Follow the inconsistencies: one tape, two very different explanations

This morning, I was doing a little rereading of a blog post—the one from September 2, in which I wrote about the first time our Ohio Court of Claims mediation process had been declared a failure. At that point of the saga, the university hadn’t been able to provide me with a copy of the hockey coach tape, and there was nothing left for us to do but bid our adieus and hang up.

Here are the sentences in that blog post that are currently speaking to my soul:

Oh, there’s one other option, I suppose. The university has indicated through their lawyer that the recording may well exist but is damaged, and they sent the following photo of a tape titled “HOCKEY TAPE #2 (EDIT).” (There wasn’t a tape labeled HOCKEY TAPE #1, and the tape that was in the same box was recorded over and unrelated to hockey.) 

“Oh, yeah!” thought I. “The tape that was in the same box!”

Over the course of the summer and fall, I had no idea where university representatives were actually looking for the unposted Oral History Project recordings. I knew they were looking somewhere in University Archives, but I didn’t know the exact locations. If they found a tape, they wouldn’t tell me where it was found.

Granted, I had the Excel sheet listing over 2000 recordings, housed in 22 boxes, which was provided to me by the Office of General Counsel. But those recordings had been described as mostly “back-up records of files that were digitized,” though they said there might also be some originals. In June 2022, several of us had gone through those 22 boxes searching for a tape of Carl Knox’s former secretary. We weren’t yet aware that a tape of Miami hockey coaches had been conducted for the Oral History Project and that it, too, hadn’t been posted online.

Several of the boxes we’d looked through during our visit in June 2022 before I’d heard about the Miami Hockey Coach tape; the CDS prefix stands for Center for Digital Scholarship

Last week, I learned that the university had indeed found Hockey Tape #2 (EDIT) in box CDS 18. We still don’t know where Hockey Tape 1 (EDIT) was found. So when the university’s lawyer was describing another tape in the same box, was he discussing the contents of Miami Hockey Tape #2—the ostensibly unedited tape that was listed on line #1718 of the Excel sheet and the one I requested in December through my public records request?

I now present to you the university’s lawyer’s very detailed explanation of that tape, which he sent to my lawyer on August 9, 2022:

“For the ‘Hockey’ request, the University has identified two tapes. The first tape was recorded over. It is not labeled ‘hockey tape 1’ but it was in the box with the second hockey tape. The second hockey tape is damaged.  Attached is a photo of the damaged tape for your reference. My understanding is that these tapes were not uploaded because the second tape was damaged. My understanding from the University is also that these tapes are a number of years old and that, at the time, the tapes were frequently reused for other projects. Apparently, the first tape only contains footage of a minor child playing a video game, which the University would not normally produce pursuant to a public records request. It is not clear who the minor child is, but it may have been a videorecording that was only made inadvertently, or to test the tape or the videorecorder when the footage was recorded.” 

First, the lawyer’s explanation about the university reusing tapes for other projects is misleading. It’s true that the Oral History Project folks had at one time reused tapes, but only after they were converted to DVD. Also, that practice stopped in June 2007 at the request of John Millard, who oversaw Digital Initiatives.

The big revelation here is that the university played a tape that representatives had ostensibly thought was related to hockey, but that only contained footage of a child playing a video game. Although he doesn’t specify the tape’s title, he does state that it was in the same box as the damaged hockey tape, which we now know was box CDS 18.

Now, I’d like you to compare the lawyer’s remarks with a replay of what Aimee Smart of the Office of General Counsel had written to me last week:

 “We see this request as a duplicate to your request from this past summer. We agree that the inventory log reflects that there is a tape labeled Miami Hockey Tape #2 in box CDS18. However, we searched this box when you made your initial request for the hockey tapes at the end of June 2022. When we reviewed box CDS18, we found one tape labeled Hockey Tape #2 (edit).  There was not a second tape labeled Miami Hockey Tape #2 in that box. In response to your most recent request, University Archives reviewed all the boxes associated with the inventory log to see if it was somehow misfiled in one of them. The tape was not in any of the boxes. John Millard also conducted a thorough search of his department and was unable to locate a tape labeled Miami Hockey Tape #2. Accordingly, we are unable to provide you with a responsive record. Please be aware that we have searched all reasonable locations for the Oral History’s Hockey interview. We have provided you with the only two copies of the interview that we were able to locate. We will deny any further requests for copies of this same Oral History hockey interview.“

So the university’s lawyer said in August that they’d played the second tape but it had been recorded over, while the university said that they couldn’t locate the second tape back in June and that they still can’t locate it even though they’ve searched everywhere.

Same tape, two wildly different explanations. I don’t know who to believe anymore.

Announcing: something new and something that’s growing very old

Let’s start with the fun news: we now have a chat room, a dedicated space on this blog site where you can discuss Tammen-related topics without interference from me. Oh, OK, I’ll be checking in now and then to make sure everyone’s getting along peaceably, but I won’t be approving each and every comment before they’re posted. 

Am I terrified? Oh good Lord, of course I am. Have you seen how some people treat one another online, especially if they’re using a pretend name? But you all seem like wonderful people and we’re going to give it a try. It could be fun! Or it could be a spectacular failure! But there’s no harm in giving it a shot, so OK, let’s do this.

The chat room—named Room 225 Fisher—is currently being field tested. Check it out!

My second bit of news has to do with Miami Hockey Tape #2, the unedited version, which was housed in a box labeled CDS 18 at University Archives. Shortly before Christmas, I submitted a public records request for that recording, and this past Friday, I received a response from Aimee Smart of the Office of General Counsel. 

Long story short: they don’t have it. No, I’m totally serious. They don’t have a tape that someone had typed up on an inventory sheet and placed in a box labeled CDS 18.

Short story long: Once upon a time, there were two hockey tapes that resided in box CDS 18 of University Archives. One had been edited (see line #1716) and the other ostensibly was the raw, uncut version (see line #1718). The tapes had presumably been sitting in that box for a long time…since 2009, perhaps. Still, they weren’t the oldest ones there. A tape from the same box originated in 1988. Another was from 1995. And there weren’t that many tapes in the box to begin with. According to the inventory, only 24 items were stored there, a veritable hodgepodge of mixed media. Some are miniDVs, others are VHS tapes, others are reel-to-reels, and there’s even a hard drive. If anything were removed, I’d think it would have been apparent.

The one-time contents of box CDS 18; the tape that’s highlighted in yellow is inexplicably missing; click on image for a closer view

But when the time came that the two hockey tapes were needed by members of the public—their raison d’être, so to speak—the edited version had been so badly damaged, so utterly destroyed, it was almost as if someone had been angry with it. As you know, it’s unwatchable. As for the other one… well, apparently the other one wasn’t long for this world either. It’s gone. It had seemingly been lifted from the box—it can’t very well leave on its own, right?—and then what? Was it tossed away, plastic case and all, like a paper towel or a leaky pen? Or did the purloiner put it in a place so obscure that people who should know its whereabouts were kept in the dark? 

Here were two tapes of the same interview, with two very different destinies, both equally doomed. And yet, at one moment in time, someone with archival expertise had held those tapes in their hands and determined that they were of sufficient usefulness that they should be inventoried and stored in a box among 22 other items in case someone might need them.

I mean…what are the odds? 

I’m including Ms. Smart’s comments in blue and a few of my thoughts beneath them in black.

************

We see this request as a duplicate to your request from this past summer. 

See, I disagree. Over the summer, we were negotiating over two damaged tapes—Hockey Tape 1, a tape that had turned up at the last minute in an undisclosed location, and Hockey Tape #2, which was in box CDS 18. Both tapes had the word “EDIT” in parentheses next to their titles. In my recent records request, I’m seeking a third tape that had never been mentioned before, and one that was ostensibly unedited and is potentially undamaged. That’s very different.

We agree that the inventory log reflects that there is a tape labeled Miami Hockey Tape #2 in box CDS18. 

OK, cool. Cool cool cool.

However, we searched this box when you made your initial request for the hockey tapes at the end of June 2022. When we reviewed box CDS18, we found one tape labeled Hockey Tape #2 (edit).  There was not a second tape labeled Miami Hockey Tape #2 in that box. 

Wow. Uncool and very troubling. It’s my understanding that University Archives never throws anything away. Also, if someone discarded it, wouldn’t that be a breach of Ohio’s Public Records Act?

In response to your most recent request, University Archives reviewed all the boxes associated with the inventory log to see if it was somehow misfiled in one of them. The tape was not in any of the boxes. 

I sincerely appreciate them looking through all of the boxes, but I still don’t understand how this happened. Again, University Archives, as a rule, doesn’t throw away its records. Also, if the edited tape always looked the way it does in its photo, you’d think they would have treated the unedited tape with even more care as opposed to removing it from the box. Why would someone leave the mangled-looking tape in box CDS 18 and remove the (presumably) decent-looking, unedited tape?

John Millard also conducted a thorough search of his department and was unable to locate a tape labeled Miami Hockey Tape #2. 

Mr. Millard, who oversaw Digital Initiatives for the Oral History Project, is indeed an important resource regarding this question. I’ve recently learned that the Miami Hockey Coach tape had been handed over to Digital Initiatives on June 17, 2009, a full month after the interview had taken place. According to the university, the tape never made it out of Digital Initiatives as a DVD. I would be interested to hear Mr. Millard’s recollections of what happened to that hockey coach tape. I can be reached at rontammenproject@gmail.com to schedule.

Accordingly, we are unable to provide you with a responsive record. Please be aware that we have searched all reasonable locations for the Oral History’s Hockey interview. We have provided you with the only two copies of the interview that we were able to locate. 

I find it interesting that the only two copies that University Archives seems to possess are edited versions. I’ll be searching somewhere else for an undamaged copy. Maybe we can even find the original. 

We will deny any further requests for copies of this same Oral History hockey interview.  

I realize that they’d like me to go away, I really do, but I don’t think they can say this. What if I were to provide a solid lead as to the unedited tape’s location—a location that they haven’t checked yet? Wouldn’t university officials like to find a good version of the hockey coach tape? They’re treating me as if it’s all my fault that a public record that was created to survive the ages has been misplaced or destroyed (the unedited tape) or irreparably damaged (the edited versions).

As for where another copy might be found, as I mentioned earlier, it took a full month before the people in Digital Initiatives received the tape. Where was the tape during that time period and who requested the edits?

I have my ideas, and that’s where I’ll be looking next.

Breaking the CIA’s MKULTRA code, part deux

Credit: Photo by Cottonbro Studio at Pexels.com

Happy New Year! 

In celebration of the first day of 2023—the 70th year in which Ron Tammen has been missing not to mention the 70th anniversary of when Allen Dulles formally signed off on MKULTRA—I’d like to offer up the following new meanings for letters in the CIA’s MKULTRA coding system. (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, you may want to read my previous post first.)

The letter D

D is for….a subject matter expert in an area of specialization pertaining to ARTICHOKE, and someone with whom the CIA may wish to follow up. 

I guess we should have figured the whole “let’s use the first letter of the word it represents” thing wouldn’t last. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t give it a D word anyway. And the D word that seems most appropriate is: doyen (pronounced DOI-en or DWI-yan, your choice), which I’d never heard of before, but which showed up in a list of synonyms when I typed in the word “expert.”

I have a feeling that the D label was used somewhat broadly. While it might be used for someone in academia, it might also be used as a reference to a news event in which a person or group of people appeared to possess a desired knowledge or skillset that the CIA wanted to learn more about. An outlier document used Ds to highlight possible interrogation questions.

So even though the D category still seems a little squishy, here’s a link to the document that sealed the deal for me.

In that document, every time you see the letter D, you see a reference to an expert in the field. In this case, the people with Ds next to their blacked-out names knew all about certain drugs.

This document also has a few Ds in front of the names of individuals (page 3) or specific cases (pages 1, 6, and 8) that the CIA could follow up with or investigate further.

And in the case of our March 25, 1952, memo, the doyens are our three hypnosis experts: Clark Hull, St. Clair Switzer, and Griffith W. Williams. The CIA categorizers didn’t seem to care that the writer had said that Hull was feeble and no longer interested in hypnosis. “So? He can’t even answer the phone in the interest of national security?” the categorizers hypothetically countered in their snide little way. “He’s getting three Ds anyway.” (Of course I’m kidding. As you know, I feel nothing but gratitude for the CIA categorizers.)

Page 1 of March 25, 1952, memo; click on image for a closer view

The letter H

The letter H is for…

…wait for it…

…the Department of Defense. (I’m a little flummoxed as to why the CIA categorizers didn’t assign the letter D to the DoD. Would that have been too obvious?)

We’d almost figured it out a few days ago, but I was thinking too granularly (as I am known to do). I’d seen the document with the H next to the paragraph that talked about the pilots, and had immediately thought Air Force. But I couldn’t understand why the other military branches wouldn’t have their own letter as well, since they were doing ARTICHOKE stuff too.

As I focused on the stand-alone H’s in the MKULTRA collection, I started noticing them in places of prominence: next to names cc’d at the bottoms of memos with other higher-ups, and on Louis Jolyon West’s Subproject 43 materials, including in the “From” line of a handwritten memo. As you may recall, West was a major in the Air Force before moving on to head the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine.

Click on image for a closer view

And then I came upon a memo that we already knew about—one that I’d submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA about in August 2016 and appealed in 2019. (I’m still waiting to hear back from them, even though the last time they wrote to me, they claimed I’d have an answer by the very specific date of December 8, 2022. I guess someone will be getting a phone call tomorrow.) 

Click on image for a closer view

The heavily redacted memo is a list of the members of a study group that had been commissioned by the DoD’s Research and Development Board (RDB), a board I’d written about in May 2021. The CIA had asked the RDB to investigate the feasibility of using ARTICHOKE techniques and the RDB  chose to conduct its investigation through the ad hoc group of experts. When I reexamined that document closely, I saw that the crossed-out subject of the RDB’s study group name was assigned an H, even though its members were all Cs (consultants) who represented an assortment of Bs (research organizations). That’s when I began to think more broadly.

In another document, I noticed an H next to the black blotch before the word “officers” and I found a handwritten document with an H before the phrase “Man to contact in AF film” (the AF ostensibly refers to the Air Force) on page 1 and, on page 4, another H alongside the words “several service representatives.” Who but the DoD would have access to representatives of several branches of the military service?

Click on image for a closer view

I’m convinced—H on its own stands for the DoD as a whole, one of its service branches, or someone affiliated with the DoD, usually someone at a higher level.

BONUS LETTERS

The letter E

Remember the E that I talked about at the end of my last post? (Alas, I can’t find the document where I’d first seen it.)  I now believe that E stands for…a line item or account with a financial institution of some sort. 

We learn this from Louis Jolyon West’s Subproject 43 materials that say: “I hereby acknowledge receipt of check #”…blah blah blah…“drawn on the BLANK,” the latter of which is marked with an E. It happens in other places in his materials as well.

Click on image for a closer view

Unless I find another use that changes my mind, the E category seems pretty obvious. It’s an account of some sort.

The letters D/H and I

As I was focusing on H’s, I landed on a document that used the letters D/H together in a whole new nefarious way throughout pages 1-5, with the letter H flying solo on page 6. The CIA categorizers threw the letter I into the fray as well.

Page 1 of June 21, 1952, memo on ARTICHOKE Techniques; click on image for a closer view

Based on this document, the letters D/H together appear to signify a test subject who has received drugs and hypnosis. This is in contrast to page 6, where the writer is recommending that, after conducting experiments on the two human subjects (D/H and D/H), the H (DoD) should consider using the ARTICHOKE technique whenever they see fit. In his view, “there will be many a failure but also that every success with this method will be pure gravy,” which is one of the most bizarre sentences I’ve read in the MKULTRA materials.

Page 6 of the June 21, 1952, memo; click on image for a closer view

As for the I, it appears to be a country against whom the CIA is developing its interrogation techniques.

So there you have it, my attempt at cracking the CIA’s MKULTRA code so far. The plan is to post a chart on the homepage to help anyone who is researching the MKULTRA documents.

MKULTRA Shorthand Guide

A                      Agency (CIA)

B                      Research Org/Business

C                      Consultant

D                     Expert/Knowledgeable Source in ARTICHOKE-related topic

E                      Financial Account

F                      Foreign 

G                     CIA Internal Group/Office

H                     Department of Defense

I                       Enemy Country/CIA target for ARTICHOKE method 

J                       ?

D/H                 Human Subject of ARTICHOKE method 

B/1                  ?

B/3                  Military Base

B/6                  Military Officer

H-B/1              ?

H-B/3              Military Base Hospital

H-B/6              Officer/Medical Specialist at Military Base Hospital

S                      ?

(Note: We may never know S, since it only appears at the top of some docs, but not in association with redacted text.)