CIA expands Web presence

Culture is difficult to change, particularly in the intelligence community. However, the CIA recently displayed a willingness to share more of the super-secret agency's history and organization with an expanded World Wide Web presence.

For a community that places secrecy at the heart of almost everything it does, the appearance on the Web of the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence is a surprising turn of events. The directorate is the agency's analytical arm and is responsible for producing finished intelligence analysis for the president and other top government officials

The new site for the DI (as the directorate is known throughout "the company") is located at www.odci.gov/cia/di. The site offers casual Web surfers or global spy buffs a one-stop shop for information on the directorate's 52-year history, its mission and organization, and the analysis and intelligence production process.

The new site comes as the agency attempts to refurbish an image that has been associated more closely with disinformation, not information.

"This is something that's part of a continuing effort to explain to the American public what we do" and to dispel a lot of the myths that exist out there, a CIA spokesman said.

Although skimpy on visual aids, such as photographs, graphics and other pointers, the site provides an in-depth look at the organizational makeup of the DI, including the president's Analytical Support Staff, the Operations Center, the Crime and Narcotics Center, the Environmental Center and the Nonproliferation Center.

One of the most interesting items on the DI's site is the link to the DI Analytic Toolkit, a compendium of excerpts and briefs from the CIA's "Notes on Analytic Tradecraft," which outlines analytical skills needed by agency employees and methods used to analyze information.

The material provides analysts with guidelines on how to integrate answers to key questions concerning national security policy into their intelligence estimates, how to articulate assumptions that may have been used as a basis for their analysis, how to write effective conclusions and how to provide analytic support to diplomatic negotiations.

The CIA also lends a personal touch to the new site, with a list of personal anecdotes provided by agency employees— although names have been omitted. One employee explains that graphics support often is the "necessary added impact" that helps analysts "cut through the competing clutter of information."

The site also looks into the world of the CIA's information systems support personnel, where at least one 15-year veteran of the agency has "worked to solve technical intelligence problems, written modeling software to enable analysts to better understand foreign weapons systems, designed and operated computer networks...and worked on [an] enterprisewide computer systems architecture."

The Reference Aids section of the DI's Web site offers links to sources of information. References include the World Factbook, which is one of the premiere sources of information on every country in the world. The site also has links to chiefs of state and Cabinet ministers, statistics on international terrorism, a run-down of the Chinese economy and all the CIA's Balkan atlas products.

The site is a true step forward for the agency and a great source of educational information.

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