Today the CIA and the LBJ Library are releasing online a collection of 2,500 declassified President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs) from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The PDBs are Top Secret documents containing the most current and significant intelligence information that the CIA believes that the President needs to know, and are records that CIA Director George Tenet once claimed could never be released for publication “no matter how old or historically significant it may be,” and that White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer described as “the most highly sensitized classified document in the government.”
The release of this collection of PDBs comes eight years after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the National Security Archive and Professor Larry Berman, then a professor of political science at University of California Davis, now based at Georgia State University, in his efforts to obtain the disclosure of two Presidential Daily Briefs written for President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s. Professor Berman and the Archive were represented by Thomas R. Burke and Duffy Carolan of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in San Francisco, CA. In its ruling, the Court noted –without viewing the documents– that their disclosure could “reveal protected intelligence sources and methods.” The Court rejected, however, the CIA’s “attempt to create a per se status exemption for PDBs.”
At the time of the 2007 ruling, Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs said that while disappointed with the Court’s decision, “Our goal in this litigation was to force the agency to conduct a genuine review and assess the true sensitivity of each document. We hope the Agency will take the Court’s analysis to heart and do the right thing in the future.”
Eight years after Professor Berman filed suit, that genuine review has finally happened. It shows that the CIA's previous dire claims that PDBs were "uniquely sensitive" and non-segregable were untrue.
Today the National Security Archive is proud to post a compilation of our ongoing work to shed light on these important documents. The collection is comprised of dozens of records and the Ninth Circuit Court ruling, which paved the way for today’s disclosure.