July 2004

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, July 12-13, 2004


Committee Members

  • Wm. Roger Louis, Chairman
  • Diane Shaver Clemens
  • Margaret Hedstrom
  • Robert McMahon
  • Edward Rhodes
  • Geoffrey Watson

Office of the Historian

  • Marc Susser, Historian
  • Kristin Ahlberg
  • Monica Belmonte
  • Todd Bennett
  • Myra Burton
  • John Carland
  • Paul Claussen
  • Bradley Coleman
  • Evan Duncan
  • Vicki Futscher
  • Steve Galpern
  • Amy Garrett
  • David Geyer
  • Renee Goings
  • David Goldman
  • David Herschler
  • Paul Hibbeln
  • Susan Holly
  • Adam Howard
  • Nina Howland
  • Edward Keefer
  • Robert Krikorian
  • Erin Mahan
  • Bill McAllister
  • David Nickles
  • Linda Qaimmaqami
  • Kathleen Rasmussen
  • Florence Segura
  • Doug Selvage
  • Jim Siekmeier
  • Luke Smith
  • Chris Tudda
  • James Van Hook
  • Laurie West Van Hook
  • Jennifer Walele
  • Dean Weatherhead
  • Susan Weetman

Bureau of Administration

  • David Adamson, A/RPS/IPS
  • Brian Dowling, A/RPS/IPS
  • Graham Jones, A/RPS/IPS
  • Harmon Kirby, A/RPS/IPS
  • Margaret Peppe, A/RPS/IPS

Office of the Legal Adviser

  • David Stewart

National Archives and Records Administration

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

Central Intelligence Agency

  • John Collinge
  • Sue Kiely
  • Melvyn Leffler
  • Karen O’Saben
  • Donald Steury

Department of Energy

  • Fletcher Whitworth

Air Force

  • Adam Hornbuckle


  • Brian Heyward, National Coalition for History


Approval of the Record of the March 2004 Meeting

Chairman Roger Louis called the meeting to order at 1:35 p.m. The committee approved the record of the March 2004 meeting.

Report by the Subcommittee on The U.S. Digest of U.S. Practice in International Law and the Records of the Legal Advisor’s Office

Geoffrey Watson began the discussion of the Digest of U.S. Practice in International Law by introducing Paul Claussen. Claussen said that the committee had discussed the Digest in the 1990s, and that many HO projects had used records from the Legal Adviser’s (L) office. David Stewart reported on the publication of the Digest, which dated to the late 19th century. Publication had lapsed after 1988 and recently resumed with a new format in 2000. Several volumes were planned for “the gap years” and were 70 percent complete. The main constraints on compilation were declassification and lawyer-client privilege.

Watson encouraged FRUS compilers to consult the Digest. He then proposed that the committee formally endorse the work of L and encourage Congress and the Department of State to provide L with more staff for Digest compilation and publication.

Report by the Executive Secretary

Marc Susser reported on the activities of the Office of the Historian (HO):

  • A new FRUS volume, Organization and Management of Foreign Policy, 1964-1968, had been published since the last meeting.
  • Three new historians had joined the staff: Jennifer Walele, Amy Garrett, and Paul Hibbeln.
  • The office had sent a large delegation to the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) conference at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Susser hoped that the office could host a conference to coincide with the release of the joint Russian-American volume.
  • Two educational videos for high school students were in production; one would be ready to view at the December meeting.

Status Reports by the Deputy Historian and the General Editor

David Herschler announced that two contract historians would begin work in the next 2 months. He was pleased to report that three new Full Time Employee (FTE) positions had been allocated to the office during the fiscal year, demonstrating the Department’s support for HO. The Policy Studies Division’s staff had greatly increased. Turning to outreach issues, Herschler noted that 26 historians recently had engaged in outreach activities, including 10 who had presented papers at SHAFR. He concluded by announcing that Secretary Powell had presented a public outreach award to Marc Susser.

Edward Keefer commented that the new Organization and Management of Foreign Policy volume would serve as an important companion to the other Johnson administration volumes. The volume’s first three chapters demonstrated how various foreign policy components functioned in theory and practice. The office planned to publish similar volumes for each subsequent administration. This volume was the second volume of six planned for release in 2004. Keefer stressed that, ideally, HO planned to publish 12 FRUS volumes per year, and that all the LBJ volumes would be published by 2005. Keefer went on to say that compilers had undertaken extensive research at the Ford Library, and that several historians had begun preliminary research at the Carter Library. Keefer hoped that compilers would have access to the Carter Library’s Remote Archival Capture (RAC) system. He emphasized the office’s venture into electronic publishing. Electronic FRUS volumes could be produced at lower cost and include expanded documentation. Keefer concluded that the series’ outlook was positive due to increased resources and the additional talented historians hired in the last few years.

Edward Rhodes noted that publishing 12 volumes a year was an ambitious goal and wondered where the bottlenecks would be. Keefer responded that the amount of documentation expanded for each administration, but that the increase of staff in the Declassification and Publishing Division would facilitate reaching the production goal. In response to an additional question from Rhodes, Keefer said that the problem of HO access to the Kissinger telephone conversations had been resolved.

Louis asked Keefer to explain the training process for new historians. Keefer responded that, while the office had not instituted a formal training program, experienced FRUS compilers mentored new staff. In addition, the division chiefs—and ultimately the general editor review all compilations and provide feedback.

Rhodes asked about office video production and distribution. Herschler said that the office had completed and distributed a history of terrorism video, and was in final production on a video on the history of U.S. diplomacy. The videos were created in consultation with social studies teachers who prepared companion curriculum packages, and are intended for use in secondary schools and community colleges.

Louis asked about the availability of FRUS access guides. Keefer responded that all FRUS volumes have access guides, but that there are publication issues. Upon completion of the Nixon and Ford volumes, the office planned to combine all individual access guides into a single guide covering 1969 to 1972. Louis asked if an access guide for the Johnson administration volumes would be forthcoming. Keefer replied that the LBJ Library had made this type of guide available for researchers. Hedstrom asked if access guides would be published online. Keefer responded that once the Nixon administration guide was completed, the office would consider a publication format.

Keefer noted that in order to facilitate on-line publication of FRUS, the office had started scanning documents. Rhodes asked if scanning and publishing technologies could be integrated; internet FRUS volumes could have links to the access guides. Keefer said that the office would consider the option. Hedstrom asked if the office was considering alternative means of publishing FRUS. Susser replied that the office was researching web-publishing options, including electronic FRUS volumes and on-line conference proceedings.

Herschler interjected that the Nixon tape recordings, while a gold mine for researchers, slowed down the publication of FRUS volumes because of the additional labor required for transcription. The pace of research and thus production of FRUS volumes would likely increase for the Ford and Carter administrations, for which there were no tape recordings.

Declassification and Opening of Department of State Records

Brian Dowling said that IPS will receive $1.2 million—a generous portion of which will be dedicated to the 25-year systematic declassification review program. Dowling said that 20 to 25 graduate students and an undetermined number of additional WAEs (retired foreign service officer staff) would be hired to help process both paper and electronic records. Diplomatic Security had agreed in principle to streamline the security clearance process for WAEs. Dowling plans to have the capability (with technology enhancements) to review electronic records at the Newington site, which at this time can only be used to review paper records for declassification. Rhodes asked if the graduate students working for Dowling had access to classified documents. Dowling replied that only the WAEs work with classified records.

Dowling reported that the State Department review of 1975 electronic records has been completed; other agencies were now reviewing the documents. Dowling said that there were approximately 600,000 cables to be processed for 1976; 620,000 for 1977; and 650,000 for 1978. The majority of these records is unclassified and can be reviewed by student workers. The reviewers have 9.5 million pages to review to meet the 25-year goal by December 2006. Dowling noted that the increase in staff and resources should allow an optimistic prediction that the entire review may be completed by the late summer or early fall of 2006. The review of USIA and ACDA boxes through 1981 is complete.

Margaret Peppe announced the recent transfer of 1.5 million pages of 1973-1974 Department of State records to NARA. She then showed a videotape of the ceremonial transfer of the records between Secretary Powell and the Archivist of the United States, John Carlin.

David Kepley reported that NARA faced challenges in making the newly transferred electronic records internet-accessible and user-friendly. He anticipated that it would take 4-6 months to post the documents on-line. Louis Smith asked when HO would regain access to the newly transferred records. Kepley replied that HO would not be able to access the transferred records through NARA prior to public release.

Hedstrom reported that the Subcommittee on State Declassification and Electronic Records had met with members of NARA’s interagency referral center. The interagency group had been experimenting with automatic tools, such as keyword searches, to help identify agency equities. She also noted that NARA gave a presentation on the processing of the Department of State electronic records transfer. Once the records were processed, they would be loaded on to NARA’s Access to Archival Database (AAD) system, which NARA was in the process of improving.

Hedstrom came away from the subcommittee meeting with three concerns: NARA’s ability to process the Department of State electronic records in a reasonable amount of time; the AAD system’s search and retrieval functions and the way it presented its results, and how these issues affected the system’s usability, particularly for HO staff members accustomed to dealing with the State Archiving System (SAS); and the recent removal of the 1973 and 1974 records from the SAS. She would like further information about who had removed the records from the system, why they had done so, whether interim access to these records could be arranged, and whether the records could be restored to the SAS until they were accessible through NARA. David Adamson noted that it was difficult for IPS to keep all of the documents on the SAS. Hedstrom suggested that keeping these records on the SAS presented no real technical difficulties since the SAS retained the records for 2-3 weeks following the transfer. She wondered whether there were any unresolved issues with respect to the records transfer, e.g., questions concerning their custody, and declassification requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). With paper records, the answers were clear; technological advances, however, presented additional questions, as electronic records could be both transferred to NARA and retained by the originating agency.

Louis said that a representative from IPS who could address this issue should be available at the next meeting to answer the committee’s questions. Diane Clemens stated that she was greatly disappointed with IPS.

Jeanne Schauble referred to Peppe’s report concerning the electronic records transfer. She noted that microfilm reels and 148 boxes of the paper printouts from the P-reels used to do the declassification review had accompanied the electronic records. NARA planned to concurrently release the paper and the electronic records. She noted that some electronic cables remained classified pending review for third agency equities. Unclassified but sensitive material would be available for FOIA requests only and not subject to systematic declassification.

Rhodes asked if documents were redacted for release. Schauble replied that NARA’s computer system allowed for on-line redaction; the same system is used for FOIA requests. She was presently conferring with her computer contractor on ways to make these records more accessible. NARA will try to provide the option of declassifying documents with redactions to other agencies, but would not insist upon it. She noted that if CIA did not adopt the redaction method, it would be unable to declassify much material—this was true of all intelligence agencies. Many agencies had neither the time nor the resources to redact documents. Schauble observed that the partial declassification of a document did not indicate the completion of the release process. Paper documents required more processing at NARA in order to make the necessary redactions prior to release. Redacting electronic documents will be easier although technological problems might sometimes impede release.

Schauble confirmed that every agency had its own rules for identifying equities and declassifying documents. Clemens asked about redaction procedures. Schauble explained that the current declassification procedures require a “thumbs up or down” on an individual document. NARA cannot mandate redaction; only the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) has authority in this area.

Clemens said that she did not believe the committee had enough information to understand the redaction/declassification problem. She expressed frustration that other agencies could hold up declassification of Department of State documents pending further review.


Status of Declassification under the Kyl–Lott Amendment and Other Related Issues

Adam Hornbuckle reported that the Air Force had finished its sampling of 6,000 boxes from Record Group (RG) 59 at the National Archives. Reviewers had withdrawn 2,000 formerly declassified documents from the open records. The Air Force is now looking for guidance on how to restore this material to the public domain, but, in the meantime, will redact documents in response to FOIA requests. Air Force reviewers have almost completed their review of RG 84 and have found few equities. In order to prevent having the withdrawal of declassified records from the public domain in the future, the Air Force would like to better coordinate declassification activities with the Department of State. Hedstrom asked if the Air Force redacted its own documents; Hornbuckle responded affirmatively.

Fletcher Whitworth reported that the Department of Energy (DOE) review of Department of State cables had been a great success. The DOE examined 600,000 State Department cables of which 9 contained the DOE equities. These equities would not have been obvious to Department of State reviewers. Whitworth said that he expected the DOE to be in compliance with Kyl–Lott by 2006. The DOE will continue to work with other government entities on review training.


Staff Historians Report on Volumes in Progress and Other Office Business

Laurie West Van Hook and Monica Belmonte gave presentations about their volumes to the committee.

The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series

Louis welcomed the CIA and Professor Melvyn Leffler of the Director of Central Intelligence’s Historical Review Panel. Herschler reported that great progress had been made in reducing the declassification backlog at the CIA of 15-16 FRUS volumes. In the last 4 months the CIA had completed the declassification review of 6 volumes; by the end of FY 2005, 14-15 volumes would be in the final verification stage. The CIA has taken significant steps to accelerate its declassification reviews of FRUS; greater resources have been made available. Also, the work of the joint CIA/HO historian, James Van Hook, has improved cooperation. In the coming months, HO plans to submit one FRUS volume per month for CIA review. The Agency reported that it had participated in two verification meetings for FRUS volumes since March.

Van Hook reported that three historians had recently conducted research at the CIA, and that his FRUS volume on Iran 1951-1954 was entering the declassification process. He added that he had conducted research for this volume at the Public Record Office in London. Van Hook is now researching his volume on the Intelligence Operations and the Foreign Policy Community, 1947-1960. He also noted that he had participated in the Historical Review Panel (HRP) meeting the previous month.

Louis then introduced Melvyn Leffler who was attending on behalf of Robert Jervis, Chairman of the HRP. Leffler noted that he had been concerned about the status of the FRUS series when he served on the Department’s committee a decade ago. He said that he was pleased about the increased resources allocated to HO and the increased level of cooperation between HO and the CIA. Leffler then reported on the most recent HRP proceedings.

The committee discussed substantive issues that could delay the release of future volumes.

The committee adjourned at 11:45 for staff comments and executive session.