I don’t think Louis Jolyon West wrote the research proposal to develop a hypnotic messenger after all*

*But that doesn’t mean we should throw out our entire theory

When you’ve read as many MKULTRA documents as I have lately, you get to know people. You learn what their favorite subjects are. Their pet words and phrases. You recognize their go-to stats and data points when they’re sharing their expertise with a new audience or making a pitch for research dollars. You learn how they like to format a page as soon as they’ve cranked a sheet of onionskin paper into the old Smith Corona. You develop a feel for their gloriously, uniquely idiosyncratic THEM-ness. 

Sometimes, if a person has authored a lot of works and those documents have made their way into the public arena, we can identify something else they’ve written, even without being told who the author was. Even if their name is blacked-out. We can tell because it has their DNA all over it, figuratively speaking.

For example: let’s say that a person in the future stumbles upon an old document. The writer in question is going on and on about the topic of Ronald Tammen, her FOIA requests to the FBI and CIA that have been largely ignored, and a missing interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary. Some of her other quirks include a predilection for the word “ostensibly”; a tendency to use “who” even if “whom” is probably correct (but who the heck really knows?); and an unapologetic fondness for the Q&A format. If the document finder has ever been to this blogsite, I think they could easily conclude that the author was yours truly. This is who (whom?) I’ve become, DNA-wise. 

(NOTE: We won’t be discussing AI-generated content at this time, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is a topic that I find concerning. Please be assured that every word on this blogsite is written by yours truly. Personally, I think writing is a craft that should be performed by an honest-to-goodness human if other humans are supposed to relate, deep down, to what they have to say. Besides, isn’t human-to-human connection what writing—not to mention life here on planet earth—is all about? Controversial, I know. OK, moving on.)

And so, Good Man readers, after getting to know several key MKULTRA players a lot better lately, I find myself forced to modify my initial theory by reporting to you that Louis Jolyon West did not, I repeat did not, write the proposal to develop a hypnotic messenger during the summer of 1957.

George Hoben Estabrooks did.

I can see you have questions.

Who’s George Hoben Estabrooks?

George Hoben Estabrooks (his friends called him Esty, so we will too) was born in 1895 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, a beautiful and vibrant city on the Bay of Fundy, which is known for its primo whale watching. His education was about as stellar as you can get. He received his undergraduate degree from Acadia University, in Nova Scotia; he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar; and he earned his Ph.D. from Harvard. He became a psychology professor at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, specializing in both educational psychology and abnormal psychology. He was named chair of the department in 1938. 

Esty Estabrooks had a passion for hypnosis, a skill he’d developed during WWII when he ostensibly worked in intelligence in the U.S. Army. (Interestingly, Colgate University’s president, George Cutten, had a similar passion. According to a December 1997 article in The Ottawa Citizen, Cutten had written a book on the psychology of alcoholism, for which he studied the use of hypnosis as a possible treatment.)

In 1943, when the United States was still very much at war, Esty Estabrooks published the book Hypnotism,which explained the concept of hypnosis to a general audience. He viewed hypnosis as having tremendous potential for a number of practical purposes and wanted to allay the fear and stigma attached to it. Truth be told, he was a pretty good communicator with lay audiences,  employing analogies and everyday language and even humor to help keep readers interested. (One story he shared involved a group of people who Esty was going to hypnotize using a recording he’d made of himself giving the instructions for going into a trance. When he discovered that he’d loaned his record out, he put on another record to hold the group’s attention, while he fetched the hypnosis record. When he returned, he discovered one subject had fallen into a trance-like state while listening to the other recording, which happened to be of a Swiss yodeler. I mean, that’s pretty funny, right??) As a result, Esty’s book did very well, and was even recommended reading by the Book-of-the-Month Club. In 1957, he published a revised edition, which is the version I have. Chapter 9, Hypnotism in Warfare, is a topic that was especially near and dear to his heart. We’ll discuss portions of that chapter momentarily.

The name Estabrooks may sound familiar to you. I mentioned him in my blog post titled MKULTRA and ‘U.’ His name is frequently tied to the term “Manchurian Candidate” by people who study this topic because, in a May 13, 1968, interview with the Providence (R.I.) Evening Bulletinhe very nearly admitted to creating one. (The original article isn’t available online so I’m linking to sources who have quoted him.) 

Here’s the quote that’s attributed to Esty Estabrooks: “The key to creating an effective spy or assassin rests in splitting a man’s personality, or creating multipersonality, with the aid of hypnotism. This is not science fiction. This has and is being done. I have done it.” And then he added: “It is child’s play now to develop a multiple personality through hypnotism,” which is decidedly not funny—not even a little bit.

Granted, it’s unclear if he was (merely?) admitting to splitting a man’s personality or to going all-in with the creation of an assassin, aka a Manchurian Candidate. But in 1971, he published an article that appeared in Science Digest in which he readily admitted to having created hypnotic couriers that were used as spies during WWII. I find this admission especially surprising since, in chapter nine of the 1957 edition of Hypnotism, he only says that the idea of a hypnotic courier is a proposed use of hypnosis—a possibility, as in we’re just brainstorming here. If the development of a hypnotic courier was already old hat by WWII—I mean, let’s ponder on that for a moment: he claims they were using hypnotic couriers as well as multiple personalities during World War TWO!—I’m guessing he wouldn’t have been shy about taking it to the next level and creating an assassin soon thereafter.

In a quote in the 1997 article of the Ottawa Citizen Sun, author, psychiatrist, and MKULTRA researcher Colin Ross, M.D., said, “In terms of Manchurian Candidate experimentation, he’s the number one person.”

All the while that Estabrooks was being incredibly chatty about his endeavors, particularly between 1957, when he published the second edition of his book, and 1971, when he admitted to creating the hypnotic courier during WWII, the CIA was attempting to keep its MKULTRA-related matters hidden. In the same Providence Evening Bulletin article, Estabrooks revealed that he’d consulted for the FBI and the CIA, which I’m sure pleased both organizations to no end. It also tends to make me question his assertion, since, in my experience, people who brag about being employed by the CIA are generally quite full of it. What’s more, in 1942, the FBI had already scolded Esty about making pronouncements that he was affiliated with the Bureau when they hadn’t even requested his help, which, in that case, had to do with research he was conducting on crime and hypnosis. Yet, in 1968, there he was again…bragging to a reporter about his FBI ties…while J. Edgar Hoover was still alive and well and cranky as all get out. His eagerness to go public on such highly sensitive matters as well as his tendency to state his abilities with so much swagger surely led at least several people from both agencies to view him leerily. I’ll show you what they had to say in a minute.

How do you know he wrote the proposal and not Louis Jolyon West?

Now that I know George Esty Estabrooks far better than I used to, I’m 100% positive that he was the author of the February 1957 proposal to develop a hypnotic messenger. I’m actually a little embarrassed that it took me this long to figure it out, since so many of his go-to words, phrases, and fun facts are scattered throughout the proposal, which was long on promises and short on details. (I think I’ve mentioned before that it would be considered a “trust me” proposal in research circles—a three-pager that basically says “You know me. I’m the best person to do this so can I please have $10K asap?”)

That said, it’s not as if Louis Jolyon West didn’t have an interest in developing a hypnotic courier for use by the military. He most definitely did, and he said so on page one, item #5, of his short-term goals in a six-page letter he wrote to the CIA’s Sidney Gottlieb (S.G.) in June 1953.

Page 1 of a letter written by Louis Jolyon West to Sidney Gottlieb

Also, the title of the February 1957 proposal adheres to the formula Jolly used for titling his own research proposals, which was always “Studies in blibbity blobbity blah blah blah.” Also Major Jolly West had recently ended his obligatory service in the U.S. Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base when the proposal was submitted. Who but a military guy with expertise in hypnosis would write a proposal on the application of hypnosis in the military? Nevertheless, for the reasons I list below, I can tell you with 100% certainty that the hypnotic messenger proposal was written by George H. Estabrooks and not Louis Jolyon West.

Here’s the link to the proposal, with special thanks to The Black Vault for making these MKULTRA documents available to all.

Hypnotism

One of the telltale words in the proposal is “hypnotism,” which was rather out-of-date by then. People still used it sometimes, but just not so much. But Esty used the word hypnotism all the time. That’s what he titled his book, including the 1957 version, and he uses it throughout the book as well. He used the word hypnosis too, but hypnotism was his preference. West, on the other hand, was using the term “hypnosis” in all of his documents from that era. So if he’d been using “hypnosis” in 1953, why would he refer to “hypnotism” in 1957? He wouldn’t. But Esty would.

Psychology

In the first sentence, the author says that “Hypnotism is now a recognized branch of the science of psychology…” yada yada yada. Why would Jolly West open his proposal with a reference to psychology instead of psychiatry? Answer: He wouldn’t. If you’re going to spend all of the time and money required to pursue a degree in psychiatry you wouldn’t lead with a field in which you didn’t pursue a degree. Furthermore, in his budget on page 3, the author says that a “psychiatrist should also be available.” Jolly West was a psychiatrist. If he was the author of the proposal, he would have made himself available. (How did I not catch that earlier?) For this reason, I believe the proposal’s author was a psychologist, namely George “Esty” Estabrooks.

Hypnotic messenger

On June 22, 1954, George H. Estabrooks submitted a memo to someone within the CIA titled “The Military Application of Hypntism [sic].” In that memo, he describes the creation of a courier, but refers to it as a “hypnotic messenger,” adding “if I may use the phrase.” That sounds as if he feels he coined the term. In his book Hypnotism, Esty refers to the hypnotic messenger almost exclusively when discussing the topic. A comparison of the wording and subject matter between the 1954 memo, which is still redacted, and Estabrooks’ book tells us that he wrote the 1954 memo, just as the similarity between those two documents and the proposal tells us that he wrote the proposal too. Oddly enough, in his 1971 Science Digest article, he didn’t call it a messenger but instead referred to it as a courier. He also cut way back on his use of the word “hypnotism” for that article, though not entirely. What can I say? People change. As for Jolly West, in his 1953 letter to Sidney Gottlieb, he used the word “courier.”

The statistic

Esty Estabrooks had one statistic that he used more than any other, and that statistic was that one out of every five adults was capable of going into the deepest hypnotic trance, which he referred to as somnambulism. He never cites the source—which probably means that he’s the source—but that statistic permeates his book to an annoying degree. (One of my chief criticisms of his book is that he’s very, very, VERY repetitive.) On page 44, he states it most strenuously: 

“One out of every five subjects will, on the average, go into deep hypnosis or somnambulism and no operator, whatever his skill, can better this average.” 

Does Esty’s mantra appear in the February 1957 proposal? Oh, you betcha. You can find it in the second paragraph, line two of the Introduction. Honestly, the moment I read that line after having read Esty’s book, I knew Esty had written the proposal. “One out of every five” was the singular phrase that sealed the deal for me.

The sign-off

We all have a favorite way of signing off in a letter. The proposal writer’s cover letter closed with a friendly and less common “Cordially yours.” Jolly West was strictly a “Sincerely” or a “Sincerely yours” kind of guy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him swerve from that sentiment even once. But Esty? He preferred “Cordially yours.” It’s all over his letters in the file that the FBI kept on him. Sure, he occasionally slipped in a “Sincerely yours”—who among us hasn’t?—but “Cordially yours,” just like “hypnotism,” just like “hypnotic messenger,” was Esty’s M.O.

The file number 

Something I’ve started focusing on lately are the numbers and letters at the top righthand corner of the lion’s share of the MKULTRA documents. They begin with an A/B, a notation that Colin Ross, M.D., says means Artichoke/Bluebird, which makes sense. The A/B is followed by a number from 1 through 7, which is sometimes written as a Roman numeral. I’m not sure of the meaning of those numbers but it appears to be some type of grouping. The grouping that interests me most is group 5, or V, which appears to include various academics and others with whom the CIA may have consulted. The number after that has the broadest range. I’ve seen them reach upwards into the 300s. Following that number, sometimes after a slash mark, is another number that isn’t very big and seems to progress in numerical order. So you may find a document marked 353/1, another one marked 353/2, and so on.

Let’s direct our attention to the tops of the pages of MKULTRA document 147025 and concentrate only on the last two numbers. You’ll see a series of documents, beginning with the first, which is numbered 90/4, the next is 90/5, and the next is 90/6. (You can ignore the last two pages since they appear to have been misfiled. They have nothing to do with the preceding memos.)

Now look at the notations on the proposal. They are A/B, 5, 90/8. There’s that 90 again. I think the second-to-last number—the 90 in this case—is assigned to a particular person, and I think the last number—the 4, 5, 6, and now 8—is the number assigned to the particular piece of communication that pertains to that particular person. If Esty was the subject of the three memos from 1954, and I strongly believe he was, then I believe someone at the CIA assigned the number “90” to Esty’s records, which means that I also believe that he’s the author of the proposal.

By the way, when you have a chance, I recommend that you read the three 1954 memos. You’ll see that the CIA guys weren’t that impressed with him. Neither was the FBI for that matter.

Wow. This is a big shift in your theory.

Yes, it is, and I’m not going to lie, it bummed me out big time when I figured it out. But if we’re going to solve this mystery, we need to let go of the things that aren’t true. It’s taken me a week or so, but I’ve managed to do that and I’m hoping you’ll be able to do it too.

Does anything strike you as weird about Esty’s proposal?

As a matter of fact, yes! If Esty had indeed created a hypnotic messenger during WWII, as he claimed in 1971, I wonder why he didn’t mention that fact in his proposal. Here he was, a known braggart, and he didn’t think to mention this to his potential funder? Why did he make it sound as if this would be the first time? 

Incidentally, another copy of the proposal can be found here, and the person Esty was writing to was Morse Allen. Apparently, they were on a first-name basis, or at least Esty felt as if they were. (Morse may have felt differently.) Louis Jolyon West’s communications, on the other hand, were usually directed to the man on top—Sidney Gottlieb.

Do you think St. Clair Switzer worked with George Estabrooks instead of Louis Jolyon West in the summer of 1957?

Here’s what we know: St. Clair Switzer had been approved for a sabbatical for academic year 1956-57. However, the researcher he’d originally been planning to work with, Marion A. “Gus” Wenger (no relation), a UCLA psychologist, had decided at the last minute to travel to India to study yogis instead. There’s no way Switzer would have returned to Miami that year—not after waiting so long for his sabbatical. Not after writing in a December 1954 letter to Gus that “It’s quite a job to break out of this teaching straitjacket.” He was working with someone.

We also now know that George Estabrooks had someone working with him for the summer who was “thoroughly familiar with hypnotism at the theoretical level.” That could certainly describe Switzer, since he’d assisted Clark Hull with his 1933 book, “Hypnosis and Suggestibility,” which was both an experimental and theoretical study of hypnosis. Also, a CIA staffer had made the notation “H/B-6” next to that person’s crossed-out name, which I believe indicates that Esty’s helper was a military officer who was affiliated with a military base with an on-site hospital. Again, that could apply to Lt. Col. Switzer, particularly if he was working closely with Wright Patterson AFB.

On the other hand, Jolly West was deep into his research on POWs that year. The focus of that research—interrogation methods—happened to be the reason Switzer’s expertise in hypnosis and drugs was likely being sought by the CIA and military. As you know, I believe the January 14, 1953, memo on “Interrogation Techniques” mentions both Louis Jolyon West (I’m 100% sure) and Switzer (I’m pretty sure) for a “well-balanced interrogation research center.” So it could be that Switzer was at the University of Oklahoma helping West in the use of hypnosis and drugs for the interrogation of POWs, while Esty Estabrooks was across the country working on his hypnotic messenger.

I guess what’s really throwing me off right now are the two letters.

What two letters?

Around the time that Esty submitted his hypnotic messenger proposal to Morse Allen, someone who sounded a lot like St. Clair Switzer wrote two letters to a colleague of his, Griffith Wynne Williams, who was a renowned hypnosis expert and professor of psychology at Rutgers University. (Here’s a link to the December 6, 1956 letter. Here’s a link to the February 8, 1957 letter.) Williams and Switzer both studied under Clark Hull at the University of Wisconsin. Their time with him overlapped when Williams was pursuing his doctorate degree and Switzer was working on his master’s. The letters are congenial, if a little on the obsequious side, and they’re filled with extremely specific questions on hypnosis that quickly enter into the realm of the disturbing. 

The letter writer appears to be working with another researcher on a project of great importance. He makes it clear that the subject is “very highly classified” (December 6, 1956) and “sensitive” (February 8, 1957) and instructs Williams to destroy both letters immediately after he’s read them. Thankfully, we know for sure that Williams is the recipient even though his name is redacted because the CIA staffer with the black pen accidentally forgot to redact the word “Rutgers” (December 6, 1956) and he or she also allowed the word “arthritis” (February 8, 1957), which Williams was burdened with for much of his life, to remain exposed. I love when that happens.

So here’s where the letters are throwing me: in some ways they might support a collaboration between Switzer and Estabrooks, while at other times, they might be more indicative of a collaboration between Switzer and Jolly West, or someone else of his stature.

Do the letters pertain to Estabrooks’ research…

The letters are written around the time of Esty’s proposal, with the second letter being written just two days after the proposal was written. So that might lead us to presume that they were related to a collaboration between Esty and Switzer. 

Also, the letters indicate that the two secretive researchers had visited with Williams in person, once in his office, though they suggested a less visible place for their second meeting, such as the local hotel. It would be a lot easier for them to make a 4-hour drive from upstate New York to New Brunswick, N.J. than if they were traveling from Oklahoma. Of course, I’m sure the CIA could afford the plane fare, but I’m inclined to think that their interest in having multiple in-person meetings instead of talking by phone makes it sound as if it was relatively easy for them to do so. 

Or do they pertain to a researcher of higher stature, such as Jolly West?

At first, the questions that the letter writer asks in the December 1956 letter could be considered relevant to the development of a hypnotic messenger—such as the ones having to do with the production of amnesia (#1), concealed induction methods (#2), and problems with post-hypnotic control (#5). But the other questions go way beyond the scope of a hypnotic messenger, including the series of questions that are focused upon the hypnotizing of large groups of people through various means, such as TV broadcasts, speaking techniques, lighting, stage effects, and so on.

In addition, the letter writer appears open to any guidance that Williams could provide in 12 areas. But in the second edition of Esty’s book, which came out after the December letter was written, he said that the carotid artery technique (he calls it a “neck nerve”) is being done with jujitsu, and has nothing to do with a hypnotic trance, and that of course people can be hypnotized to do something that goes against their beliefs. Therefore, if it was Esty’s project, I can’t see him even asking questions #10 and #12.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier, the letter writer makes a very big deal of the fact that this is a secret project. He even uses the term “very highly classified.” Did you read what the guys in the CIA had to say about Estabrooks behind his back? Plus, you also know what a chatterbox this guy was. I’m just asking: Would those guys have given George Estabrooks a Secret or Top Secret classification? 

They had no problem designating the Top Secret classification to Louis Jolyon West, however.

******

P.S. I’d like to share one additional piece of evidence that St. Clair Switzer wrote the letters to Griffith Williams. You can find most of my reasoning in this blog post, and I’ll let those reasons stand as-is. 

However, one thing I mentioned in that post is the letter writer’s use of the term “Ph.D. thesis” in his December 6, 1956, letter. For most of us who don’t have a Ph.D., we think of a “master’s thesis” and a “doctoral dissertation,” and those terms are absolutely correct. But for some odd reason, some academics with doctoral degrees, not all of them, but some, will refer to a Ph.D. thesis. I don’t know why they do it, but they do.

Here’s a piece of evidence that St. Clair Switzer did it too.

In a letter he wrote to psychologist Ernest (Jack) Hilgard, St. Clair Switzer refers to his dissertation as a thesis. (See page 2, second paragraph.)

Ron Tammen had two missing person file numbers

One was assigned in 1953; the other was assigned in 1973

There’s something incredibly embarrassing about blogging investigative research in real time, and that incredibly embarrassing something is this: with each new discovery, my earlier hypotheses will continue to be accessible to all until the internet ceases to be. And that means that all my mistakes, oversights, and rushes to judgment are posted in full-frontal view and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

Today I’d like to talk about Ron Tammen’s missing person number…or, rather, his missing person numbers…as in with an ‘s’…as in very, very plural.

I honestly cannot believe I missed this earlier.

Because I have a couple other deadlines to worry about, I need to write this up fast. Let’s do it as a quick Q&A:

Wow! Are you sure?

Pretty darned sure—sure enough to sit down and write this blog post when, as I said, I have some other stuff I need to get to tonight.

Remind us: which one is Ron’s missing person number…or numbers?

As you may recall, all FBI files begin with a classification number, from 1 to 281, and all missing person cases begin with the number 79. And the 79 number that’s written all over Ron’s FBI documents is 79-31966. That’s the one I’ve been reporting since Day 1.

Recently, I was going over his FBI documents again and I was focusing on the report written by the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Cleveland field office after receiving a phone call from Marjorie Tammen. At the top of page 1, written in small, neat penmanship,  under the words “ATT: IDENTIFICATION DIVISION” is this:

MP# 17699

Posted

6-2-53 Jh

Although I’m not 100 percent sure of the last two letters—I think they’re “Jh”—the number is unmistakable. The 79 has been left off—because why not? All missing person numbers begin with 79. The most important part of the number is 17699.

The top of the first page of the report from the Cleveland field office to the Identification Division with Ron’s first missing person number. Click on image for the full two-page report.

Are you sure that wasn’t the missing person number that Cleveland had assigned to him?

You’re correct that field offices would assign their own case numbers, but no, it’s not theirs. I know this because at the top of the memo in parentheses after the words “SAC, Cleveland” is the number 79-0-615 B. In Cleveland, they’d placed Ron’s file in their 0 file, which means that it was placed in the front of the missing person cases because it was a stand-alone report. There was nothing else available on Ron to warrant creating its own folder. Therefore, in Cleveland, Ron’s report was the 615th report in their missing person 0 file. (The “B” probably represents a subcategory of some sort.)

On June 2, 1953, when the FBI’s Identification Division received the report, they listed his case as MP# 17699— obviously, undoubtedly, and most assuredly under classification 79.

Your headline says that one missing person number was assigned in 1953 and the other was assigned in 1973. How did you figure that out?

Remember my July 4, 2022, post where I told you about a box of FBI missing person records that are now housed in the National Archives? I’d submitted a public records request to view those records as soon as they became available. Recently, they wrote to me with the names, dates, and case numbers of the people who are in that file, along with an estimate of the time it would take (they’re still processing orders from February 2014!) and dollars it would cost me ($760!) in order to view them all.

It’s a smattering of missing persons cases, comparatively. In the 1993 book “Unlocking the Files of the FBI,” by Gerald K. Haines and David A. Langbart, the authors stated that the FBI had on its books roughly 20,000 missing person cases in 1980. The number of case files in this box is 87, which is 0.4 percent of the total. None of the people we’ve come to know are in the box: no Ron, no Richard Cox, and not the two people I spoke of in my July 4 post—Charles McCullar, a 19-year-old man who disappeared in January 1975, or Dennis Martin, age 6, who disappeared in June 1969.

However, I started noticing how Ron’s, and Richard’s, and Charles’, and Dennis’ case numbers fit in with the rest of the people listed there. And the numbering system seems kind of chronological. 

Oh, that’s good. 

Yeah, well, hold on—it’s not perfect. God forbid that a numbering system should ever be perfectly chronological. But you can see patterns regarding when they assigned people’s numbers, including Ron’s two numbers. And I think it gives us a clue as to why they gave him the second number.

What sorts of patterns?

Included below is the table that NARA sent to me with the names of the people I plan to seek records on highlighted in yellow.

Click on image for a better view.
Click on image for a better view.

As you can see, the case numbers are listed in numerical order, and they’re also generally listed in chronological order. That means that the lower numbers are generally indicative of the older cases, which began in the 1930s (John Kallapure’s case is likely a typo and should probably read 12/36 instead of 12/16) and the higher numbers are of the more recent cases, which end in 1980.  But there are distinct outliers, like Willie McNeal Love and Edward Theodore Myers.

When we insert the case numbers of our four missing persons into the table, here’s what happens:

Ronald Tammen #1: 79-17699

Missing 4/19/53; posted 6/2/53

Ron’s number 79-17699 is a little out of chronological order with his neighbors, and it’s weird that his number precedes those of people who went missing in the late 1940s and early 50s, including Richard Cox. Nevertheless, he’s still relatively in the ballpark of the year in which he disappeared.


Ronald Tammen #2: 79-31966

Date of Cincinnati report seeking comparison of Ron’s fingerprints: 5/9/73

Ron’s missing person number that’s written all over his FBI documents is 79-31966. This number appears where you’d predict him to be in the FBI’s ordering system, between Don L. Ray, who went missing in 12/72, and Ronnie D. York, who disappeared in 1/75. Ron’s number is only 7 digits higher than Mr. Ray’s, so it’s logical to conclude that he received it in 1973. Furthermore, it’s written on documents that are dated May 1973, shortly after the Cincinnati field office had sent a man’s fingerprints to FBI Headquarters to compare them to Tammen’s prints.

Richard Cox: 79-23729

Missing 1/14/50; posted 2/8/50

Richard Cox’s number 70-23729 is in the spot you’d expect him to be, between William H. Doyle, who went missing in 2/49, and George E. Robinson, who went missing in 12/50.

Dennis Martin: 79-31142

Missing 6/14/69

Dennis Martin’s missing person number is slightly out of order, between Melanie Ray, who went missing in 7/69, and Rosemary Calandriello, who went missing in 8/69. But it’s very close, and the discrepancy probably has to do with when his missing person notice was posted in comparison to the two women’s notices. Because there is so much written on Martin, I’m unable to tell when his number was officially assigned.

Charles McCullar: 79-32359

Missing 1/30/75; date in which the FBI was contacted 3/25/76

Although Charles McCullar disappeared in January of 1975, the FBI was first contacted regarding his disappearance on March 25, 1976. For this reason, his missing person number is exactly where you’d expect it to be—between Linda L. Dow, who went missing in 3/76, and Richard W. Miller, who went missing in 5/76.

What do you think this means?

Honestly? I think that sometime between June 2, 1953, and May 9, 1973, Ron’s original missing person number, number 79-17699, was retired. When the Cincinnati field office sent in the fingerprints of the man from Welco Industries, asking the Identification Division to compare them to Tammen’s, I think the folks in Ident were a little stymied. 

Here’s my imagined reenactment:

Employee #1: Um, Cincinnati is asking us to compare these fingerprints to a college guy from Ohio who’s supposedly still missing. But I’m not finding his missing person number filed anywhere. It’s like…gone or something.

Employee #2: That’s really weird. What do you think we should do?

Emp #1: Can we give him a new missing person number?

Emp #2: Brilliant! 

And so, sometime in the vicinity of May 22, 1973, I believe the FBI assigned Ron Tammen his new number, 79-31966. As we all know, shortly thereafter, on June 5, 1973, there was a lot more activity in Ron’s missing person case, as his documents were “Removed from Ident files.” After that, however, all activity on his missing person case ended.

Is there anything else we can learn from this?

I think this helps explain why the number 79-31966 is written in the same exact handwriting on all of Ron’s documents, even the earlier ones. I think the person who wrote “Removed from Ident files” also wrote his new missing person number on those documents in 1973.

It could also explain why the Cincinnati field office used Ron’s Selective Service violation case number (25-381754) to identify him as opposed to his missing person number, even though his Selective Service case had been canceled in 1955. I don’t think they could find Ron’s missing person number.

Oh, and this: I guess by now you know that I don’t think Ron was still considered missing by the FBI in 1973. What this new information tells me is that I think at least some individuals at the Bureau had indeed figured it out before the Cincinnati field office had sent in the Welco employee’s fingerprints. And I also think there’s a good chance that J. Edgar Hoover, who died in 1972, knew a lot more about Ron’s case when he was at the helm, even as he continued exchanging letters with Ron’s tortured mother and father. Granted, it’s just a theory.

Here’s the link to Ron’s FBI FOIA documents if you’d like to examine my theory further.

In honor of July 4th, some additional musings on FOIA and Ron’s missing person documents

It’s the fourth of July, and hoo boy, looks like I’m another year older. How old is that, you ask? Let’s just say that I can now relate to that song by the Beatles where Paul McCartney sings about reaching this impossibly far-off age and he wonders if his significant other will still need him and feed him while she’s knitting his sweaters and he’s weeding the garden. [Note to readers: I never do the former and rarely the latter. Besides, this Beatles tune is more up my alley.]

Do you know who else’s birthday it is? The Freedom of Information Act. FOIA was signed into law on July 4, 1966, so it’s a sprightly 56. Comparatively speaking, FOIA is the Shania Twain to my Gloria Estefan, the Ben Stiller to my Alec Baldwin, the Benzino to my Ice-T. 

In celebration, I’d like to discuss a few of the discoveries I’ve made recently about Ron’s missing person documents thanks to other people’s FOIA requests. Because that’s one of the coolest things about FOIA—the information one person obtains can benefit lots of people in numerous unforeseeable ways.

Of course, because it’s my birthday, I’ll be writing in my favorite format—Q&A. Let’s go!

Have you learned anything more about the Missing Person File Room?

You’re referring to the stamp on a few of Ron’s documents that said “Return to Ident Missing Person File Room”? Yes—yes, I have.

Care to tell us?

As you know, the room number they’d specified was 1126. Although they didn’t say which building, I recently reported that room 1126 was on the first floor of the Identification Building, which was located at Second and D Streets SW, in DC. In that same post, I also attempted to make the case that the Ident Missing Person File Room was probably overseen by the Files and Communications Division, which was responsible for managing most of the FBI’s files and had occupied much of the first floor of the Ident Building.

Thanks to a FOIA request on another missing person case submitted by The Black Vault’s John Greenewald, Jr., I now know more about the Ident Missing Person File Room. The case concerned Charles McCullar, a 19-year-old Virginia man who was reported missing in February 1975 after he was expected home from a hiking trip to Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park. When you look through Mr. McCullar’s missing person documents, you’ll see that several of those documents were also maintained in the Ident Missing Person File Room. But his documents weren’t in the Identification Building. Rather, they were held in a room in the J. Edgar Hoover Building after that building was completed in 1975. (Sadly, McCullar’s remains were later discovered near Bybee Creek, inside the park, and it was determined that the probable cause of death was exposure to the elements.)

Do you know where in the J. Edgar Hoover Building the Missing Person File Room was located?

The writing on the stamps is extremely difficult to read, but yes, I do believe I’ve figured it out. Here are four stamps that are on Mr. McCullar’s documents. 

Click on image for a closer view

Images 1 and 4 are clearest and the numbers look the most similar. Image 2 is practically useless. Nevertheless I compared them all in making the following assessment:

  • Let’s start with the easiest part. The letters JEH, the FBI’s abbreviation for the J. Edgar Hoover building, are clearly present at the end, as you can see in images 1, 3, and 4. 
  • Also, there appear to be four numbers preceding the letters, which eliminates floors 10 and 11, because the room numbers on those floors had five digits. 
  • As for the actual numbers, let’s begin with the second number, which appears to be 9 (images 1 and 4). 
  • The third number looks like a 6 (image 4, possibly 1). 
  • The fourth number seems to be 1 (hard slash in images 1, 3, and 4). 
  • And if you look closely at image 4, the first and second numbers appear to be the same and in parallel, written at a severe slant. Therefore, I think the first number is also a 9. 

My conclusion: after 1975, I believe the room number for the Ident Missing Person File Room was Room 9961 JEH Building.

Now that you know where the Ident Missing Person File Room was after 1975, is it possible to learn why some missing person files were kept there but not others? 

I’ve been doing a couple things to get to that answer. First, through FOIA, I’ve been attempting to obtain a list of all the files that were maintained in that room. I’d started by asking the FBI for an inventory that would have been created prior to the move into the JEH Building, but they told me that my request wasn’t searchable in their indices. I then submitted a request for an inventory of that room that was developed by someone in the Inspection Division during one of its annual inspections. If I’m told that that request is also unsearchable, I’ll be requesting all inspection reports for the Identification Division as well as the Files and Communications Division for the years 1970 through 1980. They won’t be able to wriggle out of that one, since the whole purpose of the Inspection Division was to conduct annual inspections of all FBI divisions and field offices to make sure things were up to snuff. Also, according to the Department of Justice, inspection reports are considered public information. I highly doubt that there will be complete listings of every file in those reports, but there could be more information to help me figure out my next FOIA request.

I’m also attempting to determine the room’s purpose by learning more about the people who were stationed there. In the 1975 telephone directory, I found three staff members—all women, all affiliated with the Identification Division—who occupied Room 9961 that year. Two had generic names, which makes them tough to trace. The third person had a distinctive name, so I was able to learn more about her life and career, and also that, sadly, she’d passed away at a young age in 2002. I’ve submitted a FOIA request for her personnel records to see if I can determine which section of the Identification Division she was part of.

If the Ident Missing Person File Room is part of the Identification Division, is it possible that all missing person files were kept in that room?

To the best of my knowledge, the answer is no. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, a credible source who used to work in the Records Management Division told me that missing person documents were generally housed in the Central Records System, aka the main files, under classification number 79. Also, the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin stated that, if the Identification Division happened to have the missing person’s fingerprints on file, as they did in Ron’s case, that person’s documents would be maintained in their fingerprint jacket. This is supported by the following stamp on Ron’s documents:

In addition, in my experience, the Ident Missing Person File Room stamp on someone’s missing person documents is a rare find. So far, I’ve only found it on missing person documents for two people: Ron Tammen and Charles McCullar. I haven’t even found it on Richard Cox’s missing person documents. 

Lastly, documents from another missing person case—again, released because of someone else’s FOIA request—helps prove this point. The child’s name was Dennis Martin, a 6-year-old who’d disappeared in 1969 while on a camping trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with his family. None of his documents had the Ident Missing Person File Room stamp on them. (The case is so tragic, it’s hard to read through them. What a nightmare.)

Furthermore, I’ve noticed that the documents that tended to have the stamp on them in Tammen’s and McCullar’s cases involved letters from the FBI director (for both men) or a concerned member of Congress (for McCullar). But the stamp is not on those types of letters in Dennis Martin’s case file.

Interesting. As I was looking at Dennis Martin’s and Charles McCullar’s documents, I noticed the “Referred to Records Branch” stamp on some of them, just like the one on Ron’s documents. Were you able to learn anything about that stamp?

That stamp is confusing on so many levels. A large area of confusion for me is how it seems to provide a choice of destinations within the Records Branch—as if the staffer is supposed to check either the “Main File” or “79-1.” But if a missing person file is placed in the main files, it is filed under classification 79. There is no either/or—they’re one and the same. (By the way, if you’re wondering what the “-1” signifies after the 79, that’s the first file after the “zero” files, which are always at the front of each classification. You may recall from earlier posts that a “0” file includes random reports on people or subjects that don’t yet have enough information for their own file, while a “00” file includes bureau communications about protocol.)

I’ve compared how that stamp was marked for Tammen’s vs. McCullar’s vs. Martin’s files. For Tammen, they consistently checked the blank next to “Main File.” For McCullar, they consistently wrote the number 79 in the blank next to “Main File.” And for Martin, they mixed it up—sometimes checking 79-1, but usually checking “Main File.” 

Stamp on Ron Tammen’s document
Stamp on Charles McCullar’s document
Stamp on one of Dennis Martin’s documents
Stamp on another of Dennis Martin’s documents

I honestly don’t know what it means. I’ve tried asking two people who would know the answer for a confidential conversation about the meaning of this stamp as well as the Ident Missing Person File Room stamp. Neither have responded.

In my blog post on The Ident Files, I speculated that the “Referred to Records Branch” stamp was primarily linked to the documents in Ron’s fingerprint jacket. In other words, I thought that the documents that were “Removed from Ident files” were the same ones that had been removed from his fingerprint jacket and then handed over to the Records Branch. The monkey wrench in this theory is that I don’t believe Charles McCullar or Dennis Martin had fingerprints on file. Why were their missing person documents being referred to the Records Branch, when I’d think that they would have been there all along? I welcome any and all hypotheses to this conundrum. 

I’ll ponder on that and get back to you.

OK. 👍

In the meantime, it seems as though the documents that were held in the Ident Missing Person File Room were super tame. Why would they need their own special file room?

This is the part where I get to hypothesize my head off with very little back-up data. We know that there was at least one Tammen document that had been in room 1126 Ident that I never received through my FOIA request: a photo had been added to his file on 6-5-73, the same day that documents were “Removed from Ident files.” I don’t believe that we’re seeing everything that had been filed in the Ident Missing Person File Room.

In a recent post, I suggested that the Missing Person File Room may have been a storage place for any unsolicited tips that might have come in on various missing person cases and I also said that some of those unsolicited tips might have been of the steamy or illicit variety. So isn’t it interesting that the two people who did have a file in the Ident Missing Person File Room were adult men, whom I’d think could have generated a phone call or two, whether credible or not, while the one who didn’t have a file in that room was a 6-year-old child? As I said, I think the more interesting reading is likely long gone.

Are there other missing person files you can compare these with to get more answers?

Yes! Thanks to information obtained from a FOIA request submitted by GovernmentAttic.org, I will soon have access to a box of missing person files from the years 1947 through 1980, the year when the FBI turned over its missing person activities to the National Crime Information Center. The files are now housed in the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD. They’ve added me to their queue, and will let me know when I can drive out to visit them. The size of the box is too small to be complete, but I wonder if Ron Tammen’s and Richard Cox’s files are in there. Anyway, I can’t wait. 

Click on image for a closer view

Any additional updates?

Just that I have a second mediation meeting coming up on July 5 concerning several remaining unposted recordings that I’ve requested from Miami University’s Oral History Project. As opposed to the last time, in which I tried to cram in about ten pages’ worth of talking points into an hour-long phone call, I have one talking point that I plan to repeat over and over. We’ll see how it goes. 

Happy fourth, y’all. Be safe out there, and that includes wearing earplugs if you’re close to the noise.

P.S. Just saw this on Twitter and had to post. Looks like I’m in good company.

I now know for sure where room 1126 was…

…and the answer has been on page 1 of Ron’s FOIA docs this whole entire time

One of the ongoing questions of my search for what happened to Ron Tammen has been the location of the “Ident Missing Person File Room”—the string of words that had been stamped on some, though not all, of Ron’s missing person documents. We’ve known that the Ident Missing Person File Room was in room 1126 of some building, ostensibly in the Washington, D.C. region, though we didn’t know which building.

For months, I’ve been expending some serious brainpower—and not just my brainpower, but yours too—trying to come up with ways that I might discover the location of room 1126. Thanks to your creative suggestions, I’ve submitted Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA) requests seeking phone directories, floor plans, key receipts, custodial routes, maintenance requests, installation orders, you name it, for some of the more likely contenders. You may recall reading blog posts in which I advanced hypotheses for the location of room 1126—first, inside the J. Edgar Hoover Building, and, on second thought, the Department of Justice Building

Why would I do all of that? Because I believe room 1126 is significant to Ron’s story.

But lately, I’ve grown weary of FOIA. So much back-and-forthing with the FBI has thrown buckets of water on my inner fire. They always have the final word, and that word (or words) has been: “unable to identify records that are responsive to your request.” So I thought I’d switch up my game a little. I decided to Google what’s already out there—but not your typical, run-of-the-mill Googling. I mean level-10 Googling. I mean cracking open “Google Books” and diving into the decades-old, government-produced publications that various librarians of sundry institutions have taken the time to copy, cover to cover. And let me tell you…what’s already out there has been illuminating. If you want to get an authentic picture of how things worked back in the day of J. Edgar Hoover, it’s best to consult what the key players had written or said, preferably under oath.

Before we address what makes room 1126 so special, let’s talk about the FBI’s filing system. Honestly, from everything I’ve read, it hasn’t changed that much since Hoover ran the place. OK, yeah, sure, computers. But the overall organization of the files and the related vocabulary are the same today as when Edgar discussed them with his associates and underlings. (Did you know that that’s what he called himself informally? I feel like such an idiot, but I’ve thought of him as J. Edgar for so long that I never knew that his friends called him Edgar.) 

For the most part, Edgar Hoover believed in filing everything together. In most cases, every single file representing every single investigation has been lumped together into one ginormous records system, which is referred to as the Central Records System. In Edgar’s idealistic world, everyone’s records should be treated the exact same way—whether you’re a habitual law breaker or a squeaky clean job applicant in need of a routine background check. Then as now, they commonly refer to these files as the “main files,” or the “main bureau files.”

What divides them are the classification numbers that precede every FBI case number. Missing person cases start with the number 79. Crime on the high seas begins with 45; fraud against the government is 46; and impersonation, 47.  If you had the number 53 in front of your case file, you were being investigated for “excess profits on wool,” which I guess was a problem around World War I, but they don’t use that one anymore. But, as mentioned earlier, it’s not all kidnappings (7), extortion (9), and counterfeiting (55). There are respectable classifications too—like 66 (administrative matters), 67 (personnel matters), and 240 (FBI training). As of this writing, there are 281 classifications in all, which you can peruse here.

To help FBI staff locate files, they created indexes, 3” X 5” cards arranged alphabetically by subject on which pertinent case numbers were written. Let’s say you worked in the Files and Communications Division and you were asked to name check someone. You’d look up that person’s name on a card in the general index, and there, on that card, would be numbers of relevant case files to check. It gets way more complicated, with multiple indexes and cross-references, but for our purposes, the indexes helped FBI staff find pertinent case files on a given subject.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What about fingerprints?”

Fingerprint files are maintained separately from the Central Records System, as are records that are entered into the National Crime Information Center. These resources were formerly housed within the Identification Division, now the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, and are accessible to law enforcement agencies around the country. The Central Records System, on the other hand, is only accessible to FBI staff and, at least before computers, primarily staff in the Files and Communications Division, who would provide the files to other FBI staffers on a short-term loan basis.

What I’m getting at is that, under the normal system, missing person cases were filed along with everything else in the main files. If the FBI was fortunate enough to have a missing person’s fingerprints, as they did in Ron’s case, that person’s records would be filed in their fingerprint jacket in the Identification Division. And even though fingerprint jackets were maintained separately from the Central Records System, I’m guessing that the folks in Files and Communications would at least have an index card with the missing person’s name on it to help them find those records too if need be. But that’s just a guess.

What wasn’t a normal part of the FBI’s recordkeeping system was putting some of the missing person files in a special room: #1126. That was unusual. 

At this point, let’s switch over to my favorite format, Q&A. Who wants to start us off?

Where was room #1126?

Haha…OK, I suppose I deserve that. 

Room 1126 was in…

…wait for it…

…the Identification Building, which still stands at 2nd and D Streets SW, and is currently known as the Ford House Office Building. (Some very cool photos can be found on this web page:https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/ford-house-office-building-washington-dc/.)

The Identification Building—which was nicknamed the Ident Building—is so named because the enormous Identification Division was located there for many years. But other divisions were located there too, namely the Files and Communications Division, and later, once the FBI was computerized, the Computer Systems Division.

Why do you think the FBI would have needed a Missing Person File Room apart from the main files?

My guess? Secrecy. When Hoover was the FBI director, he and his leadership team felt the need to keep sensitive documents locked away in cabinets and special rooms, so that only a select few people would know about them or see them. I have a theory on why they might have done that for missing persons in particular, which I’ll explain a little later.

I’d heard that Hoover had kept secret files in his office. Did his associate directors and assistant directors have secret files too?

The short answer is yes. 

Not long after Hoover died on May 2, 1972, the public learned about files that he kept in his office area, which was a suite consisting of nine rooms on the fifth floor of the Department of Justice building. According to Helen Gandy, Hoover’s loyal secretary for over 50 years, there were several types of files housed there:

  • Hoover’s personal files, which were described as personal correspondence between Hoover and people in his sphere, many famous and politically powerful. (At Hoover’s instruction, Gandy destroyed all of the personal files shortly after Hoover died.)
  • Estate files, which had to do with Hoover’s house, taxes, etc.
  • Hoover’s “Official and Confidential” files, which had been widely publicized in the media and were considered extremely sensitive on a range of topics. 
  • A category that Gandy only referred to as “special,” which were also highly confidential, and kept under “lock and key.” 

Mark Felt, who is famously known as the anonymous source Deep Throat during Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting of Watergate, was responsible for taking over the Official and Confidential (OC) files after Hoover’s death. Felt oversaw the inventorying of those files, but they remained in his office until he retired in 1973. They were later placed in the Special File Room, a room set aside by the bureau for confidential files. (If you want to read Hoover’s OC files, you can do so here.)

In 1975, Felt told a subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations that it wasn’t just Hoover who was withholding sensitive documents. The division directors were too. Shortly before Hoover’s death, Felt had been tasked with consolidating the sensitive division files in his office. He obtained about two file cabinets’ worth, which he promptly locked up.

John P. Mohr, who oversaw the FBI’s Administrative Division and several others, said this to the subcommittee about his own secret files: “They were files that I maintained that were not in the record of the Bureau’s files, which were contacts that I had. If you are a smart investigator, and you should be one if you are going to be in this business, you should have your own sources and keep them to yourself.”

What kinds of documents did FBI officials treat as confidential?

Oh, gosh, you name it. The Special File Room held a hodge podge of records on hot-button subjects of the day. They were all indexed, so still officially part of the Central Records System. The point was to restrict access to a limited few, and out of eye shot from most everyone else, especially the majority of Files and Communications staffers.

Included were files containing graphically violent photos, national defense secrets, informants’ names, stuff on Castro, stuff on Cosa Nostra, cases affecting an FBI employee’s family, and more. Of course, if someone important was rumored to be gay, that would have made the cut. The Special File Room wasn’t especially spacious so it was considered only temporary housing for a file, though admittedly “temporary” could mean years. Division heads were periodically asked to review the files they were maintaining there and to let Files and Communications staff know when a file had lost some of its radioactivity (so to speak) so they could be returned to the main files. Speaking of radioactivity, files related to the Atomic Energy Commission were included there as well.

Back to the Missing Person File Room, why would a bunch of missing person files be kept secret? 

I think I know. In the mid-1970s, Americans were learning that the FBI as a general practice held onto just about everything that anyone mailed or called in on someone—usually derogatory, rarely complimentary—even if the tipster was anonymous. (This helps explain why the Cincinnati Field Office responded to that anonymous call in 1973 to check out the employee at Welco Industries.) During another 1975 hearing (the 94th Congress was busy), members of the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights voiced their displeasure over this practice. They were particularly concerned about information being held on members of Congress, however, it was emphasized that legislators are treated no differently than any other citizen. 

Here’s an exchange between M. Caldwell Butler, of Virginia, and then-FBI Director Clarence Kelley concerning a made-up person named John Jones:

Mr. Butler: “Let us just take John Jones and somebody says to the Bureau there is a guy named John Jones in Boston who is nuts. What do you do with that? Can you not just throw it away, or do you have to really put it in the miscellaneous file, index it and keep it there, and then go through the purging procedure later, or does the guy lose his job if he does not file it?”

Mr. Kelley: “I am confident again that some of it is not put in the file. But the general instruction is that it does go into the file, it having been reported to us by a citizen, and in the orderly conduct of our business we are to take information which is unsolicited and comes to us.”

So let’s ponder on that for a second. Whenever someone—anyone—went missing, even if the FBI wasn’t conducting an investigation, which is the norm for most missing persons cases, they were probably receiving a lot of unsolicited letters and phone calls from acquaintances of that person, be they friend or foe. These wouldn’t be the “he was such a nice guy” sort of call. They’d be juicier, perhaps scandalous—something that might help explain why such a nice, quiet person up and vanished. Kelley admitted that that’s the sort of information the FBI would gladly accept and file. And with as much publicity as missing person cases receive, I’d imagine that if any of the classifications had a need for their very own special file room, classification 79 would. 

Why do you think room 1126 is in the Ident Building?

I was still leaning heavily toward the DOJ Building, when things began to fit much better for the Ident Building. Here’s what led me to my conclusion.

The Department of Justice Building Map doesn’t fit.

I managed to find several telephone directories for the Department of Justice during that general time period, which included a map of the DOJ building’s layout. (Thanks again, Google Books!) I then developed a chart of room numbers on the first floor where Special Investigative Division staff were located in 1975, before they moved into the FBI Building. Although they were located in almost every corridor, no one had an office in the 1100 corridor, which was still occupied by DOJ administrative staff.  Therefore, even if there was a room 1126 in that corridor (which I still haven’t confirmed), a DOJ administrator would’ve had to be responsible for the missing person files, which is highly unlikely. That isn’t how the FBI operated.

Files and Communications were responsible for all files, even the special ones.

The Files and Communications Division had a lot of say regarding management of the bureau’s files. If a division wanted to house a sensitive file in the Justice Building for accessibility, they needed to alert Files and Communications first, and it was signed out on a short-term basis, usually with the file kept in a supervisor’s office. Although we learned from Mark Felt that divisions had their own stash of special files, they would’ve been in a locked file drawer, not occupying an entire room. Also, they wouldn’t have had their own stamp declaring it the “Ident Missing Person File Room.”

The Files and Communications Division occupied much of the first floor of the Identification Building.

To reiterate, all bureau files—including those in the Special File Room—were the responsibility of the Files and Communications Division, which occupied several floors of the Identification Building, including the first floor. From 1961 to 1972, the Special File Room was located in room 1315 Ident, and the supervisor in charge of the Special File Room was located in room 1113 Ident. The Special File Room was later moved to the third floor of the Ident Building before everyone moved to the J. Edgar Hoover Building. 

The numbering fits.

Room numbers in the Identification Building were in four digits, with the first digit indicating the floor number. Therefore, room number 1126 fits the scheme for a first-floor room. Also, I compared office numbers listed in the 1975 telephone directory, and a number of them correspond to one another by floor. For example, there were offices in rooms 3129, 5129, and 6129. Even though no one had an office number 1126—why would they if it was full of missing person files?—someone did have an office in room 3126, two floors up. We also know that the health center was in room 1121, which would have been a few doors down from 1126.

‘Ident’ is used two ways.

This was perhaps a big source of my confusion. Sometimes “Ident” refers to the Identification Building. And sometimes it refers to the Identification Division. When they wrote “Removed from Ident files” on Ron’s missing person documents, they were talking about the division.

Likewise, the “Ident” in front of “Missing Person File Room” on the stamp was likely referring to the division, although it could have been referring to the building. Either interpretation works.

But are you ready for the clincher? On the first page of the May 26, 1953, report summarizing Mrs. Tammen’s phone call, off to the right of Ron’s identifying features, are the words “Copy of photo filed in 1126 Ident.” Below that is the date 6-5-73. And below that are the initials MSL. They did the customary thing and put the room number in front of the name of the building—1126 Ident. They told us which building. They’d been telling us all along.

And you guys? Now that we know the exact location of the Ident Missing Person File Room, suddenly I’m in the mood to submit a few more FOIAs. Funny how that happens.

You guys. The ‘Ident Missing Person File Room’ wasn’t in the Hoover Bldg after all. And wait till you find out who I think was overseeing it.

Department of Justice Building

You know how it feels when you’re working on a jigsaw puzzle and a puzzle piece doesn’t fit quite right? It looks like it should fit. It seems as if it has all the right edges. But when you try to insert one piece’s knobby end into the corresponding cut-out area of another piece, you discover that you have to use too much force jamming it in. That’s how I felt about my hypothesis from January 21 on the location of the Ident Missing Person File Room—room #1126 in an unnamed building. Lots of details seemed to fit the J. Edgar Hoover Building, but I’ll admit that other details required a little too much, um, creative-thinking, shall we say? Case in point: when I proposed that the Identification Division had assigned a number to the Missing Person File Room that was based on the future numbering system of a building that was still in the blueprint stage, well, that’s getting pretty creative. Also, if the room was going to be housed on the 11th floor with all of the muckety mucks in Identification, as I’d proposed in my hypothesis, it should have had five digits, not four. It should have been room #1126-something, like 11261 or 11265. You get the gist.

So, I admit it. I was wrong. I apologize for the confusion and I humbly beg your forgiveness. As I believe I’ve mentioned in past posts, I am a human being with all of the accompanying accoutrement and baggage.

I’m not going to bore you with the precise details of how I came upon the new hypothesis because, truth be told, I don’t think I could replicate the sequence of events. Let’s just say that I read through a bunch of documents, plus I spent more time looking through the 1975 FBI phone directories, then I Googled a bunch of stuff based on what I’d learned through said documents and phone directories. Coffee was involved as well.

Now, several days later, I think we’re getting really, REALLY close to knowing the truth behind the Ident Missing Person File Room, and why some of Ron’s missing person documents were housed there.

Here’s how we’re going to do this. Far be it from me to bury the lede, so I’m going to tell you very soon—in the very next paragraph, in fact—what I discovered. Then, I’ll try to address all of the questions that I can imagine swirling around in your collective brains.

Here’s what I discovered: Room 1126 was very likely a room on the first floor of the Department of Justice Building, a building that had housed more than two-fifths of the FBI before the J. Edgar Hoover Building was completed in 1975. The division that maintained room 1126, the Ident Missing Person File Room, was very likely…wait for it…the FBI’s Special Investigative Division.

And now, some Qs and As:

Really? Are you sure?

I’m pretty darn sure. But you may have noticed that I used the words “very likely” twice in the above paragraph. That’s because, although I haven’t yet found a document that directly links room 1126 to the Special Investigative Division, I’ve discovered lots and lots of connecting dots that link the two together.

Why do you think the Missing Person File Room was in the DOJ Building?

First, the numbering format of the building fits. The DOJ Building is seven stories high, and its numbering system is always in four digits. Rooms on the first floor all begin with the number one followed by three other numbers.

Second, although I wasn’t able to find documentation of room 1126 (yet), I was able to find documentation of room 1127, which, in February 1976, was the office number of someone by the last name of Newman. Unfortunately, this particular Newman doesn’t appear to be listed in the 1975 FBI phone directories, but that’s OK. I have more to say on Newman in a second.

Third, if you examine those phone directories, you’ll see the names and abbreviations of five buildings listed at the top of the first page. These are the buildings in which the thousands of FBI staff were stationed, and they were scattered around DC and in nearby Silver Spring, MD. You’ll see the initials JEH for the J. Edgar Hoover Building and IB for Identification Building. But there’s one building that isn’t listed at all, even though people were still working inside it. In those instances, a person’s name would be listed, along with a phone extension, and a room number, but no building would be specified. I later found this was the Department of Justice Building. Furthermore, with one exception, all of the offices that were on the first floor were located in the DOJ building. 

Page 1 of the July 1975 phone directory. Note the five buildings that are mentioned with their abbreviations at the top left. At the top right are the numbers representing the divisions, with the number “9” representing the Special Investigative Division. The heads of each of the divisions are listed above the letter “A.” To look at the entire July 1975 directory, click here.

Why didn’t they write the name of the DOJ Building in the staff directory?

 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I’m thinking maybe it was for security reasons. Or maybe, because it was the main administrative building for so many years, the office culture had been to just write the room number. The only time they’d need to name a building was if they were describing a different building. Just guessing though.

Two parter: How did you figure out that the missing building in the directories was the DOJ building, and how did you tie everything to the FBI’s Special Investigative Division?

Oh, this is when things got fun. Remember Newman in office 1127? Well, the documents I found on him or her looked mighty investigative in nature. In February 1976, he or she had requested a slew of files from the Records Management Division. The files that were requested could be subversive or nonsubversive; some were restricted to the DC metro region, and others not. 

One of many records requests filed by Newman in Feb. 1976

Then I looked at the 1975 phone directories again. Many of the individuals who were listed without a building were in the FBI’s Special Investigative Division. And most of those individuals also happened to be on the first floor.

That’s when I started Googling the Special Investigative Division like mad. One person, a guy by the name of Courtney Allen Evans, had been named to head the division when it was created in 1961. According to his personnel documents that I found on the FBI Vault site, in 1962, as Evans was starting his new position, he received some room keys. Evans retired in 1964, however, those room numbers correspond to several of the rooms that are listed in the 1975 phone directory for people who worked in the Special Investigative Division, including the man in charge, William V. Cleveland.

Lastly, the annual inspections of the Special Investigative Division for 1962 and 1964 said outright that all division space is located on the first floor of the Justice Building with the exception of some employees who were on the seventh floor.

Hence: the unnamed building in the phone directories was the DOJ Building, and, in 1975, the FBI’s Special Investigative Division occupied the first floor.

Did any of Courtney Evans’ room keys happen to be for room #1126?

Sadly, no. But documents show that Courtney also had a master key to the entire first floor, which he returned when he retired.

You said there was one exception to your discovery that all of the offices that possessed first-floor room numbers in the phone directories were located in the DOJ Building. What was the exception? 

The exception was in the Identification Building, which had one room listed on the first floor, #1121. That room was the health service for the Identification Division. Although I’m a big believer in health, I wish this office hadn’t existed because its room number is very close to the number 1126, which plants a small seed of doubt regarding my theory. Nevertheless, I think the preponderance of evidence supports the notion that 1126 was in the DOJ Building.

That’s very interesting, but I’m still thinking about the health clinic in the Identification Building. Why don’t you think room 1126 was somewhere nearby?

Two reasons: First, not one person with whom I’ve spoken who had worked in the Identification Building has ever heard of the Ident Missing Person File Room. Not a soul. And I spoke with people who, if there was such a thing on the first floor of the building in which they worked, they should have known about it.

Second, it wasn’t the protocol. Missing person documents were normally filed with the Records Management Division. The missing person file room was not part of the Identification Division’s day-to-day business of handling missing person cases.

Wow. If you’re right, this would help answer a lot of questions about the Missing Person File Room stamp on Ron’s documents, wouldn’t it?

Go on…I’m listening…

Well, there’s the question of why don’t they identify the building after the room number on the stamp? But if it’s the DOJ Building, they probably didn’t feel the need to add the name of the building, just like with the phone directories.

Awesome point.

Also, there’s the question of why does the word “Ident” precede the words “Missing Person File Room”? If the room was housed somewhere in the Identification Division, they shouldn’t have to specify Ident, should they?

You know, that’s another really good point. If we put ourselves in the shoes of someone who worked in the Special Investigative Division, they might have labeled their Missing Person File Room with the prefix “Ident” to reinforce the fact that the files originated with the Identification Division. The name may have been a shout-out to the fine folks in Identification, though the file room resided within the Special Investigative Division.

What’s so special about the Special Investigative Division?

Let’s start with some historical perspective: the Special Investigative Division didn’t exist until 1961, when Courtney Evans was named to the head post by J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover had decided to split his investigations team into two divisions—the General Investigative Division and the Special Investigative Division—as a tactical maneuver to help reduce friction between the FBI and Hoover’s two nemeses, President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Both Kennedys liked and trusted Evans, and Evans served as a liaison to both men.

The General Investigative Division covered all of the typical FBI cases: murders, kidnappings, bank robberies, and the like, as well as fraud, embezzlement, and civil rights cases. 

The Special Investigative Division, on the other hand, covered three main categories. The first was organized crime, which, according to a 1975 FBI brochure, was defined as “a lawless empire involved in gambling, loan sharking, narcotics, prostitution, labor-racketeering, extortion, and any other venture where easy money can be made.” Organized crime includes the mafia, but it can also include gangs and other organized groups. The Special Investigative Division also investigated fugitives—people who escaped arrest or incarceration. They were also the group who investigated Selective Service Act violations, aka draft dodgers.

Lastly, agents in the Special Investigative Division were the ones who were called upon to investigate individuals who were being considered for employment in high or sensitive government posts under the “Security of Government Employees program.” As the 1975 brochure states, “These investigations ensure that appropriate Government officials have the necessary information on which to judge whether a person chosen to serve the American public is deserving of the trust placed in him as a public servant.”  

I’m including a link to the publication from 1975 so you can read about both divisions in more detail plus anything else of interest.

So why do you think the Special Investigative Division would have had Ron’s missing person file?

Exactly. Why would the Special Investigative Division want to investigate Ron Tammen? 

I don’t believe Ron was linked in any way to organized crime, so let’s just toss that one out right now. We know all about the source of the fish in the bed, and so did the FBI. It wasn’t the mob. And there’s no indication that Ron was involved in any of the nefarious activities previously mentioned.

What about fugitive or Selective Service Act violation cases? We already know that Ron was investigated for draft dodging beginning in 1953. But that case was closed in 1955 by the U.S. Attorney in Cleveland, Ohio. (I’ve submitted a FOIA request to the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, by the way, to find out how typical that action was.) So with the Special Investigative Division starting in 1961, I highly doubt that they would have reopened Ron’s Selective Service case. No way.

Let’s see, let’s see…so what’s left? 

What about the very happy-sounding and not-at-all-worrisome program known as the “Security of Government Employees program”? When I looked up that program, a page popped up on the National Archives and Records Administration website that states that this investigative program (labeled Classification 140 in FBI parlance) was established by the FBI in 1953 as a way of enforcing Executive Order 10450, which was the executive order signed by President Eisenhower to root out and fire gay government employees. We’ve discussed the Lavender Scare on this site before, and how the FBI was descending on civil servants and subjecting them to intense interrogation about their personal lives. Well, now we know the people who were doing it: our friends in the Special Investigative Division.

Now, recall that, in 1953, the Special Investigative Division didn’t exist yet—they inherited the program later. But Ron’s documents were very likely passed along to them—for whatever reason—after they were established in 1961.

Do you think that’s why Ron’s documents were housed there—through the Security of Government Employees program?

It’s tough to say, since we don’t have the documents. But we do know that the FBI was investigating Ron’s case far more than they would a typical missing person case. I’ve often wondered where those interview reports landed, and my current belief is that many of them may have been stored in the Missing Person File Room.

Do you think the Missing Person File Room is still in the DOJ Building?

If I’m not mistaken, the Special Investigative Division moved out of DOJ later in 1976, and into their new digs at the J. Edgar Hoover Building. In September of that year, a group representing the General Counsel to the Public Documents Commission of the DOJ was occupying Newman’s old office.

So what’s next? What can you do to find out more?

I think this information opens up new territory for Freedom of Information Act requests. First off, I need a floorplan of the DOJ building, like, pronto. I’ve attempted this before and failed. But now I have more reason to push on that.

What do you all think? Can you think of some FOIA requests that are just begging to be submitted?

Any final thoughts?

Just one: We’ve been saying all along that Ron’s missing person case was special. Apparently the FBI’s Special Investigative Division thought so too.

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

3/12/2022

Update regarding my 2/23/22 blog post:

As you may recall, I’ve been trying to figure out if there was a room 1126 in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Building in the early 1970s. If I can prove that, then I think we can reasonably conclude that the Ident Missing Person File Room was under the supervision of the FBI’s Special Investigative Division.

To answer that question, I’ve been attempting to get my hands on the DOJ Building’s floor plan. But I’ve come to learn that the DOJ Building is considered one of the most secure buildings in the federal government. Translation: I won’t be getting a copy. I did manage to locate someone from the General Services Administration who has a copy of the original floor plan from the 1930s, and who was willing to tell me if there was a room 1126. Here’s what she said:

“Looking at the original (1930s) first floor plan for the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building at 950 Pennsylvania Ave NW, there does not appear to be a room 1126. It’s possible that the building was re-numbered between 1930 and 1970, however, the original plans do not contain that number.”

So that’s disappointing.

I then asked: “Did the original floor plan show a room 1127? That could help me determine if there could have been a renumbering afterward.”

Her response was: “No, I do not see a room 1127 either.”

So here’s my thinking: unless the staff member known as Newman was working out of a different building in 1976—and I don’t think he was—they must have renumbered the rooms sometime between 1935, when the DOJ Building was completed, and 1976, when Newman was making his records requests.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Jenny, Newman’s records requests didn’t include the building name—only the number 1127. Is it possible that Newman was working out of the Identification Building? Maybe the Special Investigative Division placed him there so he’d be closer to Records Management, which I seem to recall was also located in the Identification Building.”

Wow…you have an insanely good memory. But while anything is possible, I believe I have proof that that wasn’t the case.

First, although it might have been helpful to place Newman close to Records Management, here’s the snag in that theory: Records Management was part of the Files and Communications Division, and, in February 1976, they had already been occupying the fifth floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building for over a year. There would have been no reason for Newman to be in the Identification Building in 1976 as everyone else was moving out.

Also, there really, truly was (and perhaps still is) a room 1127 in the DOJ Building. I know this because I have two documents from September 1976 that tell us so.

The first is a letter dated September 15, 1976, from the deputy archivist of the United States to the General Counsel’s office of the Public Documents Commission, a commission created in 1974 to study “the control, disposition, and preservation of documents produced by federal officials, particularly the President.” It appears as though the commission took over Newman’s office shortly after he and his colleagues moved into the J. Edgar Hoover Building that same year.

The letter’s recipient, an attorney named Dori Dressander, passed away in 1999, I’m sorry to report. Otherwise, I would have definitely reached out to her to ask about the room next door and whether she had any good stories she could tell us about Newman. Some additional research on Ms. Dressander reveals that she was a respected legal scholar who had been working on a book on civil rights under the Eisenhower Administration at the time of her death. After she died, the landlord of her Washington, D.C. apartment sent all of her research papers–which were on loan to her and should have been part of Eisenhower’s Presidential Library — to the landfill, which is sadly ironic, considering her obvious belief in public access to historical records. (Note to self: revise will to donate Ron Tammen files to a millennial whom I like and trust.)

The second document is a write-up from the September 16, 1976, issue of the Federal Register that also lists room 1127, Department of Justice.

So, at least for now, our theory is holding up.

Mind you, there’s still a chance that room 1126 is or was on the first floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, but I doubt it. The stamp on Ron’s missing person documents likely preceded 1975, the year in which the Hoover building was constructed. Also, the first floor was predominantly devoted to administrative-type purposes, such as classrooms, an auditorium, and the personnel office. A computer room for the National Crime Information Center was also on the first floor, in room 1328. Although, at this point, we can’t rule out the J. Edgar Hoover Building entirely, hopefully the additional FOIA documents I’ve requested will help us do so. And who knows, maybe with those documents in hand, we’ll be knocking on the door to the Ident Missing Person File Room–a door that’s maddeningly unremarkable; a door that’s in full view but is way too easy to miss–sooner than we know.

Tuesday two-fer: two new pieces of evidence that support our theory that Ron Tammen was alive in 2002

I have a couple pieces of news for you. First, the FBI responded to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Lyndal Ashby’s Additional Record Sheets yesterday. 

Lyndal Ashby’s Additional Record Sheets

For those who need some refreshing, Lyndal Ashby is the name of a young man who’d gone missing seven years after Ron Tammen. Ashby was 22 when he’d disappeared in 1960 from Hartford, KY, a town of roughly 2700 people on the western side of the state. His story is different from Ron’s. He was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. According to Ashby’s obituary, after he’d gone missing, it was learned that he’d been living under a new name in California and had died on April 11, 1990. He had a family. 

Photos of Lyndal Ashby from the “Find a Grave” website

Although Ashby was cremated and his ashes were strewn in the Pacific Ocean, near the Golden Gate Bridge, his family erected a memorial to Lyndal in Walton’s Creek Church Cemetery, in Centertown, KY—the town where he was born and where he’d graduated from high school.

Ashby’s case had nothing to do with the CIA or hypnosis or any of the curious details we’ve discussed regarding Tammen’s case. However, the two cases did have at least two things in common. First, J. Edgar Hoover was very much at the helm of the FBI when both men disappeared. Second, both men had their fingerprints on file with the FBI’s Identification Division when they’d disappeared. Theoretically, the FBI protocol that had initially applied to Ron’s fingerprint records—that they be kept until he was 99 years of age—should have applied to Ashby’s fingerprint records too. Since Ashby was born in 1938, the FBI should have his fingerprint records until at least 2037.

That’s why I submitted a FOIA request for Ashby’s Additional Record Sheets. As we’ve discussed elsewhere on this site, Additional Record Sheets were sheets of paper that were part of a person’s fingerprint jacket, attached to the back of their fingerprint cards with two-pronged fasteners. Identification staff would jot down notes on them whenever they performed an action on the file and then place everything back into the fingerprint jacket. When the fingerprint cards were digitized beginning in 1999, so were the Additional Record Sheets.

Here’s what the FBI sent me.

As happy as I was to receive anything at all from them, it’s not what I was hoping for. I was hoping for the sort of document that’s in this photo, which I’d captured from an FBI video:

I was hoping for scribbles denoting every potential sighting of Ashby as well as the exact moment when the FBI figured out that he’d changed his name and was living in California.

Instead, I received Ashby’s fingerprints from his time in the military.

Do I think the FBI sent me everything in Ashby’s fingerprint jacket? I do not. Am I going to appeal? I will not.

The reason is that I’m a small person of limited means, and I need to prepare myself for bigger battles. Also, I’ve learned enough from what they’ve sent me. By sending me Lyndal Ashby’s fingerprints, the FBI has let me know something valuable: They didn’t expunge them. They didn’t expunge them when they knew he was no longer missing, and they didn’t expunge them after he died almost 32 years ago.

The FBI appears to be abiding by its record retention schedule and holding onto Lyndal Ashby’s fingerprints until at least the year 2037. (The retention period has since been extended to 110 years, so they may be holding them until then.) They ostensibly didn’t even expunge his fingerprints seven years after his confirmed death, which is part of their retention schedule protocol.

Moreover, the fact that they still have Lyndal Ashby’s fingerprints on file, and not Ron Tammen’s, reinforces the notion that the expungement of Tammen’s fingerprints was due to unusual circumstances.

We already know that Ron’s fingerprints were expunged in 2002 due to the Privacy Act or a court order. Some readers have wondered if there might have been a mass expungement of fingerprints when the FBI automated its system beginning in 1999—whether to protect the fingerprint owners or to simply thin out the numbers of prints to be digitized. Although, admittedly, Ashby was deceased by then, I don’t know the precise date when the FBI made that discovery. FBI records that I’ve received indicate that they were still conducting DNA testing for his case in February 2011. Therefore, it’s reasonably safe to conclude that there was no mass expungement of missing persons’ fingerprints sometime around 2002 due to the Privacy Act.

Court-ordered expungements in 2002

My second piece of news has to do with court-ordered expungements. You may recall that, in an effort to figure out the precise reason for Ron’s expungement—was it the Privacy Act or was it a court order?—I’d submitted two FOIA requests to the FBI. In the first, I requested documents associated with the early expungement of fingerprints between 1999 and 2002 on the basis of a court order. In the second, I requested documents pertaining to the early expungement of fingerprints for the same time period due to the Privacy Act. Both FOIA requests resulted in the same response: “Unable to identify records responsive to your request.“

I’ve since refined my request having to do with Privacy Act expungements, and I’m eagerly waiting for the FBI to acknowledge that request, which, I might add, is a thing of beauty. As for the one having to do with a court order, I’ve been letting it lie, since I wasn’t sure where to go next. 

And then, last weekend, I put two and two together. 

You may recall when I was seeking records from the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office in relation to another aspect of the Tammen case. They’d responded by sending a raft of electronic documents with only subject headings, and one of those documents was titled “COURT ORDERS RE EXPUNGMENT [sic] SHOULD GO TO BCII.” Now, I would very much love to see what the entire document has to say on that topic, and I’ve asked them to declassify it, please and thank you. But I was wondering if something can be determined now, in the meantime, from the subject head alone?

For example, exactly who or what is BCII? At first, I thought it might have been part of the FBI or Department of Justice, but I’ve found no evidence of that. What I later discovered was that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has a Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), which also has an Identification (I) Section. So they have all the necessary letters. Upon further reading, I learned that Ohio’s BCI handles court-ordered expungements for cases throughout the state of Ohio, in care of the Identification Section, and that the people there work closely with the FBI. It makes total sense that the FBI’s field office in Cincinnati would recommend that court-ordered expungements be sent to Ohio’s BCII.

Over the weekend, I’d submitted a public records request to the Ohio Attorney General’s office seeking “all segregable records pertaining to the expungement of fingerprint records that took place in the year 2002 due to a court order.” Again, I was trying to figure out if they had any court-ordered expungements at all that year, and if not, we could be certain that Ron’s expungement was not due to a court order. Of course, there could also have been 10 or 20 or 50 court-ordered expungements in 2002, in which case I’d be back to square one, not knowing if Ron’s case was among them.

Yesterday morning, I’d just gotten back from my run when I checked my phone and saw that someone had left a voicemail. It was from the chief counsel for Ohio’s BCI, and he’d called seeking more information about my request. I returned his call, expecting to be immediately directed to voicemail or at least to have to run through a menu of choices and button-pushes to reach him, but no. Dude picked up on the first ring.

You guys. You know how I think the people from the National Archives and Records Administration are rock stars when it comes to FOIA? Well, move over, NARA, because the people in the Ohio AG’s office have you beat. NARA had responded to one of my requests the next day, which is super impressive. But Ohio’s chief counsel for the BCI responded to my public records request the very same day. 

Now, before I tell you what their response was, let me just say that, in our phone conversation, as I was giving him the specifics, he let me know that they don’t maintain court orders by year. But knowing the person in question was helpful, he said, though, again, he wasn’t sure what information he’d be able to provide. I sent him all of Ron’s identifying information. I also pointed out to him that the AG’s web page on missing persons has a page devoted to Ron.

“Who knows…we may be able to solve your missing person case,” I told him.

At around 3 p.m. yesterday, I received the BCI’s response:

BCI has searched its records for “all segregable records pertaining to the expungement of fingerprint records that took place in the year 2002 due to a court order. The records that I’m seeking will document that an expungement of fingerprint records has taken place due to a court order in the year 2002.” Following receipt of your request, I contacted you by telephone to clarify your request and to narrow the focus of BCI’s search of its records.

Upon review of BCI’s records, BCI does not have any records responsive to your specific request.  As such, this concludes BCI’s response to your request. 

When we consider these two findings together, I think we can say with confidence that Ron Tammen’s fingerprints were expunged in 2002 because of a conflict with the Privacy Act, and not because of a court order. Also, his conflict with the Privacy Act had nothing to do with a mass expungement during the period in which the FBI was switching to an automated system. 

I’m more and more certain of it: Ronald Tammen was alive in 2002 and he himself requested that his fingerprints be expunged from the FBI’s system.

Mini bonus post: Were Richard Cox’s FBI documents kept in the Identification Division’s ‘missing person file room’ too?

Richard Colvin Cox

Considering how similar the Ron Tammen and Richard Cox disappearances seemed to be, one question that may have crossed your minds at some point is: were Richard Cox’s missing person documents handled the same way as Ron Tammen’s? In other words, were some of Cox’s documents stamped “Return to Ident Missing Person File Room” too?

Also, you may recall that other Tammen documents had been stamped “Retain permanently in Ident jacket #358-406-B”—Ron’s fingerprint jacket—before they were “removed from Ident files” in June 1973. Was there a phrase on Cox’s documents to “Retain permanently in Ident jacket” too? We know the FBI had Cox’s fingerprints on file because of his Army ties, so he should have had a fingerprint jacket too.

To the best of my knowledge, the answer is “no” to both questions.

I know that some of you aren’t convinced that there was a missing person file room per se. But even so…the FBI seemed to be treating the two cases differently, even though there were distinct similarities between them and they’d occurred only three years apart.

Admittedly, I’ve been eyeballing hundreds of pages today and there’s a chance I may have missed something.

And so…I’ve decided to post all of Richard Cox’s FBI documents on this website. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the FBI’s files on Cox have ever been posted in their (supposed) entirety online before. Feel free to explore them at your leisure. There’s quite a bit there and some of it makes for fascinating reading. Also, if you do spot either of the above phrases, or anything else of interest, please let me know. You can find the three CDs’ worth of documents at the bottom of the home page, in the same area as the other documents I’ve posted.

Lastly, if their estimate is still on target, I should be hearing from the Department of Justice by early February regarding my appeal concerning Richard Cox’s Additional Record Sheets. It would be a huge deal if they rule in my favor. I don’t think anyone has ever requested—and received—Additional Record Sheets from the FBI before. Fingers crossed.

I think I may know where the FBI’s ‘missing person file room’ was located

A couple days ago, as  I was pondering my next move on a recent FOIA request that had left me empty-handed, I turned my sights once again to the July 1975 FBI telephone directory.

You may recall the directory in question. We’d discussed it when I was trying to track down someone who’d removed Ron’s missing person documents from “Ident” in June 1973—someone who appeared to have the initials MSL. The directory header says “Officials and Supervisors” in large print and “Secretaries, Stenos, and Clerical Supervisors” in smaller print. Beneath that header is an unredacted list of former employees and their phone extensions, and following those names are the names and locations of every division, section, unit, and desk in the Bureau. It’s a tiny window into the FBI in the mid-seventies and a window that I needed to peer through a little more intently. I guess you could call me the FBI’s own little Gladys Kravitz.

Not all officials are listed in the 1975 staff directory, mind you. Clarence M. Kelley had been the director since 1973, and his name is nowhere to be found. The logic may have been that if you’re an employee of the Bureau, you should already know who the director is. Shame on you if you needed to ask if Kelley was spelled with an “ey” or just a “y.” But Kelley’s underlings are all present and accounted for, including his associate director Nicholas P. Callahan and the associate directors of each of the 12 divisions and the Office of Planning and Evaluation. 

According to the directory, the director’s and associate director’s offices were located on the seventh floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, which had been newly completed that very year. Many of the FBI’s employees were also stationed there by then, though not all. People were still occupying space in the Identification Building at 2nd and D Streets SW, as well as an Annex at 215 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, the Old Post Office Building, and the Willste Building, which was a high-rise in nearby Silver Spring, MD (and is now a pricey condo building).

FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover Building, aka FBI Headquarters, in 1975; photo credit: FBI

Richard H. Ash, who headed up the Identification Division at that time, had an office on the top floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building—the 11th—in  room 11255.

Two days ago, I found myself staring vacuously at the second-to-last page of the directory at a general entry for the Identification Division. The entry looked modest for the largest division in the agency. The mammoth sections it oversaw appeared alphabetically as stand-alone entries, typed in all caps with their units beneath, but the division itself appeared on its own in mostly lower-case letters. Only its phone extension managed to convey an elevated degree of importance: 2222. The Identification Division’s room number was 11262 in the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

11262. 

11262.

It sounded familiar, but why? 

1126…

too.

And then it occurred to me that 1126 is the number for the “Ident. Missing Person File  Room,” which had been stamped on several of Ronald Tammen’s missing person records. So far, a total of zero people I’ve spoken with from the FBI’s Identification Division or its successor, Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), as well as the Records Management Division, have ever heard of the Missing Person File Room. 

For those who may be new to the blog site, the Identification Division’s Missing Person File Room appears to have been a diversion from typical FBI protocol for missing persons. Several of Ron’s papers had been housed there, as indicated by the above stamp, and then the stamp was crossed out at some point, though we don’t know when or why, and we also don’t know where Ron’s papers were stored after that. My thinking is that Ron’s case wasn’t the typical missing person case. I also think they knew he was no longer missing. (You can read every blog post that discusses Ron’s missing person file at this link.)

Could it be, thought I, that the Missing Person File Room was in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, up on the 11th floor, under the watchful eye of the higher-ups in the Identification Division? It only had four numbers, not the five that was characteristic of the 11th floor’s numbering system. But is it…conceivable?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that it makes no sense. Ron’s missing person documents had (ostensibly) been stamped sometime before June 1973, which precedes the Hoover building by at least two years. How could they specify a room number for a new building before said building had even been built? 

Hear me out.

As it so happens, although the J. Edgar Hoover building was nowhere near finished in 1973, it had already been years in development by then, and had been since the early 1960s. In fact, if you’re ever in the mood for some light reading, or, better yet, a natural remedy for covid-fueled insomnia, documents pertaining to the entire process, which began with the formulation of an idea in 1940, can be found on the Government Attic website.

According to a 2014 General Services Administration document describing the building’s planning and construction, floor plans had been approved for at least the first, second, and seventh floors, and I’m guessing others as well, in 1967. (See figures 36-38.) The GSA document also states that some employees had already begun moving into the new building by June 1974.

So keeping all of the above in mind, it would seem feasible that, by the summer of 1973, the Identification Division’s management probably was already preparing for its big move. To assist in the transition, perhaps they’d even decided to label some documents according to the new floor plan, even though the numbering system may not have been 100 percent final. Perhaps when they were writing the number 1126 on the line provided by the rubber stamp, they meant 1126-ish.

That might help explain another minor mystery, by the way—the Missing Person File Room stamp itself. I’d often wondered why someone had to write in the room number as opposed to having the room number engraved on the stamp. Was the information held there so confidential that they had to change its location every so often? 

My thinking now is that the stamp was made during the transition period when they weren’t exactly sure where the Missing Person File Room would be located. “Just put a blank line there and we can fill in the room number later,” a 1970s office supervisor might have said before pivoting on her platform heels and walking away.

But what about the other buildings that the FBI used back in 1973? Could room #1126 have been in one of those?

I honestly don’t think so. I’ve attempted to obtain floor plans for the Robert F. Kennedy Building at 950 Pennsylvania NW, where the Department of Justice is housed and where some FBI officials were located before they moved next door to FBI Headquarters. Likewise, I tried to obtain floor plans of the Identification Building at 2nd and D Streets, SW, the hub of the fingerprint identification activities. I was unsuccessful. I also was unsuccessful in having someone answer my direct question regarding whether there is a room 1126 in the DOJ building now or in the Ident Building when the FBI was still a tenant. 

One kind soul did tell me that there is no such number in the Ford House Office Building, which is a renovated version of the Ident Building.

I was also able to locate some room numbers online for the RFK building, though 1126 isn’t among them. Although the numbering is in four digits and there could feasibly be a room number 1126 on the first floor, it seems unlikely that the Missing Person File Room would have been there. It’s more plausible that it would be accessible to wherever administrative staff would have been located, which was usually on a higher floor.

As for the Identification Building, the 1975 FBI telephone directory shows that most sections were on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th floors. The directory didn’t specify a room number for the Technical Section, which housed the criminal fingerprint cards. (The civil and Old Armed Forces cards were stored in the Willste Building, in Silver Spring.) Technical staff were most likely stationed in a large open space on the first and possibly second floors. But again, it doesn’t seem likely that the Missing Person File Room would have been located there, particularly since people who’d worked there didn’t seem to know that the room existed.

I also don’t think the Missing Person File Room was housed in the Willste Building due to the same accessibility issues as for the DOJ building. It’s difficult to say, since no room numbers are provided in the directory.

Yesterday, I wrote to the National Capital Planning Commission’s (NCPC’s) Office of Public Engagement seeking the 1967 approved floor plan for the 11th floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, if available. I also requested copies of the approved floor plans for the first, second, and seventh floors, since the drawings are blurry in the 2014 GSA document. (The NCPC has suggested going through the Public Engagement Office first before filing a FOIA request.)

In addition, I plan to reach out to two former employees from that era who may be able to answer my questions about the Missing Person File Room as well.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

In the meantime, what do you think? 

More smoking evidence that Ron Tammen was alive in 2002

Short post tonight, but I can’t keep it in. For most of today, I’ve been doing a deep dive into FBI protocol to help me revise my FOIA request seeking all fingerprint expungement requests between 1999 and June 2002 due to the Privacy Act. As many of you know, June 2002 was when Ron Tammen’s fingerprints had been expunged due to the Privacy Act or a court order. However, in my recent FOIA request on that subject, the FBI claimed that, based on the information I’d provided to them, they were “Unable to identify records responsive to your request.“ For my revised request, I want to point to specific FBI protocols in their own words so their FOIA folks won’t be able to pretend that I didn’t give them enough information.

One of the websites that I visited today was www.governmentattic.org, which is an invaluable website that believes in government transparency. They’ve posted all sorts of random documents from all areas of the federal government that they’ve obtained by submitting their own FOIA requests. There, I was thrilled to find an FBI FOIA and Privacy Act reference manual that covers the time period of January 8, 1987 through March 31, 1998.

Near the end of the manual are memos that deal with agency protocol when handling FOIA and Privacy Act requests. Memo 14, which deals with the correction or expungement of information in FBI files, was issued on March 31, 1998, just four years before Ron’s fingerprints were expunged. It’s pretty short, so I’ll let you read it at your leisure. (Note that the initials PLS stand for paralegal specialist.)

Here are the two key takeaways from this memo:

  1. Among other things, I plan to seek “all correspondence between the Bureau and the requester” for the period of January 1, 1999 through June 30, 2002. There’ll be tons of redactions, no doubt, but we still could get a sense of how many people requested that their fingerprints be expunged during that period due to the Privacy Act.
  2. Best of all, is the first sentence of the last paragraph: “The only person who can make a request for amendment/correction is the subject of the record.”

You guys, we’ve been saying all along that if Ron Tammen’s fingerprints were expunged due to the Privacy Act, then he was alive in 2002, since he’s the only person who can make that request.

It’s just super nice to hear the FBI say so too.

Happy New Year, everyone!

On this date in 1958, FBI Headquarters wrote an ‘airtel’ to the Cincinnati Field Office that might have something to do with Ron Tammen…why?

(And also: what happened to it?)

Greetings! Today, I’d like to further discuss the memo that was written on May 9, 1973, by the special agent in charge (SAC) of the Cincinnati Field Office to the acting director of the FBI, who was then William Ruckelshaus. As you probably know by now, the memo concerns the anonymous phone call they’d received claiming that Ron Tammen was working at Welco Industries in Blue Ash, Ohio.

“Oh, geez, that thing again?” some of you may be thinking.

Yeah, that. Sorry, but I still have unresolved issues.

[Click here if you have unresolved issues too and would like to read it again.]

In the last write-up, we discussed how shaky that lead was to begin with. The guy who’d called had refused to provide his name and then he told the FBI rep that a coworker of his might be Ron based on his physical description and “other reasons which he cared not to discuss.” He then “terminated the telephone call,” which sounds as if he hung up in the rep’s ear—a noisy click followed by the long, low waaaaaah of a dial tone. (Hanging up on someone was more dramatic back then.) Apparently, that’s all that was needed for an agent to be assigned to check things out that same day.

Here’s the question that keeps rolling around in my brain: If the FBI didn’t investigate missing person cases, as they claim not to do, why would they have assigned someone to fingerprint the guy at Welco just because some unnamed caller thought he fit Ron’s description? According to an unredacted version of the 1973 memo, the Welco man was an electronic technician from Virginia who’d served his country honorably from 1951 until 1960—a period that covers the time right before Ron entered Miami and extends until seven years after he’d disappeared.

I’d think that the FBI agent would have done his background research on the Welco guy before he made his trip to Blue Ash. The FBI has records on all sorts of people. If a person has a criminal record, they can access it, and they can also access a person’s military service records. Did they do any initial research or did they just pull a surprise pop-in and obtain his bio information there? According to the May 1973 memo, many of the biographical details were provided by the company’s vice president after pulling his employee’s personnel file. Pop-in, it is!

Out of respect for his family, I won’t be sharing the name of the Welco guy who was fingerprinted. His name sounds a little like Ron’s name, which is probably why the anonymous caller thought of him when he read the 20th anniversary article on Tammen’s disappearance and decided to alert the FBI. (I mean, who does that?) And despite whatever physical characteristics the Welco guy had that might have resembled Ron’s, one characteristic stands out that isn’t the least bit similar. It’s also an attribute that is far less likely to change after a person reaches adulthood: his height. The Welco guy was 6 feet 2 ½ inches tall. Ron was roughly 5 feet 9 inches tall. Nevertheless, the special agent fingerprinted the strapping electronic technician from Virginia and a couple weeks later, the Cincinnati Field Office was told that the fingerprints didn’t match Ron’s prints. Not the same guy, said they. (The Identification Division also did some curious things after arriving at their conclusion, which I discuss in the post The Ident Files.)

So there’s that. But the 1973 memo has introduced another small mystery in the Ron Tammen story, and that mystery has to do with the first sentence. It says: “Re Bureau airtel to CI, dated 12/19/58.” The CI stands for Cincinnati Field Office, and an “airtel” was one of the ways in which the FBI communicated internally, especially, I imagine, with its field offices. Think of it as a glorified memo. Most importantly, I wonder if the 12/19/58 airtel is the reason that a special agent was sent to Welco versus ignoring the call altogether, which would have been my inclination had I been on phone duty.

In light of that possibility, the airtel strikes me as important. Unfortunately, there are no 12/19/58 airtels anywhere in the documents I’ve received from the FBI. Back in 2011, I quoted that sentence as a reason for my appeal, when I felt the FBI was withholding documents on Ron. (I still feel that way, by the by.) Even though I won the appeal, I never received a 12/19/58 airtel. I only received documents having to do with DNA testing after Butler County, Ohio, and Walker County, Georgia, reopened their respective cold cases in 2008 to see if a dead body found in the summer of 1953 in Georgia might be Ron.

Although I can’t tell you what the nonexistent memo says, I can deduce a few things about it:

It likely had nothing to do with Ron’s Selective Service violation.

Whenever I’ve discussed Ron’s case with retired FBI folks, the issue of Ron’s avoiding the draft has become their go-to hypothesis as to why the FBI would have investigated his case at all. They can’t imagine why the FBI would spend person-hours, car mileage, or long-distance charges on Ron’s missing person case. 

But I’m not convinced. First, we’ve learned that the FBI was indeed visiting people in their homes and dorm rooms shortly after Ron went missing, before his draft status had changed, and also that the FBI had been sitting in on faculty conferences at Miami by May 1953. Second, one FBI retiree told me that he or she didn’t think they had the staffing to seriously investigate Selective Service cases. They might have posted a record with the National Crime Information Center, so that, if the person was arrested, the FBI would let law enforcement know that there was a Selective Service violation against him as well. But this person doesn’t remember the FBI actively searching for someone who didn’t report for induction.

So I don’t think that Ron’s Selective Service violation—case #25-381754— was the reason that the FBI investigated Ron’s disappearance, or at least not the sole reason. I also don’t think it’s the topic of the 12/19/58 airtel. Here’s why:

When FBI Headquarters responded on 5/22/73 saying that the Welco guy’s fingerprints didn’t match Ron’s, someone added a note at the bottom, which included this information:

Was a subj of SSA violation in 1953. Canceled in 1955 (USA Cleveland closed case).

Allow me to interpret by writing out all of the words: It says that Ron was the subject of a Selective Service Act violation in 1953, however, his case was canceled, or closed, in 1955 by the U.S. Attorney in Cleveland. 

I don’t know how weird it is for a U.S. Attorney, who is part of the Department of Justice (DOJ), to request that an SSA case be closed. That’s probably a question for another day. (Actually, I’ll be submitting a FOIA request seeking all SSA cases that were closed by the U.S. Attorney in Cleveland in 1955 to find out how weird it was.) 

For now, let’s concentrate on the timeframe. For whatever reason, in 1955, Ron’s case had been closed by the U.S. Attorney in Cleveland, which is part of the DOJ, which is the parent agency of the FBI. Because the airtel was written in 1958, three years later, the airtel likely had nothing to do with Ron’s Selective Service Act violation. 

The 12/19/58 airtel didn’t seem to be in Cincinnati in January 2008.

In May 1973, the Cincinnati Field Office possessed the 12/19/58 airtel. We know this because they referred to it in their memo. And that makes perfect sense. If FBI Headquarters sends you an airtel, you file it somewhere in case you need it, and they needed it in 1973.

But in 2008, the airtel didn’t seem to be in Cincinnati anymore. I think this because I obtained a set of the FBI’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office after cold case detective Frank Smith had retired. It’s the set that Smith had obtained from the Cincinnati Field Office in January 2008. Just like my FOIA documents, Butler County’s set doesn’t include the 12/19/58 airtel either.

I know what you’re probably thinking. You’re thinking: Perhaps the airtel reached its record retention date, and Cincinnati destroyed it according to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) records schedule. Thank you for raising this important point. You’ve obviously become experts on the topic of NARA and records retention schedules, thanks to the FBI’s early expungement of Ron’s fingerprints in 2002, 30 years ahead of their normal schedule. 

While it’s true that the 1958 airtel may have been destroyed, the FBI hasn’t admitted to destroying very much on Tammen, at least not to me. Through my lawsuit settlement, I was provided with an in-depth declaration of all the places in which the FBI had searched for documents on Tammen. And in that search, they told me the approximate dates when certain documents had been destroyed. 

Click on chart for a closer view
Click on chart for a closer view

For example, although FBI Headquarters destroyed Ron’s Selective Service file “on or about 2/1/1997,” they also reported that the Cincinnati Field Office destroyed Ron’s Selective Service file in 1964. Ostensibly, the 1958 airtel was not in that file, otherwise Cincinnati’s SAC would not have referenced it in 1973. So that supports our conclusion that the 12/19/58 airtel didn’t have anything to do with Ron’s Selective Service violation.

Click on bulleted list for a closer view

The only other document that the FBI’s declaration claims was destroyed is Ron’s Classification 190 document, which had to do with either the Privacy Act or the Freedom of Information Act and which had originated in the Cincinnati Field Office. That document was destroyed “on or about 5/17/2008”—several months after Smith had reopened his investigation. But no matter what purpose the destroyed document had served when it was still with us on earth, it couldn’t have been the 12/19/58 airtel, since the latter document originated from FBI Headquarters, not Cincinnati. 

In their declaration, the FBI also says that one file on Ronald H. Tammen, file #252-IR-C5652, is missing and unable to be located (see top chart). Perhaps the 12/19/58 airtel is in that lost file? I have some thoughts on this question, but I can’t print them here just yet. Based on the file’s number, it has to do with the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime and/or its Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, known as ViCAP. It’s important that we not let our imaginations run wild regarding the missing file. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s anything pertaining to Ron that would be helpful. If there ever comes a time when I’m at liberty to discuss this topic, I will. But I also don’t think it has anything to do with the 12/19/58 airtel, particularly since the center wasn’t started until 1984.

The airtel may not have pertained to Ron specifically.

So where’s the 12/19/58 airtel and what might it have said? You got me. But it occurs to me that the reason neither Frank Smith nor I received the airtel in our FOIA documents could be because it wasn’t stored along with the Tammen documents. Maybe the airtel dealt with a separate topic. For example, perhaps it was an instructional document for how to handle anonymous phone calls.

For this reason, I’ve filed a FOIA request seeking “ALL FBI BUREAU AIRTELS dated 12/19/1958 that were addressed to the Cincinnati Field Office.” I’ll keep you posted.

I’m going to end things here for now. If I should hear back from any of my public records requests over the next week or two, you may hear from me again. Otherwise, I wish you all peaceful and healthy holidays (emphasis on the healthy), including a Belated Healthy Hanukkah, a Healthy Christmas, a Healthy Kwanzaa, and a Healthy New Year, not to mention a Healthy Boxing Day, Winter Solstice, and (of course) Festivus!

Herbie on Christmas morning a couple years ago. (Seriously, he posed under the tree, as if on cue.)