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)

  1. Dennehy, S. (2008) ”Keynote Address: Implementing Intellipedia Within a ‘Need to Know’ Culture” (audio recording), USENIX Association, 22nd Large Installation System Administration Conference (LISA ’08), URL
  2. CIA (2009) ”Intellipedia Gurus Win 2009 Homeland Security Medal”, promotional text,, published October 08, 2009, accessed December 02, 2020, URL
  3. Dennehy, S. (2017) ”Federal Government Wiki Introductions: Intellipedia”, EMWCon Spring 2017, March 8 (url), via Youtube, published March 23, 2017, accessed December 10, 2020, URL
  4. Tomlin, S.  (2005) ”The expanding electronic universe”, Nature, 438:547, DOI
  5. Andrus, D. Calvin (2005), ”The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community”, Studies in Intelligence, Vol 49, No 3, September 2005, URL
  6. CIA (2008), ”Intellipedia Marks Second Anniversary”, press release, CIA News and Information, March 20, 2008 (accessed November 17, 2020), URL
  7. Dixon, N. M. & McNamara, L. A. (2008), ”Our Experience with Intellipedia: An Ethnographic Study at the Defense Intelligence Agency”, DIA Knowledge Laboratory, republished by Dixon on her blog, conversation matters, accessed December 02, 2020, URL
  8. Havenstein, H. (2008) ”CIA Explains Intellipedia”, Computerworld, published June 10, 2008, accessed December 10, 2020, URL
  9. Arnold, E. & Magia, S. (2013) ”Intrapreneurship in government – Making it work”, Deloitte University Press, URL
  10. Peled, A. (2016) ”Coerce, Consent, and Coax: A Review of U.S. Congressional Efforts to Improve Federal Counterterrorism Information Sharing”, Terrorism and Political Violence, 28:4, p. 674-691, DOI
  11. Willbrand, R.T. (2010) ”The evolution toward ‘bureaucracy 2.0’: A case study on Intellipedia, virtual collaboration, and the information sharing environment in the U.S. intelligence community”. IMSCI 2010 – 4th International Multi-Conference on Society, Cybernetics and Informatics. p. 149-155.
  12. Ben Eli, A. & Hutchins, J. (2010) ”Intelligence after Intellipedia: Improving the Push Pull Balance with a Social Networking Utility”, Defense Technical Information Center (Winner of DTIC’s 2010 Student Paper Competition), URL
  13. Chomik, A. (2012) ”Spies Wearing Purple Hats: The use of social computing to improve information sharing inside the Intelligence Community of the United States”, University of Calgary (Unpublished master’s thesis), DOI
  14. Chomik, A. (2011) ”Making Friends in Dark Shadows: An Examination of the Use of Social Computing Strategy Within the United States Intelligence Community Since 9/11”, Global Media Journal – Canadian Edition, 4:2, p. 95-113, URL
  15. Dixon, N. M. & McNamara, L. A. (2008), ”Our Experience with Intellipedia: An Ethnographic Study at the Defense Intelligence Agency”, DIA Knowledge Laboratory, republished by Dixon on her blog, conversation matters, accessed December 02, 2020, URL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *