Interagency Working Group (IWG)

Meeting Minutes: 06/14/99

June 14, 1999, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Old Executive Office Building, Room 208

Member Participants:

National Archives and Records Administration
Michael Kurtz (Chair)

Public Members
Thomas Baer
Richard Ben-Veniste
Elizabeth Holtzman

Office of the Secretary of Defense
Stewart Aly

Federal Bureau of Investigation
John Collingwood

Central Intelligency Agency
David Holmes
Kenneth J. Levit

National Security Council
William Leary

U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
David Marwell

Department of Justice/Office of Special Investigations
Eli Rosenbaum

Department of State
William Slany

Dr. Kurtz convened the June 14 meeting with some introductory announcements. He introduced Kenneth J. Levit, the new CIA representative replacing David Holmes.

The IWG next turned to the upcoming Los Angeles public forum at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It will consist of two parts. The first part will be a dialogue with historians and experts. The second part will be opened up to questions and comments from members of the public. The Wiesenthal Center will also be providing a live Web broadcast of the forum for the larger public and those who cannot attend. Congressman Brad Sherman, a member of the Presidential Commission of Holocaust Assets, or a member of his staff will present a short statement for the public as well. Ms Holtzman asked that the IWG invite the members of Congress from California, as well as the Governor. Dr. Kurtz announced that the New York public forum will take place in September, but suggested that the final public forum be postponed to a later undecided date. The IWG was in consensus on postponing the last public forum.

The IWG then turned to the results of the meeting with FBI Director Louis Freeh. Mr. Baer informed the other IWG members that NARA and the FBI had formulated a strategy for handling the review of its records, but the public members, along with Dr. Kurtz and Mr. Leary, had wanted to go beyond that point. Director Freeh was very helpful and responsive in agreeing to commit the Bureau to an expanded effort. He suggested bringing in FBI alumni to help as well as to try other strategies that might be fruitful, not only for the FBI, but also for other agencies as well. Ms Holtzman said that Director Freeh gave them a real commitment in this effort. Dr. Kurtz was optimistic that this meeting was a good start and that the constructive dialogue will provide good groundwork for meetings with CIA Director Tenet and Secretary of Defense Cohen. Mr. Collingwood added that among the steps the Bureau will be taking are to have Eleni Kalisch write an article concerning this effort to be published in their alumni newsletter and to pursue leads concerning informant files from the GAO investigations. Mr. Levit informed the IWG that CIA also had an active retired community and that a communication could go out to them to enlist their help in the CIA effort. Mr. Rosenbaum thought that seeking institutional knowledge among the agencies was an excellent avenue to pursue. He suggested John Tipton from GAO and John Taylor of NARA as possible candidates to consult as well. Mr. Rosenbaum also announced that OSI will provide a subject list to certain agencies with management guidelines for it. He indicated that among the categories of information that need to be produced include correspondence with OSI, cables, communications forwarding OSI instructions, and meetings with OSI representatives.

Next, the IWG sought information from the agencies present about progress. Answers concerning workload, volume of records, and resources were still needed from several agencies. Mr. Aly said that DoD would include this information in its June 30 report. Barry Harrelson of CIA reported that review had started on some material at NARA. Estimates of pages and workload would be forthcoming soon. Ms Holtzman asked if CIA was willing to provide the number of pages. Mr. Harrelson said that CIA would project as best as they could on page counts. Mr. Aly indicated that some problems had arisen concerning page counts for large collections and electronic records. Dr. Kurtz said that NARA's electronic records people had standards for estimates.

Dr. Kurtz then turned the IWG's attention to the issue of contractors. He introduced Kirk Lubbes and John Pereira, who have been contracted to complete a statement of work to get a contractor to help create and manage a tracking database for this project. Dr. Kurtz proposed that the June 30 deadline for agency reports needed to be pushed back to July 30 in order for all agencies to fully complete their estimates. There was no objection to an extension to July 30, as long as workload and cost estimates could be in by June 30.

Returning to agency updates, Dr. Slany reported that the State Department had involved its own retired community in its efforts and they should be able to do the job. He brought up the issue of records at State that had yet to be scheduled by NARA. He indicated that perhaps 99% of State material had been identified and searches are continuing, and that historical context is an issue. Ms Holtzman agreed about the relevance concerning records in terms of historical context. She wanted to make sure that background material would be made known in order to get historical context. Mr. Levit said that all files about persons are being considered relevant until searched. Mr. Aly said the same was being done at DoD. Dr. Kurtz reiterated that it was IWG policy that any names or operations concerning the subject of the statute are automatically relevant, with the presumption that they would be declassified and released. Mr. Collingwood assured the IWG that it was the case at FBI, and thanked NARA, the IWG staff, and the public members for their help in setting a workable strategy for searching records.

Mr. Van Tassel of the IWG Staff went through the process flow chart with the members. Mr. Ben-Veniste said that if there were concerns with the Department of Energy and the Kyl amendment, a meeting with Secretary Richardson might be in order.

Dr. Kurtz asked the CIA about the critical issue of Foreign Government Information (FGI) as far as review and consultation with foreign governments. Mr. Levit assured the IWG that Director Tenet was aggressive in this area. He said that it would definitely be a topic at the meeting with Mr. Tenet, and hopefully something constructive could be done, as far as this project was concerned.

Mr. Myers of the IWG Staff then gave a presentation emphasizing to agencies that the workload information now due by June 30 was extremely important for tracking resources and reporting them to Congress.

Dr. Kurtz wanted to get the date arranged for the next IWG meeting. It was decided that a tentative date would be August 17. It would be confirmed later through communication by the IWG Staff.

The IWG the turned to the upcoming report to Congress due in October. Dr. Kurtz indicated that it will not be a final report, which will obviously come at the end of this 3 year project. Mr. Baer said that resources would definitely have to be emphasized, but asked who would present the report. Ms Holtzman wanted to include a list of declassifications in order to highlight the work all ready done. Mr. Rosenbaum reminded everyone that OSI needs to know and review all declassifications. Dr. Kurtz reported that there had been several declassifications at NARA and that significant efforts in this area would be needed by the agencies. Mr. Rosenbaum suggested that possibly a search on some priority basis could be done, and then process that material forthwith. He also asked if the contractor's database would be retrievable by a soundex system. Mr. Myers indicated that it would be doubtful, but that would have to wait until the IWG had a contractor on board. Ms Holtzman said she could arrange an informal congressional meeting, possibly in July to get a head start with some congressional representatives. She was also troubled by the NASA response to inquiries. She suggested a meeting with the NASA Administrator might be in order. She also asked about the Federal Reserve. Mr. Myers said that the NASA historian invited the IWG to come look at their records, because most, if not all, of their relevant material was all ready declassified. Mr. Rosenbaum agreed that it was not conceivable that NASA had nothing. He asked about records concerning Werner von Braun and the Saturn V project, and also the 1969 lunar landing and Arthur Rudolph material. Dr. Kurtz suggested that it might be appropriate to invite NASA to the next IWG meeting to get some direct answers. It was decided that NASA should be invited to the next meeting, and the staff would follow up on that issue.

The issue of the Defense authorization bill was brought up briefly by Dr. Kurtz. Apparently in its current form it would put serious limits on declassification efforts in DoD, which would have serious implications for this project. Ms Holtzman asked if she could get a list of congresspeople on the House Armed Services Committee.

Dr. Kurtz adjourned the meeting and reminded everyone that the tentative date for the next meeting was August 18.

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