The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) promotes the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities. The PIDB reviews and makes recommendations to the President for the identification, collection, and review for declassification of information of extraordinary public interest.
In anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the PIDB has written to President Biden and urged that he direct the Executive branch to prioritize the declassification and public release of certain high public value and historically significant records created by the 9/11 Commission. Despite their significance, these records have never been declassified or made available to the public. They include interview transcripts from discussions with former Presidents and Vice Presidents, interview records from discussions with counterterrorism and national security experts from the Bush administration, and a comprehensive summary and analysis of relevant passages from the President’s Daily Brief.
The PIDB members developed this prioritized list after meeting with records custodians and archivists, subject matter experts, and members and staff of the 9/11 Commission. The PIDB also hosted a virtual public meeting in May that generated significant public interest with over 1,000 people tuning in to the YouTube Live broadcast. Before and after this meeting, the PIDB received letters from the public and comments on their Transforming Classification blog supporting transparency. The PIDB learned that the 9/11 Commissioners wanted to the Government to declassify these records and others in the 9/11 Commission records collection to the maximum degree possible and as soon as possible. They also learned that these specific records have been subject to multiple researcher-driven requests and the members believe that their public release would add greatly to the documentary record of the U.S. government’s activities leading up to and following the attacks.
The PIDB recommends that the Executive branch prioritize these records for declassification and public access. The members stand ready to discuss these records with the President or his designee. They also are prepared to discuss the greater need for reforms to our classification and declassification system that will provide the transparency necessary for promoting accountability and providing information for the American people.