National Security Archive

National Security Archive
Gelman Library, Suite 701
The George Washington University
2130 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Fax +1 (202) 994-7005

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday 10 am - 5:30 pm
Except on holidays


Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive based at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. combines a unique range of functions: research institute on international affairs; investigative journalism center; library and archive of declassified U.S. documents; leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act; and indexer and publisher of former secrets. The Archive receives no government funding and its budget relies on publication revenues and donations from individuals and foundation grants.

Cold War Interests: 

The National Security Archive's mission to expand the historical record and inform the public debate has achieved extraordinary success. As a pioneer of evidence-based research and primary source documentation, the Archive has filed over 50,000 targeted Freedom of Information Act requests and published more than ten million pages of previously secret government documents. The Archive's ongoing work has dramatically expanded scholars' access to otherwise-classified primary sources covering the entire period of the Cold War through curated document collections, its groundbreaking multi-national scholarly conferences, and its publication of the authoritative series of Cold War Readers.

The National Security Archive's publications comprise the most comprehensive library of declassified government documents available. The Digital National Security Archive (DNSA) alone contains over 40 digitized collections of more than 100,000 expertly curated documents assembled by foreign policy experts. Each collection features chronologies, glossaries, bibliographies, and scholarly overviews to provide unparalleled access to defining international issues ranging from: nuclear history from Hiroshima to the Iran nuclear deal; the intelligence community from the 1948 Italian elections to the 2003 Iraq invasion; and U.S. diplomatic history from the Marshall Plan to the Obama administration's opening to Cuba.

The Archive has also organized, sponsored, or co-sponsored a series of major scholarly "critical oral history" conferences from 1987 to 2012, which collectively helped rewrite the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Among the remarkable Archive conferences was 2002's Havana Conference that was attended by Cuban president Fidel Castro and former US secretary of defense Robert McNamara. Attendees discussed newly declassified documents showing that the crisis did not end after the famous "13 days," but continued at a high level until late November, in large part because of Cuban rejection of Soviet concessions. The documents show that the Soviet nuclear-armed tactical weapons in Cuba stayed there after the missiles were withdrawn, and may even have been intended for Cuban custody.

Conferences carried out by the Archive's "Openness in Russia and East Europe Project" in collaboration with Cold War International History Project and Russian and Eastern European partners have stripped away myths surrounding such important historical moments as the 1953 workers' uprisings in East Germany, the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, the 1980-81 Solidarity crisis in Poland, and the 1989 collapse of Communist regimes throughout the region.

The Archive's Cold War collections of meticulously indexed documents include installments on the nuclear flashpoints occurring during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Crisis, the Anatoly Chernyaev Diary, and the 1983 "Able Archer" War Scare. In addition, the Archive has published the definitive "National Security Archive Cold War Reader" series under the Central European University Press imprint, which includes volumes on the Uprising in East Germany, 1953 – which John Lewis Gaddis called "an indispensable new source for the study of Cold War history", the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and the Prague Spring, which Václav Havel said he hoped "will lead American readers to a closer understanding of the dramatic events that the then Czechoslovakia lived through three decades ago." The volume on Poland's Solidarity Crisis contains Department of State documents detailing the U.S. embassy's analysis of and participation in events during Poland's revolution, and former NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson of Port Ellen called the Secret History of the Warsaw Pact reader a "remarkable book … not just a story for experts or historians - it is a chronology of significance and an era we must never forget." "Masterpieces of History: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe", which examines how 1989 looked from Moscow and Washington respectively and offers a transcript of important discussions among former Soviet and American officials as well as academic observers, won the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations' 2011 Link-Kuehl Prize for Documentary Editing, among other accolades.