September 2010

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, September 13–14, 2010


Committee Members

  • Robert McMahon, Chairman
  • Carol Anderson
  • Laura Belmonte
  • Richard Immerman
  • James McAllister
  • Katherine Sibley

Office of the Historian

  • David Herschler, Acting Executive Secretary
  • Carl Ashley
  • Myra Burton
  • John Carland
  • Mandy Chalou
  • John Collinge
  • Evan Duncan
  • David Geyer
  • Renée Goings
  • Tiffany Hamelin
  • David Herschler
  • Adam Howard
  • Aaron Marrs
  • Bill McAllister
  • Michael McCoyer
  • Kelly McFarland
  • Chris Morrison
  • 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
  • Harmon Kirby
  • Marvin Russell
  • William Coombs

National Archives and Records Administration

  • David Langbart, Life Cycle Management Division
  • John Powers, Information Security Oversight Office
  • Lisa Roberson, Life Cycle Management Division
  • Nancy Smith, Office of Presidential Libraries
  • Emma Stelle, Life Cycle Management Division

Central Intelligence Agency

  • Bruce B.
  • Perry C.
  • Robin T.

Open Session, September 13

Approval of the Record of the June Meeting

The committee convened at 1:40 and approved the record of the June 2010 meeting.

Status Reports by the Deputy Historian and General Editor

David Herschler reported to the committee on several items: Ambassador Brynn expressed regret that he could not be present for the meeting, and that only the most extraordinary personal circumstances prevented him from attending. Herschler then welcomed the newest member of the committee, Professor James McAllister, on behalf of the Department. McAllister is the statutory representative of the American Political Science Association. Herschler noted that this was the first time in nearly two years that the committee has a full complement of 9 members. Herschler then reported on the plans for the office move. He then went on to briefly discuss plans for FRUS research at the Reagan library. With regards to staffing, the search continues for a new Office Director. The announcement for filling the position of chief of the Declassification and Publishing Division vacated by Susan Weetman was posted. Three of the four details by the professional staff to other parts of the Department (Mark Hove to WHA, Stephanie Hurter to the Office of E-Diplomacy, and Kristin Ahlberg to DRL) are winding down and will end within the next month. As mentioned earlier, these details were the first based on an OIG recommendation and were meant not only to provide members of HO staff with a greater understanding of the Department, but also to provide an opportunity for components of the Department to gain insight into HO and how we can be useful to current foreign policy initiatives. The conclusion of these ground-breaking details will present the Office with an opportunity to evaluate how best to move forward with this program in the future. The Office welcomed three new members of the permanent staff in August. Joshua Botts (Ph.D. University of Virginia, Charlottesville) is the first of several historians selected last spring; he has joined the Special Projects Division. Nick Sheldon has taken on the position of Office Administrator, a modified position supplanting the former Office Secretary. Alicia Freeman has taken on the position of Program Assistant. The Office also welcomed Foreign Service Officer Peter Cozzens in August. Peter is serving a one-year Y-Tour and will report to Ambassador Brynn. He is currently working with Bill McAllister in coordinating the Office’s portion of the A-100 course at FSI and developing programs to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Foreign Relations series during 2011. In other news, Evan Dawley (Special Projects Division) has taken a year leave of absence from HO to teach Chinese and East Asian history at Reed College.

Susan Weetman reported on the status of remaining unpublished Nixon-Ford volumes, including the two Vietnam volumes which will be out by the time of the Vietnam conference in a few weeks, and two other volumes should be published by the end of the year. She then gave a status of all the Carter volumes, including three that would move into declassification in the next few weeks.

In Bill McAllister’s absence, Peter Cozzens discussed the office’s plans for the sesquicentennial celebration of the Foreign Relations series.

The committee expressed concern about the disruptive effect the Vietnam conference and the move might have on the work of the series.

William Burr of the National Security Archive asked about the status of the Chile and Japan volumes. Weetman responded that they were both still under declassification review. Burr asked if the recent declassification of Japanese documents relating to nuclear weapons would simplify the declassification process. Weetman responded that the declassification of any material was always helpful.

Status of Declassification of Department of State Records

Marvin Russell reported that 66% of the 2010 Calendar Year goal for review of paper records from the 1982–1985 block had been completed. Out of 2,600,000 total pages, 1,713,000 pages had been reviewed. In the coming quarter, review of paper records should accelerate. Some of the paper review staff had been assigned to review State records at the National Declassification Center (NDC) and at other agencies. Those reviewers will return to paper review in October, and Russell expressed the hope that they would complete the review of the 1982–1985 block of paper records by the end of December. With regard to electronic records, Russell reported that 85% of the 1985 classified telegrams had been reviewed. The electronic review staff expected to finish all of them by the end of December. Review of the Limited Official Use telegrams for 1985 was 50% complete, and this review should also be finished by the end of December. The 1978 and 1979 cables are now ready for transfer to NARA, and that transfer should occur soon. Finally, Russell mentioned that there was still no budget for 2011 and that budget limitations might impact the review program next year.

Closed Session, September 13

Issues Relating to the Declassification and Opening of Records at the National Archives

David Langbart reported that additional permanent 1973 through 1975 telegrams are now available through AAD. There are 227,201 new telegram records and 133,612 new withdrawal cards. The new records have been merged into the files of records previously available on AAD.

Langbart continued that the National Declassification Center is up and running. The Department of State records that have been worked on focus on records relating to Africa, East Asia, and the bureaus of Political-Military Affairs and International Organization Affairs. Langbart suggested that the HAC invite the head of the NDC to speak, perhaps at one of the HAC luncheons.

Langbart also noted that the joint State-NARA review for RD/FRD material continues.

Finally, Langbart explained that to enhance access to the Department’s central file records, the Textual Archives Services Division has initiated a project to systematically review all 1975 and 1976 P-Reel files to clean up the issue of otherwise restricted documents.

Katie Sibley asked how the NDC is working. Langbart replied that it is up and running, and is located at NARA II. Sibley asked about the state of interagency cooperation. John Powers said that this is occurring, and recommended looking at the NDC website.

Nancy Smith stated that the Remote Archive Capture program (RAC) is under the NDC. She said that current declassification priorities are different at different libraries. For the Truman and Eisenhower libraries, there is little material still classified, so all of it is being prioritized. The focus at the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford libraries is on the national security materials as well as the China files in the Kissinger collection at the Library of Congress. The declassification emphasis at the Carter Library will include the Mondale collection as well as other material.

Smith said that the NDC was prioritizing presidential materials, and was very interested in what scholars want to see. McMahan queried about what was still classified from the Truman era. Smith replied that there are 959 CIA documents and 4765 non-CIA documents (of which 761 are DOS Documents). In the Eisenhower period, there are 959 CIA documents and 20,800 non-CIA documents (of which 755 are DOS). Some of these have previously been reviewed, and some are being reviewed for the first time.

Sibley asked Powers to discuss how the Implementing Directive (32 C.F.R. 2001) of E.O. 13526 can be used to assist the Historians in requesting expedited declassification review from Agencies in accordance with the 120 day deadline from the FRUS statute. Powers read the language from 32 C.F.R. 2001.37, Assistance to the Department of State. He explained that when a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) request is submitted to an agency, a response should be forthcoming within one year. If there is no reply, requestors have 60 days to appeal the agency’s failure to review the MDR directly to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) 32 CFR 2001.37 allows the Historians Office to appeal declassification review requests to the ISCAP for adjudication provided that the Historians abides by the timelines established in the ISCAP By-laws.

FRUS declassification Issues regarding ISOO

Powers noted that recently the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) held a public meeting that focused on, two major issues: 1) what to do about historical Formerly Restricted Data (FRD); and 2) what to do about classified information in historical Congressional records. Additionally, the PIDB has been tasked by the White House with assisting the National Security Advisor in designing a new classification system that allows for technological innovations and addresses the challenges of working with digital information.

Powers encouraged the Historical Advisory Committee to weigh in on FRD issues, and he expressed disappointment that, at the PIDB meeting, the Department of State and other agencies did not do more to encourage a process that would allow for a declassification review of historical FRD information to take place.

Powers went on to discuss his efforts to aid the Historians Office in facilitating the comprehensive and consistent declassification review of 37 documents from the Arab Israeli Dispute volume. He noted that ISOO created electronic working copies of the documents that included metadata with the review decisions from the various agencies. Next, he compiled printed versions of these e-copies and provided them to the Department of Defense so that they could conduct their own review and see what other agencies had determined. This proved effective; as DOD was able to provide decisions on most of the documents that reflect agreement between the various agencies.

Powers then went on to discuss with the committee the new E.O. Implementing Directive and its effect on the FRUS series.

The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series

Herschler opened the session by identifying some of the volumes with outstanding CIA issues. One recent CIA response had resulted in a recent joint CIA-HO meeting. Herschler discussed some specific volumes and then mentioned that there was still the problem of the CIA withholding previously declassified information.

The CIA noted the dramatically increased collaboration and coordination with HO, as exemplified by the new policy of a regularly scheduled CIA-HO meeting every six weeks. The presence of a new joint historian HO was of great benefit to both parties. Weetman agreed that the regular meetings were very helpful, as long as the people attending had the authority to make prompt decisions. Herschler seconded that Collinge was eminently qualified to serve as Joint Historian and that he was working well with HO and CIA.

McMahon said that he was still mystified by CIA’s position regarding previously declassified documents. CIA replied that they did not consider such documents actually declassified, but improperly released, and therefore subject to “reclassification” to protect national security. The committee then engaged in a discussion with the CIA representative about the reclassification process and how it related to specific documents in certain volumes. Kathy Rasmussen and David Geyer felt that there is an important principle that already released or available documents should be publishable.

The committee then discussed the utility of publishing volumes electronically before all documents could be declassified for printing.

Closed Session, September 14

Planning for Reagan Administration FRUS volumes

Herschler reported on a recent trip to the Reagan Presidential Library, where he, Susan Weetman, and David Geyer met with Reagan Library archivists to begin planning for research at the Library. HO’s written internal report on the trip had been pre-circulated to the Advisory Committee. Herschler’s oral report to the committee initiated a larger discussion of the research challenges at the Reagan Library, with further details added by Geyer, Weetman and Nancy Smith.

Highlights of the report and discussion included: the greater volume of documentation than at previous presidential libraries; the higher proportion of SCI and special access programs (SAP) materials than at previous presidential libraries; and the new NSC records management scheme initiated in the 2nd Reagan administration, which essentially resulted in documents being archived chronologically (rather than topically), and necessitates the use of a microfiche index.

Smith noted that the new NSC records-filing scheme applied to the core NSC policy files (“federal files”), not to staff member office files, which were still archived in a manner similar to previous presidential libraries. She also noted that the new NSC system represented a fundamental change in NSC practices that continued beyond the Reagan administration.

Given the challenges of the new system, Smith suggested arranging a meeting between NSC’s access management staff and HO, in which the access management staff could share their knowledge about finding documentation in the new system. Smith stated that she would like to attend the meeting, and could help arrange it. Smith noted that the NSC access management staff has an electronic version of the fiche index to the NSC policy files, but that HO cannot access that copy because it is merged with index information from later presidential administrations. Smith mentioned the possibility of getting software licenses that would allow HO and the Reagan Library to access an electronic index of Reagan administration materials, and noted that her staff had talked to their contractor about this possibility.

Smith briefly discussed NSC e-mail records from the Reagan administration, noting that they are currently accessible only via her staff, and that they are not currently searchable (though this is being worked on). An additional challenge with the e-mail is that SAP (special access program) information is embedded throughout the e-mails and not segregated separately.

Smith added that the Reagan Library’s documents from the first Reagan administration have been scanned into the RAC, and that a lower proportion of Reagan library documents have been declassified than at previous presidential libraries. Some discussion followed on the limitations of the RAC as a research tool.

At the conclusion of this discussion, McMahon commented that all of this information was “pretty discouraging” from the viewpoint of FRUS meeting its 30-year line.

The Future of the Foreign Relations Series

Susan Weetman discussed the overall goals for the new FRUS database, which will track the FRUS process from the beginning of a volume to its publication. Carl Ashley and Joseph Wicentowski gave a brief presentation about the database, stressing that the conceived database will provide users with useful reports, and it will consolidate all declassification documents/decisions into one place.

There was general discussion about certain volumes in the pipeline and the status of second reviews. McMahon inquired as to the status of the Carter volumes, and discussion ensued about the average time a FRUS volume takes to complete.

The committee adjourned at 11:30 and engaged in Executive Session.