Interagency Working Group (IWG)

Summary Meeting Minutes

January 11, 2000 2pm - 5pm; National Archives Building I, Room 105

Participants:

National Archives and Records Administration
Michael Kurtz (Chair)

Public Members
Thomas Baer
Richard Ben-Veniste
Elizabeth Holtzman

Office of the Secretary of Defense
Harold Kwalwasser

Federal Bureau of Investigation
John Collingwood

Central Intelligency Agency
Kenneth J. Levit

National Security Council
William Leary

U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
David Marwell

Department of Justice/Office of Special Investigations
Elizabeth Barry-White for Eli Rosenbaum

Department of State
William Slany

Guest: Presidential Commission on Holocaust-era Assets
Kenneth Klothen


Dr. Kurtz convened the meeting and welcomed the members to the first meeting of the IWG in the new year, 2000. He hoped that the IWG could continue on the productive track it had established. He started with a summary report of items and issues that were being addressed or needed to be addressed. Dr. Kurtz reported that the tracking database had been fully implemented and the first contractor report would be forthcoming on January 18. The Interim Review Team had been established, headed by John Pereira, who would be giving a presentation later in the meeting. The Interagency agreement had been executed with Justice for funds to pay for the contract historians. It was the staffs' hope to have the agreement with the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets to hire the historians within one month, even with many contracting hurdles to overcome. Dr. Kurtz indicated that he and the staff would be meeting with Congressman Lantos' staff to press for the Japan amendment to PL105-246, rather than having it stand as new legislation. Dr. Kurtz then asked Mr. Leary and the agency representatives for any updates regarding Foreign Government Information coordination. Mr. Levit said that if he could he would give a report in the classified room, 18W, at the IWG meeting Thursday. Mr. Collingwood said that the correspondence had gone out, but no response had been forthcoming as of yet. Mr. Kwalwasser said that to his knowledge in the review of DoD material FGI was not a major issue as yet, thus no real coordination with foreign counterparts had been initiated. He said he would look into the matter.

Dr. Kurtz then asked Dr. Marwell for any updates from his informal "list subcommittee". Dr. Marwell said that now that the holidays were finished, the subcommittee would be re-convening, but they were still awaiting the CD-ROM from OSI.

Dr. Kurtz then welcomed Major General Maude from the Army attending to give an update on issues relating to the Army effort under PL105-246. General Maude quickly ran down a list of "action items" that he had prepared of the Army effort. They included the comparison for relevant records of what had all ready been reviewed and released under the Army Declassification effort under EO 12958. He also indicated that word had been sent to all Army components to search for relevant material, and that a positive response had come back from EUCOM. With those items and the new arrangement that NARA would handle the Army records in its custody, the focus of the Army effort would be at the Investigative Records Repository at Fort Meade. General Maude updated the IWG on the Army effort at IRR to scan the microfilm collection into an electronic database, which should be scanned and reviewed by October 2000. Mr. Leary asked if any FGI issues had arisen in the review at IRR. Ms Elaine Rogic, representing the IRR, answered Mr. Leary in the affirmative. Mr. Baer initiated a discussion on the research strategy at IRR and the organization of its records and records-keeping system and the possibilities of bulk declassification in this effort. Mr. Baer stated that PL105-246 provides that an agency head may or may not decide to invoke any of the exemptions under the act, and if they decide beforehand to not invoke then bulk declassification seems a likely outcome. Mr. Kwalwasser answered that the main problem in deciding beforehand on exemptions is that the decision-makers are left without an informed decision, and they must make good informed decisions. Mr. Ben-Veniste asked if a chronological determination could be made by the decision-makers. Could there be a 50 year or 45 year "cut-off date" to make all of this more efficient and cost-effective? Ms Holtzman added that PL105-246 allows the SecDef to do this, and that using a pre-1945, maybe even pre-1950, date for bulk declassification would seem very reasonable. Ms Holtzman asked that the determination of whether this old material was really in need of protection be made before proceeding in an intensive review. In order to clarify the matter, Mr. Leary added that the fact of the matter is that this type of approach to the CIC material in IRR records could only apply to the IRR operational records all ready accessioned to NARA, not the files at Ft. Meade. Because there is no efficient way to segregate files at the Repository for a bulk declassification approach. Mr. Ben-Veniste asked that the IWG Staff check and make sure that there were no operational records at IRR that could be subject to this sort of approach. Dr. Kurtz then added that he would ask IRR for a list of the records and records-keeping system used to be distributed by the next meeting. Mr. Baer summed up his points as first; compliance with the statute must be kept in mind. This statute gives broad power to agency heads to not invoke exemptions. Second, he stated that the legislative history behind the statute asks that this job be done promptly by the agencies. Third, he stated that time and expense must be considered in this effort and bulk declassification where possible seems most efficient and cost-effective. Mr. Baer added that these continuing issues that keep coming up are why the public members want a frank and candid discussion with the SecDef. Ms Holtzman agreed and emphasized that an effort on these issues needs to be pursued. Mr. Kwalwasser stated that he would articulate the bulk declassification and "cut-off date" issues within DoD and get back with the IWG on results of the discussions. He wanted to clarify an underlying fact that might be overlooked on these issues also. Mr. Kwalwasser stated that if DoD could do bulk declassification it would, because the money for this effort is coming directly out of our hide. The point being a reasoned approach has been and continues to be considered and DoD will expend sufficient resources to get the job done. Mr. Ben-Veniste asked about the sampling approach that had been discussed but seemed to be put aside. Mr. Kwalwasser answered that the whole issue of sampling was for managing workload, not sampling for bulk declassification. Mr. Ben-Veniste emphasized that time was of the essence and that an answer from on top regarding bulk declassification with a chronological cut-off date was needed. Mr. Kwalwasser promised an answer by the next IWG meeting. Ms Holtzman wanted more clarification on issues relating to IRR. She wanted to be sure she heard correctly that they would be finished with all review by October 2000. Ms Rogic indicated that she was correct. General Maude added that the numbers he had with him was that 22.8 million pages would be converted by August, then searched and reviewed by October 2000. He added that this was promised by General Noonan and that promise still stood. General Maude assured the IWG that he would be working on this personally. Dr. Slany stated a concern that when all was done the judgment by others would be on sources of records, what was released and what was held. He considered a finding aid to be important enough to be assessed. Ms Holtzman recommended to General Maude that a good resource for their effort would be to look to retirees and former agents for help. CIA and FBI had done this with success. Ms Holtzman then asked Mr. Kwalwasser about a meeting with SecDef. Mr. Kwalwasser asked that he is given a chance to revise material and effort and to work this issue before a meeting take place. Ms Holtzman stated that it was personal courtesy that Secretary Cohen meet with the public members. Dr. Kurtz added that this type of meeting was very constructive with CIA and FBI Directors. Ms Holtzman added that approaches on FGI issues should be made very soon. Dr. Kurtz thanked General Maude for his time in coming and reporting to the IWG.

The IWG then had a briefing updating them on the effort at FBI that was classified.

Contractor John Pereira then addressed the IWG with start-up procedures and strategies regarding the Review Team that would play the role of honest challenger to agency decisions to exempt material. He indicated that the team would be built around experienced reviewers from State, NSA, FBI, and CIA that had background in the issues addressed by the IWG. Mr. Pereira stated that in terms of standards, evolving issues will bring more precision to the process once they got up and running. Mr. Ben-Veniste wanted a discussion of standards beforehand, especially considering possibilities for chronological cut-off dates. Mr. Pereira answered that context had to be learned and that only came with concrete examples. Dr. Marwell stated that the Assassination Records Review Board grappled with these same issues and that in the absence of concrete samples it was too broad and abstract to set standards. He said that a pattern of "common law" developed from the early challenges and documents. Mr. Ben-Veniste asked about the point of protection of deceased sources. Mr. Collingwood answered that FBI would use the general principle, not just death, as a rule of thumb. The impact on family members and the principle concerning long-term impact for informants had to be considered, but the principle was not absolute and the FBI would consider release on a case-by-case basis. Mr. Levit agreed that living or dead was not relevant. He said that CIA was very mindful of the intent of the Act and would, like the FBI, consider releases of this sort on a case-by-case basis. Mr. Ben-Veniste said that he was persuaded to wait on this issue, and he agreed with Dr. Marwell's comments and experience. The general consensus of the IWG was to develop a pattern of "common law" with concrete samples on the issue of standards for the Review Team.

The IWG briefly addressed Budget issues. The budget essentially had not changed from estimates issued in the Interim Report to Congress. The consensus was to pursue some allocation in an amendment to PL105-246 with Senator Feinstein's staff and Representative Lantos' staff.

The IWG decided that the next regular meeting would be February 28 with the involvement of the Historical Advisory Panel and the Historians.

Session adjourned.

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