Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, March 2-3, 2009
- Robert McMahon, Chairman
- Carol Anderson
- Margaret Hedstrom
- Trudy Peterson
- Katherine Sibley
- Thomas Zeiler
Office of the Historian
- Marc Susser, The Historian
- Kristin Ahlberg
- Carl Ashley
- Todd Bennett
- Myra Burton
- John Carland
- Evan Dawley
- Evan Duncan
- David Geyer
- Renée Goings
- Tiffany Hamelin
- David Herschler
- Paul Hibbeln
- Susan Holly
- Emily Horne
- Adam Howard
- Stephanie Hurter
- Peter Kraemer
- Doug Kraft
- Aaron Marrs
- Bill McAllister
- Michael McCoyer
- Kelly McFarland
- Chris Morrison
- Richard Moss
- Kathleen Rasmussen
- Nathaniel Smith
- Melissa Jane Taylor
- Chris Tudda
- Dean Weatherhead
- Susan Weetman
- Joe Wicentowski
- Alex Wieland
- Louise Woodroofe
- David Zierler
Bureau of Administration
- David Adamson
- Paul Hilburn
- Marvin Russell
- William Coombs
National Archives and Records Administration
- Michael Carlson, Special Media Archives Services Division
- David Langbart, Life Cycle Management Division
- Don McIlwain, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
- John Powers, Information Security Oversight Office
Central Intelligence Agency
- Peter N.
- Robin T.
- Warren Kimball
Open Session, March 2
Approval of the Record of the December 2008 Meeting
Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) Chair Robert McMahon called the meeting to order at 1:50 p.m. He indicated that the Committee had met with Under Secretary of State for Management (M) Patrick Kennedy during a working luncheon. McMahon then asked for approval of the December 2008 minutes. Katherine Sibley offered a motion, which Carol Anderson seconded. Following the approval of the minutes, McMahon asked Historian Marc Susser for his report.
Report by the Executive Secretary
Susser began his remarks by indicating that the Office had published two volumes since the December Committee meeting: Foreign Relations,1969–1976, Volume XXIX, Middle East Region and Arabian Peninsula, 1969–1972; Jordan, September 1970, and Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume E–14, Documents on the United Nations, 1973–1976. Susser anticipated that two additional volumes would be published by the next meeting. The Office planned to formally launch its improved and expanded website at the upcoming Organization of American Historians (OAH) meeting in Seattle, Susser noted. For the first time, the Office had secured an exhibit booth, and historians intended to not only showcase the website but also disseminate educational videos and Foreign Relations volumes. Susser then referred to the Foreign Relations Reagan subseries plan, commenting that the Office intended to finalize the number of volumes and coverage. He believed that a preliminary trip to the Reagan Presidential Library could occur sometime during the spring.
Turning to staffing, Susser reminded the Committee that he had introduced the Joint Historian—Thomas Pearcy—at the December meeting. Pearcy, he indicated, had “jumped into the job” with enthusiasm. He then welcomed the newest members of the Office: Kelly McFarland and Emily Horne. In addition, three historians had recently returned from Baghdad, where they assisted with a lessons-learned study, focusing on civil/military relations, requested by Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Susser anticipated that these historians would continue to collaborate with colleagues from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) as the project progressed.
Status Report by the Deputy Historian
Deputy Historian David Herschler then reported on the declassification status of Foreign Relations volumes. Since the December meeting, two volumes had completed verification, the final step in the declassification process. He indicated that at least two additional volumes might be verified by the June Committee meeting, depending upon the return of declassification reviews from agencies and the availability of Department of State and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reviewers to schedule verification sessions. Herschler stressed that declassification of some volumes tended to take longer due to the Department’s access to and inclusion of intelligence information and issues related to the High Level Panel (HLP). These and related issues, he noted, would be discussed in closed session. Herschler reiterated Susser’s comments regarding the Office’s website, adding that it had been launched ahead of schedule and under budget. The improved site, he asserted, would expedite both the publishing and dissemination of Foreign Relations volumes. Herschler drew attention to the fact that Office historians, including those in the Foreign Relations divisions, had been assisting the Policy Studies and Special Projects Divisions with producing content for the website, namely the revision of both the Secretary of State biographies and country recognitions. He praised the staff for their timely contributions. Historians in the Policy Studies and Special Projects Divisions, he continued, had successfully obtained funding from the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) for the preparation of two additional studies scheduled for completion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010.
Herschler then highlighted various forms of historical outreach undertaken by the staff since the December meeting. Historians had either participated in or chaired five sessions at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) in New York. In addition, Chris Tudda presented his original research at an international conference sponsored by Hong Kong University. Herschler expanded upon Susser’s remarks regarding Office participation at the upcoming OAH meeting. In addition to staff historians presenting papers, participating in roundtables, and staffing the booth in the exhibit hall, two historians would also attend meetings of key OAH committees upon which they serve. With respect to the Office’s exhibit, Herschler indicated that the staff historians looked forward to representing the Office in new and exciting ways and engaging with the historical profession.
Upon the completion of Herschler’s remarks, McMahon introduced Trudy Huskamp Peterson, the Society for American Archivists’ (SAA) new representative to the Committee. He highlighted Margaret Hedstrom’s 6 years of service on the Committee. Finally, McMahon noted that the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) had awarded the Arthur Link Prize for Documentary Editing to the co-compilers—David Geyer and Douglas Selvage—of the Office’s groundbreaking joint documentary volume on Soviet–American relations.
McMahon then asked for questions or comments from those present but there were none.
Plans for the Reagan Administration Subseries of FRUS
McMahon then turned to the issue of the Reagan subseries. Currently, the Office anticipated the compilation and production of 38 Reagan volumes. Questions remained concerning the balance between print and electronic-only volumes. He surmised that perhaps a user survey might assist the Office in determining which types of volumes benefitted the scholarly community. David Nickles then commented on the problems endemic to the research and publication of 8-year Foreign Relations volumes. Broad chronological coverage of this nature forced the historian to be even more selective of documentation for inclusion. Tudda noted that he agreed with this assessment. Thomas Zeiler returned the focus to McMahon’s question regarding the number of volumes proposed for the Reagan subseries. He called for greater analysis of the two plans (Team A and Team B, undertaken during the summer of 2007) and comparison of the 38 volume plan proposed by the Office against previous 6 or 8-year administrations. Perhaps the Office needed to place the Reagan plan against the volumes completed for the 8-year Kennedy–Johnson administration. From his perspective, it appeared that the Office was reducing its coverage. McMahon interjected that the Committee was scheduled to discuss this topic in closed session. Public interest in the series, however, made such a discussion relevant during this portion of the meeting.
John Carland offered his perspective that all of the plans were minimalist in nature. The Office and the Committee had to revisit the issue. He asked how the Office could provide adequate coverage with a 32, 38, or even 46 volume subseries, owing to the importance of the Reagan administration with regard to post-cold war historiography. Anderson inquired if producing more e-publications might allow the historians to be more fulsome in their selection. Carland responded that limits did exist as to the inclusion of documentation. Tudda commented upon McMahon’s earlier suggestion of a user survey, indicating that many overseas users of the Foreign Relations series have greater access to the electronic volumes. Bill Burr asked Susser if all of the plans could be made available to the public. Susser demurred, noting that the plans were still in the formative stage.
McMahon stressed that “now was the time” for the Committee to weigh in on the Reagan plan, considering the Office’s planned onset of research at the Reagan Presidential Library, scheduled for the summer of 2009. Discussion, he noted, had ensued during that morning’s subcommittee meetings regarding volume usage. Younger scholars, including his own graduate students, preferred the electronic-only Foreign Relations volumes, and he anticipated that this predilection would only increase over time. He added that no one was in favor of abolishing the print Foreign Relations volumes, but questions persisted as to the balance between print and electronic-only volumes. Thus public feedback proved invaluable. Burr affirmed the idea of a user survey and added that a Reagan subseries with 38 volumes seemed “skimpy.” Maximum coverage is desirable. McMahon then underscored that print and electronic-only volumes were not mutually exclusive. All print volumes (from the Kennedy administration onward) appeared in electronic form on the Office’s website. He pondered whether or not the cost savings attributed to electronic-only publication might constitute a reasonable trade-off.
Hedstrom asked if it was likely that the Office could, theoretically, produce 38 electronic-only Foreign Relations volumes by 2018 or 46 print volumes by 2030. In her opinion, the Office faced a time and resource problem. She highlighted several of the issues related to the production pace of the Nixon–Ford subseries, especially those aspects of production beyond the Office’s control. Geyer provided some historical background concerning the genesis of the electronic-only volumes, adding that he felt that the Office had moved too quickly to determine what should be documented in a print volume versus an electronic-only one. Bill McAllister, the compiler of several electronic-only volumes, redirected the discussion back to the usability issue. He stated that he had taken great pains in preparing his volumes, but that he was unsure as to how scholars and others actually read or used his compilations. Researchers might not peruse a given Foreign Relations volume cover-to-cover. He asserted that the Office needed to obtain information concerning user habits.
A general discussion concerning addenda to Foreign Relations volumes then ensued. McMahon stated his belief that the Office must provide an addendum to a particular volume if documentation could not be included at the time of publication because it had not completed declassification. Herschler responded that there is a difference between an addendum, which implies new documentation, and including documents that a compiler had originally selected but that could not be declassified in time for publication. He noted that the Declassification and Publishing Staff often inserts placeholders in print volumes during the initial typesetting phase and that it would certainly be possible to publish e-pubs and insert documents that at been delayed in the declassification process at a later time. Susan Weetman concurred, noting that the Office has published a couple of volumes in that manner and indicated that several volumes currently posted to the website have placeholders. McMahon commented that he had seen documents—in print volumes—that had been denied but that included the provenance. Warren Kimball interjected that by including placeholders or printing “title no text” (TNTs) the Office ran the risk of “taking pressure” off of the agencies, in terms of timely declassification. He raised the issue of inserting subsequently declassified documents into a previously-published volume, commenting that the Office could not silently insert such documentation. Geyer proposed that the Office eliminate the artificial distinctions between print and electronic-only volumes, suggesting that compilers consider all volumes print volumes and thus conduct research according to the standards codified for print. The Office might also initially release a volume on the website and later send the volume for typesetting after all declassification issues had been resolved.
Sibley returned to the issue of the Reagan subseries, inquiring as to why the decision had been made to produce fewer volumes for Reagan. She asked if those historians who worked on the respective plans could shed any light onto the decision-making process. Stephanie Hurter Williams, referencing the previous discussion concerning usability, noted that the Digital History team had sent out user surveys to SHAFR members and H-DIPLO readers to ascertain how the readership used Foreign Relations volumes. She indicated that she and Joseph Wicentowski would send a copy of the final usability report to McMahon for dissemination to the Committee and added that she and Wicentowski could devise an additional survey. McMahon responded that both the report and a follow-up survey would prove useful. He reiterated his earlier comments that a generational divide existed amongst the Foreign Relations readership. Hurter Williams added that foreign graduate students constituted the highest online readership.
Wicentowski underscored the flexibility offered by the revamped Office website, suggesting that the Office might list, for any given volume, documents slated for inclusion that had not yet been declassified. The decision, he noted, was an editorial rather than a technical one.
Burr, referencing Susser’s mention of several policy studies, inquired as to the status and content of these projects. Herschler and McAllister responded that it was not an appropriate topic for public discussion at that time, as these studies were classified in nature. McAllister added that he hoped that unclassified versions could be produced in the future.
Status of Declassification of Department of State Records
Marvin Russell of the Office of Information Programs and Services/Systematic Review Program reported that despite limited resources, review is proceeding apace. IPS/SRP’s budget has remained the same for the past few years. But since salaries go up each year as a result of cost of living increases, there are fewer reviewer-hours available while the number of pages to review increases with each year of records. He then reported that the State review of electronic records of all classifications through 1981 was nearly done. Review of classified and LOU cable records through 1983 has been completed on schedule, and the focus now is on reviewing the 1984 classified e-cables.
Review and vetting with the other agencies of the 1977 electronic cables is complete, and IPS hopes to transfer these to NARA shortly. For the 1978-79 e-cables, vetting has been completed with two agencies but DOE is still working on these records.
By the end of calendar year 2008, IPS/SRP completed 89% of their annual goal for review of paper records by reviewing over 3 million pages. They are still on target for reviewing the entire 1982-1985 block by the end of 2010 since they had exceeded their goal for paper review in 2007 by reviewing over 4 million pages.
Margaret Hedstrom asked a question about the application of disposition by TAGS to the electronic telegrams. Russell replied that it had not yet been possible to apply disposition by TAGS due to technical and legal issues which remain unresolved. David Adamson pointed out that disposition by TAGS would have by far the heaviest impact on the unclassified e-cables.
In response to further queries, David Adamson confirmed that IPS hoped to transfer to the National Archives (NARA) the 1977 e-cable files shortly but that application of disposition by TAGS would not be possible within the time frame envisaged because some legal issues remain open.
Closed Session, March 2
Issues Relating to the Declassification and Opening of Records at the National Archives
McMahon asked Don McIlwain to report on the declassification and opening of Department of State records at the National Archives.
McIlwain first noted that declassification officials were reviewing the so-called P-reels, i.e. printouts of non-telegrams from microfilm, for 1975 and 1976; pending final review from the Department of Energy, the former will be released to the public at the archives. He then reported on plans to establish an interagency referral center, or National Declassification Center. Working with other agencies and a government contractor, NARA is currently considering the requirements for the proposed center, including the size, security, and site of the eventual facility. McIlwain explained that, in addition to expediting the declassification process, the center was intended to get the various agencies to “play together in the same sandbox.” He added that, once these fundamental decisions have been made, NARA intends to ask outside groups for comment, including the Advisory Committee.
McMahon asked members of the HO staff to comment on their experience in working with the P-reels. Kristen Ahlberg reported that she had found the P-reels useful in research for her volume on human rights during the Carter administration, especially in filling gaps in the record and in locating documents with attachments. She added, however, that the machinery was difficult to operate and often malfunctioned or suffered from other technical problems.
McIlwain suggested that HO staff might want to wait until the 1977 P-reels have been transferred to NARA, especially since the documents will by then be converted from microfilm to paper format. He said that, as luck would have it, one average reel of microfilm amounts to about one FRC box of documents.
Marvin Russell explained that State had ready for transfer the so-called D-reels, microfilmed electronic records of telegrams, but had not done so for the P-reels. McIlwain commented that NARA would prefer to have both. Langbart interjected that it was NARA policy to accession all elements of a block of the central files at the same time. McIlwain further explained that the State central files consisted of several different components, including paper, microfilm, and electronic records. It was somewhat ironic, he added, that documents previously microfilmed now had to be printed out. Herschler observed that, since it was impossible to indicate declassification decisions on microfilm, that converting to paper was the only way to make the records available to the public. McIlwain pointed out that it would also be possible to review and declassify these records if the microfilm were converted to digital format.
Hedstrom noted that the disposition schedule called for the records to be transferred to the National Archives 25 years after their date of origin. She calculated that, since NARA is currently processing files from 1977 rather than 1984, the entire process of systematic declassification review is about 7 years behind schedule thus making it harder for the historians compiling the volumes to use. Langbart said that it was probably easier for the historians to use the records at State since they are all together, not separated by classification level. Herschler noted that the year the P-reels were microfilmed did not necessarily correspond to the year the original documents were created. McIlwaine concurred, adding that researchers need to consult an index to find a document.
McMahon asked whether every compiler would need to use the P-reels in conducting research for their volumes. David Nickles doubted this would be necessary, arguing that it would depend on the nature of the volume. Many high-level documents, for instance, are available instead in the retired lot files.
McIlwain noted that the P-reels were but one part of the State central files. Langbart added that the central files became automated beginning in July 1973. After providing some historical background on the automation of the files, he explained that, in addition to the D-reels and P-reels, these central files included documents from some retired lot files, which were screened for preservation. The records managers, Langbart said, would determine whether a document should be preserved. Copies of telegrams, for instance, might be destroyed, while those deemed of permanent value would be submitted for microfilming.
In response to a question from Hedstrom, Michael Carlson briefly reported on the systematic review of 1976 electronic cables. Hedstrom interjected that the 1977 electronic cables were still at State, i.e. had not yet been transferred to NARA. She asked Carlson how long it would take to process these records. Carlson replied that it would take perhaps 6 to 7 months to review the telegrams but that, in any event, the 1977 documents would probably not be available to researchers for another year. Since the process is 7 years behind schedule, Hedstrom wondered how to close the gap. Carlson said that this would require further discussion. Hedstrom observed that she raised this issue because important documents were in limbo.
Langbart commented that for HO historians, it is easier to get information when it is still at DOS because this is “one stop shopping.” Marvin Russell added that HO historians prefer working at SA-2 to going to the National Archives at College Park. McAllister agreed that it is easier to see materials when they are at SA-2. Tudda added that it is easier to see lot files and p-reels when they are at SA-2. Langbart remarked that the transfer of documents to the National Archives is for the purpose of long term preservation and to facilitate public access.
Herschler asked when the microfilming of P-reels (microfilmed DOS Central Foreign Policy Files) ends. Langbart said this ended during the late 1990s, and that the screening of P-reels also ended at about that time.
Herschler informed the members of the HAC that in the briefing materials they had received, they would find a paper that McAllister had drafted for possible inclusion in the front matter of Foreign Realtions volumes on how to cite the post-July 1973 central files. McAllister noted that he had a special incentive for wanting to standardize the citation format because his volume had recently gone up on the website.
Langbart stated that from a NARA perspective, it is preferable that electronic telegrams not have a "D" citation. NARA only wants citations to refer to electronic messages unless the text is corrupted or unavailable and can be located only on film.
Hedstrom raised a question about what happens when someone seeks a document from FRUS that is no longer at DOS. Is there a way to separate the citation from where the item is temporarily being stored? Geyer said that the HO staff tries to do this already. McAllister added that the HO staff attempt to give both location information and a “P-number” in order to take account of the fact that locations sometimes change.
McMahon endorsed the idea of adding a note to the front matter of FRUS volumes concerning the post-July 1973 central files along the lines of what McAllister had planned to place in his. McAllister noted that he had already sent a version of this note to the HAC and would do so again. The Committee agreed; McMahon suggested that this might be worthy of mention in Passport, since it is a significant development that the State Department paper Central Files essentially disappear in 1974. McAllister mentioned that HO hoped to present some of this information at AHA in San Diego in 2010.
Tom Zeiler then asked McIlwain for a schedule for the establishment of the National Declassification Center (NDC). McIlwain responded that this depended on several factors in the new Administration, most of which had to do with the schedule for the issuance of a new Executive Order on declassification, which he believed would be forthcoming. He believed 2011-2012 would be the earliest possible date. John Powers from ISOO added that he anticipated that the new Executive Order would be issued “sooner rather than later.” Zeiler asked what the new Executive Order was meant to do. McIlwain stated that a new Executive Order would establish the existence of the NDC and would mandate agency participation, which heretofore has only been voluntary. Geyer asked if reclassification issues would also be addressed. McIlwain stressed that the benefit to the NDC would be that it would establish a single standard for declassification issues. Peterson asked why a physical building was necessary. McIlwain responded that the work could not be done at NARA because of space concerns. Langbart also added that the NDC was an outgrowth of the move to create a records center for highly classified materials. McIlwain mentioned that the NDC would also be a central repository for all sorts of disused and outmoded multimedia technology to be used to access various types of materials. Zeiler asked who would be used to staff the NDC. McIlwain responded that the NDC would be staffed by some of the declassification personnel from NARA II as well as others in special media and electronic records. Katie Sibley asked if there would be any effect on NARA staffing. McIlwain responded that he believed that the NDC would have a neutral effect on NARA’s staffing—it would not require additional staff but would also not take any staff away from the duties performed at NARA.
Planning the Reagan Foreign Relations Volumes
McMahon opened the session, and Chris Tudda began the comments with an explanation of the “maximalist” proposal put forth by Team A as part of the planning for the Reagan volumes. He outlined some of the limits on the number of volumes, and then said that Team A had come up with 46 volumes, but that he could easily envision adding a few more. He gave a few examples and soon had the number up to 49.
McMahon then asked if anyone at the meeting, with the exceptions of The Historian and Deputy Historian, believed that it would be possible to fulfill the 30-year mandate for the Reagan volumes by 2018. Susser pointed out that the HAC had itself previously agreed that it was possible.
Hedstrom then pointed out that to meet the goal of the 30 year line would require publishing 11 volumes a year for 9 years, and that the HAC had never before seen 11 volumes in one year. Herschler reminded the HAC that declassification issues will always hold some volumes up beyond the 30 year line – in particular – those with HLP issues. Hedstrom then asked if he was saying that it was the policy of HO to not meet the 30 year line. Herschler replied in the negative, and emphasized that there were two parts to the Office’s mandate – timeliness and quality -- and that both had to be observed, and reiterated that some volumes would always be held up in declassification. The intention of HO is to get as close to the 30 year line as possible for as many of the volumes as possible without publishing volumes that do not meet the standard for quality. McMahon chimed in that perhaps a more achievable goal, then, was to have all of the Reagan volumes compiled by 2018. He felt that this would be an important step toward meeting the spirit of the law.
Tudda requested from the HAC their specific vision for how many volumes there should be for the Reagan years. Zeiler responded that he was trying to get a sense of comparison to the Nixon-Ford years in order to get a sense of what would be a reasonable number of volumes. McMahon added that he thought that there should be no more than a 10% reduction in volumes over a 4 year period for the Reagan years in comparison to earlier quadrennial periods. Zeiler then asked how many for Carter? Someone said 24; several others corrected to 25. Tudda then added that he thought it was possible to actually add more Carter volumes. John Carland then broke it down: 57 volumes for the Nixon-Ford, which came to 28.5 for each 4 years; then there were 25 for Carter’s four years, but according to the current plan only 19 per four-year period for Reagan. Zeiler expressed the concern that this reduction would set a bad precedent for future administrations.
Susser said that, rather than focus on the precise numbers, the HAC should focus on giving specific feedback for what is missing. Zeiler suggested that he preferred the maximalist approach, and Tudda offered 48-50 volumes. McMahon said that he had not looked at the numbers recently, but in response to Susser, as a general rule he felt that it was not possible to say that one historical period was more important than another. He then outlined a number of the key foreign policy issues of the era requiring significant documentation. He added that Plan A made more sense to him, was more in line with previous eras. Hedstrom interjected that McMahon was trying to have things both ways. She offered that, for Reagan, the end of the Cold War was so central that it was not necessary to focus FRUS attention on more peripheral issues.
Sibley said she would rather err on the side of more coverage. Susser encouraged the HAC to focus not on the raw number of volumes for the Reagan administration, but rather think about what sorts of issues are inadequately covered (if any) under the current plan and come back with specific suggestions. Zeiler said he would like to see more volumes. Herschler reminded the members that they had reviewed both Plans A and B and the “compromise” plan proposed by the Office about a year ago. Because of the impending onset of research in the Reagan materials, it was important to have input, especially on the content coverage for the Reagan period, and asked the HAC to read the summaries for the current plan and come up with any suggested modifications. McMahon said that we need two volumes on South Asia, not just one. Additionally, the USSR 1986-1989 volume tries to cover too much ground. Since the office has not seen the Reagan material, we don’t know yet how rich it will be. McMahon also noted that the Joint Historian may uncover a wide range of new material (for example, on Iran-Contra). Geyer suggested that we not attempt to assign “print” or “electronic” designations to volumes this early in the process, but retain flexibility. Carland asserted that we not push toward the thirty year line; quality is in danger of going down. The HAC should support us as we fight for quality. Hedstrom responded that the thirty year line is important because FRUS is not an end in itself. It is part of a process of making people aware of foreign policy and making researchers aware of documentation. We would take pressure off the FRUS process if we did not attempt to make it the final word on foreign policy but rather saw it as creating a framework and making people aware of foreign policy. Anderson said that the 30 year line is important because you know you have a deadline. If you don’t have a deadline, you’ll just drift along aimlessly. McMahon encouraged the Office to think of the 30 year line as a deadline for compilation rather than publication. Given that it takes 2 years to compile a FRUS volume, this is doable, particularly if there is less staff turnover, i.e., as staffers grow in experience they will become better compilers. Herschler noted that the series is held to a higher standard of declassification than the systematic review of documents under the current E.O. because declassification reviewers in all the relevant agencies know that it is an official U.S. government publication. Susser concurred, noting that the visibility of FRUS puts us at a higher standard.
Weetman reminded the HAC that electronic publications have advantages, but they still required considerable staff time and resources to complete. She also reminded the HAC about Ashley’s presentation at the December meeting which outlined the numerous and complex steps necessary to complete an electronic volume. Therefore, switching to electronic publication does not necessarily speed production as quickly as the uninitiated might think. Zeiler asked if assignments and due dates for Reagan volumes could be presented to the HAC, and asked if 2018 was a reasonable goal. Susser said 2018 was reasonable for completing the compiling of the volumes, and that we could show a list of potential assignments. In addition, he reminded the committee that the office has non-FRUS responsibilities.
New Office Website and the Foreign Relations series
Herschler commented on the progress of the web site redesign project, saying that Joe Wicentowski and Stephanie Hurter Williams did an outstanding job finishing the project ahead of schedule and under budget.
Hurter Williams discussed the new web site project and read some positive user comments. She discussed how she and Joe were working to help make FRUS production more efficient using technology. One example is the new FRUS database, which should be ready for use soon.
Wicentowski gave an update on the release of Bill McAllister’s UN e-pub as the first e-volume to go on the new web site. Also, all 87 volumes from the old site are scanned and are being loaded onto the new site.
McAllister noted that even though neither Stephanie nor Joe worked in a FRUS division, they both were working to support and facilitate FRUS research and production.
Closed Session, March 3
Staff Historians Report on Volumes in Progress and Other Office Business
David Zierler discussed his current compiling work in progress with the committee.
Documentation Withheld from Recently Reviewed Foreign Relations Manuscripts
Susan Weetman discussed specific declassification issues of several volumes with the committee.
The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series
Herschler began the session and assessed the present level of cooperation with CIA as “excellent.” The new Joint Historian, unfortunately unable to attend the HAC meeting, was working industriously with HO historians to facilitate their access to CIA documents. Since the December HAC meeting, HO has verified four volumes with CIA – Arab-Israeli Dispute 1969-72, Southern Africa 1969-76, East and Southeast Asia 1973-76, and Vietnam 1972-73.
Herschler noted that the earlier backlog of volumes to be verified had been largely cleared, with only three volumes remaining in the queue needing verification by CIA. Over the next three months HO hoped to verify another three or four volumes with CIA. Since the last HAC meeting CIA’s review of one volume has been completed – Arms Control, 1973-76. Currently, CIA has eleven volumes either under review or preparing for review. Seven of these volumes have High Level Panel (HLP) issues, which typically take a minimum of a year to negotiate. Five of these seven volumes date from the 2nd half of 2007.
During the last HAC meeting the committee also met with the Historical Review Panel (HRP), which resulted in some resolution on protocols and a decision for more face-to-face meetings to help facilitate the HLP process. HO plans to send two volumes to CIA in the next few months.
CIA reported that five volumes with issue statements have made significant progress. Three issue statements have been completed. The committee then discussed the Congo and Iran retrospective volumes with Agency representatives.
McMahon then asked the committee and office staff if there were any other issues they wished to raise with the Agency representatives. Questions then followed related to Agency policy on reclassification of previously released material. McMahon said that, in the interest of Agency credibility and the credibility of the FRUS series, a common sense approach needed to be taken. He argued that material released through an approved process, even if that process was flawed, ought to be regarded as officially declassified.
McAllister then reported on the progress of the new State-CIA joint historian, Tom Pearcy. McAllister reported that Pearcy has made great progress in communicating with office division chiefs and FRUS compilers and working through their Agency research requests.
The Committee then discussed the declassification review processes for Carter administration volumes.
The Chairman thanked the CIA for coming and adjourned the meeting. The committee then went into executive session.
At the opening of the June 2009 meeting, Robert McMahon introduced a motion to approve the minutes of the March meeting. Trudy Peterson had three topics that she wished to add to them: 1) Print volumes of the Foreign Relations (FRUS) series could never be completely eliminated, because their usefulness as ceremonial gifts to foreign officials; 2) The office is legally obligated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act in posting accessible PDFs on the web; 3) The cost of the office’s contract for scanning documents from earlier FRUS volumes was much greater, because of ADA compliance, than that of a similar contract with the University of Michigan. The minutes were approved as amended.