A Web-Based Database of CIA Declassified Documents on the Vietnam War

Article excerpt

DURING THE VIETNAM WAR YEARS (1960-1975), THE U.S. GOVERNMENT GENERATED A LARGE VOLUME OF CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS.

The declassification of these documents started with Executive Order No. 11652 signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972 [1]. Part of that executive order is on the Web [www.fas.org/sgp/eprint/ legacy_appendix.html]. Thousands of these documents, formerly classified as "Confidential," "Secret," and "Top Secret," are being declassified, made public, and are available for educational and research purposes. On microfiche, the documents were published by Primary Source Microfilm as Declassified Documents Reference System (DDRS). The microfiche are abstracted, indexed, and published in a bimonthly periodical titled Declassified Documents Catalog (DDC). The DDC is now also published as a CD-ROM by Thomson Gale, while the DDRS is available through subscription on the Internet at www. ddrs.psmedia.com/.

Recently, the Vietnam Center of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, through its Virtual Vietnam Archive (WA) [www.vietnam.ttu.edu/ virtualarchive/], began providing access to a large number of full-text declassified documents. The Declassified CIA Documents on the Vietnam War database [http://library.usask. ca/Vietnam] is the result of a sabbatical leave research project approved and supported by the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. It includes only declassified documents created by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It provides an in-depth indexing of the CIA declassified documents and, where possible, also provides a link to the full-text documents available at the WA and offers both simple and advanced search capabilities.

DATABASE STRUCTURE

Each record in the database contains the following fields:

Record Number: Automatically created by system.

Title: Title of document.

Date of Creation: Date document was created.

Date of Declassification: Date document was declassified.

Type of Document: Type of document, e.g., Report, Memorandum, Cable, etc.

Level of Classification: Level of classification of document before it was declassified; only four terms will be used: CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, TOP SECRET, and NOT GIVEN.

Status of Copy: Status of copy of document; only two terms will be used: ORIGINAL and SANITIZED.

Pagination: Number of pages and illustrations, such as maps.

Abstract: Abstract of contents of document; taken mostly from the CDROM published by the Thomson Gale.

Indexing Terms: Controlled vocabulary (words, phrases) describing topics presented in document.

DDRS Location: Document identifier showing location of document in the Declassified Documents Reference System.

Link to Full Text: If available, URL of document available full text at the Web site of the WA.

DOCUMENT INDEXING AND DATABASE CONTENTS

The main reason we created this database is the DDC's lack of in-depth indexing. The very detailed indexing provided by the Carollton Press for the Declassified Documents Retrospective Collection, published in 1976, was abandoned when Carollton Press began publishing the Declassified Documents Quarterly Catalog, which preceded the DDC. Research Publications adopted this practice for the DDC. When Primary Source Microfilm replaced Research Publications as publisher of DDC, it continued this practice. As a result, a very limited number of indexing terms are used in the DDC:

Vietnam

Armed Forces

Foreign relations with -

Politics and government

Religion

Vietnam, North

Commerce

Foreign relations with -

Military policy

Vietnam, South

Armed forces

Commerce

Commerce with -

Economic conditions

Foreign relations with -

Politics and government

Religion

Social conditions

Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975

Campaigns

Missing in action

Peace negotiations

Prisoners of war

Topical searches such as searches for personal names, place-names, names of operations/battles, and titles of U. …