Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

June 2011

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation June 6-7, 2011


    Committee Members
  • Richard Immerman, Chairman
  • Laura Belmonte
  • James McAllister
  • Robert McMahon
  • Trudy Peterson
  • Peter Spiro
  • Katherine Sibley
  • Thomas Zeiler

    Office of the Historian
  • Edward Brynn, Acting Historian
  • Kristin Ahlberg
  • Carl Ashley
  • Forrest Barnum
  • Sara Berndt
  • Myra Burton
  • Tiffany Cabrera
  • Mandy Chalou
  • John Collinge
  • Evan Duncan
  • David Geyer
  • Renée Goings
  • David Herschler
  • Adam Howard
  • Stephanie Hurter
  • Aaron Marrs
  • Bill McAllister
  • Michael McCoyer
  • Kelly McFarland
  • Chris Morrison
  • Mircea Munteanu
  • Paul Pitman
  • Alexander Poster
  • Kathleen Rasmussen
  • Avi Rubin
  • Nathaniel Smith
  • Melissa Jane Taylor
  • Chris Tudda
  • Dean Weatherhead
  • Joe Wicentowski
  • Alex Wieland
  • Louise Woodroofe
  • David Zierler

    Bureau of Administration
  • David Adamson
  • Harmon Kirby
  • Susan Weetman

    National Archives and Records Administration
  • David Langbart, Textual Archives Services Division
  • Nancy Smith, Presidential Libraries

    Central Intelligence Agency
  • Bruce B.
  • Peter N.
  • David V., Publications Review Board
  • Security Officers

Open Session, June 6

Approval of the Record of the March 2011 Meeting

Richard Immerman called the meeting to order and announced that Acting Assistant Secretary Hammer would attend. He then called for a motion to approve the minutes of the March meeting; Robert McMahon introduced the motion and Laura Belmonte seconded it, and the minutes were approved.

Report by the Executive Secretary and the Assistant Secretary

Ambassador Brynn welcomed the committee and gave a brief update on the status of the series, which he said David Herschler will discuss in more detail. He said that the current budget environment was tough, but that Herschler had done a good job of keeping the office on track. Brynn went on to say that two personnel challenges remain: filling the General Editor and Office Director positions. Brynn said that he was in discussion with the relevant parties in the Department to solve these outstanding issues.

Acting Assistant Secretary Hammer then arrived at the meeting. He distributed copies of the new Bureau of Public Affairs (PA) organizational chart. He made special mention of a new office that would cover New Media and announced the appointment of Victoria Nuland as the next Department Spokesperson. He also distributed an organizational chart for the Bureau of Public Affairs (PA), and described the Bureau's mission statement. In response to a question from Sibley, he clarified that The Historian now reported directly to the Assistant Secretary. Having no further questions, the Assistant Secretary departed.

Brynn returned to his report and spoke briefly about some administrative matters before giving a hearty thanks to Margaret Morrissey, who was retiring, for all her contributions to the office. Immerman thanked Morrissey for the assistance she has given the Committee, and Morrissey was applauded.

Status Reports by the Deputy Historian and General Editor

David Herschler began with a brief update on FRUS declassification. Although the Office did not complete the declassification of any manuscripts since the March, 2011 meeting, Herschler anticipated completing declassification on at least four manuscripts by the September 2011 meeting. He also anticipated the Office submitting two manuscripts into the declassification process by the September 2011 meeting.

Turning to the staffing update, Herschler reported that Susan Weetman had resigned her position as General Editor in April and accepted a position as Chief, FRUS-Mandatory Review Branch in the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS). He praised Susan for all her contributions to the Office of The Historian (HO) over many years and said that he looked forward to continuing to work with her in her new role.

PA approved the creation of a fourth FRUS Division Chief and the position of the Assistant to the General Editor. Herschler said that he expected the two positions to be filled by the end of June. Kerry Hite, who previously worked for the office, had returned to work part-time on a contract basis in the Declassification and Publishing Division to assist in the expediting of High-Level-Panel cases, and other declassification issues as needed.

The Office completed filling five vacant historian positions. This includes three FRUS compilers, one technical editor, and the vacancy in the Policy Studies Division. When the selected historians are cleared and begin work, this will bring the Office to full complement for the first time since 2007. Herschler then reiterated Ambassador Brynn’s tribute to Morrissey's hard work in the office.

Regarding the move to SA-44, Herschler reported that there have been some delays in the design process, but no major delay to the construction schedule was anticipated.

Herschler then reported that he, Ambassador Brynn, Adam Howard, and Kristin Ahlberg had attended the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) in Houston in March, where they met with archivists from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library for an extended discussion of plans to conduct FRUS research in the Bush Vice Presidential records. An agreement was made on some general principles for a projected team research visit sometime during the fall of 2011 or the winter of 2012.

With regard to Office outreach, Herschler noted that the office website is now on Amazon's servers. This is the latest in a string of electronic initiatives from PA/HO: in 2009 we established our own website, in 2010 we supplied a high-value data set to, and in 2011 we are the first website in the Department to embrace the White House's "cloud-first" policy.

The three FRUS Division Chiefs gave reports in lieu of a Report by a General Editor. David Geyer reiterated the Office’s appreciation of Susan Weetman’s contributions and good work. He then went on to discuss the Office reorganization. The purpose, he said, was to reduce the individual reviewing workload for Division Chiefs. Therefore, the organizational chart the committee had received, which showed the breakdown of the FRUS divisions, might change based on the subject matter expertise of the fourth FRUS Division Chief. Also, the FRUS Reagan plan would have to be taken into account in the ultimate organization of FRUS divisions.

Kathy Rasmussen commented that under the office reorganization, FRUS Division Chiefs’ more broadly distributed manuscript review load will mean that they have time to compile volumes. She also noted that the Office had sponsored a half-day conference at George Mason University in March 2011, organized jointly with Edward Rhodes of GMU. Bill McAlister had organized the conference with assistance from Lindsay Krasnoff and Michael McCoyer. The transcripts are now on the Office website. Panelists at the conference included Will Gray from Purdue, Kent Hughes from the Wilson Center, and Dan Hamilton from SAIS. The keynote was given by Robert Hormats, who is currently Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs. She also noted that the Office had recently completed a training session for new compilers.

Adam Howard reported that members of the management team had recently met with Nancy Smith regarding the Office’s plans for research at the Reagan Library. The Office and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had just signed a Memorandum of Understanding detailing those plans. Four historians are ready to begin research at the Reagan Library, and three of the newly-hired historians will begin with research there.

Immerman thanked the Division Chiefs for their reports and congratulated Weetman on her new position and thanked her for her work on behalf of the Office.

Status of Declassification of Department of State Records

Susan Weetman thanked everyone for their comments regarding her work in HO, noting that she had spent 15 years in the office and really enjoyed it. She explained her new position in IPS as Chief of the FRUS and Mandatory Review Branch in the Systematic Program Review Division. She said she oversees FRUS and mandatory reviews with a staff comprised largely of retired Senior Foreign Service officers. She clarified that HO coordinates declassification, but that declassification authority resides within IPS. Weetman underscored that she will still be very involved in FRUS declassification issues.

Weetman then briefed the committee on the progress of the Department’s electronic and paper records review. The review of the classified and Limited Official Use electronic cables through 1985 was completed last November. Currently, the focus is on review of the 1986 classified and LOU cables and should be completed by the December 31st deadline. The 1978 cables should be transferred to NARA shortly. Rather than being sent to certain agencies for "dirty word" review before transfer, these will go through the National Declassification Center, which will be responsible for coordinating the other agency reviews. Weetman stated that the 1977 electronic cables had been transferred to NARA in June 2009, but were not yet available on NARA’s website.

Regarding the paper files, IPS has completed the review of the Department’s files through 1985 and is reviewing the 1986–1990 block. The goal is to review approximately 5 million pages by the end of the 2011 calendar year; 900,000 pages have been completed to date. Weetman noted that this is nearly twice the number of records IPS had to review for the 1981-1985 record block. IPS has also completed the review of the P-reel printouts through 1979 and is in the process of reviewing the printouts for the 1980-1981 period.

David Langbart noted that other elements of the Central foreign Policy File for 1977 have not been transferred and explained that the 1977 electronic cables are not yet available because NARA is not accepting piecemeal transfer of State’s records, and will only make available records for a given year if all records from that year are transferred. NARA does not consider records formally transferred until all records are transferred from that year. Weetman stated that a number of other materials had not been included with the transfer of the 1977 electronic cables.

Trudy Peterson asked about the 30-year line for the transfer of records from State to NARA. If IPS were reviewing the 1986 cables, why hadn’t all the cables from the previous years been transferred. Weetman replied that, as Langbart had noted, there were more than just the electronic cables that needed to be transferred, and these other materials were still under review or being prepared for transfer.. Peterson asked if it would be possible for the committee to see a chart that would help them understand where IPS stands with the review of each item that needs to be transferred. Weetman said she would look into having such a chart prepared for the Committee.

Sibley asked why there are more documents now than in the past to be reviewed. Weetman responded that there were simply more paper documents being produced in the 1980s. Langbart also noted that the Department’s records management improved in the 1980s and 1990s, and that NARA identified a significant volume of records that should be preserved and eventually transferred to the National Archives. Zeiler asked whether IPS or NARA expected that there would be fewer paper records to review from the 1990s. Langbart responded that he thought not as agencies were still producing paper during the 1990s. Peterson asked whether that meant there would be fewer lot files, to which Langbart responded that on the contrary, there would be more of them.

Richard Immerman asked that given the "explosion of documents" for this period that had been mentioned, how that would impact the time table for their declassification and transfer to NARA. Weetman replied that IPS is looking at strategies to improve the process. She explained that there is currently no branch chief for paper records, but that one is expected to be hired soon.

Nancy Smith asked whether IPS had begun its review the George Shultz papers. She stated that the Reagan Library had a duplicate file, and they would like to receive the results of State’s review so they can release the same documents in their files. Weetman was unsure, but agreed to find out. A discussion of the Shultz records at the Reagan Library followed.

Peterson asked about the office’s plans for outreach in the future. Brynn discussed the possibility of a conference on the Middle East in 2012, and the ongoing series of events around the FRUS sesquicentennial. McAllister also discussed the difficulty in getting participants to attend a conference on only one volume. McAllister also mentioned events the office is hosting at the New York Public Library and the annual SHAFR meeting. He also discussed the Office’s efforts at “inreach” inside the Department, including ambassadorial briefings and teaching at the Foreign Service Institute. Herschler discussed the Office’s plans to release a DVD with 250 lesson plans on foreign policy and diplomacy-related documents at the National Council on Social Studies meeting in early December 2011. The office also plans to host a half day workshop for teachers in conjunction with that conference. Brynn noted that the Office is helping with the Diplomacy Center, which is doing a long-term study of the Department's role in Iraq. He also mentioned that Hamelin is overseeing an oral history project.

Spiro asked if the office was on Twitter. Mandy Chalou noted that the office has begun the approval process for allowing the Office to set up profiles on Twitter and Facebook.

Before the session ended, a member of the public, Peter Kornbleuh asked to speak. He requested that the committee consider releasing documents that had been declassified in the course of FRUS research before the release of published volumes, especially in such cases as the Chile, 1969-1976 volume.

There being no further comments, the chairmen concluded the open session.

Closed Session, June 6

FRUS Research at Presidential Libraries

Nancy Smith explained that Reagan presidential and Bush vice presidential records are the first Presidential record collections governed by the Presidential Records Act that governed official records of a President/Vice President from January 20, 1981 forward. As a result, a new MOU was required to arrange special access for FRUS research. With regard to the records, Smith noted that the volume for the Reagan years was significantly more than for past administrations. The volume of highly classified records had also increased. Smith also observed that an obstacle to FRUS research would be the limited number of researchers that the library could accommodate at one time. Herschler added that HO and Smith were exploring ways to facilitate the research process, including hiring someone at the library to assist with copies, document pulls, etc. At Herschler's request, Smith also explained efforts being undertaken to make record searches more efficient.

A detailed discussion ensued among FRUS Division Chiefs, the committee and Smith about record collections, access and procedures.

Efforts to meet the 30-year publication line for the Foreign Relations series

David Zierler discussed the research for his current volume with the committee. David Geyer commented on Zierler’s volume and research.

Historian Josh Botts delivered remarks on “FRUS and the 30 Year Line Since 1991: Past Performance, Future Projections.” Botts’ presented a data-driven analysis of the FRUS production process and offered projections for the next eight years. Botts’ assessment emphasized continuity within the production process and identified a number of possibilities for improvement by streamlining the production cycle. Members of the HAC expressed appreciation for Botts’ success in providing an informative context for FRUS production.

Closed Session, June 7

The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series

The committee discussed at length their legal obligations with respect to classified material and academic publishing with CIA lawyers.

The committee and the CIA briefly then discussed the recent informal meeting on outstanding issue statements as well as the Iran retrospective volume. Following this, Powers spoke about the recent ISOO report which had been published online. Powers also discussed the recent Public Interest Declassification Board meeting and the weblog to which the members of the HAC and HO had been invited to contribute on numerous occasions. Powers expressed dismay at the lack of response from both, particularly given complaints registered on the declassification process, agency equities, and other systemic issues which have been identified as impediments to timely FRUS declassification. Powers stated that the deadline for making contributions to the weblog had been extended and strongly encouraged HAC members and HO staff to take this opportunity to comment. Discussion followed among HAC members about what could be done immediately regarding this issue before/during the SHAFR meeting. Ashley stated that an HO contribution to the weblog would be made before the expiration of the deadline.

The meeting then went into Executive Session.