CIA collaborates online

Geoffrey Fowler's job is to share the CIA's intelligence reports with as many people as possible — at least the cleared ones.

Fowler is managing editor of the CIA's daily World Intelligence Review (WIRe), which reaches hundreds of thousands of readers through the government's classified Joint Worldwide Intelligence and Communication System and Secret IP Router network. Its content informs top national security advisers each day.

He said in a recent interview that although people do not generally think of the spy agency as an information-sharing organization, that's an important function of the CIA. And like executives of news organizations, Fowler said he's feeling pressure to make content accessible to an audience that now expects to stay connected from any location.

"People don't always sit at their desks," he said. "If we are really going to be successful, we need to get information to our customers whenever, wherever…by whatever means necessary."

Fowler said the WIRe, which has been online in its current form for less than two years, includes several Web 2.0 tools from text and video to social bookmarks and Really Simple Syndication feeds. "We are really trying to push the envelope," Fowler said.

Content is published seven days a week, and Fowler was awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit in 2007 for his work on the unique, user-driven format of the publication. The WIRe's newspaper-like interface, which reflects editorial decisions about what should go above the fold, is released six times weekly, he said.

In a sense, Fowler added, the product is like a wire service but more scholarly in style. Reports combine field intelligence, open-source information and analysis.

Fowler said the goal is to use various online tools to make the reports more interlinked for the customer, and there's an opportunity for readers to comment on a particular article and follow links to other, related articles.

The collaborative tools "are a means to an end," he said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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