Minutes of Historical Advisory Committee Meeting, November 1981

A scan of the original document is available for download (PDF, 274 KB, 26pp.)

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.

Minutes of the 1981 Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

American Historical Association

  • Dr. Arnold B. Taylor, Department of History, Howard University, Washington, D.C.
  • Dr. Ernest R. May, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

American Political Science Association

  • Dr. Richard N. Rosecrance, Center for International Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Organization of American Historians

  • Dr. Gaddis Smith, Department of History, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

American Society of International Law

  • Dr. Seymour J. Rubin, Executive Vice-President and Executive Director, The American Society of International Law, Washington, D.C.

Other Persons Present

The Bureau of Public Affairs (PA):

  • Raymond G.H. Seitz, Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
  • Francis D. Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs

The Office of the Historian (HO):

  • William Z. Slany, Acting Historian
  • Neal H. Petersen, Acting Deputy Historian and Adviser on Research
  • John P. Glennon, Acting General Editor of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS)
  • Charles S. Sampson
  • Paul Claussen
  • William Sanford
  • Nina Noring
  • Evans Gerakas
  • Sherrill Wells
  • David Baehler
  • Harriet Schwar
  • Paula Lorfano
  • Nina Neve
  • Luke Smith
  • Robert McMahon
  • Edward Keefer
  • James Miller
  • Kay Herring
  • Karen Bryfogel
  • Stanley Shaloff
  • David Patterson
  • David Mabon
  • Carol Becker
  • Margaret Gourlay

Classification/Declassification Center (CDC):

  • Ambassador John R. Burke, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Classification/Declassification
  • Laurence Pickering, Director, Office of Systematic Review

Foreign Affairs and Information and Management Center (FAIM):

  • Paul M. Washington, Chief, Publishing Services Division (PS)
  • John Ellsworth, Chief, General Editing Branch
  • Margie Wilber, Chief, Documentary Editing Section
  • Rita Baker, Deputy Chief, Documentary Editing Section
  • Charlotte Shahin
  • Leo Masciana
  • Elee Roeder
  • Vicki Ettleman

The National Archives and Records Service (NARS):

  • Alan Thompson, Chief, Records Declassification Division
  • Milton O. Gustafson, Chief, Diplomatic Records Division


  • Arthur G. Kogan, retired
  • Beverly Zweiben, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Department of State
  • Prof. George O. Kent, University of Maryland

[Omitted here is a list of abbreviations.]

Morning Session

Mr. Slany called the meeting to order at 9:17 a.m. He introducing Mr. Seitz, who welcomed the Advisory Committee on behalf of Dean Fischer, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Department Spokesman.

Mr. Seitz stated that he was very interested in the function of the Historical Office, and noted its contributions to both the Department of State and to the academic community. He stated that the Department had a commitment to the quick, efficient release of historical documentation, and that HO had a commitment to maintaining its high standard in the publication of the FRUS series. He called attention to HO’s special research program and noted that although this function had been neglected in recent years, the Department had renewed interest in research by HO. Mr. Seitz solicited the Committee’s advice, which he considered vital, in determining the proper balance between quick disclosure and the secrecy required for national security.

Mr. Slany called upon the Committee to elect a chairman. Prof. Taylor was nominated by Prof. May, seconded by Prof. Rosecrance, and named chairman by acclamation.

Report of the Acting Historian

Mr. Slany then proceeded to summarize his written report on the current status of the Office of the Historian. He reminded the Committee that the departure in July of David F. Trask (the former Historian) was the major event of the year. The Office Director position will be filled as a Senior Executive Service position. Applications will be accepted until the end of the month. The retirement at the end of 1980 of Arthur G. Kogan was also a great loss to the Office.

Mr. Slany said that the problems experienced in publishing FRUS had not eased over the year. Declassification had always been a problem, but the documentation from the Cold War period of the 1950s presented additional difficulties. Many people in the Department are involved in trying to resolve the problems of preparing, clearing, and publishing FRUS. The Department has demonstrated continued support for the series. It falls to HO to recommend solutions for the problems that delay the timely release of volumes. There are no magical solutions. The advice and support of the Committee are vitally needed. HO is doing the best that it can; its resources have not been reduced, and the Department stands behind it.

He said we need to work with A/CDC in accelerating the release of the volumes while at the same time making sure that the integrity of the series is maintained. As we get better in compiling, the problems in gaining clearance increase. Even with deletions, the volumes are far superior to those of 20 years ago. HO seeks to meet the highest standards of scholarship. Coverage is a problem particularly in regard to intelligence matters. We have to consider whether what we are trying to do is what we should be trying to do. Should the series chronicle the intelligence activities of the Government? It is hard to gain access to materials about such matters from other agencies. Do triennial volumes meet the needs of scholars? Mr. Slany indicated HO’s intention to conduct a user’s survey. Microform is another concern of HO. It will soon undertake test projects. We need to know how to relate microform to printed volumes. The above survey will provide some insight into FRUS-users’ views of such matters. Mr. Glennon interjected that it probably will be sent out early next year.

Publication of FRUS also encounters a production problem. GPO is in a period of transition as regards technology. Fourteen FRUS volumes remain in lead plates, but not all may be clearable by 1984 when GPO loses its last linotype operator and converts fully to word processing technology. HO is already involved in word processing of its own. It has taken one year to publish volumes that have already been cleared. Mr. Glennon noted that Volume XVI, which was on a fast track, took 10 months to print even after it had been cleared. Mr. Slany noted that we hope to speed it up. HO hopes to find a way to edit on-line working with a word processor system.

Mr. Slany observed that the 1978 Executive Order on declassification was in the process of being revised. This would affect on HO and the Department. He said we are concerned about the staffing level of A/CDC, with which we have a close relationship. We are anxious to devise better methods of collecting documentation and to work out guidelines for the transfer of the records to NARS.

Mr. Slany indicated that HO had resumed the American Foreign Policy: Current Documents series that had been suspended with the 1967 volume. One had been virtually finished last month on the Carter years; retrospective volumes on the Nixon and Ford years would follow. It is hoped that the first would be out by the end of the year and the annual volume on 1981 could be issued by early 1982. The two other retrospective volumes are scheduled for 1982. It is a necessary and useful series which reinforces FRUS. He expressed interest in the Committee’s views. At one time Foreign Relations was itself its own Current Documents and put current foreign policy before the public and the Department. We are interested in the Committee’s opinion about the value of the resumed series.

The great concern of the Department is that historians be able to help foreign policy makers. The research function we are working on is mutually supportive.

There are questions about the research program.

  • How effective is it?
  • What kinds of things can historians do for policy makers in the Department?
  • There is real concern that the research program not become a subsidiary to public relations activities. At the same time we must be supportive of the public relations functions of the Bureau. What does the Committee think?

There are problems in the administration of the Office. There are vacancies, and HO is hiring historians. But we can’t hire as we did in the past. The Civil Service Act of 1978 and the Foreign Service Act of 1980 require that we interview candidates from within the Department or that OPM provide us with a register of historians -- people who didn’t necessarily know they were applying for HO jobs, but were simply on the midlevel register. If you know of students or colleagues who are interested, he said, please have them put their names on the registry and make themselves known to HO.

The Advisory Committee is one of a number which the Department maintains. Although the Department continues to provide support for the Committee it may not be able to continue to do so in the future. What effect would a reduction of financial support have on Committee meetings? What are your views on attendance, format, membership, and place of future committee meetings?

Prof. Rubin asked what is the extent of financial support now?

Mr. Slany responded that it was several thousand dollars. We haven’t tried to achieve any particular geographical distribution. Members are selected because they were recommended by constituent societies.

Report of the Acting General Editor

Mr. Glennon began the summary of his report by requesting that the committee members consult their own copies of his report for the statistics that show that the number of volumes published has dwindled in the past several years because of the declassification difficulties. In 1977, 7 volumes were published. Three will be published this year and 8 will hopefully be published in 1982. Five of the eight are already through the declassification process.

Prof. Rosecrance asked which five? Mr. Glennon responded: 1952-1954 Vol. XIII, Indochina; 1951 Vol. VII, Korea and China; 1952-1954 Vol XI, Africa and South Asia; 1951 Vol V, Near East and Africa; 1952-1954 Vol I, General.

Mr. Glennon then said that CDC is now responsible for handling the declassification apparatus, and is in contact with other parts of the Department, other agencies, and foreign governments. In the Spring of 1980 CDC decided to rereview all volumes for 1951-1954. That is where the action is now in declassification. HO and CDC haven’t gotten to the 1955- 1957 volumes yet. At the beginning of this year the last volume for 1950 was released: Volume IV.

Mr. Glennon observed that he had seen reference in print to the question of whether Foreign Relations will become a White Paper. He said that HO is determined that will not happen. The Historical Office can appeal decisions of the CDC in the first go-around. If we’re not satisfied, HO can sit on the volumes to insure their integrity. In the past HO has had to delete whole topics from the series. It has always been the case that HO isn’t allowed to publish certain topics, for example the El Chamizal boundary dispute with Mexico. We have had to take out compilations on Iceland, Greenland, and Albania in recent years. On numerous occasions documents on the Peru-Ecuador boundary dispute have not gone to press. For the 1949 volume VIII on China, the declassification process took six years. HO withheld the volume waiting for the deaths of Chou En-lai and Chairman Mao -- (without HO intervention). We are convinced the decision was correct and worth waiting for because the material in the volume was so important.

HO has compiled sixteen volumes for the period 1952-1954. Out of the sixteen, only two have been released. This gives an indication of the time lag involved. Mr. Glennon had personally predicted that we would have the least problems with volumes III and XVI. These are the two which have been published. Six are included in the list to be published in 1982; eight probably won’t be published until 1983 or 1984.

For the period 1955-1957 there are twelve volumes, but none have been declassified because we were focusing attention on 1952-1954. For 1958-1960 sixteen volumes are projected. Of these, four, or possibly five have been compiled. Six are well under way and the remainder are in initial stages. For 1961-1963 we project sixteen more volumes. We have just begun to collect the material. Recently four of the historians flew up to the Kennedy Library to make the first systematic effort to collect documents there.

We have slowed down the Foreign Relations assembly lines that existed from 1976 to 1981. During that period everyone in HO had been working on the volumes, but that won’t happen again. The 1958-1960 and 1961-1963 cycles will be slower.

Personnel We are currently in the process of filling five professional vacancies. It is a long process going through the Civil Service procedures. In the past year HO has had one retirement (Dr. Kogan) and five resignations or transfers.

Technology We have done three volumes on in-house word processing equipment and will be doing more in the future. Several volumes of 1955-1957 are targeted for microfiche supplements on a trial basis. One will be volume VII on the Suez Crisis. The other will be the China volume because there are important U.S.-PRC conversations which we can put verbatim in the supplements.

A paper on the “Status of Declassification” of Foreign Relations 1951-1954 is included in the packet of materials provided to the Committee.

Prof. Smith asked for more information on the proposed microfiche supplements. Mr. Glennon said that a microfiche supplement would allow additional material to be included for Vol. VII on the Middle East. There would not be room in the volume itself. Prof. Smith asked whether the microfiche supplement would be distributed separately. Mr. Slany responded yes. We had thought about putting it in pockets in the volumes, but the librarians didn’t like that idea. We probably would have to package it separately in small units. One wouldn’t have to buy the entire supplement. Mr. Slany added that microfiche is attractive because it can capture whole series of documents such as briefing books that can’t be included in the printed series. Prof. May asked whether original documents would be filmed. Mr. Slany said yes. Prof. Smith said that this whole thing should be encouraged. Mr. Slany noted that we have to take care to select the best copy of a document for filming.

Prof. Taylor stated that in 1978, the Advisory Committee report expressed concern that material in lot files was being destroyed. He asked whether microform will help this problem. Mr. Slany replied yes; moreover he hoped that what HO thinks is critically important can be preserved by including it in the supplements. Mr. Glennon added that the Secretariat puts together wonderful files. It would be good to photograph them in toto. Others are weeded out. We have given the Committee lists of numbers of lot files which HO has used in the preparation of the series. We have used them and feel they should be retained.


Report of the CDC

After a short break, Mr. Slany introduced Ambassador John Burke, the new director of the CDC. Ambassador Burke, a Foreign Service officer for 26 years, obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees in history at the University of Wisconsin where he studied under Prof. Fred Harvey Harrington. Ambassador Burke feels he brought an historian’s skepticism to his Foreign Service career. He hopes that in his position he can serve the academic community as well as the Department of State and the national interest. He noted that the CDC was initially established to bring order out of the chaos of filling F.O.I. requests, a task that was not considered a priority activity by the desk officers who reviewed the requests. Ambassador Burke realizes, however, that the Advisory Committee’s interest is in systematic review, not mandatory review. He commended Mr. Pickering to the Committee as a man who has brought the experience of a teacher and a Foreign Service Officer to that task. Mr. Pickering and his staff have prepared guidelines for the National Archives to use in declassifying the 1950-1954 diplomatic record block. The current budgetary constraints on NARS have prevented the accessioning of the records so far.

The CDC uses retired diplomats, as does the British Foreign Office declassification process, to review documents. They bring sensitivity and access to political and functional desks because of their past experience, and they consult with the desks.

The problems in the future are budgetary, especially with respect to NARS’s inability to accession the 1950-1954 record block. Ambassador Burke has met with the Archivist Warner, and would like to work cooperatively with NARS. He has outlined the problem to the Under Secretary for Management, and he solicited the Committee’s suggestions and assistance in supporting the National Archives so that it could have the resources necessary to continue to accept State Department records.

Ambassador Burke observed that the CDC’s Systematic Review staff accords top priority to completing the review of the 1952-1954 volumes and 1951 volumes.

The publication prospect for 1981 looks better. 1982 looks even more promising. Amb. Burke was impressed with HO’s development planning for a microform supplement to FRUS. He proposes to give CDC support to HO for this microform project.

Amb. Burke reported briefly on a summer 1981 meeting in Washington with the British Foreign Office officials in an effort to discuss mutual declassification problems. HO and NARS participated in the meetings. The British Foreign Office uses retired diplomats as reviewing officers. The policy of the British is to make foreign affairs information 30 years old or older available to the public. 2-3% of the records are considered too sensitive and withheld from release. He wants to organize a meeting with the Canadians and is in the process or doing that now as a means of getting faster clearances on information which involves both parties. He added that there is a partnership here between the CDC and HO and the academic committee and the public it represents.

Prof. Rosecrance said that there is a slight difference between the U.S. and the British over what each considers sensitive. The U.S. apparently has an additional policy of avoiding needless embarrassment to individuals. The British don’t seem to care about that. Prof. Rosecrance would not want reasons of personal delicacy to hold back publication of FRUS volumes. Amb. Burke replied that gratuitous comments might be excised if the person still held positions of responsibility in public life. Dr. Thompson of NARS interjected that he thought the British were more sensitive than the Americans in regard to protecting individuals. They are much more conservative than the U.S. Edward Keefer noted the British are releasing documentation which is critical of second-level military and diplomats. Prof. Smith seemed to feel that the British diplomats have more frequently commented on other diplomats than the U.S. Foreign Service did in diplomatic reports. American diplomats tend more frequently to comment on each other in a derogatory way. Amb. Burke said that from his personal experience in 26 years of reading telegrams, etc., he couldn’t think of many instances where comments on American individuals were made. It is not considered part of the job. He had reported on diplomats of other countries and the quality of the representation of other countries.

Mr. Slany stated that the original charter of the FRUS series of 1925 required that information causing needless offense to individuals not be included. FRUS editors have traditionally, until recently, deleted that information. In the last years the tendency has been for HO compilers to leave to the Bureaus the task of such deletions. The responsibility has been dumped into the hands of someone else. CDC has done what the FRUS editors did before.

Prof. May asked about the budget cuts that Ambassador Burke had mentioned. The Ambassador responded that the cuts are primarily affecting NARS at this point. Mr. Thompson added that NARS does not yet know how deep the cuts will be, but that they will certainly affect the declassification effort. He said that NARS anticipates budget cuts of 12%, which will in effect end systematic review there. For the time being, NARS is asking agencies to keep their own records, because NARS does not have the resources to accession sensitive records at all.

Prof. Rosecrance asked what percent of sensitive documents are declassified by publication in the FRUS series. Mr. Thompson replied that only about 10% are declassified in that fashion.

Prof. Smith asked whether documents withheld now will be automatically reviewed again according to a schedule. Mr. Burke replied that there is no schedule except for FOI cases. However, when NARS finally accessions the State Department records, a schedule for automatic re-review is adhered to.

Ambassador Burke brought to the attention of the Committee actions in Congress that might well affect the declassification process. Amendments are to be introduced to the FOIA; hearings are to be held later this session. Executive Order 12065 is likely to be revised. Drafting is in progress.

Prof. Rosecrance asked if any U.S. effort is being made to release very sensitive material from World War II. He pointed to the British government publication dealing with wartime cryptography. Mr. Thompson responded that the U.S. has never released the details of its code breaking story. He added that a concerted effort by historians both inside and outside the government would be required to pressure the U.S. government into supporting that kind of retrospective project embarked on in Britain.

Prof. Taylor asked whether the CDC anticipated any cuts in its own staff. Amb. Burke said that future personnel levels were still not certain. Prof. Taylor then asked whether the hiring of retired historians as well as retired Foreign Service Officers was contemplated, as recommended in previous Committee reports. The Ambassador replied that the matter was under consideration, but personal security clearance problems associated with hiring historians were difficult.

Prof. May asked if the creation of a historical office and the appointment of an historian at the CIA had improved relations with CIA as far as clearances were concerned. Both Amb. Burke and Mr. Slany remarked that so far there had been no effect.

Returning to the issue of hiring historians for the CDC, Mr. Slany added that it is important to remember that substantive bureaus in the Department need to be comfortable with the persons from the CDC who are declassifying their documents. Moreover, the CDC has functioned as a buffer in the sometimes uncomfortable relations of the past between HO and the geographic bureaus. Amb. Burke added that the CDC has taken advantage of the bonds of confidence and respect that sometimes exist between bureaus and the retired FSOs who are now working for the CDC and who had at one time been senior officers in those same bureaus. Prof. Rubin commented that this former relationship may sometime work to the detriment of release of information. The reviewers may have a vested interest in protecting policies they devised. Amb. Burke explained that the CDC tried to assign reviewers who specifically were not involved in the creation of the documents they are subsequently asked to declassify.

Mr. Slany observed that HO assists CDC in the declassification process by identifying pertinent information in the public domain. In response to Prof. Taylor’s query as to when HO provides this information, Mr. Slany responded that heretofore the information was provided to the CDC only after the CDC has actually proposed informally to deny declassification of a document or portion of a document.

Prof. Taylor asked what the usual tenure of a CDC reviewer has been. Amb. Burke responded that some reviewers have been with CDC since its establishment three years ago. He added that the productivity and ability of each reviewer is closely monitored; some reviewers have been let go for non-performance. The CDC is not a “club” for former officers. It is usual for a new reviewer to start with mandatory review and then move into the systematic review program if he is satisfactorily productive. Amb. Burke added that HO research on previous public disclosure of sensitive information is very helpful to the CDC and might well be given to the CDC at an earlier stage in the declassification process.

Prof. Smith asked if information in U.S. documents about foreign governments is reviewed by foreign governments in the same way that a foreign government’s own documents are reviewed by them. Ambassador Burke answered that there is no obligation to do so.

Both Prof. Smith and Prof. Rosecrance asked why some foreign government clearances take so long. Was it that the information is so sensitive, or is it that the issue gets low priority in foreign ministries. Specifically, he inquired about the holdup of certain documents in FRUS, 1952-1954, Volume V? Mr. Glennon explained that the problem seems to be one of jurisdiction within the German Foreign Ministry. Mr. Pickering added that the U.S. desk in the German Foreign Ministry has been asked to help resolve the problem.

Prof. Taylor expressed concern that in the 1960s, the U.S. began to have relations with many smaller countries that will probably not have the resources to respond to requests for permissions to print their documents. Mr. Glennon responded that no procedure had been developed as yet for such an eventuality, but that suggestions from the Committee were welcome. Mr. Slany added that frequently the smaller foreign governments do not have adequate archives of their own and thus do not have or cannot find their copy of the documents that we want to publish. Examples of the problem have already begun to occur with certain Middle Eastern countries.

Mr. Gustafson asked whether the U.S. is required by law or international practice to get permission to publish foreign government documents in the possession of the State Department. Mr. Slany responded that since the 1920s the State Department has in practice treated it as a legal obligation. Prof. Rosecrance asked whether permission to print documents is requested from all governments or only on a reciprocal basis. Amb. Burke replied that we ask permission only of those governments with which the U.S. has “good” relations. Mr. Glennon added that certain countries such as the Eastern bloc with strongly divergent ideologies are not asked for clearance.

The meeting adjourned at noon for luncheon.

Afternoon Session

The meeting resumed at 2:15 p.m.

Mr. Slany called on Neal Petersen to report on our renewed and rejuvenated policy-related historical research program.

Report of the Adviser on Research

Mr. Petersen reported that the Office of the Historian performs historical research for the Department of State and for publication. Since World War II, the office has prepared almost 1,300 studies and memoranda, most upon direct request of Department officials. This research has ranged from brief papers on specific historical questions to multi-volume studies on broad policy issues. The research and analysis has focused on historical treatment of U.S. policy as opposed to more present-oriented analyses of conditions in foreign countries performed by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. The work constitutes the institutional memory of the Department of State.

The historical research for the Department of State has been varied. The Office has produced studies on bilateral relations with other countries such as Gabon and China, studies on major foreign policy issues such as the Middle East controversy, administrative histories of offices and bureaus; narratives dealing with crisis management in such cases as the Pueblo incident, and regularly updated reference works such as U.S. defense commitments and foreign travel of U.S. presidents.

Mr. Petersen reported HO studies played a role in the Department’s policy-making process. For example, in 1979, HO prepared a study on congressional constraints on the conduct of U.S. foreign affairs for the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. At the time of the invasion of Afghanistan, the White House consulted an HO study on the U.S. response to the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and developed courses of action based on that earlier experience.

Mr. Petersen also stated that HO also produces books, articles, and briefs for publication. Salient examples are the major joint documentary The United States and Russia: The Beginning of Relations, 1765-1815, published in 1980, articles on terrorism and other subjects published in the Department of State Bulletin, and a Short History of the Department of State which appeared both as a Bulletin supplement and a separate publication. In addition, the Office staff field hundreds of requests and questions of a historical nature each year from the Department, other agencies, and the public.

Mr. Petersen went on to recount some of the more significant projects completed in the last five years: U.S. Policy Toward the People’s Republic of China, 1950-1951, Human Rights Since 1945, U.S. Foreign Economic Policy, Women in the American Foreign Service, Quadripartite Berlin Negotiations of 1954-1961, and the South African Nuclear Problem.

Mr. Petersen listed many of the nearly thirty research projects and memoranda that have been completed in the past year. These included articles on early bilateral relations with the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia; a publication on the diplomatic implications of the Battle of Yorktown in connection with the bicentennial celebration; a brief history of the Department of State; an article on the construction of the Berlin Wall for use in marking the 20th anniversary of that event; a study of bilateral relations with Gabon for use by the U.S. Ambassador-designate; a study of the response of NATO to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the Czechoslovak crisis of 1968; an examination of U.S. base rights in the Azores; studies of U.S. organization for crisis management since World War II, and the economic summits of the past decade. Recently, the Office compiled and indexed an extensive documentary compilation on negotiations leading to the release of U.S. hostages by Iran.

He reported that the Office is now in the process of expanding and upgrading its research function. He said we hope to launch a number of classified policy-related projects and to establish a systematic oral history program. He declared that the upgraded program would conform to the following principles:

  • It would be responsive to the needs of the Department and at least some aspects of it should be more directly policy-related. More concise, timely papers should be written for direct input in the policy process.
  • Certain work must attempt to anticipate critical situations, although HO must always engage in detailed consultations with consumers before consigning resources to a project.
  • The program would take into account the mission of the Bureau of Public Affairs. This entails relating work to PA priority issues and producing more publications on the historical background of current issues.
  • Part of the program should involve more timely transfer of studies to the Archives following declassification.
  • The Office would avoid being constrained by old modes of operation and formats, adopt a flexible approach, and continue to engage in a variety of research activities.

Mr. Petersen stated that HO believes that our intensified research program would benefit the scholarly community and the public at large as well as the Department of State, and he asked for the Advisory Committee’s support.

Prof. Gaddis Smith asked if HO had a special staff to deal with these research requests. Mr. Petersen replied that we did not. He explained that the Office was divided into geographical divisions, and that the request was usually assigned to the Division most qualified to handle it.

Mr. Slany added that the Office’s new research program would also aid in declassification of Foreign Relations volumes. He stated that in the past few years HO had lost contact with the Bureaus in the Department. By embarking on an expanded and more relevant historical research program HO would reestablish contact and gain credibility for itself and the use of history in the Department of State. In doing so, it would help break down the adversary relationship between HO and the Bureaus which recent declassification differences had served to create.

In response to a question from Prof. Smith, Mr. Slany explained that there was not a direct cause and effect relationship between the creation of the CDC and the development of this adversary relationship. On the contrary, he suggested that the problem predated the creation of the CDC. The Foreign Relations series, he pointed out, was attempting to document some of the more sensitive episodes in the history of American foreign policy. To the extent that HO does its job well -- and he stressed that HO believed it was doing it quite well -- problems are inevitably encountered during the declassification process.

Prof. May asked how HO found out what Bureaus needed to know? Mr. Petersen said we found out through personal contacts, through attendance at staff meetings, and through the PA leadership. Mr. Slany added we needed to gain greater access to staff officers. Currently, HO was definitely outside of what is going on in the Department.

Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson

Former Ambassador and Under Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson, who had joined the meeting, offered a critique of Foreign Relations, vol. XVI, 1952-54, The Geneva Conference. His presentation, Mr. Slany explained, would be an attempt to assess how well the series was doing what it wanted to do: to document the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy. Amb. Johnson first offered some general comments on the volume. He indicated that the selection of material was good, noting that he could not think of anything significant which was omitted. He did note that the volume did not include much documentation on intelligence matters, and stressed that a key factor is what intelligence the President and Secretary of State are being given to read each morning. Within the constraints of available material the volume was comprehensive. He did note, however, that because the United States was not the principal actor at the Geneva Conference on Indochina, the U.S. documentation on the conference was necessarily incomplete. On the question of selectivity, he said that he did not see how HO could do a better job than it has been doing. Amb. Johnson recalled his own role at the Conference, his talks with Chinese representative Wang Ping-nan, his relationship with Secretary John Foster Dulles, his habit of always having his phone conversations monitored, and various thoughts about the manner in which things get done effectively in Washington. In response to a question from Mr. Slany about the organization of documents into a separate volume on the Geneva Conference, Amb. Johnson said that he did not see any alternative ways of presenting with the material. He did suggest that it would be very valuable for historians to know who had drafted the documents, who had signed and cleared them, and particularly who had read them. He felt that long documents tend not to be read by busy officials. He always favored short documents himself.

Mr. Slany asked how HO could get access to more accurate records of meetings or conferences. Ambassador Johnson suggested we could get the Secretariat to make a record after the event or crisis, but that it was not reasonable for HO to expect to be in on the crisis management meetings of an event and expect policy makers to make decisions with HO members present. Mr. Slany asked if we should supplement the written documents with oral testimony from the participants. The Ambassador said yes. He added that chronologies of events would also be useful in the volumes.

Report on Current Documents series

Mr. Claussen gave a presentation on the recently resumed publication: American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents. This resumed publication was a project repeatedly recommended by previous Advisory Committees. In recent weeks the greater part of the HO staff had been committed to the preparation of a volume covering the years 1977-1980. Mr. Claussen noted that the necessary time away from the Foreign Relations series was a trade-off which would result in a publication of use to academics and policy makers. He said the American Foreign Policy: Current Documents project was also a production experiment which would, if successful, have application to the more efficient preparation of the Foreign Relations series. There was a good chance, he pointed out, that the 1977-1980 volume would be out in early 1982. Mr. Claussen stressed the important non-State Department sources that were being used in the series, explaining that approximately 75 to 90 per cent of the material used in these volumes (excluding the 1977-80 volume) would not have appeared previously in the Department of State Bulletin. He also discussed the prospects for a microfiche supplement to cover important documents that could not fit into the printed volume. Mr. Claussen emphasized that HO wanted the Committee’s views on the Current Documents volumes, noting that the renewal of the series was an experiment. HO’s thrust, he added, was toward the greatest number of users; he noted that people all over the world would use the volume, especially in the Third World.

Final Remarks

Mr. Taylor asked whether HO’s expanded activities -- Current Documents, the intensified research program, etc. -- were coming at the expense of the Foreign Relations series.

Mr. Slany responded that initially they were. But he noted that these expanded activities would not affect the publication of Foreign Relations volumes between now and 1985 because all the volumes scheduled for publication during that period are already completed. He explained that HO’s expanded activities in other areas would only affect the series if HO did not resume compiling at even a moderate rate by sometime in 1981. Mr. Slany was sure that this would not happen. Mr. Slany said his goal was to help HO survive within the State Department. He also noted that while his colleagues in HO were not currently working on Foreign Relations on any significant scale, and would probably not be doing so for the next few months, they would resume compiling sometime in 1982.

Prof. Taylor stated that he gathered that HO was not unhappy with the CDC. He asked if HO’s position was that it could work with the CDC, and that CDC was better than what existed before.

Mr. Slany agreed with Mr. Taylor’s observations.

Mr. Slany then asked the Chairman whether he would like to hold a private meeting of the Committee. He offered to stand by to answer any questions.

Users Survey

Mr. Glennon asked the Committee members to respond to the draft Foreign Relations Users Survey in their briefing material after they returned home. He pointed out that some of the questions in the survey, such as those concerning the 20-year line, would have to be reformulated.

Prof. Smith asked what was the anticipated circulation of the Survey.

Mr. Glennon replied that it would be sent to 2,000 members of the professional societies. The Advisory Committee was the first presample group to see it.


The meeting adjourned at 4:05 p.m. so that the Committee could meet privately.