More from my father’s FBI files

It was over a year ago that I received a copy of my father's FBI file, 272 pages of photocopied material.

A while after that, I got another much slimmer envelope from another government agency with more material; apparently the FBI passed along my FOIA request to other agencies, and they were slower to respond.

I hadn't heard any more after that, so I figured that was all I would see. But in late May, I got a CD-ROM in the mail from the Department of the Navy. It contains an 18-page PDF document, but I think almost all of those pages were already in the FBI file.

As you may recall from the abovelinked post, a great deal of the material in the government's files about my father isn't about him at all; it's about a soldier of fortune from New Orleans named Rigsbee who had run guns to Cuba, and who looked nothing at all like Peter, but for some reason had started using Peter's name while they were both in Mexico. The agencies were really confused by this, and seem to have spent a lot of person-hours attempting to determine whether the two were the same person.

There is one useful new bit of information in this new Navy PDF: A 1962 letter from J. Edgar Hoover (well, presumably just from his office) that says, among other things, “It does not appear that [Peter's] travels [to Mexico] in the Summer of 1961 [with the intent of going to Cuba] have any relation to the defection of Mitchell and Martin.” It goes on to note that Peter met Martin in the summer of 1958 (when Peter was 18), and that the Office of Naval Intelligence interviewed Peter (presumably after the defection) and Peter said that Martin had not said that he was going to Russia in 1958 “but indicated that he might [REDACTED]”. This is the first time I've seen any indication that the FBI was aware of the Martin connection; I had previously known that the CIA knew about it, but the FBI file didn't include this Hoover memo or any other mention of Martin.

Anyway, aside from that, almost all of this new Navy material is also about Rigsbee, so there isn't much new here.

Still, one of the documents in the Navy PDF is especially entertaining, due to the extent of the redactions.

It's an FBI memo labeled SECRET, but as with several other instances in this PDF, SECRET is crossed out. Next to that it says “EXEMPTED FROM AUTOMATIC DECLASSIFICATION”; it references an exemption code to explain why it was exempt. The date on the report is JAN 16 1962. There's about four or five lines redacted, then half a page of stuff about Rigsbee in 1961. Then at the top of page 2 it says "DETAILS" and “Investigation was instituted in this matter”—and then the entire rest of the page is redacted.

And then all of page 3 is redacted.

And all of page 4. (Each page is labeled SECRET, with the word crossed out.)

And most of page 5.

And then at the bottom of page 5, it says this:

          By memorandum dated February 10, 1961, the
United States Department of State advised it had received
information from a source,considered reliable concerning
[REDACTED].  This source advised that[REDACTED]
[page break]

(And then there's some non-redacted material.) I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I was tickled by that one little bit of completely uninformative unredacted text in the several-page sea of redaction.

(Now I want there to be a crater on the moon, or else a segment in Yellow Submarine, called the Sea of Redaction.)

One other note: I confess to being kind of curious about the FBI agent assigned to Peter. His name, which appears on several FBI documents, was J. Francis Sullivan (isn't that a great name for an FBI agent?); I'm curious about who he was, how he gathered information, what he thought of all this, what else he did. But a couple of cursory web searches haven't turned anything up.

(Wrote most of this entry in late May, but didn't get around to posting it until now.)

One Response to “More from my father’s FBI files”

  1. Jed

    It belatedly occurs to me that the reason that the name J. Francis Sullivan sounded familiar to me is that there’s a character named Frank Sullivan (who looks like John Dillinger) in Illuminatus!


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