35+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

Thomas S. Blanton


Tom Blanton is the director since 1992 of the independent non-governmental National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org).  He won the 2004 Emmy Award for individual achievement in news and documentary research, and on behalf of the Archive received the George Polk Award in 2000 for “piercing self-serving veils of government secrecy.”  His books have been awarded the 2011 Link-Kuehl Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, selection by Choice magazine as “Outstanding Academic Title 2017,” and the American Library Association’s James Madison Award Citation in 1996, among other honors.  The National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame elected him a member in 2006, and Tufts University presented him the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award in 2011 for “decades of demystifying and exposing the underworld of global diplomacy.” His articles have appeared in Diplomatic HistoryForeign PolicyThe New York Times, and the Washington Post, among many other journals; and he is series co-editor for the National Security Archive’s online and book publications of more than a million pages of declassified U.S. government documents obtained through the Archive’s more than 60,000 Freedom of Information Act requests.


Selected Books

The Last Superpower Summits: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Bush: Conversations that Ended the Cold War (New York/Budapest: Central European University Press, 2016, with Svetlana Savranskaya, 1013 pp.).  Choice Magazine selected this volume as an “Outstanding Academic Title 2017” – “awarding outstanding works for their excellence in presentation and scholarship, the significance of their contribution to the field, their originality and value as an essential treatment of their subject, and significance in building undergraduate collections.”

Masterpieces of History”: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe 1989 (New York/Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010, with Svetlana Savranskaya and Vladislav Zubok, 730 pp.).  The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations awarded this volume the Arthur S. Link-Warren F. Kuehl Prize for 2011 for excellence in documentary editing.

White House E-Mail: The Top Secret Computer Messages The Reagan/Bush White House Tried to Destroy (New York: The New Press, 1995, 254 pp. with computer disk) on the landmark lawsuit that saved over 220 million records from Reagan through Obama.  The American Library Association recognized this work with the 1996 James Madison Award Citation for “defending the public’s right to know.”

The Chronology: The Documented Day-by-Day Account of the Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Contras (New York: Warner Books, 1987, with Scott Armstrong, Malcolm Byrne, and the National Security Archive, 678 pp.).  Bob Woodward called this book “the most comprehensive, authoritative, objective and useful summary of the Iran-Contra Affair available.  It makes the pieces fall into place and brings the individual players into focus.”


Broadcast Appearances

33 videos on C-SPAN from 1987 to 2017

Tom Blanton on C-SPAN

CIA TORTURE REPORT at Comedy Central


Congressional Testimony

Too many secrets and for too long

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “Over-classification and other failures of the classification system,” December 7, 2016."

A Freedom of Information report card from the Bay of Pigs to Hillary’s E-mail

U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, “Ensuring an Informed Citizenry: Examining the Administration’s Efforts to Improve Open Government,” May 6, 2015.

Most federal agencies are flouting FOIA reform

U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, “We the People: Fufilling the Promise of Open Government Five Years after the OPEN Government Act of 2007,” March 13, 2013

Wikimania and Wikimyths

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, “On the Espionage Act and the Legal and Constitutional Implications of Wikileaks,” December 16, 2010

The checkered future of the National Archives

U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, “National Archives Oversight: Protecting Our Nation’s History for Future Generations,” May 14, 2008

Weaknesses of the Presidential Records Act

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “The Presidential Records Act of 1978,” March 1, 2007

Over-classification and pseudo-classification

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, “Emerging Threats: Over-Classification and Pseudo-Classification,” March 2, 2005


In the Media

Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Dec 18, 2017
Dec 9, 2017
The New York Times
Dec 23, 2016
Foreign Policy
Nov 14, 2012
Cold War International History Project Bulletin
Sep 1, 2012