About the National Archives

Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise that Almost Triggered Nuclear War

Archivist’s welcome for
Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise that Almost Triggered Nuclear War
Wednesday, January 25, at noon
McGowan Theater, Archives I

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for today’s discussion with Nate Jones about his new book, Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise that Almost Triggered Nuclear War. Whether you are here in the McGowan Theater or watching on YouTube, thank you for coming.

Before we get started, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up tomorrow and in February.

Tomorrow evening at 7 p.m., former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will be here to discuss his latest book, A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service. Having led change successfully at three monumental organizations—the CIA, Texas A&M University, and the Department of Defense—he offers us the ultimate insider’s look at how major organizations can be transformed.

On Wednesday, February 8, at noon, writer and scholar Timothy B. Tyson will be discuss The Blood of Emmett Till, his book about the murder of the 14-year-old Till in 1955.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

It’s said that in Washington, the first place people look in a newly published book is the index, to see if they’re mentioned. Here at the National Archives—and, I’d venture to say, at the Library of Congress and other research institutions—we look at the acknowledgments page and the bibliography.

If you look at the acknowledgments for Able Archer, you’ll see that Nate Jones has noted the assistance of several National Archives staff members—at the Presidential libraries and at the Information Security Oversight Office, known as ISOO.

A large portion of the documents upon which he based his story came from the Ronald Reagan and George Bush Presidential Libraries and from National Archives holdings.

I’m very proud of our staff, and it’s gratifying to see that others appreciate the work they do—whether it’s helping people navigate through our holdings or, as Nate Jones noted, breaking a declassification logjam to release a critical document.

Every day, in research rooms across the country, we help researchers uncover the stories of our past.

And those stories, like today’s story of Able Archer, remind us that history is not just what happened a hundred or more years ago. As more and more records are processed and declassified, we learn more about the past—even events that have occurred in our own lifetimes.

Now it’s time to have our featured speaker come up to the stage. Nate Jones is the director of the Freedom of Information Act Project for the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

He oversees thousands of Freedom of Information Act and Mandatory Declassification Review requests and appeals each year and is a two-term member of the Federal FOIA Advisory Committee.

He is also editor of the National Security Archive’s blog, “Unredacted,” where he writes about newly declassified documents and FOIA policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Nate Jones.


Tom Nastick mentioned Jones’s acknowledgments:

In his acknowledgments, Jones mentions that the bulk of the documents used and presented in the book came from the holdings of the Reagan and George Bush Libraries, and NARA (as well as the LOC). He specifically thanks Kelly Barton and Whitney Ross at Reagan, Robert Holzweiss, and Douglas Campbell at G.H.W. Bush, and “John Fitzpatrick, William Carpenter, Neena Sachdeva, [ISOO] and the rest of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel at the National Archives who finally broke the 12-year bureaucratic logjam and declassified the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board’s seminal report on the 1983 War Scare.”