Interagency Working Group (IWG)

Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group: Summary Meeting Minutes

May 15, 2001 1pm - 4pm; National Archives Building, Room 105


Participants:

National Archives and Records Administration
Steven Garfinkel (Chair)

Public Members
Thomas Baer
Elizabeth Holtzman
Richard Ben-Veniste

Office of the Secretary of Defense
Stewart Aly

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Steve Baker for John Collingwood

Central Intelligence Agency
A CIA representative for David Holmes

National Security Council
William Leary

Department of Justice/Office of Special Investigations
Eli Rosenbaum

Department of State
Marc Susser

Richard Breitman, Historical Consultant


Mr. Garfinkel convened the meeting with updates on several administrative matters. With respect to the search for an Executive Director, he indicated that several candidates had been interviewed and the matter was closer to a resolution. Regarding the addition of an historian with Japanese expertise, discussions were ongoing with Dr. Marlene Mayo of the University of Maryland.

Mr. Garfinkel then thanked all members and participants in the April opening of the CIA name files. It was very successful and widely reported in the media. He noted that it was essential to follow up declassification and release with guides and finding aids to help the public gain access to these records. He also observed, using the example of the Hitler file, that material that might have been declassified for some time, but not brought to the attention of the public, is not effectively accessible. Discussion then turned to possible media events and openings in the future. David Van Tassel, IWG Staff Director, was called on to give an update concerning the status of Army records. He reported that there are basically three bodies of Army material in processing. The first is the 8000 dossiers previously accessioned to NARA. The second is the paper IRR files transferred from the Investigative Records Repository. The third body of material is the scanned IRR image files, about 15,000 dossiers, which have been transferred in electronic format to NARA for processing. These Army records were in various stages of processing, but blocks would be ready for release in a matter of months. William Cunliffe of the IWG Staff added that there were some OSS records from Entry 190, roughly 40,000 pages, that would be ready in a matter of months. They were previously withdrawn material that needed refiling into the open OSS records from which they were withdrawn. The IWG Staff had set up a refiling project to get the job finished. Mr. Baer asked Professor Breitman where the historians' review was in terms of the records just mentioned.

Dr. Breitman reported that he had begun to assess in detail the first body of Army material. He had also started a preliminary assessment of the second body of Army material, but there had been no action on the third body of material. As far as the OSS records were concerned, he had been following behind the CIA review team as the records are declassified. He indicated that there were a number of items worth noting, especially material related to concentration camps. He proposed a focused historians' report on the theme of what was known and when about the camps. Ms Holtzman asked if there was a timetable for reports and releases. It was her opinion that a timetable for historical analysis was necessary so that the IWG could be better prepared. Mr. Garfinkel said that he had met with Dr. Breitman earlier and it seemed as if three months was the mostly likely timetable for the next 'theme release'. Ms Holtzman said that she thought it shouldn't just be for Army records, but that a timetable should be set up for all agencies, for instance, what about FBI.

Dr. Breitman responded that he had surveyed some of the FBI material, but that it was still in the declassification process. Mr. Ben-Veniste asked if they needed to set up an IWG member review of this material. Mr. Garfinkel answered that the major category that is holding up declassification is Foreign Government Information (FGI). At the April review meeting, the Public members had seen the proposed redactions and, as a result, Mr. Garfinkel had issued his memorandum concerning FGI. Mr. Baer proposed, and it was the consensus of the IWG, that the FGI memorandum be posted to the IWG website. Mr. Garfinkel informed the IWG that the British were coming to the FBI to review their equities in FBI material. He pointed out that the decision for release, however, rested legally with the Director of the FBI, not the British. The Congressional imperative in PL105-246 was a presumption of release, the purpose being not to withhold but to make available. Mr. Ben-Veniste observed that there might be practical considerations to scheduling a meeting with out-going Director Freeh, given that the IWG would want to avoid any misunderstanding, and consequent loss of time and direction, upon the appointment of a new FBI Director. Ms Holtzman supported the proposal of meeting with Director Freeh to insure continuing top-level support in the FBI for the work of the IWG. Mr. Garfinkel said that he had personally spoken to Mr. Collingwood at FBI about the consequences of the retirement of Mr. Freeh. Mr. Collingwood assured him that the project was important and moving forward.

Mr. Garfinkel then asked William Leary to update the IWG on Presidential Directive #1 of the Bush Administration. Mr. Leary gave an overview of the Presidential Directive and the abolishment of all interagency groups except those, like the IWG, established by statute. This means that nothing has changed as far as the IWG and its mandate and mission. He also said that he still had no evidence that the administration was near to appointing an additional public member.

Mr. Ben-Veniste raised the topic of resources and encouraged the Chair and staff to look at the balance of needs and resources. He then asked Dr. Breitman if he saw resource problems. Dr. Breitman answered that there was always a possible need for more resources, but that help had been added recently. Norman Goda of Ohio University was joining the Historical Research Staff full-time, even though Timothy Naftali would be unable to spend more time on the project until October because of previous commitments. Also, the security clearances had come through for several of the Historical Research Staff, which meant they could do more research and analysis.

Mr. Baer then asked about advice from the Historical Advisory Panel, which had been so useful in the past. Mr. Garfinkel answered that recommendations and advice from the HAP would be forthcoming from HAP Chair Gerhard Weinberg after their next meeting. He also indicated that the members could schedule more conference calls with the historical research staff to get updates on the status of processing and analyzing the records.

Mr. Rosenbaum asked that historical analysis and information be provided to members well ahead of time of media events. Mr. Baer agreed and also asked that when questions are propounded in an IWG meeting with no immediate answer available, the Chair make sure agencies respond specifically. Mr. Garfinkel commented that these can be prepared from the summary minutes and answers would be sought. Mr. Ben-Veniste proposed that the Chair set up a 12-month itinerary of possible media events and releases, in order for the whole IWG to be able to discuss options and be prepared with better communication. Ms Holtzman asked that the IWG address a process of release that is not a fait accompli, especially given the amount of material in the last opening. She also thought that there was too much material at the last opening. She indicated that press decisions need to be made by members in consultation with staff and historians. She recommended that decisions be made well in advance of openings. Mr. Leary commented that he thought this procedure was taking place at regular IWG meetings. He added that every press conference requires a big effort on the part of the IWG Staff and Historical Research Staff consolidation of releases might be helpful. Mr. Garfinkel followed up by saying that many resources are expended in press events, and time spent on preparation of press events takes away from the systematic processing of the records. Ms Holtzman said that she was not comfortable with the past process, and she would like to see a process of inclusion and consultation with plenty of lead time. Mr. Leary said that he heard Dr. Breitman suggest a press conference in three months, centered on the theme of the concentration camp issue, and that the IWG should trust the historians. Ms Holtzman said that the IWG trusts the historians to make an excellent historical judgement, but press judgments should come from the members. Mr. Garfinkel said that he had been dealing with the press for 5 presidential administrations, and he hears the concerns the members are addressing. Since circumstances dictated the decision-making process in the last disclosure, it was the Chair's call and he thinks he made the right decision. While this was the case in the last opening, Mr. Garfinkel does not believe that should be the case in the future, and in the future there will definitely be a process that is inclusive. Dr. Breitman wanted to make sure he understood his role, given the current discussion. It was his understanding that he had been hired and assured of independent assessment that would go out under the name of the historians. He is all for consultation and inclusion, but it should not compromise his position of independent assessment. Mr. Rosenbaum responded that no one wants to compromise his independent and excellent assessments, but rather he would like to have the opportunity to ask questions and to learn from the historians and their analyses. He also suggested that in terms of staff time and resources, a press conference was not always the only approach. Certainly press releases and imaging documents for the IWG website were opportunities to be explored as well. Mr. Ben-Veniste ended the discussion by commenting that the IWG had probably taken too much time in this meeting for this issue, but pursuit of better communication and a timetable or schedule would be useful. It was the consensus of the IWG that a timetable be drafted.

The IWG then turned to a briefing from Ed Drea, an expert on Japanese records, former Historical Advisory Panel member, and a recent addition to the historical research staff. He discussed three topics concerning the Far East effort of the IWG. First was the English language records, the second the declassified documents 'hiding in plain sight', and third Japanese language documents, including the records returned to Japan and the potential they might hold. Dr. Drea asserted that records are for the most part already declassified. Dr. Breitman and Mr. Cunliffe agreed with Dr. Drea's basic assertion, but added that there will be a few new documents in the OSS collection that is currently under review at NARA.

Dr. Susser informed the IWG that he had met with the Japan desk. They were receptive to exchanges of information working with the Japanese in gaining greater accessibility to World War II records. He also added that the new Japanese Prime Minister would be visiting the U.S. in the near future. Mr. Baer thought that the IWG needed to develop a better in pursuit of openness concerning Japan. Ms Holtzman asked if the public members should meet with Secretary of State Powell. Dr. Susser thought that the IWG should pursue the issue at lower levels first. Mr. Rosenbaum added that it might be helpful to have someone from the Japan desk to come and brief the IWG. Mr. Baer thought that action meant to initiate a dramatic breakthrough might be needed at a higher level. Dr. Susser asked if they might want to meet with the Japanese ambassador. Ms Holtzman said she thought meeting with the Japanese ambassador was a good idea, but the IWG needed to make sure that Congress was advised as they proceeded in contacts with the Japanese. Mr. Garfinkel suggested that the IWG prepare a list of possible approaches and alternatives to Japan and make that a major topic at the next meeting. Mr. Baer added that the staff should consider contacting Senator Feinstein's office to seek a list of groups that had pressed for the Japanese Imperial Government Records Disclosure Act.

Mr. Aly briefed the members on progress at the Department of Defense. He also told the IWG that he had asked OSD for another office to step into this effort. He noted that surveys were underway with respect to Japan-related records; although no major collection of Japanese material is expected to be located. He mentioned that he was working with the IWG staff on some relevance issues and the American Nazi Party (ANP), as well as review and declassification of Navy material at NARA. Dr. Breitman commented that the ANP material would only be considered relevant if it showed dealings with Germany.

A brief summary and update was given by CIA staff. The CIA reported progress on all fronts, as well as having Steve Rogers of OSI at the Agency to review material, including material on von Bolschwing. Mr. Rosenbaum commented that OSI is waiving its exemption on von Bolschwing. The CIA reported that 59 more name files had been reviewed and transferred to NARA.

The IWG decided that the next meeting would be June 21, from 1-4 p.m. at the National Archives, Room 105. There will be no IWG meeting in July.

Session adjourned.

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