Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, June 5-6, 2006
- 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 Duncan,
- Steve Galpern,
- Amy Garrett,
- David Geyer,
- Renée Goings,
- David Herschler,
- Paul Hibbeln,
- Susan Holly,
- Adam Howard,
- Edward Keefer,
- Peter Kraemer,
- Doug Kraft,
- Erin Mahan,
- Bill McAllister,
- Chris Morrison,
- Linda Qaimmaqami,
- Kathleen Rasmussen,
- Doug Selvage,
- Jim Siekmeier,
- Chris Tudda,
- Susan Kovalik Tully,
- James Van Hook,
- Dean Weatherhead,
- Susan Weetman
Bureau of Administration
- Margaret Peppe, A/RPS/IPS
National Archives and Records Administration
- Michael Hussey, Civilian Records Staff;
- 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;
- Marvin Russell, Civilian Records Staff;
- Jeanne Schauble, Initial Processing and Declassification Division;
- John Powers, Nixon Presidential Materials Project
Central Intelligence Agency
- Joe L.,
- John C.,
- Vicki F.
Members of the Public
- Bill Burr, NSA;
- Bruce Craig, National Coalition for History
Open Session, June 5
Approval of the Record of the March 2006 Meeting
Chairman Roger Louis called the meeting to order at 1:50 p.m. He called for approval of the minutes of the March meeting. The minutes were approved by general consent, with the proviso that they be amended to spell Katherine Sibley's name correctly.
Report by the Executive Secretary
Marc Susser reported on the publication of two new Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) volumes: volume VI, Vietnam, January 1969-July 1970, and volume E-6, Africa 1973-1976. He said that the office had hired eight new contract historians, and went on to discuss the office's contribution to the U.S. Postal Service release of a series of Diplomatic stamps. The office assured the accuracy of the diplomats' bios, and assisted with the roll out. The office has made a concerted effort to expand its role and its effectiveness within the Department. This was a topic of the recent office retreat in West Virginia. Finally, Susser said that based on papers submitted thus far, he concluded that the office's upcoming China conference would be successful.
Status Reports by the Deputy Historian and the General Editor
David Herschler reported that two historians, Doug Selvage and James Van Hook, were leaving the office. The office has, however, contracted seven historians full time and one part time, as part of the effort to ensure that there is a full complement of 40 historians.
Herschler then shifted to matters of declassification and publishing. The 1973-1976 Africa volume had been released on June 5 and the office expected to publish 10 volumes by the end of the year. Many of the recently-compiled volumes would involve declassification battles with possibly half facing delays as a result.
Five members of the office staff had attended the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), held in Washington DC, April 19-22. Unfortunately, the overall turnout of diplomatic historians was low and there were few panels addressing diplomatic history. In contrast, a large number of public historians were present at the conference and Herschler suggested that the office should cultivate this constituency and could play a useful role in increasing the profile of diplomatic history by developing stronger connections with the major professional organizations.
Herschler then discussed the efforts taken by the office to enhance its overall efficiency and effectiveness by highlighting specific objectives. An office survey and retreat in West Virginia had resulted in new goals for the office. The professional staff began implementing plans to achieve those goals in three extended staff meetings following the retreat. Herschler commented that the staff had performed magnificently at these tasks and their efforts have resulted in new training manuals and a new employee mentorship program, both of which have played a vital role in training new employees.
Keefer reported that with the publication of the two new volumes mentioned earlier by Susser, the office had published 10 of the projected 57 volumes on the Nixon-Ford administrations. The newest Vietnam volume was unlike its predecessors in that it expanded its coverage to include the Nixon administration's efforts to take the war to the North Vietnamese in Laos and Cambodia. The volume on Africa, 1973-1976, focused on sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest compilation centering on the Horn of Africa and the revolution that ousted Haile Selassie. This compilation drew largely upon the perspectives of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Keefer anticipated that up to five volumes would be published during the summer, including the long-awaited Japan volume covering the Johnson administration.
Keefer then reported that during 2005 there were over 95,000 hits on the online FRUS volumes and in the first 6 months of 2006 there had been over 48,000. While these statistics did not distinguish between casual browsers and serious researchers, they were nonetheless "very substantial" and supported the office's decision to put printed volumes on the internet. Moreover, Keefer informed the committee, there were very favorable reviews of three online FRUS volumes in the October 2005 Journal of International Affairs.
Keefer concluded by stating that FRUS had entered one of its "periods of creativity and accomplishment," much like it had during the publication of the volumes on the World War I peace negotiations and the post World War II conference. He hoped the Nixon-Ford and Carter volumes would continue in this vein.
Louis asked Keefer if there had been any consideration given to consolidating future Foreign Relations volumes. Keefer responded that some of the Carter administration volumes would be combined.
Robert McMahon asked why the December meeting's discussion with the Department of Defense (DOD) representative was not reflected in the minutes. Herschler replied that there had been some mention of the discussion in the minutes. McMahon asked whether the minutes should be amended to include more specific details of the session to better explain those forces outside the office's control that can delay the production of FRUS. Moreover, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the lack of sanctions against agencies that were late with their declassification reviews. Keefer responded that the main points of pressure were the power of persuasion and the report to Congress.
Margaret Hedstrom queried whether the office could improve the process whereby volumes moved from verification to publication, noting that one volume spent 4 years at this stage. Susan Weetman responded with a discussion of personnel changes that had complicated productivity along this section of the FRUS assembly line.
Status of Declassification of State Department Records
Margaret Peppe informed the Committee that IPS was making great progress in declassifying Department of State records. It had already reviewed classified holdings through 1980 and will have reviews through 1981 completed by the end of the year. She reminded the Committee that IPS had transferred electronic records from the State Archiving System to NARA for the period 1973-1975 and added that the Department recently transferred the electronic records from 1976. In total, 1.5 million documents had been transferred thus far.
Keefer asked if the Department of State was the only federal agency to meet its declassification review deadline of December 2006 under EO 12958. Margaret Peppe responded that others are struggling and the Department of State seemed to be better positioned to meet its deadlines because of its good relationship with the foreign affairs community and with NARA.
The committee adjourned for a break at 2:53 p.m.
Closed Session, June 5
Report by the Subcommittee on Electronic Records
Louis called the session to order at 3:11 p.m. Before going into closed session, however, the committee took questions from William Burr of the National Security Archive and Bruce Craig of the National Coalition for History about the reclassification of documents at the National Archives. After a few questions and discussion, the public attendees left and the meeting moved to a closed session.
Jeanne Schauble of NARA discussed two key problems with the reclassification and review of pulled materials. First, the various agencies reviewed documents at different times; and, second, agency representatives were never in the same room at the same time. These two issues complicated the process and slowed the inter-agency cooperation and the overall efficiency of the task at hand. Additional questions were brought up focusing on how to handle new forms of media, such as audiotapes. Schauble remarked that a program addressing these issues, to be directed by Michael Kurtz, would be operational by October 2006.
Louis then asked Hedstrom to summarize her subcommittee's discussion and its briefing by Kurtz. The ISOO review of the pulled and reclassified material indicated that one-third of the documents did not need to be reclassified and twenty-five percent of that one-third was not classified originally. Thus the review illuminated three key problems. First, the absence of uniform standards had led to inaccurate and inconsistent review declassification decisions. Second, there had been no tracking of the decisions or the various terminologies employed, which reinforced inconsistency. Third, some agencies had not recognized the equities of others when reviewing documents, further complicating inter-agency efficiency. A set of guidelines was under review and being sent out to relevant agencies for comment. NARA was also working to reconstruct the archival order of the documents since some agencies had destroyed the order. Additional controls were to be implemented in the stacks as well as an expansion of the database for tracking classification/declassification decisions. Hedstrom concluded by stating that the Air Force was to return their withdrawn documents by November.
Hedstrom noted that in the central cable files there is a large amount of "dross" related to routine matters--e.g., someone's request for the shipment of a typewriter. The staff at NARA was working to identify the Subject TAGS relating to such matters in order to determine those records which are not permanent and can be destroyed. This would help accelerate the Department of State's and the Archives' process of declassification review and help make permanent records available more quickly. David Langbart added that the identification of Subject TAGS for routine matters would cover not only records in the present State Archiving System but also records in the future SMART system. Kepley commented that the identification and removal of routine documents on the basis of their Subject TAGS will also help researchers conducting searches for declassified records in NARA's online database, as they would not have so many documents to search.
Responding to a statement by Louis that all documents might be of interest to historians, Langbart noted that the archives has long had a process whereby it makes appraisal judgments about records that leads to the destruction of records. NARA will be publishing in the Federal Register a notice of the schedule that reflects its decision regarding the appraisal of which Subject TAGS apply to non-permanent records--i.e., which documents will be scheduled for destruction. The public will be given an opportunity to comment. In response to a subsequent question from Herschler, Langbart said NARA would not have a draft of its final appraisal by the next committee meeting, but it would have proceeded far enough with the work for the Committee to provide comment on the preliminary findings.
Hedstrom asked if Langbart could provide examples of non-permanent records scheduled for destruction on the basis of their Subject TAGS by the next meeting. Langbart replied that NARA is reviewing the documents electronically, which remain classified, and in order to obtain copies of such documents, the committee would have to ask Peppe at Information and Program Services (IPS). Rhodes suggested that a subcommittee might go to the records management office to examine the records electronically.
Foreign Relations Research in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter Materials
Louis asked for a report on the office's research progress at the Nixon Project, and the Ford and Carter Presidential Libraries. Keefer responded that the office has historians working on the Carter volumes and two people finishing research at the Ford Library. Moreover, he noted that the Remote Archives Capture (RAC) project continues to be an excellent tool for doing research on scanned classified documents from the Carter Library. Unfortunately, there have been some difficulties in obtaining the last Nixon tapes, dating from October 1972 to June 1973. Keefer suggested that John Powers give the committee an update on the processing of the Nixon tapes.
Powers began by noting that FRUS historians have been at the Nixon Project for ten years and announcing the pending retirement of Marc Fischer as team leader. Bridget Crowley will take Fischer's place as team leader, tape reviewer, and document wrapper. Historians should contact Crowley as she is now the sole staff member working on FRUS issues. Over the last month, the office historians have not worked at the Nixon Project to allow the staff time to focus on the RAC and the upcoming move to California. As a result, the staff will meet the RAC deadline by the end of the month. Once this goal has been met, the staff will return to reviewing the tape conversations. In the last quarter, 450 pages have been wrapped, 400 are yet to be wrapped, and four volumes have been reviewed. As the only staff member devoted to FRUS, Crowley will hopefully have time to attend to tapes, packaging, and other tasks for the office. Powers also announced two more departures from the Nixon staff.
Powers emphasized three positive developments. First, Nancy Smith had given the Nixon Project an additional staff member to help meet the RAC deadline; second, three students had taken over the pulls in Room 2000 for the summer; and finally, Tim Naftali, who will be based in California, had been appointed the Director of the Nixon Project as of mid-October. Naftali is very energetic and has grand plans and ideas for the Project, but will need some time to get up to speed. There are also two packers on board to pack the head of state gift collection through mid-August, when the first truck will depart. For security reasons, staff must monitor the packers. However, meeting the RAC deadline will loosen Crowley's schedule, so the office historians should plan what they want her to work on. To this promising news, Powers cautioned that the students will return to school in mid-August, so the Nixon Project staff will once again be required to do the pulls in the research room. Furthermore, there is currently a hiring freeze, so the Project is unable to post any openings or hire additional staff. This combination will significantly affect research.
Smith noted that many historians had asked what the RAC is. The Remote Archives Capture Project (RAC), created in 1996, applies to 25 year-old classified documents which must be reviewed under Executive Order (E.O.) No. 12958. This Project is meant to encourage agencies to complete their RAC review, although those who prefer to review the printed documents rather than online are provided with them. The 25 year-old classified presidential documentation is scanned and brought to the DC area where it is put online for each agency with equity to conduct its mandatory review. The CIA has been prompt in completing its reviews and NARA has received some production as a result. By December 2006, the presidential libraries must scan all of the materials that fall into this category.
Herschler observed that, as 60 percent of the material in FRUS volumes comes from presidential papers, the RAC has made the accessibility of documents easier for office historians. For example, HO historians collecting the Carter era documents are able to conduct most of their research in the Washington, DC area as opposed to traveling to Atlanta, Georgia. Although a portion of the research in Carter Presidential Materials will have to be done at the Carter Library, the access to the RAC will save the office time and money in the long run. Unfortunately, the RAC is not yet comprehensive, and declassified documents still need to be viewed at the presidential libraries. NARA has declassified many documents since the 1970s that will not be captured by the RAC, but are needed for a full picture.
Herschler then moved to the issue of the outstanding office requests for Nixon tapes. These tapes represent the one remaining problem in the office's Nixon-era research. At present, several manuscripts are awaiting tape processing before they can be submitted for declassification. Powers has only one staff member and she is engaged in several FRUS-related tasks, including the high priority task of processing classified copies made by the office historians at the Nixon Project SCIF. Herschler acknowledged the tapes review process is complicated, but emphasized that the delay in receiving these tapes has caused several months of delay in volume production. These issues will be resolved once all of the Nixon volumes are completed.
The problem was further complicated by the CIA's refusal to begin its review of FRUS manuscripts until it had received the entire manuscript--including tape transcripts. This refusal meant that the office had to wait until it had received and listened to the requested tapes before the historians could decipher how many of the taped conversations should be included in the volumes or whether there would be CIA equities. The delay in receiving the tapes thus far has held up two completed manuscripts and could potentially set back the production of an additional six volumes over the coming months. The office has attempted to arrange for the CIA review of manuscripts without their potential tape transcripts, but has not been fully successful on that front. Herschler concluded that the office was in a difficult position. Powers acknowledged that he was aware of the office research priorities in the Nixon Project, but it was a challenge trying to meet all of the office's needs with a single staff member.
Tom Schwartz inquired whether the office historians knew if the tapes in question would be included in the manuscripts. Keefer replied that they did not, as they could only identify potentially interesting tapes through the tape logs, and Herschler added that the office historians were unable to listen to any tapes that had not been first processed by Nixon Project staff.
Smith outlined further complications involved. In the early 1990s, staff members at the presidential libraries devoted considerable time to assisting the office historians with their FRUS research, which led to complaints from non-governmental historians who demanded equal treatment. As a result, in 1992, the Department of State agreed to provide subventions to the presidential libraries to support additional staff members responsible for assisting office historians. The Nixon Project had two such FRUS subventions until 2 years ago when, Herschler noted, one left in January and the other departed in March. Smith said that the presidential libraries were now just trying to do their best to assist the office historians while also meeting their other obligations.
Regarding the office's outstanding Nixon tapes request, Smith continued, the problem was finding tape reviewers who had the necessary experience and the appropriate clearances to review the tapes. She inquired whether the office could provide some money to secure help in the tape reviewing process. Powers noted that he and Erin Mahan had discussed this possibility some time ago. The Nixon Project's summer students should help in freeing up time for others to work on the office tape request. This, unfortunately, is a temporary fix as the problem will reoccur when the students leave. In addition to this, the Nixon Project has been officially reduced to 17 staff members; unofficially, it had 16 members, as 1 person has been sent on permanent detail elsewhere.
Hedstrom then asked why there were no more FRUS subventions and inquired whether money was the issue. Keefer replied that the problem was not financial, but in finding people to do the job. Herschler noted that, besides the tapes, there would not be very much work for a FRUS subvention to do at the Nixon Project. Powers noted that reviewing tapes, pulling files for the office researchers, and securing NARA badges for researchers was time consuming in itself. Smith concurred. Mahan observed that the office had not received many more tapes now than when it paid for a subvention at the Nixon Project.
Powers noted that, following a meeting with office leadership last fall, the office had refined its tapes request list decreasing the duplication of effort on both the office and Nixon Project sides. He cited one example in which an office historian wanted only 10 minutes of a four hour conversation, however, tape reviewers had to listen to the entire conversation to find the segment. A conversation of that length might require a week's worth of work to review. While the lists had been consolidated and refined, he encouraged office historians to continue their efforts as, since that time, the Nixon Project had lost 10 staff members.
Smith inquired as to how many hours of tapes were left to review for the office. Powers replied that the Nixon Project still had to review 70 taped conversations or portions of conversations. While office historians should continue to come to the Nixon Project to do research, both sides should continue to search for the right balance among all of the Nixon Project's many FRUS-related obligations.
Schwartz asked Powers to speculate on when all of the tapes would be processed. Powers replied that it would be years before all of the tapes would be ready for public release. As for the 70 tapes outstanding for the office, he hoped that once the Nixon Project had readied all of its files for the RAC, Crowley would be able to devote more of her time to tape review. During the last quarter, Powers noted, Crowley had been leading the Nixon Project's effort to meet its RAC deadline.
Smith inquired whether any tapes were undergoing systematic review. Powers said that at present no systematic review was being done. Smith asked whether it would resume after the RAC deadline was met. Powers replied that after the RAC was finished, they would confer with the Nixon Project to investigate ways in which to prioritize Crowley's FRUS-related duties according to the demands of the office.
Louis asked how this would affect the 30-year FRUS deadline. Keefer replied that the office was in the final mile of its Nixonian marathon. The office had tried to limit the number of tapes it had requested and the office historians were finishing up their research at the Nixon Project. Moreover, the office was willing to consider any suggestions geared toward getting its tapes and concluding its work at the Nixon Project.
Sibley asked whether the RAC was available on the internet. Keefer replied it was not, as it was comprised of classified material. Smith confirmed that all of the materials in the RAC were classified and that the RAC was a declassification tool for textual records. The Carter Library has made arrangements with the CIA to have their classified and unclassified materials returned, as well as to have a stand-alone computer containing the material at the library. As of this point, however, no arrangements had been made with the CIA to place RAC materials on the internet. Once the materials have been returned to the Carter Library, however, they will still be classified. Moreover, RAC materials contain many agencies' equities.
Sibley inquired into the reasons for the staff shortage at NARA and the lack of efforts to hire new staff members. Powers replied that NARA was currently in a hiring freeze and that May 8 had been the final day for new hires.
Hedstrom asked for confirmation that the Nixon Project would not be getting any redeployed staff members. Smith confirmed that it would not, noting that the presidential libraries typically have small staffs. The federal archives and presidential libraries have both requested additional staff members, but there is no way of knowing whether they will get them. One staff member was redeployed to the Nixon Project to assist with the RAC project, but she will be leaving June 30. Smith noted that Powers will also need staff to supervise the scanning of the materials readied for the RAC. Powers replied that Nixon Project staff will not only have to supervise the scanning of RAC material, but also do the necessary redactions after the RAC declassification review is complete. Smith commented that the presidential libraries authority was trying to help out with money, but there was the issue of limited resources.
Carol Anderson returned to the issue of the outstanding office tape request and the possibility that these 70 tapes would hold up the production of 8 FRUS volumes. She noted that staffing was clearly the issue and recalled that when she worked at a state agency, restricted resources forced the agency to develop creative solutions to solve their staffing issues. In one instance, her agency had utilized retirees. She inquired whether this was a possibility for dealing with the issue of backlogged tapes. Powers replied that the Nixon Project employs 3 retirees and 3 students who retrieved documents for researchers. He reiterated that the Project was down to its core classified operations and quipped that he had not yet found a retiree who would be happy answering the telephones. Anderson asked why a retiree could not work on cleaning up the tapes backlog. Smith replied that NARA knew of only one person who would be qualified to review the tapes, but he was too expensive for NARA to hire. Keefer noted that at Powers' urging, the office was hoping to have Crowley devote one day per week to tapes review. If she was able to do so, the backlog could be cleared. If not, the office was open to creative solutions.
Hedstrom inquired whether 70 conversations translated to 70 hours of tapes. Powers replied that it depended on the conversation. Hedstrom ventured that maybe it translated to 50 hours of tapes. Powers concurred with this approximation. Hedstrom then asked how many work hours had to be devoted to dealing with that many hours of tape. Powers suggested that the ratio of work time to tape time is about 10 to 1. The Nixon tape logs were created in the 1980s and were not always that reliable. Moreover, many tapes were of poor sound quality. Hedstrom suggested that they were dealing with approximately 500 hours worth of work to clear up the tapes backlog.
Powers continued to discuss the problems associated with tape review. Once the reviewer listened to the tapes, s/he had to address the classification, personal, political, and privacy issues, and then duplicate the tape. The length of the duplication process depended on the length of the conversation. For example, a 2-hour tape would take at least two hours to duplicate. Additional time was required if withdrawals from the conversation had to be made. These complications were the reason the Nixon Project staff had requested a more streamlined office tapes request list. Hedstrom then suggested that it would take 1 year of expert full-time work to clear up the backlog. Herschler and Keefer disagreed. Hedstrom replied that she was simply trying to gain an appreciation of all of the complexities of the issue.
Doug Selvage asked if the Nixon Project could simply burn the tapes the office had requested onto compact discs and let the historians deal with it, providing the office historians promise not to use the personal or private content. Powers replied that the tapes were not divided according to conversation, but rather into 2 hour increments. This meant that to listen to a given conversation, one might receive some 4 hours of tape. Furthermore, the Nixon estate was adamant that as few people as possible should hear the personal and political content of the tapes and the Nixon Project was not prepared to ask the estate's permission to embark upon such an initiative. He also suggested that simply burning the tapes and sending them to the office would not necessarily save the office either time or money. Selvage replied that at least this would put the problem in the office's court. Keefer asserted that the Nixon estate would never agree to this plan. Mahan lamented that all of the creative solutions to the tapes backlog problem advanced by the office staff members had been rejected.
Keefer reiterated that the basic problem was that the 70 outstanding tape requests had led to two manuscripts being held up in the production process. He mused that the office might have to send the manuscripts forward for declassification as they were and then send along any relevant tape transcripts for declassification later.
Powers remarked that once the RAC deadline was met, provided the Nixon Project lost no additional staff members, he could assign Crowley to tape review if the office wanted this to be her priority. He concluded that the Nixon Project was just as eager for the office to finish its Nixon-era FRUS research as the office historians were.
Hedstrom asked when the Nixon Project would be finished preparing its materials for the RAC. Powers replied that his staff would be finished by June 30, 2006.
Louis thanked Powers and Smith for their presentations and comments.
The Foreign Relations Series: Withheld Documentation From Recently Declassified Manuscripts and Other Clearance Issues
The committee discussed their review of withdrawn information from recently declassified volumes and adjourned for the day at 5:00 p.m.
Closed Session, June 6
Staff Historians Report on Volumes in Progress and Other Office Business
Louis called the meeting to order at 8:35 a.m. Linda Qaimmaqami discussed the progress of her volume, Foreign Relations , 1969-1976, Vol. XXXVI, Energy Crisis, 1969-74, with the committee.
The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series
After the CIA FRUS coordinator introduced the new Information Management Services Deputy Director, Herschler commented that during the past 3 months the pendulum of the CIA's review and declassification efforts had swung into reverse. The CIA had delivered three volumes since the last committee meeting and the office was in the process of assessing the results of that review. Meanwhile, there had been no increase in the CIA's backlog over the past 3 months because the office had only given them one new manuscript during that time. The transition to a new Director would likely mean another slowdown.
McMahon inquired as to how the NARA reclassification issue had affected the CIA review effort. CIA responded that since the office had limited resources, there had been personnel sacrifices in other areas--for example, in the 25-year program. As for reclassification, whether the documents in question had already been published and their length of time on the open shelves would be factored into CIA's final release decision. CIA noted that as General Hayden held two history degrees there was reason for some optimism in the future; Louis agreed.
Rhodes noted that the release of "sensitive" volumes with full documentation, in compliance with statutory requirements, was important to the reputation of the committee and the FRUS series. The CIA acknowledged the committee's concerns.
Hedstrom asked if the clearinghouse for declassification of documents at NARA will help the CIA in its efforts. CIA answered that they intended to comply with the law and that certain difficulties with regard to equity recognition were in the process of being addressed. Rhodes insisted on the full release of FRUS documents if other publications, such as the National Security Archive website, have released the same documents in full. The CIA responded that they wanted to focus on the issue of damage assessment when considering reclassification of documents and such exposure is an important data point. In cases where it was not clear that certain documents had already been released to the public, the CIA was more likely to deny release.
Doug Selvage asked about the case of the National Security Archive publishing more documents from their large collection on their website, which might present a scenario where FRUS volumes could publish the same document in a redacted form or if it was to be denied altogether. The CIA noted that such a scenario, if they were made aware of it, strengthened the case for a more fulsome release of documents.
Keefer remarked that the office had made extensive efforts to accommodate the perspective of the CIA and that the CIA needed to understand the problems of the office in producing the FRUS series. Louis asked if FRUS was being held to a higher standard than documents released to the National Archives. CIA replied that was not the case.
Hedstrom read from E.O. 12958 governing the reclassification of documents, noting that the criteria of "serious and demonstrable damage" presented a high barrier to overcome in order to justify withdrawing archival documents from public access. CIA noted that the Agency had agreed to abide by the Executive Order, but that implementing the standard allowed for varied interpretations. CIA also pointed out that many within the Agency consider that the release of certain information, even after 30 years, can have a chilling effect on current operations.
McMahon asked if there is a danger of over-reclassification, noting that the National Archives audit reported that approximately 25% of the documents withdrawn from NARA shelves were withdrawn improperly. McMahon said that if the CIA was going to make a case for reclassification, it better start checking to see if the documents in question have already been published.
The committee then discussed specifics of the Iran retrospective volume with the CIA, noting that it had begun manuscript review.
Ed Rhodes commented that the historical community found the reclassification effort outrageous. He observed that the CIA devoted more resources to reclassification than to declassification. The situation FRUStrated the committee. McMahon then talked about the subjectivity of the classification review process. A recent audit, he said, showed that the CIA improperly reclassified documents 25 percent of the time. This reflects badly on everyone involved in classification decisions. CIA said it did not want to discuss the audit, or its methods, but clearly reviewers at NARA have made mistakes in recognizing CIA equities. As long as humans are involved, CIA claimed, there would be mistakes. But the CIA wanted to minimize the errors.
Hedstrom then asked about the CIA response to the interim guidelines. CIA said it was concerned about definitions, for example, what constituted a "serious and demonstrative threat to national security?" CIA expressed a strong interest in how the ISOO guidelines were codified in the long-term and that it intended to make a constructive contribution to the final guidelines. Until then, the CIA would follow the interim guidelines.
Committee Review of Recently Published volume, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume VI, Vietnam, January 1969-July 1970
The committee discussed with the general editor the recently released volume, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume VI, Vietnam, January 1969-July 1970.
The meeting adjourned at 11:34 p.m. and the Committee then met in Executive Session.