CIA to make 11mn declassified docs available to public online

© Dado Ruvic
The CIA is finally putting its database of declassified documents up for public access. Since 2000, the 11 million documents had only been accessible to academic researchers at a special facility in Maryland.

CREST – or the CIA Records Search Tool – was a notoriously difficult thing to access, with anyone wishing to use it having to travel to the National Archives and Records Administration, which held the only computers capable of patching in.

But the CIA has announced it will now be searchable on its website, CIA.gov.

To clarify – these aren’t Snowden-level revelations and you likely won’t unearth any vote-rigging testimonies by murdered Congressional staffers or anything of the sort. CREST is, however, a treasure trove of historical agency records that any budding history buff can now pore over.

The collection had been digitized in 2000, but this did little to remove the frustration from the whole process of getting to it, Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, writes.

According to CIA spokesperson Ryan Trapani, who spoke with the FAS, once the documents are uploaded to the CIA website, “they will be full-text searchable and have the same features currently available on the CREST system at NARA.”

There’s no set date, but the switch is definitely happening, he confirmed. Until it’s fully operational on the CIA website, CREST will continue as is, he added.

Another agency spokesman, Jonathan Lieu, told The Hill the move will “dramatically increase the ability of the public to access these documents.”