Minutes of Historical Advisory Committee Meeting, November
A scan of the original document is available for download (PDF, 1.2 MB, 25pp.)
Source: Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Historian, Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation Files, 1957-1990 (Lot File 96 D 292), Box 4, 1981—Minutes, Report.
Cited in Toward “Thorough, Accurate, and Reliable”: A History of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series, Chapter 9, Footnote 62
Minutes of the 1980 Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation
American Historical Association
- Dr. Gary R. Hess, Professor of History, Bowling Green State University
- Dr. Arnold H. Taylor, Professor of History, Howard University
- Dr. Betty Miller Unterberger, Professor of History, Texas A & M University
American Political Science Association
- Dr. Alexander L. George, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University
- Dr. Enid Curtis Bok Schoettle, The Ford Foundation
American Society of International Law
- Dr. Seymour J. Rubin, Executive Vice President and Executive Director, The American Society of International Law
Other Persons Present
The Bureau of Public Affairs:
- William J. Dyess, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
- Francis T. McNamara, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
- Frank Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
- Leon Ramey, Director, Executive Office
The Office of the Historian:
- David F. Trask, The Historian (Executive Secretary of the Advisory Committee)
- William Z. Slany, Deputy Historian and General Editor
- Arthur Kogan
- John P. Glennon
- Charles S. Sampson
- Paul Claussen
- Neal H. Petersen
- N. Stephen Kane
- Ronald D. Landa
- David W. Mabon
- Nina Noring
- William Sanford
- Louis J. Smith
- David M. Baehler
- Madeline Chi
- Evan Duncan
- Evans Gerakas
- Kay Herring
- Edward C. Keefer
- Robert J. McMahon
- James E. Miller
- Nina Neve
- David Patterson
- Delia Pitts
- Carl N. Raether
- Harriet Schwar
- Sherrill B. Wells
- Clayton McManaway, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
- Laurence Pickering, Director, Office of Systematic Review
Foreign Affairs and Information and Management Center:
- William Price, Director
- Paul M. Washington, Chief, Publishing Services Division
- John Ellsworth, Chief, General Editing Branch
- Rita Baker, Deputy Chief, Foreign Relations Editing Section
The National Archives and Records Service:
- Milton O. Gustafson, Chief Diplomatic Branch
Department of State press re1ease No. 277, October 6,·1980, provided for open and closed portions of the meeting. The following persons from the general public attended the open portion of the meeting: Professor Wayne S. Cole, University of Maryland, Professor George O. Kent, University of Maryland.
[Omitted here is a list of abbreviations.]
First Session (November 13, 1980; 1-4
Room 1207, Department of State
Opening the Meeting
The Executive Secretary, David F. Trask, called the meeting to order at 1 p.m. on November 13. He Introduced William J. Dyess, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, who extended his greetings to the Advisory Committee. Mr. Dyess emphasized how much the Department valued the historical documentary record. He welcomed the Committee's advice and comments for improving the Foreign Relations series. He viewed the Foreign Relations series as a vital nonpartisan task in understanding foreign policy successes and mistakes of the past and favored the opening up of records as rapidly as possible. Assistant Secretary Dyess also noted the “security constraints” under which the Department of State operated in releasing documents. He looked forward to talking to the Committee again the next day.
Mr. Trask then introduced Francis T. McNamara, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, who had 'special responsibility for the Office of the Historian. He also introduced the new members of the Advisory Committee, Enid Curtis Bok Schoettle and Gary R. Hess. He then briefly mentioned the agenda they would follow during the afternoon.
Status of the Foreign Relations series
Mr. Slany summarized a written report he had prepared on the status of the Foreign Relations series (attachment A). He recalled the prediction last November that seven to ten volumes would be published in the coming year. He regretted that only one volume was released in the interim--1951, vol. I (March 1980)--while the other six to nine volumes plus 11 others for the 1951-1954 period had been delayed pending re-review by the Department's Classification/Declassification Center (CDC). He was optimistic, however, that others would be published during the coming year, depending on the speed of declassification, technical editing, and printing. Nine Foreign Relations volumes have been designated as “fast-track” volumes, and he briefly summarized the status of each of these volumes, all of which were, he hoped, likely be printed during 1981.
The budget did not appear to be a factor in the delay of publication. If six or more volumes were, in fact, released next year, the budget might be a problem, but he trusted that the Department would find the financial resources in such a case.
Mr. Slany also indicated that all but one of the 12 volumes for 1955-1957 triennium had been completed in manuscript. The remaining volume would be completed before the end of 1980. The 1955-1957 triennium would comprise more than 28,000 printed pages as compared to the more than 33,000 pages expected for the 16 volumes of the 1952-1954 triennium. Some 28,000 printed pages are planned for the 16 projected volumes of the 1958-1960 triennium, although the total may be larger when the work is completed. Current planning calls for completion of most of the manuscripts for the 1958-1960 triennium by the end of 1981. While work was being completed on the 1958-1960 triennium during the latter part of 1981 work would begin on compiling the projected 16 volumes of the 1961-1963 triennium. Mr. Slany circulated to the Committee three charts (copies attached) indicating the status of the 1950-1954 volumes, the 1955-1957 triennium, and the 1958-1960 triennium.
Mr. Slany also discussed the Office's search for modern, efficient ways to produce Foreign Relations volumes. The conversion by the Government Printing Office from linotype to computerized printing required the introduction of word processing and nine-track magnetic tapes. He outlined five ways to convert manuscript copy into the final printed product: (1) word processing in the Office of the Historian and transfer of finished tapes to GPO for printing or contract printing; (2) word processing in some central Department of State facility and transfer of finished tapes to GPO for printing or contract printing; (3) word processing by commercial firms and transfer of finished tapes to GPO for printing; (4) word processing by GPO or by a GPO sub-contractor and completion of printing by GPO or a contract printer; (5) word processing and printing done in whole or part by one or a combination of outside private contracting firms. All these options have been explored in the past few months, feasibility studies have been undertaken, and the options will undergo continued study in the future. Up to five volumes for the 1955-1957 period will be done on the word processing system in PA/HO. Other volumes for this period will be done in commercial firms, and still others in GPO. The Office hopes to get comparisons on costs from these various methods. Feasibility studies for microform supplements have been delayed. Small-scale tests may be tried for 1955-1957 but large-scale supplements will not appear until the 1961-1963 triennium.
On personnel matters, Mr. Slany noted the small turnover of staff and that the Office was at relatively full strength. The Office currently had two vacancies among the professional staff of 28, and the support staff totaled eight. There were also two part-time professional vacancies, one of which had been filled for a brief time, but there has not been success in filling these particular positions.
Prof. George inquired about the status of 1958-1960 volumes. If the bulk of the compilations were to be finished in 1981, when would these documents be declassified? Mr. Trask emphasized that the Office intended to submit documents for declassification now, or as soon as possible, rather than wait for the printing galley proofs. The problem in the past had been the declassification of documents late in the compiling and editing process. The new system called for the declassification process to begin earlier.
Prof. George inquired about the completion date for the 1961-1963 triennium. Mr. Slany replied that the current tentative target date for completion was the end of 1982. He expected some of the 1961-1963 compilations to be begun next year.
Prof. Unterberger asked whether the nine “fast-track” volumes scheduled for publication have been re-reviewed. Mr. Pickering (A/CDC) explained that the re-review will be completed in November 1980. This project does not take into account the appeal to higher authorities of negative declassification decisions. Prof. Unterberger assumed that most volumes would be appealed, and she wondered how long the appeal process would require. Mr. Pickering speculated a month might be required, but the process might stretch out further. Prof. Unterberger felt this was too optimistic. She wondered how the process could be accelerated. Mr. Slany suggested that the experience PA/HO has had in the handling of Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, Vol. XVI, The Geneva Conference, indicated that at least seven months was required between the end of the declassification process and publication of a volume. The expected date for the publication of 1952-1954, Vol. XVI is March 1981. If the A/CDC re-review and subsequent appeals for the nine “fast-track” volumes were completed in the next few months, then all of them could conceivably be printed by the end of 1981.
Prof. George wanted more definite information on the budget for printing FRUS volumes in 1981. Mr. Slany explained that the printing of seven volumes in one year would require $700-800,000. The current Office budget provided for about one-half that amount for printing. The Office was reasonably certain, however, that it could persuade the Department to make a special case and provide the additional funds if they were actually needed. Mr. George inquired about the basis for this optimism. Mr. Trask asked that further comment be deferred until the report of those responsible for the PA Bureau budget later in the afternoon.
Prof. Hess asked how HO determined the number of pages for each triennium. Mr. Slany responded that the page totals for 1955-1957 triennium were originally planned to be smaller than in previous years. The compilations and volumes were, however, expanded to accord with the importance of the subjects documented. Substance, not budget, is the criterion in determining page totals for the 1955-1957 triennium and later series. In response to another question, Mr. Slany reiterated that the page totals for the 1961- 1963 triennium would be in the same range as the 1955-1957 period. Would there be a special volume on the Near East for the 1952-1954 period, Prof. Hess asked. Mr. Slany said no final decision had been made on Iran. Original plans called for the volumes to be published as compiled. Mr. Trask added that microform supplements were the solution; they were a way to make much more documentation available to scholars.
Managerial Planning and the Problem of Central Services
Mr. Trask then commented on the activities of the Office of the Historian in the planning area. He stressed the changes that had been and were taking place. One was the preparation of manuscript for publication; the remarkable change has been the conversion from linotype to cold type. Systems analysis was involved in modernizing and making operations more efficient. He also described various reforms in HO. The first was the reorganization of the Office. This involved reorganizing the staff, reducing the number of supervisors to five, and according priority to the preparation of Foreign Relations over other tasks. Also involved was the triennialization of Foreign Relations which allowed for economies of presentation, and expanded annotation. The introduction of word processing and other equipment had also permitted the speeding up of production and the reduction of costs, but would not be effective until production of the 1955-1957 triennium. A problem was that the number of people cleared to handle classified materials under the old linotype operation at GPO is not very great. Mr. Trask also pointed to HO's leadership in the Department's efforts to declassify documents on a systematic, efficient basis, which led to the creation of the CDC and its centralized review of classified documents within the Department.
The results, Mr. Trask said, were notable in terms of productivity. The Office would be close to the 21-year line in compilation by the end of 1981, and 20-year line by 1983. He believed HO was coming along fairly well in this regard. He could not make the same claims for publication of Foreign Relations volumes. He did not believe that the nine “fast-track” volumes would all be published by the end of 1981. He hoped this adequately answered Prof. Unterberger's earlier question on this point.
Mr. Trask then identified the principal problem currently confronting the Office -- the delivery of Department of State's central services. The internal planning and realignment of PA/HO activities was well advanced. Now there would have to be much improved integration of PA/HO and central services. He pointed to the use of systems methodologies that would be required for improved relationship between PA/HO and central services. These services were centralized in the Department in the 1950s and 1960s to obtain economies of scale. HO was not the only office making demands on central services. The problem was not unique to HO but was widespread in the Department and the government. The Executive Office in the Bureau of Public Affairs was designed to help the offices in PA to obtain the needed central services. He compared this Office to the country desk officer who to serves the needs and interests of his Chief of Mission abroad.
Mr. Trask itemized the central services upon which HO depends: (1) Budget. Publishing costs are increasing at a greater rate than the HO budget. To overcome this the Office was increasing productivity. The introduction of modern cold-type production systems would also improve productivity. The Office did not know exactly how much it would cost to publish upcoming volumes because the Department had been unable to obtain unit cost estimates from GPO.
(2) Personnel. The Office has had problems with personnel in the past, but was now near full complement. There were some systemic problems: (a) HO could not recruit or hire until a vacancy actually occurred, and security clearances resulted in delays; (b) Support staff requirements could not be met through current Civil Service system definitions because HO's equipment required more modern word-processing and office skills. The Executive Office of PA has done a good job for HO on personnel.
(3) Technical Editing. The technical editors had been removed from HO years ago. The Office found it difficult to integrate its work with that of the technical editors. One solution was to improve communication; another was to reintegrate the technical editors into HO. The Office was working on this problem.
(4) Printing. HO believed it did not have optimal relations with GPO, especially in light of the revolution in printing from linotype composition to computerized phototypesetting. HO was now exploring how to improve its relationship with GPO. The other option is to find other printers and HO was exploring this through feasibility studies.
(5) The centralized Records Management System of the Department. HO was dependent on the Foreign Affairs Information and Management Center (FAIM), as were all other areas of the Department. The biggest problem was copying. A new system was needed to avoid the delays HO was experiencing.
(6) Declassification. The Department had moved to a system of centralized declassification which was the long-range solution to the delay problem.
(7) Miscellaneous centralized services: (a) space was inadequate for HO's needs, but the Bureau of Public Affairs was committed to the allocation of adequate space to the Office. (b) Contracting services were used to gain the services of historians in 1978-1979, and HO was now contracting for feasibility studies of word processing. (c) Housekeeping is a problem; the Office for example, had great difficulty getting a plug installed for its new Xerox machine and having a new air conditioning system installed to support the word-processing system. (d) HO had to acquire expensive new equipment, but it had for the moment considerable problems in getting processing machinery. Mr. Trask said that every link of the central services chain had to work or HO would not be able to publish the Foreign Relations series. He noted that he was not attempting to make excuses in discussing the problems related to central services, and added that HO would not be satisfied until it reached the 20-year line.
Prof. George observed that there must be great competition among Offices for the central services of the Department, and he asked what kind of system of priorities of access had been worked out within the Bureau of Public Affairs. Mr. Trask replied that HO had first priority in some cases, second in others, but that PA was not the problem. Those in charge of central services establish priorities among competing elements of the Department and HO had to wait in line. The problem was not resources but how those resources were fitted together. Mr. Trask stated that he believed that current staff levels and funding levels were adequate to do the job, and added that he was not going to complain about the budget until HO had achieved optimal efficiency and productivity.
The Foreign Relations Budget
After a break of 15 minutes, the committee heard a report from Deputy Assistant Secretary Gomez on the PA budget. Leon Ramey, Director of the PA Executive Office also participated in the discussion. Mr. Gomez echoed Mr. Trask in stating that the problems HO faced in producing the Foreign Relations series could be met, in good part, by the efficient use of existing resources, rather than by an increase in the PA/HO budget. Productivity gains, in his view, were dependent upon technological advances in word processing and printing processes. Mr. Gomez noted that he was prepared to weigh in, in conjunction with Mr. Ramey, to help tackle problems relating to the provision of necessary central services. With regard to the coming fiscal year, Mr. Gomez stated that cost accounting projections were difficult to make without more precise knowledge about such factors as volumes to be produced, inflation, or conversion to a less expensive word processing system. In response to a question from Prof. George, Mr. Gomez indicated that he had received preliminary assurances that the necessary additional funding would be made available to print any volumes cleared for publication during the current fiscal year.
The New Classification/Declassification Center
At this point, Mr. Trask introduced Deputy Assistant Secretary Clayton McManaway, head of the Department's Classification/Declassification Center, who discussed the new centralized system of declassification in the Department, and its implications for the Office of the Historian and the Foreign Relations series. Mr. McManaway explained CDC's operating mandate, which included responding to Freedom of Information Act and mandatory review requests, systematic declassification of older documents, and the preparation of guidelines for the use of the National Archives (NARS). He explained that the decision to re-review the 1951-1954 Foreign Relations volumes was a result of CDC's conclusion that some of the desks had done a poor job on initial review and the passage of time has seen a “re-sensitization” of documents. Also there had been an assessment of the impact of special events, especially Iran. Mr. McManaway noted that he had “very reluctantly” recommended the re-review of the pre-1955-1957 volumes. He added that in spite of the heavy commitment of resources to re-review, CDC had continued work on the 1955-57 volumes, completing three of six. He stressed his desire to work closely with NARS in the preparation of guidelines for the 1950-1954 records. Mr. McManaway felt that with its new experience CDC could accelerate the declassification process for Foreign Relations volumes in the future.
Prof. Unterberger asked how many of the 19 volumes CDC re-reviewed had gone completely through the appeals process; Mr. McManaway responded that one volume had. Prof. Unterberger asked what percentage of the volume had been restored in the appeals process; Mr. McManaway responded that the original decision was upheld. In the re-review, he stated, CDC had in a few cases actually released more material than had the original reviewers. Prof. Taylor asked if the declassification guidelines were open to the public. Mr. McManaway replied that the general guidelines were unclassified. Detailed country-speciflc guidelines would obviously remain classified. He felt the problem areas were foreign government information, intelligence sources and methods, and military plans.
Prof. George asked about the size of the CDC staff. Mr. McManaway replied he had about 115 retired Foreign Service Officers working part time. These officers had been nominated by the bureaus. Prof. George asked how many historians were on the CDC staff. Mr. McManaway replied that some of the retired FSOs had degrees in history. Prof. George expressed his concern that exclusive reliance on FSOs with Cold War backgrounds and lack of historical training would result in their withholding too much documentation. These reviewers might not be good judges of what was sensitive and might not be aware of what had reached the public domain. Mr. McManaway stated that the CDC depended on HO to supply for the background information for declassifiers. He did not believe that the Cold War had scarred the FSOs.
Prof. Hess turned the discussion to a consideration of foreign government information and its impact on the clearance process. Mr. McManaway explained the difference between foreign originated documents and sensitive foreign government information in US documents . He noted that CDC reviews this foreign government information on a case-by-case basis. CDC feels the need for more consultation on these matters with foreign governments.
Problems of Records Management and Transfer
Mr. Trask next introduced William Price, Director of the Foreign Affairs Information Management Center (FAIM). Mr. Price discussed the automated recordkeeping system in the Department and the services that FAIM provided for HO. At the conclusion of Mr. Price's presentation, Prof. Unterberger asked if declassification guidelines for 1950-1954 block of documents were completed. Mr. Pickering indicated that they should be ready by the spring of 1981. Negotiations concerning the guidelines were going on now with NARS. He was not sure when the documents would go to NARS. Mr. Gustafson noted that NARS was not yet satisfied with the guidelines, especially those dealing with foreign government information. He added that NARS wanted a greater degree of cooperation from CDC--especially the making available of a CDC representative at NARS for assistance in reviewing the documentation. The afternoon session on November 13 concluded with a discussion of Mr. Price's briefing.
(November 14, 1980, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
Election of Chairperson
Mr. Trask opened the morning session on November 14 by announcing that it was a closed session at which HO would present its views on the declassification situation. At this point Prof. George nominated Prof. Unterberger as chairperson of the Committee for this year and she was elected by acclamation.
The Joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. Documentary Project
Mr. Trask introduced the recently-published volume The United States and Russia: The Beginnings of Relations, 1765-1815, noting that it was a major contribution to the study of Russian-American relations. Mr. Slany pointed out to the Committee that the joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. project was not without its detractors and that a degree of controversy could be expected in the months come. The publication had been released without publicity in mid-August and no reviews have yet appeared. The Committee examined the volume.
The 1979 Committee Minutes and Report
Prof. Unterberger then noted that the Committee had not received copies of the minutes of last year's meeting. Mr. Trask responded that he was not sure of the cause of problem but promised to make copies available. He noted that Mr. McManaway had wanted to be present for this session. Mr. Trask felt such attendance might be inappropriate but left to the Committee the decision on whether to talk to him later if it so desired. Prof. Unterberger noted that the Secretary of State had failed to reply to last year's letter from the committee. Mr. Trask and Mr. Slany agreed that this was probably due to turmoil during the last year in the higher echelons of the department.
The Declassification Problem
Mr. Trask announced that the only agenda item for the day was a consideration of the declassification problems growing out of the re-review experience. He began by stating that there was no reason to believe that CDC would not maintain a reasonable schedule. He was convinced that the system would be more efficient in getting a decision on declassification. The question at issue, however, related to the kind of decisions HO would get from the system. Some 20 volumes had so far gone through the process within the State Department. To illustrate the problems growing out of the re-review experience, Mr. Trask distributed a collection of materials to the Committee.
Mr. Trask began a review of this documentation by calling attention to a November 20, 1978 memorandum by Under Secretary of State for Administration Ben Read establishing the new declassification program. He then introduced a draft memorandum of May 2, 1980 from Hooding Carter (former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs) to Mr. Read. This memorandum, which was never sent, detailed HO's criticisms of CDC. Mr. Trask continued with a September 1980 memorandum by Arthur Kogan tracing the background of the 20-year line publication target. He then introduced another proposed memorandum to Read (May 2, 1980) outlining arguments against consultation with foreign governments about the release of information in U.S. documents. Mr. Slany noted that other U.S. officials, such as Allen Thompson of the National Archives, were actively negotiating with the British on this matter. Prof. Unterberger asked if this was the first time the problem of foreign government clearance of U.S. documents had arisen. Mr. Trask replied that this was not the case and added that policy had always been to maintain the sovereignty of U.S. documents. Mr. Slany noted that the issue had arisen many times in the past. During the Eisenhower Administration efforts were made to clear memoranda of conversations abroad. Mr. Kogan noted that the definition of “foreign government information” in Executive Order 12065 was quite ambiguous. This could result in a good deal of U.S. documentation being withdrawn from declassification review at 20 years and being put back for review at 30 years. Prof. Unterberger asked if governments other than those of the Commonwealth had been consulted on the question of foreign government information in U.S. documents. Mr. Trask replied that they had not yet been but noted that a precedent was being set. Mr. Rubin asked if the sensitivity of these documents was the only issue at stake. Mr. Trask replied that so far that was the case but other issues could arise.
Mr. Trask then introduced a CDC memorandum of March 19, 1980 to then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State William D. Blair, Jr., setting forth CDC's decision on the need to re-review the 1951-54 FRUS volumes. He noted that Mr. Blair was in the process of retiring from the Department at the time. He then introduced a memorandum of a discussion among Messrs. Trask, Blair and McManaway that took place on March 27 just before Mr. Blair's departure. Mr. Trask had pressed HO's objections to re-review in this discussion. Since that meeting HO has continued to object that re-review is costly and time-consuming and that it should not have been undertaken unless the prior review was incompetent. HO does not feel that the incompetence of the prior review has been established. CDC claims the prior Bureau review was incompetent and that certain documents had reacquired sensitivity in the years since the review.
Prof. George observed that the negative precedents established by the CDC during the re-review of 1950-1954 volumes negated the possible advantage of early submission of documents for declassification. In effect it was possible for the CDC to undertake a further re-review of all Foreign Relations compilations and volumes even after the completion of the present re-review. The Historical Office could be forced into a position of double jeopardy. Prof. George reluctantly came to the conclusion that there would never be a final decision on declassification until the time of publication. Therefore, the early review by the CDC was not really a help to the series.
Prof. Unterberger inquired if any FRUS volumes had been withdrawn after publication because of the CDC re-review. Mr. Trask reported that none had been withdrawn but some volumes were already bound, nearly bound, or in advanced page-proof status when the re-review occurred.
Mr. Trask explained that in his view it was a great mistake to attribute declassification problems to the new centralized system. The current security-conscious climate in the Department and the rest of the government would lead to similar declassification results under any system. And it was an equally serious error to view the earlier decentralized declassification system as some sort of golden age for FRUS. The previous system had been ineffective and corrupt. Once the CDC system completed its “shake-down” it would be a vast improvement over the old system.
Mr. Slany sought to contrast the decentralized system of the past with the current centralized declassification procedures. He pointed out that FRUS clearances were the result of ad hoc arrangements made between HO and Bureau officials. When these Bureau officials were sympathetic to the series, the clearance of FRUS volumes was usually successful. The arrangements were behind the scenes and the result of quiet negotiation. With the CDC all declassification was placed “up front” for all to see. The experts in CDC were able to standardize declassification practices--often at the lowest common denominator of release. HO's flexibility had been seriously reduced.
Prof. George expressed the feeling that the intrusion of a new declassification institution created a “layering” of the Department bureaucracy which was bound to work against the FRUS series. Dr. Rubin said that on the basis of his 40 years of experience with classification and declassification it seemed to him that the old process, however disorderly, had merit because it succeeded in getting documents declassified. He felt that CDC probably did not view openness as its highest priority. Mr. Trask stated that HO's opinion is that the new system needs to be given a fair test. It had inevitable start-up problems. Furthermore, the original system had not been implemented. Mr. Baehler added that, based on returns so far, it was not true that HO was able to declassify more under the old system. He felt that HO was not necessarily doing any worse under the new system. It was too early to give an accurate or complete assessment. Prof. Unterberger questioned this assessment and asked for amplification. Mr. Trask said that the re-review was working both ways: to release some documents that had formerly been withheld while withdrawing others. The real issue was what was being released, not how much. Was CDC applying sound criteria for declassification? Thus far the system that has emerged is not the one the Department ordered. Mr. Slany observed that it was inevitable that the new CDC review will delete more documents and information than the original Bureau review. The CDC re-review was based on the premise that documents previously clearable had become resensitized. The CDC review was aimed at finding these additional documents and information. Prof. George noted that he admired the vigor and detail with which Mr. Trask and his staff had argued HO's case in the memoranda he had read. But he failed to understand the basis for optimism in the future. He felt that despite HO's efforts the people higher up in the Department had not been convinced of the necessity to redesign the system. Mr. Trask reiterated that the new system deserved a fair test. That, he felt, was the only way to find out if the system would work. In addition, in terms of expedience, it was unlikely that the new system would be dismantled. Prof. George felt that once the system became institutionalized it might never be dismantled. He added that, in his opinion, the new system would lead to much more conservative decisions.
Dr. Schoettle asked if the Office could describe for the committee what documents had been lost to the CDC review. Mr. Baehler responded that HO did not know yet what had been lost because the appeal process was not yet complete. Mr. Glennon noted that HO had lost up to 10 percent of the documents in the volumes produced by his division. Mr. Baehler said that the first returns were tentative results. Those results looked much worse than results under the old system. They were designed to elicit a response from HO. He reiterated his view that the returns were mixed. Mr. Glennon said that he did not share Mr. Baehler's and Mr. Trask's optimism in this regard. Mr. Baehler noted that he was not optimistic, but felt that the old system was no better. Mr. Trask supported Baehler's assessment; he was not optimistic about the new system, but would not be more optimistic about the old system. He was strongly opposed to the decisions being made now. It seemed to him imperative to concentrate on revision of the new system. Prof. Taylor asked why the new centralized system was not working. Mr. Trask said that the Oversight Committee and other arrangements had not yet worked out and until they did he could not say the system was unworkable. The resignations of Secretary Vance and Assistant Secretary Hodding Carter left PA and HO without leadership during (these) bureaucratic fights this spring and summer. The onset of the election campaign and the general preoccupation in the Department with Iran had also contributed to HO's difficulties. The result has been that there has been very little bureaucratic follow-through on these issues.
Comments By the Division Chiefs
Dr. Schoettle asked the division chiefs to comment on how bad the deletions made by the CDC were.
Status of Re-Review of General and European Volumes
Mr. Sampson reviewed the status of the Foreign Relations volumes under the General and European Division. Eight volumes of the period 1950-1954 remained to be cleared for publication. Volume IV for 1950 was bound and ready for release, but it had been held up by the CDC. Volume III for 1951, Western Europe and Germany, had been completely in page proofs when it was caught by re-review. In that process, some 22 items were deleted, appealed, and removed from the page proofs, but material from documents declassified by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and from memoir literature had filled the gaps caused by the deletions without loss of quality. A similar situation in the case of 1952-1954, Volume V, Western Europe. A formal decision had yet to be received from CDC, but even if all material CDC had identified informally was deleted, HO would use declassified JCS material to fill the gaps. Mr. Sampson emphasized that the loss was in time and money, not in quality.
The remaining five volumes fell into two categories. In the first category were 1952-1954, Volume II, National Security Policy, and 1952-1954, Volume VII, Germany. Here the deletions were relatively light, although heavier than in the original review. He anticipated that discussions with CDC and the infusion of JCS and other declassified material would result in no loss of quality. The remaining three volumes were 1951, Volume IV, and 1952-1954, Volumes VI and VIII. The first two dealt with Western Europe and the third dealt with Eastern Europe. In the case of all three volumes the deletions were heavy, amounting in the extreme case to 30 percent of the material. While returns on the latter two volumes had only recently arrived and a careful examination had not yet taken place, it was clear that little declassified material could reasonably be found to compensate for such deletions. The compilation on France, Italy, and Yugoslavia were badly “cut” both in quantity and quality. Mr. Sampson concluded that the general picture with respect to the CDC's re-review of these eight volumes was mixed.
Status of Re-Review of Western Hemisphere, African, and Middle Eastern Volumes
Mr. Claussen, speaking for the Western Hemisphere, African, and Middle Eastern Division, stated that a greater quantity of significant material intended for publication in Foreign Relations had been declassified under the old system prior to the establishment of the CDC, even though that system may been uneven and dependent on ad hoc arrangements. He noted that six volumes for which his Division was responsible were being re-reviewed by the CDC. In only one case, that of 1952-1954, Volume IV, American Republics, did the re-review represent an improvement over the initial review. This was the result of a country desk's reconsideration of a particular group of related documents, but under the old system HO would in any case have appealed the original decision to the desk.
In the case of other volumes, a higher rate of deletion was evident under the new centralized system. Volume I for 1952-1954, for example, dealing with general economic and political matters, had originally been cleared for publication by desks and Bureaus of the Department with only five small excisions. After the re-review, CDC requested that portions of 18 documents be excised and that a 19th document be deleted in full. Another example was Volume IX for 1952-1954, covering the Near and Middle East, originally cleared for publication by the appropriate geographic bureau with five excisions. Preliminary returns from the CDC re-review called for the deletion of all or parts of 220 documents.
Mr. Claussen mentioned several general characteristics of the CDC declassification review process that he had observed: One was a tendency by CDC to formalize its grounds for denying declassification of material in any one area and extend them as precedents to all other areas. At the same time, there was some inconsistency between and within volumes in what various CDC reviewers chose to declassify what they chose to withhold. Under the old system, HO spoke and negotiated directly with other geographic and functional components of the Department. The results were sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessful, but least HO had the advantage of dealing directly with the interested parties. Under the new centralized system, HO had to rely on CDC as an intermediary to convey the views of the desks to HO and in turn to convey HO's counter-arguments fully, accurately, and persuasively.
Another aspect of the new system was its greatly-expanded concern with foreign government information, including such information in documents of U.S. origin. In such cases CDC had a tendency to delete entire documents rather than to remove only the portions that actually contained sensitive foreign government information. In making excisions in documents, CDC frequently deleted more words or sentences than was actually necessary to protect sensitive information. The work of some CDC reviewers indicated that they had been insufficiently briefed on the nature and scope of the Foreign Relations series, or on the applicable government regulations concerning it. CDC reviewers were often unaware of precedents in the public domain that might facilitate declassification. Despite informal suggestions by HO historians that CDC reviewers acquaint themselves with the precedents that appear in previously-published Foreign Relations volumes, memoirs and historical literature, and documents previously declassified, CDC continues to rely on HO to discover relevant precedents for declassification. In oral and written exchanges, CDC has usually placed on HO the burden of proving that information was non-sensitive. CDC had not in certain cases been forthcoming in explaining, in accordance with Executive Order 12065, specifically where the sensitivities lie in material it proposes for deletion.
Evaluating the CDC Review
Mr. Rubin asked who the CDC reviewers were who had reviewed this Foreign Relations material. Mr. Claussen said that the CDC employed about 115 retired Foreign Service Officers on a part-time basis. Mr. Rubin said that a friend who was now working for the CDC had been an excellent Foreign Service Officer, but was not the sort of person he would want to see reviewing documents for their sensitivity. He recalled an anecdote in connection with the publication of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty by the American Association of International Law. There were protests against this publication, even though the treaty and exchanges were in the public domain.
Mr. Trask compared the old and new declassification review systems in the Department. Before the establishment of the central system, reviewing was frequently done by junior desk officers; now it was done by Senior Foreign Service Officers. He cited the factor of time required in the review process and expressed the belief that time would be saved under the new system. If time were not saved, the CDC system would be a failure.
Prof. George said that he was not persuaded by this analysis. The new system deprived HO of direct access to desk officers. New middle men, who were not sympathetic to declassification, had interceded. Mr. Trask replied that if the CDC were staffed as originally proposed, the new system would work. He said that if there had been better coordination and consultation between the parties at the outset, the present problems would have been avoided. It was difficult to compare the review process of 1976 with that of 1980. The context was different and a 20-year line was now the objective, but he perceived no dramatic difference in volume and quantity of deletions.
Mr. Claussen raised a further point concerning the new system. As the system was originally planned, CDC was to review as a “sample” a collection of documents prepared by HO containing approximately 10 times the number of documents in the compilations themselves. But CDC had in fact been reviewing only the Foreign Relations manuscript, and had not had time to review the large quantity of backup material HO had submitted.
Status of the Re-Review of the Asian Division's Volumes
Mr. Glennon prefaced his remarks on the particular effects of re-review on the Asian volumes for 1951-1954 by saying that he believed that no method of systematic review could possibly succeed because, in his experience, systematic review was anything but systematic. On the contrary, it was arbitrary, capricious, and highly subjective. As an illustration of this point, Mr. Glennon related his experience with the recent re-review of one country compilation in a 1952-1954 Volume. In this instance the CDC re-review list of denied documents and the previous bureau list of denied documents stemming from the first review contained only three common items out of a total of several dozen. Mr. Glennon felt that the only reasonable approach to bulk declassification was to allow the passage of time to be the sole determinant of declassification, so that files would be opened and volumes published at an agreed period after currency--possibly 30 years--without exception.
Mr. Trask concluded that HO must recognize sensitivity and not select documents that have no chance of surviving the clearance process. HO had to change the practice of its compilers and do some initial screening for sensitivity in the future. This was not a welcome thought for the historians in the Office, and Mr. Trask noted that he was uncomfortable with the idea too. But HO had to avoid the accusation of being unconcerned with security.
The Committee took a short break at this point.
More on Declassification
Mr. Trask resumed after the break with a consideration of a memorandum of a conversation of April 4, 1980 regarding the re-review of all volumes for the 1950-1954 period. HO resisted re-review because of the delay and expense involved. Moreover no convincing rationale for the reconsideration had been adduced. The re-review was confirmed in a series of memoranda between EUR and PA during the week of April 11 to April 18, 1980. These memoranda formalized and legitimized the re-review decision-making process. On April 15 Mr. Trask spelled out in a memorandum the details of HO's plan to resist re-review. It was never fully implemented because Carter soon left the Department. Among the papers outlining the story of re-review was a letter from CIA requesting the opportunity to re-examine all unpublished volumes. HO has resisted this request for re-review.
A series of documents followed, indicating how the question was pursued through the normal channels, which meant in effect pursuing the re-review issue to the Oversight Committee headed by Ben Read, Under Secretary of State for Management. The concluding portion of this series of documents dealt with various HO arguments, steps taken, and those HO felt should be taken, at the highest levels of the Department. Mr. Trask worked on the premise that HO would get a better and fairer hearing at higher Department levels. He continues to feel that has proven to be the correct presumption. Mr. Trask informed the Advisory Committee on June 11 that the decision had been made at the June 5 meeting to continue the re-review but that appeals were allowable. These appeals would be made through established, substantive-oriented channels to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. At the meeting of June 5 it was also decided that a rationale for re-review would be prepared, but such a rationale has yet to be perfected.
In view of the affirmation of the principle of re-review, Mr. Trask initiated the second phase of the Office's resistance to the process. He filed a dissent channel protest. This is a Department administrative procedure to bring extraordinary problems to the attention of the Secretary of State. Mr. Trask's dissent challenged the presumption that an adequate case had been made for the necessity of re-review, and noted the cost and delay involved. HO's object in filing the protest, Mr. Trask noted, was not to oppose the new declassification system but to get it to work as intended. Mr. Trask believed considerable progress has been made in this respect. The result was a memorandum of October 14, 1980, that re-affirmed re-review, emphasized the “balancing test” in conducting declassification review and noted the necessity to make use of the Oversight Committee.
Meanwhile, HO continued to file appeals of specific denials in accordance with the decisions of June 5. One such appeal that for 1951, Vol. III (European Security and the German Question) had already gone through this process. The views of HO and CDC were presented at a meeting with Under Secretary Newsom. Mr. Trask felt the result was what might be termed a “split decision.” HO won some arguments and lost others. A series of rulings were given by this “judge.” Mr. Trask felt that this meeting represented considerable gains, especially in assuring that “due process” would be followed.
Prof. Taylor asked whether the Advisory Committee members could keep any of the documents presented. Mr. Trask said that they would not be allowed to. He confirmed to Prof. Unterberger, however, that they could look at the documents later that afternoon during their private meeting. He also said they could keep the memorandum on his meeting with representatives of the Organization of American Historians on October 17, 1980.
Mr. Trask said that the appeals had been narrowed to those involving fundamental principles of great importance. He would continue to appeal and use this appeals channel as necessary. He hoped the use of this channel would become less necessary as orderly processes are implemented.
Prof. Unterberger asked what the standard was for the release of a volume after the re-review and appeals process. Mr. Trask replied that if it was determined that other materials could be used as substitutes for the deleted documents, the volume would be published. Exceptions would be made in the case of those deleted portions deemed critical, such as documents in the 1949 China volume. HO would go ahead with publication wherever possible because it was already so far behind schedule. Mr. Trask assured the committee, however, that HO would not publish a volume that had been seriously distorted by deletions.
Prof. Hess asked whether the assumption was that the appeals process would open up the documentary record. Mr. Trask replied that there were problems on both sides of the fence. PA should take security considerations more seriously, and other Department officials should take openness more seriously. The dissent channel was for extraordinary cases and could not be used too often.
Mr. Baehler pointed out the importance of the “balancing test” called for in Executive Order 12065. The assumption was that older documents were easier to release but not all Department officials are aware of this distinction.
Prof. Hess observed that the burden seemed to be shifting to HO to “prove” that documents should be declassified. Mr. Trask said that the question was whether to fight wherever we could fight or do nothing and allow FRUS to go down the drain. ' He of course had chosen the former course. Mr. Slany pointed out that the amount of staff time involved in the re-review, including appeals to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, confirmed that the burden of proof was now on HO.
Mr. Trask reiterated that use of the dissent channel was an extreme measure. HO would vigorously pursue the options open in the appeals process and in reference to the Oversight Committee. He cited an S/P memorandum, especially the last paragraph, as a rebuff to CDC. This type of response illustrated the purpose of HO's strategy. He was not aware of any other channel open to HO. He hoped sound Department policy on declassification would emerge from this experience.
Self-Denial or Self-Censorship in Compiling
Prof. Taylor said that he was disturbed by an earlier statement by Mr. Trask that he wanted the HO staff to be more careful not to submit very sensitive material for declassification. Dr. Schoettle said it was her understanding that HO was specifically charged with submitting sensitive material. Mr. Trask responded that a determination of sensitivity in the clearance process was a very subjective matter. He added that an inclination on the part of the professional staff to print documentation relating to matters such as covert operations presented clearance problems. He believed that good common sense needed to be exercised by the historians in the office.
Prof. George said that he was disturbed by what Mr. Trask had said here and on an earlier occasion to the effect that his staff should anticipate negative decisions higher up and reduce the number of controversial items sent forth. On what basis had Mr. Trask claimed the staff was inattentive? Mr. Trask agreed with Prof. George but said that HO historians were employees of the U.S. Government and should be aware of the Executive Order guidelines. If the staff wanted to print an obviously sensitive document, he would question whether the substance of the document justified printing it.
Prof. George commented that it was important not to allow HO staff to be pushed into a conservative posture, by making preliminary judgments, and Mr. Trask agreed. Prof. George said that this was especially important because the committee had heard testimony that any two groups of reviewers could come up with entirely different deletions in the same body of material.
Mr. Slany remarked that it may be urgent for HO to collect all sensitive materials so that Department officials can identify them. This would be a service to them. HO was uniquely capable of presenting the complete and comprehensive record; the CDC was not able to do this by itself.
Mr. Trask said he wanted HO only to recognize early on when a given document was sensitive. He was not favoring censorship but good judgment in recognizing when to stop arguing. Mr. Slany said HO should rely on presenting a full documentary record. Prof. Unterberger said HO should always present everything, maintaining the integrity of the record. Dr. Rubin said he did not know what the most sensitive documents were, and that judgment was obviously involved, but that prejudice in the direction of openness should be the guiding principle.
Staffing the CDC
Prof. Taylor asked whether any effort had been made to include professional historians in staffing the CDC. Mr. Trask responded that there were no funds for such historians but only for retired FSOs. The decision was made on that basis. He wanted to bring this issue to the Oversight Committee. The Inspector General would take a look at this in two or three years. He wanted such an inspection to take place and was recommending this to the PA Bureau. We could not expect much action in the policy area until after the transition to the new administration. Dr. Rubin commented that the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs might, on the other hand, say “Why not?” He might believe he had nothing to lose in promoting reforms before he was removed by the new administration.
The Problem of Editorial Notes for Deleted Documents
Mr. Slany said there was one more issue. HO must develop new editorial procedures to deal with identifying the complete documentary record. The question at issue was how to deal with those documents, or parts of documents, that were not declassified. CDC and some Bureaus were opposed to any editorial indication of substance or agency involved in the deletion.
Mr. Trask observed that the Foreign Relations series was becoming more and more a guide to the documentary record, but some of this was being questioned within the government. Mr. Trask believed that the editorial content of the Foreign Relations volumes was the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, and HO would look to him alone for instruction on this matter.
Prof. George asked whether HO or CDC had the final judgment on editorial handling of deletions. Was there a clear understanding? Mr. Trask said this still remained an unresolved issue. For example, if a Dutch document denied by the Dutch government but summarized in an editorial note was later denied by the CDC, HO would have to accept. the CDC judgment as correct. But HO still determined editorial policy. There were problems in defending autonomy in editorial judgment. Some deletions in editorial notes had been accepted, others would be contested. Both wanted to be able to explain ellipses and documentary material denied clearances. Mr. Slany mentioned that in the case of NSC documents, notes had been inserted in earlier Foreign Relations volumes that the materials were not printed at NSC request. Mr. Claussen noted that introductions to the volumes can in the future point to this issue.
The Disposition of Office “Lot” Files
Prof. Taylor asked about “lot” files. Mr. Trask said these files were important, especially for understanding the decision-making process. Prof. Taylor asked whether these lot files were being preserved. Mr. Baehler said he could not say whether all were being preserved, but none were being destroyed in contradiction to the Federal Records Act. Files could be destroyed if they duplicated other records. Mr. Slany added that the National Archives was the ultimate decision-making agency. If NARS rejected files as duplicating other records, it would send them back to the Department, which might then destroy them. Mr. Trask said this was a difficult battle. The solution, Mr. Price said, is the digital system, whereby the Department would have in effect only one file. HO would do everything possible, Mr. Trask contended, to preserve the lot files.
The meeting recessed at 12:30 p.m. to reconvene in Mr. Trask's office after lunch.
(November 14, 1980; 2:45-3:30 p.m.)
The Status of Research and Reference Projects
The meeting reconvened in Mr. Trask's office at 2:45 p.m. Mr. Petersen reported on the research and reference functions of the Office. He said that HO did research in response to Department requests. These studies could be from one page to several volumes in length and involve administrative histories, crisis management studies, compiling or updating of reference works (United States Chiefs of Mission, for example). These studies served as an institutional memory for the Department. They helped to identify and preserve relevant files and also were useful in preparing Foreign Relations volumes. Mr. Petersen said that he was now the only HO historian doing in-house research on a full-time basis. HO had some discretion in refusing requests; for example, it could say that it did not have enough resources to do a study. For larger projects the Office formed task forces. Mr. Petersen circulated to the Advisory Committee a list of larger projects completed during the past five years and gave highlights of the past year. He mentioned, for example, 10 large studies concerning legislative constraints in the conduct of foreign relations; a compilation involving narratives, public statements, and chronologies on Iran, 1941-1979; a list of public statements and narrative studies on Cuba; Madeleine Chi's study on U.S. relations with Sri Lanka for the ambassador-designate; and a study on the evolution of the position of the national security adviser from 1947-1980.
Mr. Slany recalled that during the past winter HO had been asked to prepare in 24 hours for possible use for White House studies on the 1956 Soviet intervention into Hungary and the 1968 Soviet intervention into Czechoslovakia. Mr. Sampson had gathered together the requested materials. One of the items was a long, detailed study, prepared several years earlier, on the Czechoslovak case. President Carter and National Security Adviser Brzezinski both publically acknowledged the significance of the HO report in assessing the decisions to be taken in connection with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The President privately commended the Office on its work.
Mr. Claussen pointed out that the entire office had been involved in the Iran project, and that HO was commended for its objectivity.
Mr. Trask commented that policy-oriented research increasingly involved the Third World, since less was known about it.
Prof. George asked how much HO time was devoted to this type of research. Mr. Trask said it was hard to judge but he was very interested in this aspect of office work. It involved the question of how to do research that is policy-relevant. HO was still experimenting with various modes. At present he wanted to catch up with compilation of the Foreign Relations series after which more time could be diverted to policy-related research. His goal is expend about 10 percent of HO resources, which was less than that devoted by HO in the past.
Dr. Schoettle said she was excited about this aspect of HO work, and wondered why an ERDA study on India had to be written by a professor on the outside. Mr. Trask said that HO was interested in interagency research but felt that the other agencies were not. He felt HO had to forge links with other agencies to transcend fiefdoms. The indications were that HO research had been more helpful to the Department in the past year but the overall productivity of Office had also increased. Foreign Relations production remained on schedule. He also noted that word processing equipment in-house has been a great help in producing and revising these research papers.
Prof. Taylor and Prof. Unterberger asked whether these research papers went into a Department file or the central files. Mr. Trask said that there were HO lot files, and some papers would be in the central files.
Mr. Petersen reported that HO had written 30 papers for the Policy Planning Staff which highlighted public statements on issues. These were unclassified studies. Mr. Trask speculated on the purposes of these studies. He did not know what finally happened to them.
Mr. Slany remarked that HO research papers did not have full standing, as they were not cleared in the Department by other concerned Bureaus. One on Cuba, however, was reviewed, cleared, and sent to the White House. Mr. Trask remarked that HO might not want these papers cleared because the result might be compromising to the integrity and objectivity of the studies.
The meeting concluded at 3:50 p.m.