DECLASSIFIED: How Not To Do City Diplomacy

Mayors and city-level politicians can participate in foreign diplomacy, benefiting their constituents and communities around the world. In April 1982, during the Cold War, the Mayor of Glenn Clove, New York took it upon himself to inform the U.S. Department of State of suspected espionage from Soviets living in his city at the Killenworth Estate. What followed is a story that has, until now, been hidden in classified official government correspondence.

Where did these declassified documents come from?

In 2019, Ben Leffel, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Irvine, received boxes of declassified documents from Michael Schumann for research purposes. Michael Schumann had written the Department of State asking for declassified documents of all city to federal government communication during the Cold War era in order to write a book on the subject.

Ben, having been sent thousands of declassified documents, asked Jill Pestana, a colleague from UC Irvine and fellow former member of Nuclear Policy Working Group, to help him sift through these documents (for fun!). Jill pulled out a manilla folder with the label “Glen Cove, New York” on the tab from one box, and started reading through the enclosed documents. As they read these letters, Ben and her couldn’t believe their eyes as a story of Cold War escalation unfolded in the unlikeliest place: a recreation center.

Watch the video below to hear the rest of this story!

Read the Declassified Documents yourself:

Additional Links!

World Economy Data Visualization:

Michael Shuman Bio:

Michael H. Shuman, was the lawyer who in 1982 founded the Center for Innovative Diplomacy (CID) in San Francisco, that later merged with efforts by Irvine Mayor Larry Agran and moved to Irvine, where it became a network of over 6,000 local officials and activists advocating for the end of the arms race, reduction in U.S. defense spending, sanctuary cities, sister cities in Central America, and divestment from Apartheid South Africa.

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