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CIA Records Search Tool (CREST)

Steven Aftergood reports (CIA Updates Digital Archive, Restricts Access, Secrecy News, March 26, 2009) on the release by the Central Intelligence Agency of a new tool that allows users to search on-line to discover the availability of declassified CIA documents. The tool is the CIA FOIA – 25-Year Program Archive Search.

But you cannot download the documents you discover. Steven notes that the CIA will not “put the entire CREST database online so that anyone, anywhere could download these declassified, often heavily censored records. Nor will CIA release an electronic copy of the CREST database so that others may post it.”

The CIA justifies withholding the complete text because, “The Agency evidently believes that there are latent secrets concealed in the declassified record that could somehow be extracted by a clever analyst who reviewed them in electronic form.”

See also: Pozen, David. The Mosaic Theory, National Security, and the Freedom of Information Act. SSRN eLibrary. 26 Mar 2009.

Steven also says:

In 1995, President Clinton ordered agencies that classify information to “establish a Governmentwide database of information that has been declassified” (Executive Order 12958, section 3.8). That never happened, and in 2003 President Bush deleted the requirement (Executive Order 13292, section 3.7). Restoring such a requirement, and fulfilling it, would be an appealing feature of a new executive order on classification.

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