Saturday, January 24, 2009

Intelligence Agencies' Databases Set to Be Linked

This is incredible. 7 years after 9/11, the US government remains technologically backward: 16 different spy agencies (16?) have separate, disparate data bases.

U.S. spy agencies' sensitive data should soon be linked by Google-like search systems, nearly five years after the intelligence community was rebuked by the 9/11 Commission for failing to "connect the dots" and detect the attack.

5 years later, same situation. More than shameful, it is irresponsible.

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has launched a sweeping technology program to knit together the thousands of databases across all 16 spy agencies. After years of bureaucratic snafus, intelligence analysts will be able to search through secret intelligence files the same way they can search public data on the Internet.

Intelligence analysts can not search for data the way Google allows the public to search the Web. And, 16 spy agencies?

Mr. McConnell's new technology program is also addressing a more basic problem: Spies often have trouble emailing colleagues in other U.S. intelligence agencies, because email addresses aren't readily accessible, and messages sometimes get eaten by security filters. Mr. McConnell aims to solve that by uniting the agencies' email systems into a single system with a full directory that links names, expertise and addresses.

Seems bad project management, to say the least.

The new information program also is designed to include Facebook-like social-networking programs and classified news feeds. It includes enhanced security measures to ensure that only appropriately cleared people can access the network. The price tag is expected to be in the billions of dollars, but much of that money will be reallocated from existing technology programs.


Today, an analyst's query might scan only 5% of the total intelligence data in the U.S. government, said a senior intelligence official. Even when analysts find documents, they sometimes can't read them without protracted negotiations to gain access. Under the new system, an analyst would likely search about 95% of the data, the official said.

Sounds great. But ...

Several similar efforts have been aborted in the past decade, because cultural divides couldn't be bridged between rival agencies. Some of those efforts predated 9/11, and many intelligence agencies have botched their own technology programs since 2001.

Cultural divides? They all work for the US government.

In September, all 16 agencies agreed to the goal of creating one searchable data and email system, and Mr. McConnell borrowed Mr. Winter from the NSA to get the program under way.

The first stage of the initiative is to merge the email systems of the six largest intelligence agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the NSA. Mr. Winter said that is on track to be largely completed by the end of the month. Then, they will expand to the other 10 agencies. By 2010, the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon would have a single email system.

CIA, FBI, NSA. Defense Intelligence Agency. What else? Well, how about googling "u.s. intelligence agencies"? Neat-o. First hit: Agencies of the US Intelligence Community with an URL of

And they are:

Of course, the Intelligence Community has a mission statement; these days, even delis have them.

Definition of the Intelligence Community (IC)

Definition of the IC
Members of the IC
Relationships with other Government Organizations

The IC is a federation of executive branch agencies and organizations that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and the protection of the national security of the United States. These activities include:

  • Collection of information needed by the President, the National Security Council, the Secretaries of State and Defense, and other Executive Branch officials for the performance of their duties and responsibilities;

  • Production and dissemination of intelligence;

  • Collection of information concerning, and the conduct of activities to protect against, intelligence activities directed against the US, international terrorist and international narcotics activities, and other hostile activities directed against the US by foreign powers, organizations, persons, and their agents;

  • Special activities;

  • Administrative and support activities within the US and abroad necessary for the performance of authorized activities; and

  • Such other intelligence activities as the President may direct from time to time.

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