar clothes, but it has not been confirmed that they were the same person, and Tammen’s [*THE VICTIM’s] brother stated he did not believe the man the witness saw was Tammen [*HIS BROTHER].

Five months to the day before Tammen [*The VICTIM] vanished, he went to the Butler County Coroner’s office in Hamilton, Ohio and asked for a test to have his blood typed. The coroner claims that this was the only such request he ever got in 35 years of practice. It is unknown why Tammen [*THE VICTIM] wanted the test done and why he did not have it conducted in Oxford, where local physicians or the university hospital could have typed his blood for him. Tammen [THE VICTIM] was scheduled for a physical examination by the Selective Service for induction into the army, but inductees did not need to know their blood type in advance of the physical.

Tammen’s [*THE VICTIM’S] parents, who lived in the 21000 block of Hillgrove Avenue in Maple Heights, Ohio in 1953, last saw him a week before he disappeared and say he did not appear to be troubled by anything at the time. He was on the varsity wrestling team in college, played in the school dance band, and was a business major and a good student. He dated at the time that he vanished but did not have a steady girlfriend.

In the decades after Tammen’s [*THE VICTIM’S] disappearance, students at Miami University claimed his ghost haunted Fisher Hall. His parents are now deceased. Fisher Hall was torn down in 1978 and an extensive search was conducted in the rubble for Tammen’s [THE VICTIM’S] remains, but no evidence was located. His case remains unsolved. [*THE VICTIM’S OH DL IS C-779075.]

In running my little comparison, I noticed a few things:

  • The Charley Project write-up is well-written, so I can understand why someone from the FBI thought it provided a good summary of the case in few words. Nevertheless, there are several inaccuracies and areas of conjecture that have accrued by way of other media outlets over time. The FBI, who should have access to the most accurate source information on the case, allowed those inaccuracies to remain in their narrative for law enforcement.
  • Only one detail was omitted from the FBI narrative: the year 1938 in the description of Tammen’s car (actually, his car was a green 1939 Chevy).
  • The only information that the FBI added to its narrative is Ron’s driver’s license number.
  • As we’ve discussed in an earlier post, even though the FBI obviously had new intel from 2002 that led to the expungement of Tammen’s fingerprints, that information didn’t make it into this narrative for law enforcement, which, ostensibly, was written in 2008. Perhaps it and other details were somehow mentioned in the full report, but alas, only law enforcement can access that. Judging by their unwillingness to disclose that information to former Butler Co. cold case detective Frank Smith when he inquired about Tammen’s fingerprints in 2008, I doubt it.

14 thoughts on “The FBI’s plagiarized narrative

  1. One additional thought: it’s interesting that the FBI typist had changed the name Tammen to VICTIM throughout the narrative when both write-ups also state there was no evidence of foul play in his disappearance. I would think the word SUBJECT would be better. What could he have been a VICTIM of, if not foul play? Or could the foul play have occurred later, in 2008, when the file was created?

  2. Did they think ‘The Charley Project’ was an insignificant little personal website that nobody would ever think of checking? Or did they somehow expect to ‘prove’ that Meaghan copied it from them? There are some very blinkered thought processes involved here, as well as blatant copyright theft.

    1. My thinking is that they didn’t think anyone outside of law enforcement would see it–it’s in a file for only law enforcements’ eyes. They also probably figured that no one would care about who wrote it and whether they were properly credited. They can’t possibly say that Meaghan got it from them because there’s no way she would have had access to their file. Also, she wrote it in 2005 and the file (ostensibly) originated in 2008.

  3. Oh, and P.S. Don’t you just love what they’ve added under “CURRENT AS OF 10/25/2012”?

    “LAW ENFORCEMENT SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED”

    Um, really? Now they’re just messing with us, right?

  4. I’m sorry, but I laughed out loud reading this, from knowing that the FBI, who strictly warns us with their emblazoned logotype on copyright warning bumpers before watching movies, literally committed ‘copyright infringement’ and ‘plagiarism before our very eyes!

    As for Ron… going back to our recent discussion from my previous post a few days ago about the June 2002 timing… could Ron have been a ‘VICTIM’ of 9/11 somehow? Maybe not on U.S. soil that September 11th day, but elsewhere, overseas?!

    1. Holy moly. So I’m now wondering…was he alive in 2002 and died a victim of some sort in 2008? Today, Charlotte commented on another post (the one on 5/10/21) that we needed a new category: missing, missing and dead, and missing, dead, and undead. We might need to add a fourth category: missing and dead then undead then dead again.

      1. Exactly! Holy moly is right, with some extra guacamole on top! I think we might be onto something here! I’m going to take a break from writing and do some overseas research!

      2. Hmm. Seems not much else was going in the world on 9/11. I found one article on domestic (frivolous) events that would have made the news if the tragedy had not happened, but there were no other unrelated overseas stories or crises reported. But who knows what was going down that day—covertly—in other countries!

  5. Not surprisingly, Redditt had someone plagiarize it too:

    The mystery of Ron Tammen from UnresolvedMysteries

    I got there by simply doing a google search of the FBI version to see if maybe their revisions were a clumsy attempt to avoid being outed for plagiarism. Oddly enough, it didn’t take me to the Charley Project version(did the FBI succeed in their misdirection after all?), but the reddit site came up first in results(If so, they didn’t check to see if there were other plagiarizers).

    1. Oh, that’s interesting. Can I also just take this moment to kvetch about how the FBI/DOJ acted like they were presenting me with some seriously useful investigative information about Tammen straight from the FBI, no less, that no one outside of law enforcement had ever laid their eyes on in their negotiation for a settlement to my lawsuit. If they knew then that their bargaining chip was already publicly available, then that was extremely disingenuous of them. Really, really bad form. Now the same people are claiming that the Richard Cox documents I’d written a separate FOIA request for were also tied to the Tammen settlement, which is 100 percent false and equally bad form. The DOJ is still weighing my appeal for Cox’s Additional Record Sheets, which I’ll continue fighting for. OK, rant over. Thanks for listening.

  6. It just hit me that the FBI might have plagiarized Reddit and not Charley. Not a big deal per the case, but I’m disappointed that possibility didn’t come to mind. If that’s what happened, then the FBI didn’t have the decency to cite their source as Reddit did. Anyway, not a big deal, but attention to details-all details-is paramount.

    1. You raise a good point, although it looks to me as if the reddit post was made 6 years ago, which would be too late–after I received it in 2014 and (I believe) long after the narrative was written (plagiarized) in 2008, though I’m still attempting to find someone to confirm that for me. Another thought has hit me as well, which I’m currently looking into. Can’t share too much at this point, but I’ll definitely keep you and everyone else posted if I turn up new intel in this area.

      Also, on another topic, I’m working on an update for Ron’s 88th birthday, which is next Friday, July 23. For as long as I knew her, Marcia Tammen enjoyed spending time at the library tracing the family’s genealogy. In honor of Ron’s birthday and Marcia’s meticulous work, I’ll be sharing some of her stories and photos about some of their closest and most influential extended family members.

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