Washington Decoded, an online monthly, began featuring original articles and book reviews about recent American history in March 2007. Its editor is Max Holland, a journalist and author who arrived in Washington from Lincoln, Nebraska in 1976.

The inspiration for the website comes from an essay penned by George Orwell in 1946, just after the end of World War II. In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell observed that "Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

That sensibility captures the intent of Washington Decoded. It will not toe a partisan, professional, or ideological line. Its only purpose is to try and explain issues of moment to its readers by tapping archival or other primary sources, with an emphasis on US government documents that have been recently declassified or works derived from such primary sources. More often than not, the the articles and book reviews featured on the website will be about old headlines.

Max Holland got his start in journalism at the Lincoln Star, where he worked from 1975 to 1976 as a copy boy, obituary editor, music critic, and eventually, copy editor. Currently, he is a member of the editorial advisory board of the International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence. His articles have also appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, American Heritage, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Studies in Intelligence, the Journal of Cold War Studies, Reviews in American History, The Nation, The Weekly Standard, The Wilson Quarterly, and online at History News Network.

In 2001, Holland won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, bestowed jointly by Harvard University's Nieman Center and the Columbia University School of Journalism, for a forthcoming narrative history about the John F. Kennedy assassination, to be published by Alfred A. Knopf. That same year he won an award for an article in Studies in Intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency, the first writer working outside the US government to be so recognized.

Holland's books include Blind Over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis, co-authored with David Barrett (Texas A&M University Press, 2012); Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat (University Press of Kansas, 2012); The Kennedy Assassination Tapes: The White House Conversations of Lyndon B. Johnson regarding the Assassination, the Warren Commission, and the Aftermath (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004); The CEO Goes to Washington: Negotiating the Halls of Power (Whittle Direct Books, 1994); and When the Machine Stopped: A Cautionary Tale from Industrial America (Harvard Business School Press, 1989).

For the most current information on Holland's upcoming appearances or talks, visit

Washington Decoded is a project of the Declass Foundation Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization that exists to foster the preservation, declassification, and dissemination of US government documents.

Site Notes & Policies

New articles are published on the 11th day of the month, and when the occasion warrants an "extra" is posted. The site also hosts the editor's articles published elsewhere.

Although copyrighted, original articles posted on Washington Decoded may be freely distributed and/or printed for non-commercial use, provided that credit is given to the author and the website, i.e., the author’s name and the month the article first appeared in Washington Decoded.

While readers are encouraged to submit comments and corrections, this site is not a blog or running conversation. Readers' remarks will be edited for relevancy and length, and will be posted at the sole discretion of the editor.

If a Washington Decoded article or review is revised substantially after being initially posted, the changes will be noted and explained in the "Corrections" category. Revisions that do not materially alter the facts presented or their interpretation—such as typos, errors in citations or dates, and broken links—will be remedied as they are found and without notice.

Links to the books listed in the left column should not be interpreted as an endorsement of their contents—only that the book is worth noting.

E-mail subscribers to Washington Decoded will not have their addresses shared with third parties.

Editorial Board

David M. Barrett, professor, Villanova University
Barton J. Bernstein, professor emeritus, Stanford University
William Burr, senior analyst, National Security Archive
Thomas Ferguson, professor emeritus, University of Massachusetts
Irwin F. Gellman, author
John Earl Haynes, author & historian (ret.), Library of Congress
Joan Hoff, professor (ret.), Montana State University
Paul Hoch, computer programmer/analyst (ret.), University of California, Berkeley
Mark Hulbert, editor, Hulbert Financial Digest
Martin J. Kelly Jr., professor (ret.), Hobart & William Smith Colleges
Harvey Klehr, professor, Emory University
Mark Kramer, editor, Journal of Cold War Studies
Charles Lewis, professor (ret.), American University
Jay Peterzell, journalist
Thomas Powers, author & journalist
Priscilla Roberts, associate professor, City University of Macau
Thomas Schwartz, professor, Vanderbilt University
Sheldon M. Stern, historian (ret.), John F. Kennedy Library
Jay Tolson, author & editor
Alan Tonelson, author & journalist

Editorial Assistant