Sep 27, 2012 (09:09 AM EDT)
CIA Releases Official World Maps Collection Online

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The Central Intelligence Agency has released into the public domain its collection of online maps of 75 countries and world regions, including links to information on political leaders around the world.

The maps are available in three ways. An administrative version shows a country's capital, provinces, border, and administrative centers. A physiographic map shows major cities, roads, topography, and archaeological and historic sites. A transportation map illustrates roads, rails, canals, expressways, and airports.

The maps are available on CIA.gov in PDF and JPG formats. A drop down menu lets users choose countries in alphabetical order, including political and military hotspots such as Afghanistan and Iran. A link at the bottom of each country's index page provides a list of key government officials and cabinet officers.

Although many maps are available on the Internet, "these maps represent the approved U.S. government boundaries and naming conventions established by the State Department," said a CIA spokesman.

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The CIA has a long history of mapmaking. The cartography division was created in 1941 and became part of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. The Cartography Center is now part of the Directorate of Intelligence and provides graphics for all the Directorate's finished intelligence, according to the spokesman.

In addition to the maps, the CIA site offers The World Factbook, a compendium of 267 entities, with detailed information on national economies, politics, communications, government structures, and other international issues. In addition to individual countries, there are entries for the Arctic Ocean, Vatican City, and the European Union.

The maps can be downloaded and used by anyone. The CIA says they can be a resource for students, teachers, journalists, and the traveling public. The only restriction is that the agency requests asks that if a map is modified or used in a mashup, the identification number on the map be removed. "If you take a CIA map and superimpose on it all the electrical plants in the country, we ask that you remove the number so that your modified map will not be mistaken for a CIA product," said the agency spokesman.

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