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Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): Iran: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1977–1980

About this Collection

More than 14,000 pages of documents are offered on the fall of Shah and the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, including some that the government would not have made available until the middle of the twenty-first century had the Archive not forced their release through the Freedom of Information Act.

Collection Background

The genesis of this document collection was the reporting done by Scott Armstrong for his five-part series entitled "The Fall of the Shah," published in the Washington Post from October 25-30, 1980. This series revealed the existence of a major internal Carter administration review of U.S.-Iranian relations, the so-called "White Paper" process discussed below. Armed with this revelation, Max Holland, then at the American Friends Service Committee, and several other researchers filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the White Paper itself and for the background documents used in its preparation. Over a period of more than six years, the documents trickled in as the result of a continuing appeal and negotiation process with the State Department. Holland graciously donated his collection of these materials to the National Security Archive; combined with Armstrong's materials, they represent a significant portion of the published set.

The "Documents from the U.S. Espionage Den" were first brought to the United States from Iran by freelance journalists William Worthy and Randy Goodman in December 1981. The 13-volume set they attempted to bring in with their luggage was confiscated by the U.S. Customs Service; however, a second set which they sent through the mail arrived safely. Worthy and Goodman brought the volumes to Scott Armstrong's attention. The subsequent five-part series of Washington Post articles titled "Iran Documents Give Rare Glimpse of a CIA Enterprise," beginning on January 31, 1982, brought these documents to national attention.