Minutes of Historical Advisory Committee Meeting, January
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, Minutes-1987. Confidential. These minutes were originally separated into an unclassified document and a classified annex. They are posted in combined form.
Minutes of the January 1988 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
American Political Science Association
- 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):
- Charles A. Redman, Assistant Secretary and Spokesman of the Department
- George B. High, Deputy Assistant Secretary
The Office of the Historian (PA/HO):
- William Z. Slany, The Historian
- Neal H. Petersen, Deputy Historian
- John P. Glennon, Foreign Relations Division Chief
- Rita M. Baker
- Elizabeth Barwick
- M. Paul Claussen
- Suzanne Coffman
- Karen A. Collias
- Evan A. Duncan
- Vicki Futscher
- Nancy Golden
- Robert Hayashida
- David Herschler
- Nina Howland
- Ted Keefer
- David Mabon
- Michelle Maynard
- Blair Mitchell
- Nina Noring
- David Patterson
- Althea Robinson
- Charles S. Sampson
- Harriet Schwar
- Luke Smith
- Sherrill Wells
Center for Classification/Declassification (A/CDC):
- Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Kenneth Hartung
- Acting Director, Systematic Review Staff (SR), Dwight Ambach
- Acting Deputy Director (SR) William Hamilton
- Sidney Sober
- Stuart McIntyre
- Lewis Purnell
Office of Management Operations (M/MO):
- Deputy Director, Ambassador C. E. Dillery
- E. Allen Thompson, Project Director, Records Declassification Division, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
- David Langbart, Records Appraisal Division, NARA
Thursday Morning Session (Closed)
Welcome by Assistant Secretary Redman
The meeting was convened by Assistant Secretary Redman at 9:10 a.m. He welcomed the Advisory Committee, noting that it represents professional organizations that provide the Department with advice and counsel as it endeavors to accelerate the publication of the Foreign Relations series. In 1987, we published nine volumes. We have made a “sustained effort to accelerate” publication and meet the Presidential goal of 1960 by 1990 while maintaining the quality of the series. We believe we have succeeded in this goal. We welcome the Committee’s views on this point as well as on priorities and on methods of improving efficiency. The Department has a tight budget, and choices are limited . We must ask how much we can afford to publish and how much we need to publish in order to maintain a credible record. We will continue to publish print volumes, but because of budgetary problems we’ve begun to release some of the record in microfiche. He asked for the Committee’s views and recommendations regarding print and microfiche volumes.
The Committee was scheduled to meet again with Mr. Redman on Friday.
The Committee recessed to select a Chairman; Professor Perkins was re-elected. The meeting reconvened at 9:30 a.m.
The agenda was briefly discussed. Professor Perkins pointed out the committee had two major issues which it wanted to discuss: declassification and reduction of the size of the volumes.
Report by the Historian
Dr. Slany stated that the past year was one of achievement with many volumes published. We plan to complete publication of the record of the Eisenhower administration by 1990, meaning publication of over 40 volumes. This long-term goal is within reach even though there has been some slippage in publication schedules. In the past year, we published 9 volumes, including 2 microform supplements. The issue is not whether the Department can publish but whether the users of the series will be satisfied. Microfiche publications have been the most difficult to step up, but this will be the only way to produce the full record while keeping costs within budget. Another step taken to reduce costs and improve efficiency is the transfer to the Historical Office of a team of senior editors from the Bureau of Administration of the Department.
Some historians in the office are compiling FRUS volumes for the last of the Eisenhower administration. Planning for the Kennedy years is ongoing, but with the large backlog of compiled volumes, actual compiling has proceeded slowly. Compiling on the special series of volumes on Vietnam has also stopped because access to records for 1966 and beyond at the Johnson Library is limited. NARA does not have the resources to process records at the Johnson Library and make them available to even official historians.
Historical Office resources have been allocated to compiling a supplemental volume on intelligence covering the late 1940’s. Intelligence records of this period are becoming available since CIA began a project of declassifying its records 1-2 years ago. Department historians have assisted in focusing the CIA declassification effort by helping to determine priorities. Dr. Slany asked that the Committee consider the value of this volume. He felt there would be a minimum drain on Foreign Relations resources and would not appreciably affect other compilation.
Professor Hunt asked if this volume would add to the load on government declassifiers.
Dr. Slany agreed that it would, but noted that by making the size of the books smaller, the material may be cleared more quickly. If A/CDC resources remain fixed or are reduced, clearing the Vietnam and intelligence volumes ahead of others requires trade-offs.
In the declassification effort, A/CDC reviewers are sympathetic advocates of the FRUS series. Some with the most expertise, however, are retiring. Dr. Hamilton of A/CDC commented that A/CDC reviewers want to release as much material as can be released “consistent with national security interests”. Dr. Slany remarked on the necessity of submitting only the most important documents to the reviewers to make the most efficient use of their time.
Regarding the budget, Dr. Slany said that the Office had not so far been prevented from publishing; the budget should allow for 8-10 volumes to go forward this year if they are cleared.
At this point, Professor Dallek proposed alternative sources of money for publishing the FRUS volumes. First, he suggested the U.S. Institute of Peace, headed by former Ambassador Samuel W. Lewis, which funds historical research on foreign relations subjects. Another source might be a private foundation such as the Ford, Rockefeller, or Carnegie Foundations. Professor Dallek noted that there are complaints among scholars about the shrinking size of the volumes. The additional funds could be used to increase the size of the projected volumes.
Dr. Slany said that we are willing to explore this. Professor Perkins asked if there was a problem of principle in taking money from a foundation. Mr. High thought not. Professor Cohen was skeptical, commenting that this might suggest that the government is shirking its responsibility to publish the books.
Dr. Slany said that any funds would help, but that a large part of the cost of declassifying the volumes was personnel resources which outside funds presumably could not support. It might be more useful for the Peace Institute to go to the Johnson Library and offer to support the cost of processing records.
Dr. Thompson of NARA commented that NARA’s budget situation was very bad. He noted that much of NARA’s staff time is taken up with FOIA requests. He questioned if the Peace Institute would pay personnel costs or have the same priorities as Archives.
Professor Cohen asked if a study had been done comparing the cost of the present system of declassification with the old one. Dr. Slany said that there had been no formal study. He noted that under the old system, the desk officer reviewed Foreign Relations manuscripts along with his other duties.
Dr. Hamilton of A/CDC commented that the present system is more efficient than the old one, in which declassification was in the hands of the operational bureaus, where it was always a low priority. Because A/CDC can recruit senior people who are known and trusted by the leaders of the geographic bureaus, most of the responsibility for declassification has come into A/CDC’s hands. He observed that A/CDC views the 30-year line as a minimum, a “Golden Mean”; if the material were reviewed before 30 years, more would be withheld from publication.
Professor Perkins the Historical Office was much too optimistic about meeting the 1960 by 1990 goal. He said that a year ago the Historical Office had projected 13 volumes declassified in 1987, but that in fact only 6 had been declassified. Nine volumes were to be published, but only 7 print volumes and 2 microfiche supplements were published. Only 5 of 7 volumes had been scheduled for publication in 1987, one for 1986, and another for 1988. Two of the 1952-1954 volumes were still not published (it was pointed out that one is at press). Professor Perkins thought the goal of 1960 by 1990 was “rapidly escaping”.
Dr. Slany agreed that the goal seemed to be “slipping away”, but was not irretrievably lost. Declassification delays at the National Security Council were a particularly severe problem. At the present time, A/CDC is holding thousands of pages for NSC clearance. The Historical Office feels that the Foreign Relations volumes cannot be published without NSC documents. NSC does not refuse to declassify our material, but does not have the resources for review.
Professor Perkins then asked about the volume on national security policy for 1955-1957. Dr. Glennon replied that it is 1 of 14 volumes ready for NSC clearance, but we do not expect any further progress on clearance for some time. The NSC is working exclusively on the Iran-Contra problem and will be for the foreseeable future. This is the main reason why we were not able to meet the goals set at the end of 1985.
Professor Cohen asked whether there was any way to circumvent the NSC bottleneck. Dr. Slany replied that the Historical Office and A/CDC had offered various measures including the detail of personnel but the NSC was unable to do more than it has. Mr. Ambach of A/CDC stated that the Department had raised the problem at a high level but the demands on NSC declassification resources were monumental. Dr. Thompson noted that the Iran-Contra matter had for some months fully taken up the NSC staff. Professor Cohen suggested that the NSC might be helped on a one-time basis by an institute or foundation. Mr. High commented that the NSC would not accept such support. Dr. Thompson stated that a highly-trained specialist, of which there was a shortage, would be required.
Professor Hunt commented that the “monumental effort” to declassify greatly increased amounts of material is compounded by the decreasing budget and the fact that the cost of declassification is no longer hidden. The volumes are being slowed and squeezed to the detriment of the Foreign Relations series. He feared that serious damage will be done to the series. He emphasized the importance of making the record available to the public in a timely manner.
Professor Larson questioned how the British are able to release their material at the end of the 30-year period. Where do the resources come from? She felt the Department was doing the public a disservice by withholding the U.S. perspective on foreign policy issues. Mr. Ambach explained the British do not open all of their files after 30 years; the release date is based on the last document in each file. Mr. Thompson stated that each department in the Foreign Office reviews its own files so each department bears the cost. He also noted that the British have no FOI Act. Resources in this country increasingly are devoted to FOIA requests; almost half of his resources go for this purpose.
Professor Hunt asked how the change in the declassification system affected costs for the series. Dr. Slany replied that declassification costs come out of the funds of another bureau. He commented on the printing costs of the series. In 1981 the total printing budget was about $400,000. At that time the cost of printing a volume at the GPO was about $100,000. Now the cost of printing has shrunk to $25,000-30,000 per volume and the total printing budget is about $150,000. We could produce longer volumes and fall back to the 40-year line but we would lose our role in working with other agencies for earlier release of documents.
In response to a question from Professor Perkins about the effect of budget cuts, Mr. High stated that if sequestration had gone into effect, the Historical Office’s budget would have been cut by two-thirds.
Professor Cohen commented that he feared the volumes, because of their shrinking size, were no longer comprehensive and did not serve the purpose they used to have as a primary research tool. Dr. Slany remarked that is why the microform program is so important. Professor Perkins commented that even truncated volumes are guides to lead researchers through the records, even if they are not the comprehensive records they once were. Perhaps the basic premise of the Foreign Relations series should be revised. The Committee would work with the Department on this.
Statement by Deputy Assistant Secretary High
Mr. High felt that we have come close to achieving the goals projected last year. Regarding the clearance and publication of Foreign Relations volumes, a lot depends on A/CDC and other agencies. The Historical Office has been alert to resolving problems of clearance, budget, and the use of technology. He complimented Dr. Slany and his office for finding solutions, both administrative and technical, to many problems it had encountered. Adding the editors to HO’s staff has made a major difference in cost and efficiency.
Mr. High reviewed developments since the Committee’s last meeting. The committee’s report had raised four areas of concern: maintenance of the publication schedule; the size of the volumes; staffing and funding; and declassification. He also mentioned Professor Perkins’ meeting with Deputy Secretary Spiers and their discussion of establishing an ombudsman. In an aside, he mentioned that the Department’s Office of Management is reviewing the activities of all Department of State advisory committees as part of a government-wide GSA study and ruling on advisory committee management. The general question of the proper role of advisory committees had been raised when this administration took office. The Department will report back to the committee when this review is completed.
Mr. High explained the impact of recent budget cuts on the foreign affairs budget, which has been reduced from $26 billion in 1985, to $20 billion in 1986, to $18.7 billion in 1987, and to $18.1 billion in 1988. Inflation, the fall of the dollar, and Congressional earmarking have reduced the available funds still further. Even with the continuing resolution, we have a substantial shortfall, and M is trying to prepare for an even greater problem in 1989, when the budget will increase by only 2 percent. This has meant cuts for PA and for A/CDC.
Nevertheless, Mr. High believes that the office is basically on target to achieve the Presidential goal of 1960 by 1990. It is useful to have the committee’s views and to hear its concerns. One idea we have proposed is a pre-publication review of the volumes by a Committee member or someone named by the Committee. This review would ensure that major topics are adequately covered. He hoped this would “enhance” the end product and make the smaller volumes more acceptable to scholars.
The Department is also looking at the idea of an ombudsman which came out of the Perkins-Spiers conversation. This proposal, that someone follow a volume through the entire declassification and publication process, goes substantially beyond what had been envisioned in previous discussions. We hope to have an answer on this soon--in a month or two. Many people in the Department, not only A/CDC but also the geographic bureaus, have an interest in this and might not be in agreement, especially since it is perceived in the Department as an all-or-nothing proposition.
Professor Perkins remarked that in his conversation with Ambassador Spiers, he did not specify a particular mechanism. He and the Committee had no inflexible concept of what mechanism would be best. Professor Cohen commented the Committee and the Department were not adversaries. The Committee realizes the severe budget constraints which affect the schedule and size of the Foreign Relations volumes, but he was concerned with the quality of the volumes. He felt that he could not testify on the quality to his constituents if he was not allowed to see material withheld in the declassification process. The Committee should concentrate on creation of a mechanism to verify the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the volumes in the series. Professor Dallek recalled that Dr. Slany had previously proposed a board of editors or experts who would oversee the process and endorse each volume. He urged some action on this problem, commenting he had seen very little movement on it during his 3-year tenure on the Committee.
Mr. High continued, stating that under the Committee’s charter, we look to the Committee to provide advice on the series and on other HO responsibilities and to provide a channel to professional organizations. He suggested the Committee might consider in their report:
- 1) volumes published in 1987;
- 2) the shape and content of the volumes;
- 3) suggestions for an editorial board or similar mechanism;
- 4) comments on any inadequacies in the program;
- 5) suggestions on the selection and presentation of material;
- 6) priority subjects for treatment in the 1958-1960 and 1961-1963 volumes;
- 7) the relevance of HO’s special projects, such as internal research and the Current Documents series.
The Committee agreed on the necessity of a mechanism to evaluate the comprehensiveness, context, and completeness of the volumes. But Professor Perkins said the Committee can’t make valid suggestions “until we have a dialogue” with Department officials. He repeated that the Committee was open to any proposal that would work for both sides. Professor Hunt noted the Committee’s concern with what the budget is doing to volumes (i.e., reducing the size) and what the declassification process is doing to volumes. He did not want to bog down the declassification process by injecting an editorial board into the middle. Professor Larson voiced her fear that incomplete volumes could lead to misinterpretations of history and at best could mislead.
Professor Dallek speculated on the process: the Historian would come to the Committee with a completed volume; the Committee would suggest a scholar with expertise in the area to review it and report to the Department and the Committee. The Historical Office would address the issues raised before publication. There was some discussion of the procedure that might be followed, for example mailing the manuscript to the reviewing scholar, as is done with pre-publication review of a manuscript for a publisher.
Dr. Slany noted that the Committee should take the responsibility for recommending a mechanism for pre-publication review. Professor Dallek agreed. Mr. High suggested that the Committee make a proposal to Assistant Secretary Redman when it meets with him.
Professor Cohen pointed out that such an arrangement still did not deal with material withheld in the declassification process. He repeated that the Committee was open to discussion of any kind of mechanism that would be acceptable to both sides. Professor Perkins commented that the Committee had not been able to find out what principles or guidelines of declassification applied. Mr. Ambach stated that the reviewers making presentations at the afternoon session would describe as best they could the still-sensitive areas.
Professor Perkins asked who decides the priority of which volumes to publish first. Dr. Glennon replied that volumes are published as they are cleared. Dr. Slany noted that it was a management decision taken to maximize the number of published volumes.
At this point, the meeting was adjourned for the working luncheon.
During lunch, the Committee examined manuscript of Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, volume VIII and page proofs of 1955-1957, volume XI, to determine the extent and impact of the deletion of documents by the historians.
Thursday Afternoon Session (Closed)
Opening Comments by Dr. Glennon
The meeting reconvened at 2:10 p.m.
Dr. Glennon introduced the session on declassification with general remarks on compilation and declassification review. He announced that A/CDC reviewers would discuss 1955-1957, volume VIII, South Asia (Sober); volume XI, United Nations and General (McIntyre); and 1958-1960, volume 14, South and Southeast Asia, Thailand, and the Philippines (Hamilton and Purnell).
Professor Perkins asked whether these volumes were in the higher or lower range of cuts. Dr. Glennon responded that they were in the lower range--4% of volume VIII and 7-8% of volume XI. He mentioned that none of these were problem volumes. The average percentage of excisions from the eight published 1955-1957 volumes was approximately 3.4%. Glennon considered excisions above 4-5% to be on the high side.
Professor Perkins asked why these particular volumes had been chosen. Dr. Glennon said these volumes were chosen because they were at different stages of completion. The first was recently issued, the second was currently in production, and the third was in the clearance process. Their choice was also based on the availability of reviewers to brief the Committee. Mr. Ambach said that from A/CDC’s point of view these volumes were chosen because they were normal, average volumes.
Dr. Glennon opined that some of the subjects in the most recently published volumes might no longer be included in the published volumes if budget constraints continued (i.e. volume XI, United Nations). He asked the committee for its views on what the series should be doing and suggested that it review the list of 16 volumes for the 1961-1963 triennium in light of the current budget crisis. He said that for years the series had not been a series of record, but a comprehensive overview of U.S relations that covers all geographic areas and all important topics from national security to law of the sea. Although he could find a champion in the Historical Office for each of the compilations in volume XI (Outer Space comprised 60 pages--all NSC and White House documents), he foresaw a time when none of these compilations would be published. Volumes 20 (Africa), and VIII (South Asia), for example, were greatly reduced in manuscript pages. Because of declassification and printing costs the size of all volumes must be similarly reduced. The average size volume for the 1955-1957 series will be 800 pages. The Historical Office has tried to cut more from the less significant volumes, but has found it painful to cut cleared documents from any volume.
Microfiche supplements will be increasingly relied upon in the future to augment the printed volumes. Both the Current Economic Developments and the China microfiche supplements are considerably larger than the printed volumes. Optimum size of the supplements would be 40 fiche cards, or the equivalent of 4,000 printed pages. Clearing these supplements is a costly process in terms of A/CDC resources as these documents still require review by A/CDC.
Professor Perkins said all deletions should be identified in footnotes since the series serves as a “map” through the government records. He also said that the Historical Office should expand and increase the value of footnotes. Dr. Glennon said that in the future the Department historians will have more time to review deletions and annotate them more comprehensively. He explained that in some of the recently published volumes, the historians had worked under tight time constraints.
Professor Cohen asked if white space in volumes VIII and XI could be reduced in future to add more documents. Ms. Baker replied that she has notified the contractor to amend the computerized typesetting program to allow for less white space. The nature of computerized typesetting made it inevitable that some white space would still remain because certain elements could not be separated.
Comments by Mr. Hartung, A/CDC
Mr. Hartung, who is currently serving as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for A/CDC in place of recently retired Ambassador John Burke, explained A/CDC’s twofold responsibilities: Mandatory Review, which is legislatively mandated, and Systematic Review under which FRUS clearance falls. He said that litigation under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, which falls under Mandatory Review, is A/CDC’s highest priority since deadlines to respond are often mandated by the courts. Mr. Hartung estimated that one-third of Mandatory Review resources are focused on litigation, much of which is initiated by businesses in the FOIA document retrieval industry. There is also close Congressional oversight of this function; the General Accounting Office is at present auditing A/CDC.
A/CDC has the same budget problems as other offices in the Department, maybe more so because all A/CDC operating funds go for personnel expenses. A/CDC’s budget reached its peak in 1986; it has been reduced 30% since then. Congress restored the 1988 A/CDC funding level, amounting to a 21% reduction for 1988. This does not, however, include a 2% payraise and 4% increase in social security contributions. In spite of budget constraints Systematic Review’s share of the pie has remained constant.
Mr. Hartung noted that in FY 1986 the Department spent $5 million on all facets of FOIA, while collecting only $10,008 in fees. He noted the Department can now charge businesses more if these documents are to be used for financial gain. Large organizations (environmental and refugee groups for example) now take the “lion’s share” of resources and are quick to litigate. Time taken up by interest group and company requests means less time for individual requests.
Professor Dallek noted that FOIA is extensively used because the public perceives that there is no need to wait 30 years for declassification; one need only request material through FOIA. Professor Larson added that if Systematic Review were moving along, there would not be this perception. If the State Department accelerated declassification, there would be no need for FOIA.
Mr. Ambach said criticism that the declassification of documents in the FRUS series takes too long is no longer warranted, as it might have been in the early 80’s. He noted that during the last 2 years the Department has greatly accelerated release of material even as the burden of litigation and FOIA has greatly increased. Declassification of an FRUS volume used to take 4 years. This was not so in 1986 and 1987. All but one of the 1952-1954 volumes are declassified. A/CDC has completed its clearance of all 1955-1957 volumes and volumes I and II of the 1961-63 series. Of the volumes not yet published, 13 are at NSC for clearance; 5 are with other agencies and/or foreign governments; and 2 still need to be resolved with HO. Of the 1958-1960 series, A/CDC has completed its review of 10 of 18 volumes and has the other 8 volumes under current review. It also has completed review of Volumes I and II of the 1964-1966 series.
Foreign Government Documents/Information
Professor Perkins asked about the difference in handling declassification of foreign government documents versus foreign government information. Mr. Ambach replied that for documents originating with friendly governments, the Department asks that government to acquiesce in their release. Foreign government information, that is information in a U.S. Government document from a clearly identified foreign source, is reviewed by A/CDC for national security sensitivity and a decision is made to clear or deny the material, or refer it to the source government for publication approval. We use this process in the hope that foreign governments would reciprocate.
In reply to a query by Professor Cohen, Mr. Ambach replied that A/CDC uses the principles outlined in E.O. 12356 for declassifying this type of material, that is will release of the material hamper ongoing negotiations or affect current relations?
At this point, Mr. Kenneth Hartung, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary (A/CDC) and members of his staff discussed with the Advisory Committee the declassification process as it applied to specific Foreign Relations volumes. The session adjourned at 5:00 p.m. The proceedings of that discussion have been classified SECRET and are thus not included in the minutes.
Review of Foreign Relations, 1955-57, volume VIII, South Asia
Sidney Sober of A/CDC led off the discussion of excisions of 1955-57, volume VIII by advising the Committee members that he would brief them on specific excisions made in the volume. He said he would read out loud the excisions as well as explain the reason for the excisions.
In reviewing the context of U.S. policy in South Asia in 1955-57, Mr. Sober said the following were important US concerns at that time: collective security, SEATO, CENTO, U.S. military presence in South Asia, beginning of Afghan-Pakistan relations, relations with India and Pakistan, and U.S. intelligence. Subjects in this area of world that are currently sensitive include U.S. interest in military bases in South Asia, especially in Pakistan, in light of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and U.S. relations with India.
Mr. Sober read one excised excerpt from Document 207, then explained Indian sensitivities then and now regarding U.S. interest in bases in Pakistan. He said that the United States has acknowledged establishing a radar tracking station in Pakistan and use of bases for U-2 flights, but has consistently denied even an interest in establishing military bases there.
Professor Hunt told Mr. Sober that if the Indian Government sees the published volume as excised, it will think we excised portions on U.S. arming Pakistan. Why not include this material because years down the road this information will eventually become public?
Mr. Sober replied that the Indians could think what they liked, but as long as the information was not in a published official U.S. document, they cannot claim that the U.S. Government is on public record as having had or having now any intentions of establishing bases in Pakistan.
Professor Hunt said these excisions also increase public mistrust of government.
Mr. Sober replied that the sensitivities of today may change tomorrow. The Department could have deleted the entire document instead of publishing it with excisions. It’s a risk with a cost, but we think it’s worth it.
Professor Cohen queried if the U.S. Government is doing something of which it is ashamed? Do we make excisions because they would shame or embarrass the United States?
Mr. Sober replied that “embarrassing things” are not deleted; that under Executive Order 12356 the criteria for deletions are whether release of the information would damage current U.S. negotiations or relations.
Mr. Sober, in introducing his next excerpt, said that during the 1955-57 period, when U.S. relations with Afghanistan and between Pakistan and Afghanistan were in the embryonic stages, an official of the Pakistan Government confided in an American official that they would like to “do in” the Afghan Government. This was the Daoud government, which was overthrown soon thereafter. Daoud, however, returned to power 10 years later and remained in power until overthrown by the Communists. Mr. Sober then read an excerpt on page 235 quoting Admiral Radford urging the overthrow of the Daoud government.
Professors Larson and Dallek demurred on the need for the excisions. Professor Larson commented that everyone knew Admiral Radford was a fool and no one would pay any attention to what he had said. Professor Dallek said that more rational minds would consider the source and place the excised material in context.
Mr. Sober then read an excised excerpt from page 465 regarding a discussion between Vice President Nixon and President Mirza of Pakistan. He also commented on a denied document, an NSC policy paper, that commented on India and the Congress Party--the same party in power today. Mr. Sober noted that U.S. relations with India are still quite sensitive and that any reference to the United States instructing India how to behave would not be taken well by India.
Professor Hunt reiterated his view that once excised material becomes available to the public, foreign government historians and others will view deletions as something the U.S. Government considered embarrassing and shameful and therefore will interpret the facts to confirm their worst fears of U.S. intentions.
Mr. Sober replied that we are as open as we can be. We must live with the doubts and the eventual consequences.
Professor Cohen said we must remember our responsibility for keeping public trust in what we’re doing; patterns of deletions play into the hands of cynics who want to discredit the U.S. Government.
Mr. Sober replied that he thought these concerns were obsessive. The 2% deleted material was not that important; it was better to concentrate on the 98% that was published.
Professor Larson asked if anything we printed ever harmed oar relations with other nations. For example, when U.S. relations with Egypt under Sadat became friendlier, he must have known that the United States had previously wanted to overthrow Nasser. So why not print it? She added that foreign government officials are more concerned about present U.S. policy and would not take offense at U.S. policies of 30 years ago.
Mr. Sober replied that it was a matter of judgment. The people in the geographic bureaus are responsible for making this decision.
Professor Dallek said this dialogue has been most useful and informative, more so than any he has participated in during the past 3 years. There is extraordinary cynicism in the American public about U.S. foreign policy. Deletions such as these only add to this cynicism. Secrecy increases cynicism as demonstrated by the Iran-Contra hearings. There is a need for consensus and support for foreign policy. We must always keep in mind the domestic dimension of U.S. foreign affairs.
Mr. Sober moved on to discuss the United Kingdom role in the subcontinent. He mentioned National Archives guidelines regarding Great Britain’s special interest in the Commonwealth. He read material excised from pages 102 and 129 and said that some material was published without U.K. agreement.
Review of Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, volume XI, UN and General Matters
The A/CDC review of deletions within specific volumes continued with Stuart McIntyre’s assessment of the deletions made in 1955-1957, volume XI. Dr. Glennon introduced the discussion by noting that budgetary strictures might make it necessary to eliminate a U.N. volume from the print series for 1961-1963. U.N. and General volumes have been compiled through the end of the Eisenhower administration, however, and Dr. Glennon indicated that the 1955-1957 volume fared reasonably well in the clearance process. He added that the decisions made in the Historical Office to reduce the size of the manuscript owing to budgetary pressure were not as difficult as those affecting a number of other volumes because the climate of scholarly interest had shifted and rendered some of the documentation, such as that relating to Charter review, “quaint” or dated.
Dr. McIntyre began his assessment of the declassification review of the volume by noting that the original manuscript submitted for review consisted of 1254 pages. A/CDC deletions, including those mandated by other agencies, amounted to a total of 100 pages, or 8% of the manuscript. HO further reduced the manuscript after clearance by 61 pages, or an additional 5% reduction. The volume, as currently scheduled for publication, runs to 787 printed pages.
Dr. McIntyre indicated that the bulk of the deletions related to foreign government information, the protection of sensitive sources of information, and the impact of the documentation on ongoing relations with allied countries. A small number of deletions were made to protect military information and some 4% of the deletions related to intelligence matters.
The review process was long and complicated. A different A/CDC employee did the initial review in 1982, which IO approved. The Historical Office responded with a reclama. Dr. McIntyre rereviewed the manuscript and proposed additional release of material at issue but IO disagreed. Dr. McIntyre went back to IO a second time, noting changed circumstances, and IO finally agreed to release the additional material. The process took more than 2 years but made possible more complete release of documentation.
Dr. McIntyre then reviewed specific documents affected by the clearance process. Several documents related to espionage activities involving U.N. employees. He discussed one such document which involved an FBI report dealing with intelligence methods and sources. Another document named a U.N. official as a source of sensitive information.
The Committee, led by Professors Perkins, Larson, and Hunt, questioned the necessity of these deletions given the passage of time. Dr. McIntyre noted that many of the deletions involved in the volume were limited to the removal of a name.
Review of Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, volume 14, South and Southeast Asia
The discussion of specific declassification actions concluded with an assessment of the clearance action in progress on the 1958-1960 Philippines and Thailand compilations. A/CDC reviewers Lewis M. (Skipper) Purnell and William Hamilton were introduced by Dr. Glennon, who gave a summary of the substance involved in the compilations.
Dr. Hamilton began with the Thai compilation he had reviewed. He said that of the 122 documents submitted for clearance in the compilation, only 17 were affected by deletions and no document was denied in full. He estimated that A/CDC had recommended a total of approximately 3 pages of deletions in a 336 page manuscript. Some 28 documents in the compilation were still being considered by other agencies and one foreign government. He noted that the government involved, the United Kingdom, will not consider clearance of the document until some time in 1989 because of its own 30 year rule. Dr. Hamilton attributed the clean review of the compilation to the nature of the reporting from the Embassy in Bangkok, and to the good relationship between the reviewer and a knowledgeable desk officer in EA.
Dr. Hamilton listed 5 major bases for deletions in the Thai compilation:
- 1. Clinical medical particulars concerning Prime Minister Sarit.
- 2. Pejorative remarks.
- 3. Intelligence activities and sources.
- 4. The King’s involvement in Thai internal affairs.
- 5. Military contingency plans.
Mr. Purnell followed and noted that the Philippine compilation had also done reasonably well in the A/CDC review process. The compilation consisted of 65 documents comprising 203 pages. A/CDC was prepared to recommend that 4 documents be denied in full and that excisions be made in 9 others. Most of the deletions related to issues that were still very sensitive in U.S.-Philippine relations.
Mr. Purnell identified four categories of deletions as constituting the bulk of the problems posed in the clearance process:
- 1. Issues relating to [text not declassified] the Philippines.
- 2. Criminal jurisdiction of U.S. Armed Forces personnel in the Philippines and Japan (Status of Forces Agreements). The Japanese were and remain extremely sensitive about these agreements.
- 3. References to political figures still active in the Philippines.
- 4. Issues relating to U.S. military bases in the Philippines on which renewal negotiations begin this year.
After Mr. Purnell concluded the briefing on specific declassification actions, Professor Perkins asked what kind of “guidelines” were being developed by A/CDC for the declassification of these records at the National Archives. Mr. Ambach pointed out that the guidance which emerged in part from the review of the FRUS volumes was not definitive enough to be styled as “guidelines”. Rather, he felt that the “aids” provided by A/CDC to Archives reviewers simply identified those types of documents which had to come back to the Department of State for further review before release in conjunction with the declassification of the overall record group. Mr. Ambach outlined the screening process by which A/CDC reviewers make the final decision on the denial or release of documents referred for consideration by the Archives reviewers.
Professors Perkins and Dallek pressed to know how specific the A/CDC guidance was, and Professor Cohen asked to see a set of the guidelines or aids. Mr. Ambach responded that the A/CDC consulted with other offices within the Department as well as with agencies outside of State before formulating these aids, which apply to all documents, not only to FRUS related ones. Mr. Ambach declined to address the issue of the Committee’s charter or the scope of its activities, which are currently being reviewed in the Office of Management Operations of the Department of State. Deputy Assistant Secretary High explained that the Committee’s charter constituted a brief to make recommendations concerning the Department’s records policy as well as to advise on the publication of FRUS. Mr. Ambach, at Mr. High’s suggestion, agreed to take the Committee’s request for the guidelines under advisement and respond later.
Mr. Ambach concluded by commenting on the interplay between HO and A/CDC in the effort to find creative ways to facilitate the release of documentation.
The Committee applauded A/CDC’s forthcoming briefings on the clearance process, noting that it was very helpful to have concrete examples in devising a mechanism to assist the Committee in its advisory role.
The meeting adjourned at 5 p.m.
The scheduled Friday sessions were cancelled because of a snowstorm which closed Federal government operations for the day. The Advisory Committee did, however, meet in a private session with Dr. Slany during the morning. The Committee also met with Assistant Secretary Charles Redman at 12:30 p.m. in the Department to discuss the results of the meeting and to advise him of probable recommendations the Committee would make in its report. This meeting adjourned at 1:10.