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CIA Officers Are Warming To Intellipedia 102

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'm-warming-a-turkey-sandwich dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The CIA is adopting Web 2.0 tools like collaborative wikis but not without a struggle in an agency with an ingrained culture of secrecy. 'We're still kind of in this early adoptive stage,' says Sean Dennehy, a CIA analyst and self-described 'evangelist' for Intellipedia, the US intelligence community's version of the popular user-curated online encyclopedia Wikipedia adding that 'trying to implement these tools in the intelligence community is basically like telling people that their parents raised them wrong. It is a huge cultural change.' Dennehy says Intellipedia, which runs on secure government intranets and is used by 16 US intelligence agencies, was started as a pilot project in 2005 and now has approximately 100,000 user accounts and gets about 4,000 edits a day. 'Some people have (supported it) but there's still a lot of other folks kind of sitting on the fence.' Dennehy says wikis are 'a challenge to our culture because we grew up in this kind of "need to know" culture and now we need a balance between "need to know" and "need to share."' A desire to compartamentalize information is another problem. 'Inevitably, every person, the first question we were asked is "How do I lock down a page?" or "How do I lock down a page so that just my five colleagues can access that?"' The growth of Intellipedia has so far largely been fueled by early adopters and enthusiasts says Chris Rasmussen, a social-software knowledge manager and trainer at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. 'We are struggling to take it to the next level.'"
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CIA Officers Are Warming To Intellipedia

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  • Posting (Score:2, Funny)

    by c00rdb (945666)
    Posting to undo accidental mod
    • by Phroggy (441)

      Posting to undo accidental mod

      Uhh, yeah, except you're the first post. Unless I'm missing something, there was nothing here for you to moderate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > Posting to undo accidental mod
      Let's think about that. You're the first post. Who did you mod?

      This is mysterious. I'm guessing there's some steganographic message here about a sting axe and the Talmud.

  • by Alystair (617164) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:23AM (#28334875)
    Huh, seems I've lost my Intellipedia credentials, anyone feel like sharing their account?
  • I know, lets put all our information on 10's of thousands of people, in a single database for easy access, nothing can go wrong... No one has USB's or anything, and everyone of our many employees is trustworthy...
    • by rbarreira (836272)

      This is probably just for non-sensitive information.

      Presumably CIA employees know about things like watermarking [wikipedia.org], so they'd be stupid to copy and spread information.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jimbolauski (882977)
      The way that much of the info is protected is that networked computers containing classified info are encripted which makes hacking them usless, also USB ports are disabled along with all other writing devices. I'm by no means saying that it would be 100% secure but you will always give up security once you start adding users.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Tell me about it. My terminal at Langley doesn't even HAVE a USB port. It's got a 3.5" floppy drive and this old 21" CRT. About the only perk is that I have the room all to myself and I get this cool chair that kind of swings out without touching the floor.

        brb, there's some sort of noise in the a/c duct
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:40AM (#28335089)

      You can't store information on American citizens in that kind of network. It's not a "database on 10's of thousands" of people. Think of it more as short useless summary articles on topics like Iraq, Afganistan, insurgent groups, etc. No domestic info at all, by design.

      Additionally, Intellipedia is TS (well, there's a TS version that is used primarily, and a SECRET version that is not used nearly as much), but not SCI (meaning, none of the really high level intelligence. TOP SECRET is _fairly common_ access). If somebody is able to read Intellipedia as a spy, you've got much bigger problems that any information they would get from Intellipedia. A later post whined about compartmented information--there is NO compartmented information on Intellipedia.

      Also, Chris Rasmussen is the genius who is trying to introduce twitter to the intelligence analysis community. Apparently he wants to reduce the productivity of intel even further!

    • by kalirion (728907)

      I'm kind of hoping this is some billion dollar counter-intelligence initiative. All the "sensitive" information on this site will have just enough truth to be dangerously false.

    • by yerktoader (413167) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:54AM (#28335271) Homepage
      For starters, USB devices are no longer allowed on any DOD networks, [slashdot.org] due to a worm appearing on unclassified military networks(separate from the classified networks).

      Second, Intellipedia is separated by classification of the given network [wikipedia.org], and is not on a single network. So the data may be important, but does not necessarily constitute "exceptionally grave damage" [wikipedia.org] if leaked.

      Third, it's a lot of data so unless a spy or mole was only taking certain entries it would be difficult to take all of it not only in one drive but at once.

      Fourth, since the intelligence community is warming to it(yes, sometimes some of them are bumbling idiots), analysts have muddled the concept of Intellepidia, written reports and debated the subject with leadership. If it was such a terrible idea it would have gotten the axe by now. [wikipedia.org]

      Fifth, stealing data from outside a classified DOD network is terribly hard. Having a clearance means that the DOD thinks a given person is trustworthy, so unless a person decides to become a spy there is no way it's getting out.

      Also, Intellipedia covers a multitude of subjects, not just people.
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Moridineas (213502)

        Fifth, stealing data from outside a classified DOD network is terribly hard. Having a clearance means that the DOD thinks a given person is trustworthy, so unless a person decides to become a spy there is no way it's getting out.

        That is the worst kind of hubris. Have you not been watching news over the past several weeks?

        • I have and the only thing "hacked" was T-Mobile

          Citation needed

          • http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8086547.stm [bbc.co.uk]

            Because I like BBC...

            I think it's very dangerous to think that your data is safe simply because your data transport is deemed safe.

            • Okay, but how is this "prideful"? To use a wiki style system to relate info back and forth? The previous methods were just as open to an insider to steal information. As stated in the links above. They do not store top level security information on this system.
              • No, what's prideful was the OP's 5th point saying how hard it was to steal from a classified network--has nothing to do with the security of yet another website on a classified intranet. I take the viewpoint that it's always better to be vigilant in terms of network security. just because the tubes are supposed to be secure and the users are supposed to be sure doesn't mean that's always true. FWIW, the creators and maintainers of Intellipedia seem to agree with this--Intellipedia is not allowed to contain

                • Nah, I was generalizing because the OP to my post started on the whole USB thing with no mention of the fact that USB devices are no longer allowed. It just sounded like typical Slashrant(TM, patents pending). I was pressed for time when I wrote it as I had to get my clearance over to the ship I went to today :D

                  If I had further time I would have accounted for the possibility that an skilled person with physical access could easily reactivate USB access for a given terminal. Furthermore, I would have a
        • by Absolut187 (816431) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:40AM (#28335917) Homepage

          You're right. The CIA should stop using computers.

          If anything needs to be written down, it should be on paper, in invisible ink.

          • Little bit of a non-sequitur there!

            Caution and vigilance and keeping people educated about security issues is something that is smart for ANY job and ANY network. I like my banks to be careful with my information, for instance...doesn't mean that I don't use online banking.

            While pithy, your comment is offtopic and nonsensical.

            • Actually, you are offtopic.

              Yes, any data in a computer is potentially subject to unauthorized access.
              Yes, inter-agency networking probably increase that risk somewhat.

              But this debate is *not* about whether the CIA should be sharing intel.
              Experience has proven that sharing is very necessary.

              This is about changing the default attitude toward inter-agency sharing. Some things need to be kept secret (identity of sources, etc.). But most things don't. This is about changing from a default of "keep everything

              • Uhh, I'm not sure if you missed a post or are looking at the thread out of order or something, but the only thing I replied to in this thread was:

                Fifth, stealing data from outside a classified DOD network is terribly hard. Having a clearance means that the DOD thinks a given person is trustworthy, so unless a person decides to become a spy there is no way it's getting out.

                You may be trying to make some greater overarching point out of that statement, but thats not what I was saying. Anything else you think I'm saying about sharing being bad (??) is purely in your imagination/interpretation I'm afraid...

                I suppose it's asking too much to ask where you think I'm claiming anything else??

              • You're not Need to Share, not Need to Know guy, are you?

      • by Tweenk (1274968)

        For starters, USB devices are no longer allowed on any DOD networks

        So they were hit by the Windows "Autorun from USB" idiocy too? Serves them right...

  • Kind of Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:31AM (#28334969)
    CIA is about the last agency I'd suspect of trying this. I use Intellipedia at work, and have been trying to advocate its use more, but like TFS said, most people in the IC talk about "need to know", not "need to share." There's a lot of products that really should just be pages on Intellipedia, like biographies on important people, but instead are powerpoint slides on someone's hard drive. Meanwhile, multiple commands are tracking the same people but aren't sharing info on those bios. I think we'll see more progress on this as senior leadership move out and people who grew up on Web 2.0 move up.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It sounds like there's no way around their need for fine grained access control.

      What would probably help would be to set it up so that if you were trying to edit an entry related to a topic and someone else already has their own version to give you a message saying "Another user already has an entry on this topic. Would you like to send a request to compare notes?"

      Although I guess having the ability to check if something is in the namespace might be exploitable.

      Maybe what they really need is Intellitwitter.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      CIA is about the last agency I'd suspect of trying this. I use Intellipedia at work

      That's interesting. You apparently had no idea that CIA started, funded, and makes far more edits than any other intelligence organization? Maybe you should know a little more about the tools you use before spouting ridiculous comments.

      People like you were one of the prime reasons I left intelligence. It was so damn tribal. You ever try taking a look at what agencies make the most changes to wikipedia--take a look at the specific updates by a couple agencies in specific (defense, satellites mostly). Those t

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by oodaloop (1229816)
        First of all, the CIA has a terrible reputation within the IC for not sharing info even with those who need to know, regardless of how many edits they make to Intellipedia. They demand everyone give them info, and return nothing. I've worked with them a few times directly, and they are the absolute worst at stove-piping. In fact, I have not heard a single positive comment about the CIA from anyone not at the CIA. And I actually work on a project devoted to sharing info throughout the IC, and CIA isn't i
        • by Moridineas (213502) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:11AM (#28335463) Journal

          See, that's the exact type of comment I'm talking about...you admit you didn't have a clue about how Intellipedia works or who has provided the most information to it, and then you go on a rant about CIA. I'm guessing you're defense from the words you use, because I've heard it all a thousand times before. Maybe time for some introspection in ALL parties of the IC. These kinds of pissing matches are riduclous and quite frankly DANGEROUS to national security and a waste of taxpayer money.

          "CIA reputation in the IC" ... "they demand" ... "absolute worst" ... "not a single positive comment"

          I absolutely stand by my tribal statement and I think you back it up pretty damn well. There's always a lot of jealousy, anger, and pettiness out there, and it frankly got unbearable. You just keep going propagating stories about how horrible CIA is and how everybody hates them (let me guess--you've worked in intel 1-3 years tops?) and then give yourself a big pat on the back for how you're improving work relations between IC agencies by hanging out on a chat channel and editing your intellipedia userpage.

          • by Moridineas (213502) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:12AM (#28335481) Journal

            And now I'm only semi-AC! :-P

            • by Like2Byte (542992)

              And now I'm only semi-AC! :-P

              Don't you mean, "Outed field-agent"?

              • Heh, I wish (in my experience the people out in the field were the ones who liked their jobs the best, and had to deal with the least politicking bullshit). They're technically not supposed to use internet boards at all. Intelligence/analysis/government employ was a terrible fit for me and I would not recommend it for most people. Can believe it or not (obviously)

          • by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:00PM (#28336215)
            I've worked in the IC for 12 years now, and have worked directly with the CIA more than once. I've seen their stove-piping firsthand and had to deal with their demands and their refusal to share what we needed for crucial operations. I was the one giving info we had to them, and they were the ones being tribal and not sharing just for the sake of not sharing. When asked a question, these clowns would all look at each other, one would shake their head, then they would say No, they didn't have anything, when it was obvious they did and obvious we had a need to know. And this is not uncommon behavior from them. I'd love to share more war stories, but I'm kind of limited on what I can say here.

            then give yourself a big pat on the back for how you're improving work relations between IC agencies by hanging out on a chat channel and editing your intellipedia userpage

            OK, troll, I never said anything about a chat channel or what if anything I personally edit. Read my posts. Or better yet, get the aforementioned clue.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Moridineas (213502)

              Like I said the IC needs some major introspection in ALL of its part. I quite frankly find your very obvious anger and loathing very unfortunate. When you go around trashing your fellow-IC mates, I absolutely do have a problem with that. Like I said--I quit, I didn't like the job and I didn't like the tribalism. I've never once claimed CIA is perfect on anything...far from it. The sorry bottom line is this...how many people work in the IC? I think that's technically classified and I don't really know, but l

              • by oodaloop (1229816)

                When I talk about tribalism, it DOES go both ways, because your org has a certain reputation as well (if you're where I'm guessing you are)

                1. You have no idea where I am. Guess all you want. And if you're trying to guess from my posts, you're probably wrong
                2. My first post merely stated surprise that the CIA was coming on board. You then said some very nasty things accusing me of bitching. YOU are the one bitching. YOU are the one laying down hate and blaming everyone for all the problems in the world. YOU are the one who is disgruntled and clearly needs some closure or something. Leave me out of it.

                So you're saying you DON'T use jabber chat and DON'T edit your iped userpage?

                First of all, this is entirely irre

                • 1. You have no idea where I am. Guess all you want. And if you're trying to guess from my posts, you're probably wrong

                  Ok, that's fine, I understand you can't/don't want to say (and I wouldn't ask) but hey, I had a what, 1/14 chance of getting it right? Probably more like 1/6 when you exclude the agencies who don't really care about CIA ;-) My friends I referenced were at DIA.

                  2. My first post merely stated surprise that the CIA was coming on board. You then said some very nasty things accusing me of bitching. YOU are the one bitching. YOU are the one laying down hate and blaming everyone for all the problems in the world. YOU are the one who is disgruntled and clearly needs some closure or something. Leave me out of it.

                  You're absolutely right that I'm bitching about the tribalism in the IC--100% true. What "hate" am I laying down and what "blame" am I laying down for all the problems in the world? I have been very, very specific. I think the agency-partisanship and t

                  • by Tolkien (664315)

                    This is awesome, let me know when the fight scene between you two is k?

                    How about some spoilers: will there be Bond references?

                    Ooh, I can't wait.

                    • Heh yeah... it's (obviously) something I still feel passionately about.

                      Just really reinforced to me that I am not equipped to work for the government. Some good benefits yes, but sooo much hierarchy, inter-department, inter-agency sniping, politicking, not to mention the military vs civilian hierarchies which gave many agencies VERY different atmospheres.

                      I actually think that is part of the reason why some Intelligence people don't like cia ... did you know that there is a table of rank equivalence for GS p

                  • by oodaloop (1229816)
                    I've worked at several places both in the Marine Corps and as a contractor, and they all suck in different ways. The CIA is the absolute worst in so many ways, and I don't feel bad one bit saying it. DIA sucks in its own special way, as does the command for which I work (though I love my job). I fail to see how my pointing out how bad the CIA sucks makes me part of the problem of why other places suck too. I don't see my pointing out CIA's problems as being tribal. I am not saying my command is the epi
                    • I've worked at several places both in the Marine Corps and as a contractor, and they all suck in different ways

                      Heh, that sums it up fairly nicely.

                      Regards to the rest...it's all who you feel like rooting for in a particular day. One of my best friends at my job was former Marine intel, went through DIA and then to contracting at CIA (where he had been for a number of years). He was not a fan of DIA. OTOH, the friends I previously mentioned who worked at DIA said the exact same things about CIA. I guessed DIA because they seemed to hate the CIA the most.

                      I alluded to this in another post, but I think a LOT of the tens

          • by Random2 (1412773)
            Although, by propagating rumors and ideas that such agencies are terrible and useless, it can help influence other people not to take them seriously and thus let them operate more efficiently and suffer from less attacks. The unseen or underestimated enemy is the most effective after all.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My experience with Intellipedia is just a way to expose information about specific programs across multiple agencies, without too many program details. This is different than pages always being about specific places or specific people, this is about detailing various goings on in various compartamentalized environments.

      There are always people within the various organizations and agencies that work on almost the exact same thing... but have no idea that they work on the exact same thing. Hell, there are peo

  • It's actually kinda simple, you just modify wiki software in such a way that the page creator can specify default behavior of the page and add user accounts to the ACL of that page. It requires 1 custom column on the page data table for default behavior and 1 table to store the ACL info. The ACL table should have a composite key of page id, user name, access level.

    • by Eevee (535658) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:48AM (#28335205)
      Technically precise and totally misses the point. It's not that they can't lock down the information, but rather they want it easily available to everyone on the classified network.
      • by nobodylocalhost (1343981) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:30AM (#28335741)

        Sort of. IMHO it does provide a good deal of service. Although the information is locked down, you still have the link relations, further more, you can find out who has which piece of information. Requesting for that information shouldn't be too hard. That's the whole advantage wiki provides the intelligence community. You can link different pieces of information and find relationships between them. So in the old school way, you don't really know who has what, so you run around and ask until you find out. Using wiki, you can follow a chain of leads via links until you hit a stop, then you send an e-mail, get access, and move on. I think "need to know" is a tried and true method as when ever there are leaks in the intelligence community people tend to end up in prison or disappear. ACL provides the perfect balance between "need to know" and "need to share"

      • by Sulphur (1548251)
        There has to be a M$ joke in there somewhere.
  • I love it (Score:3, Funny)

    by Stormcrow309 (590240) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:34AM (#28335025) Homepage Journal

    Well cited, very informative. I love it. Hey, what is with the helicopter over the hou0u8409ulksfd['OQ#([No Carrier]

  • Wait a minute... They're describing wikis as Web 2.0? There was a video, an old black and white clip [google.ca] of a talk some guy was doing regarding some new fangled invention called the network. In it he described a bunch of people collaborating on creating a document, including linking to other documents.
  • I could make plenty of Kongbucks uploading to the CIC datab-- err, Intellipedia.
  • While things like this may work, small scale wikis for businesses and government entities won't be as successful as some of their proponents hope. The essential advantage of projects like Wikipedia is that most of the people spending time on them are using time they'd otherwise spend procrastinating (playing Solitaire, Minesweeper, WoW etc.) Thus, the resources going in would be otherwise wasted. In that regard, Wikipedia is sort of like a distributed computing system for the human brain. However, Intellip
    • I dunno, a lot of small to medium sized business have used wikis to speed up documentation (though employees tend to document in-office jokes more than work related activities). Still it is great for getting QA their best practices.

  • IAAIU (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:52AM (#28335257)

    IAAIU - I Am An Intellipedia User.

    It's not connected to the Internet, and it handles compartmentalized information quite well, thanks. It's actually been quite incredible watching it "grow up" over the past few years. It's also not plagued by the problems that most people associate with Wikis - astroturfing, self-made experts, anonymous contributions - and sure, you will have people with special "pet" pages, it is because they are, in fact, the acknowledged expert and have a vested interest in making sure that the information on the page is as correct as possible.

    Imagine Wikipedia made entirely of subject matter experts who have verified credentials and identities. Yeah. It's rad.

  • by Absolut187 (816431) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:54AM (#28335281) Homepage

    Get off the fence and start sharing.

    A lack of sharing is pretty clearly responsible for the success of the attacks on 9/11.

    Sure, old habits are hard to break. But when you watch thousands of people die because of your agency's failure, that should probably do the trick.

    And if it didn't, you need to GTFO and find another line of work.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Wise words. I'll be sure tell my GS-15 and SES bosses to start sharing or GTFO. ...It's the leaders and middle management that are on the fence, not the majority of the workforce.
    • Get off the fence and start sharing.

      A lack of sharing is pretty clearly responsible for the success of the attacks on 9/11.

      Which lead to ther budget DOUBLING.

      Watching thousands of people die was very good for their expense accounts.

    • by twostix (1277166)

      How quaint - someone who believes the CIA exists or has *ever* existed to protect American lives.

      Don't ever lose that innocence, it's just all so warm and fuzzy to see someone so naive.

  • Think about how much information an intelligence agency (foreign or domestic) can get about a person by analyzing social sited like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter: friends, activities, affiliations, even political views.

    OutputLogic [outputlogic.com]
  • 'Inevitably, every person, the first question we were asked is "How do I lock down a page?" or "How do I lock down a page so that just my five colleagues can access that?"'

    Intellipedia: 3 million pages, all blacked out.

    BTW, have they been sued by Intel for trademark infringement yet?

  • Looking at the posts...seems we did "out" a lot of people who work in the intel community on Slashdot...

    • by dakohli (1442929)
      Actually, any "real" experts will sit this one out. It's like guys who talk about all the sex they have had - usually it's in inverse proportion. Any pros will just read these and laugh.
      • by 4D6963 (933028)
        Yeah, usually the guys who have lots of sex with lots of different women totally don't brag about it. That is, except the ones who do it partially for the bragging rights and subsequent alpha male status.
  • It just seems to me, to be a bad idea about network sensitive intelligence information like that. I mean, yes, it is all contained behind a very [hopefully] secure network, but there have been far too many cases of [mostly] Chinese hackers breaking into military computer networks from halfway around the world.

    I don't suppose it could stand up to a billion boxen botnet?
  • ...to me that the marriage counseling hasn't worked. Oh, well...one thing is still true: If you need someone to vent to, you can be sure that the NSA still listens.

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