The CIA has put almost 12 million pages of its records online, allowing anyone with an internet connection to browse 50 years worth of declassified intelligence reports, briefings, and other once-secret documents. Included in the database are US discussions about assassinating Fidel Castro, details of Nazi war crimes, reports of UFO sightings, and a study into human telepathy dubbed "Project Star Gate."
Then-president Bill Clinton ordered the CIA to declassify secret documents that were more than 25 years old and of "historical value" in 1995, but the Agency didn't make the archives searchable until 2000. Even then, the documents — which cover a period from the 1940s to the 1990s — were only accessible from four computers at the US National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and only between the hours of 9AM and 4:30PM.
The database is known as CREST (CIA Records Search Tool), and making it available online has long been a target of journalists, academics, and researchers. Nonprofit organization MuckRock filed a Freedom of Information case against the database in 2014, but was told by the CIA that it would take at least six years, and be delivered on 1,200 CDs for a price of $108,000. That timeframe — and cost — was drastically decreased last November, when the Agency said it expected CREST to become available to all within the next year.
Not all documents from the 50-year period have been declassified, but Joseph Lambert, the CIA's director of information management, told BuzzFeed that no documents were reclassified prior to CREST's online appearance. Even a cursory scan of the database can pull up some lurid reading: as well as accounts of world-changing events like the Bay of Pigs invasion or the Cuban Missile Crisis, there are also internal CIA documents detailing clandestine projects like the controversial MK Ultra.