FBI opens ‘The Vault,’ UFOs, Jimi Hendrix and Malcolm X fly out
Earlier this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) released a revamped version of its electronic reading room for records and documents from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Dubbed “The Vault,” the database is designed to make it easier for readers to scour thousands of FBI documents.
Among the documents are some real national treasures. The files are divided into categories that range from Counterterrorism, to the Gang Era, to Organized Crime and Unexplained Phenomenon. The last of which contains the infamous “Guy Hottel letter.”
Hottel was a special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office. On March 22, 1950, he sent a memo to the FBI director concerning UFO sightings in New Mexico.
“An investigator for the Air Forces stated that three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico,” read the letter. “They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter. Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only three feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture.”
In the pop culture section, readers can peruse FBI files on the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Malcolm X and Lucille Ball. Even famed country singer John Denver has a 33-page file that documents an FBI investigation into his possible association with drug trafficking.
One document, dated Feb. 15, 1990, even noted that at a benefit concert, “it was alleged that Denver was pretty well strung-out on cocaine.”
New to the Pop Culture section are documents pertaining to an FBI civil rights/color of law investigation that ran from 1997 to 2005 about the death of rapper Christopher George “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace, who was murdered on March 9, 1997.
The Vault has on display FBI documents about Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Apparently, Lady Bird received quite her fair share of death threats during and after her husband was the ruler of the free world.
One memo, dated April 3, 1976, details a phone call from someone in Massachusetts (the name was redacted) claiming that Presidents Ford, Johnson and Nixon, along with their wives, were complicit in murder and should be indicted. When the operator asked the caller whether he intended to harm the aforementioned people, the caller would only say, “That’s irrelevant.”
One sobering file concerning the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick reveals a memo from the FBI field office in Boston to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that curiously reads “Stated Fact Senator Kennedy was driver is not being revealed to anyone.”
Another document in the Kopechne file is a letter from someone (the name of the sender was also redacted) to Hoover. The contents of the letter, however, suggest he was an FBI employee of some kind. “Unless the ‘exhumation’ is ordered, Miss Kopechne’s name will be added to another long list of American women who have gone by default in your “Jurisdictional Alibi,’” reads the letter.
It continues: “I have tried too many times to understand the evanishment of good American traditions, but this old determination of obliteration records of American women, is particularly irritating … the immaculateness of Mary Jo Kopechne (only a nose and mouth congestion) has not eluded you, Mr. Hoover. The mortician says that it is a thousand to one shot that the girl never went into the windshield …”
According to The Vault website, the FBI will be adding to the archives every month.