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Special Collections Archive

A Life in Intelligence - The Richard Helms Collection

(April 28, 2008)

This collection of material by and about Richard Helms as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and Ambassador to Iran comprises the largest single release of Helms-related information to date. The documents, historical works and essays offer an unprecedented, wide-ranging look at the man and his career as the United States' top intelligence official and one of its most important diplomats during a crucial decade of the Cold War. From mid-1966, when he became DCI, to late 1976, when he left Iran, Helms dealt directly with numerous events whose impact remains evident today and which are covered in the release.

A-12 OXCART Reconnaissance Aircraft Documentation

(August 2007)

This release, containing approximately 1,500 pages of material, consisting of about 350 documents, maps, diagrams, and photographs dealing with the A-12 reconnaissance aircraft is occasioned by CIA's acquisition on loan from the Air Force of the eighth A-12 in the production series of 15. Known as Article 128, the aircraft will be on display at the Agency's Headquarters compound in Langley, Virginia. The release also coincides with the publication of CIA's unclassified official history of the A-12, Archangel: CIA's A-12 Supersonic Reconnaissance Aircraft by the Agency's Chief Historian, David Robarge. The newly declassified material will provide researchers on aviation and intelligence with significant additional detail about the design and development of the A-12 -- still the fastest and highest flying piloted operational jet aircraft ever built -- and its use as an intelligence collection platform in East Asia.

Air America: Upholding the Airmen's Bond

(April 18, 2009)

A fascinating assembly of documents revealing the role that Air America, the Agency's proprietary airline, played in the search and rescue of pilots and personnel during the Vietnam War. The collection has personal accounts by the rescued pilots and thank you letters as well as commendations from various officials. It includes, for the first time, direct information about Lima Site 85 in Laos and a possible hijacking attempt in the 1964 crash of Flight 908. Other elements include the airline's role in the final evacuations from Da Nang and Saigon in April, 1975.

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.

Baptism By Fire: CIA Analysis of the Korean War Overview

(June 16, 2010)

This collection includes more than 1,300 documents consisting of national estimates, intelligence memo, daily updates, and summaries of foreign media concerning developments on the Korean Peninsula during 1947 - 1954. The release of this collection, which coincides with the 60th anniversary of the start of the war, makes available to the public the largest collection of Agency documents released on this issue.

CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces

(October 25, 2012)

This study examines the role of clandestine reporting in CIA’s analysis of the Warsaw Pact from 1955 to 1985. The Soviet Union established itself as a threat to the West at the end of World War II by its military occupation of eastern European countries and the attempts of its armed proxies to capture Greece and South Korea. The West countered with the formation of NATO. While the West welcomed West Germany into NATO, the Soviets established a military bloc of Communist nations with the Warsaw Treaty of May 1955. This study continues CIA’s efforts to provide a detailed record of the intelligence derived from clandestine human and technical sources from that period. This intelligence was provided to US policy makers and used to assess the political and military balances and confrontations in Central Europe between the Warsaw Pact and NATO during the Cold War.

Creating Global Intelligence

(May 14, 2009)

Discover the back story of the US intelligence community by exploring "Creating Global Intelligence: The Creation of the US Intelligence Community and Lessons for the 21st Century", a collection of declassified documents from the late 1940s to the early 1950s that ultimately led to the establishment of the CIA.

Historical Review Office Collections on this site

The Princeton Collection

(9-10 March 2001)

Analytic Reports Produced by the Directorate of Intelligence on the Former Soviet Union Declassified and released for a March 2001 Conference at Princeton University

Intelligence, Policy, and Politics: The DCI, the White House, and Congress

(September 13, 2012)

The Crafting of an Intelligence Community collection of 800+ Agency documents along with 600 supplemental items shows the day-by-day activities, decisions, staff meetings and contacts that confronted each DCI. They ran the gamut of choosing a secretary to responding to a Presidential question to an evening social event with various ambassadors and dignitaries.

National Intelligence Council (NIC) Collection

(January 2007)

This collection contains hundreds of intelligence reports, including many National Intelligence Estimates and other publications produced by the National Intelligence Council or its predecessor organizations, the Office of National Estimates and the Office of Reports and Estimates since 1946.

Preparing for Martial Law: Through the Eyes of Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski

(December 11, 2008)

A captivating collection of over 75 documents concerning the planning and implementation martial law in Poland from mid-1980 to late 1981. The collection release coincided with a CIA symposium honoring Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, a member of the Polish Army General Staff and the source of the documents. His information provided documents and personal commentary that gave intelligence analysts and US policy makers invaluable insight into the crisis.

President Nixon and the Role of Intelligence in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War

(January 30, 2013)

This collection highlights the causes and consequences of US Intelligence Community’s (IC) failure to foresee the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the October War or the Yom Kippur War. A coalition of Arab nations led by Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 6, the day of Yom Kippur. Prior to October 6, the CIA concluded that the Arabs would not attack, so the offensive surprised US policymakers as well as Israel. Directorate of Intelligence (DI) analysts believed that Arab military inferiority would militate against an attack on Israel. DI analysis did not explore the possibility that leaders might go to war--even at the risk of losing--to pursue political objectives. According to an internal postmortem, Agency analysis was impaired by preconceptions about Arab military capabilities, information overload, rational actor modeling and groupthink.

Reagan Collection

(November 2, 2011)

In the 1980s, the Cold War was going strong and was made worse by events such as the death of three Soviet leaders in a span of three years, the Soviet shootdown of a Korean airliner, and the USSR's support for Communist governments and movements in Afghanistan and Central America. This collection of declassified documents and other material highlights what the CIA provided President Reagan and other top members of his national security team on key issues affecting US-Soviet relations.

Soviet and Warsaw Pact Military Journals

(January 22, 2010)

A collection of sensitive Soviet and Warsaw Pact military journals from 1961 to 1984 providing a view into Warsaw Pact military strategy.

Additional documents to the collection, dating from 1961 to 1986, published in sensitive Soviet and Warsaw Pact military journals that reflect the evolution of military strategy in the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, were added here on Jan. 22, 2010.

Strategic Warning and the Role of Intelligence: Lessons Learned From The 1968 Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

(April 16, 2010)

The Czechoslovak crisis began in January 1968. The Czech communist leadership embarked on a program of dramatic liberalization of the political, economic, and social orders. These reforms triggered increasing Soviet concerns culminating in the invasion of 21 August 1968. This collection of documents pertains to these issues, the responses and analysis of this event in history.

The Berlin Wall Collection: A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall

(October 27, 2011)

Erected literally overnight, the building of the Berlin Wall was the culmination of over a decade of escalating confrontations and contentious blockades contrived to encourage the west to abandon Berlin to the Communist Bloc. The wall was East Germany's ultimate attempt to isolate and destroy an island of freedom. Instead of expelling the west, Berlin became ground zero in a contest of tit-for-tat brinksmanship with a serious risk of erupting into nuclear war. War was averted, but the wall dividing Berlin became a corrosive global symbol of bitter oppression that would last for nearly three decades.

The CAESAR, POLO, and ESAU Papers

(June 2007)

This collection of declassified analytic monographs and reference aids, designated within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Directorate of Intelligence (DI) as the CAESAR, ESAU, and POLO series, highlights the CIA's efforts from the 1950s through the mid-1970s to pursue in-depth research on Soviet and Chinese internal politics and Sino-Soviet relations.

The China Collection

(May 2004)

This collection of over seventy National Intelligence Estimates on China is the most extensive single selection of intelligence analyses the United States Government ever has released. This recently declassified collection represents the most authoritative intelligence assessments of the United States Government and thus constitutes a unique historical record of a momentous era in China's modern history.

The Original Wizards of Langley

(October 3, 2008)

This overview and collection of documents and other material related to the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) offer a glimpse of CIA's overall contribution to the analysis of Soviet capabilities in science and technology during the Cold War. It is by no means intended to be definitive, or even complete, with respect to all the activities associated with the Agency's scientific and technological capabilities, analysis, and resulting reporting. It does, however, highlight some key events and selected activities that contribute to our understanding of the unique role OSI played in the Agency's history.

The Vietnam Collection

This collection of declassified estimative products is the first such release by the Central Intelligence Agency of documents exclusively on the Vietnam war. The National Intelligence Council (NIC) commissioned Lloyd Gardner, the renowned American scholar on the Vietnam war, to prepare an introductory essay providing historical context for the documents.

Vietnam Histories

(March 13, 2009)

This release consists of six declassified histories volumes and describes the CIA's role in Indochina during the Vietnam War. These histories written by Thomas L. Ahern, Jr., are based on extensive research in CIA records and on oral history interviews of participants. The release totals some 1,600 pages and represents the largest amount of Vietnam-era CIA documents yet declassified.

Wartime Statutes - Instruments of Soviet Control

(April 5, 2011)

The collection, consisting of 22 documents, provides insight into how the Soviet Union codified its control over the armed forces of its Eastern European allies. The release of this collection coincided with a panel discussion at the Wilson Center.

What was the Missile Gap?

(September 26, 2011)

The Missile Gap was in essence a growing perception in the West, especially in the USA, that the Soviet Union was quickly developing an intercontinental range ballistic missile (ICBM) capability earlier, in greater numbers, and with far more capability than that of the United States. Even as that perception was disproved, it became evident that the Soviets were placing their major effort toward developing strategic missiles against which, once launched, there was no defense. The perceived missile gap that ensued was based on a comparison between US ICBM strength as then programmed, and reasonable, although erroneous estimates of prospective Soviet ICBM strength that were generally accepted.