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U.S. Foreign Relations and the Department of State: Declassified Documents and FOIA

Overview of U.S. Foreign Relations and Declassified Documents from the Department of State.

Declassified Documents

The following databases will provide you access to declassfied documents relating to U.S. foreign relations.

  • Department of State FOIA Reading Room
    Collection consists of releasable documents on subjects which have been frequently requested by the public through Freedom of Information Act requests. Topics range from Amelia Earhart to State Chile and El Salvador
  • National Security Archive
    From George Washington University.  Provides online access to critical declassified records on issues including U.S. national security, foreign policy, diplomatic and military history, and intelligence policy. While it does not include all the resources in the Digital National Security Archive listed above, the Electronic Briefing Books are comprehensive.  Also produces Unredacted, a blog highlighting news about declassified documents.

Making a Freedom of Information Act Request

Despite all the information produced by the federal government, there are times when you cannot find what you need.  Sometimes you need to ask the government to make information, however classified, available to you as a member of the public.  Luckily there is a formalized process to possibly obtain such information using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  While making a FOIA request is not difficult, understanding what is exempt from FOIA will provide for a successful experience.  FOIA only applies to executive agencies (agencies and departments that report to the President--Congress and the Federal Courts are exempt from FOIA).  The following will help guide you through the process of conducting a FOIA request.