The U.S. intelligence community on Tuesday unveiled its own secretive
version of Wikipedia, saying the popular online encyclopedia format
known for its openness is key to the future of American espionage.
The office of U.S. intelligence czar John Negroponte announced
Intellipedia, which allows intelligence analysts and other officials
to collaboratively add and edit content on the government's classified
Intelink Web much like its more famous namesake on the World Wide Web.
A "top secret" Intellipedia system, currently available to the 16
agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, has grown to
more than 28,000 pages and 3,600 registered users since its
introduction on April 17. Less restrictive versions exist for "secret"
and "sensitive but unclassified" material.
The system is also available to the Transportation Security
Administration and national laboratories.
Intellipedia is currently being used to assemble a major intelligence
report, known as a national intelligence estimate, on Nigeria as well
as the State Department's annual country reports on terrorism,
Some day it may also be the path intelligence officials take to
produce the president's daily intelligence briefing.
But the system, which makes data available to thousands of users who
would not see it otherwise, has also stirred qualms about potential
security lapses following the recent media leak of a national
intelligence estimate that caused a political uproar by identifying
Iraq as a contributor to the growth of global terrorism.
"We're taking a risk," acknowledged Michael Wertheimer, the
intelligence community's chief technical officer. "There's a risk it's
going to show up in the media, that it'll be leaked."
Intelligence officials say the format is perfect for sharing
information between agencies, a centerpiece of the reform legislation
that established Negroponte's office as national intelligence director
after the September 11 attacks.
They also said it could lead to more accurate intelligence reports
because the system allows a wider range of officials to scrutinize
material and keeps a complete, permanent record of individual
contributions including dissenting points of view.
That might help avoid errors of the kind that led to the widely
criticized 2002 national intelligence estimate that said Saddam
Hussein possessed large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
Intelligence officials are so enthusiastic about Intellipedia that
they plan to provide access to Britain, Canada and Australia.
Even China could be granted access to help produce an unclassified
intelligence estimate on the worldwide threat posed by infectious
"We'd hope to get down to the doctor in Shanghai who may have a useful
contribution on avian flu," senior intelligence analyst Fred Hassani
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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