In reading further in John Stockwell’s extremely informative book, I ran across another example of a soft file and some insights in how they could be collected.
Stockwell discusses the fact that various CIA stations in Africa were very concerned about the travels of Senator Clark, of the Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs. Clark had been briefed on the Angola covert operation but he had been given the standard brief that was being given to Congress and even State Department Staff in Angola itself. In other words a brief that avoided some of the sticky details that Congress might be worried about – such as shipments of weapons directly into Angola and CIA personnel inside the country, not just coordinating from across the border in Zaire.
So there was some communication going on about the Senator and efforts being made by CIA stations to prepare people he might talk to – now you might ask yourself, should the CIA be telling people just what to say and what not to say to a Senator but hey… So, as a person of interest, albeit an American and a Senator, there were several soft/working files open on the Senator including one at HQ that Stockwell had access to – and in reading that he saw that Clark had been mentioned by name in station cable traffic. Big oops there since cables are official documents, numbered, logged, recorded in chronological files and in the computer system that recorded all cable traffic, etc…and if Congress had decided to investigate the Angola project somebody might have seen him mentioned and been smart enough to ask for office files on him and
Stockwell points out that soft files had become much more in use after passage of the FOIA legislation and as there were more and more Congressional investigations of the Agency.
So, we are learning a lot more about soft files – they can pertain to individuals of particular operational interest (like Sturgis – thanks Zach), they can relate to people the Agency is concerned about for political reasons and they can relate to actual operations. Stockwell notes that such files are referred to as “unofficial”, “convenience” or “soft” files and that they are used for anything the office considers to be sensitive from a security or even a political standpoint. One specific example he gives is:
“Surveillance of American Citizens” — aha!
Now if the CIA had Oswald under surveillance domestically it would be extremely sensitive and if they had him under surveillance in Mexico City it would be equally sensitive. I won’t go into all the names on Zach’s list but we do know MC had Duran targeted so that might explain her file. Hargraves might make since given his involvement with paramilitary actions agaisnt Cuba.
And Lee Oswald….hmmmm… now if you had Oswald under surveillance would you want to go into any detail on that, say around November 23rd?
Now if that darn soft file list had just had a column for “office” where the file was resident, we would know a whole bunch more. But this does call out one area for some really serious research; if somebody can find out just how the HSCA knew to look for soft files and how they requested them and how they were provided…we could learn a lot. And then the question is, did the HSCA try to follow up on that list and collect Oswald’s soft file??? By the way, the list Zach found must be from the HSCA collection, but did they get it themselves or take it from somewhere else?
— lots to be learned here, Larry