NCC WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol. 6, #45, December 21, 2000
by Bruce Craig <[log in to unmask]> of the National Coordinating Committee for
the Promotion of History.

This will be the last NCC WASHINGTON UPDATE of the year.  Expect the next
newsletter to grace your e-mail in-boxes around January 3, 2001.  Happy
Holidays!  bc

1.   106th Congress: It's Finally Over!
2.   Moynihan Declassification Board Approved
3.   Appropriation Update: $50 Million for History Education
4.   State Department Withholds Advisory Committee Minutes
5.   News Bits and Bytes: New SAA Website; New FRUS Volume: Jefferson Day
Lecture Set

In its last order of business, Congress passed the massive omnibus
appropriations bill (H.R. 4577) then adjourned "sine die" on December 15,
thus wrapping up the 106th Congress. The huge funding package totals $634
billion and includes the FY 2001 budget for the National Archives, Library of
Congress, and the Department of Education.  The measure is on the President's
desk awaiting his signature. He is expected to sign the bill into law before
the end of the year.

Included in the ten-inch-thick funding package are two measures of particular
interest to the historical/archival community: the Moynihan Declassification
Board in the Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 5630) and the $50 million
history education earmark in the Labor, Health and Human Services and
Education bill (H.R. 4577).

In one of its last official acts, the 106th Congress passed legislation (H.R.
5630) that includes a provision creating a new advisory board on
declassification matters.   Originally introduced as the Public Interest
Declassification Act (S. 1801), the bill was the last vestige of Senator
Daniel Patrick Moynihan's once ambitious effort to reform the national
security classification and declassification system. The legislation which
was wrapped into the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2000 (H.R. 5630)
creates a Public Interest Declassification Board whose charge is to promote
openness, to support Congress in its oversight of declassification, and to
make recommendations to the President on classification and declassification
policy, practices, and procedures.

Enactment of the Moynihan bill looked dubious in early December because the
Intelligence Authorization Act also contained a highly controversial
provision that many in the Senate objected to.  The objectionable provision
would have made it a crime for government employees to disclose classified
information to the public. Without benefit of any congressional hearings, the
so-called Leak Statute Section 304, "Prohibition of Unauthorized Disclosure
of Classified Information" was vetoed on November 4 by the President.
According to numerous historians and journalists who studied this
legislation, the proposed law would have been equivalent to an "Official
Secrets Act." It would have severely restricted free speech, undercut the
already tenuous rights of federal government whistle-blowers who put their
jobs on the line when they disclose wrongdoing, and would have shielded
"corruption and government abuse of power behind a wall of secrecy."

In an effort to get another version of the appropriation bill passed, on
November 13, the House of Representatives removed the controversial statute
that the President vetoed and passed a revised bill.   Shortly thereafter,
various members of the intelligence community approached Senator Richard
Shelby (R-AL), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and
suggested a substitute leak measure. Shelby threaten to strike the Moynihan
declassification board provision when the Senate took up the bill if the
retiring New York Senator and his colleagues did not agree to the new leak
language.  The consensus of many historians and many openness in government
advocates was that the leak-language in the redrafted Senate bill was still
objectionable, and that it would be better to see the Moynihan provision not
enacted this session than to see an objectionable leak provision pass

Fortunately, on December 6, by unanimous consent, the Senate passed a version
of the Intelligence Authorization Act that included the Moynihan
declassification board provision but not the leak statute.  On December 11,
the House agreed to the Senate version of the authorization bill.  On
December 15, the measure was presented to President Clinton for his action.
He is expected to sign the bill.

When President Clinton signs into law the omnibus appropriations bill that
provides $108.9 billion for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human
Services and Education, he will be authorizing a $50 million earmark for
history education (see Congressional Record-House; December 15, 2000; p.

The history of how this amendment came about is worth noting.  On June 27,
Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CONN), Slade Gorton (R-WA) together with
Representatives Thomas E. Petri (R-WIS) and George Miller (D-CA) unveiled a
Congressional Concurrent Resolution (S. Con. Res. 129; H. Con. Res. 366)
designed to draw attention to what Congressman Petri characterized as "the
troubling historical illiteracy of our next generation of leaders."  Their
resolution was based on the findings contained in "Losing America's Memory:
Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century," a report released by the American
Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).  According to the ACTA report, at 78
percent of the institutions surveyed, students are not required to take any
history at all and that it is was possible for students to graduate from 100
percent of the top colleges without taking a single course in American
history.  The resolution offered by the Congressmen, therefore, expressed
"the sense of Congress regarding the importance and value of United States
history."  It called upon boards of trustees, college administrators and
state officials to strengthen American history requirements in the nation's
schools, colleges and universities.

As a follow-up to the resolution, on June 30, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) then
offered an amendment (no. 3731) to the Senate version of the FY 2001 Labor,
Health and Human Services, and Education appropriation bill (H.R. 4577).  His
one-line amendment (actually hand-written by Byrd while sitting at his desk
on the Senate floor) sought to provide $50 million to the Secretary of
Education to award grants to states "to develop, implement, and strengthen
programs that teach American history (not social studies) as a separate
subject within school curricula."  The grant money was earmarked for states
to support the development of history programs in secondary schools.
According to Senate sources, however, the amendment is written broadly enough
to give the Secretary of Education discretion to use funds for the support of
post-secondary history education programs as well.

The amendment was approved by a 98-0 margin in the Senate and was supported
by the Clinton administration. However, because there was no similar language
in the House passed version of the Labor/H&HS/Education bill, funding was not
assured.  The amendment was addressed by conferees when they met to resolve
differences between the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill.
On July 20, conferees were appointed; a letter under the signature of the
executive directors of the Organization of American Historians, the American
Historical Association and the National Coordinating Committee for the
Promotion of History was sent to all the conferees expressing support for the
amendment by the historical community.

Ultimately, the conferees adopted the Byrd amendment but for months the
conference report was held victim to legislative maneuvering - the timing of
its release was (according to one staffer) to be "a political decision."
Only when the final budget agreement was reached last week, was the
historical community assured that the funding would be forthcoming.

Representatives of the historical community have already met with Department
of Education officials about the expenditure of the funds; discussions will
continue in the coming weeks.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, Project on Government
Secrecy newsletter, during the December meeting of the State Department
Historical Advisory Committee, that body capitulated to pressure from the
Central Intelligence Agency and continued to decline to release minutes from
its July, 2000 meeting.  The Committee did release the minutes from its
September, 2000, meeting, albeit in a truncated form.  Instead of the usual
detailed minutes, a three-page "Summary of Proceedings" was released.
Withheld were details of policy discussions focusing on the CIA's efforts to
declassify and release 30-year-old historical records. The summary of the
September, 2000, meeting may be found at:

Item #1 - New Website: The Society of American Archivists (SAA) has a new
section website of interest to archivists of government records.  At present
it is not linked to the SAA site. To view it visit:

Item #2 - New FRUS Volume:  The office of the Historian, U.S. Department of
State, has released a new volume: "Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Vol. XXV,
South Asia" (ISBN 0-16-049945-3). The volume documents U.S. policy with
respect to various South Asian regional problems and efforts to forestall
Soviet and Chinese Communist inroads into this section of the world during
the Johnson administration.  A summary of the volume will soon be available.
For more information contact FRUS General Editor, David S. Patterson, at
(202) 663-1127 or tap into the history office's web page at

Item #3 - Jefferson Day 2001: The Jefferson Day Lecture is scheduled for
March 26, 2001, at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  The name of the
lecturer will be announced by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
in January.  The lecture is one of the central events of a two-day advocacy
effort sponsored by the humanities community to garner support for the NEH.
For one full day NEH advocates lobby members of the House of Representatives
and U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill and express their support for NEH programs
and initiatives.
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