Federal Panel Evaluating Need for Continued 28 Pages Secrecy

The movement to declassify a finding on foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers might be strengthened soon: A federal panel is reviewing the censored 28-page chapter of the report of a Congressional joint inquiry into 9/11 and is expected to make a recommendation to President Obama in the coming months.

Attorney Tom Julin: Advocate for 28 Pages Transparency
Attorney Tom Julin: Making the Case for 28 Pages Transparency

The review of the redacted chapter on sources of foreign support of the September 11 terrorists is being conducted under a process called Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR), and was initiated by attorney Tom Julin on behalf of Dan Christensen, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan. Christensen is the editor of FloridaBulldog.org, and has been working to learn what the FBI knows about a 9/11 cell in Sarasota; Summers and Swan are investigative journalists and authors of the Pulitzer Prize-finalist The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11.

Understanding the MDR Process

MDR is a multi-tiered process that begins with a request to an agency to review a specific classified document and consider releasing it. It was created by an executive order issued by President Clinton, and can now be found in Executive Order 13526 (see Sec. 3.5).

The 28 pages request was directed to the Department of Justice, which failed to respond within the deadline imposed by the process. Ultimately, Julin appealed to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel, or ISCAP. The highest authority in the MDR process, ISCAP agreed to review the 28 pages for declassification. At a Nov. 11 event, Julin said he’d been told to expect the panel’s recommendation to President Obama sometime this winter.

A few weeks before that event, nine members of Congress who’ve read the censored chapter sent a letter to ISCAP urging their release, saying “we firmly believe that declassification of the 28 pages would enhance, not harm, U.S. national security interests.”

Under the rules governing the ISCAP review, a recommendation to declassify a document “requires the affirmative vote of at least a majority of the members present.” The panel consists of senior level representatives appointed by:

  • The Department of State
  • The Department of Defense
  • The Department of Justice
  • The National Archives
  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence
  • The National Security Advisor

In addition, the director of the CIA can opt to appoint a voting member to the panel where information that originated with the CIA is in question.

Anticipating the Verdict

Eyeing the ISCAP “jury box” and contemplating the governmental constituencies each member represents, it’s far from certain the panel will side with so many authoritative figures on the 28 pages and acknowledge there’s no national security justification for the blanket redaction of this entire chapter of the congressional joint inquiry’s report.

And even if the panel does reach the same conclusion of the chairs of the 9/11 Commission and the Senate co-chairs of the joint inquiry, it’s important to emphasize that the word “mandatory” in the name of the process refers to the review and not to the declassification—the panel’s verdict is but a recommendation to the president, one may be accompanied by a final, urgent appeal for secrecy from a government agency. It would, however, be the most powerful such recommendation to date, one that would add substantial pressure on the president to honor the commitment he made to 9/11 family members and release the 28 pages—while further eroding the credibility of those who say they must remain secret.

The Mandatory Declassification Review is a very important and intriguing front in the fight to finally release the 28 pages, but it’s not the only one: If you want to know what’s in the 28 pages, it’s critical that you make your voice heard on this issue from Capitol Hill to the White House—right now, while you’re thinking about it.

REDACTED w911Add your voice to the growing, bipartisan movement to declassify the 28 pages.

Join the movement by following 28Pages.org on Twitter and Facebook.