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New Digital National Security Archive Collection Publishes Thousands of Declassified Nixon and Ford President’s Daily Briefs

July 27, 2020

By Claire Harvey 

The National Security Archive, with our partners at the scholarly publisher ProQuest, is publishing a new collection of declassified President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs) from the Nixon and Ford administrations. The collection, The President’s Daily Brief: Nixon, Ford, and the CIA, 1969-1977, offers researchers an unparalleled look into daily intelligence briefings provided to the White House by the CIA from 1969 to 1977.

The new comprehensive 28,300-page collection adds 2,527 documents to the Digital National Security Archive’s ongoing procurement of PDBs, which are Top Secret documents containing the most current and significant intelligence information that the CIA believes that the President needs to know. The PDBs are so sensitive that CIA Director George Tenet once claimed they could never be released for publication “no matter how old or historically significant it may be,” and former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer described the document as “the most highly sensitized classified document in the government.”

PDBs highlighted in this collection provide insight into the development of U.S. policy in response to major world events, security threats, and geopolitical conflicts of the Nixon-Ford era, many of which continue to influence global politics half a century later. The vast array of topics covered by the newly-declassified documents includes:

  • the prosecution of the Vietnam war, evolution of the Paris Peace talks, U.S. withdrawal, and the fall of Saigon;
  • the Laotian civil war;
  • the Cambodian civil war;
  • leadership changes in the Soviet Union and China;
  • détente and arms control negotiations, such as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks;
  • Richard Nixon’s visit to China;
  • Soviet military aid to the Middle East and Africa;
  • the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and Middle East peace negotiations;
  • the Jordan crisis;
  • the Lebanon civil war;
  • the escalation of international terrorism;
  • the Cyprus crisis and aftermath;
  • elections, coups, and civil unrest in Latin America, including the Chilean coup d’état;
  • the Carnation Revolution in Portugal and its impact on decolonization of Africa;
  • the Sino-Soviet dispute;
  • the Bangladesh revolution and the India-Pakistan war;
  • independence movements in Angola, Rhodesia, and Zimbabwe;
  • and the space race.

The dynamic collection showcases how the intelligence community fulfilled its most critical task– keeping the President informed. President Nixon, however, may have never even read the briefings included in this collection. His de facto intelligence advisor Henry Kissinger prepared a memorandum that was appended to the PDB each day, offering the President a summary of events Kissinger thought were of the most importance.

The documents in this collection were released by the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California in 2016, but only after years of litigation with the CIA. In 2004, the Archive joined then- University of California, Davis professor Larry Berman in a suit against the CIA after the agency denied the release of two PDBs written for President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s. Although the ruling did not result in the release of the records, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals shot down the CIA’s argument that the PDB should be categorically exempt from FOIA. Without a blanket exemption, the PDBs from the Nixon and Ford eras had to be considered for release. Despite this impetus of disclosure, the CIA took nearly 8 years to make the PDBs available to researchers and whole documents, passages, and pages remain heavily redacted.

The President’s Daily Brief: Nixon, Ford, and the CIA, 1969-1977 compliments the substantial collection of Archive documents from the Nixon-Ford era. Previous DNSA collections on the Nixon-Ford presidencies include “The Kissinger Transcripts: A verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1976, “The Kissinger Telephone Conversations: A verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1977”, and  The Kissinger Conversations, Supplement: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1977.

Check out this new DNSA collection, or arrange for a free trial through your library today.

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