Interagency Working Group (IWG)

Meeting Minutes: 12/01/99

December 1, 1999; 1:00-5:00; National Archives Building I/Room 18W


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/Stewart Aly

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Eleni Kalisch sitting in for 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
Eli Rosenbaum

Department of State
William Slany

Guest: Presidential Commission on Holocaust-Era Assets
Gene Sofer

Dr. Kurtz convened the meeting and noted recognition given to the IWG website by the Scout Report as one of the most useful researcher webpages available on the Internet. Dr. Kurtz also announced that item 3 will be a classified portion of the meeting and be limited to principals and IWG Staff only.

Dr. Kurtz announced that the current number of pages declassified and available at NARA would be 300,000 by the end of the year.

Dr. Kurtz introduced the IWG contractors for the database, Kajax Engineering (KEI). The Project Manager, Dr. Donald Carter, gave a brief outline of the IWG database, database management, and the information collection process. He emphasized that the agencies will need to provide KEI with full information each month. The database must be kept current for an accurate final report and for public information. Agencies' full progress reports are due the 17th of each month, while agencies' resource expenditure information is due quarterly. IWG members should make sure their agencies comply completely with this process. Dr. Slany inquired if this database could be of use to researchers in terms of a finding aid after its use by the IWG. Dr. Kurtz indicated that it could be used in conjunction with other NARA finding aides.

Dr. Kurtz also gave an update on the fourth IWG Agency Liaison Group meeting from November. The ALG meeting focused on the KEI database process and the declassification and release process for transferring declassified records to NARA.

The IWG then turned to the progress report from the Department of the Army. Mr. Matthews led the Army presentation. He gave an overview of the Army plan for doing what was required. He mentioned that after meeting with the IWG Staff at NARA the Army had run a check of what they had reviewed since October 1998 under review for EO 12958 at their declassification facility in Ballston. This check revealed that 2.8 million pages had already been declassified. Mr. Matthews then turned to the scope of what remains. Identifying 3 "types" of records yet to review (Army records at NARA, Referrals, and IRR records), the Army has projected that it could successfully complete this work by October 2001. Mr. Baer asked Mr. Matthews if EO 12958 had the presumption of release. Mr. Matthews responded in the negative. Mr. Baer then asked how the review under EO 12958 is applicable to PL105-246, the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act and EO13110. Mr. Matthews indicated that the Army could use the database of collected information on files to make the records covered by PL105-246 easier to find. Ms Holtzman asked if the Army was waiting until it finished review under EO12958 to start work under PL105-246/EO 13110. Mr. Matthews explained that the Army was ready to make review under PL105-246/EO 13110 their top priority at the request of the IWG, provided that funds would be forthcoming for this process. Mr. Matthews explained their current budget status, and capabilities under current contracts. He indicated that the Army did not have the resources to do review under PL105-246/EO 13110 let alone the Kyl and Lott amendments if the Army was not given more money. He warned the IWG that the process of referrals for maximum release would be the most costly and arduous task ahead for the agencies. Dr. Kurtz then asked what the Army was going to do? Mr. Matthews indicated that funding needed to provided in order for any implementation of PL105-246/EO 13110 to begin. He then asked the IWG members to help in getting Congress to appropriate funds. Mr. Leary asked if the Army review would come to a halt when current funds run out at the estimated time. Mr. Matthews answered that the other commands would continue to do review at a much slower pace, because most of the Army Declassification effort is based on contractors. Mr. Kwalwasser needed to leave but wanted to add some comments before his exit. He added that he had concerns about funding, but was hopeful that funding could be found, supplemental to the Army effort. He indicated that it would be very helpful if the IWG could work with Army to get funds from Congress to facilitate this process. Dr. Kurtz asked about reallocation of funds within the Department of Defense or Army. Mr. Kwalwasser explained that they were searching for funds, but was short throughout the Department. Mr. Leary wanted clarification and asked if funding was not forthcoming then Army could not do the job. Mr. Matthews indicated that Mr. Leary was correct. Mr. Kwalwasser also added that these issues had not been discussed before, but funding looked bleak, at least in the next 3 months. Mr. Baer asked what had happened to the Army plan for surveying or sampling that was presented to the IWG some months back. Mr. Matthews responded that the triage had been conducted and identification had been done. But Army has to look at all the documents in question and for that they needed money, a minimum start-up of $800,000 and eventually $2.9 million. Ms Holtzman asked if review under EO 12958 was proceeding. Mr. Matthews answered affirmatively, because funds had all ready been committed to review under EO 12958. Ms Holtzman asked if the Army could approach the Secretary of Defense to change the priority to review under EO 13110/PL105-246. Mr. Rosenbaum added that presumably the Secretary of Defense could find money to be allocated from existing funds. Mr. Rosenbaum wanted to make sure the Army knew that the expectation of the IWG was for redaction not pass/fail review, even though this would require funding at higher levels. Was the Army prepared for this? Mr. Matthews indicated that machines for redaction were expensive, but if allocated funds the Army would do it. Ms Holtzman asked where this sudden change to page-by-page review came from, she thought, just like Mr. Baer, that there was a plan for sampling or surveying. Mr. Matthews said that page-by-page review is required now by the Kyl and Lott amendments. He said page-by-page review is very costly and adding redaction and all these other steps and processes would make the cost go up. Mr. Aly, sitting in for Mr. Kwalwasser, assured the IWG that they would work on this, and that these estimates were estimates given the normal budget process within the Department of Defense. To sum up the Army progress report and move onto other agenda items, Dr. Kurtz wanted to confirm that it was the Army's position not to proceed with review until funds become available. Mr. Matthews indicated that Dr. Kurtz was correct. Dr. Kurtz said the IWG would work on the Army issues by:

  1. Clarification of sampling method versus page-by-page review,
  2. Dialogue at a higher level concerning funding issues,
  3. Pressing diligently to get Army to begin,
  4. Establish a framework for complaints and concerns, and
  5. Talk with Mr. Kwalwasser about an approach to the Secretary of Defense.

Mr. Baer wanted to add one item before moving onto the CIA briefing. He was upset at the inefficient use of the IWG's time, and, further, that the DoD representative to the IWG should get involved with DoD presentations so that the time of the IWG is not wasted, considering that this progress report and plan is totally inconsistent with previous information and briefings. Ms Holtzman added that it was past time to meet personally with the Secretary of Defense, and if that was not possible the IWG should approach the President.

The CIA presentation was next on the agenda. This briefing was classified.

Several issues were decided by consensus of the IWG members during the CIA presentation. First, standards for redaction and working guidelines would be developed and used in review and declassification. The second consensus was that the CIA should use substitute language in redactions where practicable. This subject would be taken up at later meetings as experience with review is accumulated.

Dr. Kurtz then opened discussion of the topic of the historical consultants and the Historical Advisory Panel. He updated the members on the discussions with Professor Richard Breitman and Dr. Timothy Naftali. He said that the IWG staff was in the process of working with the PCHA for contracting with/hiring the historical consultants and that Gerhardt Weinberg had been chosen to chair the Historical Advisory Panel. Dr. Kurtz is to meet with Dr. Weinberg in mid-December for further discussions. The charter for the Historical Advisory Panel was acceptable to all IWG members. There was some discussion concerning security clearances for the historical consultants. Dr. Kurtz then addressed the issue of the declassification reviewers to be hired by the IWG. Ms Holtzman voiced concern about experience and credentials in searching for these "expert" reviewers, who will be advising the IWG about agency decisions not to declassify. She was concerned that this advisory process be such that the Congress, the President, and the American people will be satisfied that the IWG carried out their responsibilities faithfully. Dr. Kurtz was stated that he and the IWG staff were concerned as well would assure that appropriate experience and knowledge would be required in the contracting process for acquiring these expert reviewers.

Dr. Marwell then addressed the issue of the lists that had been compiled by the IWG and OSI for circulation to the agencies to help in their searches in their records. He had convened a committee made up of himself; Henry Mayer, chief archivist at the USHMM; Peter Black, senior historian at the USHMM; Elizabeth Barry-White, historian at OSI; and Kevin Ruffner, historian at CIA. They had affirmed that while there could never be an exhaustive list concerning Nazi war criminals and the Holocaust, the lists thus far used by the IWG were applicable and very useful. They suggested some additions that they would work on and give to the IWG staff for distribution to agencies. The committee had suggested a guide might be appropriate. Dr. Kurtz asked that the committee stay in business to work on any additions and such a guide. Ms Holtzman asked if it was a good idea if the IWG make contact with foreign governments to ask for any lists they could provide. Dr. Barry-White answered that many of the foreign governments concerned with these topics had been contacted through OSI. Mr. Rosenbaum said that they would look into the matter of further contact for information from foreign governments.

Dr. Kurtz then proposed that the FBI and NARA issue status reports at the next IWG meeting in January. This was accepted by consensus. Mr. Rosenbaum asked that the IWG look into the feasibility of setting up an Intranet akin to what the PCHA was setting up. Dr. Kurtz said that he would take up the issue on Friday when he met with staff from the PCHA.

Dr. Kurtz asked that the DoD representative to look into resolving matters concerning IRR files that were supposed to be transferred to NARA. He indicated that there were several members of the media looking for the Heinrich Mueller and Arthur Rudolph files.

The IWG then turned to the issue of the proposed legislation introduced by Senator Feinstein called the Japanese Imperial Army Disclosure Act of 1999. Dr. Kurtz said that the IWG staff had been referred to Congressman Lantos office by Mr. Rosenbaum concerning this issue. Dr. Kurtz indicated that the IWG would be in contact with both Mr. Lantos' office and Senator Feinstein's office to work with them on perhaps writing an amendment to PL105-246. Ms Holtzman thought a resolution might be included in such an amendment to call on the Japanese government to open their records on these matters. Mr. Baer thought this might be a most opportune time to talk about money with Congress.

The IWG decided to meet next on January 12, 2000, the anniversary of their first meeting.

Session adjourned.

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