Intelligence 2.0

December 4th, 2006 | by ian |

The NYTimes has an interesting article (login required) about efforts in the US intelligence community to harness the power of “web 2.0” blogs, wikis and social networking in the interest of more efficient collaboration:

New York Times Magazine article describing how intelligence agencies are experimenting with Web 2.0 approaches

Something had gone horribly awry, Burton realized. Theoretically, the intelligence world ought to revolve around information sharing. If F.B.I. agents discover that Al Qaeda fund-raising is going on in Brooklyn, C.I.A. agents in Europe ought to be able to know that instantly. The Internet flourished under the credo that information wants to be free; the agencies, however, had created their online networks specifically to keep secrets safe, locked away so only a few could see them. This control over the flow of information, as the 9/11 Commission noted in its final report, was a crucial reason American intelligence agencies failed to prevent those attacks. All the clues were there — Al Qaeda associates studying aviation in Arizona, the flight student Zacarias Moussaoui arrested in Minnesota, surveillance of a Qaeda plotting session in Malaysia — but none of the agents knew about the existence of the other evidence. The report concluded that the agencies failed to “connect the dots.”

It will be fascinating to see where intelligence agencies find a balance between secrets and sharing, and particularly how the identity and reputation challenges will sort out both for agents and sources. I wonder if Canadian intelligence agencies are paying attention.

See also: The Long Tail blog post: Radical Transparency and National Security.

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