I am perplexed by the report's criticism of so-called "targeted" declassification. There is a clear implication in the report that our modus operandi is to select particular documents to release rather than undertaking comprehensive declassification reviews of historical records in their entirety. The language on this subject in the report seems to reflect uncertainty about the declassification programs we conduct, and even the mandates under which we work.
Frankly, we're proud to have been able to release so much Intelligence Community material to the National Archives over the last few years. The Corona imagery is one major example, and CIA has released a quarter million pages of JFK assassination records, 450 National Estimates on the USSR, and a large body of Studies in Intelligence articles. I guess we simply have to agree that our declassification review efforts are intended for their best possible audiences, research historians as well as private citizens who are using Corona imagery for environmental and archeological research and for other non-academic purposes.
What CSI [the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence] does by and large is to select certain topics or categories of records and then to conduct comprehensive reviews on these topics. It is impossible to review all records simultaneously, so prioritization is inevitable. Indeed, helping us in deciding which subjects to target was intended as a major mission of the panel, and two of our current "targeted" projects were in fact urged on us by the panel at its meeting last February. Moreover, the panel's report itself urges that we make available archival records relating to previously acknowledged covert actions; i.e., that we target these records for declassification review.
Thus, we cannot agree to abandon "targeted" declassification. But we can promise that the selection will be of topics or categories of records rather than of individual documents within a category. By providing reassurances on this score I hope that we will be able to work through what seems to be largely a semantic problem.
I agree with your recommendation that a chairman be named. Having a single focal point would simplify communications between the panel and the Agency. Accordingly, I have invited Fred Starr to serve in this capacity and am gratified by his acceptance.
I also agree that the value of the panel's work to the Agency will increase if members have Top Secret security clearances. To this end, CSI is sending you paperwork necessary to start the clearance process.
It is important that we agree on a charter setting forth the panel's purpose and parameters of activity. I believe the "role and mission" statement Brian Latell gave you captures the important points. A copy is enclosed. If you have emendations to propose, please let Brian know and then we will finalize this statement as a terms of reference for the panel. So far the panel has focused mainly on declassification, but I hope its purview will expand to include guidance for our program of historical research and writing.
We need to establish rotating terms of service on the panel so as to ensure both continuity and regeneration of membership. I am utilizing this approach with other DCI advisory panels as well. In my view, a term of three years, once renewable, is the optimum length.
Three members-- John Lewis Gaddis, George Herring, and Gaddis Smith-- have each served for over six years on the panel (and its predecessor). They played a key role in helping us to pioneer a program of systematic review of historically valuable intelligence records for declassification. They have also generated ideas that are germane to making the transition from a small panel with an ad hoc character to a larger and more permanent advisory body. In asking that they now rotate off the panel, I want to acknowledge and express my appreciation for the valuable contribution that they have made.
All of the remaining members have served since last February. Consequently, we drew straws and came up with the following schedule for membership renewal:
Members Date Tenure Expires Lewis Bellardo September 1997 Robert Jervis September 1997 Henry Rowen September 1998 Page Putnam Miller September 1998 Robert Pastor September 1999 Ernest May September 1999 Frederick Starr September 1999
When a member's term expires, we can discuss the options of renewal or departure.
As members depart, they will be replaced by new members, hopefully possessing equally impressive credentials and commitment to providing the sort of support we need to persevere with the difficult work of historical declassification.
I will issue invitations to replace the three members leaving now, and will welcome your suggestions. As we consider who to invite I would like to encourage you to think of people who can bring diverse perspectives to the panel's work. After all, you advise me in my capacities as Director of Central Intelligence and as Director of the CIA. There will be many types of Intelligence Community records-- documents, imagery, scientific and technological materials or data-- that we may want to consider for declassification review.
I anticipate a continued and expanded constructive relationship between the Agency and the panel in the years ahead. To those completing tours on the panel, let me once again express sincere thanks. You and others continuing on the panel will be hearing soon from Brian Latell about planning for the next meeting. We will also be in contact with you regarding those panel recommendations that I have not addressed in this letter because we need to have further discussion about them.
Director of Central Intelligence
Role and Missions