30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

Testimonials

“The ‘nuclear vault’ is the informal name given to a division of the privately funded National Security [Archive], now housed in the library of George Washington University on H Street.  The [Archive],  founded two decades ago, has devoted itself to getting millions of pages of top secret, classified national security documents declassified, primarily through the Freedom of Information Act.  The nuclear vault, the repository for an astonishing compilation of confidential declassified discussions about the bomb, has been presided over for two decades by Dr. William Burr, another Yoda of FOIA, using that legislative tool like a light-saber to cut through the fog of secrecy that surrounds nuclear weapons and nuclear war strategy.”

- Ron Rosenbaum, author (2011)

“The Archive has ... helped organize a series of important conferences on the missile crisis .... Transcripts of the missile crisis conferences ... constitute the best available source for the Cuban point of view.”

- Michael Dobbs, former Washington Post correspondent, author of One Minute to Midnight

“This has been an extraordinarily impressive event. I felt for the first time in this morning’s session that I understood Soviet decision-making in the Cuban missile crisis better than in any other event since 1941.” 

- Ernest R. May, Harvard University, after participation in a National Security Archive conference (1987)

“The National Security Archive at George Washington University maintains a trove of declassified government papers, including voluminous files involving national security decision making during the Cold War.  Tom Blanton, the director, and his colleagues guided [research assistant] Gabriela and me through the archive’s collections, many of which are assembled and analyzed in thoughtful electronic briefing books.  William Burr, a senior analyst, has edited several invaluable collections about nuclear weapons policy during the Cold War.”

- Philip Taubman, author and former New York Times correspondent (2012)

“The proceedings of the conference [at Musgrove] and the documents – Soviet, American, and East European – together create a rare volume and significant pool of evidence ... The hosts succeeded in creating an atmosphere of tolerance for every opinion, an honest approach to any detail of a problem in any of its twists and turns, which provoked the kinds of spontaneous thoughts, reminiscences, and discourses that the participants themselves probably could never have ‘planned’ beforehand.”

- Anatoly S. Chernyaev, former senior Gorbachev adviser (1998)

“A rich and timely review of the background to the normalization recently achieved.”

- Studies in Intelligence, review of Back Channel to Cuba (2015)

“The best testimony, well organized, undeniable evidence.”

- Sabrina Gullino, daughter of disappeared parents (Argentina), on court testimony by Carlos Osorio

“More detailed and more international examinations of these cases and new studies of others are needed.  An organization that will galvanize future research is the National Security Archive, the invaluable Washington non-profit organization that uses the Freedom of Information Act to secure the declassification of U.S. government documents.  When I interned at the Archive as a college sophomore, I had no idea how much I would later benefit from their work.”

- Samantha Power, 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning author of “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide

“Challenging the prevailing narrative of U.S.-Cuba relations, this book investigates the history of the secret, and often surprising, dialogue between Washington and Havana ... Suggest[s] that the past holds lessons for future negotiators.”

- The New Yorker, review of Back Channel to Cuba (2015)

Back Channel to Cuba, William LeoGrande’s and Peter Kornbluh’s timely, comprehensive, and meticulously researched study of the ebb and flow in U.S.-Cuban relations from the beginning of the Castro era to the eve of the reopening of diplomatic ties is an enormous contribution to our understanding of this convoluted subject as Washington and Havana move to develop a new equation.”

- Inscription for The Douglas Dillon Award for Distinguished Writing on American Diplomacy, presented to Peter Kornbluh by the American Academy of Diplomacy (2015)

“The essays in this volume offer important historical perspectives on one of the most enduring challenges for U.S. foreign policy: ensuring stability on the tumultuous Korean peninsula. The authors are all acknowledged experts in their fields and offer up insightful studies of various aspects of the Korean security dilemma.”

- Mary Ann Heiss, Kent State University, on Trilateralism and Beyond (2012)

“First, in speaking to the LBJ library folks, the researcher who is most aggressive in pursuing the PP [Pentagon Papers], John Prados, will most likely find the "declassified" occurrence of the page pretty quickly.  So please advise everyone that if they insist on maintaining the redaction, Prados will likely scope out the "declassified" page very quickly.  As you can tell by his NPR appearance, Prados will parade this discovery like a politician on the 4th of July.”

- Text from U.S. interagency communication regarding the decision to declassify the last eleven classified words in the Pentagon Papers (2011)

“Utilizing a host of new material, Zubok and Pleshakov offer many insights into the causes and early years of the Cold War. Their well-written account will interest not just historians, but any reader who seeks a better understanding of why the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in costly and dangerous rivalry for more than four decades.” 

- Jack F. Matlock, former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, on Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War (1996)

“The Nuclear Vault is a model website. It now gathers all – or almost all (I don't know what else lurks on the Archive's website that hasn't been pulled over and/or reconfigured for the Nuclear Vault) – of the nuclear history on the website. ... It looks so good one wants to linger on it and explore it ... Finally, the electronic briefing books, the heart of the scholarship, are easy to access, intuitive to choose among, and immensely interesting and useful – the electronic source on nuclear history ... In addition, the context provided by Burr and others is essential. I cannot emphasize enough how valuable these briefing books are, and how very good it is that the Archive's nuclear scholarship and other nuclear information is housed all together in The Nuclear Vault.”

- Lynn Eden, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University

“Among the world’s document buffs – a small but tenacious tribe of journalists, researchers and historians – the archive is legendary for its prolific and skillful practice of the art of the FOIA request.  ‘They craft the best FOIA requests around,’ says [Daniel] Metcalfe, the archive’s former adversary [at the Justice Department], who is now a law professor at American University.  ‘If anybody does it better, I haven’t seen it.’”

- Peter Carlson, The Washington Post, (2008)

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