Last August, while researching an article on the 1960 protests against House Un-American Activities Committee, I discovered that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had claimed not to have any records related to the activist Frank Wilkinson, a central figure in the protests.
As almost every article about Wilkinson mentions his infamously immense FBI file - reportedly totaling some 132,000 pages - I filed a new request, taking care to mention the previous attempt. A few weeks later, the Bureau responded, releasing 35 pre-processed pages and directing me to request the file from the National Archives and Records Administration, providing the reference numbers 100-SU-9247 and 100-HQ-49524.
and most alarming, the other file was apparently empty.
While the Bureau giving out the wrong reference number is nothing new, this is the first time I’ve seen the two agencies directly disagreeing with each other over who has what, and the implication that the file is somehow missing is deeply disturbing.
Even weirder, it’s a pretty hard file to lose. As we learned from the FBI’s FOIA processing manual, the file is likely still a physical copy, and as you can see from this video uploaded by Defending Rights and Dissent - the successor organization to the Defending Dissent Foundation founded by Wilkinson himself - it’s pretty darn huge.
I’ve filed yet another request with the Bureau for Wilkinson’s file, citing NARA’s response, and here’s hoping third time’s the charm. If it turns out the records are genuinely missing, or even worse, destroyed, it’ll be a terrible loss of such a valuable chapter of hidden history.
Frank Wilkinson was the founder of our predecessor organization. After litigation, Frank was able to have his 132,000 page FBI file released. We are disturbed by these developments. https://t.co/agGk8vypkf— Defending Rights & Dissent (@RightsDissent) January 9, 2019
Image via Defending Rights and Dissent