The declassification and release today (November 9, 2022) of the interview with President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney conducted by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) follows recommendations long advocated by the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB). The release of the transcript addresses one of the PIDB’s mandates, to release records and materials of extraordinary public interest.
The declassified transcript of the interview is now available at: https://www.archives.gov/files/declassification/iscap/pdf/2012-163-doc-1-release-material.pdf.
“The release of this historical record regarding then President Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s actions in the period leading up to, and immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attack, is an important step towards additional public transparency. The Board thanks all members of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), who diligently participated in the declassification review, and made it possible for this important historical record to be released to the public. We hope that in the coming months additional records regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks will be declassified, consistent with President Biden’s September 2021 order. The resource-intensive process required to release this record highlights the need to reform and streamline the entire declassification process,” said Chair Ezra Cohen.
The historical significance of the interviews with President Bush and Vice President Cheney were highlighted in discussions with former 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick, and the former 9/11 Commission Executive Director, University of Virginia Professor Philip Zelikow, at the PIDB virtual public meeting held on May 18, 2021. Over 4,000 viewers clicked into that live-stream event, which is available for access on demand via the NARA YouTube Channel.
On July 30, 2021, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the PIDB submitted a letter to President Joe Biden recommending a list of 9/11 Commission records for prioritized declassification and public release. In addition to the interviews with Bush and Cheney, the PIDB request included interviews with President William J. Clinton and Vice President Albert Gore; interviews with the National Security Advisors Condolezza Rice and Sandy Berger; and government counter-terrorism experts Richard Clarke and Michael Scheuer; as well as a 7,000-word report created for the 9/11 commission by Gorelick and Zelikow, which provides a summary and analysis of information contained in the President’s Daily Briefs from the Clinton and Bush administrations pertaining to the efforts by the Al-Qaida terrorist group to advance terrorist attacks leading up to 9/11.
Following the PIDB’s recommendation, President Biden issued an executive order on September 03, 2021 targeting the declassification of certain 9/11 investigatory files and stressing that information collected and generated in the United States Government’s investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks should now be disclosed, except when the strongest possible reasons counsel otherwise.
At a subsequent PIDB virtual public meeting on March 30, 2022, the Board members reiterated their view that it is in the public interest to declassify 9/11 Commission records to the greatest extent possible.
Established under the Public Interest Declassification Act of 2000, as amended, the PIDB continues to provide and consider recommendations to the President on the systematic, coordinated, and comprehensive identification, collection, review for declassification, and release of declassified records and materials of historic value. In accordance with its mandate, the PIDB’s advice to the President seeks to promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of historically significant national security activities in support of fact-based analysis, public discussion, the improvement of executive branch policy, and more effective oversight and legislation from Congress.