The ISIS Files Mission Statement and Code of Ethics

Mission Statement

The ISIS Files digital repository was established as a key resource on the activities of the Islamic State.  In doing so, it aims to assist a range of stakeholders in better understanding how the group came to control and subsequently govern significant portions of territory in Syria and Iraq. The files comprise a digital repository of primary sources that offers important insights for victims of the organization, researchers, academics, journalists, and practitioners.

Code of Ethics

Professional Responsibility and the Public Interest

As caretakers of these historic documents, we are acutely aware of the important social role of repositories and recognize their value to the public interest. The key underlying principle that shapes our work is that in archiving The ISIS Files, we will endeavor to do no harm. More specifically, every measure has been taken to ensure that no individual is placed in any form of danger. In order to live up to this principle and adhere to the best practices in the field, publication was preceded by 18 months of research and consultations, with some 300 institutions and experts from a broad array of related disciplines. Immediately after digitization of the files, the original copies of the documents were hand-delivered by The New York Times to the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Washington, D.C. The ISIS Files project does not hold any original documents.

All possible efforts were made to preserve and present the information contained in the ISIS Files in an accurate and impartial manner. In particular, we aim for the following:

  • To preserve the integrity of the documents and make them available in their original and unadulterated format.
  • To ensure unbiased open access to the documents while respecting data and privacy concerns of those named and identified in them.
  • To promote awareness of the availability of the documents, their historical importance, and context.
  • To remain current with the evolution of archival ethics and ensure all staff working on the repository maintain new standards as they are set.
  • To develop and maintain an in-depth and up-to-date understanding of legislation and codes of best practice related to records, repositories, and archives.


In order to honor these guiding principles, in particular Do No Harm, the protection of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) found within these documents is of paramount importance. 

Examples of data that are redacted in the ISIS Files public-facing online platform include but are not limited to the following:

  • Full names
  • Day and month of birth
    • Year of birth will not be redacted.
  • Numerical addresses and other identifiable residential information
    • Towns and cities will not be redacted.
  • Occupations (on a case-by-case basis)
  • Email addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Credit card/banking information
  • License plate numbers
  • Photos of individuals
  • Biometric data including fingerprints
  • Pseudonyms: usually in the form of a kunya, or nom de guerre, adopted by ISIS members to anonymize themselves.
    • Will be fully redacted when associated with any other PII.
    • Will be semi redacted when listed as a signatory of a file.
    • Will remain unredacted with the individual is an Emir or known to be deceased.
    • All other instances will be discussed on a case by case basis.

This list is not exhaustive and may be supplemented as additional types of PII emerge in document analysis.