The CIA offers an electronic search engine that lets you mine about 11 million agency documents that have been declassified over the years. It’s called CREST, short for CIA Records Search Tool. But this represents only a portion the CIA’s declassified materials, and if you want unfettered access to the search engine, you’ll have to physically visit the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, historians and researchers have urged the CIA to provide them with their own copy of the CREST electronic database, so that they can seek greater insight into U.S. history and even build up additional checks and balances against the government’s approach to official secrecy. But the agency won’t do it. “Basically, the CIA is saying that the database of declassified documents is itself classified,” explains Steve Aftergood, a senior research analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, who oversees the federation’s government secrecy project.
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