Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, September 20-21, 2004
OPEN SESSION, September 20
Approval of the Record of the July 2004 Meeting
The committee approved the record of the July meeting.
Report by the Executive Secretary
Marc Susser introduced two new HO staff members: Paul Hibbeln and Peter Kraemer. He said that several Foreign Relations (FRUS) volumes were in the pipeline, with three to be published by the end of the year. It was anticipated that the first electronic volume--Global Issues, 1969-1972, would be ready for publication this fall.
Status Reports by the Deputy Historian and the General Editor
David Herschler noted that the fiscal year (FY) was drawing to a close and reported that the office's FY 2005 budget proposal-requesting double the amount of publishing funds that had been allocated in FY 2004-was unlikely to be approved by October 1. Turning to personnel matters, he indicated that the office was now fully staffed with 40 historians. Herschler praised the support and enthusiasm of the historians and their ability to author policy studies and engage in outreach while working on FRUS. Regarding outreach, the 30-minute history of diplomacy video and its accompanying 100-page curriculum package had reached the final editing stage. Fifteen thousand copies of the video would be distributed at and following the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference in November.
Edward Keefer reported that a new volume on Central and South America; Mexico, 1964-1968, would soon be released. The LBJ tapes and the Thomas Mann Papers had been useful in compiling the volume. A related volume on the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean would also be published soon. Keefer was still optimistic about reaching the 30-year deadline, although he expected "bumps and setbacks." Certain FRUS volumes--15 for the Nixon administration--will only be published on the Internet. Sixteen print and eight electronic volumes were planned for the Carter administration. E-volumes offered two benefits: they could cover more material and could be revised as more documents became available. Keefer hoped that the first e-volume would be available at the December meeting. He concluded by noting that the Kissinger telephone conversations were now available in a word-searchable format for HO staff.
Brenda Gayle Plummer asked why the office's production schedule chart did not list publication dates for certain volumes. Keefer responded that the publication date was only listed when a volume was officially released. In response to a question from Lisa Cobbs-Hoffman about access to intelligence documents in the Central and South America; Mexico, 1964-1968 volume, Keefer replied that only 12 out of about 400 documents had been denied. Margaret Hedstrom asked what typically caused delays between the final editing of the volumes and the publication date. Keefer replied that with the increased editing staff, the office's goal was to produce a volume within 11 months of the final manuscript edit. Roger Louis noted the increase in office personnel and asked if HO had the right balance to reach the 30-year line with FRUS. Susser remarked that the current number of six or seven historians per division would allow the office to reach the 30-year line. Keefer added that 22 historians work on FRUS, and that the office would soon begin researching and compiling documentation on multiple administrations. Watson asked if FRUS was becoming a narrow snapshot because of the increase in documentation. Keefer said that the current and upcoming volumes might be the last of the "great" print volumes--Internet volumes could be larger because there were no page limits.
Brian Dowling reported to the committee that a new, badly needed telephone system would be installed at Newington. IPS has hired two project coordinators for electronic and paper review respectively, thereby making more reviewers available for declassification. Dowling said that new computers would soon be in use as well. Dowling then summarized his plan for completing the review of all 25-year-old records (i.e., pre-1982) by December 2006. In response to a question from Geoff Watson, Dowling stated that RPS could review approximately 11 million pages in 1 year. Margaret Peppe is no longer assisting with declassification.
CLOSED SESSION, September 20
Issues Relating to the Declassification and Opening of the Foreign Policy Record
Hedstrom reported that NARA had completed the processing of the 1973-1974 electronic Department of State cables that were transferred on June 23. She highlighted the fact that NARA had told the committee in July that the process would take 6 months, instead, it took 4-6 weeks. The electronic files were ready to be released, however, the Access to Archival Data (AAD) system was undergoing revision and improvements that should be complete by December 2004. NARA had also encountered a problem with the withdrawal cards in the records, which was now being corrected. In reference to the problem of HO access to cables during the transition and processing phase, Hedstrom noted that the Department of State had resolved the problem. She did not anticipate subsequent problems with access. She expressed her hope that the Department would keep the 1975 records on the State Archiving System (SAS) until NARA released the records on AAD.
Hedstrom indicated that IPS had finished its declassification review of the 1975 paper files. The Department of State had encountered a problem with the withdrawal cards, many of which contain classified information. In addition, the cards had not been vetted by other agencies with equity. The Department of State, however, had completed reviewing 65 percent of the paper files. Rather than release the paper files as they are reviewed, the Department prefers to release all of the information at once.
Hedstrom then discussed the State Messaging and Archives Retrieval Toolset (SMART) system. SMART, like SAS, will capture cable traffic, but also electronic records not currently maintained on SAS, such as e-mail and instant messaging. In other words, the SMART system will be an integrated platform for capturing all forms of electronic communications. Hedstrom noted several areas of progress with regard to SMART: Northrop Grumman-the winner of the design contest-will run the first tests on the system before the end of 2004. A larger pilot-testing program-which comprises 3,500 users-is scheduled for 2005, and an Inter-Agency Working Group has been formed to discuss retention and disposition issues connected to SMART. Overall, the new system should be an improvement. It will capture information now lost, and held the potential of simplifying archival practices and the declassification process. As for the Department of State declassification process, Hedstrom added that new investment in infrastructure should pay dividends in the months ahead.
Following Hedstrom's report, David Kepley discussed the transfer of electronic records from the Department of State to NARA. Although NARA encountered some problems, overall, the transfer proved successful. Hedstrom added that NARA's response across a range of issues had been outstanding. Jeanne Schauble noted that the only real problem had been getting other agencies to clear documents for declassification. Louis complimented NARA for its good work.
Robert Schulzinger said that NARA's swift processing of the State Department records was very encouraging. Two years ago he had been skeptical of NARA's ability to meet the 25-year deadline, but he was now very optimistic about that goal. Six years of documents, however, now needed to arrive at NARA in the next 24 months.
Louis asked if David Adamson or Dowling had any further comments on their morning reports. Dowling expressed optimism that his reviewers would be able to meet the 2006 deadline. He noted that the paper records would be reviewed long before that deadline. Adamson stated that IPS had completed the electronic review of just under 700,000 cables for 1973-74 and of 541,000 cables for 1975.
Charles Wisecarver reported that the Department of State would now be able to track the full life cycle of electronic documents through the SMART system, which would complement SAS. SAS would continue to run as the legacy archive. Once SMART is accepted and activated, no new traffic will be passed to SAS. Consequently after 25 years SAS would cease to exist.
In response to a question from Plummer concerning user issues, Hedstrom said that she and her students had researched the AAD system and monitored users, their learning curve, and the time it took them to complete searches. Her students also interviewed users to ascertain what AAD users wanted from the system. According to Hedstrom, those sampled expressed frustration at not being able to search across series, and thus efforts would be made to make the AAD more like the Google search-engine. She also reported some problems with codes for numeric data, and with navigation of the website.
Kepley noted that usability testing and user-friendliness had been difficult to determine. To this end, NARA triangulated its approach and surveyed current users, employed expert review companies at the Human Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, and analyzed Hedstrom's data. The findings from all these approaches overlapped significantly, making problems easier to identify. Hedstrom asked Wisecarver if HO would be included in the pilot testing of the SMART system; Wisecarver replied that there were no plans to do so as they wanted to use a small number of pilot testers. He said that he would, at The Historian's request, set up a demonstration.
Louis asked Keefer to report on the Nixon Tapes. Keefer reported that, over the next year, HO planned to identify the remaining tapes-especially from June 1972 through July 1973-for possible inclusion in the FRUS series. Although many tapes had already been transcribed for the earlier period, this would facilitate research for the remaining volumes on the Nixon administration.
Louis asked Schulzinger to report on the role of the committee on access and on preparation of FRUS. Schulzinger said that he would focus on how the publication of the series could promote access to the underlying historical record. As the series continued to publish a smaller percentage of the available documentation, this question would become even more important. Schulzinger argued that this trend underscored the importance of access guides, which would become indispensable for research. HO compilers, he explained, have a unique knowledge of the files that should be used before it is lost. Schulzinger expressed his hope that HO would reconsider its decision to wait until the office had completed the Nixon/Ford volumes to publish the relevant access guide. Since the guides could be updated on the Internet, he believed that they should be published upon completion of each individual volume.
Schulzinger then discussed how the committee might facilitate declassification. He mentioned Robert McMahon's suggestion of having a "lessons learned" discussion focused on recently published FRUS volumes. The Six Day War volume, for example, contained a number of President's Daily Briefs (PDBs), but only five were published. The volume included "title with no text" pages to indicate the denied PDBs. Schulzinger suggested that the committee "retrospectively" review the denied PDBs and consider possible actions toward declassifying them. He thought that it would be more effective for the committee members to review published volumes prior to convening in Washington than looking at unfinished volumes during a subcommittee meeting.
Louis suggested that the committee review one or more of the following volumes at its meeting in December: Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1969-1972; Organization and Management of Foreign Policy; United Nations, 1964-1968; South and Central America; Mexico, 1964-1968; and Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967. Louis expressed a preference for reviewing the latter volume and asked the committee members for their suggestions. Keefer recommended that the committee review the volume on South and Central America; Mexico, 1964-1968 as it was the newest volume and dealt with some intelligence issues.
In response to a question from Schulzinger, Susan Weetman said that the committee would be able to examine denied and excised documents from any volumes they chose to review. Schulzinger added that the committee was particularly interested in looking at previously declassified, or improperly declassified, documents that had been re-classified or withdrawn. He suggested that a subcommittee be formed for this purpose.
Geyer commented that the practice of submitting an entire FRUS manuscript to the CIA had resulted in the reclassification of documents located at the National Archives. NARA, however, merely added these documents to the list of withdrawn items without indicating that the documents had been declassified previously. Don McIlwain noted that the Department of Energy cited the Kyl-Lott amendment as justification for reclassifying previously declassified documents. CIA reviewers, however, claimed the right to remove documents from the open files that, in their view, had never been "properly declassified."
The discussion then turned to the subject of FRUS access guides. David Langbart suggested that development of the description of records is more of a NARA responsibility, rather than something for HO staff. Louis thought Langbart was thinking more of an extended bibliographic essay than an access guide. Hedstrom said that HO historians were finding documents that might not be published in FRUS but could be useful to other researchers; access guides and finding aids could be complementary.
Louis asked Keefer how the office envisioned the form and scope of the access guides. Keefer said that the office would begin the access guide as the volumes from the first Nixon administration are finished. Keefer did not want to pull historians away from researching and completing their FRUS volumes. Louis indicated that he wanted assurance that the access guides would be completed; Keefer confirmed that they would be. Hoffmann asked if the access guides needed to be done upon completion of a volume. Keefer responded that each editor authored a note on sources with the volume. McMahon said that the volume itself and the note on sources alert readers to material relevant to the volume and provide much of the value of an access guide. Louis asked whether historians are doing the access guides as they compile their volumes. Keefer said that they were. Louis reiterated the value of access guides.
Luke Smith said that producing individual access guides for each volume ran the danger of reinventing the wheel; it is better to write access guides applicable to entire administrations in order to avoid needless repetition and save time for the compilers to focus on their volumes. Louis contended that individual access guides maintain the quirkiness of individual compilations. Doug Selvage expressed the view that the access guide would merely sum up the contents of the volume's footnotes and source list. McMahon suggested that committee members review the newly-published volumes and see how this information is presented, then perhaps they could make suggestions. Hoffmann noted the staff's belief that they were completing the access guide in an appropriate manner and said that she had confidence in Keefer and his vision.
Schulzinger said that this session had been useful and that the committee should be vigilant about pursuing issues that it had let slip in the past. A subcommittee would be a good way to ensure consideration of specific access and declassification issues.
CLOSED SESSION, September 21
Staff Historians Report on Volumes in Progress and Other Office Business
Staff historians William McAllister and John Carland reported to the committee on the progress of their volumes. Paul Claussen, Chief of the Policy Studies Division, reported to the committee on the role of that division in the Office of the Historian in researching and writing historical studies in U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy for the Secretary of State and the White House. He briefly discussed with the committee a range of specific past, current, and future historical projects.
The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series
Herschler introduced the CIA representatives and reported that he had little new information to report as only 2 months had passed since the last HAC meeting. During those 2 months, the CIA had participated in a verification meeting on the Soviet Union 1969-1970 volume, and HO had submitted the Iran-Iraq, 1969-1972 and South Asia Crisis, 1971 electronic supplement volumes to the CIA for review. Herschler anticipated that HO would henceforth be submitting approximately one volume per month to the CIA for review. He noted, however, that there was a time lag between the completion of a volume manuscript and its submission for review. The Declassification and Publishing division, for example, needed time to ascertain where the manuscript had to be sent for clearance and enter all of the volume's documents into a computer database.
Herschler reported that the CIA had nearly completed the backlog of review and declassification decisions that had accumulated before and since the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding. The office was pleased by this development, as it was by the ever-growing cooperative spirit exhibited by the CIA. Herschler then noted that five volumes in the CIA declassification queue were currently beyond their due date. On the whole, the CIA had been completing its reviews in a timely matter. Increasingly, other agency reviews were delaying the volume production process: HO will thus have to pay more attention to other agencies, prodding them to adhere to their review deadlines.
Louis asked Herschler to explain the verification meetings. Herschler responded that verification was the final stage of the declassification process, during which the CIA, HO, and IPS reviewers meet to verify that all declassification decisions in a given volume have been properly executed on the manuscript, and that all documents have been properly declassified.
Louis then asked CIA for their report. CIA confirmed that James Van Hook had proved a very effective conduit between the CIA and HO, noting particularly his importance in arranging Louis's July visit. CIA said that with the present paucity of FRUS volumes in the CIA review queue, CIA reviewers have worked on other projects and dealt with the details of FRUS volumes already received. In FY 04, the CIA had vetted 13 manuscripts and 1 access guide and had participated in 3 verification meetings. CIA speculated that verification meetings, rather than manuscript reviews, would likely occupy most of the CIA staff members' time in the coming months. The CIA Historical Review Panel would meet in December, around the time of the next HAC meeting.
The CIA History Staff currently lacked a chief historian. The History staff spent the summer in internal training, as well as academic outreach activities, including an electronic project involving CIA training and history. In August the staff arranged a seminar for university professors on the teaching of intelligence, which was geared towards acquainting professors with the "nuts and bolts" of intelligence work. The staff would soon publish a classified study on DCI John McCone. It was also working on a project on Warsaw Pact military intelligence, which was geared towards the declassification of Soviet documents covertly acquired during the Cold War. Some of the material was already in the public domain, but there would be new documents as well that would contribute to the understanding of U.S. intelligence work and the Soviet military. The CIA Staff was also working on a project on intelligence and the Rolling Thunder campaign that would be ready early next year. Finally, the staff was working on a project on the CIA's focus on the Soviet Union and the Middle East.
Van Hook reported that several State historians had recently conducted research in CIA files. Van Hook's Iran retrospective volume is in declassification and he is researching his next volume on intelligence operations and foreign policy.
Van Hook then commented on the visit to CIA by Louis, Melvyn Leffler, and himself during the last HAC meeting. They had a productive discussion on the process of the Directorate of Operations (DO) review and declassification of FRUS documents. Louis emphasized that these contacts with CIA were beneficial, and Van Hook agreed.
The committee discussed the status of the Iran and Congo volumes with the CIA.
Geyer commented on the recent Warsaw Pact documents in the book A Secret Life, published by journalist Ben Weiser last year. He invited comment on the fact that Weiser had apparently received access to CIA information and subsequently published details that FRUS historians could not publish. The CIA representatives responded that they were aware of the book, but the staff present were not involved in the process and therefore could not comment specifically. They noted, however, that there were differences between what was released in private books, and what was published in FRUS--an official government publication. Geyer continued that the book contained identifications and extraordinary detail from CIA material. The CIA representatives explained for the group that the book was a very exceptional case. The individual involved, now dead, had indicated that he wanted the story told.
Louis inquired as to whether the CIA had a new rationale with regard to withholding Presidential Daily Briefs from declassification. The CIA representatives reported that the issue is pending with the Interagency Security Classification Advisory Panel (ISCAP) and is now before the President.
The committee adjourned for staff comments and executive session.