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Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): Donald Rumsfeld's Snowflakes, Part I: The Pentagon and U.S. Foreign Policy, 2001-2003

About this Collection

Donald Rumsfeld’s Snowflakes, Part I: The Pentagon and U.S. Foreign Policy, 2001-2003 adds 6,272 documents and 20,975 declassified pages to the Digital National Security Archive’s collection, providing researchers with an unparalleled, hour-by-hour account of the office of the Secretary of Defense during the first term of the George W. Bush Administration, from 2001 to 2003. This collection complements a growing collection of Archive documents on the era of 9/11, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Part II, which covers later years of Rumsfeld’s tenure from 2004 to 2006 will be published in 2021.

Research Value of This Collection

“Snowflakes” is the term given to the missives that became the controversial Secretary of Defense’s trademark form of daily communication. The mostly never-before-seen material in this set offers an unprecedented look into nearly everything that came across his desk, including communications and coordination with the highest levels of government, during a dynamic period of U.S. history that continues to influence global politics to this day. Where available, staff responses to Rumsfeld’s instructions and queries are also incorporated into the collection.

The wide variety of “Snowflakes” highlighted in this rich collection follow the U.S. response to the September 11 attacks and the ensuing global war on terror. Readers will find material that was circulated in the Pentagon in the days following 9/11, handwritten notes from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, documents from the hunt for bin Laden, the Secretary’s communications with the CIA, records regarding legal controversies surrounding Guantanamo, all leading up to and through the invasion and occupation of Iraq in early 2003.

Collection Time Periods


Time Span                      Number of Documents

2001............................................ 1,193

2002............................................ 2,679

2003............................................ 2,400


Important Topics Covered

Among the important topics covered by these documents are:

  • the day-to-day operations of the Pentagon;
  • efforts to reorganize the Defense Department;
  • modernization of the U.S. Armed Forces;
  • “jointness” or the move toward cross service cooperation in all aspects of the military;
  • the military budgeting process and efforts to rein in defense spending;
  • military planning, procurement, and expenditures;
  • the September 11, 2001 attacks;
  • the Global War on Terrorism;
  • the Afghanistan conflict;
  • justification for the Iraq War; the invasion, and reconstruction;
  • nuclear issues – weapons, proliferation, safety;
  • decision making on military wages, benefits, tours of duty, and veterans issues;
  • military intelligence;
  • Defense Department relations with the CIA and Homeland Security;
  • Rumsfeld’s relations with the State Department and National Security Council;
  • U.S. relations with NATO;
  • U.S. military relations with Russia, former Soviet republics, and other countries;
  • Rumsfeld’s interactions with the news media, Congress, and the public;
  • Guantanamo detainees, interrogation, and torture;
  • concerns about the International Criminal Court and U.S. liability for war crimes;
  • the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists;
  • the Joint Strike Fighter program; and
  • the emergency landing of a U.S. EP-3 at Hainan Island in 2001.