UFO sightings, psychic research among 13 million declassified documents put online by CIA

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in Langley, Virginia, on Aug 14, 2008.
The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in Langley, Virginia, on Aug 14, 2008. PHOTO: REUTERS

Records relating to UFO sightings and psychic powers research are among nearly 13 million pages of declassified documents released online by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The agency's move follows lengthy efforts by freedom of information advocates to have the information put online and a lawsuit against the CIA.

The full archive is made up of almost 800,000 files, said the BBC.

They had previously only been accessible at the National Archives in Maryland.

The trove includes the papers of Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as several hundred thousand pages of intelligence analysis and science research and development.

Among the more unusual records are documents from the Stargate Project, which dealt with psychic powers and extrasensory perception.

Those include records of testing on celebrity psychic Uri Geller in 1973, when he was already a well-established performer.

Memos detail how Geller was able to partly replicate pictures drawn in another room with varying - but sometimes precise - accuracy, leading the researchers to write that he "demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner".

Other unusual records include a collection of reports on flying saucers, and recipes for invisible ink, said the BBC.

While much of the information has been technically publicly available since the mid-1990s, it has been very difficult to access.

The records were only available on four physical computers located in the back of a library at the National Archives in Maryland, between 9am and 4-30pm each day.

A non-profit freedom of information group, MuckRock, sued the CIA to force it to upload the collection, in a process which took more than two years.

At the same time, journalist Mike Best crowd-funded more than US$15,000 (S$21,000) to visit the archives to print out and then publicly upload the records, one by one, to apply pressure to the CIA, the BBC reported.

"By printing out and scanning the documents at CIA expense, I was able to begin making them freely available to the public and to give the agency a financial incentive to simply put the database online," Best wrote in a blog post.

In November (2016), the CIA announced it would publish the material, and the entire declassified Crest archive is now available on the CIA Library website.