Minutes of Historical Advisory Committee Meeting, November
A scan of the original document is available for download (PDF, 326 KB, 21pp.)
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 5, Advisory Committee Minutes - 1986. Drafted by Historian William Z. Slany, Deputy Historian Neal H. Petersen, and Assistant to the Historian and Information Staff Chief Carol A. Becker (PA/HO). A record of the classified briefing on declassification procedures, mentioned at the close of the Thursday afternoon session, has not been located.
Cited in Toward “Thorough, Accurate, and Reliable”: A History of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series, Chapter 10, Footnote 19
Minutes of the 1986 Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation
American Historical Association
- Dr. Robert Dallek, Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90024
- Dr. Blanche Wiesen Cook, Department of History, John Jay College, CUNY, New York, New York 10036
- Dr. Warren F. Kuehl, Department of History, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio 44325
American Political Science Association
- Dr. Michel Oksenberg, Center for Chinese Studies, Lane Hall, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
- Dr. Deborah W. Larson, Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027
American Society of International Law
- Dr. John Lawrence Hargrove, Executive Vice President and Executive Director, The American Society of International Law, 2223 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20008
Organization of American Historians
- Dr. Bradford Perkins, Department of History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
- Dr. Warren I. Cohen, Department of History, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824
- Dr. Michael H. Hunt, Department of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514
Other Persons Present:
Bureau of Public Affairs (PA):
- George B. High, Deputy Assistant Secretary
The Office of the Historian (PA/HO):
- (Both days):
- William Z. Slany, The Historian
- Neal H. Petersen, Deputy Historian
- John P. Glennon, Foreign Relations Division Chief
- Carol A. Becker, Assistant to the Historian and Information Staff Chief
- Mitchell Stewart, Management Advisor
- Charles S. Sampson
- David W. Mabon
- (Friday only):
- Paul Claussen, Policy Studies Division Chief
- David S. Patterson, Operations Staff Chief
- David H. Herschler, Records Historian
- David M. Baehler
- Suzanne E. Coffman
- Evan Duncan
- Evans Gerakas
- Nancy Golden
- Katherine Hagedorn
- Kay Herring
- Nina D. Howland
- Edward C. Keefer
- Ronald D. Landa
- James E. Miller
- Nina J. Noring
- Neal O’Loughlin
- David S. Painter
- William F. Sanford
- Harriet D. Schwar
- Louis J. Smith
- Sherrill B. Wells
Center for Classification/Declassification (A/CDC): (Thursday session)
- Ambassador John R. Burke, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Classification/Declassification
- Dwight Ambach, Director, Office of Systematic Review
- Benjamin Fleck
- Charles Floweree
- William Galloway
- Sidney Sober
Foreign Affairs Information Management Center (A/FAIM):
- Paul Washington, Chief, Publishing Services Division
- Rita Baker, Documentary Editing Section Chief
- Milton O. Gustafson, Chief, Diplomatic Branch, NARA
- Edwin A. Thompson, Project Director, Records Declassification Division, NARA
- David Langbart, Records Appraisal Division, NARA
- Kenneth McDonald, Chief Historian, CIA
- Chief, Classification Review Division, CIA
- Mary McAuliffe, Historian, CIA
- James Gardner, American Historical Association
[Omitted here is a list of abbreviations.]
Thursday Morning Session (Closed)
The meeting was convened at 10:30 a.m. Deputy Assistant Secretary High welcomed the Committee to the Department, observed the Department’s concern over the effort to accelerate the Foreign Relations series, and wished the Committee well in its deliberations. The Committee elected Prof. Brad Perkins by acclamation to be Chairman.
Opening Statement by The Historian
Mr. Slany asked the Committee to consider and make recommendations to the Department on two major issues this year: 1) the need to limit the size of the Foreign Relations series in order to stretch available resources to meet the targets of the acceleration program; and 2) the need for expert academic critical evaluation of the contents of volumes before publication to assure that the numerous if smaller volumes published under the acceleration plan contain the essential historical record.
Consideration of these two related issues ought to be carried on bearing in mind the three positive factors and three negative factors. On the positive side:
- (1) The first year of the acceleration plan has been successful and publication and declassification of the increased number of volumes is on schedule;
- (2) The Department’s leadership is aware and concerned about the delays in publishing the Foreign Relations series and supports the efforts of all involved to speed up the process;
- (3) The process of declassifying the volumes in the series is working well.
On the down side, however, there are an equal number of negative factors:
- (1) General budget reduction efforts of the government as a whole and the sharp cuts in the State Department’s budget in particular have a very direct and serious impact upon the Foreign Relations program and will require broad cost cutting measures if the acceleration schedule is to be achieved.
- (2) In the last ten years the Historian’s Office has carried out a major modernization and improvement in the preparation of the series volumes including greatly expanding the sources used in the compiling, expanding the annotational apparatus, and revising the format of the volumes; the Committee and the public, however, has thus far seen few of these new volumes (more than 40 in number have been compiled and fewer than 10 published) and cannot make much of a judgment about the new editing procedures and how far they go toward reducing the need for oversized books;
- (3) while the declassification procedures have been essentially perfected and are functioning well, the substantive evaluation of the impact of declassification review upon the quality of the published historical record has to be continuously critically reviewed; the staff of the Historian’s Office is inevitably placed in an adversarial position toward the Department’s declassifiers and obliged to advocate the maximum disclosure of historical records and information.
Mr. Slany concluded by again emphasizing the need for Advisory Committee advice and counsel on structure and scope of an accelerated series that provides for over 50 volumes over the next four years as well as for guidance on how to institute a more systematic critique of that many volumes in advance of their publication. The review and critique that was most needed would evaluate the structure of individual volumes, the selection of documents, and the impact upon the accuracy of the record of deletions in the declassification process. In the discussion that followed the Committee commented upon the merits and dangers of the trade-off between earlier publication of the record and more selective volumes in the series that were smaller than those of recent years. The committee explored the concern of the academic profession over the endorsement of a Department policy to publish less of the official record. There seemed to be general willingness on the Committee’s part to acknowledge the need for economies in producing the accelerated series, but members were eager to explore all aspects of the matter.
Statement on Budgetary Considerations by Mitchell Stewart
Three factors are at work:
- 1) The accelerated publishing schedule will create a large increase in funding requirements. The Department has already acted to reduce sharply the printing and binding costs of each volume by concluding a long-term contract with a commercial printing firm. Under this new printing contract, each 800-page volume costs the DOS $28,000. This figure is far lower than any GPO cost for any previous volume and is generally regarded as genuinely economical. It includes technical editing, proofreading, index, composition, printing and binding.
- 2) There is a tradeoff between volume size and cost. Each additional page above 800 (which has been determined to be the optimum size to declassify, edit, index, and produce) has a dollar cost associated with it.
- 3) Marketing realities matter. Of a complete press run of about 3000 copies, the first 300 copies (paid for by the Department at a cost of $28,000) are given away by HO; the next 1030 copies (at a marginal cost of $4.00 per volume) are given away by the Congress to the depository libraries; the next 1000 copies (again at a marginal cost of $4.00 each) are paid for by the Congress and are given away as House Documents. Thus, only about 800 are sales items at GPO for which marketing techniques will make any difference at all.
Upon conclusion of this presentation, several committee members inquired about the relative advantage of publishing the Foreign Relations volumes at a university press. Members of the Historian’s Office explained that the Department was obliged by law to publish its volumes only through the Government Printing Office. A waiver from this legal requirement could only be obtained from Congress, and it was extremely difficult to obtain. The extended term printing contract for the volumes was the best that could be done, but the Department would continue to pursue such a waiver. The university press route remained a possibility in the future. The great advantage of a university press might not be in its cost per item but in its far superior merchandising mechanisms. On the other hand, the GPO distribution system, which provides free of charge copies of each FRUS volume to over 1000 depository libraries, retains an undeniable advantage.
Committee members inquired about the possibility of publishing some list of the documents omitted from Foreign Relations volumes because of declassification problems. Such a list of documents could help scholars who might wish to carry on research beyond the printed texts. Reductions in the number of documents printed in the series would make such lists even more useful. Mr. Slany said that to some extent this was already being done, but in the form of references to individual documents in footnotes. In cases where whole documents had been deleted by the CDC, a precise list of still classified papers would become grist for FOIA requests. The CDC would obviously find such a list undesirable. Slany assured the Committee that the Historian’s Office would explore the inclusion in future FRUS volumes of calendars or lists of papers not selected for publication but of importance to the study of the subject being documented.
There was a discussion of the relationship of the publication of the Foreign Relations volumes and the systematic declassification of Department records and their opening to scholars and the public. Strictly speaking the opening of the Department’s files for scholars’ access and the publication of the selected record in the FRUS volumes are separate and distinct operations. In practice, the preparation of the Foreign Relations volumes is the essential first step in the CDC’s work in systematically reviewing the files for declassification. Slany observed that the contribution of the historians in selecting a sample of the most representative documents and files for any given time period is the key to the CDC processing of the whole of the Department records before they are acquired by the National Archives. From the Department’s point of view the actual publication of the volumes in the Foreign Relations series is not necessary for the completion of the declassification of all the records and their opening at the National Archives. Slany further observed that budget reductions being experienced by the Department made the status of the FRUS series precarious for the reason that opening of the files could go forward even if no volumes were published. That was why it is urgent to devise a publication scheme and scope that continues to be reasonable to meet the most urgent Department obligations to the historical community.
The Committee turned to a discussion of the functions and role of a possible editorial board. Attention was given to the utility of a pre-publication review of the volumes. Slany reminded the Committee that more than 50 volumes would, if the schedule were adhered to, be published in the next four years. Neither the Office nor the Department wanted to wait for several years to discover that the volumes were flawed in some serious way as to negate the whole expensive effort of bringing out the volumes in the face of so many constraints. Slany was willing for the Committee to provide the names of particularly qualified scholars who could review the FRUS volumes after they had been declassified but before they were set in print and published.
The idea of an editorial board as a subcommittee of the Advisory Committee was examined and generally supported. The editorial board or members of the Committee might serve as brokers between the Department and the academic community in identifying qualified specialists who would review individual volumes.
Further Committee discussion revolved around two overlapping themes -- the need for the Committee or its editorial board to review and evaluate the contents of the slimmer Foreign Relations volumes in manuscript before and apart from any declassification review (and whether this review required access to the larger body of classified records from which the manuscript compilations were derived) and the second theme of the need for the Committee and board to review the deletions made during the declassification process to determine the accuracy of the remaining record to the published. The Committee did not come to a clear conclusion in the exchanges on these subjects, but it appeared to be inclined to wish to investigate both. Committee members also raised the question of whether the Department and other agencies prepared and exchanged lists of documents declassified under the FOIA process and the FRUS declassification procedures. Mr. Slany informed the Committee that, at the request of the A/CDC, the Historian’s Office had proposed a quarterly Departmental publication of lists of Department documents declassified and released under the FOIA. This publication, which could be used by the public to identify and get access to copies of released documents, could be fairly easily and economically prepared. The decision on going ahead with this project rested elsewhere in the Department.
The Committee also wanted to know more about the microform supplements. Mr. Slany had reported earlier that microform supplements would be resorted to for publication of some documents not included in the accelerated Foreign Relations volumes. He thought that the size of the supplements would vary but would probably be in the ratio of three microformed pages of manuscript for every page of manuscript that went into the print volumes. The documents included in supplements would not be those denied publication for reasons of classification, but those not included in print volumes because of their secondary importance and their size. Mr. Glennon explained that several different designs for microform supplements were being used. First, there were those special internal serial documents like Current Economic Developments, the Top Secret Summaries, the Wang-Johnson talks, and other collections of the same sort. Such serials would be included as supplements but without much, if any, annotational connection to the printed volumes in the FRUS series. Second, there were collections of documents that related to a particular volume, on particular countries or topics (such as Burma or Nepal), that were too large to include in the print volume but could be published as supplements and linked in some general annotational way. Thirdly, there were supplements composed of individual documents that were not important enough to include in the printed volumes but which would be carefully linked to the documents in the printed text with annotational apparatus. The Historian’s Office was pursuing all three tracks.
The Committee had lunch with Ambassador Gerald Helman on the 8th Floor of the Department. Ambassador Helman is Deputy to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Michael Armacost.
Thursday Afternoon Session (Closed)
The meeting reconvened at 2 p.m. Chairman Perkins returned the discussion to Mr. Slany’s presentation on reduction of the size of FRUS volumes for 1958-1960 and said that the proposal represented a 40% cut. Prof. Oksenberg suggested that the volumes contain a guide to what is left out for reasons of space and clearance. Prof. Perkins said that there were problems connected with specifying what was not in the volumes. Prof. Cohen said that this step was essential. Prof. Larson said that smaller volumes would necessitate a more systematic approach to inclusion of materials; inclusion should be based on a hierarchy of importance, with White House material first. Mr. Slany noted that more White House documents were being included, and that there was a top-down approach. However, the principles of inclusion that date back to Secretary Kellogg should be examined and revised. Mr. Glennon added that there was much more White House documentation beginning with the Eisenhower years. This also pertained to the Vietnam volumes of the Kennedy and Johnson period.
Prof. Oksenberg observed that in the briefing material FRUS had been described in four different ways: l) history of the conduct of American diplomacy 2) record of the conduct of foreign relations 3) the official diplomatic record, and 4) (implicitly) a guide to illuminate the foreign policy decision-making process. If one definition were chosen, that might point the way on categories of inclusion. Prof. Dallek recounted the evolution of the series from the 1930’s when it relied almost exclusively on State documents to its present form. He thought emphasis should continue to be placed on the decision-making process and highest-level papers.
Pre-Publication Review of Volumes
Prof. Hunt said that he was reluctant to approve smaller volumes without Committee consideration of contents. The Committee had to see what was left out for reasons of national security and for size reduction. Prof. Dallek said an editorial board should be an arm of the Advisory Committee and not a 30-person board. Oksenberg and Cook supported this idea. Prof. Perkins cited the possibility of establishing an editorial board as a subcommittee of the Committee.
There ensued general discussion of the feasibility of review prior to publication of the volumes. Mr. Slany referred to CDC reluctance, but noted that in the past the Committee had seen volumes before publication. The concepts of pre-declassification review by the committee, post-declassification review, and a combination of the two were considered.
Prof. Cook referred to the 1952-1954 Guatemala compilation as one that fell short of being comprehensive; even some declassified documents were not included. Mr. Slany said that HO had been unable to use some declassified documents in the case of Guatemala and in other instances. Prof. Dallek observed that if Vietnam coverage were severely curtailed by declassification review, it could cause major credibility problems with the profession.
Prof. Oksenberg suggested a review similar to that obtained by a university press, that is, review by a scholar and another knowledgeable person prior to publication of a book. Prof. Dallek suggested that the Committee might serve as a clearing house for appropriate readers. Mr. Petersen observed that publication produced by military historical offices were often reviewed by advisory committees after declassification and before release. Prof. Hunt said the Committee could start up immediately in this fashion. Mr. Slany cautioned that the CDC was sensitive to the possibility of pre-publication leakage even though this had never taken place.
Prof. Kuehl referred to the report of last year’s Committee subcommittee on the editorial board question which had recommended that the board be composed of Committee members. Chairman Perkins said that the committee report would ask for review of FRUS manuscript in the future. Prof. Hunt agreed that the board should be composed of Committee members. Prof. Dallek added that the committee could also arrange for outside readers as the subject matter indicated. Mr. Glennon suggested a two-step approach; for now, it would be easier to arrange for the Committee to review volumes after declassification but before publication; subsequently, permission should be sought for Committee examination of volumes as compiled and to see all documents excised and denied. Prof. Oksenberg felt that the Department would agree to Committee access to all documents chosen for a volume, but would not permit examination of declassification decisions.
[At this point, Ambassador John Burke, Deputy Assistant Secretary (CDC) and members of his staff discussed the declassification process with the Advisory Committee until the session adjourned at 5:30 p.m. The proceedings of that discussion have been classified SECRET and are thus not included in these minutes.]
Friday Morning Session (Open)
Prof. Perkins formally convened the meeting at 9:13 a.m., and asked Mr. Slany to make his presentation.
Mr. Slany said that there were three main issues to discuss: the structure of the Foreign Relations series both in terms of physical size and of content, the role of microform supplements, and distribution and marketing. He referred the committee to Tab 7 of their briefing material, which set out publication plans and Tables of Contents for FRUS volumes in the 1955-57 and 1958-60 periods. He noted that only 17 volumes for the 1958-1960 triennium were planned, which was a reduction from 1955-1957. The committee could help us determine if this framework best served the interests of scholars. In addition, he pointed out that the numbering of the volumes had become arbitrary. Starting with 1955-57, they are now numbered and printed as cleared and published. This step will not allow the continuation of the numbering pattern of previous years.
Prof. Perkins asked if reducing the size of the volumes by 40% and introducing microfiche supplements will produce savings. Mr. Slany replied that reductions were the only way the series could be produced at all in the light of dwindling resources.
Prof. Kuehl asked by what standards would the future volumes be organized. Mr. Slany replied that it would depend on personnel and financial resources and the number of pages that could be printed, edited, and cleared. Other agencies had less resources for clearing documents; their declassification activities are not centralized in every case as they are in the State Department. In a February meeting the State Department approached all the clearing agencies and filled them in on the requirements for meeting a 30 year line by 1990. All the agencies indicated their willingness to try very hard to meet the schedule for the 50 streamlined print volumes.
Prof. Hunt asked what percentage of the cuts from the volume will be restored by the microfiche. Mr. Slany estimated that the supplements will include about 3 times as many documents as the printed volume and that the total documentation released should be 2 to 3 times as great as in a printed volume. The documents selected for microform publication, however, also require declassification, which adds substantially to the clearance burden.
Prof. Hunt asked how material for the microform supplements would be selected. Mr. Glennon replied that there were several modes: special documentary collections tied only indirectly to specific volumes of the series; documents, or even collections of documents for whole countries, of lesser importance; and collections of documents that were closely tied by annotation to the texts of the printed volumes. He said that HO hoped to use the third mode most frequently.
Mr. Slany explained that at least one State Department internal publication will come out in microform very soon. This publication--Current Economic Developments--is one example of a publication not connected to any specific volume. He noted that it had an elaborate index and was an excellent guide to the major issues of U.S. foreign economic policy during the period of its internal publication, 1945-1954.
Prof. Kuehl asked what the time frame for volumes and microform publications would be. Mr. Slany replied that ideally supplements would appear at the same time as the printed volumes to which they were related. Prof. Perkins asked if both groups of documents went simultaneously for clearance. Mr. Slany replied that in some cases the bodies of documents went to A/CDC as a single very large sample. However, for budgetary reasons CDC presently could review only those documents proposed for publication in FRUS volumes. The intention had been for the Historical Office to give CDC a larger sample with which to write their guidelines and to make a final selection for FRUS only after declassification. Prof. Perkins asked if this method actually expedited FRUS volumes. Mr. Slany replied that dealing with a larger sample facilitated NARA declassification work rather than FRUS volumes.
Prof. Kuehl asked if documents declassified in later years but relevant to the subject of a particular fiche supplement would be considered for publication as additions later on. Mr. Slany said this was a question for the committee’s consideration. If the fiche trailed the volumes, it might be possible. However, a definitive supplement would limit ability to publish these later documents. He added that the final decision on when to publish the fiche had not been made. He also noted that a number of problems with the format in which they would be released had to be resolved. Prof. Kuehl stressed that updating fiche was easy--simply add a suffix to the old number on the new fiche card to indicate where the new material should be filed.
Transfer of Records and Preparation of Guidelines
Prof. Cohen repeated Prof. Perkins’ question about whether review of the FRUS volumes by the CDC delayed the opening of documents at NARA. Mr. Slany indicated that publication of FRUS and opening of the complete files were not absolutely linked. The real issue in opening files at NARA was the elasticity of CDC resources.
Prof. Kuehl asked whether the word “disclosure” had ever been defined. Mr. Slany said that it meant opening all records to researchers. HO’s goal was to bring its activities as close as possible to the 30-year line for both publications and for opening Department files at the Archives.
Prof. Perkins asked whether there had been a decision to “decouple” FRUS publication from opening the files. Mr. Slany replied that these were separate lines of activities. Alan Thompson said that NARA did in fact accept uncleared records, with guidance for their subsequent clearance coming from CDC and HO. In reply to a question from Prof. Cohen, Mr. Thompson said that historical perspectives and relations with the country in question determined what documents were or were not sensitive. Guidelines for 1955-59 are being based on the experience gained with the 1950-54 files. The guidelines are classified, but CDC bases them on criteria from the country desks. They are written in narrative style and are quite specific as to what has to be withheld. Ambassador John Burke was the only person whom Mr. Thompson could cite as their author.
Prof. Dallek asked whether FRUS publication and NARA file openings were simultaneous. Mr. Thompson replied that there had been no linkage between the two for the past 10 years. Mr. Slany added that, as a matter of fact, NARA records could be opened more or less on schedule even if the Department decided not to finance the publication of any more FRUS volumes. PA/HO still would have the responsibility, however, to collect the documents to initiate the preparation of guidelines for the declassification process. By identifying leading policy issues, FRUS publication helped NARA to develop its own declassification guidelines.
Prof. Cook inquired about pre-CDC clearance procedures. Mr. Slany replied that before the CDC was created in 1978 documents had to be reviewed by overburdened geographic bureaus. Other agencies and governments still had to consulted, but HO itself coordinated the review process. The sharp increase in FOIA requests in the late 70’s made bureau review impossible. “If CDC did not exist, it would have to be invented.”
Prof. Larson then asked whether documents were transferred to NARA incrementally before there was a CDC. Mr. Slany said this was the case, and the bureaus had to be asked to agree to their transfer. Milton Gustafson then explained that prior to 1975, State records were released to NARA one year at a time. The Freedom of Information Act amendments in the late 70s, however, no longer permitted records to be withheld just because 25 or 30 years had not yet elapsed, obliging NARA to turn to multi-year blocks. Mr. Thompson said that NARA expected to release all 1959 records by 1991, some of them next summer.
Prof. Larson expressed concern at the delay in releasing records, noting that the British had already released records relating to the Suez Crisis. Mr. Thompson said that some State records on Suez would be available in January; he said we’re ahead in some areas and behind in others, and NARA would be delighted to go faster if it had the resources.
Prof. Perkins asked how CDC decided to allocate its resources. Mr. Slany replied that HO provided lists to the CDC showing the volumes in the order necessary to meet the publication schedule. Mr. Thompson added that FRUS got priority for CDC review. Mr. Gustafson noted that NARA needed a better record of documents declassified through publication in FRUS. It was embarrassing to have a researcher make an FOI request only to be told months later that the documents desired had been or were about to be published.
Mr. Slany said that CDC had a less than perfect record of what documents it had declassified since its beginnings in 1979. There was no stamp on documents indicating whether or not they had been previously declassified or withheld. HO’s word processing system was currently being used to try to devise a list of documents cleared wholly or in part. Mr. Hargrove asked whether there was any means of keeping track of which documents were not cleared the first time around, so that they could be added to the database. Mrs. Carol Becker replied that HO was compiling lists of documents that it had selected for publication, and that the lists would later indicate whether or not the individual documents had been cleared.
Prof. Cook asked whether other agencies were working toward the same time schedule as State. Mr. Thompson replied that, theoretically, NARA would like to review all Federal records at 30 years, regardless of origin. In practice, resources were limited and only a State subvention to NARA was expediting the opening of State’s records. Of other agencies, only AID was making a similar joint effort. By way of contrast, one more year would still be needed to clear the last records of the OSS, which closed down in 1945. There had been no cooperation from the FBI concerning its records.
Prof. Kuehl then asked what would happen when existing computer technology became obsolete. Mr. Slany said that HO had not formulated any rules, but that a Department task force was studying the preservation and control of electronic records. David Herschler qualified this observation. A working group had been established with two people from HO on it, but there had been only one meeting and that was 8 or 9 months ago.
Prof. Perkins asked about the life expectancy of diskettes. Mr. Herschler replied that diskettes were not an acceptable storage mode. Nine-track magnetic tape, however, was acceptable. The life span of laser disks was not certain, but appeared to be at least 15 to 20 years.
Prof. Oksenberg pointed out that preservation of electronic records could be the most urgent issue of all before the committee. Mrs. Becker suggested that all new members of the committee be sent copies of Mr. Herschler’s 1985 report on the subject.
Mr. Herschler then pointed out that the Department’s electronic records were far from complete. Office lot files are not part of the automated files, but supplement them. Lot files are “computerized” only if created on a word processor. Prof. Dallek asked whether memcons were in lot files or computerized in the central files. Mr. Herschler explained that they were only on paper. FAIM did not always regularly microfilm them for inclusion in its system. Mrs. Becker explained that since 1973 (when the Department’s automated system went into effect), the Department’s practice was to have 2 official record copies, one on film and one on tape. Records of the Secretary of State were in custody of the Executive Secretary, and were stored on a separate computerized system (SADI) with its own index.
Prof. Oksenberg asked whether State studied how other agencies kept their records. Mr. Herschler replied that every agency had some electronic records, but none was wholly paperless. There was no coordinated interagency policy on electronic records.
Mr. Slany then interrupted the session for a coffee break at 10:15 a.m.
Foreign Relations Supplementary Volumes on Intelligence
Mr. Slany resumed the session by introducing the subject of retrospective supplements to printed volumes in the FRUS series. A previous Committee had suggested preparation of a supplement on post-World War II intelligence and foreign policy development which would incorporate disclosures made since the volumes in this area were published. The Office of the Historian was considering such a project, perhaps comprising one printed volume and one microfiche supplement. He asked Kenneth McDonald, the CIA Historian, to discuss this proposal further.
Mr. McDonald noted that the idea had originated three years earlier, when he and Mr. Petersen had participated on a SHAFR panel on intelligence. In 1983 the CIA was beginning to release OSS operational records and was also negotiating with Congress on the Freedom of Information Act. He pointed out that in the bargaining which culminated in the recent legislation that exempted the CIA from some aspects of FOIA, an agreement had been reached to review some older CIA records for possible release. The concept of supplementary intelligence-related FRUS publications was given impetus by this agreement. The Agency now has a classification review staff which is currently working on the records of the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence from the late 1940s. Mr. McDonald commented that the Department’s requirement for records from 1945-1950 thus coincides with the work of the CIA declassification staff, and will result in State historians being given good access to CIA records of the period. He is not sure, however, how much of this material can be declassified.
He then introduced the Chief of the Classification Review Division (CRD) who described the historical review program. It has started reviewing records from the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, as well as some records from the Special Services Unit (which superseded OSS) and records of the U-2 incident. The staff has processed about 135 feet of records. Review must now be coordinated with other agencies. About l foot of records has completed the entire process. The next group of records to be examined will be finished intelligence, which the CIA hopes will help with the Foreign Relations supplements.
Mr. McDonald observed that the Foreign Relations series represents the U.S. Government’s accountability for its foreign policy. The CIA recognizes this. While the British have never released any intelligence records at all, the CIA is committed to releasing its records. The Agency works under the same NARA rules as other executive agencies, using the same procedures.
Prof. Hunt asked if finished intelligence will deal with covert intelligence. The CRD chief said that operational records relating to sources and methods are exempted from consideration by his staff under the new Congressional directive. The committee pressed to get an appreciation of where the cut-off line existed in determining what constituted operational information. Both Prof. Perkins and Prof. Cook used CIA activities in Italy during the first decade after WW II as an example of covert operations which were well known, historically significant, and could be documented without compromising CIA methods or sources. Both Mr. Macdonald and the CRD chief indicated that it was altogether unlikely that the CIA would officially confirm the existence of covert operations, despite widespread knowledge of the existence and impact of such operations.
This, the CRD chief stated again, is the central issue. The CIA works for the President under Congressional oversight. It has orders from both the Congress and the President to protect sources and methods. If he were to look at these records to see if they could be released, he would ask the following questions: Who ordered the activities? Who was used? Where did the money come from? How did it get there? The Agency would probably not reveal this. Where, he asked, should they draw the line? Just admitting that this activity occurred would not, he felt, be enough. There was no real answer, but he would probably be inclined to “cut it off early.”
Mr. Slany observed that these issues were worth consideration by the Committee. Perhaps the Committee could explore how the Office of the Historian could work with the CIA to bring material on intelligence formulation to light and could confirm that the Foreign Relations was a useful vehicle for disclosure.
Prof. Dallek stated that although it was fine to publish a retrospective volume and that its publication would represent some progress, there should be no illusions about the volume’s reception; some scholars would “savage” it, scoffing at how little was being released compared to what was already widely known. He worried about creating cynicism, about creating a sense of a gap between U.S. rhetoric and action. He was not, however, insensitive to the Office’s and the CIA’s dilemma. The volume would produce an angry reaction, but he favored publishing it.
Prof. Perkins asked for a concrete indication of what was being considered for publication. Mr. Petersen responded that one volume relating to the organizational development of the intelligence community from the Second World War to 1950, and a second volume largely relating to finished intelligence concerning the Soviet Union are being prepared. Prof. Perkins asked what was the proportion of previously released documents to never released documents in the proposed supplement? Mr. Petersen responded that probably less than 25% of the volume on organization of intelligence would comprise CIA material. The second volume would have a larger percentage. Mr. Petersen added that there was also the CIA report to every NSC meeting on the world situation, as well as Director of Central Intelligence memoranda to the President. Although much of this material has been declassified, it will be published in a coherent way for the first time. To avoid disappointment, he recommended defining the terms of reference for the supplements very carefully and then sticking to them.
Mr. Slany suggested that the committee might want to nominate a reviewer or two for these volumes before publication. Prof. Dallek felt that such a review might serve to help preserve the credibility of the FRUS series.
Prof. Kuehl observed that most important to him was the question of the budget trade-off in preparing a supplement. The Office was proposing two additional volumes at the same time it was reducing the size of the regular series. Mr. Slany responded that one or two volumes could be added over four or five years without a change in the schedule for the regular series. Three or four volumes, however, would tip the balance. This was less a problem for printing and publication than it was for declassification. The Committee’s recommendations would be useful to us in setting our priorities.
Prof. Kuehl asked whether a new policy of supplementing the series was being established. Both Prof. Hunt and Prof. Cook stated they would need to see the material involved before making a recommendation. Prof. Cook also asked for more guidance. She was worried about creating a dual system rather than being vigorous about a 30-year rule and accountability, even though she realized some issues won’t wind down after 30 years. Prof. Larson said that political scientists would find such volumes very useful, even if they contained nothing more than finished intelligence.
Prof. Oksenberg wondered whether the retrospective supplement might encourage people not to declassify things now--to delay release--because they knew there would be a supplement to the volumes they review now. Was there any validity to this argument? He offered the observation that Mr. McDonald had neglected to mention the very important CIA dealings with other intelligence communities, either overt or covert--would it be useful to delay publication until liaison relationships could be included? Mr. McDonald responded that the area of liaison arrangements was extremely sensitive. The British do not admit the existence of intelligence organizations for 30 years, even if commonly known. For the United States to acknowledge the existence of these organizations could endanger current liaison arrangements. Therefore release of this information was unlikely. The CRD chief confirmed that the United States cannot unilaterally declassify that material, noting that most countries do not require their intelligence services to release information.
Distribution of FRUS Volumes
Mr. Slany asked Paul Washington, Director of Publishing Services, to comment on production and distribution of FRUS. Mr. Washington noted that the primary issues considered by the committee last year in his area included technical editing resources and costs and the possibility of privatizing the publication of the series. Mr. Washington indicated that the focus of concern had changed somewhat over the course of the past year, and that he had both good and bad news to convey to the committee. The good news was that the Department now had the editorial resources to handle anything. Moreover, Amtech Information Services has received a multiyear contract to publish the volumes, eliminating the need to take bids for every volume. The new printing arrangements seemed to be working well. There was more good news in the cost figures for the most recent volumes published. Costs have dropped under new printing procedures from a high of $175,000 per volume to controlled costs of $35,000 - $45,000 per volume. Improved marketing developments were on the way; the Superintendent of Documents was happy to consider increased sales of Foreign Relations volumes. In the area of distribution, USIA has agreed to update stocks of FRUS volumes at posts abroad to enhance visibility and sales. On the down side, because declassification had slowed down recently, there is not much technical editing or Amtech printing work to do; the editing staff has been diverted to other areas.
Prof. Perkins asked what the variation in sales between a popular and unpopular volume were. Mr. Washington noted that a popular volume, 1952-1954, XIV, has sold 173 copies this year. In response to Prof. Cook’s query about the possibility of reprinting out of print volumes, Mr. Washington explained that the plates for printing the volumes are destroyed because of storage problems. Mr. Slany commented that the Committee had to remember that “popular” and “unpopular” were relative terms--even popular Foreign Relations volumes had a small market.
Prof. Larson remarked that sometimes by the time many scholars learn the volumes are out, they are out of print. Mr. Washington responded that GPO produces a monthly catalogue of available items available to all who request being placed on their mailing list. Ms. Becker noted that press releases on each volume are sent to journals and individual historians, and that each of these press releases has an order blank with price information on the back. Ms. Herring urged the committee members to encourage their colleagues to reply to the Department’s annual questionnaire asking if they wish to remain on the mailing list. Regulations require that the list be purged and updated annually, and individuals not responding to the questionnaire are automatically taken off the mailing list.
Mr. Slany noted that the Department intends to produce a catalogue of Department publications. Mr. Washington stated that GPO, because of the unpredictability of publication schedules, has been so far reluctant to offer standing subscription orders for Foreign Relations volumes.
Prof. Larson suggested advertising in a professional journal. Prof. Kuehl strongly urged that the Department advertise the volumes, particularly in Diplomatic History.
Prof. Perkins asked what the average size of a press run was. Mr. Washington replied between 1,500 to 3,000 copies. Of these, GPO tries to sell between 800 and 1000. A large number of unsold volumes, he observed, are taking up space on GPO shelves. These volumes are expensive to warehouse, and GPO doesn’t want them around too long.
Prof. Kuehl asked for cost projections over the next few years in order to assess the question of the necessity of smaller volumes. Washington projected fairly stable costs of $35,000 - $45,000 per volume, with a possible variation of 6% up and as much as 10-12% down. Included in that figure are printing and binding costs of about $20,000. per volume and editing costs of about $24,000. per volume.
Mr. Hargrove recalled last year’s discussion of privatizing publication of the series. He applauded the printing contract which had been let, and asked if any consideration had been given to letting a similar contract to a private firm to promote marketing of the series on a commission basis. Washington indicated that he was receptive to the idea, but he noted that the GPO had its own marketing staff which would feel threatened by any such suggestion.
At this point, Mr. Perkins noted it was time to break for lunch. The session then recessed at 12 noon.
Friday Afternoon Session (Closed)
The meeting resumed shortly after 2 P.M. Mr. Slany asked Mrs. Becker to explain to the committee the status of the microfiche supplement program.
Mrs. Becker began by tracing for the new members on the committee the Office’s previous experience in publishing in microfiche--the supplement to the 1981 Current Documents volume. With the help of a consultant, first we developed an excellent set of specifications for archival microfiche. Our first publication consisting of 150 microfiches was accompanied by a pamphlet and packaged in a Tyvec floppy bag for mailing. In early 1985, Mrs. Becker and Mr. Glennon went to the Library of Congress to see what had happened to the publication in their Government Documents Collection. They discovered that the fiche had been put in a microfiche drawer in order by Superintendent of Documents (SUDOCS) Number on one side of a large room. The pamphlet, on the other hand, had been shelved with the book collection (right next to the printed volume for 1981) on the other side of the room. Result: the wrong two parts were together. This situation undoubtedly was replicated in most of the government collections across the country, because libraries have to protect microfiche from light and dust, but put all printed material on open shelves. In other libraries, moreover, the fiche and the print volumes might be in separate rooms or on separate floors in libraries, rather than on opposite sides of one room.
After exploring many different options for ensuring that publications that are split in libraries are properly crossreferenced both on the shelf and in catalogs, the Office and the GPO jointly came up with the idea of a box that solved many problems: 1) it looked like a volume in the FRUS series and could be shelved like one in the proper sequence; 2) it would afford light and dust protection for the fiche; 3) it would keep the fiche and the pamphlet together in a vinyl folder inside the box; 4) it was enthusiastically endorsed by the Government Depository Librarians Council in the fall of 1985 as a way to allow libraries to keep the series together in a responsible manner. A prototype of the box was produced by GPO, which Mrs. Becker showed to the committee and then passed around for closer inspection.
A long contract-writing period began in the fall of 1985, just before the 1985 Advisory Committee meeting (at which meeting we reported that our hopes were high for a solution to the shelving dilemma.) The contract had to cover four different products: a box that resembled a book; a vinyl folder to hold the fiche and the pamphlet; the pamphlet; and the fiche. The contract was put out for bids in August; there were no bidders. The contract was put out again in September; there was one bidder. At a meeting at GPO earlier in November, the State Department rejected the bid on the grounds of cost. The State Department’s costs would be over $20,000. (the price of a print volume), and the sales price would have to be $50. to $60. to permit GPO Marketing to cover their costs. The GPO suggested that the contract be amended to allow a longer time schedule for production, which they predicted would lower the costs somewhat.
Mr. Slany asked the committee for their advice - should we continue to pursue the box idea despite the high cost? Should we redesign the box so that it would be much larger and much cheaper, to hold all the supplements together, rather than in individual boxes? Should we abandon the box idea altogether and concentrate on getting our microfiche publications out to the scholars as soon as possible (since two fiche publications are completed now and ready to be contracted out--the Wang-Johnson talks to supplement the 1955-57 China volume published last summer, and the Current Economic Developments series)?
Prof. Cook strongly supported continuing to try to produce a box. Prof. Oksenberg was anxious to see documentation on the Wang-Johnson talks. Prof. Hunt favored producing a large box to house all microfiche supplements to the series. If the box had to be abandoned because of cost, Prof. Kuehl favored giving each fiche supplement a volume number, so that librarians and users would be forced to account for missing numbers, and thus would go to the catalog which would give the correct classification number and location for the missing “volume.”
The committee promised to recommend action in its report.
Prof. Perkins adjourned the meeting at about 3 P.M. The committee then met in private session to consider its recommendations and report.