35+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

The Iran-Contra Affair

Published: Dec 9, 2018

For more information, contact:
202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

The Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair lit up the political skies over Washington for well over a year in the late 1980s.  The biggest scandal since Watergate, it dominated the news starting in late 1986, when word broke about the administration’s illegal backing of Contra rebels in Nicaragua and illicit sales of high-tech weapons to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  When President Ronald Reagan acknowledged that the two operations were connected it raised the stakes even higher, including rumblings for impeachment.

The scandal eventually blew over, in large part thanks to dramatic world events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union.  But the Constitutional issues it raised about presidential authority and the role of Congress in foreign policy, as well as its lessons about the practical limits of legal accountability when it comes to national security affairs and holders of high public office remain deeply relevant. 

Over the years, the National Security Archive became the most authoritative independent source of documentation and analysis of the affair.  The following books, major declassified document compilations, and Web postings are gathered together to provide interested readers with a wide assortment of useful primary and secondary materials.


Sep 15, 2014
By Malcolm Byrne (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2014, 464 pp.)
Oct 12, 2012
By James Blight, janet Lang, Hussein Banai, Malcolm Byrne and John Tirman (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012, 408 pp.)
Feb 16, 2009
By John Prados (Chicago, Illinois: Ivan R. Dee, 2006, 696 pp.)
Feb 1, 1996
by John Prados (Ivan R. Dee, 1996, 576 pp.)
Nov 1, 1995
by Tom Blanton (New York: The New Press, 254 pp. and 1.4 MB computer disk)
Jan 1, 1993
by Malcolm Byrne and Peter Kornbluh (New York: The New Press, 314 pp.)
Apr 1, 1991
by John Prados (William Morrow & Co., 1991, 632 pp.)
Jun 1, 1987
by Scott Armstrong, Malcolm Byrne, Tom Blanton, and the National Security Archive (New York: Warner Books, 678 pp.)