Monday, June 11, 2018

JFK Records for Beginners - Rules for Researchers

JFK Research for Beginners - Rules for Researchers  - By Bill Kelly

Deciding to learn about the assassination of President Kennedy has been described as entering “the Rabbit’s Hole,” or entering the “Wilderness of Mirrors,” a vast morass you can’t easily wade through without getting lost or stuck.

Fortunately, and thanks to those who have gone before us, the Rabbit’s Hole and House of Mirrors is well mapped out and a lot easier to navigate than the first generation of researchers found.

Before you begin or even look at the maps, you have to take a pre-requisite linguistics class on the lexicon.

When Jim Fraser, the owner of the Atlantic City Country Club asked me to write the 100 year history of his golf club, I told him that I didn’t play golf or know much about the game, and he said he had two thousand golfers and he needed a researcher and writer. Club golf pro told me that all I had to do was learn the lingo of golf –the lexicon, and the rest would come easy, such as the term ‘birdie’ meant one under par for the hole, a term that had been coined there, and so came my second book “Birth of the Birdie.”

And just as David Maurer, the Kentucky linguist, went into the underworld of criminals to learn their slang terms, and came out with the key to the Big Con confidence games –ala The Sting, in order to understand what happened at Dealey Plaza you have to learn how to read documents, translate codes, and identify aliases with the true name of persons.

Now that many of the most significant JFK assassination records are digitalized on line and can be accessed with a computer connected to the internet, it’s a lot easier to become an armchair detective instead of having to actually go to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), become a research associate, and travel to the Archives II in College Park, Maryland to review a cart of documents that you had requested the day or week before.

The Archives II was funded in 1992 as part of the Congressionally mandated JFK Act, and is one of a number of remote archives, including Presidential Libraries run by the NARA, under Archivist of the United States (AOTUS) David Ferriero. The old, original Archives building, in downtown Washington D.C. (Across the street from the Hard Rock Café), has the theater where the first Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) hearings were held, and offices, it has a famous statute on the front steps that reads: “The Past Is Prologue,” a Shakespeare quote. The JFK Collection is housed at the Archives II, about fifteen miles north of Washington near the University of Maryland.

The digitalized documents on line are just the tip of the perverbial iceberg, as the JFK Collection at the Archives II also includes the main evidence in the murder of President Kennedy, including the rifle said to have been the murder weapon, the Zapruder Film, and other key elements in the crime.

Besides the hard evidence, films, videos, tape recordings and emails, there are what they call “textural” records, or documents, of which there are over 5 million, most of which have not been scanned and digitalized and put on line, as the most recently released documents were.

Even the textural documents can be broken down into categories – such as index cards, handwritten notes, typewritten reports, memos, cables and transcripts of interviews.

While another set of rules apply to those who actually visit the Archives II, this will be a primer for those who want to review the JFK assassination records that are posted on line, beginning with the NARA web site where they were first posted. The NARA, in ignoring the JFK Act provision that requires the Archivist to provide the public with a guide and index to the JFK Collection, has instead posted a completely useless web site that has not been updated in years, but has been over-rided by three private sites that are much more easily navigated.

Mary Ferrell, a Dallas legal secretary, was one of the first generation of researchers to keep a good record of everything that had to do with the assassination, and she began with index cards on subjects and persons and a very useful chronology file, a collection she sold to a software developer who had researcher Rex Bradford scan and post the most significant records she had and what were released by the NARA.

The web site has been responsible for much of the best new work on the assassination to date.

While the Mary Ferrell site was a lone pioneer, two others have entered the fray, including the good folks at the, where they copied all of the records from NARA and made a more workable search engine.

Then the Microsoft research team, in order to make a case study of a subject to test their new software application, chose the newly released JFK records and pumped them all through their black box machine and came out with some very interesting results, as one Microsoft engineer put it: “We just ran all the content through, and right away you could see that the CIA, the FBI and even Cuba were involved in all this.”

Now in dealing with textural JFK Assassination documents the first thing you need to know is what they call the “RIF” number – Record Identification Form – that begins with a number – three digits – the first of which relates to the agency of origin – FBI, CIA, State, etc.

For example: 157-10014-10049 is the RIF Record Identification number, with 157 signifying the SSCIA - Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities - AKA the Church Committee is the originator, while 180-10143-10299 is a House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) record as the 180 indicates.

Each RIF page – the first page of every record – will tell you a lot – the agency of origin, the topic, subjects, number of pages – some documents are hundreds of pages long, others just a one page memo, but every record should have a RIF number that you can always refer to, site as a source and easily return to.

Most of the search engines – Mary Ferrell-Blackvault-Microsoft use name or subject traces, as well as the RIF number, so you can type in a name – David Atlee Phillips, John Rosselli, William Harvey, and come up with hundreds of documents you can brouse, or you can review them according to the Subject file, or date.

As James Jesus Angleton told Thomas Powers, one of the first things you do in beginning a Counter-Intelligence investigation is to create a Chronology of relevant events so everything can be more easily understood, and while Mary Ferrell had the best Chronology when she was alive, she has been super seeded by Ira David Wood’s JFK Assassination Chronology –

Besides the RIF numbers, name and subject files and chronology, it is also necessary to learn the language and techniques of what Allen Dulles called The Crafts of Intelligence.

First off there’s the acronyms – abbreviations using the first letter of a title – as in POTUS – President of the United States, and ACSI – Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence, CIA – Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, etc.

Then there are very specific operational terms – as an Agent is a very different person than an intelligence Officer or an intelligence Asset – who can be a willing asset or unwitting asset who does what you want without knowing the full program.

Most CIA Officers are what David Maurer and the Big Con artists call “Inside Men,” who operate from a desk with a telephone and give instructions and directions, and are usually suave and sophisticated – such as Ted Shackley and Desmond Fitzgerald, while the “Outside Men” operate in what they call “In the field,” - on the street, interacting with their agents, operatives and assets – such as David Phillips and William Harvey.

Official Officers and Agents work out of an embassy under cover, while others operate apart from the embassy, under commercial or business cover, usually using an alias and fake identity that will withstand a background check.

When they communicate in memos, cables or letters, they use a crypt code that is only known to them – such as KUBARAK is the crypt code they used for the CIA Headquaters in Langley, Va., while JMWAVE was the code for the largest CIA base in the world at the old South Campus at the University of Miami, Florida.

Peter Dale Scott, Bill Simpich, John Newman, Rex Bradford and Malcolm Blunt have all contributed to the lists of aliases, codes, crypts and ciphers that are used by those involved in the JFK assassination story, so visiting the lists composed so far at will give you a good idea of what you are up against in trying to make sense of some of the more obscure JFK assassination documents.

Mary Ferrell CIA Cryptonyms:

Besides the official NARA JFK Collection web site, and the three searchable data bases, there are other good sources for JFK Assassination records including Baylor University library,, JFK Lancer, Kennedys & Kings, Hood College, Sixth Floor Oral History Project, and of course

Join CAPA and become part of our Research Team and share the information we uncover.

Bill Kelly – CAPA Research Coordinator. 

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