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U.S. Department of State

Advisory Committee on Historical
Diplomatic Documentation
September 25-26, 2000

Summary of Proceedings

Committee Members

Office of the Historian

National Archives and Records Administration

Central Intelligence Agency


OPEN SESSION, September 25

The Chairman called the meeting to order at 1:50 p.m.

Committee Minutes. The Committee expressed concern and displeasure that the minutes for the last meeting were unavailable for review and approval and were still pending CIA coordination. It was the Committee's impression that the CIA would be more comfortable with a general characterization of the discussion for the public record. The Committee members agreed to address their concerns about this situation to the CIA representatives scheduled to appear before the Committee the next day.

FY 2000 budget and hiring plans. The Executive Secretary summarized a report distributed to the Committee that showed the effects of FY 2000 budget cuts within the Public Affairs Bureau on the Office of the Historian's budget. He noted that the Office had to forgo establishing a subvention with the Ford Library and has postponed exploratory research there. Other cuts, however, have been offset by the fact the Office has not generated new volumes to be printed and that the historians have only been traveling locally for research. On the positive side, he noted that the Bureau has approved plans to expand the staff by hiring 14 new people, 4 for the diplomacy center/museum, 3 for a special policy studies research unit, and 7 to work on the Foreign Relations series.

Status of the High-Level Panel. The Executive Secretary also reported that the High-Level Panel has not met since March 2000, mostly because the Office did not have any immediate issues to bring before it. Upon further discussion, the Committee was informed that the Office did have a number of issues that were nearly ready. The staff commented that the Panel should not be judged by the number of times it meets; it also inspires informal dialog with the CIA and is a negotiating process. Often, the Office and the Agency agree upon issue statements and guidelines informally, so they never need to be presented to the Panel. However, the staff added that some disagreements, such as how to calculate aggregate budget figures for covert operations, cannot be resolved outside of the Panel meetings.

Electronic publication. There was a short discussion on electronic publication and its implementation. Several volumes that were close to being ready for publication but still had a small amount of material under declassification review would be put on the Internet in text form. Some Committee members expressed the view that as a matter of course, electronic publication should precede print volumes and should be considered works in progress. The Chairman stated that it was the consensus of the Committee that electronic publication was an important part of the Foreign Relations series' future.

Kissinger papers. A representative of the National Security Archive asked about the status of the declassification of Henry Kissinger's papers. The Executive Secretary/Historian responded that the Office of the Historian was not the government agency responsible for that process, but he acknowledged that the Office had an interest in the declassification of Kissinger's papers because some material from the papers was included in Foreign Relations volumes.

Public access to State Department electronic records. The Committee then briefly discussed the availability of Department of State electronic records for the post-1973 period at the National Archives and learned that the records would be accessible by 2002.

CLOSED SESSION, September 26

The following topics were discussed with CIA representatives:

FRUS Coordinator. A new CIA Foreign Relations Coordinator was introduced. The outgoing officer expressed his firm belief that significant progress had been made in resolving differences between CIA and State. The new officer noted there would be both agreement and disagreement between CIA and State, but hoped that the ultimate result would be compromise acceptable to all.

Conference on CIA Analysis of the Soviet Union. The CIA representatives announced that the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence would be co-sponsoring a conference on the "CIA's Analysis of the Soviet Union During the Cold War (1947-1991)" with the Center for International Studies at Princeton University. The final agenda and the list of speakers for the conference, which will be held at Princeton in March 2001, are not yet finalized. Two publications will be produced: a collection of documents and a compilation of papers. Approximately 900-1,000 documents on the subject are being declassified.

Access. The CIA representatives assured the historians that they will have unrestricted access to the Presidential Daily Briefs (PDBs) and other intelligence analysis documentation at the CIA (e.g., the National Intelligence Daily).

Recent meeting of the CIA's Historical Review Panel (HRP). The Committee and the CIA representatives discussed the most recent meeting of the CIA's HRP (the DCI's advisory committee), the focus of which was the Foreign Relations series. The Committee would like to meet with the members of the HRP (sometime before their next meeting) to discuss the HRP's views about the selection and declassification of CIA documents for the Foreign Relations series.

High-Level Panel (HLP). The Committee and the CIA representatives discussed how the HLP could be better used by the Office of the Historian. The CIA representatives urged the Office to use the panel process for a more thorough discussion of the issues and to discuss any disagreements it has about "Issue Descriptions" and declassification guidelines.

Joint CIA/State position. The Committee and the CIA representatives discussed the proposal for a jointly (CIA-State) funded historian to assist with Foreign Relations research in CIA files and possibly to work on retrospective volumes. Both the DCI and the Secretary of State have endorsed the position and it is in coordination at CIA.

This ended the discussion with the CIA representatives.

Status of electronic publications. The General Editor next reported on the status of electronic publications under consideration or in the pipeline. He noted that the Office was moving ahead with pre-print posting on the Internet of volumes with small amounts of documentation still not yet declassified. He stated that these preliminary electronic publications would need very precise disclaimers. The Office has also prepared Internet supplements to print volumes that are already completed, specifically China 1969-1972 and Vietnam, 1969-1970. Finally, the Office has completed work on a compilation that will be published only on the Internet. The Office will be recruiting people who can work well in an e-volume context. The General Editor reiterated his commitment to access guides, noting that one is being declassified.

There was a general discussion of electronic publication by the Committee members and the staff. Some Committee members felt strongly that electronic publication should take precedence over print volumes and that documents should be put on the Internet even before a collection was 50 percent researched. The staff argued that Foreign Relations, either in print or electronic form, is part of a process of research, selection, annotation, and declassification, and compilations, either print or electronic, need a critical mass to have real value. Some members of the Committee agreed with this concept, others were skeptical.

Committee minutes. The Committee then discussed a member's proposal for an alternative way of recording Committee meetings, which had three objectives: 1) creating an accurate record of decisions and discussions; 2) distributing the records to the Committee members in a timely manner; and 3) not impeding open communication at the meetings themselves. It was agreed that the current system of creating a near verbatim record was not a perfect record of the discussions. The proposal called for more traditional minutes, closer to a record of actions taken, subjects discussed, and points taken, as well as a more formal presentation of decisions. In other words, the minutes would be a summary or digest. One member objected, saying that a record of the give-and-take was very important in reconstructing their discussions.

By a vote of five to one, the Committee agreed to try this alternative method of note-taking for the next four sessions, beginning with the current one.

By acclamation, the Committee voted a motion of thanks to Dr. Slany for his long years of service as Historian and for his special help to the Committee. The Committee adjourned at 11:30 and went into executive session.

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