These public documents describe the correspondence between Peace Corps and the State Department. The discussion centered on the issues surrounding the closing of El Salvador in 1979 - 1980 to Peace Corps programs. As Peace Corps once again evaluates its programs in Central America, these documents provide valuable insight into how such decisions were made thirty years ago. But, first, for those who are not familiar with the National Security Archive at George Washington University, let me introduce you.

The private National Security Archive at George Washington University is a gem, a valuable source of public documents for historians and those of us who would know more about our country’s diplomatic and military history. Many of the documents relate to countries in which Volunteers have served. Visit the website at: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/

From that website:

The National Security Archive is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

In addition to visiting the public National Security Archive reading room at George Washington University, there are two other ways to access these critically important public documents. There are some selected documents  on the website that anyone can read online.  Secondly, libraries, public and private, can subscribe to the digital archival service. Documents can then be viewed by visiting such a library. In the Denver area, the Penrose Library at the University of Denver and the University of Colorado Library at Boulder both subscribe to this service. To view the whole archive, find a library that does have this subscription service.

The documents from El Salvador are only available through this subscription service. I visited the Penrose Library at the University of Denver and was able to copy them. I cannot scan or display the documents, but I can reference them and describe their contents. I will do that in subsequent blogs.

All of these documents  are public. They may also be available via the National Archive and Record Administration websites as well as the State Department and other federal agency websites. I find it difficult to find anything on those websites. The beauty of the private National Security Archive at George Washington is that the documents are organized in a historical context and are part of a narrative. I urge you to visit the website and become familiar with its offerings.

The recent postings on the website that are available to be read online include

  • “Godfather” of Colombian Army Intelligence Acquitted in Palace of Justice Case
  • CHILEAN JUDGE REQUESTS EXTRADITION OF U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL IN “MISSING” CASE
  • IRAN CONTRA AT 25: REAGAN AND BUSH ‘CRIMINAL LIABILITY’ EVALUATIONS

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Curry, Public Service Coordinator and Research Associate at the National Security Archive has been very helpful. I am most grateful to her.

Next blog, we will begin to look at the series of public documents from this Archive describing Peace Corps leaving El Salvador in 1979-1980.