1999: The Year of the Web for the CIA

WASHINGTON (05/10/2000) - The intelligence community spent much of 1999 developing new World Wide Web-based tools that are transforming the way spies find and share information, according to a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency report released last week.

The CIA's 1999 Annual Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community outlined what CIA Director George Tenet characterized as a year spent "preparing for the future." Much of that preparation involved finding new ways for intelligence agencies to share information, Tenet said.

One of the first steps taken by the CIA was to activate the Intelligence Community Metropolitan Area Communications (IC MAC) system. The IC MAC system enhances connectivity between national intelligence agencies and the Defense Department and reduces the costs associated with cooperative efforts, according to the CIA report.

Intelligence agencies also teamed to develop Web-based tools that take advantage of the connectivity offered by the Internet. A secure Web-based application called XLINK, for example, supports collaboration between analysts and information collectors. Likewise, CIA established a laboratory named Platinum Rail to better understand how commercial collaboration software can support intelligence work.

The CIA also established a PolicyNet Program Office to oversee a new network that links the Senate Appropriations Committee and other lawmakers to CIA data via a secure connection.

The agency also exploited the Web through language translation tools and data visualization tools. According to the report, the agency integrated two systems that enable analysts to search in English through documents written in Korean or Japanese and receive summaries of the results in English through any standard Web browser. The agency also completed a proof of concept demonstration on a Farsi-to-English tool.

Steven Aftergood, an intelligence specialist with the Federation of American Scientists, said although the report lists many achievements and contains new information on a variety of intelligence programs, it "presents the intelligence community as it perceives itself and wishes others to perceive it."

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