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ISSUE 123 - June 2010
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Are Secrets shared, still SECRETS?

By David Rose, Contributing Editor
San Diego, California

Of all the Social Networking Websites, which one leaves us incredulous that it even exists?

You've heard of Facebook; and Twitter, and MySpace; maybe you've even heard of BlackPlanet, Decayenne, Faces, Fotolog, Meetup, Mylife and possibly and Zooppa? These are a few of the 200 most popular social networking websites and there are thousands more to be found enjoying success on one level or another.

There's a site for expectant mothers to hook up, and one for people with disabilities; of course there's one for electronic gamers and a few more for book lovers, one for Christian Churches and a Muslim portal site. There are social networking sites for dog lovers and dog haters; one for Auteur cinema and lots for travel and alternative entertainment of all kinds.

There's even aSmallWorld for the European jet set and the socially elite.

But what do you do with them, and on them, other than read; and why is that one site in particular is so intriguing as to make the very fact that it even exists unbelievable?

First you have to know how you might utilize a Social Networking site. We can look at MySpace for a good example. Entering the website at we find a row of optional activities. We can 'Browse People', preview 'Events', 'Find Friends', review 'Music', watch 'Videos' even add our own videos, pictures and blogs. We can play Games', 'Share', 'Search', 'Get Connected' and send and receive email right on the MySpace website.

By selecting 'Events' we are presented magically with an array of social activities and events scheduled in our local area. Evidently the site has already determined where our computer is located and has selected events occurring there.

Pretty impressive. No wonder the site is visited by millions.

And all the other social networking sites? All offer a menu of similar activities, perhaps a little more focused than is MySpace, but all interesting and useful to their specific groups. The array and diversity is overwhelming. Any group, interest or proclivity will find a site suited to themselves. From 'Advogato' for software developers to 'Zooppa' for creative talent, everyone has a site.

By saying "everyone", I'm giving away what it is that makes one site, out of so many, unique. So unique in fact, so far from anything you could imagine, that its very existence is difficult to believe.


Or ‘Analytic Space’, is a project of the Office of Analytic Transformation and Technology which operates under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The project is for the use of the entire United States Intelligence Community; a common collaborative workspace for all analysts of all branches of the US Intelligence community. That’s right. A ‘Social Networking Website’ for spooks.
C.I.AASpace is live now on our government’s classified Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System and has been for over a year. It was born out of an enormous transformation in the way analysts share data. We’ve all heard too many times that this or that would not have happened had the known facts been shared by the various intelligence groups. So, they thought, we’ll just put up a website for spys to post and blog on, then we can all share everything. What better than a “Social Networking Website” for Spooks and the like ! Great – With all our secrets on the website we’ll all know everything. How good can it get?

Basically the idea is as much to promote an attitude of cooperation as it is to make the latest intelligence information readily available. Cooperation among partys engaged in similar activities is what analytical theorists like to refer to as "The Strength of Weak Ties". Throughout all team endeavors, members tend to interact infrequently (weak ties). Therefore providing them with access to common ground, like ASpace, promotes the sense of belonging to the group, or team. Teams do the best job of analyzing data.

N.S.AOne little problem of course is how do you protect all that data from the nefarious who’s life's ambition is to “hack in”?

And a problem it is. Of course the site is already on the secure intelligence Intranet, and as there are no fewer than 16 intel agencies sharing the site, there are 16 firewalls to cross, all with their own unique configurations. Yet the idea that so much sensitive data is massed in one place makes for what security experts refer to simply as a counterintelligence nightmare.

Elaborate protocols are an essential part of the site’s architecture. Certainly any one individual would have access only to specific parts or ‘compartments’ of the data base, and then only while being monitored. The activities of all users are chronicled by computer programs, constantly looking for suspicious activity such as anomalous searching and entry denials to unauthorized areas based on the users clearance.

C.I.AStill in it’s initial iteration, the site is presently only providing access to the three large databases of current intelligence and the previously existing online system of collaborative data sharing which has been in use for the past decade. As the site moves in to progressively more capable iterations, it is expected that the Library of National Intelligence ( LNI ) will be included, giving analysts the ability to search the Library’s entire electronic card catalog which contains summary information for every report published in the community. It’s a sort of ‘index’ of intelligence information and carries a low classification. The analyst will first be able to find all that is available on a particular subject, then with the proper clearance, be able access it.

Social networking is an integral part of A-Space, putting analysts in contact with counterparts from other agencies involved in the same area of expertise, or, as I mentioned before, providing for interaction of weak links.

Much like MySpace, analysts may 'Share', 'Search' and 'Get Connected' and A-Space will eventually provide RSS feeds for their blogs. Planned for the near future is a Web-based word processing tool such as ‘Office’, an intelligence community encyclopedia such as is used by Wikipedia and access to the ‘raw’ intel data bases (that data which has not been analyzed in any way).

C.I.AGreat. Even Wow! But now if I’m a 007 type, having just parked my Aston Martin at the curb and imbibing my favorite libation at Rick’s Bar in Casablanca, I may have pause to wonder about ASpace, and the fact that I’m in there, naked as it were, to a world full of adversaries who’s “life ambition is to “hack in”.

I tell myself not to be concerned. The programmers surely are providing layer upon layer of security protecting my identity and my activities from prying eyes. Although… I wonder to myself… There have been occasional CIA traitors, Aldrich Ames and Edward Lee Howard as examples. Wouldn’t they have had access to ASpace before being caught, or defecting? Might they not have jeopardized covert operatives and their activities?

Besides, it seems there are endless revelations of covert operations in the news. Recently we learned of a secret offer made to Iceland by the UK; the CIA’s report on increasing troop strength in Afghanistan surfaced in the news media; The criteria for detaining suspects in the Guantanamo Bay facility, classified secret, surfaced; and of course there are many sites like and, constantly supplying the world with information that governments would rather keep under their hats.
But, surely I’ll be safe out here in the cold. With everything on ASpace heavily encrypted, what could go wrong?
By David Rose, Contributing Editor

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