Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, September 25-26, 1997
Open Session, September 25
After calling the meeting to order at 9 a.m., Chairman Kimball introduced Robert Jervis, a political scientist from Columbia University, who serves on the CIA Historical Advisory Panel. Kimball indicated that he had also invited Louis Bellardo, Deputy Archivist of the United States; Bellardo, who also is a member of the CIA Historical Advisory Panel, will attend the afternoon session. Kimball asked if there were any substantive changes to discuss in the minutes of the June meeting. Hearing none, he asked for a motion to approve the minutes, which was done, and then asked Bill Slany to begin his report.
Slany said his report would have a familiar ring: The Historian's Office will publish volumes at an accelerated rate this year, but prospects for publication thereafter are bleak due to the usual declassification barriers. Slany reported that Assistant Secretary Rubin had been asked about the status of the Foreign Relations series--in particular, the progress in reaching the statutory 30 year deadline--at his recent confirmation hearings. Rubin had indicated his concern, promising to keep the Senate Foreign Relations Committee informed on the situation. Rubin had also promised that the current backlog of Foreign Relations volumes would be dealt with by the end of the year. Slany said the Committee would discuss the high-level panel for appeals this afternoon; the NSC and CIA are eager to use the panel to reduce the backlog.
Kimball asked if Slany had a proposal to recommend on the procedures for the panel. Slany said he did, but, in view of some skepticism on the outlook, sought the Committee's advice. He explained that, while the CIA leadership was supportive, the real problem was at the mid-level of the declassification system. Kimball said the issue would be discussed during the afternoon session.
Slany reported on the CD-ROM format for Foreign Relations volumes for the Kennedy administration, remarking that the work was unprecedented--and labor-intensive. The Department has given the "green light" for the project, which would be finished after the remaining two print volumes are published. Slany said the project raised a question of priorities for the editors: which is more important, print volumes or the CD-ROM? Kimball replied that the question might be effectively answered by the backlog, i.e. if the office can't publish volumes, it might as well work on the CD-ROM. Schulzinger said that the CD-ROM project was worthwhile but that the print volumes should be the top priority. Zelikow thought that the CD-ROM could be extraordinarily useful and wondered how much a disk would cost. Slany said not much. Schaller asked if some consideration had been given to using the Internet rather than CD technology. Slany explained that the CD format is currently more useful as it includes a search engine, thereby greatly facilitating research. Patterson added that several of the recent volumes on the Kennedy administration are currently on the Internet. Schaller asked if the law specified that Foreign Relations must be produced in book format; Kimball said it did not.
Slany noted that the Office of the Historian is currently conducting research outside the Foreign Relations series. In this regard, he reported on the status of the proposal to create a separate research division. The effort involved in the so-called Nazi gold project, for instance, justifies the creation of a new division that would not drain resources from Foreign Relations. The nature of these projects also suggested the need for personnel with a different set of skills. Slany explained that the proposed division would allow the Office to respond to inquiries from Department principals as well as other special requests. He thought the division might be in place by the end of the year. Slany said he was planning to attend a conference in London this December which would review the work done by various governments to document the Nazi gold issue. He explained that the research is necessary since institutional memory is weak--and much of the historical record remains inaccessible. One of the primary goals of the project is to further public access to the relevant documentation. Slany also said that the Dayton project demonstrated the value of documenting some events before memory fades. The Department was interested in creating the new division in spite of a general policy to cut-back on new hiring and expenditures. Slany hoped the Committee would support the proposal. He suggested that the unit might conduct an oral history program which would be valuable for Foreign Relations. There were, however, the usual questions regarding resources and priorities.
Noting that the issue is not new, Kimball said the proposal to establish a new division was a good idea, as long as it did not conflict with the priority to print Foreign Relations volumes. The new division would allow the office to handle special projects more efficiently. Kimball noted that a plan to use junior FSOs to perform the research had been sketched out. Hogan reiterated that the Foreign Relations series must remain the top priority. Davis expressed doubts about the ability of junior FSOs to perform the research function adequately and added that he was not in favor of having the U.S. Government write its own current history. Zelikow noted that the Nazi gold project was probably unique and joined Kimball in support of HO's doing policy-related historical research. He added that a second question was whether the Department should set up a unit similar to those in DOD that had produced top notch historical narratives. Here it was critical that professional staff, not junior FSOs, do the job.
Van Camp then expressed her concern that discussion of these type of projects suggested that current documentation is not satisfactory and suggested the need to coordinate with records management people to determine if important gaps existed in the record. Slany noted that during the Dayton Project the issue of preservation of EUR e-mail had been addressed. He noted that these sources will be lost unless action is taken now. He added that the Department of State's interest in HO rises as HO participates in policy related activities, and the payoff for work on these sorts of projects would be greater than for the Foreign Relations project. Kimball then noted some concerns that Richard Holbrooke had expressed to him about the quality of records of meetings. Patterson remarked that the Nazi gold project had given Slany and HO great visibility and praised Slany for taking on so much of the work, permitting the Foreign Relations compilation process to go forward expeditiously.
Hogan readdressed the issue of using FSOs in research projects and stressed his concerns about both their competence to do the work and the impact this type of work would have on the professional standing of HO historians. The Committee debated this issue. Schulzinger concluded with the suggestion that the Committee await a clear and articulate proposal to study. Slany stated that such a document existed and suggested that the Committee look at it in executive session. It was so agreed.
Slany then asked Patterson to introduce new staff members, after which Patterson briefly reported on Foreign Relations activities. In addition to the information in the covering memorandum to the Committee's package, he noted two issues of interest. The first was HO's success in gaining access to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) records. In response to questions from the Committee, he outlined some of the bureaucratic problems encountered in gaining access and noted that fortunately for HO compilers PFIAB had decided to forward to HO historians copies of the classified documents they had selected rather than declassifying them first, which PFIAB had initially insisted on. However, PFIAB still had not let HO have a copy of the finding aid for the records. Patterson noted second that research was now underway on 13 of the 25 first Nixon Administration volumes.
Herschler reported progress on three fronts involving research for the Nixon subseries of Foreign Relations:
- A new subvention agreement with the National Archives was being concluded today; the level of support by the State Department for the Nixon Project has been increasing and now exceeds $100,000 for the coming fiscal year.
- The Nixon family had consented to access by HO historians to the tapes. The agreement will be signed in the next few weeks. An earlier agreement provided for access to the tape logs.
- Letters had gone out from the Secretary of State and the National Security Adviser to Henry Kissinger requesting access for Foreign Relations historians to Kissinger's papers at the Library of Congress. Kissinger had requested such letters. Herschler anticipated that research would commence in the near future.
Herschler noted that HO had about three months' experience using the Nixon tape logs and had not found them easy to use unless you were looking for conversations on very specifically defined subjects and dates. In searching for tapes on SALT, for example, the logs indicated there were 317 tapes, some of them having conversations two to three hours long. So historians may have to severely narrow the subjects they search for in order to make the best use of the logs, and then carefully prioritize the recordings to be requested.
Schaller asked whether anybody had used the Winston Lord lot file at the National Archives, which includes material from his NSC tenure, 1969-73. Patterson did not know whether HO compilers had yet used the collection but was glad to know it was available. He explained about problems tracking the disposition, location, and review status of lot files as they move from the State Department to the National Archives. Kimball expressed concern about HO's keeping informed of the status of lot files.
Schulzinger expressed a concern of his: there is no way that HO can listen to all-or even many-of the LBJ and Nixon tapes. Does the Committee have any advice on handling this issue? Nancy Smith commented that the Nixon tape logs were being revised and should be used in conjunction with Nixon's Daily Diary. Duncombe and Herschler both commented further about problems and procedures for using the tape logs, pointing out that HO researchers would need to do extensive research - including using the Daily Diaries -- prior to using the logs to help pinpoint the most important conversations to request. Zelikow emphasized that background research was important and noted that the tapes documented just the 1971-1973 period.
Smith noted that the sound quality of the LBJ tapes was much better than that of the Nixon tapes. Smith also noted two upcoming openings of Nixon tapes: 1) tapes concerning POW issues on September 29; and 2) tapes made in the Cabinet Room (of NSC and a variety of meetings, not just Cabinet meetings) on October 16. Kimball stated that research problems with the tapes put a greater burden on Foreign Relations preface writers to identify problems.
The Committee recessed for a coffee break.
When the meeting reconvened at 10:35 a.m., Kimball asked if the speakers were present and in the right order to discuss the issue of access to State Department records and there was general agreement that they were.
Van Camp then reported for the Subcommittee on Access to State Department Records that they had met with Office of IRM Programs and Services (A/IM/IPS) Acting Director Peggy Grafeld, from whom they had received a report on the three core IPS technical systems:
- State Archiving System (SAS): The automated repository of Department of State Official Foreign Policy Documents. This system replaced the Automated Document System (ADS). The ADS, which was implemented July 1, 1973, also was briefly known as OASYS, before it became SAS. Van Camp reported that this data base is in place and provides electronically full text retrieval of cables and official documents.
- Freedom of Information Document Management System (FREEDOMS): This automated system tracks documents and document requests that are received by IPS. It also serves as a redacting, reviewing, and editing guide by checking for duplicate documents and document releasability.
- Electronic Reading Room: Van Camp reported that this consisted of Department of State Web pages and an automated reading room system for declassified documents which are also available over the Internet. It includes she said, FOI legislation, how to apply for documents, and on-line research tools. It also displays documents that are of interest to the public, such as those that have been released more than once, or that are of special interest. She cited some Amelia Earhart documents as an example.
Schaller asked what would be the standard repository for FOIA release. Van Camp answered that the FREEDOMS system is the mechanism. Van Camp said that Peggy Grafeld works with the Historian's Office to eliminate duplication and added that they were all doing a very good job in this respect. She added that the subcommittee did have some questions and that perhaps Michael Kurtz of the National Archives could help answer them. The main question was how these electronic files would relate to NARA's system, how the records would be inter-changed, how the access systems would be inter-accessible, and how the systems would be accessible to other agencies' documents. Van Camp said that her subcommittee would be a good focus group to review the electronic reading room developments. Additional information was in the handbook. She said that it would be a useful site for posting FOI documents and that the electronic reading room could become the standard repository for FOI releases.
Grafeld said that that indeed was what was anticipated, especially if three or more requesters had gotten the same document. Davis asked how many Web pages existed in their system, he thought that they had mentioned quite a few. He said that he wished to get a list of the Web page sites. Grafeld said that such requests had to go through the PA Bureau which controls the Department's Web sites, but noted that her organization did have a list of its own. Kimball asked if all these Web sites were accessible from the State home page.
Patterson asked about the system's practical use. He asked if State documents found by HO for a 1967 Vietnam compilation, for example, could be checked to see how many of these documents had already been declassified by HDR and FOI reviewers. Grafeld explained that when Foreign Relations compilation documents come to HDR for review, they are checked to see if the have already been reviewed and/or released. Those that have been denied completely or in part are reviewed again. The others are easily released. Patterson asked how this process works with other agencies' documents. Grafeld said that FOIA, systematic review, etc., all being located in one office in State, is unique in the U.S. Government. In DOD documents go to several offices. The system is also not as straightforward in other agencies' systems as it is in State's. She concluded that having all the different activities being part of one operation in State is a real benefit. State owns the FREEDOMS system and can share it with other agencies. It is also used at AID. State does not have to rely on any vendors.
Kimball asked if there were any other comments and mentioned FDR's tactic of locking everybody in a room until a solution was reached. He noted that "we have all the players here." He said Mike Kurtz' presentation was next on the agenda.
Kurtz said that Ken Rossman and he had made a point of presenting principles to be followed for electronic records transfer. He said that the joint State-NARA committee had met 7 or 8 times and had been very productive about sharing goals, needs, and views. He said that NARA had procured a more robust automatic system called the Archives Preservation System (APS). This critical technical system had been spelled out in a September memorandum, which was now on Rossman's desk. ERIC was another automatic system that they had for user requirements. They liked IPS's program, including the SAS system and the electronic reading room. Kimball asked if the Committee could see their report when it was ready and Kurtz said that they would be glad to make it available. Kimball asked if there were any questions.
Grafeld said that they would report on their progress since the last Committee meeting and Kimball agreed. Grafeld said that she would defer to Peter Sheils for this report on progress since the last meeting, but noted also that Ethel Theis had reviewed their operation for ISOO of NARA and had made a report to the Secretary. Theis' report covered much of the same ground. She gave members of the Committee copies of Theis' report. Grafeld also mentioned that the automatic network was not only being improved but was being expanded, to Newington among other places. HDR reviewers there could now begin to review electronic databases and were being given other tools
Sheils then briefed the Committee on some of the report's highlights. He said that for the month of July, one million document pages had been reviewed. For August, it was 700,000 pages. They had also completed a review of documents for CIA for the RAC program. The IPS review out-process had delivered many dozens of boxes of records to Archives II under a RSC transfer process. The RSC staff had forwarded 6,000 cubic feet of material or 15 million pages to NARA. SA-13 was now extremely effective because of this transfer of inactive records, and NARA had been very accommodating. The two agencies had developed good team work and an all redesigned review process. State also follows the Foreign Relations model of expertise in doing review work. It had hired a full-time coordinator for scheduling reviewers and to access requirements and assignments in an attempt to put the work force where needed. This had resulted in an August-September downsizing of the reviewer team.
Van Camp asked Sheils if his office would benefit from the Remote Access Capture (RAC) project. Sheils said that his office only reviews paper documents as opposed to scanned documents. He said that his office had 20,000 pages left to review.
Patterson asked Grafeld what purpose the LAN would serve. She said it had two purposes: first it links the Newington operation with Main State through e-mail and other basic office automation features, and, second, it allows for the electronic review of SAS material. Patterson asked if a list of the State Department lot files could be produced as a result of this automation. Grafeld said a list will be available on the Web and this Web site will have "triggers" to NARA's Web site.
Kimball commented that the HAC had done some "snooping" into the declassification efforts at State and felt it has indeed done a good job. Van Camp concurred; she was also impressed with the Department's large number of pages already declassified. Kimball added that the Department ought to do a better job of publicizing this good effort.
The Committee then turned its attention to an update of the measures taken by the CIA to review and declassify intelligence information in State Department records. Rich Warshaw, chief of the declassification review program of 25-year old and older documents at the CIA, said there are over 150 people who are involved in the program to review over 40 million pages of material at CIA, and 25 million pages of CIA material in other federal agency collections. Of the estimated 13.2 million pages of CIA equity at NARA, about 560,000 pages are from State, representing about 1% of the total CIA declassification workload.
Warshaw said the CIA is actively involved in the RAC project and hopes to have its operations fully automated with collection and distribution capabilities fully completed by January 1998. He added that the RAC project has had contributions from NSA and NRO and has captured 100,000 pages each from the LBJ and Kennedy libraries. Warshaw also added that his office and NARA are jointly reviewing NSC material and that this too was a big job but the CIA has begun to scan documents. Warshaw said his office is giving DOS material the highest priority but State documents only represent 1% of the total number of pages to review.
Kimball reminded Warshaw that the law says that 25-year old or older documents must be released to the public unless exempted with justification. Warshaw indicated he understood this but added locating such documents takes a lot of time.
Van Camp asked Warshaw when he thought the CIA would get to NARA to review documents with CIA equities in them. Warshaw explained that there are currently four CIA employees at NARA who are there to scan and copy documents rather than to review them.
Kimball asked Warshaw when the full-scale "factory" will be open. Warshaw said that it is open now but that on October 1 it begins electronic review. He added that there are 50 reviewers currently who have reviewed 120,000 pages. Kimball asked if the software has been beta tested. Warshaw responded affirmatively. Hogan asked what has come of those pages that have been reviewed. Warshaw said the pages have not yet been released to the public. He estimated that 65% of the 120,000 have been declassified. He said that the percentage of declassification depends on the type of intelligence-operational vs. finished. He said that the percentage of declassification for documentation that contain operational intelligence is about 50% and about 90% for finished intelligence. Kimball asked when the declassified documents will be transferred to NARA. Warshaw said there will be a "trickle" of documentation transferred within the calendar year. Hogan wondered if there was a list containing the number of pages declassified, the percentage redacted, and the percentage of operational vs. finished intelligence. Warshaw said this could be produced.
Kimball focused the Committee's discussion upon the RAC project. Sharon Fawcett of NARA argued for the necessity of having a systematic review of classified documents in a given collection occur before the initiation of RAC scanning. Since in her estimation a reviewer conducting systematic declassification could release 40,000-50,000 pages per year, a great deal of effort expended upon scanning and the rest of the RAC process could be saved if the scanning actually followed such a review. Under current procedures, a considerable amount of material that could have been declassified through systematic review is instead being scanned for the RAC project.
Concerned by this apparent unnecessary waste of resources, Kimball thought the procedures followed by the State Department were the "best practices model" for other agencies in the federal government to follow. He lauded State for doing so well in this regard, and commented that State would love to have CIA's resources. Warshaw responded CIA would love to have State's records to declassify. Kimball noted the potential windfall of fiscal savings was a major reason why he believed that State's "best practices model" should be copied by other agencies, who at some point in the near future would have to "bite the bullet" and advocate new methods for declassification procedures.
In response, NARA officials elaborated on their current procedures. Fawcett indicated that at the Truman Library, where reviewers had fairly good guidance, the staff through systematic review had managed to reduce the number of classified documents from 60,000 to 6,000. Smith underscored the fact that NARA did indeed work within guidance. A larger issue, though, was the problem of mixed equities in intelligence materials. The Presidential libraries simply lacked the resources to address this matter effectively without guidelines more specific to these types of documents. Michael Kurtz added that he was engaged in ongoing discussions at CIA in order to obtain recommendations for declassification of such material, either through the RAC method or by agencies going to the Presidential libraries. The "clock is ticking" on this issue irrespective of the technology employed to achieve review of these documents, he noted. Kurtz also defended NARA's record on declassification, noting that his agency had declassified about 200 million pages of documents since the implementation of the Executive Order.
Next, Warshaw described his agency's efforts at a 25-year declassification review. He noted that a "pass/fail" review system was highly efficient for materials of a low sensitivity. However, redaction was the best method for the more sensitive of the agency's documentation. The redaction method allowed for a rate of declassification much higher (currently about 65%) than if a straight "pass/fail" procedure was used for more sensitive documents, as the "fail" rate would inevitably be greater with the latter approach. Warshaw explained that the overall declassification strategy of the CIA was to begin with the oldest records first as well as "from the top down" in terms of importance. However, practical circumstances often resulted in alteration in this strategy; for example, records are not always filed chronologically or filed in the manner most appropriate for declassification. In response to a question on the topic from Kimball, Warshaw related that the CIA had begun to examine the institution of proper archival practices. Measures were "in the works" and the appropriate staff was improving its understanding of modern archival procedures. Warshaw demurred to discuss the DO shelf lists, as he had not seen them and since these lists were "not part of the program" under his purview.
Zelikow began discussion of his report on his recent trip to the Johnson Library. He found the staff and the facility "impressive" and thought that they had made a significant contribution to the Foreign Relations series. He also addressed the necessity to ensure that compilers take advantage of the telephone conversations on tape and described the current Foreign Relations procedure of preparing an original transcript from the tapes as very useful. Another issue that Zelikow touched upon was the diversion of Johnson Library resources to the investigation of the Kennedy assassination. He also examined the process of systematic declassification at the Johnson Library. Its review was almost solely driven by researcher demand. By this process, however, about 75% of the national security files had been declassified in full or part. Yet what lay behind this figure was the fact that the process was very uneven; the files of some minor countries not attracting intense researcher interest had not even been processed. He noted that in this regard the recent effort by the Library's staff to release telephone recordings from 1963-1964 had diverted significant resources from the systematic declassification process. In the context of the staffing crunch at the Library, he also discussed the essential nature of its staff, the members of which have provided a continuity of expertise that would not be available from individuals with less experience. Due to its limitations, the Library had now ceased to process new files and instead was now concentrating on bulk declassification of files with multiple researcher interest, such as the Francis Bator papers. A major handicap facing the Library's staff was the lack of adequate guidelines for declassification procedures, as its current ones were outdated and too broad in scope. This led to the staff guessing that unmarked documents contained classified information and thus led to an improper "reclassification" of the documents, in Zelikow's view.
Smith noted that the Presidential libraries were keeping up with mandatory review requests but that the performance of the security-classifying agencies varied a great deal. State was the best with a nine month turnaround; CIA was getting better, with about a year to eighteen months; and DOD "used to be worse" as it once took upwards of about two years and it still continues to approach that mark. But there was simply no good system for informing the libraries just what documents have been declassified under the FOIA. The advice given to scholars who wish to open certain documents, then, is for them to file new mandatory review requests since the declassification guidelines have been liberalized under E.O. 12958.
Smith then revisited Zelikow's comment about the "reclassification" of documents at the Johnson Library. She stated flatly that the archivists have no classification authority and thus do not classify documents. On the other hand, they also have no authority to open a document that appears to contain classified information. This material will be marked as containing potential national security information and will be held for systematic or mandatory review. A document marked in such a manner is not considered truly classified, though, until the agency with equities in it classifies it as such. Zelikow responded with a proposal to deal with such instances. While exempting from consideration foreign government documents, he would consider U.S. government documents not originally classified as in fact unclassified. It would be "tough luck" for those agencies with equities in such documents, but Zelikow thought that it was important conversely to not allow the "PCI" marking to keep documents closed and out of the hands of researchers.
Humphrey labeled the entire issue a "false" one. He noted that the Presidential libraries always emphasized openness and went to great lengths to ensure that they did as much as they could for the sake of this principle. In addition, Humphrey suggested that the nature of the creation of these documents be examined as a means of justifying the use of the "PCI" marking practice. Administration officials at the White House usually are not career employees and thus are inconsiderate or unaware of the necessity to employ obvious classification markings in documents that they have created or extracted. However, the information used in such documents remains classified whether or not markings are used. In any event, instances of the application of the "PCI" marking remain rare, Humphrey noted, and in reality the Presidential libraries do open vast amounts of unmarked foreign policy material. Grafeld also objected to the "tough luck" approach as being unfair in its application a quarter century or more after the fact. In that case, Zelikow retorted, the law should be rewritten. He recognized that the use of classified information in documents generated by political appointees has been a continuing problem but remained uncomfortable with the notion that an archivist could impose his own judgments as to the sensitivity of information contained in otherwise unmarked documents.
Ambassador Draper then gave a brief report on declassification efforts under his purview. His recommendations were for NARA and the Presidential librariesto be given the "maximum possible discretion" to release and declassify State Department documents, referring to State for review only specified topics of potential sensitivity, e.g., in cases where negotiations were ongoing or liable to revive. Draper also addressed secrecy issues and in particular the report of the Moynihan Commission's recommendations for legislation. He noted that the NSC had imposed a deadline for closure of the issue in December possibly to be followed by legislation during the next year. Draper had both praise and criticism of Moynihan's report. He opposed the creation of a "National Declassification Center" and, like his counterparts in virtually every other concerned agency, also objected to the enacting of any legislation on the matter. A positive side recognized by many agencies on the latter point, though, was that formal legislation might compel Congress to commit greater resources to the agencies involved. He also noted the burden that certain agencies felt by the five year deadline to complete declassification under the Executive Order. Believing this requirement too "imposing", the CIA and DOD wanted a deadline of eight years so as to allow them to maintain resources at current instead of higher levels. Kimball suggested that a subcommittee of the HAC could give its advice on the matter if necessary. Grafeld noted that the Congressional hearings upcoming on the matter would give the HAC a venue in which to make its opinions known. Kimball argued that the HAC could not speak independently of the State Department but suggested that such representation could be done on an individual basis by members of the HAC.
The meeting adjourned at noon for a working lunch with Deputy Assistant Secretary for IM, Andrew Winter.
Closed Session, September 25
Kimball called the session to order at 1:55 p.m. and announced that the discussion would be a classified one dealing with the Subcommittee's report on its visit to the CIA. He said that only HO historians with CIA access and members of the Advisory Committee would be allowed to remain.
Slany said that he would discuss declassification issues, but that since the subcommittee would be dealing with access, he proposed that his report be postponed until later in the session. Kimball said that he would then move to the 2:45 p.m. agenda item, "Inclusion of covert action and intelligence analysis records in the Foreign Relations series."
Hogan, who chaired the Subcommittee on Access to CIA Documentation, reported that the Subcommittee traveled with David Patterson to an 11 a.m. meeting at CIA and learned from Bob Leggett, Mike Warner, and Scott Koch from the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence about access issues concerning the Foreign Relations series, particularly relating to records of the Directorate of Operations (DO). Next, the group examined 11 boxes of documents from the Directorate of Operations. Harriet Schwar gave an overview of the issues pertinent to the Congo in the 1960s, and noted the problems that she had encountered as a researcher.
The Subcommittee spent 1.5 hours examining records from what Hogan described as "an extraordinary collection." Bob Jervis and Lou Bellardo of CIA's History Advisory Panel joined the group in examining the documents.
The group was then scheduled for a one-hour meeting which lasted two hours with Bill McNair, a senior information management review officer with the Directorate of Operations. Hogan said that the group wrestled with one question: how to get better access and full access for HO historians. The discussion focused on access to the so-called "shelf list." With a sense of whimsy, Hogan thought he had heard two answers from the CIA: "Over my dead body," and "You already have it."
The CIA group explained to the Subcommittee that the records were organized to serve the Directorate of Operations-not historians. Hogan reported that that made the system easy for them, but more difficult for HO to use. Much of the research would be hit and miss. He described the working relationship between HO historians and CIA History staff as good.
Tucker said that the contention that the system was useful for the agency but not for HO was hard for the Subcommittee to follow. Hogan said that was because the material was not organized by country or chronology. A printout on a broader topic could easily run 14 ft. Tucker then asked if the researcher had to know what they were looking for first. The answer was yes. The CIA does not want the historians to find things about which they don't already know.
Schulzinger described the discussions as significant and had asked under what circumstances would the CIA have enough confidence in HO historians to allow them to examine the list. Kimball explained that it took a long time to get to why HO historians could not see a shelf list. It appears that the documents are not permanently retired and may move back and forth. Access is proscribed because the shelf list may include current operational material.
Tucker confirmed that that was what the Subcommittee had been told, and that it was very difficult because they would not be looking at 1940s records. Kimball added that the names of active agents could be found in the file, and CIA did not want anyone to see them. Herschler added that the DO representative had said this shelf list only covered name files, and that DO records also included office files and operational files. Schwar explained that CIA's historians can see the microfiche, but HO's historians can't.
Davis asked if the chaos in the CIA's records was intentional. Tucker said that she thought so. Kimball asked if it was intentional, was CIA happy with the result. His belief was yes. Hogan agreed that it was a problem because if we had access, we would see other names.
Hogan said that "confidence-building" activities had been discussed--activities, perhaps relating to access to documentation on the Congo, with measurable results. However, no one at the meeting could come up with any concrete ideas of what those activities should be. Kimball said that there was talk of building confidence in selected HO historians but that it would depend on finding HO historians willing to be vetted.
Schwar said that it had occurred to her that if the historian wasn't familiar with the topic, it might as well be a CIA historian conducting the search. Luke Smith said that CIA historians don't have that kind of access. The CIA has decided that we don't have a need to know.
Van Camp asked if there wasn't another way to approach access, perhaps through NARA's records schedules. David Langbart said that such an approach had been suggested before. He said that CIA gives a brief description of the records, but that the schedules themselves are classified. Van Camp then asked if NARA could work with them. Langbart explained that NARA had pressed the issue repeatedly over the past 10-15 years. The Agency may be willing to hold full texts of the schedules. Kimball asked if those included active records. Langbart said yes, but that they were classified to the "secret" level. He said that it would be a way to figure general types of records. Kimball asked if that would include DO and ST records. Langbart said yes. Kimball asked if they were up-to-date. Langbart said that they were "bordering on" being out-of-date because they were done in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Van Camp said that the discussion was getting confused because archives are not created for historians. Langbart explained that agencies must remember that they are responsible for creating proper documentation for what they do.
If this shelf list only covered names, Kimball asked, were there other shelf lists? Mike Warner, acting chief of the CIA History Staff, said that each directorate has a series of offices with their own records. [The Directorate of Operations has an index for all created files which are retired by folder titles. The index is keyword searchable.]
[Hogan asked if this was a shelf list. Warner replied that each division has its own shelf list.] Langbart said that it might be similar to using the Department of State's lot files which are not tied to a time period and are retired by folder list. But, Schwar added, you can always go through the book of 693s for the lot files. Herschler added that the lot file folder lists are not encrypted so a researcher can always easily determine what the records are about.
Kimball asked how one could know what was significant unless you could go through and discard some references? [Warner explained that there were other ways, including the 201 file. Kimball said that he was given to believe that CSI historians did not, themselves, have complete access to CIA's records. Warner replied that access was not as complete as they would like.] Kimball then asked Warner if he had a sense of confidence that he was seeing all relevant documents. Warner replied that it depended on time: if research lasted only a week, the answer would be no, but if he had 6 months, the answer would be yes.
Bellardo said that the way files are created versus the way they're used in the DO was not a unique issue. He said that at the Archives it was not unique to receive records without finding aids.
[Kimball asked if researchers were limited to searching two or three names at a time. Warner explained that it was like using telephone information: some information will be unlisted and the operators won't give more than three numbers at a time. Bellardo asked if that was the case if researchers were only requesting information that was inactive. Warner said yes, but you could call back 20 minutes later and get three more.]
Kimball asked whether the Federal Records Act could be used to promote better records keeping practices at the Agency, noting that good records keeping practices are often cost-effective. Warner suggested in response that the best person to address that question to would be Ed Cohen who was slated to take over as the head of the Agency's Office of Information Management. Langbart added that NARA does attempt to explain the fiscal benefits of good records management practices. But, he explained, all NARA can do is provide advice and guidance. NARA is not the records police.
Van Camp asked Langbart exactly what power the Archives had under the Act to compel the agencies to adopt better records management practices. He responded that the agencies were left to their own devices on creation and organization of records. Bellardo interjected that while the Act does not provide NARA with any enforcement powers, it does say that the agency cannot destroy records, which it did in the past. He asserted that this proscription against records destruction could prove to be a powerful weapon in gaining access to the CIA's records.
Zelikow, comparing the CIA and FBI, noted that the Agency was in fact much more open than the Bureau. To effectively use the CIA's records, he advised using a top-down research strategy, contending that in this way the researcher would be able to identify those operations that had become important enough to warrant inclusion in the Foreign Relations series. He argued that a bottom-up research strategy would only be useful to prove negatives. Schulzinger commented that Zelikow had merely rephrased what McNair had said--that very few CIA documents actually belong in the Foreign Relations series because the series deals with grand policy rather than operational details. Zelikow replied, somewhat rhetorically, "Does that impeach my credibility?"
Schulzinger added that there may be CIA operations that have policy implications that do not show up in high-level NSC documentation. He thought that Herschler had cited such an example at the Subcommittee meeting relating to Che Guevara. Herschler explained that Zelikow's top-down research approach might not always lead to CIA operations that influenced higher-level policy decisions. He cited Che Guevara, for example. He noted that he had used the top-down research strategy along the lines that Zelikow recommended, looking through records from the 303 Committee, the DCI, and INR, and finding no clear references to the CIA's role in the capture of Che Guevara. He learned through a published source that such an operation did occur, and this eventually led to access to a rather complete DO file on the operation.
Schwar added that Zelikow's strategy might be effective if the CIA and Department's records were complete, but they are not. She cited her experiences with Congo records from 1961 to 1963. Patterson asserted that while there are clues to important operations in collections such as the 303 files and in published works, HO still needs to push for the widest possible access at CIA. He noted that Harriet Schwar has seen evidence of other possibly important covert actions, but cannot be certain about them without reviewing the CIA's shelf-lists.
Kimball summed up the Committee's sentiments by noting that while they understood Zelikow's point about the benefits of proper research strategy, the members felt that HO still needed broader access to the Agency's records. Kimball then said that in light of the attitude of the DO, how can the CIA Historians help in the effort to increase access to CIA records. Hogan said that the Committee should push for greater access for CIA historians to the DO shelf lists so HO historians would have a higher confidence level that the materials found by the CIA historians represented everything they would need from CIA records. Warner stated that the Subcommittee's visit to the Agency yesterday will help in his office's efforts to expand access for Foreign Relations compilers. In addition, he recommended having HO Historians continue working with the Agency's on-line searchers to locate as many key-words as possible.
Tucker recommended including more historians on the CIA's History Panel, arguing that it currently lacked practicing researchers able to ask the right kinds of questions of the Agency. Warner suggested having some representatives from the State's Committee attend the Agency's next History Panel meeting to be held December 15-16. Kimball indicated that he was already expecting an invitation to this meeting but wanted two State Advisory Committee members to join him. Zelikow volunteered.
Slany described one of the most recent proposals aimed at confidence building between State and the Agency's History Staff, an exchange of historians between each office. Warner strongly endorsed this proposal, believing it would help ease access for HO Historians to the Agency's records; however, he noted that the Agency's office was short-staffed at the moment. The Committee strongly endorsed the proposal for the Historian exchange.
Hogan began the discussion, noting that the Subcommittee was there to sample material on the Congo and the assassination attempt on Patrice Lumumba. [Hogan indicated that he was surprised at the number of Congolese on the CIA's payroll.] In his assessment, most of the material reviewed should be in the Foreign Relations series.
Slany asked for the Committee's advice on the best types of Agency documents and issues to include in the Foreign Relations series, noting that HO needed guidance to insure that the series meets the needs of the historical community. Hogan acknowledged the importance of the question, but felt that issues, not document-type, should be the key criterion in making a selection. He recommended that HO include material on Agency support to private organizations and assassination attempts, but eschew documents on idle discussions of getting rid of "some jerk" that did not lead to an important policy. Tucker noted that the Committee did not advise HO Historians on which types of documents to select from State records and should not do so for CIA records. The Committee only asked that HO justify its decisions. Slany added that it was important for Warner to hear this and understand what is expected in the Foreign Relations volumes.
Van Camp asked about Humphrey's list of criteria for selecting covert action documents and wondered why the issue was still up for discussion. Slany wondered in response whether the Subcommittee's visit to the Agency [and examination of 201 files] had changed its perspective on what HO needs to include. Hogan stated that HO historians have a better understanding of what should be included. Perhaps the Committee can explore a specific issue in depth. Kimball suggested that if HO historians were unsure what to include, they should consult with Patterson, and could consult with the Committee.
Patterson noted that when HO had completed its latest Latin American volume, the Agency had a very proactive historian that helped HO immensely. He indicated that he felt fairly confident that that volume adequately covered covert actions in the area, noting that it seemed to tell a complete story; however, he also noted that he himself had not conducted the research in covert operations and could not be entirely certain. At some point, he added, the Office has to trust the judgment of its professionally trained historians.
Kimball asked Jervis what his impression was of the Congo material. Jervis noted that he did not use archival collections in his work, relying instead on the Foreign Relations volumes on national security policy which focus more on National Intelligence Estimates and rarely delve into covert actions. He, too, believed the Congo collection included many important documents, noting they referenced events and issues included in most published works on the period.
Zelikow added that there is a difference between documentation providing intelligence analysis and operational information. Use of Directorate of Operations material at the Agency should be case-dependent. He noted also that in the case of the Foreign Relations volumes on Cuba, the CIA was the lead policy maker and the editorial judgments in using the massive number of documents on covert operations were sound. These volumes contrast by night and day with the volume on Iran, 1951-1954.
Kimball said that he gets "beat up on" often by intelligence historians looking for more detail in the Foreign Relations volumes, but of course it is not our mandate to deal in such operational detail. He asked Zelikow whether he believed the Cuba volumes could be used as a general guide for including documents on covert actions or should they be considered special cases. Zelikow believed they were unique in terms of HO access for an issue where CIA was a known major player; he inquired if there are good examples to serve as a guide where CIA was not the major player. Kimball asked those in the room whether any Foreign Relations volumes could be used as a guide for including documents on secondary covert actions. [Zelikow responded that the compilations on Egypt and Indonesia in the 1950s dealt with such issues, but the compilations were not very good. He also cited the collection on the Dominican Republic as a good example.]
Patterson noted that several Asian compilations contained different levels of covert activities. Geyer added that deciding what types of Agency documents to include had to be handled on a case-by-case basis and that the historians cannot cover all CIA activities. Hogan agreed, noting that more routine material does not belong in the volume, but possibly should be covered in editorial notes. Kimball commented that the Committee had once discussed making use of expanded footnotes for this purpose. He cautioned, however, against attempting to write the history of the events in these notes. Zelikow cited the use of editorial notes in the Cuba volume as a good example of how they could best be used. Ted Keefer claimed that these decisions were not "rocket science." He noted that while the Agency spent a lot of money in the past trying to influence public opinion, this is usually not the kind of thing we can document in the series.
Kimball wondered whether the Committee was covering anything new in the current discussion. Hogan commented that he felt the session had yielded some useful information. He argued again for including references to some of the more routine documents in an editorial note. Kimball felt that the use of these notes should be more limited.
The Committee recessed at 3:30 p.m. for a break and reconvened at 3:55 p.m.
Slany reported that HO has in mind several retrospective volumes. The Guatemala volume is further advanced than the other projected volumes. The second volume being prepared is a sequel to the volume on the organization of the intelligence community published last year. The third volume under consideration is a volume dealing with well known covert operations which took place during the Eisenhower and Truman administrations [in such places as Iran, Egypt, and Indonesia]. Slany indicated that Susan Holly was working on the Guatemala volume, and that Doug Keene, a Foreign Service officer detailed to HO, was working on the volume on the organization of the intelligence community. Slany added that the latter volume was expected to be done in close coordination with the History Staff at the CIA.
Patterson expanded on planning with respect to the volume on the organization of the intelligence community. He noted that the previous volume had covered the period 1945-1950, and added that the present volume would cover the period 1950-1960. He mentioned several issues and programs that would be included in the 1950-1960 volume. Doug Keene, the compiler assigned to the volume, has recently been detailed to the UNGA for the fall session. An officer detailed to HO from INR will pick up for Keene in his absence. Material for the volume has been gathered from the presidential libraries and from the National Archives. The research at the CIA remains to be done.
Patterson said he had discussed the preparation of this volume with Bob Leggett and Mike Warner of the CIA, and they were interested in a collaborative effort. Patterson indicated that he would discuss the idea of joint compilation of the volume with Gerry Haines when he assumes his responsibilities as head of the CIA Staff. Patterson's feeling is that this publication should be limited to a single volume.
Warner applauded the proposed volume as an "excellent project." He styled the previous volume a landmark publication. He indicated that the CIA would like to participate with a co-editor. He noted that in addition to CIA materials, it would be necessary to search NSA and military intelligence files in compiling the volume.
Hogan indicated that he liked the idea of a CIA co-compiler. He felt that such coordination between the two staffs might serve to foster the CIA confidence in HO historians which had been discussed earlier.
Zelikow asked whether this volume would cover such issues as the U-2 program and the downing of U-2 flights. Warner offered the opinion that the U-2 program should be an important part of such a volume, along with other key developments in the intelligence field, such as the background to the CORONA program. Zelikow noted that incorporating these aspects of the evolution of the intelligence community and its programs in Foreign Relations is exceptional. HO is not doing similar volumes on military programs or programs developed by the Treasury Department.
Kimball asked whether it was anticipated that there would have to be a third volume in this series. [Discussion at this point moved in another direction and the question was not addressed.]
Hogan and Tucker noted that high-water developments in the history of the CIA, such as the U-2 program, were also key developments in foreign policy. The committee in general felt that important developments in the realms of military and financial policy are covered in separate compilations in several Foreign Relations volumes and do not require the focus being accorded CIA activities and programs.
Humphrey asked whether the organization of intelligence volume would include policy questions, unlike the previous volume. Patterson responded that in his view the second volume in this series should incorporate the major policies and programs. Kimball agreed with Patterson.
Susan Holly then reported on her research on the Guatemala retrospective compilation. She noted that since the last advisory committee meeting she had refined her compilation to include 192 documents, of which 188 were of CIA origin. CIA has reviewed 156 documents sent over with the previous compilation. Holly is using 70 of those CIA has reviewed and is adding 118 documents from CIA files. Of the 70 documents the CIA has reviewed, 12 were released in full, 7 were denied, and 51 were sanitized. Holly said that she would recommend appealing the CIA findings on the 7 documents that were denied and on 24 of those that were sanitized. She noted that in rereviewing these documents, the CIA had in some cases added excisions. Holly observed that a preponderance of the proposed excisions related to the names of individuals and one organization. She concluded that she was cautiously optimistic that the clearance issues could be resolved.
Kimball asked how big the volume would be when it was completed. Holly anticipated a total of some 300 documents, covering the period 1951-1954.
Schaller asked whether the body of documents released on Guatemala by the CIA included documents which had been denied in the review for Foreign Relations. Holly said that was not the case. The documents released by the CIA related largely to the assassination issue along with some documents she felt were ephemeral.
Kimball noted that committee members had been told at the CIA that another release of documents on Guatemala was imminent. He asked whether Holly had seen these documents. Holly said that she had seen all of the important documents relating to the Guatemala operation. Slany referred to the Gates list of covert operations the CIA was prepared to consider for declassification and asked about progress on the list. Warner said there were 9 operations on the list beyond the Bay of Pigs and Guatemala, but there was as yet no movement on those 9 operations.
Jervis noted that the CIA Historical Review Panel had addressed the issue of the declassification of the 11 operations listed on the Gates list. His committee was briefed on these operations and told that large hurdles existed in addressing the question of declassifying documentation on the operations beyond the two which were in the process of being reviewed for declassification. The Panel had sent a letter to the DCI stating that it was time for the CIA to "fish or cut bait" on the promise made by former DCI Gates to review these operations for declassification. He said it was not clear what response there would be to this recommendation. Kimball expressed skepticism about the outcome of this initiative.
Zelikow said that he would be seeing DCI Tenet on questions relating to the Congo, and he offered to bring up the Gates list with him.
Kimball said that since it was 4:30 it was time for the Committee to go into executive session.
Closed Session, September 26
Kimball called the meeting to order at 9:10 a.m. with a brief discussion of possible dates in December for the next meeting of the Committee, preferably at a time that would also allow several members to attend a meeting of the CIA Historical Review Panel.
Kimball raised the subject of the Department's Web site on the Internet. He felt that the Web site contained virtually nothing of significant interest to the Committee's constituency. He suggested that the cleared, unclassified portion of the minutes of the Committee be included on the Department's Web site in the future.
Kimball noted that the law required the Committee to choose a chairman for the next year. The Committee nominated Kimball and unanimously approved him as chairman for another year. With respect to the Committee's annual report, Kimball said that the report should proceed on schedule. He would prepare a draft and receive comments before the next meeting; the report would be issued by the first of next year.
In introducing his report, Slany outlined the range of recent Office activities, including supplementary volumes, the filling of vacancies, and efforts to conduct research with makeup personnel. The volume on Intelligence Policy, 1950-1960 was in progress, as was a volume on Guatemala, and planning was underway for a volume covering other Eisenhower era covert actions.
Kimball asked whether the State Department should try to make use of materials published by the Iranian Revolutionary Committee. He believed that some of the material dealt with an earlier period, while most of it dealt with a later period. Kimball felt it would be worthwhile making a brief assessment of the material. Hogan asked whether a legal issue was involved. Zelikow believed very little of the material dealt with the early 1950s.
Zelikow spoke on the question of a retrospective volume on older covert actions. There might be a constructive opportunity to make it a catchall volume, including Truman administration material as well. Zelikow presented a list of topics he had worked out for the years 1946 to 1960, which, he suggested, could be covered in two volumes parallel to the two organizational volumes on the intelligence community. [For the Truman years he suggested France, Italy, and Eastern Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltic states. For the Eisenhower years he suggested the Philippines, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Tibet, and Japan.] The Congo was not on the list because its major importance developed later. [Tucker suggested adding China and Burma.]
Kimball said that the idea of "fixing" the Foreign Relations series could be carried all the way back to the beginning. He believed that once the files were open for a given period, research was the job of private scholars. Zelikow asked at what point the Foreign Relations series and Department historians had a comparative advantage. He believed it was the point where the series performed a service to the scholarly community. This comparative advantage still existed for the period of post-World War II foreign policy: Kimball said he had heard that the amount of still-classified material in the Truman Library had been dramatically reduced, and it would be important to determine with respect to the Truman Library and the CIA whether a comparative advantage still existed.
Slany pointed out that retrospective volumes could be evaluated as useful only if they led to the opening of significant additional records and led to their availability at the National Archives. In the case of the retrospective intelligence volume, important documents were still not in the National Archives. Kimball agreed, pointing out that preparation of retrospective volumes would bring pressure for declassification. It would also identify covert activities that were an important part of national policy, for which the series had not yet presented basic documentation. In response to a query from Kimball, Holly agreed that this approach was worthwhile and practical. Schulzinger urged that retrospective volumes be published within a reasonable period of time. If the contents were broadened too much, delay might result.
Holly said that when she first began her research on Guatemala at the CIA, officials there telephoned the Embassy in Guatemala and found that although it was a one week story in the United States, it was a two-day story there. The fact that the world did not end as a result of the release of documents on the operation might provide a beneficial precedent. Keefer urged that planning envisage releasing material in ongoing segments. Otherwise, the project could take 25 years while the balance of the documentation was held hostage.
Slany pointed out that the Committee had never before formulated a policy statement concerning the retrospective publication of documents. He asked the Committee in its recommendations to distinguish clearly between regular volumes on the one hand and the proposed supplementary volumes on the other. Such a recommendation might help the Office obtain specialized personnel resources on a contract basis.
Kimball had the sense that the Committee was generally supportive, but that it could be more helpful to the Department if it had some specific proposals in hand. Kimball was concerned that the series not print a lot of documents that scholars had already mined and used. He agreed with Tucker that the focus should not be too Eurocentric. Zelikow urged a focus on issues of first level importance, especially those where the White House was involved. Kimball said that in this case "comprehensive" should be interpreted as "policy-level comprehensive" so as to avoid becoming bogged down in details. Patterson said the office could come up with a proposal. There were very few historians left in HO who had done Truman administration research. The Cold War History Project and the National Security Archive had also meanwhile emerged. Zelikow urged talking to surviving participants with expertise such as Frank Lindsay or Robert Bowie. Hogan expressed reservations about Zelikow's strategy, pointing out that skimming top level operations might set a bad precedent for the future.
Slany emphasized that work on covert operations would have to be done with the help of contractors, rather than by existing personnel. He suggested that work begin with the Eisenhower administration, where an identifiable opportunity existed. Kimball agreed, suggesting that an examination of the Truman period follow. Kimball asked for a report on coverage of covert actions by the next meeting of the committee. Kimball said this proposal should not be included in the committee's annual report unless it would be carried forward. Slany pointed out the desirability of making clear that we expect the appropriate agencies to provide the documents that would be needed.
Kimball asked for a brief report about clearances within the State Department that were proving difficult. Noring indicated that Korea was a problem, as was the Denmark issue in EUR. In the case of Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus, we were waiting for a new ambassador to go out. British Guiana was once again delayed at the Embassy.
The Committee recessed for coffee at 10:30 a.m., followed by an 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
- Deb Godfrey
- David Goldman
- David Herschler
- Susan Holly
- Nina Howland
- David Humphrey
- Donna Hunga
- Edward Keefer
- Dan Lawler
- Tangarene Martinez
- David Patterson
- Steven Phillips
- Harriet Schwar
- Luke Smith
- Shirley Taylor
- Gloria Walker
- Susan Weetman
- Carolyn Yee
Bureau of Administration
- Margaret Grafeld, A/IM/IPS
- Ken Rossman, A/IM/IPS/PP
- Morris Draper, A/IM/IPS/CR/IR
- Jackie Lilley, A/IM/IPS/AAS
- Nina Noring, A/IM/IPS/CR/IR
- Peter Sheils, A/IM/IPS/CR
- Sophia Sluzar, A/IM/IPS/CR/IR
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
- Jeanne Schauble, Declassification and Initial Processing Division
- Nancy K. Smith, Office of the General Counsel
Central Intelligence Agency
- Harry Cooper, Records Declassification Program
- Michael Warner, Deputy Historian
- Rich Warshaw, Chief, Records Declassification Program
CIA Historical Review Panel
- Lew Bellardo, NARA
- Robert Jervis, Columbia University