Until recently, members of the public looking to peruse the Central Intelligence Agency’s declassified documents had to travel to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. There, they were able to read the papers, but only from four computer terminals. Now, CNN reports, the CIA has published nearly 13 million pages of declassified documents online, allowing anyone to access them.
The online collection is called the CIA Records Search Tool, or CREST, Bloomberg reports. CREST contains declassified documents from the 1940s through the 1990s, including records of the CIA’s participation in the Vietnam and Korean wars and its activities during the Cold War. There's even information on alleged UFO sightings and psychic research conducted under the organization’s “Star Gate” program.
For security purposes, many of the documents contain redactions, but aside from that, "none of this is cherry-picked," CIA spokeswoman Heather Fritz Horniak told CNN.
The CIA hoped to get CREST up and running by the end of 2017. Thanks to new and improved technologies, they finished well before deadline.
Still, the CIA's public archival efforts are far from complete. Because the organization declassifies most information that's more than 25 years old, its records will only continue to grow in number. The CIA hopes that advancements in artificial intelligence and machine-learning tools will someday allow them to evaluate potentially sensitive documents before publishing them online.