From Their Vaults to Your Desktop

Finding Documents the Man Wants to Hide

Finding out what you're not supposed to know is easier than ever, thanks to the Net. A number of Web sites have posted truckloads of formerly secret government and corporate documents online, and even more sites offer neglected news and views from progressive, conservative, radical, and other (sometimes unidentifiable) viewpoints. Here are some of the best online resources for making an end run around the gatekeepers in the government and the media.



illustration by Colin Johnson


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Secret Documents

National Security Archive (hfni.gsehd.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv): Although its name is similar to that of the National Security Agency, this NSA is a private, nonprofit organization that collects declassified documents the way kids collect Pokémon cards. You'll find "electronic briefing books" containing documents on Che Guevara's murder, the contras and cocaine, Guatemalan death squads, Tiananmen Square, the Iran coup of 1953, the National Security Agency, and other touchy subjects. Commentaries written by the archive's staff help put things in perspective.

Digital National Security Archive (nsarchive.chadwyck.com): If you're craving extensive documentation on matters of U.S. policy, this site contains a walloping 35,000 declassified documents totaling hundreds of thousands of pages.

The Black Vault (blackvault.com): If you think there's no hope for the youth of America, take a look at this site started by a 15-year-old. Using skills he undoubtedly learned in his high school civics class (cough, cough), the now-19-year-old has filed umpteen Freedom of Information Act requests, accumulating an archive of thousands of documents from various agencies. The bulk of them are on UFOs, but there are others on World War II, the Apollo space program, biological weapons, cloning, and even the Department of Energy supercomputer.

Big Brother's Watching (bigbrotherswatching.com): The teenage creator of The Black Vault (see above) had so many declassified FBI documents that he had to create a separate site to house them. Big Brother's Watching is stuffed with over 70,000 pages, which take up several gigabytes of server space. This treasure trove includes files on Jonestown, the Weather Underground, Project Blue Book, the Atlanta child murders, and Hitler, among other topics.

Cryptome (jya.com/crypto.htm): John Young has a cool hobby: The New York architect obtains declassified documents and posts them to his Web site on an almost daily basis. You'll find lots of great stuff here on the global snooping network Echelon, DVD encryption, and TEMPEST technology, which lets the spooks view your monitor from a van parked a block or more away from your house. Cryptome recently made a splash when Young posted the first still-classified British intelligence file leaked to the Net. Despite requests from the British government, he has refused to remove it.

The Smoking Gun (thesmokinggun.com): Dripping with sarcasm, the Smoking Gun, cofounded by longtime Voice writer William Bastone, doesn't focus so much on declassified government files as on other (usually embarrassing) documents, like celebrity arrest reports, strange lawsuits, search warrants in high-profile cases, and general lunacy. Where else can you find Mike Tyson's psychiatric report, the FBI file on John Steinbeck, customs agents' guidelines for performing cavity searches, and a catalog of weapons and military vehicles from a Russian arms dealer?

Dossier Documents Library (parascope.com/ds/documentslibrary): A huge collection of government documents on CIA interrogation, the Clinton scandals, Korean War POWs, the MKULTRA mind-control program, Roswell, and lots more.

APB News G-Files (apbnews.com/media/gfiles): The crime and justice news service APB News does a fantastic job of posting declassified documents on Marilyn Monroe, Walt Disney, Pablo Picasso, Jerry Falwell, UFO sightings, snuff films, and the Zodiac Killer, to name just a few. While you're there, feast your eyes on the mug shots of famous people like Dennis Rodman, Matthew McConaughey, and Bill Gates.

CIA Electronic Documents Release Center (foia.ucia.gov): In an effort to give the illusion of greater openness (and to cut down on paperwork), the CIA has posted some of its most requested documents to its Web site. You can also check out the offerings on other official Web sites, including those of the FBI (foia.fbi.gov) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (atf.treas.gov/about/foia/err.htm).

HREX: Human Radiation Experiments Information Management System (hrex.dis.anl.gov): A searchable database of over 250,000 pages of documents from federal agencies that expose governmental and non-governmental experimentation on humans since the 1940s.

Tobacco Archives (tobaccoarchive.com): Following its 1998 settlement with state governments, the tobacco industry cheerfully created this site, which will lead you to 26 million pages of documents—including memos and internal reports—from several tobacco companies.

ParaScope's Freedom of Information Act Help Center (parascope.com/foia/foia.html): Learn how to snag your own declassified documents by filing FOIA requests. The fill-in-the-blank "Request-O-Matic" form will even generate a letter for you.


Alternative News & Views

Federation of American Scientists (fas.org): Primarily known for its antinuke stance (the group was founded by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project), the FAS also has plenty of hard-hitting info on biological and chemical weapons, global arms dealing, government secrecy, intelligence agencies, the Department of Defense, spy satellites, and foreign policy. 1

 
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