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Apr 15, 2015 Where Spies Go When They Don't Know

The earthy scent of musty books, men and women talking in hushed voices around large oak tables, librarians scurrying from aisle to aisle carrying tomes both old and new… As mysterious as this sounds, it is not the CIA Library of today.

The library at CIA Headquarters is a cutting edge research and information hub. Upon first glance, it looks like many other modern public libraries. Except here, among the periodicals and stacks of books on history, politics, and science, you will find volumes most Americans will never see. That’s because the Agency’s library is also home to the literature of secrets.

Founded in 1947, the CIA Library is a valuable resource to Agency employees. Although most of the books are unclassified and can be found at many community libraries and bookstores, the library includes many materials that are classified. That, and the library’s location at CIA Headquarters, restrict its use to cleared personnel.

The Library provides all-source reference and research services to the Agency by leveraging access to more than 200 domestic and foreign online databases that together include over 90,000 full-text electronic periodicals, dissertations, photographs, biographical resources, and public records.

The Library's print collection includes journals, newspapers, and approximately 100,000 books. Together, these resources cover the fields of international affairs and political science, business and economics, science and technology, and topics of general and scholarly interest. The Library houses special collections on topics such as denial and deception. The Library also participates in interlibrary loans of circulating items with other government and public libraries.

Unique to the CIA Library is the Historical Intelligence Collection (HIC), which is primarily an open-source library dedicated to the collection, retention, and exploitation of material dealing with the intelligence profession. Currently, there are more than 25,000 books and extensive press clippings in the collection.

The oldest item in the HIC is a book on cryptography bound in vellum and published primarily in Latin in 1606. More recently, the Revolutionary War holdings, in particular those on Nathan Hale and Major John André, are extensive and provide a view of basic intelligence operations when good instincts rather than training were the only prerequisites.


To learn more about the CIA Library's HIC, see below:

Mar 13, 2015 Director Brennan Speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations- Watch Full Video

Director John O. Brennan spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations on March 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm EST. See the full video below.


Nov 04, 2014 444 Days in Tehran: The Story of CIA Officers Held Captive During the Iranian Hostage Crisis

It was a warm, sunny November morning when six CIA officers stationed at the US Embassy in Iran first heard the rumblings of a crowd amassing outside. A small group of mostly nonviolent protesters had been gathering near the Embassy for several weeks to demonstrate against US support for the exiled Iranian leader Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. This protest seemed no different. Then, slowly, the noise from the crowd changed, intensified, and grew closer. By mid-morning, a group of radical Islamist students breached the perimeter of the US Embassy on Takht-e-Jamshid Avenue in Tehran and took sixty-six Americans hostage. Fifty-two of the hostages, including the CIA officers, remained in captivity for 444 days. That was 35 years ago.

The Iranian hostage crisis began on November 4, 1979 and was one of the greatest US foreign policy crises of the last century. While much has been written about the crisis, this week we recount the story of two CIA officers who were held hostage during this critical point in American history.

Read Part 1: Storming of the Embassy: November 4, 1979

Read Part 2: Life in Captivity

Read Part 3: The Release: January 20, 1981

Oct 02, 2014 2014 CIA Trailblazer Awards Presented

Last month, Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan presented this year’s Trailblazer Awards to Donald R. Cryer and another valued employee, whose work remains classified. The Trailblazer Awards were established in 1997 to recognize CIA officers who, by their actions, example, innovations or initiative, have taken the CIA in important new directions and helped shape the Agency’s history. This year’s honorees continue this tradition.

Since 2008, the CIA has recognized officers with an award for outstanding work in promoting diversity and inclusion to enhance the mission. In 2010, that award was officially renamed for Cryer, a 42-year veteran of the Agency and tireless advocate who laid the groundwork for CIA’s diversity and inclusion programs. His concentration on building an inclusive, high-performing workforce through strategic planning, succession planning and success measurement—as well as his emphasis on removing obstacles and barriers that impede employee success—remains in effect today. Cryer attributes the accomplishments recognized by the Trailblazer Award to the host of people who mentored, supported and inspired him throughout his career.

To read about previous Trailblazer Award recipients, follow these links:

Sep 15, 2014 CIA Reaches Deep to Feed Local Families

brennanfedsfeedfamiliesThe "Feds Feed Families" food drive, which began in early June, concluded last month with Central Intelligence Agency officers having donated 11,798 pounds of food to local families at risk of hunger. This year's poundage nearly doubled the 2013 campaign, which accumulated about 6,300 pounds. All of the food donated by CIA was delivered to the Capital Area Food Bank, which distributed it to local families.

During the past five years, federal employees have donated more than 24 million pounds of food. Goods collected through the program are distributed to several hundred food banks, soup kitchens, and other service organizations across the metropolitan area. Food is processed quickly on a first-in, first-out basis and can take as little as two weeks to get to needy families.

Sep 05, 2014 CIA Unveils Portrait of Former Director Leon E. Panetta

Today, CIA honored the legacy of former Director Potrait of Former Director Leon E. PanettaLeon E. Panetta with the unveiling of his portrait, which joins those of his predecessors in the Agency’s Directors’ Gallery. Mr. Panetta served as CIA Director from February 2009 to June 2011, leading the Agency and managing human intelligence and open source collection programs on behalf of the Intelligence Community. At the portrait unveiling ceremony, CIA Director John Brennan spoke of Mr. Panetta’s many achievements during his tenure at CIA, including the operation that killed the world’s most wanted terrorist. In addition, Director Brennan praised the work of the artist, Steven Polson, who also painted the agency’s official portraits of former directors George Tenet and General Michael Hayden.

Aug 29, 2014 #HISTINT: Aug. 29, 1959: Design Selected for Supersonic Successor to the U-2

On August 29, 1959 --55 years ago today-- an interagency panel selected Lockheed’s 12th design for a supersonic successor to the U-2. The research and development program, codenamed OXCART began, and in1962, after arduous work by Lockheed and CIA program managers and technical officers, the first A-12 took flight.  It took another three years for engineering challenges to be surmounted and the fleet to be declared operationally ready.

A-12 evolution

To learn more about the A-12 check out these additional resources:

Archangel: CIA's Supersonic A-12 Reconnaissance Aircraft


A Look Back … OXCART: "The Bird Should Leave Its Nest"

Aug 26, 2014 Project AZORIAN: The Conclusion

glomarimageAlmost immediately after the recovery effort, planning began for a second mission to recover the lost section. A bizarre and totally unforeseen occurrence, however, had already started a chain of events that would ultimately expose the Glomar Explorer’s true purpose and make another mission impossible. In June 1974, just before the Glomar set sail, thieves had broken into the offices of the Summa Corporation and stolen secret documents, one tying Howard Hughes to CIA and the Glomar Explorer. Desperate to recover this document, CIA called in the FBI, which in turn enlisted the Los Angeles Police Department. The search drew attention, and by the autumn of 1974 the media began to pick up rumors of a sensational story.

Director of Central Intelligence William E. Colby personally appealed to those who had learned about AZORIAN not to disclose the project. For a while they cooperated, but on February 18, 1975 the Los Angeles Times published an account that made connections between the robbery, Hughes, CIA, and the recovery operation.  Journalists flooded into the Long Beach area where the Glomar was preparing for its second mission.  The Ford Administration neither confirmed nor denied any of the stories in circulation, but by late June, the Soviets were aware of the Glomar's covert mission and had assigned a ship to monitor and guard the recovery site. With Glomar’s cover blown, the White House canceled further recovery operations.

The Glomar's brief covert career was now over, and it was mothballed for over a quarter century. Then in the late 1990s, a US petroleum company restored the ship and used it for deep-sea oil drilling and exploration.

Although Project AZORIAN  did not meet its full intelligence objectives, CIA considered the operation to be one of the greatest intelligence coups of the Cold War. Project AZORIAN remains an engineering marvel, advancing the state of the art in deep-ocean mining and heavy-lift technology

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Aug 21, 2014 Project AZORIAN: The Recovery

glomarrecoverySailing from Long Beach, California, the Glomar Explorer arrived over the recovery site on July 4, 1974 and conducted salvage operations for more than a month under total secrecy—despite much of the time being monitored by nearby Soviet ships curious about its mission. During the operation, many small things went wrong but were quickly corrected. However, during the lift when the submarine was a third of the way up, it broke apart, and a section plunged back to the ocean bottom. Crestfallen, the Glomar crew successfully hauled up the portion that remained in the capture vehicle.

Among the contents of the recovered section were the bodies of six Soviet submariners. They were given a formal military burial at sea. In a gesture of good will, Director of Central Intelligence Robert Gates presented a film of the burial ceremony to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992.

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Aug 20, 2014 Project AZORIAN: The Ship

The Glomar Explorer
The ship would be called the Glomar Explorer, a commercial deep-sea mining vessel ostensibly built and owned by billionaire Howard Hughes, who provided the plausible cover story that his ship was conducting marine research at extreme ocean depths and mining manganese nodules lying on the sea bottom. The ship would have the requisite stability and power to perform the task at hand.

Constructed over the next four years, the ship included a derrick similar to an oil-drilling rig, a pipe-transfer crane, two tall docking legs, a huge claw-like capture vehicle (known as Clementine), a center docking well (called the “moon pool”) large enough to contain the hoisted sub, and doors to open and close the well’s floor. To preserve the mission’s secrecy, the capture vehicle was built under roof and loaded from underneath the ship from a submerged barge. With these special capabilities, the ship could conduct the entire recovery under water, away from the view of other ships, aircraft, or spy satellites.

The heavy-lift operation was complex and fraught with risk. While moving with the ocean currents, the ship had to lower the capture vehicle by adding 60-foot sections of supporting steel pipe, one at a time. When it reached the submarine, the capture vehicle then had to be positioned to straddle the sunken submarine, and its powerful jaws had to grab the hull. Then the ship had to raise the capture vehicle with the submarine in its clutches by reversing the lift process and removing supporting pipe sections one at a time until the submarine was securely stowed in the ship’s docking well.

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