A Secret Internet All to Themselves
The Pentagon and CIA's ambitious Net clone, to start Dec. 1, will undermine intelligence bureacracies and boost the quality of analysis, say proponenets
he Pentagon and the CIA are creating a top-secret Internet-clone to allow analysts, decision makers and field commanders to trade intelligence data - bypassing top-heavy bureaucracies and security risks.
The new system, dubbed Intelink, will allow "intelligence production in cyberspace... you'll put your products on the Net, and you'll have everyone looking at them, breaking down all [bureaucratic] barriers and rivalries," said a proponent.
In initial tests, the Intelink system has proved so attractive that John Deutch, the deputy secretary of defense, and James Woolsey, director of Central Intelligence and head of the CIA, have decreed it will be the model for future intelligence networks. "We have decided to declare Intelink as the strategic direction for [intelligence] community product dissemination," said a policy memo from Deutch and Woolsey, signed in mid-August.
Intelink will be fully operational Dec. 1, said a Pentagon official.
Intelink is modeled after the civilian-designed Internet - originally developed in the 1970s by the Pentagon's research agency.
It uses Mosaic, World Wide Web, WAIS, Gopher and other Internet software to provide users with quick access to home pages of more than 34 intelligence agencies and centers. The graphics-based home pages allow users to click into additional menus of intelligence data, describing enemy weapons, political strategies or technical weaknesses.
The same software is used on the Internet to provide quick access to the home pages of research centers, shopping malls, newspapers and other information centers.
To defeat the computer hackers that infest worldwide networks such as the Internet, Intelink operates on the Pentagon's protected DISNET-3 network.
Access to the network is only given to those with a security clearance dubbed "Top Secret Special Intelligence-TK." Intelink is not connected to the Internet and relies on high-quality encryption to stymie covert eavesdroppers.
Despite "some of the vulnerabilities on [seen on the] Internet, I would not worry" about the security of the Intelink, an Army official said.
The Intelink is the brainchild of Steven Schanzer, director of the Intelligence Systems Board's secretariat. The board, chaired by Woolsey and Deutch, coordinates all intelligence-related technology programs.
The Intelink was assembled in 60 days at "very, very low cost," according to a Pentagon official. In its first stage, roughly 100 Washington policy makers and their staffs will be able to get into the Intelink via their Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System displays, originally designed to provide a CNN-like news and teleconferencing service.
In the field, soldiers will be able to log on the Intelink via their Joint Deployable Intelligence Support System computers, now being widely deployed by U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy units.
By next spring, a second Intelink network will created to share data among officials and soldiers with a lower-grade "Secret" security clearance. The wider Intelink will run on the Pentagon's DISNET-1 network and will allow front-line soldiers to use the Intelink. For example, U.S. Army troops could use the Intelink to retrieve an image of an enemy defense site.
The CIA and other agencies recently established several sites on the Internet to collect and trade unclassified data.
Although the Intelink system will aid the distribution of intelligence reports and spy pictures, its greatest impact will be the reshaping of the intelligence bureaucracies, said a proponent.
Currently, each intelligence agency, such as the CIA, the National Security Agency or the Defense Intelligence Agency, rely on their analysts to mold each agency's opinion of intelligence-related issues.
Once their opinions are hardened, the agencies press them on other agencies and on policy makers, sparking continuous rivalry and disagreements, he said.
Once Intelink is operating, analysts working at the various agencies will informally cooperate with each other through the network, boosting the quality of intelligence reports and reducing bureaucratic in-fighting, he said.
The network "changes the very fundamentals of work...that will cause fundamental organization changes," as intelligence bureaucracies atrophy though disuse, he said.
The Intelink will also help overcome intelligence-distribution problems seen during the 1991 Gulf War.
During the conflict, soldiers complained that intelligence-sharing was frustrated - and sometimes prevented - by technically-mismatched intelligence networks. For example, images gathered by the Air Force's high-flying U-2 spy plane could not be easily shared with Navy pilots aboard aircraft carriers.