- The CIA, the American intelligence agency,
is fighting to preserve its secret recipe for invisible ink.
- CIA lawyers say that classified First
World War documents must not be made public because its spies still use
the ink to send secret messages, using a German formula believed to have
been passed to the United States in 1917 by British agents.
- The files' existence was disclosed by
a Washington pressure group campaigning against what it sees as excessive
secrecy by government agencies. The formula is the oldest classified document
still banned from public viewing at the National Archives, the US equivalent
of the Public Record Office.
- The James Madison Project, run by Mark
Zaid, a lawyer, took legal action to have the records made public based
on their age. Mr Zaid said he was astonished when the CIA objected.
- "This is something they have managed
to keep quiet for 80 years," he said. "But given the sophistication
of foreign intelligence agencies and even terrorist groups today, it is
difficult to imagine that a formula for secret ink could still be of any
- Mr Zaid's scepticism was apparently shared
initially by the judge who heard his freedom of information request in
a Washington court last month and remarked that he remembered reading the
formula on a cereal box as a child.
- The CIA said that revealing the formula
would compromise covert operations and make its messages "more vulnerable
to detection . . . by hostile intelligence services or terrorist organisations".
The judge eventually agreed, ordering the six files relating to the invisible
ink kept secret until 2020.