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The World Factbook is an annual publication by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States with basic almanac-style information about the various countries of the world. The factbook gives a two- to three-page summary of the demographics, location, telecommunications capacity, government, industry, military capability, etc, of all US-recognized countries and territories in the world.
As The World Factbook is prepared by the CIA for the use of U.S. Government officials, the style, format, coverage, and content are designed to meet their specific requirements.
Information is provided by:
- Antarctic Information Program (National Science Foundation),
Bureau of the Census (Department of Commerce),
Bureau of Labor Statistics (Department of Labor),
Central Intelligence Agency,
- Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs ,
Defense Intelligence Agency (Department of Defense),
US Department of State,
US Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior),
- US Maritime Administration (Department of Transportation),
National Imagery and Mapping Agency (Department of Defense),
- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (Department of Defense),
Office of Insular Affairs (Department of the Interior),
Office of Naval Intelligence (Department of Defense),
United States Board on Geographic Names (Department of the Interior), and
- other public and private sources.
Because the Factbook is public domain, i.e. not under copyright, people are free not only to redistribute it, but also to modify it in any way they like, without permission of the CIA.
The official seal of the CIA, however, may NOT be copied without permission as required by the CIA Act of 1949 (50 U.S.C. section 403m). Misuse of the official seal of the CIA could result in civil and criminal penalties. Also, "Federal law prohibits use of the words "Central Intelligence Agency," the initials "CIA," the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency, or any colorable imitation of such words, initials, or seal in connection with any merchandise, impersonation, solicitation, or commercial activity in a manner reasonably calculated to convey the impression that such use is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the Central Intelligence Agency. "
Many sites have used information and images from the CIA World Factbook, because of its public domain status, including this encyclopedia.
Besides the World Factbook, the CIA puts out a directory of Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments each week.
Oddities and controversies
Controversy about the Factbook arose in 1998 when British journalists noticed it contained some glaring errors — most notably that "the United Kingdom gained its independence in 1801".
The maps of countries in the Factbook also appear to have strange anomalies. For example, the map of the United Kingdom lists the town of Grangemouth in Scotland, although it is only a small town and in no way a major city (this is perhaps due to its status as a major centre of the oil industry in Scotland).
The U.S. does not recognize the renaming of Burma by its ruling military junta to Myanmar and thus keeps its entry for the country under "Burma."
Specific regions within a country or areas in dispute among countries, such as Kashmir and Kosovo, are not covered, but other areas of the world whose status is disputed, such as the Spratly Islands, have entries.
Maps depicting Kashmir have the India-Pakistan border drawn at the Line of Control, but the region of Kashmir occupied by China drawn in hashmarks.
The occupied Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, the West Bank are not shown as part of Israel.
Northern Cyprus is not given a separate entry or listed as part of Turkey because "territorial occupations/annexations not recognized by the United States Government are not shown on U.S. Government maps."
Taiwan has a separate entry not listed under "T", but at the bottom of the list. The name "Republic of China" is not listed as Taiwan's "official name" under the "Government" section, perhaps due to U.S. recognition of Beijing's One-China Policy according to which the Republic of China is a defunct entity having been replaced by the People's Republic of China. The name "Republic of China" was briefly added on January 27, 2005 but changed back to "none" on February 10, 2005.
On December 16, 2004, the CIA added an entry for the European Union. According to the CIA, the European Union was added because the EU "continues to accrue more nation-like characteristics for itself".