National Security Archive Update, April 7, 2010 Why is “Poodle Blanket” Classified? Still More Dubious Secrets at the Pentagon

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William Burr – 202/994-7000

Washington, DC, April 7, 2010 – In a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the Pentagon claims that “Poodle Blanket” contingency plans from 1961 for a possible confrontation over West Berlin (no longer divided) with the Soviet Union (no longer a country) still need to be secret for fear of damage to current U.S. national security, according to documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (

“Keeping information on ‘Poodle Blanket’ a secret today shows how obsolete the Pentagon’s security guidance is,” commented William Burr, the Archive’s analyst who asked for the documents in 1992 — making the request one of the oldest still pending in the U.S. government.

In the early 1990s, the State Department’s historical series, Foreign Relations of the United States, published a number of documents on “Poodle Blanket” — including the highest level National Security Action Memorandum 109. The name “Poodle Blanket” came from Kennedy administration officials who used it to describe a series of diplomatic, economic, and military contingency plans, leading up to nuclear war, developed in the event of a confrontation with the Soviet Union over Berlin. That formerly top secret documents on “Poodle Blanket” contingency planning have been declassified for years makes it improbable that declassification of more information would “serious and demonstrably undermine” U.S. foreign relations, as the Pentagon argues.

“Spending taxpayers’ money withholding 50-year-old documents about long-resolved Cold War conflicts is not only a waste but also damages our national security by undermining the credibility of the system that protects real secrets,” said Tom Blanton, director of the Archive.

Today’s release follows a previous Nuclear Vault posting on Pentagon overclassification that highlighted several other cases in which the Department applied stringent guidelines inappropriate for the review of historical documents.

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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.