From Their Vaults to Your Desktop


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

Get the latest word on police-state tactics, conspiracies, revolutionaries,
ignored history, suppressed tech, and all manner of mindfuckery.

Secret Documents

National Security Archive ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (

HREX: Human Radiation Experiments Information Management System ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.

Free Speech Internet Television ( At this site you can feast on independent video documentaries (and sound clips) that wouldn’t otherwise get aired or distributed. Watch guerrilla coverage of protests at IMF meetings, riots against the NYPD, and other things you won’t see unfiltered on CNN.

CounterPunch ( Radical muckraking newsletter and Web site fronted by journalists Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair.

The Emperor’s Clothes ( Alternative views on NATO “peacekeeping actions” and U.S. foreign policy.

Human Rights Watch ( The latest on atrocities, massacres, disappearances, and suppression from around the world.

Corporate Watch ( Keeping up with the multinational corporate bullyboys is a snap with this site. Sample headlines: “USA: Companies Profit From Body Parts,” “UK: Toxin Found in Nike Football Shirts,” and “Brazil: McDonald’s Conducts ‘Experiment’ in Shantytowns.”

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting ( A left-leaning media watchdog group that exposes spin, distortions, and omissions in the news.

Ecobadguys ( Instead of giving the vague warnings about fluorocarbons that bubble up in the corporate media, this site, staffed in part by several Voice journalists, names names and points fingers at those corporations and politicians who are trashing the environment.

Copwatch ( This site polices the police by keeping tabs on corrupt and brutal cops across the country. Beatings, killings, bribes, planted evidence . . . it’s all here!

APB News ( A full-fledged independent newswire with 55 employees and 130 freelancers, APB News covers lots of stories on crime, justice, and law that fall between the cracks of the mainstream media.

Opensecrets ( This Web site from the Center for Responsive Politics follows the money trail in politics through all its dark twists and turns. Find out which candidates your neighbors gave money to!

Freedom Forum ( This impressive site reports daily on conflicts involving free speech, mainly in the United States.

Index Online ( For a global perspective on free speech and freedom of the press—including banned photos and political cartoons—check out the Web site of the bimonthly Index on Censorship.

NameBase ( A fantastic effort to index over a quarter of a million citations from more than 750 newspapers, magazines, and books. Simply look up the name of a CIA agent, Cold Warrior, mafioso, politician, or multinational corporation, and you’ll get page references to mainstream and alternative publications that spill the beans.

The Konformist ( Sardonic humor and brash attitude enliven this conspiratorial look at the day’s issues, including JonBenet, Columbine, gas prices, Giuliani, JFK Jr., and, um, the world’s largest gang bang.

ParaScope ( Extensive material on hazy goings-on, from assassinations and government drug-running to UFO sightings and psychic research.

Disinformation ( The supreme guide to the hidden aspects of our world, Disinformation delivers a “dossier”—an article with lots of links—every weekday. You’ll get the latest word on police-state tactics, conspiracies, extremism, corporate creeps, radicals and revolutionaries, suppressed tech, ignored history, and all manner of mindfuckery, including occasional reviews by this writer. For your continued edification, Disinfo also has a subversive search engine.

GettingIt ( Run by cyberdelic anarchist R.U. Sirius of MONDO 2000 fame, GettingIt examines politics and culture through a twisted, jaded lens.

Fortean Times ( From the quirky to the frightening, the “Breaking News” area of Fortean Times‘s Web site reports on events that defy explanation (and sometimes belief). Read about bizarre deaths, new animal species, disturbing religious behavior, amazing coincidences, and inexplicable crimes.

To get more news from a leftist perspective, visit The Nader Page (, featuring weekly columns by consumer advocate and presidential candidate Ralph Nader. If you’re looking to uncover the more bizarre aspects of our world, try The Anomalist (, or Steamshovel Press (, which promises “All Conspiracy. No Theory.”

Other articles from Take Back the Net (Special Section)

LEFT BEHIND by Ward Harkavy
The Radical Right Got Wired Fast. When Will Progressives Catch Up?

RIGHT THINKING by James Ridgeway
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