Report of the Executive Secretary
Report on Meeting of CIA Historical Advisory Panel
Status of the Johnson and Nixon Volumes
Implementation of E.O. 12958 and Public Access to Department of State Records
Report on CIA Declassification of Foreign Relations Volumes
Closed Session, December 18
Report on Declassification of CIA Records
Use in Foreign Relations Volumes of Kennedy and Johnson Tapes
Review of CIA Excisions in September Committee Minutes
Annex -- Formal Remarks Before the CIA Advisory Panel, December 15
Kimball turned to approval of the minutes of the last session as the first item of business. Schulzinger moved for approval, but Kimball chose to postpone acceptance because of the number of deletions by the CIA. He wanted to discuss the deletions during the closed session and arranged to have copies of the classified minutes to the closed session.
Kimball then asked if there were any changes to the agenda. Executive Secretary Slany asked that the closed session be adjourned by 4:30 p.m. so the Committee could meet with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Foley in his office. The Committee agreed to the change. Slany also said that a working lunch was scheduled for today with Lewis Bellardo and Michael Kurtz of the National Archives.
Report of the Executive Secretary
Kimball then asked Slany to present the report of the Executive Secretary. Slany began by discussing the status report on the Foreign Relations series distributed to the Committee in the briefing package. First, he said that we in the Historian's Office believes we have the access needed to compile the record, but we are still working to expand access to CIA materials and Kissinger's papers. He believed that government agencies have, in large part because of the Committee, granted the needed access. Slany added that the CIA was a separate problem. Slany noted that he was aware of the rising expectations for a more complete record to appear in the Foreign Relations series. The HO staff is concerned about those expectations; for example, critique of a recent volume on Africa had resulted in Harriet Schwar spending a lot of time conducting additional research at CIA. Slany said that HO needed greater participation from historians of other agencies to better fulfill its function. He also said that the existing legislation mandating such cooperation must be implemented if the series is to make progress.
Slany next turned to declassification, which "has essentially come to a halt," and noted that it was difficult to meet current standards in proposed volumes. On the other hand, documentation is being reviewed at agencies within the 120-day statutory limit. He argued that there is a clear need for agreed standards as to what constitutes a "complete and accurate" record, especially for military and intelligence matters. He emphasized that establishing a standard will be an important task.
Slany pointed out to the Committee that publication of volumes was falling behind expectations and that fewer volumes had been published this year and last year. He said that a decision would be needed from the Committee since CIA-related issues were holding up 13 volumes. Unless the Committee made a recommendation on how to proceed, publication of the series would slow to a crawl.
One other project the Historical Office has been working on, Slany said, was the Nazi gold project, although the HO connection will probably end by March 1998. Currently, Slany and a few other staff members are working on a supplementary report on the neutral nations other than Switzerland. He reported that he himself had attended the London conference on Nazi gold which included 40 delegations. The upshot of the conference was that the State report was to be modified and published in late January 1998. At that stage, others in the government and the private sector will take over the research.
Slany noted that the proposed historical research unit discussed in earlier Committee meetings had not been created but had been authorized in principle by the Department. Until the 1998 budget is adopted, however, no one knows how many positions will be available for the unit. He reported that David Patterson and Ted Keefer were managing the establishment of the new diplomatic history exhibit, and that everyone involved in these projects were trying not to distract staff time from Foreign Relations research. A museum expert, Priscilla Linn, had been hired on contract to improve the exhibit and to help raise money from private sources to fund the exhibit.
Slany then introduced new members of the HO staff. James McElveen, a Presidential Management Intern, was working with Ted Keefer and Priscilla Linn on the exhibit but will also work on the Foreign Relations series; Nick Stigliani and Steven Phillips were working on Foreign Relations volumes.
Slany concluded by noted that he was obliged to report annually on the expenses of the Historical Advisory Committee. In the current year, those expenses had totaled $240,000, which included both Committee salaries and HO staff time. Expenses were anticipated to increase.
General Discussion. Kimball then commented that the agenda was full and there was not a lot of time to discuss the issues at this stage, but that some discussion was appropriate. He added that much would have to be discussed in executive session.
Davis asked where the Executive Secretary's annual report goes and what use is made of it. Slany responded that, under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the report is sent to OMB, combined with others, and then sent to the President. Davis asked if there had ever been any comment made. Slany said that there had not been any comment. He noted that this Advisory Committee was one of the few established by statute and one which could not be liquidated. He said that the report reveals the steadily rising cost of operation. Travel expenses come out of the PA travel budget and are one of the larger items.
Davis then asked about the possibilities of establishment of the historical research unit. He commented that for many years INR had an external research unit. Does it now exist and does it pose a problem to formation of a similar unit in HO? Slany answered in the negative to both questions.
Van Camp then asked Slany to expand on the meaning of "better standards" for the Foreign Relations series. Slany responded that it was something that Kimball would want to discuss in the closed session. Slany explained that a better definition of "complete and accurate" was needed. The question was whether the volumes would meet the agreed standards after declassification and whether they would meet the law. He added that other agencies need to understand our needs.
Kimball interjected that developing these standards was a two-step process: first, HO must seek out experts in other agencies to work actively with HO. He noted that the legislation states they "must coordinate" with State. Second, the Committee must decide what questions HO should ask. Slany was not suggesting that the Committee establish a manifesto, but rather that it should work with the agencies who know what the standards are. Slany commented that we were at the asking stage now, since 13 to 14 volumes are being held up for just this reason. Kimball added that the Committee must address how to get those agencies with which State did not have a "comfort zone" to cooperate. He noted that with 13 to 14 volumes delayed on the vine this was a major problem and that future publication numbers were "scary." Slany added that the Committee must decide whether to publish those volumes without the documents being held up in declassification.
Kimball turned to the topic of the High-Level Panel. While reserving most of the discussion to the executive session, he felt it was worth noting in the open session that the Panel had not yet met and will not decide on whether or not to publish individual documents. Instead, it will decide which covert actions can be acknowledged. Hogan commented that he believed we should have all our available options on the table when the issue is addressed in executive session.
Report on Meeting of CIA Historical Advisory Panel
Kimball reported on the meeting of the CIA Historical Advisory Panel on December 15. He indicated that while he was apprehensive about attending because he and Slany were the only State representatives invited, he put aside his misgivings believing it was important enough to begin opening up channels to the CIA Panel. He noted sarcastically that the Panel had reduced the time scheduled for their visit from 2 to 1-1/2 hours and made it clear that they could take less time if they desired. Present were Fred Starr, chair, Britt Snider, General Counsel, who is helpful on declassification issues, Mike Warner, Brian Latell, and Gerry Haines.
Kimball provided the Panel with prepared remarks that would be part of its official record, but his informal remarks will not be, as they were in response to specific questions from individuals during the CIA Panel meeting. He noted that he had circulated these remarks to the Committee members via e-mail. Kimball thought his remarks had been received positively by the Panel, and Starr in particular. Starr reportedly said the Panel would be in touch with the HO Advisory Committee with names of Panel members who could discuss "unofficially" modalities to implement Kimball's second recommendation, a joint review by the two committees of State/CIA procedures regarding the Foreign Relations series. Starr saw more difficulty with the first recommendation, empowerment of the CIA Panel with a written mandate to provide advice on access and declassification. Kimball's written remarks are attached.
Kimball also provided the CIA Panel with the State "Green Book" with the legislation for Foreign Relations and the Advisory Committee, and the Committee's Charter. It was noted that the Charter is due for revision in 1998.
Kimball reported that the declassification component of the Center for the Study of Intelligence was being moved to a newly created, larger unit on information management under Ed Cohen on January 1, 1998, as part of an internal reorganization. Hogan asked what this implied. Kimball noted that the new DCI, in Congressional statements, had purportedly leaned toward a narrowing of disclosure policy, and that it remained to be seen how the reorganization would affect this.
Status of the Johnson and Nixon Volumes
Patterson reported on the status of the Johnson and Nixon series, noting that 30 of the 34 volumes intended for the Johnson series have been compiled, two of the remaining four are well advanced, and the remaining two, on Vietnam for 1968, are just getting started. By the end of 1998, all but one Johnson volume will be compiled, but a number will remain unpublished. Two Nixon volumes have been compiled and are under review in HO.
As for publication, since the HO status report was sent to the Committee, 1964-1968, volume IX, concerning foreign assistance policy, had been published, bringing the total published to seven in 1997. Next year six volumes should be released, instead of seven as noted in the status report to the Committee. In addition, in 1997 two microfiche supplements were released and one more may be available on the Web by the end of the year. Patterson noted that 13 compiled volumes were held up due to problems in declassification review. If there were to be a breakthrough, however, and all the volumes were suddenly cleared, HO would have a problem because there are only two editors and one is preoccupied with work on Nazi Gold. Under these conditions, a new backlog could occur in the editing process.
Regarding access, Patterson said he was working with Ken Rossman to determine the location of State Lot Files that were in the process of being transferred from Newington and Suitland to the National Archives at College Park. His objective was to streamline the process so that each compiler did not have to determine de novo their location. He noted also that documents from the 1945 to 1950 Intelligence Volume would be made available at the Archives and the Truman Library, and on the Web.
Herschler then discussed two new areas of research in the Nixon series: the Nixon tapes and the Kissinger papers at the Library of Congress. In both instances he thought these were research resources historians would want to consult only after their research was well advanced. Concerning the tapes, Herschler said that three researchers had searched the tape logs and noted that Duncombe had put in a prioritized request for about 15 hours of recordings. Herschler said it had taken two archivists four to five weeks to process the entire request, but the requested segments were ready to be reviewed once the Nixon family, pursuant to the Agreement, gives its consent. Kimball asked for Herschler's recommendations on how to use the tape logs, to which he responded that it is best to use information gleaned from textual sources to narrow the search parameters. In preparing his own prioritized request for conversations relating to the SALT negotiations, the tape log had identified more than 300 tapes, many with multiple discussions, that included conversations relating to SALT, which he had to narrow down to a more manageable number amounting to about 15 hours of conversation segments. Fine tuning the procedures notwithstanding, he thought the tape access process was working to this point.
Schaller noted that he had reviewed three disks of released tapes and found that many sections had been withdrawn. In the ensuing discussion it was clarified that aside from sections of the tapes that were personal and returnable, most sections were withdrawn for national security reasons. The tapes, as released to HO researchers, will have the personal and returnable material deleted, but the national security information will be included for their review.
Kimball asked how the public would be made aware of tape releases. Nancy Smith explained that every time there is a release it is put in the Federal Register, and Sharon Fawcett noted that releases are also included in NARA's newsletter The Record. Smith also thought that each tape release had been the subject of extensive press coverage (at least in the Washington press). Kimball thought the NARA Web Site could also carry this information.
Herschler reported on one day's initial research in the Kissinger papers. He said there were some materials at the Library of Congress that had not been found at the Nixon Project, but generally the Kissinger materials seemed quite duplicative. An issue still to be resolved is the "questionable" documents that may be private and should not be copied. Kimball asked David Wigdor from the Library about the Kissinger telephone conversations. Wigdor said David Ginsberg, Kissinger's Washington lawyer, was prepared to look at the restrictions if they seemed too onerous a burden. Wigdor seemed confident there would be a satisfactory resolution of issues in access to the Kissinger materials. He noted that Kissinger would like to review materials selected for inclusion in the Foreign Relations series, but this was not a condition of access.
Herschler then reported that the Haig papers were also at the Library of Congress, and might be a useful source for some compilers late in their research. Wigdor said they had been fully processed by the Library of Congress Manuscript Division staff.
Patterson asked if there would be any access problems in the Kissinger papers regarding a document such as a memorandum from Winston Lord to Kissinger on China policy. Wigdor said generally there would be no problem.
The Committee recessed at 10:25 and reconvened at 10:45 a.m.
Implementation of E.O. 12958 and Public Access to Department of State Records
Kimball opened a discussion of what he referred to as the archival side of the question of access to the record.
Comments by Peter Sheils. Sheils distributed a report outlining progress being made by the State Department in meeting the legally mandated requirements for declassification of the Department's records.. Sheils noted that since his last presentation to the Committee, his staff had visited the Johnson Library to provide guidelines for declassification of State Department equities within the Library's holdings. He added that teams of reviewers had recently visited the Nixon Project for the same purpose and had participated in a NARA conference dealing with the subject. Sheils indicated that follow-up visits to the Libraries would take place within the next 6-8 months. Fawcett commended the efforts of the State Department to provide adequate guidance to the Presidential Library staffs.
Kimball asked if a target date had been established for completion of the guidelines for declassification. Fawcett responded that, based on reactions from the libraries, it was anticipated that the State Department's draft guidelines, including the Nixon and Ford administrations, could be finalized by next autumn.
Zelikow asked that the Committee be given a chance to review the guidelines before they were finalized. He asked that draft guidelines be submitted to the Committee to be reviewed before the next quarterly meeting. Kimball commented that in the past the Committee had reviewed the guidelines after they were established with an eye to how effectively they were being implemented. He proposed that the Committee set up a schedule to "sample" the guidelines to see how they were being implemented. Kimball, in response to a question from Zelikow, amplified his remarks to indicate that he did believe the Committee should review the guidelines before implementation.
Zelikow reiterated that he felt the Committee should be in a position to review the proposed guidelines before the next scheduled meeting. Kimball asked that Fawcett, Sheils, and Ambassador Draper discuss the issue of when the Committee could best factor into the process of developing the guidelines. Zelikow indicated that he felt that at a minimum the Committee should be in a position to discuss the draft guidelines and their implementation before the meeting in June 1998.
Comments by Kenneth Rossman. Rossman noted that the proposed draft guidelines are only 7 pages in length, and Kurtz added that the draft guidelines were in a "negotiating-testing" phase. Kimball expressed surprise that the proposed guidelines had been reduced to 7 pages from guidelines that had occupied multiple folders. He revised his view to suggest that the Committee could usefully become involved in the process of developing the draft guidelines at an early date.
Rossman distributed a list recording the transfer of 20 million pages of State Department documents to the National Archives during the past 2 years. He noted that this constituted almost 8,000 cubic feet. Kimball asked Rossman if there were categories of State Department records that had been exempted from transfer. Rossman responded that some IG records had been scheduled for transfer at 30 rather than 25 years. He was not aware of any other such categories of documents, but added that some records had not yet been scheduled.
Patterson asked for an explanation of the reference to withdrawn items transferred to the National Archives. Kimball noted that his understanding was that this referred to older documents that had been withheld. Rossman confirmed that that was correct. He said that the Department did not want to have to re-review these documents before completing the declassification review necessary to meet the legal requirements for declassifying and transferring State Department records to the National Archives.
In response to a question from Kimball, Rossman confirmed that the older records that had been withdrawn would be re-reviewed before they were 50 years old, Nancy Smith noted that, with very minor exceptions, such records will be opened automatically at 50 years. Kimball asked that the Committee be kept informed of plans relating to such re-reviews, and Rossman agreed to do so.
Van Camp asked about the records management reorganization within the State Department and how that impacted upon the program to declassify and transfer records. Rossman replied that progress had been made with the declassification program despite the reorganization of the records management system.
Sheils said that IPS is trying to educate record-keepers about the information life cycle, beginning with creation of the record. The IPS office director recently attended a regional conference of Department of State information managers in Europe. People in the Department and its overseas missions are becoming more aware of such issues as proper disposition of records and records scheduling.
Kimball asked Van Camp if she thought there should be a subcommittee to study the reorganization. Van Camp responded that she was satisfied if the Department managers were confident that it is under control. Rossman commented that if the process was broken, the Committee would know it.
Kimball asked if there were any questions concerning the implementation of E.O. 12958. Patterson asked about the NSC records category in the report. Sheils said he did not have specifics on that group of records. IRM was looking for Department of State equities and assisting the NSC with declassification.
Kimball noted that one touchy subject for the academic community was government material being held at private institutions, such as the Dulles papers at Princeton, and asked when these would be done. Rossman responded that the problem with the Dulles papers was the microfilm. No one wanted to work on this, but the Department was not willing to open it without review. He said this was in.the 5-year plan, and noted that there was also a lot of material at the Library of Congress. Kimball asked what kind of material in these papers might still be sensitive. Draper and Rossman replied that they did not know. Slany said that the microfilm consisted of copies of Department of State records, and that its value was that it is complete, while the paper records had deteriorated and some might have been lost or misfiled. Kimball asked that the Committee be kept informed regarding the status of this. Slany noted that review of the microfilm would take a small army of people. Rossman declared that much of this was an other-agency problem. Kimball warned that he would keep bringing this up.
Kimball asked if thought had been given to the problem of informing Presidential Libraries what has been declassified. Sheils said they were considering how this might best be done, perhaps electronically. They are sending lists of documents released for FOIA and are awaiting feedback. Kimball pointed out that in the past this has been of great concern to the Committee. Schulzinger noted the problem of multiple copies of documents. Sheils replied that they are trying to overcome the culture that creates so many copies and ends with retirement of multiple copies. Humphrey said that dealing with multiple copies of cables was easy, but that multiple copies of other documents was harder. Kimball thought it would be helpful if lists of released records could be made available electronically.
Comments by Michael Kurtz. Kurtz distributed a report to the Committee. He commented on NARA's reorganization, noting that two major aspects were an emphasis on managing the life cycle of information and a focus on the customer. NARA was working on streamlining the accessioning process. He noted that David Langbart would be one of the team leaders working on appraisal and scheduling records. Concerning electronic records, Kurtz said that NARA was working on a memorandum of understanding with DOD and was working with DOD to' develop new records management criteria that might be applied government-wide. NARA was also working on developing the technology necessary to handle the huge quantity of electronic records it would be accessioning in the future. NARA does not have the technical capability of dealing with this now, especially the problem of preservation. NARA was also working on developing electronic finding aids of all its holdings and on an initiative for digitization of significant documents. He would discuss details at lunch.
Kurtz noted that another important issue for NARA was whether there should be a national declassification center. NARA's position was that this should be dealt with by combining the functions of ISOO and the appropriate office in the Executive Office of the President.
Kimball asked for more information about the possibility of an electronic catalog of NARA's holdings. Kurtz said NARA first needed to go through its paper finding aids and determine what was worth converting into electronic form. Then it would need to develop a format and standards for converting. The enormous work involved in this would take several years. NARA was beginning with non-textual records. He noted that user input would be valuable. Kimball noted the importance of an effective search engine for an electronic catalog. Kurtz said NARA's office of IRM services was responsible for this aspect of the work.
Kimball asked about the joint State/NARA report on electronic records. Kurtz said this was an ongoing process.
Van Camp encouraged everyone to be concerned with international standards on this subject. It is important to coordinate databases so they can operate together.
Kimball noted that a question had been raised at the last meeting about CIA archival practices. Kurtz said that NARA had just finished a review of the records management system at CIA and was working on a report to CIA, which would have the opportunity to review the draft for factual accuracy. Kimball asked that NARA keep the Committee posted on this, because of its impact on HO research for Foreign Relations. Schulzinger said one problem is that many CIA files are never retired. Kimball said that the Committee would draft a statement on this.
Kimball said the last issue he wanted to raise was Zelikow's "tough luck" rule at Presidential Libraries. In other words, when documents are deemed to have potentially classified information (PCI), the rule should be "tough luck." Nancy Smith said the general rule is that information, rather than documents, is classified. Under NARA guidelines, if an archivist sees national security information, he has to refer it to the originating agency. Kimball said he thought there should be some standards. Zelikow asked by what authority archivists were classifying documents. Smith said this is covered by ISOO directives implementing E.O. 12958. Kimball commented that he was uneasy about classification decisions at a relatively low level. Fawcett commented that archivists were very familiar with the declassification guidelines and only send back documents that clearly contain PCI. Zelikow repeated his concern regarding archivists classifying documents, to which Fawcett responded that they were only referring documents back to the originating agency. Zelikow replied that they were withholding documents from researchers, thus effectively classifying them. Zelikow said that his concern was that if the documents were classified long after their creation, they would be declassified later than they otherwise would have been. Fawcett said this was not the case; the key date was the date when the document was created. She said she would find out how much material Presidential Libraries were referring and report to the Committee on this. Smith noted that referrals were more common with older records, less so with Reagan and Bush.
Kimball noted that a statement had been made at the last meeting that scholars might want to refile old mandatory review requests since the declassification guidelines had changed in recent years. He thought NARA should put this statement on its Web site.
The meeting adjourned for a working luncheon at noon and reconvened at 2:10 p.m. Kimball corrected a statement made at the morning session, noting that there was a plan for reviewing the Princeton microfilm for declassification. Kimball then indicated that the afternoon session would be restricted to CIA and HO personnel and requested others in attendance to leave.
Report on CIA Declassification of Foreign Relations Volumes
Comments by Robert Leggett. Leggett, Foreign Relations Coordinator at CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI), made a statement on the CIA's efforts in support of Foreign Relations. He characterized the effort as a mixture of progress and frustration. The process was moving forward, as indicated by the accomplishments of the past year. A Foreign Relations coordinator had been appointed; the CIA was clearing up its backlog and had met the 120 day deadline for reply; a system of informal meetings between HO and CIA staff to talk out appeal problems was now in operation, although with mixed results; quarterly meetings of HO and CSI managers had been instituted to discuss issues; and the CIA had taken a major role in setting up a High-Level Panel (HLP) to consider acknowledgment of covert operations and was eager to launch this endeavor. The Agency had also suggested a 2-3 year rotational assignment for an HO staff person at CIA to become familiar with CIA records and assist HO researchers.
At the same time, Leggett continued, there were significant problems to be resolved, the nub of which remained the release of information. This faced two obstacles. First, "official acknowledgment" of covert actions was still a problem since the High-Level Panel had not yet met. A second and more recent concern was the Intelligence Directorate's proposal not to release finished intelligence concerning six allied states. This was a new proposal and still subject to internal review within CIA. A third concern was the lack of agreement within State on covert and other intelligence issues. On more than one occasion, Ambassadors had opposed release of documents that State had cleared. In pushing for release of documents at CIA, it helped to be able to say that State had cleared them, and thus it created problems when an Ambassador later expressed opposition.
Kimball asked why the CIA regarded this as its business and reminded Leggett that CIA should not concern itself with State equities. Slany noted that at times just prior to publication, Bureaus and Desks would intervene if they had a problem with release of information. He felt that HO needed to work more closely with Embassies since their viewpoint might be different from the Department's. Kimball protested those instances where the CIA had gone behind State's back to Embassies to stop the release of documentation for Foreign Relations. Zelikow added that these were chain of command issues and CIA needed to police its own side. Leggett concluded his remarks by commenting on a final problem, the issue of resources, noting the substantial resources were required for CIA's declassification program.
Comments by Gerry Haines. Haines, CIA's Chief Historian, then reported that he was impressed with the progress that had been made in the declassification review process and in the access given to Foreign Relations historians, but there were still areas of concern. The CIA History Staff seeks to provide HO with the fullest possible access but is still mastering the intricacies of records and access procedures in the Agency's highly-decentralized records system. In this regard rotational assignments of HO personnel to CIA's History Staff would be a good way to make them "trusted members" of the intelligence community. He also stated that CIA was exploring the possibility of setting up a special research assistant to work with Foreign Relations historians. He asked whether there was any possibility such a position could be funded by State. Finally, he noted his openness to suggestions as to how CIA could meet its statutory requirements regarding Foreign Relations.
Committee Discussion. Kimball then identified two issues for discussion: 1) CIA archival practice and 2) the reorganization of the CIA's declassification operation. He suggested that the Agency's archival practice was troubling, possibly requiring further explanation from Ed Cohen at the next Committee meeting. Kimball said that many CIA records are never retired; it is, therefore, very difficult to account for "active" records that may be more than 30 years old. Kimball was also troubled by the reorganization at the Agency, noting that responsibility for declassification of Foreign Relations volumes, heretofore under the Center for the Study of Intelligence, would be assumed by the Agency's general declassification operation. Haines conceded that Agency archival practices needed to be improved. He said that the CIA historians are learning how to conduct thorough research in the Agency's files. Haines thought, however, that the State Department historians were getting the assistance they needed, often with innovative support from their CIA counterparts.
Van Camp stated that, while the Foreign Relations series must present an accurate and complete record, there was no assurance that State historians are seeing all the records they need, The integrity of the record, she said, is at stake. Haines replied that some areas of intelligence work are never likely to become accessible, e.g. counterintelligence records. He thought that CIA records were not in "total chaos" and that the situation is improving. Van Camp reiterated that it was important to comprehend the "total universe" of CIA records. Leggett suggested that detailing a State historian to CIA might help in this regard. Van Camp thought that Slany should be queried, but she considered the idea "kind of kooky."
Kimball said that the public should have the opportunity to compare the intelligence documentation published in the Foreign Relations series with CIA's records. Haines replied that, in the best of all possible worlds, State historians would be set loose in the Agency to look at whatever files they needed for their research. This, however, was not going to happen. Schulzinger was distressed that full access was "not going to happen." Although acknowledging the need for exceptions due to the nature of intelligence work, Schulzinger stressed that any exceptions should be exceptional. In any event, such limitations should not be allowed to affect the historical standards of the series. Schulzinger also thought that detailing a State historian to CIA would not solve the access problem. The real problem, he said, is that the CIA records are not retired. Haines said that Schulzinger was mistaken: All Agency records had records schedules.
After conceding that research at CIA was not an "ideal world," Leggett explained that good results depended on developing a working relationship with the appropriate officials in the Directorate of Operations. Hogan asked if Leggett could recommend other strategies. Leggett replied by reiterating his proposal to detail a State historian to CIA. He said that Scott Koch had done well in assisting State historians by developing relations within DO, but that Koch had to devote time to his many other responsibilities. Leggett also suggested the possibility of dealing with the problem through "top to top" contacts between State and CIA.
Zelikow pointed out that there were several cases pending for consideration before the High-Level Panel while others currently await further appeal at a lower level. A good outcome in these cases would, of course, send a positive message. Zelikow suggested that it was better to focus on concrete cases rather than fight on the basis of abstract arguments. Zelikow asked who would prepare the briefing memorandum on the HLP for Britt Snider, General Counsel of the CIA. Leggett replied that the memorandum is drafted by HO and then goes to CIA for its input.
Kimball wondered if the Committee should focus on tactics and avoid further discussion of strategy. Haines recommended that the Committee move quickly toward convening the High-Level Panel, while Snider is in a position to effect the outcome. According to Haines, Snider was eager and understood the issues, but might leave the Agency. Leggett agreed that the time was right to try to jump the "covert action hurdle." When Hogan asked what he thought would happen, Leggett answered that a lot depended on the outcome at the HLP. Kimball said that the HLP did have the authority to acknowledge covert operations, but that nine such operations had already been acknowledged without the release of much documentation. Leggett explained that the CIA did not have the resources at this time to work on the nine cases. Kimball retorted that there had been very specific requests for declassification of such documentation for Foreign Relations-- requests that did not require the expenditure of additional resources. Kimball wondered what would happen when the CIA had to review documentation on covert actions in [work deleted]. Haines noted that the Chilean case had been acknowledged in the Church Committee report. Zelikow emphasized that concrete cases might expose the CIA to ridicule. Leggett praised HO for documentation submitted in support of two recent appeals.
Haines indicated that he was concerned that the "window of openness" might be starting to narrow. Leggett stated that one source of concern was the proposed reorganization at CIA. He said that, under the current plan, the Historical Review Group (under John Pereira) would no longer be in the Center for the Study of Intelligence. This would create a split function, since the CIA historians would remain behind. It is also uncertain what will happen to the position of Foreign Relations coordinator, though Leggett thinks he will stay in that position.
Kimball said that Fred Starr had questioned the priority of Foreign Relations within the proposed reorganization at the recent meeting of the CIA Advisory Panel. Leggett stated that there was no question that Foreign Relations remained a top priority. Hogan thought it might be helpful if the Committee stated its position on the importance of Foreign Relations declassification. Leggett replied that Kimball had already done so at the CIA Advisory Panel meeting.
Slany commented that the Foreign Relations series would lose an advocate if the CIA coordinator was removed from the Center for the Study of Intelligence. Haines added that the loss of Brian Latell's advocacy would also be detrimental to the declassification process. Kimball thought it was appropriate to address a letter to the Agency, stating the Committee's concerns. Noting that the reorganization would be effective on January 1, Haines recommended instead that the Conunittee invite Cohen to its next meeting. Kimball agreed that there was no need to waste time and paper. He asked Haines to inform Cohen of the Committee's concerns.
In response to the proposal that HO detail a staff member to CIA for 2-3 years, Slany said that he and the division chiefs had discussed this possibility but that no HO historian appeared willing to go to the CIA for such a long period. On the other hand, he noted, the State Department has funded subventions at NARA, and it might be possible also to fund a subvention at CIA. Slany proposed as a corollary that CIA historians assist in selecting documents for Foreign Relations. Commenting that CIA historians have their own work to do, Haines instead raised the possibility of a joint volume. Kimball replied that there had been a plan to publish a joint volume on Guatemala, and Kay Oliver and Brian Latell had liked the idea, but it was squelched at a higher level.
Van Camp maintained that the State Department and the Committee would look foolish if they agreed to send an HO historian on detail to the CIA. To do so would imply that State believed the CIA did not have adequate resources to get the job done, which was clearly not the case. Leggett replied that, while the CIA History Staff did not have a resource problem, the Agency as a whole did. Kimball remarked that this issue boiled down to a question of attitudes. Tucker seconded Van Camp in opposing the idea of sending a PA/HO historian on detail to the CIA. Kimball closed this topic by commenting that if State put up the money it could perhaps determine the outcome.
Tucker inquired about the status of the request for declassification of three CIA documents on Germany, saying it was not clear where the review process now stood. Leggett replied that he had tried to handle the request informally but the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) has now prohibited the release of any documents on Germany (and five other friendly countries). Patterson indicated that, having tried an informal appeal and failed, HO now had to decide whether to launch a formal appeal. Patterson added that an important matter of principle was involved because the CIA position affected not just one but six countries. Tucker remarked that the question was also important strategically, i.e., should an immediate appeal be made or should we wait for a more opportune time? Leggett advised appealing now.
In a brief discussion of the 11 covert actions acknowledged by CIA, Kimball commented that "nine-elevenths" would have to be handled retrospectively. Leggett noted that the Guatemala documents has been released at the National Archives, with names deleted. He added that he had been waiting to coordinate the Foreign Relations Guatemala compilation with Susan Holly, but she had been out of the office for a while.
Kimball then asked Haines if he could comment on Kimball's meeting with the CIA's Advisory Panel. Haines noted that he could not say much because the Director of Central Intelligence had ruled the panel's meetings to be "privileged." As a general comment, however, Haines assured the Committee that the CIA panel wanted the Foreign Relations series to move forward.
Discussion returned to the question of prospects for getting sensitive CIA documents declassified for Foreign Relations. Leggett emphasized that it was still not clear just how the reorganization at CIA would impact on the Foreign Relations declassification process. Zelikow noted that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSI) was not sympathetic to openness in the release of documents and this attitude could affect the DCI's approach to Foreign Relations. Leggett commented that negative signals from Congress were less important than the tendency of the CIA's Directorate for Operations to resist release in the absence of clear guidelines from above.
Patterson noted that in addition to covert action and finished intelligence on friendly countries, there was a third issue that was posing declassification problems, intelligence facilities. Leggett replied that these facilities fell under the rubric of covert "activity" and the Directorate for Science and Technology would oppose declassification. Luke Smith stated that the question of intelligence facilities was a major bilateral issue between the United States and [word deleted] in the 1960s and to exclude the relevant documentation from the Foreign Relations volume would create a serious gap in the historical record. Leggett indicated a meeting had been set up at CIA in early January to discuss the issue and the problem should reassessed afterwards.
The Committee adjourned at 3:40 to go into executive session.
Kimball noted that the Committee usually met in May, but he will be in England that month. He suggested that they consider the week of June 22, which is the same week as the SHAFR (Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations) conference. He stated that Wednesday and Thursday, June 24 and 25, might be best. Subcommittee meetings for the Committee will be held in the Historian's Office or out of town.
Report on Declassification of CIA Records
Kimball then introduced representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Rich Warshaw, Chief of the Records Declassification Program, and Harry Cooper, Records Declassification Program.
Cooper provided handouts and discussed the CIA workload. There exist about 1.5 million State Department records withheld in NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) files. Only about 385,000 have CIA equity. Approximately 167,000 are in a NARA database as having explicit CIA equity or joint equity (documents without State Department letterhead). This includes a few CIA documents with State equity. Another 218,000 possess State or other equity, but are expected to include CIA equity. Only about 10 percent of the 385,000 documents have CIA only equity.
This review is difficult because the NARA database has significant inconsistencies. For example, it only lists one reason for withholding a document, and therefore often do not list CIA's equity. As a result, the CIA must examine every document. Also, they cannot locate the documents in the boxes or and some documents are tabbed but not in the database. It requires about 3 hours per box to review.
The CIA is developing electronic systems to capture and review documents, but it is an expensive and time-consuming process. CIA has assigned four people (FTEs) and will add a fifth in January to review and prepare documents for scanning. They have an office in suite 3900 at the Archives II building. They have completed a survey of Record Groups 59 and 84 and have prioritized State Department documents-- they are very important.
CIA is also paying for NARA employees for assistance with document preparation, and has hired a contractor to do the scanning, which is expected to begin in February. The overall personnel will include four FTE for review and surveys of documents, and six FTE for scanning the documents. CIA will dedicate up to 20 percent of its production capacity for the "Declassification Factory" to review referrals. Again, State Department records will be a high priority.
Cooper described the specifics of CIA's program of declassification. He noted that scanning would begin in February 1998. By that time, 750,000 pages of State documents would have been reviewed and thus would be considered to be "in the pipeline" for scanning. Roughly a half million pages would be scanned by the end of the year. Cooper then referred to a chart provided to the members of the Committee which graphically represented the "production" of the Agency in terms of pages reviewed and declassified. The productivity of the project had reached about 11,000 pages per week and was expected to increase as the contractor became more proficient.
At Kimball's request, Warshaw explained that the review process would involve a step-by-step method. He then sought to provide the Committee with a feel for the amount of material that was included in the effort, stressing that State Department records constituted only a small part of the overall total. State documents numbered about 560,000 pages; a review of them could be completed by the end of fiscal year 1999. However, this number paled in comparison to the total workload faced by the Agency's Records Declassification Program, which included 40 million on-site and 25 million off-site pages of records that it was required to examine.
Cooper interjected that other difficulties had been encountered. A major problem was in database inaccuracies. For example, much of the data was in the hard-to-manipulate COBOL programming language. In addition, the data from records processed in 1995 had been lost, and the only way to recapture the data was to go through all of the record groups in question on a box-by-box basis. In addition, the basic process of redaction, which continued to be the best method for declassifying intelligence documents, was slow and laborious. Thus, significant resources were being consumed in document review.
Kimball then asked Ken Rossman to comment on CIA's document totals and any other issues that he might care to raise. Rossman replied that recently only a small fraction, about 3 percent, of what IPS did review was not released and that a large portion of that was due to CIA equities. He promised to get back to Kimball with solid numbers on the matter by the time that the next meeting of the Committee convened. Rossman stated that State was only requesting two exemptions: 1) exemption of material that had been relatively recently reviewed and 2) exemption of certain files, such as those of INR, which contained materials from the intelligence community, since it was unlikely that these records would be released without CIA review. Rossman also mentioned that the blocks of material that would be re-reviewed matched up against the State Department's central files in terms of chronological period with the first block, for example, covering up to 1949. He stated categorically that all of the previously withdrawn documents in these records would be re-reviewed before they were 50 years old.
Tucker raised a more general issue along the same lines. She noted that at a recent social occasion, a former ambassador had asked her what the Department would do about formerly withheld documents that had lost their sensitivity due to changed conditions on the world scene. Rossman replied that the first priority of IPS was to re-review all exempted files before they became 50 years old. However, there was another priority. Under the Executive Order, Rossman's top priority was to review and send to NARA the scheduled 50 million pages of records within the prescribed time frame of five years. At this point, he suggested, IPS could go back and re-examine such records as Tucker had suggested.
Kimball addressed the same issue with comments of his own. He stated that most of the records reviewed and denied in the 1980s should be re-examined as new criteria had arisen in the current post-Cold War period. Rossman admitted that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union had done more to change the nature of declassification than had the Executive Order. Kimball followed up by suggesting that that due to the momentous changes that occurred around 1991, anything reviewed before that date should not be recommended for exemption. He believed that this body of records was not large; therefore, it was possible and plausible for such records to be re-reviewed rather easily. Rossman agreed that IPS could examine all records up to that date. He did insist that the cases for exemption, which were to be submitted to the NSC in January, were recommended for exemption only because the bulk of material they contained would remain classified.
Nina Noring concurred with the approach that Rossman had taken. The focus had to be on releasing the maximum amount of withheld material. Kimball again emphasized that if the criteria used in the initial review had changed significantly, then such records needed re-review, especially if such a review promised a significant release of important material. Noring countered that for areas such as the Middle East or possibly even China, very little had changed in terms of the overall tenor of relations since 1991. Kimball ended the discussion of the issue by asking Rossman to examine his criteria for his planned exemption requests.
Kimball also noted the problem that had arisen with CIA's changing figure of its equities in closed State files. This figure fluctuated between 1/3 and 2/3. Van Camp described the problems faced by CIA in terms of its declassification program as "an increasingly complicated process." She had asked Cooper to comment on the disposition of the 750,000 pages in CIA's declassification process that he had mentioned earlier. He pointed out that these pages were merely "prepped." He described the process instead as one that was "ongoing" and in fact stated that the actual target for review was 1 million pages.
Cooper advised that not all of the documents in the system were at Archives II, and Warshaw noted that the review process was a complicated one, since copies of all the documents needed to be obtained from the archives. Cooper explained that the documents are scanned and indexed and, when the review process is completed by CIA, the finished product is contained on CD-ROM, which is given to the Archives. A complicating factor is that NARA still reviews and certifies paper copies, so the Archives must locate and mark the individual documents. An advantage of having the computerized system, however, is that NARA can just print out declassified copies containing all redactions. That eliminates the need for the archives to cut-out redacted material by hand and saves time. Warshaw added that NARA still must separate out the documents having CIA equity. Although CIA provides the declassified version using advanced technology, the archives still must go through the paper copies.
In response to a question from Van Camp about the extent of intelligence materials still to be reviewed, Warshaw reported that they consist of about 40 million pages in the archives and 25 million external documents: about 13.3 million at NARA, 5 million at the records center, 2.5 million at other government agencies, and 5 million at the Presidential Libraries. Cooper added that those numbers were historically based estimates derived from numbers of documents reviewed in the past. The estimates were verified by a selected review of sample file boxes. Warshaw pointed out that a problem did arise in that the microfilmed boxes were underestimated.
Kimball asked about the material in DO files. Warshaw replied that it was part of the file series exemption. Kimball noted his assumption that the numbers would change as archival practices change and because of materials not housed at the Archives. Warshaw noted that documents kept elsewhere, such as at other agencies, had been included in the estimates. He also stated that of the estimated 166 million documents, CIA is seeking an exemption on 106 million, leaving 60 million pages to be reviewed. The 60 million items fall into two categories: 1) approximately 20 million low-sensitivity, declassified, or non-classified documents, such as Foreign Broadcast Information transcripts; and 2) approximately 40 million items requiring review for credit under the Executive Order. He noted that CIA must go through all documents, regardless of current classification, so that potential classified contents could be determined, and to locate any classified material that may be contained in unclassified boxes. As an example, he told of 12,000 pages of classified material found within FBIS files, all of which needed to be thoroughly reviewed. Warshaw also pointed out that CIA has transferred to the Library of Congress about 12.9 million pages of Key Themes files, consisting of open source materials and an internal database, and World Leader files, consisting of information about and statements by renown figures.
Van Camp asked how non-classified or open records are handled once they are located and/or declassified; whether items are available as soon as they are declassified. Cooper responded by saying that CIA tries to get on-site approval for documents of low sensitivity, but reiterated that the process is more complicated than it may seem. Warshaw concurred and said that sometimes low-level or non-classified items are later found to contain classified information after all. He also explained that CIA keeps a copy of all redacted and declassified material. He admitted that the policy meant large numbers of pages must be copied and, although the scanning process helped somewhat, it is merely a technological advancement that does not end the need to rely on copying documents.
Van Camp repeated her previous question: why a document cannot be released once it is declassified. Kimball stepped in to clarify Van Camp's concerns by noting that ways exist to save resources and get declassified items released quickly; it may just be to use common sense and delegate authority for releasing materials. Warshaw responded by emphasizing that CIA has to have representatives from many other sectors of the government to help with the review, which often entails coordinating personnel, and has to deal with similar complications.
At this point the discussion on CIA declassification procedures was brought to a close and the CIA representatives left the meeting. Kimball spoke for the Committee when he said that the purpose of their presentation was unclear and their comments seemed to contradict what he had been told by the CIA at previous meetings.
Use in Foreign Relations Volumes of Kennedy and Johnson Tapes
The discussion then moved to the next topic, the use of Kennedy and Johnson tape recordings in Foreign Relations volumes. Patterson passed copies of a selection of editorial notes and transcripts made from the tapes to the members of the Committee, while Slany explained that their purpose was to show the members how the tapes are being incorporated into the series. He noted that the tapes are a novelty for the Kennedy and Johnson eras, but they will grow in significance with and beyond the Nixon volumes. With that in mind, Slany wanted the Committee's opinion on how to proceed in future volumes. Patterson explained that the members had been given selected transcripts-- one from a Kennedy volume and the rest from Johnson volumes-- to give the Committee a sampling of the various ways the tapes have been used. Patterson explained that HO prepares its own transcript of the tape recordings, and notes are included in the volumes stating that the transcripts were made specifically for inclusion in the volume.
After the Committee perused the handout for a few minutes, Kimball suggested that if HO wanted the members to think and act as historians, a subcommittee would be a better vehicle to use than a presentation to the full Committee. Slany jocularly responded that HO did not want the Committee to think, just to agree to procedures used with the Kennedy and Johnson tapes.
In reply to Van Camp's question about the length of time involved in preparing the transcripts, Herschler replied that it can take a considerable amount of time depending on many factors, such as the quality of the tape, the clarity of the voices, whether an initial summary or transcript exists for the tape, and similar matters. Kimball advised that when preparing and publishing the transcripts, the historians must make sure that sentences are sentences and the meaning of the discussion is preserved. He agreed that the provenance used made sense and appeared to be a usable format.
Patterson inquired whether the matter should be continued through a subcommittee for the next meeting, but the consensus of the Committee was that further examination of the matter was unwarranted. Tucker commented that the tapes seem to be a useful tool. Zelikow praised use of the tapes and expressed understanding for the difficulties involved in preparing the transcripts. He opined that conceptually their use represents a qualitative leap, for by making the transcripts historians on the staff were now preparing documents. He expressed his view that that situation puts a premium on the personnel doing a job that calls for a high order of judgment. He also suggested that the historians leave teasers and references in notes to provide scholars and other users with hints on the types and whereabouts of additional recordings.
Review of CIA Excisions in September Committee Minutes
Agreeing that there was no need to discuss the matter further, the Committee moved on to an examination of those portions of the Committee minutes from the September meeting that had been redacted by the CIA. Herschler referred to pages 18-19 of the minutes. He explained, that the CIA wanted to excise references to the existence of certain files in its archives.
Schulzinger asked if the existence of the [word or two deleted] files is classified. Kimball thought yes; but thought reference to it in the minutes ought to remain. Kimball suggested that the Committee challenge the CIA on its decision to excise references to its records while at the same time accepting its decision to excise references to certain countries in which the United States engaged in covert activity. Zelikow read from page 15 of the minutes. He thought references to Iran and Indonesia should remain in the record while those referring to [word deleted, evidently "Egypt"] ought to be excised since the U.S. Government has yet to officially recognize its covert activities in that country.
Zelikow raised the issue of DOD declassification procedures and his interest in having DOD representatives address the Committee. Zelikow reminded the Committee that he had raised the same issue at the September meeting. Hogan agreed that at the next meeting DOD representatives ought to be present, and Kimball made a formal request. Zelikow said he wanted to know more about DOD's plans to cooperate with the Foreign Relations series and its procedures for systematic declassification.
Hogan asked if there were any problems with the declassification of Treasury records. Kimball said he has not heard any complaints from the HO staff. Bruce Duncombe said that he has reviewed a large body of Treasury records and that some of these have already been declassified. He added that he knows of someone at Treasury who could focus on this issue.
The session ended and Kimball asked the HO staff for their off-the-record comments.
December 15, 1997
This report, which generated an Associated Press story picked up by many major newspapers in September 1997, expresses the heightened concern the Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) has about a fundamental lack of progress in getting certain portions of the historical (30-year old) record opened to the American public. That comes as no surprise. Since the inception of the "new" HAC in compliance with legislation passed in 1991, the Committee has regularly warned that, as Foreign Relations series research moved into the late 1950s and the 1960s, declassification of documents would become more and more controversial, especially where covert operations (as opposed to intelligence collection) played an important role in establishing and implementing U.S. foreign policy. This has brought State Department historians, doing research on the Foreign Relations volumes, and the Advisory Committee into direct conflict with government officials and intelligence agencies who are convinced that continued secrecy is essential to their work. The HAC has endorsed the "balancing test" concept set forth in a Presidential Executive Order whereby the public's right to know is balanced against the needs of current policy and the safety of persons and intelligence methods. Nonetheless, as all the Founding Fathers pointed out, the public can act responsibly and set reasonable standards of accountability only if it knows what is going on, or at least what has gone on. To do less exposes the U.S. Government to "ridicule and scorn."
The "culture" of secrecy, so often given as an explanation for the continued classification of information, is less a culture than a habit. It could be quickly changed by strong, emphatic leadership. The 1996 report is a plea for just such leadership ... and that requires establishment of public advisory committees like the HAC for other agencies. The 1991 statute insured that the HAC would not go away, no matter how annoying, controversial, or wrong its recommendations and comments might be. That is not the case for other advisory committees, which have been isolated, ignored, and even reconstituted when they became awkward. Every government agency should be subject to structured public scrutiny-- and that ought to be the law.
My fervent hope is that your invitation for a meeting between the CIA Advisory Panel and Dr. William Slany and myself, respectively the Executive Secretary and chair of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee, indicates a desire and commitment on the part of the Agency and this Panel to quickly and materially improve the quality and quantity of historical-- that is 30-year-old-- information/documentation made available to the American public. I and the entire State Department Historical Advisory Committee stand ready to share with you our experiences and to do whatever we can to help the CIA Advisory Panel become an effective partner with us in what is the clear responsibility of all government advisory committees-- serving the public interest.
However much the CIA has endorsed responsible openness, the fruits of that commitment remain slim pickings indeed. As you well know, the American public still awaits any information on nine of the eleven major covert activities the CIA admits to conducting during the Cold War. The CSI program for declassifying material related to a few major historical events-- for example the Cuban Missile Crisis, and assessments of Soviet capabilities-- has made some important material available. But the opening of those documents has not been accompanied by declassification and transfer to the National Archives of related materials, usually in the same files, needed to establish the full context of the story. As scholars, we on the HAC believe that "systematic" declassification review of the entire record is the only legitimate method. That is, of course, a Presidential requirement as set forth in the latest Executive Order on Information Security.
But more specifically, we face an ongoing crisis in the production of the official record of American foreign policy-- the Foreign Relations of the United States series. As the HAC pointed out in its 1996 Annual Report, we have seen limited improvement in access for State Department historians to CIA documents, but little if any movement toward reasonable openness in the CIA's declassification standards. We cannot meet our legislative mandate to document the 30-year-old history of our nation's foreign policy unless we can publish a reasonable and honest account of policies advocated and implemented by two of the Cold War's major players, the Director of Central Intelligence and the CIA (that includes records of high-level intelligence community recommendations such as the 303 Committee, since the CIA has routinely refused to declassify its equities in those records). If the American public and its elected representatives cannot know what happened in our history, then accountability is impossible; and accountability is the bedrock principle of a democratic republic. As John Adams and Thomas Jefferson warned (and Saddarn Hussein knows), without accountability, dictators are in charge.
In order to move effectively toward accountability without jeopardizing the CIA's legitimate information security concerns, I propose two immediate practical steps:
First, the empowerment of the CIA Advisory Panel by the Agency with a written mandate or charter to provide advice and recommendations on access and declassification policy and procedures related to the compilation and production of the Foreign Relations series (other Panel procedures, duties, and responsibilities could be included, but are not my business);
Second, a joint review by the CIA Advisory Panel and the State Department Historical Advisory Committee of current State/CIA procedures regarding Foreign Relations. Such a review would have among its specific goals developing recommendations for: