Open Government


CIA Open Government Plan

The need for a secret intelligence service as a first line of defense to protect a free society is well understood, and has been a part of the fabric of our country since George Washington utilized a spy network to help win the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, there always has been a concern about how a secret agency with special authorities fits within an open and democratic society. Endeavoring to resolve the tension between the need and the concern has been an important part of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) culture.

The CIA is not an independent actor. It responds to the direction of the President under the oversight of the Congress, mindful of the need to ensure that all of its activities are in full compliance with U.S. law. The Agency strongly supports the President’s Open Government Initiative because it also is mindful that continued public support for CIA is very much dependent upon public understanding of its mission and activities.

This plan addresses the three core values or components of the open government initiative: Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration, and outlines the ways this agency will incorporate these core values into its programs.



Transparency involves providing citizens with information about what their government is doing so that government can be held accountable. CIA will address this core value in the following ways.

  • The Director and other senior officials will meet and speak with various groups on appropriate occasions to share information about the Agency and what it does.
  • The CIA Office of Public Affairs will respond on a daily basis to inquiries from the media and from citizens about matters that are of current interest.
  • The CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence will contribute both to the literature on, and discussion of, important intelligence issues by publishing unclassified articles that contribute to the understanding of this governmental function. And it will seek to compile all previously released unclassified articles in a comprehensive, searchable collection.
  • The CIA’s Declassification Review Program will provide information to the public about Agency activities to provide insight into what, and how well, CIA has been doing to provide critical intelligence to help protect the American people from foreign enemies, and to help inform policy. Such information will be made available on our public website (
  • CIA will release this year two additional collections of Warsaw Pact documents to provide new insights and perhaps promote a reassessment of the Warsaw Pact.
  • CIA will release this year a collection of documents on the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to provide a lessons-learned focus on strategic warning and the role of intelligence.
  • CIA will release this year an analysis of the Korean War to mark the 60th anniversary of that event.
  • CIA also is planning to release this year a collection of working papers on the first four Directors of Central Intelligence to provide a unique insight into their day-to-day professional lives.



Participation involves actively soliciting expertise from outside Washington so that it makes policies with the benefit of the best information. CIA will address this core value in the following ways.

  • CIA will engage scholars and other experts to provide their knowledge and experience on intelligence analysis where that would be helpful. Expert input to, and peer review of, intelligence analysis on appropriate occasions will ensure that CIA expertise is augmented by the judgments and insight of outside experts.
  • CIA will engage scholars and other experts to guide declassification efforts to ensure that resources appropriated by the Congress for these efforts are focused where they will make the greatest contribution to public knowledge and scholarly understanding of CIA efforts to provide timely and accurate intelligence to its government customers.
  • CIA will engage, as a “flagship initiative,” in setting up public forums so that public interest groups and Freedom of Information Act requestors can meet and dialogue with the officials who deal with their requests in order to develop ways to improve service and responsiveness.
  • CIA will hold public and academic conferences and symposiums focused on specific intelligence topics to explore the intersection of intelligence and policy.
  • As part of increasing participation, CIA will make information more readily available.
    • It will expand the unique database of declassified documents that CIA has made available at the National Archives. This database, containing millions of pages of material, allows researchers to do an automated search and then retrieve and copy these important documents.
    • It will review if some of this material can be put on the Internet so it may be more accessible to the public, rather than available only at the National Archives.



Collaboration involves government officials working together with one another and with citizens as part of doing their job of solving national problems.

  • CIA will be a part of the new Controlled Unclassified Information framework that will promote the efficient and effective use of this information to achieve improved information sharing and greater transparency.
  • CIA will welcome input from citizens who may have information that would contribute to our intelligence mission.
  • CIA will solicit feedback from the public through an online comment form on, and by holding focus group meetings, to improve the website's content and usability.

Posted: Apr 07, 2010 04:04 PM
Last Updated: Dec 20, 2018 05:08 PM