Thursday, January 19, 2017

archival CIA information released online by National Archives

Yesterday the CIA and NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) released 13 million pages of declassified documents via an online database. The records had been available since about 1995 on a few computers in the National Archives in Maryland during limited hours. The information includes documentation on UFO sittings, the papers of Henry Kissinger, intelligence analysis, scientific research and development, psychic evaluations including those of Uri Geller, and an invisible ink recipe.

The release online occurred after several years of activity seeking to make the pages available online by a journalist who paid NARA to print and scan documents one at at time via crowd funding in excess of $15,000 to make them more widely available, and a lawsuit against the CIA by a freedom information group called MuckRock.

This process follows established precedence. In the recent past, copies of declassified British WWII information from British archives were copied and taken to the National Archives (in the US) in order to speed up the declassification process as well as the types of materials declassified held in NARA archives. Historians and journalists argued that they could fly to the UK to do their research, but if they could access it in the UK, they should be able to access it in the US as well. There was no logical reason why it would be available in the UK and not the US if it was the same information. That opened up a lot of files.

It is very likely that  it will become a trend to request that more archival information is released online to make it easier and faster to access. This will be easier on researchers and take more time and effort and cost up front by NARA. It is a the technical pro and con for archives we all face today.

Read more about the release of the CIA information here http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38663522

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