March 27, 2000
Advisory Committee on Historical
Diplomatic Documentation to the
United States Department of State
The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of State
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Albright:
This letter forwards the report of the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation (Historical Advisory Committee) for the 15-month period October 1, 1998, through December 31, 1999, submitted in accordance with the requirements of the Foreign Relations statute, Public Law 102-138 of October 28, 1991 (22 USC 4351, et seq.).
As the report indicates, the Historical Advisory Committee continues to be heartened by the cooperation and enthusiasm expressed by the Department of State, the Bureau of Public Affairs, and the Historical Office. Despite this assistance, however, it is safe to say that the "crisis" in the Foreign Relations series continues. The Committee is disappointed to report that the interagency High-Level Panel did not make substantial progress in 1999. The Panel was established to determine and recommend whether or not certain classified foreign policy initiatives, including covert actions, could be acknowledged. As the enclosed report points out, however, the Panel has not been able to resolve various differences between State Department historians and CIA declassifiers, and this failure poses a serious threat to the Foreign Relations series.
The Committee has also continued, with the strong support of the Historian and the Bureau of Public Affairs, its extensive study of the future of the entire Foreign Relations series. It has proposed a three-pronged strategy, outlined in the report, to revise the series in a way that will provide its audience with fuller, easier, and earlier access to the documentary record of U.S. foreign policy. The success of this strategy, however, and of ongoing efforts to meet the requirements of both Public Law 102-138 and Executive Order 12958, require your assistance in overcoming the serious shortage of sufficient staff in the Historical Office. The Historian's Office has been unable to fill vacant positions in a timely manner, and the lack of an adequate number of trained historians not only slows progress in compiling volumes but also impedes plans to reform and revitalize the Foreign Relations series.
The Committee remains grateful for your support in our endeavors and welcomes the opportunity to discuss with you ways to increase the amount of openness and accountability in this aspect of government.
Michael J. Hogan
Chair, Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation
copy to (with report):
Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate
Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives
American Historical Association
American Political Science Association
American Society of International Law
Organization of American Historians
Society of American Archivists
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
In accordance with the Foreign Relations statute of 1991 (22 USC 4351, et seq.), the Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) oversees the preparation and timely publication of the Foreign Relations of the United States series. It also monitors efforts by the Department of State to open its 30-year-old historical record to the public and provides advice to the Secretary of State on matters related to the historical record of American foreign policy and diplomacy. The Department of State and particularly the Bureau of Public Affairs have been consistently supportive of the Committee's efforts, and the members of that body are very gratified, not only for that assistance but also for the enthusiastic support the Committee has received from the Historian and the staff of the Historian's Office.
Report of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation
October 1, 1998 - December 31, 1999
Declassification of Department of State RecordsIn 1999 the Department of State continued to make good progress in meeting its declassification obligations under the Foreign Relations statute and Executive Order 12958 of April 1995. At the beginning of the year, the Department had declassified 87.9 percent of the 42 million pages of records in its custody. By the end of 1999 it had another 1.4 million pages relevant to the Executive Order, for a total of 43.4 million pages in its custody. Of these, it had declassified 38.6 million pages, or 88.8 percent of the total. During the year, the Department also declassified another 1 million pages of Post Files for the years 1964-1975. All Post Files from these years are now declassified. In addition, the Department declassified 100,000 pages of Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) files, leaving 500,000 pages to be declassified.
The State Department has also made significant progress in aiding the declassification of files not in its custody, even as the volume of these records grew by 7.1 million pages to a total of 283 million pages. Of these, 76.3 percent, or 21.6 million pages, were declassified. State Department declassifiers completed the review of 3.6 million pages of pre-1995 accessions and Post and Lot Files at National Archives II. At the end of 1998, the National Archives housed 0.6 million pages from other agencies under previous Executive Orders. That number has now grown to 3.5 million pages, all of which have yet to be reviewed. The State Department has decided to complete the first review under the current Executive Order before revisiting these documents.
There are now 4.67 million pages of documents with State Department and other agencies' equities not in State Department custody. Of these, 1.17 million pages have not been reviewed. The bulk of these consist of Army (0.64 million pages) and Navy (0.45 million pages) documents. There are also a few thousand pages from the Air Force (0.02 million), NIMA (0.01 million), and the Energy Department (0.05), An encouraging development is that all of the 1 million pages of State Department documents with CIA equities have been reviewed.
The above summary gives a good indication of how fully the State Department has met its declassification obligations under the Foreign Relations statute of 1991 (to declassify documents after 30 years and make them available at the National Archives and Records Administration) and Executive Order 12958 regarding the declassification of government records. On the whole, the Department's record for 1999 is exemplary and is due, in part, to the Advisory Committee's ceaseless attention to the frequent disconnects between the Department and other agencies over how best to implement the declassification mandate.
Although the Department has largely met its goal of declassifying documents and making them available at NARA after twenty-five years, some important concerns remain. One of the most complicated aspects of declassifying records and transferring them to NARA has to do with electronic records, particularly the State Department's Central Cable files that have existed in electronic form since mid-1973. These records, approximately 4.4 million pages, are now nearing the deadline for transfer to the National Archives. The Committee has monitored this situation for several years and has encouraged the State Department to be vigilant in working with the National Archives to make sure that these records are transferred in an effective manner. The Comrnittee is now convinced, however, that the National Archives will not be in a position to receive these files and meet the access requirements in an appropriate time frame. The State Department has been concerned about this issue as well and has reached a compromise with NARA. Under this compromise, the electronic cable files will continue to live on the State Department's local system (the State Archiving System) and the declassified records within those files will be made available to the public on-line through the Department's Electronic Reading Room. This interim solution will satisfy the requirements of E.O. 12958 until the National Archives can complete the development of its own access system for electronic records. This is expected to occur within the next three to five years.
In addition to making declassified records available to the public, State Department historians must have access to the full record, declassified or not, for their research. This is possible if they use the system currently available to the Department through JPS. If the Historian's Office is capable of securing the kind of local system that will allow them access to classified information on their desktops, it will greatly enhance their ability to make full use of the records. The Advisory Committee is hopeful that such an arrangement will be possible in the coming months.
Recognizing that the process described above is only a stop-gap measure, the Advisory Committee encouraged continued cooperation between NARA and the State Department in developing the kind of system that will enable NARA to provide public access to electronic files while effectively managing the long-term preservation of the entire corpus of these materials.
Declassification of Foreign Relations VolumesIn addition to problems with electronic records, members of the Advisory Committee continue to be concerned about the declassification of CIA material. The CIA continues to release historical documents on many aspects of American foreign and intelligence policy, and the Committee is pleased to report that the Agency is now providing on-site reviewers at NARA with the authority to declassify documents with CIA equity. The Committee is grateful for the CIA's cooperation in these and other aspects of the declassification process. Significant problems remain, however, particularly those having to do with the declassification of documents relating to covert operations proposed for inclusion in Foreign Relations volumes. The Committee is disheartened that the interagency High-Level Panel (HLP) was unable to overcome these problems in 1999, despite the Committee's support of the HLP and of efforts by the State Department and the CIA to resolve the difficulties that hamper progress. Although the HLP process helped to disclose covert activities that had previously been protected, these disclosures yielded only a limited number of declassified documents and many of these documents had an unreasonable scale of redactions. Indeed, the Committee now worries that HLP-agreed disclosures will become a substitute for the actual declassification of historically important records on intelligence activities in foreign affairs. In the Committee's view, the failure of the HLP to resolve the differences between State Department historians and CIA declassifiers -- particularly those CIA officials in the Directorate of Operations - imperils the Foreign Relations series. The Committee is also gravely disappointed that the CIA has not treated previous HLP decisions as precedents that allow declassification of similar and/or related records -- a step that would speed up the declassification review process and save resources.
Added to the Committee's disappointment on this score is the growing impression that State Department historians do not enjoy the kind of access to CIA records that is necessary to compile a full and accurate historical record of intelligence in foreign policy. While the CIA's History Staff provided far more assistance to State Department historians in 1999 than ever before, the Committee continues to be troubled by the instances of access denied or abridged to such an extent that no full and accurate research for the Foreign Relations series is possible. The Committee has repeatedly endorsed the idea of assigning a State Department historian to the CIA History Staff to serve as liaison in preparing Foreign Relations volumes, and is disappointed that no real action on this front has materialized.
Information Security Policy Advisory CouncilShifting to another issue of concern, the Historical Advisory Committee also wants to register its continued disappointment over the failure of the administration to appoint the Information Security Policy Advisory Council (ISPAC) as called for in E.O. 12958. This council, consisting of public representatives with appropriate clearances, was intended to provide the kind of public advice and influence to help determine policy for declassifying records government-wide. As effective as the HAC has been in moving the State Department to the exemplary place it is today with respect to declassification, we recognize that this is the kind of advisory committee that is needed to achieve the same kind of success in other agencies. The State Department leadership should continue to pursue the appointment of this council,
Records of Former Secretary of State KissingerStill another concern, again regarding access to material, has to do with the records of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Library of Congress. Members of the Advisory Committee were pleased that State Department historians had undertaken research in Dr. Kissinger's papers during 1999, but were concerned with the special and perhaps unnecessary constraints, particularly on their access to and use of transcripts and summaries of telephone conversations. This special collection of papers has unique historical significance and must be central to the official published record in the Foreign Relations series. The Committee urged the Historian of the State Department to appeal to Dr. Kissinger for his help in overcoming the unacceptable delay in reviewing those documents that State Department historians proposed to copy and include in the Foreign Relations series. We are glad to report that Dr. Kissinger responded and his intervention increased the flow of records to State Department historians. Nevertheless, the Committee remains uneasy about the nature of the process at the Library of Congress for access to the Kissinger records and the practice of redacting personal and private information out of copies of documents provided to State Department historians.
Implementing the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation ActOn a related note, the Committee is anxious about the procedures for implementing the provisions of the 1975 Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) as they apply to the declassification review of the Foreign Relations series. The Historian and NARA have briefed the Committee on the complicated process that must be followed in declassifying Nixon White House records and opening them to the public. The Committee is concerned that the process may allow unreasonable redactions of documents and will, in any case, seriously retard the publication of the series in the coming years. At the Committee's urging the Historian's Office has begun a test of the procedures at the Nixon Project at NARA on reviewing a Foreign Relations volume on the foreign economic policy during the first Nixon administration.
Modernization of the Foreign Relations SeriesLastly, the Committee would like to provide an update on the ongoing project to rethink and redesign the Foreign Relations series. This initiative, begun in January 1999, was stimulated by the desire of the Committee and the Historian to ensure that the users of the Foreign Relations series could gain early and easy access to the fullest possible documentary record of American foreign policy, a record that has grown exponentially over the past half-century. The need to rethink the series has become even more imperative over the past decade as electronic dissemination of archival material has made it cost-effective for government agencies and non-governmental organizations to make documentary collections available on the World Wide Web. A complete report on the progress and details of this project is attached as an appendix to this document.
Working through one of the Committee members as a liaison with the Historical Office, the Committee developed and in July approved a new "mission" and "purpose" statement for the Foreign Relations series. The mission statement reads as follows:
To enhance United States Government and public knowledge of the development of the government's role in the history of American foreign relations and to provide a public record that assists the public and its representatives in understanding and assessing the actions of their government.To achieve that mission, the Committee proposed steps that would increase the volume of documents released, accelerate the opening of the historical record, provide detailed guides to the archival record of American foreign policy, and promote identification and preservation of those records. As noted in the attached appendix, core volumes, documenting the major themes and issues of American foreign policy, would continue to be compiled and edited for publication as letterpress editions. Electronic compilations, easily accessed throughout the world and containing significantly more documents than could be included in print volumes, would comprise the bulk of the new Foreign Relations series. Access guides, published electronically and sometimes in print, would provide annotated direction to the archival collections. Subsequently, the State Department's Bureau of Public Affairs endorsed that mission statement.
The Committee next developed an Action Plan that would allow the Historian's Office to make a smooth transition from its current research and publication strategy to one designed to implement the new mission and purpose of the Foreign Relations series. That entailed winding down current work, mostly on letterpress volumes for the Lyndon Johnson and early Nixon administrations, and planning "prototype" compilations that would allow the Advisory Committee, the Historian's Office, and the Bureau of Public Affairs to evaluate and further refine the new strategy.
This Action Plan now calls for portions of two core volumes to be compiled by summer 2000, along with two electronic compilations, and the outlines of two access guides. This process is intended to allow the leadership and historians in the Historical Office to rethink compilation and editing using the new Foreign Relations strategy, while providing the Committee with concrete examples that it can evaluate. It will also give the Declassification Coordination Staff a chance to develop new strategies to arrange for the declassification review of a significantly larger body of documentation. Assuming personnel needs are met, this new approach to the Foreign Relations series should result in noticeable progress toward meeting the thirty-year publication mark, while providing the public with significantly more documents. It will enhance the role of the series in preserving and opening, as soon as possible, the documentary record of American foreign policy.
While much progress has been made in declassifying and opening the historical record of foreign policy in the past year, substantial work remains to be completed. It is the Committee's hope that its recommendations will be implemented over the course of the next year, yet implementation and further progress both depend on addressing the concerns noted above. To this list, moreover, the Committee must add its concern over the impact of unfilled vacancies in the Historical Office; over the past two years six historians have resigned or retired and not been replaced. We recognize that the Bureau of Public Affairs was particularly impacted by the merger of the U.S. Information Agency into the Department of State, which was completed in October 1999. We hope that the reorganization of the Historian's Office, which is now underway with the Bureau's support and assistance, will provide justification and impetus for filling current and future vacancies as part of the overall strategy of improving and modernizing the Foreign Relations series.
Michael J. Hogan
Chair, Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation
Warren F. Kimball
Frank H. Mackaman
Anne H. Van Camp
Philip D. Zelikow
Attachment: As stated