Scouting's efforts to keep abusers out were often disorganized. There's at least one memo from a local Scouting executive pleading for better guidance on how to handle abuse allegations. Sometimes the pleading went the other way, with national headquarters begging local leaders for information on suspected abusers, and the locals dragging their feet.
In numerous instances, alleged abusers are kicked out of Scouting but show up in jobs where they are once again in authority positions dealing with youth.
The files also show Scouting volunteers serving in the military overseas, molesting American children living abroad and sometimes continuing to molest after returning to the States.
One of the most startling revelations to come from the files, though, is the frequency with which attempts to protect Scouts from molesters collapsed at the local level, at times in collusion with community leaders.
It happened when a local district attorney declined to prosecute two confessed offenders; when a three-judge panel included two men on the local Scouting executive board; when law enforcement sought to protect the name of Scouting and let an admitted child molester go free.
Their actions represent a stark betrayal, Clark said. "It's kind of a deal. The deal is, our society will give you incredible status and respect, Norman Rockwell will paint pictures of you, and in exchange for that, you take care of our kids," he said. "That's the deal, incredible respect and privilege. But there was a worm in the apple."
The Louisiana case certainly contained all the essentials for a police investigation and, perhaps, a conviction: The scoutmaster admitted to raping a 17-year-old boy on a camping trip and otherwise sexually molesting two other boys; the victims corroborated his confession. But evidently, no charges were ever filed.
The man was let off with a warning that, should he be found with young men in the future, he was subject to immediate incarceration at the state prison.
The man "was asked to leave the parish, and if he was caught around or near any boy or youth organization, he would be sent to state prison immediately," a Scouting executive wrote to national headquarters. "We are indeed sorry that Scouting was involved."
With the deadline to disclose the files looming, the Scouts in late September made public an internal review of the files and said the organization would look into past cases to see whether there were times when men they suspected of sex abuse should have been reported to police.
The files showed a "very low" incidence of abuse among Scout leaders, said psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Warren, who conducted the review with a team of graduate students and served as an expert witness for the Scouts in the 2010 case that made the files public. Her review of the files didn't take into account the number of files destroyed on abusers who turned 75 years old or died, something she said would not have significantly affected the rate of abuse or her conclusions.
The rate of abuse among Scouts is the not the focus of their critics -- it is, rather, their response to allegations of abuse. In the files from 1959 to 1985, most salient is the complicity of local officials in concealing the abuse by Scouts leaders.
Warren told the AP such complicity "was simply quite a natural desire to want to be somewhat protective over [the BSA]."
Certain cases, well detailed by the Scouts, illustrate how it happened.
In Newton, Kan., in 1961, the county attorney had what he needed for a prosecution: Two men were arrested and admitted that they had molested Scouts in their care.
One of the men said he held an all-night party at his house, during which he brought 10 boys, one by one, into a room where he committed, in his words, "immoral acts." The same man said he had molested Scouts on an outing two weeks prior to the interrogation.
But neither man was prosecuted. Once again, a powerful local official sought to preserve the name of Scouting.
The entire investigation, the county attorney wrote, was brought about with the cooperation of a local district Scouts executive, who was kept apprised of the progress of the investigation into the men, who had affiliations with the Scouts and the local YMCA.
"I came to the decision that to openly prosecute would cause great harm to the reputations of two organizations which we have involved here -- the Boy Scouts of America and the local YMCA," he wrote in a letter to a Kansas Scouting executive.
He went on to say that the community would have to pay too great a price for the punishment of the two men. "The damage thusly done to these organizations would be serious and lasting," he wrote.
When cases against Scouting volunteers or executives went forward, locals often tried --and sometimes managed -- to keep the organization's name out of court documents and the media, protecting a valuable brand.
In Johnstown, Pa., in August 1962, a married 25-year-old steel mill worker with a high school education pleaded guilty to "serious morals" violations involving Scouts.
The Scouting executive who served as mayor and police chief made sure of one thing: The Scouts name was never brought up. It went beyond the mayor to the members of a three-judge panel, who also deemed it important to keep the Scouts' names out of the press.
"No mention of Scouting was involved in the case in as much as two of the three judges who pronounced sentence are members of our Executive Board," the Scouts executive wrote to the national personnel division.