Call me crazy, but, my bipolar diagnosis notwithstanding, I’ve long wanted a copy of my father’s FBI file.
For years, however, it seemed impossible, since my ability to access it required information that only my mother could provide—namely a copy of my father’s death certificate and social security number.
My mistake was assuming my mom wouldn’t give these to me and, therefore, never asking. I was wrong. She was willing. I have filed the application.
I’ve known for some time that I couldn’t write a thoroughly accurate memoir—to the degree that “accurate” means comprehensive—without the information that file likely contains—namely the case the federal government had against my dad. I’ve long wanted to know the means FBI agents used to monitor my father’s activity, the contents of wiretap transcripts, descriptions of the raids agents carried out at our home, and the evidence they uncovered during those visits.
Sure, I could simply have described what I remember, what my siblings recall, what I recorded in diaries and journals at the time, what local newspapers said about Daddy’s arrests, trials, and sentences. However, it also seemed the picture would be incomplete without the federal government’s perspective, as well.
For, indeed, the FBI was a major player in my childhood—nearly another character in the story—especially with Daddy’s posting us kids at windows on the weekends, on guard against a raid. Our job was to give my father even a few minutes advanced warning in the event that federal agents approached the house—enough time for Daddy to destroy evidence—which in later years involved flushing it down the toilet. (My father wrote on a form of rice paper that dissolved in water.)
What’s equally important here is that my upbringing, not only lent new meaning to notions of childhood normal in America, but also confused the good-guy-bad-guy paradigm—–flipping the opposition, so that those most folks would consider heroes became the defacto enemy in our lives. My father, the one labeled a “criminal” by the evil federal government, was the good guy we were cheering for.
Given this, I can’t tell you how strange it has felt to reach out to the federal government, filing a claim for information the Freedom of Information Act entitles me to. It just felt weird—and almost wrong—borderline disloyal, a little scary, and, dare I say, crazy.
So when I received the following email from the feds—the scary music got cued in my head—and I was borderline freaked out. It seemed so official—–so oh-god-Daddy-I-hope-you’re-okay-with-this—–so there’s-no-going-back-now.
The email read:
Dear Ms. McCullough,
The FBI has received your Freedom of Information Act/Privacy (FOI/PA) request and it will be forwarded to the Work Process Unit or a Single Station Disclosure Team for review. Your request will be processed under the provisions of FOI/PA and a response will be mailed to you at a later date.
Requests for fee waivers and expedited processing will be addressed once your request has been assigned an FOI/PA request number. You will receive written notification of the FBI’s decision.
Information regarding the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy is available at http://www.fbi.gov/ or http://www.fbi.gov/foia/. Upon receipt of an FOI/PA Request Number, you can check the status of your request online at: http://www.fbi.gov/foia/, and by clicking on the ‘Check Status of Your FOI/PA Request’ link under the (Records Available Now) section. If you require additional assistance please contact the Public Information Officer.
David P. Sobonya
Public Information Officer/Legal Admin. Specialist
Record/Information Dissemination Section (RIDS)
FBI-Records Management Division
170 Marcel Drive, Winchester, VA 22602-4843
Direct: (540) 868-4286
PIO Number: (540) 868-4593
Fax: (540) 868-4391/4997
God knows how long this will take. However, the proverbial ball is rolling—-down-hill, gaining momentum. I’ve smelled, if not tasted the forbidden (potentially de-filed) fruit, and I feel like I’ve already been exiled from Daddy’s garden. This is where the Godfather becomes God, the Father. And this is where I freak.
((Okay, maybe “freak” is too strong a word. Maybe I should simply say that I feel “strange.”)
Is it weird to be weirded out by this? Or am I crazier than previously thought possible? (On second thought, don’t answer that last part.)
Note: If you have not read the new version of my memoir’s first chapter, click here. You won’t want to miss it!
And please read, as well, my dear friend Tori’s (The Ramblings) precious post about meeting Sara and me at her Very Bloggy Wedding. It’s one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read! Plus, Tori is a brilliant writer, and I’m not exaggerating even a little.