FBI Wants to Destroy 9,000+ RICO Files

PDF: FBI Request for Records Disposition Authority

PDF: National Archives appraisal of FBI request

Link: Notice in the Federal Register


The FBI has requested permission to destroy a huge number of files, and the National Archives and Records Administration has give its preliminary approval.

The FBI wants to pulp small files about its RICO investigations from 1970-1991. Larger files (those containing more than one section or 30+ registered documents) will be kept permanently. However, files with only one section and less than 30 registered documents will be destroyed 25 years after the case has been closed. Since these cases date from 27 to 48 years ago, the files would be eligible for destruction as soon as FBI’s proposal gets final approval.

The National Archives (NARA) estimates that under this proposal, 29% of the RICO files from that period would be kept permanently. Thus, 71% would be destroyed. Out of a total of 12,971 files, that means around 9,210 will go into the shredder.

These documents have not been scanned, so they don’t exist in digital form. Once they’re pulped, they’re gone.


What’s in the Files?

RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, part of a 1970 law aimed at the mob. Because it can be used to prosecute (or sue) people in almost any type of organization for conspiring to commit a pattern of crimes, its use has been expanded to target corporations, sports leagues, motorcycle gangs, police departments, government agencies, Catholic dioceses, etc.

The assessment gives us a glimpse into the files:

“Most of the cases relate to narcotics, arson, gambling, labor unions, corruption of public officials and police officers, and organized crime involvement in legitimate businesses. To a lesser degree, the cases involved extortion, murder, pornography, loan sharking, fraud, prostitution, theft and sale of stolen property, hijacking, smuggling cigarettes, and embezzlement.”

NARA’s assessor believes that nearly all of the short RICO files have minimal or zero research/historical value.


What Can Be Done?

Not much can be done at this point. NARA has an odd way of handling these proposals, and by the time I found out about the FBI’s proposal (which was announced – but not posted – by NARA on Regulations.gov on April 13, 2018), the period for public comment had closed.

Even though the formal comment period has ended, you can still try writing to:

Mail: NARA (ACRA); 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.

Email: request.schedule@nara.gov.

FAX: 301-837-3698.

Your comment will not be formally considered, but it might still have some effect.


A note on the figures above

At one point in the appraisal (bottom of page 2), a total of 12,971 cases in mentioned. However, in the middle of that page, the appraiser writes that 3,030 cases represent 23% of total cases. If this is true (i.e. 3,030 = 23%), then the total number of cases is 13,174. In this case, the amount to be destroyed (71%) equals 9,354.

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