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CIA Reveals Six Oldest Classified Documents; Now We Can All Read Them

They're not exactly sexy. You won't come away after reading them feeling like you're James Bond.

And you'll need some milk.

But it is fascinating that the Central Intelligence Agency has "declassified the United States Government's six oldest classified documents, dating from 1917 and 1918," .

According to the CIA, "one document outlines the chemicals and techniques necessary for developing certain types of secret writing ink and a method for opening sealed letters without detection. Another memorandum dated June 14, 1918 — written in French — reveals the formula used for German secret ink."

The secrets can now be revealed, CIA Director Leon Panetta says in a statement, because "recent advancements in technology" apparently make the methods obsolete.

And, thanks to the Web, we can all see them:

-- German "secret ink" formulas; in French.

-- More German secret ink formulas; also in French.

-- A third secret ink formula; in English.

-- Instructions on how to open a sealed letter, "without detection." Warning: "do not inhale fumes" of the chemicals you're using.

-- Tips on what type of writing instrument to use with the inks. Hint: use "a quill pen."

-- Several pages of research and instructions on secret writing. One tip: "Dip a tooth pick in common milk and write between lines of an ordinary letter. the writing will appear by being ironed out with a hot flatiron."

NPR's Rachel Martin is set to spill more about these secrets on today's edition of All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

An image from one of the World War I-era secret documents declassified by the CIA.
/ CIA.gov
An image from one of the World War I-era secret documents declassified by the CIA.