Government Secrets: How to Uncover and Find Declassified Information on the Making of U.S. Foreign and National Security Policy on the National Security Archive & ProQuest Digital National Security Database

It is a challenge to find information on the making of U.S. foreign and national security policy. This type of information is vital to our understanding of national security.  It can also be important when researching for work in foreign policy and lawmaking. It is also important that citizens are able to find the information they need to be well-informed.

The National Security Archive was “founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy.” (  This site collects millions of pages of declassified documents.  The collection goes back to the end of World War II and continues up to the present.  The focus of the collections is on documents that pertain to national security interests.

National Security Archive

They have teamed up with ProQuest to create sets of documents on topics including: Afghanistan, the Making of U.S. policy, 1973-1990; The Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962; and The Cuban Missile Crisis 50th Anniversary Update.  Texas Tech University has a subscription to this curated database. Users can access the ProQuest Digital National Security Database by going to the main University’s library’s webpage and clicking on “Databases A-Z” and then typing “ProQuest Digital National Security” into the Database List search box.

Proquest Digital National Secutiy

ProQuest’s database is curated, meaning the documents in these collections have been selected for inclusion so the user doesn’t have to search for the most relevant documents on a topic.  A search for “Afghanistan U.S. Policy” in ProQuest National Security Database produces 231 results (see image below). ProQuest also provides filters for document type date, and more.

Proquest Afghanistan results

As seen in the image below, the same search in the National Security Archive produces more results, over 2,500 hits! This is because the search has not be vetted for the most relevant documents. This site provides two places to search: (1) the search box, which is available on every page, and (2) the search box under the “Documents” tab, located on the top bar.

NSA search box search

Both sites provide many of the same documents about U.S. national security policy.  ProQuest’s Digital National Security Archive will provide less overall documents but the documents have been curated and as such are more likely to bring up the most relevant documents.  This makes the research process easier for the researcher.  The National Security Archive provides a greater depth of information, but requires the researcher to do more work locating relevant material.


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