While the CIA does deal extensively in classified data, for which you must have both the necessary security clearance and a need for the information, it also deals extensively in what is called "open source" information. This is information that CIA researchers and analysts gather from publicly available sources like news outlets or governmental websites. Because anyone with the appropriate level of curiosity and language skills could have obtained the same information, the CIA can use it to create educational materials for governmental employees lacking security clearances or the general public.
The Central Intelligence Agency may be notorious for classified information and covert operations, but not everything they do is secret. The organization actually serves a number of fundamental functions for independent researchers, who don't have American security clearances, to gather information on countries around the world for online analytical projects.
Open Source vs. Classified Information
Open Source Center
One of the fundamental open source functions the CIA performs is to contribute to The Open Source Center. This is an online resource for federal, state and local government employees with homeland security-related responsibilities. Any such employee can register for an account to access open source intelligence and foreign media monitoring materials. The use of this resource for online analysis is also available to citizens of certain foreign countries operating in the U.S. as a foreign liaison.
CIA World Factbook
The CIA's most popular resource, which is available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection, is the World Fact Book. According to the CIA, millions of people visit the World Fact Book every month, and tens of thousands of websites link to its contents or replicate them. The World Fact Book is a fundamental starting point for any online analysis requiring a basic knowledge of a country. The CIA updates this publication twice a week, giving visitors up-to-date information on the politics, economics, demographics and infrastructure of any nation on earth.
Leaders and Maps
In addition to the World Fact Book, the CIA helps analysts researching highly detailed projects online by publishing information about politicians from around the globe in its World Leaders directory, as well as a variety of unclassified maps. The maps help analysts by providing information that covers not only geographic features and national boundaries, but also different infrastructure projects and detailed political demographics for a variety of nations. Analysts can also consult the World Leaders publication to find out who holds every major governmental post in countries the U.S. does, and does not, officially recognize internationally.
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