On many occasions I've been asked about how we might go about finding files on issues like the Roswell incident of July 1947, the JFK assassination, mind-control and so on. I should stress that a lot of material on JFK's murder has been placed into the public domain. And the same applies to mind-control too. As for Roswell, well, we'll come to that later in this article. There are, however, some files that will almost certainly never surface. The main reason? They have been destroyed. Indeed, while the provisions of the Freedom of Information Acts of many nations have proved to be very useful, if the material that one might be looking for has been shredded or burned, there's not much that can be done. If at all. And, with that said, let's take a look at some perfect examples of how certain secrets will almost certainly stay that way forever. We'll begin with the CIA's "mind-control" programs, the most well-known being MK-Ultra, much of which involved the experimental use of psychedelics. Yes, a large amount of that material is available today, but back in 1973 huge amounts of papers on the programs were burned to a collective shred.
The reasoning behind the destruction was simple: the program was in danger of being compromised by the U.S. media and the U.S. Senate. As the work of MK-Ultra, by 1973, had long been perfected, the old, historical records – which told the stories of the abuses that went on in the program – were deemed vital to be destroyed. CIA Director Richard Helms chose a man named Sidney Gottlieb to take control of the situation – Gottlieb having been the man who ran the CIA's occult-driven Operation Often program, which began in the latter part of the 1960s. Helms ordered Gottlieb, on the morning of January 30, 1973, to drive over to a certain installation owned by the CIA in Warrenton, Virginia. It was a facility that just happened to house hundreds of thousands of pages of MK-Ultra-themed documents. The director of the facility was outraged – after all, we’re talking about massive amounts of documentation from one of the CIA’s most significant projects being destroyed at what pretty much amounted to a whim. But, that same director was hardly in a position to argue, as the orders were coming from the most senior figure in the CIA, Richard Helms. So, massive amounts of MK-Ultra files were burned - and we'll never know what they contained.
Photo: Nick Redfern
Now, onto the JFK killing of November 22, 1963. Yes, it's a fact that the U.S. Freedom of Information Act has allowed us to see a tremendous amount of documentation on the death of the president. But, as history has also shown, some records were destroyed long before there was a push for everything to be released. All of this brings us to a man named Robert E. Jones, as a perfect example. At the time of the assassination, Jones was a colonel in the U.S. Army. When, in the 1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations launched a deep inquiry to try and answer, once and for all, the riddle of who killed JFK. Colonel Jones said he knew something significant. In 1978, he went before the committee and shared what he knew – namely, that when the President was murdered there were around a dozen military personnel on site. It was Jones' impression, at the time, that the group was there to help provide protection for the president, in much the same way that the Secret Service did. It has since been suggested by JFK researchers that the military team was not there to protect the president – but that it was really a carefully camouflaged hit-squad.
There is an interesting afterword to all of this: as far back as the summer of 1963, the HSCA learned, Colonel Jones had been involved in a top secret investigation of Oswald’s activities. As a result of this investigation, official files were, of course compiled. They didn't stay compiled, though. The HSCA did its best to track down the military intelligence file on Oswald, which Colonel Jones knew of – because he was a key figure in the collation of it. Unfortunately, the HSCA’s best was not good enough. According to the HSCA’s records: "Access to Oswald’s military intelligence file, which the Department of Defense never gave to the Warren Commission, was not possible because the Department of Defense had destroyed the file [italics mine] as part of a general program aimed at eliminating all of its files pertaining to non-military personnel." Yet, again an example of how files can vanish forever.
Photo: Nick Redfern. The Roswell crash site.
Now, onto Roswell. When, back in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (previously called the General Accounting Office) tried to find files on Roswell, they hit the definitive brick wall. The GAO said in its Roswell report: "In addition to unit history reports, we also searched for other government records on the Roswell crash. In this regard, the Chief Archivist for the National Personnel Records Center provided us with documentation indicating that (1) RAAF records such as finance and accounting, supplies, buildings and grounds, and other general administrative matters from March 1945 through December 1949 and (2) RAAF outgoing messages from October 1946 through December 1949 were destroyed [italics mine]." The GAO Continued:
"According to this official [the Chief Archivist for the National Personnel Records Center], the document disposition form did not properly indicate the authority under which the disposal action was taken [italics mine]. The Center's Chief Archivist stated that from his personal experience, many of the Air Force organizational records covering this time period were destroyed without entering a citation for the governing disposition authority [italics mine]. Our review of records control forms showing the destruction of other records - including outgoing RAAF messages for 1950 - supports the Chief Archivist’s viewpoint."
As all of the above shows, the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act do not always guarantee that papers will be found and released. Sometimes, they're just gone: burned, shredded and/or completely missing. Forever.