(Photo: JFK Library)

A version of this story originally appeared on Muckrock.com.

The year was November 1983, and the State Department needed to admit something pretty embarrassing.


For two weeks, it seems they had been able to keep quiet the accidental transfer of highly-classified documents to the Lorton Reformatory, a one-time D.C. prison with a long-time federal partnership. But when a local reporter returned some of the “stratospheric secrets” to the State Department, they had to come out with it, and in headlines across the country, the news broke that the government had lost track of the precious papers. To deliver the Department of State’s side was spokesman Joe Reap.

Who was Joe Reap?

Well, according to another New York Times piece from 1974, nine years prior, he was a graduate of Georgetown University Law School, deputy press officer under eight Secretaries of State, the husband of Anne, and the father of eight children.

He was also dead.


Was federal spokesman the family line of work? Or was Mr. Reap the specter of the State Department?

Since the obituary appeared in the Grey Lady’s pages in 1974, just months after the resignation of Nixon, Mr. Reap has been cited over and over again.

Among other instances, he surfaced (albeit with a suffix) speaking to the Times during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1981….


in an issue of Black Enterprise from 1984


on behalf of the State Department’s “Terrorism Desk” in 1998


and operating a fax machine in 2003.


MuckRock has submitted multiple requests to follow up, but while we wait, we’re wondering: can you find Joseph Reap faster than a FOIA?

Twenty MuckRock requests to the person who can satisfactorily solve this mystery, and, in the meantime, we’ll find some humor knowing the CIA isn’t the only agency with spooks.