CIA makes nearly 13 million declassified documents available online

After being sued under the Freedom of Information Act in 2014, the CIA has made available over 12 million pages of declassified agency documents online which were previously not allowed to be redistributed.

The files, which are or will soon be released, span the foreign intelligence service’s history beginning in 1947 up to 1992.  In 1995, then-President Bill Clinton issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to declassify all records of historical value that are 25 years old or more.

In 2000, the spy agency released its first batch of documents made available through the CIA Records Search Tool (CREST), which resided exclusively at the National Archives II in College Park, Md.

However, non-profit investigative news site MuckRock filed a FOIA lawsuit against the CIA in June 2014 to get the agency’s declassified records released online for greater public access.  In 2015, the CIA said it would take six years to upload all their available files, but a journalist associated with the news organization managed to raise over $15,000 through crowdfunding to visit NARA II, print out the documents and then manually scan and upload each one online at the government’s expense.

Shortly thereafter, in November 2016, the CIA’s Litigation Information Review Office announced that the agency would start posting it’s declassified material in January and make CREST available online.

“We’ve been working on this for a very long time and this is one of the things I wanted to make sure got done before I left,” Joseph Lambert, the CIA’s outgoing information management director said in a statement. “Now you can access it from the comfort of your own home.”

Since 2000, approximately 1.1 million pages from CIA documents have been printed from the CREST database at NARA II.

Included in the released documents are reports filed on two secret CIA projects from the 1950s and 1970s — “The Berlin Tunnel Operation” and “STARGATE”.

Berlin was a joint operation with the British Secret Intelligence Service during the early years of the Cold War in which a 1,476-foot tunnel was dug to tap into a Soviet army headquarters’ cable that was wired underground.  The project was completed in 1955 at the cost of $6.5 million, approximately $58 million in 2017 dollars.

The Russians finally discovered the tunnel in April 1956, less than a year after the covert operation started. A CIA document claims that an American double agent who was “privy to all aspects of the tunnel from the earliest planning stages” alerted the Soviets to its existence.

Two decades later, a collaborative research project by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency started in 1978 dubbed STARGATE which investigated psychic and telepathic phenomena and its potential use in intelligence gathering.  Experiments were conducted, including the recruitment of an Israeli magician named Uri Geller who had demonstrated these abilities through his work.

“I did many things for the CIA,” Geller would later admit. “They wanted me to stand outside the Russian embassy in Mexico and erase floppy discs being flown out by Russian agents.”


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