|For immediate release,
9 August 2001
|For further information:
Thomas Blanton, Archive director, 202/994-7068
William Burr, senior analyst, 202/994-7032
Lee Rubin, Mayer Brown & Platt, 202/263-3267
ARCHIVE HAILS TURNOVER OF KISSINGER PAPERS
GWU Group Persuades State Department to Recover Telephone Transcripts
Washington, D.C., August 9 – The State Department today
that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had returned 10,000 pages
of transcripts of his telephone conversations conducted while in office
from 1973 through January 1977, and spokesman
Richard Boucher credited the National Security Archive for prompting
the Department to seek this return.
“These telcons are a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour verbatim
record of the highest-level foreign policy deliberations of the
U.S. government during Mr. Kissinger’s tenure at State,” commented Thomas
Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a foreign policy documentation
center based at George Washington University. “We applaud the State
Department for taking action to recover these unique and invaluable historical
documents, and we commend Mr. Kissinger’s decision to do the right thing.”
The transcripts had been locked up in the Library of Congress under
a purported deed of gift from Mr. Kissinger since December 1976, with access
strictly controlled by Mr. Kissinger until five years after his death.
A federal district judge and a U.S. court of appeals panel both ruled in
the late 1970s that the transcripts were government records, improperly
removed from the State Department, but these decisions were vacated in
1980 by the Supreme Court in Reporters’ Committee v. Kissinger for
lack of standing by the plaintiffs, rather than on the merits of the case.
For a complete review of the legal issues and chronology, see the draft
legal complaint sent by the National Security Archive to the Department
of State and the National Archives on January 25, 2001, and the correspondence
between the government and the National Security Archive’s pro bono lawyers,
Lee Rubin and Craig Isenberg at Mayer, Brown & Platt.
The National Security Archive first wrote
the Archivist of the United States on January 15, 1999 requesting government
action to recover the Kissinger telcons. After receiving the draft
legal complaint in January 2001, the government entered extended negotiations
with the Archive and its lawyers. The State Department’s Legal Adviser,
William H. Taft IV, took the lead in corresponding with Mr. Kissinger,
and obtained the affirmative response that produced the document handover
“Now the Justice Department and the National Archives need to recover
the telcons from Mr. Kissinger’s years as national security adviser to
President Nixon,” noted Dr. William Burr, senior analyst at the National
Security Archive and editor of The
Kissinger Transcripts: The Top Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow
(New York: The New Press, 1999). “Today’s announcement shows that
the government’s own lawyers have concluded the telcons are government
records, and we call on Mr. Kissinger to do his duty under the Presidential
Records Act and provide the National Archives with a full set of his White
House telephone transcripts.”
The following is an example of a Kissinger telephone conversation transcript
that was found in a collection of his records at the National Archives:
Henry Kissinger's Claims that the Telcons Were "Private"
1. [Tony] Judt, based on [William] Bundy, asserts that I have reclassified
public papers as “personal” in order to close them to “prying eyes.” This
is flatly untrue. No public document has ever been reclassified by me.
Well over 90 percent of the papers in my collection at the Library of Congress
are copies of originals in the files of either the State Department or
the Nixon and Ford libraries. They are available to researchers on the
terms established by the originating departments.
The only unique papers in the collection are records of telephone
conversations that a court of law—not I—held to be personal papers and
that never were treated as public papers before that.
--Henry Kissinger, letter to editor, New York Review of Books,
24 September 1998
2. Every document in the Library of Congress is the copy of
an original in the State Department, the Ford Library, or the National
Archives. (The only exceptions are telephone conversations ruled by the
US Supreme Court as private. However, in October 1998, I gave access to
these conversations to the State Department historians so that they might
extract portions relevant to foreign policy decisions for inclusion in
--Henry Kissinger letter to editor, New York Review of Books,
12 March 1999)
3. The "Kissinger Collection" in the Library of Congress also contains
rough transcripts of telephone conversations that the Supreme Court in
1980 ruled to be private. In 1998 I voluntarily made these available to
State Department historians so that they could determine which, if any,
might be useful for the Foreign Relations of the United States series.
In short, no historian has had access impaired by the location of duplicates
of my papers in the Library of Congress.
--Henry Kissinger, letter to the editor, The New York Times Book
Review, 18 April 1999
Problems Encountered by State Department Historians In Conducting
Research in the Kissinger Collection
1. Report of Advisory Commitee to the Department of State on Historical
Diplomatic Documentation, for the Period January 1, 2000 - December 1,
2000, Excerpt: Kissinger Papers and the Presidential Recordings and Materials
As noted in last year's report, the Committee has been concerned about
access to the papers of Henry Kissinger at the Library of Congress. Transcripts
of telephone conversations selected for inclusion in FRUS arrived from
the Library of Congress with many deletions. The Historian's Office was
unable to determine how significant these deletions were because access
procedures prevent HO staff from taking notes or otherwise determining
the original full content of the documents. Although Dr. Kissinger's personal
intervention and the assistance of his representative, Peter Rodman, often
ameliorate this situation, it remains a problem. The HO needs to review
the excisions to determine if they are legitimately personal or if they
threaten the preservation and authenticity of the historical record. The
Committee believes that the Library of Congress has established an inappropriate
system of access and that the Kissinger papers should be deposited at NARA.
2. Minutes, Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation
April 10-11, 2000, Report of the Subcommittee on the Kissinger Papers and
PFIAB Records, Excerpts
[Philip] Zelilow asked if HO [Historical Office] Historians could bring
back copies from the Library of Congress. David Geyer said no, they
cannot even make a list of documents requested. Zelikow declared that this
was unsatisfactory and recommended calling their bluff. Regarding the letter
to [Archivist John] Carlin, he pointed out that it will be hard to
complain later if it is ineffective. ....
[Warren] Kimball asked other Committee members how they felt.
[Robert] Schulzinger stated that there was a full agenda, the subcommittee
had recommended that HO make contact with Kissinger's agent [Peter] Rodman,
and suggested that another subcommittee could examine the issue again in
July. Kimball suggested that the [James] Rubin letter to Carlin did not
pass "the smell test" and did nothing to help public access to the Kissinger
records or improve HO's access. [Frank] Mackaman suggested that it was
impossible to separate "the smell" from practicalities.
Zelikow stated that the Department should change its position. This
was not a marginal issue and he wanted the Committee to go on record on
it. Kimball said he wanted more information, that he was uncomfortable
deciding on the issue without it.