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C-SPAN visits the National Security Archive for FOIA@50
Posted July 8, 2016


Documentary "The Making of History" Features the National Security Archive in 1998


1987“Must Reading”
Archive Founding Director Scott Armstrong Featured in Time Magazine on June 1, 1987

About the National Security Archive

30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action


"Carnegie Results: The National Security Archive"

Explore declassified U.S. government documents, photographs, and more relating to Area 51, the Cuban Missile Crisis and more in this publication of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Click to view



‘Kicking and screaming’: 50 years of FOIA
By Philip Eil, July 1, 2016

Eyes Only: [redacted]
By Peter Carlson, The Washington Post, May 8, 2008

Open Secrets
By David C. Anderson, Ford Foundation Report, Summer 2000

The Best Secret Tellers in Washington Washington is a city of secrets. Some old; some new. There are few institutions devoted to the mission of prying these secrets from the filing cabinets of a... By David Corn
December 9, 2005

Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents ("the world's largest nongovernmental collection" according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.

The National Security Archive has established an extraordinary track record of highly credible, award-winning investigative journalism and scholarship:

  • In 1998, the Archive shared the George Foster Peabody Award for outstanding broadcast series (CNN's Cold War).
  • In April 2000, the Archive won the 1999 George Polk Award, for which the citation reads, in part: " We are pleased to present this special 1999 George Polk Award to the National Security Archive, which is housed in the Gelman Library at George Washington University, for piercing self-serving veils of government secrecy, guiding journalists in the search for the truth and informing us all."
  • In September 2005, the Archive won an Emmy Award for outstanding news and documentary research. The citation states: "President Nixon's historic 1972 trip to China was one of the greatest diplomatic coups in history. This heavily-researched documentary reveals an unknown story behind the one most journalists and historians think they know. To tell it, the producers had to find, sift, evaluate and codify thousands of declassified documents, both from the U.S. government and the secretive Chinese government too. Working in cooperation with the National Security Archive, the program's researchers brought dry government files to life, revealing details that would have rattled the world at the time..."

As a pioneer of evidence-based research and primary source documentation, the Archive has achieved extraordinary, quantifiable success over the past 30 years:

  • 50,000 targeted Freedom of Information and declassification requests to more than 200 offices and agencies of the U.S. government that have opened more than 10 million pages of previously secret U.S. government documents;
  • over one million pages of these former secrets published on the World Wide Web, in books, microfiche, CD-ROMs, and DVDs-collectively described by the Washington Journalism Review as "a state-of-the-art index to history.";
  • more than 70 books in print by Archive staff and fellows, including the winners of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize, the 1995 National Book Award, the 1996 Lionel Gelber Prize, the 1996 American Library Association's James Madison Award Citation, a Boston Globe Notable Book selection for 1999, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2003, and the 2010 Henry Adams Prize for outstanding major publication on the federal government's history from the Society for History in the Federal Government; the 2011 Link-Kuehl Prize of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the Washington Post Best Non-Fiction selection for 2012;
  • more than 550 "electronic briefing books" of newsworthy documents on major topics in international affairs, published on the Archive's award-winning Web site at www.nsarchive.org, which attracts some 2 million visitors each year downloading more than 15 gigabytes per day, and won 45 citations from the Internet Scout Report of the University of Wisconsin, which recognizes "the most valuable and authoritative resources online;"
  • The first-ever conviction of a former dictator in his own country on "crimes against humanity" charges, with the May 10, 2013 ruling against Guatemalan general Rios Montt, credited in significant part to the Archive's work by The New York Times (May 11, 2013), including the Archive's evidence on the Guatemalan military's genocidal campaign against the Ixil Mayans in 1982. The case built on the precedent of the first-ever conviction of a ranking military officer on human rights abuse charges in Guatemala, credited by The Economist (September 21, 2002) to the declassified documents and expert testimony presented by Archive staff at the trial;
  • More than a dozen similar convictions of human rights abusers in national, regional and international court settings using declassified documents and expert testimony by Archive staff, including the Special Court for Sierra Leone conviction of warlord Charles Taylor in 2012, Peru's conviction of former dictator Alberto Fujimori in 2009, U.S. immigration court convictions in 2010 of the Guatemalan special forces perpetrators of the Dos Erres massacre, the Uruguayan court conviction in 2010 of former dictator Juan Bordaberry for crimes against the constitution, and the Argentine conviction in 2012 of former dictator Rafael Videla on systematic baby kidnapping charges for stealing the children of the "disappeared" and giving them for adoption by military families.
  • Forbes Magazine's "Best of the Web" award in 2005, and citation as one of the five "Top Sites" on the Web for terrorism-related information, with "fascinating primary data," according to the National Journal (December 8, 2001);
  • 51 Freedom of Information lawsuits against the U.S. government, of which 30 have been successful (and three are pending), forcing the declassification of documents ranging from the Kennedy-Khrushchev letters during the Cuban Missile Crisis to the previously censored photographs of homecoming ceremonies with flag-draped caskets for U.S. casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • 220 million electronic records preserved for history as the result of the Archive's White House e-mail lawsuits (vs. Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama), of which 22 million were recovered from the George W. Bush White House when the Obama administration settled the case in 2009 by installing full digital archiving for their own e-mail, and preserving the back-up media for all the Bush administration White House e-mail;
  • publication of the authoritative series of Cold War Readers with Central European University Press, including award-winning scholarly documentary volumes on the crises in East Germany 1953, the Hungarian revolution 1956, the Prague Spring 1968, Solidarity and martial law in Poland 1980-81, the secret history of the Warsaw Pact 1955-1991, and the end of the Cold War in Europe 1989;
  • partnerships in over 50 countries with journalists, scholars, truth commissions, human rights monitors, freedom of information campaigns, and openness advocates, including the virtual network freedominfo.org, to open government files and enrich scholarship and journalism with primary sources.

Based at George Washington University's Gelman Library, the Archive relies for its $3 million yearly budget on publication revenues, donations from individuals and grants from foundations such as the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. The National Security Archive receives no government funding. Contributions to the Archive are tax-deductible.

For further information contact Thomas Blanton, Executive Director of the National Security Archive.

To use the Archive's collections, search www.nsarchive.org, visit the Smith Bagley Reading Room at George Washington University's Gelman Library (by appointment), or ask your university or public library to subscribe to the Digital National Security Archive, published by ProQuest LLC.

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