Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, March 21-22, 1996
Open Session, March 21
Chairman Warren Kimball called the meeting to order at 9:10 a.m. He introduced two new members of the Committee: Nancy Bernkopf Tucker of Georgetown University and Robert Schulzinger of the University of Colorado. Kimball also introduced two guests: Heather Yasamee and Gillian Bennett, both of whom play major roles in producing the British Policy Overseas series of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Yasamee is Head of Records and Historical Services, while Bennett is Head of Historians. Kimball then asked if there were any corrections to the minutes for the previous Committee meeting on December 11-12, 1995. When no comments were forthcoming, he stated that the minutes stood approved as distributed to Committee members. After a State Department photographer took pictures of the Committee, Schulzinger asked about the Committee's schedule for the rest of the year. Kimball responded that the Committee would discuss it prior to adjournment.
Report of the Executive Secretary
Executive Secretary William Slany made an oral report supplementing his written report to the Committee, addressing first the issue of two staff vacancies that the office is trying to fill. He hoped that an individual would be selected to fill the General Editor's position before the end of March. He also hoped to fill the second vacancy for a historian in the General and European Division; the delay was due to a mechanical problem, not because the bureaucracy will not allow the Office to fill it. Slany noted that HO has been provided with the resources it needs for travel to the Johnson Library and elsewhere and for its publications program, which will continue to be in book form as far as can be seen down the road. Volumes will also be made available on CD-ROM. Initially, selected volumes would be included on the PA Bureau CD-ROM, but by 1997 or 1998, it wans planned to include all Kennedy volumes on a single CD-ROM.
The draft of the charter for the Committee has been signed by Secretary Moose, following some revisions proposed by Kimball. HO will publish 17 or 18 volumes this year but will not finish the 1961-1963 subseries. Part of the delay involves the unexpected opening of new sources. An example is the Soviet Union volume for 1961-1963, into which HO is now incorporating new intelligence materials, a process complicated by a lack of consensus about just which intelligence documents should be printed. The revision of the Soviet Union volume will take a few more months. The delay has also been brought about by declassification appeals; HO is still learning how to go about the process as expeditiously as possible. Not a single volume has been completely cleared during the past 6 months.
Kimball commented that the Committee may want to provide some guidance on intelligence documentation. He also noted that he had received a letter from Emmet Page at the Department of Defense in response to his letter regarding, as Page called them, "declassification management issues." The letter will be referred to a DOD committee on which Mel Leffler sits, so he will have an opportunity to pursue the matter.
Report by British Officials
Heather Yasamee then discussed the British Policy Overseas series. She noted that their series does not have an advisory committee but she has come to appreciate its value after talking the previous day with historians and editors on the Foreign Relations staff. From those talks she also learned that their series and Foreign Relations share the same approach and many common problems, but that their problems were rather less than ours. For example, they don't have the pressure of a timetable or the same declassification problems, although as they move inside the 30-year declassification line they may encounter more problems. Currently they do not have a declassification division and have had very few documents withheld from publication. The British Government seems genuinely disposed toward opening its 30-year-old material, and she is encouraged by this.
Gill Bennett reported that the United Kingdom was presently publishing two series of diplomatic papers, covering the 1941-1950 and 1950-1960 time periods. In 1994, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office gave its historians permission to publish a third series covering in part the "closed period" (less than 30 years old). The first volume of this series will deal with Anglo-Soviet Relations, 1968-1975, and the second with Detente and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1972-1975. The two volumes are testing vehicles for two different approaches. One will be a broad sweep ("atmospheric") volume, the other a micro volume with more detail. For the first time FCO historians will face the need to clear a whole volume. They decided therefore to start with less politically sensitive issues to facilitate the declassification. Both volumes are set for publication in 1997. They will not include microform supplements but will include more editorial material in the form of footnotes, editorial notes, and other scholarly paraphernalia. The hope is that these volumes will be of greater help to FCO officers involved in current diplomatic activities. In creating their volumes, Bennett noted, FCO historians face delays caused by personnel cutbacks and by requests for other types of research projects for the FCO. Yasamee and Bennett were in Washington on a "benchmarking" study to see how Foreign Relations volumes are produced.
Kimball, after praising an FCO historians' sponsored conference on diplomatic documents and publications, asked a series of questions:
- Was there any truth to "rumors" of British discontent with the Guyana declassification decisions of the United States?
- Would they comment on "rumors" that they had held declassification talks with Tony Dalsimer?
- Would they like to comment on the effects of the U.S. 25 year rule?
- Could they provide clarification on the British 30-year rule in regard to declassification of documents for the Foreign Relations series? and
- Did an "informal" advisory committee exist for the FCO series?
Yasamee responded that the rumor regarding British discontent with the Guyana decisions was "unsubstantiated." The only problem was the short time-frame for action. She added that consultations would continue to ease problems created by the shorter U.S. declassification time frame. FCO in general would be supportive of early publication of British documents in Foreign Relations volumes and was using its influence to gain accord on the issue from other Ministries. Finally, no formal or informal advisory committee existed, but the FCO historians did seek outside input as deemed useful from academics. Bennett added that they had consulted with outside historians before launching their new series.
In response to a question from Robert Shulzinger, Bennett stated that the British would be creating a publication schedule. Kimball noted that the Foreign Relations Advisory Committee rarely provided advice on individual volumes but took as its primary mandate advising on the general direction of the series and aiding HO in bureaucratic issues.
Yasamee asked Slany if HO was involved in informal consultations with academic historians. He replied that classification problems made this difficult. Melvyn Leffler, responding for the Committee, stated that the Committee had played a useful role in facilitating declassification and in getting CIA cooperation with the series. He also observed that not enough intra-governmental communication existed on issues of interest to the Committee and thus they tried to facilitate it. Yasamee noted that the British, too, used public pressure to promote intra-governmental consultations. Bennett added that the British did not seem to have the same level of problems. They had fewer agencies, relations among the agencies were not as adversarial, and the "insiders" mechanism for promoting solutions appeared to work better. Public involvement could at times make a solution more difficult to achieve.
Kimball noted that the Committee was mandated by law and this gave it greater clout than most advisory bodies. It was activist and not "accommodationist," although it was anxious to work with government agencies and officials. In response to a question from Yasamee, Kimball stated that the Department of State had been responsive to its requests, and that on occasion the Committee went to the Secretary of State with its concerns. Slany noted that the Committee boosted HO credibility with the academic community.
Kimball then asked for information on the declassification process in the United Kingdom. Yasamee outlined the basic rules, including the presumption that all records should be opened at 30 years, and the exemptions to this rule. British reviewers worked with guidelines provided by the Ministries and engaged in page-by-page review. Rate of withholding was monitored and certain watchdog mechanisms also existed. About 3 percent of all materials was withdrawn from FCO files. All withdrawn files were subject to a 10-year re-review. She also noted that the destruction rate was about 50 percent for FCO records and that the FCO was looking at introducing more records appraisal techniques.
In response to a question from the Committee, Tony Dalsimer estimated that the Department of State withholds less than 1 percent of the records for its own equities and about 3 percent overall. In comparison to the approximately 20 FCO review full-time employees, the Department currently operates with 16 1/2 FTEs for historical declassification to cope with the average 4.5 million pages a year of records previously produced compared to the United Kingdom's 1.5 million pages. Yasamee explained that the British were increasing their reliance on excisions to get more information out and that the jackets of folders contained annotations of which documents had been returned to file after a second declassification review.
The meeting adjourned at 10:25 a.m. and resumed at 11:04 a.m. Kimball thanked Heather Yasamee and Gillian Bennett for their participation and let them know they were welcome to stay. He then introduced Reginald Green from S/S-EX, who handles the contracts for the Advisory Committee.
Green explained that his job was to ensure that Committee members get paid in a timely fashion. He explained the December problem and let the members know that the Financial Management Office (FMP) changed its rules in December so that the end of year 1099 form would only indicate salary and not a total of salary and reimbursable expenditures. He told the members that they would now need to submit a travel voucher after each Committee meeting, which would take approximately 2 weeks to process. He let the Committee know that the December invoices needed correction and that he would take care of those. He will also issue a blanket voucher for this fiscal year, and the members can use the December form (Shirley Taylor will provide copies to the members) as a guide.
In response to a question from Kimball, Green explained that members will receive two separate checks for each meeting: one for salary and one for reimbursable expenses.
Michael Schaller asked if members could buy airline tickets at government rates. Green responded that he was still working on that issue--it is possible for contractors to get government rates--but it was taking time to work out a procedure on this and he wasn't sure it would work in this case.
Kimball asked about the letter from Slany re salary and expenses; Green explained that there would be no 1099 form issued this year; Slany's letter was sufficient.
Review of Department of State Records at NARA
Michael Kurtz, Assistant Archivist, reported that, as Mel Leffler and Anne Van Camp discovered during their visit to Archives II, out of 31 million pages of State material for 1960-63 and before, 15 million pages remain unreviewed. Approximately 2,500 cubic feet of material has no State or CIA equity--it is organizational and cultural affairs materials and he believes a good candidate for bulk declassification. There are 1,800 cubic feet with no State equity but with CIA equities.
Kurtz mentioned he has discussed with State reviewers the need for the use of risk management initiatives to avoid a more intensive page-by-page review. He asked if the Committee had any suggestions. Overall, Kurtz continued, since October 1, 1995, 40 million pages have been reviewed and NARA has surveyed all classified files and given agencies a listing and encouraged them to either send reviewers to look at this material or sign off on its release.
Anne Van Camp said there were no State reviewers at NARA, and Kurtz responded that it was his understanding that they had responsibilities elsewhere, but that Machak was the person to answer this.
Frank Machak said that some of the problems at Archives had just come to his attention and that reviewers had been sent to Newington to get control of the process. The move forward to Newington was a value judgment, and now that he understands the problems, he will revisit the issue and send some people out to assess the problems. He welcomed Committee suggestions on setting priorities and thought State should be able to catch up.
Leffler asked for clarification on who has the authority to do what. He is concerned about authority from State to NARA to do what they're authorized to do. Machak responded that he and Kurtz are talking about this--once a survey and sampling are done a definition that both agencies can accept will be developed. Machak thought adequate guidelines existed, but he was willing to go back and revisit the guidelines issue.
Leffler asked about the 50-page list of things not done--he asked Machak if his statement says that file declassification means NARA can open these files? Machak said these inventories were new to him and he doesn't know who made the annotations on the list; he thought there was a better way for State to validate authorization for release than on an inventory sheet.
Marvin Russell said that before State left Archives in September they recommended material for bulk declassification and promised a report on it. This report was due October 16 and has not yet been received. In December, he was told that the report was not going to be approved.
Kimball asked when clarification could be made. Dalsimer reminded Machak that bulk declassification was a management issue. Kimball asked that the process be moved along. Machak said that the new Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security was being brought up-to-speed and that it will be decided at the "Moose level." He promised an answer by the next Committee meeting.
Leffler asked, if this requires page-by-page declassification, when will that be decided? Machak responded that State will do the reasonable thing and this appears to be an area worth going back to--he must put resources where they make sense.
Russell said that working with Ken Rossman will make for a smoother process for accessing and ironing out problems.
New Presidential Libraries Project on Implementation of Executive Order 12958
Nancy Smith began her report on implementing Executive Order 12958 on declassification by describing a new pilot project for declassifying Presidential papers that will be done at the Johnson Library. There are 7 million pages of classified Presidential papers, including 22,500 pages from Hoover through the first year of the Ford administration.
Smith explained that the project represented an effort to include the intelligence community in implementing the E.O. The Archivist's proposed plan for implementation of the E.O. in Presidential papers for the first year calls for declassification of the Hoover classified papers and the classified Vietnam papers for the Kennedy, Johnson, and Ford administrations. An External Referral Working Group--sponsored by the CIA--has proposed scanning these Presidential papers to optical disk, and forwarding the disk to those agencies with equity in order to facilitate declassification of high-level material. The CIA has agreed to provide to the Presidential libraries all equipment needed. The agencies will vet the material on the disk and send back two disks, one with classified and the other with declassified material. The libraries will then match them to their original documents and release the declassified files.
Smith stressed that the project was in the pilot stage; there have, however, been many meetings. In her opinion, this was the only viable option proposed by the agencies to deal with on-site interagency review of the 7 million classified pages. The participating agencies could donate either manpower, money, or space. Smith said the agencies themselves would determine the level of review: "If CIA wants line-by-line review, that's fine; if State wants thumbs up, thumbs down, that's OK too." Either way, NARA wants as many declassified Presidential papers as possible. Smith said the pilot program would start with the Vietnam files at the Johnson Library; a site visit is planned for the third week in April; in May up to 30 personnel, mostly from DIA, would start scanning the material. NARA might provide facilities at College Park for the smaller agencies to review the disk. Although NARA was trying to get some sense of consensus on the project, Smith said that--other than this proposal--she did not know how the agencies would participate in declassifying the materials. The CIA has estimated the relative costs at $4 per page for on-site review and 40 cents per page if scanned and viewed in the agencies. DOE may want to see (not clear) all classified Presidential papers; DOE and CIA plan site survey trips.
Kimball asked if this program will have an impact on implementation of the executive order. Smith replied that NARA's concern is seeing real declassification at the end of this process--they are waiting to see the end result and hope to use this project as a declassification tool. It remains NARA's responsibility to force agencies to review this material. CIA told Smith that the day the disk arrives at CIA the agency will begin its review. Smith felt that if CIA and other intelligence agencies comply then the other classifying agencies will follow.
Kimball asked if this program will delay implementation of the executive order. Smith replied that she has not seen any plans from agencies for on-site review. By December 15, NARA expects a percentage of Presidential papers to be declassified; if a real initiative by the agencies is ongoing, that would be the time for them to request a slide in the date.
Leffler stated that many agencies are responding to the executive order by opening "trash," just for the statistics; he thought Smith's project was a smart way to get a small amount of important material opened up. This program also addresses mixed equities.
Slany asked about search capabilities on the disk, and Smith responded that the product would be a declassification tool only and not a searchable disk, but there may be a future potential for disks. When releasable material is identified, it is NARA's responsibility to declassify and release the documents. Slany followed by asking Smith if she had seen the scanning equipment. She responded that she had not, but only flat-bed scanners were able to do the job and that's why military reservists were being used.
Patterson asked about "intelligence material." Smith responded that work will begin on the end of Vietnam country files from State, CIA, and military agencies; then run straight through Vietnam country materials. State is by far the largest equity holder in the Presidential papers. If the pilot project goes well, the libraries may do all Vietnam country files.
Herschler asked if NSA and DOE want to review all 7 million pages, and Smith replied that yes, she believes NSA wants the whole disk to enable them to spot their equities. DOE is concerned that documents containing nuclear information are in Presidential papers. In conclusion Smith pointed out that it is NARA's responsibility to release a percentage of papers every year and that all agencies must address this issue.
Van Camp asked about the authority of the working group and who was State's representative. Smith responded that it is under the auspices of CIA, but all classifying agencies are represented on it; Dalsimer is State's representative.
Leffler asked if State was supportive of the group and Smith responded that not yet, but the original proposal was still in the working stage. Machak confirmed that State is making a serious effort to implement the executive order. Smith inserted that NARA is in charge of ensuring that the declassification objective is reached, and although there are strong reservations about this project it is one way of addressing the declassification issue for Presidential papers. Machak said that State is keeping its eye on the ball and working toward the 15 percent benchmark.
Leffler asked if State has the resources to send people to the libraries to do a page-by-page declassification. Machak responded that State reserves all its prerogatives; that NARA is doing its utmost to get the agencies organized, and this is the first time NARA has played a key role in forcing agencies to get it together.
Kimball requested more information from Smith and then wants the Committee to get State reactions and Committee recommendations on the plan. Leffler thought the Committee needed to decide on any input in a timely way.
Machak said that although the Presidential libraries are responsible for ensuring material is released, agencies still have the cost of clearances, etc. He felt the libraries are trying to replicate this process into another arena.
Leffler asked that NARA representatives be present for the discussion on 30-year declassification issues later in the afternoon; specifically Dalsimer or Machak and Nancy Smith. Dalsimer agreed and as Smith was already on the afternoon agenda, she agreed to be present.
The morning session adjourned at 12:05 p.m.
Pre-Publication Release of Document Lists
Kimball reconvened the open meeting at approximately 1:55 p.m. with a new agenda item occasioned by the arrival of Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at the National Security Archive (NSA). Kimball referred to a letter written by Kornbluh asking about declassified documents to be published in the Foreign Relations volume on the Bay of Pigs. The NSA is holding a conference on the topic in late May and wanted to have access to declassified, but not yet published, documents in that volume.
Kimball asked if the volume had been cleared. Rita Baker stated that not all the documents had been declassified. Nina Noring added that the remaining documents should be cleared within about 2 weeks.
Kimball explained that, when planning their meeting, the NSA thought the Foreign Relations volume would be available for use at the conference, but has been informed that the volume will not be published by the conference date. Consequently, Kornbluh had requested pre-publication access to the declassified documents. Kimball acknowledged that granting prior access to documents could create problems.
Luke Smith pointed out that NSA has held a number of conferences on the Cuban Missile Crisis without having many documents.
Kornbluh replied that NSA had held a conference in Havana and that copies of the 1958-1960 Foreign Relations volume on Cuba were given to Castro to show him that histories were being written and to urge the Cubans to declassify their own documents. He went on to say that the upcoming conference faced a different situation because of the difficulty in getting new documents. All he was asking for was pre-publication access to one or two dozen of the already declassified, key documents for use at the conference. He explained that advance access would be important to the Foreign Relations series and to the historians, including Arthur Schlesinger, who planned to attend the conference.
Noring asked Kornbluh whether he is familiar with JFK assassination documents, which contain Bay of Pigs documents, and noted that the CIA would be going to the JFK Library to review them. Kornbluh said that he has reviewed those documents, and he believes that Foreign Relations has more documents.
Luke Smith noted that Mike Warner of CIA also received a request from NSA, which CIA would refuse. If HO acceded to the NSA request, it would put HO in the position of releasing documents that CIA will not release.
In reply, Kornbluh noted that he just wanted documents declassified for publication in Foreign Relations. Kimball indicated that this is not an easy matter to resolve and needed some discussion before a decision was made.
Nancy Smith pointed out that some of the documents in question came from NARA and the Presidential libraries, both of which must have some input in the matter. She stated that HO historians have been given special access to documents for Foreign Relations, and to release them in a nontraditional manner could create problems. She stated that NARA and the Presidential libraries have received complaints from researchers about the situation in the past and she repeated that NARA would have to be brought into any decision involving pre-publication release. She also noted that if documents at Presidential libraries are open, anyone can have access to them.
Kimball replied that all that seemed necessary was to inform NARA and the libraries that specific documents have been cleared. Nancy Smith acknowledged that if documents have been declassified, researchers could just request them.
Kimball returned to the earlier focus of the discussion regarding how to open declassified documents prior to publication of a particular volume. Michael Hogan indicated that he supported giving the documents to the NSA.
Kimball asked for the thoughts of other Committee members and whether they supported releasing all documents or just those asked for. Leffler lent his support to giving NSA the documents it wanted. He suggested the release would accomplish two things: 1) give Foreign Relations enhanced visibility and 2) symbolize the Department of State's support for openness.
Kimball asked for the thoughts of those opposed to the release. Davis expressed his opposition, noting it would cause disruption and the interval between the conference and publication was only a few months.
Kornbluh pointed out that NSA supports HO and its work, stating "we're both dedicated to openness," but he noted that HO was in the awkward situation of having declassified documents but not making them available. He asked to be provided with a list of the documents to appear in the volume.
Kimball said that the matter involved a much broader question. Leffler noted that a pre-publication release of documents would set a precedent, and Keefer added that prior access would grant a privilege to one party. Kimball asked if those were negative developments. Keefer said that future volumes could be adversely affected, and Lawler pointed to the additional problem of giving documents or information to one party over another.
Kimball repeated that the discussion involved only declassified documents. Leffler added that those documents are already open at the Presidential libraries.
Kornbluh stated that the problem was that there was no way to identify the individual documents and that was one reason he asked for the list of documents from the Foreign Relations volume.
Noring stated that sometimes there is a 2-year delay between the time documents are declassified and published, but that information is supposed to be shared once documents are declassified. She suggested that the information could be shared with all scholars, but stated that HO is not obligated to release lists of documents from its volumes, although that information could be made public.
Slany reported that he has received complaints about that situation and said he realized that there is a fairness issue to deal with. If publication of a volume is delayed, expectations are disappointed. There is also the problem caused by having a finished manuscript ready but unable for some reason to be published immediately. He suggested that in such cases perhaps HO could make a list of declassified documents available prior to the manuscript's publication.
Kimball cautioned that any decisions on this situation should be carefully considered and that the views of other agencies, such as the CIA, need to be taken into account. He also noted that if documents are declassified, they should be released and, if more than 30 years old, legally they must be released. Slany repeated that HO could release a list of documents prior to publication of its volumes.
Kimball asked if there were any archival problems with releasing a list of documents. Nancy Smith responded by stating that, although she did not know the exact terms of the agreement between the Department of State and NARA, if documents were declassified, the Archives can make them available to other researchers. The person wanting the documents should then go to NARA or the Presidential Library housing them. She added that the Archives prefer not to handle requests for selective information.
Kimball indicated that the discussion was not about documents in the volumes, but rather about documents in the various repositories.
David Langbart said that NSA can do its own research. When it wants classified documents, NSA can submit a FOIA request.
Nina Howland stated that a good part of an historian's work was selection of documents and asked why NSA, in particular, should have access to documents selected for Foreign Relations volumes. Kimball responded by asking why it should matter, if the benefit of HO's work is used in the form of a list of documents or the physical volume.
Leffler added that perhaps the frame of reference should be determined in advance. But, he continued, if Foreign Relations gets the credit for the information, why should there be any opposition? He expressed the opinion that release would be a good thing, since the series would get the publicity.
Tucker asked how this situation differed from that used by the Eisenhower Library, which periodically gives out lists of declassified documents to keep researchers up-to-date on newly accessible materials. She noted that perhaps such an approach could be taken by other institutions. Schulzinger added that the matter in question is a legally approved release since the documents are declassified. "If it is legal to release the information., why not do it?"
Slany replied that the matter would be submitted to the Department's Legal Adviser before any information would be released or any decision implemented. With reference to the specific volume in question, Slany explained that the plan was to compile the volume over 1 to 2 years, allot 1 year for declassification, and publish it about 9-10 months after the manuscript was declassified. He went on to say that the manuscript for this particular volume had been completed, but its publication was delayed because of additions made to it. He noted that because of the delay the claim on original research diminishes, since some documents were already declassified in 1994 but have not yet been released in 1996.
Slany also noted that the Cuba volume was a special case. The volume was handled with extraordinary caution because of the expected high interest in it. That is not the usual situation with Foreign Relations volumes.
Hogan noted that there seems to be a conflict because of that situation and that HO and the series would have everything to gain by releasing the information prior to publication. Leffler asked for more input from HO on the question.
Luke Smith said that the volume was unique because of its large CIA content. He warned that opening the documents at this point may jeopardize HO's relationship with CIA and future access to CIA documents. If Kornbluh is given a list of documents, the list will cite numerous CIA documents on the Bay of Pigs, spurring NSA to go to CIA asking for them and maybe more. That situation could, in turn, harm HO's relations with CIA.
Davis responded by pointing out that the volume is way behind schedule. In his view, if the documents are declassified and if there is a demand for them, they should be released. He also advised that release of the documents will generate controversy and someone in HO needs to be prepared to deal with the media and others responding to the release. He noted that HO cannot merely deal with the question of document distribution without dealing with the increased attention the release would unleash.
Kimball said that perhaps someone, probably NARA, should be informed of the release.
Keefer pointed out that many of the documents, perhaps up to 200, are from CIA and/or Defense, are not available at the Archives.
Kimball stated that the time had come to close the discussion on this issue. He told Kornbluh that the matter would get a fair hearing and that he would be informed of its outcome. Kornbluh then left the meeting.
Closed Session, March 21
After Kornbluh's departure, Kimball stated that perhaps the matter warranted further informal discussion and informed the Committee that he would talk to the CIA about the matter when they were at the Department to address the Committee during the Friday morning session. He noted that CIA is not an accessible archival repository and that the release being considered could open CIA to unwelcome publicity.
Keefer added that CIA will have to decide whether to make its documents available. The NSA is interested in obtaining documents they cannot get, and, in the end, the issue is a CIA issue.
Implementation of Executive Order 12958
Kimball asked Nancy Smith if she wanted to comment on what was discussed earlier today.
Smith stated she was a little concerned with the turn in the conversation earlier that morning. Most agencies know how the executive order will be implemented. The pilot project NARA proposed involves scanning documents onto a disc and then passing this disc to agencies with equity in them. Since the documents include material from NSC, JCS, and CIA, agencies that have not signed the Interagency Agreement, reviewers will need clearances from those three agencies. NARA's main focus will be to implement the executive order and to make sure the need-to-know criteria are met.
Kimball asked if the need-to-know will be based on the need for declassification review?
Smith responded that the people who will be at Archives conducting this pilot program will have clearances. But agencies like the NSC, CIA and parts of DOE which have not signed the interagency agreement may opt to do a spin-off review. The Presidential files are not separated by agency, so there is a need-to-know requirement.
Humphrey asked if Smith was sure the interagency agreement would allow this kind of access? She answered that it's subject to interpretation under the executive order. She hoped that this project would begin to deal with the 7 million pages of classified files from the Hoover administration to the first year of the Ford administration. She didn't know how else the problem could be approached.
Humphrey asked if the collection of 7 million documents included Nixon materials? Smith replied it did.
Van Camp asked if any one agency could prevent the pilot project from working. Smith answered that it would proceed as planned even if one agency objects to having its documents scanned. But, of course, this would obviously reduce the amount of material declassified and available for research.
Report of the Subcommittee on Declassification of State Department Records
Leffler reported that he and Vince Davis spent yesterday at the State Department's archives at Newington, VA, where they looked at 30-year old and older documents that have been and are under review for declassification. Leffler had some questions about the following sentence printed on page 7 of Slany's cover letter to the Committee: "the goal of reaching the 30-year line by 1996 is being met and exceeded." It's clear that HDR's reviewers at Newington are working very hard under adverse conditions; it's also clear that they need a better facility in which to do their work. All of the central files from 1964-1966 have been reviewed and transferred to Archives II. The review of 1967-1969 has begun. Nevertheless, the pace of declassification raises concerns about records integration, quality, and tracking. He and Davis were also concerned about the coordination of the physical transference of the records to Archives II, and that it is done in a well-organized and timely manner.
In terms of meeting the 30-year deadline, HDR has succeeded for the central files, but there is much more ambiguity for the lot files. Leffler reported that he been told by Richard Morefield that all Top Secret lot files through 1975 were declassified. Morefield said this categorically, without equivocation. Leffler asked Morefield if he and Davis could see files on the Middle East, East Asia, and other areas. Morefield told him that he couldn't retrieve them without their identifying numbers. Leffler asked where he could find a list of such numbers. Morefield told him that no such list is available. Leffler suggested that instead of a list he could look at the boxes, but the boxes were not labeled or otherwise identified.
After 45 minutes, Leffler and Davis finally discovered that a log of lot files does exist but that this log is not formatted in any particular order. After some more time, they identified 12 lot files of interest to them. However, upon closer inspection they learned that of the 12 lots, 1 had been reviewed; 2 had been put aside for litigation; 1 had not been reviewed because of a transfer debate, and the 8 remaining had not been reviewed. Thus, out of a total of 12 lots only 1 had been reviewed. Also, they couldn't find a log just for Top Secret materials.
Keefer remarked that Top Secret lot files are kept separately from the other lot files.
Dalsimer stated that Morefield either was misunderstood or misspoke; HDR has completed the review of the Top Secret lot files only.
Leffler stated that there seems to be some ambiguity about the meaning of the first number in the lot file designation. He was told that this number represents the year in which the lot was retired. Morefield seems to think that this number means the lot includes files up to that time. This wasn't the case. In 65 minutes of searching, Leffler and Davis found some pre-1966 files.
Leffler stated that if he and Davis had looked only at lot files with Top Secret documents, then Morefield's statement might have been true; but, of the 12 they looked at many of the documents with other classifications, such as Secret, had not been reviewed.
Dalsimer stated that HDR asked Ken Rossman for all Top Secret files. "We are not archivists," Dalsimer explained. HDR assumed Rossman's people gave them all that is available; they don't look for Top Secret material on their own.
Leffler expressed surprise that Dalsimer did not do this. Leffler felt to be credible, it would be worthwhile for HDR to comport its statements with what it is actually doing. Leffler continued that the second issue concerns the review process. He noticed that the withdrawn documents are taken from their original boxes and placed in folders without proper identification. Once the documents are in the folders it is not clear which documents the withdrawn ones were originally attached to. In addition, the released documents are re-boxed without proper labels. HDR and HO should get together and devise a more suitable way to properly withdraw documents.
Kimball agreed that a trained archivist was needed to help HDR improve this situation. This should be worked on between now and the next Advisory Committee meeting at which time a progress report can be given.
Schwar suggested that HO should have some input; it needs to know the proper citations for withdrawn documents. Kimball agreed that the researchers should be consulted. Luke Smith suggested that the need for consultation between HDR and HO is also true for the central files, not just the lot files.
Leffler resumed that the third issue concerns State Department records at NARA which has already been discussed.
The fourth issue is the review process and the results of it. Davis and Leffler looked at the NSC records in an S/S lot file. Leffler reported that Davis found approximately 10-15 percent of the material was withdrawn, which was significantly more than the 2 percent often cited as the norm. Furthermore, Davis could not find consistent, clear-cut criteria to support the withdrawal of these documents. He noticed, for example, that all the NSC action memoranda had been withdrawn which made no sense because these are mostly already available at NARA. When asked why, Morefield told Davis that they had been removed because of NSC equity in them.
Dalsimer stated that HDR has been told by the NSC to withdraw all of its numbered documents. Leffler responded that the Committee should write a letter to the NSC noting that all the minutes of NSC discussions were available, and these are often more interesting than the NSAMs themselves. Dalsimer expressed concern that formalizing procedures might have the result of making things more restrictive by curtailing what HDR now does on an informal basis for the NSC.
Kimball suggested that we need a list of all the numbered NSC documents. This is a discretionary matter, and most agencies would withdraw if they knew about this. We don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The last update on NSAMs was 16 years ago, and it was not widely distributed.
Leffler suggested the Committee write a letter to the NSC informing them that some of their documents are being withdrawn, which does not reflect a spirit of openness, and suggest that they allocate discretion to the State Department as stipulated in the executive order to open these documents.
Kimball suggested that any letter should have NARA input. Leffler agreed that the letter should not compromise the progress on releasing documents. He had also found that documentation was more likely to be withdrawn as the level of officials rose even if the substance was not of an equally high level.
Davis remarked that they were really surprised to find withdrawn documents in folders without proper identification; he even found a folder labeled "Top Secret" with a clipping of a New York Times article. Some of the boxes were in horrible condition; there was no disaggregation when there should have been disaggregation; and the working environment was awful. HDR clearly needs a declassification center.
Dalsimer reported that HDR had instituted a second review to root out these kinds of problems: but, only the withdrawn items and a 5 percent spot check of overall boxes were reviewed. When the new NARA procedures are in place, HDR planned to look into increasing that percentage.
Kimball asked Leffler if a larger group of Committee members should visit Newington in June. Leffler thought it was a good idea.
Leffler next asked about Roger Channel and Restricted Data material that has been withdrawn. Dalsimer replied that these materials are doubly withdrawn. "Roger Channel documents are sent to INR where they are kept. If RD documents are found, they are sent to the proper vault in the Department, which I believe is in PM." In response to Schaller's question, Kimball explained what the use Roger Channel entailed.
Leffler asked why these materials should not be reviewed and made available for research. Was HDR reviewing them now? Dalsimer replied that they were not being reviewed now. HDR decaptioned and reviewed some of them, but those that are properly captioned are withdrawn and go into a different box without review.
Leffler asked if the Committee could invite Ken Rossman to the next meeting. Kimball replied that he already had.
Leffler held up a form 693 (retiring documentation on the Dominican Republic including 1965 crisis materials) and remarked that it said 14 cubic feet of material was sent to the Records Service Center but that only 3/4 foot was retained. He asked for an explanation.
David Langbart explained that back in the 1960s when the lot file system was set up it was determined that a lot of duplication existed, i.e., multiple copies of a telegram were made for overseas posts, offices in State, and the central files. The screening guidelines authorized the destruction of duplicate files while other non-duplicative material was to be retained to be added to the central files. In this specific example, duplicate files were believed to have existed elsewhere; therefore they were destroyed.
Kimball asked if this system is still in place. Langbart replied that records now are either kept or destroyed in toto. Leffler remarked that nothing could be done about this now. A lot of documents are being reviewed and opened up; HDR should be applauded for all the work they have done.
Langbart returned to Leffler's comment about locating lot files. Based on the tools at the records center it is possible to find the records of a certain agency. It's not easy, but it can be done. Nina Noring remarked that Langbart seemed to be implying that HDR does not know the files it is reviewing.
Dalsimer interjected that he did not think that was what Langbart meant. The person whom Leffler and Davis dealt with at Newington, Melvin Holly, was not the appropriate official to brief the subcommittee. It should have been dealing with Ken Rossman.
Kimball suggested that HDR, HO, and a qualified archivist needed to get together to address this problem; he thought that records should not be handled in this way. He would expect a resolution by the next meeting.
Report of the Subcommittee on the Nixon Volumes
At 3:15 p.m. Kimball stated that the Committee would continue without a break.
Van Camp reported that the subcommittee on the Nixon Project had visited Archives II and had a briefing and tour of the Nixon Project. Some materials have been made available for research, but the most important material for research on Foreign Relations are the NSC files, consisting of 1.5 million pages of unprocessed documents. The Memorandum of Understanding for HO access to the Nixon Papers has not yet been formally signed.
Van Camp noted that there were a number of potential problems. Most important, the materials selected for printing will have to undergo a separate review after they have been declassified. There is a complicated review process in which people with an interest in the material will be able to object to release. She thought objections were likely to be based on privacy grounds.
Nancy Smith noted that there was no way of knowing, since there had been no requests comparable to what HO would be requesting. NARA has opened 5 1/2 million pages of material but not in the NSC files. There were many challenges to the release of material in the Special files. She thought the problem would not be as great in dealing with the NSC files.
Schulzinger used the National Security country file on Vietnam as a benchmark for comparison with the country file collection on Vietnam at the Johnson Library, with which he was familiar. Judging from a limited list of what was in the boxes at College Park, he concluded that the Nixon country file on Vietnam was not as complete as the collection in the Johnson Library. He noted that the subcommittee was unable to sample the boxes because the MOU had not been signed. He also expressed concern about access to the Kissinger papers at the Library of Congress. He said it appeared to be impossible to make a preliminary determination of the extent to which the collections to be searched for the Nixon administration duplicated each other.
Tucker noted that because of the pressures imposed on National Archives employees by the legal fallout from the Watergate scandal, few working on the Nixon papers know much about the country files. She noted that there is not yet a schedule for processing the materials in the collection.
Nancy Smith said that the folder title list given to Schulzinger was not as extensive as the list prepared for the Department historians. (HO historians subsequently showed this extensive list to Schulzinger and Tucker.) She admitted that practically no processing has been done in the national security files because of the long-running legal battle involving the Nixon papers and tape-recordings. She noted that archivists are now in the process of becoming more familiar with the files in order to prepare to assist with the research for Foreign Relations and with the implementation of the executive order. The capabilities of the Presidential Libraries are presently stretched to meet the demands of pressing litigation and to help meet the needs of the agencies in responding to the requirements of the executive order. Those requirements will affect the ability of the archivists working on the Nixon materials to respond to research requirements relating to the Foreign Relations series.
Slany observed that the State Department provides some $80,000 per year to assist in the processing of documentation at the Johnson Library. He suggested that the Committee might want to recommend a similar subvention for the Nixon project as State historians move into that material. Tucker asked if archivists assigned to the Nixon Project at State Department expense might be shunted into the effort relating to the ongoing litigation process. Smith responded that a carefully worded agreement between the National Archives and the State Department would preclude such a development. The Committee agreed to recommend a subvention.
Smith indicated that she wanted to clarify an issue relating to the access accorded to Committee or subcommittee members to classified documentation held by the Presidential Libraries. She noted that under existing procedures the clearances held by the Committee members had to be verified and checked against material to be viewed.
Kimball said that the Committee intended to test that limitation.
Smith made a final observation that, with respect to the Nixon materials, it was important to remember that once the usual clearance process had been completed for documents selected for Foreign Relations, the National Archives would have to do an additional review to meet requirements growing out of legislation and litigation.
Access to National Security Agency Historical Records
Karen Gatz then reported on her experience in gaining access to the National Security Agency's historical records. She is working on the Korea; Japan volume and found that the NSA had done a study of the Pueblo crisis. It has also done studies on other crises, including the Liberty.
The NSA has an historical section, which has a small archive, and a national records center. NSA documents are listed in a database, which is easy to search by keyword. Gatz noted that other HO historians may want to use these records. Harriet Schwar will be going next. Gatz said that the NSA staff had been very cooperative and willing to help her. She had been able to copy documents with no restrictions, although another office has to review these and she has not yet received from the agency the copies she made. She was not sure whether there would be any problems, but the NSA had seemed to be open and her research had been a very pleasant experience.
Kimball reminded the Committee that the members had a NSA document list given to him by David Langbart. He noted that there had been a sea-change since 3 years ago when the NSA had been very uncooperative. He asked that HO let the Committee know if there were any problems.
Gatz reiterated that all the staff at NSA had been very helpful. She added that she had been told that a NSA committee was being set up to deal with declassification issues. She noted that some NSA studies contained codeword information, which complicated access and declassification.
Kimball asked how valuable were the documents to which she had received access. Gatz replied that they primarily related to intelligence-gathering and that some were very technical. The question was how much HO historians could understand, much less use. Kimball asked whether there had been any that might be useful for the series. Gatz said yes, there were some intelligence summaries and some briefing papers for high-level officials.
Langbart pointed out that the records of the Naval Security Group Command might be useful for the Pueblo crisis. The records are currently in Crane, Indiana, but that facility is to be closed; he is not sure where the records will go after that.
Report of the Subcommittee on Declassification of Foreign Relations Volumes
Kimball then asked Hogan and Schaller to give the declassification subcommittee report. Hogan reported on the 1964-1968 Cyprus; Greece; Turkey volume. The problem involved four documents xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. The operation had not received 303 Committee approval. He noted that much is known about this and that the CIA had been willing to publish excised versions of these documents. The objections to publication had come from the U.S. Embassy in Greece, especially from the Ambassador, who had argued that publication would lead to anti-American actions in Greece, maybe even terrorism. Therefore, the Department of State got cold feet.
Hogan noted that HO's advice had been to "cool it" and wait for a new Ambassador or to use different documents to tell the story. Herschler pointed out that there was another reason for waiting. Jim Miller, the compiler, was currently reviewing the xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Moreover, the delay would permit further refinement of the volume.
Schaller reported on the second declassification issue, which involved Thailand. The issue was similar, but in this case the Americans had been approached by the Thais. He noted that the CIA had been willing to release the documents at issue with the details excised, but the East Asia Bureau had objected because of concern for the "fragile democracy" in Thailand and in other countries in East Asia. Schaller said that he and Hogan had been "underwhelmed" by the Bureau's vague reasoning and recommended that the Advisory Committee endorse publication with some excisions.
Kimball said that he assumed that this meant censorship of the names of those who had approached the Americans. Hogan said that the Bureau had argued that publication would embarrass the new democracies in East Asia and that xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxx. HO wanted an Advisory Committee statement that these were not compelling arguments. Herschler noted that HO wanted something it could add to the appeal memorandum. Nina Noring pointed out that xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and that it would also be distorting if it seemed xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. She added that this had not been clear in the Bureau's presentation to the subcommittee.
Kimball asked whether there were any withheld documents xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxx. Keefer said there was one. Kimball asked Hogan to draft a recommendation to go in the minutes. Schaller said that this should indicate "strong support" for HO's position. Kimball suggested using the language in the legislation, i.e., "full and complete."
The Committee then went into an off-the-record session and then into executive session, after which it adjourned for the day.
Closed Session, March 22
Planning the Truman and Eisenhower Retrospective Intelligence Volumes
Kimball called the closed session to order at 9:05 a.m. He began by noting that because of the large contingent from the CIA, the Committee should go to the morning session first and leave the Committee odds and ends until afterwards. The session would begin with Bill Slany's and Kay Oliver's comments, and the Committee could discuss any additional items or comments it might have with Oliver and her staff during the coffee break. The subject matter today was the planning of the Truman and Eisenhower retrospective volumes. He suggested that the discussion with the CIA officers should close around 10:15 a.m. so that they could get back to work.
[Begin Classified Discussion]
[End Classified Discussion]
Kimball thanked the CIA representatives and at 10:20 a.m., the meeting adjourned for a break. When the meeting resumed at 10:45 a.m., Kimball opened the floor to staff comments and asked that only specific matters be discussed.
More on Pre-Publication of Document Lists
Keefer urged the Committee to think carefully about the proposal from the National Security Archive. Kimball said that the Committee had a proposed solution. When a compilation had been completely declassified and all its documents were over 30 years old, the list of papers would be made available by appropriate means, probably at an archival repository. The matter might be re-thought if the CIA expressed concerns.
Humphrey suggested that the proposal emphasize that the documents would not be available directly from HO or the Department. Kimball suggested saying "documents are not available from the Department of State." Documents would be sent to the National Archives following declassification.
Tucker asked whether there would be trouble with other agencies. Kimball said that the Defense Department in particular had been slow to release documents and might need reminders.
Keefer said that the details would need working out with Oliver and other CIA representatives and with DOD. Tucker said the list should go to all agencies concerned so that respective offices could make documents available. Kimball said that ideally all agencies should automatically send their declassified documents to NARA. The Committee would discuss the matter further in June.
Herschler mentioned an existing arrangement with the Presidential libraries under which they supplied a printout of the database showing which documents had been obtained from which agencies and the state of the declassification process. The process might be extended to NARA or other agencies.
Smith said that the CIA would have to do a lot of searching to compile a complete document list. Schulzinger said that the Committee should not jeopardize future relations with the CIA.
Remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary Freeman
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Bennett Freeman arrived at 10:55 a.m. and was introduced. Kimball explained that the National Security Archive wanted advance access to the most recent Cuba volume. The Committee agreed not to grant special deals, but also agreed that access should be arranged to documents that were declassified, unpublished, and over 30 years old. In such cases, a list of documents would be supplied, with the documents themselves available at NARA. Difficulties were expected from DOD and CIA.
Freeman said that he liked the idea in principle. Kimball said that the Committee worried that it might disrupt working relations with DOD and CIA.
Freeman said that he was pleased to meet the new members of the Committee. He specifically mentioned Schulzinger's history of the Council on Foreign Relations and Tucker's expertise on China. He then asked about the luncheon with the Archivist the day before. Kimball said that the Committee was favorably impressed and had brought up issues of concern. Freeman said that it should be helpful to have an Archivist who was close to the President. He also discussed a speech by Senator Moynihan on release of classified materials and asked about other concerns of the Committee.
Kimball said that the Committee had discussed compilation of a retrospective Foreign Relations volume that would include CIA documents concerning covert operations in Indonesia, Guatemala, and Iran. Over the longer term, other volumes might cover not only covert actions but intelligence analyses.
Schaller asked about the Thailand volume, which included covert action materials. HO and the Committee recommended seeking publication.
Freeman said that he was all for pressing on if the CIA was being more open. He was skeptical about whether 30-year-old documents could still have an impact on relations with foreign governments. Kimball said that he was also skeptical about claims that there might be legal ramifications about documents involving corporations.
Kimball said that the day before, the Committee had asked specific questions about declassification at Newington. Slany would look into a communication from Frank Machak. Machak was said to be feeling pressure from elsewhere, which was slowing declassification. A risk assessment from Dalsimer seemed to be having an effect. Kimball then asked for discussion of other issues.
Van Camp said that Nancy Smith of the Office of the Presidential Libraries had spoken of a project using scanner technology to put documents on disks so that agencies could review them. So far, all but State had signed on. Leffler said that the Committee recommended that State do so. Kimball said that the Committee would send a letter endorsing the pilot project; Slany said that it should go to Pat Kennedy. Freeman asked for a copy of the letter.
Freeman reminded the Committee that the Secretary of State planned to give a speech on environmental issues and international affairs on April 9 in California, and invited Anne Van Camp to attend. After asking about the date of the next meeting, which was tentatively scheduled for June, he left at 11:15 a.m.
Kimball said that the Committee wanted to proceed with reasonable aggressiveness and with some diplomacy on the list. He then asked for further topics. Claussen described HO's participation in the Department's Strategic Management Initiative, and thanked members of the Committee who had participated.
The Committee adjourned at 11:16 a.m.
New Presidential Libraries Project on Implementing the E.O.
VETTED 4/3/96 BY NANCY SMITH
- Warren F. Kimball, Chairman
- B. Vincent Davis
- Michael J. Hogan
- Melvyn P. Leffler
- Michael R. Schaller
- Robert D. Schulzinger
- Nancy Bernkopf Tucker
- Anne H. Van Camp
- William Z. Slany, Executive Secretary
Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Historian
- William Z. Slany, Director
- Rita Baker
- Paul Claussen
- Evan Duncan
- Vicki Futscher
- Karen Gatz
- David Geyer
- Deb Godfrey
- David Goldman
- David Herschler
- Susan Holly
- Nina Howland
- David Humphrey
- Donna Hung
- Edward Keefer
- Dan Lawler
- Gabrielle Mallon
- William Marsh
- James Miller
- Gerald Monroe
- David Patterson
- Harriet Schwar
- Kent Sieg
- Luke Smith
- Jeffrey Soukup
- Shirley Taylor
- Gloria Walker
- Carolyn Yee
Bureau of Administration
- Frank Machak
- Anthony Dalsimer, Director, FPC/HDR
- Nina Noring, FPC/HDR
Central Intelligence Agency
- Kay Oliver, Chief, History Staff
- Gerald Haines, Deputy, History Staff
- Scott Koch, History Staff
National Archives and Records Administration
- Michael Kurtz, Assistant Archivist, Office of the National Archives
- David Langbart, Archivist, Records Appraisal and Disposition Division
- Marvin Russell, Chief, General Archives Review Branch
- Jean Schauble
- Nancy K. Smith, Archivist, Office of Presidential Libraries
- Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive