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Six pages and serendipity

Today I was searching the shelves of my depository for a report related to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and instead my eyes fell on this publication from the CIA:

Donovan and the CIA : a history of the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency
by Thomas F Troy
Publisher: [Langley, Va.?] : Central Intelligence Agency, Center for the Study of Intelligence, 1981.
SuDoc: PREX 3.10:D71

This is the official story of how the CIA came to be. According to the preface, it was written in 1975 as an account of the agency’s origin for new employees. It was promptly stamped SECRET. In 1981, the agency released a declassified edition which the preface hails as being “released for leisurely reading outside the office, and printed in one volume, this history should better serve it’s original purpose.”

What made the CIA decide it could let its secret origin story out of the shadows? According to the preface, it was the excision of no more than six typewritten pages. Obviously, I haven’t seen the missing six pages, but doesn’t this case make it seem like the classification process is a little whimsical?

The book is divided into three sections: “The COI (Coordinator of Information) Story” which covers from about 1929 to World War II, Wartime–The OSS Story and Postwar–The CIA Story, which ends with the establishment of the CIA. If anyone’s read this volume, let us know what you think.

As far as I can tell, the book has no electronic version. Google Books has a commercial version with no preview. Perhaps one day the government document version, which is in the public domain, will be posted. Might be interesting to run a tag cloud on the text.

The electronic world has given us many gifts, but I’m not sure it could deliver an experience of serendipity like the printed shelf did for me today. From welfare to spies.


On a personal note, thanks to everyone who has sent words of appreciation to me regarding my being named as a Library Journal 2008 Mover and Shaker. I really think this is an award that in a real sense belongs to the entire documents community and especially to my co-volunteers here at FGI and the dozens of folks working on State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States. Thanks to each and every one of you who contributes to finding, describing, and making government information available to people in a way that respects their privacy. Without you I’d just be a mouth on legs.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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