National Archives Releases Initial 9/11 Commission Records

On January 14, 2009, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) opened more than 150 cubic feet of records of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, known as the 9/11 Commission, an independent, bipartisan commission created by Congress. The records that were released represent 35% of the Commission’s archived textual records.

NARA has posted the released Memoranda for the Record (MFRs) online. The MFR series contains summaries of 709 interviews the 9/11 Commission conducted with federal, State, and local employees, individuals from the private sector, and scholars. These records also include information on the terrorists, past terrorist events, al Qaeda in general, and related subjects. The records also include information concerning the emergency responses to the attacks in New York City and Washington, DC.

Because some of the 9/11 Commission records contain current intelligence, highly classified information and sensitive privacy information, NARA decided to prioritize the processing of segments of the collection. The records in this initial release have been screened for personal privacy and national security. Summaries of the interviews with New York City First Responders are closed under an agreement reached between New York City and the Commission. Graphic personal details concerning the victims of the attacks have also been withheld.

There are approximately 570 cubic feet of 9/11 Commission textual records. NARA will continue the process of the declassifying the remaining 420 cubic feet of textual records. NARA is also addressing the technical and classification issues surrounding the Special Media Records collection that contains 1,700 audiovisual items. NARA must also preserve electronic records totaling approximately 1.3 terabytes such as hard drives, servers and e-mails. Prioritization of the remaining materials will be made after January 2009.

When the 9/11 Commission closed on August 21, 2004, it transferred legal custody of its records to the National Archives. Before it closed, the Commission voted to encourage the release its records to the fullest extent possible in January 2009. Because the Commission was part of the legislative branch, its records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).