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CIA ‘launches Facebook for spies’

BBC

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New ways are needed to share information, US officials say

The CIA is to open a communications tool for its staff, modelled on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, the Financial Times reports. The project, known as A-Space, aims to improve the way that intelligence agents communicate, it said.

Officials believe that the online workplace will allow staff to better analyse information together.

However to ease fears of undercover workers having their cover blown, participation will be voluntary.

Reticent users

A-Space, due to launch in December, will feature web-based email and software recommending issues of interest to the user said Mike Wertheimer, a senior official at the Department for National Intelligence (DNI).

He told the FT that the new infrastructures would help break down some of the physical communications problems in the intelligence community.

“I am unable to send email, and even make secure phone calls, to a good portion of the community from my desktop because of firewalls,” he said.

He added that while it was understandable that some operatives were reticent about sharing information which could pose a risk, the 9/11 attacks had showed that not pooling data could also cost lives.

“We are willing to experiment in ways that we have never experimented before,” he said.

Mr Wertheimer added that while it had looked for collaboration from overseas, foreign intelligence agencies had been “the folks most virulently against” sharing information through an “intelligence library”.

The DNI already operates a collaborative online encyclopaedia – or wiki – for members of the US intelligence community.

And earlier this year the CIA used Facebook to advertise job opportunities within the organisation.