More than a decade after the terrorist attacks that shook the nation, questions still surround what happened during 9/11.
From the collapse of the twin towers, to whether the White House had inside knowledge, AllTime 10s brings you, the 10 most shocking conspiracies about 9/11.
Some say alien spacecraft are tested at Nevada’s legendary Area 51 site; what does history have to say?
Today we’re going to soar above the alkaline flats of the Nevada desert at speeds in excess of Mach 3, banking and weaving among the peaks, and come in for a landing at runway 32R at airport designation KXTA. We’re inside the restricted airspace of the Nevada Test and Training Range, operated from nearby Nellis Air Force Base. Commonly called Area 51 by the general public, this well-developed base on the shore of dry Groom Lake is one of the most famous mystery sites in the world, shrouded in rumor and wild claims of aliens and conspiracies.
In 2001, two friends and I took a Cessna Skyhawk from Las Vegas to Tonopah, closely skirting the border of the restricted airspace surrounding Nellis AFB. This happened to be just prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, at which time the restricted airspace was greatly expanded, and the route that we took then is no longer possible today. But at the time, flying past the radar facility atop Bald Mountain, we were able to legally look right down into Groom Lake, and took plenty of photographs and video. We were contacted by the air traffic control tower at Groom Lake, which was plainly visible from our position, and he asked us what our destination was. We told him Tonopah, and he asked if we’d like him to give us a direct vector to Tonopah. This was his way of saying “Maybe you’d like to veer away and go straight to Tonopah rather than hugging our border.” But as we weren’t doing anything wrong, we declined his offer and finished out our original flight plan. We saw a number of other landing strips scattered about inside Nellis, but none that were as well developed as Groom Lake.
Why were we able to do this, at a base that everyone believes is so top-secret? Everyone says the government denies its existence or that it doesn’t appear on maps. There is indeed one very big secret at Area 51. In the words of Joerg Arnu, founder of the Dreamland Resort web site: “The biggest secret about Area 51 is that it was never secret.”
In late 1950, the United States Atomic Energy Commission established the National Proving Grounds for the testing of nuclear devices, inside the Las Vegas Gunnery and Bombing Range. This huge area was subdivided into parcels called simply Area 1, Area 2, and so on; and only those Areas from 1 to 30 became a final part of the project. Area 51 was merely a leftover piece of land among many others.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s Project AQUATONE had resulted in the design of what would become the U-2 spy plane, but for security reasons, they wanted someplace more private than Edwards Air Force Base to develop it. In 1955, a team led by Lockheed’s chief designer, the legendary Kelly Johnson, flew around Nevada looking for an alternate site. They found one inside Area 51: the dry Groom Lake, which they described as “A perfect natural landing field… as smooth as a billiard table without anything being done to it.”
Security and confidentiality have been constant throughout Groom Lake’s history. Nobody outside the base has ever had access to whatever work was being done inside, and for a long time, everything that had ever happened there was classified. So conditions were ripe in 1989 when a guy named Bob Lazar told a Las Vegas television reporter that he’d been working there for the past year, reverse engineering alien spacecraft to learn how they worked. For years, Lazar enjoyed a good run of television guest appearances and other publicity.
A lot of people in the UFO community really wanted to believe Lazar’s story, as it so perfectly confirmed their conviction that aliens visit the Earth and that the government covers it up. But everyone who seriously fact-checked Lazar’s claims . . .
By Mason I. Bilderberg
If you have a hardcore interest in the conspiratorial mind like i do, i think you’ll enjoy what i have to offer today.
There is an internet radio broadcast called The Bob Charles Show that broadcasts 5 days a week at various times.
I mention this show because i’m having fun sifting through their audio archive listening to some of the craziest conspiratorial-woo crap you’ll find anywhere. This is pure entertainment. Where else can you find this kind of rambling nonsense?
To whet your appetite, below is an excerpt from the 11/10/13 The Bob Charles Show that i had transcribed.
Do note, i have highlighted every instance where these conspiracists use the catch-all, abstract phrase “they” to reference the faceless, nameless matrix masters.
Conspiracists are notorious for blaming “them” or “they” for every woe, unanswered question or mystery in the world.
- Don’t feel well? “They” are spraying us with something.
- Who did it? “They” did it.
- Who controls the world? “They” do.
- Corn Flakes soggy? Damn “them!”
You want to piss off a conspiracist? When they refer to “they,” ask them who “they” are. Two days ago a conspiracist told me “they” were the FBI, NSA, CIA, etc. I asked him to stop blaming buildings and get more specific (Who? What? When? Where?). He went nuts. To him i was suddenly one of “them.”
If you hear “they,” ask for specific names, dates and locations. Who (specifically) talked to who (specifically)? Who (specifically) is a member of the illuminati? Who (specifically) within the NSA? Who (specifically) within the government? Who (specifically) within the pharmaceutical industry? Who (specifically)?
No more blaming buildings and talking in abstract concepts about nameless, faceless people.
But i digress …
Here is the excerpt from the 11/10/13 The Bob Charles Show with the word “They” highlighted:
The entire interview is approximately 58 minutes long. Like i said, i have a hardcore interest in these loons, so this may not be for you if your interest is more casual.
- Same Sh**, Different Year. (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracists busy fighting the NWO! (illuminutti.com)
- The CIA, JFK and Clay Shaw: Paranoia and the Conspiratorial Worldview (deadcitizensrightssociety.wordpress.com)
- More JFK denialism: CNN fails to credit source for Air Force One tape story (jfkfacts.org)
It’s true: The KGB really did have deep cover spies in the United States – and they weren’t the only ones. So how does infiltrating a government work? Who’s done it, and why?
- Keith Thomson: Oh, By the Way, Germany Spies on Us (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Logic behind Mass Spying: Empire and Cyber Imperialism (nsnbc.me)
- Why America spies on its allies (and probably should) (washingtonpost.com)
Whenever there is a disaster or notable tragedy in the world, the conspiracy theorists come crawling out of their darkened dens to offer up incredibly implausible explanations. The worst one, of late, was in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. There was a theory going around, and widespread it was too, that the whole thing had been staged and all the folk who lost limbs were amputee actors. Really? Really? And the lone gunmen is almost always a CIA mind-controlled drone, activated by some remote control… and so on and so forth. We’ve all heard that it was George W. Bush who was behind the World Trade Centre holocaust.
I started snooping about the internet for others because although I’m often appalled at the incredulous nonsense, I am also fascinated by them. I’m fascinated to read fanatical rants that are so ‘out there’ that they become almost entertaining.
Here are a few doozies…
1. J Edgar Hoover organised a hit squad made up entirely of homosexuals to assassinate JFK. The rationale was that in the wake of the hit, police would disregard the flamboyantly dressed gay people because they would not be considered capable of committing such a violent act…I actually do think that the official story is a bit bogus but I’m not buying the Rainbow Army theory.
3. Sony Bono was murdered on the ski slope because he was going to run for president. Unlikely. He was probably just not looking where he was going.
4. Man did not walk on the moon. Man walked into a Hollywood studio for a photo shoot. I like to think we did walk on the moon. It looked like fun. I would like to move to Mars so walking on the moon seems like a good precursor for that. Also, if it was just a Hollywood stunt I would have thought they’d get ET in there. It was a bit too dull for a beat-up.
5. There is a New World Order running a global bank which aims to eliminate paper and coin currency in favour of digital banking and then one day in the not too distant future, they will shut down the system forcing citizens into slavery. It’s all about the Illuminati (isn’t it always?). This one is interesting. I like paper money. Particularly hundred dollar bills. I love the smell of money and I keep forgetting my online password. I will keep my money in shoe-boxes just in case. I have vivid nightmares about the Illuminati. They all have red hair!
6. According to Christine Fitzgerald, a former confidante of Princess Diana, the late Queen of Hearts told her quite seriously that the royal family are actually shape-shifting, reptilian aliens from a galaxy far, far away. Now that is gold.
- Five Kennedy Conspiracy Theories Debunked by JFK: The Smoking Gun (illuminutti.com)
- 10 things you might not know about conspiracy theories (illuminutti.com)
- 8 clues your friend is becoming a crazy conspiracy theorist (illuminutti.com)
- Who killed JFK? 50 years of conspiracy theories explained (theweek.co.uk)
- As Anniversary of JFK Death Nears, a Look at Conspiracy Theories (online.wsj.com)
From the complicated to the absurd, there is no shortage of hypotheses concocted by conspiracy theorists about what happened on that fateful day in Dallas nearly fifty years ago. While the upcoming REELZ documentary JFK: The Smoking Gun presents a straightforward, plausible and logical solution to this long unsolved mystery, many of the ideas that theorists come up with seem quite unlikely. Ballistics expert Howard Donahue and veteran police detective Colin McLaren came to conclusions which are simple and don’t rely on unsubstantiated claims, and audiences will get a glimpse of the processes they used when JFK: The Smoking Gun premieres Sunday, November 3rd. As for all those off-the-wall conspiracy theories, we took a moment to examine some of the claims, all of which look just a little more unlikely when compared with the evidence presented in the upcoming documentary.
Conspiracy Theory 1: The Mafia Killed JFK
One of the most popular theories about the JFK assassination is that it was a mafia hit. There are many variations on this theme, and mostly they differ in terms of why the mob decided to get involved. For example, some say the reason JFK was the victim of a mafia hit is because the mob rigged the Illinois election to ensure that Kennedy won the state. When JFK refused to play ball with them once he was in office, the mob felt a need to retaliate. Or maybe the reason that the mob was furious was because JFK continued the economic sanctions and travel embargoes to Cuba. Seeing as Cuba was something of a sanctuary for organized crime bosses, they felt they had to do something about it. Then there’s the simple idea that the mob was simply reacting to the fact that Attorney General Robert Kennedy was cracking down on organized crime. As sensational as these theories are, the fact is that the mob does not typically kill highly visible and powerful politicians or law enforcers, so the idea that they would call a hit on the POTUS seems unlikely. But even if the mafia did kill Kennedy and had a gunman on the grassy knoll, does the ballistics evidence substantiate that theory? Howard Donahue studied the bullet trajectories, and came to the conclusion that there’s no way any of the shots fired came from the grassy knoll. Though it’s had many proponents over the past fifty years, this theory doesn’t really hold up.
Conspiracy Theory 2: The CIA and/or the Illuminati Killed Kennedy
The myriad of theories that suggest that the CIA was responsible for JFK’s death is decidedly one jumbled bunch of ideas. One theory claims that the CIA resented the way Kennedy was handling Cuba, and officials were particularly irked that he was undermining their attempts to kill Castro. As a result, the government agency decided to kill Kennedy. Others claim that a shadowy Illuminati-type member of the Federal Reserve Bank wanted Kennedy killed because of a law he passed which could have made the Treasury more powerful than the Federal Reserve. This powerful figure was able to make the CIA do his bidding, because obviously the shadowy, underworld types control everything. The CIA even has a very lengthy (and very dry) explanation of how the story got started and why it is false in their online library. Would sworn US government agents really kill the President of the United States due to political disagreements? It hardly seems likely.
Conspiracy Theory 3: JFK was killed due to his interest in aliens
One of the more creative conspiracy theories is that JFK was killed because he was too interested in UFOs. They story is that he wanted to share the US government’s information about aliens and UFOs with the USSR in order to avoid a scenario in which a visitor from another planet was confused with an attack from the US. According to this premise, it was deemed that the President was sticking his nose where it didn’t belong so, of course, the only way to deal with the issue was for the CIA or some other government agency to assassinate him. Obviously this theory isn’t too difficult to disprove. Just a moment or two of critical thinking reveals the giant holes in the hypothesis, but really we have to love the intertwining of two major conspiracies.
- 5 Things I’ve noticed about… Bizarre Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- 5 Things I’ve noticed about… 9/11 Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- If the Government is shut down, then who is paying the shills? (illuminutti.com)
- Who needs facts when you have conspiracy theorists? (illuminutti.com)
- 6 Conspiracy theories that make people paranoid (illuminutti.com)
- New Documentary Puts Forth Controversial Theory About JFK Assassination (theblaze.com)
- Ventura: Facts Surrounding JFK Assassination Still Hidden (trutv.com)
- Are conspiracy theorists really the sane ones? (mobile.wnd.com)
- Are conspiracy theorists really the sane ones? (wnd.com)
Gary Webb was a journalist who alleged that the CIA allowed Nicaraguan Contras to smuggle huge amounts of cocaine into LA as a way to fund wars in their home country. His claims were criticized or ignored, and eventually he committed suicide — or did he?
- Is the CIA Involved in Drug Trafficking? “I think George Bush is deep into it” – Ron Paul (dailypaul.com)
- CIA’s secret global business of narcotics smuggling and weapons trade (phantomreport.com)
- CIA’s secret global business of narcotics smuggling and weapons trade (blacklistednews.com)
- CIA’s Secret Drug trade goes on unchecked in Afghanistan (fromthetrenchesworldreport.com)
- 33 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out To Be True (12160.info)
With around 390 members, the Trilateral Commission is a fairly small group — so why do they get so much attention from conspiracy theorists? Tune in to learn more about the history of the Trilateral Commission.
- Did You Get the Memo? BE AFRAID AMERICA! (secretsofthefed.com)
- 5 Admissions That Prove The Elite’s Agenda [Video] (secretsofthefed.com)
Area 51 is more than just a subject of UFO conspiracy mongering, it has graduated to a fixture in pop culture. Everyone knows what Area 51 is, or at least what it’s supposed to be. Mention crops up in movies, such as Independence Day.
According to the CIA this facility’s official name is the much less alluring, Nevada Test and Training Range at Groom Lake, a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base. It is part of a 23 x 25 mile area of restricted air space. For decades there have rumors that Area 51 is a secret base where the US government has recovered alien spacecraft and conducts research on those craft.
The government denies these claims, but has never said what Area 51 is really for. It has never been mentioned in any public document, and documents obtained through any freedom of information act (FOI) request have never mentioned Area 51 (any possible mention being redacted).
George Washington University’s National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson made a FOI request in 2005 for information on the U-2 spy plane program. He received a 400 page reports entitled, “”Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and Oxcart Programs, 1954-1974.” In this document the name Area 51 is no longer redacted – it is mentioned as the base at which the U2 was developed and tested.
The document confirms what UFO skeptics have been saying for decades – sure, Area 51 exists and it is shrouded in government secrecy. However, the US must have some secret air bases where they test new aircraft and from which they launch their spy planes. There has never been any evidence of alien spacecraft or advanced technology emerging from the study of alien artifacts. Lacking any evidence for an alien phenomenon, mundane government spying is the more likely explanation.
Of course, this will not end UFO conspiracy theories, involving Area 51 or otherwise. If you believe the government is covering up aliens then no government explanation will convince you otherwise. This in itself is reasonable, once you buy the conspiracy, of course.
- Area 51 Revealed (theness.com)
- Area 51 Revealed (skepticblog.org)
- CIA acknowledges its mysterious Area 51 test site for first time (reuters.com)
- Area 51 does exist and there were strange goings on admit CIA (telegraph.co.uk)
- Area 51 is real, say CIA documents – Christian Science Monitor (csmonitor.com)
Recently, the claim that the phrase “conspiracy theory” was popularized in the 1960s by the CIA to discredit those who dared to question the Warren Commission has been popping up in the conspiracy-o-sphere. From the original PsyOp, so the story goes, the application of the phrase spread to encompass all sorts of nefarious doings, and now people reflexively think that all conspiracy theorists are crazy. The first version that I heard, in fact, was the claim that the term was actually invented in the 1960s, and that grabbed my attention. Really? Never appeared before the 1960s?
An infuriating feature of conspiracy theory is its propensity to take the standard of evidence that skeptics value so highly and turn it on its head: extraordinary claims no longer require extraordinary evidence; rather an extraordinary lack of evidence is thought to validate the extraordinariness of the conspiracy. It is thinking just gone wrong. Worse still, disconfirming evidence becomes evidence in favor of the conspiracy. I strongly suspect that the “the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ was invented by the CIA” gambit is a fairly radical extension of this tendency, that the mere fact that so many people recognize that conspiracy theorizing is a futile and intellectually unproductive exercise is only more proof to the conspiracy theorists that they are really onto something.
As evidence of this deliberate manipulation of language, theorists offer up a 1967 document released in 1976 via a FOIA request, Dispatch 1035-960. In short, the CIA document outlines arguments that field operatives can use to counter conspiracy theorizing abroad and advises where those arguments might have the largest effect. The document was released to the New York Times, but conspiracy theorists’ seizure of this notion, that what they do has been deliberately stigmatized by nefarious outside agents rather than by the internal flaws of their arguments, ignores both linguistic and historical reality in order to flatter their delusions.
While the notion that the phrase “conspiracy theory” was weaponized has been around since at least 1997, it recently received a boost by the Lance deHaven-Smith’s 2013 Conspiracy Theory in America, published by the University of Texas Press. So, with this stamp of apparent academic legitimacy (I have my own opinion about that, and this is not the venue to elaborate), conspiracy theorists have begun citing this work as an authority.
Take for example the recent article by Kevin Barrett, “New studies: ‘Conspiracy theorists’ sane; government dupes crazy, hostile,” which was republished at Before It’s News as “CIA Invention of the Phrase, ‘Conspiracy Theory’ to Block Questions on JFK’s Assassination, is ‘One of the Most Successful Propaganda Initiatives of All Time.’” Barrett’s arguments were well and truly destroyed by the rogues on the July 27 Skeptics Guide to the Universe, so I will not rehash the staggering lapses in critical thinking they employ. But Barrett also leans very hard on deHaven-Smith’s work:
Both of these findings are amplified in the new book Conspiracy Theory in America by political scientist Lance deHaven-Smith, published earlier this year by the University of Texas Press. Professor deHaven-Smith explains why people don’t like being called “conspiracy theorists”: The term was invented and put into wide circulation by the CIA to smear and defame people questioning the JFK assassination! “The CIA’s campaign to popularize the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and make conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time.” [emphasis added]
Well, we have a claim of fact about the origins of the term “conspiracy theorist.” This is certainly something we can check up on. I will not ascribe this claim to deHaven-Smith. I don’t recall him making the claim that it was invented by the CIA, only that it was deliberately deployed by the CIA.
A quick search of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) finds that the phrase had been used in May 1964:
New Statesman 1 May 694/2 Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed by the absence of a dogmatic introduction.
This is two years before Dispatch 1035-960 appeared. If you go to the magazine, you will find that this sentence appears in an unsigned editorial, “Separateness,” about the London Magazine’s recent transition from being an exclusively literary publication to a more interdisciplinary review of the arts.
So, no. The CIA did not invent the word “conspiracy theorist.” But this made me wonder how far back I could push the use of a term like “conspiracy theory.”
- What is a Sheeple? (illuminutti.com)
- 7 Reasons why Conspiracy Theorists get their videos and pages removed from Youtube (illuminutti.com)
- HAARPing mad – an assessment of the HAARP conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists. (illuminutti.com)
- Is it a Conspiracy Theory, or is it Satire? (illuminutti.com)
- The Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theorist (illuminutti.com)
How true is it that the CIA conducted unethical mind control experiments on unwitting human subjects?
Read transcript below or listen here
It’s one of the most ominous terms in the history of modern governments and intelligence, nearly on a par with the names of Josef Mengele and Pol Pot. For 20 years from 1953 to 1973, the American Central Intelligence Agency funded and conducted tests on human subjects, both with and without their knowledge, in an effort to control minds and personalities for the purpose of espionage. Most notorious for administering the psychedelic drug LSD to people without their knowledge or consent, MKULTRA has since become a cornerstone of conspiracy theorists flaunting it almost gleefully as proof of the government’s misdeeds against its own private citizens. And the scary part is that it’s completely true.
The short version of the MKULTRA story is that the CIA spent a long time trying to control minds. After performing all kinds of dastardly and unethical testing, they found they couldn’t reliably achieve their goals, and terminated the program. That’s it. It’s important to keep it in context, both what it was and what it wasn’t. It’s evidence that the government tried something that didn’t work. It’s also evidence that the government has been proven willing to bend the rules; and by “bending the rules” I mean breaking laws and violating both civil rights and ethics at every level. But with this said, MKULTRA does not constitute evidence that similar projects continue today. Maybe they do, but logically, MKULTRA is not that proof.
So let’s look at how this all came about and what exactly happened. The cold war started basically as soon as the smoke cleared from World War II, and the Western bloc and the Communist bloc immediately became suspicious of one another. In 1949, the highest ranking Catholic archbishop in Communist Hungary, Cardinal József Mindszenty, was marched into court where he had been charged with treason for trying to undermine the Communist government. Mindszenty, who was innocent, mechanically confessed in court to a long list of crimes including stealing Hungary’s crown jewels, planning to depose the government, start World War III, and then seize power himself. The CIA watched this, noted his strange behavior while making the confessions, and concluded that he must have been brainwashed. They saw American prisoners of war in North Korea make anti-Amerian statements on camera. Clearly, some response was needed to this apparent Communist ability. They contrived to develop mind control techniques.
One such project was called MKULTRA. MK meant the project was run by the CIA’s Technical Services Staff, and Ultra was a reference to the highest level of security. But although MKULTRA is the poster child, there were other similar projects. It had spawned from project ARTICHOKE, founded in 1951 to study hypnosis and morphine addiction. There was also MKSEARCH, MKOFTEN, project BLUEBIRD, a whole raft of related programs. The US military, separate from the CIA, also conducted its own research. Project CHATTER, part of the US Navy, ran from 1947 to 1953, when MKULTRA took over.
At the time, both psychology and psychopharmacology were in their infancies. We didn’t really know whether the CIA’s goals were achievable or not; whether it was or was not possible to exert a finely tuned influence on people’s minds. During the cold war’s golden era of espionage, this was a major national security question. The CIA had to know whether this was something they could do; because if it was, it was something the KGB could do right back at them. While nuclear physicists on both sides were building bigger and bigger hydrogen bombs, psychologists and chemists were working to fight the cold war on a much subtler front.
The CIA is not a scientific research organization, and so it needed to contract out the vast majority of this work. The CIA set up front groups, such as the Society for the Investigation for Human Ecology, to fund projects at universities and hospitals in such a way that nobody realized the CIA was involved. Some 86 such institutions are known to have received funding as part of MKULTRA. The vast majority of researchers were unaware that their programs were funded by the CIA, and accordingly, did their work as they normally would according to ethical standards of the day. Some researched forms of hypnosis, some did trials on a variety of drugs intended to work as truth serums, some did various psychiatric or psychological studies trying to learn what made people tick and how that tick might be manipulable. In fact, just about every bizarre experiment you might have read about probably was tried to some degree by some MKULTRA funded researcher. Granted the ethical standards of the 1950s and 1960s were not what they are today, but still there was very little intentional harm done by nearly all MKULTRA funded programs. Nevertheless, the exceptions were exceptional indeed.
Research done at McGill University by Dr. Donald Cameron took patients who came in with minor psychiatric complaints and subjected them to outrageous treatments. Some were given electroshock therapy at many times the normal voltage, some were given LSD, some were given other experimental or illegal drugs, all under the license granted by MKULTRA. Many reports state that some patients left with lifelong disabilities.
The Addiction Research Center at the Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, KY was also secretly on the CIA’s payroll. Dr. Harris Isbell took patients who came in to seek treatment for drug addiction and gave them massive doses of LSD, heroin, methamphetamine, and psychedelic mushrooms. In one experiment he put seven patients on LSD for 77 days straight.
Nothing that came out of MKULTRA panned out as very useful from an espionage perspective; in short, the CIA was never able to achieve the type of mind control that it wanted, and so the program was eventually terminated (other related programs from other agencies continued for some time with similar results). Because of the secrecy and ethical violations, the CIA destroyed all the documents, with the exception of a few that have turned up here and there over the years from misplaced archives. What remains has all been declassified, and can now be freely downloaded.
- Skeptoid #373: The Secrets of MKULTRA (skeptoid.com)
- New DHS Headquarters was a CIA MKUltra Test Facility (sgtreport.com)
- 1960s Subliminal Video of National Anthem Hides MKULTRA Message to ‘Obey’ Government (dprogram.net)
Over the past decades, the CIA has been accused of everything from selling guns to assassinating people. Yet that’s not the craziest part: Some people believe the CIA is actually replacing its enemies. Tune in and learn more in this episode.
The CIA offers an electronic search engine that lets you mine about 11 million agency documents that have been declassified over the years. It’s called CREST, short for CIA Records Search Tool. But this represents only a portion the CIA’s declassified materials, and if you want unfettered access to the search engine, you’ll have to physically visit the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, historians and researchers have urged the CIA to provide them with their own copy of the CREST electronic database, so that they can seek greater insight into U.S. history and even build up additional checks and balances against the government’s approach to official secrecy. But the agency won’t do it. “Basically, the CIA is saying that the database of declassified documents is itself classified,” explains Steve Aftergood, a senior research analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, who oversees the federation’s government secrecy project.
It’s an irony that represents a much larger problem in the world of declassified government documents. According to Aftergood — a researcher some have called the “the Yoda of Official Secrecy” — most government agencies haven’t even gone as far as the CIA in providing online access to declassified documents, and as it stands, there’s no good way of electronically searching declassified documents from across disparate agencies.
“The state of the declassified archives is really stuck in the middle of the 20th Century,” says Aftergood. He calls it a “fairly dismal picture,” but he also says there’s an enormous opportunity to improve the way we research declassified materials — and improve it very quickly — through the use of modern technology.
That’s the aim of a new project launched by a team of historians, mathematicians, and computer scientists at Columbia University in New York City. Led by Matthew Connelly — a Columbia professor trained in diplomatic history — the project is known as The Declassification Engine, and it seeks to provide a single online database for declassified documents from across the federal government, including the CIA, the State Department, and potentially any other agency.
The project is still in the early stages, but the team has already assembled a database of documents that stretches back to the 1940s, and it has begun building new tools for analyzing these materials. In aggregating all documents into a single database, the researchers hope to not only provide quicker access to declassified materials, but to glean far more information from these documents than we otherwise could.
- The Declassification Engine: Your One-Stop Shop for Government Secrets (wired.com)
- A Search Engine For Government Documents (personalliberty.com)
- Building a Declassification Engine (pascophronesis.wordpress.com)
- Declassified Documents Reveal Extent of CIA Influence on ZERO DARK THIRTY Script (collider.com)