The Half Life of an FBI File

The excellent drama Manhattan, which is about the Manhattan Project and not New York City, features a scene where one of the characters is warning the others not to sign a petition because it would be used by the FBI to make a blacklist which would affect them for the rest of their lives and leave a shadow over their families even after their death. In the context of the scene, he was talking about Hoover’s FBI and how they would react to potential dissidents in one of the most sensitive locations in America (not even the Vice President was fully read into it) but it seems that for the Bureau, not much has changed since then – except the attitude has spread beyond national security. A recent FOIA request indicates that the Bureau is planning “a law enforcement proceeding” against a man who’s been dead for 39 years.

Before he died, Charles Nicoletti was a hitman for the mafia in Chicago. He worked primarily for Sam Giancana, but continued working for the mafia after Giancana’s death in 1975. Until two years later, when he was shot three times in the back of the head. The suspected killer was identified by FBI agent William F. Roemer Jr., who had worked the Nicoletti case, as Henry Aleman – who died in 2010. Despite all of this, the Bureau is withholding Nicoletti’s file because of a pending law enforcement proceeding, which would be compromised by releasing any portion of the file.

Law Enforcement Proceeding

Given his death and the death of his suspected killer, this can only mean one of two things:

  1. The FOIA office for the FBI is lying in order improperly withhold records.
  2. The FBI is planning a law enforcement proceeding against a man who has been dead for thirty-nine years.

While it might seem plausible that there is a law enforcement against someone else in his file, this wouldn’t prevent the release of the entirety of the file – words and pages might be redacted, but the only thing that the entirety of his file encompasses is him. In other words, the FBI seems to agree with the ruling of a Canadian court that not even death would be considered a material change to the circumstances of a child support case with the implication being that the corpse might be jailed.

Thinking that this was an error on the part of the Bureau, I appealed their decision. The Justice Department upheld it, however, agreeing that releasing any portion of the file would interfere in a law enforcement proceeding.


It seems that the half-life of an FBI file may indeed be longer than any of our natural lives.


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