from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
December 20, 2001


The Central Intelligence Agency recently moved to increase its control over the historical record of U.S. foreign policy by refusing to release four sets of documents to the State Department until State historians agreed to new CIA conditions governing publication of foreign policy documents.

The four document sets had been selected for publication in the official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, a documentary history of U.S. foreign policy that is published by the State Department.

But CIA officials told State historians in October that they were "under instructions [from the Director of Central Intelligence] not to proceed with business as usual" because of Agency concerns about the release of historical documents concerning intelligence. The CIA intervened earlier this year to delay publication of a FRUS volume on Indonesia and another volume on Greece, both of which referenced CIA covert actions during the 1960s.

Before releasing the four document packages, CIA demanded adoption of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Agency and the State Department Office of the Historian that would significantly enhance CIA authority over the FRUS series.

According to the latest minutes of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee, historian Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman "observed that those [document] packages were, in effect, being held hostage."

Rutgers historian and Committee member Warren F. Kimball said "The CIA was making it difficult to work with them under the threat of 'blackmail'."

Robert Schulzinger, chairman of the Advisory Committee, said the CIA's proposed Memorandum of Understanding "altered the way in which the Foreign Relations series is published and released to the public." Further, it "curbed the authority of historians compiling the volumes and the authority of the Advisory Committee to offer advice."

"The bottom line for the CIA," according to one informed historian, "is their desire to be able to review the full final version of every [FRUS] compilation and at the final moment have the right to insist on additional excisions."

Marc Susser, the Historian of the State Department, emphasized that FRUS "is the State Department's publication, and we cannot let CIA take over the series."

The dispute was described in minutes of the October 15-16 meeting of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee that were approved for release at a Committee meeting this week and obtained by Secrecy News. See:

Since then, "The compilations that the CIA had held hostage have been returned to HO [the State Historian's Office] and we are proceeding," an informed official said today.

But it appears that the CIA tactic achieved its intended goal of compelling a change in State Department procedures, including the adoption of an interim Memorandum of Understanding and a commitment to conclude a new arrangement next year.

"We have 6 months within which to settle on a new MOU," the official said.

In a separate offensive, CIA is pushing for a categorical exemption from publication for the President's Daily Brief so that no editions of this document could be published in future FRUS volumes.


Can government officials be held accountable for lying to the public? What if an American citizen is deprived of constitutional rights as a consequence of an official lie?

Those are some of the urgent questions raised by the case of activist attorney Jennifer Harbury that will be taken up by the Supreme Court sometime next year.

Attorney Jennifer Harbury contended that Clinton Administration officials lied about the fate of her late husband, Guatemalan guerrilla Efrain Bamaca, and that her rights to sue the government on his behalf were impaired as a result.

In a noteworthy December 2000 ruling, the DC District Court of Appeals found that the government is not immune to such claims.

"When public officials affirmatively mislead citizens in order to prevent them from filing suit, they violate clearly established constitutional rights...," the Court ruled. See:

Upon petition from former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and others, the Supreme Court agreed on December 10 to review the case.

For further background on the case see "Court Will Review Right to Secret Data" in the December 11 Washington Post:

and "High court to decide if government officials can be punished for lying to public" published by the Freedom Forum:


Out of the 68,000 pages of Reagan Administration records that were required by law to be released in January 2001, approximately 8,000 pages will be released in January 2002, the National Archives announced today.

Release of the records was delayed by the Bush Administration, which imposed new restrictions on release of the records in a recent executive order.

"In accordance with Executive Order 13233, representatives of former President Reagan and President Bush have reviewed these records and have chosen not to assert any constitutionally based privilege," the Archives stated in a press release:

"Today's action shows that President Bush's executive order can and will work as intended to facilitate appropriate and expeditious release of presidential records consistent with the Constitution and the [presidential records] act," wrote White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales in a Washington Post op-ed:

There was no word when the remaining 60,000 pages of records would be released.

Historians and public interest organizations have filed a lawsuit to overturn the executive order, alleging that it violates the provisions of the Presidential Records Act.


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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