March 2004

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation March 8-9, 2004


Committee Members

  • Wm. Roger Louis, Chairman
  • Diane Shaver Clemens
  • Margaret Hedstrom
  • Robert McMahon
  • Edward Rhodes
  • Geoffrey Watson

Office of the Historian

  • Marc Susser, Historian
  • Kristin Ahlberg
  • Monica Belmonte
  • Todd Bennett
  • Myra Burton
  • John Carland
  • Paul Claussen
  • Bradley Coleman
  • Evan Duncan
  • Vicki Futscher
  • Steve Galpern
  • David Geyer
  • Renee Goings
  • David Goldman
  • David Herschler
  • Susan Holly
  • Adam Howard
  • Edward Keefer
  • Doug Kraft
  • Robert Krikorian
  • Erin Mahan
  • Bill McAllister
  • David Nickles
  • Linda Qaimmaqami
  • Kathleen Rasmussen
  • Florence Segura
  • Doug Selvage
  • Jim Siekmeier
  • Luke Smith
  • Chris Tudda
  • James Van Hook
  • Laurie West Van Hook
  • Gloria Walker
  • Dean Weatherhead
  • Susan Weetman

Bureau of Administration

  • Brian Dowling, A/RPS/IPS
  • Frank Golino, A/RPS/IPS
  • Harmon Kirby, A/RPS/IPS
  • David Mabon, A/RPS/IPS
  • Margaret Peppe, A/RPS/IPS

National Archives and Records Administration

  • David Langbart, Life Cycle Management Division
  • Howard Lowell, Director, Modern Records Programs
  • Marty McGann, Special Access and FOIA Staff
  • Don McIlwain, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
  • Marvin Russell, Special Access and FOIA Staff
  • Jeanne Schauble, Director, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
  • Nancy Smith, Office of Presidential Libraries

Central Intelligence Agency

  • Rita Baker
  • John Collinge
  • Marilyn Dorn
  • Sue Kiely

Department of Energy

  • Ken Stein

Air Force

  • Adam Hornbuckle
  • Linda Smith


  • Bruce Craig, National Coalition for History


Approval of the Record of the December 2003 Meeting

Chairman Roger Louis called the meeting to order at 1:35 p.m. The committee approved the record of the December 2003 meeting.

Report by the Executive Secretary

Executive Secretary Marc Susser reported on the following:

  • The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) volume on the 1967 Arab-Israeli War was released in conjunction with the office’s Middle East conference on January 12 and 13. C-SPAN and other major media covered the event.
  • The joint volume with the Russian Foreign Ministry on the detente years is planned for release in late 2005.
  • The office recently completed a paper on the resumption of relations and reopening of embassies in post-conflict situations.
  • The series of educational videos and curricula is going well.
  • The office hopes to hire more contract historians.
  • Several historians plan to visit the Carter Library in April.
  • A small delegation from the office will be attending the Organization of American Historians annual meeting in Boston. In addition, Susser would address a regional social studies teachers’ conference in New Haven, Connecticut.

Status Reports by the General Editor and Deputy Historian

General Editor Edward Keefer presented a summary of the current status of FRUS. He commented that the recently published Arab-Israeli War volume marked the start of an accelerated publication schedule. HO hopes to eventually publish 12 volumes per year. Keefer commented that this production schedule was not unprecedented as HO had published 12 volumes and a microfiche supplement in 1986; 9 volumes and a microfiche supplement in 1992; and 11 volumes in 1997. Four of the remaining six LBJ volumes are scheduled for publication this year, with the last two still under declassification review. In the Nixon-Ford subseries, three volumes have been published, four have been fully cleared, and three have entered the final clearance stage. Historians are conducting research for 22 volumes; 12 volumes have yet to be started. All the remaining LBJ volumes, half of the Nixon-Ford volumes, and five retrospective volumes should be published by 2006. This production schedule requires the close cooperation of the division chiefs, the declassification coordinators, and the technical editors.

Deputy Historian David Herschler said that the Department of State and the Bureau of Public Affairs had received less funding than projected in the new FY 2004 budget, but that the bureau leadership demonstrated their continuing support for HO by ensuring that there would be sufficient resources for the office. As a result, the office would be able to keep the present contract historians and possibly fill four additional positions before the end of the fiscal year. The office’s search committee had interviewed several candidates at the American Historical Association meeting and planned to conduct additional interviews. Over the next 3 years, HO expected to maintain its present strength, but would still be two positions short of becoming fully-staffed. HO hopes to make contract historian positions permanent.

Herschler also described the office’s efforts in providing support to the Department leadership, which was pleased with HO’s paper on the resumption of relations and the reopening of embassies. This project proceeded simultaneously with the final arrangements for the Middle East conference. Organizing two conferences and one reception in 7 months, Herschler noted, demonstrated the dedication, skill, and versatility of the HO staff.

Louis opened the floor to questions, and Brenda Gayle Plummer asked about limits on (Full Time Employment) FTE positions. Herschler explained that there was, in principle, no upper limit to FTE positions for the office, but that the office’s specific FTE allocation is determined by the PA Bureau. Rhodes asked about the distribution of the educational videos, and Susser responded that PA planned to distribute more than 10,000 copies. Margaret Hedstrom asked about the difference between “internet” FRUS volumes and print volumes. Keefer said that there was no distinction in prestige between the two. A quarter of the planned volumes for the Carter administration will be electronic volumes (e-volumes). All print volumes, however, will also be accessible on the HO website. E-volumes can be produced more quickly than print volumes and can contain more documentation. Keefer said that HO would publicize e-volumes in journals and on the Department website. The committee could also disseminate this information.

In reference to the Guatemala and Middle East conferences, Louis asked if the conference committees had identified areas for improvement. Herschler commented that the committee members had engaged in an extensive review process following the conferences; he felt comfortable with the way in which the process was managed.

Declassification and Opening of Department of State Records

Louis called on Brian Dowling to report on Department of State declassification issues. Dowling distributed a chart outlining the continuing workload projections from FY06 through FY16. While he believed that IPS would meet its declassification goals for paper records over the next few years, he said that IPS reviewers would have difficulty doing the same for electronic records. According to the calculations on the handout, he estimated that IPS would need to declassify approximately 12 million pages per year.

Dowling said that he is taking steps to expedite the declassification process for both paper and electronic text. One of these measures, he said, is the suspension of Kyl–Lott reviews at NARA, which will resume when either he or his successor feels comfortable with the progress of reviews for the 2006 deadline. He has requested new procedures to increase the number of hours that a WAE may work in a given year.

Dowling hoped to minimize the time needed to complete the WAE hiring process, which currently takes 1-2 years. The process has to change, he argued, so that when an FSO retires, his or her clearances will be transferred immediately. Dowling believed that the current ethics review, which slows the process, is unnecessary for those involved in declassification. Dowling stated that he had spoken to his management recently about the need for further hiring and was encouraged by the response. IPS needed to keep pace with HO’s expansion in order to keep up with the increased volume of declassification work. Plummer asked Dowling to whom he makes his reform suggestions. He replied that he submits them to the Director of IPS, who would forward them up the chain of command.

Louis asked Dowling to summarize his current priorities. Foremost, Dowling responded, was the need to meet the 2006 deadline for the paper and electronic records review process. Reviews of presidential library records and P-reels were also priorities. Dowling felt that the declassification program should move to a single location to allow for better management.

Robert Schulzinger queried Dowling on whether he currently had the resources to process 12 million pages per year over the next 3 years. Dowling believed that he could process the pages on time with the requested additional resources. He and his colleagues were in the midst of a learning process, but they were reasonably confident regarding the electronic review as well if the additional resources were available. In response to a question from Rhodes about incoming referrals, Dowling said that the idea of a central referral facility at NARA is being discussed; the details are in the advanced stages of deliberations.

Hedstrom asked Dowling why there was an assumption of a “steady state” of review when in fact the number of pages reviewed had dropped off from 12 million in 2006 to 7 million thereafter. Dowling replied that these numbers were averages based on previous years. Dowling said that once they were finished reviewing 1981 files in 2006, they would only have to review 1 year at a time thereafter. He reiterated that these numbers were just estimates and said that for the next 2 years IPS would be focusing its review on the State Department Central Files. He added that the review of all USIA documents had been completed.

Jeanne Schauble noted that 80 million pages of referrals were at NARA and needed to be reviewed by the end of 2009. This figure did not include documents in records centers or in agency hands. Schauble reported that NARA was making enhancements to its computer tracking system to chart all decisions made by reviewing agencies.

Frank Golino reported that IPS was making progress with the electronic declassification review. He said that pending final review, the 1973-74 records would soon be transferred to NARA. The review of 1975 records was nearing completion, and they would soon begin working on 1976 records. Golino added that innovations were being made in order to simplify the review process.

Margaret Peppe of IPS reported on the transfer of State electronic records to NARA. Peppe stated that in December 2003, IPS had given the State Department a preview of 1973-74 documents that had been reviewed for declassification; the preview had been completed by the end of January 2004. IPS had provided the same collection of documents to the Department of Energy (DOE). Peppe noted that DOE had nearly completed its review and had not withheld many documents. She said that review by other agencies is still pending. IPS must provide NARA with “clean” versions of the fully released documents.

Peppe said that IPS was planning to arrange a records transfer ceremony with the Secretary of State and the Archivist. Schulzinger asked if the 6-month waiting period between the transfer of records and their availability to researchers was still in effect. He noted that from the user’s perspective it would be better for the transfer of records to continue without regard for the timing of the ceremonial transfer. Peppe replied that it would be possible to separate the transfer and the ceremony, but there might still be a delay because other agencies have not completed their reviews of the fully releasable collection.

Schulzinger inquired about the status of the 25-year plan with regard to electronic records. Peppe responded that the systematic review process did not separate electronic from paper records-both types of records were reviewed together. She said that they were on course with the 25-year deadline, and that the review of electronic and paper records through 1981 should be completed by 2006.

Howard Lowell reported that NARA continues to upgrade tools for the archival databases. NARA has reference staffers working to make paper and electronic records a seamless reference experience in anticipation of accessioning the State Department cables. Lowell added that his staff in the Electronic and Special Media Records Services Division believes that there will be about a 6-month processing period after the cables arrive at NARA.

Hedstrom reported that she had just completed a usability study on access to databases. She said that she would be going out to NARA on Wednesday to brief the staff. She asked Dowling how many of the 12 million pages he mentioned earlier consisted of electronic files from 1973-74. Dowling replied that he was not sure about the percentage, but that many of those electronic files were unclassified. Hedstrom asked Dowling how many pages would be completed by 2006 for the 25-year deadline. Dowling replied that 10-12 million pages would be finished by then. Dowling added that 10 million pages had been reviewed so far, although many of these were unclassified. Rhodes asked if the review of electronic records and P-reel printouts would be finished by 2006. Dowling replied that they would be caught up, and that the State Department wants the review completed by 2006.

Robert McMahon asked whether the lack of additional resources would prevent IPS from reaching its 25-year goal by 2011. Dowling explained that it was more about a realignment of resources. McMahon remarked that Dowling was asking for significant administrative changes in order to meet his deadlines. He asked whether the committee could be helpful in this process. Dowling said that he felt optimistic due to the favorable reception he had received from upper management. He added that the hiring process for WAE’s was a priority. Dowling said that a decision should be reached by April 2004.

Bruce Craig asked Peppe which agencies other than DOE were reviewing State Department documents and inquired as to the legal basis for the other reviews. Peppe replied that the “fully releasable” records (on compact disc) that go to NARA must contain only fully released documents. As a result, they decided to have DOE review documents prior to transfer to ensure that sensitive documents would not be found later. Peppe explained that they were having other agencies do the same in order to expedite release. She reported that of two other agencies reviewing documents, one had completed its review and the other would be finished in 45 days.

Hedstrom asked about the State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset (SMART) system. Peppe responded that IPS recently had productive meetings with NARA on streamlining the records retention methodology for SMART. Peppe said that their in-house testing of SMART last week had gone well and added that the steering committee would meet to see if the project could move forward into the prototype phase.

The committee recessed at 2:45.


Status of Declassification under the Kyl–Lott Amendment and Other Related Issues

Louis reconvened the meeting at 3:05 p.m. and invited Nancy Smith of NARA to speak.

Smith amended the comments made earlier by Dowling. The cited number of documents yet to undergo declassification review had excluded records generated during and after the Reagan administration, when the number of classified records increased significantly. According to Smith, a greater percentage of the 8 million Reagan-era documents scheduled for declassification review were likely to be classified.

Concerning the Remote Archival Capture (RAC) declassification project, Smith noted that scanning was mostly complete, with some work still ongoing at the Nixon Project, the Ford Library, and the Carter Library. NARA had received some returns from the CIA regarding its equities in documents scanned under the RAC and expected to receive returns from other agencies during 2004.

With respect to the Kissinger telephone conversation transcripts, Smith reported that teams from NARA and the State Department were reviewing records generated from September 1973 to August 1974, when Kissinger served as both Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. The teams were attempting to establish common review policies and procedures. Representatives from the two sides held an initial meeting, with a second scheduled for March 10, 2004. Smith expressed optimism that the Kissinger telephone conversation transcripts would soon be open and available to researchers.

Douglas Selvage expressed concern that, because several FRUS compilers are waiting for the release of the transcripts to finish volumes, HO staff might monopolize the Kissinger material immediately after release. In order to accommodate other researchers, he asked if some agreement could be worked out whereby HO historians would have access to the Kissinger telephone transcripts shortly before they were released to the public. Smith said that she would check with Nixon Project Director Karl Weissenbach to determine whether such an arrangement could be made.

Herschler said that he had recently spoken with David Mengel of the Nixon Project who had expressed pessimism that the Kissinger transcripts would be open soon. NARA and State reviewers, after establishing common review policies and procedures, would then have to re-review transcripts generated from January 1969 to August 1973. Smith said that although there were some differences between the NARA and State review policies, it should be possible to keep re-reviews to a minimum.

Herschler asked Smith when the transcripts of Kissinger’s telephone conversations would be available. Smith replied that out of a total of nine Hollinger boxes, reviews of two boxes were complete. She again expressed optimism that the NARA and State reviewers would reach agreement and that the transcripts would soon be open to researchers.

Plummer asked Smith to clarify the differences between the review standards under FOIA and the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA). Smith answered that the FOIA included a privacy exemption, known as b6, governing the opening of federal records. PRMPA included a more “liberal” privacy standard in large part because of the legacy of Watergate.

Concerning the transfer of Nixon Presidential Materials to the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, Smith reported that NARA was at the beginning of the process. For example, no facility existed to house the materials in Yorba Linda. Consequently, she did not expect the transfer of the materials to retard the work of HO historians, given the production schedule for the FRUS series covering the Nixon years outlined earlier by Keefer.

Louis Smith asked Smith why HO historians could not use the Kissinger telephone transcripts held at the Nixon Project. He noted that, notwithstanding privacy regulations, HO staff previously had complete access to the same records at the Library of Congress. Smith responded that the stumbling block to accessing those records at NARA was finishing the review for personal, privacy, and classified information. It was her understanding that HO historians were not yet allowed to access the Kissinger telephone transcripts because of the ongoing review.

Herschler noted that the inability of HO historians to consult the Kissinger telephone transcripts had created a crisis because several FRUS volumes were complete except for access to the Kissinger transcripts. He proposed that, since entire FRUS manuscripts were already subject to review under PRMPA, historians should have immediate access to the Kissinger telephone transcripts at NARA.

Nancy Smith stated that she was unclear about the specific agreement governing access by HO historians for the Kissinger transcripts at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project. She promised to discuss with Weissenbach whether HO historians could use the Kissinger telephone transcripts under the scenario suggested by Herschler. Smith stated that, as had been the case with the Nixon Tapes, an agreement could probably be reached to allow HO historians access to the transcripts.

Adam Hornbuckle and Linda Smith then reported on the Air Force sampling of Record Groups (RG) 59 and 84. New procedures had expedited the process. Hornbuckle said that in the last 3 months, his office had been concentrating on the electronic records, which are of serious concern. Linda Smith added that her office is undertaking a page-by-page review of selected records. She stressed the need for all interested parties to meet to discuss certain declassification problems. It is important that reviewers from different government entities recognize equities from other departments or agencies.

Linda Smith then said that the Air Force had not been prepared to handle electronic records; she explained some of the technical issues connected to development of a program to identify Air Force equities in State Department electronic records. She said that lack of coordination between reviewers was a problem. Smith concluded by stating that the difficulties connected with training Air Force reviewers had been addressed. While computer tools are important, the individual reviewer is still the key to the declassification process.

Hornbuckle said that the Air Force plans to study withdrawn documents from this first exercise concerning electronic records to refine existing search procedures. Overall, the survey produced too many false-positive results. Linda Smith agreed, stressing again the need to share information between agencies to overcome common problems.

Ken Stein interjected that DOE needs just 2 more weeks to finish its review of the State Department electronic records sample. DOE has identified 42,000 State Department cables with possible DOE equities. Electronic files review has created a backlog of 100,000 pages of other print documents.

Schauble noted that the Archives staff was also stretched thin with this undertaking. She said that since other agencies will need to review the electronic records at NARA, the process would take time. More resources would have to be devoted to this task if the project is to be completed by December 31, 2009.

Schulzinger expressed concern over the lack of progress with the electronic records. He urged that the project be turned over to NARA. Schulzinger said he is now less confident that these records will be released on schedule than he was when the committee first addressed the issue 5 years ago. Hedstrom observed that all parties needed to review their procedures and find ways to make sure that the next batch proceeds more smoothly. She commented upon the growth in the volume and complexity of records and warned of the possibility that the review process would become more difficult.

Stein said that the DOE pilot program has been a good experience. He added that he was looking forward to moving ahead with the lessons learned in hand, and helping the State Department pre-screen records to diminish its workload. Stein said that electronic screening is the way forward and will be necessary from a cost standpoint. Linda Smith said that the review had been a very good learning experience.

Louis thanked the presenters for their reports.

The committee adjourned at 3:53 p.m.


Staff Historians Report on Volumes in Progress and Other Office Business

HO staff members Kathy Rasmussen, Todd Bennett, Erin Mahan, Douglas Selvage, and David Geyer reported to the committee on the progress of their volumes.

Several HO staff members who were on the Office’s Middle East Conference Committee reported on the January 2004 conference, “The United States, the Middle East, and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War,” sponsored by HO.

The committee recessed for lunch at noon.

The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series

The committee reconvened at 1:13p.m.

Louis welcomed the CIA to the meeting. He asked Herschler to present a report on the declassification status of FRUS volumes sent to the Agency for review. Herschler summarized the post-May 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) activity-specifically with regard to clearing volumes. He noted that the CIA and HO had made progress since the December meeting. The CIA had completed work on three volumes; in addition, three more were close to completion. The backlog was decreasing. Both HO and the CIA had streamlined and improved their process of reviewing volumes. Beginning in April, HO expected to refer to the CIA one new manuscript each month in the declassification process for the foreseeable future. This level of production was necessary to reach and maintain the 30-year rule. With an efficient application of resources, HO and the CIA could meet the time frames as set out in the MOU, and avoid new backlogs.

The CIA was pleased to report substantial progress in clearing volumes due to improvements in the reviewing process. Starting in April, a chief would head up a new FRUS reviewing team. The Agency expects to get caught up in the next 3 months with reviewing volumes. The test of whether the CIA can stick to the MOU time frames will be whether it can clear current volumes in the pipeline, which do not have significant CIA equity, on schedule. In the last 3 months, the CIA had completed its review of five volumes. The Agency was not sure it could keep up this pace due to the time it took to coordinate the flow of paper between the NSC, the CIA, and State. The Agency would like to work with State on shortening the amount of time required for the NSC review process.

The committee then discussed the Japan volume.

The CIA suggested that the chairman of the Historical Advisory Committee attend the next CIA Historical Review Panel meeting or vice versa.

James Van Hook, the joint historian, reported to the committee that his primary tasks were facilitating HO historians’ access to CIA files relevant to their particular volumes, and compiling his own volumes. A number of HO historians had conducted research in CIA files since December. Van Hook then noted that he had presented the research plan for his volume on Intelligence Operations, 1947-1960 to Keefer. Van Hook had completed his Iran “retrospective” volume compilation, which was currently under review by his division chief. Finally, he was about to depart for London to do research at the Public Record Office.

Louis asked Louis Smith how the Iran volume compared to other volumes in the FRUS series. Smith responded that it was “sui generis.” He noted that the volume would resolve the problems inherent in the previous Iran volume and should be read alongside the previous volume. Smith stated that the research on the volume was comprehensive; that documentary choices focused on the policy construct; and that the unnecessary operational details were taken out to maintain this high level focus. He noted that it is a superior compilation by a beginning compiler that, nevertheless, reflects the work of an accomplished scholar. Schulzinger suggested that when the Iran retrospective volume is published, the 1989 volume be put on the web, if possible, so that the two can be read together.

There was some discussion on whether the HRP might want to look at the manuscript. The CIA said that it would discuss this with the HRP chairman in June.

Louis said that he wanted it noted for the record that CIA had done an excellent job in pursuing resolutions to various issues and improving the climate between HO and the CIA.

The committee adjourned for staff comments and executive session.