National Archives agents raid home of Leslie Waffen, former archives department head

This story has been updated to include information about a memo sent Thursday to National Archives employees.

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Leslie Waffen's Rockville house was raided by agents from the National Archives Tuesday. (Photo: TBD Staff)

Long story short

Federal agents raid house of former National Archives department head.


Federal agents seized materials from the Rockville home of a retired National Archives department head Tuesday, shortly after a government report cited "significant weaknesses" in the agency’s security.

Special agents from the National Archives and Records Administration's Office of Inspector General searched a home in Rockville, said Archives Inspector General Paul Brachfeld in a statement to TBD. He said it would be inappropriate for him to give further comment.

U.S. Marshals Service spokesman David Ablondi said his agency helped Archives investigators serve a search warrant at former longtime Archives employee Leslie Waffen's home in the 500 block of Saddle Ridge Lane in Rockville. They did not have an arrest warrant for Waffen and he has not been charged with a crime, Ablondi said.

Ablondi said five marshals were at the house for about 45 minutes, along with Montgomery County police, to secure the area and help Archives agents.

A law enforcement official familiar with the details of the search said agents arrived with a moving truck and an extensive list of items they were seeking. Archives investigators located boxes of materials and “identified [the items] right away as theirs” in a basement room and, after securing the contents, removed the boxes from the house and loaded them onto the truck.

The official described Waffen as "surprised" and his wife as "upset," but indicated they were compliant and sat on the couch while talking to agents.

Waffen had worked at the Archives for more than 40 years, most recently as the head of the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video unit, before retiring in June, according to Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper. A 2004 New York Times article quoted Waffen in reference to the preservation work his unit was doing on the only known audio recording of the John F. Kennedy assassination. His department also had custody of the Zapruder film, the famous 8mm color home video of the assassination.

When reached at home, a woman who identified herself as Waffen’s wife declined to comment. Waffen's lawyer, Michael Fayad, also declined to comment.

After news of the raid broke Thursday afternoon, archivist of the United States David Ferriero issued a memo to all employees Thursday afternoon in which he commended the work of agents in returning stolen property to the National Archives:

“While we cannot comment on the story since the matter is part of an ongoing investigation, I pledge to all of you that we will fully cooperate with the authorities on this matter. As I have stated on several occasions, the security of the holdings of the National Archives is my highest priority. I will not tolerate any violation of the law that protects both records and property that belongs to the US government and the American people.”

Tuesday’s search comes on the heels of two year-long government audits that identified major problems with the National Archives’ oversight, management, and information security. The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog arm, conducted the audits at the behest of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) after news broke last year that several important historical documents, including the original patent for the Wright Brothers’ flying machine, had gone missing.

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