Louis Jolyon West’s relatively rocky start with the CIA: How a ‘talkative,’ ‘unconventional’ ‘champion of the underdog’ became the face of MKULTRA

At some point in our lives, all of us has learned the valuable lesson that…pardon my French…💩 happens. By this, I mean that not everything is going to go exactly as planned. Sometimes, there’ll be the occasional hiccup, even though no one is really at fault. 

As a matter of fact, 💩 happened to me very recently. That’s not surprising for someone who spends a lot of their time doing what I do. But you know what? As all-powerful as the CIA has been throughout its history, sometimes 💩 happens to the CIA too. That’ll play a part in the story that I’ll be sharing with you today.  

Let’s do this the fun way…Q&A. The floor is now open. 

What was the bad thing that happened to you recently?

You know my Labor Day post on Facebook? The one where I was discussing a memo that I felt was describing Louis Jolyon West to a “T”? (I still feel that’s the case, by the way.) In my post, I made the bold claim that the number at the top of the memo—A/B, 5, 44/14—was an important clue, and that any document with a similar alphanumeric pattern and a number 44 in the second-to-last position would have something to do with Jolly West. Not only that, but I felt that two memos within that classification were probably describing St. Clair Switzer. Unfortunately, I came to realize later on that I’d gotten some details in my theory wrong, including the part about Switzer. 

Of course, I felt horrible because I really hate to say wrong things and mislead you all. But then, after doing a lot more digging, I’ve come to believe that I wasn’t that far off the mark. Yes, some things I got wrong, but I also feel confident that I got a number of things right. So I’m feeling a lot better now.

Here’s a copy of the memo, which was written on April 16, 1954, by the CIA’s Technical Branch chief, Morse Allen, to the chief of the CIA’s Security Research Staff. Paragraph 2 is what convinced me that he was referring to West.

The April 16, 1954 memo which shows its A/B classification number. Note that the CIA sometimes used Roman numerals and sometimes they separated the last two numbers by a slash instead of a comma. For consistency, I’ve chosen to use Arabic numerals and a slash between the last two numbers. Click on image for a closer view, thanks to theBlackVault.com.

Why are you so sure that April 16, 1954, memo is describing Jolly West?

I’d like to answer your question a little bit now, and a little more later. Based on documents that I found in UCLA’s Archives, West had become disenchanted with his position at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB) not too long after his arrival in July 1952. Back then, he was a 20-something hot-shot psychiatrist and hypnosis researcher who’d performed his residency training in psychiatry at Cornell University’s Payne Whitney Clinic in NYC. West viewed his time at Cornell with fondness, and he’d thought that he might like to return there one day as a faculty member. However, because the Air Force had made it financially possible for him to take his residency training in psychiatry, he was obligated to serve four years at the hospital on base.

In July 1953, when a neurologist who West didn’t seem to care for at Lackland was promoted to supervisor over both the neurology and psychiatry programs, West felt as if his wings had been clipped. He also worried that this development would jeopardize the plans he was cooking up with Sidney Gottlieb in regard to hypnosis and drug research under CIA’s Artichoke program. The last thing he needed was someone looking over his shoulder, especially when that someone wasn’t a believer in the use of hypnosis on patients.

Fast forward to April 1954, when Jolly was being courted by the University of Oklahoma for the position of professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Behavioral Sciences. Five days after Morse Allen had written his memo to the chief of the Security Research Staff, the dean of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Medicine wrote to Surgeon General Harry G. Armstrong, asking him to please relieve Jolly West of his duties with the Air Force so they could hire him. Armstrong wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, but by the end of September, under a new surgeon general named Dan Ogle, Jolly was permitted to begin his transition to the University of Oklahoma. It took some fancy finagling by an Agency representative named Major Hughes (I think it was a pseudonym used by Sidney Gottlieb) to help convince Air Force officials that this move would be in everyone’s best interest. 

Before we move on, can we talk about the letters and numbers at the top of the memo? What do you think they mean?

Many (though not all) of the MKULTRA documents have similar notations in the upper righthand corner. The A/B is consistently in the front. According to Colin A. Ross, M.D., a psychiatrist, author, and MKULTRA expert, the A/B stands for Artichoke/Bluebird. After the A/B is a number between 1 and 7, which is sometimes written as a Roman numeral. This number represents a grouping of like files. Although I’m not sure about the meaning of the other numbers, the number 5 appears to represent consultants of some sort. The second-to-last number—in this case, 44—is unique to a person or group of people who seem to be linked somehow. The last number is the number assigned to each document within the category. In 44’s case, the last number runs from 1 to 17, with a couple numbers (9 and 11) being skipped over, probably because the CIA decided we shouldn’t see them. One thing I’ve noticed is that the last numbers weren’t assigned in chronological order. Some seem to run in reverse chronological order. This makes me think that they were numbered by someone after MKULTRA became public in 1977.

This question is a two-parter: What was your hypothesis when you wrote your Facebook post on Labor Day and how has that changed?

It has to do with document A/B, 5, 44/1 (aka # 146319), which has the title “RESEARCH PLAN” typed in all caps at the top of the first page. The document describes a research project in which a team of researchers plans to study a demographic group referred to as criminal sexual psychopaths who were being hospitalized in the same facility. The point of the research was to use narco-analysis (psychoanalysis with the assistance of drugs) and hypnosis to see if the patients would admit to actions that they denied but that were documented through police reports and other records. In other words, they wanted to see if they could get people who made a practice of being deceptive to admit the truth.

What I initially thought

First of all, I knew that Jolly West was named in the January 14, 1953, memo as being part of the “well-balanced interrogation research center.” I also knew that Jolly West had written articles on the topic of homosexuality in the Air Force, and had studied airmen who were gay or who were accused of being gay at Lackland AFB from 1952 through 1956. Because it was the 1950s, I’d thought that perhaps it was an archaic term for gay individuals who’d been incarcerated, but I was mistaken. The term “criminal sexual psychopath” generally was used to describe people who’d committed sexual crimes against children and, what’s more, it wasn’t a term that was used universally back then. Canada used it as did the states of Indiana and Michigan. There may have been others, but I wasn’t seeing it in use in Texas or in the military. 

I later learned through old news accounts that the study on criminal sexual psychopaths was conducted by Alan Canty, Sr., a psychologist and executive director of the Recorder’s Court Psychopathic Clinic in Detroit, whose work included the analysis and placement of individuals whose cases had gone through the Wayne County criminal justice system. The selected location for the CIA’s project was Ionia State Hospital, in Ionia, Michigan, where 142 individuals labeled as criminal sexual psychopaths had been residing at that time. 

What I think now

Because references to Jolly West can be found in documents occupying the same “44” category as the researchers from Michigan, and because the researchers were receiving assistance from at least one outside consultant, my current hypothesis is that West had been providing guidance to them on occasion. Sidney Gottlieb signed off on the Ionia State Hospital project, listed as MKULTRA Subproject 39, on December 9, 1954. By that date, Jolly was spending roughly one week out of every month in his newly acquired academic role in Oklahoma City.

By the by? I still have my suspicions regarding whether Jolly may have been conducting his own studies on gay airmen stationed at Lackland AFB. In 1953, Air Force Regulation (AFR) 35-66 mandated that homosexuals were not permitted in the Air Force. If someone was caught in the act or if someone reported their suspicions to the authorities, that person would be subjected to a lengthy investigation, a portion of which included a psychiatric examination, which is when Jolly West would enter the picture. What’s more, during the investigative period, these men were placed on “casual status,” and relocated to a special barracks to await the results of their respective investigations and final rulings, a process which could take months. Somehow, I can’t imagine West walking by the special barracks and not thinking that these men sequestered together with little else to do would make good test subjects in the detection of deception.

Now that we know what the criminal sexual psychopath study was about, can I address the rest of the question that you’d asked earlier about how I’m sure that the April 1954 memo is referring to Jolly West?

Yeah, sure. Why else do you think the April 1954 memo is referring to Jolly West?

I’ve researched the primary participants in the criminal sexual psychopath study, and everyone was steadfastly employed in their positions in April 1954. Ostensibly, no one was looking for work elsewhere as evidenced by the fact that no one left. In addition, a psychiatrist and an anesthesiologist from the University of Minnesota whom I suspected had offered guidance to the Michiganders were happy in their jobs as well. To the best of my knowledge, no one directly or peripherally tied to that project was being considered for another job in April 1954. Only Louis Jolyon West.

Interesting. I noticed that you said there were ‘references’—plural—to Jolly West in documents occupying the same ‘44’ category as the researchers from Michigan. Where else have you found a reference to West?

Excellent catch! This is where our story gets fun…and it’s also where, as I noted earlier, the CIA was experiencing some, um, difficulty of the “💩’s a-happenin’” variety.

It all began when I was using the searchable, sortable MKULTRA index that Good Man friend and history buff Julie Miles created, and focusing heavily on the documents that were dated within the window of 1952 through 1954. I noticed that, at some point, a psychiatrist was having a tough time getting through the CIA’s clearance process. I’ve read that CIA clearance is a lengthy process that’s stricter than any of the other federal agencies, so it didn’t surprise me that it wouldn’t be easy. Fleetingly, I may have wondered who it might have been, but I didn’t get all that hung up over it.

Then I read document A/B, 5, 44/3 (#146321), dated July 24, 1953. The document is a memo from Morse Allen, chief of the Technical Branch, to the chief of the Security Research Staff, and he’s seriously worked up over the clearance issue. 

Click on image for a closer view, thanks to theBlackvault.com.
Click on image for a closer view, thanks to theBlackvault.com.

Apparently, when the CIA’s Special Security Division (SSD) was conducting its preliminary investigation into Morse’s man of interest, they discovered that another entity had conducted an investigation into that same person in mid-June 1953.

The other investigation was described as a “full field investigation,” which is an intensive background check into new government hires in which interviews are conducted with former bosses, family members, neighbors, clergy, you name it, and their comments are written up into summaries called “synopses.” Although full field investigations had been used before in the federal government, they were more notably implemented after Exec. Order 10450 was signed in April 1953. At that point, all civilian federal agencies were required to conduct full field investigations on new hires to make sure they wouldn’t be putting the nation at risk by giving information to the communists. The military required a full field investigation for Top Secret classifications. (As you may recall, the real reason behind Exec. Order 10450 was to purge the federal government of homosexuals because they claimed that they could be blackmailed.) 

So, to quickly recap: someone other than the CIA had conducted a full field investigation on Morse Allen’s man of interest and the memo which discusses the findings is labeled under the #44 category.

Moreover, this particular full field investigation had something to do with the military. I believe this is true because, over New Year’s this year, this blog site took advantage of the down time to decode what some of the letters in the margins of the MKULTRA documents mean. For example, we determined that an “A” stands for an Agency employee; a “C” stands for a contractor; and so on. (They didn’t always start with the same letter, but in those cases, they did.) In the July 24, 1953, document, the margins are filled with A’s, C’s, and H’s, the latter of which, we determined, was used for the Department of Defense or one of its military branches.

That’s extremely interesting, because none of the other people associated with the proposed research project at Ionia State Hospital had anything to do with the military. They would have needed to undergo the CIA’s clearance process, but they wouldn’t have to be subjected to a full field investigation by the military in June 1953.

There’s a lot in this memo, which we can discuss in the comments if you’d like. For now, let’s go to my favorite paragraph, which is paragraph number 5:

“You will note that these synopses indicate that REDACTED is ‘talkative,’ somewhat ‘unconventional’ and a ‘champion of the underdog’ but, according to all informants, he does not discuss classified information and can be trusted with Top Secret matters.”

That’s it. That’s the giveaway. Morse Allen is talking about Louis Jolyon West.

Wait—why is that the giveaway? Was Jolly West talkative? Unconventional? Was he a champion of the underdog? 

The answers are yes, yes, and, although you may find this surprising, yes he was. But don’t take my word for it. I have a few anecdotes to share. 

On being talkative

First, there was his nickname—Jolly West—which is an indicator of his gigantic personality that seemed to match his size 2XL frame. A 1985 Los Angeles Times article on Jolly and his wife Kathryn said: “Psychiatrist West’s nickname, Jolly, seems unlikely to casual acquaintances, for his manner is serious, attentive, concerned. But he lightens up with frequent moments of laughter, and he can convey a measure of humor even in moments of stress.” 

That was written when Jolly was a mellow 61. Imagine him when he was 28 and eager to impress his superiors and overpower his competition.

In an article that appeared in the U.K. publication The Independent after his death, a colleague of West’s, Dr. Milton H. Miller, said he was: “above all, a colourful figure, an alive person who loved to be on stage.” 

On being unconventional

This is a broad term—what does it even mean? But yes, it’s safe to say that Jolly West wasn’t your run-of-the-mill psychiatrist who’d been sent to medical school by monied parents. His father had immigrated to the United States from Ukraine, and according to The Independent, his mother taught piano lessons in Brooklyn. His family, who’d later moved to Madison, WI, struggled financially, and he had to work hard and think creatively to find his way in the world. 

“We were, in fact, quite poor,” West said in the 1985 L.A. Times article. “Some of our neighbors didn’t have jobs. Some had no books. The family across the street had no bathtub. It was strictly the wrong side of the tracks. But in our house there was an attitude of ‘Thank God, we’re in America,’ and there was always a willingness to help others.”

According to that same article, West enlisted in the Army during WWII because, as a Jewish teen, he took Hitler’s fascism personally and he wanted to fight and kill.

“I was a bloodthirsty young fellow,” he said.

Because there was a shortage of Army physicians, the Army steered Jolly West to medical school, first at the University of Iowa, and later at the University of Minnesota. As mentioned earlier, the Air Force had financially supported his residency at Cornell, which is why he was obligated to serve at Lackland AFB for four years before finally severing his military ties.

On being a champion of the underdog

This one is so fascinating, knowing what we now know about West and some of his more questionable actions during the MKULTRA years. But he truly was a believer in civil rights. 

A 2001 article on Charlton Heston in the Los Angeles Magazine said that Heston and Louis Jolyon West were best friends(!) and that in the 1950s, after Jolly had moved to the University of Oklahoma, he’d reached out to Heston, and “the two friends teamed up with a black colleague of West’s to desegregate local lunch counters.”

In 1983 and 1984, Jolly flew to South Africa to speak out against apartheid.

“Everybody makes a difference,” he said in the 1985 L.A. Times article. “You can fight city hall. You can change the world. It might not seem like much of a change at the time, but you have the power as an individual to do a great deal.”

West was also fiercely opposed to capital punishment. In 1975, he published a paper in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry which provided one of the most strongly-worded abstracts I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a lot of them:

“Capital punishment is outdated, immoral, wasteful, cruel, brutalizing, unfair, irrevocable, useless, dangerous, and obstructive of justice. In addition, psychiatric observations reveal that it generates disease through the torture of death row; it perverts the identity of physicians from trials to prison wards to executions; and, paradoxically, it breeds more murder than it deters.”

So, yeah. I can see someone describing Jolly West with the words used in the memo. That the CIA would consider someone being characterized as a “champion of the underdog” as a knock against him kind of tells you all you need to know about the CIA of the 1950s.`

But what about the last part of paragraph 5? The part that said: “according to all informants, he does not discuss classified information and can be trusted with Top Secret matters.” Under what scenario would Jolly West come into contact with “informants”—again, plural—and be in a position to discuss classified information with them?

That line threw me too until I thought about the people West associated with when he was at Cornell. Two of the faculty members that he would have known well were Harold G. Wolff, a personal friend of Allen Dulles, and Lawrence E. Hinkle, who published a study with Wolff titled “Communist Interrogation and Indoctrination of ‘Enemies of the State’” in 1956. They were the CIA’s go-to’s in brainwashing. 

In 1955, Wolff created the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology (later referred to as the Human Ecology Fund), which supported the Ionia State Hospital study. Hinkle, who was also in a leadership role in the society, was one of the primary contacts for the study’s researchers. It’s certainly plausible that Harold Wolff, Lawrence Hinkle, and Jolly West could have discussed national secrets when Jolly was conducting hypnosis studies at Cornell. For Morse Allen to identify Hinkle and Wolff as CIA informants in July 1953 doesn’t seem like a stretch of the imagination. Not in the least.

Oh my gosh. I just thought of something.

What?

Read Paragraph 6 of the July 24, 1953, memo. Morse Allen says the following:

“In further consideration, it should be remembered that REDACTED will be dealing with close personal friends and close professional associates of his in the REDACTED ARTICHOKE work and further if he works with us his professional reputation may conceivably be greatly enhanced by successful development of our program. These elements should be weighed, of course, in the evaluation of REDACTED.”

When you consider paragraphs 5 and 6 together, Morse Allen is saying: yes, I agree, West is currently an immature idealist. But if he could be cleared according to our plan—which is at the Secret level, not even Top Secret—he’ll be in close contact with CIA-sanctioned researchers Harold Wolff and Lawrence Hinkle, which will “greatly enhance” his “professional reputation.” In other words, if Security would just clear him, Morse and his pals could mold Jolly West into the person they desire him to be. Less angry young man—more “this is the way the world works.” Because Wolff and Hinkle were closely tied to the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, and the society funded the Ionia State Hospital study, it’s conceivable that Louis Jolyon West played a role in the study too, which was good reason to have his documents marked with a “44.”

Harold G. Wolff (credit: 1957 Annual Report or the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology) Fair Use
Lawrence E. Hinkle, Jr. (credit: 1957 Annual Report of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology) Fair Use

[You can link to the 1957 Annual Report of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology.]

Very interesting. But how does that impact your hypothesis regarding St. Clair Switzer?

I’m happy you brought this up. You’re absolutely right—that’s why we’re here. We’re trying to understand how Ronald Tammen’s psychology professor St. Clair Switzer might have been used in Project Artichoke and, in turn, what might have happened to Ronald Tammen after he went missing from Miami University’s campus.

I haven’t budged from my belief that, in January 1953, St. Clair Switzer was mentioned in the same paragraph as Louis J. West for a “well-balanced interrogation research center.” In fact, I feel stronger about that hypothesis now more than ever. 

Let’s zoom in on the names of the Major and the Lt. Colonel in paragraph 3 of the January 14 memo. When we zoom in on the Major, we can see the letters of West’s first name—the L, the o, the u, the dotted i, and the s—even though it’s crossed out. We can see the J. We can sort of see the West. It’s him. Also, we know that Sidney Gottlieb was having conversations with West about a hypnosis and drug research center in June and early July 1953—roughly the time when the CIA’s Security office was conducting its preliminary investigation into the person who was talkative and unconventional.

The Lt. Colonel’s name is harder to see, but I definitely see a capital S. Without a doubt. I happen to see a w and a z as well. (Oh, who am I kidding? I see all the letters.) And I’ll be honest—I haven’t come across very many lieutenant colonels in the Air Force in 1953 with last names that began with S that were also hypnosis experts. In fact, I only know of one. (Switzer.) We’re still waiting on our Mandatory Declassification Review to see if we can finally remove the redactions and put that question to rest.

But there’s more. Do you recall how, at first, the Air Force Surgeon General’s Office wasn’t entirely on board with having the CIA using one of its bases as a testing ground for hypnosis and drugs? A memo dated September 23, 1952, was focused upon two individuals who were under consideration for the endeavor. Person A, a U.S. commander, had “nothing to contribute in the line of research.” (See paragraph 2.) 

Click on image for a closer view, thanks to theBlackvault.com.

As for Person B, a CIA rep said they were “inclined to go easy on him from a security standpoint, because of his propensity to talk.” (See paragraph 3.)

In paragraph 4, a colonel in the Surgeon General’s Office was speaking of Person A (I believe) when he said that “he thinks very highly of REDACTED, and that it will be essential to keep him cut into the picture.” The words “air research” were handwritten above the essential person’s blackened name.

In a former blog post, I argued that Person A, the one whom the colonel thought very highly of, was likely St. Clair Switzer, since he’d recently spent a summer working for the Air Research and Development Command, and he and the surgeon general had a connection with Wright Patterson AFB. Perhaps Switzer’s name was being floated as a liaison between the interrogation research center at Lackland AFB and the Office of the Surgeon General.

Today, I’m adding to that hypothesis. I’d suggest that Person B, who had the “propensity to talk,” was Jolly West. Perhaps the Office of the Surgeon General thought West a wee bit too chatty, and St. Clair Switzer—quiet, conventional, obsequious to the powerful—was brought in to appease the brass. 

OK! I think that’s all for today. Questions? Concerns?

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

To demonstrate how well Jolly West knew the guys at Cornell, he’s written Dr. Harold G. Wolff’s name as a character reference on a form he’d filled out on November 4, 1955. (I don’t know the purpose of the form.) Wolff’s name is directly below West’s adviser at Cornell, Dr. Oskar Diethelm.

In recognition of the upcoming July 4th holiday and the 57th anniversary of FOIA, I give you the Psychological Strategy Board report from Sept. 5, 1952

DC’s Union Station all decked out for July 4th; photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

If you haven’t seen my announcement on Facebook, you may be bummed to learn of my recent discovery that the September 5, 1952, report for the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) was not, I repeat was not written by St. Clair Switzer. Instead, it was written by a psychiatrist by the name of Henry P. Laughlin, M.D. Dr. Laughlin was also a professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, which is located in the Foggy Bottom section of DC, near the State Department, the National Academies. and as luck would have it, the CIA’s former location at 2430 E Street, NW. People in the CIA were hot hot hot for the Sept. 5., 1952, PSB report. If asked, they would loan their copy out, but they would also make sure that it was returned to them asap. It was that much in demand.

So Doc Switzer didn’t write it, as I’d originally thought.

It’s fine. I’ve moved on.

In honor of the Freedom of Information Act’s 57th birthday, which is this coming Tuesday, I’m posting the report in its entirety here. Unfortunately, the bibliographies mentioned in the Table of Contents aren’t included with the report that I received. But that’s OK. The 110 pages that we do have has cost me the equivalent of a day pass to Disneyland in scanning fees, which is as much as I care to spend at present. Plus, although I’d love to see the bibliographies, if they still exist, I’m not sure we would have learned that much more.

My reasoning is that, for a while, I’d wondered if perhaps Doc Switzer might have at least helped in compiling the bibliographies. I thought this because he was so close to Dayton, Ohio, where, at that time, every technical study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) was being filed at the Armed Services Technical Information Agency (ASTIA). If we saw any mention of a military study in the bibliography, then it would have been safe to presume that ASTIA would have been the source, and, by extension, Switzer the likely researcher. But, from what I can tell, it doesn’t appear that Switzer assisted with this report in any way. Otherwise, I think Dr. Laughlin would have thanked him for his help. He seems as if he was that kind of guy. Mind you, I still believe that Doc Switzer likely helped with report writing for Project Artichoke—just not this report. I’ve been doing some additional digging in this regard, and plan to discuss this topic with you in the future, once my bruised ego has fully healed.

One bonus is a second report that has been tacked on at the end of this report, titled “Brain-Washing: A Supplemental Report.”

I should add that I’m posting this even before I’ve had a chance to read it. So far, I’ve only done an initial skimming. If you find something interesting, let us know. Enjoy, and have a happy fourth!

It’s Sunshine Week! Let the Sunshine In

It’s March 12, 2023, the first day of Sunshine Week, a time when journalists, authors, bloggers, documentarians, archivists, librarians, historians, students, teachers, and inquisitive citizens of all stripes pay homage to our right to review government files. Whether they’re old or new, hard copy or electronic, sleep-inducing or eye-opening, pristine or heavily redacted to the point of being laughable, public records can help us develop a better understanding of how our tax dollars are spent. It’s a way of holding public officials accountable.

In writing this, I’ve been humming that one song from the musical HAIR—starting with “Aquarius” and ending with “Let the Sunshine In.” As the lyrics have been going through my head, I’m like “Dang, gurl! These lyrics are apropos to Sunshine Week in a trippy sort of way!” But song lyrics are copyrighted. If I print them on my blog site, I’ll be going straight to song lyric jail, and I don’t think I’d last very long there. (Titles are OK though.)

Here’s what we’re going to do: I’m including a link to the lyrics here and you can fill in the blanks in your heads as you read along, Mad Libs–style.

Does everyone have the two web pages open, so you can toggle back and forth? Good. Let’s begin by focusing on PARAGRAPH 3 of the lyrics.

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

Thanks to our right to seek public records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state sunshine laws, 

we can achieve _____________________________________________,

PAR 3, LINE 1

__________________________________________________________,

PAR 3, LINE 2

__________________________________________________________,

 PAR 3, LINE 3

maybe even the occasional____________________________________,

 PAR 3, LINE 4

plus, if we’re lucky, __________________________________________,

 PAR 3, LINE 5

and, ultimately, if the CIA finally comes clean about what’s still hiding in the MKULTRA documents,

__________________________________________________________.

 PAR 3, LINE 6

What then? Maybe, just maybe, if our ongoing quest for transparency inspires our government institutions to do their jobs ever more responsibly, and more responsively, for the citizens it serves, 

__________________________________________________________,

PAR 1, LINE 3   

__________________________________________________________!

PAR 1, LINE 4

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

Clearly, we have a ways to go.

Incidentally, if you’ve never heard the above sung by a Broadway cast, it’s time. I’m posting two renditions that were performed in NYC’s Ed Sullivan Theater. The first aired on March 30, 1969, on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the second was performed 40 years later, on April 30, 2009, on the Late Show with David Letterman. If you have a little time, consider watching both, paying close attention to the audiences’ reactions at the end. Fellow Boomers, I know we get mocked a lot these days, but if there’s one thing we’ve managed to accomplish, it was that, on our watch, people loosened up a bit more. 

That was fun, but, in all seriousness, transparency in our public institutions is extremely important. We’d never have gotten as far as we have in our fact-finding mission on Ronald Tammen without FOIA and Ohio’s Public Records Act.

And now, in the spirit of Sunshine Week, I’d like to make several announcements on the topic of FOIA and public records requests as they pertain to Ron’s story. Announcement #1 is enlightening, #2 is vindicating, #3 is…what it is, and you’re not going to believe how cool announcement #4 is.

Announcement #1

You should totally read:

 “Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act,” by Nicholson Baker

Thanks to a reader’s recommendation, I recently finished reading Baseless (etc.), by Nicholson Baker, and maaaan, could I relate with the frustration he’s experienced when submitting FOIA requests to the CIA and Air Force. It appears that he has similar views about how the CIA treats its FOIA requesters—they’re just waiting for us to die. 

For years, Baker has been studying whether there’s truth to the rumors—which U.S. officials have summarily denied—that the United States had deployed biological weapons during the Korean War. He presents a strong case that they did. On the face of it, it might appear as if bioweapons research has little to do with the mind control research that we’re interested in, however, it is related. As you may recall, Frank Olson, who’s discussed in Baker’s book, was a prominent bioweapons researcher at Camp Detrick (later named Fort Detrick), in Maryland, in 1953. He’d had a bad reaction to some LSD that had been slipped into his drink at a CIA-sponsored retreat that took place November 18-20, 1953, and, on November 28, just two days after Thanksgiving, he fell (read: was likely pushed) out of a tenth-story hotel window in Manhattan. His case is directly linked to MKULTRA. 

I also learned a few things that are tied somewhat to Ron’s story, or, more specifically, to Ron’s former psychology professor, St. Clair Switzer.

First, Baker discusses several organizations that I’ve been bumping into in my research on Switzer. He has a lot to say about the Department of Defense’s Research and Development Board (RDB) as well as the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB), both of which were advocating for the use of bioweapons during the Korean War. In my post from May 20, 2021, I discuss Switzer’s possible relationship with both the RDB and the PSB. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen no evidence that links Switzer to possible bioweapons research—I still believe he was focused mostly on interrogation techniques, such as hypnosis and drugs, and the possible development of a hypnotic messenger—but he may have been running in the same circles as people who were.

Second is a random factoid that I find particularly fascinating. A man who has received a sizable word count in Baker’s book is Frank Wisner, the former director of the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), the epicenter for the CIA’s covert operations. Wisner had his hand in pretty much all of the CIA’s misdeeds at that time, including the importation of Nazi scientists after WWII through Operation Paperclip and the CIA’s overthrow of the democratically elected president of Guatemala in 1954 because they felt like it. He was a huge supporter of the use of bioweapons, and, naturally, he was involved in MKULTRA too. 

The person I find even more compelling was Wisner’s assistant director, Col. Kilbourne Johnston, who was an expert on biological and chemical warfare and who, according to Baker, was employed with the Air Force at the same time he was with the CIA. 

Let me just say that Baker has some seriously mad research skills, because I’ve found no online sources linking Kilbourne Johnston to the Air Force—only documents pertaining to his stint with the Army Service Forces during WWII. But Baker found hard copies of documents that identify a Mr. Johnson—which was Johnston’s original surname—in the Air Force who had the same phone number as the CIA’s Kilbourne Johnston. According to Baker’s citations in the back pages of his book, Johnston was in the Air Force’s Air Targets Division, which, well…I think we have a pretty good notion of their area of expertise.

After an extended illness following a trip to Asia in May 1952, Johnston left both the CIA and the Air Force and started a lithograph business. (I don’t care who you are;  when your inner voice tells you that life’s too short and that you need to start something new, like lithography, for example, it’s best to heed the call.) In 1955, at the still-youthful age of 48, he signed on with the Texas Division of Champion Paper, a name that probably rings a bell for readers who are familiar with the paper mill that used to occupy 601 N. B Street in Hamilton, Ohio. And for good reason. Because in the late 1950s, this highly decorated Air Force colonel and assistant director of the CIA moved to Hamilton to work at the headquarters of Champion Paper, and in 1962, he was named vice president. He remained in that position until 1966. 

In other words, this Army/Air Force colonel who knew everything there was to know about what the CIA was up to in the early 1950s was living 10 miles from Miami University not too long after he left the Agency. Did he and Lt. Col. Switzer ever meet up for coffee or a cold one to, you know, talk about sensitive stuff? If Switzer had known who was living nearby, I think he would have conjured up a way.

The third take-home I learned from Baker’s book could turn out to be a game-changer. It has to do with a more efficient, more effective way to search for CIA documents that are posted in their Electronic Reading Room. If you visit the search page for the CIA’s FOIA Electronic Reading Room and type in a word or term such as “hypnosis,” you’ll probably bring up a huge number of pages to wade through, most of which have no bearing on what you’re actually looking for. But if you type “hypnosis” site:cia.gov into the Google search bar, a more digestible list of documents will pop up, with short descriptions that give you a clue what they’re about and quick links that take you straight to the document instead of an intermediary page that the CIA has set up. It’s usually faster too.

This search technique plus a document that Baker describes in his book concerning the CIA’s sanitization process directly applies to…

Announcement #2

The unredacted July 15, 1952, memo still hasn’t turned up

Remember the CIA memo dated July 15, 1952, in which a group of panelists is named for a [BLANK] Study Group? As I mentioned in my May 20, 2021, blog post, I think that the letters RDB (abbrev-speak for the Department of Defense’s Research and Development Board) occupy the blank next to “Subject” and I also believe, based on the chronology of various related memos, that the RDB’s study group had to do with Project ARTICHOKE.

All of the names listed in the memo are blanked out as well. Here’s that memo: 

In August 2016, I submitted a FOIA request to the CIA asking them to lift the redactions from the list of names. Almost three years later, on May 12, 2019, they responded as follows: “Please be advised that we conducted a thorough and diligent search in an effort to locate a full-text version of the document, but unfortunately were unsuccessful.” 

In other words: Sorry, but we only have the whited-out version.

I appealed on the basis of, well, here’s an excerpt: “I find it inconceivable that a government employee charged with the critical responsibility of declassifying national security documents would be so sloppy and abusive in his or her handling of this information as to somehow misplace or destroy the original document, particularly given the CIA’s already embarrassing history with mishandling documents pertaining to MKULTRA.” 

I also quoted Senator Edward Kennedy, who said the following during the Joint Hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence on MKULTRA in August 1977:

The intelligence community of this Nation, which requires a shroud of secrecy in order to operate, has a very sacred trust from the American people. The CIA’s program of human experimentation of the fifties and sixties violated that trust. It was violated again on the day the bulk of the agency’s records were destroyed in 1973. It is violated each time a responsible official refuses to recollect the details of the program. The best safeguard against abuses in the future is a complete public accounting of the abuses of the past. [bold formatting added]

On June 11, 2021, they wrote and said that I should receive a ruling sometime around December 8, 2022. I’m not sure what I was doing on December 8, 2022, which was a Thursday, but I know for sure that I wasn’t reading the CIA’s ruling on my appeal, which has yet to arrive.

Last week, I called the CIA and left a message asking for a status update on my appeal. Still no word. 

But in the book Baseless, Nicholson Baker discusses a CIA document from 1975 (the year when the Church Committee was investigating the intelligence activities of the CIA and other agencies) that describes a process by which the CIA sanitized its records in response to requests from members of the House and Senate. Its title, “Workers’ Kit for Sanitizing Documents,” is friendly and adorable and almost sounds as if they could create a child’s version to sell on Amazon. I’m including it here:

In that process, for every original document that was requested, the worker made two Xerox copies. On copy 1, the worker drew lines through words that they felt needed to be covered up, and on copy 2, they put correction tape over those words and typed less specific words to take their place. Then they made more copies of the taped-over version for people up the chain to review and for the worker to keep as a record. I’m sure this protocol is different than the one used in declassification—at least from my experience, they don’t type over their redactions in declassification—but I’m guessing it’s not that different.

If you look at the July 15, 1952, memo, you can see that it’s a copy, and a really bad copy at that. Also, the whited-out parts are super straight, as if it was done with correction tape. My guess is, not only is there an original version, but there are likely several versions of this memo, including the original, the taped-over version, and at least one of several copies that were made of the taped-over version for the higher-ups. They can’t have lost all of those copies, can they? 

Besides, what would it say about the CIA’s declassification process if the original copy—the one containing all the ostensibly classified information—is the one that gets mislaid somewhere while the taped-over copy is the only one they can find?

Speaking of taped-over copies…

Announcement #3

Most of the posts on Carl Knox’s former secretary and/or the Miami Stories Oral History Project have been pulled down

If you’ve been wondering what happened to my posts concerning my search for an interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary—the ones where I talk about edited tapes, missing tapes, the recorded-over tape, and ice hockey—I’ve pulled most of them down for now. They still exist and there may come a time when I repost one or more or all of them, but for now I’ve decided to handle things this way.

If I have something truly significant to share, I will, however, most activity on this topic is now being conducted behind the scenes.

I just don’t want you to feel out of sorts when you run searches for them and come up empty.

But speaking of sorts and searches…(😬 …too lame?)

Announcement #4

For the first time ever, you can download a sortable, searchable MKULTRA index here, on this website!

I’ve saved the best announcement for last. I am totally pumped to let you know that Julie Miles, AGMIHTF reader, frequent commenter, good book recommender (she’s the one who recommended Nicholson Baker’s book to me), and computer sorceress, has taken the CIA’s mammoth index of MKULTRA titles and…

…wait for it….

…made a spreadsheet out of it. 

I’m. Not. Joking.

Anyone who’s explored the MKULTRA collection understands that you have to start with the index to figure out which documents are pertinent to whatever you’re researching. But the index is 84 pages long and incredibly random—dates, topics, you name it, are all over the place. It’s almost as if the CIA made it that way on purpose. Plus, the PDF pages that are posted online aren’t searchable. Until now, you had to scroll through the index, page by page, to figure out which documents you’d like to review, and then you opened one of four folders originally provided by the CIA, now posted on the Black Vault website, and searched for the ID number. In 2018, the Black Vault posted additional MKULTRA documents that they’d obtained from the CIA. 

Now, thanks to Miles, the index is transcribed as a spreadsheet into Google Sheets. You can copy/paste it as-is to your hard drive, or download or copy/paste it to a preferred software, such as Excel. Then, run with it, have fun with it! You can organize it however you’d like: alphabetically, topically, chronologically, etc., which makes it sooooooo much easier to find what you’re looking for. Then you can locate the pertinent document or documents from the Black Vault site.

As far as I can tell, not only has no one attempted this before, but no one has even considered attempting it before. It’s that daunting. But Miles thought it seemed doable, and then she went ahead and did it. 

[Wait for applause.]

Meryl Streep Applause GIF by SAG Awards - Find & Share on GIPHY

And now, without further ado, here’s the link to the MKULTRA index:

LINK TO INDEX

User notes as well as other helpful info can be found at the bottom.

If you prefer to have it in Excel, here you go:

Although I happen to think it looks perfect, Miles says that it’s still a draft, so there may be tiny corrections or style changes in store. If anyone wants to assist in proofing it, please contact me at rontammenproject@gmail.com and I’ll pass along your info. Also, Miles has created an email address specifically related to the MKULTRA index for questions, comments, suggestions, whatever. But please bear in mind that this isn’t her full-time job, so she can’t guarantee a response: mkuitranscribed@gmail.com. Nevertheless, she’s interested in your feedback.

So happy Sunshine Week, y’all! If you have any FOIA stories to share to help us celebrate, please feel free to comment below. Also, this is a reminder that the 70th anniversary of Ron’s disappearance is fast approaching. If you have ideas on how we might observe the date of April 19, 2023, please feel free to suggest those below as well.

Breaking the CIA’s MKULTRA code, part deux

Credit: Photo by Cottonbro Studio at Pexels.com

Happy New Year! 

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

The letter D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The letter H

The letter H is for…

…wait for it…

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

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

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

Click on image for a closer view

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

Click on image for a closer view

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

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

Click on image for a closer view

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

BONUS LETTERS

The letter E

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

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

Click on image for a closer view

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

The letters D/H and I

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

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

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

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

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

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

MKULTRA Shorthand Guide

A                      Agency (CIA)

B                      Research Org/Business

C                      Consultant

D                     Expert/Knowledgeable Source in ARTICHOKE-related topic

E                      Financial Account

F                      Foreign 

G                     CIA Internal Group/Office

H                     Department of Defense

I                       Enemy Country/CIA target for ARTICHOKE method 

J                       ?

D/H                 Human Subject of ARTICHOKE method 

B/1                  ?

B/3                  Military Base

B/6                  Military Officer

H-B/1              ?

H-B/3              Military Base Hospital

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

S                      ?

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

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.