US Intelligence Community

Why the US intelligence community needs innovation (and risk)

Intelligence services are arguably always in need of innovation in order to “create an agile and successful organization able to continuously adapt its business processes to the development of society and targets” (Nicander, 20111). Today, the challenges posed to intelligence services and their traditional tradecraft include the adaptation of technologies in fields such as biometrics, computer science and surveillance, the digital transformation of society in general and perhaps specifically cyber warfare (McLaughlin & Dorfman, 20192).

This is part of an outline for my thesis on Intrapreneurs as insider threats. Feedback is very welcome in the comments or via email!

In military technology development, the US has enjoyed a “scientific advantage upon which U.S. military dominance relies” since the end of the Cold War (Javorsek et al., 20153). This dominance might be eclipsed by China in the future, Javorsek et al. suggested.

Last year, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Subcommittee on Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research (STAR, 20204) stressed the importance of innovation exploitation in the intelligence community (USIC):

We must act now. Studies, reports and commissions have warned for decades about the risks to national security from the steady erosion in our innovative capacity. Those risks are no longer abstract or speculative. They are upon us and presenting us with ever more adversity and ever more limited policy options.

STAR, 2020

The report recognizes that the USIC’s innovative capacity is ”constrained by necessary secrecy, compartmentalization and rules”, and ”a culture that often punishes risk and cements the status quo” (STAR, 2020, p. 1). The report identifies intolerance of risk as ”the most unsettling [stated problems of USIC] from the standpoint of innovation”, stating that its effect can be lethal (STAR, 2020, p. 10).

Earlier the same year, the CIA launched a research and development initiative, ”CIA Labs”, to better address such challenges (CIA, 20205).

The USIC’s different branches are not only prolific and well funded but also, in comparison with other countries’ equivalents, relatively open to study and scrutiny. This makes Intellipedia, serving many intelligence services of the USIC (Lardinois, 20096), a good case to help illustrate questions around intrapreneurs as insider threats in the USIC.

Any thoughts? Please share in the comments, or via email!

Intrapreneurship Intellipedia US Intelligence Community

Intellipedia as a case of intrapreneurship

Intellipedia is a Wikipedia for the US Intelligence Community: a tool for collaborative, asynchronous information sharing within and between different U.S. intelligence agencies. It uses the same software as Wikipedia, and even had an ”import from Wikipedia”-option in an earlier version (Dennehy, 20081), where analysts could easily include data from Wikipedia.

This is part of an outline for my thesis on
Intrapreneurs as insider threats
Feedback is more than welcome
in the comments or via email!

Intellipedia is separately implemented on different clearance levels to compartmentalize sensitive information (CIA, 20092). In March 2017, one of its founders (Dennehy, 20173) stated that Intellipedia had received ”about 350 Million pageviews” since its inception more than ten years earlier.

Whilst the idea for the effort is attributed to the then head of the CIA’s unit for collaboration technologies, Calvin Andrus (Tomlin, 20054) and his article in Intelligence Studies, “The Wiki and The Blog” (Andrus, 20055), it was CIA’s Sean Dennehy and Don Burke that are credited for spearheading the initiative (CIA, 20086).

Tested in 2005 and announced formally in 2006, Intellipedia soon became something of a trophy project for the US Government. Dennehy later recalled how ”I thought I was working for our public relations office [because] I was up in their office so often about Intellipedia” (Dennehy, 2008). However, the Intellipedia project was also met by skepticism from members of the USIC (Dixon & McNamara, 20087). Sean Dennehy, later publicly recalled:

”We were called traitors, [and were told] we were going to get people killed”.

(Havenstein, 20088)

Intellipedia in earlier literature

Intellipedia has been recognized as an intrapreneurial venture by consulting firm Deloitte (Arnold & Magia, 20139) and has been covered in many news articles, but is generally understudied in academic literature. The available research is a case study of Intellipedia as a main example for one of three ”distinct legislative approaches” to increase federal counterterrorism information-sharing by the U.S. Congress, where Intellipedia illustrates the consent approach (Peled, 201610).

Intellipedia is also named in a conference talk (not cited by Peled) about how the U.S. Information Sharing Environment (ISE), has benefited from Intellipedia (Willbrand, 201011). Both contributions mention Intellipedia as a response to the political pressure for more information sharing within the USIC, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the U.S. in 2001.

Other than this, Intellipedia is named in student papers, namely Ben Eli & Hutchins (201012) and Chomik (201213). The latter student also wrote an article mentioning Intellipedia published in a journal the year before he presented his master thesis (Chomik, 201114).

Also, there is an ethnographic study made by the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) Knowledge Lab, of how DIA analysts use and experience the Intellipedia, privately published online by one of the researchers (Dixon & McNamara, 200815). The DIA study is made from unclassified data extracted from interviews (with ten analysts identified as active users of Intellipedia and five identified as non-users), all anonymized. The researchers stated reluctance to call their results ”findings” and instead presented them as observations, as there was no systematic sample of respondents and because the sample size was relatively small (this study is one of two main sources used by Chomik in 2012).

Do you know of other published
studies, papers or findings on Intellipedia?

Please let me know in the comments, or via email!
(Cat photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash)