December 2006

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation December 4-5, 2006 Minutes

Committee Members

  • Wm. Roger Louis, Chairman,
  • Carol Anderson,
  • Margaret Hedstrom,
  • Robert McMahon,
  • Edward Rhodes,
  • Thomas Schwartz, Katherine Sibley,
  • Thomas Zeiler

Office of the Historian

  • Marc Susser, Historian,
  • Kristin Ahlberg,
  • Carl Ashley,
  • Monica Belmonte,
  • Todd Bennett,
  • Myra Burton,
  • John Carland,
  • Paul Claussen,
  • Bradley Coleman,
  • Craig Daigle,
  • Evan Dawley,
  • Evan Duncan,
  • Steve Galpern,
  • Amy Garrett,
  • David Geyer,
  • RenĂ©e Goings,
  • David Herschler,
  • Paul Hibbeln,
  • Susan Holly,
  • Adam Howard,
  • Hal Jones,
  • Edward Keefer,
  • Peter Kraemer,
  • Doug Kraft,
  • Madelina Lee,
  • Keri Lewis,
  • Erin Mahan,
  • Aaron Marrs,
  • Bill McAllister,
  • Chris Morrison,
  • Linda Qaimmaqami,
  • Kathleen Rasmussen,
  • Jim Siekmeier,
  • Melissa Jane Taylor,
  • Chris Tudda,
  • Susan Kovalik Tully,
  • Dean Weatherhead,
  • Susan Weetman,
  • Alex Wieland

Bureau of Administration

  • Peter Sheils, A/RPS/IPS

National Archives and Records Administration

  • David Kepley, Office of Records Services;
  • David Langbart, Life Cycle Management Division;
  • Marty McGann, Special Access and FOIA Staff;
  • Don McIlwain, Initial Processing and Declassification Division;
  • Lisa Roberson, Life Cycle Management Division;
  • Marvin Russell, Civilian Records Staff;
  • Jeanne Schauble, Initial Processing and Declassification Division;
  • Nancy Smith, Office of Presidential Libraries

Central Intelligence Agency

  • John C.,
  • Vicki F.,
  • Karen O.

Department of Defense

  • Mark Langerman

Members of the Public

  • Bruce Craig, National Coalition for History

Open Session, December 4

Approval of the Record of the September 2006 Meeting

Chairman Wm. Roger Louis called the meeting to order at 1:43 p.m. and called for approval of the record of the September meeting. Robert McMahon seconded the motion and the record was approved by unanimous consent. McMahon then moved to re-elect Louis as Chairman of the committee. The vote was unanimous. Louis then asked the Executive Secretary Marc Susser for his report.

Report by the Executive Secretary

Susser began his report with a discussion of the upcoming volumes to be published by the end of the year. By the end of the year, the office would publish four print volumes: Organization and Management of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1969-1972; Soviet Union, January 1969 - October 1970; Soviet Union, October 1971-May 1972; and Southeast Asia, 1969-1972.

Susser then reported on recent activity in the office. In October, he, Hal Jones, and Doug Kraft visited Mexico at the invitation of the Mexican Foreign Ministry. At this gathering, Susser and Jones spoke to a group of Mexican academics and Ministry officials on the history of U.S.-Mexican relations and the work of the office. Kraft held a workshop with Ministry officials and the public on Internet research and on the declassification process at the Department of State, discussing, in particular, the role of the Freedom of Information Act and its uses in gaining access to classified material. All three were pleased with the overall experience. In November, the last meeting for the Inter-agency Working Group (IWG) on Nazi War Crimes was held. The final report is being drafted and should be submitted by March.

Finally, Susser discussed three of the more recent Office outreach projects. The joint Russian-American volume is at the publishing stage on both sides and the office drafted and sent a letter to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger inviting him to contribute a foreword to the volume. A conference on the subject will take place next fall. The most recent video organized and produced by the Office, titled Today in Washington: The Media and Diplomacy, was released at the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference held December 1-3. Susser concluded by noting that, at the request of Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, in mid-November a team of office historians successfully presented a 2-day seminar on U.S. Diplomatic History from 1787-2006 to incoming foreign service officers taking the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) A-100 course.

Louis called for the Reports of the General Editor and Deputy Historian.

Status Reports by the General Editor and the Deputy Historian

Edward Keefer said that 2006 had been a good year for the Foreign Relations series. The office reached its goal to release 10 volumes and had taken steps to make the electronic publications more user-friendly. Indeed, he noted that only five times in the 150-year history of the series had 10 volumes been released in 1 year. Keefer gave much of the credit to Susan Weetman's Declassification and Publishing Division, which had cleared the existing backlog with alacrity and minimized the preparation time necessary to publish a volume after verification. Four print volumes were scheduled for release before the end of the year. Two of these volumes focus on U.S.-Soviet relations: Soviet Union, January 1969-October 1970, covers the initial 18 months of the first Nixon Administration (1969-72) and Soviet Union, October 1971-May 1972, addresses the relationship through the 1972 Nixon-Brezhnev summit. The second volume, in particular, draws heavily on the unique Nixon tapes and Kissinger telcons, to which the Office has had extraordinary access. In addition to utilizing these important materials, these volumes represent the committee's input. Their structure reflects the efforts of both the compilers and the General Editor to expand the coverage of the Soviet Union's relationship with the United States outside of the strictly bilateral discussions. The third and fourth volumes to be released--on Southeast Asia and Organization and Management of Foreign Policy, respectively--address the same 1969-1972 period.

In addition to its hard-copy print volumes, the office continues to focus on enhancing accessibility to the series through its electronic publications. Keefer spoke of the recent postings of downloadable PDF versions of the print volumes. He also noted inquiries into possible web upgrades to make electronic volumes more user friendly.

Keefer concluded with a discussion of the upcoming shift from the Nixon-Ford administrations to the Carter administration. In January 2007, research will begin on the Carter administration and, by mid-2007, half of the staff should be working on Carter volumes. For this era, the Office intends to publish 16 print volumes and 8 electronic volumes. A complete list of the 24 "in progress" volumes can be found on the Historian's Office website. Given the transition to Carter, Keefer detailed some of the larger shifts that will affect Foreign Relations research.

Following Keefer's presentation, David Herschler gave the report of the Deputy Historian, beginning with an update on the status of the budget. As of yet, there is no approved Federal budget for fiscal year 2007; as a result, the office has no budget and one may not be approved until February or later. The office, however, is spending as needed and is hopeful that adequate funds will be available. Using a recently acquired information technology improvement grant, the office hired four part-time historians to improve its website. The office will also be conducting interviews for full-time positions at the American Historical Association conference in Atlanta, Georgia in early January.

Herschler then discussed several recent outreach activities, noting that this had been the busiest 3-month period for the office since the spring of 2002. The first big event was the conference held in conjunction with the release of two volumes related to China, one print and one electronic publication. The conference, Transforming the Cold War: The United States and China, 1969-1980, was held September 25-27, and was co-sponsored by the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies of the Elliott School of International Affairs, at George Washington University. It was the largest and best attended of the four annual conferences the office has held, and was the first to feature high-ranking former officials. Herschler discussed the agenda of the conference and gave thanks to the coordinating committee for all of its outstanding work.

Herschler then provided a detailed summary of the makeup of the diplomatic history module designed and implemented for the A-100 training course and gave thanks to the nine member teaching team and to everyone on the organizing committee. The office is currently working to expand and institutionalize the module, and is considering the development of a stand-alone, 5-day course on U.S. diplomatic history at FSI. In addition to this effort, Herschler expressed his appreciation for the considerable effort made on the part of office historians to raise the profile of the office among professional organizations, specifically the Organization of American History and the American Historical Association. Herschler concluded his report with a discussion of the fourth educational video and curriculum guide on the Media and Diplomacy, which was unveiled at the annual meeting of the NCSS. This video was developed as part of the Bureau of Public Affairs initiative to reach a broader and younger audience and, at this conference, Office historians conducted two workshops and distributed around 1,000 copies of the video and accompanying curriculum guide.

Louis said that he was impressed with the number of volumes released and asked what difficulties might lie ahead in the coming year's publication schedule. Keefer responded that declassification could be a difficult problem and that, in the past, the process of transforming a manuscript into a book was slow but that production time was steadily decreasing as additional historians were hired and people gained experience, which heightened the overall efficiency of the Office. Moreover, proofreaders with extensive Foreign Relations experience were being contracted, which will further reduce the time to produce a volume. Keefer then asked for the acceptable transformation rate for a university press and, when Louis replied roughly a year, Keefer said that the office would try to do better than that.

Louis asked about the size of an average print run and the amount of sales of individual volumes. Keefer responded that 1,500-2,000 copies of each volume were printed. Of that number, approximately 800 were given away to libraries and depositories, and roughly 350 were purchased by libraries and individuals. Although it was subject to change, this number has remained relatively static over time. Louis emphasized this number for the attention of all assembled. Thomas Zeiler asked if sales mattered. Keefer replied that sales were not all that important, that 350 was normal for a government publication and that the office was more concerned with the dissemination of the volumes than with sales.

Louis asked if there were any specific problem volumes. Margaret Hedstrom stated that she saw only five volumes currently listed for publication in 2007 and wondered where the other six or seven were coming from. Weetman replied that not all of the potential volumes were listed, as several factors could influence the speed at which the volumes were produced. Keefer noted that he was optimistic that the office would reach the target, but did not have the release dates at this point.

Rhodes inquired as to the contents of the A-100 module and asked for additional details on what the four part-time historians would be doing for the website. Bill McAllister offered a nuanced discussion of the A-100 course, including a description of the contents of the course and the historians responsible for teaching each segment. He offered to send a copy of the syllabus to the committee members. Amy Garrett gave a detailed discription of the upcoming changes to the website, noting that the new historians would focus on the non-FRUS sections of the website (including timelines, brief biographies on the Secretaries of State, and their travels; synopses of when specific nations established relations with the United States; and the continued development of the section for youth).

Louis then asked Bruce Craig how the committee might make its public meetings more transparent to the public. Craig replied that the office could post the schedule for the meetings, insofar as was possible, on the website and he encouraged the Chair to welcome more comments from the members of the public in attendance. Craig then announced that he would be leaving his position soon as head of the National Coalition for History. Louis asked Craig and Herschler for ideas on now to draw more members of the public to the meetings. Craig suggested alerting the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations to upcoming meetings and making more public announcements. Herschler agreed with Craig and also suggested food, drink, and free copies of FRUS.

Review of Newly Released Office Educational Video

Susan Holly addressed two issues concerning the newly released video, Today in Washington: The Media and Diplomacy; the importance of the office's videos to social studies teachers across the country and their importance to the Advisory Committee. Following the screening of Today in Washington, Holly noted that in high schools nationwide, resource constraints have significantly restricted the educational tools available to teachers. In attending the NCSS Conference, now for the fifth year in a row, and donating videos to teachers and school districts, the office has assisted in alleviating some of those issues and, as a result, thousands of teachers are now using the videos. This type of outreach goes to the core of the office's mission--public outreach--as they reach a much larger audience than the Foreign Relations series.

Louis praised the quality of the video, a sentiment echoed by several members of the committee, and called for comments. Carol Anderson suggested that one way to reach K-12 students was to make the video more relevant to a more diverse student body. She remarked that the term "media" was too narrowly defined and there had been no mention of the role of the minority press in shaping U.S. diplomacy. Anderson emphasized the role of the black press during World War II, applying diplomatic pressure to get the United States to live up to its ideals. Holly concurred, but noted the limits on the availability of footage. McMahon thought coverage of the issue of conflict between the media and government--for example Agnew's speeches and administration attacks on the media--would have further highlighted the complexity of the larger tensions. Holly responded with a discussion of the various lessons outlined in the curriculum package and highlighted the coverage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in the video. Tom Schwartz inquired as to whether the curriculum package addressed the topic of suspicion and the media. Holly replied that there was nothing that specifically addressed that issue, but teachers could juxtapose, for example, 1898 with current events. Susser noted that a twenty-minute video served as a launching point for classroom discussion, and then the lessons were designed to give teachers ideas to build upon.

Status of Declassification of State Department Records

Peter Sheils of the Office of Information Programs and Services reported that his office's annual review of 25-year-old records was very nearly complete. He expected that the office would finish reviewing and declassifying the records by the end of the year.

Margaret Hedstrom expressed the appreciation of the Historical Advisory Committee for the effort that Sheils and his colleagues had put into the review process, and she congratulated them on meeting their year-end deadline.

Closed Session, December 4

Report by the Subcommittee on Electronic Records

The Committee reconvened at 3:57 p.m. Louis asked Margaret Hedstrom to report on the work of the subcommittee on electronic records that was continuing its work on the national declassification initiative. She remarked that the Department of State's 1975 cables would be available on the NARA website before the next committee meeting, and that the 1976 cables would be processed thereafter. Hedstrom also reported that the subject TAGS on Department of State cables are being reappraised in order to identify which subject TAGS should be linked with the permanent retention of documents. NARA will review the list of subject TAGS linked with those documents. Regarding the declassification initiative, Hedstrom said that a quality control process is being developed. The threshold of error that agencies find acceptable is also being established and this should expedite the declassification process. Approximately ten percent of the 160,000 boxes have completed the interagency declassification process. Jeanne Schauble indicated that a significant portion of reclassified documents are now declassified and are being returned to the files. David Kepley reported that the Department of State cables had been available on the NARA website for 9 months. There had been just under 46,000 queries, or 182 hits a day. Robert McMahon requested that the members of HAC receive a list of documents that had been declassified, were reclassified, and then subsequently declassified again, as he wanted to know what kinds of documents these were. Louis suggested that the committee invite Alan Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States, to come to a meeting and explain further about the types of documents that were reclassified.

Rhodes asked whether the office had complaints about access to NARA records. Herschler said that tapes had been an issue, but that the office had now completed most of its work with the Nixon and Ford records. Nancy Smith raised John Powers' concern that the Nixon Project had not received volumes for PRMPA review since spring. In addition, she reminded the committee not to forget about the Presidential materials that had been scanned and included in the Remote Archives Capture Program (RAC). She said the Libraries would like to receive declassified materials back on a consistent basis, and that she will keep the Committee aware of whether this is happening or not. Susser asked when Naftali would take over as director of the Nixon Library. Smith replied that he had taken over the second week of October. Tudda noted that the last PRMPA review had been sent to the Nixon Project in August, not in the Spring.

Department of Defense Declassification Reviews of Foreign Relations:

Louis asked Susan Weetman and Mark Langerman to report on the Department of Defense's (DOD) declassification review process.

Weetman informed the committee that the office had been much more pleased than previously with DOD's review process and complimented the high quality of the review, noting that the office is appealing fewer redacted documents than in the past. Since the summer, the office has received DOD responses on 10 volumes--only one of which had been late, and some had even been returned ahead of schedule. Four volumes were overdue, three of which were scheduled to arrive at the office soon.

Langerman stated that his office, which reviews the DOD material in the FRUS volumes, has made a concerted effort lately to dovetail with the State system and deadlines. Langerman's office does not have a projection as to what the workload would be like with regard to FRUS review in the coming year. Weetman responded that at this time it would not be possible for her to predict the number of documents that would be sent to Langerman's office next year, but that the office could provide a list of upcoming volumes.

Rhodes mentioned that he was happy the system had improved, but wanted to know what concerns Langerman had, and how the committee could help to address them. Langerman said that if the FRUS volumes submitted could be submitted in a steady flow and not a single dump, that would help. If the office planned to submit a group of volumes for review at once, Langerman would like to know in advance so he could obtain more personnel. Weetman indicated a list of upcoming volumes requiring DOD review could be sent ahead of time in order to facilitate DOD work scheduling.

Louis invited Langerman to attend the next committee meeting to report on how matters stood at that time. Langerman said that the dialogue established was helpful, and he wished to continue regular communications. Louis concurred in Langerman's comment, noting that it was clear DOD was making a good effort to fulfill the Congressionally-mandated work of the office. Finally, Hedstrom inquired about whether other agencies were responding in a timely fashion to review requests. Weetman responded that most were responding in a sufficiently timely fashion.

Records of the Executive Secretariat

Paul Claussen discussed with the committee the record-keeping practices of the Executive Secretariat.

The Foreign Relations Series: Withheld Documentation From Recently Declassified Manuscripts and Other Clearance Issues

The committee discussed with the General Editor specific documents withheld from manuscripts recently reviewed for declassification.

Closed Session, December 5

Staff Historians Report on Volumes in Progress and Other Office Business

Alex Wieland and Todd Bennett discussed the compilation of their volume with the committee.

The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series

The CIA introduced new staff members and noted that they hope to maintain staff strength for the foreseeable future. Louis thanked the CIA for the introductions and asked for an update on the state of play. The CIA representatives responded that they were in another period of transition. The new Director now having been in office for 6 months had, through organizational restructuring, removed a layer of bureaucracy that should improve the FRUS review process. Furthermore, the new Director was very interested in disclosure issues and had looked into the pre-publication review process, directing that proposals for reforms be drawn. The CIA expects the proposals to be ready for consideration in January and hoped that they would streamline the FRUS review process, particularly the turnaround time for "issue statement" volumes.

Louis apologized to Herschler for not permitting him to make opening comments, and invited him to do so. Herschler said that the CIA was working in a timely fashion on "non-issue statement" volumes; however, High Level Panel (HLP) volumes continued to move very slowly, and this was a problem. Document reviews in the HLP get bogged down at CIA, and often require appeals, which result in very significant delays. Since the last committee meeting, the CIA had completed its review of one volume and six others were in the appeal process at CIA or another agency. Meanwhile, CIA had begun its review of nine new volumes and no volumes had been verified since the last meeting.

The CIA updated the committee on specific issues concerning volumes under review. This was followed by a discussion concerning specific declassification decisions.

Hedstrom inquired about the CIA role in the new National Declassification Initiative, but Herschler revealed that this project was the responsibility of a different shop within the CIA.

Committee Review of Recently Published volume, Foreign Relations , 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972

The committee briefly discussed with the General Editor their reviews of Foreign Relations , 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972.