Advisory Committee on Historical
February 24-25, 2003
Robert Schulzinger, Chairman
Meena Bose (ad hoc consultant)
Diane Shaver Clemens
Margaret Hedstrom (member-designee)
Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman
W. Roger Louis
Brenda Gayle Plummer
Office of the Historian
Marc Susser, Historian
James Van Hook
Laurie West Van Hook
Bureau of Administration
Brian Dowling, A/RPS/IPS
Celeste Hauser-Jackson, A/RPS/IPS
Harmon Kirby, A/RPS/IPS
Dick Morefield, A/RPS/IPS
Nicholas Murphy, A/RPS/IPS
Margaret Peppe, A/RPS/IPS
National Archives and Records Administration
Neil Carmichael, Information Security Oversight Office
Linda Ebben, Information Security Oversight Office
Patricia Frye, Information Security Oversight Office
Sally Kuisel, Textual Archives Services Division
Michael Kurtz, Assistant Archivist for Records Services--Washington, DC
David Langbart, Life Cycle Management Division
Don McIlwain, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
Marvin Russell, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
Jeanne Schauble, Initial Processing and Declassification Division
Nancy Smith, Office of Presidential Libraries
Robert Tringali, Information Security Oversight Office
Central Intelligence Agency
Sue K., FRUS Coordinator
Patricia P., Special Projects
Michael Warner, Deputy Chief, History Staff
Adam Hornbuckle, Director, NARA Declassification Project
Department of Energy
Ken Stein, Director, NARA Declassification Project
OPEN SESSION, February 24
Approval of the Record of the December 2002 Meeting
Chair Robert Schulzinger called the meeting to order at 1:30 p.m. Warren Kimball suggested a few additions to the December minutes. The committee approved the minutes as amended by Kimball.
Report by the Historian
Schulzinger then called for a report by the Executive Secretary and Historian Marc Susser, who noted the following activities:
HO, along with the rest of the Department, is still waiting to hear the final details of its budget for the 2003 fiscal year.
Ted Keefer has been named General Editor of the Foreign Relations series.
Renée Goings joined the Office today in the Declassification and Publishing Division. Linda Qammaqami will join the office soon.
HO released the second Nixon volume on economic policy. The Guatemala retrospective will be ready for release in May.
Staff members have met with and received documents from their Russian colleagues in the US-USSR détente documents project; a trip to Moscow is planned for May 2003.
HO will soon send Congress the annual report on the Foreign Relations series.
Status Report by the General Editor
Schulzinger called on the Foreign Relations series General Editor, Ted Keefer, to present his report. Keefer recalled that it had been more than 2 years since HO and the committee had undertaken a major re-evaluation of the Foreign Relations series. This re-evaluation has significantly changed the direction of, and strategy behind, the series. The new strategy is based on a flexible combination of print volumes, electronic publications, and access guides, directed toward providing a "thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions" based on "comprehensive documentation."
The committee has seen, and commented favorably upon, the HO plan to document the Cold War through the issuance of print and Internet volumes, supported by access guides. In the 2 years since HO presented this plan, the Office has learned a number of things:
Stand-alone electronic publications, although initially thought to represent a promising format, are neither as inexpensive nor as easy to produce as the Office had hoped. The idea of doing electronic volumes of 4 or 5 times the size of a standard print volume is impractical. The Office now anticipates that electronic publications will be either equal to or slightly larger than a standard print volume.
Electronic publications, which are easier to annotate but not necessarily easier to research or declassify, will allow the Office to cover more topics that are of interest to more scholars, and that would not otherwise have been included, while allowing the Office to reserve the print volumes for documenting core and crisis historical issues.
A "Foundations of Foreign Policy" volume or compilation will be an essential part of the print series, as will volumes or compilations on the organization and management of foreign policy.
While the presidential administration remains the basic unit for Foreign Relations coverage, the Office will let the topic determine the chronology of coverage, as in the Energy Policy volumes (which cover 1969-1974 and 1974-1980), the SALT II volume (which covers 1972-1979), and the Panama volume (which covers 1973-1978).
Thematic volumes covering topics such as global issues (e.g., terrorism, international narcotics control, human rights), international energy policy, strategic defense, arms limitation, and regional topic volumes such as European security, are now, and will continue to be, an integral part of the Foreign Relations series. The Office is also committed to exploring how best to cover issues of cultural and non-traditional diplomatic history.
Access guides for each administration are a valuable addition to print volumes and electronic publications, as they can provide road maps to material not printed or published.
The Office currently has 18 research historians in three divisions for the Foreign Relations series. The greatest resource need is in the Declassification and Publishing Division.
Kimball thanked Keefer for his summary on the status of the Foreign Relations series. He suggested that Keefer should expand his report and distribute it to various historical publications, such as the SHAFR and OAH newsletters, Perspectives, etc., as well as to political science publications. Kimball contended that making the public more aware of HO’s work would be a good thing in and of itself and would serve as a useful reminder for those academics who had forgotten about it. Keefer agreed that this would be a good idea.
Schulzinger also suggested several things that HO might do to publicize its work, including posting Keefer’s report on the HO website, issuing a press release when the next Foreign Relations volume is released, issuing press releases to announce events such as Keefer’s promotion to General Editor, and the like.
Kimball noted that the standard Foreign Relations volume preface was out of date and needed to be rewritten. Keefer replied that the preface had in fact been rewritten and that the new version will appear in all of the Nixon Foreign Relations volumes, as well as some of the pre-Nixon volumes.
Responding to a question from Bose, Keefer confirmed that the retrospective Foreign Relations volume on Guatemala will be published in time for the conference that is being sponsored by HO in May. Susser said that the volume would be formally released at the conference.
Report by the Subcommittee Concerning Electronic Records
Schulzinger suggested that the morning’s discussion of the transfer of electronic records from the Department of State to NARA be summarized so that it could be entered into the official record.
Lisa Cobbs Hoffman noted that committee members had received a transfer plan prepared by NARA with Department of State (IPS) input that morning. Committee members were pleased to see that the plan was strong and comprehensive. Transfers were scheduled to begin in June 2003, occurring every 3 months thereafter. However, the plan only covered records for the years up to and including 1976, which prompted committee members to ask about the plan for records beyond that date. Hoffman acknowledged that the large volume of documents to be transferred gave rise to significant processing difficulties, but noted that committee members were concerned that the transfer process would never meet the mandated 25-year deadline.
With respect to the Department’s systematic declassification review of State’s electronic records, Margaret Peppe noted that the program has been even more successful than she herself suggested that morning--93% done for 1974 rather than 84%. Hoffman replied that the committee was generally pleased with the progress that had been made.
Hoffman also expressed committee members’ concern about the lack of coordination between NARA and IPS on the RAC program. The program seemed to be working reasonably well for Ford administration documents, but there appeared to be no plan to cover documents in subsequent administrations.
Michael Kurtz then presented his report. He said that NARA’s recent effort at making electronic records available on-line is very much in an experimental, work-in-progress stage. NARA will be working with academics (including some committee members) to improve this service. It has taken a lot of work for NARA to reach its current achievement, but its recent efforts represented a basic first step on the road to an easy, quick, and comprehensive on-line service. Kurtz expressed the hope that NARA’s on-line provision of records could be made a continuing topic on the committee agenda.
Schulzinger asked whether IPS has determined how it is going to improve the transfer process so that electronic records are transferred within 25 years instead of the present 29 years. Peppe replied that IPS is considering options on how best to transfer records from the post-1976 era, including the tools and resources it can use in order to focus on substantive records. Whether IPS will be able to meet the 25-year deadline is hard to say, although the process should improve.
Kurtz agreed that the process is improving, but also noted the existence of sensitive declassification issues associated with the Department of Energy and the Kyl-Lott amendment. The fact that sensitive information often crops up in unusual places raises difficulties; the transfer process needs more resources.
Kimball acknowledged that the transfer process is a tricky one, but urged that a target date for the achievement of the 25-year deadline be set. If IPS continues to be vague about its target date for meeting the deadline, it will be unlikely to meet the deadline. Peppe replied that IPS will come up with a reasonable target date to meet the 25-year deadline.
Declassification of Department of State Records
Brian Dowling reported that IPS has completed its review of the USIA Historical Collection; more than 1 million pages were reviewed. The review of documents produced for the Interagency Working Group on Nazi and Japanese War Crimes has also been completed. Of the IWG’s 22 questions, answers for 18 are complete. Dowling is awaiting responses needed to answer the other 4 questions--some of which had to be referred-for the final report to Congress, which should be completed soon. Currently, IWG historians are working on a draft supplement to the final report, which should be completed later this year.
Kimball asked Dowling where the USIA collection is presently housed. Don McIlwain replied that the collection was transferred to NARA four weeks ago and the boxes are being processed. There are several hundred boxes without box lists, and NARA is verifying the records and should have the material available to the public shortly--in fact, the public is already using some of the unclassified material. NARA is also working on a finding aid for the material.
Dowling pointed out that they are only talking about the USIA Special Collection. There are still 12 million pages of other USIA records to be reviewed.
Dowling reported that SRP resources are now doing a review of the 1974-1976 "P" reel microfilm. (IPS explained that it prints hard copies of the microfilm and then performs the declassification review on the paper copy. Each microfilm reel produces approximately one box of paper.) For 1974-1976 there are 458 boxes (144 boxes for 1974; 191 boxes for 1975; 123 boxes for 1976) of material to be reviewed. The review of the 1974 material is nearly complete and the 1975 material should be reviewed by September. Both the microfilm and the paper documents will be transferred to NARA.
Dowling stated that his office currently has no special projects, and Schulzinger asked whether State could therefore make more progress this year on systematic review. Dowling said yes, but that a special project could arise at any time. Dowling would also like to focus on ACDA records.
Referring to the 2002 report that he distributed to the committee, Dowling stated that his office spent 10,073 hours on the Nazi War Crimes project and over 4,000 hours on the Japanese War Crimes project. IPS does not get additional funding to do such projects; the money comes out of their regular budget. The absence of special projects would allow IPS to devote additional resources to systematic review.
Herschler noted that the statistics did not include electronic review, to which Dowling responded that the figures would include the converted "P" reel material, but not the electronic cables.
Schulzinger wanted to know what happened in the systematic declassification review of the electronic cables in 2002. Margaret Peppe said she could get him that information in about 2 weeks.
CLOSED SESSION, February 24
Status of Declassification under the Kyl-Lott Amendment and Other Related Issues
Hoffman said there was good news and bad news. The good news is that Department of Energy (DOE) is making great progress reviewing records from 1995-1999. It will take 4 years for this re-review of 23,000,000 already declassified pages and another 4-5 years to review the 190,000,000 additional pages that have not previously been reviewed. The bad news is that this means it will take 10 years to review 4 years’ worth of documents.
Ken Stein said that DOE is pleased with the success of DOE reviewer training (2,000 people). Trained reviewers are now catching 90% of otherwise missed DOE equities. He noted that 90% of previously missed equities were not properly marked by the originating agencies. Managers knowledgeable about restricted data are therefore necessary at every agency to help prevent this problem. He also pointed out that records requested by researchers are pushed to the top of the review queue.
Hoffman said that the Air Force will be finished reviewing the open stack records for its special declassification review project in 3 years, with completion of the pipeline material projected for 5-6 years.
Schulzinger asked about the status of the RAC project at the Carter Library. Kimball noted that RAC has a painfully long history. State was never prepared to discuss the issue and never joined the RAC project. The Carter Library did not receive guidelines and is now behind the 25-year mark. The records of the Carter and Reagan administrations have huge State equities and there is also a resource issue at these libraries. State needs to decide to apply one of the following procedures: 1) State reviewers on site at each library; 2) use RAC; 3) delegate declassification authority to Presidential Library archivists.
Nancy Smith said that the money for RAC varies from year to year, but it is available at NARA this year. In addition, as there is no current State guidance, only the first two of Kimball’s options are practical. Bulk declassification, however, is a viable third option. Kimball said that State and the Presidential Libraries need to discuss this in preparation for the next meeting.
Dick Morefield added that it is almost impossible to write guidance of any utility for reviewers inexperienced in the subject. Schulzinger countered that the LBJ and Ford archivists educated themselves on how to do it and were energetic in pursuing declassification. State and NARA need to work together. Smith replied that guidance is not the only answer for the Carter Library. But the libraries do have archivists with the expertise to use such guidance. Morefield was not very optimistic because it was difficult to put together the elements of judgment necessary to do the job. He wondered whether IPS had the capability of reviewing materials using the RAC technology or if they needed another software/hardware system.
Kimball added that this was not a new issue. Kurtz said that a sense of urgency needs to be applied, in addition to pursuing this issue further at the senior administrative level. Schulzinger commented that State--which in most cases represented the "gold standard" in declassification--should in this instance turn to NARA for guidance.
Bose asked Stein to assess the number of documents DOE has withdrawn in relation to the amount of material reviewed. Stein replied that of the 1.5 million pages reviewed, DOE has withdrawn approximately 1100 documents. When the same question was posed to him, Hornbuckle reported that the Air Force has withdrawn 1,980 documents, 90% of which originated at State, and which were subject to FOIA. Although he did not have a figure for the volume reviewed, Hornbuckle promised to give the committee a report at a later time.
Jeanne Schauble of NARA noted that there is an important distinction. The approximately 1100 documents cited by Ken Stein are from files reviewed by reviewers who have received DOE training. The documents withdrawn by the Air Force are from files reviewed before Air Force provided training on recognition of the information of concern. Morefield commented that most (90%) of State’s records had been reviewed before the problems with DOE and Air Force equities had arisen. State reviewers have received training from both agencies. Morefield also said that the Air Force had made available a tremendous amount of reference material for guidance. The Air Force, he concluded, is clearly trying to solve the problem.
Bose asked if researchers could file a FOIA request for the 10 documents withdrawn by DOE reviewers. Stein replied that they could, in which case the documents would be reviewed and sanitized.
Kimball asked if committee members had seen the relevant declassification guidelines. Schulzinger said that they had: Kimball and Hogan had worked on this issue before. Kimball then asked if HO staff had encountered any difficulty as a result of the DOE review. Goldman reported that, as a result of the review, the records were often filed in a haphazard manner, complicating research.
Schulzinger stated that the Treasury Department had failed to complete its declassification review for 9 documents in 4 volumes covering the first Nixon administration. Treasury had not even responded to correspondence dating back to June 2001. Schulzinger recalled that, under the current E.O., documents are considered declassified after 25 years if the agency does not say otherwise. Kimball thought there were other problems with Treasury. Kurtz reported that NARA has established a full-scale project to help Treasury deal with records issues.
Herschler suggested that the committee might want to ask Bureau senior leadership to approach Treasury on the issue. Schulzinger recommended that Assistant Secretary Boucher contact the appropriate Treasury official. Smith noted that, in a rarely used regulatory provision, ISCAP could review anything that had not been reviewed in one year. Schulzinger--who remarked that the committee had spent more time discussing the issue than Treasury needed to declassify the documents--believed a new approach is needed.
Bose inquired about the impact of E.O. 13233 on documents held at the Reagan Library. Smith reported that the Reagan Library has opened 200,000 pages since the implementation of E.O. 13233. Some documents, however, still required notification of previous and current administrations. Bose asked if anything had been denied in the process. Smith explained that nothing was withheld in which privilege had been claimed.
The committee recessed for a break at 3:10 p.m.
Status of Use of Nixon Tapes
The committee reconvened at 3:20 p.m.
Schulzinger introduced Erin Mahan of HO to discuss the Office’s use of the Nixon recordings. Mahan reported that the Office created a tapes group almost 2 years ago under her direction to make more efficient and rational use of the more than 3,500 hours of Nixon recordings, much of which is of poor audio quality.
She noted that the tapes are an invaluable source, and prior to the tapes group each historian laboriously transcribed conversations using poor quality analog tapes and cassette players at the Nixon Project. That changed in January 2002, when the Office negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the Nixon Materials Project that allowed HO to get CDs of classified tape segments made directly from a digital copy of the originals and use them in the office. Once HO receives the CDs, Mahan, working with two interns, runs the CDs through a software package--Cool Edit--to enhance the sound quality. The tapes group also reviews the transcripts made by historians to ensure their accuracy.
In making their selections, historians are urged to balance use of the tapes with the written record and use fuller transcripts when possible rather than excerpts, which when taken out of context, could cast Nixon and Kissinger in a skewed light. To date, the Office has transcribed approximately 150 conversations, all of which, including the ones made before January 2002, have been reproduced on CD and listened to by at least two people.
Mahan noted that Presidential recordings have been getting a lot of attention recently, citing a conference the week before at the JFK Library on the topic. In addition, she served on a panel at the AHA in January and, along with David Geyer and Doug Selvage, made presentations at a conference in Italy sponsored by the Machiavelli Center and Cold War International History Project, which incorporated a large amount of material from the Nixon recordings. Based on these experiences, Mahan said that it is imperative for HO to produce accurate and comprehensive transcripts, because scholars worldwide will scrutinize them.
Schulzinger asked for comments. Keefer said that the new system was infinitely better than the old one and that HO will have a unique opportunity to use the tapes in context. Nixon frequently spent the whole day talking to various staff members, Keefer explained, so the recordings often go on for long periods of time and there are some very interesting and sometimes very odd conversations.
In response to questions from Brenda Gayle Plummer, Mahan explained that Cool Edit is a voice enhancement and hiss reduction program, and that if those listening to the tape cannot agree on a particular word, the word "unclear" is used in the transcript.
Nancy Smith noted that the log to the tapes was done as a lecture outline, that the White House stopped taping in July 1973, and that the Presidential Libraries consider the tapes to be the historical record-not the transcripts.
Luke Smith commented that the tapes are an excellent source. On crisis issues, such as the South Asian crisis, the President discussed the issue throughout the day. Smith used the full transcripts for an e-publication, in addition to including excerpts in his forthcoming print volume.
Schulzinger asked if HO had explored the possibility of posting declassified tape excerpts in multimedia format on the HO web site. Mahan replied that when HO transcribes a Nixon tape, the transcript, not the recording, is declassified. It would not be possible to post the corresponding tape excerpt on the Internet because it might still be considered classified by the Nixon project at NARA.
Herschler asked if the release of all the remaining Nixon sound files is coming up soon. Nancy Smith was not certain if this was correct. Mahan said it would be extremely expensive and time-consuming to post all the corresponding sound files on the web. She reiterated that it might not be allowed by the Nixon Project.
Bose asked Mahan if HO had compared its tape transcripts with any published collections. Mahan replied that for the most part, HO is breaking new ground. She assured the committee that HO is being extremely careful since there have been many criticisms of some published collections.
Nancy Smith said that one of the big issues with the Nixon tapes is transcription versus the original tape. Because Nixon’s tape system was sound-activated, some of the tapes are not particularly clear. Also, Nixon knew that he was being recorded, so he sometimes lowered his voice so it would not be caught on tape.
Kimball said that HO is at the forefront in this, and needs to get the Nixon volumes out quickly so that it can recapture the edge in publishing previously classified material. Schulzinger said that it is great news that HO is making progress in transcribing Nixon tapes for the Foreign Relations series. He suggested that HO prepare a demonstration of the tape transcription process for either the next meeting or the following one.
The session adjourned at 3:47 p.m.
CLOSED SESSION, February 25
Revision of E.O. 12958 on Classification and Declassification of National Security Information
Schulzinger called the meeting to order at 9:08 a.m.
Nick Murphy of IPS spoke about the revision of E.O. 12958. Murphy had hoped that the OMB would have circulated a final draft of the revised version of the executive order by the time of the committee’s meeting, but it had not done so.
Murphy was unsure when the revised executive order would become public, but he guessed that it would be March 2003 because the current extension of the date on which documents older than 25 years would automatically be declassified will expire on April 17, 2003. Most agencies are not yet ready for the onset of automatic declassification and the revision will extend that date.
Murphy said that the process of revision of the order had begun in July 2001 when the Advisor to the President for National Security requested that the Information Access and Information Security Policy Coordinating Committee revise the current executive order. Changes were not to be so extensive that a new executive order would be required. Murphy believed that the revised order would be similar to the order Frank Machak described at the last committee meeting; it would address deficiencies but not really affect the availability of older information.
Schulzinger expressed concern about the revised E.O.’s rules concerning foreign government information.
Murphy told the committee that the Department’s concerns regarding Foreign Government Information (FGI) involve primarily contemporary documents, not historical documents. IPS had been concerned about this issue for a long time. He then spoke at some length about two instances in which the U.S. Government had been challenged in court over information that foreign governments had requested be withheld. Regarding foreign government information, Murphy stated that the current version of the E.O. authorizes withholding information, including FGI, if release of such information would damage U.S. security or U.S. relations with foreign countries. Murphy expected that the revised executive order would not adversely affect the Foreign Relations series.
Kimball asked Murphy to clarify the E.O.’s distinction between contemporary and historical records; its definition of foreign government information; and its definition of what kinds of foreign government information was "harmful" to U.S. foreign relations. He asked if all foreign government information was presumed to be harmful. Murphy, reading from the current version of the E.O., responded that in order to withhold permanently valuable historical records older than 25 years, release of the information would have to be judged to "seriously and demonstrably impair relations between the United States and a foreign government, or seriously and demonstrably undermine ongoing diplomatic activities of the United States."
Kimball pressed Murphy on the E.O.’s presumption that all foreign government information was harmful, adding that such a presumption, if broadly interpreted, could prevent the declassification of documents crucial to the Foreign Relations series. Kimball added that, in the past, a broad definition of what constituted foreign government information, combined with an unreasonable fear of the harm to U.S. foreign relations that would result from the declassification of such information, had prevented the release of such innocuous documents as memoranda of conversations between U.S. officials that referenced or drew on information from foreign officials.
Schulzinger then expressed his concern that the committee would not get an opportunity to comment on any proposed revisions to the E.O. before they became final. Murphy believed there would be a comment period. He was not authorized to make the working document available but said that he will find out who could. Kimball pointed out that the committee has a statutory duty to advise the Department of State on this issue.
Murphy discussed the possible reinstatement of the "presumption of harm" standard for release of foreign government information and reiterated that he did not think older documents would be affected significantly.
Kimball asked for clarification of the relationship between "damage" and "provenance." Murphy said that provenance is to be added to sensitivity, value and utility as factors to be used in determining whether there will be damage to the national security. Kimball said that there needed to be a better understanding of the difference between contemporary and historical documents with regard to harm and provenance. He asked how the proposed changes treat the difference. Murphy responded that the E.O. makes no reference to a difference. If harm is presumed, Kimball said, then lack of harm would have to be proved. The definition of foreign government information is critical. Kimball wondered whether it could be inserted in the draft E.O. that the presumption of harm applies only to documents up to 24 years. Murphy explained that the E.O. states that for documents 25 years old or older to be withheld, they must "seriously and demonstrably impair relations between the United States and a foreign government, or seriously and demonstrably undermine ongoing diplomatic activities of the United States."
Kimball said there was a time when the definition of foreign government information was taken to include memoranda of conversation with foreign officials. Murphy thought those documents would still be covered today. Kimball said it was important to demonstrate the lasting confidentiality of documents if they were not to be declassified. Murphy indicated that the U.S. needs to ask foreign governments if documents with their equities are still confidential.
Kimball pointed out that when "presumption of harm" is applied to documents 25 years old or older there needs to be protection against someone saying the sky is falling. If the intent is not to include such documents, then that should be made explicit. Murphy said that could be done. Kimball added that we must decide if the priority is to prevent harm or to make material available to the public. When Murphy noted that "presumption of harm" was in the previous E.O. (E.O. 12356), Kimball responded that the phrase was consciously removed from the current E.O. Kimball then asked if State would go to court to protect 25-year old documents, and Murphy responded that it was a possibility if there was a judgment that release would lead to serious and demonstrable harm, though this is likely to be rare for such old records.
Schulzinger said that the committee had been told repeatedly that the proposed revisions to E.O. 12958 would be available, but that they had yet to receive a copy of the draft. Kimball interjected and asked who at the Department of State is authorized to release the proposed revisions to the committee. Murphy responded that he did not know. Kimball suggested that Secretary Powell could make the proposed revisions available to the committee. Kimball reiterated that the committee had a statutory duty to advise and inform the Department of State on this issue. A lack of access to the proposed revisions would prevent the committee from carrying out this mandate.
The committee then turned to the CIA to discuss retrospective volumes.
The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series
Schulzinger moved the discussion to the CIA. Patricia P. introduced CIA’s new Foreign Relations coordinator, Sue K., who had been briefed on the Foreign Relations series and had met with some of the Foreign Relations historians.
Schulzinger asked HO to comment on the Memorandum of Understanding and on-going relations between CIA and HO. Herschler referred to the updated chart provided to the committee regarding declassification progress. He explained that HO and CIA had made good progress since December 2002 in getting through the backlog of volumes requiring CIA declassification review, and good progress overall since the MOU with CIA went into effect last May.
Herschler said that the CIA had established a June 2003 target for getting through the backlog. Based on current progress, he felt confident that the backlog would be completed by then; three of the volumes at CIA prior to the MOU had been approved and another three were far along in the declassification process. As for the remaining volumes that were in the declassification pipeline, they had gone into the declassification process after the MOU went into effect, but were also well along in the process. There are only two exceptions on new referrals of volumes, and these have an usually large number of documents for CIA review.
As for Foreign Relations activities in general, Herschler explained that there are a large number of new volumes scheduled to be compiled on time and that HO expects to submit volumes for declassification review almost on a monthly basis after June. At this point he deferred to CIA for their comments.
CIA agreed with Herschler’s comments. CIA was cautiously optimistic that the Foreign Relations volume backlog could be eliminated by June. There had been a meeting every week during the last few weeks to facilitate the process of clearing the backlog. CIA’s concern is with the pace of new volumes in the second half of this year; it might be difficult to sustain the current pace.
The issue of how to apply more expert resources to the review of the documents and volumes has been discussed. HO staff outnumbers CIA reviewers by about 3 to 1. Nevertheless, in the last year, CIA reviewers have turned out more volumes than in the previous 2 to 3 years combined. Finally, CIA was not aware of any access problems for the historians.
James Van Hook, the State-CIA joint historian, reported that in addition to his work on his retrospective volume, he had helped HO historians gain access to CIA records. He also participated recently in the CIA’s Historical Review Panel meeting. He will comment on a panel of CIA and NSA papers at SHFG’s annual conference in West Virginia in March. He emphasized the good communication between HO and CIA.
Schulzinger then moved the discussion to issues concerning specific volumes. Plummer asked whether the volumes slated to be cleared by June would indeed be cleared. Herschler responded that this was the expectation, with the exception of two volumes that have review periods extending past June. In response to a follow-up question from Plummer, and related questions from Louis, Herschler explained the difference between pre-verification and verification. An HO declassification expert, the compiler, the HO Division Chief, a CIA officer, Harmon Kirby, and the appropriate Department of State reviewer all attend verification meetings. The manuscript pages, relating to every document that has been excised, or denied in full, are reviewed at these meetings.
Schulzinger then discussed the agenda for the June committee meeting, which would include a joint session with the CIA’s Historical Review Panel and precede SHAFR’s annual meeting. Louis asked to get an item on the agenda for the next meeting; he suggested the committee look at the actual documents that have been produced from the transcribed Nixon tapes.
The committee recessed for a break at 10:12 a.m.
Retrospective Volumes and Planning for the Foreign Relations Series
The committee reconvened at 10:34 a.m.
Schulzinger opened the session by asking Keefer to report on the retrospective volumes. Keefer reported that the Guatemala volume is in final pages. He appreciated CIA’s cooperation, which was essential for a successful volume. HO will also do retrospective volumes on Iran and a collective retrospective to 1960. Keefer believes that the latter can be an impressive collection of documents to show the relationship between intelligence and foreign policy. This will not be an easy task, in fact it will be difficult, but when done will be a good and valuable product. Along with the three volumes on the intelligence establishment, this collection of volumes will fulfill HO’s obligation to show how intelligence, particularly covert operations, related to foreign policy before 1960 and close the gap that in part led to the 1991 Foreign Relations law.
Van Hook then talked briefly about the Iran volume and the collective retrospective volume, which he will work on next. Work on the Iran volume is going well and he is well along in selecting and annotating documents. He still has a little mopping up research to do. Barring unforeseen circumstances, he believes that he will meet the October deadline.
On the collective retrospective volume, Van Hook has circulated a draft proposal to those concerned in HO and CIA. He has attempted to balance the need for openness and a full and complete record with agency sensitivities and, so far, has received very positive responses. In response to a question about whether the CIA allows him to see the documents he needs to understand the relationship of covert operations to foreign policy, Van Hook answered in the affirmative. While he would not use everything that he examined, to make sound judgments he would need to see more than what he expected to include in the volume. Van Hook also stated that his research would not be limited to the CIA-he would conduct research in the records of other agencies as needed. Regarding the coverage of geographic areas, the determining factor would be the historiographical concerns with the nexus between foreign policy and covert operations.
The CIA said that it endorses the concept of the collective retrospective and will take the "tell us what you want and we will tell you what we can do," approach. Certain subject areas may have to be worked out as the volume progresses. Keefer said that HO has a good sense of what it wants to include in the volume and will inform the CIA. Van Hook made it clear that the level of detail needed for the volume will be carefully worked out. Kimball suggested that in some cases it would be necessary to go "deep in the weeds" to understand policy. He hoped that HO would not focus only on high-level documents to avoid important operational details. Kimball also suggested that HO not talk about the covert operations research in terms of a volume because research might indicate a need for more than one. He would call it a project and thus keep the number of volumes flexible.
Doug Trefzger then discussed the upcoming conference on Guatemala that he, with Van Hook and others, is arranging for May 14-16, 2003. He said that several good panels have already been set. Richard Immerman will chair the first panel, whose members will include Gerry Haines and Susan Holly. Richard Adams, considered a foremost Guatemala specialist, will also attend. Trefzger said that he has received many international inquiries about the conference, including from Australia, Canada, Malaysia, and the U.K., as well as within the federal government, including DIA, WHA and the Guatemala desk, INR, and Southern Command. The sessions will be held in the Loy Henderson Auditorium. Trefzger invited the committee members to attend the conference.
Susser asked if the CIA is going to be opening up its Guatemala documents in time for the conference. CIA responded that document review would be complete by the end of the week, and the 12,000 pages will go to NARA by the end of March. CIA said that the document transfer will be mentioned at the conference. Kimball suggested that the CIA ask NARA to put in a special effort on these documents to ensure their timely processing.
Schulzinger said that concluded matters with the CIA and thanked them. He then reviewed how, at the last meeting, the committee had asked for a report on the Foreign Relations series 30-year time line. Keefer had prepared a draft plan and briefed the committee. He said that in his 29 years with HO, there had been at least three major plans to meet the 30-year publication time line. They had undertaken microfiche, triennial volumes, milestones, and management by objective. But all these major attempts had failed. Many problems, such as declassification, illnesses, special projects, etc., are beyond the Office’s control. The main problem is declassification. Keefer’s plan is based on adding serious resources to all divisions of the Office’s operations, including, especially, the Declassification and Publishing Division. Keefer listed the assumptions integral to his plan:
The Foreign Relations staff turnover has subsided and resources will grow to no less than 18 full-time historians, 3 Division Chiefs, a General Editor, and a joint State/CIA historian, as well as a Declassification and Publishing Division of 6 historians, a program assistant, and Division Chief. Keefer believes that HO can reach this level within the next 2 to 3 years provided the PA Bureau continues its present level of support. The historians must be trained to perform at the required level, and this will take time.
All volumes can be declassified within 1 year. Progress has been made here, but a few agencies must be brought in line.
HO can edit and publish each verified volume within 12 months. Once the Declassification and Publishing Division reaches full strength and performance level, this should be attainable.
The Department will provide sufficient funding to publish the planned Foreign Relations volumes.
HO plans to publish a total of 57 print or electronic volumes and 2 comprehensive access guides for the Nixon and Ford administrations; 38 print and 19 electronic volumes. Assuming the anticipated resources, HO will publish 33 of these 57 volumes by the end of 2006. Twenty-one additional volumes will be cleared by 2006, and by 2008 the Office will be at the 32-year-line, with the exception of 3 volumes done ahead of schedule. But not until 2010 will the series fully meet the 30-year time frame; at that point all the approximately 24 volumes that begin in the Carter administration will be published. Of course, the 30-year time frame is a rolling target, but if HO gets the resources, it has a reasonable chance of making this goal. To paraphrase Mark Twain: "History is one damn volume after another."
Herschler said that HO has an approved organization plan; the issue is resources to enable the authorization of new positions and printing costs. Susser cautioned that a lot of resource plans are being impacted by concerns about the Iraq war. The Department, and therefore the PA Bureau and the Office, does not yet know how many new positions will be allocated. HO, however, hopes to bring a half dozen people in this year in some capacity. Kimball asked if Betsy Murphy was now a permanent deputy assistant secretary, to which Susser responded in the affirmative.
Schulzinger thanked Keefer for his plan, which he thought was terrific. Schulzinger asked if the Foreign Relations volumes are sold to the public and if there is any revenue from those sales. Keefer responded that usually only 1,000 volumes are printed for sale to the public. Vicki Futscher said that this depends upon the volume; the libraries that receive the volumes do pay for them. Volumes stay in the warehouses until sold, and the Department never reprints volumes. Luke Smith asked if they tried to anticipate demand. Futscher said GPO did surveys, trying to anticipate demand. Fifty extra copies are being published for the Guatemala volume.
Susser said that the U.S. Government did not get any royalties when the volumes were plagiarized, as in the case of an Indonesian, who printed a translated copy of a volume and titled it "CIA Documents." He added that Futscher was now putting previously published volumes on the Internet. Kimball asked how this could be done. Futscher said that electronic files were available for the Kennedy print volumes. Bose asked if there is a table of contents in such volumes, and Futscher replied that there are.
Herschler recommended that the committee members check out the HO web site. Kimball suggested that HO advertise the web site because "people need a nudge." Keefer said that people use the HO web site in great numbers.
Schulzinger asked when HO would lay out a work plan for the years after Nixon-Ford. He realized that the Carter years could be a stand-alone series but that the three Reagan/Bush terms might allow thematic coverage-Cold War topics, for example-across more than one administration. There ensued an exchange of views between Schulzinger and Kimball over how "tricky," as Kimball put it, thematic periodization could prove. Kimball remarked that Reagan was initially concerned with winning the Cold War, not ending it. Schulzinger suggested that 1977-1984 might serve as a better Cold War periodization for thematic volumes. In any case, HO needs to think carefully about this matter. Keefer replied that HO had already done some preliminary planning work and would share it with the committee at a future meeting. After a short set of questions by Bose regarding declassification of future Carter volumes, this section of the meeting ended.
At 11:17 a.m. the meeting adjourned for staff comments and executive session.