Intelink sees renewed interest

An existing secure collaboration network used by the intelligence community to share data has experienced a resurgence since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said Jan. 8 at the Federal Convention on Emerging Technologies in Las Vegas.

Intelink has been in place since 1997, but was previously used by only a few advocates. When officials realized Sept. 11 that there was no single technology tool to allow real-time collaboration, they turned to Intelink, which was developed for and by the intelligence community.

Until Sept. 11, even 10 users participating in one of the network's "communities of interest" was considered a big deal, said William Spalding, chief of the applications group under the Intelligence Community Chief Information Office Executive Board. The board serves as the top policy organization for all of the intelligence agencies' technology issues.

Now, hundreds of analysts are using the network after the counterterrorism and intelligence communities realized the immediate need for information sharing and collaboration and viewed Intelink as the obvious tool to fill that need, Spalding said. Most agree that sharing information and experience enhances intelligence analysis, but before Sept. 11 there was really no business case that motivated agency analysts to use Intelink, he said.

There are now other issues to be worked out, including the need to enforce the technical standards set up for Intelink and the need for around-the-clock support for the network problems that were not as important when there were only a few users, Spalding said.

Meanwhile, the Community Counterterrorism Board is struggling to establish the policies needed to give state and local agencies involved in homeland security access to the board's intelligence information, said Kenneth Duncan, chief of the board.

The Community Counterterrorism Board, which manages the Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism under the director for central intelligence (DCI), is the organization that links all 60-plus federal intelligence, defense and civilian agencies involved in counterterrorism.

The technical issues behind supporting that growing number of users are not going to be easy to address. But work now under way might provide the tradition of collaboration needed to facilitate progress in homeland security efforts, Spalding said.

"The way things came together for combating terrorism can, and should be, a good indication for homeland security collaboration," he said.

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