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Freedom of Information Act

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Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room

Do UFOs fascinate you? Are you a history buff who wants to learn more about the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam or the A-12 Oxcart? Have stories about spies always fascinated you? You can find information about all of these topics and more in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Electronic Reading Room.

What is the Electronic Reading Room?

Welcome to the Central Intelligence Agency's Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room.  The FOIA Electronic Reading Room is provided as a public service by the Office of the Chief Information Officer's Information Management Services.  It has recently been enhanced and updated, and while many of the updates happened behind the scenes, we'd like to highlight several of the changes.

  • Additional processing power and capacity have been added behind the scenes, which will allow for faster document searching, load times, and the ability to upload larger collections of released documents.

  • Search functionality has been enhanced to allow searching across all document collections, within document collections, and with additional filtering options for better targeted results.  We continue to plan for future search enhancements such as searching for only documents with PDFs as well as other options for further refining searches.  For those of you familiar with our previous searching capabilities, steps are being taken to restore the functionality to search and display documents by date.

  • FOIA requests can now be made online in addition to the alternate options of submitting via fax and US Postal Service.  This electronic format has been designed to assist our FOIA requesters in providing the necessary information CIA needs to process public access requests.  Although these requests can now be made online, CIA will continue to respond through the US Postal Service.

Here you can view documents released through the FOIA and other CIA release programs. If you would like to view our previously released documents and collections, visit our Frequently Requested Records, our Special Collections, and our CREST: 25-Year Program Archive. You can search all the documents by using the search bar at the top of the page, or you can browse individual collections of documents on historically significant topics compiled by our office. Please note that not all documents reside in collections, so you may wish to perform an overall document search as well as browse the collections you are interested in. Because of CIA's need to comply with U.S. national security laws, some documents - or parts of documents - cannot be released to the public. Specifically, the CIA has the responsibility to protect intelligence sources and methods from disclosure.

Additional Information

We also provide basic guidance to assist you in exercising your rights to request and view government records through the following disclosure statutes:

This guidance is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the complex issues associated with these laws, but rather an overview of how they are carried out at CIA.
Learn more if you are interested in submitting a FOIA request or Privacy Act request.

What's New at FOIA?

Site last updated: January 2013

FY 2011 CIA FOIA Annual Reports

(Updated February 24, 2012)
The CIA FOIA Annual Report is now available in PDF, and in machine-readable XML formats.

An Underwater Ice Station Zebra: Recovering a Secret Spy Satellite Capsule from 16,400 feet Below the Pacific Ocean

(August 8, 2012)

The Trieste II Deep Sea Vehicle I (DSV-1), the U.S. Navy's most advanced deep sea submersible at the time, surfaced about 350 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands in the pre-dawn hours of 26 April 1972 after having salvaged a mysterious item from 16,400 feet below the Pacific Ocean. Publicly known as a nondescript "data package" from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the object was actually part of a film capsule from an American photoreconnaissance satellite, codenamed HEXAGON. Before today's digital technology, photoreconnaissance satellites used film, which capsules ejected from the satellite returned to Earth. The capsules, called "buckets," reentered the Earth's atmosphere and deployed a parachute as they descended toward the primary reentry zone near the Hawaiian Islands. In the case of the first HEXAGON mission in the summer of 1971, the parachute broke off causing the bucket to crash into the ocean, sinking on impact. This release of CIA material includes photos of the capsule on the ocean floor, pictures of the Trieste II (DSV-1), documents, and an article explaining how the CIA and U.S. Navy undertook the deepest undersea salvage then attempted. We have also provided a link to the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum, where the Trieste II (DSV-1) is on permanent display.