FBI Posts 76,000-page file on Barker/Karpis Gangsters

Link: Barker/Karpis Gang at the FBI Vault

[UPDATE: Emma Best has created a mirror for the subfile on the kidnapping of Edward Bremer, by far the most voluminous part of the file.]


The 1930s gang that included Ma Barker – one of the most infamous female gangsters – is the subject of a humongous FBI file. It’s 76,159 pages, which makes it one of the biggest of the Bureau’s files. From what I can tell, it might be the second-largest ever released, behind the Rosenbergs’ file (~142,000 pages). It’s much larger than the released files on COINTELPRO (​52,680 pages), Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers ​(46,213 pages), and the internment of Japanese Americans (and others) during World War II (​34,207 pages).

Until now, this file had never been online – it had been previously released but only on paper. In February 2017, I filed a FOIA request for a digital version. I suspect that the FBI has now scanned all of the files it released during the paper-only era, or, at the very least, the most important/prominent files.

Sure enough, the FBI has a PDF version, which it wanted to send me on 146 CDs, at a cost of $2,200. Rather than appeal, I wrote to the FBI’s public FOIA liaison, asking that those files either be sent on one CD/DVD/thumbdrive or be posted to the FBI’s Vault. Several months passed, which included my deadline to file a formal FOIA appeal, so I had given up hope, but then I got a July 21 letter letting me know that the file has been posted to the Vault (as 474 PDFs). In follow-up correspondence on July 28, the FOIA liaison told me that while they had gone ahead and posted the vast majority of the file, 42 more PDFs will be uploaded in the coming weeks. This should constitute the full released file.

Kudos to RIDS (the FBI’s FOIA office) for making this huge file freely available.

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