Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, March 5-6, 1998
Open Session, March 5
Chairman Warren Kimball called the meeting to order at 9:08 a.m. He announced an adjustment to the agenda: Under Secretary for Management Bonnie Cohen was unable to meet with the Committee during lunch, but could meet with the Committee in her office at 11:30 a.m. The meeting would therefore adjourn at 11:20 a.m.
Implementation of New Executive Order
Kimball introduced James Martino of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), whose team had been working for the past several months to review implementation of the new Executive Order. Martino believed the process was going well and expected that before summer the team would look at further questions concerning the operation of the declassification system and its cost-effectiveness. Kimball indicated that the Committee had a deep interest in the Executive Order, and suggested that the Committee discuss the issue at lunch or the following day.
Kimball indicated that approval of the minutes of the December 17 meeting would be deferred because of a continuing unresolved discussion of their classification.
Report of the Executive Secretary
William Slany said that he was unable to report as Executive Secretary that the Office had made enormous strides recently in publishing Foreign Relations volumes, but he hoped the bottleneck would be resolved in the coming months. Slany emphasized that the Department and the Bureau of Public Affairs had been supportive on budget issues. The ongoing reorganization of the Department had no impact on programs of the Historian's Office. If the Office needed more resources (except for personnel) it could probably obtain them. Some portion of the budget was being spent in developing an historical foreign affairs exhibit in the Department, an outgrowth of the original exhibit hastily developed in December 1996. Now, with an expert on board, the Office planned to develop a world-class exhibit.
Slany reported that the Office was moving confidently toward electronic publication, and would continue to take advantage of what new technology had to offer. The Office had also taken an enormous stride forward by establishing its own web site. Vicki Futscher distributed a handout and introduced James McElveen, who described materials that were included (Foreign Relations volume lists, Chiefs of Mission, Travels of the Secretaries, Travels of the Presidents, answers to frequently asked questions, E-mail the Historian's Office). McElveen indicated that he was available for a guided tour of the site. Ted Keefer reported that five Foreign Relations volumes were already on line, and future volumes would be on line as they were released. In response to a query about the CD ROM, project Futscher indicated that the Office was still working on that project, which would include not only texts of the Kennedy volumes but also internal search software to facilitate serious research.
Kimball said he would like at some point in the future to have a discussion of electronic versus letterpress formats. Robert Schulzinger suggested that someone do an article for the SHAFR Newsletter or the OAH publication The History Teacher concerning the use of this electronic material for graduate and undergraduate teaching. Kimball and David Patterson pointed out that there were many places that a "how-to" piece could be published, including publications of historical and educational associations.
Report of the General Editor
Patterson presented his report as General Editor. The Committee had met less than three months ago, and nothing of great significance had occurred since then. Patterson emphasized that the Office was working in a transitional mode, wrapping up four Johnson administration volumes and beginning 16 of 25 volumes proposed for the Nixon period. Two Nixon volumes had already been compiled. With respect to access to other-agency materials, the Office was on the cusp of requests to the NSC. The Office was meeting regularly with Gerry Haines and Bob Leggett on issues of access to CIA materials.
Last year the Office published 8 volumes (4 volumes and 4 supplements); this year, the Office will publish 7 volumes (5 volumes and 2 supplements). Although a regular stream of volumes and supplements was appearing now, next year would see a dry spell. Kimball asked if a dry spell was inevitable even if the Office received better cooperation. Patterson indicated that a year or more following clearance was necessary prior to publication.
Patterson noted that a dozen volumes had been held up in a declassification bottleneck, although there was some reason to be optimistic in the light of the High-Level Panel. Appeals were time-consuming and complicated. They must be done as thoroughly and effectively as possible. We must show that we are both patient and persistent, and that we won't give up when we are turned down.
British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Branch Update
Kimball introduced Gill Bennett, Head of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Branch and Senior Editor of the British documentary series. Bennett recalled that two years ago she and a colleague had reported on two new volumes in process; today she brought the results, a volume on relations with the Soviet Union, 1968-1972, and the CSCE, 1972-1975. They had not abandoned Series I and II on the 1940s and 1950s, but there was a limit on what they could do. Because of great interest in the closed period series, they were planning another. They had free access to everything, including files still retained by the FCO and not yet sent to the archives. These files included documents (such as Cabinet minutes, documents of other government departments, and documents concerning FCO liaison with the intelligence function) that would later be removed at the review stage.
The Soviet Union was chosen as a less sensitive subject because of the end of the Cold War, and a less sensitive subject than, say, the Middle East. The editors deliberately waited until the pages were typeset to submit materials for clearance--it seemed to gain them an advantage. The editors also approached other departments (the Cabinet office and Prime Minister) to gain agreement in advance. Because a number of junior officials covered in the volumes were now senior people or retired, the FCO felt it was prudent to contact those mentioned who were still alive and invite them as a matter of courtesy to read the pages. The reaction was generally positive, although one or two former Ministers thought publication was a breach of the 30-year rule. In fact, the 30-year rule applies only to the transfer of documents into the public domain; the FCO can do whatever it likes before then. The published documents would not be opened until after 30 years. Former Prime Minister Lord Callahan had asked a question about this in the House of Lords. Bennett stressed that the FCO clearly had a different approach to declassification from the United States. It goes by direct approach to the departments concerned. The FCO could appeal to higher authority but has not yet had to.
The new volume on Anglo-Soviet relations, 1968-1972, contained 108 documents selected to meet certain criteria: high-level, self-contained, exciting, and representative. Editorial passages appear in italics for the first time. The second new volume documents the first four years of CSCE, 1972-1975. Bennett said the FCO realizes that it will not be going back to the old style volumes. They will have to cover longer periods with high-level coverage and editorial passages. The FCO has also abandoned microfiche supplements; they were costly and market research indicated that they were not used that much.
Recent research on Nazi Gold had produced a good effect in the Foreign Office, much as in the United States. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook announced in the House of Commons, following the release of KGB documents, that he had commissioned FCO historians to review the files and prepare a memorandum for publication. Bennett expected a similar involvement with other current research issues.
Anne Van Camp asked whether the public would have access to the documents cited in the new volumes. Bennett indicated that they would not. Kimball asked whether Foreign Office files contained finished intelligence. Bennett replied that there was. There was also some raw intelligence, but of interest only to historians. She could think of no instance where it would be useful to publish raw intelligence rather than finished. Kimball asked whether document citations were permanent, to enable researchers to find documents more easily in the PRO. Bennett indicated that the citations were permanent except for intelligence documents.
Bennett noted that she was impressed by the HO Web Site, and thought the FCO should have one. She reported that budgets were under review throughout the British Government. Positions could not be added, although there were funds for contract editors. She pointed out that Her Majesty's Stationery Office was privatized two years ago. Marketing efforts had been disappointing, and the new entity was unwilling to publish direct paperback editions on the grounds that they would not sell. FCO was talking to other publishers now that it no longer had an obligation to publish with HMSO.
Philip Zelikow asked if books were sold to individuals. He assumed that the publisher felt the books were purchased mainly by institutions. Bennett said that the effort had always been to reach a wider audience-the same individuals who buy historical works, diaries, and so forth. Zelikow asked about future volumes. Bennett mentioned a volume whose provisional title was "The Testing of Detente, 1973-1977," and a new volume in Series II, "British Policy and Middle East Oil, 1950-1954." In Series I, volumes were planned on the Marshall Plan, European reconstruction, and a volume on events leading up to the Suez Crisis. Zelikow asked about nuclear weapons policy in the late 1950s and early 1960s, especially Anglo-American policy. Bennett said this would certainly be on the list. Zelikow felt that the evolution of independent states was a topic of interest, as was Southeast Asia. Bennett said that the latter was an area for possible work by a contract editor who was a specialist in the area. Kimball speculated on whether FCO files included intelligence-related materials on Iran in the 1950s.
Department of State Declassification Efforts
After a short recess, Kimball reconvened the meeting at 10:37 a.m., noting that the Committee would have to adjourn promptly at 11:20 a.m. for a meeting with Under Secretary of State for Management Bonnie Cohen. After a brief discussion about rescheduling due to the meeting with Cohen, Kimball introduced Ken Rossman and Peter Sheils of IPS to discuss the State Department's efforts to meet the requirements of E.O. 12958.
Sheils discussed the highlights of IPS's quarterly report on declassification efforts, which had also been presented to the Mandatory Review Conference at the National Archives. He also reported that the Advisory Committee's subcommittee on State declassification guidelines had reviewed the Department's new declassification guidelines that are to be used by the Archives and Presidential Libraries. He noted that IPS was working closely with the Archives and Presidential Libraries in crafting the guidelines and that they would continue to consult both agencies in making any future modifications to the document. Sheils congratulated Ambassador Draper, who had overseen the drafting effort, for a job well done.
Kimball inquired whether this would be a good time for David Humphrey's report on yesterday's subcommittee meeting. It was decided that because of the press of time the subcommittee report could be deferred and Sheils continued his presentation. He noted that the biggest quantitative change between this quarter's declassification results and last and the previous quarter were in lot files. Sheils noted also that IPS is reviewing the Dulles microfilm at Princeton, adding that there are approximately 189 reels and that they should be finished by mid- to late summer. In response to a query by Kimball about the Harriman collection, Sheils replied that they have assigned a reviewer to begin work. Sheils estimated roughly that it should take about 100 hours and that they hoped to be done by the end of this year.
Rossman then discussed the highlights of his handout on the results of IPS's E.O. 12958 review. Rossman noted that almost 97 percent of the universe of State Department documents that have been reviewed through 1973 have been declassified. Two-thirds of the material withheld is for CIA equities. As for material exempted from declassification under previous executive orders, Rossman stated that State will finish reviewing all material from 1930 to 1949 by the E.O. deadline. By the next Advisory Committee meeting he expects to have completed a 5 percent sampling of the 1950 to 1954 block of exempted material and will present a report on his findings. He noted also that items that were exempted earlier have been placed at the bottom of the declassification priority pile. Rossman also reported that his office will begin reviewing Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) records, the last remaining "loose" area of the declassification plan, and will report on his findings "as appropriate" at the next meeting.
Kimball noted that at the time the Committee was drafting its annual report, some problems remained in scheduling the transfer of records to the Archives. One was the Office of the Legal Adviser, but he has since learned that it is now "scheduled to be scheduled." Another was INR, which he described in the annual report as a "failure." Rossman took exception to Kimball's use of the word "failure," claiming that there were some problems but that his office was resolving them. Many of these problems, he claimed, were outside of IPS's control, such as the fact that INR would not let IPS review certain highly sensitive materials and that NARA does not have a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) to store documents that are transferred. Rossman also noted that they have had some problems with scheduling records of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, but that these too are being resolved. Michael Kurtz of the Archives added that NARA plans to hold training sessions on records management with IPS's staff.
Rossman then reported on the progress in transferring records to the Archives, noting that not all those items on the list he presented at the last Advisory Committee meeting are fully transferred. He distributed a packet of information about the FOIA Web site, which included copies of the first page and the site map. According to Nina Noring, the documents in HO's intelligence supplement will be the next to be uploaded to the site. Rossman said that his office would be posting the list of records transferred to NARA on the web site and would appreciate the assistance and guidance of the Committee on how to present information so it would be most useful.
Rossman described progress on declassification among the various agencies as "impressive but uneven" in that there had been good progress by many agencies but some agencies are lagging behind, and that this posed some problems for the Department with regard to State equities in other agency records and scheduling of State declassification resources. Kimball said that the Department might have to be more forceful. Rossman then said that he wanted to inform the Committee about new legislation being proposed by Senator Moynihan (Legislation Secrecy Act-S-712). Kimball said that the Committee was aware of the bill, but would like to have a copy to read over. Rossman said he would provide them with copies. Kimball then said that there would be questions for IPS, but that the delegation from NARA should proceed first.
Presidential Libraries Unmarked Classification Issue
Sharon Fawcett said that the Committee had asked for a discussion on "potentially classified information" in the Presidential Libraries that was unmarked. As an example she played a tape of two conversations between President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara at the onset of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. She also discussed three other documents-an unsigned Bay of Pigs document, a Khrushchev/Lyndon Johnson document, and letters between President Eisenhower and the Shah of Iran.
Fawcett said that the Presidential Libraries' archivists believed that there was "not much" unmarked classified material, possibly less than one percent of the total. The collections in the Truman Library and its predecessors contained "minuscule" amounts while the Eisenhower Library and its successors held five percent. Some of this information was unclassified but contained derivative information. Fawcett said the most common types of unmarked materials were handwritten notes and draft documents prepared by White House staff, correspondence with foreign heads of state, recordings and transcripts of telephone conversations and meetings, and documents created by various Presidential boards and commissions that did not have classification authority. She said that the library staffs knew how to recognize such information, could examine it, and mark it declassified, as appropriate. If the archivists were unsure, the document would be returned to the major equity holder for decision. She said that Nancy Smith could give the background on the declassification authority.
Smith explained that the implementing directive of E.O. 12958 on page 13 was written because of Presidential papers and briefings. It would be inaccurate to describe this process as reclassification. It was, instead, classification of unmarked documents.
Fawcett then discussed the Remote Archives Capture (RAC) program. She said that the CIA scanning team was at the Kennedy Library and working at the rate of 15,000 pages per day. At that rate they would be done in four weeks. The success of the system would depend on the actual review of the documents taking place. She explained that the scans were so good that they were capturing better images than the original documents. Fawcett said that the CIA intended to scan the Hoover, Truman, and Roosevelt materials in Washington, DC, since there were fewer than 50,000 pages total. Their next project would be the Eisenhower Library.
Fawcett said that the Department of State soon must decide whether or not its documents will be scanned along with the others. The Committee should be advised that systematic review cannot be completed before scanning. Kimball asked if there was a date before which a decision would have to be made. Fawcett explained that it would have to be made at least one month before the team's departure, which was scheduled for June or July. Kimball commented that the decision date had arrived. Fawcett said that if documents with State equities were included, the total number of pages would be about 200,000 as opposed to 50,000 without State information.
Kimball said that the issue was on the agenda for further discussion with IPS before the Committee left. Fawcett said that there were serious budget issues. Nancy Tucker asked who would pay. Fawcett replied that CIA had paid for the scanning of the Kennedy materials. Tucker said they had been told that the costs ran about $2.50 per document. Smith said that was not the actual figure and that CIA, at present, was paying the teams but looking for others to chip in. Fawcett said the Agency wanted NARA to contribute, but NARA was going to wait until the program was proven to work. Kimball advised the Committee to direct any questions to Nancy Smith. He also asked Fawcett to give either the Committee or Slany a heads-up if they were encountering any problems.
The meeting adjourned at 11:20 so that the Committee could meet with Under Secretary Cohen before lunch.
Closed Session, March 5
Declassification of Foreign Relations Volumes and the Inter-Agency High-Level Panel
When the meeting reconvened after lunch, Kimball introduced four officials from the Central Intelligence Agency: Britt Snyder, Special Counsel to the DCI; Ed Cohen, Director of CIA's Office of Information Management; Robert Leggett, CIA Foreign Relations coordinator; and Gerry Haines, Chief of the CIA History Staff. Kimball then turned to Snyder for a discussion of the High-Level Panel.
Snyder reported that the High-Level Panel held its first meeting on February 23. The Department had helped to focus the panel's attention by providing "issue descriptions," which described information that could be disclosed without unduly damaging relations with foreign countries. Snyder pointed out that the relevant U.S. Ambassadors had also forwarded guidance on what information should, or should not, be released. Snyder described the procedures for declassifying Foreign Relations documents on covert operations: 1) The Department would prepare issue descriptions for each case. 2) If approved by the High-Level Panel, the description would guide the subsequent declassification review of the relevant documentation. 3) If the documentation could not be released, then the description should be published in the form of an editorial note. The panel recognized, however, that in some cases it might be impossible to publish either the documentation or the issue description.
As far as these procedures are concerned, Snyder pledged that the Agency was "on board." This included the Directorate of Operations (DO), although DO was still concerned about the impact disclosure of prior activities might have on current intelligence activities even though no diplomatic impact was anticipated. Snyder maintained that this concern was legitimate: there is no way to guarantee that disclosure will not have an effect. DO, however, would consider several mitigating factors, including the strength of the current intelligence relationship and the effect of previous unofficial disclosure. Snyder explained that DO would not be as worried about the effect of publication if the description merely provided information already in the public domain. In any event, DO felt that publishing an issue description was better from its point of view than publishing the actual documents. Snyder said that the process would not be easy. In each case, the Agency would have to take a calculated risk on the dangers involved. Snyder said that he had personally assessed the possible repercussions of the cases recently presented to the High-Level Panel. He emphasized that the assessment of each case must be done at a high level within the Agency, i.e., above the Directorates. Snyder said the success of the High-Level Panel depended on good faith on all sides.
Slany provided a summary of the situation as it had developed from his perspective. He commended his colleagues in HO, who had worked hard to draft and clear the disclosure statements (issue descriptions). Slany was impressed by the seriousness displayed by the Department in considering the issues before the panel. The Ambassadors, for instance, all responded thoughtfully. Slany explained that the disclosure statements: 1) summarized the covert action, and 2) discussed the possible effect (pros and cons) of releasing relevant materials. Slany thought that the High-Level Panel was a great step forward, showing that it was possible to cut through the mass of appeal documentation that so often impeded progress in the past. He emphasized that publication of disclosure statements was not a substitute for the actual documentation, but that this device might be used to help clear up the publication backlog. Slany said the panel would serve to avoid the time-consuming arguments over what could be released. Although this process might be difficult in the short term, Slany assessed the long-term prospects as good.
Snyder reported that he had received input not only from DO--which sought guidance from the stations--but also from the Directorates for Intelligence and Administration. Snyder said that, after trying to reconcile the input from the directorates, he took his recommendations to the Executive Director, who approved the Agency's final position.
Schulzinger asked about the timetable for the four covert operations at issue and when the Committee will know what can be published in the Foreign Relations series. Leggett answered that the Agency was waiting to receive a document summarizing the panel's decision from the NSC. Once this document is in hand, the relevant materials would be re-reviewed by the directorates, a process that could take 60 days. Schulzinger said he hoped to have a response by the next Committee meeting. Kimball considered this a "reasonable window." Slany expressed an expectation that the High-Level Panel would meet several times before the next meeting in an attempt to eliminate the declassification backlog. Leggett said the panel might meet every six weeks or so. Vince Davis emphasized that the panel should eliminate the backlog before the Committee meets again. Although Snyder said he didn't expect that the entire backlog could be eliminated by June, Kimball thought it was a good goal to set.
Van Camp wondered if the panel would consider more general problems of declassification, including the review of documents withheld due to the mere appearance of an Agency acronym (e.g., CAS). To illustrate this point, Kimball read a section from the Department's draft guidelines indicating that such references must be reviewed by the CIA itself. Cohen thought the Committee meeting was the wrong forum to debate this issue. He said that CIA was aware of the problem: DO was not concerned by the odd CAS reference but could not assess Agency equity without reviewing each document. He described CAS as a trigger-not necessarily harmful in itself but a sign to CIA of possible involvement of its sensitivities. Kimball suggested that some samples of CAS usage be put together to assist in CIA's study of the issue. Van Camp suggested and Cohen agreed that the best solution would be the cheapest: presumably having CAS and like acronyms identified by State reviewers and then CIA acting to release all the uses it could. Kimball indicated that the Committee wanted to see progress on this issue.
Kimball then brought up the issue of procedures for the High-Level Panel that were under discussion among State, NSC, and CIA. He expressed his frustration with the NSC's refusal to let the Committee see the draft procedures until approved by the National Security Adviser. Kimball asked Slany and Snyder to straighten it out. Cohen made a case for ironing out the procedures first. Leggett noted that the procedures under review were those verbally described earlier by Snyder. Kimball indicated he would like to see what's settled before the next meeting, stating that the devil's in the details, and the Committee has not seen the details.
Kimball expressed his appreciation to Snyder and CIA. Snyder indicated that CIA recognized it had to find ways to support the Foreign Relations series. His instructions from the DCI were to "make it work." Kimball asked how the good cooperation between State and CIA could be made "proactive" Cohen responded that procedures were designed to create such a situation but that CIA organization decisions were not an issue for the Committee's competence. Kimball agreed that all the Committee was seeking was positive "end results."
Access by PA/HO Historians to CIA Records
Kimball then called on Harriet Schwar and Gerry Haines, who made a brief presentation on CIA-State cooperation on the retrospective volume on the Congo. Both agreed that the cooperation had been effective. Schwar stated that HO had had access to everything on the Congo it requested. Haines stressed the CIA's desire to cooperate and be "proactive." He noted that Center for the Study of Intelligence Director Brian Latell was retiring in June and that the Agency was committed to a high-level replacement. Latell favored a policy of positive and proactive cooperation with the Department of State, and Haines believed this policy would continue.
Kimball raised the issue of HO historians knowing what questions to ask when searching for relevant CIA documents; he emphasized that the law requires the CIA to assist in the work of the Foreign Relations series. Kimball asked Schwar to comment on her own experience in doing research on the Congo at CIA. Schwar said that she had found no "smoking gun" having to do with Patrice Lumumba and did not think that any such documents existed. On the other hand, she had uncovered a lot of very interesting material, including issues that had come up in the Church Committee in the 1970s. Kimball asked Schwar if there had been any breakthrough in finding aids. Schwar said no, but noted that Scott Koch at CIA had been very helpful in getting documents for her. Davis quipped that Scott Koch was the "finding aid."
Van Camp argued that human finding aids are "expensive and don't last long." She suggested that the CIA consider hiring a professional archivist, who could help to solve some of the current problems. Haines interjected that he himself had worked at NARA for eight years as an archivist. Tucker retorted that being an archivist was not Haines' present mandate, and she seconded Van Camp's suggestion that the CIA add an archivist to its staff. Kimball agreed that this was a good idea.
Retrospective Foreign Relations Volumes on Intelligence and Foreign Policy in the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations
Zelikow then brought up the matter of retrospective volumes. He wanted to give the CIA a "heads up" that retrospectives will become an increasingly bigger issue as time goes on.
Kimball asked Patterson to comment on the progress of PA/HO's plan to produce retrospective volumes. Patterson said he did not have a lot to report at this stage, but noted that he, Haines, Mike Warner, and HO historians Sidney Ploss and Doug Keene have talked over a plan to do a retrospective volume on the role of intelligence in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy in the 1950s. Paterson acknowledged the CIA's willingness to cooperate in this endeavor. Kimball interjected that he was not as much interested in the volume on the administration of intelligence as he was in specific country cases such as Iran and Guatemala. Patterson noted that HO historian Susan Holly was working on Guatemala. He was not sure yet whether Guatemala would turn out to be a volume in its own right or be combined with other covert actions. In any case, PA/HO was hoping to hire a historian on contract to compile the documentation on covert activities in the 1950s and 1960s.
Kimball mentioned, by way of background, that the lack of any reference to covert action in the Foreign Relations volumes covering U.S. policy toward Guatemala and Iran in the 1950s had caused considerable controversy and embarrassment. The end of the Cold War had made it easier to revisit the whole issue. Slany commented that the retrospective project was both difficult and slow moving. The Iran volume was a question mark. He did not have a contract person yet for Indonesia. He could not in good conscience reassign PA/HO staff to work on the retrospective volumes. Since most of the documentation needed for the retrospective volumes was located at CIA, we should be working with CIA on this.
Kimball commented that the cooperation on the volume dealing with the administration of intelligence in the 1950s, as discussed by Patterson earlier, could perhaps set a favorable precedent for cooperation on other retrospective volumes. Haines reminded the Committee that covert action is still a sensitive issue for the CIA. CIA's own advisory committee was struggling with the issue and had not settled it. Zelikow asked Haines if there was a commitment to releasing documents on the covert actions that had already been acknowledged by the Director of Central Intelligence. Noting that CIA's committee had its own list of suggested priorities, Snyder reiterated that CIA was committed to cooperation with the Foreign Relations series. Both Snyder and Haines averred that the real problem was not a reluctance to cooperate but rather a matter of priorities and resources. Kimball said that a joint publication on retrospective issues not covered earlier made sense. Maybe it was an idea whose time had come. Tucker commented that this would be a good course of action for CIA given the criticism of its recent documentary series.
The Foreign Relations Series and the CIA Reorganization
When the meeting reconvened after a short break, Edward Cohen, Director of CIA's Office of Information Management (OIM), provided an overview of OIM's operations and how they related to the Foreign Relations series and other declassification efforts. Cohen stated that these efforts included responding to FOIA requests, conducting systematic declassification, reviewing 25-year old and older documents, and meeting specific declassification statutes such as those governing the release of Kennedy and Foreign Relations-related materials. In addition, he pointed out that litigation of specific cases has also brought about the declassification of certain documents, such as those relating to the Persian Gulf War, POW-MIA, and Guatemalan-Honduran human rights abuses. Cohen also cited declassification work for the Center for the Study of Intelligence's publication of selections of NIEs, SNIEs, documents related to the Venona and imaging programs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and declassification of OSS records as yet more examples of its efforts.
This program presented conflicting avenues for review and release and created confusion and inefficiency. So, in response, the CIA's Inspector General offered two recommendations that might improve the OIM's performance: 1) consolidate the release of records under one manager, 2) control resources to minimize costs.
Cohen stated that CIA will use the life-cycle approach to records management, that is to create, classify, use, store, declassify, and release documents. This naturally impacts upon declassification efforts. CIA will be moving to an automated system, and is currently examining the FTE requirements for automated document control throughout the records' life cycle. CIA will develop a coherent program and a good plan.
Cohen stated that in performing the annual review of declassification requirements and resources, it is clear that CIA needs more consistent policies. It must test practices in light of the need for openness and the requirement to protect intelligence sources and methods. Cohen observed that he was often caught between the public who wanted full disclosure and those in the CIA who want to release less information. He had a dual commitment to openness and protection of sources and methods which always made him "the skunk at the garden party" no matter which group he was with. Within the Agency, however, Cohen stated that he asked the same embarrassing questions that outsiders did.
Cohen suggested that OIM needed to get rid of policies that serve no purpose, or are simply "stupid." Too many procedures become accepted without examining their value. At the same time, OIM relies upon experts who decide what can be released. They know what is still sensitive and their decisions often surprise even Cohen. However, Cohen stated that he wanted to hear from others when the decisions of in-house experts do not make sense. He could then take the problem to a senior level.
Cohen observed that Brian Latell was devoted to openness, and his leaving the Center for the Study of Intelligence will be a loss. However, Cohen had inherited some of Latell's people and he also had good people in his organization.
Cohen next described how OIM's Information Review Group is organized, and observed that he was describing a "work in progress." (Cohen provided a chart of the re-organized OIM.)
- The Automated Declassification Division, the "Factory," has 40 million pages of CIA documents and 25 million from other agencies to examine under the 25-year rule. OIM is looking for low sensitivity collections that can be quickly and almost completely released. There are problems. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service files appeared to be a simple project, but the Senate Committee on Intelligence told OIM to review every page of the documents. Other collections require a very detailed review. OIM's goal is "light" redaction, then release to the public. This approach is very expensive.
- The Public Information Release Division handled over 6,000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests last year.
- The Publications Review Division is charged with examining manuscripts by current or former CIA employees.
- The Historical Review Program is the focal point for Foreign Relations assistance. It also does lead declassification efforts on thematic topics.
- Litigation and Special Search Division is charged with providing information to senior management in the CIA.
- The Document Conversion Center provides services for the declassification "Factory."
- The Data and Systems Management Division manages workflow for these efforts, as well as coordinates OIM's web site and Internet activities.
Cohen continued that OIM's three priorities are 1) Kennedy assassination, 2) Guatemala/Honduras/human rights, and 3) Foreign Relations. A senior officer has been assigned as the Foreign Relations coordinator. The interagency High-Level Panel on covert actions is another key activity. Finally, OIM needs to adopt "business practices" in order to become more efficient. OIM wants to make the entire system better, and ensure that Foreign Relations is complete.
Kimball asked if there existed a clear separation between the research and declassification sides. Cohen responded that there was, but they will work closely together. Bob Leggett has a great deal of experience and will remain the liaison between the two sides.
Van Camp asked Cohen to comment on the status of electronic records management efforts. Cohen responded that he viewed the issue "with deep concern." OIM has pieced different systems together and is testing a new system, called PERM (Pro-Active Records Management). It will tag records early in the life cycle in order to assist later declassification efforts.
James Martino asked about the system for handling mandatory referrals from State. Cohen replied that he was not happy with the current system. OIM often ends up waiting for other agencies to complete their work. Further there is "just overload." Another key problem is the FOIA itself because it has vastly increased the number of requests OIM receives. Although openness is a good idea, neither the public nor Congress realizes FOIA's implications. Within each category of FOIA request, OIM attempts to follow a first-in, first-out principle. It rarely meets the 20-day deadline. FOIA court cases consume large amounts of time. And when his office becomes preoccupied with litigation, other requests suffer. It's a difficult job, they're doing the best they can.
Kimball asked if CIA acronyms such as CAS are a big problem in the mandatory review documents. He noted that State's declassification efforts are affected by this problem. Martino asked if there were a lot of State equities with which the CIA must deal. Cohen replied yes, and that the Agency would like to have State inform them of how better to recognize State equities so that his staff could be more efficient.
Kimball asked Cohen if they had seen the new State guidelines for the Presidential Libraries. David Humphrey explained that the State guidelines are still under discussion. Kimball thought that the agencies could derive benefit from them.
Van Camp stated that the Committee was concerned that, because the CIA is declassifying documents so slowly under the Executive Order, State will get hit with a large number of State equity documents at the end of the compliance period. Cohen noted that the CIA would not be alone in this respect. Van Camp repeated that the Committee was concerned that the CIA was not doing enough to address this potential problem. Cohen said that the CIA's program was up and going and that they had done a million pages this year. It was impossible to go from standing still to 60 mph within just one year, but 8 million pages-a-year was the target.
Slany referred to the 11 covert actions acknowledged by various DCIs and asked whether documents concerning these covert actions had any special status or priority. Cohen listed OIM's priorities: first, litigation; second, Foreign Relations and Kennedy assassination; and third, the High-Level Panel (because if the CIA lost, it had to engage the President). Cohen stated that all jobs are considered in terms of their priorities and risks. Concerning the 11 acknowledged covert actions, he said that unless the current DCI said to do them first, documents concerning them go into the regular rank order and in-box order, and that there would usually be more important things to do. Cohen suggested that he was being very honest. Kimball stated that the 11 covert cases required a commitment by CIA to review them.
Kimball also noted that Cohen's statement brought up the issue of the Committee's minutes from the previous session. Sections in the closed session that were not classified were being objected to by CIA. Kimball saw no reason for them to be denied to the public. Cohen said that he would speak one way in open session and another in closed session. If the Committee wanted a completely open meeting, then total candor is a problem. In closed session if you ask classified questions, they'll be answered; if you ask impolitic questions, they'll be answered too. But that doesn't mean that the CIA wants to see it all in the minutes. Otherwise they would have to worry about being politically and bureaucratically correct.
Patterson raised the issue of retrospective Foreign Relations volumes and their prospects. Cohen replied that once any of the 11 covert actions were included in Foreign Relations, they became priority items. If CIA is asked to do something for the series, they have to do it. But as far as the 11 covert actions are concerned, as a loyal soldier he'll do what the DCI requests them to do. But otherwise all special requests should be in terms of the Foreign Relations series. They are not going to start something new voluntarily just because previous DCIs mentioned these 11 actions.
Patterson asked about CIA's systematic review and the retirement of CIA records to NARA. Cohen replied that retirement had nothing to do with declassification and noted that the CIA could give classified records to NARA if they so chose. Retirement depends on many factors, he said, including their continuing use. They could be released electronically on the Internet. He added that the law said that they had to have a systematic program, but that it doesn't say how they are to be released. Kimball said that NARA wants the documents in context, not sent over in yellow envelopes.
Cohen stated that CIA has been willing to offer NARA the results of the collections it reviewed during special searches in addition to other collections already scheduled for transfer. For example, the articles from the journal Studies in Intelligence were transferred, although this collection was not part of the prior arrangement with NARA.
Patterson wondered about the relation of this practice to the Executive Order. Cohen agreed, noting that he did not judge the practice as in accordance with the Executive Order; CIA simply was just doing it. Kimball interjected that he held an alternate analysis of the lead up to the establishment of the Executive Order which did not fully jibe with Cohen's views.
At this point, Kimball indicated that the agenda was finished and that the Advisory Committee would retire to meet with Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Foley. He added that the next morning's meeting would focus on subcommittee reports. Before the meeting formally adjourned, Van Camp expressed a last-minute concern about the draft minutes from the last meeting. Kimball replied that any issues would be addressed as they had been in the past. Tucker noted as the meeting finally ended that she would only need two minutes to discuss her report, which she wanted to wait and do the next day. Kimball's last word was to declare his intentions to complete the annual report during executive session the next day.
Closed Session, March 6
Report of the Subcommittee on CIA Equities in State Records
After calling the meeting to order at 9 a.m., Kimball said that the session would begin with the report of the subcommittee on CIA equities in State Department records since the CIA representatives were there, adding that this should not take much time. Michael Hogan suggested that Kimball give the report. Kimball commented that the subcommittee was concerned that the State Department request for exemption was subject to misinterpretation, and suggested that the Committee look at the letter to Steve Garfinkel in their packets. This stated that the Department was committed to reviewing all documents under the exemption by 50 years. Kimball pointed out that "or they would be automatically declassified" should be added. The letter also referred to "previously reviewed documents." The inference was that these had been reviewed under previous Executive Orders. The Committee wanted to be sure this was explicit. He pointed out that the pie charts showed that the number of records being exempted was limited. Kimball noted that Rossman had assured the Committee that the Department was committed to reviewing these records as soon as possible after they had reviewed the records falling under the 25-year requirement. The subcommittee thought it should be made clear that the State Department exemption request applied only to material reviewed under previous Executive Orders.
Van Camp asked about the INR file exemption, to which Kimball replied that Rossman had said he would have a preliminary inventory by October 1998. He noted that there were so many other agency equities that it would be counter-productive to review these. Van Camp agreed that this seemed a responsible approach, but she wanted to make sure these records would not be ignored. Kimball quoted Rossman as saying that instead of taking these records out of the pile, they would put them at the bottom of the pile.
Rossman said their preliminary sample of 1.5 percent of the 1950-1954 record bloc has turned up more releasable material than they had anticipated, and it is "good stuff." Therefore they plan to review that bloc of records as soon as possible.
Harry Cooper of CIA said that an estimated 385,000 of the 1.2 million pages of older records have CIA equities and that CIA was prepared to review them as soon as the Department of State people tabbed them. Kimball commented that the Committee would be very interested in how much comes out at the other end. Cooper responded that they had been told they had to release a million pages by the end of the year. He noted that CIA had to work out how to make the material available to the public. Documents with CIA equities in other agency files at NARA would be available at NARA, but they have to decide how to release the material in CIA records.
Tucker asked where the CIA material would be available. Cooper replied that the easiest way would be make the released material in the scanned records available electronically, but that NARA did not have a standard for accessioning this material. He said that CIA could give NARA a tape or a disc. Kimball pointed out that State's post-1973 records were electronic and asked whether these could be used to establish procedures. Nancy Smith said that there were other issues here. NARA wants the documents. She said CIA had not discussed this with NARA. Kimball said that they needed to talk. He pointed out that they were two years from the drop-dead date and that CIA was way behind the curve. Cooper said that another alternative would be to put this material on a database on CIA's Web site.
Van Camp commented that there was a real problem here. All government records are supposed to be transferred to NARA. She pointed out that electronic records would be out of context and an electronic database would be much less useful. Cooper said that the documents would have box and folder numbers and would replicate the original files. He said they would be just like paper files with withdrawal sheets. Van Camp said this would not be a substitute for the actual documents. Cooper said it might be. Tucker noted that not everyone has access to the Web and that there are advantages to paper records. Nancy Smith added that some paper records have Presidential or other comments which are valuable to researchers. She said NARA had had some discussions with CIA concerning transfer of records.
Herschler asked if CIA review of CIA equities in State documents would result in a paper document in the paper file. Cooper said yes.
Referring to the subcommittee meeting, Van Camp reiterated her understanding that CIA would review the CIA equities in DOS files except any files covered by file series exemptions. Cooper agreed.
Report of the Subcommittee on State Department Declassification Guidelines
Humphrey presented the report on the subcommittee meeting on the State Department declassification guidelines. Davis noted that Humphrey had taken notes at the meeting because the subcommittee members were examining the guidelines, which they had not seen until 5 minutes before the meeting. The subcommittee was chaired by Davis and attended by Schaller and Schulzinger, Peter Sheils, Morris Draper, Jeanne Schauble, Sharon Fawcett, and Nancy Smith. Nina Noring and the IG representatives were also there.
The guidelines are brief-8 pages-and unclassified. Unlike earlier guidelines, they do not provide background on individual countries or detailed discussion of specific areas of sensitivity. Draper characterized them as an effort to give archivists greater authority and called them a display of confidence in National Archives and Presidential Library reviewers. Humphrey thought the general reaction at the meeting was positive, although there was recognition that the guidelines are a work in progress, to be modified and supplemented. He noted that at Schulzinger's request, Draper highlighted some ways in which the guidelines differed from previous guidelines: they are more liberal in their treatment of foreign government information, giving greater discretion to NARA reviewers to release substantive information, and they put a new emphasis on telephone consultation and advice, encouraging a dialog between State and the libraries. Schulzinger requested clarification on a subject that troubled him, based on his visit to the Eisenhower Library: the guidance for NATO-related material.
Schauble commented that the guidelines are helpful at NARA here in Washington, where the level of sensitivity of the documents was less than that at the libraries, but she thought more elaborate guidance would be needed for policy-level documents or intelligence materials. Also, in cases where oral consultation between an archivist and State involved a substantive decision, she felt it should result in written guidance that would be disseminated-a position shared by her NARA colleagues at the meeting.
Fawcett stressed the importance of training for those archivists at the libraries conducting systematic review without much experience in that responsibility. She thought that although the guidelines would allow a major reduction of chaff at the libraries, there was an important question as to whether the material with State equities not declassified through the guidelines would be handled by on-site review by State or through the RAC Project. She needed to know this before a scanning team arrived at a Library. She didn't want to be in the position of withholding State material from the RAC in anticipation of a visit that did not occur, and then having the library photocopy all the material and send it to Washington. Peter Sheils commented that State looked forward to doing on-site inspections, insofar as budget permitted.
In conclusion, Humphrey noted that there had been some discussion of the relationship of these guidelines to the older much more voluminous guidelines for archivists dealing with pre-1963 material.
After Humphrey concluded his report, Davis added that Schauble had raised the question of head of state correspondence and the reply was that it was up to the judgment of the reviewer.
Schulzinger reiterated his concern that the NATO guidelines needed to be fleshed out. He noted that a large percentage of the still classified material at the Eisenhower Library was NATO-related.
Kimball supported Schauble's point about the need for paper records to back up oral agreements-within reason. Nancy Smith said that NARA thought oral guidance should be backed by written guidance, and that the State Department had been cooperative on this. She noted that the guidelines were not for individual documents, but rather for clarification of general principles.
Kimball pointed out the importance of the acronym problem, which CIA needed to resolve. Finally, he said that he was not happy with the guidelines on Foreign Government Information. He felt the phrase "expectation of confidentiality" was a loophole you could drive a truck through. Noting that he found memoranda of conversation among the most valuable documents in the Foreign Relations volumes, Kimball pointed out that there may have been an expectation of confidentiality at the time of the conversation but not that it would extend more than 30 years. Hogan said he thought this should apply only if there was an explicit statement of expectation of confidentiality. Draper pointed out that the guideline called for referral to the Department and did not mean that the document would necessarily be withheld. Kimball said that the Committee would like to see any guidelines supplied to the Department by the United Kingdom and any other governments on this. Tucker asked about governments that no longer exist. Draper said they generally released everything in such cases but had to be careful in some cases. Kimball asked about Yeltsin's claim that Russia was the successor government to the Soviet Union. Draper replied that he would check.
Rossman reported that the State Department had clarified matters concerning the RAC project with the Kennedy Library. Kimball noted Suzanne Fawcett's concern that review of records by Presidential Library archivists would conflict with the RAC project. Rossman said that the Kennedy Library was handling State's documents. Nancy Smith said yes, but pointed out that there were serious resource problems with the other Presidential Libraries. NARA hoped that State would do on-site review for documents not covered by State's guidance. She noted that there was a problem at the Eisenhower Library because there is so much NATO material not covered by the guidelines.
Rossman said the RAC at the Eisenhower Library was scheduled for June. Draper pointed out that the NATO review team might make it easier to deal with this. Schulzinger asked whether the NATO guidelines were imminent. Draper responded that they were working on this. It may not be a matter of weeks but it should be "fairly early." Kimball pointed out that June was only three months away and asked whether this had been planned. Rossman said the files could be scanned if necessary. Nancy Smith said NARA liked on-site review but was willing to be flexible.
Kimball asked whether the RAC project impeded public access to the records. Cooper said that CIA would return the released material to the Presidential Libraries as soon as it was returned to them from the other agencies. Kimball said he was concerned about disruption of the files by the scanning process. Nancy Smith pointed out that only still classified files were being scanned, and there is little impact on the open files. Kimball asked Rossman to let the Committee know informally how this process was going between now and the next meeting.
Report on NARA Meeting on Declassification Priorities
After a short break, Kimball asked Tucker to report on the meeting on February 27 at NARA on declassification priorities that she had attended. Tucker reported that the group had been somewhat reluctant to recommend priorities but had agreed that the highest priority should be the Department of State lot files, AID, and AEC files; that medium priority should be ACDA files; and a lower priority should be assigned to Foreign Service post files, INS files, and NASA records. They had been assured that NSC and Council on Foreign Economic Policy records would be reviewed soon. They were told that FBI is reviewing its records but the released material probably won't include much of interest. Treasury is still working on guidelines.
Hogan asked why NASA had been given such a low priority. Tucker responded that the records in question did not sound especially interesting, at least not to those present. This was one reason the group had struggled with the issue of making recommendations on priorities. Some in the group had called for greater priority for social/cultural records, and for that reason thought INS and FBI records should have higher priority. However a problem with INS records is that so much would be withheld on privacy grounds. FBI records include civil rights records, and there is interest in the connection between civil rights and foreign policy. They gave AID records a higher priority than they might have otherwise because of the social and cultural aspects of its work.
Bruce Duncombe stated that he has looked at high-level AID records and found most of it duplicates material in State Department files and NSC files. Kimball noted that HO historians have a lot of expertise in this area and suggested that Tucker try to tap it.
Hogan asked about Treasury. Tucker mentioned that Treasury doesn't transfer records. There was general agreement that Treasury has a long way to go. Zelikow pointed out the increasing importance of Treasury in foreign policy. Nancy Smith said that NARA is pushing them to give NARA some guidelines.
Zelikow noted that the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) is a major player and asked if HO had tried to get any FRB documents. Duncombe said no but that he had had unlimited access to Treasury documents. There are two people at Treasury working on declassification. He had found many FRB documents in Treasury records and elsewhere.
Tucker welcomed suggestions from the other Committee members. Kimball suggested that she work with Patterson.
Research at the Nixon Project
Kimball turned to the subject of research on the Nixon volumes. Nancy Smith reported that the research on the Nixon papers was going smoothly, and that there are no major issues at this point. She noted that Karl Weissenbach and Mark Fischer were present.
Kimball asked about reports that the Nixon papers will be moved to California. Smith said there will be no such move in the foreseeable future. There has been discussion of this as a possible way to settle the compensation issue, but if there was an agreement, it would be years before a transfer. NARA would never agree to any restrictions on access. Furthermore, the Nixon Library would need to do additional construction to house all this material.
Tucker asked about the tapes. Smith replied that the question here is whether NARA is obligated to cut out the personal material on the tapes and return it to the Nixon estate. Public Citizen is supporting the Nixon estate on this. The District Court ruled that NARA had to remove all personal material from the original tapes and from all copies of the tapes. The Court of Appeals has not yet ruled. NARA has not decided what it will do if the Court of Appeals rules against it. The Supreme Court is unwilling to take cases in which the District Court and Court of Appeals are in agreement unless they deal with issues of fundamental law. Schaller asked whether the issue of what is personal and returnable has been resolved. The answer to this was complicated, but was essentially no. Smith concluded by announcing that 170,000 Nixon papers will be opened on March 18, including some foreign policy material.
Schaller said he had listened to some Nixon Cabinet tapes recently and almost all the national security material had been removed. Weissenbach said they will be reviewing for declassification, but that they have a staffing problem. Reviewing tapes is very time-consuming. The first problem is to understand what was said. NARA tape reviewers need to go through a special training process. The tapes will pose special problems for HO historians. Zelikow said what broke the logjam for the Kennedy Library was sending DATs around to various agencies. Smith questioned whether the Nixon estate would permit NARA to send copies of the tapes around. Patterson noted that, ideally, we'd like to have copies of the tapes.
Kimball asked whether any historians are having problems with their research in the Nixon papers that warrant the Committee's attention, and the reply was negative. Fischer said the Nixon Project has sent over 72,000 pages of copy to HO.
Zelikow mentioned that some new Kennedy tapes have recently been discovered, dictabelts that had been in the possession of Kennedy's long-time secretary, Evelyn Lincoln. When she died a few years ago, it was found that she had these tapes, which she willed to a private individual, who is planning to auction them. Smith interjected to say that NARA is very aware of this, and is working on it.
Luke Smith commented on the richness of the Nixon records. Nancy Smith supported this, noting that these are historically valuable records. Nixon the President comes through more than in many Presidential Library collections.
Off-the-record staff comments followed. The Committee adjourned at 10:15 a.m. and went into executive session.
- Warren F. Kimball, Chairman
- B. Vincent Davis
- Michael Hogan
- Michael R. Schaller
- Robert D. Schulzinger
- Nancy Bernkopf Tucker
- Anne Van Camp
- Philip Zelikow
- William Z. Slany, Executive Secretary
Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Historian
- William Z. Slany, Director
- Rita Baker
- Paul Claussen
- Evan Duncan
- Bruce Duncombe
- Vicki Futscher
- David Geyer
- David Goldman
- David Herschler
- Susan Holly
- Nina Howland
- David Humphrey
- Donna Hung
- Steve Kane
- Edward Keefer
- Doug Keene
- Dan Lawler
- Gabrielle Mallon
- James McElveen
- James Miller
- David Patterson
- Steven Phillips
- Sydney Ploss
- Harriet Schwar
- Kent Sieg
- Luke Smith
- Nick Stigliani
- Shirley Taylor
- Gloria Walker
- Susan Weetman
- Carolyn Yee
Bureau of Administration
- Ken Rossman, A/IM/IPS/PP
- Morris Draper, A/IM/IPS/CR/IR
- Dave Mabon, A/IM/IPS/CR/IR
- Nina Noring, A/IM/IPS/CR/IR
- Peter Sheils, A/IM/IPS/CR
- Sophia Sluzar, A/IM/IPS/CR/IR
Office of the Inspector General
- James Martino
- Tom Boots
- Anne Hogan
National Archives and Records Administration
- Michael Kurtz, Assistant Archivist for Records Service
- Mark Conrad, Center for Electronic Records
- Sharon Fawcett, Office of Presidential Libraries
- Margaret Kukis, Military Appraisal Staff
- David Langbart, Military Appraisal Staff
- Marty McGann, Textual Reference Branch
- Don McIlwaine, Declassification and Initial Processing Division
- Marvin Russell, Declassification and Initial Processing Division
- Jean Schauble, Director, Records Declassification Division
- Nancy K. Smith, Office of the General Counsel
- Karl Weissenbach, Acting Director
- Mark Fischer, Senior Archivist
Central Intelligence Agency
- Britt Snyder, Special Counsel
- Ed Cohen, Director, Office of Information Management
- Harry Cooper, Records Declassification Program
- Gerald Haines, Chief Historian
- Robert Leggett, Foreign Relations Coordinator
- Rich Warshaw, Chief, Records Declassification Program
U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- Gill Bennett, Chief Historian