The Iran-Contra Affair, 1983-1988
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Oliver North and Brendan Sullivan confer during the Iran-Contra hearing (Wally McNamee, Folio Inc.).


The Iran-Contra Affair.

Research Problem

How to recover the complete documentary record, the thousands of "secret" materials ranging from corporate ledgers to the most highly-classified memoranda of the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency? How to grasp the still-elusive whole--fine points of plans and operations on four continents, as well as broad issues of foreign policy, Executive authority, and the Constitutional process?

Solution: The National Security Archive

The National Security Archive, a non-profit research institute and library in Washington, D.C., has for several years been diligently locating, obtaining declassification of, organizing, and indexing high-level documents on Iran-Contra and many other contemporary U.S. foreign-policy subjects.

Through systematic document searching, sophisticated use of the Freedom of Information Act, cultivation of an extensive network of government, media, and academic contacts, and computer-based cataloging, the Archive has developed an unmatchable collection of primary materials--comprehensive in scope, pioneering in organization.

Now, through a cooperative publishing program with Chadwyck-Healey, this resource, once available only to Washington insiders, becomes available in fully-indexed form to researchers everywhere.

Comprehensive Coverage

The Iran-Contra Affair: The Making of a Scandal: 1983-1988 reproduces on microfiche over 20,000 pages of rarely-seen documentation from the government as well as the private sector.

Many of these acquisitions are derived from the official bodiesinvestigating the Iran-Contra Affair, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Tower Commission, the joint select Congressional committees, and the Independent Counsel. In addition, the Archive has moved well beyond official investigative documentation through hundreds of its own Freedom of Information Act requests, and through materials provided by scholars, journalists, and even players in the scandal.

The result is a uniquely integrated, thorough history of the policies, operations, and investigations that constituted the Affair, from the autumn of 1983 when Congress first put limits on official U.S. assistance to the Contras, to the criminal indictments of Oliver North, John Poindexter, Richard Secord, and Albert Hakim in spring, 1988.

Documents include:

  • Memos
  • Briefing papers
  • Reports
  • Cables
  • Meeting notes
  • Computer messages
  • Statements
  • Court records
  • Press Briefings
  • Letters
  • Legal depositions
  • Presidential Findings
  • Phone logs
  • Bank records
  • Hearings
  • Notebook entries
  • Corporate papers
  • Intelligence Reports

  • One-Stop Retrieval

    It would take an individual researcher years of work, along with an overwhelming financial commitment, to accumulate the resources offered in this collection. Here is the first one-stop retrieval for information on events and players, government and non-government, American, Nicaraguan, Iranian, Israeli, and many other nationalities.

    Materials from the White House and National Security Council, lie at the core of the collection. But important segments also come from many other government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the F.B.I., Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Treasury, and Transportation, General Accounting Office, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Aviation Administration, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Congress, and U.S. District courts.

    Moreover, the collection contains a wealth of documentation from groups that formed the private sector arm of these covert operations, such as the National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty, International Business Communications, and others.

    Unprecedented Access Through In-depth Indexing

    In-depth, document-level indexing gives researchers a quality of access that is rare for any published manuscript collection, government or non-government. Important transactions within each document are indexed individually. Prepared by the National Security Archive staff, the hard-bound index to names, organizations, and subjects--designed by indexing specialist David Bearman--is a major historical contribution in itself.

    Also provided are:

    Events chronology
    Glossaries of key individuals and organizations
    Chronological document bibliography
    Bibliography of relevant secondary sources

    Documentary Breakthroughs

    No previously-published account of the Iran-Contra Affair gives researchers such consistent access to the innermost councils of executive authority.

    Among the remarkable documents here, for example, are minutes of Restricted Inter-Agency Group and National Security Planning Group meetings, top-secret Presidential covert action Findings, and multiple drafts of National Security Decision Directives, which highlight the internal bureaucratic processes in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy. Many of the documents included represent whole categories of government materials that have never been declassified before.

    Research Vistas

    The collection's documentary richness and balance of perspectives offer researchers fresh insights on:

  • U.S. covert actions in Central America and the Middle East
  • The continuing mysteries of the Affair, left unresolved by the 1987 hearings
  • Interactions among U.S. officials, private organizations, and Contra leaders
  • Shifting needs and perceptions in U.S.-lranian and Israeli-Iranian relations
  • Divisions within the Executive Branch over approaches to revolution and terrorism
  • The machinery of intelligence analysis and decision-making in national security agencies
  • The Affair as a test case for the effectiveness of Congressional oversight of intelligence activities

  • The Collection Will Be A Necessity For

  • Scholars of American government and international relations
  • Legal affairs analysts
  • Specialists on the Middle East, Latin America, and theThird World
  • Intelligence and policy analysts
  • Librarians and bibliographers
  • Newspapers, radio, television reporters and commentators
  • Government and business consultants
  • Concerned citizens

  • Sample Document Titles

    This is a sampling of the more than 4000 documents included in The Iran-Contra Affair :The Making of a Scandal 1983-1988:



    The Iran Contra-Affair: The Making of a Scandal, 1983-1988


    Reproduces on microfiche over 20,000 pages of documentation, much of it highly-classified, pertaining to the Iran-Contra Affair,1983-1988.

    Materials were identified, obtained, assembled, and indexed by the National Security Archive, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit research institute and library.


    This title is Number 3 of a reference series, The Making of US. Policy


    Documents are arranged in a general chronological order. Each document bears a unique accession number, to which all indexing is keyed.


    A two-volume printed Guide, prepared by the National Security Archive, accompanies the microfiche collection. Volume I is an index providing in-depth, document-level access to names, organizations, and subjects.

    Volume II contains an events chronology, glossaries of names and organizations, a chronological document bibliography, and a bibliography of secondary sources.

    Date of Publication:

    Orders and Inquiries

    Iran-Contra Editorial Board

  • Loch Johnson Professor of Political Science University of Georgia
  • Nikki Keddie Professor of History University of California, Los Angeles
  • Kenneth Sharpe Associate Professor of Political Science Swarthmore College
  • Gary Sick Adjunct Professor of Middle East Politics Columbia University
  • Malcolm Byrne Project Coordinator National Security Archive
  • Peter Kornbluh Project Coordinator National Security Archive
  • Jeff Nason Project Analyst National Security Archive

  • Praise for The Iran-Contra Affair, 1983-1988

    "The National Security Archive represents an idea so obvious--once you think of it--that it instantly makes the transition from novelty to necessity The desirability of collecting in one location all the declassified documentation on US. foreign policy is so compelling that we are certain to ask ourselves very soon how we managed to get along without it. (Document collections and indices such as this Iran-Contra collection) will make accessible to researchers everywhere a vast body of information that previously could be obtained and used only by a few skilled and dedicated researchers. All of us who have a professional interest in contemporary security and foreign policy issues can only rejoice at the appearance of this new institutional resource. "

    Gary Sick
    Adjunct Professor of Middle East Politics
    Columbia University
    Iran Specialist, National Security Council,
    Ford, Carter, and Reagan Administrations

    Return to National Security Archive Microfiche Sets.