Main goal: Equipment ($10,000) - FUNDED!
Stretch goal 1: FOIA requests ($11,000 total) - FUNDED!
Stretch goal 2: One month full-time focus ($15,000 total) - Not yet
Outside of Washington D.C. sits a database with hundreds of thousands of files and nearly 13,000,000 pages from CIA. This database can only be accessed from four computers in a secure federal building. This isn't the plot to a spy thriller - it's a disclosure program from the Agency, and it's time to get that information into the public's hands.
Accessing the information isn't easy. Researchers have to go to the back of the 3rd floor library at the National Archives building in Maryland, which is unfortunately unstaffed for half the day. Tucked away in the library are the only computers that can access the millions of pages of declassified records. If researchers ask the the main "Information" desk, they're answered with confused stares and incorrect directions. Researchers trying to look up on the National Archive's website where to access the computers, won't find it on the page about doing research at that location or on the page for electronic records at that location. That information is tucked away on the page for online databases - despite not being online.
CIA admits that the arrangement "may be inconvenient and present an obstacle to many researchers," but the only way to describe the experience of finding and accessing the records is by comparing it to a scene from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Once at the computers, visitors aren't allowed to save any of the already digitized documents - instead they have to print the documents out while under several kinds of electronic surveillance. If they want to share those documents with the world at large, they have to be scanned back in and uploaded. Of the roughly 13 million pages on the CREST database, just over 1 million have been printed - most of which remain unpublished and unavailable to the general public.
The plan is simple: scan and upload as much as possible for everyone to access - for free.
Digitize: The first step is digitizing the records. This means printing documents from the CREST database, then scanning and processing them. To process the records in any sort of timely manner requires a scanner with a high "daily duty cycle" to keep the scanner from burning from being heavily used.
Upload: Once digitized, the documents will be uploaded to the Internet Archive where everyone will be able to access and download them for free. The server will also automatically convert (as best as possible) the files to formats including:
- Searchable text with ABBYY
- DAISY Digital Talking Book
Distribute: New files that are uploaded will be noted on That 1 Archive's website. I'll make a special effort to provide news and research organizations like WikiLeaks and the New York Times with bulk copies of the files for research and analysis.
Donate: Once digitized, the paper copies of the documents will be donated to a university, library or archive.
Choose what gets uploaded first
Everyone who backs the project will get a voice in choosing what gets printed and uploaded first. It's your chance to make sure I get right to records on the pieces of history you're most interested in. Similar requests will be combined, and the requests from the biggest contributors being processed first.
Keeping the budget small: A major goal is to keep the budget as small as possible. There's a home office I can easily convert to scanning and organizing files, eliminating the need for rent. By keeping the website simple and hosted with Neocities, the costs are minimized. Using the Internet Archive to host the documents on eliminates the need for separate file storage and contributes to their goal of providing universal access to all human knowledge. The biggest single factor in keeping the budget small is that CIA is reimbursing the National Archives for the cost of the paper and ink - so printing the documents is free.
The essential starting costs are:
- Fujitsu fi-6770 Scanner: $5,439 - Includes intelligent document processing features and scanning speeds of up to 90 pages per minute. This model is built for endurance and rated for up to 15,000 pages per day.
- 13" MacBook Air: $1,000 - This will allow me to track and index documents in the archive as I print them, speeding up the scanning process. It will also let me do supplemental research while selecting and printing documents, improving document selection and priority. It will also connect to the scanner, after booting into Windows, run the scanner software and upload documents to the Internet Archive.
- Office supplies: $1,000 Includes business registration fees, containers for transporting documents in, sorting boxes, redundant external hard drives.
- Kickstarter fees: +10%
- Shirts and USBs for backers: +20% Any excess not spent on shirts will be added to general funds for unforeseen expenses or supplemental FOIA requests.
- Misc.: $250 - Shipping, tax, unexpected minor expenses.
- Total: $10,000
Budgeting Beyond the Basics
If the initial funding is a success, there are additional goals that will help get documents released much more quickly and efficiently.
- MuckRock requests (250): $1,000 for follow-up FOIAs and Mandatory Declassification Review requests.
- Full-time focus: To get things printed, scanned and uploaded as quickly as possible I'd like to make this my full time focus and pay myself a rate based on median salary for the field, minus the cost of Kickstarter fees and fulfilling requests. Even after rounding up, I'll actually only make a fraction of the average pay.
CREST includes records on nearly every topic related to the Cold War and the early history of the CIA. This includes significant collections of finished intelligence from the Directorate of Intelligence; Directorate of Operations (now National Clandestine Service) information reports from the late 1940s and 1950s; Directorate of Science and Technology research and development files; Director, Central Intelligence Agency policy files and memos; and Directorate of Support logistics and other records. CREST also contains declassified imagery reports from the former National Photographic Interpretation Center, and several specialized collections of translations from foreign media. Collections include:
- Office of the DCI Collection (ODCI): 28,550 documents/129,000 pages from the records of the first five Directors of Central Intelligence: Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, General Walter "Bedell" Smith, Allen Dulles, John McCone, and Richard Helms. These records run from the beginning of CIA in 1947 through the late 1960s and include a wide variety of memos, letters, minutes of meetings, chronologies and related files from the Office of the DCI (ODCI) that document the high level workings of the CIA during its early years. - Digital copies, acquired!
- Directorate of Intelligence (DI) Central Intelligence Bulletins: 8,800 documents/123,000 pages from a collection of daily Central Intelligence Bulletins (CIB), National Intelligence Bulletins (NIB) and National Intelligence Dailies (NID) running from 1951 through 1979. The CIBs/NIBs were published six days a week (Monday through Saturday) and were all source compilations of articles and consisting initially of short Daily Briefs and longer Significant Intelligence Reports and Estimates on key events and tops of the day. The CIBs/ NIBs were circulated to high level policy-makers in the US Government. - Digital copies, acquired!
- General CIA Records: Records from the CIA's archives that are 25 years old or older, including a wide variety of finished intelligence reports, field information reports, high-level Agency policy papers and memoranda, and other documents produced by the CIA.
- STAR GATE: A 25-year Intelligence Community 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. The records include documentation of remote viewing sessions, training, internal memoranda, foreign assessments, and program reviews.
- Consolidated Translations: Translated reports of foreign-language technical articles of intelligence interest, organized by author and each document covers a single subject.
- Scientific Abstracts: Abstracts of foreign scientific and technical journal articles from around the world.
- Ground Photo Caption Cards: Used to identify photographs in the NlMA ground photograph collection. Each caption card contains a serial number that corresponds to the identical serial number on a ground photograph. The master negatives of the ground photography collection have been accessioned separately to NARA. The caption cards provide descriptive information to help identify which master negatives researchers may wish to request.
- National Intelligence Survey: National Intelligence Survey gazetteers.
- NGA: Records from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, primarily photographic intelligence reports.
- Joint Publication Research Service: Provided translations of regional and topical issues in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
- Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's papers: 40,000 pages of newly declassified documents. The papers did not originate with CIA, but "contain many CIA equities."
- Directorate of Science and Technology R&D: 20,000 pages
- Analytic intelligence publication files: Over 100,000 pages.
Risks and challenges
CIA is paying for the paper and toner, and has for years - but it's possible that this could change. If it does, then the new rules will have to be explored for possible ways to continue.
The rate of printing is dependent on the flow of fresh paper and toner. If the Archives run out of either, then printing and digitizing will have to pause while CIA refreshes their supplies.
CIA could preempt the project by making the entire CREST database available online or speeding up their response to MuckRock's request for the database (which is estimated to take between 6 and 28 years to fulfill). Far from being a challenge, this would be a total success. If this does happen, then effort will shift to digitizing other records.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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