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Classification 134: Foreign Counterintelligence Assets

Informants have been part of the intelligence operations of the Bureau from its earliest days. The first document in the administrative control file on informants is a June 1, 1922 document from El Paso, Texas requesting permission to pay "Y Four Hindered" or $4 per day to report on "new revolutionary activities Mexico." In 1929 J. Edgar Hoover instructed the Headquarters file room to "maintain a separate and distinct file for the purpose of placing therein the names of confidential informants who furnished the Bureau with information....The names of confidential informants must not be placed in the regular investigative files."

Apparently, the initial response to such instruction was to establish a confidential informant file for each Field Office where the names of the informants of the office were filed. In 1934 Hoover instructed the Bureau to prepare a "detailed memorandum" on each individual informant, detailing "the case in which the informant has been employed and the amount paid." This information was to be kept in one place for ready reference. Out of these increasing needs for controls grew the Headquarters files on informants, including the master administrative file in Classification 66, the individual files in Classification 62: Administrative Inquiries (Miscellaneous Subversive and Non-Subversive), and in other classifications (informant files were often filed in the classification on which the informant was providing information, such as Classification 65: Espionage or Classification 98: Sabotage), and in the ledgers and "blue slips" recording payment. In addition, there were a few Headquarters informants for whom the Bureau had full control and whose records were maintained by Headquarters.

By 1928 the Field Offices were instructed to forward names of confidential informants to the Bureau in a separate letter marked "Personal and Confidential." Apparently some Field Offices kept their files on the informant in the 62 Miscellaneous classification, others filed them in the substantive classification on which the informant was providing information, but the most common practice appears to have been to maintain the confidential informant files outside the central file system in the sole custody of the Special Agent in Charge. In 1948 a problem with a confidential informant in a Field Office led Headquarters to consider the files maintained in the custody of SACs. As a result, the Field was instructed to index and serialize each confidential informant file, to maintain a separate file for each paid or regular highly confidential informant, and to place in that file all correspondence and data pertaining to paid or regular highly confidential informants.

A year later in June 1949, the Field was instructed to provide special handling for information from highly confidential sources such as "Governors, secretaries to high officials who may be discussing such officials and their attitude (sic), or when referring to highly confidential or unusual investigative techniques." The identification of such sources was to be sent to the Bureau by separate letter with inner enveloped marked "June" and outer envelope marked "personal and confidential" for the Director. The Bureau and the Field copies were both to be maintained under lock and key in separate confidential files. Such informants were under no circumstances to be identified on the administrative page of a report, but the page was to say that the source of the information would be "identified in a separate letter."

Even these strengthened procedures did not meet the Bureau's needs for control over informant files. On August 25, 1952 the Bureau instructed the Field Offices to use new Classification 134 for all files on security informants. All informal correspondence from an individual on whom a "main subversive file" in Classification 100: Domestic Security or a similar classification existed was to continue to be filed there; however, any new informants were to be given 134 case numbers. Each informant would have an administrative file and a sub-file. The administrative file would contain the results of the background investigation of the informant, records of contacts, records of payments (if any), copies of status reports from the agent maintaining contact with the informant, and the identity of the source. The sub-file would contain the information furnished by the informant, either in written form or orally to an agent who reduced it to writing.

At Bureau Headquarters, many informant files were reclassified for control purposes into Classification 66 between 1950 and 1952. The inauguration of Classification 134 in the Field caused Headquarters to reconsider this policy and in March 1953 headquarters also began to use 134. At Headquarters only an administrative file was opened (the payroll office maintains a ledger on payments to each informant). Information contained in the sub-file in the field came to Headquarters in two ways: (1) the periodic reports from the Field Office that summarized the production of the informant during the period (beginning in 1955) and (2) reports from agents on particular cases that included information obtained from the informant. Headquarters continued to be the control office for some informants, particularly those "Bureau Sources" that are government agencies, either domestic or foreign.

When the classification was established it included the informants who provided information on extremist matters and subversive organizations. In 1959 all security informants who furnished information exclusively about racist hate groups were re-designated as criminal informants in Classification 137. When Classification 170 was established in 1960 the primary file location for extremist informants shifted there; however, numerous informants on radical matters whose files were open at the time 170 was established continued to have their information place in 134. In the late 1960s and early 1970s informants on student activity formed a noticeable portion of the Bureau's interest, but by the mid to late 1970s the emphasis turned back to foreign counterintelligence.

By 1969 the Bureau began to limit the use of Classification 134. The field was instructed to open general files on persons contacted as security sources in Classification 105: Interanl Security-(Country). If there was an indication that espionage might be involved in the informant's information, the file should be opened in Classification 65: Espionage. Files on all potential informants or double agents remained in Classification 134.

Following the 1971 break-in at the Media, PA resident Agency, the Bureau tightened controls over the use of symbols in reporting on informants and the distribution and retention of information to resident agencies. This did not change the general pattern of handling informant files, but in 1974 the Bureau began to refocus Classification 134 toward foreign counterintelligence. At that time all references to informants in the foreign counterintelligence area were discontinued and replaced with reference to operational assets (OA) or informative assets (IA).

In 1976, the Bureau discontinued the use of extremist and PROSAB (Classification 135: Protection of Strategic Air Command Bases of the U.S. Air Force (Obsolete)) informants and panel and confidential sources, all of which were filed in Classification 134; if information continued to be received from any of these sources, a "66 (Dead)" file could be established. In addition, with the increasingly narrow focus on foreign counterintelligence, a number of informant files were reclassified into Classification 137: Criminal Informants.

The late 1970s were a time of reassessment and revision on the use of informants by the Bureau. In September 1978, Headquarters decided to revert completely to the use of logical categories for filing informant files (Classifications 65, 100, 105, and so forth) rather than to concentrate the files in Classifications 134 and 137. The Field continued to use Classifications 134 and 137 and both Field Offices and Headquarters were instructed to maintain all pending informant files in a confidential file area.

NARA online catalog descriptions of holdings for Classification Classification 134: Foreign Counterintelligence Assets

Record Group NARA IdentifierSeries Title
65569415Classification 134 (Foreign Counterintelligence Assets) Released Under The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Acts

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