A Guide to Conducting Research in FBI Records
A Guide to Conducting Research in FBI Records
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Table of Contents
A. A Brief History of the FBI and Its Records
B. The FBI and the National Archives and Records Administration
A. What are FBI Records?
- Purpose and Scope of FBI Records
- To Whom are FBI Records Useful?
B. Where can FBI Records be Found?
- Records in the Custody of the FBI
- Government Archives
- Other Repositories
A. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
- Record Group 65
- Notable NARA Collections of FBI Records
- Other NARA Record Groups with Significant FBI Records
- NARA Regional Branch Archives
- Congressional Records
- Presidential Libraries
B. Library of Congress
C. Papers of the Attorneys General
A. University and Other Library Collections
B. Online Collections
A. Making a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request
B. How to Cite FBI Records
A Guide to Conducting Research in FBI Records explains how to find and use FBI records for research purposes. It is designed for scholars, genealogists, journalists, and others who wish to study the FBI and its work.
This publication replaces the first guide created in the mid-1980s and revised in the early 1990s. Our hope is that this updated edition will help the public make better use of the wealth of FBI records made available in recent years and better understand the evolving history of the FBI, which marked its 100th anniversary in July 2008.
The FBI has long been of interest to researchers, given the importance and scope of its mission and the range of historical events that it has been involved in over the years. Access to our records has increased significantly over the last four decades, especially with the 1976 amendments to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Records concerning the FBI also have been made available under several other laws and through other venues.
This guide begins by explaining what an FBI record is, what researchers can learn from these records, and how they can be used. It also gives a brief history of our records and their role and development in our work.
The guide then details how researchers may gain access to the Bureau’s records—both those held by the Bureau and those residing in other institutions. A brief discussion of the FBI’s Record/Information Dissemination Section follows, describing how the FBI handles Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act (FOI/PA) requests and why certain information is withheld from public release. Also included is a brief description of major collections of FBI records held at institutions like the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Library of Congress, and other institutions. Significant online collections are also noted.
A. A Brief History of the FBI and Its Records
The mission of the FBI is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.
The scope of the FBI’s responsibilities is wide, covering investigations into domestic and international terrorism, foreign counterintelligence, cyber crime, public corruption, civil rights violations, white-collar and organized crime, violent crime and kidnapping, and other diverse crimes. The Bureau’s records detail these responsibilities and the FBI’s performance in meeting its mission over the years.
The FBI originated from a force of special agents created in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 1908 by Attorney General Charles Bonaparte. In 1909, this investigative service became known as the Bureau of Investigation (BOI). In 1935, it was re-named the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI.
In its early years, the FBI experimented with several different record-keeping systems.1 The first, established at its creation, consisted of straight numerical cases—1 to 42,975. This file was later renamed the Miscellaneous File and was discontinued in 1922. It was supplemented by several other files. One encompassed records amassed during the Bureau’s investigations related to a 1910 anti-prostitution measure known as the Mann Act. These files were later destroyed. Another file dealt largely with Neutrality Act investigations and was called the Old Mexican File, since most of these matters had to do with attempts to overthrow the Mexican government. The third file was called the Old German File and dealt with espionage, sabotage, and subversion investigations arising out of World War I. The Miscellaneous, Old Mexican, and Old German Files are available in multiple locations and on microfilm or digitally from commercial entities.
In early 1920, the Bureau experimented with a source file system, where documents were organized chronologically based on the office in which they were produced. This approach was quickly abandoned as unworkable. These files are known as Bureau Section Files, and like those of the Bureau’s first decade-and-a-half, are available in microfilm or digital form. In September 1920, the BOI and DOJ files were consolidated.
From the beginning, internal files were recognized as important investigative and information-gathering tools. It was immediately understood that an effective filing and indexing system was essential to performing the FBI’s mission. Since 1908, all DOJ/FBI files have been indexed and filed by a case number. A case file number refers to a case matter that is listed in the file’s caption. For instance, a file that begins with the number 7 is a kidnapping case; a 65 file concerns espionage; and so forth. Most records on a particular case are placed in the specific case file and filed in chronological order; large or bulky items (often called bulkies) and other special records may be handled differently. The majority of FBI files pertain to investigations. The main file on an investigation contains much of the relevant material on that case, including copies of documents that can also be found in other files.
Each individual document in a case file is assigned a serial number. The documents are serialized in chronological order and are numbered consecutively. Information that is too voluminous to be placed in a paper file is assigned a serial number, administratively designated as an “enclosure behind the file” (EBF), and filed in a space where it can be physically accommodated. A note is placed in the serialized paper file indicating that EBF information is included in the file and noting where that information can be found.
The FBI indexes the name of any individuals, organizations, or items considered to be of investigative or administrative interest. The main file refers to the entity that is the main subject of an FBI investigation. Entities are cross-referenced in the main file because they have a relationship to the subject of the investigation. The particular methods of indexing have changed periodically to suit the needs of the FBI.
The current subject-classified Central Records System (CRS) began in 1921 and has not changed in form since then, although a large number of new case numbers have been added. The classifications in the CRS correspond to specific federal crimes or subjects. A list of FBI subject classifications can be found at http://www.fbi.gov/foia/foia-test/current-fbi-file-classification-list-1st-quarter-fy2008.
Although the basic form and organization of the FBI’s filing system has not changed since the 1920s, changes in record-keeping practices and other evolutionary developments have continued.2 These changes include the development of national security controls over records—which became regular practice during the run up to World War II—and the subsequent development of classified compartments of especially sensitive information. The handling of tickler files and similar informal practices in certain cases has also had an impact on FBI record keeping and has led to some confusion and difficulty among researchers trying to understand FBI files.3 The advent of electronic indices, the creation of universal file numbers, the impact of FOIA and NARA records requirements, and other more recent developments have yet to be discussed in a comprehensive manner.
For more information on Bureau files, please visit the FBI’s website at http://www.fbi.gov/foia/.
B. The FBI and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
A few words on the relationship between the FBI and NARA should be made due to its importance to anyone who would research FBI records.
Following a successful lawsuit requesting greater access to FBI records, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia directed the FBI and NARA to develop adequate records retention guidelines. The two agencies conducted an in-depth survey of Bureau records and then drew up detailed retention schedules.
In 1981, the FBI and NARA published a two-volume report that detailed these schedules.4 The report presented and justified a schedule for the destruction of temporary FBI records and the transfer to NARA of permanent FBI files. It also included a description of indices and an analysis of the 214 record classification numbers in existence at that time. The report contains information of much value to researchers interested in FBI records.5 The disposition schedules are updated regularly to include additional FBI file number classifications, balancing the necessity of historic preservation with the explosion of modern records and limited resources to preserve these records.
The FBI has transferred millions of additional pages of records—more than 12,000 cubic feet—to NARA under the disposition schedules worked out with that agency. Since the mid-1990s, records closed prior to 1947 in a wide number of case classifications have been transferred to NARA. The records are as diverse as the FBI’s investigation of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping to its role in running a double agent named Dusan Popov, who has been the center of a number of debates in intelligence history. Given the bulk of information, it is likely necessary to travel to the National Archives facility in College Park—which holds volumes of binders contain finding aids listing the case numbers held there—to learn about these materials in detail. The NARA website provides an overview of these materials at http://archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/065.html. Additional details about these records and other FBI records held by NARA are described below.
A. What are FBI Records?
1. Purpose and Scope of FBI Records
Under FOIA, the official definition of an “agency record” is a record that is: 1) either created or obtained by an agency; and 2) under agency control at the time of an FOIA request.
The FBI—like other government agencies—creates or obtains records as it fulfills its duties. These records are generally organized into case files. Common records include investigative files, personnel files, and “rap sheets” (criminal identification records).
2. To Whom are FBI Records Useful?
FBI records illustrate the wide-ranging investigative work of the Bureau. As a result, they contain a wealth of unique and historically important material that is useful to researchers, historians, genealogists, social scientists, reporters, and others. Given their quantity and scope, these records often contain information about many subjects in U.S. history and about a number of prominent individuals and organizations.
C. Where can FBI Records and Other Materials be Found?
1. Records in the Custody of the FBI
The FBI maintains a large number of records. Researchers may obtain copies of closed case files or other documents under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts. Under these laws, certain categories of information—such as national security classified information or information that makes an impact on someone’s personal privacy—may be withheld. As a result, researchers often receive redacted copies of requested documents. Full details on how to make an FOI/PA request may be found on the FBI Internet website at http://www.fbi.gov/foia/foia-test/requesting-fbi-records.
A brief description of this process may also be found in Appendix A of this document.
The Freedom of Information Act also requires federal agencies to maintain both a physical and an electronic FOIA library containing certain documents, including FOIA releases. The FBI maintains two FOIA Libraries—a virtual one on the Internet and a physical one at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Electronic FOIA library contains copies of some of the most requested records in pdf (portable document format) form. These are available for immediate download and study, free of charge.
The FBI Headquarters FOIA Library contains photocopies of a wider variety of previously processed files on subjects of widespread interest. To review files in the FOIA Library at FBI Headquarters, you must make an appointment at least 48 hours in advance by calling (202) 324-3789. The major advantage to using photocopies of files in the FOIA Library is that the researcher can take notes or select pages to be photocopied (at 10 cents per page) without paying for the entire file.
Copies of any Electronic or Headquarters FOIA Library files are also available on disc . Some files—like the John Dillinger investigation or the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case—may take up many discs, but most releases fit on a single disc. Upon receipt of your request, the FBI will mail you a letter requesting pre-payment of $15 per disc. Upon receipt of payment, your disc(s) will be mailed. Do not send payment until you receive a letter stating the costs. For more information on costs, see Appendix A.
2. Government Archives
In the course of its work, the FBI reports its activities to many other government agencies, which, in turn, incorporate this material into their records systems. FBI records, therefore, appear as part of the records of these agencies, as well as those of the Congress, the U.S. courts, and the Office of the President. Records contained in other executive branch agencies are accessible through FOI/PA. FBI material contained in congressional records may be available in a government depository library or NARA. FBI material contained in U.S. court records may also be found at NARA.
The most significant collection of FBI records in another government agency is managed by NARA. These permanent historical records of the Bureau are maintained by NARA under law in perpetuity. These records are encompassed within Record Group 65, which covers the period from 1896 to 1996. A number of other record groups—especially Record Group 60 (the Department of Justice)—contain FBI-related material. A description of some of the more important groups, including presidential libraries, is found later in this guide.
NARA’s regional archives branches also contain a wealth of FBI information. Two collections of material are of significant value—the records of the U.S. Attorneys of that region and the records of the federal courts of that region. These records are often organized by the name of the criminal process, but if a researcher is looking at a specific case that the FBI investigated, these records are invaluable for learning about the prosecutive and judicial aftermath of the Bureau’s investigation. Since copies of unreleased FBI records and grand jury material may be in these collections, they must be screened by NARA personnel prior to use by researchers.
Lastly, a great deal of material about the first decade-and-a-half of the FBI’s existence may be found in the manuscript and print collections of the Library of Congress. These collections are also briefly described later in the guide.
3. Other Repositories
FBI-related material is also found in numerous private and public libraries, archives, and related depositories. Microfilm editions of major preprocessed files are available for sale from private sector publishers in hard copy or via the Internet. A number of university libraries have purchased or have been provided with microfilm or paper copies of FBI files obtained from the FBI, NARA, or a third party for the use of their faculty and students. FBI material may also be found among the personal papers of cabinet members, other government officials, and prominent private citizens, as well as among the archives of law firms and private organizations.
To locate this material, researchers should consult bibliographies of published works, as well as guides, catalogs, and other publications in library reference collections. More and more of these indices and guides—and even the materials themselves—are being digitized and placed on the Internet. Newspaper and magazine articles; book, radio, and television programs; and movies about the FBI are available to the public through libraries and archives but will not be discussed here.
A. National Archives and Records Administration
1. Record Group 65
FBI records at NARA appear primarily within Record Group 65 (RG 65). The materials span the years from 1896 to 1996. A complete description of this record group may be found online at http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/065.html.
The bulk of the records in RG 65 are retired case files. Over the last decade, a number of FBI files that were closed prior to 1947 have been accessioned to NARA under its records disposition schedules. Many of these have already been made available for research, and the FBI and NARA are working to continue to make these and other historical records available. When a file is transferred from the FBI to NARA, the manual index records related to that file are also transferred.6
RG 65 also contains some of the earliest material on the FBI, including correspondence ledgers and case summaries from its first years. The bulk of FBI case records from 1908 to the early 1920s, though, no longer exist in their original form. They were microfilmed in the early 1950s, and the original files were destroyed. NARA makes the microfilm of these files—the Old German File, the Old Mexican File, the Bureau Section Files, and the Miscellaneous File—available at both its Washington, D.C. facility and its College Park campus. The microfilm may also be borrowed through inter-library loan. A copy of the original guide to this microfilm can be found online at http://www.footnote.com/pdf/M1085.pdf.7
RG 65 also contains records from the Office of the FBI Director and its predecessors. Records concerning the origins and developments of the national collection of criminal identification records taken over by the FBI in 1924 may be found in this record group, along with the few remaining records of the American Protective League (1917-1919), a public affiliate of the FBI. Also part of this record group are still images of the FBI and its work, video clips, and other audio-visual materials.
2. Notable NARA Collections of FBI Records
J. Edgar Hoover Official and Confidential Files
In 2005, the FBI transferred the entire collection of Director J. Edgar Hoover’s Official and Confidential Files, covering the period from 1924 to 1972. These files had been kept in Director Hoover’s private office to prevent unauthorized access. This collection consists of more than 25 cubic feet of records. These records had previously been made public in redacted form under FOIA, but are now available in their original form with many fewer items withheld from release.
Among the more than 17,000 pages of material are internal memoranda informing Director Hoover of situations of interest to him and providing him with material for talks or meetings, as well as some correspondence with prominent journalists, politicians, and businessmen. There are also a limited number of investigative case files on high-profile individuals containing information then thought to be too sensitive to be maintained within the FBI’s routine file holdings. These include information on President John F. Kennedy and others.
The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection
In 1992, Congress passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, which created a John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board (JFK ARRB) to identify and make accessible all government records concerning the Kennedy assassination.
Under this act, the FBI identified and transferred to NARA hundreds of thousands of pages of records related to the assassination investigation, the Warren Commission, and related matters. These records are now administered by NARA as part of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection in Record Group 272. A full description of this program and its records can be found at http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/. The narrative description of the program and its activities are located in the final report of the review board at http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/review-board/report/arrb-final-report.pdf.
Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records
Following the success of the JFK ARRB, a second specific disclosure law was passed regarding Axis activities during World War II. Under this law, a Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG) was created to locate, identify, inventory, and recommend for declassification U.S. records relating to Nazi and Japanese war crimes. Once declassified, these records are released to the American public. For more information on this program, see http://www.archives.gov/iwg/.
Since 1999, the IWG has declassified and opened to the public an estimated eight million pages of documents, including more than 350,000 pages of FBI subject files. These records consist of approximately 240,000 pages of original files in categories such as espionage, foreign counterintelligence, domestic security, and treason. The index for these FBI files may be found at http://www.archives.gov/iwg/declassified-records/rg-65-fbi/index.html.
Among the files of note are those dealing with investigations of post-war émigré Nazis from Eastern Europe —whom the government cultivated as anti-communist sources —as well as those describing instances of FBI support for their U.S. citizenship, even when opposed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. These files provide new insight into the activities of Nazi collaborators and members of other ethnic groups before relocating to the United States. The files also include information on how U.S. corporations profited from operations instigated by and supportive of the Third Reich.
Researchers interested in FBI activities in Latin America will find a significant body of records relating to the activities of the FBI’s Special Intelligence Service (SIS) during World War II.
3. Other NARA Record Groups with Significant FBI Records
Bureau material may also be found throughout other NARA collections. Some of the most significant ones are as follows:
RG 21: Records of District Courts of the United States
If an FBI investigation leads to a trial, it is presented in U.S. District Court. Information concerning many famous FBI cases, therefore, may be found in the records of these courts. These records are organized by their docket number, which is needed before an archivist can determine if records available on a particular case. See http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/021.html for more information.
RG 59: Department of State
The FBI has had a long and deep relationship with the Department of State. In its role as America’s chief domestic counterintelligence agency and its wider role as an intelligence service, the Bureau worked closely with the State Department during World War II. The subsequent development of the FBI’s foreign liaison offices—now called legal attachés—and its expanded international cooperation on criminal and national security issues require continuing coordination with the State Department. RG 59 contains many records that detail these matters.
See http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/059.html for more information.
RG 60: Department of Justice
The FBI is a component of the Department of Justice. As a result, the records in RG 60 contain much information on the FBI. See http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/060.html for more information.
The records and official papers of individual U.S. Attorneys General, though, are housed in a variety of locations, including presidential libraries, the Library of Congress, and university libraries. These records are described in the “Papers of the Attorneys General” section below.
RG 118: Records of U.S. Attorneys
U.S. Attorneys in the judicial districts across the country decide whether or not to present a case to a grand jury and pursue a prosecution in federal court. The records in RG 118, therefore, contain significant information about the FBI’s investigations.
See http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/118.html for more information.
RG 263: Central Intelligence Agency
The FBI and the CIA have worked together on many matters over the years. As a result, FBI material often appears in CIA records, and vice versa. As more records are declassified and accessioned to NARA, the amount of material available for research will increase. Available now are the background papers for CIA staff officer Thomas F. Troy’s publication Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency (1981) . These papers contain information about the FBI’s intelligence role in World War II and the early Cold War, along with key documents concerning this era.
See http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/263.html for more information.
RG 449: Records of Independent Counsels
FBI agents are typically assigned to assist in the investigations of independent counsels, so details of this work may be found in RG 449.
See http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/449.html for more information.
RG 460: Records of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force
The Watergate break-in of June 1972 led to one of the FBI’s most sensitive investigations and ultimately to the resignation of President Nixon. This record group contains extensive information about the investigation and White House efforts to stymie it.
See http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/460.html for more information.
Other Federal Agencies
The FBI works with numerous federal agencies, including with many elements of the U.S. military. The number of record groups that represent these various agencies is significant, and FBI-related material may be found in these series.
See http://www.archives.gov/research/alic/tools/record-group-clusters.html#defense for brief listings of many of these record groups by subject.
4. NARA Regional Branch Archives
NARA administers a nationwide network of facilities, including branches in a number of regions around the nation. These branches often contain records pertinent to understanding FBI investigations. The records of the U.S. courts and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in those regions often contain important records related to specific cases.
For example, the Northeast Regional Branch of NARA in New York City contains a wealth of material about the prosecution of the Rosenberg espionage ring—including information on the work of the prosecutors and FBI agents who helped to develop the case, the grand jury phase that led to the indictments of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell, and the trial of these individuals in the Southern District of New York. Similarly, materials on other trials based on FBI investigations may be found at each of the regional libraries.
See http://archives.gov/locations/ and the websites of each of the individual branches for more information.
5. Congressional Records
The official papers of the U.S. Congress and its committees contain material related to the FBI, as do the personal papers of former members. Congress is not subject to FOIA, but it accessions its non-current records to NARA. Although the official papers of Congress are in the physical custody of NARA in its Center of Legislative Archives (see http://www.archives.gov/legislative/cla/), they remain in the legal custody of the House and Senate.
Official papers of the House of Representatives less than 30 years old are normally not made available to the public. To access these papers, researchers must receive permission from the Clerk of the House. Other records, though, are held at NARA’s facility in Washington, D.C. See http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/233.html for more information.
The Senate has a 20-year restriction on its official papers, although some committee records may be opened earlier. Sensitive records—such as investigative files relating to individuals and containing personal data, personnel records, and records of executive nominations of both the House and the Senate—may be closed for 50 years. Permission of the appropriate committee chairman is required to access Senate records less than 20 years old. See http://www.archives.gov/legislative/guide/senate/table-of-contents-short.html for more details.
FBI-related material is also found among the personal papers of members of Congress. For further information, contact the Senate Historical Office and the Office of the Historian of the House. Excluded from NARA requirements are most papers of members of the House and the Senate and most collections in presidential libraries. These may be found in A Guide to Research Collections of Former Members of the United States House of Representatives, 1789-1987, and A Guide to Research Collections of Former Members of the United States Senate, 1789-1987, as well as in the lists of holdings printed by individual presidential libraries.
6. Presidential Libraries
Although officially part of NARA, presidential libraries contain private papers and federal records and operate somewhat independently of NARA.
These libraries have files related to the FBI scattered throughout their collections. Some items in these files undoubtedly appear in the records of the FBI, but others may not exist in FBI files anymore or may not be found through typical searches. In addition, the arrangement of FBI materials in a presidential library may be more conducive to research, as their inventories are readily available for researchers.
Presidential papers and private papers found in presidential libraries are not subject to FOIA, although they may contain material that is unavailable for research because it is classified or covered by other legal restrictions.
Each presidential library overseen by NARA is discussed below. The papers of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding are located at the Library of Congress and will be described as well. These descriptions should not be considered comprehensive.
Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library
The collection includes letters, documents, and images to, from, and about Woodrow Wilson, as well as other important historical figures, including Wilson’s family members and important advisors and political figures.
See the library’s website at http://www.woodrowwilson.org/library-archives/wilson-elibrary for more details.
Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum
The Coolidge Collection was established in 1920 when Calvin Coolidge gave documents and memorabilia to the Forbes Library. At the end of his administration, he sent his personal library from the White House to the Forbes Library. The collection consists of manuscripts, speeches, letters, videos, recordings, microfilms, the official presidential papers and the personal papers of President Coolidge, tapes, off-the-record press conferences, photographs, paintings, scrapbooks, broadsides, and artifacts.
See the library’s website at http://www.forbeslibrary.org/coolidge/coolidge.shtml for more information.
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
The Hoover Library contains material on Director J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI from the 1920s to the 1960s. Among the pre-presidential papers are relevant documents relating to the Commerce Period (1921-28), and the Campaign and Transition Period (1928-1929). The Presidential Period (1929-33) contains FBI material in the following files: Colored Question; Communism; Capone Tax Case; National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement; President-Commercial Use of Name; Prohibition; World War Veterans–Bonus; Criminal Records; and files concerning the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. Correspondence with Director Hoover and the FBI is included in the post-presidential papers. Additional records are contained in the papers of Bourke B. Hickenlooper, Westbrook Pegler, Lawrence Richey, Lewis L. Strauss, Walter Trohan, and Robert E. Wood.
See the library’s website at http://www.hoover.archives.gov/ for more details.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library has relevant files in several collections. The presidential papers’ official file on the FBI contains 50,000 pages of material that includes a calendar for its 2,600 reports and cross-references to FBI material in other Roosevelt files. Both the president’s personal files and the secretary’s file contain files labeled J. Edgar Hoover.
The Harry Hopkins papers, the Henry Morgenthau diaries, the Steve Early papers, the Lowell Mellett papers, and the Francis Biddle papers also contain files labeled FBI or J. Edgar Hoover. Scattered references to the FBI and Director Hoover may be found in the papers of Adolf A. Berle, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and James Rowe, Jr. More recently, the library has added records of the FBI that include the investigative files on Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry L. Hopkins, Rexford G. Tugwell, and Guiseppe Zangara (including his attempt to assassinate Roosevelt). The library also has microfilm editions of the Homer S. Cummings papers and diaries, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt’s FBI file.
See the library’s website at http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/ for more details.
Harry S. Truman Presidential Library
The Harry S. Truman Library has several relevant files among its presidential papers. The president’s secretary’s files contain FBI-related material in the Thomas G. Corcoran file and in the FBI series of the subject file. The president’s personal file of the White House Central Files contains one folder of Director Hoover correspondence. Among other collections in the library, the papers of Attorney Generals J. Howard McGrath and Tom Clark contain a small number of FBI-related items. The papers of Charles G. Ross and the post-presidential series in the papers of Harry S. Truman contain folders labeled J. Edgar Hoover. A small amount of material relating to Director Hoover and the FBI may be found in the confidential file series of the White House Central Files and in the papers of Oscar L. Chapman.
Additional material may be found in the records of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights and in the papers on Holmes Baldridge, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Truman’s official White House files include records on the FBI identified as Miscellaneous Correspondence. The subtopics include information on individuals protesting against the activities of the Bureau, the rumored dismissal of Hoover as FBI Director, support for the activities of the FBI, and information on the FBI’s National Academy.
See the library’s website at http://www.trumanlibrary.org/ for more information.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library contains various FBI-related records in its collections. The greatest amount of material is contained in the FBI series from the White House Office of the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (OSANSA). The OSANSA series has been processed and is eligible for declassification. This collection contains FBI Current Intelligence Estimates, information on the Communist Party in the United States, and additional materials on domestic intelligence issues. The White House Central Files and the William P. Rogers papers also contain FBI-related folders. Scattered records are found among other presidential files.
See the library’s website at http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/ for more information.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
The Kennedy Library inventory lists several folders related to the FBI in the president’s office files. Additional material is contained in the White House Central Files, the Robert Kennedy papers, and in the oral history collection.
Researchers may be interested in the papers and oral history of Carmine Bellino, which relate to the work of U.S. Attorneys and the investigation of Jimmy Hoffa. The papers of Joseph Alsop—an aide of President Kennedy—may also be of interest. The oral history of Alsop covers the topics of counterintelligence, the FBI, Director Hoover, and the civil rights movement.
The Kennedy Library includes the papers of Director Hoover, covering the period from 1941 to 1972. These papers consist of the personal and confidential files kept in Director Hoover’s office, such as memoranda, reports, articles, news clippings, and other information provided by FBI agents. It also includes personal information about Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.; John F. Kennedy; Robert F. Kennedy; and other prominent Americans.
The library contains the papers of Courtney Evans, who served as assistant director of the FBI’s Special Investigative Division and as a liaison to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. It also has documents that specifically relate to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1961-63. This collection includes the files of Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, as well as the records of the Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the Office of the Solicitor General, the Antitrust Division, the Civil Division, the Civil Rights Division, the Criminal Division, the Internal Security Division, the Lands Division, the Tax Division, the Administrative Division, the Bureau of Prisons, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and selected speeches and photographs of FBI Director Hoover.
See the library’s website at http://www.jfklibrary.org/ for more information.
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library has files dealing with the FBI in the following series: White House Central Files; Subject and Confidential Files; FG-145-6 (FBI); HU 2 (Equality of the Races); HU 2/ST (Equality of the Races – States); HU 4 (Freedoms); Name File folders for Director Hoover and his aide, Cartha De Loach; the Agency File of the National Security File for the FBI; the Administrative History for the Department of Justice, Volume III, X, and XIII; federal records for the Kerner, Eisenhower, and Katzenbach Commissions (containing some restricted FBI records); Department of Justice microfilm reel seven; and the personal papers of Ramsey Clark and Warren Christopher.
The office files of White House aides Joseph Califano, Bill Moyers, and George Reedy contain folders on the FBI or FBI-related material. Oral history transcripts of Attorneys General Nicholas Katzenbach and Ramsey Clark and other officials of the Department of Justice may also contain FBI-related records. The oral history of Mildred Stegall, a staff assistant whose responsibilities included conducting liaison with the FBI, is also available.
In the early 1990s, the National Security Files of the FBI were declassified. Three volumes cover the period from February 1964 to October 1967. There are also 54 rolls of microfilm on the Department of Justice that cover the years 1964 to 1968. Johnson maintained an intelligence file containing material on a broad range of issues. Recently declassified documents include a reference set of presidential directives and messages from 1963 to 1969.
See the library’s website at http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/ for more information.
The Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library
The Nixon Library has FBI-related records open to the public in the White House Special Files, especially in the Confidential Files from subject category Federal Government (FG) 17-5, FBI. Additional material relating to demonstrations, domestic intelligence, drug enforcement, and the nominations of Richard G. Kleindienst and L. Patrick Gray, III is dispersed among the files of John W. Dean, III; John D. Ehrlichmann; Egil Krogh, Jr.; and the staff secretary. Many of the FBI-related records in these files are restricted.
The White House Central Files, especially subject category JL (Judicial-Legal Matters), include material concerning the FBI’s role in criminal matters and law enforcement. Additional relevant material may be found in subject category FG 17-5, FBI. There are oral histories of a variety of people, such as Attorney Generals Elliot Richardson and William Saxbe. The library also has the personal papers of Henry Kissinger, including Agency Files (boxes 146-149), which deal with the Department of Justice and the FBI. The National Security Council Files relating to the presidential daily briefing have also been made available to researchers; these briefings are supplemented by briefings prepared by the FBI.
See the library’s website at http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/index.php for more information.
As mentioned above, the National Archives also has extensive holdings on the Watergate scandal, which became one of the FBI’s most difficult investigations.
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum are found in two different locations. Despite the separation, the library and museum are a single institution. The Ford Library contains FBI-related records in the White House Central Files, especially in subject category FG 17-5, FBI.
FG 17-5 deals directly with the FBI and contains material on the activities of the FBI and FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley. Topics include the National Crime Information Center, the dedication of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building, presidential messages and letters of commendation and sympathy, invitations to speaking engagements, personnel actions, proposed foreign travel of administration officials, compliments for Director Kelley, complaints against Kelley’s alleged improprieties, and inquiries and requests from the general public about specific FBI activities.
Additional open records under the heading FBI are very few and widely scattered among the files of presidential advisers and in the Ford pre-presidential papers. There are many files concerning crime policy, drug enforcement, congressional investigations of the intelligence community, and the Warren Commission. Information on the FBI may be found among these records. The papers of Leo Cherne—which deal with the FBI and the creation of the Intelligence Oversight Board and the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board—may be of interest to those researching intelligence policies in the Ford Administration.
The papers of Attorney General Edward Levi are housed at the museum. The records include the Levi oral history interviews, scrapbooks containing clippings and occasional photographs , and bound volumes containing speeches and testimony. The records—which concern Levi’s work as attorney general and legal issues such as gun control, crime, and electronic surveillance—often touch on the FBI. In record group JL-4-1, the attorney general’s decisions, opinions, and interpretations are open to the public.
The papers of Jane Dannenhauer, a staff assistant, are partially open to the public. Her papers deal with the FBI’s public release/redacted version of records compiled in connection with its background investigation of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller for the position of vice president, including summary material from applicant-type investigations of Rockefeller conducted in 1950, 1953, and 1969. Included are interview reports and summaries, memoranda, correspondence, legal documents, financial statements, and news clippings.
See the library’s website at http://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/ for more information.
Jimmy Carter Library and Museum
Material concerning the FBI may be found in the White House Central Files, Subject File Category FBI; and scattered throughout other White House files. The files of the White House Counsel’s Office, which served as liaison to the Department of Justice, would have files relating to that agency.
The Carter Library staff has also conducted oral histories, including that of U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell. Many of the documents relating to the Carter presidency have not yet been released to the general public; others are only partially declassified.
See the library’s website at http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/ for more information.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
The records dealing with the FBI can be found under Federal Government (FG) 017, which is the designator for the Department of Justice.
Within FG 17, the records of the FBI are located at FG017-04.8http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/textual/whormsub/whormsub.html for more information. These records deal with the appointment with William H. Webster and William S. Sessions as FBI Directors. In addition, FG-017-04 has records on fingerprint checks; the proposed revision of the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic Security Investigations; the 75th anniversary of the FBI; alleged judicial corruption in Chicago; terrorism in the U.S.; and requests for investigations. The records in FG017 deal solely with the Department of Justice and cover annual reports; the report of the Task Force on Violent Crime; speeches by Justice Department officials; the attempted assassination of President Reagan; agency accomplishments; and civil rights enforcement and philosophy.
Some of the Reagan administration’s national security records have been declassified, including Executive Order 12333 and other documents that deal with intelligence activities. The records of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board have also been made available.
See the library’s website at http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/ for more information.
George Herbert Walker Bush Presidential Library
In the White House Central Files, the Bush Library has a collection of documents under Judicial-Legal Matters (JL). This category contains information pertaining to the judiciary and judicial procedure; crimes and criminal procedure, including criminals, crime conditions, investigations, and wire tapping; and legal material of a general nature pertaining to claims, mitigations, decisions, opinions, interpretations, and notaries. The bulk of this series consists of records relating to civil cases (JL002), frivolous and substantive, in which the president was named as a defendant, as well as criminal matters (JL003) involving prominent cases and crime-related legislation.
Record Group FG017 contains the records of the Department of Justice. Some of these materials are open to researchers. A subset, Record Group FG017-04, contains the records of the FBI, which have not been made publicly available.
The Bush administration conducted 30 National Security Reviews between 1989 and 1993. These reviews address general issues concerning national security and U.S. foreign policy. Reviews that have been declassified, either in whole or in part, are available from the Bush Library. The Bush administration issued 79 National Security Directives between 1989 and 1993. Unlike National Security Reviews, National Security Directives address specific issues concerning national security and U.S. foreign policy. Directives that have been declassified, either in whole or in part, are also available from the Bush Library.
See the library’s website at http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/ for more information.
William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library
The records dealing with the FBI can be found under Federal Government 017. Within FG 17, the records of the FBI are located at FG017-04. The majority of these documents have not been made available to the public.
The records of the Clinton Administration History Project consist of the histories of 32 federal agencies, including the Department of Justice. The project’s papers detail the accomplishments of President Clinton and his advisors for the period 1993 to 2001. Each agency associated with the enterprise submitted a narrative history along with supporting documents. The narrative accounts are primarily overviews of the various missions, special projects, and accomplishments of the agencies. The supplementary records include substantive memos, press releases, briefing papers, and publications illustrated with photos and charts.
See the library’s website at http://www.clintonlibrary.gov/ for more information.
George W. Bush Library
Like previous presidents, President Bush is in the process of raising funds and developing a library to chronicle his presidency. This library will contain records of interest to researchers on the FBI’s recent history, especially regarding the 9/11 attacks and the U.S. response to those attacks.
See the library’s website at http://www.georgewbushlibrary.gov/ for more information.
B. Library of Congress
The holdings of the Library of Congress are extensive and contain a great deal of material on the history of the FBI in many formats, including books, periodicals, and other printed documents. The full extent of such materials is beyond the scope of this guide. The library also maintains some microfilm collections of significant FBI cases released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Special notice needs to be made of the holdings of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, which contain a significant amount of material related to the FBI—especially from early 20th century presidential administrations and the personal papers of several former attorneys general. The most significant files are among the Woodrow Wilson and Harlan Fiske Stone papers. While personal papers are generally not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, those of recent attorney generals and others may carry access restrictions.
The agency that ultimately became the FBI was founded in 1908 under President Theodore Roosevelt. The Roosevelt papers contain correspondence with cabinet officials and a wide variety of other materials that may include information about the young Bureau and its work.
William Howard Taft
The most important collection of papers for President Taft is the Collected Works of William Howard Taft. Six of a projected eight volumes have been released to date. The collection will include all of Taft’s published works, as well as his presidential and state addresses and selected court opinions from his time as chief justice of the Supreme Court.
For unpublished papers, the best source is the Library of Congress’ microfilm collection, Papers of William H. Taft (Library of Congress, 658 reels). See http://findingaids.loc.gov/ for more information.
Warren G. Harding
The only published collections of Harding’s papers are single volumes of speeches. Rededicating America: Life and Recent Speeches of Warren G. Harding contains 21 pre-presidential speeches and a brief biography. Our Common Country: Mutual Good Will in America includes 18 speeches by Harding. The most comprehensive collection of Harding material is that of the Ohio Historical Society, which is available on microfilm at a number of institutions throughout the United States.
For more information, see http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/presidents/harding/related.html.
Many other collections in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division contain FBI related materials. Some of these include:
Herbert A. Philbrick
Harry A. Blackmun
Harold H. Burton
Lawrence E. Spivak
Thomas G. Corcoran
Robert H. Jackson
John J. Sirica
Simon Ernest Sobeloff
Joseph E. Davies
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
John J. Walsh (FBI agent, 1938-53)
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
National Broadcast Company (NBC)
Martha Dodd Stern (a spy for the Soviet Union)
INCOMKA Project ( the microfilm collection of COMINTERN records).
C. Papers of the Attorneys General
Manuscript collections left by former attorneys general provide valuable insight into the Bureau and the Department of Justice during their tenures. Some of these collections are maintained by the Library of Congress or the presidential libraries. Others are housed in various libraries or archives. Given the range of possible locations, each known collection is dealt with in chronological order of the attorney general’s term in office. Additional collections will be added to this list as they become known.
Charles Joseph Bonaparte
The papers of Charles Bonaparte are maintained by the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division. A register of his papers is available there. See http://lccn.loc.gov/58060036 for more information.
Harlan Fiske Stone
The papers of Harlan Fiske Stone are maintained by the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division. A register of his papers is available there. See http://lccn.loc.gov/76056133 for more information.
George W. Wickersham
There is no known collection of Wickersham’s papers.
James Clark McReynolds
The papers of James Clark McReynolds are maintained by the University of Virginia Arthur J. Morris Law Library, Special Collections, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This collection contains McReynolds’ professional, financial, personal, and genealogical papers. The professional papers contain correspondence, opinions, memoranda, and notes, principally from his years in the Department of Justice. During his Supreme Court years, there is a relatively small body of correspondence. In addition to the private correspondence, the papers include records of financial transactions, newspaper clippings, genealogical records, notebooks, election broadsides, photographs, and printed material about McReynolds. The personal correspondence explores McReynolds legal opinions that helped spur President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “court packing” proposal in 1937.
See http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaead/published/uva-law/viul00003.xml for more information.
Thomas Watt Gregory
The Thomas Watt Gregory Papers are at the Library of Congress. There is also a microfilm version in the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University.
In 1913, Gregory was named special assistant to the attorney general to conduct antitrust litigation against the New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroads. The following year, he became attorney general. Despite a continuing commitment to progressive reform, Gregory’s performance as attorney general provoked controversy because of his collaboration with Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson and others in orchestrating a campaign to crush domestic dissent during World War I. Gregory helped frame the Espionage and Sedition Acts and lobbied for their passage. He encouraged extralegal surveillance by the American Protective League and directed the federal prosecutions of more than 2,000 opponents of the war. He resigned on March 4, 1919.
Homer Stille Cummings
The Special Collections Department at the University of Virginia Library in Charlottesville, Virginia maintains the papers of Homer Stille Cummings. This collection consists of more than 170 cubic feet of records concerning Cummings, his family, his political career, and his tenure as attorney general. It also contains material on the history of the Department of Justice that he wrote with a Justice employee and extensive information on the FBI during the New Deal. See the library’s website at http://search.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/u3582998 for more information.
William Francis “Frank” Murphy
In 1939, Murphy was appointed attorney general of the United States. He distinguished himself as a crusader against crime and corruption and was primarily responsible for establishing a civil liberties unit within the Justice Department.
Murphy served until January 1940, when he was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. For nine years, often in the role of dissenter, Murphy championed the cause of civil liberties. The William Francis Murphy papers, 1908-1949, are held at the University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library, Michigan Historical Collection, Ann Arbor, Michigan. See http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/f/findaid/findaid-idx?c=bhlead&idno=umich-bhl-86734 for more information.
A listing of the locations of additional Murphy papers can be found at http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/internet/library/library.htm.
Herbert Brownell, Jr.
The papers of Herbert Brownell, Jr., attorney general from 1953 to 1957, are located at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas. See (documents) for more information.
Robert F. Kennedy
The papers of Robert F. Kennedy are located at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland.
Additional papers are housed at the John F. Kennedy Library. These official papers cover from 1961 to 1964 and include correspondence, desk diaries, books, library files, classified and personal files, speeches, telephone logs, messages, and trip files. See (link) for more information.
William P. Rogers
As secretary of state under President Nixon and attorney general under President Eisenhower, William P. Rogers witnessed some of the major events of the 20th century—including the Treaty of Paris (which ended the Vietnam War) and the opening of relations between the U.S. and China.
In 2001, the Rogers family donated records on the lives of William and Adele Rogers, the majority of which were from 1969 to 1973. The William P. and Adele Langston Rogers Collection is found at the Cornell Law Library, Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. See (file) for more information.
William B. Saxbe
In 1974, Saxbe was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Nixon. He resigned in 1975 to become the U.S. Ambassador to India. The papers of William B. Saxbe are housed at the Archives/Library of the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, Ohio.
See http://www.ohiohistory.org/ for more information.
Edward H. Levi
The Edward H. Levi papers consist of 258 linear feet and include biographical material, correspondence, subject files, notes, manuscripts, publications, certificates and plaques, academic regalia, newspaper clippings, photographs, and one audio reel. The papers document Levi’s career as a professor and administrator at the University of Chicago; his service in the Department of Justice in the 1940s and as attorney general from 1974 to 1977; and his involvement with many organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Bar Association, the American Law Institute, and the MacArthur Foundation. The Attorney General’s Guidelines were first created in 1976 by Attorney General Levi.
The Edward H. Levi papers are found at the Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library in Chicago, Illinois. Series 5, Subseries 2 specifically addresses his tenure as attorney general. See the guide at http://ead.lib.uchicago.edu/uncap_rs3.php?eadid=ICU.SPCL.EHLEVI&q=levi for more information.
Richard “Dick” Thornburgh
The Dick Thornburgh papers are located at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The collection is arranged in 21 chronological sections representing Thornburgh’s life and career, each with introductory information about the point in time, the position he held, and items of importance. The collection covers his tenure as assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division from 1975 to 1977, as well as his later tenure as U.S. Attorney General from 1988 to 1991.
See http://www.library.pitt.edu/thornburgh/ for more information.
Recent Attorneys General
There appear to be no archival holdings for the papers of many recent attorneys general, including Janet Reno, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Michael Mukasey, and current Attorney General Eric Holder. As the records become available, this section will be updated.
Newspaper and magazine articles, books, radio and television programs, and movies about the FBI are available to the public in libraries and archives. In addition, microfilm editions of major preprocessed files are available for sale from private publishers and libraries. A number of university libraries have microfilm or paper copies of FBI files purchased from the Bureau or from the National Archives and Records Administration for the use of their faculty and students. Some of these institutions are also acquiring the papers of former agents or the subjects of FBI investigations. These may provide a unique view of the Bureau or a specific matter investigated by the FBI.
FBI-related material may also be found among the personal papers of cabinet members and other government officials, prominent private citizens, and among the archives of law firms and private organizations. To locate this material, consult bibliographies of published works, as well as guides, catalogues, and other publications in library reference collections.
A. University and Other Library Collections
Don Whitehead Journalistic Collection
Don Whitehead wrote several books. He received extensive FBI cooperation while writing his bestseller The FBI Story, and worked for the New York Herald Tribune , sometimes writing on the Bureau. In the later years of his career, he continued writing books and was a regular columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel. He wrote actively until shortly before his death on January 12, 1981 at age 72.
The Don Whitehead Journalistic Collection, 1940-1973, (MS-1020), can be found in the University of Tennessee Special Collections Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. See http://dlc.lib.utk.edu/spc/search?keyword=Don+Whitehead for more information.
FBI Investigation and Surveillance Records
FBI Investigation and Surveillance Records, which begin in 1919, are in record number b2126607 at the Raynor Archives, Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. See http://www.marquette.edu/library/archives/Mss/FBI/FBI-main.shtml for more information.
This collection consists of photocopies of case files, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Professor Emeritus Athan Theoharis. Theoharis has written extensively about the FBI and obtained a large number of FBI records over the years. The material in the collection largely concerns the FBI’s domestic security investigations. Notable files include those on Albert Einstein, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Joseph McCarthy, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Watergate, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The collection also contains a copy of the FOIA release version of J. Edgar Hoover’s Official and Confidential Files.
Robert J. Lamphere
Lamphere was an FBI special agent from 1941 to 1955. Comprised mostly of research files generated for his book, The FBI-KGB War, the Robert J. Lamphere papers at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. document his research activities. Correspondence in this collection includes a large number of letters from Gary Kern, Sam Papich, and Fred Wrixon, as well as a small number from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Edward Teller. Drafts of Lamphere’s book—along with the English edition and the second edition—are part of the collection. Research files on the Rosenberg case and the Venona project are particularly extensive. The clippings series has several articles published by Lamphere.
This collection is made up of four boxes (6.5 linear feet) of material. Taken together, the Lamphere papers provide valuable insight into the career of a noted FBI agent during the early years of the Cold War.
For more information, see http://library.georgetown.edu/dept/speccoll/cl264.htm.
Attorney John Lowenthal was briefly a part of the team of lawyers working to defend Alger Hiss from perjury charges. Hiss, a Soviet spy, was convicted of perjury in 1950. Later, Lowenthal pursued research and produced a film that argued for Hiss’ innocence.
The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives contain the John Lowenthal papers. The collection includes research files and transcripts of interviews conducted for the film, correspondence, court records, and rough drafts and typescripts of articles and commentary written by Lowenthal.
For more information, see http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/lowenthal.html.
In 1950, Max Lowenthal published The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which severely criticized the FBI. In the 1950s, he was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, a federal grand jury in New York, and the Internal Security Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was also investigated by the FBI.
The Max Lowenthal papers, 1855-1970, are located at the University of Minnesota Libraries Archives. The collection contains personal and professional papers, correspondence, clippings, notes, and speeches of Max Lowenthal, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota. For more information, see http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/xml/uarc01006.xml.
One other collection may be of interest—the Max Lowenthal papers, 1929-1931, which are located at the Harvard Law School Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lowenthal served as the secretary of the Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement (commonly known as the Wickersham Commission) more than two decades before he wrote The Federal Bureau of Investigation. This commission was tasked by President Herbert Hoover to look at the state of U.S. law enforcement. This collection contains correspondence, memoranda, newspaper clippings, and other items related to Lowenthal’s participation as secretary of the commission. It is not directly related to the Bureau. See http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~law00185 for details.
Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers
The Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers are located at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This collection contains typed and handwritten manuscripts, interview notes, galley proofs, financial records, correspondence, audio and video tapes, clippings, research files, court documents, government publications, photographs, and memorabilia that document the Watergate investigation and writings of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Reflected in these records is their work at The Washington Post; on their two jointly written books, All the President’s Men (1974) and The Final Days (1976); as well as on the motion picture version of All the President’s Men (1976) and Woodward’s book Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate (1999).
For more details, see http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/web/woodstein/.
In 1935, Cochran became an FBI special agent and worked in Kansas City, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. over the course of his career. In 1966, he published his memoir, FBI Man: A Personal History.
The Louis Cochran Collection at the University of Mississippi, SMMSS 79-1 (three folders) contains Cochran’s correspondence from 1931 to 1932 and from 1962 to 1965. The records primarily focus on William Faulkner, although several letters also discuss Mississippi politician Theodore Bilbo and FBI agent Drane Lester. See (http://umiss.lib.olemiss.edu/record=b4407409)for more information.
Childs was a senior member of the American Communist Party for three decades until his expulsion in the late 1940s. He volunteered to assist the FBI in the early 1950s, eventually becoming the U.S. government’s most important source against the Soviet Union’s leadership.
The J. Edgar Hoover Foundation is the owner of the Morris Childs Papers, 1938-1995. Following the death of his wife, Eva Childs, his papers were entrusted to the foundation for safekeeping and for use by scholars interested in learning more about the history of American communism. Access to the Childs papers is by appointment only. See (pdf) for more information.
A copy of the papers has been donated to the Hoover Institute Archives at Stanford University. See http://www.oac.cdlib.org/data/13030/v4/tf896nb2v4/files/tf896nb2v4.pdf for details. The Hoover Institute also has a collection of materials from the late espionage writer John Barron. Barron wrote a book called Operation Solo, based on Childs and his family and their long relationship with the FBI. For more information, see http://www.oac.cdlib.org/data/13030/f8/kt9s2039f8/files/kt9s2039f8.pdf.
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Taylor Branch has written extensively on the civil rights movement and on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The FBI played a prominent and often controversial role in the movement and in Dr. King’s life.
The Taylor Branch Papers, 1865-2009—located in the University of South Carolina’s Southern Historical Collection in the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library—provide significant information on these issues. A finding aid for this collection may be found at http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/b/Branch,Taylor.html.
The American Presidency Project
In 1999, two professors at the University of California, Santa Barbara—John Woolley and Gerhard Peters—established The American Presidency Project, an online archive devoted to the study of the U.S. presidency. The site is a good resource for studying presidential policy and placing FBI investigations into a wider context. See http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ for more detail.
Percy E. Foxworth
Percy E. Foxworth was the head of the FBI’s Special Intelligence Service at the time of his death in 1943.
The University of Mississippi maintains two manuscript collections related to Foxworth.
First, the Percy E. Foxworth Collection, 1925-1991 (Archives and Special Collections, J.D. Williams Library) contains correspondence, photographs, and the FBI Medal of Honor given posthumously to Foxworth in 1991. A finding aid can be found at http://umiss.lib.olemiss.edu/record=b3555305.
Second, the Percy E. Foxworth/Chambers Collection, 1930s-1980s (Archives and Special Collections, J.D. Williams Library) includes correspondence from Percy Foxworth to Ann Foxworth; correspondence from J. Edgar Hoover to Percy Foxworth; FBI, Navy, financial, and general documents; and Ann Foxworth’s diaries and newspaper clippings. For details, see http://umiss.lib.olemiss.edu/record=b3555302.
John Edward Lawler
Lawler was an administrative assistant to Director Hoover and special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office. He played a key role in organizing the Bureau’s counterespionage work during World War II.
The John Edward Lawler papers, 1937-1974, are located in the Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University. They contain materials on Lawler’s career and on law enforcement and training. For more details, see http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaead/published/vcu-cab/vircu00052.document.
Roy L. Morgan
Morgan served as an FBI agent during World War II and then as an interrogator for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.
The papers of Roy L. Morgan, 1941-1966, MSS 93-4, may be found in the Special Collections of the University of Virginia Law Library. According to the finding aid, “these papers document Morgan’s work as a special agent for the FBI from December 1941 to June 1942 , when he was in charge of Japanese, German, Italian, and Hungarian diplomats from North and South America. These diplomats, as well as civilians, were detained and confined at The Homestead and The Greenbrier as prisoners of war while waiting for their repatriation and exchange for Americans being held abroad.”
See link for an inventory of these papers.
B. Online Collections
In recent years, a great deal of historical material on the FBI has become available online. Some of the collections are described below. The FBI does not vouch for the accuracy of the scans or transcripts of these materials, nor does it endorse any of these collections or the organizations that make them available, some of which charge a fee for access. The same materials may be obtained from the FBI under the FOIA process, at the National Archives, or through certain libraries or other venues.
JSTOR (www.jstor.org) is a non-profit organization with a dual mission to create and maintain a trusted archive of important scholarly journals and to provide wide access to these journals. It offers researchers the ability to retrieve high-resolution, scanned images of journal issues and pages as they were originally designed, printed, and illustrated. The journals archived in JSTOR include many disciplines. Access is given to members of certain history organizations and other subscribers for a fee.
The private publisher Gale—which maintains more than 600 databases online—has an FBI file collection on its website, which includes documents released under FOIA. See http://www.cengage.com/us/ for a list of available materials. The company charges a subscription fee for access to its information.
AARC Public Library
AARC is an electronic library that provides access to approximately 50,000 pages of reports, transcripts, and documents relating to political assassinations. Many of these documents were released in recent years under the provisions of the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act.
Its records on the FBI include a collection of 14 Church Committee reports. These reports were published in 1975 and 1976, after which recommendations for intelligence reform were debated in Congress and, in some cases, carried out. The Interim Report documents the Church Committee’s findings on U.S. involvement in attempts to assassinate foreign leaders. It also contains findings on the development of a general “executive action” capability by the CIA. The remaining reports are split into seven volumes of public hearings and exhibits and six books that contain the committee’s writings on the various topics investigated. These 14 reports are the most extensive review of intelligence activities ever made public. They can be found online at http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/contents.htm.
Following an arrangement with NARA, the for-profit Footnote.com has digitized the microfilm records of the Bureau of Investigation (the FBI’s predecessor). These digital images are available to subscribers. The indices of the microfilm have not been digitized, so the hundreds of thousands of images are not as readily accessible as the original microfilm. The guide to the original microfilm is available without a subscription at http://www.footnote.com/pdf/M1085.pdf and describes the scope and content of the original microfilm (and therefore the Footnote.com collection).
In 1947, the FBI and the National Security Agency’s predecessor began a cooperative project now known as Venona. This effort to decrypt, decode, and exploit Soviet telegrams sent largely during World War II has had a significant impact on Cold War history, intelligence history, and FBI history. More information about Venona and official copies of the decoded messages may be found on the National Security Agency’s website at http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/declass/venona/index.shtml. An essay on the early days of the project is available on the FBI’s website at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/highlights-of-history/articles/venona.
Memory Hole is an online collection of government documents, heavily focused on FOIA releases made by intelligence agencies. Its index is not organized but lists a number of FBI-related materials. See http://www.governmentattic.org/documents.html for more information.
Oral Histories and Other Historical Audio Material
Several years ago, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI—an independent alumni organization—began a program to capture oral histories of previous FBI agents. Transcripts of several of these histories are available on its website at http://socxfbi.site-ym.com/?page=FoundationOralHistry. Many more have been made public in cooperation with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Foundation on its website at http://www.nleomf.org/museum/the-collection/oral-histories/. These transcripts have been reviewed under the FBI’s Pre-Publication Review process to ensure that information protected by law is not inadvertently released.
The Miller Center of Public Affairs
The Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia is a national nonpartisan center dedicated to researching, reflecting, and reporting on issues of national importance to the governance of the U.S., paying special attention to the central role and history of the presidency.
The center’s Presidential Recordings Program has made public recorded telephone calls and meetings of U.S. presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Richard Nixon. FBI personnel, including Director Hoover, can be heard on a number of these recordings, and the telephone discussions sometimes touch on FBI subjects. See http://www.whitehousetapes.net/ for more information.
A. Making a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request
The FBI receives thousands of FOI/PA requests each year and responds as promptly as possible in the order in which they are received. Some requests require a review of thousands of pages and are very time-consuming to process. These responses may take many months to prepare. Researchers should keep their own deadlines in mind when making a request.
Overview of the Freedom of Information Act
The Freedom of Information Act, Title 5, United States Code (USC), Section 552, states that any official Executive Branch record must be released upon written request, with the exception of information falling under nine categories of exemptions. Processing consists of a line-by-line review of the material by a legal administrative specialist, who deletes words, lines, paragraphs, or entire pages that are exempt under FOIA, and marks the applicable exemption(s) next to the deletions. The most frequent exemptions used by the FBI are:
(b)(1) information currently and properly classified in the interest of national defense and foreign policy;
(b)(2) internal personnel rules and practices;
(b)(3) information exempt under other laws;
(b)(5) pre-decisional communications;
(b)(6) protection of personal privacy; and
(b)(7) certain categories of law enforcement material.
All information that is not exempt under the law must be released. In some cases, these exemptions lead to a requested page or file containing only a few lines of released material. A requester believing that information has been deleted improperly may file an appeal with the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy and/or federal courts. Instructions for making such an appeal can be found on the FBI’s Freedom of Information/Privacy Act website at http://www.fbi.gov/foia/foia-test/foia_test.
How to Make an FOI/PA Request
A Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act request begins with a clearly written request to the FBI’s Record/Information Dissemination Section. Guidelines for making a request are as follows:
(1) Describe the topics as specifically as possible, including date spans, geographical locations, and any other data that will help limit the request.
(2) Write the request in searchable terms (e.g., names of individuals or specific organizations, rather than general subject matters).
(3) Include birth and death dates for individuals. Because of the privacy exemptions [(b)(6) and (b)(7)(C)], information on living individuals is not released in most cases. If the individual is deceased, the request should provide evidence to that effect, such as a death certificate or an obituary. The FBI has files on many individuals with the same name, so supplying birth dates and other identifying data will help locate the specific file(s) requested. Proof of death is not required if the subject of the request was born prior to 1900 or is older than 100 years of age.
(4) Know what you are requesting. Bibliographic and footnote references are often misleading. Before requesting files mentioned by title or number in other sources, try to determine if the reference is accurate and if the file to which it refers is pertinent. Including a full reference to the source and/or a copy of the source itself may also be useful.
(5) Requests for some types of case file material can be confusing. At present, all serials—including so-called “Do Not File” memoranda—are indexed and maintained in the Central Records System, even if these documents (or copies of them) at one time were filed separately or were not indexed. There is no reason to request these serials specifically, since the entire case file is reviewed. Other records, like the J. Edgar Hoover Official and Confidential Files, have been accessioned to the National Archives and are no longer available under FOIA. EBFs (enclosures behind the file) and bulkies are also normally processed when found in a search on a subject. By their nature, EBFs and bulkies usually consist of large amounts of material. Often they are copies of public source information, are documents from other agencies, or are otherwise not pertinent to a researcher’s primary interest. Rather than put these items in an initial request, the researcher may save time and money by specifically exempting them. If the cover serials for the EBFs or bulkies in the regular file indicate an EBF or bulky is original material, it can be handled in a separate request.
(6) Requests must include valid contact information, such as mailing addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses. The lack of this information slows the processing of requests.
Fees for FOI/PA Requests
Some requests cover thousands of pages and are quite expensive to process. In these instances, the Records Information/Dissemination Section writes or telephones the requester before further work is done.
According to FOI/PA regulations effective October 2, 1986, the identity of requesters and the manner in which they will use the information requested are important in determining what fees are assessed.
If the information will be used to further commercial, trade, or profit interests, requesters will be assessed the full direct costs of searching for the records, reviewing them to determine if any information should be withheld, and duplicating them.
Educational and non‑commercial scientific institutions—along with representatives of the news media—are only assessed duplication costs, which are generally 10 cents per page. The first 100 pages are provided without charge.
All other requesters are assessed search costs in excess of the first two hours and duplication costs, excluding the first 100 pages. Except in the case of commercial-use requests, there is no charge assessed if the total amount of fees is $8 or less. In general, lengthy enclosures (such as magazines) are described to the requester rather than reproduced and furnished. This policy ensures adherence to copyright restrictions and saves the requester the expense of duplicating records that may not be needed for his or her specific project. If specifically requested, copies of photographs contained in the FBI’s investigative files may be reproduced and provided to the requester at cost.
The FOI/PA also provides for a full or partial waiver of fees when disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. The term “public understanding” means the public at large must have an interest in the information, rather than just the individual requester or a narrow segment of the public. Furthermore, if the information is already in the public domain, a fee waiver is generally inappropriate.
Requesters seeking fee waivers should explain why they believe they are entitled to such waivers, according to Title 28, Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), Section 16.10(d). They should also explain their expertise in the subject area and how they intend to disseminate the information to the general public. If the information will be used for commercial purposes, requesters should explain why public interest in the disclosure of the information outweighs the requesters’ commercial interest.
If the anticipated fees will exceed $25, requesters must agree to pay the fees before their requests will be processed. Thus, requesters should include in the request letter the maximum amount of fees they are willing to pay without further notice from the FBI. If a fee waiver has been requested, the requester should state whether he/she is willing to pay the fees assessed if the waiver is denied.
Further information about the assessment of fees and granting of waivers may be found in Title 28, C.F.R., Section 16. You may also include any questions you have on processing fees in your request letter.
Other Types of FBI Record Requests
By law, the FBI maintains a range of criminal identification and criminal history records. Some of these may be accessible by special request. Such records include FBI identification records and National Name Check Program records.
An FBI identification record is not the same as an FBI file—it is simply a listing of information taken from fingerprint cards submitted to the Bureau in connection with arrests, federal employment, naturalization, or military service. The subject of an FBI identification record may obtain a copy by writing to:
Criminal Justice Information Systems Division
Attn: SCU, Mod. D-2
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
Each request must include proof of identity—including your name, date and place of birth, and a set of rolled-ink fingerprint impressions placed upon fingerprint cards or forms commonly utilized for applicant or law enforcement purposes by law enforcement agencies. Include a payment of $18 in the form of a certified check or money order payable to the Treasury of the United States. For more information, see http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/fprequest.htm.
The National Name Check Program (NNCP) searches the FBI’s Universal Index (UNI) to identify any information contained in FBI records that may be associated with an individual and provides the results to the requesting federal, state, or local agency. A name is searched in a multitude of combinations and phonetic spellings to ensure all records are located. The NNCP also searches for both main and cross-reference files. A main file is an entry that carries the name corresponding to the subject of a file, while a cross-reference is merely a mention of an individual contained in a file. The outcome of a search of this magnitude can result in several “hits” on an individual. In each instance where UNI has identified a name variation or reference, information must be reviewed to determine whether it is applicable to the individual in question. These checks are conducted on behalf of legitimate law enforcement organizations and other authorized requestors. To learn more, see http://www.fbi.gov/hq/nationalnamecheck.htm.
B. How to Cite FBI Records
Citations of FBI records should give the reader sufficient information to access the same material. Although FBI files contain many different types of records, the following examples should suffice for most of them. Citations should include: document type, sender/location, recipient/location, date, caption/subject, classification‑file number‑subfile (if applicable)‑serial number.
Example: memo, SAC (Special Agent in Charge), Boston, to Director, FBI, 12/10/50, WILLIAM JONES, JOHN SMITH‑VICTIM, Bureau File 7‑xxxx‑124.
Example: letter, SAC, Atlanta, to Chief of Police, Atlanta, 1976 TRAINING SCHEDULE, 1‑xxxx‑124.
The types of documents usually found in FBI files include:
(1) Letter: A communication sent from FBI Headquarters to a field office, from a field office to FBI Headquarters, from one field office to another, or from either FBI Headquarters or a field office to any outside agency or person.
(2) Memorandum: A communication (on FBI memorandum paper) to the attorney general and other departmental officials, from one official to another at FBI Headquarters, or from one employee to another within a field office. It is also applicable to the omnibus types, such as memoranda to all special agents in charge.
(3) Letterhead Memorandum (LHM): A memorandum on letterhead stationery; it normally requires a cover communication for transmittal.
(4) Report: A written document containing the results of an investigation. It is almost always prepared in a field office.
(5) Cover Page: The page(s) containing administrative data, leads, and informant evaluations not found in memoranda or reports.
(6) Teletype: A communication transmitted by machine.
(7) Airtel: An intra-FBI communication with highest priority of those sent through the mail. Originally conceived as a teletype sent via airmail, it may be in teletype phraseology.
(8) Electronic Communication (EC): A multi-purpose, intra-FBI communication developed in the 1990s to replace a memorandum, teletype, or airtel. This type of document received its name because it was typically sent electronically, like e-mail.
Fox, Jr., John F. “Unique Unto Itself: The Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation 1908 to 1945,” Journal of Government Information, vol. 30, Issue 4, 2004, pp 470-481.
Haines, Gerald K., David A. Langbart. Unlocking the Files of the FBI: A Guide to Its Records and Classification System, Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1993.
Hoover, John Edgar. “The Confidential Nature of FBI Reports,” The Syracuse Law Review, vol. 8, No.1, fall 1956, pp.2-17.
House Committee on Government Operations, Subcommittee on Government Information and Individual Rights, Hearings on Inquiry into the Destruction of Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s Files and FBI Recordkeeping, 94th Congress, 1st Session, 1975.
National Archives and Records Administration. Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation, 1908-1922, Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1983.
Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (The Church Committee). Hearings on Intelligence Activities, Vol. 6, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 94th Congress, 1st. Session, 1975.
Theoharis, Athan G. FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation): An Annotated Bibliography and Research Guide, New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.1994.
Theoharis, Athan G. The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide, Phoenix, AZ: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999.
1 For a more detailed treatment of this development through the end of World War II, see John F. Fox, Jr., Unique Unto Itself: The Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1908-1945, Journal of Government Information, Volume 30, Issue 4, 2004, pages 470-481.
2 A detailed monograph on these changes is in the works and is expected to be completed in 2011.
3 Historians have written frequently about these matters, albeit in a way that emphasizes a conspiratorial take on such records. See for example, Athan Theoharis’s essay in the book he edited entitled Beyond the Hiss Case: The FBI, Congress, and the Cold War (Philadelphia: Temple University Press 1982). Written at a time when the range of FBI materials was much more limited, Theoharis’s argument and those that follow it tend to neglect the bureaucratic process that led to the creation of FBI record-keeping policies and the fact that many of its practices were common across the government. In neglecting these issues, the context and meaning of the development of FBI records is sometimes misunderstood: see Fox, Unique Unto Itself, as cited above.
4 The report included a “History of FBI Record Keeping” and descriptions of each of the FBI’s file classifications to that point. See National Archives and Records Service, Appraisal of the Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: A Report to Hon. Harold T. Greene. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Washington, 1981), Volume 2, Appendix D, unpaginated.
5 A dated, but valuable condensation of this report is Unlocking the Files of the FBI by Gerald K. Haines and David A. Langbart, Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1993.
6 Where that file had been previously released in part under FOIA and that release had been placed in the FBI’s Electronic FOIA library, the electronic version of the old FOIA release has been removed from the FOIA Library, as it is no longer the official release on the file and the FBI no longer retains custody of the file.
7 Footnote.com, through an arrangement with NARA, makes this microfilm available digitally for a subscription fee at http://www.footnote.com. The company has not digitized the indices to this film.
8 Where that file had been previously released in part under FOIA and that release had been placed in the FBI’s Electronic FOIA Library, the electronic version of the old FOIA release has been removed from the FOIA Library, as it is no longer the official release on the file and the FBI no longer retains custody of the file. Footnote.com, through an arrangement with NARA, makes this microfilm available digitally for a subscription fee at http://www.footnote.com. The company has not digitized the indices to this film. Series numbering may differ between presidential libraries.