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






About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

3 responses »

  1. Zach Robertson says:

    Thanks Larry,

    Another awesome entry. I wonder if Dan Hardway or Ed Lopez could comment on any of this? I know they did a lot of the leg work and got many files that had not seen the light of day. I would guess they would have some answers here.


    • Zach, I’ve been on the phone with my buddy Stu and we will run it past Hardway. One of the things we have learned from searches this evening is that the CIA did provide an Oswald soft file to the HSCA staff person working file research and she appears to have been unsatisfied with what she got because she had a source telling her about
      an Oswald soft file and what she was getting didn’t match the source info. At that point in time there was considerable unhappiness about what was being generally handed over because the HSCA had only received some 10% of the total Oswald file info. The CIA’s response on the subject also worked hard at minimizing what a soft file might have in it. Lots to pursue on that and the real question is what source the CIA was using for generating
      a soft file….a real working file would have been in SAS/CI, CI/SIG, or out in the field say in MC.

      Now on Duran, the CIA did give a soft file on her to the HSCA and (in the spirit of my friend Ian Griggs motto /Seek-Find-Share) here it is:

      Everyone can take a look and see how this compares to our working images of a “soft file”

      Of course, we have to accept the fact that any soft file created after the assassination might not be exactly what we want and any soft file not coming out of SAS/CI or CI/SIG is probably not very useful and that the CIA would be unlikely to hand over anything like that anyway…but all this is certainly an educational exercise in understanding exactly how sensitive material is protected and how unlikely it would be for any investigation to turn up soft files that were truly “sensitive” (or that demonstrated the Agency behaving

      — Larry

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