1999: The year of the Web for the CIA

The intelligence community spent much of 1999 developing new World Wide

Web-based tools that are transforming the way spies find and share information,

according to a CIA report released last week.

The CIA's 1999 Annual Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community outlined

what CIA Director George Tenet characterized as a year spent "preparing

for the future." Much of that preparation involved finding new ways for

intelligence agencies to share information, Tenet said.

One of the first steps taken by the CIA was to activate the Intelligence

Community Metropolitan Area Communications (IC MAC) system. The IC MAC system

enhances connectivity between national intelligence agencies and the Defense

Department and reduces the costs associated with cooperative efforts, according

to the CIA report.

Intelligence agencies also teamed to develop Web-based tools that take advantage

of the connectivity offered by the Internet. A secure Web-based application

called XLINK, for example, supports collaboration between analysts and information

collectors. Likewise, CIA established a laboratory named Platinum Rail to

better understand how commercial collaboration software can support intelligence

work.

The CIA also established a PolicyNet Program Office to oversee a new network

that links the Senate Appropriations Committee and other lawmakers to CIA

data via a secure connection.

The agency also exploited the Web through language translation tools and

data visualization tools. According to the report, the agency integrated

two systems that enable analysts to search in English through documents

written in Korean or Japanese and receive summaries of the results in English

through any standard Web browser. The agency also completed a proof of concept

demonstration on a Farsi-to-English tool.

Steven Aftergood, an intelligence specialist with the Federation of American

Scientists, said although the report lists many achievements and contains

new information on a variety of intelligence programs, it "presents the

intelligence community as it perceives itself and wishes others to perceive

it."

MORE INFO

"Congress pushes intelligence reform" [FCW.com, May 10, 2000]

"Senate sheds light on State security problems" [FCW.com, May 10, 2000]

"Data-rich spy center on the drawing board" [Federal Computer Week, May8, 2000]

"CIA tackles records nightmare" [Federal Computer Week, April 17, 2000]

CIA's 1999 Annual Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community

BY Dan Verton
May 10, 2000

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