Sources for Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Volume XI, Part 1, Iran: Hostage Crisis, November 1979–September 1980

In preparation for this volume, the editor made extensive use of Presidential papers and other White House records held by the Carter Library, which proved the best source of documentation on President Carter’s and the National Security Council’s role in conceptualizing, formulating, and implementing the response to the Iranian hostage crisis. Within the National Security Affairs Files, Brzezinski Material, the Country File, General Odom File, and the Subject File were particularly valuable. Among the Staff Material, the Middle East File and the Office File were critically important. The editor did not have access to the personal diaries of either President Carter or National Security Advisor Brzezinski.

Second in importance to the records held by the Carter Library were the records of the Department of State. The Department’s central files contain the cable traffic recording U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran, Panama, and all countries critical to the hostage crisis, memoranda of diplomatic conversations, and memoranda proposing action or providing information.

The Department of State Lot Files provided material not duplicated elsewhere, and, in some cases, provided access to materials either destroyed or displaced within the federal government. Essential to the compilation were Lot Files 81D154 and Lot 82D85, both records of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David D. Newsom. Both were extensive, especially in the area of Nodis cables and the Iran Updates. The Updates, prepared daily under the supervision of the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Hal Saunders, often attached backchannel messages from the Swiss that were not available elsewhere.

The Central Intelligence Agency provides access for Department of State historians to high-level intelligence documents from those records in the custody of that Agency and at the Carter Library. This access is arranged and facilitated by the History Staff of the Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, pursuant to a May 2002 memorandum of understanding. Among the intelligence records reviewed for the volume were files of the Director of Central Intelligence, the CIA Registry of National Intelligence Estimates and Special National Intelligence Estimates, and Files from the Office of Research and Reports. Job 82M00501R from the Executive Registry was [Page XVI] two boxes of material on the hostage rescue mission that proved critical.

Documents from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, RG 218–98–0064, Records of the Joint Staff, and RG 218–07–0002, Records of J-3 DDSO Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984 were crucial to piecing together the rescue operation. The latter collection of over 20 boxes of material held the records of the Delta Force operation, planning, and intelligence.

Almost all of this documentation has been made available for use in the Foreign Relations series thanks to the consent of the agencies mentioned, the assistance of their staffs, and especially the cooperation and support of the National Archives and Records Administration.

For this volume, memoir material proved crucial for those episodes of the crisis when records were missing, off the record, or when negotiations entered the public arena.

The following list identifies the particular files and collections used in the preparation of this volume.

In addition to the paper files cited below, a growing number of documents are available on the Internet. The Office of the Historian maintains a list of these Internet resources on its website and encourages readers to consult that site on a regular basis.

Unpublished Sources

  • Department of State, Washington, D.C.
    • Bureau of Intelligence and Research
      • Papers of Stephen Grummon
    • INR/IL Historical Files. Files of the Office of Intelligence Coordination contain records from the 1940s through the 1980s and are maintained by the Office of Intelligence Liaison, Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
      • Iran 1980
      • Covert Action 1980
    • Lot Files. These files have been transferred or will be transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland.
      • Lot 80D135: Office of the Secretariat Staff, Personal Files of the Secretary of State, 1977–1980
      • Lot 81D154: Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981
      • Lot 81D263: Records of the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Iran Desk
      • Lot 81D336: Records of the Office of the Historian; Iran Study
      • Lot 82D85: Official Files of [P] David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
      • Lot 84D241: Records of the Secretary of State, 1977–1980
      • Lot 85D382: Records of the Executive Secretariat, S/S-I
      • Lot 88D276: Executive Secretariat FOI Files
  • National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland
    • Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State
    • Central Foreign Policy File
  • Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Georgia
    • Brzezinski Donated Material
      • Geographic Files
      • Subject Files
    • National Security Affairs
      • Brzezinski Material
        • Agency File
        • Cables File
        • Country File
        • Brzezinski Office File
          • Country Chron File
          • Subject Chron File
        • General Odom File
        • Subject File
        • VIP Visit File
      • Staff Material
        • Europe, USSR and East/West File
        • West Europe Country File
        • Middle East File
          • Chron File
          • Meetings File
          • Subject File
          • Trip/Visits File
        • Office File
          • For President or Brzezinski Only File
          • Institutional File
          • Office File
          • Outside the System File
          • Meetings File
          • Presidential Advisory File
    • National Security Council, 1977–1981
      • Institutional Files (H–Files)
    • Office of the Chief of Staff
      • Jordan’s Confidential Files
    • Plains File
    • President’s Daily Diary
    • Records of the White House Office of Counsel to the President
      • Lloyd Cutler’s Files
  • Central Intelligence Agency, Langley, Virginia
    • Office of the Director of Central Intelligence
      • Job 81B00401R: Subject Files of the Presidential Briefing Coordinator
      • Job 81B00112R: Subject Files
      • Job 81M00919R: Executive Registry Subject Files (1976–1979)
      • Job 82B00162R: Subject Files
      • Job 82M00501R: 1980 Subject Files
      • Job 95M01183R: Policy Files (1977–1981)
    • Directorate of Intelligence
      • Office of Support Services (DCI)
        • Job 81T00208R: Production Case Files (1979–1980)
  • National Security Council
    • Carter Intelligence Files
  • Department of Defense
    • Record Group 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
      • RG 218–07–0002, Records of J-3 DDSO
        • Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984
      • RG 218–98–0064, Records of the Joint Staff

Published Sources

  • Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser, 1977–1981. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1985 (revised edition).
  • Carter, Jimmy. Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1982.
  • Chicago Tribune.
  • Jordan, Hamilton. Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1982.
  • Los Angeles Times.
  • New York Times.
  • Pahlavi, Mohammad Reza Shah. Answer to History. New York: Stein and Day, Inc., 1980.
  • Saunders, Harold. “Diplomacy and Pressure, November 1979-May 1980” American Hostages in Iran: The Conduct of a Crisis. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1985.
  • Sick, Gary. All Fall Down: America’s Tragic Encounter With Iran. New York: Random House, 1985.
  • Time Magazine.
  • Turner, Stansfield. Terrorism and Democracy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1991.
  • Vanderbilt University Television News Archive.
  • United Nations. Yearbook of the United Nations, 1979, 1980. New York: Office of Public Information, United Nations, 1979–1981.
  • U.S. Department of Defense. Final Report of the Special Operations Review Group (The Holloway Report), 1980.
  • ______. Joint Chiefs of Staff History Office. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, 1977–1980.
  • U.S. Department of State. Bulletin, 1979–1981.
  • U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.Public Papers of the Presidents: Jimmy Carter, 1979, 1980–81. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1978–1982.
  • Vance, Cyrus. Hard Choices: Critical Years in America’s Foreign Policy.New York, Simon and Schuster, 1983.
  • Washington Post.