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A screenshot of the Intellipedia interface

Intellipedia is an online system for collaborative data sharing used by the Combatant Commands and other federal departments. The wikis are not open to the public.[4]

The three wikis that make up Intellipedia.

Intellipedia is a project of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Intelligence Community Enterprise Services (ICES) office headquartered in Fort Meade, Maryland. It includes information on the regions, people, and issues of interest to the communities using its host networks. Intellipedia uses MediaWiki, the same software used by the WorldHeritage free-content encyclopedia project.[5]

The Secret version connected to SIPRNet predominantly serves Department of Defense and the Department of State personnel, many of whom do not use the Top Secret JWICS network on a day-to-day basis. Users on unclassified networks can access Intellipedia from remote terminals outside their workspaces via a VPN, in addition to their normal workstations. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) users share information on the unclassified Intelink-U wiki.


  • Creation 1
    • Technical support 1.1
  • Potential problems 2
  • Successes 3
  • Community practices 4
    • Training 4.1
  • Awards 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Intellipedia was created to share information on some of the most difficult subjects facing U.S. intelligence and to bring cutting-edge technology into its ever-more-youthful workforce.[6] It also allows information to be assembled and reviewed by a wide variety of sources and agencies, to address concerns that pre-war intelligence did not include robust dissenting opinions on Iraq's alleged weapons programs.[7] A number of projects are under way to explore the use of the Intellipedia for the creation of traditional Intelligence Community products. In the summer of 2006, Intellipedia was the main collaboration tool in constructing a National Intelligence Estimate on Nigeria.[8]

Intellipedia was at least partially inspired by a paper written for the Galileo Award (an essay competition set up by the CIA - later taken over by the DNI) - which encouraged any employee at any intelligence agency to submit new ideas to improve information sharing. The first essay selected was by Calvin Andrus, chief technology officer of the Center for Mission Innovation at the CIA, entitled "The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community". Andrus' essay argued that the real power of the Internet had come from the boom in self-publishing, and noted how the open-door policy of WorldHeritage allowed it to cover new subjects quickly.[9][10]

Richard A. Russell, Deputy Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Information Sharing Customer Outreach (ISCO) said it was created so "analysts in different agencies that work X or Y can go in and see what other people are doing on subject X or Y and actually add in their two cents worth ... or documents that they have." "What we're after here is 'decision superiority', not 'information superiority'," he said. "We have to get inside the decision cycle of the enemy. We have to be able to discover what they're doing and respond to it effectively."[5]

In September 2007, sixteen months after its creation, officials noted that the top-secret version of Intellipedia alone (hosted on JWICS) has 29,255 articles, with an average of 114 new articles and more than 6,000 edits to articles added each workday.[11]

As of April 2009, the overall Intellipedia project hosts 900,000 pages edited by 100,000 users, with 5,000 page edits per day.[12]

As of January 2014, the Top Secret Intellipedia has 113,000 content pages with 255,000 users. [13]

Technical support

Google was contracted by the government to provide servers to support Intellipedia. Google also provides the software to search Intellipedia, which ranks results based on user created tags.[14]

Potential problems

Some are concerned that individual intelligence agencies will create their own wikis, draining ideas and input from Intellipedia.[15] Sean Dennehy, a CIA official involved in integrating the system into the intelligence fabric, said disseminating material to the widest possible audience of analysts is key to avoiding mistakes. He said analysts from multiple agencies had used the network to post frequent updates on recent events, including the crash of a small plane into a New York City apartment building in October 2006 and North Korea's test of a missile in July 2006.[16]

Some view it as risky because it allows more information to be viewed and shared;[17] but according to Michael Wertheimer, McConnell's assistant deputy director for analysis, it is worth the risk. The project was greeted initially with "a lot of resistance," said Wertheimer, because it runs counter to past practice which sought to limit the pooling of information.[18] He said there are risks in everything everyone does: "the key is risk management, not risk avoidance." Some encouragement has been necessary to spur contributions from the traditional intelligence community.[6] However, he said the system appeals to the new generation of intelligence analysts because "this is how they like to work" and "it's a new way of thinking."[6][18]


2008 Mumbai attacks page on Intellipedia

Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis (DDNI/A), cited the successful use of Intellipedia to develop an article on how Iraqi insurgents were using chlorine in improvised explosive devices saying, "They developed it in a couple of days interacting in Intellipedia," ... "No bureaucracy, no mother-may-I, no convening meetings. They did it and it came out pretty good. That's going to continue to grow."[19][20]

In a September 10, 2007 testimony before the United States Congress, Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, cited the increasing use of Intellipedia among analysts and its ability to help experts pool their knowledge, form virtual teams, and make quick assessments.[21]

Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations, a 2008 book by several experts in the field of intelligence analysis, cited Intellipedia as evidence of the changing nature of analysis.[22]

Eric Haseltine, former ODNI Associate Director for Science and Technology said that “It’s hard to overstate what [Burke and Dennehy] did .... They made a major transformation almost overnight with no money after other programs failed to achieve these results with millions of dollars in funding.” Haseltine said intelligence analysts had “reacted 'more quickly and more intelligently' to potential terrorist threats than they would have without Intellipedia.”[23]

Community practices

An Intellipedia shovel, awarded to exemplary wiki contributors.

The wiki provides so much flexibility that several offices throughout the community are using it to maintain and transfer knowledge on daily operations and events.[24] Anyone with access to read it has permission to create and edit articles after registering and acquiring an account with Intelink. Since Intellipedia is intended to be a platform for harmonizing the various points of view of the agencies and analysts of the Intelligence Community, Intellipedia does not enforce a neutral point of view policy.[25] Instead, viewpoints are attributed to the agencies, offices, and individuals participating, with the hope that a consensus view will emerge. Intellipedia also contains a great deal of non-encyclopedic content including meeting notes and items of internal, administrative interest. Deputy DNI Thomas Fingar made a comparison to eBay, the auction Web site where the reliability of sellers is rated by buyers. He said:

"Intellipedia. It's been written up. It's the WorldHeritage on a classified network, with one very important difference: it's not anonymous. We want people to establish a reputation. If you're really good, we want people to know you're good. If you're making contributions, we want that known. If you're an idiot, we want that known too." [26][27]

During 2006-2007, Intellipedia editors awarded shovels to users to reward exemplary Wiki "gardening" and to encourage others in the community to contribute. A template with a picture of the limited-edition shovel (actually a trowel), was created to place on user pages for Intellipedians to show their "gardening" status. The handle bears the imprint: "I dig Intellipedia! It's wiki wiki, Baby." The idea was inspired by the ,[28] which is used on both and MeatballWiki for similar purposes. The shovels have since been replaced with a mug bearing the tag line "Intellipedia: it's what we know".

Different agencies have experimented with other ways of encouraging participation. For example, at the CIA, managers have held contests for best pages with prizes such as free dinners.[29]

Chris Rasmussen, knowledge management officer at the Defense Department's National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), argues that "gimmicks" like the Intellipedia shovel, posters, and handbills, encourage people to use Web 2.0 tools like Intellipedia and are effective low-tech solutions to promote their use. Also, Rasmussen argues that "social software-based contributions should be written in an employee's performance plan".[30]


Several agencies in the Intelligence community, most notably CIA and NGA, have developed training programs to provide time to integrate social software tools into analysts' daily work habits. These classes generally focus on the use of Intellipedia to capture and manage knowledge, but they also incorporate the use of the other social software tools. These include blogs, RSS, and social bookmarking. The courses stress immersion in the tools and instructors encourage participants to work on a specific project in Intellipedia. The courses also expose participants to social media technologies on the Internet.[31][32][33]


In 2009, Don Burke and Sean P. Dennehy, two of the originators of Intellipedia, were awarded with the "Homeland Security Service to America Medal" by the Partnership for Public Service. The award noted that they Promoted information sharing across the intelligence community through the development and implementation of “Intellipedia,” a WorldHeritage-like clearinghouse of intelligence expertise.[23]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Intellipedia marks second anniversary". CIA Press Release. March 20, 2008. 
  3. ^ INSA, Analytic Transformation, September 2007, page 12
  4. ^ Vogel, Steve, "For Intelligence Officers, A Wiki Way to Connect Dots", Washington Post, August 27, 2009, p. 23.
  5. ^ a b "WorldHeritage for Intel Officers Proves Useful". National Defense Magazine. November 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  6. ^ a b c Shrader, Katherine (2006-02-11). "Over 3,600 intelligence professionals tapping into Intellipedia". Washington: Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  7. ^ Data from spies now assembled wiki-style, Los Angeles Times, November 2006
  8. ^ Intelligence Fixes Floated at Conference, Denver Post, 08/22/2006
  9. ^ D. Calvin Andrus. "The wiki and the blog: toward a complex adaptive intelligence community". Central Intelligence Agency Center for the Study of Intelligence. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  10. ^ Clive Thompson (2006-12-03). "Open-Source Spying". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  11. ^ Shane, Scott (September 2, 2007). "Logged In and Sharing Gossip, Er, Intelligence". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Calabresi, Massimo (2009-04-08). "WorldHeritage for Spies: The CIA Discovers Web 2.0". Time. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  13. ^ jasonsmathers. "FOIA request for Intellipedia usage statistics". MuckRock. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  14. ^ Kopytoff, Verne (2008-03-30). "Google has lots to do with intelligence". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  15. ^ Intellipedia Discussion and the IC
  16. ^ Intellipedia Roundtable Discussion
  17. ^ U.S. intelligence unveils spy version of WorldHeritage
  18. ^ a b US spies create their own 'Wiki' intelligence
  19. ^ , May 7,"U.S. Intel Agencies Modernize Info Sharing",
  20. ^ 2007 Analytic Transformation Symposium, 6 September 2007, p. 13
  21. ^ Michael McConnell. "Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland: Six Years after 9/11", Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, September 10, 2007
  22. ^ Roger George, James Bruce, et al., "Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations," Georgtown University Press, April 2008
  23. ^ a b """2009 "Service to America Medal Recipients.  
  24. ^ Executive Biz, Executive Spotlight with Jesse Wilson, October 11, 2007
  25. ^ Thompson, Clive (December 2006). "Open-Source Spying". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  26. ^ Intelligence Reform (Rush Transcript; Federal News Service)
  27. ^ Mark, Mazzetti (April 12, 2007). "Intelligence Chief Announces Renewed Plan for Overhaul". The New York Times. 
  28. ^ "EEK Speaks". Eugene Eric Kim's Blog. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  29. ^ Heather Havenstein. "CIA, Pfizer, Wachovia and Sony execs suggest options for adopting Web 2.0". Computerworld. 
  30. ^ "Government taps the power of us: Officials turn to blogs and wikis to share information and achieve goals", Federal Computer Week, May 21, 2007
  31. ^ Radio interview that highlights Intelligence Community social software training programs, Federal News Radio, November 5, 2007
  32. ^ Executive Spotlight Interview with Sean Dennehy, ExecutiveBiz, December 5, 2007
  33. ^ Executive Spotlight Interview with Chris Rasmussen, ExecutiveBiz, October 25, 2007

External links

  • Official Intellipedia website (may require an Intelink Passport account)
  • Intellipedia Marketing Campaign
  • "The wiki and the blog: toward a complex adaptive intelligence community", D. Calvin Andrus, September 2005.
  • "Connecting the Virtual Dots: How the Web Can Relieve Our Information Glut and Get Us Talking to Each Other", Matthew S. Burton, Studies in Intelligence, September 2005
  • "Wikis and blogs" presentation by D. Calvin Andrus at the Knowledge Management Conference and Exhibition, April 21, 2006.
  • Text of the speech by Thomas Fingar at The DNI's Information Sharing Conference and Technology Exposition, August 21, 2006.
  • "Rants + raves: agent of change", Wired, September 2006.
  • "Spy agencies adapt social software, federated search tools", Government Computer News, September 25, 2006.
  • "U.S. intelligence unveils spy version of WorldHeritage", Reuters, October 31, 2006
  • "'Intellipedia'? CIA jumps on wiki wagon", Yale Daily News, November 2, 2006.
  • "A WorldHeritage of secrets", The Washington Post, November 5, 2006.
  • , March-April 2007, page 3Pathfinder"Intellipedia Shows Revolutionary Promise, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,
  • "U.S. Intel Agencies Modernize Info Sharing",, May 7, 2007.
  • "Cal State program wanes after Cold War, gains after Sept. 11", Press-Enterprise, May 18, 2007 - podcast available
  • Jon Udell's Interviews with Innovators, Audio interview with Lewis Shepherd of the Defense Intelligence Agency about Intellipedia and Web 2.0 use within the US Intelligence Community. August 2, 2007.
  • "The Intellipedians": The social software movement within the U.S. Intelligence Community, Chris Rasmussen, Knowledge Management Officer, Intellipedia, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, talks about what it's like to work as an Intellipedian, the rules they live by, and how the new tools are helping transform the ways of the intelligence-processing for good. August 16, 2007.
  • "Logged In and Sharing Gossip, er, Intelligence", New York Times, September 2, 2007
  • "Classified social-networking system promises to help U.S. spies talk, collaborate", Associated Press, September 5, 2007
  • "Freeing knowledge, telling secrets: Open source intelligence and development" Cody Burke, Bond University, May 2007
  • "All News! All about Intellipedia!", Marvin Corea, The UNOFFICIAL Intellipedia blog, October 6, 2007
  • How to Make a Wiki-Government
  • [2]"The Intellipedia experiment or rather, shared secrets", Gianluigi Cesta, Gnosis 1/2007, Italian Intelligence magazine of AISI]
  • "Implementing Intellipedia Within a 'Need to Know' Culture keynote speech by Sean Dennehy at LISA '08, November 12, 2008
  • "Towards Living Intelligence" 2 JUN 2009 YouTube Video discussing the current and possible future roles of Intellipedia in the IC.
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