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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 25, 1994


In light of a decision of the United States Court of Appeals that the recordkeeping status of the National Security Council (NSC) must now, for the first time, be addressed, the Justice Department today filed a brief in federal district court demonstrating that the NSC is a Presidential entity not appropriately considered an "agency" subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). At the same time, the President directed the NSC to establish procedures for access by the public to appropriate NSC records.

The brief was filed in federal district court in the District of Columbia in the case Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President. In August 1993, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court to determine the NSC's status under federal records statutes. The Court of Appeals noted that this question had not been determined by the courts.

As explained in the government's brief, the answer to this question is straightforward. The structure and functions of the NSC as set forth in the National Security Act of 1947, and the duties that every President has assigned to the Council through Presidential Directives and Executive Orders, demonstrate that the NSC and its staff exist solely to advise and assist the President in the discharge of his core constitutional responsibilities.

The President directed Anthony Lake, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and William Itoh, Executive Secretary of the NSC, to continue voluntarily the practice of making appropriate NSC documents available to the public. The President noted that he "strongly support(s) the policy of past Administrations of permitting public access to certain NSC records, and of leaving certain NSC records to the incoming Administration in order to ensure a smooth transition on national security matters".

The Administration's actions today will thus permit the NSC to continue the tradition of treating most NSC records as Presidential, while at the same time permitting the NSC to subject other records to public access requests under standards similar to the FOIA.

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