Newly declassified transcripts of closed hearings and executive sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1968 were published by the Committee yesterday. The transcripts include an extended inquiry into the official version of 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to the escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and which became the object of increasing skepticism, inside and outside of government.
“If this country has been misled, if this committee, this Congress, has been misled by pretext into a war in which thousands of young men have died, and many more thousands have been crippled for life, and out of which their country has lost prestige, moral position in the world, the consequences are very great,” said then-Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (D-TN).
Senator Wayne Morse (D-OR) urged the Committee to take a more assertive and public role in questioning the (Johnson) Administration.
“I hope to God we haven’t gone so far that we are now going to operate a government by secrecy in time of crisis,” Senator Morse said. “I don’t know what has happened to us that we have got the notion that you have got to operate in time of war a government by secrecy. I say you are carrying the very foundations of the Government away if you are continuing this.”
See “Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Historical Series),” Volume XX, 1968.
It has been three years since the Committee published the previous volume of declassified executive sessions for the preceding year (1967) in April 2007. At the present rate of production, the complete historical record of Committee deliberations should be available approximately… never. On the other hand, the volume before that (1966) was published in 1993, fourteen years earlier, so one could say that the pace of publication is accelerating sharply!
The growing backlog of classified historical congressional records will be discussed by the Public Interest Declassification Board at a special public meeting on Thursday, July 22 at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC. The subject will be addressed by Porter Goss, the former House Intelligence Committee chairman and former DCIA, as well as several other scholars and experts. In a Thursday morning session, the Board will also consider the challenges posed by the classification category known as Formerly Restricted Data, a topic that will be discussed by myself and others. For more information and a meeting agenda, see here (pdf).