Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, June 23-24, 2009
- Robert McMahon, Chairman
- Trudy Peterson
- Katherine Sibley
- Peter Spiro
- Thomas Zeiler
Office of the Historian
- Ambassador John Campbell, Acting Historian
- Kristin Ahlberg
- Carl Ashley
- Myra Burton
- John Carland
- Evan Dawley
- Evan Duncan
- David Geyer
- Renée Goings
- Tiffany Hamelin
- David Herschler
- Paul Hibbeln
- Emily Horne
- Adam Howard
- Stephanie Hurter
- Peter Kraemer
- Aaron Marrs
- William McAllister
- Michael McCoyer
- Kelly McFarland
- Chris Morrison
- Kathleen Rasmussen
- Nathaniel Smith
- Melissa Jane Taylor
- Christopher Tudda
- Dean Weatherhead
- Susan Weetman
- Joe Wicentowski
- Alex Wieland
- Louise Woodroofe
- David Zierler
Bureau of Administration
- David Adamson
- Harmon Kirby
- Marvin Russell
- Tasha Thian
- William Coombs
Bureau of Public Affairs
- Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley
National Archives and Records Administration
- Julie Agurkis, Information Security Oversight Office
- Jay Bosanko, Information Security Oversight Office
- David Langbart, Textual Archives Services Division
- Don McIlwain, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
- John Powers, Information Security Oversight Office
- Lisa Roberson, Life Cycle Management Division
Central Intelligence Agency
- Peter N.
- Robin T.
Open Session, June 23
Greeting by the Assistant Secretary of State
The meeting convened at 1:38 p.m. Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley welcomed the committee and said that he looked forward to working with the committee. Crowley's recent visit to the Historian's Office suite had revealed a challenging physical working environment, but he hoped that changes could be made to make it more comfortable. He hoped to help fill critical niches, and provide the resources to get the FRUS series back on track and attack the backlog. He also hoped that future policies would be informed by history; for example, what could be learned from President Carter's Camp David negotiations. Crowley then expressed his appreciation for the work of the office.
Approval of the Record of the March 2009 Meeting
Committee Chairman Robert McMahon introduced a motion to approve the minutes of the March meeting. Trudy Peterson had three topics that she wished to add to them: 1) Print volumes of the Foreign Relations (FRUS) series could never be completely eliminated, because of their usefulness as ceremonial gifts to foreign officials; 2) The office is legally obligated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act in posting accessible PDFs on the web; 3) The cost of the office's contract for scanning documents from earlier FRUS volumes was much greater, because of ADA compliance, than that of a similar contract with the University of Michigan. The minutes were approved as amended.
Report by the Executive Secretary
Ambassador John Campbell said that he would work as Acting Historian until September, and introduced Ambassador Edward Brynn, who would succeed him. He then listed three goals of the office derived from the OIG Report: 1) to ensure that the office addresses all of the recommendations resulting form the OIG review of operations; 2) to restore morale and a sense of esprit de corps among office staff; 3) to revive the relationship between the office and the committee.
All three goals are interrelated, and should be addressed collectively, Campbell said. The OIG Report has 24 recommendations, designed to promote transparency and efficiency within the office. The report, which is available on the Department website, requires progress reports in 30-day increments. The office was working hard to address the recommendations in the "spirit of the OIG report." It had developed nine working groups. Every member of the office was serving on one or more working group, and the work to date had been extremely impressive. He was looking forward to the committee's participation in two of the working groups: Print vs. Electronic Publications and the Reagan Publication Plan.
Campbell went on to say that the Foreign Relations of the United States series (FRUS) has some serious issues to overcome, and recent departures have slowed work on the Carter volumes, leaving the office without managers to review manuscripts. There is currently a 10-manuscript backlog (including both first and second reviews). The process of permanently filling key managerial positions would take some time, Campbell said.
Campbell concluded by saying that he was "thoroughly impressed with the professionalism and hard work" of members of the office, noting their "skills, energy, and willingness to move forward."
Status Report by the Deputy Historian
David Herschler reported on the general status of FRUS declassification. Since the last meeting, one volume was verified, the final step in the declassification process. He anticipated verification of at least 2 more volumes before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, depending on the pace of return of declassification reviews by several agencies and the availability of CIA and State declassification staff to participate in verifications during the next 3 months.
Herschler then reported on personnel matters. Department Historian Marc Susser departed his position; as reported earlier, Ambassador John Campbell had been appointed Acting Department Historian and would serve in that capacity until September. Ambassador Edward Brynn had been appointed Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Public Affairs and would succeed Campbell upon his departure.
Todd Bennett (Chief, Europe and Global Issues Division) had taken a leave of absence from the Office to accept a professorship at East Carolina University; Doug Kraft (Chief, Middle East and Latin America Division) accepted a one-year detail as desk officer for El Salvador in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; Rick Moss and Anand Toprani, contract historians assigned to process the Nixon tapes, resigned after completion of their task.
Bill McAllister was named Acting General Editor; John Carland was named Acting Chief of the Middle East and Latin America Division; David Geyer was named Acting Chief of the Europe and Global Issues Division; Myra Burton was named Acting Chief of the Asia and General Division; and Joint Historian Tom Pearcy was moved from the Special Projects Division to a staff position reporting to the General Editor (where the Joint Historian was located organizationally under Tom's predecessor). Finally, the Office welcomed two summer interns, Paul Mathis and Robert Murciano-Goroff, both from Harvard University.
Herschler announced that the new office website, www.history.state.gov was officially launched at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) in Seattle at the end of March. In conjunction with the launch, Joe Wicentowski presented a paper detailing attributes of the new website in a session at the OAH chaired by Carl Ashley. The Office unveiled its new exhibit booth for the first time at a professional historical conference during the OAH meeting. Although most exhibitors had very little traffic and the conference as a whole was not very well attended, the Office booth was one of the busiest at the conference, with Office historians demonstrating the website, distributing the office's latest historical educational DVD/curriculum package on U.S. relations with China, as well as sets of FRUS CD-ROM volumes to visitors.
Herschler noted that the introduction of the new website was only the first step in the Office's emerging program in digital history. The Office established a Digital History Initiatives Team consisting of staff members representing all major Office components. The team is focused on identifying cutting-edge technologies and learning how to use them to their fullest.
With regard to historical outreach, since the March Committee meeting, Office historians continued to be actively engaged in the larger historical profession. In addition to Wicentowski and Ashley, John Carland and Todd Bennett presented papers at the OAH meeting in Seattle; Susan Holly presented a paper at the annual meeting of the National Council for History Education; Hal Jones, among several speaking appearances, presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies; Lindsay Krasnoff, Alex Wieland, and David Zierler each presented papers at two conferences; David Nickles gave two presentations at the University of Oklahoma; and Kristin Ahlberg, Chris Tudda, and Herschler organized and presented at a session on Federal History programs at the annual meeting of the National Council on Public History.
In the area encompassing other professional activities, Kristin Ahlberg served on the Working Group on Evaluating Public History at both the OAH and the National Council on Public History annual meetings, and on the Local Arrangements Committee for the 2009 Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations annual meeting; Peter Kraemer participated in the OAH International Committee meeting and serves on the OAH Committee on Committees; a total of 7 Office historians served as judges for this year's National History Day competition held at the University of Maryland last week; and, finally, Chris Tudda was awarded the prestigious 2009 Bender Teaching Prize for part-time faculty at George Washington University.
Status of Declassification of Department of State Records
Marvin Russell reported that his office was on target with its declassification review of 25-year-old records. Regarding electronic records, the review of the 1984 classified cables was over 50% complete and the 1977 electronic cables (comprising approximately 367,000 records) were ready for transfer to NARA. The 1978-1979 electronic cables (comprising some 1.3 million records) are undergoing a final quality assurance review before transfer to NARA.
Regarding paper records, Russell reported that the declassification review is proceeding well. Since his unit's mandatory review and FOIA backlogs have been reduced, some resources are now being transferred to paper review to insure completion of the review of the 1982-1985 records block on schedule. As of June, 41% of the 2.5 million documents in this year's annual goal had been reviewed.
Katie Sibley asked if files from the U.S. embassy in Russia during World War II had been destroyed. David Langbart reported that during the evacuation of Moscow in 1941, the most sensitive files had been destroyed, but that some records of the embassy are in the National Archives.
Closed Session, June 23
Issues Relating to the Declassification and Opening of Records at the National Archives
McMahon called the session to order at 2:47 pm and asked Don McIlwain to report on the status of declassification and opening of records at the National Archives. McIlwain commented that NARA continued to process Department of State records, adding that Department of Energy reviews under Kyl-Lott are ongoing. NARA had released some of the 1975 P-reels, with the 1976 P-reels in the queue. Mike Carlson hoped that the review of the 1976 cables would be completed by the end of the fiscal year (FY). McIlwain noted that these cables contained NATO information. As a result, the Department and the NATO Central Registry had collaborated in order to identify sensitive information and NATO equities contained within the cables. Turning to the issue of reclassification, McIlwain commented that all of the cases had been adjudicated, with some records returned to the shelves. He then drew the Committee's attention to Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) Director Jay Bosanko's scheduled visit with the Committee that afternoon. McIlwain referenced the feasibility of the National Declassification Center (NDC), adding that President Obama had instructed both ISOO and the National Security Council (NSC) to revisit this issue. Along similar lines, NARA had undertaken a review of its declassification efforts, especially the Interagency Referral Center (IRC), to determine how these processes might fit within the NDC's larger framework.
McMahon thanked McIlwain for his remarks and asked if NARA had placed all of the 1973-75 cables online. McIlwain responded that the Access to Archival Database (AAD) contained only those cables designated as permanent. David Langbart interjected that the telegrams with permanent Subject TAGS presently on line included only those with E, M, P, S, and T Subject TAGS. Other permanent cables, including those A, B, C, and O, Subject TAGS deemed to be permanent were currently not online, as the Department needed to sort out disposition of permanent and non-permanent records with permanent TAGS. Review of the 1976 and 1977 cables existed as a higher priority. McMahon responded that the unavailability of these records might have repercussions for researchers. Herschler then asked Langbart if technological problems prevented NARA from placing these records online. Langbart responded that the issue involved revisiting records in order to identify and pull all telegrams with permanent Subject TAGS. McMahon insisted that the Committee pursue this issue at the September meeting. David Geyer asked if NARA would later release OVIP-tagged records. Langbart responded affirmatively, explaining that OVIP was among the permanent Subject TAGS. McMahon underscored the importance of the OVIP tag, as it designated official VIP travel, and asked David Adamson for comments. Adamson demurred, prompting McMahon to turn to Langbart for his report.
Langbart then proceeded to provide a detailed, historical overview of the Department of State's Central Foreign Policy files, in response to the Committee's desire to understand more about the Department's recordkeeping. The Department instituted a numerical filing system in 1906 and later adopted the Central Decimal file (1910-63) and Alpha-Numeric file (1963-73). By the mid 1960s, the Department desired a modern solution to cope with the proliferation of records. In 1973, the Department implemented the Automated Data System (ADS), a system comprised of an automated index, P and D-reels and, later, electronic cables, indexed using the TAGS/Terms system. Considered a technological marvel, the ADS was just the next iteration of recordkeeping in the Department, albeit one that posed some limitations, as only the index was actually automated. Previously arranged by subject, records were now randomly microfilmed on P-Reels and D-Reels. In order to locate specific records, one used the index and TAGS to create a virtual file of relevant document citations and then examined multiple microfilm reels. The P and D-reel method of record storage proved cumbersome, owing to the amount of reels microfilmed on any given day (up to 3 D and 1 P reel per day). Production of P and D-reels ended in the mid-1990s.
Turning to the topic of record screening, Langbart noted the limitations of the Department's recordkeeping during World War II. To ensure preservation of records, the Department devised the Lot File system, beginning with Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson's files (e.g. Lot 1). As the output of records increased, the Department scheduled records for preservation or destruction in toto or left records unscheduled. The Office of the Historian and the Department's records managers devised screening guidelines for unscheduled records. During the screening process, some documentation was destroyed, other documentation was sent for inclusion in the central files, and sometimes there was a residue of files. These were later scheduled. Screening ended in the mid-1990s when the Department's records management staff undertook a major scheduling effort and all records series were scheduled either as all permanent or all temporary.
Sibley then inquired as to the expiration of ADS. Langbart responded that the State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset (SMART) would soon replace ADS. He suggested that the Committee ask for a report concerning SMART's progress. Zeiler asked Langbart to clarify the P and D reel designations; Langbart answered that "P" indicated paper since the microfilm was made from paper documents, and "D" indicated digital since the microfilm was a computer output of the electronic telegrams.
In response to another query, Langbart indicated that "N" stood for NODIS. Herschler then asked Langbart to confirm that the Central Files contained anything that was screened; Langbart answered affirmatively. Burton commented that her searches on the State Archiving System (SAS) have generated cables that do not contain text. Langbart noted that while the text of the cable might not appear in SAS in electronic form, the cable might appear on either a D or P-reel. McAllister added that the lot and post files might contain these cables. David Nickles posed a question regarding the quality of microfilm; Langbart indicated that the Department had followed microfilming specifications established by NARA; perhaps Nickles had examined a second or third generation film. In response to Kathy Rasmussen's inquiry regarding post-1973 telegram production, Langbart explained that the drafter typed the telegram using an OCR typeface. Following clearance and approval, telegrams were routed to a centralized location and then run through a communications machine. Hearing no other questions, McMahon formally introduced Tasha Thian, a records manager in the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS). Thian then discussed the disposition of Department of State records by Subject TAGS, indicating that Subject TAGS disposition applied only to cables. IPS had posted a comprehensive TAGS/terms handbook on both the internet and intranet. McAllister asked if the Department had a record of TAGS/terms no longer in use. Both Thian and Langbart answered yes, and Langbart added that AAD contained a listing. Thian provided an overview of TAGS nomenclature, using AINF as an example. She indicated that in 2007, NARA undertook a reappraisal of the Central Foreign Policy cables, focusing on subject TAGS. Langbart, Bill Fischer, and others had performed a detailed analysis of 188 TAGS, designating 46 TAGS as temporary (for example, ADCO and APER). During 2008, the Department attempted to improve SAS's functionality by deleting some temporary TAGS. The Department has not deleted from SAS the 1973-76 records accessioned by NARA, as stakeholders need to be consulted prior to deletion. Thian stressed that the Department has not destroyed any records on the live system; IPS copied the 1977 cables and placed them on a separate server. Fischer had ensured that the software developed in IPS did not delete permanent records. The Department had deleted 250,000 temporary records and had transferred 367,000 permanent cables to NARA. Compact discs containing the 1977 cables were en route to NARA.
Weetman asked Thian when IPS would remove the 1973-76 records from SAS. Thian responded that IPS needed to develop a project plan. Ongoing tobacco litigation cases have some bearing on the removal timetable. She anticipated that IPS would determine a schedule by the end of the year. McAllister impressed upon the need for consultation between HO and IPS prior to removal. Once SAS no longer contained these records, historians would need to travel to NARA in order to view classified cables. In reference to the previous discussion regarding TAGS, Michael McCoyer noted that he did not use TAGS as a search tool, owing to the fact that some offices randomly and sometimes mistakenly applied them. He asked Langbart if some of the permanent cables were marked with temporary TAGS. Langbart responded that his aforementioned survey had contained a large sample of records. Rasmussen raised the issue of multiple TAGS and asked how the software deals with a combination of permanent and temporary TAGS. Thian responded that telegrams take on the dispisition of the longest retention attached to a telegram. Hal Jones commented that cables often have gaps in numbering. Langbart explained that all cables were numbered electronically and sequentially, including those telegrams transmitted on behalf of another agency. Nickles asked if the information regarding TAGS and terms could be made available to researchers. Langbart reiterated his earlier comment that AAD contained some of this supporting documentation. The session ended at 3:29 pm.
New Executive Order on Classification and Declassification and Related Matters
William Bosanko began by discussing the Obama administration's call for an unprecedented level of openness, which had been made in a May 27 memorandum. He reviewed several aspects that this call seeks to address: First, a National Declassification Center, where appropriate agency officials might be brought together to collaborate on declassification review. Noting that it is likely to be established, Bosanko discussed details of potential staffing and a time table for moving forward. Second, Bosanko discussed the need to address policies related to classification and declassification. It was noted that there has been significant misclassification in the past, which has contributed to a huge build-up of materials that need to be declassified. Bosanko provided numbers regarding the approximate number of materials classified per year and how this translated into documents that will eventually be handed over into the declassification pipeline to begin the process of declassification. The numbers cited represented the growing need for further clarification and guidelines regarding classification and declassification, as well as the need to streamline the workflow. Finally, Bosanko noted the upcoming public meeting and interactive blog to engage the public in the wider discussion over classification and declassification recommendations.
He also discussed Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), which was first addressed in President Bush's May 7, 2008 memorandum. Bosanko explained how CUI developed from the need for agencies to share information regarding terrorism-related information with non-Federal entities. Previously, much of this material was treated as Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU).
Documentation Withheld from Manuscripts
The committee discussed specific declassification issues with Chris Tudda.
Closed Session, June 24
The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series
David Herschler reported that the office continues to work cooperatively with the CIA in accelerating the Foreign Relations declassification process at the Agency. In addition, the office's Joint Historian, Tom Pearcy, continues to be extraordinarily busy working closely with staff on meeting their research needs at CIA.
The Office verified one volume with CIA since the March meeting: Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1974-1976. Herschler hoped the office will verify two or three volumes with CIA before the September meeting. For the first time in recent memory, the Agency has no volumes to review on appeal. While this appeared to be good news, Herschler said, it did not mean the Agency was without protracted FRUS declassification work, such as HLP issues. Since the March meeting, the CIA had completed declassification of four volumes and it was likely there would be an appeal on one of these volumes.
Herschler went on to say that the CIA had 10 volumes undergoing initial review. Of those, eight volumes have HLP issues. Six of these volumes have been awaiting HLP agreement for at least the better part of a year and CIA and HO have agreed to present the NSC with separate recommendations in order to move the process forward. This method was used successfully in the past to break a deadlock at the working level.
In most HLP cases, Herschler said, until the HLP issues are resolved, the document declassification review for the entire volume cannot begin, and in any event, will not be completed. Although CIA had agreed to review portions of volumes that clearly did not relate to HLP issues, in the case of one such volume, CIA has yet to return review recommendations on compilations not requiring HLP decisions. There is little the office can do to publish a volume much faster as long as potentially important classified documentation on intelligence issues must go through the HLP process. Of the two volumes under review at the CIA without HLP issues, Herschler reported, one has completed review except for a decision by the Agency on two previously declassified documents, and the other was due soon.
Herschler went on to report that the Office had referred two new volumes to the CIA since the March meeting, both with HLP issues. The office would probably refer two volumes in the next few months, Herschler said, depending on the ability of the Office to complete the manuscript review process before the manuscripts are submitted for declassification. The months-long absence of a General Editor and FRUS division chiefs has contributed to the slower pace of moving completed manuscripts into the declassification process.
The CIA representatives stated that they agreed with Herschler's statements. They reported that their review of a volume with HLP issues uncovered more issues that would need to be addressed by the HLP. The CIA representatives stated that they were on track to complete the review of the other volumes currently in their possession.
Peterson initiated a discussion about releasing volumes online as early as possible, even if incomplete due to declassification issues, and then printing the volume once all documents had cleared in full. The committee discussed the pros and cons of this approach.
Herschler returned to the question of the slow pace of review by some offices within the Agency, and the CIA representatives explained that the volume of materials was significant; in addition, one personnel issue which resulted in slowed progress had recently been resolved. McMahon asked that the record show that the Committee is interested in the timely resolution of this matter.
McMahon inquired about the status of the Iran retrospective volume, and the CIA representative discussed the specifics of this volume with the committee. The CIA representative noted that the Agency was prepared to verify the volume and was not the cause of the delay.
Tom Pearcy then reported on his tenure so far as the Joint Historian. When he began, the position as Joint Historian had been vacant for a while. One of the first priorities was to confer with his Division Chief on the responsibilities of the position. He then met with both compilers and division chiefs to see how he could be of help to their research. His CIA colleagues helped to establish his access to the building and to CIA records.
Since gaining access to his workspace at the Agency, one-third of the office FRUS compilers had visited him at the Agency to work on their volumes. Pearcy said that he was also assisted by a CIA colleague who could search online and order CIA materials for compilers. Pearcy noted that once he gained his Agency staff badge, he will have more access to do this work himself. He said that his colleagues at the CIA had exhibited great patience as had the office staff as he learned the job and worked in a limited capacity until receipt of his badge. He therefore expected progress on the access front to greatly expand in the near future.
McAllister interjected that institutional memory in the office had atrophied regarding all the particulars of this process, but Pearcy had done a great job in the time he has been with us. In addition to his duties as Joint Historian Pearcy had also begun work on his own volume covering Panama.
In responses to questions from Sibley and Zeiler, Pearcy explained in detail how he assists compilers with their research in CIA records.
McMahon noted that several years have passed without the office having a Joint Historian. How then did compilers do their job with regard to accessing CIA documents? Myra Burton answered that they had worked directly with CIA staff.
The committee then asked to include this statement in the minutes: We are concerned that Tom Pearcy continues to experience access impediments at the CIA and we hope that this issue is resolved by our next meeting in September.
The Changing Context of the Foreign Relations Series Since Passage of the 1991 Statute
McAllister gave a PowerPoint presentation outlining the multiple factors affecting the conceptualization, scope, compilation, dissemination, and utilization of FRUS volumes as the series moves into the coverage of the 1980s and beyond.
McAllister explained that the presentation was meant to serve as the beginning of a discussion about how to conceive of the FRUS series in the 21st century, in light of the "Big Bang" in foreign relations that occurs between the 1960s and the 1980s. He noted that the Foreign Relations statute passed in 1991 set certain guidelines and standards for the documentation of policymaking and international affairs as of 1961. However, between 1961 and 1979 (our current place on the thirty-year line), and even more dramatically between 1961 and the present day, the number of international actors and the number of issues on the international agenda grew dramatically. The number of independent nations in the world has increased from 104 in 1961 to approximately 194 in 2009, and the number of inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations has expanded even more markedly. The State Department bureaucracy has grown, and more federal agencies have taken on a role overseas. There are more documents to contend with from one administration to the next, and increasingly records are generated in "non-traditional" formats (e.g. "born digital" electronic records, video, e-mail). Also, there have been changes in the field of diplomatic history in recent years, with scholars approaching topics in new ways and with scholars in fields other than traditional diplomatic history finding new value in records covering foreign relations. In light of all of these developments, McAllister concluded, it is important to think about the format, audience, and purpose of the FRUS series, keeping in mind the parameters within which we must continue to work (e.g., the thirty-year line; our statutory duty to provide a thorough, accurate, and reliable record; the constraints imposed by the size of the office staff and by the office's non-FRUS responsibilities).
Peter Spiro agreed that there is a clear need for a strategic plan for FRUS, noting the recommendation in the OIG's report that a development strategy be formulated jointly by the HAC and the office. McMahon stated that the HAC was amenable to being involved in strategic planning for the FRUS series. Ambassador John Campbell noted that the office's Electronic Publications and Reagan working groups, in particular, would benefit from HAC member participation in their efforts to craft a vision for the future of the series. Sibley asked about the status of planning for the Reagan sub-series, recalling that the committee had at one point seen two alternative proposals prepared by the office staff (Plans A and B).
McAllister reported that the Reagan working group has met once and will begin its deliberations with a discussion of how the series was conceived the last time we undertook a large scale planning exercise (for the Nixon/Ford sub-series). He added that we want to be sure we have a clear rationale for what we are doing and for how we are making our choices. Campbell stated that the conversation on the Reagan sub-series has to some extent moved beyond Plans A and B and that a broader rethink of our approach is necessary. Herschler added that the sense of the Reagan working group was that it does not want to focus at this stage on the number of Reagan volumes to be produced but rather on our general approach. John Carland replied that numbers are important and that more coverage than was proposed in Plans A and B is needed for the Reagan administration.
Zeiler suggested that HO should perhaps begin by formulating goals for the short, medium, and longer terms. McAllister said that the Office's working groups are essentially doing that, and Campbell added that the groups will come together on July 17 to report on their work and in some cases to make recommendations. Some working groups might be phased out after that point, while others would continue to function, and new ones might be created.
Pearcy noted that it was hard to be concrete about many of these issues with respect to planning for the future of the series and so forth until we really know what we are dealing with in terms of the volume of archival documentation and determining which issues are key in a given administration.
McAllister returned to his idea that the office would need to think about the interpretation of the 1991 law, given that the historians simply cannot look at every file, given the dramatically expanding scope of the international arena in the 1980s and beyond. He added that the office should think about such issues as: 1) our approach to publishing documents that are already publicly available versus others that remain classified and 2) the priority that we have traditionally assigned to documents reviewed by the President or other top officials (inasmuch as some important global issues are handled at much lower levels as U.S. policy on the subject in question is formulated).
McAllister said that we have to reconsider the requirements of the law. Should documents that are already in the public realm only be footnoted and not printed? Should the office only print documents that are seen by the President? Should print documents be a higher priority over electronic documents? Guidelines need to be established that address these types of questions. McMahon responded that electronic documents become more important in the contemporary period than print documents. That change takes place in the Bush I or Clinton administrations. FRUS has adjusted to growth and changes and will continue to do so. McAllister said that a cost analysis of non-paper sources (tapes) must be considered.
Peterson asked if the office needed to publish all relevant documents or if it could link to all relevant documents? Link rot was an issue that has to be considered. Seeing the original documents is important, as is listening to the original recordings. Would links to other secure sites provide FRUS with freedom? Garrett said that this was really a resource issue, both in terms of staffing and server space. Geyer said that type of system might not be as friendly as we would like. McAllister asked what audience was intended for FRUS; could the office assume that people would find resources on their own?
Herschler said that the series has changed in terms of declassification. The series was no longer on the cutting edge of the declassification of presidential materials. However, FRUS continued to be on the cutting edge of declassifying material that is exempt from standard declassification review. The audience would change as a result of the web resources we provide.
Peterson said that she recently spoke at the University of Iowa and polled students there about FRUS and the web site. The students would like to see a tutorial of how to use the website (search capabilities, etc.).
McAllister said that research in and on other countries brought in a significant number of users. Stephanie Williams said that user surveys indicated that there were increasing numbers of international users. The Department's information technology office, however, continues to encourage a general focus so that all material is available to, and readily usable by, the average American.
Peterson discussed Obama's Cairo speech and the digitizing of records; she asked for clarification on the plan. Herschler said that it was probably a White House initiative. Peterson said that the office should be involved.
Switching again to a discussion of the Nixon Tapes issue, McAllister said that FRUS compilers have the final say on the use and transcription of tapes. The compiler is the only individual who has seen all the material and thus, is best suited to decide what should be used and what should not. There is no such thing as a definitive transcript. The preface in each volume that contains tapes encourages readers to listen to the tapes for themselves. McMahon suggested that a synopsis of tape procedures should be written for "Passport" so that the majority of FRUS users are provided with some context. Campbell agreed that the "Passport" article was a good idea. There is no such thing as an accurate or inaccurate transcript, McAllister said. The transcripts are interpretations by the historians. McMahon said that this would provide positive PR for the office.
The committee adjourned for executive session.