Statement by the CIA Historical Review Panel
August 25, 2003

Dr. Lewis Bellardo
National Archives and Records Administration

Professor Robert Jervis (Chair)
Department of Political Science
Columbia University

Professor Melvyn Leffler
Department of History
University of Virginia

Professor Robert Pastor
Department of Political Science
Emory University

Professor Betty Unterberger
Department of History
Texas A&M University

Professor Ruth Wedgwood
School of Law
Yale University

The Director of Central Intelligence's Historical Review Panel (HRP) was formed in 1995, replacing a panel that was less formally organized and that had met only episodically. Since then, the HRP has met twice a year, with the mandate to:

The HRP, like the other DCI panels, is convened by the Director to provide him with confidential advice and assessments. Because the HRP's advice to the DCI must be completely frank and candid, we are not reporting Panel recommendations. But because this panel's primary concern is the program of declassification and the release of information to the public, DCI George Tenet and the Panel concluded that it should inform the interested public of the subjects and problems that the Panel is discussing.

Most of the meeting of June 3-5, 2003 was devoted to the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. In addition, we discussed the review and declassification of the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence (ODCI) files, the role of the Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI) and its history staff, and some specific declassification disputes.

Almost half of our meeting was a joint session with the State Department's Historical Advisory Committee (HAC). Together we went over disputed issue statements and documents in several FRUS compilations. As a result, members of the two committees and the participants from the CIA and State Department gained a better appreciation for the issues and were able to resolve a number of the disputes. This will clear the way for the release of several FRUS volumes. The HRP also reviewed the progress and problems that have followed the negotiation of a new Memorandum of Understanding with the State Department governing the CIA's role in the production of FRUS. We also discussed how the CIA could improve its ability to handle the increased flow of documents to the CIA that result from the growth of the State Department Historian's Office.

In accord with the Panel's long standing endorsement of the idea that documents should be reviewed and released according to the "top down, oldest first" principle, we discussed the procedures for reviewing ODCI files, especially the trade-offs between speedy review and the release of as much material as possible. We examined redacted material and discussed ways in which more of it could be released. We reviewed the preliminary results of a two-stage procedure that would use more fine-grained standards to reanalyze material that would otherwise be withheld in order to permit declassification of more of these valuable papers. This procedure appears promising and at our next meeting we should learn how much of the material can be released.

We discussed the role of CSI and how the historians could capture as much of the Agency's history as possible given the limited resources at their disposal.

We discussed the administrative reorganization that is designed to improve and streamline the declassification process.

We also reviewed specific issues such as the handling of FOIA requests and the Agency's position that budget figures from the early years of the CIA must remain classified.

We have presented the Director with our views and recommendations on these issues and will meet again in December.