U.S. researcher Michael Best launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising an intial goal of $10,000 to make freely available the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) entire database of over 13 million declassified documents. Since the launch of the campaign the public has resoundingly responded to the fundraiser.
Main goal: Equipment ($10,000) – FUNDED!
Stretch goal 1:FOIA requests ($11,000) – FUNDED!
Stretch goal 2: One month full-time focus ($15,000) – Not yet
After being basically stonewalled by the intelligence agency in providing digital records; the researcher approached the problem with a different strategy.
According to a report by Tech Week Europe:
Best, who previously worked with The Internet Archive project and with MuckRock, which facilitates US Government Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, said he hopes to make a full-time job out of digitising and uploading the more than 10 million pages of documents made available via the CIA Records Search
The documents, released under the CIA’s 25 Year Programme, under which information 25 years or older is made available to the public, include records from the first five Directors of Central Intelligence, intelligence photographs and information on more exotic subjects, such as “Star Gate”, a 25-year effort that “used remote viewers who claimed to use clairvoyance, precognition, or telepathy to acquire and describe information about targets that were blocked from ordinary perception”, according to Best.
While these documents are in theory freely available to researchers, in reality, there are only four dedicated terminals from which the documents can be accessed, located at the National Archives and Records Administration.
Since the only means allowed of making copies is printing them out, Best intends to print out millions of pages and then scan them back into digital form using a high-speed scanner. The materials will be uploaded to The Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based non-profit makes digital material freely available for public access.
“There are over 10 million pages of CIA documents that have never seen the light of day. It’s time to change that,” Best said in the project description.
According to Tech Week Europe:
Best, who has previously published large collections of documents related to the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy and declassified information about UFOs, also works with MuckRock, which in 2014 filed a FOIA request asking the CIA to make CREST available to it in digital form.
Following a lawsuit by MuckRock, the CIA said it would deliver the database on 1,200 compact discs, but said delivery would take six to 28 years to fulfil and would cost more than $100,000, due to the time and staffing resources needed to review the documents to ensure no classified information was found in them.
Best estimates it will take several years to complete the project, largely dependent upon funding allowing for him to work full-time on the digitization of records. According to Best, once the records are fully uploaded he will provide digital copies to WikiLeaks and the New York Times, with the print outs being donated to a public institution such as a library or university for posterity.
For as little as $1, people can assist in creating a database of formerly secret knowledge that the public will have the ability to access and research. The freeing of information that has been compartmentalized and kept secret from the public by the CIA is a step in towards a more open and transparent society.
Jay Syrmopoulos is a political analyst, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has been published on Ben Swann’s Truth in Media, Truth-Out, Raw Story, MintPress News, as well as many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.