Thursday, September 13, 2007

Logged In and Sharing Gossip, er, Intelligence

Published: September 2, 2007

AMERICA’S spies, like America’s teenagers, are secretive, talk in code and get in trouble if they’re not watched closely.
It’s hard to imagine spies logging on and exchanging “whuddups” with strangers, though. They’re just not wired that way. If networking is lifeblood to the teenager, it’s viewed with deep suspicion by the spy.

The intelligence agencies have something like networking in mind, though, as they scramble to adopt Web technologies that young people have already mastered in the millions. The idea is to try to solve the information-sharing problems inherent in the spy world — and blamed, most spectacularly, for the failure to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks.

In December, officials say, the agencies will introduce A-Space, a top-secret variant of the social networking Web sites MySpace and Facebook. The “A” stands for “analyst,” and where Facebook users swap snapshots, homework tips and gossip, intelligence analysts will be able to compare notes on satellite photos of North Korean nuclear sites, Iraqi insurgents and Chinese missiles.

A-Space will join Intellipedia, the spooks’ Wikipedia, where intelligence officers from all 16 American spy agencies pool their knowledge. Sixteen months after its creation, officials say, the top-secret version of Intellipedia has 29,255 articles, with an average of 114 new articles and more than 4,800 edits to articles added each workday.

A separate online Library of National Intelligence is to include all official intelligence reports sent out by each agency, offering suggestions: if you liked that piece on Venezuela’s oil reserves, how about this one on Russia’s? And blogs, accessible only to other spies, are proliferating behind the security fences.

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