Intelligence Community's Wikipedia Begins to Thrive

By Matthew Harwood

The U.S. intelligence community may be overcoming its institutional aversion to information sharing as its internal version of Wikipedia begins to thrive, according to The Washington Post.

Intellipedia is a collaborative online intelligence repository, and it runs counter to traditional reluctance in the intelligence community to the sharing of classified information. Indeed, it still meets with formidable resistance from many quarters of the 16 agencies that have access to the system.

But the site, which is available only to users with proper government clearance, has grown markedly since its formal launch in 2006 and now averages more than 15,000 edits per day. It's home to 900,000 pages and 100,000 user accounts.

After 9-11, the U.S. intelligence community was chewed up for its failure to share information with each other, a practice many believe would have led to dots connected and tragedy averted. In her book The Dark Side, Jane Mayer tells how the CIA failed to warn the FBI that two 9-11 hijackers were in the country well before the 9-11 attacks.

Intellipedia is one Web-based way to ensure that such information stovepiping doesn't happen again, proponents say.

Sean Dennehy, a CIA officer who helped establish the site, says the secure Web site has already proved its worth, providing valuable information related to the Mumbai attacks and the recent, and disputed, Iranian elections.

That said, skepticism still surrounds the site inside the intelligence community. Some intelligence officers fear foreign intelligence agents will hack the site and access secret intelligence while older officers simply don't trust it.

For his efforts, Dennehy is a finalist for a 2009 Service to America Medal, along with his colleague and Intellipedia promoter, Don Burke.

"It's the kind of work we need to see more out of government," said Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, which sponsors the award. "They're connecting the dots without rearranging the deck chairs."

 ♦ Screenshot of Intellipedia's Log-In


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