The legislators who passed a law requiring the intelligence community to create the type of global information sharing environment (ISE) recommended by the 9/11 Commission envisioned a world in which a junior military intelligence analyst in Iraq would have access to all the information relevant to his mission: historical background, human and signals intelligence, even diplomats’ perspectives on the country’s political circumstances. Synthesized, the data could help detect emerging threats before they materialized.
What they did not envision was how that world of shared information would facilitate one of the largest insider information thefts in U.S. government history, but that may be exactly what happened if in fact, as alleged, Army Private First Class Bradley Manning stole documents including roughly 260,000 classified State Department cables.
Manning is alleged to have then provided the stolen documents to the activist organization WikiLeaks, which has subsequently released several thousand of them, not only causing embarrassment but also endangering lives, according to leaders of the U.S. intelligence community.
In response, agencies have taken reactionary measures, such as the State Department’s removal of its diplomatic database from the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPN), which is the governmentwide nonpublic network to which Manning enjoyed full access. The ISE—never fully embraced, in particular by the intelligence community—is now viewed with renewed skepticism by member agencies throughout the government.
Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper, whose responsibilities include overseeing the ISE, told a conference hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center that “the WikiLeaks episode represents what I would call a big yellow flag, and I think it’s going to have a chilling effect on the need to share.”
(To finish reading "WikiLeaks' Information-Sharing Fallout" from the March issue of Security Management, click here.)