An important part of CIA's ongoing effort to be more open and to provide for more public accountability has been a recognition of the importance of declassifying historically significant Agency documents. The process of opening up the Agency's historical record began in the 1980s when then Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) William Casey authorized the declassification and transfer of nine million pages of OSS records to the National Archives and established the Historical Review Program.
A more formal Historical Review Program (HRP) was established by DCI Robert Gates in 1992. Reaffirming the principle that the US government's records should be open to the public, the program called for significant historical information to be made available unless such release could cause damage to the national security interests of the United States. Subsequent DCIs R. James Woolsey and John Deutch, and current Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet have supported a vigorous historical declassification program.
CIA's Historical Review Program, with the exception of several statutorily mandated requirements, is a voluntary declassification program that focuses on records of historical value. The program's managers rely on the advice and guidance of the Agency's History Staff, the DCI's Historical Review Panel, and the general public in selecting topics for review. Under guidelines laid out for the program, historical records are released except in instances where disclosure would damage national security-that is, for example, where it would reveal sensitive foreign government information or identify intelligence sources and methods that are currently in use and that are subject to denial and/or deception. The Historical Review Program coordinates the review of the documents with CIA components and other US Government entities before final declassification action is taken and the documents are transferred to the National Archives.
Our Historical Collections are listed below. For more, visit our Collections archive.
(November 13, 2013)
This collection consists of more than 250 previously classified documents, totaling over 1,400 pages, including some 150 that are being released for the first time. These documents cover the period from January 1977 through March 1979 and were produced by the CIA to support the Carter administration’s diplomatic efforts leading up to President Carter’s negotiations with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David in September 1978. The declassified documents detail diplomatic developments from the Arab peace offensive and President Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem through the regionwide aftermath of Camp David.
(October 30, 2013)
This collection consists of some 120 declassified documents, the majority of which are being released for the first time. The collection includes more than 1,200 pages from various studies, memos, letters, and other official records documenting the CIA's efforts to examine, address, and improve the status of women employees from 1947 to today.
(October 1, 2013)
This collection of more than 300 declassified documents highlights the accomplishments of the Clinton Administration in brokering the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which resolved the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, and the role the Director of Central Intelligence Interagency Balkan Task Force (BTF) played in informing policymakers’ decisions. The compilation contains Statements of Conclusions from National Security Council meetings where senior officials made decisions on the Bosnian conflict, BTF memoranda pertaining to those meetings, key intelligence assessments, and selected materials from the State Department, White House, Department of Defense, and William J. Clinton Presidential Library. The records center around 1995, the year in which the Dayton Accords were signed.
(January 30, 2013)
This collection highlights the causes and consequences of US Intelligence Community’s (IC) failure to foresee the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the October War or the Yom Kippur War. A coalition of Arab nations led by Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 6, the day of Yom Kippur. Prior to October 6, the CIA concluded that the Arabs would not attack, so the offensive surprised US policymakers as well as Israel. Directorate of Intelligence (DI) analysts believed that Arab military inferiority would militate against an attack on Israel. DI analysis did not explore the possibility that leaders might go to war--even at the risk of losing--to pursue political objectives. According to an internal postmortem, Agency analysis was impaired by preconceptions about Arab military capabilities, information overload, rational actor modeling and groupthink.
(October 25, 2012)
This study examines the role of clandestine reporting in CIA’s analysis of the Warsaw Pact from 1955 to 1985. The Soviet Union established itself as a threat to the West at the end of World War II by its military occupation of eastern European countries and the attempts of its armed proxies to capture Greece and South Korea. The West countered with the formation of NATO. While the West welcomed West Germany into NATO, the Soviets established a military bloc of Communist nations with the Warsaw Treaty of May 1955. This study continues CIA’s efforts to provide a detailed record of the intelligence derived from clandestine human and technical sources from that period. This intelligence was provided to US policy makers and used to assess the political and military balances and confrontations in Central Europe between the Warsaw Pact and NATO during the Cold War.
(September 21, 2012)
Crafting an Intelligence Community : Papers of the First Four DCIs
Admiral Sidney W. Souers, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter and General William Bedell Smith accepted President Harry S. Truman’s challenge to craft an intelligence organization. Each man marked his tenure with his unique brand of leadership that provided his successor with the foundation needed for the next step toward the Central Intelligence Agency of today.
The Crafting of an Intelligence Community collection of 800+ Agency documents along with 600 supplemental items shows the day-by-day activities, decisions, staff meetings and contacts that confronted each DCI. They ran the gamut of choosing a secretary to responding to a Presidential question to an evening social event with various ambassadors and dignitaries.
An Underwater Ice Station Zebra: Recovering a Secret Spy Satellite Capsule from 16,400 feet Below the Pacific Ocean
(August 8, 2012)
The Trieste II Deep Sea Vehicle I (DSV-1), the U.S. Navy's most advanced deep sea submersible at the time, surfaced about 350 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands in the pre-dawn hours of 26 April 1972 after having salvaged a mysterious item from 16,400 feet below the Pacific Ocean. Publicly known as a nondescript "data package" from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the object was actually part of a film capsule from an American photoreconnaissance satellite, codenamed HEXAGON. Before today's digital technology, photoreconnaissance satellites used film, which capsules ejected from the satellite returned to Earth. The capsules, called "buckets," reentered the Earth's atmosphere and deployed a parachute as they descended toward the primary reentry zone near the Hawaiian Islands. In the case of the first HEXAGON mission in the summer of 1971, the parachute broke off causing the bucket to crash into the ocean, sinking on impact. This release of CIA material includes photos of the capsule on the ocean floor, pictures of the Trieste II (DSV-1), documents, and an article explaining how the CIA and U.S. Navy undertook the deepest undersea salvage then attempted. We have also provided a link to the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum, where the Trieste II (DSV-1) is on permanent display.
November 28, 2011
The Missile Gap was in essence a growing perception in the West, especially in the USA, that the Soviet Union was quickly developing an intercontinental range ballistic missile (ICBM) capability earlier, in greater numbers, and with far more capability than that of the United States. Even as that perception was disproved, it became evident that the Soviets were placing their major effort toward developing strategic missiles against which, once launched, there was no defense. The perceived missile gap that ensued was based on a comparison between US ICBM strength as then programmed, and reasonable, although erroneous estimates of prospective Soviet ICBM strength that were generally accepted.
November 3, 2011
In the 1980s, the Cold War was going strong and was made worse by events such as the death of three Soviet leaders in a span of three years, the Soviet shootdown of a Korean airliner, and the USSR's support for Communist governments and movements in Afghanistan and Central America. This collection of declassified documents and other material highlights what the CIA provided President Reagan and other top members of his national security team on key issues affecting US-Soviet relations. The collection--made up of intelligence assessments, National Intelligence Estimates, high-level memos, and DCI talking points--consists of over 200 documents, some 60 of which are either being made available to the public for the first time or are being re-released with new material. To help put this material in perspective, we are also including non-CIA documents from the archives of the Reagan Library to fill out the collection on the policy end.
October 26, 2011
Erected literally overnight, the building of the Berlin Wall was the culmination of over a decade of escalating confrontations and contentious blockades contrived to encourage the west to abandon Berlin to the Communist Bloc. The Berlin Wall Collection contains the documents, essays and overviews from the eleven U.S. Government organizations that provide the background and the political ramifications of the Wall's construction.
October 26, 2011
The CIA history of the Bay of Pigs operation in 1961, originally classified top secret, based on dozens of interviews with key operatives and officials and hundreds of CIA documents. The four volumes comprise (I) Air Operations, March 1960-1961; (II) Participation in the Conduct of Foreign Policy; (III) Evolution of CIA's Anti-Castro Policies, 1959-January 1961; and (IV) the Taylor Committee Investigation of the Bay of Pigs.
April 19, 2011
The Central Intelligence Agency today declassified the United States Government's six oldest classified documents, dating from 1917 and 1918. These documents, which describe secret writing techniques and are housed at the National Archives, are believed to be the only remaining classified documents from the World War I era. Documents describing secret writing fall under the CIA's purview to declassify.
"These documents remained classified for nearly a century until recent advancements in technology made it possible to release them," CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said. "When historical information is no longer sensitive, we take seriously our responsibility to share it with the American people."
One document outlines the chemicals and techniques necessary for developing certain types of secret writing ink and a method for opening sealed letters without detection. Another memorandum dated June 14, 1918 - written in French - reveals the formula used for German secret ink.
"The CIA recognizes the importance of opening these historical documents to the public," said Joseph Lambert, the Agency's Director of Information Management Services. "In fiscal year 2010 alone, the Agency declassified and released over 1.1 million pages of documents."
The documents will be available on CIA.gov and in the CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. CREST currently houses over 10 million pages of declassified Agency documents. Since 1995, the Agency has released over 30 million pages as a result of Executive Orders, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Privacy Act, and mandatory declassification reviews.
March 18, 2011
The collection, consisting of 22 documents, provides insight into how the Soviet Union codified its control over the armed forces of its Eastern European allies. The release of this collection coincides with a panel discussion at the Wilson Center on April 5, 2011.
June 16, 2010
This collection includes more than 1,300 documents consisting of national estimates, intelligence memo, daily updates, and summaries of foreign media concerning developments on the Korean Peninsula during 1947 - 1954. The release of this collection, which coincides with the 60th anniversary of the start of the war, makes available to the public the largest collection of Agency documents released on this issue. The release of these documents is in conjunction with the conference, "New Documents and New Histories: Twenty-First Century Perspectives on the Korean War," co-hosted by the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and the CIA in Independence, Missouri.
Strategic Warning and the Role of Intelligence: Lessons Learned From The 1968 Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia
April 13, 2010
The Czechoslovak crisis began in January 1968. The Czech communist leadership embarked on a program of dramatic liberalization of the political, economic, and social orders. These reforms triggered increasing Soviet concerns culminating in the invasion of 21 August 1969. This collection of documents pertains to these issues, the responses and analysis of this event in history.