National Security Archive - 30+ years of FOI

This weeks blog puts the spotlight on the National Security Archive website, which contains an archive of declassified U.S. documents.

The website can be found at -

Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents ("the world's largest nongovernmental collection" according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.

The site contains hundreds of thousands of documents and articles, including an unredacted blog and a search facility to find documents within the site.

The site contains a virtual reading room where you can search for topics and filter by year.

Visit to access the reading room direct.

A search of the reading room for "British Nuclear" produced 8 documents:

These documents can be viewed directly on the site. In our example, we chose the State Department telegram 5245 to U.S. Embassy United Kingdom, Top Secret:

e from President Kennedy to Prime Minister Macmillan, 6 May 1961, Top Secret

A search for the keywords "Atomic bomb" brings up 126 documents and "Nuclear bomb" brings up 41 documents.

For any historians or conspiracy theorists out there, this site is a must read whist in the isolation caused by the Coronavirus. You can lose yourself for days, we did!


This site gives an amazing insight into the discussions regarding the use of Nuclear Weapons and the UK & US collaboration that has continued since WW2. Even discussions regarding using Nuclear Weapons in Vietnam were held.

In one document - 'United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations telegram 1071 to Foreign Office, 21 September 1958' - Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd suggested that Eisenhower had begun to accept ideas that nuclear weapons were not like other munitions and could not be used first.

Lloyd reviewed his discussion of the Taiwan Strait situation with Eisenhower at the summer White House in Newport, Rhode Island. Chinese forces had been bombarding the offshore islands since August and the British had worried that the United States would use nuclear weapons to destroy the batteries. Having already decided that if conflict emerged he would order the use of conventional weapons first, Eisenhower told Lloyd that "it was out of the question to use nuclear weapons for a purely local tactical counter-battery task. If nuclear weapons were to be used it should be for the 'big thing,'" by which he meant general nuclear war. Quoting Eisenhower, Lloyd wrote: "He said 'when you use nuclear weapons you cross a completely different line.'" Implicitly, Eisenhower was acknowledging a significant difference between conventional and nuclear weapons. That, he said, was "his personal view and not necessarily the advice he would get from the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

In 1958, the Foreign secretary has already stated "when you use nuclear weapons you cross a completely different line", he was right they did and their effects continue across the world today.

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