The US intelligence community has long been divided by a common purpose. This lack of co-operation was identified as a major failing of the intelligence community after 911. This lack of co-operation leads to a lack of information sharing. Information is a valued commodity for intelligence analysis but the a problem is that information tends to stay isolated within the particular agencies. The old intelligence cycle is no longer applicable in a world where information on events can move very quickly. The tools of the Internet are the same tools terrorists use for communication and collaboration and there is a compressed response cycle that necessitates the need to respond quickly to threats.
It has been suggested that blogs, wikis and other web technologies could be used as a means to share information across the intelligence community overcoming some of the problems inherit in the community. Simon and Hart’s paper, Thinking Straight and Talking Straight:Problems of Intelligence Analysis and D.Calvin Andrus’ The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community argue that blogs (and other web technologies) can improve ‘tradecraft‘ within the intelligence community. Blogs, wikis etc would allow analysts across different agencies to share information and the threaded discussions and ability to generate feedback implicit in blogs could help in selecting and assembling threat related information.
Already, progress is being made here with the formation of Intellipedia which runs across three secure networks. But a problem remains that the intelligence agencies all use different computer networks with little or no interoperability. Andrus advocated the use of SIPRNet as a means of connecting intelligence analysts and their information (which does contain Intellipedia) as it has the infrastructure to host wikis and blogs. But an issue remains with the ability to search between different databases and have the searches return meaningful responses. With the formation of the office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the need to for interoperability and increased information sharing between the different agencies networks saw Lt. Gen. Dale Meyerrose appointed as the Chief Information Officer (CIO).
One thing that needs to be pointed out is that the Internet is not going to see a CIA blog turn up next door to LP or even one from ASIO or ASIS. This activity would all take place behind closed doors. However, our blogosphere is a source of information for intelligence activities. Clive Thompson’s excellent article on this subject Open-Source Spying notes that one analyst used blogs (given the outdated systems and probably due to the decline of human intelligence as part of information gathering) to keep track of the Orange Revolution in 2004.
Which goes to show what the MSM don’t know, other organisations understand.