A Search Engine For Government Documents
May 27, 2013 by Sam Rolley
A new project spearheaded by a group of historians, mathematicians and computer scientists at Columbia University in New York City is aimed at compiling all of the documents that have been declassified by the government in an easily searchable online database for research.
Currently, only a portion the CIA’s declassified materials are available online. And access to the full declassified database requires a visit to the National Archives at College Park, Md.
But the Declassification Engine project would change this, putting declassified materials into a one-stop-shop search engine and providing tools to make broad study of the material easier.
From the project website:
Currently its main projects are the (de)classifier, a tool displaying cable activity over time for different embassies and topics contrasting the number of documents declassified with the number still withheld, the (de)sanitizer, an app that illuminates previously redacted text to show what kinds of information is considered particularly sensitive, and the sphere of influence, a visualization of diplomatic activity around the globe based on the volume of classified and declassified cable traffic. We hope to combine these and other tools in a platform that will accept user-submitted documents to further improve its capacity to predict what still-classified documents might reveal.
To date, the CIA has released 11 million digital declassified documents, but hasn’t released the database providing access to those documents online. Researchers say this could mean that there is a great deal historians could learn — possibly things the government doesn’t want revealed — simply by being able to access all of the documents in one place.