Scott Armstrong

Scott Armstrong

Both as a Washington Post reporter and as founder of the National Security Archive, Scott Armstrong set the standard for the aggressive and ground-breaking use of FOIA for investigative journalists throughout the country. His use of FOIA enabled him to probe a number of historical U.S. policy issues (the war in El Salvador, the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, Iran-Contra, the Cuban missile crisis).

Armstrong first became aware of the importance of FOIA while researching The Brethren (1979), an investigative study of the Supreme Court written with Bob Woodward. Armstrong quickly became a “documents junkie.” With the aid of FOIA, he came to believe, journalists for the first time were able to trace the routes of policy, thus becoming better able to hold policy-makers responsible for their actions.

He left the Post to found the archive, which he ran from 1985-90. He has sued the Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations for withholding records. The Reagan and Bush suits helped establish the principle that electronic information should not be destroyed.

Armstrong trains and advises other journalists in the use of the FOIA and strongly urges newspapers to sue when records are denied them. “Contemporary FOIA policy is developed out of those suits,” he says.

Charter member of the Hall of Fame.