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FAS Intro: Brian Latell of the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence presented the following remarks concerning CIA declassification activities at a July 24 symposium at the National Archives. The event marked the release of a new volume of the official Foreign Relations of the United States series entitled "Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment." This volume is said to be the most comprehensive published collection of declassified documents pertaining to the founding of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

CIA Support for Foreign Relations of the United States

Brian Latell
Director, Center for the Study of Intelligence

National Archives
July 24, 1996

We at CIA are pleased to have this opportunity to underscore the commitment that the Director of Central Intelligence, John Deutch, has made to greater openness at the Agency, and in the Intelligence community. In particular, we are committed to reinforcing and accelerating our programs devoted to the declassification review and release of historical records. We look forward to the release of larger and larger quantities of those records to the National Archives.

Today we are making a small, but important new deposit on that pledge. In addition to the documents included in this volume, we are releasing the appointment calendars and phone logs of the first two Directors of Central Intelligence, from January 1946 to May 1947.

Other important releases of CIA historical records will be forthcoming. Specifically, later this summer it is our intention to begin releasing records of Agency covert operations in Guatemala in the early 1950s, and soon after we hope to begin releasing records from the Bay of Pigs. With these and other releases, large quantities of declassified Agency records of historical significance will be available here at the Archives.

Over the last year or so CIA has taken a number of steps to assure that such records will be declassified expeditiously.

There are two principal points that I wish to emphasize in this regard. First, CIA assigns a high priority to supporting Foreign Relations. This is a serious and genuine commitment to both the letter and the spirit of the law. It also reflects the Agency's commitment to the importance of the volumes as resources for scholars and teachers.

Our commitment is evident, I believe, in the impressive volume of declassified records we have released for Foreign Relations volumes. From February 1993 through June 1996 we released about 11,000 pages. This includes both CIA and third agency documents concerned with foreign intelligence issues. We estimate that only about three percent of the documents requested for declassification were denied in full.

The high priority we assign to Foreign Relations is also reflected in initiatives we have taken over the last year or so. For example, although facing budget stringencies, CIA has increased resources devoted to supporting Foreign Relations. Our systematic declassification program complements the production of Foreign Relations volumes, and I can assure you that no other declassification priority we pursue will detract from our efforts in behalf of Foreign Relations.

We have established new, high level entities for the purpose of assuring that final declassification decisions reflect wide consultation among senior intelligence and policy officials. CIA's executive director chairs the Historical Records Policy Board that was established last year to consider difficult declassification issues. I can assure you that the desires of the scholarly community for greater CIA openness and accelerated declassification are forcefully articulated at this Board. In addition, an interagency review panel was established last year.

The second principal point I would like to emphasize is that CIA is committed to providing State historians with full and complete access to cia records relevant to planned Foreign Relations volumes. We have taken steps to be certain that State researchers have access to CIA finding aids, and have approved the use of CIA archival citations in Foreign Relations volumes. CIA historians support the process from beginning to end. They assist State in refining research requests, find and retrieve collections for State historians to peruse, and answer questions about the substance of CIA documents and the nature of our records holdings. CIA historians also monitor appeals of CIA declassification decisions, advising State and other CIA officials on everything from the details of individual documents to the broader contemporary and historical issues at stake both abroad and within the U.S. government. This support by our history staff for Foreign Relations is greater than ever before.

Our new procedures and initiatives are intended to assure State historians with full and complete access so that it will be very unlikely they would be unaware of CIA records of major intelligence activities or issues relevant to a proposed volume.

Sensitive sources and methods issues

But of course we cannot promise that all CIA records requested for inclusion in a volume will be fully declassified. Details of past intelligence activities and programs will sometimes still have to be redacted because our legal obligation to protect sensitive sources and methods has no statute of limitations.

Like those brave individuals who cooperate with U.S. intelligence today, those who did so 25 or more years ago will not be compromised. Consistent with the executive order, we will not unilaterally reveal the identities of persons or entities who cooperated with us in privileged relationships. Similarly, it will be impossible for us to acknowledge past covert activities that would compromise ongoing intelligence programs or undermine current bilateral relations. We will also be unable to release information that reveals foreign government information.

I recognize that members of the State Department's Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, like many other scholars, are particularly interested in CIA acknowledgment of past covert actions that may be relevant to Foreign Relations volumes. Because of this interest, and given CIA's commitment to support Foreign Relations to the greatest extent possible, the Agency has concurred with the Department of State in three principles relating to the treatment of covert actions.

The first of these principles states that: "The Department of State and CIA will be guided by the general presumption that volumes... will disclose for the historical record major covert actions undertaken as a matter of U.S. foreign policy."

The second states that: "Declassification review of records of such covert actions proposed for inclusion... will proceed on a case-by-case basis. Negative determinations will be made only if there is reason to believe that disclosure would cause damage to current national security interests or reveal intelligence sources and methods or otherwise reveal information protected by law."

The third principle states that: "A high-level review panel composed of the Chief of Staff of the State Department, the Executive Director of the CIA, and the NSC Senior Director for Intelligence has been established and will consider cases where broad U.S. policy interests could be affected by declassification decisions for documents proposed for inclusion in the Foreign Relations series, and State and CIA cannot agree on a declassification determination."

I hope that CIA's concurrence in these principles, along with all of the other initiatives we have taken over the last year or so, demonstrate the Agency's resolve and commitment to fully support Foreign Relations.

In Conclusion

This impressive volume on the emergence of the intelligence establishment that is being issued today will be an invaluable and standard reference work for the growing numbers of scholars and students interested in foreign intelligence history. We at CIA are committed to knowing, learning from, and illuminating the Agency's fascinating history over the last 49 years. As we soon will be entering the 50th anniversary year of CIA's founding, it is especially appropriate to emphasize our strong and sincere desire to share as much of our history as we possibly can with you and with the American people.

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