Video a hit with intell analysts

A secure YouTube-like application for sharing videos is quickly gaining traction among intelligence analysts, CIA officials say.

The iVideo system is one of several tools providing analysts with the kind of functionality offered by commercial social-networking applications. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has also developed applications for sharing photos, bookmarking Web pages, blogging and building wiki-based repositories.

Officials say they have high expectations for iVideo, which already has hundreds of video postings.

“It’s been pretty remarkable how people have gravitated to it, and it shows that there actually was a need for this capability,” said Sean Dennehy, the CIA’s Intellipedia and Enterprise 2.0 evangelist who, along with his colleague Don Burke, is leading the agency’s effort to incorporate the new tools.

“This is kind of grass-roots adoption,” Dennehy said. “One of the things that we encourage with all of these tools is for people to find value in the tools themselves rather than it being forced upon them from up on high.”

iVideo is available on three networks: top secret, which is used by members of the 16 federal intelligence agencies who have the appropriate clearance; secret, used by many employees of the Defense and State departments; and sensitive but unclassified, which is open to government employees and invited guests.

For now, videos must be posted on each network separately, but officials say they hope that eventually videos posted on any network will automatically be replicated on higher-level networks.

Burke said iVideo brings a significant new capability to the intelligence community by standardizing the way video is shared using Adobe’s Flash. There is no comparable governmentwide standard.

If “someone in Tokyo has video that needs to get back to headquarters, they can upload it to this site, and then it would be not only accessible to headquarters but accessible to the entire network. And then people could, using the comments…start a discussion about that video and what the implications of that video are,” Dennehy said.

He and Burke said video also promotes better communication and keeps the intelligence community from being overly reliant on text documents.

“We as a community don’t want to be solely based on text,” Dennehy said. “We also want to incorporate visual graphics and other instances, and video is just another extension for that.”

They said they would eventually like to move the intelligence agencies’ massive amounts of video to the networks. However, so far users have mainly shared training videos, sent messages about employee conduct and done some intelligence sharing.

“It’s too early to tell exactly how it’ll be used, but there are already instances where people have shared direct intell-related videos,” Burke said. “So I would suspect that would be a very big use of it.”

Intelligence officials approach all such tools with caution. Each application is tested on the unclassified network and then deployed to the secret and top-secret networks.

Approved users can access all the tools with one password via Intelink, the intelligence community’s secure intranet. Although Dennehy and Burke are leading efforts to spread the word about the new tools, ODNI is responsible for operations and maintenance.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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