35+ Years of Freedom of Information Action


As a pioneer of evidence-based research emphasizing primary-source documentation, the Archive has achieved some extraordinary successes over the past 30+ years:

  • 60,000 targeted Freedom of Information and declassification requests to more than 200 offices and agencies of the U.S. government that have opened more than 10 million pages of previously secret U.S. government documents;
  • Over one million pages of these former secrets published on the World Wide Web, in books, microfiche, CD-ROMs, and DVDs-collectively described by the Washington Journalism Review as "a state-of-the-art index to history.";
  • More than 70 books in print by Archive staff and fellows, including the winners of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize, the 1995 National Book Award, the 1996 Lionel Gelber Prize, the 1996 American Library Association's James Madison Award Citation, a Boston Globe Notable Book selection for 1999, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2003, and the 2010 Henry Adams Prize for outstanding major publication on the federal government's history from the Society for History in the Federal Government; the 2011 Link-Kuehl Prize of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the Washington Post Best Non-Fiction selection for 2012;
  • Over 680 "electronic briefing books" of newsworthy documents on major topics in international affairs, published on the Archive's award-winning Web site at www.nsarchive.gwu.edu, which attracts some 2 million visitors each year downloading more than 15 gigabytes per day, and won 45 citations from the Internet Scout Report of the University of Wisconsin, which recognizes "the most valuable and authoritative resources online;"
  • The first-ever conviction of a former dictator in his own country on "crimes against humanity" charges, with the May 10, 2013 ruling against Guatemalan general Rios Montt, credited in significant part to the Archive's work by The New York Times (May 11, 2013), including the Archive's evidence on the Guatemalan military's genocidal campaign against the Ixil Mayans in 1982. The case built on the precedent of the first-ever conviction of a ranking military officer on human rights abuse charges in Guatemala, credited by The Economist (September 21, 2002) to the declassified documents and expert testimony presented by Archive staff at the trial;
  • More than a dozen similar convictions of human rights abusers in national, regional and international court settings using declassified documents and expert testimony by Archive staff, including the Special Court for Sierra Leone conviction of warlord Charles Taylor in 2012, Peru's conviction of former dictator Alberto Fujimori in 2009, U.S. immigration court convictions in 2010 of the Guatemalan special forces perpetrators of the Dos Erres massacre, the Uruguayan court conviction in 2010 of former dictator Juan Bordaberry for crimes against the constitution, and the Argentine conviction in 2012 of former dictator Rafael Videla on systematic baby kidnapping charges for stealing the children of the "disappeared" and giving them for adoption by military families.
  • Forbes Magazine's "Best of the Web" award in 2005, and citation as one of the five "Top Sites" on the Web for terrorism-related information, with "fascinating primary data," according to the National Journal (December 8, 2001);
  • Over 50 Freedom of Information lawsuits against the U.S. government, of which 30 have been successful (several are pending), forcing the declassification of documents ranging from the Kennedy-Khrushchev letters during the Cuban Missile Crisis to the previously censored photographs of homecoming ceremonies with flag-draped caskets for U.S. casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • 220 million electronic records preserved for history as the result of the Archive's White House e-mail lawsuits (vs. Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama), of which 22 million were recovered from the George W. Bush White House when the Obama administration settled the case in 2009 by installing full digital archiving for their own e-mail, and preserving the back-up media for all the Bush administration White House e-mail;
  • Publication of the authoritative series of Cold War Readers with Central European University Press, including award-winning scholarly documentary volumes on the crises in East Germany 1953, the Hungarian revolution 1956, the Prague Spring 1968, Solidarity and martial law in Poland 1980-81, the secret history of the Warsaw Pact 1955-1991, the end of the Cold War in Europe 1989, and the last superpower summits;
  • Partnerships in over 50 countries with journalists, scholars, truth commissions, human rights monitors, freedom of information campaigns, and openness advocates, including the virtual network freedominfo.org, to open government files and enrich scholarship and journalism with primary sources.