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December 2000

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, December 11-12, 2000

Minutes

Committee Members

  • Michael Hogan, Chairman
  • B. Vincent Davis
  • Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman
  • Warren F. Kimball
  • Frank H. Mackaman
  • Robert Schulzinger
  • Anne Van Camp
  • Philip D. Zelikow
  • David Patterson, Acting Executive Secretary

Office of the Historian

  • David Patterson, Acting Historian
  • Nina Howland
  • Rita Baker
  • Ted Keefer
  • Paul Claussen
  • Dan Lawler
  • Evan Duncan
  • Erin Mahan
  • Vicki Futscher
  • Kent Sieg
  • David Goldman
  • Luke Smith
  • David Herschler
  • Gloria Walker
  • Joe Hilts
  • Susan Weetman
  • Susan Holly

Department of State

  • Marc J. Susser

National Archives and Records Administration

  • Michael Miller, Director, Modern Records Program
  • David Langbart, Life Cycle Management Division
  • Don McIlwain, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
  • Nancy Smith, Office of Presidential Libraries

Central Intelligence Agency

  • Patricia P., Office of Information Management
  • Michael Warner, Deputy Chief, History Staff

Department of Defense

  • Henry J. McIntyre, Director of Freedom of Information and Security Review

CLOSED SESSION, December 11

The Chairman called the session to order at 1:30 p.m.

Declassification Review of CIA Records Transferred to the National Archives

Report by Michael Miller, National Archives and Records Administration. Miller handed out a paper entitled "Status of Textual Records Transferred to NARA under the CIA Records Declassification Program FY 1999 and FY 2000," which was prepared for internal use by the National Archives. Miller briefly described the various levels of access status. He explained that CIA had tagged items that were not to be released until sensitive material was withdrawn and noted the difference between files that required minimum "sanitizing" and those that required major "sanitizing." NARA has not yet processed these files due to the "sanitizing" requirements, so their availability to researchers has been delayed.

After Miller's report, discussion among the Committee members ensued. Anne Van Camp asked at what point the term "sanitizing" had come into use and expressed concern that the use of this term could be misconstrued. Miller reiterated that the report he had provided was for internal use only by the Archives; the term was one used by CIA. He went on to explain that finding aids were available, but only in hard copy. They are not available on the Internet or in any electronic format. He noted that most of these documents take 15-20 minutes per page to review so NARA does withdrawals only when the documents are actually requested. The Committee described this access system as "processing on demand" as compared to systematic processing.

Miller also explained that the availability of the CIA records transferred to NARA was affected by the high priority presently being accorded to the Interagency Working Group on Nazi war crimes records. Nevertheless, NARA's processing and declassification staffs have been detailed to work on the CIA records. In the past 12 to 18 months, 300,000 cubic feet of records from many different agencies have been transferred from the Records Center to NARA. He offered the good news that NARA's 2001 budget had declassification as one of its highest priorities, with authorization for seven new positions.

There was further discussion about finding aids for this material. David Langbart of NARA provided some background and context for the standard of receiving finding aids in hard copy. Most criticisms were countered or mitigated as NARA officials and the Committee members discussed the issue, and CIA promised to take the issue back for discussion.

Accessibility of State Department Lot Files

Discussion shifted to the more general question of RG 59 Lot file accessibility for pre-1976 textual records. Philip Zelikow raised this concern on behalf of numerous scholars who had contacted him. Miller conceded that there was indeed a backlog. Since 1992, 282 of 402 accessions have not been completely processed. The reasons are two-fold: the records are being transferred in 7-year blocs rather than the typical 5-year blocs; and the IWG project has resulted in the transfer of staff typically detailed to process State records. Even so, more NARA staff is detailed to work on State material than any other record group. Miller was unable to provide a date when all pre-1976 Lot files would be available for researchers without the need for them to arrange for access in advance.

Langbart offered to provide Zelikow with the SF-258 forms that would permit identification of records for processing-on-demand. Zelikow, in turn, offered to make those forms accessible on the Web site of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. He also suggested that the National Security Archive might also post the SF 258s.

The discussion concluded on a positive note with Langbart's comment that one positive outcome of the Nazi war crimes project was the possible accessioning of the last of the wartime OSS records at the Archives.

The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series

The following topics were discussed:

Committee Minutes. Hogan expressed strong concern on behalf of Committee members and interested public that the April and July Advisory Committee minutes have still not received final CIA approval for public release. He noted that it was his understanding that Agency officers were in the process of preparing summaries for the intelligence-related portions of those narrative-style past Committee meeting notes. CIA expressed its appreciation for the September Committee vote to move to a summary version of the meeting minutes. The Committee reminded CIA that this is still a trial format, but the September minutes were approved and will be posted on the HO Web site. Hogan, however, raised the concern of Committee members that the truncated version of the record of the September meeting was perhaps too brief and requested that future records include more detail. At some point, Hogan said, the Committee may decide that it has to publish a full or fuller set of meeting minutes, whether or not that excludes the CIA from the proceedings.

Joint Position. Little progress has been made on the proposal for a jointly CIA-State funded historian (to be detailed from HO to the CIA History Staff to assist with Foreign Relations research in CIA files). The proposal is still awaiting approval by senior CIA management.

Access to CIA Documents. The Committee expressed unhappiness and concern over what it perceived as a formal change in CIA procedures and policy concerning State historians' ability to retain in the HO long-term temporary files of intelligence materials to review for possible use in Foreign Relations volumes. An historian working in one area recently was allowed to view and copy documents, but most of the copies had to remain at the CIA. The historians believe such a policy will have a serious adverse effect on their ability to compile documents for Foreign Relations volumes. CIA pointed out the lack of formality/finality to this policy change, which involves only one area of the Agency, and ascertained that the fact of access is not in question, but only the venue. The Committee suggested that the Historian's Office obtain an opinion from the Department's Office of the Legal Adviser as to whether such action is permissible under the Foreign Relations statute.

CIA request for "off-site" meeting. The CIA suggested a meeting between the Agency and the Historian's Office to ensure mutual understanding of basic procedures and definitions-for example, the meaning of terms such as access, declassified, and released. Reaction from Committee members at first appeared lukewarm to something that has been tried before with different themes, but turned to support as discussion of the issues illustrated the distances between HO and the CIA on some positions. The State Department Historian-designate gave his endorsement when queried, and Committee members indicated interest in receiving a report at the next session on the results of any such meeting.

High-Level Panel (HLP). The Subcommittee on the High-Level Panel (HLP) reported that the members had reviewed the issue statements and declassification guidelines for several issues not yet officially acknowledged by the HLP. The members expressed concern that while the CIA was willing to acknowledge its participation in Washington-level policy discussions, it seems opposed to releasing information on CIA activities in another country. The Committee stated that the goal of the HLP is to release more documents. If the CIA is not willing to release documents, then the Committee recommended that HO consider including documents from non-official sources, such as news reports and the memoirs of former high-ranking government officials. CIA stated that the Agency still firmly supports the HLP, and noted that the HLP convenes at the request of the State Historian's Office, on issues of State's choice. The Committee then discussed the current status of the still-outstanding HLP issues.

Electronic Partial Release of Foreign Relations Volumes. CIA registered concerns regarding the electronic release of Foreign Relations volumes before they have been fully cleared to the satisfaction of the Historian's Office. The Committee took on board CIA's message that it wants to hear more about this type of proposed release from the Historian's Office. The Committee view is that discussion of a few documents with intelligence and/or policy implications can postpone publication of individual volumes for extended periods of time. The Committee believes that the public should not be penalized for this necessary wait by being denied a "partial release," which would allow access to the preponderance of documentation in a volume, while final declassification of a few documents goes forward. The book would be published as soon as the declassification issues were resolved.

The Department of Defense and the Foreign Relations Series

After a break, Hogan introduced Henry J. McIntyre, Director of the Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review at the Department of Defense, who had been invited to discuss problems with Foreign Relations declassification review and general coordination with HO. Patterson noted that HO's key concerns were long overdue declassification referrals, review of codeword documents, and HO's proposal to have DOD establish a Foreign Relations coordinator to facilitate future referrals.

McIntyre began by accepting full blame on behalf of his office for the delays and promised to make improvements in the procedures. Because of DOD's mail system, HO's correspondence often doesn't get to him until months after it is sent; he promised to look into this problem. As for codeword documents, the DIA courier service, which is responsible for transporting SCI material between the State and Defense Departments, is slow and cumbersome. In addition, the service delivers documents from HO to the Army Division Chief, Darrell Walker, who stores the material in his office's vault, where it can be forgotten.

McIntyre promised to implement a procedure for logging the incoming material into the office database so that it can be more readily tracked.McIntyre explained that his office is overextended with significant backlogs on FOIA requests, bulk declassification reviews, and clearance of all Congressional testimony. He agreed to be the point-of-contact for Foreign Relations declassification referrals and reviews.

At present, McIntyre's office was holding three SI documents for HO that were significantly overdue. He hoped to return them to HO within 3 weeks. Susan Weetman of HO's declassification coordination staff reminded McIntyre that only redacted documents need to be returned to HO, lessening the burden of copying and transmitting lots of documents. Kimball suggested that, if McIntyre needed some leverage with his leadership at Defense to get resources and support, the Committee could write to senior people in the command chain to remind them of the Foreign Relations series statutory requirements.

Zelikow offered some points that McIntyre could use in arguing with his leadership for more resources for Foreign Relations:

  1. DOD runs a greater risk of litigation if Foreign Relations reviews are delayed than it would with FOIA delays, and
  2. DOD should be concerned that its role in foreign policy is not being properly documented in the series or in the secondary literature because of the difficulties involved in accessing and declassifying Defense records.

He also argued that the fact that Foreign Relations is the effective channel for the release of important Defense Department documentation should enhance the argument for a speedier response to declassification requests.

McIntyre reviewed a number of overdue Defense responses, including requests for declassification of documentation in volumes dealing with the Six-Day War, China, and Vietnam. With respect to the second 1968 Vietnam volume, McIntyre admitted that he had no record of 41 documents that had been referred to Defense for clearance.

Van Camp and Hogan asked if HO followed up on overdue requests, and Hogan asked in particular about the missing 41 documents. Patterson responded that HO had procedures to send overdue reminders to agencies, including a separate memorandum to Defense to flag overdue responses, but had no idea that the documents involved had not been received. Everyone agreed that HO and Defense should institute procedures to track pending declassification actions better.

Kimball said that if problems relating to clearance persisted, the Committee might correspond directly with the Secretary of Defense, as it has in other instances. McIntyre responded that "the last thing I need is pressure from above." He promised that he would do what he could to "fix the problem." McIntyre stated that his office has declassification authority only when the origin of the document is not clear; otherwise documents must be referred to the appropriate office or agency within DOD. He reiterated his willingness to facilitate the declassification process and to work with the Historian's Office.

Kimball suggested that perhaps it would be appropriate to institutionalize a system for cooperation to obtain declassification, and Patterson suggested a Memorandum of Understanding with DOD. McIntyre agreed with the concept of an MOU while restating his willingness to facilitate declassification.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:30.

OPEN SESSION, December 12

Approval of the Record of the September Meeting and Other Business

After the meeting was called to order at 9:08 a.m., the record of the September meeting was approved, with one dissenting vote on the grounds that the "Summary of Proceedings" was too brief. Hogan somewhat agreed and asked for a longer summary for this December meeting.

Hogan invited Marc Susser to make some comments about his thoughts for the future of the Historical Office and the Foreign Relations series. Susser, who has been chosen as the new Historian of the Department and may officially assume office in late December, gave the Committee an overview of his career as a teacher, Foreign Service officer, and office director. He stressed his commitment to getting a more comprehensive selection of documents out more quickly but said that he would need additional staff and more resources. Over the longer term, Susser hoped to establish a Policy Support Staff that would assist policymakers and raise the Office's visibility in the Department. The establishment of a Museum of Diplomacy should raise HO's visibility both inside and outside the Department, and co-location with the Museum could lead to more ties with NGOs.

Robert Schulzinger was nominated as the new Chairman and elected by acclaim. He will assume his duties at the February meeting.

Report by the Acting Historian

David Patterson reported on recent activities:

  • HO had conferred with the Library of Congress about e-publications and expected to receive proposals for both image or full-text format. He also said that a proposal from a consulting firm contacted by the Department last year would be submitted in the "near future." In any case, no Foreign Relations manuscripts were ready to put on the Internet yet.
  • The Public Affairs Bureau was in the process of redesigning the Department's Web site and transferring it from one server to another. The Office is exploring converting the text of Principal Officers and Chiefs of Mission into a database to allow better search possibilities and to make it possible for HO to revise and update information. Completion was scheduled for January.
  • A small team was at work on a chronology of Department activities during the Clinton administration, which was expected to be ready for high-level review by the end of the year. The final report, which responds to a White House tasking to all executive agencies, should be available to researchers at the Clinton Library.
  • He was also directing the revision and updating of the 1981 Short History of the Department of State; completion was expected by the end of February.
  • Planning was underway for the Conference of International Editors of Diplomatic Documents, which would be held May 1-2, 2001 and hosted by the State Department. The Committee members would be invited to attend. The theme would be the "Opening to Asia" in the 1960s and 1970s. Louise Crane, a former Public Affairs officer, was helping to organize the conference. Patterson also suggested that a report on the public availability of records might be given, which might make it possible to update another HO publication last compiled in the 1970s.
  • On hiring new staff, HO had five positions to fill and expected to interview candidates at the AHA meeting in Boston in January Kimball questioned these additional assignments and activities, given HO's limited resources, at a time when the Foreign Relations series was falling further behind the 30-year line. Hogan said that his Annual Report would express the Committee's grave concerns about staff shortages and its fears that new activities threatened to delay Foreign Relations even more.

Concerning the Clinton administration history, Nancy Smith of NARA said that other agencies had also been tasked to summarize their activities during the Clinton administration by December 12; the goal was a 90-page summary with documentary supplements. The documents will be subject to the Presidential Records Act, which would delay public access to them for at least 5 years. Other restrictions might last at least 12 years. Patterson said the unclassified documents could serve as a guide to researchers.

Zelikow said that some historians were concerned about declassified documents at NARA that had not been processed and were not yet available to researchers without prior consultation. He summarized the discussion of yesterday:

  • NARA has acknowledged that they have received more than 400 accessions of declassified material from the State Department during the last 5 years. Despite the relatively high priority NARA gives to State material, about two-thirds of this declassified material has not yet been processed for researchers to use. Various explanations were offered.
  • NARA wants to make the material accessible to interested scholars and had agreed to send copies of the SF-258s to Zelikow, who will undertake to post them on the Web site of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and/or the National Security Archive's Web site, it that institution were willing.
  • NARA will process on demand the particular files that researchers need and can identify using the information on the SF-258s. Don McIlwain of NARA explained the factors delaying the processing of State records, such as the legislative requirement to review all records for DOE equities pursuant to the Kyle Amendment and the requirement to review records relating to Nazi war crimes. NARA works closely with retired State officers in the review of State records, and they try to prioritize the backlog according to what lot files are of most interest.

Report of the Subcommittee on Electronic Records

Hogan then introduced Anne Van Camp, who chaired the Subcommittee on Electronic Records. Van Camp said that the whole Committee had visited NARA during the last meeting, when the top three issues had been:

  • The small sample of records transferred from State were insufficient to develop a system of processing.
  • No sample withdrawal cards or other indications of the deletion of withheld documents had been devised.
  • IPS format and coding were not correct or to standards.

Between meetings, other issues and concerns had arisen: lack of communication, the difficulty of scheduling meetings, and accession systems, including the question of charging Internet fees to download documents. Documents on Chile had been released to NARA, and IPS had also put them on its Web site on the FOIA Electronic Reading Room. Was this an unnecessary duplication of effort? NARA's difficulties concerned the lack of a standard format for transferring documents, reconfirmation of the 1998 agreement with State, sample withdrawal cards, and various small technical issues. She pointed out that no representative of State's Office of IRM Programs and Services (IPS) was at the Committee meeting to contribute or comment.

Some progress had been made at the Subcommittee meeting in resolving some of the above issues. State has agreed to provide 10,000 records in an agreed format, including samples of withdrawal cards. A meeting between Steve Lauderdale of IPS and Mike Miller and his staff was scheduled for the end of the month. NARA had not yet reached a decision about charging an Internet fee. NARA may consider reviewing its policy on special collections in the future.

Mackaman commented on the different definitions of access that were part of the dialogue between State and NARA.

At NARA, access meant having documents available at the reading rooms at NARA. IPS and State meant access to documents on the Internet. He saw this as access serving historical (NARA) or promotional (State) purposes. Miller said the goal was to make records accessible electronically within NARA by the fall of 2001, and on the Internet by March 2002. Funds had been allocated for upgrading NARA's infrastructure.

Van Camp recommended that IPS staff be invited to Committee meetings and be notified about the agenda. Hogan and the rest of the Committee highly commended her and the Subcommittee for acting as a catalyst to facilitate communication between State/IPS and NARA. Miller agreed that the Committee and especially the Subcommittee on Electronic Records had promoted inter-agency communications.

Report on Foreign Relations Prototype Volumes

Hogan called on Warren Kimball to report on the two Foreign Relations prototype volumes. The volume on the Cold War was well in hand; it should be submitted for declassification review by January 31, 2001. He had held a "rewarding" meeting with the compilers. The Framework volume was behind the Cold War volume, which was not surprising given the new concept guiding the compilation. The compiling team had covered the first year closely and the second year less so; the 1971-72 selection was expected to be complete by the end of the year except for reviewing the Nixon tapes, which involved looking for "needles in a haystack."

Kimball recommended that the Committee offer advice on how important the tapes might be for the Framework volume. Even with diaries and logs, it was hard to locate conceptual discussions.

Schulzinger pointed out that there was much controversy about the Nixon administration's philosophical underpinnings. If the administration had a clear world view, it would be found in position papers. The tapes would be better sources for personal feelings and resentments.

David Herschler said that the compilers of the Framework volume, in reviewing the transcripts and summaries of tapes already prepared in the Historical Office pertaining to specific policy issues, had found little useful material relating to the Framework volume. They plan to complete the manuscript and then look back at key dates and sample logs and conversations. He reported that public access to the tapes, with the exception of national security information, was now available through 1971, and the first half of 1972 would be available next year.

Patterson commented that the Framework volume dealt mainly with the world view, although material about personal resentments had turned up. The Kissinger telcons and the Haldeman Diaries had also been useful. Nancy Smith (NARA) said that she would need to consult with the Nixon Project and the Nixon estate about access. Kimball said that this should be on the agenda next time.

Kimball concluded by commenting how impressed he was at how HO had developed research strategies. The next Core volume would deal with the Middle East; work would begin early next year. Regarding electronic publications, the Committee should ask HO for clear goals and achievement markers.

Access Guides As Part of the Foreign Relations Project

The Committee then turned to Access Guides, which the academic community fully endorses. The guides will also be invaluable sources of information about countries that are not covered in detail in the Foreign Relations compilations. The unanimous opinion of the Committee was that the compilers should be aware of the requirement of compiling an access guide as they conduct their research, which should ensure the quality and accuracy of the guides. They considered the cases where a compiler had retired before compiling an access guide or had left an unfinished compilation and suggested solutions.

The session went off the record for staff comments and then adjourned. The Committee went into Executive Session at 11:15 a.m.