Today’s New York Times had an article entitled, Logged In and Sharing Gossip, Er, Intelligence, that I think is well worth reading. The article describes Web 2.0 style initiatives in the Intelligence Community (IC) designed to improve the quality of intelligence and promote information sharing.
In December, officials say, the agencies will introduce A-Space, a top-secret variant of the social networking Web sites MySpace and Facebook. The “A” stands for “analyst,” and where Facebook users swap snapshots, homework tips and gossip, intelligence analysts will be able to compare notes on satellite photos of North Korean nuclear sites, Iraqi insurgents and Chinese missiles.
A-Space will join Intellipedia, the spooks’ Wikipedia, where intelligence officers from all 16 American spy agencies pool their knowledge. Sixteen months after its creation, officials say, the top-secret version of Intellipedia has 29,255 articles, with an average of 114 new articles and more than 4,800 edits to articles added each workday.
“We see the Internet passing us in the fast lane,” said Mike Wertheimer, of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, who is overseeing the introduction of A-Space. “We’re playing a little catch-up.”
Personally, I’m glad to see the government using Web 2.0 style initiatives to try and improve the intelligence process, and I think the article (e.g., the headline) is overly negative in tone. I do understand that for virtually all technology changes, that it’s not about the technology alone — it’s about people (culture), process, and technology together. I wouldn’t expect things to be any different in the Intelligence Community than in finance or pharma, in that regard. People are people; organizational behavior is organizational behavior.
While I’ve never worked in the IC, it interests me for both personal and professional reasons. See this post, entitled Open Secrets, on what’s called open source intelligence (OSINT) and is based on a delightful article by Malcom Gladwell, or read this book, The Puzzle Palace, a classic that describes the history of the National Security Agency (NSA).