DNI releases new information-sharing policy

The United States’ outgoing top intelligence official has directed the 16 intelligence agencies to share their information and analyses through information technology means.

A directive, signed by outgoing Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell on Jan. 21, provides the policy behind an ongoing integration program focused on information technology. That integration is intended to link the intelligence community’s largest foreign intelligence databases, make data more available across agencies and consolidate agencies’ e-mail systems. Officials say the program will greatly increase the amount of data available to analysts and improve their abilities, as well as spot and stop threats.

Intelligence Community Directive 501 seeks to create a culture of “responsible sharing and collaboration” in the intelligence community, improve the ability to warn about and disrupt threats, and provide more accurate, timely and insightful analysis to decision makers, the document said.

The directive instructs intelligence agencies to act as “stewards” of information with responsibilities to provide that data to other agencies. Authorized intelligence agency personnel also have a responsibility to learn if other agencies hold information that could be relevant to their mission and request that information if it could be useful.

The directive allows for senior intelligence agency officials to exempt some data from being made available if its disclosure to other agencies could compromise sources, methods or activities.

To accomplish the goals of the directive:

  • Officials will develop benchmarks for each intelligence agency to meet during the integration process.
  • Each agency will appoint senior intelligence officials to be stewards to make sure that all information and analyses are sharable and available through automated means to other members of the intelligence community.
  • Until the intelligence community eventually has an attribute-based identity management capability, leaders of intelligence agencies will determine which employees are authorized to participate in information exchanges.
  • The stewards will determine if agency information should be disseminated using a risk-management framework.
  • The stewards need to make disseminated analytic products available under the new architecture by June 1.
  • New IT systems for intelligence agencies and significant changes to legacy systems must allow for the discovery, dissemination and retrieval of information through automated means.
  • Employees will get training in this system of sharing information.
  • The intelligence community's chief information officer will develop an IT architecture and develop standards needed for the integration.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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