CREST- The CIA’s Reading Room, your access to 12 million declassified top secret files
You can access “CREST”, the CIA’s reading room of 930,000 documents- 12 million top secret files were recently declassified. You can even see if the CIA has info on you!
CREST was created out of automatic declassification provisions from Executive Order 13526 that mandates declassification of nonexempt historically valuable records 25 years or older.
America’s intelligence agencies were given deadlines to complete full reviews of all their hardcopy documents determined to contain exclusively their equities. For CIA, the 2006 deadline covered the span of relevant documents originally dating from the establishment of the CIA after WWII through 1981.
This congressional mandate to automatically declassify records 25 years or older “rolls” forward one year at a time. For example, by 31 December 2012, permanent records through 31 December 1987 were automatically declassified, unless appropriately exempted under the guidelines of the EO. In some cases, methods and sources had to remain top secret because foreign sources (recruited spies) could die or be imprisoned. The CIA maintains a program operating out of the CIA Declassification Center to review records under the purview of EO 13526 before they reach their automatic declassification deadline.
I use CREST to research intelligence community happenings when writing my Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. It is a reliable resource for authors, journalists and spy buffs to explore. Since 2000, the CIA has maintained this electronic full-text searchable system (CREST stands for the “CIA Records Search Tool”). It’s housed at NARA II in College Park, Maryland. BTW, NARA is where the evaluation of all records of the CIA is performed and where the Agency has developed formal recordkeeping requirements and guidance for declassifications.
The CREST system is accessible to the public and, yes, you can review CIA files under the 25-year program in electronic format. Over 11 million pages have been released in electronic format and reside on the CREST database, from which researchers have printed about 1.1 million pages.
Robert Morton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), enjoys writing about the U.S. Intelligence Community, and relishes traveling to the Florida Keys and Key West, the Bahamas and Caribbean. He combines both passions in his Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. Check out his latest spy thriller: MISSION OF VENGEANCE.