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For Intelligence Officers, A Wiki Way to Connect Dots
Cultural resistance to Intellipedia includes concerns that foreign intelligence agents could hack into the system. Many intelligence officers, particularly of the older generation, simply do not trust it.
"There isn't any one agency that is more or less prone to use it. It's really a product of individuals," said Don Burke, a fellow CIA officer who helps promote the Intellipedia initiative.
Burke said Intellipedia remains largely the province of early adopters. While some pages are robust and balanced, he added, "there are other pages that leave a lot to be desired, to put it bluntly."
A CIA officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of his work, said Intellipedia "makes it very real-time. You can move down the road fast and focus on catching bad guys. We can really bring our expertise right to the war without leaving our desks."
Intellipedia, which uses the same software as Wikipedia, operates on three levels: an unclassified version, a secret version and a top-secret version. Beyond that, there are "bread crumbs" that could lead a user with proper clearance to additional information offline, Burke said.
Burke said that beyond major incidents such as the Mumbai attack, the biggest advantage is in connecting users seeking information on small, obscure subjects, something he described as "a thousand small wins a day."
Burke and Dennehy have been chosen as finalists for the 2009 Service to America Medals, sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service. The recipients of the medals, which are awarded in eight areas of public service, will be announced next month.
Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, described Intellipedia as an important post-Sept. 11 reform, but one that did not involve a major bureaucratic shake-up, as with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"It's the kind of work we need to see more out of government," Stier said. "They're connecting the dots without rearranging the deck chairs."