Paul McGarr – Playing Games with History’: The State Department, the CIA, and the FRUS series

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Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham  
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RJ



Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory


Dr Paul McGarr (University of Nottingham) – Playing Games with History’: The State Department, the CIA, and the FRUS series

Successive Directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, from William Colby to Michael Hayden, have offered much heralded commitments to CIA ‘openness’ and transparency. Much of the CIA’s official operational history from its first three decades, however, remains secret. Until recently, the Agency’s principal opponents in the battle to control the representation of CIA activities undertaken between the late 1940s, and the early 1970s, have been memoir writers, journalists and intelligence historians. From the early 1990s, however, the CIA came under pressure to open up its archives from a new, and in many respects, much more formidable player, inside the United States Government. Since late 1991, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act has legally mandated the State Department’s Office of the Historian to ensure that its flagship publication, The Foreign Relations of the United States series provides a ‘through, accurate and reliable’ account of US foreign policy, not more than 30 years after the fact. The State Department’s subsequent efforts to incorporate ever greater amounts of CIA documentation into the Foreign Relations series have provoked consternation, outrage, and on occasions, feelings bordering on panic, inside the Agency’s Langley headquarters. Using declassified files, this paper examines the State Department’s qualified, uneven, and often painfully slow progress, in opening up CIA history.

Paul McGarr is a lecturer in American Foreign Relations at the University of Nottingham. At Nottingham, he is currently attached to a large AHRC funded project entitled ‘Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA and the Contested Record of US Foreign Policy 1947-2001’. He has published on aspects of Anglo-American political and cultural exchange with the developing world in The International History Review, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, and Diplomacy & Statecraft. At present, he is writing a book on CIA representation in the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States series. His first monograph, Himalayan Frontiers: Britain, the United States and the Cold War in South Asia, which examines post-war Anglo-American relations with India and Pakistan, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.

Contact information: School of American and Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD.

Email: Paul.Mcgarr@nottingham.ac.uk

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