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Minutes of Historical Advisory Committee Meeting, November 1989

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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—1989-1990.

Cited in Toward “Thorough, Accurate, and Reliable”: A History of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series, Chapter 10, Footnotes 92, 96, and 97

Minutes of the 1989 Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

American Historical Association

  • Dr. Ronald H. Spector, Department of History, University of Alabama

Organization of American Historians

  • Dr. Bradford Perkins, Department of History, University of Michigan

Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations

  • Dr. Warren I. Cohen, Department of History, Michigan State University
  • Dr. Michael H. Hunt, Department of History, University of North Carolina

American Society of International Law

  • Dr. Stephen T. Zamora, University of Houston Law Center

International Studies Association

  • Dr. Paul M. Kattenburg, Institute of International Studies, University of South Carolina

Society of American Archivists

  • Anne H. Van Camp, Hoover Institution, Stanford, California

Thursday Morning Session (Open)

Committee Members Present:

  • Dr. Warren Cohen
  • Dr. Bradford Perkins
  • Dr. Michael Hunt
  • Ms. Anne Van Camp
  • Dr. Paul Kattenburg
  • Dr. Stephen Zamora
  • Dr. Ronald Spector

Others Present:

  • G. Alfred Kennedy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs

The Office of the Historian:

  • William Z. Slany, The Historian
  • John P. Glennon, Chief, Foreign Relations Division
  • Rita M. Baker
  • David H. Herschler
  • Edward C. Keefer
  • David W. Mabon
  • Elaine M. McDevitt
  • David S. Patterson
  • Charles S. Sampson
  • Louis J. Smith
  • Harriet D. Schwar

Historical Documents Review Division:

  • Mr. Richard Morefield
  • Mr. Eugene Bovis
  • Mr. William Hamilton
  • Mr. Henry Barduch

Publishing Services Division:

  • Mr. Paul Washington
  • Ms. Barbara Bacon

Others:

  • Dr. George C. Chalou, External Affairs, (NARA)
  • Mr. David A. Langbart, Records Appraisal Division, (NARA)
  • Mr. E. Allen Thompson, Records Declassification Division, (NARA)
  • Mr. Jim Gardner, National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History
  • Ms. Virginia Saunders, Congressional Printing Management, Government Printing Office
  • Mr. Daniel Helmstadter, Scholarly Resources

Dr. Cohen opened the meeting by announcing his agreement to serve as chairman of the Committee and he asked Committee members to adopt the agenda, which they did.

He thanked Mr. Bovis and Mr. Morefield for being cooperative in past misunderstandings regarding the classification/declassification procedures. He also thanked George High (not present) for his past cooperation and support and welcomed Deputy Assistant Secretary Kennedy to his first meeting with the Advisory Committee.

Remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary Kennedy

Mr. Kennedy welcomed the members of the Committee and expressed the Department's appreciation to the members. He also welcomed the newest representatives at the meeting (Ms. Van Camp, Dr. Kattenburg, Dr. Spector, and Dr. Zamora).

Mr. Kennedy discussed the Department's efforts to accelerate the FRUS publication schedules and explained how budget difficulties have hindered this goal. He assured the Committee that the Bureau of Public Affairs is committed to supporting the work of the Committee. He also detailed the new structure of the Bureau and the new role of the Assistant Secretary. While Ms. Tutwiler may not be available for discussions with them, Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Hoggard are interested in working with the Committee. The tradition of strong PA Front Office support will continue.

Report of The Historian

Dr. Slany began the discussion with a review of several points in the report of the Advisory Committee made in March 1989 and a brief summary of what the Department is doing in response to these recommendations.

Regarding the structural changes in the FRUS series, Dr. Slany commented that there are many options under consideration, especially for those volumes documenting the Kennedy administration. Chapter headings and tables of contents will be given to the Committee for review and recommendation. Also area specialists may be included in the process of planning and review of future volumes.

Some changes being considered in the series are the addition of a narrative summary, a calender of files, or a bibliographic guide, or a combination of all three, to the documents. Microfiche is being considered to replace as much as 50% of the text as budget constraints become more pressing. The British have adopted a similar approach.

A bibliographical guide in addition to a documentary text would assist in research of related documents at NARA and the Presidential libraries and would encourage the preservation of these documents.

Dr. Zamora initiated a discussion on the problem of the Vietnam volumes. These volumes were projected through 1969. The body of documents, however, was much larger than anticipated and access difficulties to the Johnson papers prevented projection past 1965, funds are being focused on more short term goals. The compilation will include congressional documents and collections of private papers as well as interviews that supplement the documents.

Budget restrictions have required reductions in volume size. To compensate, scanning and laser disc technology are being considered.

Discussion next turned to the consideration of a disclaimer in the volumes explaining why some documents or portions of documents were not declassified. FPC argues that even mention of missing documents can be a security risk. The Advisory Committee agreed that a carefully worded general disclaimer will be drafted for further discussion.

Dr. Slany turned to the subject of completing 1960 documentation by 1990, a goal which will not be reached due to NSC and other delays. 1992 is a more realistic target date. The Committee was asked to review this development and make any recommendations for improvements.

Dr. Slany commented that among the subjects to be covered during the meeting were the expansion the Advisory Committee to include representatives of Federal agencies other than State and other interested disciplines, and preservation of electronic records as well as those subjects mentioned briefly above.

Report on the Printing and Distribution of the Foreign Relations Series

Paul M. Washington, Chief of the Publishing Services Division, Bureau of Administration and Information Management, reported on the printing and distribution of the Foreign Relations series.

In February 1986, the Superintendent of Documents requested guidance from the Depository Library Council to recommend titles for conversion to microfiche in order to achieve Congressionally-mandated cost reductions in the Depository Library Program. Since that time, 20 volumes have been published but not distributed to the libraries because of delays the letting a contract to produce microfiche copies for the depository libraries. GPO estimates that the cost of reprinting the volumes to place them in the depository libraries is $600,000, as compared with $15,000 to publish and distribute the volumes as microfiche. For future volumes, the cost would be $10,000 per volume to place a print copy in 1,100 depository libraries, as opposed to $800 per volume for microfiche.

Dr. Perkins asked if the copyright law requires GPO to provide copies to the depository libraries. Mr. Washington responded that only the Superintendent of Documents has the authority to determine the distribution of publications to depository libraries.

Mr. Washington stated that after all the effort to produce the Foreign Relations volumes, it seemed essential that copies be made available to the depository libraries. He posed three options in this regard: provide Department funds to place print volumes in selected depository libraries (approximately $10,000 per volume); provide a Department contract to prepare microfiche copies of the volume at the time of publication; and award a contract to the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) to produce the backlogged volumes quickly.

Dr. Hunt observed that the GPO requirement to opt for the low bidder presented a problem with the quality of the contractor. It was a troublesome characteristic of the GPO contracting system. Mr. Washington stated that it was the GPO policy to have one contractor do all the microfiche work.

Dr. Spector asserted that the only viable option should be to go back and print the 20 volumes for distribution to the depository libraries. He argued that the Advisory Committee could go to Congress and request the $600,000, since congressmen can be lobbied over the fact that there were no Foreign Relations volumes in the various state and university libraries that comprise a large portion of the depository library system.

Mr. Washington thought it would be useful if the Committee would campaign to produce some movement from GPO on this question. To get 20 volumes behind is a major problem. By no longer producing copies for the depository libraries, GPO had reduced the print run for the Foreign Relations volumes from 2,500 to 1,400 copies. Dr. Slany reported that the Department had not been aware of the GPO decision to discontinue distribution of Foreign Relations print volumes to the depository libraries. Mr. Washington had been effective in persuading the Superintendent of Documents to keep Foreign Relations volumes in stock for at least 10 years.

Dr. Hunt inquired whether it would be possible to combine projected sales and depository library distribution in the same print run; the fewer volumes sold, the more available for distribution to the depository libraries. Mr. Washington stated that the GPO handles the two distributions separately from a funding standpoint: the sales program returned money to GPO, while depository library volumes are funded by appropriations. He pointed out that the increasing price of Foreign Relations volumes may limit sales.

Dr. Spector argued that the Foreign Relations volumes can be marketed more aggressively.

Mr. Washington asserted that the Department was looking into different marketing options, but said the high price of the book and the irregular printing schedule limit marketing options.

Dr. Slany stated that the Department should be in a better position to market the Foreign Relations volumes than the GPO. West Germany planned to privatize its official publications. The market would control pricing. A comparable publication under this option in West Germany, however, might cost as much as $80.

Mr. Helmstadter pointed out that the private sector was better positioned to print and market the Foreign Relations volumes more effectively. He thought that the cost of reprinting the volumes should not exceed $10.00 per volume (or $200,000 total). Marketing of the volumes can be increased dramatically. Given the number of college and university libraries, sales and distribution of the volumes should be more than 2,500.

Mr. Washington stated that from his perspective, there would be no problem having Foreign Relations published by the private sector provided there were no legal impediments caused by the GPO mandate.

Dr. Cohen asked Mr. Washington if he would provide a list of key individuals at the Government Printing Office and the Joint Committee on Printing to write to regarding the distribution of the Foreign Relations volumes to the depository libraries. He also requested a brief history of the problem so that the Committee could better formulate its recommendations in its report.

Mr. Gardner, representing the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, asserted that the NCC will look into playing a role in this matter.

Ms. Saunders, representing the Government Printing Office, noted that the depository libraries can select among the GPO publications. Approximately 1,100 of the 1,400 have selected Foreign Relations. The decision to go to microfiche distribution copies came about because of budget cuts at the GPO.

Before concluding, Mr. Washington reported that the cost of printing Foreign Relations had come down to a reasonable level. The Department was particularly pleased with the current contractor, although the existing contract was due to expire at the end of November.

Dr. Cohen thanked Mr. Washington for his report, and stated that the matter of the distribution of Foreign Relations to the depository libraries is a high priority for the Committee.

Thursday Afternoon Session (Closed)

Committee Members Present:

  • Dr. Cohen
  • Dr. Hunt
  • Dr. Kattenburg
  • Ms. Van Camp
  • Dr. Perkins
  • Dr. Spector
  • Dr. Zamora

Office of the Historian:

  • Dr. Slany
  • Dr. Glennon
  • Ms. Baker
  • Dr. Herschler
  • Dr. Keefer
  • Dr. Mabon
  • Ms. McDevitt
  • Dr. Sampson
  • Dr. Schwar
  • Dr. Smith

Historical Documents Review Division:

  • Mr. Richard Morefield
  • Mr. Charles Flowerree
  • Mr. Theodore Tremblay
  • Mr. William Hamilton
  • Mr. Dwight Ambach
  • Mr. Eugene Bovis
  • Mr. Phillip Valdes

Report on the Declassification Review of Foreign Relations

Richard Morefield, the Director of the Historical Documents Review Division HDR (formerly the Office of Systematic Review, Classification/Declassification Center), explained the recent reorganization of the Bureau of Administration and how his division fits into it. Essentially, HDR has been integrated into the information and management element of the Bureau of Administration and Information Management, the bureau which also handles Freedom of Information, Privacy, and Declassification matters. The same people are doing the same job with the same mandate, but under a different name. The philosophy of the reorganized bureau is that it will be user-driven, service-oriented, and dedicated to using modern technology.

Mr. Morefield reviewed the past year's work of HDR and noted that it had been highly successful. Ten volumes had been released, principally for 1955-57. This left four 1955-57 volumes to be cleared, of which three are now at the NSC. The remaining volume is still being considered by the UK. He added that ten volumes are likely for 1990.

Mr. Morefield also reported that the NSC logjam was essentially broken, in large part because of the assistance that HDR had provided NSC as well as from an exceptional effort by the NSC itself to clear volumes. Only 6 volumes remained at NSC (of these, 3 had been submitted to them in June 1989).

Mr. Morefield had hoped to be able to announce that the block of 1955-1959 of Department of State records was totally available at the National Archives, but this was not yet the case. He expected the records for this period to be available soon.

Finally, Mr. Morefield announced that HDR was beginning to examine the problem of multilateral records, such as those of NATO, and to consider how these could be systematically declassified.

Mr. Morefield then noted that there were clouds on the horizon: the first being resources available for processing documents under systematic review versus those devoted to the ever increasing number of FOIA requests. In particular, he cited the large number of FOIA requests on the Cuban missile crisis and noted that so far the Department had been willing to provide the resources necessary to deal with large requests, but that this may not always be the case. Secondly, he informed the Committee that the exponential growth of paper in the 1960's might well siphon off resources from review of Foreign Relations documents.

Thirdly, he noted that the number of agencies needed to clear any given document would continue to increase and this, in turn, would slow down processing.

Dr. Spector asked if it were true that the Department of State did not know what it had released as he had been told by someone outside the Department. He had also been told State had no FOI reading room.

Mr. Morefield denied this. There was a reading room and documentation was released on microfilm, not by case, but by subject. The question facing HDR was should this operation be computerized and should material he made available by modem.

Asked by Dr. Hunt if FOIA requests threatened to overwhelm the Department, Mr. Morefield answered that it would be more efficient to declassify wholesale, that is, systematically, but that the law was written differently.

Dr. Hunt inquired if blanket declassification was a possibility. Mr. Morefield responded that the Department was unalterably opposed to automatic declassification.

Dr. Zamora asked if HDR was operating under a presumption of release or denial. Mr. Morefield answered that there was a definite presumption of release and denials could only be made for a few specific reasons. Dr. Spector pointed out, however, that it had been his experience at the Navy that each new executive order on declassification allowed for more denials and, if declassifiers chose, they need not release anything.

Mr. Morefield said that was an attitudinal problem. He believed his system of using retired FSO's with area expertise created an attitude favoring release while still protecting sensitive material. The problem was that most denials were based on current events. If the Department released information given in confidence by a foreign government, it risked not getting that kind of information in the future.

Ted Tremblay then discussed the declassification of Foreign Relations 1961-1963, vol. III, Vietnam, 1963. Dr. Glennon noted that the deletions were minor, about 2.5%, and then Mr. Tremblay characterized them and placed them within the context of the volume.

Ted Keefer pointed out that, perhaps due to modesty, Tremblay was not telling the full story of the declassification of this volume. Initially, CIA had made massive deletions which would have destroyed fully the credibility of the volume. HDR went back to CIA twice and convinced them to restore virtually all their denials and to make only minor excisions. Dr. Keefer noted that Vietnam was unique in that, from a certain point in time, the CIA was prepared to acknowledge its existence in Saigon. Therefore, some headings will be from the Station Chief to the Agency and vice versa. Unfortunately, this situation occurs only in the case of Saigon and only in a specific timeframe, and is not the beginning of a general trend.

Asked by Dr. Cohen if he was satisfied with the HDR review of the volume, Dr. Keefer replied that he was very pleased and that it represented a success. The only fly in the ointment, and it was a small fly at that, was that we were unable to convince the British, the Canadians, and State's Office of Soviet Affairs to release a British report, a Canadian intermediary exercise, and a discussion between a Soviet Embassy official and a White House aide on Vietnam. While these were only small parts of the volume, they raised issues would impact on the series coverage of Vietnam in the late 1960's.

Mr. Tremblay recounted the opposition of the British and the Canadians to our releasing their documents. He stated that in the case of the 1961 Vietnam volume, after the death of Gromyko, the Department was prepared to release a disputed conversation but by that time it was too late for inclusion in the volume.

Charles Flowerree of HDR discussed the declassification of Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, vol. XIX, National Security Policy. He noted that it was a long time in review, but that in itself had allowed for more to be declassified. He briefly described the declassification results. Of 185 total documents, 12 had been denied, and of those, 9 were National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) dealing with the way we evaluated Soviet capabilities. That was a stumbling block for CIA. The other 3 were JCS analyses of Soviet capabilities which were denied for similar reasons. Mr. Flowerree then described the contents of the volume. Returning to the deletions, Mr. Flowerree described the excisions. [Text not declassified.]

Both Dr. Spector and Dr. Perkins asked why the NIEs were denied and Mr. Flowerree explained that methods of assessing Soviet capabilities were still considered sensitive.

Asked why the volume was so long in review, Mr. Flowerree responded that the problem was with the other agencies and foreign governments and then, as the volume went to NSC, it was delayed by the Iran-Contra roadblock.

Dr. Hunt asked if the reader would be able to determine from this volume how the Soviet threat was assessed. Mr. Flowerree answered that the specifics would not be there. Even if CIA had cleared the NIEs, the detail would still not be there. Rather one had to use the high-level discussions at the NSC meetings to understand how the Soviet threat was being assessed.

Phillip Valdes then gave an account of the declassification of the USSR compilation in Foreign Relations 1955-1957, vol. XXIV, Soviet Union and Eastern Mediterranean, which is already published. He described the denials and excisions in the Soviet compilation, which were extensive (10% and 23% respectively). Of the 482 documents in the volume, 51 had been denied and 110 excised. He described briefly the contents of the volume and then raised the issues which presented problems. [Text not declassified.] The Cyprus compilation (206 documents, 16 denied, 52 excised) had problems with documents discussing the division of the island and 3 Greek government documents which the Embassy in Athens refused to ask the Government to clear. The Greek compilation's (50 documents, 8 denied and 8 excised) [text not declassified.] The Turkish compilation (83 documents, 5 denied and 5 excised) was essentially a matter of removing material on intelligence operations [text not declassified.] Dr. Glennon observed that the percentage of material denied on this volume was about 6.5%, slightly higher than the general average of 4.5%.

Dr. Cohen then asked if he could see the documents which were described in this session, those that were not Top Secret or other-agency documents.

Mr. Morefield replied that the Committee had only Secret clearances, and most of these documents were Top Secret and non-Department of State documents. All the Committee would be able to see were just a few of the least impressive and he was not sanguine that they could see even these.

Dr. Cohen stressed that the integrity of the series demanded that the Committee insist on seeing these deletions. Dr. Spector suggested that the Department grant a Top Secret clearance to the Chairman and that he be allowed to see them. Dr. Cohen said that the Advisory Committee had already sent a letter to its constituent bodies saying that the members would be seeing the deletions and he felt access had to be granted in the near future. He stated that he believed this was the bargain that had been struck with the Department.

Report on the Longevity and Preservation of Electronic Records

Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert K. Carr then spoke to the Committee about Department's efforts in the area of information management. Mr. Carr explained that on October 1 the Department had merged six separate offices dealing with information management. A “Foreign Affairs Information System” is being installed throughout the Department. The Under Secretary for Management is anxious to move the Department to a new information environment. We are truly looking toward the day of the “paperless office”. The number of documents is growing and information techniques are changing. Comments which formerly were marginal are being replaced by electronic communication between offices through “electronic mail”.

Mr. Carr suggested that it is the responsibility of the National Archives to take the lead in developing criteria for how and when the Department should transfer documents. The volume of information continues to grow dramatically. For example, one can look ahead to an era when voice transmissions will be part of the record

Ms. Van Camp noted that it might well benefit the Committee at some occasion to plan a visit to the Archives to observe first-hand their research efforts in the area of electronic records.

Friday Morning Session (Closed)

Committee Members Present:

  • Dr. Cohen
  • Dr. Spector
  • Dr. Zamora
  • Dr. Perkins
  • Dr. Kattenburg
  • Ms. Van Camp

Others Present:

  • Professor Bruce Kuniholm, Duke University

Office of the Historian:

  • Dr. Slany
  • Dr. Glennon
  • Ms. Baker
  • Dr. Herschler
  • Dr. Mabon
  • Ms. McDevitt
  • Dr. Sampson
  • Dr. Schwar
  • Dr. Smith

Historical Documents Review Division:

  • Mr. Richard Morefield
  • Mr. Eugene Bovis
  • Mr. Henry Bardach
  • Mr. Charles Flowerree

Evaluation of Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, Volume X, Iran, 1951-1954

At the invitation of the Committee, Professor Bruce Kuniholm of Duke University commented on the recently published volume Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951-1954. Kuniholm concluded that the publication of what he saw as a seriously misleading account of U.S. relations with Iran at a critical juncture constituted “something like fraud” by the Department of State. The publication of such a volume, Kuniholm felt, called into question the credibility as well as the purpose of the series. He emphasized, however, that in criticizing the volume he was not criticizing the work which went into the compilation of the volume, but rather the political decisions which underlay the removal of documentation essential to a credible account, and the decision to publish what he considered to be a seriously flawed and misleading record of U.S.-Iranian relations.

Professor Kuniholm reviewed the volume in some detail and elaborated on his criticisms. A reading of the volume, Professor Kuniholm noted, created an impression concerning the overthrow of the Mosadeq government in 1953 which was simplistic and wrong: Mosadeq was anti-British, the British opposed Mosadeq, the British tried to enlist the support of the U.S., to some extent the U.S. supported the British, the British departed, the U.S. tried to patch up the relationship, and in the end Mosadeq was overthrown by a popular uprising.

Professor Kuniholm argued that the account of the overthrow of the Mosadeq government, to the extent that it was covered in the Foreign Relations volume at all, is vastly different from the real story which can be pieced together from memoirs of participants, such as Kermit Roosevelt, and from other available accounts of [text not declassified.] Professor Kuniholm stressed that, despite all that has been revealed in such accounts, the volume is entirely silent on the CIA's role in the overthrow of Mosadeq. CIA plans and activities leading up to the restoration of the Shah to the throne are totally absent from the volume. He conceded that the volume did include useful information on a number of other issues, and was “good as far as it goes”, but he added that “all the crucial stuff is omitted.”

Professor Kuniholm raised and dismissed all of the arguments he felt the CIA might have used to justify withholding the missing information. Weighed against those arguments was the public's right to be informed and the importance of an accurate record for analysts inside as well as outside the government. In arguing the importance of an accurate record for internal analysts, he recalled his difficulty in obtaining access to a CIA study of this episode when he was in the Department working on a highly classified study of the background of U.S. policy toward Iran during the hostage crisis. He also noted that Iranian nationalists have reacted to the United States since the overthrow of Mosadeq on the presumption that the CIA was behind the change. It might have been better for U.S.-Iranian relations to have made the actual story available long since.

The Committee generally applauded and concurred in Professor Kuniholm's assessment of the volume. Chairman Cohen agreed that the volume was badly flawed and he stated that he was concerned about the impact on the series as a whole of publishing obviously misleading accounts. Dr. Perkins seconded those concerns and said that it would be better not to publish a volume that distorts the record to such an extent unless a disclaimer could be included to the effect that the published account did not constitute the entire record. Dr. Kattenburg agreed in general, but played devil's advocate to the extent of wondering whether Roosevelt's published account wasn't self-serving, and the entire episode of the overthrow of Mosadeq largely something engineered by the British. Professor Kuniholm replied that he was certain that the United States was the principal actor. At that point, he was asked what he would have done if faced with the necessity of having to publish an incomplete account. He replied that he would have resigned.

Dr. Spector felt that two issues were raised by Professor Kuniholm's presentation. At one level the volume highlighted the specific problems confronted by the Historian's Office in attempting to present a complete account of U.S. foreign policy. At another and higher level, there was the more serious problem of a government institutionalizing the practice of lying to itself. Drawing on his background in the Navy's historical program, Dr. Spector noted that the case was always made by military historians that detailing mistakes and omissions in an account of a military operation might save some lives if those who studied the record for lessons to be learned actually profited from the lessons of history. He felt that a similar presentation should be made to the officers with substantive responsibilities for declassification of the documents selected for the Foreign Relations series. Misinformation in the record of foreign relations and national security policy can be similarly dangerous, particularly when perpetuated as a basis for analysis.

Dr. Slany expressed appreciation for Professor Kuniholm's presentation and said that HO was aware of the problems raised by the Committee. He noted that HO was still groping for a solution to the problem highlighted in the presentation and perhaps had not made a strong enough case to other agencies on the issue. He indicated that this was one of the problems to be worked out as the office felt its way from the old Foreign Relations series to the new.

Dr. Glennon pointed out that the volume does contain some good material and called the Committee's attention to one or two documents. He commented that researchers cannot use the volume alone but must use other sources as well. He said that in terms of pages, HO lost only about 2% of the pages in the volume in the declassification process. With the help of the CIA historian, we were able to get access to about 36 pages, double spaced, of CIA cables that had been retyped by the CIA; they essentially said what Kim Roosevelt said in his book but could not be included in the volume. We had 1,100 pages of good material and were faced with the question of whether to sit on it or publish it. Dr. Perkins pointed out that HO had withheld the 1949 China volume documenting the Chou En-lai demarche for several years. Dr. Glennon replied that we had reason to believe that the China volume would be cleared after the death of Chou and Mao Tse-tung. This had been correct. When they died, the volume was cleared.

Committee members asked about the volumes concerning Guatemala in 1954 [text not declassified.] Dr. Glennon thought the Guatemala compilation was far less complete than the Iran volume. Our major problem was one of access. Dr. Glennon, Dr. Schwar, and Dr. Keefer commented [text not declassified.] Dr. Glennon added that the problem of coverage of covert operations in the series was perhaps more widespread than the Committee realized.

Mr. Morefield pointed out that the Iran volume included a great deal of material concerning international economic issues and the involvement of the Seven Sisters in Iran. Professor Kuniholm said the volume included a great deal of good material. He said he could see the dilemma but thought the volume should include a disclaimer.

Dr. Spector thought this was a fundamental decision for the Department: whether or not to claim this is a complete record of U.S. foreign policy. Dr. Perkins pointed out that a disclaimer was a two-edged sword in that it could be used by other agencies as an excuse to deny documents. Dr. Slany raised the possibility of an introduction explaining the circumstances under which a volume was compiled.

Dr. Zamora asked about review of a volume by an independent scholar. Dr. Slany said there was a plan to have Michel Oksenberg look at a China volume. Dr. Cohen thought there were two problems with involving an academic in the compilation process: (1) they did not have time, and (2) they were concerned about being co-opted. Dr. Spector suggested that an early review of a completed compilation by an outside scholar might serve as an early warning system to indicate the reaction to a volume like this one. Dr. Kattenberg thought this was unnecessary; HO historians could see the problems with such a volume without any outside review. Drs. Slany and Glennon indicated that they had recognized the problems. Dr. Spector noted that most government agencies have a review panel with one outside scholar and one participant in the events.

Dr. Perkins asked what HO thought about a disclaimer. Dr. Glennon pointed out that there was a question as to whether we could clear a meaningful disclaimer. Dr. Cohen thought we should not allow publication of another volume like this one without such a disclaimer. Dr. Kattenberg thought we should make clear to the upper echelons that something had to be done along this line. He thought there should be a high-level interagency review of the situation and some sort of interagency cooperation. He mentioned the Center for the Study of Intelligence which has done work in this area.

Discussion of a possible disclaimer continued, with the committee in general agreement that a disclaimer was necessary, although Dr. Perkins again noted that it was a two-edged sword. Reverting to Dr. Slany's suggestion of an introduction to specific volumes rather than a general disclaimer, Dr. Perkins asked Dr. Slany what he would have said in an introduction to the Iran volume. Dr. Slany replied that he would have said we did not have access to all agency documents. Dr. Cohen thought that was not sufficient; we can not assume everyone has the background to understand the import of such a statement. He thought it was essential to protect the integrity of the volumes.

Dr. Zamora thought a general disclaimer would be better. Dr. Kattenberg thought an introduction should state how many documents had been denied by each agency. Bruce Kuniholm suggested a bibliographic essay, including not only memoirs but secondary material, such as the article the August 1987 issue of the Journal of Middle East Studies, on such matters as the Iran coup. Mr. Morefield said such an essay might say “Since it is U.S. policy not to discuss these matters, we can neither confirm nor deny these allegations.”

Dr. Smith pointed out that the CIA has an interest in releasing some documents. When Congress exempted the CIA from the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA agreed to find some vehicle for the systematic release of some of its documents. For this reason, the agency is interested in HO's project for a supplementary intelligence volume. However, this would only include documents concerning intelligence in general. In response to questions from the Committee concerning the supplementary intelligence volume, Dr. Slany said HO may be able to get Tom Thorne, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary in INR, to work on it.

Dr. Cohen concluded that the committee had to let the Secretary know that this was a serious problem which was undermining the series. The purpose of the series is to give the American people an accurate record of U.S. foreign policy. It is essential to warn the reader that important aspects are not included. Dr. Cohen asked Committee members to reflect on the problem and to send him their thoughts. It was important to make a thoughtful, concerted approach to the Secretary on the matter, and Dr. Cohen noted that he would be in Washington all winter and could formulate and press such an approach.

Discussion of Revisions of the Charter of the Foreign Relations Series

Dr. Slany requested the Committee's comments on revision of the Foreign Relations directive, especially in connection with the preparation of volumes for the Kennedy period. Dr. Cohen noted that the directive specified use of other agency documents when necessary and withdrew his previous proposal that the Office consider publication of Department of State documents only.

Dr. Slany said that PA/HO might stop any pretence of publishing the whole record, and concentrate on selected issues. Dr. Perkins said there were really two issues, topicality and comprehensiveness. Dr. Spector recalled that when PA/HO had concentrated exclusively on Vietnam for a few years, it had gotten many complaints from researchers in other areas despite the high quality of the Vietnam volumes. He had liked the approach, but many others had not. Dr. Cohen said that there was a danger that some of the areas on which complete documentation was available, unlike Vietnam, might not be the ones of most central importance. Dr. Perkins argued against starting with the assumption that documentation on some topics was so slim that no volume was possible. It might prove to be the case, but the a priori assumption should not be made.

There was general agreement that in the future more selectivity was inevitable. Dr. Zamora wondered if modern computerized systems might not make possible a series with a few book publications, but a great mass of documentation available on line. Dr. Herschler pointed out some of the problems with this approach given the difficulty of compiling documents from other agencies. Dr. Kattenburg said there should be an Executive Order declassifying everything up to 1960, with all the burden of proof to be on the government for continued classification of all subsequent materials.

Dr. Slany said another problem was that many agencies did not properly maintain the record, much less make it accessible. Dr. Spector said that this was properly a job for the Archivist of the United States. The Archivist had never done this before, but the new one seemed disposed to try. In the Department the historians should identify what needed to be kept. Dr. Herschler mentioned that such a provision was already in Departmental regulations. Dr. Spector said, “Make it stronger.” Dr. Cohen discussed an article by Nancy Tucker, which stated that while she was temporarily on the China desk materials of historical value had been routinely destroyed. Dr. Spector suggested that PA/HO see to it that the Inspector General carried out his responsibilities with respect to record retention. Historians should accompany the IG on his inspections. This technique, he recalled, had been valuable when he was at the Naval Historical Center. Also, Congressional scrutiny would help.

Dr. Slany again asked for the Committee's recommendations on selectivity. Dr. Spector said outside advice would help the Office to justify future decisions. Dr. Perkins believed that narratives would be a mistake. Dr. Cohen suggested an introduction which would explain what was included, and why, and what was left out, and why, with archival and bibliographic information on both classes of material. Dr. Kattenburg said it would look “damn silly” for the Department to send readers to secondary sources on matters on which the Department was charged with printing the record. Dr. Cohen said that the Committee would come up with recommendations on the selectivity issue, especially on how to refer to omitted materials.

Dr. Perkins wondered if it would be desirable or possible to distinguish between a disclaimer, earlier discussed in connection with the Iran volume, and a description of missing substantive material. Dr. Kattenburg recommended that the disclaimer be as bland and neutral as possible.

There ensued discussion as to whether advice should be solicited from individuals or groups of experts. Dr. Cohen thought that consultation with individuals should be done if useful, and not for the purpose of a cover to justify anything the Office did. Dr. Slany cautioned that consultation would lengthen the time it would take to prepare the volumes. Dr. Kattenburg emphasized that the compilers, as trained historians, were perfectly capable of utilizing the secondary literature themselves.

There was some discussion of the possibility of getting a private subsidy to help the series' financial problems. The Department can receive private money. There was general agreement that channeling of funds through a private foundation was preferable because donors would prefer to give to it rather than directly to the government.

Friday Afternoon Session (Closed)

Committee Members Present:

  • Dr. Cohen
  • Dr. Spector
  • Dr. Zamora
  • Dr. Perkins
  • Dr. Kattenburg
  • Ms. Van Camp

Office of the Historian:

  • Dr. Slany
  • Dr. Glennon
  • Ms. Baker
  • Dr. Herschler
  • Dr. Mabon
  • Ms. McDevitt
  • Dr. Sampson
  • Dr. Schwar
  • Dr. Smith

Historical Documents Review Division:

  • Mr. Richard Morefield
  • Mr. Henry Bardach
  • Mr. Eugene Bovis
  • Mr. William Hamilton

National Archives and Records Administration:

  • Mr. John Fawcett
  • Dr. George Chalou
  • Ms. Nancy Smith

Report on Access to Documentation at Presidential Libraries

Mr. Fawcett said that the National Archives has been working on procedures to assist the Foreign Relations series and has tried to cut out some of the burdensome aspects of the process, but pointed out that this was a complex problem. His office and HO could not solve the declassification problem by themselves. Declassification was an extremely cumbersome, frustrating process, but NARA was attempting to cut some bureaucratic procedures.

The Department of State had helped NARA to send an additional employee to the Kennedy Library last year but a 3-month detail was not enough to handle the project; such help needs to be long-term. Mr. Fawcett also maintained that the funds for such a long-term project had to be provided by the Department because much of it would aid government historians but would not help the public.

NARA is also taking other actions to help HO move forward with Foreign Relations; the Kennedy Library has reassigned an archivist from domestic records to foreign affairs. It has also hired two additional staffers, although they have not yet received their security clearances. The Johnson Library has not filled an oral history vacancy and has transferred the position to declassification/mandatory review (at some cost to its oral history program).

Mr. Fawcett said that his main point is that NARA is unhappy with the current situation, despite these cooperative efforts, because it has had a negative effect on public access to the records. Therefore, the same people who do mandatory review have less time to work on public access.

He stated that NARA knows much more about handling classified material and mandatory review than it did 20 years ago. Without question, in the absence of huge increases in funding and personnel, the most effective way to handle declassification is systematic review from Department of State guidelines. This has worked at the Eisenhower Library, where they have made tremendous progress, and Mr. Fawcett urged that such guidelines be provided at an earlier stage. He also noted that the Department is the only agency that has given NARA guidelines (still incomplete) for the Eisenhower administration.

Mr. Fawcett has talked to the directors of Ford, Carter, and Reagan Libraries regarding the most effective way of handling classified materials. This would be to process classified material specifically for Foreign Relations access as the first stage for systematic review/mandatory review, i.e., to sort the files by classification, code word, etc., so that Department of State historians could begin work on them. This would mean that the libraries would not have to do the work over again for mandatory review requests because they would have both the physical arrangement and an intellectual overview of the files.

He asked HO to develop preliminary priorities for the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations. (The Nixon Library is a special case because it has to follow the cumbersome access procedures written into law.) He pointed out that if HO began its research before 20 years have passed, it could start to work with the Department's declassification people earlier. NARA resources could then be devoted to providing public access to those records.

Mr. Fawcett concluded his report by pointing out that there are problems with limited resources; therefore, the Department and HO have to support additional resources for declassification. If such resources are provided, the Presidential libraries could be more effective.

Discussion With the Advisory Committee

Dr. Perkins commented that this was quite a change from last year, when the Advisory Committee was told that the Kennedy Library had no resources. Dr. Warren Cohen noted that the Committee has continued to receive complaints from researchers.

Mr. Fawcett replied that, obviously, they have had problems. For years, the Kennedy Library had not directed its resources toward archival processing as much as the other Presidential libraries. Now there is a new director who is concerned about this and is taking steps to improve the situation, but they cannot catch up immediately. In response to Dr. Perkins' query as to whether the new director was a professional archivist, Mr. Fawcett that he was not, but that he had a great interest in the subject as well as an academic background.

Mr. Fawcett admitted that scholars have had problems. The Kennedy Library is still waiting for the two new staffers to get their clearances, which would improve the situation. (He pointed out, however, that he himself was still waiting for codeword clearance.) He also noted that NARA had to balance mandatory review requests and appeals; Presidential libraries respond wherever there is the greatest pressure.

Dr. Perkins asked if the staff at the Presidential libraries ever moved around, to which Mr. Fawcett replied that usually they did not. He noted that the average time of employment at the Roosevelt Library was 18 years.

Dr. Cohen argued that Presidential libraries with no declassification work need fewer people and asked whether NARA could transfer people to the Kennedy or Johnson Libraries. Mr. Fawcett replied that they could not move people, although they could shift positions when vacancies occurred and noted that NARA had shifted declassification positions. He also pointed out that these employees have acquired expertise regarding collections, which is necessary for reference work as well as declassification. He added that the workload does not go down when collections are declassified; it shifts from processing to helping researchers. Dr. Perkins asked whether employees need as much skill to do reference work, to which Mr. Fawcett replied that skill consists of knowledge of the records, not of the process.

Mr. Fawcett noted that one of their biggest problems was getting agencies to follow proper procedures regarding classified material before NARA received it. Agencies at the highest level (such as the National Security Council) often ignored these procedures but NARA could not.

Dr. Perkins asked if someone could be detailed on a temporary basis, to which Mr. Fawcett replied that this had happened last year (with Department of State funds) but it was very expensive.

Regarding the problem of lack of resources, Dr. Spector asked why the Presidential libraries did not say that they could not operate the Carter and Reagan Libraries without more resources. Mr. Fawcett pointed out that the Presidential libraries have only 5% of the total records at NARA and are often regarded as “country clubs” whose resources can be cut. He noted that NARA's top priority is the new building and that the records in Washington and Suitland have to be processed before they can be moved to a new building.

Dr. Spector argued that NARA has an enormous mission with no resources to fill it. To Mr. Fawcett's statement that the budget process has to have priorities, Dr. Spector asked why NARA did not ask for a bigger “pie.” Mr. Fawcett replied that Don Wilson was asking for a bigger pie but that within the pie he had to make choices. Dr. Spector accused NARA of “doing it backwards” and suggested telling Congress how much it needed. Mr. Fawcett answered that NARA did tell Congress all of its needs, adding that Congress was sympathetic but not always responsive. He pointed out that Don Wilson has had more meetings with the President than all of his predecessors combined, adding that this President is interested in history. He is trying to raise the Archives' budget incrementally, but to push the Presidential libraries angle would jeopardize other priorities.

Dr. Spector asked why not say, before a new Presidential library opens, that NARA has to have more resources to operate it. Mr. Fawcett replied that, after having to “cannibalize” other libraries to set up the Carter Library, they had asked for money in advance for the Reagan Library and received it. To Dr. Cohen's suggestion that they transfer some of this to the Kennedy Library, Mr. Fawcett responded that NARA had to spend appropriations as Congress intended.

To Dr. Spector's accusation that Presidential libraries have had a record of “failure” for the last 15 years, Ms. Van Camp commented that every archival institution in the world has a backlog of unprocessed records.

Dr. Cohen pointed out that the Committee's concern was getting material out of the Kennedy and Johnson Libraries, adding that he had done well 10 years ago at the Johnson Library, when working on his book. He asked for an estimated timeframe after which the Committee could tell its constituents that there would be no problem at the Kennedy Library. Mr. Fawcett responded that once the two new staffers were on board, the backlog should be cleared quickly.

Dr. Cohen asked if there were a way that the Advisory Committee could help the Presidential libraries to get the resources they need. Mr. Fawcett said that one big priority was larger appropriations for declassification; he would put the NARA congressional liaison people in touch with the Committee via the Historian's Office.

Ms. Van Camp asked about getting clearer guidelines, to which Mr. Fawcett responded that there were problems with either himself or Dr. Slany asking for changes in the Executive Order. Therefore, he suggested that the Committee get in touch with Page Miller, who has been working on this issue. Helping Ms. Miller would help the Presidential libraries.

The 33rd meeting of the Advisory Committee adjourned at 2:45 p.m.