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Ohio State University
Office of the Dean
College of the Humanities

December 13, 2000

The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of State
Washington DC 20520

Dear Secretary Albright:

This letter forwards the report of the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation (Historical Advisory Committee) for the 12-month period January 1, 2000 through December 1, 2000, submitted in accordance with the requirements of the Foreign Relations statute, Public Law 102-138 of October 28, 1991 (22 USC 4351, et seq.).

The Historical Advisory Committee continues to be heartened by the cooperation and enthusiasm expressed by the Department of State, the Bureau of Public Affairs, and the Historical Office. The inter-agency High-Level Panel has made gradual but important progress, enabling the Historian to acknowledge 15 intelligence operations in 12 countries. The continuance of the Panel's work in coming years will be essential.

Despite the excellent progress, however, serious problems remain. The CIA and the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board have both recently exempted entire categories of documents from declassification review. They include all of the PFIAB records and the CIA's President's Daily Briefs. The Committee is gravely concerned that these blanket denials will set a dangerous precedent and compromise the historical record.

The enclosed report also outlines the ongoing plans to redesign and modernize the Foreign Relations series. The success of this modernization effort, however, requires your assistance in overcoming the serious shortage of sufficient staff in the Historical Office. We hope that the fourteen new positions recently approved by the Public Affairs Bureau will quickly be filled, and that the joint CIA/State position to assist with the Foreign Relations volumes will come to fruition. The lack of an adequate number of trained historians not only slows progress in compiling the volumes, but impedes the plans to reform and revitalize the FRUS series.

The Committee remains grateful for your support in our endeavors and welcomes the opportunity to discuss with you ways to increase the amount of openness and accountability in this aspect of government.

Sincerely yours,

Michael J. Hogan
Chair, Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

copy to (with report):

Report of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

January 1, 2000 - December 1, 2000

In accordance with the Foreign Relations statute of 1991 (22 USC 4351, et seq.), the Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) oversees the preparation and timely publication of the Foreign Relations of the United States series. It also monitors efforts by the Department of State to open its 30-year-old historical record to the public and provides advice to the Secretary of State on matters related to the historical record of American foreign policy and diplomacy. This report will address both progress and outstanding concerns regarding access to records, publication of the FRUS series, and the management of State Department historical records.

The Future of the Foreign Relations Series

The Committee and the Historical Office, with the support of the Bureau of Public Affairs, are committed to the "mission" of the Foreign Relations series --

And committed to the purpose of the Foreign Relations Series and Project --

The modernization of the Foreign Relations series, begun in January 1999, has moved from planning to research and compilation, and will soon result in production and publication. The Committee is disappointed, but not surprised, that the ambitious time schedule was not met for production of "prototype" volumes of the modernized Foreign Relations series. That was due, in part, to serious personnel shortages in the Historical Office as well as to the challenge of readjusting research and compiling strategies to the changes that the Bureau of Public Affairs and the Advisory Committee have endorsed. Even so, overall progress toward implementing the new concept for print volumes in the FRUS series has been good. The "Core" prototype volume on the Cold War in the early Nixon presidency will be ready for declassification review by mid-January 2001, while the "Intellectual Framework" volume for the Nixon Administration will be ready for declassification review (likely to be an easy process in that instance) by the end of January 2001. A team of historians will begin compilation of a second "Core" volume, this one on the Middle East (1969-), early in 2001. The Committee looks forward to reviewing an overall plan for the print volumes of the Foreign Relations series.

The Committee remains concerned about the degree of engagement on the part of the Historical Office staff with new forms of electronic publication and with the "access guides," both of which are seen by FRUS "users" as an extremely valuable part of the "modernized" FRUS series. If we are to reach the goal of the FRUS project -- making four times more documentation available to the American public than was possible in the past -- then the entire Historical Office must develop written plans and procedures for new research strategies, annotation procedures, publication (dissemination) strategies, and electronic publication formats that are practical, efficient, and allow the HO to meet the thirty-year "publication" timeline. The Committee anticipates development in early 2001 of specific plans for newly compiled electronic compilations, in addition to expedited e-publication of some completed compilations originally intended as print volumes. The Committee also expects early in 2001 to review "access guides" prepared as a result of HO research for two "Core" volumes.

The Committee intends to continue its active involvement with the modernization project since that project is essential to the future of the FRUS series. The Committee is also constrained to point out that implementation of the modernization program is heavily dependent on the presence of sufficient personnel resources in the Historical Office.

President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board

The Advisory Committee is gravely concerned about the efforts of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) to block access to and to delay declassification of its documents. PFIAB seeks a permanent exemption of its records from the declassification statute on the dubious grounds that it provides personal and private information to the President. It claims that it "owns" the documents of its predecessor agencies. The Advisory Committee is firmly and unanimously opposed to PFIAB's stance. This position sets a dangerous precedent for other agencies' records, makes compilation of the FRUS volumes difficult, and compromises the implementation of the FRUS statute.

Kissinger Papers and the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act

As noted in last year's report, the Committee has been concerned about access to the papers of Henry Kissinger at the Library of Congress. Transcripts of telephone conversations selected for inclusion in FRUS arrived from the Library of Congress with many deletions. The Historian's Office was unable to determine how significant these deletions were because access procedures prevent HO staff from taking notes or otherwise determining the original full content of the documents. Although Dr. Kissinger's personal intervention and the assistance of his representative, Peter Rodman, often ameliorate this situation, it remains a problem. The HO needs to review the excisions to determine if they are legitimately personal or if they threaten the preservation and authenticity of the historical record. The Committee believes that the Library of Congress has established an inappropriate system of access and that the Kissinger papers should be deposited at NARA.

On a related note, the Committee is concerned about the unnecessarily complex and redundant procedures for implementing the provisions of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) of 1974. The PRMPA places serious constraints on the ability to use important historical documents and is already delaying the Foreign Relations series and the Nixon Project. NARA has briefed the Committee on the review procedures. NARA first attempts to work out any potential problems informally, but formal objections are sent to the Presidential Materials Review Board for adjudication. The Committee will continue to monitor the situation, hoping to forestall any serious delays in publication of forthcoming FRUS volumes. The Committee will explore with NARA and the Presidential Materials Review Board initiatives that could reduce delays while adhering to the provisions of the PRMPA statute.

The Central Intelligence Agency and the Foreign Relations Series

Relations between the Committee and the CIA continue to be problematic. On a positive note, the High-Level Panel (HLP) made good progress when it was meeting, but its decisions are not coming quickly enough to contribute to solving the FRUS publishing backlog. In addition, the Committee continues to be concerned that HLP-agreed disclosures will become a substitute for the actual declassification of historically important records on intelligence activities in foreign affairs. Implementation procedures need to be established once the HLP has agreed to a disclosure. Furthermore, the Advisory Committee disagrees with the CIA's interpretation of the parameters of the HLP. CIA argues that the HLP should only review the release of information about covert action while the Committee believes the Panel has a broader mandate.

The most serious area of disagreement between the CIA and the Advisory Committee hinges on access to the President's Daily Briefs (PDBs). The CIA claims that the PDBs are not subject to declassification because they fall under the category of privileged advice to the President and are, therefore, exempt information. Although HO staff can see and read PDBs, they cannot cite them. The Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), at the urging of the Director of Central Intelligence, exempted the PDBs from declassification review, including those intended for publication in FRUS. Although CIA historians are working with the Historian's Office to find alternative sources of the information contained in the PDBs, the Committee views these documents as indispensable to the historical record, for they provide a record of what the President actually heard and/or read, rather than a summary of the issues. While the Committee understands the sensitivity of such information, that is a matter for the declassification process, particularly for information that is at least thirty years old. The Committee is unequivocally opposed to the CIA's position and believes that this kind of blanket denial sets a dangerous precedent. The Historian's Office needs to have full continuing access to the PDBs. The HAC, under the authority granted in the Foreign Relations statute, will request access to the PDBs so that it can provide informed advice and recommendations to the Secretary of State on this matter.

State historians continue to have difficulty obtaining copies of other CIA documents, especially Directorate of Operations (DO) records. They can see and read these documents, but cannot bring copies to their State Department offices. The Committee wishes to note that it is quite difficult to prepare the FRUS volumes without retaining copies of these documents during the editing process. This creates serious delays and thus compromises the Foreign Relations statute. On a more general note, the Committee wishes to express its disappointment that the CIA continues to review for declassification all its historical records on a case-by-case basis. The lack of uniform procedures and the CIA's unwillingness to abide by precedents pose a serious threat to the FRUS series.

Electronic Records

The Advisory Committee is pleased to report that some progress has been made in declassifying and ensuring access to electronic records. This progress is due to collaborative efforts on the part of NARA, the Advisory Committee, and IPS. State has 3.6 million pages of records in electronic format, largely telegraphic. By the end of 1999, the State Archiving System (SAS) became the only Department of State system for electronic records, as the records were transferred from the Automated Document System (ADS). As these records are transferred to and maintained at NARA, public access will be available through the Internet. While this system is still under development, it is hoped that on-line access should be available by 2002.

Department of State Personnel

If reform and modernization of the FRUS series is to be successful, the number and caliber of personnel at the Historian's Office needs to be consistently maintained. The Committee recognizes that it takes many months to replace outgoing personnel at HO. We understand that the issues of security clearances, the merger of PA and the USIA, and FY 2000 budget cuts have complicated HO staffing. The Committee urges that the fourteen new positions recently approved by PA, including seven new staff members to work on the FRUS series, quickly come to fruition. As noted in last year's report, the Committee has repeatedly endorsed the idea of assigning a State Department historian to the CIA History Staff to serve as liaison for the Foreign Relations series. This year we discussed the possibility of a jointly funded State/CIA historian to assist in preparing the Foreign Relations volumes. The Secretary of State and the Director of Central Intelligence have endorsed this proposal. We hope this position will be posted and filled as quickly as possible.

The Advisory Committee hopes that its recommendations will be implemented over the course of the next year. Continued full compliance with the FRUS statute and E.O. 12958 and further progress depend on addressing the concerns we have noted above. The Committee would also like to express once again its disappointment that the Information Security Policy Advisory Council (ISPAC), established under E.O. 12958 of April 1995 to monitor major declassification issues, has never been appointed. This advisory panel is crucial to the effective government-wide declassification effort. The State Department leadership should continue to pursue the appointment of the ISPAC.

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