Public Statement from CIA's Historical Review Panel


The CIA's Historical Review Panel met from 9-10 December 2014 and discussed efforts to develop an automated declassification system for electronic government records, the progress of and disputes over volumes in the FRUS series, and other topics.

The full report, first posted to H-Diplo, is reproduced below. 

Public Statement from CIA's Historical Review Panel [Jervis]

From: Robert Jervis, Columbia University

Public Statement from CIA's Historical Review Panel

Professor Tami Biddle
Department of National Security and Strategy
US Army War College

Professor Robert Jervis (Chair)
Department of Political Science
Columbia University

Professor Melvyn Leffler
Department of History
University of Virginia

Professor Thomas Newcomb
Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice
Heidelberg College

Professor Jeffrey Taliaferro
Department of Political Science
Tufts University

Professor Ruth Wedgwood
Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
Johns Hopkins University

The Director, Central Intelligence Agency's Historical Review Panel (HRP) was formed in 1995, replacing a panel that was less formally organized and that had met only episodically.  Since then, the HRP has met twice a year, with the mandate to: 

Advise the Central Intelligence Agency on systematic and automatic declassification review under the provisions of Executive Order 13526.

Assist in developing subjects of historical and scholarly interest for the Intelligence Community declassification review program.

Advise CIA and the Intelligence Community on declassification issues in which the protection of intelligence sources and methods potentially conflicts with mandated declassification priorities.

Provide guidance for the historical research and writing programs of the CIA History Staff, and when appropriate, review draft products.

Advise Information Management Services on its mandatory and voluntary declassification review initiatives and the Center for the Study of Intelligence on its academic outreach programs.

At the request of the Director of Central Intelligence Agency, advise on other matters of relevance to the intelligence and academic communities.

Advise Information Management Services on archival and records management issues.

The HRP, like the other DCIA panels, is convened by the Director to provide him with confidential advice and assessments.  Because the HRP's advice to the DCIA must be completely frank and candid, we are not reporting Panel recommendations.  But because this panel's primary concern is the program of declassification and the release of information to the public, the DCIA and the Panel concluded that it should inform the interested public of the subjects and problems that the Panel is discussing.

At our meeting of December 9-10, 2014 we discussed the efforts to develop an automated declassification system that could cope with the vast increase in records to be reviewed in the period when the government starts to use electronic communications.  Unless systems are developed that can take over many of the jobs now performed by human reviewers, systematic declassification will be impossible.  Foremost among the traditional forms of public release is the Foreign Relations of the Unites States (FRUS) series, and we discussed the disputes over some volumes and the progress in the series as compilation begins for the Reagan years.  Documents released through the 25-year and 50-year programs are put on the CREST (CIA Records Search Tool) systems at the National Archives, and we discussed ways of making this material more widely available.  The President’s daily brief (PDBs) at least 40 years old are now being reviewed for declassification, and we discussed the review processes and ways in which the maximum possible material could reach the public.  We discussed the appropriate policies for the retention of emails as permanent records, and the implications of possible changes in FOIA legislation on declassification programs.  We have conveyed our views to Director Brennan and will meet again in June.