File:Intellipedia Logo.jpg

Intellipedia Logo


A screenshot of the Intellipedia interface

Intellipedia is an online system for collaborative data sharing used by the United States intelligence community (IC). It was founded in April 2006 [1] and consists of three wikis running on JWICS, SIPRNet, and Intelink-U. They are used by individuals with appropriate clearances from the 16 agencies of IC and other national-security related organizations, including Combatant Commands and other federal departments. The wikis are not open to the public.

Intellipedia is a project of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Intelligence Community Enterprise Services (ICES) office headquartered in Fort Meade, Maryland. It includes information on the regions, people, and issues of interest to the communities using its host networks. Intellipedia uses MediaWiki, the same software used by the Wikipedia free-content encyclopedia project.[2] ODNI officials say that the project will change the culture of the U.S. intelligence community, widely blamed for failing to "connect the dots" before the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The SIPRNet version predominantly serves U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense personnel, who do not use the Top Secret JWICS network on a day-to-day basis. Sensitive but Unclassified Network (SBU) users can access Intellipedia from remote terminals outside their workspaces via a VPN, in addition to their normal workstations. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) users share information on the unclassified network.

Creation[edit | edit source]

Intellipedia was created to share information on some of the most difficult subjects facing U.S. intelligence and to bring cutting-edge technology into its ever-more-youthful workforce.[3] It also allows information to be assembled and reviewed by a wide variety of sources and agencies, to address concerns that pre-war intelligence did not include robust dissenting opinions on Iraq's alleged weapons programs.[4] A number of projects are under way to explore the use of the Intellipedia for the creation of traditional Intelligence Community products. In the summer of 2006, Intellipedia was the main collaboration tool in constructing a National Intelligence Estimate on Nigeria.[5]

Intellipedia was at least partially inspired by an essay competition set up by the CIA - later taken over by the DNI - which encouraged any employee at any intelligence agency to submit new ideas to improve information sharing. The first essay selected was by Calvin Andrus, chief technology officer of the Center for Mission Innovation at the CIA, entitled "The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community". Andrus' essay argued that the real power of the Internet had come from the boom in self-publishing, and noted how the open-door policy of Wikipedia allowed it to cover new subjects quickly.[6][7]

Richard A. Russell, Deputy Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Information Sharing Customer Outreach (ISCO) said it was created so "analysts in different agencies that work X or Y can go in and see what other people are doing on subject X or Y and actually add in their two cents worth ... or documents that they have." "What we’re after here is 'decision superiority', not 'information superiority'," he said. "We have to get inside the decision cycle of the enemy. We have to be able to discover what they’re doing and respond to it effectively."[2]

As of October 2006, the overall Intellipedia project hosted 28,000 pages edited by 3,600 users.[5] In September of 2007, sixteen months after its creation, officials noted that the top-secret version of Intellipedia alone (hosted on JWICS) has 29,255 articles, with an average of 114 new articles and more than 6,000 edits to articles added each workday.[8]

As of March 2008, Intellipedia hosted 35,000 articles (making a total of 200,000 pages) edited by 37,000 users.[9] The system has been enhanced to include a YouTube-like video channel, a Flickr-like photo sharing feature, content tagging, blogs and RSS feeds.[10]

Technical support[edit | edit source]

Google was contracted by the government to provide computer servers to support Intellipedia. Google also provides the software to search Intellipedia, which ranks results based on user created tags.[9]

Potential problems[edit | edit source]

Some are concerned that individual intelligence agencies will create their own wikis, draining ideas and input from Intellipedia.[11] Sean Dennehy, a CIA official involved in integrating the system into the intelligence fabric, said disseminating material to the widest possible audience of analysts is key to avoiding mistakes. He said analysts from multiple agencies had used the network to post frequent updates on recent events, including the crash of a small plane into a New York City apartment building in October 2006 and North Korea's test of a missile in July 2006.[12]

Some view it as risky because it allows more information to be viewed and shared[13]; but according to Michael Wertheimer, McConnell's assistant deputy director for analysis, it is worth the risk. The project was greeted initially with "a lot of resistance," said Wertheimer, because it runs counter to past practice which sought to limit the pooling of information.[14] He said there are risks in everything everyone does: "the key is risk management, not risk avoidance." Some encouragement has been necessary to spur contributions from the traditional intelligence community.[15] However, he said the system appeals to the new generation of intelligence analysts because "this is how they like to work" and "it's a new way of thinking." [16][17]

Successes[edit | edit source]

Dr. Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, cited the successful use of Intellipedia to develop an article on how Iraqi insurgents were using chlorine in improvised explosive devices saying, "They developed it in a couple of days interacting in Intellipedia," ... "No bureaucracy, no mother-may-I, no convening meetings. They did it and it came out pretty good. That’s going to continue to grow."[18]

In a September 10, 2007 testimony before the United States Congress, Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, cited the increasing use of Intellipedia among analysts and its ability to help experts pool their knowledge, form virtual teams, and make quick assessments.[19]

Community practices[edit | edit source]

File:Intellipedia shovel.jpg

An Intellipedia shovel, awarded to exemplary wiki contributors.

The wiki provides so much flexibility that several offices throughout the community are using it to maintain and transfer knowledge on daily operations and events. [20] Anyone with access to read it has permission to create and edit articles after registering and acquiring an account with Intelink. Since Intellipedia is intended to be a platform for harmonizing the various points of view of the agencies and analysts of the Intelligence Community, Intellipedia does not enforce a neutral point of view policy.[21] Instead, viewpoints are attributed to the agencies, offices, and individuals participating, with the hope that a consensus view will emerge. Intellipedia also contains a great deal of non-encyclopedic content including meeting notes and items of internal, administrative interest. Deputy DNI Thomas Fingar made a comparison to eBay, the auction Web site where the reliability of sellers is rated by buyers. He said he hoped Intellipedia would reward analysts whose judgments most often turned out to be correct. Or, he said, "if you are an idiot, we want that made known."[22]

During 2006-2007, Intellipedia editors awarded shovels to users to reward exemplary Wiki "gardening" and to encourage others in the community to contribute. A template with a picture of the limited-edition shovel (actually a trowel), was created to place on user pages for Intellipedians to show their "gardening" status. The handle bears the imprint: "I dig Intellipedia! It's wiki wiki, Baby." The idea was inspired by the barnstar,[23] which is used on both Wikipedia and MeatballWiki for similar purposes. The shovels have since been replaced with a mug bearing the tag line "Intellipedia: it's what we know".

Chris Rasmussen, knowledge management officer at the Defense Department’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), argues that "gimmicks" like the Intellipedia shovel, posters, and handbills, encourage people to use Web 2.0 tools like Intellipedia and are effective low-tech solutions to promote their use. Also, Rasmussen argues that "social software-based contributions should be written in an employee's performance plan".[24]

Training[edit | edit source]

Several agencies in the Intelligence community have developed training programs to provide time to integrate the tools into their daily work habits. These classes generally focus on the use of Intellipedia to capture and manage knowledge, but they also incorporate the use of the other social software tools. These include blogs, RSS, and social bookmarking. The courses stress immersion in the tools and instructors encourage participants to work on a specific project in Intellipedia. The courses also expose participants to social media technologies on the Internet.[25][26][27]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]


External links[edit | edit source]

ar:إنتليبيديا az:İntellipediya de:Intellipedia es:Intellipedia fr:Intellipedia it:Intellipedia lt:Intellipedia no:Intellipedia pl:Intellipedia pt:Intellipedia ru:Интеллипедия scn:Intellipedia


  1. INSA, Analytic Transformation, September 2007, page 12
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:Cite web
  3. Over 3,600 intelligence professionals tapping into "Intellipedia"
  4. Data from spies now assembled wiki-style, Los Angeles Times, November 2006
  5. 5.0 5.1 Intelligence Fixes Floated at Conference, Denver Post, 08/22/2006 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Reuters" defined multiple times with different content
  6. Template:Cite web
  7. Template:Cite news
  8. Template:Cite news
  9. 9.0 9.1 Template:Cite news
  10. Template:Cite web
  11. Intellipedia Discussion and the IC
  12. Intellipedia Roundtable Discussion
  13. U.S. intelligence unveils spy version of Wikipedia
  14. US spies create their own 'Wiki' intelligence
  15. Over 3,600 intelligence professionals tapping into Intellipedia -
  16. Over 3,600 intelligence professionals tapping into Intellipedia -
  17. US spies create their own 'Wiki' intelligence
  18. "U.S. Intel Agencies Modernize Info Sharing",, May 7, 2007
  19. Michael McConnell. "Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland: Six Years after 9/11", Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, September 10, 2007
  20. Executive Biz, Executive Spotlight with Jesse Wilson, October 11, 2007
  21. Template:Cite news
  22. Template:Cite news
  23. Template:Cite web
  24. "Government taps the power of us: Officials turn to blogs and wikis to share information and achieve goals", Federal Computer Week, May 21, 2007
  25. Radio interview that highlights Intelligence Community social software training programs, Federal News Radio, November 5, 2007
  26. Executive Spotlight Interview with Sean Dennehy, ExecutiveBiz, December 5, 2007
  27. Executive Spotlight Interview with Chris Rasmussen, ExecutiveBiz, October 25, 2007
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