In January, thanks to a five-year fight by the National Security Archive, the Pentagon began releasing massive troves of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s memos. The memos were so copious that they developed their own legendary status within the Armed Forces.
Rumsfeld himself describes them:
When I returned to the Pentagon in 2001, I continued writing the short memos that had been nicknamed “snowflakes” some years ago. They quickly became a system of communication with the many employees of DoD, as I would initiate a topic with a short memo to the relevant person, who would in turn provide research, background, or a course of action as necessary. In the digital age it was much easier to keep the originals on file so I could track their progress. They quickly grew in number from mere flurries to a veritable blizzard.
The term “snowflake” covers a range of communications, from notes to myself on topics I found interesting, to extended instructions to my associates, to simple requests for a haircut. There was no set template; some are several pages and some just a few words. They were all conceived individually and I had never considered them as a set until I started work on the memoir. I then found that when reviewed together, they give a remarkable sense of the variety of topics that are confronted by a secretary of defense.
Now you can explore the early days of the War on Terror - and potentially earn free MuckRock requests and even swag - by helping analyze what was in them, surfacing the most interesting and historically important memos and sharing the results with everyone.
Help unearth history and get free MuckRock requests and swag
To reward those who help out with the project, we’re offering some prizes, which we’ll award weekly for four weeks:
- Everyone who submits at least five entries within a given week will be given a free MuckRock request in their account the following Friday.
- A bonus four requests OR any item up to $20 from the MuckRock Swag Store will be given to the most interesting entry submitted in a given week, as decided by MuckRock staff.
- Anyone who participates in all four weeks will be given a bonus four requests AND a free MuckRock sticker pack, sticked anywhere in the United States.
- The person who submits the most entries will be given 25 free requests plus an extra special MuckRock Swag Pack, sent anywhere in the United States.
What else is hiding in #RummysSnowflakes?
The campaign builds on some great digging already done when the National Security Archive first released the memos.
Rumsfeld on DHS: “The word ‘homeland’ is a strange word. ‘Homeland’ Defense sounds more German than American. Also it smacks of isolationism.” https://t.co/RVWlEzFKeZ #FOIA #Rummysnowflakes pic.twitter.com/jFoViKCSqw— Lauren Harper (@LaurenLeHarper) January 24, 2018
SecDef Rumsfeld's job was getting heavy one day @NSArchive #rummysnowflakes pic.twitter.com/VypAfvXBIY— Paul Handley (@PaulHandley2) January 25, 2018
Interesting find in the #rummysnowflakes - Donald Rumsfeld claimed George Trofimoff's life imprisonment charge for espionage was "too light" https://t.co/wRJbeMwXTu pic.twitter.com/xjZJqjh13J— JPat Brown (@resentfultweet) January 24, 2018
Rumsfeld's thoughts on "Oil." #Rummysnowflakes pic.twitter.com/pv32kRTSOT— NSA Nate (@NSANate) January 24, 2018
When u ask me to get drinks. #rummysnowflakes pic.twitter.com/tfoGVzq6TK— Frank Matt (@fxmatt4) January 24, 2018
Rumsfeld criticizes the use of “Homeland” that makes him uncomfortable. I’m assuming he’s referring to Homeland Defense, which is weird since this memo is pre-9/11 pic.twitter.com/kAD69Rs5LX— Paul Szoldra (@PaulSzoldra) January 24, 2018
Rumsfeld expecting things in the Middle East might "settle down" sooner rather than later. On December 27, 2001. 17 + years ago. https://t.co/RVWlEzFKeZ #FOIA #Rummysnowflakes pic.twitter.com/YxA2jHrxMu— Lauren Harper (@LaurenLeHarper) January 24, 2018
Eric Milzarski also has a good roundup of some memos that have not stood up well to the test of time.
Click below to help us find the other entries that deserve a wider audience.
Image via Defense.gov