December 2007

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, December 3–4, 2007


Committee Members

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

Office of the Historian

  • Marc Susser, The Historian
  • Kristin Ahlberg
  • Carl Ashley
  • Monica Belmonte
  • Todd Bennett
  • Myra Burton
  • John Carland
  • Evan Dawley
  • Evan Duncan
  • Steve Galpern
  • Amy Garrett
  • David Geyer
  • Renée Goings
  • David Herschler
  • Paul Hibbeln
  • Susan Holly
  • Adam Howard
  • Stephanie Hurter
  • Hal Jones
  • Edward Keefer
  • Bonnie Sue Kim
  • Peter Kraemer
  • Doug Kraft
  • Madelina Lee
  • Keri Lewis
  • Erin Mahan
  • Aaron Marrs
  • Bill McAllister
  • Chris Morrison
  • Rick Moss
  • Linda Qaimmaqami
  • Kathleen Rasmussen
  • Nathaniel Smith
  • Melissa Jane Taylor
  • Chris Tudda
  • Dean Weatherhead
  • Susan Weetman
  • Joe Wicentowski
  • Alex Wieland
  • Louise Woodroofe

Bureau of Administration

  • David Adamson
  • William Coombs
  • Harmon Kirby
  • Marvin Russell
  • Peter Sheils
  • Julie Wilhelm

National Archives and Records Administration

  • Michael Carlson, Electronic and Special Media Records Services Division
  • David Langbart, Life Cycle Management Division
  • Marty McGann, Special Access and FOIA Staff
  • Don McIlwain, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
  • Chris Naylor, Textual Archives Services Division
  • Nancy Smith, Office of Presidential Libraries

Central Intelligence Agency

  • John C.
  • Bryan H.

Open Session, December 3

Approval of the Record of the September Meeting

Roger Louis called the meeting to order and asked for approval of the September minutes and the current agenda. The committee approved both.

Election of a Committee Chair

Margaret Hedstrom nominated Louis for Chairman during Calendar year 2008, and McMahon, in absentia, as his successor. Thomas Zeiler seconded the motion. The nominations were unanimously approved.

Louis said that he intended to continue previous innovations, including seminar sessions in which staff discussed their current work with the committee.

Report by the Executive Secretary

Marc Susser noted that the office had had several outstanding accomplishments since the previous meeting. First, the release of a joint volume with the Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ History and Records Department. The volume, entitled, Soviet American Relations: The Détente Years, 1969–1972, documents the channel used by Henry Kissinger and Anatoly Dobrynin. The Office also hosted a successful conference to mark the release of the book. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave an address and was complimentary of the office’s work. Kissinger and James Schlesinger also spoke at the conference. The office anticipates that the volume will be positively received.

Second, the office was also represented at a parallel conference hosted by the Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ History and Records Department. The meeting was held at the Russian Academy of Sciences; Kissinger and other notables were in attendance.

Finally, the office was represented at the recent National Council on the Social Studies annual conference in San Diego. Office staff distributed the video Today in Washington: the Media and Diplomacy and discussed the upcoming project on the history of diplomatic relations between the United States and China. The office also hosted two sessions during the conference, which were both well-attended.

Status Reports by the Deputy Historian and the General Editor

David Herschler noted that there had been no changes in staff since the previous committee meeting. Herschler said that the website continued to progress. Members of the office also continued to teach the diplomatic history course to new Foreign Service Officers under the leadership of William McAllister. The office has now taught over 400 FSOs, and the course has elicited high praise from Department leadership.

The Office also continued to seek out ways to elevate the standing of public historians in general, and the office in particular, in the historical profession. Last year, members of the staff of the American Historical Association (AHA) were invited to discuss how the office might participate more fully in that organization. This year, Kristin Ahlberg was elected to a position in the Professional Division and Aaron Marrs was selected to serve on the Editorial Advisory Board for Perspectives. In addition, Peter Kraemer has been selected to serve on the Committee on Committees for the Organization of American Historians (OAH).

Herschler reiterated that the détente conference was a success, thanks to the hard work of the conference committee under the leadership of Amy Garrett. In addition to the remarks that Susser made, Herschler noted that the Russian Ambassador was present at the conference, and that Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns hosted a luncheon for the conference dignitaries. He then asked Garrett to highlight additional aspects of the conference.

Garrett noted that conferences hosted by the office offer a unique opportunity for scholars, diplomats, and the public to interact. The high profile of attendees helped raise the profile of the conference as well as the quality of the papers submitted. There had been outside interest in publishing the proceedings of the conference, and some of the material is already available online.

At the conclusion of Garrett’s remarks, Susser briefly reclaimed the floor to update the committee on the progress of the Nixon tapes. He noted that the staff had reviewed 131 hours of tapes and selected 10 hours for publication. Only a handful of tapes remain to be transcribed, and the entire project should be complete by the next committee meeting.

Edward Keefer announced that this week the office would be releasing Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E-8, Documents on South Asia, 1973–1976. By the end of the year, the office will release two print volumes: The Intelligence Community, 1950–1955; and 1969–1976, volume XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976. Volume XXX will be the first print volume to cover the period 1973–1976. Releasing these three volumes means the current total for volumes published in 2007 will be five. The office will release 3 or perhaps 4 volumes in early 2008, but not as many volumes as were released in 2006.

Volume E-8 covers all countries in the region for the first time in the history of the FRUS series. This demonstrates the possibilities of electronic publication: small countries can be covered as well as our traditional allies. Volume XXX covers U.S. bilateral relations with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, but also documents the U.S. attempt to prevent a war between two NATO allies. The volume provides a window into how the executive branch operated during the Watergate scandal, as well as the problems Ford had with Congress in developing his foreign policy.

The retrospective volume on the Intelligence Community 1950–1955 is the third of seven planned retrospective volumes for release. This leaves the volumes on Iran 1951–1954, the Congo 1960–1968, Intelligence and Foreign Policy 1947–1960 and the Intelligence Community 1956–1960 still outstanding.

The soon to be released Intelligence volume documents the organization of the intelligence community under Walter Bedell Smith and Allen Dulles. Smith transformed the CIA into its current structure and standing, established the system for clandestine operations, and created the National Intelligence Estimate. Under Dulles, the CIA came to be hailed as successful at clandestine operations while at the same time was accused of poor management. The main organizational questions dealt with how and by whom covert operations should be run.

Keefer reiterated that these three volumes would be out by the end of the year. He also wanted to re-emphasize the success of the joint US-Soviet volume, recognizing that though it is heavy, it is easy on the eye. This made him think about up-grading the look of FRUS with more maps and better photos.

Thomas Schwartz echoed the praise for the US-Soviet conference and volume, emphasizing that it is great for teaching international history with the two sides recounting the same events. The conference whetted his appetite for more.

Roger Louis noted that he would have liked a map in the Greece, Cyprus, Turkey volume. Keefer replied that the cost of printing maps and pictures had at one time been prohibitively expensive, but that now the cost was quite reasonable. Consequently, the office was leaning toward utilizing more maps and photographs. Margaret Hedstrom wondered about basic resources, such as maps, for the website. Keefer thought a map annex was a good idea. Garrett explained that the web team had been considering that. Edward Rhodes thought the addition of satellite photos would be interesting, and Chris Tudda pointed out that there were maps in the electronic publications.

Thomas Zeiler asked why the intelligence volumes were divided by years. Keefer replied that it made sense to divide them by changes in administration.

Status of Declassification of the Department of State Records

Marvin Russell reported that all reviews of State electronic telegrams for 1976 were complete and the data transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA will place them on their website. The Department’s Systematic Review Program’s (SRP) review of the classified electronic State cables and P- reel indices to 1982, which had not been completed as of the last committee meeting, was now complete. After a 13-month process, the CIA, the Air Force (USAF), and the Department of Energy (DOE) reviews were complete for 1977 cables. The cables would next go to a 90-day Department review on the intranet, in which concerned bureaus may comment on them. At the end of this period, they will be transferred to NARA’s control. Additionally, the 1978–79 cables will soon be under review by CIA, USAF and DOE. The reviews of unclassified telegrams up to, but not including 1981, were also complete.

Julie Wilhelm reported that paper records for 1982–85 were under review by her office. Their goal had been to complete 25% of those records by year’s end, which they had achieved. In addition to the Department’s office and post files, her personnel are working in the Interagency Referral Center and the stacks at National Archives II, as well as staffing the various subcommittees of the National Declassification Initiative. This is in addition to working at the Remote Archive Capture Project (RAC) and reviewing other documents from Presidential libraries.

Referring to electronic cables, Hedstrom asked about the 90-day State intranet review. She wondered if this were to be done with every batch, whether it was a policy, or just a repeated procedure. She concluded by stating that this review was not done with other records, i.e. paper. David Adamson explained that it is policy to give concerned State offices an opportunity to see these cables before they go online; this policy is driven by the fact that the electronic cables will go online and be instantly accessible to anyone across the globe.

Susser asked what would happen if an office objected to the release of a record that had been declassified. Adamson replied that in that case the documents would be re-reviewed and any objections to the documents would be assessed. Rhodes asked whether in fact it had happened that State offices had objected during the 90-day review. Adamson said that on a very few occasions an office had objected to release of a document. In these cases, after re-review, the judgment of the office was generally accepted and if so the document remained classified.

McAllister asked about the resting place for the classified N-reels. Russell said that these would be printed out, reviewed, and included with the other telegrams for the year. These records will be available at NARA.

Returning to the 90-day review period, Hedstrom questioned the policy, expressing concern that it was providing a justification for not releasing documents at the last minute. Adamson clarified that this policy was not a justification for evading declassification requirements, but an opportunity for concerned offices to participate in important declassification review work. Our experience was that this opportunity had been useful in ensuring quality control and avoiding errors.

Louis asked whether personnel records were always removed at this stage, if not earlier. Adamson explained that such records were generally removed for privacy reasons.

Sibley asked whether NARA had discovered any particular style of administration that came out in the 1981–85 records reviewed by the archives. Wilhelm said she would have to check with her reviewers on this point.

Closed Session, December 3

Issues Relating to the Declassification and Opening of Records at the National Archives

Louis began the session by introducing the newest committee member, Peter Spiro. Marc Susser noted that Spiro represents the American Society of International Law (ASIL) and said that he was glad to have him on the committee.

Louis asked Don McIlwain about the reclassification issue. McIlwain indicated that the problem was nearly resolved.

McIlwain moved on to discuss P-reels, remarking that P-reels for 1976 are being turned over to NARA. In response to a question about what, exactly, the P-reels are, McIlwain responded that they are paper documents that were microfilmed and then electronically indexed as part of the State Central Files. Printouts from one reel of microfilm generally fits into a FRC box.

McIlwain began to discuss the Interagency Referral Center (IRC). Herschler asked if the IRC is the same as the National Declassification Initiative (NDI). McIlwain responded that the IRC is only one part of the NDI, which is a much larger umbrella project.

David Langbart commented that the Archives is moving to implement the disposition schedules for records approved as temporary records in the State Archiving System (SAS). Some of those records accessioned by the Archives are now designated as temporary and will be destroyed. Margaret Hedstrom noted that an issue came up that morning regarding background materials of FRUS and the retention and disposition schedule of the Historian’s Office’s own records. She asked Langbart to enlighten those present about the schedule and disposition of office records. Langbart responded that there are one or more schedules that cover the records of the Office of the Historian, and several series of records are designated as permanent. The office’s research projects are considered permanent and in fact the office may be overdue for a transfer of those materials to NARA. Some records of the committee are also permanent, as are some other collections; others are temporary. The currently active schedules of the disposition of State records are available on the Department’s website. In response to a request by the Committee, Langbart said he would send members copies of the schedules.

Katherine Sibley asked if denied FRUS documents are preserved. Langbart responded that the denied documents are on the schedule, although he could not recall their disposition. He thought, but was not sure, that they were permanent. Herschler agreed. Langbart added that the whole decision-making process in the office was a subject worthy of study. Sibley recalled that Susan Weetman had spoken of some office documents which were marked for destruction. Weetman confirmed that she had been surprised that office materials from the 1958–1960 period had been scheduled for destruction. Langbart replied that NARA produced a form called a notice of intent to destroy which was sent to the relevant agencies when records in a NARA records center come up for destruction. The relevant agency must sign off on destruction in advance. It could be that the records had the wrong disposition, and in the past some records were thereby incorrectly destroyed. Today, NARA has a policy of sending out an intent to destroy, to which it must get a positive response in order to proceed. Louis noted that the file of Iran retrospective documents must be marked for permanent retention, as it contained materials that could not be found elsewhere.

Hedstrom asked about the status of the SMART system. It was discussed several years ago. She expressed curiosity about its current status. Peter Shiels referred the question to Langbart, who replied that it was not clear to NARA what the status of SMART was. He knew that the Department was continuing to work on it. There was a plan for the two agencies to engage on it in the near future, but he had no details.

Conducting Research at the Carter and Reagan Libraries

Nancy Smith asked what the committee’s concern was regarding research at the Carter Library. Herschler asked whether the moratorium on research at the Carter Library would end soon. Smith indicated January as the probable time researchers could recommence their work.

Members of the staff then raised several specific issues regarding research problems at the Carter Library. Smith listened to the concerns, and promised to look into them all.

Smith then discussed the Reagan Library holdings and the potential issues related to doing FRUS research in Simi Valley, California. Smith was rather pessimistic about the situation. She said that the volume of textual holdings in the Reagan Library is daunting—there are approximately 8 million classified records. The Reagan administration, she said, had been still mainly a textual administration. Email did not become a significant factor until the Clinton administration, although there are some emails for the Reagan and Bush Sr. Administrations.

NARA is faced with two issues, Smith explained. First, it has a 5-year backlog on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and they are only getting more requests. Second, Reagan Library staff is currently scanning their classified documents and FRUS historians need to realize that neither the scanning nor the declassification review of Reagan administration documents will be completed by the time FRUS researchers start their work. Given the size of the Reagan collection, she voiced the concern that FRUS researchers would probably need to make decisions as to what materials would be crucial in compiling volumes. Smith suggested that the office would need to consider providing subventions to cover the research and extra staff needed at the Reagan Library for FRUS work given the FOIA demand and ongoing declassification review of Reagan records. A detailed discussion ensued about the feasibility of subventions between the committee, the office leadership, and Smith.

Declassification and the Foreign Relations Series

The committee discussed with the General Editor and the Chief of the Declassification and Publishing Division documentation withheld from recent FRUS volumes.

The Foreign Relations Production work flow: A Review

The committee discussed specific work flow issues with The Historian, the General Editor, the Deputy Historian and the staff.

Closed Session, December 4

Staff Historians Report on Volumes in Progress and Other Office Business

Myra Burton discussed her current research for her volume on Southern Africa, 1977–1980 with the committee.

Committee Review of Recently Published volume, Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976

The committee discussed with the General Editor their views of Volume XXX.

The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series

Herschler delivered his report, expressing the office’s condolences regarding a CIA member’s passing. He thanked the CIA’s representative for the Agency’s efforts and referenced the continued state of cooperation between the office and the CIA. With regard to verification, Herschler indicated that one volume had been verified since the September meeting, bringing the total number of volumes verified during calendar year 2007 to eight (six print volumes and two electronic-only publications). Herschler then gave a brief overview of the declassification and verification process before noting that the office was awaiting additional responses from other Agencies before several volumes could complete declassification. The office planned to submit appeals for two volumes, including a volume with Nixon administration tape transcripts. It was awaiting a CIA response on two additional appeals. The office would continue to place volumes in the declassification and verification pipeline in a timely fashion.

Herschler indicated that the CIA typically conducts a timely review of FRUS manuscripts when there are no HLP issues to contend with. When HLP issues are a factor the process naturally moves much more slowly, due to the often months of negotiations needed to agree on the issue statement. This usually occurs before the declassification review begins. Coordination with various offices in the CIA and to some extent with the Department of State has proven problematic in this regard.

The CIA expressed its sadness concerning a CIA member’s death. The member had served as a moving force on declassification issues. Although CIA had attempted to maintain its responsibility for Foreign Relations declassification, its resources were taxed. Thus, the CIA fell behind schedule in its review. The representative then introduced the replacements for the open positions on the FRUS review staff.

Discussion then focused on specific volumes under review.

Hedstrom inquired as to the status of the joint State-CIA historian. Herschler responded that once the selected historian received Department of State clearances, that individual could begin work at the Department. He offered a general concern regarding problems with clearances for new Department of State employees.

Further discussion ensued concerning specific volumes under review.

Keefer reiterated the office’s gratification with the improved working relationship between the Department of State and the CIA. Louis agreed, terming it a “sea change.” Herschler attributed the change to the airing of concerns and bureaucratic issues prior to the negotiation of the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the CIA representative’s efforts in improving the overall approach.

Zeiler commented that the HAC would still like to meet with the CIA’s Historical Review Panel. Louis asked if either the February or June meetings would work? The CIA representative indicated that it might be possible to arrange an interim meeting so that both committees could talk. Louis reiterated that the HAC would welcome a joint meeting, if it could be arranged.