The automatic declassification provisions of Executive Order 13526 (formerly EO 12958, as amended) require the declassification of nonexempt historically valuable records 25 years or older. The EO was originally issued in April 1995 and via amendment established 31 December 2006 as the first major deadline for automatic declassification under the “25-year program.” By that date, agencies were to have completed the review of all 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.
The requirement 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 this regard, 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.
Since 2000, CIA has installed and maintained an electronic full-text searchable system named CREST (the CIA Records Search Tool), at NARA II in College Park, Maryland. The CREST system is the publicly accessible repository of the subset of CIA records reviewed under the 25-year program in electronic format (manually reviewed and released records are accessioned directly into the National Archives in their original 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.
Previously, in order to directly access CREST, a researcher was required to visit the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. CIA recognized that such visits were inconvenient and presented an obstacle to many researchers. Therefore, in January 2017, the CIA published the records of the CREST collection online.
Accessing the Records
CREST records are divided into collections on the left-hand side of this page. To view a collection, click on the “CREST: 25-Year Program Archive” link on the left. Once the link is clicked, the collections will appear below. To view the records of a specific collection, click the collection name on the left.
In addition, CIA has also made an advanced search capability available. To access the advanced search, click on the “Advanced Search” link just below the search bar on this page. The advanced search allows for search across collections, as well as searches within specific metadata. Additional information and guidance can be found in the “Search Help” link.