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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jun > Jun 13

FBI Secrets Going Online

From: Stig_Agermose@online.pol.dk (Stig Agermose)
Date: Sat, 13 Jun 1998 03:05:26 +0200
Fwd Date: Sat, 13 Jun 1998 19:31:31 -0400
Subject: FBI Secrets Going Online

>From The Seattle Times. URL:


The links are preceded by stars.



Copyright =A9 1998 The Seattle Times Company

Posted at 06:52 a.m. PDT; Friday, June 12, 1998

Juicy FBI secrets going online 

by Angie Cannon
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Deep inside the forbidding FBI fortress is a small, drab
room with fluorescent lights and rows of tall bookshelves.

There's an institutional table, a few chairs and some nondescript
landscape paintings on the walls.

This is the FBI Reading Room where juicy FBI secrets are stashed.

And now, you don't even have to travel to Washington to see them. The
FBI is putting its entire Reading Room collection on its Web site - an
extraordinary undertaking at 1.3 million pages.

In the FBI Reading Room, you can learn that Lucille Ball registered to
vote as a Communist in 1936 at her grandfather's insistence.

You can read about an FBI investigation of John Lennon when agents
learned the musician had contributed $75,000 to a group planning to
disrupt the Republican National Convention in 1972.

You can bone up on John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde and Baby Face
Nelson. You can peruse files about enduring mysteries: aviator Amelia
Earhart's disappearance, UFOs (one of the most requested) and John
Wilkes Booth (was he alive for years after President Lincoln's

It's all there - worn and wrinkled letters, clippings, telegrams and

The FBI aims to put its entire Reading Room collection on its Web site
- an extraordinary undertaking at 1.3 million pages.

Another batch of 20 files (including Errol Flynn, Adolf Hitler and
Marilyn Monroe) went online a few days ago, more than doubling the
number of files on its Web site. The files are available online at

"We believe making this information available on our Web site helps
maintain the public's confidence that the FBI is investigating
consistent with the rule of law," said John Collingwood, an assistant
FBI director. "We think the best way for the public to be confident in
how the FBI conducts itself is to see the underlying documents."

Collingwood, who says he has reviewed all the cases, doesn't have a

"Several are interesting for different reasons," he said. "The
Rosenberg file is historically significant. The Bonnie and Clyde file
is very entertaining." The Mississippi Burning file is the kind of
historical records we are trying to get on our Web site as quickly as
we can."

The Internet may make the Reading Room go the way of "Old Beulah," the
Packard sedan agents drove to crime scenes in the 1930s. Even now,
there are weeks when no one shows up at the Reading Room. Sometimes,
only five to 10 people come in.

The Reading Room is open five days a week, but visits are by
appointment only and require two-day notice. Most requests for files
are made through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The FBI office that handles FOIA requests is huge - 400 to 600
employees. The bureau gets 12,000 to 13,000 written requests annually
for files - many of which aren't among the 278 files in the Reading
Room. Linda Kloss, a public-information officer for FOIA requests, says
it takes at least one to four years to fulfill a request. People can
pay for copies of files, which then are sent through the mail.

There's one catch - for the FBI to make one of its files public, the
subject must be deceased, unless an individual is seeking his or her
own file.

Already, there have been 20 requests for any files on Frank Sinatra and
Barry Goldwater, according to FBI officials.

The most common Reading Room patrons are college students, authors,
academics and attorneys working for clients.

Jim Lesar, a Washington attorney, was in the Reading Room the other day
with a research assistant, combing files for his research on an "aspect
of J. Edgar Hoover's life."

"There's lots of good stuff in the FBI files," says Lesar, head of the
small Assassination Archives and Research Center, which focuses chiefly
on JFK's assassination.

Lesar says he has spent his legal career devoted to Freedom of
Information Act litigation. "I sue the FBI on a very regular basis," he
says, noting that he intervenes on behalf of clients, such as author
Anthony Summers, who wrote a biography of J. Edgar Hoover called
"Official and Confidential."

Lesar believes the volume of files, especially of celebrities and
spies, had to do with the times.

"It is a product of the Cold War and earlier periods under J. Edgar
Hoover," he said. "It still goes on, but not nearly at the same pace as
it did during the Cold War."

Historian David Garrow says it's important to remember that just
because someone had an FBI file didn't mean the bureau was snooping.

"The FBI wasn't investigating 75 percent of the people who have files,"
said Garrow, who has requested many files during his years of research
on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "The FBI was a vacuum cleaner of clipping
operations. And people who think a 200-page FBI file is a big deal
don't realize that people who the bureau was seriously following have
thousands and thousands of pages."

Putting the files on the Internet is a dramatic departure for the FBI,
he said.

"This is absolutely wonderful," said Garrow, who has written numerous
books about King and the civil-rights movement, including the Pulitzer
Prize-winning "Bearing the Cross."

"I'm stunned that they would be technologically with it enough," he
said. "And what amazes me is that they would be motivated to do this.
The whole inescapable bureau problem is that the more they release, the
worse their history looks."

Indeed, some files are a showcase of guns-blazing G-man triumphs.
Others, however, portray an agency that engaged in petty snooping or
was comically out of its time.

Hoover, for instance, was advised not to meet Elvis in 1970 because the
rock 'n' roll icon was "wearing his hair down to his shoulders and
indulges in the wearing of all sorts of exotic dress."

The Nixon White House, in anticipation of a reception, asked Hoover to
pore over FBI records for derogatory information on various athletes
and sports-journalism figures. Among those who came up clean were Ewing
Kauffman, the Kansas City Royals owner; Carl Lindeman, the former CBS
and NBC vice president for sports; and Dick Peebles, the Houston
Chronicle sports editor.

"A lot of the old files contain information that was collected in a
different era, when standards were different and the law was
different," Collingwood said. "The FBI collected substantial amounts of
information that we would never collect today. It was not unlawful at
the time. But in hindsight, it was clearly not justified. Today's laws
and guidelines and internal policies preclude us from collecting that
type of information." Links to the FBI's Web site are on The Seattle
Times Web site at:


*FBI web site

*Excerpts from files on Elvis, Mickey, Bonnie and Clyde

*Copyright =A9 1998 The Seattle Times Company

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