Yesterday the CIA announced the release of approximately 750,000 pages of declassified documents in accordance with Executive Order 13526, which was issued by President Obama in 2009 and prescribes procedures for “classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information.” Declassified documents are accessible through the CIA’s Records Search Tool (CREST) at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. With the release of this latest batch, the total collection available on CREST comes to nearly 13 million pages.
While some of these documents have been published online, most of them can be accessed only through one of four computers at the National Archives building, presenting a formidable obstacle to researchers and journalists. But a Pennsylvania man named Michael Best is determined to change all that. He recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to make the complete contents of the CREST database available online. Because users are not allowed to save documents from CREST, the only way for Best to achieve his goal is to print out and scan every page. As the documents are digitized, he will upload them to the Internet Archive and donate the paper copies to a university, archive, or library. He also plans to provide copies to news and research organizations, including the New York Times and WikiLeaks.
As Best notes on his Kickstarter page, the CREST database contains a tremendous amount of historical information on the Cold War and the early years of the CIA, including “significant collections of finished intelligence from the Directorate of Intelligence; Directorate of Operations (now National Clandestine Service) information reports from the late 1940s and 1950s; Directorate of Science and Technology research and development files; Director, Central Intelligence Agency policy files and memos; and Directorate of Support logistics and other records.”
Equipment costs for the project have already been met. Keep an eye on the Kickstarter page for updates.