30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

Testimonials

“Governments at every level these days are providing less information about their inner workings, sometimes using fear of terrorism as an excuse.  But it’s precisely times like these that mandate citizens’ rights to check the efficiency of their government and hold those who fail accountable, open government advocates say.  The government itself won’t make it easy, so an increasing number of websites and data crunchers are stepping in to provide information about the inner workings of government …  Another trove of information is George Washington University’s National Security Archive, which contains thousands of documents acquired through patient Freedom of Information Act requests.”

- Ryan Singel, Wired.com (2004)

“‘We are forensic historians,’ states Peter Kornbluh, who directs the project on declassifying secret U.S. government records on Chile at the National Security Archive.  The documents that they have declassified shed light on human rights violations committed by the dictatorships of the Southern Cone, including Argentina. ‘We don’t unearth buried bodies,’ says Kornbluh, ‘but rather information about them.’”

- Pagina 12 (Argentina), (2005)

“This latest offering from the indefatigable National Security Archive is part of its ongoing Guatemala Documentation Project, which has worked for the release of numerous secret US files on Guatemala .… Once again, the [Archive] is to be congratulated for its hard work, diligent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and for making its important discoveries freely available to all online.”

- University of Wisconsin, Internet Scout Report (2000)

“It was one of the more enjoyable and important efforts that I have been involved in recently … Yours is truly a critical effort as we must find a way to engage with Iran … and quickly.  Building trust thru your historical work (here) certainly will be helpful.”

- General J. H. Binford Peay, III, former Commander-in-Chief of CENTCOM (2011)

“In this brilliant and disturbing book [Becoming Enemies], America’s foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1980s is told, for the first time, from deep inside the U.S. decision making apparatus of the Carter and Reagan administrations. It is a sobering tale of Washington’s misperceptions, ignorance and arrogance drawing on newly declassified documentation and oral testimony from key participants, who struggle to come to grips with how and why the U.S. rallied behind one of the twentieth century’s most brutal despots, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, in his war with Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, thereby sowing the seeds of bitter U.S.-Iranian enmity that exists to this day.”

- Patrick Tyler, author and former correspondent for The New York Times and The Washington Post (2012)

“In the United States, on organization, the National Security Archive, has spent over 25 years working for more open government at home and abroad.  This independent nonprofit covers the waterfront: investigative journalism; research on international affairs; open government advocate; indexer and publisher of former secrets; and archive of declassified U.S. documents.”

- Carnegie Results (2014)

“This volume [The 1956 Hungarian Revolution] is important precisely because the documents speak for themselves. Thanks to judicious selection from an impressive array of sources, the volume reflects the very real complexities of 1956 .... The 120 top-level, formerly secret records ... provide us today with the unusual opportunity to watch the revolution unfold from a variety of perspectives ... It is an important achievement.”

- Charles Gati, Johns Hopkins University

“I have never read a book quite like this. Becoming Enemies is the latest product of the indispensable National Security Archive, the Washington non-profit that has given new meaning to the Freedom of Information Act.  They not only use their skills to get major U.S. policy documents declassified, but they take those documents and find innovative ways to illuminate important historical episodes.  This book is a living example.

“No one can emerge from this book without a sense of revelation.  No matter how much you may know about these tumultuous years, even if you were personally involved or have delved into the existing academic literature, you will discover new facts, new interpretations, and new dimensions on virtually every page.” 

- Gary Sick, Columbia University, review of Becoming Enemies (2012)

“George Washington University’s excellent National Security Archive has just published a fascinating but hair-raising new account, based on newly declassified documents, of the incident in 1979 when Zbigniew Brzezinski, then Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, was awoken by one of those fabled 3am telephone calls and told that the Soviet Union had launched 250 nuclear missiles at the United States.  America had a matter of minutes to decide whether to launch a counter-strike.  Not a nice start to anyone’s day.  It was, of course, a false alarm ... [But] if you want to give yourself a fright, read the archive’s new documents.”

- The Economist (2012)

“I and all of my serious colleagues in the field of nuclear studies depend heavily on the astonishing work of the National Security Archive.  Bill Burr and company perform an indispensable service to our community by unpacking the legacy of the Cold War with vital documentation and historical interpretation, much of which is invaluable for understanding the present and future as well as the past.  The Nuclear Vault is a treasure-trove, and the intrepid organization that created and maintains it is a national treasure without which the field of nuclear studies and policy analysis would be impoverished.  It is absolutely vital to support the collection and analysis work at the Archive.”

- Bruce G. Blair, President, World Security Institute

“The National Security Archive in Washington DC has long served as a fantastic resource for scholars of the Cold War. Its leaders and staff members, past and present ... have worked hard to collect documents at home and abroad and to make them available to scholars, often in English translation. The Archive has had to do so in the face of great reluctance, to put it mildly, by gatekeepers both American and foreign.”  

- Mary Elise Sarotte, University of Southern California (2011)

“Thank you very much, especially for your important and intelligent contribution.”  

- Mercedes Soiza-Reilly, Prosecutor in the Orletti case (Argentina), to Carlos Osorio

“Under the request of the Brazilian Minister of Justice Tarso Genro … we would like to follow our dealings about the presentation of a Brazilian Government official request of declassification of secret documents that may exist in the U.S. National Security Archive about the repression during the Brazilian Dictatorship (1964-1985).” 

- Paulo Abrão Pires Junior, President of the Amnesty Commission of the Brazilian Ministry of Justice (2009)

“[Critical oral history architect James] Blight has made a ‘massive and uniquely valuable contribution’ to the historical literature.”

- Philip D. Zelikow, former State Department Counselor and National Security Council staff member (2002)

“Thank you for sending me a summary of the Musgrove Conference on U.S.-Soviet Relations.  I found the analysis and comments very useful.  As the project proceeds, I would welcome continuing assessments.  Congratulations on such a successful conference.”

- Former President Jimmy Carter, letter to James Blight (1994)

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