Washington, D.C., September 21, 2023 – The Reagan administration rejected an international agreement on humanitarian laws of war—Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions—due to insurmountable objections from the Pentagon and the belief that it favored terrorists, according to a collection of declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive.
Nuclear Strategy and Weapons
Washington, D.C., July 18, 2023 – A set of highly secret emergency action plans kept inside the closely guarded “Football” that traveled with the President at all times and that would give the federal government sweeping emergency powers were of “doubtful legality,” “badly out of date,” and “even illegal,” according to top government officials whose views are memorialized in declassified records posted today by the National Security Archive.
Washington, D.C., June 6, 2023 - U.S. officials and NATO allies feared that international talks meant to strengthen the protection of civilians during conflicts could lead to a ban on the use of nuclear weapons, according to a September 1975 memorandum by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff posted today by the National Security Archive. Published as part of a new Electronic Briefing Book on the negotiations that produced Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the Defense Department memo reveals some of the concerns that underlay the initial U.S.
Washington, D.C., March 24, 2023 - On Tuesday, March 28, 2023, PBS’s “American Experience” program premieres “The Movement and the ‘Madman,’” a documentary that tells the story of how the intensity of the U.S. anti-Vietnam War movement forced President Richard Nixon to abandon plans to escalate the conflict in the fall of 1969 and instead implement his “madman” theory, approving a secret alert of U.S. nuclear forces around the world to project the idea that he was “crazy” and force adversaries to back down.
Washington, D.C., March 20, 2023 – The declassified Air Force film shows the crew of a U.S. B-52 bomber reaching its “Positive Control” (“fail safe”) point on the way to its target in the Soviet Union. But instead of turning around as usual, they get an order to proceed to their assigned objective. Having received and authenticated a “Go Code” message from U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC), the pilot announces, “We’re going in,” navigating the aircraft in low over mountains, lakes, fields, and forests to avoid Soviet air defenses.
Washington, D.C., November 18, 2022 - A top safety official at a U.S. nuclear weapons lab wrote that “the public must be encouraged to realize that risks [of an unintentional nuclear detonation] cannot be zero and cannot ever be really known,” according to a newly released 2001 history of U.S. efforts to mitigate the dangers of accidental or unsanctioned weapons detonations. Declassified in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the National Security Archive, the history, written by former Sandia National Laboratories official William L.
Washington D.C., October 17, 2022 - In a secret “eyes only” memorandum for John F. Kennedy, written 60 years ago today at the outset of the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson admonished the president to abandon his initial plan to attack Cuba and to consider, instead, the diplomatic option of dismantling U.S. missile bases in Europe in return for the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.
Washington, D.C., October 14, 2022 - Today the National Security Archive publishes for the first time in any language a translation of the first meeting between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro on July 18, 1960. The newly available transcript helps explain Khrushchev’s 1962 determination that defending Cuba from U.S. intervention would require a massive Soviet military base in Cuba, together with the deployment of nuclear weapons.
Washington, D.C., August 8, 2022 – After years of research and planning, U.S. officials and scientists overseeing the Manhattan Project were startlingly unprepared for the emergence of evidence of the long-term effects of radiation generated by the atomic bomb – even after the Trinity test in July 1945 and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 77 years ago this week, according to documents posted today by the National Security Archive.