Ted Keefer – The Foreign Relations series and secrecy

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Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham  
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RJ



Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory


Ted Keefer (former general editor of the Foreign Relations of the United States series, Office of the Historian, State Department) – The Foreign Relations series and secrecy

This paper examines the role of secrecy of the Foreign Relations series from 1861 to the present. It notes that secrecy was not an issue during the 19th century. As the United States became more engaged in international relations in the 20th century both secrecy impinged on the volumes and release time lengthened. After 1928 volumes underwent systematic review before release. The establishment of the National Security Council and Department of Defense in 1947 complicated the declassification process. The failure of the series to include intelligence documents in some key Eisenhower volumes caused a crisis, eventually resulting in a new law expanding the access of the series to intelligence records. The paper describes how Foreign Relations historians worked with intelligence agencies to implement the law and outlines creation of a mechanism allowing the U.S. government to release intelligence information important to formulation and implementation of policy. This system has not always worked well, but it has worked.

Edward C. Keefer received a Ph.D. in history from Michigan State University in 1974. For 34 years he was an editor of the U.S. Department of State’s official documentary series, Foreign Relations of the United States. During that time he edited or co-edited 25 Foreign Relations volumes. After 2002 he was the General Editor of the series until his retirement in 2009. He is currently a historian at the Secretary of Defense’s Historical Office writing a history of Harold Brown’s tenure as Secretary of Defense during the Carter Administration, January 1977 to January 1981.

Email: Edward.Keefer.ctr@osd.mil

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