Testimony of Steve Tilley

New Orleans, Louisiana -- June 28, 1995
Next, we'd like to hear from Mr. Steve Tilley, who is the person in charge of the JFK Collection at the National Archives. Mr. Tilley works closely with us. We're an independent agency. He works for the National Archives, but he's the person who is in charge of the collection and he periodically provides updates to the Board on additions that have been made to the collection and he will give us an update today. Welcome, Steve.

MR. TILLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's a pleasure to appear before the Board again.

On the Kennedy Act, the John F. Kennedy Act, mandated seven specific responsibilities to the National Archives, but for our purposes today I'll discuss three that I think are probably the most important as far as the public is concerned.

First, within 45 days of the statute being signed, the Archives was required to prepare to make available standard identification forms for use by all government offices in describing assassination records. Further, the Archives was required to ensure the creation of a database for these identification forms to serve as an electronic finding aid to the collection.

And of course, as the Board knows and as anybody who has researched with us knows, this, in fact, has been accomplished and the database is up and running at this time. It currently contains about 120,000 forms, records we say or forms. It's important to point out that the database does not contain the actual documents themselves. It is not a scanned type situation where the actual text are in the database. This is a database of the record identification forms that have been created by the agencies as they reviewed their records.

At this time, the database can still only be searched by members of the National Archives staff, but we are continuing to work on getting this thing available via the Internet, which is a development I know the research community is awaiting.

Our second responsibility was to establish the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection. On December 28, 1992, we established the collection based on an announcement published in the "Federal Register" on December 21. And this announcement also solicited open assassination records from all Federal agencies.

Now since the Archives already had custody of most of the open records, this is primarily just a technical event designating the following records as part of the collection: It was the records of the Warren Commission; the records of the Secret Service; part of the records of the Department of Justice, the Criminal Division case file, which we already had custody of; records of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA having already transferred the first portion of Lee Harvey Oswald's 201 personality file in September of 1992; and personal papers and donated records from our presidential libraries.

Our third major requirement was, along with other government agencies, was to identify, review and make available to the public all assassination records that were closed that could be disclosed within a 300-day review period. All records reviewed in this 300-day review period were required to be entered into the database and have a record identification form attached.

At the end of the 300-day review period, which was August 23, 1993, the Archives made available the newly released records, which included the remainder of the CIA's 201 file, along with other records which we've deemed the "segregated collection"; records from several components of the Department of Justice, however, none from the Federal Bureau of Investigation at that time; the records pertaining to the President Kennedy assassination from the House Select Committee on Assassinations; and records from our presidential libraries.

Now the first FBI records were transferred in December of 1993, beginning with the records on the investigation of Jack Ruby. Since then, we have also acquired records on the -- their file on Lee Oswald and also their file on the assassination itself. The FBI has also transferred files on related individuals, such as Marina Oswald, David Ferrie and Clay Shaw and on related subjects, such as its liaison files with the House Select Committee on Assassination and the Church Committee. And also files on certain individuals related to organized crime, such as Sam Giancana. Other files are also under review at the FBI.

In September of '94, the CIA made an additional transfer of approximately 30,000 pages of material that is part of the segregated collection, and these records relate primarily to the CIA's work with Cuban exile groups in the early 1960s.

At this time, though, I should point out that only a portion of the 201 file is available on the database, can be searched through the database. We're still waiting for the transfer of disks, data disks from the CIA for the remainder of their records.

Now we also have the records of the Church Committee and the initial transfer took place in January of 1994. We currently have approximately 40,000 pages of this material. There are additional records under review at the committee. Once again, we cannot search these in the database at this time. The committee hasn't turned over their disks yet.

There are also three boxes from the records of the Pike Committee that have been transferred. It's important for the research community to remember that those two committees looked at a number of different subjects dealing with the activities of the CIA, primarily domestic activities outside their charter, and potential involvement with the assassination of President Kennedy was only one aspect of their charge and we have other records related to that particular aspect of their work.

We have State Department records. We have received approximately 17,000 pages of State Department records. We also have records of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which includes records of the Office of Naval Intelligence.

Records from presidential libraries. We have a number of records from five of our libraries. The three that had the most materials, of course, are the Johnson Library, the Kennedy Library and the Ford Library. Materials from the Johnson Library include transcripts and tape recordings of conversations of President Johnson that are related to the assassination.

All conversations of December and November of '63 have been released in the interest of having total disclosure so there would be no idea that perhaps certain conversations in that most important period right after the assassination were being withheld. From January to '64 on then, assassination related conversations have been released.

All tape recordings that have been identified by the staff of the library have been released with -- there are a few which have some minor deletions. Not every conversation has a transcript and the Archives does not make transcripts of records and the transcripts that do exist were made by the staff of the White House or persons working for President Johnson on a private basis at the time he was working on his memoirs, "The Vantage Point."

The Kennedy Library has released desk diaries, telephone messages, and telephone logs of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for the years 1961 to 1964. There are some gaps in these records, however, and they've also released copies of the Secret Service gate post logs for the White House.

Now just in the past month, the Kennedy Library has also released papers from the -- documents from the papers of Theodore White, that deal with the so-called "Camelot Papers" and based on an interview he did with Mrs. Kennedy on November 29, 1963. They have just recently been released and have been added to the collection.

Now in November of 1994, the CIA sent a team of reviewers to the Ford Library to review records of the Rockefeller Commission, which are in the custody of the Ford Library and that review has resulted in the release of approximately a third of those records. We are still awaiting copies of those records to be sent by the staff of the Ford Library. The remainder of that file is still under review by the CIA.

At this time -- well, let me just say one other thing in reference to court materials.

There are some Federal court records at our record center in Fort Worth that do apply to Clay Shaw and to Jim Garrison. My understanding is that Mr. Shaw eventually had to get a restraining order through the Federal courts in New Orleans to basically keep Jim Garrison away from him and we have found out that there are files down there and we are getting copies of those and we'll be adding them to the collection as soon as possible. Of course, they'll be open. Shouldn't be any problem with any withholdings there.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Are those records, Steve, in Fort Worth did you say?


CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: And they're not held under any seal of court at this time?

MR. TILLEY: I'm sorry.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: They're not held under any seal, any court seal at this time?

MR. TILLEY: No, they're just part of the holdings of the U.S. District Court record group down there and we've had people down there go through the finding aids and identify these case files that apply to this. So they are going to be copying those and then sending them to us.

Around this time the collection is approximately doubled since the time we opened it August of 1993, over, well over a million pages of documents so far. We are awaiting additional records to be transferred from other agencies and, of course, records that will come to us through the activities of the Review Board.

I'll be glad to answer any questions the Board may have, sir.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Tilley. Are there questions?

MS. NELSON: You keep mentioning gaps. Can you tell us a little bit more because, of course, gaps are what we as a board have to deal with, those things that are not open? Can you tell us a little bit more about the gaps, for example, gaps in some of the collections from the Kennedy Library?

MR. TILLEY: Sure. The particular instance that I mentioned is that the desk diaries for Robert Kennedy, the desk diaries, which are basically a calendar of his daily events with his meetings and et cetera that on there, the diary for 1963 is missing, and the Library staff indicates that it was never in the possession of the library. It was never turned over to the library by the Kennedy family. So that's one example where there is a gap.

There are also gaps in some of the telephone logs for that period. I believe we're missing both '62 and '63 on the telephone logs. So that's an example of a gap that does exist.

MS. NELSON: Are there similar gaps in the Johnson Library?

MR. TILLEY: Not really, no. I don't think there's anything like that. We have a complete listing of all of the tape recordings that are in the Johnson Library and the library staff has been listening to all the tape recordings since the law was passed and has identified what they say are all the assassination related tape recordings.

Now they have recently informed us that a couple of more have been identified that will eventually come to us. But there is an ongoing review and I really don't think we can say there's any gaps there. They seem to have a good control of what they have.

MS. NELSON: The documents that are turned over by the government agencies have deletions? That's the gaps?

MR. TILLEY: Well, yes. I mean many of the records that have been transferred by agencies do have deletions in them. In its initial transfer in '93, the CIA estimated that approximately 10 percent of their records were released in full, 10 percent denied in full and 80 percent released with deletions. My experience in looking at the records and in dealing with them over the past couple of years, I would say that's probably a fairly accurate guess.

There's no doubt that the FBI records also contain many, many deletions of information within them. So when I say gaps, I'm talking about things which should be there and aren't. As far as deletions, just many, many documents in the collection do have deletions that have been made by the reviewing agencies.


MR. JOYCE: Mr. Tilley, you refer to a number of instances in which the agencies have not provided the disks necessary to provide information for the database for the collection. Can you elaborate on the reasons why that might be the case and what effects that's had on access to the collection by researchers?

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Well, I think in certain instances it's probably because they're doing a lot of quality control checking on the disks. They're trying to make them as accurate as possible. They're going back and putting in more -- when they have records come back that have been on coordination with another agency, they're holding it so they can try to put that information into it so it'll be as final as possible before they transfer it to us.

I think in several instances, particularly with the FBI, it's also a question that have so many people working and they're just continuing to review documents and they continue to add documents to the disks. But I won't say that it hasn't had an effect on our ability to service the collection, however. Certainly, we have not been able to do as good a job in providing access to particularly the records of the CIA without having these data disks available to us.

What we have done is we have tried to create some more traditional archival finding aids, which we call folder title list, where we list the title of every folder that's in a box and provide a paper listing to the researchers, so they can at least get some idea of what is in that particular box or what's in that folder. But it's obviously not as detailed nor nearly as complete as a document level finding aid, which the database is.

I mean the database lists every document that's in the collection. So it's obviously had some effect on our ability to help the researchers.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you. Further questions?

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Tilley. I'm constantly struck by the immense volume of the records that are accumulating at the National Archives and we're going to be providing a few more for you.

MR. TILLEY: I'm sure you are, sir.


MR. MARWELL: I have one question.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Go ahead, David.

MR. MARWELL: We've learned today that members of the public have donated records to the collection. Can you just tell us what will happen to those records, the records that Mr. Connick spoke about and the Garrison family records?

MR. TILLEY: Sure. The Archives has a small gift collection that we have maintained from before where folks have wanted to donate records to the Federal Government. And we have procedures where the donation will be received by our Projects Division, we call it, our Archival Projects Division and someone from our staff will probably examine the records at some time and do what we call an appraisal on it.

The appraisal generally would be done to make sure that, in fact, the records are worthy of retention by the National Archives as history of the Federal Government. Obviously, I think in this instance that that will be a perfunctory event because obviously these records are worthy of retention as part of the collection. But there is a bit of a paper process we have to go through.

But we will have it -- we will have the records appraised, have a formal document signed, which says they are worthy of retention in the National Archives, and then once the record is transferred to us, then we have a certain period of time in order to process them.

Our projects people will then go through the records. If they are not well-arranged, we'll try to arrange them in some sort of form. If they are properly arranged, we will then accept them as they are. We'll identify them in some manner with some sort of a finding aid.

Then what we will have to do, I think there's no doubt, that we will have then to do record identification forms on each document so that they will be part of the database. Now that will be a time consuming process obviously. I would think that we will try to make some accommodation with the research community. We won't sit back and spend six months or a year doing that process, which for a large collection of records could very well take that long because it is a very time consuming process doing this data entry. However, we'll probably try to do it in stages and have other records available with some of a sort less creative finding aid, if you will, for research.

But that will be the process. We will bring them in, do some archival processing on them and then as soon as possible, make them available.

Then, let me just say one more thing, I think it will be also -- the Board should know that James L. Rankin, Jr., the son of J. Lee Rankin, the General Counsel of the Warren Commission, has contacted us, has written to us and has indicated that he wishes to donate his father's papers to be stored with the records of the Warren Commission, approximately seven boxes. I'm not sure how much volume we're talking about.

Our people from our Records Center, Records Branch, out in Laguna and Miguel in California -- I'm sorry -- San Bruno in California, will be in contact with Mr. Rankin in the near future to start the process of having those records made part of the JFK Collection. We're looking forward to adding those to the collection.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: It's an important addition to the collection.

MR. TILLEY: Yes, I think it is.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Tilley.

MR. TILLEY: Thank you, sir.

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