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Intellipedia Logo
A screenshot of the Intellipedia interface

Intellipedia is an online system for collaborative data sharing used by the United States intelligence community (IC). It was established as a pilot project in late 2005 and formally announced in April 2006 [1][2] and consists of three wikis running on JWICS, SIPRNet, and Intelink-U. They are used by individuals with appropriate clearances from the 16 agencies of IC and other national-security related organizations, including Combatant Commands and other federal departments. The wikis are not open to the public.

Intellipedia is a project of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Intelligence Community Enterprise Services (ICES) office headquartered in Fort Meade, Maryland. It includes information on the regions, people, and issues of interest to the communities using its host networks. Intellipedia uses MediaWiki, the same software used by the Wikipedia free-content encyclopedia project.[3] ODNI officials say that the project will change the culture of the U.S. intelligence community, widely blamed for failing to "connect the dots" before the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The SIPRNet version predominantly serves U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense personnel, many of whom do not use the Top Secret JWICS network on a day-to-day basis. Sensitive but Unclassified Network (SBU) users can access Intellipedia from remote terminals outside their workspaces via a VPN, in addition to their normal workstations. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) users share information on the unclassified network.


[edit] Creation

Intellipedia was created to share information on some of the most difficult subjects facing U.S. intelligence and to bring cutting-edge technology into its ever-more-youthful workforce.[4] It also allows information to be assembled and reviewed by a wide variety of sources and agencies, to address concerns that pre-war intelligence did not include robust dissenting opinions on Iraq's alleged weapons programs.[5] A number of projects are under way to explore the use of the Intellipedia for the creation of traditional Intelligence Community products. In the summer of 2006, Intellipedia was the main collaboration tool in constructing a National Intelligence Estimate on Nigeria.[6]

Intellipedia was at least partially inspired by an essay competition set up by the CIA - later taken over by the DNI - which encouraged any employee at any intelligence agency to submit new ideas to improve information sharing. The first essay selected was by Calvin Andrus, chief technology officer of the Center for Mission Innovation at the CIA, entitled "The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community". Andrus' essay argued that the real power of the Internet had come from the boom in self-publishing, and noted how the open-door policy of Wikipedia allowed it to cover new subjects quickly.[7][8]

Richard A. Russell, Deputy Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Information Sharing Customer Outreach (ISCO) said it was created so "analysts in different agencies that work X or Y can go in and see what other people are doing on subject X or Y and actually add in their two cents worth ... or documents that they have." "What we’re after here is 'decision superiority', not 'information superiority'," he said. "We have to get inside the decision cycle of the enemy. We have to be able to discover what they’re doing and respond to it effectively."[3]

As of October 2006, the overall Intellipedia project hosted 28,000 pages edited by 3,600 users.[6] In September 2007, sixteen months after its creation, officials noted that the top-secret version of Intellipedia alone (hosted on JWICS) has 29,255 articles, with an average of 114 new articles and more than 6,000 edits to articles added each workday.[9]

As of March 2008, Intellipedia hosted 35,000 articles (making a total of 200,000 pages) edited by 37,000 users.[10] The system has been enhanced to include a YouTube-like video channel, a Flickr-like photo sharing feature, content tagging, blogs and RSS feeds.[11]

[edit] Technical support

Google was contracted by the government to provide computer servers to support Intellipedia. Google also provides the software to search Intellipedia, which ranks results based on user created tags.[10]

[edit] Potential problems

Some are concerned that individual intelligence agencies will create their own wikis, draining ideas and input from Intellipedia.[12] Sean Dennehy, a CIA official involved in integrating the system into the intelligence fabric, said disseminating material to the widest possible audience of analysts is key to avoiding mistakes. He said analysts from multiple agencies had used the network to post frequent updates on recent events, including the crash of a small plane into a New York City apartment building in October 2006 and North Korea's test of a missile in July 2006.[13]

Some view it as risky because it allows more information to be viewed and shared;[14] but according to Michael Wertheimer, McConnell's assistant deputy director for analysis, it is worth the risk. The project was greeted initially with "a lot of resistance," said Wertheimer, because it runs counter to past practice which sought to limit the pooling of information.[15] He said there are risks in everything everyone does: "the key is risk management, not risk avoidance." Some encouragement has been necessary to spur contributions from the traditional intelligence community.[4] However, he said the system appeals to the new generation of intelligence analysts because "this is how they like to work" and "it's a new way of thinking."[15][4]

[edit] Successes

Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis (DDNI/A), cited the successful use of Intellipedia to develop an article on how Iraqi insurgents were using chlorine in improvised explosive devices saying, "They developed it in a couple of days interacting in Intellipedia," ... "No bureaucracy, no mother-may-I, no convening meetings. They did it and it came out pretty good. That’s going to continue to grow."[16] [17]

In a September 10, 2007 testimony before the United States Congress, Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, cited the increasing use of Intellipedia among analysts and its ability to help experts pool their knowledge, form virtual teams, and make quick assessments.[18]

Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations, a book published in 2008 by several experts in the field of intelligence analysis, cited Intellipedia as evidence of the changing nature of analysis.[19]

[edit] Community practices

An Intellipedia shovel, awarded to exemplary wiki contributors.

The wiki provides so much flexibility that several offices throughout the community are using it to maintain and transfer knowledge on daily operations and events.[20] Anyone with access to read it has permission to create and edit articles after registering and acquiring an account with Intelink. Since Intellipedia is intended to be a platform for harmonizing the various points of view of the agencies and analysts of the Intelligence Community, Intellipedia does not enforce a neutral point of view policy.[21] Instead, viewpoints are attributed to the agencies, offices, and individuals participating, with the hope that a consensus view will emerge. Intellipedia also contains a great deal of non-encyclopedic content including meeting notes and items of internal, administrative interest. Deputy DNI Thomas Fingar made a comparison to eBay, the auction Web site where the reliability of sellers is rated by buyers. He said:

"Intellipedia. It's been written up. It's the Wikipedia on a classified network, with one very important difference: it's not anonymous. We want people to establish a reputation. If you're really good, we want people to know you're good. If you're making contributions, we want that known. If you're an idiot, we want that known too." [22][23]

During 2006-2007, Intellipedia editors awarded shovels to users to reward exemplary Wiki "gardening" and to encourage others in the community to contribute. A template with a picture of the limited-edition shovel (actually a trowel), was created to place on user pages for Intellipedians to show their "gardening" status. The handle bears the imprint: "I dig Intellipedia! It's wiki wiki, Baby." The idea was inspired by the barnstar,[24] which is used on both Wikipedia and MeatballWiki for similar purposes. The shovels have since been replaced with a mug bearing the tag line "Intellipedia: it's what we know".

Different agencies have experimented with other ways of encouraging participation. For example, at the CIA, managers have held contests for best pages with prizes such as free dinners.[25]

Chris Rasmussen, knowledge management officer at the Defense Department’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), argues that "gimmicks" like the Intellipedia shovel, posters, and handbills, encourage people to use Web 2.0 tools like Intellipedia and are effective low-tech solutions to promote their use. Also, Rasmussen argues that "social software-based contributions should be written in an employee's performance plan".[26]

[edit] Training

Several agencies in the Intelligence community, most notably CIA and NGA, have developed training programs to provide time to integrate social software tools into analysts' daily work habits. These classes generally focus on the use of Intellipedia to capture and manage knowledge, but they also incorporate the use of the other social software tools. These include blogs, RSS, and social bookmarking. The courses stress immersion in the tools and instructors encourage participants to work on a specific project in Intellipedia. The courses also expose participants to social media technologies on the Internet.[27][28][29]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Intellipedia marks second anniversary". CIA Press Release. March 20, 2008. 
  2. ^ INSA, Analytic Transformation, September 2007, page 12
  3. ^ a b "Wikipedia for Intel Officers Proves Useful". National Defense Magazine. November 2006. Retrieved on 2006-11-01. 
  4. ^ a b c Shrader, Katherine (11/2/2006). "Over 3,600 intelligence professionals tapping into Intellipedia". Washington: Associated Press. Retrieved on 2008-10-27. 
  5. ^ Data from spies now assembled wiki-style, Los Angeles Times, November 2006
  6. ^ a b Intelligence Fixes Floated at Conference, Denver Post, 08/22/2006
  7. ^ D. Calvin Andrus. "The wiki and the blog: toward a complex adaptive intelligence community". Central Intelligence Agency Center for the Study of Intelligence. Retrieved on 2008-05-02. 
  8. ^ Clive Thompson (2006-12-03). "Open-Source Spying". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-11-17. 
  9. ^ Shane, Scott (September 2, 2007). "Logged In and Sharing Gossip, Er, Intelligence". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ a b Kopytoff, Verne (2008-03-30). "Google has lots to do with intelligence". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved on 2008-03-31. 
  11. ^ Heather Havenstein (2008-06-10). "Top Secret: CIA explains its Wikipedia-like national security project". Computerworld. Retrieved on 2008-06-17. 
  12. ^ Intellipedia Discussion and the IC
  13. ^ Intellipedia Roundtable Discussion
  14. ^ U.S. intelligence unveils spy version of Wikipedia
  15. ^ a b US spies create their own 'Wiki' intelligence
  16. ^ "U.S. Intel Agencies Modernize Info Sharing",, May 7, 2007
  17. ^ 2007 Analytic Transformation Symposium, 6 September 2007, p. 13
  18. ^ Michael McConnell. "Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland: Six Years after 9/11", Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, September 10, 2007
  19. ^ Roger George, James Bruce, et al, "Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations," Georgtown University Press, April 2008
  20. ^ Executive Biz, Executive Spotlight with Jesse Wilson, October 11, 2007
  21. ^ "Open-Source Spying". New York Times Magazine. December 2006. Retrieved on 2006-12-03. 
  22. ^ Intelligence Reform (Rush Transcript; Federal News Service)
  23. ^ Mark, Mazzetti (April 12, 2007). "Intelligence Chief Announces Renewed Plan for Overhaul". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ "EEK Speaks". Eugene Eric Kim's Blog. Retrieved on 2006-11-01. 
  25. ^ Heather Havenstein. "CIA, Pfizer, Wachovia and Sony execs suggest options for adopting Web 2.0". Computerworld. 
  26. ^ "Government taps the power of us: Officials turn to blogs and wikis to share information and achieve goals", Federal Computer Week, May 21, 2007
  27. ^ Radio interview that highlights Intelligence Community social software training programs, Federal News Radio, November 5, 2007
  28. ^ Executive Spotlight Interview with Sean Dennehy, ExecutiveBiz, December 5, 2007
  29. ^ Executive Spotlight Interview with Chris Rasmussen, ExecutiveBiz, October 25, 2007

[edit] External links

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