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FAQs on the 9/11 Commission Records

When will the records be available?
The records of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) are housed in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. The initial opening will be held on January 14, 2009. Subsequent releases will occur as the remainder of the collection is processed.


Why were the records not open until January 14, 2009?
On 20 August 2004, 9/11 Commission Co-Chairs Kane and Hamilton encouraged the Archivist of the United States "...to conduct a systematic review of the records that are not currently available to the public with the goal of releasing to the public as much information as is allowable by law and regulation on January 2, 2009, or as soon thereafter as possible." This request was a direct result of deliberations by the Commissioners at a 21 July 2004 meeting. The result was a vote to allow public access to these records, to the fullest extent of the law, beginning January 2, 2009, or as soon thereafter as is possible. NARA was able to process a significant portion of the collection to be made available to the public on Wednesday, January 14.


Are any of these records online?
In addition to the Commission's web site, NARA has posted the released Memoranda for the Record (MFRs) online. The MFR series contains summaries of the interviews the Commission conducted with federal, State, and local employees, individuals from the private sector, and scholars.


Can I access the records without coming to Washington, DC?
The MFRs that are processed are also available online. For those researchers who cannot visit the National Archives, we accept reference requests via mail, fax, e-mail, or telephone. Your request should be specific and, ideally, should cite particular folders from the online folder title lists. The National Archives charges a reproduction fee for all copies provided to the public. Details of the NARA fee schedule are available on our website.


Is there a list of all the people the Commission interviewed?
Some of the interviewees hold or formerly held sensitive positions that do not allow their names and/or details of their activities to be released. Consequently, the list available online with some names protected is the only list available at this time.


Why are the interviews with New York City first responders closed?
To facilitate interviews with New York City first responders, the Commission entered into an agreement with the City to keep the interviews confidential for a period of at least 25 years. The National Archives is honoring that agreement. The MFRs of certain high-ranking New York City officials as well as former mayor Rudolph Giuliani have been reviewed and released.


I'm finding withdrawal notices in the boxes. What are those?
The Commission records that were withdrawn or redacted fall within one or more of the specific exemptions listed in our review guidelines. The majority of the withdrawn items have been removed for reasons of national security. Non-textual records such as audiocassettes or CDs have also been removed from the boxes and replaced with a withdrawal notice.


How can I access the withdrawn records?
If the withdrawal notice indicates the record is classified, you may file a mandatory declassification review request (MDR) for that item. Please keep in mind that NARA does not have declassification authority for these records -- the agency whose information is in the document must review it for declassification. Due to the complex coordination review process, declassification review may take several years to complete. For access to information that is not classified, researchers must submit a review request for specific documents. All requests must be submitted to the Center for Legislative Archives.


Can I file a Freedom of Information Act request for these records?
No. The Commission was established in the legislative branch and legislative branch records are not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provisions. FOIA only applies to records of the executive branch and Presidential Records Act records.


How can I appeal a disclosure decision?
NARA has established guidelines for appealing disclosure decisions. For access to information that is not classified, submit a review request for specific documents to the Center for Legislative Archives.


Do you have any audiovisual records?
Yes. The Commission compiled approximately 1,700 discrete audiovisual items, primarily audiocassettes of air traffic control recordings. These records have not been processed and must be preserved and screened prior to release. At this time, the records are not in a format that allows them to be readily available to the public. NARA has established a working group to develop a system whereby we can preserve and process these records. The working group will begin its work later in 2009. The video of the Commission's hearings is accessible on the Commission's website.


Where are the Commission's electronic records?
The Commission created more than a terabyte of electronic data, including word processing files and e-mails (both classified and unclassified). While the electronic versions of these records are not yet available, many of the documents were printed by Commission staff and were filed with the textual records. NARA has preserved the electronic records, but has not yet screened them for research. This process is expected to begin in 2009 after development of the infrastructure to process and review these records.


Are other 9/11 Commission records in NARA custody?
Yes. Approximately 150 cubic feet of records are publicly available, which represents 35% of the Commission's archived textual records. Due to the collection’s volume and the high percentage of national security classified files, NARA staff were unable to process the entire collection by January 2009. As a result NARA made the decision to focus on the unclassified series of the collection, which contain most of the unique documents created by the Commission that reveal the scope of the investigation and the internal workings of the Commission and its staff.


NARA will continue to process the remaining 420 cubic feet. These files contain primarily copies of the documents produced by federal agencies in response to requests by the Commission, many of which are highly classified. The originals of some of these documents are still in the custody of the creating agencies and in some cases have been reviewed and released by the originating agency under the provisions of the FOIA.

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