Thursday, August 27, 2009

Intelligence and Social Networking

The Washington Post has a great article this morning on Intellipedia, the intelligence community (IC)'s wiki. It seems like an extremely valuable tool for helping to destroy some of the "stovepipes" that plague the IC. People in the intelligence business are naturally suspicious people, so they tend not to trust even other intelligence agencies. Combining the intelligence from multiple analysts and multiple agencies can yield far better results.
The IC needs younger, more technologically savvy people who embrace new forms of communication like wikis, blogging, Twitter, and whatever comes next, or the IC will cease to be relevant. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Twitters (@thejointstaff), and I've heard that he read about Israel entering Gaza within seconds, yet it took the IC over a day to confirm it. I had a former colleague who was denied a job with the IC because when asked if he had ever done something illegal he replied that he had downloaded music from the Internet before that was considered illegal. Isn't that exactly the kind of person on the cutting edge of technological innovations who we should want in the IC? Of course Osama bin Ladin doesn't Tweet (at least not the real one), but more and more open source information is out there if you know how and where to look, and the IC ignores that at their own peril.
None of my IC friends Tweet (that I know of), although most of them are on Facebook. Of course open source can work both ways; you wouldn't want someone to Tweet "off to Yemen to infiltrate a jihadi group," but the IC should encourage both old and new employees to become familiar with social networking/Web 2.0 tools. Imagine how effective Intellipedia could be if everyone in the IC actually used it.

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