This guy wants to set millions of CIA documents free

A huge cache of declassified CIA documents are technically open to the public, but too difficult for most to access. A Kickstarter campaign wants to change that.

According to the founder of a new Kickstarter campaign, this is the room that houses millions of pages of hard-to-access CIA files. The four computers on the table are the only way in.

Michael Best

It's a task worthy of a superspy. Michael Best wants to round up as many CIA documents as he can and publish them online for free.

Currently, more than 11 million pages of declassified CIA documents are publicly available via an electronic database called CREST, or the CIA Records Search Tool. While some of these documents -- like a batch of UFO related files the CIA cleverly calls its X-Files -- are available online, many can only be seen by visiting a National Archives building in Maryland. Making things even more complicated, only four tucked-away computers can access the database and it's only staffed for half a day, according to Best.

Even the CIA seems to realize the difficulty inherent in this setup. "CIA recognizes that such visits may be inconvenient and present an obstacle to many researchers," read the CREST website.

Best launched a Kickstarter campaign to make these declassified documents more easily available to the public. His plan is to head into the archives, print out millions of pages of information, digitize them and upload them to the Internet Archive, a free online digital library. Best claims to have uploaded a full one percent of the content in the Internet Archive, an impressive feat considering the digital repository contains almost 9 million books and millions of audio and video clips.

To achieve his goal, the "information freer" is seeking to raise $10,000 (about £6,920, AU$14,104). At this point, he's more than halfway there with over $7,000 (about £4,844, AU$9,873) raised and more than two weeks left in the campaign.

There are some interesting awards available for pledging to the campaign. A $10 (about £7, AU$14) pledge will snag you a link to "a special collection of FBI documents on CIA personnel." If you pledge $25, you'll get a thank you note from Best handwritten on the back of a page from a declassified CIA file. For $100, you'll get a USB flash drive holding over 1,000 files.

The bulk of the funds raised will go towards a super-speedy high-endurance scanner. The rest of the money will mostly go for a new computer and office supplies, according to Best. The rewards are expected to deliver in May 2016.

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