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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Using web techniques to fight terrorism

The Washington Post reports on an innovative and controversial way for intelligence agencies to share information- interactive wikis.

"There were a number of things posted that were ahead of what was being reported in the press," said Sean Dennehy, a CIA officer who helped establish the site.

Intellipedia is a collaborative online intelligence repository, and it runs counter to traditional reluctance in the intelligence community to the sharing of classified information. Indeed, it still meets with formidable resistance from many quarters of the 16 agencies that have access to the system.

But the site, which is available only to users with proper government clearance, has grown markedly since its formal launch in 2006 and now averages more than 15,000 edits per day. It's home to 900,000 pages and 100,000 user accounts.

Traditional bureaucracies treat information as currency to be hoarded and traded only for something else of value. But in truth, information becomes more valuable when it is shared.

Several years ago, DARPA proposed terrorism futures contracts as a way to gain distributed knowledge of impending terrorist attacks. It probably would have worked, but politicians slammed the idea for fear that someone, somewhere would profit by predicting and then carrying out an act of terrorism. The concern was appropriate but could have been addressed. Let's hope this effort to harness the power of distributive knowledge gets a more open-minded reception.

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