With the deadline to disclose the files looming, the Scouts in late September made public an internal review of the files and said they 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 case of the files from 1965 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 investigation's progress into the men, who had affiliations with both 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 Scouts 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 both mayor and police chief made sure of one thing: The Scouting 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.
In Rutland, Vt., in 1964, William J. Moreau pleaded guilty to "having lewd relations" with an 11-year-old Scout, according to a contemporary newspaper account. According to the files, the 11-year-old was one of a dozen Scouts who stayed overnight at Vermont's Camp Sunrise. The Scouts, as is demonstrated repeatedly in the files, talked to the parents about their concern for "the name of the Scouting movement" if charges were brought, but were rebuffed--the parents were insistent on filing charges.
Moreau, a 27-year-old insurance adjuster and assistant Scoutmaster, resigned his position, but a local prosecutor and the police department made sure the Scouting name was never publicly associated with the crime, despite the fact that the abuse was conducted by a Scoutmaster on Scouts at a Scout camp.
"The States Attorney with whom I talked late last night and the local police assure me they will do everything in their power to keep Scouting's name and Camp Sunrise out of this," a local Scouts executive wrote in a letter to the national council headquarters.
In newspaper clippings attached to the files detailing Moreau's charges and his plea, no mention of the Scouts is ever made.
Over the years, the mandatory reporting of suspicions of child abuse by certain professionals would take hold nationally. Each state had its own law, and the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act passed in 1974.
The Scouts, however, wouldn't institute mandatory reporting for suspected child abuse until 2010. They did incorporate other measures, such as a "two-deep" requirement that children be accompanied by at least two adults at all times, and made strides in their efforts to combat pedophilia within their ranks.
According to an analysis of the Scouts' confidential files by Patrick Boyle, a journalist who was the first to expose about efforts by the BSA to hide the extent of sex abuse among Boy Scout leaders, the Scouts documented internally less than 50 cases per year of Scout abuse by adults until 1983, when the reports began to climb, peaking at nearly 200 in 1989.
Attitudes on child sex abuse began to change after the 1974 law, said University of Houston professor Monit Cheung, a former social worker who has authored a book on child sex abuse.
"Before 1974, you could talk to a social worker who could (then) talk to a molester and that could maybe stop abuse," Cheung said, noting that most abuse happens within families.
But mandatory reporting made the failure to report suspected abuse a crime.
"That's the change, that you're no longer hiding the facts of abuse," Cheung said.
The case of Timothy Bagshaw in State College, Pa., is illustrative of the changing national attitude to mandatory reporting. Bagshaw, a Scouts leader, was convicted of two counts of corruption of minors in 1985. But he wasn't the only one to face charges.
The Scouts learned of the abuse months before it was reported, and forced Bagshaw to resign at a meeting, but he wasn't reported to police. That failure was costly for Juanita Valley Council director Roger W. Rauch, who was charged with failure to notify authorities of suspected child abuse.
"I didn't know I was supposed to contact anyone. I felt it was the parents' responsibility," Rauch told the Centre Daily Times in 1984. "We acted very responsibly."I'm concerned that this not get blown out of proportion."