Public Interest Declassification Board

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The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) is an advisory committee established by the United States Congress with the official mandate of promoting 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 of the United States and one each appointed by the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader. Appointees must be U.S. citizens preeminent in the fields of history, national security, foreign policy, intelligence policy, social science, law, or archives.

Established by the Public Interest Declassification Act of 2000 (Title VII of P.L. 106-567, 114 Stat. 2856), the board advises the President of the United States regarding issues pertaining to national classification and declassification policy. Section 1102 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 extended and modified the Board.

The director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) serves as the executive secretary of the PIDB, and ISOO staff provides support on a reimbursable basis.

Functions[edit]

  • Advises the President and other executive branch officials on the systematic, thorough, coordinated, and comprehensive identification, collection, review for declassification, and release of declassified records and materials that are of archival value, including records and materials of extraordinary public interest.
  • Promotes public access to thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary records of significant U.S. national security decisions and significant U.S. national security activities in order to: support the oversight and legislative functions of Congress; support the policymaking role of the executive branch; respond to the interest of the public in national security matters; and promote reliable historical analysis and new avenues of historical study in national security matters.
  • Provides recommendations to the President for the identification, collection, and review for declassification of information of public interest that would not undermine U.S. national security
  • Advises executive branch officials on policies deriving from Executive orders regarding the classification and declassification of national security information.
  • Makes recommendations to the President regarding congressional committee requests to declassify certain records or to reconsider a declination to declassify specific records.

Board members[edit]

By-Laws[edit]

The Board is assigned functions and membership by the Public Interest Declassification Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-567, December 27, 2000) as amended by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, notably section 703.

The U.S. President selects the Chairperson from among the members. The members may elect from among the members a Vice Chairperson who fills in when the Chairperson is not present.

Meetings of the Board are only official when a quorum is present, which by law is a majority of the members. Such meetings of the board are by law generally open to the public. In those instances where the Board finds it necessary to conduct business at a closed meeting, attendance at meetings of the Board shall be limited to those persons necessary for the Board to fulfill its functions in a complete and timely manner, as determined by the Chairperson. The Executive Secretary is responsible for the preparation of each meeting's minutes and the distribution of draft minutes to members. Approved minutes will be maintained among the records of the Board.

Decisions can be made by Board votes at meetings or by the membership outside the context of a formal Board meeting. The Executive Secretary shall record and retain such votes in a documentary form and immediately report the results to the Chairperson and other members.

The staff of NARA's Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) provide program and administrative support for the Board and the office director serves as Executive Secretary to the Board. The Board may seek detailees from its member agencies to augment the staff of the Information Security Oversight Office in support of the Board.

Board records are maintained by the Executive Secretary. Freedom of Information Act requests and other requests for a document that originated within an agency other than the Board are referred to that agency.

Article VIII sets forth the procedures for considering a proper request under the Act from a committee of jurisdiction in the Congress for the Board to make a recommendation to the President regarding the declassification of certain records.

Standards for decision. A recommendation to declassify a record in whole or in part requires a determination by the Board, after careful consideration of the views of the original classifying authority, that declassification is in the public interest. A decision to recommend declassification in whole or in part requires the affirmative vote of a majority of a quorum of the Board, and of no less than four members of the Board, and the vote of each member present shall be recorded. Resolution of Requests. The Board may recommend that the President: (1) take no action pursuant to the request; (2) declassify the record(s) in whole or in part, pursuant to action taken in accordance with paragraph C; or (3) remand the matter to the agency responsible for the record(s) for further consideration and a timely response to the Board. Notification. The Chair shall promptly convey to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and to the agency head responsible for the record(s), the Board's recommendation, including a written justification for its recommendation. The approval and amendment of these bylaws shall require the affirmative vote of at least five of the Board's members. The Executive Secretary shall submit the approved bylaws and their amendments for publication in the Federal Register. Protection of Classified Information. Any classified information contained in the request file shall be handled and protected in accordance with the Order and its implementing directives. Information that is subject to a request for declassification under this section shall remain classified unless and until a final decision is made by the President or by the agency head responsible for the record(s) to declassify it.

Decisions to declassify and release information rest with the President or the agency responsible for the records, not this Board.

The Board reports annually to Congress. Amendments to the Board's bylaws are published in the Federal Register.

Meetings[edit]

2009 2008 2007 2006
July 8, 2009 October 31, 2008 June 22, 2007 November 13, 2006
September 27, 2008 April 27, 2007 October 13, 2006
March 17, 2008 February 24,2007 September 9,2006
January 19, 2007 July 14, 2006
December 15, 2006 June 23, 2006
May 9, 2006
April 1, 2006
February 25, 2006

Declassification Policy Forum[edit]

On May 27, 2009, President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum ordering the review of Executive Order 12958, as amended "Classified National Security Information". The review of the Order is to be completed within 90 days. On June 2, 2009, the National Security Advisor asked the PIDB to assist in this review by soliciting recommendations for revisions to the Order to ensure adequate public input as the review moves forward.

The PIDB was soliciting recommendations via the Declassification Policy Forum, here.

The four topics of discussion were:

  • Declassification Policy
  • Creation of a National Declassification Center
  • Classification Policy
  • Technology Challenges and Opportunities

The Forum had a very productive discussion and received more than 150 thoughtful comments from members of the public. The Public Interest Declassification Board has sent a letter and a summary of the comments to the National Security Advisor.

It ran from June 29 through July 19, 2009.

Reports[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]