June 2007

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, June 4-5, 2007


Committee Members

  • Wm. Roger Louis, Chairman
  • Carol Anderson
  • Margaret Hedstrom
  • Robert McMahon
  • 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
  • Craig Daigle
  • Evan Dawley
  • Evan Duncan
  • Steve Galpern
  • Amy Garrett
  • David Geyer
  • RenĂ©e Goings
  • David Herschler
  • Paul Hibbeln
  • Susan Holly
  • Adam Howard
  • Stephanie Hurter
  • Hal Jones
  • Edward Keefer
  • Peter Kraemer
  • Doug Kraft
  • Madalina Lee
  • Keri Lewis
  • Erin Mahan
  • Aaron Marrs
  • Bill McAllister
  • Chris Morrison
  • Linda Qaimmaqami
  • Kathleen Rasmussen
  • Jim Siekmeier
  • Nathaniel Smith
  • Melissa Jane Taylor
  • Chris Tudda
  • Dean Weatherhead
  • Susan Weetman
  • Alex Wieland

Bureau of Administration

  • William Combes
  • Harmon Kirby
  • Margaret Peppe
  • Peter Sheils

National Archives and Records Administration:

  • Michael Carlson, Electronic and Special Media Records Services Division
  • William Fischer, Life Cycle Management Division
  • Michael J. Kurtz, Assistant Archivist for 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, Civilian Records Staff

Central Intelligence Agency

  • John C.
  • Karen O.
  • Bruce B.

Open Session, June 4

Approval of the Record of the February 2007 Meeting

Chairman Roger Louis called the meeting to order at 1:37 p.m. He then called for the approval of the record of the February 2007 minutes, which were approved by unanimous consent.

Report by the Executive Secretary

Marc Susser began his report with a short eulogy to Paul Claussen, noting that Paul had been one of the most knowledgeable persons about the history of the Department and had helped to fully staff the office.

Susser then discussed his attendance at the 9th Conference for Editors of Diplomatic Documents in Dublin, where he met with his Russian counterpart to formalize arrangements for a joint volume and conference scheduled for October. Susser told the committee that he had visited Budapest for the initial release of the Department's book on U.S.-Hungarian relations. He finished his report with a status report on the office's efforts to update its website.

Status Reports by the Deputy Historian and the General Editor

David Herschler offered a second tribute to Paul Claussen. He noted that Paul had overseen hundreds of projects and taken part in many agency and interdepartmental committees during his 35 years of service.

Herschler then discussed staffing changes in the office. He introduced Stephanie Hurter and Nathaniel Smith. Three additional new hires were expected by July. The office was also losing two historians: Susan Tully and James Siekmeier.

Herschler concluded his report with a discussion of the office's outreach activities. He reported that the Dublin International Editors conference engaged in a new format--proposed in part by the U.S. delegation at the previous meeting in Paris--to focus on the use of technology and other new methods in the identification and publication of documentation. He then reported that Office members, under the direction of William McAllister, had been involved in teaching a diplomatic history course to the most recent class of Foreign Service Officers at the Foreign Service Institute. The office was expanding its website, a project that would take 2 or 3 years. Office historians had attended conferences including the Organization of American Historians, meetings of a special Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) steering committee, and a roundtable of the National Council on Public History on U.S. diplomatic history. Nine members were expected to participate in the SHAFR conference in Washington, with 4 more participating in its council meeting.

Todd Bennett then gave a brief presentation of the new retrospective Foreign Relations (FRUS) volume on Public and Cultural Diplomacy that will cover 1917 through 1973. The goal of this volume is to fill a considerable gap in the documentation of this topic. As the subject is so complex and the material so voluminous, it will include an online companion publication that will include a variety of multimedia sources including film clips, photographs, and sound recordings.

Margaret Hedstrom and Katherine Sibley inquired as to what types of challenges, if any, were anticipated in funding the Public and Cultural Diplomacy volume, what kind of balance would be struck between cultural and public diplomacy, and how the role of nongovernmental organizations in public and cultural diplomacy would be illustrated. Bennett replied that the project was in its earliest stages, but that his team was addressing these issues. He promised to keep the committee updated on these kinds of issues. Robert McMahon then asked about how the volume would combine policy statements with the travels of artists, and whether the origins of policy statements would be explored. Bennett replied that, given the amount of information available and the page limitations, domestic public diplomacy would not be covered. Policy statements might be examined unless they had already been covered in earlier FRUS volumes.

General Editor Edward Keefer reported that although FRUS publication had been at a low ebb recently, 2 volumes were expected to be published by September and 10, possibly 11, volumes were scheduled for publication by the end of the year. Publishing all of the Carter volumes by the 2010 deadline, however, would prove to be difficult. The office had 15 historians currently at work on volumes for the Carter administration. Once these volumes were finished being compiled, they would be submitted for declassification review and technical editing. Provided that there were no major delays in the process, the office would most likely make its goal.

In addition to the production process, Keefer noted that the high quality of the more recent FRUS volumes recently has been rewarded. In March 2007, the FRUS volume on China 1969-72, won the Jefferson Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government. It was the first such award that the office has received for a volume in the 150 years FRUS had been in production.

Keefer then discussed the Conference of International Editors of Diplomatic Documents in Dublin. Attendance had expanded considerably, rising from 14 countries in 2001 to 23 in 2007. Four more countries have published, or plan to publish, electronic volumes. English-speaking countries are most likely to publish on the Internet. China has published two volumes: one on the 1954 Geneva Conference, and another on the 1955 Bandung Conference. Keefer envisioned the eventual linkage of all diplomatic documentary publications on the Internet, but doubted that it would occur in the near future.

Status of Declassification of Department of State Records

Peter Sheils began his report by stating that State Department records from 1973 to 1975 are available on the National Archive's (NARA) website. The material for 1976 had been transferred from the Department to NARA and was being processed. The 1977 collection was being vetted at the Department of Energy (DOE), and once officials finished, the materials would be packaged and also transferred to NARA. Sheils reported that the 1978-1979 collection had been reviewed by State, but that IPS was awaiting responses from other agencies. Review of the classified collection for 1980-1981 has been completed, he reported, and 85 to 90 percent of the electronic classified material for 1982 had been completed, as well. Sheils noted that IPS was on target for completing declassification reviews.

Sheils then discussed recent additions to the staff of the Systematic Review Program (SRP) within the Office of Information Programs and Services. Dr. Marvin Russell has been appointed chief of the FRUS branch, filling a long-term vacancy. The FRUS branch is one of three branches within SRP; the other two branches perform 25-year classification reviews under the Executive Order for Classified National Security Information. Dr. Russell's immediate focus will be on resource needs and business processes. Sheils also introduced William Combes, who recently received his MA in History from Catholic University. Combes would be converting shortly from his position as an intern to a full-time employee.

Louis told Sheils that it appeared the systematic review was working well and asked if there were any potential problem areas that might slow the process. Sheils responded that the main concern of his office would be finding resources to keep the pace of declassification from declining. Moreover, the hours and numbers of former Foreign Service WAEs fluctuate due to mandatory limits on hours and funding issues. Sheils did not think that these constraints would create much of an immediate problem, however.

Closed Session, June 4

Report by the Subcommittee on Electronic Records

Hedstrom began her report with a discussion of the appraisal of the Central Foreign Policy File cables based on Subject TAGS. The National Archives and Records Administration conducted the appraisal to determine which Subject TAGS should be designated as permanent. The subcommittee had examined NARA's final report, which contained a justification for classifying certain records as temporary rather than permanent, and concurred with the report's recommendations. Hedstrom said that the appraisal had probably erred on the conservative side in making recommendations for the permanent retention of records. Once the Department of State approves the new draft record schedule, NARA will handle the final administrative details, including publication in the Federal Register, prior to its approval by Archivist Allen Weinstein. The schedule would go into effect with the 1973 records. The subcommittee had also examined the process of transferring electronic records to the Archives. Hedstrom remained cautiously optimistic that the Department could reach the 25 year line.

Michael Kurtz then briefed the Committee on both the National Declassification Initiative (NDI) and the Interagency Referral Center (IRC). He also provided context of the wider records processing initiative begun in his office in October 2006. Kurtz prefaced his remarks by highlighting the interim reclassification guidelines put into effect by the Interagency Security Oversight Office (ISOO) in 2006. The comments received by ISOO would be incorporated into a final directive to be issued by ISOO. Kurtz added that the initiative had caught the interest of the Japanese Government; subsequently he was scheduled to discuss NDI in Tokyo.

Kurtz noted that the establishment of the IRC in February 2005 predated the initiation of the NDI, which was announced in the spring of 2006 and began in August 2006. The IRC is now an integral part of the NDI. The NDI workload is substantial. NARA has in its accessioned holdings at Archives 2 approximately 450 million pages of material which require further archival processing to gain better intellectual control and thus facilitate reference and access. To facilitate this work much of the NARA reference staff in the Washington, DC area were transferred to processing work.

A subset of this 450 million pages are approximately 80 million pages of classified material which have undergone initial declassification review by the agency which created the records. These records require further processing before release and in many cases contain equities of other agencies. The referral of these equities and their resolution, as well as final processing, is the focus of the NDI and the IRC.

After the Archivist announced the launching of the NDI, NARA organized an Executive Steering Group (ESG) with Kurtz as chair, which includes representatives from 12 agencies. The ESG created a liaison team which established a series of tools and products to effectively manage the 80 million pages requiring referral and the declassification review of the multiple agency equities. These included setting up interagency Quality Assurance teams to sample and check the quality of original agency reviews; standard operating procedures; and a decision matrix to facilitate the work of the Quality Assurance teams. In addition, NARA reassigned staff so that 50 staff members could focus on the declassification work required by the Executive Order. Specifically, staff index documents to go to the IRC for equity review by the agencies.

Kurtz noted that maintaining momentum was a concern. The ongoing nature of Executive Order 12958 demands that NARA and relevant agencies examine the initial review process to avoid future reclassification issues 25 years hence. Procedural aspects of the declassification initiative would need to reflect new approaches in an attempt to streamline and improve the process. Kurtz then provided additional details concerning the review process conducted at the Archives 2 facility. When multi-equity referrals are made, it helps to have the various agency reviewers in a centralized location, as it facilitates immediate collaboration. Kurtz concluded his remarks by stating that the establishment of both the NDI and IRC signified the highest attention paid to declassification in recent memory.

Hedstrom asked Kurtz if NARA would be able to complete the review process and inquired as to the determination of priorities. Kurtz replied that, as part of its strategic plan, NARA had selected for review the collections with substantial research interest.

Louis then inquired as to the time span envisioned for completion of the review. Kurtz noted that NARA has a ten year plan to complete the enhanced processing for the unclassified and declassified segments of the 450 million pages he described in his remarks. As to the 80 million pages requiring indexing and referral for resolution of agency equity questions it is much more difficult to determine how long this will take. It depends upon additional resources becoming available.

McMahon asked about the schedule for processing and the likelihood of delays. Specifically, he was concerned about whether the 2013 date of completion was likely, and wondered if 2022 would be more accurate, given the rate of processing? Kurtz replied that his team needed additional resources and personnel. There was no esoteric solution and the processing would not be complete by the 2009 deadline. He stressed the importance of the already-implemented streamlined decision matrix and also emphasized the difficulties of coordinating the reviews of materials with the 11 different agencies involved. The NDI role was critical.

Louis asked how the NDI schedule coordinated the participation of the various agencies. Kurtz responded that long-term preplanning was a very large part of the NDI role. Agencies were cooperating with the NDI because they wanted to see the results of their work ending up with records on the open shelves and open to the public. The Air Force, in particular, was very cooperative, contributing many resources that made up the NDI's infrastructure.

Sibley asked about the 80 million pages and whether this was a one-time or occasional surge in volume. Kurtz answered that hopefully this was a one-time issue and that after the backlog was eliminated the new work processes of the NDI would hopefully prevent any future backlogs.

Louis asked whether, or in what form, resistance by any of the agencies existed. Kurtz answered that there was none at this point. Hedstrom inquired as to whether any equity agencies had not participated, using the Treasury Department as an example. Kurtz replied that all relevant agencies were involved.

Hedstrom then asked about the deadline for completion. She was particularly curious as to what would happen if and, as seemed likely, when, the deadline passed without the project succeeding in processing all 80 million pages. Would declassification of remaining materials be automatic? Kurtz said that was the case, but this would be very difficult to implement in practice. Negotiations would probably take place before the deadline.

Louis asked for questions from the Historian's Office. Weetman noted that the work of the committee was very good because the coordination between agencies provided a resource to demonstrate that a declassified document had been reviewed by all agencies with equity.

Louis asked David Langbart for additional comments. He said that he had nothing to add to Margaret Hedstrom's report. Louis then requested any further comments from the floor. Peter Shiels said that Langbart's work with the SAS system was very well-invested time and his praise was widely seconded. Louis agreed with this praise and thanked Langbart formally on behalf of the Advisory Committee.

Declassification Reviews and the Foreign Relations Series

Susan Weetman gave a report on the FRUS declassification process and the issues encountered in declassifying material. She praised the Department of State as being very good about meeting deadlines. As of the June committee meeting, two volumes were ready for verification and three volumes were in the last stage before verification. Several volumes were about to be submitted to the National Security Council (NSC) for review. While the summer is often a difficult time to get material verified, the system, so far, had worked well.

At the request of Louis, Harmon Kirby, a senior reviewer with the FRUS branch explained to the committee the FRUS branch's role within the Systematic Review Program. Kirby's team is made up of former senior Foreign Service Officers, who make FRUS declassification decisions for the Department--country desks are consulted at times, however. In addition to its work on FRUS, the branch also deals with the declassification of documents older than 25-years. This can mean that anywhere between 900 and 1,200 cases are handled each year. FRUS is their top priority. Even with serious budget limitations, the branch always meets its 120-day deadline with respect to FRUS manuscripts. Without additional funding, however, the day will likely come when the reviewers will not be able to complete the reviews, and undertake the subsequent verifications within the prescribed period.

The committee then discussed specific budget and finance issues with Sheils.

Production Chart for the Office of the Historian

Keefer discussed with the committee the status of each volume in production. Several volumes were awaiting response from a particular agency regarding declassification of a few documents. The number of documents involved ranged from a single document to a half-dozen. Louis expressed optimism regarding the progress of the volumes. Keefer noted that some volumes were very difficult to clear. Herschler noted that the CIA had made considerable progress in reviewing and declassifying volumes.

Keefer noted that research had not begun for most Carter administration volumes. Margaret Hedstrom then inquired about whether the office would make the 30-year deadline as mandated by Congress. Discussion on this issue ensued, with Keefer expressing his belief that the office could do well, at the very least better than had occurred with the Nixon volumes. McMahon noted that declassification by the various agencies was beyond the control of the office, and that the office could be considered to have met its deadline if compilation of a volume was complete and sent out for review and declassification. Overall, Louis and the committee considered the progress to be good, with several volumes very close to typesetting and publication.

Closed Session, June 5

Staff Historians Report on Volumes in Progress and Other Office Business

The committee discussed the progress of the compilation of the Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, American Republics, 1973-1976, volume with the compilers and general editor.

The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series

Herschler reported that the CIA had continued to make progress in reviewing FRUS volumes, finishing five volumes since the last committee meeting.

Four volumes were currently under review and two appeals were pending. Volumes with High-Level Panel problems were moving much more slowly, however. Unfortunately, the office had sent just one new volume to CIA for review in the past 3 months, and a total of only two in 2007. After averaging one volume a month in 2006, the recent pace of submissions was certainly a disappointment, but the office expected to return to that earlier pace in the second half of 2007. Finally, Herschler expected that the lengthy search for a new Joint Historian would be complete by the end of the summer.

The CIA discussed with the committee specific declassification review issues related to specific volumes.

The CIA stated that while its FRUS team was currently fully staffed, other entities within the CIA that had influence on the declassification process were experiencing personnel shortages. This development would undoubtedly have a negative effect on the turnaround of FRUS manuscripts.

Herschler then discussed with the CIA representative whether it would be possible for the committee to meet with the CIA's Historical Review Panel later in the year. The CIA representatives said that they would look into whether arrangements could be made for a joint meeting.

McMahon inquired as to whether there would be any major declassification announcements from General Hayden at the upcoming SHAFR meeting. The CIA said that there would be a CD of releaseable CIA intelligence of about 150 documents. Hayden would speak on that and possible future releases, mostly relating to the Warsaw Pact.

Louis thanked the CIA for participating and ended the session.

Committee Review of Recently Published Volumes

The committee members discussed their impressions of the volume, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume II, Organization and Management of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1969-1972 with the general editor.

Louis then ended the meeting and the committee adjourned to executive session.