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."
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,
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
"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
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
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Released PDBs from the Johnson Era (Exhibit A)
Daily Brief, 25 April 1967
Source: Declassified by the Johnson
Library, 10 December 2004
Daily Brief, 29 May 1967
Source: Declassified by the Johnson
Library, 2 December 2004
Daily Brief, "Subject: Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US
Aircraft and Other Attacks," 4 December 1998
9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 4, pp. 128-129
Daily Brief, "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US,"
6 August 2001
Declassified 10 April 2004
Complaint and Exhibits
- 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
A - Previously released PDBs from the Johnson era
B - 1998 PDB to President Clinton and 2001 PDB to President
Bush on bin Ladin
C - Larry Berman, Freedom of Information Act Request to CIA,
3 March 2004
D - CIA, Letter to Larry Berman Acknowleldging 3 March Request,
17 March 2004
E - CIA, Letter to Larry Berman Denying 3 March Request, 15
F - Larry Berman, Letter to CIA Appealing 15 April Denial, 6
G - CIA, Letter to Larry Berman Accepting 6 May Appeal, 13 May
H - CIA, Letter to Larry Berman Denying 6 May Appeal, 21 June