Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation June 9, 2014
- Richard Immerman, Chairman
- Laura Belmonte
- Mary Dudziak
- James McAllister
- Robert McMahon
- Susan Perdue
- Trudy Peterson
- Katherine Sibley
- Thomas Zeiler
Office of the Historian
- Stephen Randolph, Historian
- Kristin Ahlberg
- Carl Ashley
- Forrest Barnum
- Sara Berndt
- Josh Botts
- Myra Burton
- Tiffany Cabrera
- Seth Center
- Mandy Chalou
- Stephanie Eckroth
- Thomas Faith
- Amy Garrett
- David Geyer
- Renée Goings
- Kerry Hite
- Adam Howard
- Aiyaz Husain
- Laura Kolar
- Lindsay Krasnoff
- Ted Mann
- Aaron Marrs
- Bill McAllister
- Michael McCoyer
- Chris Morrison
- Mircea Munteanu
- David Nickles
- Paul Pitman
- Alex Poster
- Kathleen Rasmussen
- Seth Rotramel
- Avi Rubin
- Daniel Rubin
- Nathaniel Smith
- Melissa Jane Taylor
- Chris Tudda
- Dean Weatherhead
- Joe Wicentowski
- Alex Wieland
- David Zierler
Bureau of Administration
- David Adamson
- Jeff Charlston
- William Combes
- William Fischer
- John Hackett
- David Keegan
- Marvin Russell
National Archives and Records Administration
- John Laster, Office of Presidential Libraries
- David Langbart, Life Cycle Management Division
- William Mayer, Executive for Research Services
- Don McIlwain, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
- John Powers, Information Security Oversight Office
- William Burr, National Security Archive
- Debbie Ann Doyle, American Historical Association
- Lee White
Open Session, June 9
Approval of the Record of the December 2013 Meeting Meeting
Committee chair Richard Immerman called the meeting to order at 11:05 a.m. The Committee approved the minutes of the previous meeting. Immerman stated that the Committee was fortunate to welcome Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Douglas Franz to the meeting; he then asked the Committee members to introduce themselves. He added that the day marked “quite an important” event in that the full Committee was present.
Comments by the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
On behalf of Secretary of State Kerry and the Bureau of Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary Frantz thanked the Committee for its hard work. He mentioned that discovering the existence of the Office was one of the pleasant surprises of his new job. He had used the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) volumes in researching his books, noting that previously he had no idea how much work went into compiling FRUS. Franz also shared a nice anecdote on the history of Tora Bora. Frantz commended the historians in the Special Projects and Policy Studies divisions for their support of his mission. The Office had completed a number of “fast-track” assignments that will be valuable to policy makers. Franz stressed that he appreciates the work of the Office and the dedication of the Committee. Immerman interjected that there is “nothing more delightful” for historians to hear the words “history” and “relevance” together.
Report by the Executive Secretary
Historian and Executive Secretary Stephen Randolph then updated the Committee on the status of the FRUS series and other Office initiatives. He mentioned that the Office had published 11 volumes since June 2013, highlighting, in particular, the volumes on Chile, 1969–1973 and Congo, 1960–1968. Publication of these volumes reflected the support received from the Bureau of Public Affairs, the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS), and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), among others. In terms of personnel matters, Renée Goings was promoted to the position of Deputy Historian. The Office will hire a division chief for editing and publishing and hire two additional editors to increase capacity in that division.
Randolph continued that the Office’s budget is currently adequate for Office needs. He referenced Franz’s earlier comments on the work of the Policy Studies and Special Projects divisions. Randolph added that it was gratifying for the Office to bring its expertise to bear on current issues. In describing some recent projects, he mentioned, in particular, Aiyaz Husain’s and Ted Mann’s work on a Middle East Peace Project (MEPP) negotiating paper, Lindsay Krasnoff’s trip to Paris to assist in the coordination of public diplomacy programs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, and James Wilson’s work on the Ukraine desk. Lastly, Randolph discussed some of the Office’s digital publication efforts, specifically the digitization of the World War I 1914 Foreign Relations volume.
Status Reports by the General Editor
General Editor Adam Howard also addressed the publication of the long-anticipated Congo and Chile volumes, noting that these two volumes posed tremendous challenges. Since the March meeting, the Office had released two Nixon–Ford volumes: National Security Policy, 1973–1976; and Documents on Western Europe, 1973–1976; and one Carter volume: Cyprus; Turkey; Greece. The Office has verified four volumes since the December 2013 meeting. At this point, Immerman stated that the Committee wanted to express its delight that Goings had been named Deputy Historian. Howard concluded his remarks by noting that four volumes had been submitted to the Declassification Division since December 2013.
Status Reports by the Digital History Advisor
Digital History Advisor Joe Wicentowski updated the Committee regarding several ongoing digitization projects. With respect to the Foreign Relations series, the Office has concentrated efforts on digitizing the World War I era volumes. The Office website currently features a recently digitized World War I volume, and there are five similar volumes in the pipeline. The digitization of these volumes has been possible due to collaboration between the Office and the University of Wisconsin (UW). UW has provided the Office with scanned images of documents from 325 Foreign Relations volumes for eventual posting to the website. Wicentowski added that the Office was working toward posting the first Foreign Relations volume (1861). He explained that the Office has several Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) e-interns working to support these digital initiatives. The interns have been aiding with the compilation of a database of historical country names, going back to 1776. Wicentowski commented that the database will have several interesting uses; the Office can add this to the online search engines or pair data sets with other data sets. In addition, the interns are collecting information on the histories of U.S. diplomatic posts.
Thomas Zeiler inquired as to the contents of the World War I volumes. Wicentowski answered that this is a reissue of the initial set of war supplement volumes, including the Lansing Papers and the large set on the Paris Peace Conference. The Office will release subsequent volumes. Zeiler then asked if the Office tied the digitization and re-release of these volumes to specific anniversaries or if the Office planned to release these volumes all at once. Wicentowski answered that the Office would release all the World War I supplements at once rather than pairing them with specific anniversaries. He is hoping to get ahead of the major anniversaries.
Status of Declassification of Department of State Records
Immerman called upon William Fischer for his report. Fischer then introduced William Combes and stated that Combes would speak on his behalf. Combes circulated a handout entitled “Department of State 25-Year Review of the Central Foreign Policy File, 1980–1989” and then spoke briefly about the death of Ambassador Harmon Kirby, who had made so many contributions to the Department of State. Combes remarked that he would be updating the Committee on the progress made by IPS since last December. Combes said that in the past 6 months, his office had completed review of four FRUS volumes. Two more volumes were in progress, and he anticipated that those reviews would be completed by summer. Combes noted that IPS had also completed the review of the World War I chapter for the Public Diplomacy retrospective volume. He added that the classified cables from 1989 were still under review. IPS had finished its review of the 1988 cables; of these, IPS completed the classified cables on November 25, 2013, and the Limited Official Use (LOU) cables on January 10, 2014. P-reel metadata from 1990 was also under review. Combes said that IPS aimed to complete its review of the 1989 classified cables in 2014 and that there had been a major increase in the volume of reviews this year. He added that the Carter Library Remote Archives Capture (RAC) review was complete. Combes ended his remarks by stating that this was his last Committee meeting as he had taken a position elsewhere in the Department of State. He thanked Goings, Howard, Carl Ashley, and Fischer for their support. Members of the Committee then applauded his service.
Immerman asked when NARA would make available the 1977, 1978, and 1979 cables and also inquired as to the status of the P-reel indices from this era. Fischer replied that the Department had transferred the cables to NARA but that technical problems had occurred, adding that NARA staff would be in a better position to respond. Immerman queried about the nature of the problems. Fischer stated that some cables ended up in the “wrong buckets”; replacement copies had to be found and provided. Immerman again asked about the progress toward the release of the late 1970s cables. Fischer stated that David Langbart could better answer the question. Langbart remarked that the NARA had released the 1977 cables online in January 2014, underscoring that processing of the 1978 and 1979 telegrams continues. Langbart commented that he could not predict when these records will be made available. He stated there were similar issues with the P-Reel index data, and he suggested that the issue would be addressed during that afternoon’s closed session. Immerman then asked for any additional questions. Hearing none, he extended the Committee’s thanks to Combes for his efforts and wished him well in his new assignment. Randolph also expressed his thanks, adding that it was a pleasure for the Office to work with Combes.
Immerman then asked for public comments. The conversation shifted to general discussion. Bill Burr asked if the Office planned to digitize the earlier FRUS microfiche supplements. Wicentowski answered in the affirmative, explaining that the Office would digitize the 1952–1954, 1955–1957, 1958–1960, and 1961–1963 supplements. He stressed that the supplements presented numerous challenges because they consist of raw manuscripts. Randolph stated that the Cuban Missile Crisis microfiche supplement had been digitized and posted to the Office’s website. Wicentowski added that the documents were posted to the website as images and were thus not searchable.
Burr also inquired about the release of NODIS cables element of the central files from the 1970s and if the National Archives planned to process this earlier material, adding “it’s just a plea.” Immerman asked if moving forward with the release of records from later years had de-incentivized the release of earlier materials. Fischer deferred the question to Langbart. Langbart explained that these materials will be processed as part of the Central Foreign Policy File (CFPF) and added that Don McIlwain would address the question during the afternoon session. McIlwain deferred the question to his afternoon presentation. Immerman said he was anticipating McIlwain's remarks, commenting that some 350 million pages had gone through the National Declassification Center (NDC) and had to be processed before these documents were made available to researchers. He asked if there would be a “collision” between these NODIS cables and the other records. Langbart responded that if the records are part of the CFPF, then they are in the queue. He asserted that NARA would not “forget” about these records. Immerman stated that the public did not understand the reasons behind the delays.
Randolph commented he wished to make two additional points. First, he reiterated that the Office was moving to new quarters, hopefully in mid-July. The new building on Navy Hill required considerable reconstruction but it was a “Godsend” for the Office. He said the move was the culmination of a 6-year project. Second, he said that the Office would host the biannual meeting of the International Conference of Editors of Diplomatic Documents in April 2015.
Zeiler asked if future Committee meetings would be held in the Harry S Truman building or at the Office’s new location on Navy Hill. Randolph responded that the open sessions would take place at HST, with perhaps some informal sessions at Navy Hill.
Trudy Peterson drew attention to the three non-permanent members on the Office staff, as indicated on the staffing chart, and asked if such hiring patterns were indicative of a larger trend. Randolph described the multiple contributions of Foreign Service Officers Mann and Charles Hawley and Franklin Fellow Anne-Marie Carstens. As for the future, Randolph commented, the Office hoped to plan for the inclusion of additional Y-Tours and Franklin Fellows on staff. William McAllister contributed that, in the course of teaching the diplomatic history modules at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) as part of the A–100 class, some Foreign Service Officers had approached members of the Office staff to inquire if they could come on staff to work on short-term projects. Randolph stated that drawing up a work program for someone who would only be at the Office temporarily required balance and care.
Mary Dudziak asked if there would be more outreach to the public concerning the Committee meetings, adding that public attendance was low. She also asked if the Office had posted meeting announcements on the Twitter feed located on the Office website. Goings replied that outreach efforts would improve and that the Office would use social media to publicize upcoming meetings. David Geyer stressed that the meetings were announced in the Federal Register. Burr stated he received e-mail correspondence about the meetings.
Peterson remarked that Lee White had been appointed to the newly-established Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee. Immerman then asked White to speak briefly about the FOIA Committee, coordinated by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS). White explained that the Committee would consist of 20 members (10 members from the public and 10 members from the Federal Government) and would discuss ways of improving the administration of FOIA. He stated that members would serve 2-year terms. The FOIA Committee would meet quarterly, with the first meeting scheduled for June 24. White had sent an email to the institutional members of the National Coalition for History (NCH) to ask them to disseminate this information to their constituents in order to inquire about issues related to FOIA. Immerman stated that he had worked with Kristin Hoganson in communicating this information to the members of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR). He informed White that he would provide any information he and Hoganson had received from SHAFR members to White by June 20. White added that he had been appointed to the Advisory Committee in May by Archivist of the United States David Ferriero.
The Committee then recessed for lunch at 11:55 a.m.
Closed Session, December 9
Issues Relating to the Declassification and Opening of Records at the National Archives
Immerman called the afternoon session to order at 1:34 p.m. He welcomed William Mayer to the session and indicated that he had decided to change the order of the session to allow for John Powers to present his report first.
Powers began by praising Ambassador Kirby for all of his work on declassification matters, including assistance Kirby had provided to the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) on a particular issue. In so doing, it allowed the Department of State to publish a credible record. Powers explained that he had also worked to secure access by Department of State historians to Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) records for possible inclusion in the Foreign Relations series. He commented that access arrangements would need to be finalized but that DEA is now clear on its statutory obligation to provide access to the records. Powers invited everyone to attend the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) meeting at the National Archives on June 19. The PIDB meeting will address the development of a systematic process to review no longer sensitive Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) information for declassification. Powers, pleased that President Obama had included this specific issue as an action item in his Second Open Government National Action Plan (NAP), added that the Department of Defense (DOD) had made this initiative its flagship open government project. They created a Formerly Restricted Data Declassification Working Group (FRD–DWG) to lead this reform effort. The upcoming PIDB meeting would include representatives from the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State. They will discuss this effort and how they are working together to reform the FRD declassification process and develop priority topics for declassification consideration. The meeting will also include information on how the public, historians, researchers, and Government staff can submit declassification proposals to the Department of Energy under 10 CFR 1045.
Immerman asked Powers as to the relationship between DOD and the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding FRD. He also inquired as to the external stakeholders for this material. Powers responded that DOD and DOE have co-responsibilities regarding RD/FRD under 10 CFR 1045. Department of State is the primary stakeholder and their involvement is essential in adjudicating potential foreign relations concerns when considering whether to declassify no longer sensitive FRD information. He added that the Department's historians could play an important role in advising the Department's representatives by providing historical context to Cold War events and policies and information. He explained that the PIDB meeting afforded an opportunity for the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State to explain the complexities associated with FRD and to give the public an idea of the complexities involved and the effort undertaken to declassify this information. Powers concluded by stating that everyone in the room has labored long and hard to reform this process and he anticipated results that will eventually add important new light on Cold War nuclear policies.
Kathleen Rasmussen thanked Powers for his assistance regarding the DEA records. Randolph seconded this appreciation, as did Immerman on behalf of the Committee.
Immerman called on McIlwain for his report. McIlwain responded that at the March meeting, he had planned to report that the backlog had made it through the evaluation process. He added that this did not mean that the records were available currently on the shelves. Continuing, he noted that in response to Committee concerns, he could report that the 1975–1976 N-reel printouts had moved out of the backlog but have not made it to the final processing stage because the printouts are in the DOE quality assurance review phase. The quality assurance review has been lengthy. DOE has had the records for 9 months, and the NDC has pushed DOE to complete the review.
Immerman asked if anything could be done to expedite the review other than using the word “prioritization.” McIlwain responded that he is following up every other week with DOE and also asking for status reports. He has reminded DOE that the Committee will meet in early September and that the Committee will expect some “movement” on this review. McIlwain will inform the Committee of any progress made at the September meeting.
McIlwain then addressed the rollover, which constitutes the records accessioned to the National Archives from 2010 through 2013. He said that the records are in the evaluation phase. Depending on the results, the records could proceed to agency review or to the DOE quality assurance review phase. After that, the records would still need to be indexed prior to availability. Immerman asked McIlwain how many pages have passed through this process. McIlwain responded that 25 million pages—for all agencies—have been indexed. He continued that in Record Group 59 1.8 million pages in 98 separate entries have passed through the evaluation process. In addition, 1.6 million pages (49 separate entries) in RG 84 and 645,000 million pages (53 separate entries) in RG 306 have gone through evaluation.
McIlwain commented that beginning in 2014 the NDC will spot check accessions. If problems are not present, then potentially these records can be released. The NDC is developing a work plan for these records. McIlwain also reported that the referral center is gearing up since the evaluation has been completed. The NDC is piloting an initiative to notify agencies when classified records containing their classified equities require further declassification review. If agencies do not respond to their referrals by the deadline, the referred documents will be automatically declassified.
McIlwain then highlighted some aspects of the National Archives 2014–2016 Open Government Plan, including the implementation of the equity referral automatic notification and tracking system and the establishment of the FOIA Advisory Committee. He indicated that the National Archives requested public comment on the plan, which is available on the NARA website.
Turning to the specifics of Department of State records, McIlwain stated that 7 million pages of these records had not made it all the way through the system. Immerman inquired if the 7 million pages constituted the “bulge at the middle of the snake.” McIlwain responded that these records had gone through a portion of the process. Once the NDC completes the declassification processing, technically, the records are available to the public. However, in order for the records to be made “user-friendly,” the National Archives must then complete the description and processing of these records.
At this point, Immerman stated: “It’s a problem, and people ask us about this all of the time. I struggle to be able to explain this to people.” McIlwain explained that once these records pass through the declassification phase, the records are available. A researcher would need to “do their homework” to be able to know what records are available and how to request the records. McIlwain stressed that good archival description is necessary, adding that once a researcher sees a list of new releases on the NDC blog, he/she can go to Archives II and request the records. Referencing the NDC blog, Immerman asked for confirmation that one could check the blog for recent releases and then make a request. Langbart specified that researchers should first contact the Archives before arriving to conduct research. Dudziak asked as to the location of the blog; McIlwain replied that one can access the NDC blog from the archives.gov home page, where there is a listing of all NARA blogs. He added that the NDC would post additional information on the blog that week. Immerman commented that researchers were “more on their own” now than in the past. McIlwain stressed that contacting the archivists is a best practice that would yield substantially more information for the researcher.
Peterson referenced McIlwain’s comment that the NDC had evaluated new accessions and asked McIlwain as to the success rate of these records. McIlwain responded that 80 percent of the records were “good” although other problems might be detected in a more careful review. He noted that the NDC was engaging records managers and declassification specialists, noting that the Department of State was out in front in this area due to its improved efforts in processing records in IPS.
Immerman asked Langbart for his comments. Langbart stated that the big announcement was that the National Archives had released the 1977 cables in the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) in late January. The Archives anticipated putting the P-reel index online during the summer. He noted that the P-reel printouts were not yet available.
Langbart then described the volume of accession for textual records in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. The National Archives accessioned a total of 20, 512 cubic feet of records, including 386 cubic feet of RG 59, 244 cubic feet of RG 84, and 154 cubic feet of RG 286. In FY 2014, the Archives accessioned 12, 902 cubic feet of records, including 570 cubic feet of RG 59, 208 cubic feet of RG 84, 207 cubic feet of RG 286, 15 cubic feet of RG 306, and 4 cubic feet of RG 353. Langbart added that 1,400 boxes from 76 have been moved into the unclassified stacks and were available to researchers, but had not been processed or described. He noted that NARA is the only archives in the world that allows the use of unprocessed records.
With regard to reference requests made during FY 2013, Langbart noted that the National Archives had received 12,000 written reference requests and responded to 31,000 in-person reference requests made by researchers. So far during FY 2014, the National Archives had received 7,900 written reference requests and responded to 15,000 in-person reference requests made by researchers. Langbart stated that major changes and updates have been made to the NARA website on the pages relating to foreign policy records. He stressed that researchers should be encouraged to consult the website prior to arriving at NARA.
Mayer discussed the 2011 Presidential Memorandum on Managing Government Records, which outlined that by 2019, all agencies will manage all permanent electronic records in an electronic format for eventual transfer and accessioning by NARA. Mayer stated that since March, he had received approval for 10 positions for processing in FOIA and elsewhere, 2 archival supervisory positions in textual and special media, 4 FOIA and special access positions, and 11 archives technicians for the research room. More positions, specifically for processing, will be requested. NARA has also created a new position allowing for support of researchers who have NDC issues. In addition, NARA would also provide letters of introduction for researchers. Mayer stated that the Archives would also change the way research letters are answered, so that all NARA locations will have access to this information. He stressed that NARA is seeking a holistic contextual approach to its resources and collections, adding that the National Archives had made progress and continued to leverage its current resources. What NARA had not done, he commented, was articulate the gap to the staff in terms of where NARA is and where it wants to go.
Immerman stated that Langbart’s and Mayer’s remarks were helpful. He referenced SHAFR’s 2013 NARA Historical Documentation survey, stressing that many respondents acknowledged the competency and expertise of the archivists. Immerman hoped that the NARA senior leadership had communicated the historical community’s gratitude to the archivists. Mayer responded: “We are very fortunate in the people we have working at NARA.” Mayer concluded: “Not a day goes by that I don’t encounter archivists who have resolved major issues.” Immerman interjected that one of the Committee’s roles is to assist in whatever way it can, in terms of drawing attention to NARA’s essential work and resource issues.
Peterson, referencing an earlier Committee visit to NARA in 2013, expressed her concern that 40 percent of the records passed through the NDC process remained classified. McIlwain explained that these records were exempted, had FRD, or needed referrals to a third agency, the latter, constituting the bulk of this number. He reiterated that the gear-up of the interagency referral center will help. Instead of sending records to other agencies, the records will go to the interagency group. Immerman asked if the interagency referral center is a standing group, and McIlwain explained that people were now assigned to the referral center. At one point, the focus had been on getting the backlog evaluated. As a result, people were pulled out of the referral center to work through the backlog at the NDC. McIlwain noted that the referral center never went away, but is now being reenergized. Immerman asked if there are other agencies there at the front of the process. It seems like an extra step, and that it would save time to have discussion early on, with the initial review. It had been his understanding, for example, that there is DOD staff present at the initial review. McIlwain explained that the interagency referral center is another step. He explained that in a perfect world there would be training and trust by agencies for reviewers to review for others, but this is not the case at present. He stressed that it is better than it had been in the mid-1990s. Langbart opined that the referral center is a major improvement. It is one stop that needs to be made, not many, with an auto-notification process to put agencies on a 1-year clock to review.
Peterson asked if there is any type of priority for review by the referral center. McIlwain explained that the priority is based on researcher interest and “good results.” For example, on the basis of FOIA requests, he will inform Sheryl Shenberger that the NDC is receiving a lot of requests on a particular topic. This results in getting more documentation released, as well as closure of FOIA requests. Immerman noted that NARA had made the 1977 cables available online but there was a delay. He wondered if this would be a “transcendent problem” with the 1978 and 1979 cables. Langbart said he will try to obtain an answer to that question.
Immerman then asked John Laster for his report. Laster indicated that he had good news regarding the portion of the National Action Plan dealing with classified electronic records. Laster commented specifically on the Reagan-era PROFS e-mail. All of the data is fielded and searchable and is in a database format. Eventually this data will be converted back into email form and shipped back to the National Archives. Once any classification issues are addressed, the Historian’s Office will also be provided with a disc containing this information. Laster stressed that “quality information” appears in the PROFS emails. This process will also be followed with the George H.W. Bush administration emails.
Immerman asked if NARA is comfortable with the technological advances required in order to review and declassify records, noting that if NARA does not receive the tools to be able to review this material, it will pose a major problem. Laster responded by citing the amount of classified (2 million) and unclassified (20 million) Clinton era-emails. He added that the National Archives is not satisfied with the current tools available to handle the large number of emails. At the George W. Bush Presidential Library, requesters, through FOIA, asked for 25 million emails in just 3 months. Laster stressed that funding is an issue. John Hackett added that the inter-agency collaboration on the PROFS email is a pilot case. The technology exists; the rest of the federal government needs to be “looped in.” More collaboration in terms of knowing the types of technology employed in various agencies for records preservation is necessary. Laster commented that the PROFS email consisted of 98,000 messages. If the pilot program is successful, the data could be separated and transferred to discs or loaded into the RAC. Mayer said that the National Archives is well aware of the technology gap in terms of handling recent accessions at NARA. There are questions related to sustainability: if a technological solution is identified now, will it be applicable to maintaining the records of subsequent administrations? He reiterated that awareness is key. Clearly the National Archives has made progress but other challenges persist.
Fischer stated that the Department of State is doing everything possible to transfer records to the National Archives. The Department has transferred 6 million pages to NARA since 2012. He stated that IPS is moving forward on the digitization of the P and N-reels; a contract is in place for the next tranche of digitization.
The Committee recessed for a short break at 2:45 p.m.
Status Report on FRUS Declassification Issues
Upon reconvening, Immerman asked Jeff Charlston to report on Paper Records declassification. Charlston indicated that nearly 3 million pages had been reviewed, and that his branch would surpass its annual 3 million page goal.
In response to a question about the possibility of a central pool of all-agency declassification reviewers, he stated that at the DOD Joint Referral Center, where reviewers representing many different agencies had experimented with this concept, this did not prove possible. Reviewers from the non-Intelligence Community agencies did not have the necessary clearances to be able to receive the proper training, while all reviewers recognized the need for specialized technical knowledge unique to their agencies. The Department of State also has issues getting other agencies to use Department guidelines and to make decisions on “grey area” records, indicating the difficulty of training a single reviewer to make decisions for all agencies.
Randolph reported that the Office, during the winter months, had held several meetings with DOD representatives concerning ways of addressing backlog delays and quality of DOD declassification review responses and improving entire DOD review process. He indicated that the DOD will be able to hire another person who will work on FRUS, which occurred in large part because of his earlier presentation about the scope and magnitude of FRUS referrals. Randolph noted that IPS had also reached out to DOD to offer a pre-review of documents and equity training. Immerman responded that he wanted Mark Langerman to appear at the September Committee meeting. Randolph continued, noting that the average DOD response time has been 254 days. Howard stated that the Office wanted to have a contact at DOD who would be solely dedicated to reviewing FRUS and could advocate for FRUS within DOD. He expressed his hope that this new process would function effectively. Immerman concurred with this sentiment.
Howard then addressed several volumes under declassification review. Immerman asked Howard to update the Committee in September on any progress made.
Michael McCoyer informed the Committee that the CIA had selected a new FRUS coordinator, indicating that the previous coordinator is still involved in the process. The Agency has also hired an additional person to assist with FRUS review. McCoyer reviewed several items to be discussed at the joint Historical Advisory Committee–Historical Review Panel (HAC–HRP) meeting scheduled for the next day. McCoyer closed by updating the status of FRUS volumes currently under review at the CIA.
ICombes commented that the Department of State has a much larger contingent of experienced reviewers than in previous years (including 18 retired senior Foreign Service Officers). Having this expertise will further allow IPS to comply with the 120-day response time as required by law. He raised the possibility that the CIA’S new FRUS coordinator could meet with members of IPS and the Office in order to discuss closer collaboration at the working level regarding the FRUS series.
The session adjourned at 3:50 p.m.
The Committee then went into Executive Session.