After nearly half a century as one of the most notorious criminal masterminds in the popular imagination, Charles Manson, 83, passed away last month in a Kern County hospital bed. On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released the first part of its files on the famed cult leader, which focuses primarily on the confusion following the August 1969 murders that made him famous.
Recently declassified records released to the National Security Archive confirm the U.S. government’s awareness of, and active participation in, the Indonesian mass killings that spanned late 1965 to early 1966. A search through the Central Intelligence Agency’s archives for that time period reveals over a thousand related records in various degrees of redaction, showing the Agency’s keen interest in the “Situation in Indonesia.”
This week there have been some great examples of the impact public records requests can have, including how a three-year fight for records ended up overturning a murder conviction, while another long-running transparency effort is leading to reforms in civil asset forfeiture in Illinois.
FBI files on publisher Bennett Cerf show the Random House co-founder trying to use his leverage with the Bureau to get them to vouch for author Truman Capote’s investigation into the 1959 Clutter murders, which would eventually become the seminal true crime novel In Cold Blood.
We know many things about the 1981 triple murder of Fred Alvarez, Patricia Castro and Ralph Boger. We know that the bagman for the hit, Jimmy Hughes, confessed. We know that a 2010 trial was interrupted when charges were abruptly dropped and evidence lost. We know from witness statements that the murders appear to be connected to the corruption surrounding Wackenhut and the PROMIS affair. We know from FBI’s own records that the Bureau looked into the matter. And most recently, we know that the FBI has not only repeatedly refused to release those files, but apparently removed the request from their FOIA tracking system.