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ONG BEFORE THE Reagan administration made its highly publi cized threat to drop a wall of secrecy around the scientific community, another branch of scholars was already feeling the weight of government censorship: historians of American foreign relations. For three years they have protested-mostly in vain-as State Department bureaucrats have found new rationales to prevent the disclosure of old, but not forgotten, diplomatic records.

The controversy, which so far has attracted little public attention, concerns the right of historians and interested citizens to the timely review of documents that tell the story of our government's recent diplomacy. At issue is the integrity of the State Department's invaluable documentary series, Foreign Relations of the United States, and the prolonged refusal of the department to release files from the early 1950s-files pertaining to the Korean War, the development of national security policy, covert opcrations abroad, and even the origins of American involvement in Viet nam. A series of restrictive policies beginning with the Carter administration and carried forward under Reagan threatens to keep the veil over these events. "The public's right to know thirty years after the fact what its government has done or did not do in a specific area of the world is crucial to the functioning of a healthy democratic system," says one member of the State Department's historical office, which compiles the Foreign Relations series. "And that, I thought,

JONATHAN MARSHALL is an associate editor of INQUIRY Scor Chase did some of the research for this piece.

great ironies in all this is that the best set of directives for releasing classified information was written by

by Jonathan Marshall [Nixon aides] Ehrlichman and

Haldeman in 1972, commented Walter LaFeber, a prominent diplomatic historian at Cornell University. "The Carter administration was retrogressive, yet it promised open government."

was the purpose of the Foreign Relations volumes when I got to the office. I have since realized that there are those in our office and outside who do not believe that is the mandate with which we've been charged and have no intention of carrying it out."

Some might argue that the public has a right to know what its govern ment is up to long before thirty years go by. But the State Department guards its records so jealously that its declassification program lags behind even that of the notoriously secretive British, who follow a strict thirty-year rule. The problem began, ironically, with the Carter executive order on declassification, which promised greater public access to materials of state. "The public is entitled to know as much as possible about the government's activities," President Carter declared on signing the order in June 1978. "The new order will increase openness in government by limiting classification and accelerating declassification. With a few exceptions, the documents... will be declassified after no more than twenty years."

tists was aiding the Soviet military buildup, and called for a system of voluntary controls-including prepublication review of technical papers-to restrict the flow of informa tion in such fields as "computer hardware and software, other electronic gear and techniques, lasers, crop pro

Fine words, but as historians soon learned, empty ones. The effect of the order was to impose vast new bureaucratic obstacles to the release of documents. Previously, State had simply turned over masses of records to the National Archives for opening en bloc as soon as the annual Foreign Relations volumes were released. Now every sheet of paper had to be read and reviewed under restrictive guidelines prepared by the State Depart ment's new Classification-Declassification Center (CDC), established to implement the order. No bureaucrat was going to risk letting anything sensitive through the strainer without higher review, so the process quickly ground to a slow crawl. "One of the

The problem went beyond the executive order, of course. With the release of Foreign Relations volumes from

the late 1940s, American embassies abroad began complaining that some of the documentary revelations were causing political difficuities, particularly as evidence came to light of U.S. political manipulations. Italian citizens, for example, were shocked to learn that the United States had considered staging a military coup in the event that the Communist Party won a peaceful victory in the 1948 elections. The CDC, sensitive to these concerns, called in for further review volumes of the 1950 Foreign Relations series that had already been cleared and prepared for printing. As historians waited in vain for the volumes to appear, the censors went to work. "We heard that 20 to 25 percent of the 1952-54 materials were being removed," said LaFeber. "CDC said less than one percent, but then we asked about the Iranian coup of 1953. In some of the important sec

MARCH 29.1982

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jections, and manufacturing proce-
dures." He warned that those who
opposed such restrictions were "about
to have that way of thinking washed
away by the tidal wave" of public
opinion, and went on to say that "the
tides are moving, and moving fast, to-
ward legislated solutions that in fart

tions, that I percent could be 30 to 40
percent of the material we desire. It
just castrates the Foreign Relations
series." Lloyd Gardner, professor of
history at Rutgers and a leader in the
fight for more openness, charges that
the CDC is "lying with statistics"
when it minimizes the impact of the
deletions, since it is likely that the
most revealing documents are those
being censored. Inside sources at the
State Department's historical office
say that up to 17 percent of the docu-
ments included in the Foreign Relations
series have been withheld, and that
the largest deletions have come from
materials on Western Europe, Korea
and China, and the Middle East. The
1951 volumes on those areas have
been delayed until next year.

Meanwhile, scholars will have a
much longer wait for access through
the National Archives to the general
bulk of records from the 1950-54
period. Budget cuts at the Archives
have reduced the declassification staff
to one-third of its former size, and
with document review made vastly
more arduous by the demands of the
CDC guidelines, Archives has so far
refused to accept records from that
period. Edwin Thompson, head of
records declassification at Archives,
now predicts only that the "larger
part" of the 1950-54 records will be-
come available by 1986 "if all comes
through as we can best hope."

Even when the materials do become available, the most significant documents may well be missing. Intelligence-related records, in particular, are being withheld, which will color historical accounts of electoral and paramilitary intervention by the United States in Western Europe, the Soviet Union and the Balkan States, Guatemala, Iran, and the Far East. "After 1950 the intelligence aspect is more pervasive," says Neal Petersen, acting deputy historian at State, "and things get stickier and stickier." Adds Edward Becker, a private researcher with long experience at the


are likely to be much more restrictive"
than the voluntary controls he pro-
posed. The "tidal wave" of public
opinion may only have been a figment
of his imagination, but Inman's threat
was chilling nonetheless. (Admiral
Innian is no stranger to efforts to cen-
sor the work of scientists. As director

Archives, "You are going to get a
very incomplete picture of what was
going on, since the CIA was in-
creasingly given charge of the imple-
mentation of U.S. foreign policy in
that period."'

The other major problem arises from an exemption in the Carter executive order for "foreign-originated information." Some State Department officials have interpreted the phrase to mean any information given in confidence by foreign of ficials. "Pushed to its limit [the exemption] might mean nothing would be released at all," admits Petersen. In practice, the exemption has been invoked to avoid embarrassing friends of the United States. "A subcabinet type in Italy in the 1950s might today be a defense minister," explains Petersen. "If he was rabidly pro-American that might hurt him now with the opposition." Pressed to come up with concrete examples of damage done by the release of materials through the Foreign Relations series, however, CDC officials could come up with only one case an Icelandic politician who complained because of an adverse reference to him in the documents.

Meanwhile, the future looks bleak, with Reagan proposing in a new executive order to drastically broaden the scope of classification and eliminate mandatory review. "Everyone says things will tighten up under Reagan," says Petersen. "The atmosphere now is even worse," agrees Lloyd Gardner. "Under Carter, at least, a pretense was being made that there was to be openness in government. Supposedly his new guidelines were going to increase access. This didn't happen, of course. While Carter's executive order on paper promised openness," the bureaucracy thwarted its intent. "Now under Reagan the government at the top and the lower levels of the bureaucracy both are in accord on the need for more secrecy."

of the National Security Agency
[NSA), he actively sought to control
independent work in cryptography,
going so far as to classify two privately
developed inventions, one a voice
scrambler, the other a cipher device.
Both were declassified a few months

The second prong of the assault was a letter by Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci in the Janu ary 8 issue of Science, the weekly journal of the AAAS. "It is quite apparent," Carlucci argued, "that the Soviets exploit scientific exchanges as well as a variety of other means in a highly orchestrated, centrally directed effort aimed at gathering the technical ins formation required to enhance their military posture." He cited three Soviet scientists who had obtained information he regarded as militarily sensitive while they were in the United States during the late 1970s: S. A. Gubin, who worked on concussion bombs; K. H. Rozhdestvensky, who did research on aerodynamics; and T. K. Bachman, whose work was thought by some to have military ap plications for aircraft cockpit displays. Carlucci went on to note that in the Senior Scholar Exchange program "practically all the Soviet nominces propose to study in fields having mili tary application... while the United States nominates scholars specializing in the arts, literature, and history."


HE SIGNIFICANCE OF these repressive fulminations was brought into focus the following week by the announcement that Stanford University would not accept the restric tions that the State Department, through the National Academy of Sciences, sought to place on the visit of Soviet roboticist Nikolai V. Umnov to the university's campus. Stanford Vice-Provost Gerald Lieberman, noting that the university no longer engages in classified research, stated: "There may be some technological leakage. But the solution will do more harm than good. The reason we are ahead in high technology is because of openness. If we can't exchange information, research will be harmed in a very counterproductive way."

The university's refusal was the result of prodding by Bernard Roth, professor of mechanical engineering, who was to be Umnov's host at Stanford. Roth was incensed by the severity of

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the proposed restrictions on Umnov; he regarded them as significantly stricter than the controls previously imposed on other visiting Soviet scientists. Stanford has a number of foreign scholars currently in residence under much less onerous terms, and Roth found these new limits on what Umnov could see and do to have a certain "Alice in Wonderland" air about them.


weapons. As George Washington University law professor Mary Cheh noted at the AAAS symposium, the prosecution in the nuclear-secrets case against the Progressive "sought and obtained judicial support for the gov ernment's long-held view that the information control provisions may be applied to any information falling within the definition of Restricted Data regardless of where the information originated." Previously, however, the government had "applied the information control provisions only to Restricted Data generated by government employees or under government support or sponsorship.

The State Department retaliated against Stanford by blocking Umnov's visit altogether and then, only a week later, by denying permission for Soviet diplomat Yuri Kaprolov to visit the Stanford campus to participate in a forum on disarmament. The resulting public furor proved embarrassing to the government, however, and in carly February the State Department finally relented on the Umnov visit. Umnov will now be allowed access to unclassified research funded by the Defense Department. Stanford is not alone in having to stand up to the government; the number of cases where controls have been rejected is large and growing. In 1981 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology refused to cooperate with attempts to limit the activities of a visiting Chinese physicist. And this January MIT rejected proposed restrictions on visiting Soviet chemist Mikhail Gololobov. The State Department ordered MIT to prevent Gololoboy from seeing any work done in nutrition research. Since he was slated to visit the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, which does nothing but nutrition research, MIT officials were understandably dismayed. Similar protests of government meddling are under way at the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, and Ohio State University.

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Should the administration seek to impose mandatory restrictions on the dissemination of scientific and technical information, it certainly has ample legal basis for so doing:

The Arms Export Control At of 1976 allows the State Department to prevent the dissemination of "any unclassified information" pertaining to items included in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) list of munitions subject to export controls, as well as "any technology which advances the state of the art or estab

The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 permits the Defense Department and the Patent Office to classify as secret any invention that they determine to be "detrimental to national security" should it be published. Approximately 300 patents are so classified each year, primarily military devices developed by government researchers.

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 enables the Department of Energy to classify as "restricted data" any data or concepts pertaining to nuclear

ministering them. But the Reagan administration seems determined to exploit the broadness of the language to the fullest. Representative George E. Brown, Jr., a Democrat from Riverside, California, circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter to House members warning of the dangers of the adminis tration's initiatives. But the degree of support Reagan enjoys in the Congress is cause for some pessimism. Representative Charles E. Bennett of Jacksonville, Florida, has introduced a resolution (H.R 109) that would further extend the scope and restrictions contained in these last two laws, although congressional action is aaiting guidance from the executive branch.

The White House has drafted an executive order that would reverse.

decades of increased government openness.

lishes a new art in an area of significant military applicability in the United States."

The Export Ad:ninistration Act of 1979 requires the Commerce Department to issue export permits for almost every item of commerce not on the ITAR list. The law prohibits the dissemination to foreigners, by any means, of "technical data," defined as "information of any kind that can be used, or adapted for use, in the design, production, manufacture, utilization, or reconstruction of articles or materials" unless an export license has been issued.

The broad language of these laws, which cover virtually every activity in American life, was enacted with congressional understanding that the executive would be circumspect in ad



VEN IF CONGRESS DOES not back Reagan, he can still impose mandatory informa tion controls by executive order. The White House is studying a draft of just such an order, which would reverse three decades of increasing governmental openness, by changing the "balance of interests" test for deciding what information should be restricted. Heretofore, national security concerns had to be balanced against other interests. Under the drafted order, any information that has any national security implications would be restricted, regardless of how minor these implications, or how compelling the need for public disclosure. The order would do away with the current prohibition against classifying "basic sci

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entific research information not clearly related to national security." It would permit classification of nongovernmental research prepared without access to classified information. It would eliminate any mandatory review of document classification. And, contrary to previous standards, it would impose on government bureaucrats the rule: When in doubt, classify.

Any attempt to further limit the free flow of scientific information will certainly face a number of obstacles. Current laws that would be the basis for mandatory legal controls are written in such vague and general language that they are probably vulnerable to successful challenge on constitutional grounds. Moreover, the government really lacks the organizational wherewithal to enforce such controls. However, scientists have put themselves out on a limb by accepting so much government financing. In fact, big government and big science are so intertwined that the imposition of mandatory controls would foster an adversary relationship that neither is anxious to see. Ira Michael Heyman, who worked with the NSA to develop review procedures for publication of research on cryptography, argued that "In the cryptography circumstance, 1 was willing to assume that the loss could be large and the amount that you are restricting people was very small. In the broader case, it seems to me it's just the opposite. Once you start to extend that principle. ...any. thing that's written in the sciences.. is going to be swept into this system. It's much, much too broad."

The imposition of mandatory information controls also raises the specter fa "scientific samizdat," with scientists furtively passing on the results of their research to circumvent government controls. The widespread usc of computer terminal networks would facilitate this process. But the impact on scientific progress would be devastating. According to William D. Carey, executive officer of the AAAS: "Our own military power will be diminished, not enhanced, if the wellheads of scientific communication are sealed and new knowledge confined in silos of secrecy and prior restaint." If the Soviet Union lags behind the United States in most fields of science, it is not for lack of brainpower, funds, or official support-but for lack of openness. "It is no accident that the United States has the widest technological


lead in those areas where government regulation has been the least," says Peter J. Denning, president of the Association for Computing Machin


These difficulties explain in part Admiral Inman's predilection for ' voluntary" self-censorship. But to be effective, the volunteers must be persuaded of the need for controls. Carey of the AAAS says, "I have exceedingly great trouble accepting the proposi. tion of making substantial concessions in the absence of a clear and present danger."

It is doubtful whether the few isolated examples of technological leakage to the Soviets add up to the menace the national security managers have conjured up. With the Pentagon Papers and the Progressive's publication of H-bomb schematics, the gov ernment's predictions of calamity have not been borne out by events. Advocates of censorship, learning from these mistakes, no longer cite specific damage from specific leaks of information but merely assert an undifferentiated menace to some vaguely delineated conception of national security. Needless to say, this formulation leaves many members of the scientific community unconvinced.

For one thing, America is not the only place the Soviets can gain access to advanced technologies. European scientific work is certainly on a par with that of the United States. And the Japanese lead the world in arcas such as robotics and clectronics.

A more basic question is whether secrecy can work at all. When the United States began developing the atomic bomb in the early 1940s, American scientists agreed to withhold their research on nuclear fission from publication. Soviet physicists were able to deduce from this suspicious silence that the United States was working on a bomb, and convinced their own country to do the


Professor Roth at Stanford thinks that the current control program is "administered by lawyers who don't understand technology" and "don't understand what they are doing." According to Mary Cheh, "some gov ernment administrators and policymakers believe that knowledge should be hoarded and traded like any other commodity." She notes that the truc barrier to technology transfer is not acquisition of information, sout "acquiring the cadre of skilled scientists

needed to reduce the information to application [and] building the sophis ticated and expensive facilities needed for production."

American scientists have also expressed concern over the potential loss of technical information from Soviet scientists. Umnov is a leading worker in the field of robotics, and in past years his contributions facilitated great advances in American robotics. American fusion research was greatly aided by information provided by Soviet scientists on their Tokamak reactor design. Planetary astronomers are worried that the Soviets might not share data and photographs from Venus acquired by their new Venera spacecraft.

NVOKING NATIONAL SECUrity as a pretext for censorship no longer satisfies most Americans. As Admiral Inman himself admitted, this suspicion "stems from a basic attitude that the government and its public servants cannot be trusted. I do not think it is harmful to recognize that the federal government-particu larly its intelligence agencies—have in fact made mistakes in the past on oc casion, and suspicion of the federal government in this regard is understandable." With some of the admiral's former employees going to work free-lance in Libya, carrying topsecret technology with them, perhaps he should clean his own house first.

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'John Shattuck

Vice President

Government, Community

and Public Affairs

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