YouTube for the intell community

What do you get when you replace YouTube’s videos of embarrassing drunken moments, off-key duets and presidential campaign ads with videos of CIA training and intelligence reports?

You get iVideo — the director of national intelligence’s latest bid to use social-networking tools to improve how information is shared throughout the intelligence community.

The YouTube-like application joins a host of online collaboration tools that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released in recent years. They include a photo-sharing application similar to Flickr, a tool for bookmarking Web pages that is similar to del.icio.us, instant messaging, blogging software, and Intellipedia, a Wikipedia for the intelligence community.

“Just like on the real Web, if you want to upload photos, you tend to go to Flickr. If you want to upload videos, you go to YouTube. If you want to get an encyclopedic entry, you go to Wikipedia,” said Don Burke, who helps lead testing and implementation of the new applications at the CIA. “It’s the same thing on the intelligence community networks now.”

Officials said they have high hopes for iVideo, which already has hundreds of video postings. The tool 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 generally and invited guests.

“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 Burke, is leading the agency’s effort to incorporate the new tools. “This is kind of grass-roots adoption. That’s 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.”

The new tools are tested on the unclassified network and then deployed to the secret and top-secret networks. Videos must be posted on each network separately for now, but officials say they hope that eventually videos posted on the least sensitive network will automatically be replicated on higher-level networks.

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

Burke said iVideo brings an important improvement 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, be able to start a discussion about that video and what the implications of that video are,” Dennehy said.

He and Burke say video also allows for 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 say they would like to eventually move the intelligence agencies’ massive amounts of video to the networks. However, so far users have mainly shared training videos, sent messages regarding 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.”

Dennehy and Burke talked about the intelligence community’s efforts to adopt social-networking tools at an AFCEA International conference in Washington this week.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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