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This Johnson-era PDB, dated 29 May 1967, was officially declassified by the CIA through the Johnson Library this month, contrary to CIA policy.


Professor Sues CIA for President's Daily Briefs

Vietnam Expert Seeks Historic PDBs from Johnson Years;
Challenges CIA Blanket Policy of Non-Release

Davis Wright Tremaine and National Security Archive
Represent UC Davis's Larry Berman in Freedom of Information Lawsuit

Suit Cites Bush and Clinton PDBs Included in 9/11 Report,
Previous LBJ Briefs Released Before CIA Set Policy

Posted 23 December 2004
(Updated 24 February 2005)

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For more information: Professor Larry Berman 202/974-6202
Thomas Burke/Duffy Carolan, Davis Wright Tremaine 415/276-6500
Meredith Fuchs/Thomas Blanton, National Security Archive 202/994-7000

Davis, CA, 23 December 2004 - University of California, Davis professor Larry Berman today filed suit against the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, seeking release of historic President's Daily Briefs given to President Johnson during the Vietnam War.

Represented by the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine and by the National Security Archive of George Washington University, Vietnam expert Berman is challenging the CIA's "blanket policy" of refusing to release any PDBs, even historic or innocuous ones that risk no damage to national security.

"The 9/11 Commission had to fight tooth and nail to get excerpts from PDBs about the threat from bin Ladin," commented Professor Berman, the author of three books on the Vietnam War. "But ten PDBs from the Johnson era came out before the CIA imposed its stonewall policy. Together, these releases prove that the PDBs should be reviewed and declassified like any other records, not set aside in a permanently closed vault."

The previously released Briefs, including a 1998 PDB to President Clinton and a 2001 PDB to President Bush on bin Ladin (which were published in the 9/11 Commission Report), are posted on the National Security Archive website, at www.nsarchive.org/pdbnews, together with the Archive's previous reporting on the PDB issue.

The CIA's denial of Berman's FOIA request claimed that the PDBs were predecisional documents protected by deliberative process privilege; but the lawsuit points out that the CIA is precluded by law from giving the President policy advice. The available PDBs are purely factual documents reporting on world developments six days a week.

"We are bringing this lawsuit with Professor Berman because the President's Daily Brief has become a secrecy fetish on the part of the CIA and the White House," said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel of the National Security Archive. "The CIA policy distorts history and undermines the credibility of the secrets that should be kept."

Davis Wright Tremaine attorney Thomas Burke commented, "After nearly four decades of secrecy, historians and the public are entitled to learn what President Johnson was told by the nation's intelligence agency about events in the Vietnam War. There are no credible national security concerns, only the opportunity to learn from this nation's history."

The National Security Archive today also posted the latest Johnson-era Daily Brief that was officially declassified by the CIA through the Johnson Library this month, contrary to CIA policy. The 29 May 1967 Top Secret document was in the form of a cable from the White House Situation Room to the communications facility on the LBJ ranch outside San Antonio, and did not carry the letterhead announcing "President's Daily Brief."

"There is simply no legal justification for the CIA's blanket policy of withholding all PDBs. The PDBs Professor Berman seeks are purely historical documents devoid of any present day national security concerns," explained Davis Wright Tremaine attorney Duffy Carolan.


Documents
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Previously Released PDBs

Previously Released PDBs from the Johnson Era (Exhibit A)

President's Daily Brief, 25 April 1967
Source: Declassified by the Johnson Library, 10 December 2004

President's Daily Brief, 29 May 1967
Source: Declassified by the Johnson Library, 2 December 2004

President's Daily Brief, "Subject: Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks," 4 December 1998
Source: 9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 4, pp. 128-129

President's Daily Brief, "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US," 6 August 2001
Source: Declassified 10 April 2004

Legal Complaint and Exhibits

Complaint - Larry Berman, Plaintiff v. Central Intelligence Agency, Defendant.
Complaint for Declatory and Injunctive Relief for Violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Filed 23 December 2004

Exhibit A - Previously released PDBs from the Johnson era

Exhibit B - 1998 PDB to President Clinton and 2001 PDB to President Bush on bin Ladin

Exhibit C - Larry Berman, Freedom of Information Act Request to CIA, 3 March 2004

Exhibit D - CIA, Letter to Larry Berman Acknowleldging 3 March Request, 17 March 2004

Exhibit E - CIA, Letter to Larry Berman Denying 3 March Request, 15 April 2004

Exhibit F - Larry Berman, Letter to CIA Appealing 15 April Denial, 6 May 2004

Exhibit G - CIA, Letter to Larry Berman Accepting 6 May Appeal, 13 May 2004

Exhibit H - CIA, Letter to Larry Berman Denying 6 May Appeal, 21 June 2004

 

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