“Reportable Information”

(In honor of Sunshine Week, I am proud to present NDC staff member England Reeder as our guest blogger today to write about a project on which he has been working that is close to public release.)

Judge Merrick Garland collected the documents in this record series while he served as Special Assistant to the Attorney General from 1979 to 1981

Transparency into the conduct of the U.S. government’s business underlines the mission of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  The National Declassification Center (NDC) has a larger burden of service to the American people. We release all the records we can but protect all information that it still deemed classified under Executive Order 13526. In the commission of my tasks at the NDC I processed a collection of documents gathered by then Special Assistant to the Attorney General, Merrick B. Garland. He is currently Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Merrick B. Garland and former President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

The title of this blog entry, “reportable information”, is the terminology used to define information which was brought to the attention of then Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti. The Daily Attorney General Reporting System instructed all Heads of Offices, Boards, Bureaus and Divisions how to determine what was “reportable information”. In a memorandum to all Heads of Offices, Boards, Bureaus, Divisions; United States Attorneys; Special agents-in-Charge; Heads of DEA Regional and District Offices; Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti states: “ The purpose of the system is to bring to my direct, personal attention vital information every 24 hours.” The reports and related materials were delivered daily and weekly. The system began operation in January of 1980. The following five categories of information to be reported from the various jurisdictions of all components of the Department of Justice were emergencies, serious allegations of misconduct by federal, state, or local officials, serious conflicts between government agencies and departments, serious misconceptions about DOJ actions and policies by the public or the press, and any important information within the last twenty-four hours that warranted the AG’s attention.

Some of the interesting topics in this one box series include the escape of six American Embassy personnel from Iran. The events described in these documents reflect the plot premise of the Ben Affleck movie “Argo”.  Other topics include information related to investigations of federal, state, and local government officials. Terrorism, airplane hijackings, and bombings were being reported by Federal Bureau of Investigation field offices. Hunger strikes by political prisoners, protests by groups like the Communist Workers Party, the Ku Klux Klan and citizens of Puerto Rico were also being reported.   The records also include information related to the ABSCAM case, investigations of state government officials, and cases involving conflict of interest by government officials. As the Attorney for the United States government it was important that AG. Civiletti was aware of all conflicts within the U.S. Government departments and agencies. Lastly, the escape of convicted spy Christopher John Boyce (whose story was the basis for the film “The Falcon and the Snowman”) is chronicled along with other reports from the Bureau of Prisons.


boyce notice
Among the documents Merrick Garland collected for Attorney General Civiletti’s attention in 1980 was this memorandum from the Director of the U.S. Marshals Service, William E. Hall, about the escape of Christopher Lee Boyce.

These materials present another look at the events of the early 1980’s from the point of view of the Department of Justice late in the Carter Administration. Note that some materials contain handwritten comments by Garland, showing his deliberations and opinions of reported information. NARA and the NDC are excited to be able soon to provide the public access to these materials. These materials will be accessible at the Archives 2 facility in College Park, Maryland at the beginning of April 2018.

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