When Spies Do Search

    September 7, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

The Central Intelligence Agency launched CIA Wire, a service that will help users of the Library of National Intelligence sift through available information from participating agencies.

The Iraq war and the 9/11 terrorist attacks have been the most recent examples of situations where better availability of intelligence may have led to better choices being made, ones that could have preempted the losses of thousands of lives.

Government agencies are no strangers to insularity and a fiefdom mentality. What’s theirs is theirs, and they have never been real fans of sharing. That long-standing issue could get in the way of what should be a promising development for intelligence analysts throughout the federal bureaucracy.

ResourceShelf cited the opening of CIA Wire, the CIA’s contribution to the Library of National Intelligence (LNI). It may be intentional or happenstance that it opened four days ahead of the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.

As a top-secret resource, access to the CIA Wire will be limited. A report at FCW.com said the full LNI initiative will launch by October 31st, and described the process of how requests for documents will be fulfilled:

Mike Wertheimer, assistant deputy director of national intelligence for analytic transformation and technology in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said that when intelligence community employees request a document from LNI, one of three things can happen:

They will receive a copy of the document. They will need to be cleared before obtaining a copy of the document. They will not be able to view the document.

“We will measure attribute-based access for the first time and then we can start to automate,” Wertheimer said. “LNI is just the starting point for us to get a handle on what we know and how we use it.”

Minimal information will be available in the form of metadata arranged in a "card catalog listing." Requesting the linked document starts the aforementioned verification process.

We found the mention of "available information" on LNI a telling phrase. It refers to the data an agency chooses to make available to the project, not just what the agency possesses.

To give our analysts the best chance of heading off future threats, agencies need to do their utmost to make as much information available as possible. An analyst with proper clearances who could make a critical connection between disparate events should have the opportunity to do so.

Tuesday the 11th should be a grim reinforcement of that idea.