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National Security Archive

Self Description

August 2005: "The National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions in one non governmental, non-profit institution. The Archive is simultaneously a research institute on international affairs, a library and archive of declassified U.S. documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, a public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information through the FOIA, and an indexer and publisher of the documents in books, microfiche, and electronic formats. The Archive's approximately $2.3 million yearly budget comes from publication revenues and from private philanthropists such as the Carnegie Corporation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation. As a matter of policy, the Archive receives no government funding.

The National Security Archive was founded in 1985 by a group of journalists and scholars who had obtained documentation from the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act and sought a centralized repository for these materials. Over the past decade, the Archive has become the world's largest non governmental library of declassified documents. Located on the seventh floor of the George Washington University's Gelman Library in Washington, D.C., the Archive is designed to apply the latest in computerized indexing technology to the massive amount of material already released by the U.S. government on international affairs, make them accessible to researchers and the public, and go beyond that base to build comprehensive collections of documents on specific topics of greatest interest to scholars and the public."

Third-Party Descriptions

November 2013: 'Fearing that a ruling in the FBI's favor could make it harder for journalists and academics to keep tabs on government agencies, open-government groups including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Security Archive, and the National Lawyers Guild (as well as the nonprofit news outlet Truthout and the crusading DC attorney Mark Zaid) have filed friend-of-the-court briefs on Shapiro's behalf. "Under the FBI's theory, the greater the public demand for documents, the greater need for secrecy and delay," says Baher Azmy, CCR's legal director.'

December 2008: 'The National Security Archive, a historical research group, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, a nonprofit watchdog organization, filed lawsuits in September 2007 to compel the White House to preserve backup e-mail tapes. In November 2007, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. ordered White House officials to preserve such tapes and "not transfer said media out of their custody or control without leave of this court."'

July 2008: "The National Security Archive, the American Historical Association, the Georgetown University Law Center and others have petitioned to have the transcripts of 46 witnesses [in the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case--Ed.] released to the public."

July 2007: “The [The Freedom of Information--Ed] law is 40 years old, and we’re seeing 20 years of delay,” said Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a research group at George Washington University. The group, itself among the most prolific requesters under the act, conducted the survey with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The survey will be posted at

April 2006: Thomas S. Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, said the memo 'shows that the National Archives basically aided and abetted a covert operation that whited out the nation's history by reclassifying previously released documents.'


RoleNameTypeLast Updated
Cooperation (past or present) George Washington University, The (GW) Organization Nov 12, 2012
Founded/Co-Founded by Scott Armstrong Person Aug 13, 2005
Cooperation (past or present) Prof. Ralph J. Begleiter Ph.D. Person May 9, 2010
Organization Head/Leader (past or present) Thomas S. Blanton Person Aug 19, 2005
Employee/Freelancer/Contractor (past or present) Kate Doyle Person Jan 5, 2006
Employee/Freelancer/Contractor (past or present) Peter Kornbluh Person Sep 4, 2011
Employee/Freelancer/Contractor (past or present) John Prados Ph.D. Person Nov 12, 2012
Organization Executive (past or present) David L. Sobel Esq. Person Oct 1, 2006

Articles and Resources

Date Resource Read it at:
Nov 13, 2013 Meet the Punk Rocker Who Can Liberate Your FBI File: Ryan Shapiro's technique is so effective at unburying sensitive documents, the feds are asking the courts to stop him.

QUOTE: Invoking a legal strategy that had its heyday during the Bush administration, the FBI claims that Shapiro's multitudinous requests, taken together, constitute a "mosaic" of information whose release could "significantly and irreparably damage national security" and would have "significant deleterious effects" on the bureau's "ongoing efforts to investigate and combat domestic terrorism."

Mother Jones
Dec 21, 2008 Bush E-Mails May Be Secret a Bit Longer: Legal Battles, Technical Difficulties Delay Required Transfer to Archives

QUOTE: the administration began trying only in recent months to recover from White House backup tapes hundreds of thousands of e-mails that were reported missing from readily accessible files in 2005. The risks that the transfer may be incomplete are also pointed up by a continuing legal battle between a coalition of historians and nonprofit groups over access to Vice President Cheney's records.

Washington Post
Jul 24, 2008 58 years later, Rosenberg spy case gets another look

QUOTE: After 58 years, historians and journalists will have a chance to examine the secret grand jury testimony of witnesses in the espionage case against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg....In an unusual move, federal authorities have said that because of the historic significance of the case, they do not oppose releasing the transcripts of testimony from witnesses who have died or who do not object to their release.

CNN (Cable News Network)
Jan 18, 2008 White House Study Found 473 Days of E-Mail Gone

QUOTE: The competing claims [over allegedly lost emails] were the latest salvos in an escalating dispute over whether the Bush administration has complied with long-standing statutory requirements to preserve official White House records -- including those reflecting potentially sensitive policy discussions -- for history and in case of any future legal demands.

Washington Post
Jul 02, 2007 Survey Finds Action on Information Requests Can Take Years

QUOTE: The Freedom of Information Act requires a federal agency to provide an initial response to a request within 20 days and to provide the documents in a timely manner. But the oldest pending request uncovered in a new survey of 87 agencies and departments has been awaiting a response for 20 years…

New York Times
Jun 23, 2007 Bush claims oversight exemption too: The White House says the president's own order on classified data does not apply to his office or the vice president's.

QUOTE: The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information.

Los Angeles Times
Mar 12, 2007 Government Sites Aren't FOIA-Friendly: Study Finds Most Agencies Fall Short of Transparency Mandate

QUOTE: A review of 149 federal agencies found that only 1 in 5 posts on its Web site all the records required and that even fewer -- 6 percent -- tell people how to request what does not appear there. Two-thirds do not provide indexes to their major records systems, or they provide guides that are so unclear they are worthless. Only 1 in 4 agencies includes an online FOIA submission form on its Web site...This failure to comply with the law, advocates of open government say, amounts to another stiff-arm by the executive branch to Congress's demand for greater transparency.

Washington Post
Aug 28, 2006 A Fixation With Secrecy

QUOTE: The one thing the administration has made no secret is its antipathy to government transparency. The secrecy fixation is a threat to democracy and an insult to honest history.

New York Times
Aug 21, 2006 Cold War Missiles Target of Blackout: Documents Altered To Conceal Data

QUOTE: "It would be difficult to find more dramatic examples of unjustifiable secrecy than these decisions to classify the numbers of U.S. strategic weapons," wrote William Burr..."The Pentagon is now trying to keep secret numbers of strategic weapons that have never been classified before."

Washington Post
Apr 12, 2006 Archives Kept a Secrecy Secret: Agencies Removed Declassified Papers From Public Access

QUOTE: Thomas S. Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, said the memo "shows that the National Archives basically aided and abetted a covert operation that whited out the nation's history by reclassifying previously released documents."...historians who previously obtained copies of records have said many date to the 1940s and 1950s and pose no conceivable security risk.

Washington Post
Dec 02, 2005 Vietnam War Intelligence 'Deliberately Skewed,' Secret Study Says

QUOTE: The National Security Agency has released hundreds of pages of long-secret documents on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin agency historian argued that the agency's intelligence officers "deliberately skewed" the evidence passed on to policy makers and the public to falsely suggest that North Vietnamese ships had attacked American destroyers...

New York Times
Nov 21, 2005 Mildewed Police Files May Hold Clues to Atrocities in Guatemala

QUOTE: ...human rights investigators are calling it a treasure hidden in plain sight. In Guatemala, a nation still groping for the whole truth about decades of state-sponsored kidnapping and killing, the documents promise a trove of new evidence for the victims, and perhaps the last best hope for some degree of justice.

New York Times
Mar 06, 2001 New Files Tie U.S. to Deaths of Latin Leftists in 1970's

QUOTE: [A recently declassified State Department] cable appeared to open new avenues of inquiry about the American role in Condor, a shadowy operation to stamp out the Latin American left that, among other things, dispatched death squads to kill critics at home and overseas.

New York Times