February 28, 2006
Public Interest Declassification Board Holds First Meeting: Document Withdrawal from the National Archives a Serious Concern
Washington, DC…The withdrawal of historical documents from the open shelves of the National Archives initiated by some national security agencies was a focus of the inaugural meeting of the Public Interest Declassification Board held in Washington, DC on February 25, 2006.
L. Britt Snider, appointed by President Bush to Chair the Board, stressed that the Board is charged with responsibility for promoting the greatest possible access to the documentary record of our democracy, while recognizing legitimate national security concerns. He said, "There is a critical balance between classification and openness to be struck, and we look forward to reaching out, not only to government officials, but to researchers, historians, academics, journalists, public interest groups, and members of the general public - to everyone with an interest in strengthening our democracy as we collectively seek to fulfill that balance. We take seriously the mandate for openness with which we have been entrusted, and we believe profoundly that the Public Interest Declassification Board is precisely that - a board operating in the public's interest."
With this in mind, much of the Board's discussion on Saturday concerned recent reports about the withdrawal of documents, including many of great interest to the historical community, by various agencies entrusted with national security responsibilities. The Board welcomed the Archivist's initiative in launching a 60 day audit of these activities, and indicated that they plan to meet again as early as possible to discuss its results, and their implications for the future.
The Public Interest Declassification Board is an advisory committee established by Congress in order to promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities. The Board is composed of nine individuals, five appointed by the President and four by the Congressional leadership. In addition to Mr. Snider, the President appointed Martin Faga, Steven Garfinkel, Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, and Richard Norton Smith. The Minority Leader of the House appointed David Skaggs and the Majority Leader of the Senate appointed Joan Vail Grimson. Appointments are pending from the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader of the Senate.
The Board is scheduled to meet again on the first Saturday in April. While its work may necessarily require some closed sessions (as is the case with its next meeting), the Board intends to meet in open session as much as possible.
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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 202-357-5300.