2 December 1998. Thanks to Anonymous

The Washington Post
Tuesday, 01 December 1998, Page A23

Weaving A Web of Secrets
Intranet Transforms Intelligence Sharing

By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer

Four years ago, the U.S. intelligence community started to realize that
"information superiority" in the Internet age called for more than glossy
documents ferried around town in highly secure vans.

The need for intelligence in real time -- virtual intelligence -- was
becoming more and more acute with each passing conflict, having been
publicly flagged after the Gulf War by none other than Gen. Norman
Schwarzkopf, who loudly complained that the intelligence community failed to
put satellite imagery into his hands fast enough.

Today, the latest satellite photos of terrorist camps and Iraqi tank
formations are but a click away.

Imagery, communications intercepts and all manner of intelligence reports
move in seconds across an intelligence community intranet called Intelink, a
top-secret, super-secure network that has revolutionized the dissemination
of U.S. intelligence and become a potent, searchable analytic tool for
analysts and military officers all over the world.

Fredrick Thomas Martin, a former National Security Agency official, tells
how all this happened in a new book called "Top Secret Intranet," describing
a journey through cyberspace in which the nation's 13 intelligence agencies
have gone from zealously guarding their own secrets to sharing many of them
over what the book touts as "the world's largest, most secure network."

"Intelink," writes Martin, "has become an information service that is
critical to the intelligence mission of this nation."

Switched on in late 1994, the network is now used regularly by 50,000
analysts, operatives, military officers and policymakers with top-secret
security clearances at 100 different sites. They can click on the latest
satellite imagery from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA),
search the network for communications intercepts from the National Security
Agency (NSA) and chat electronically with analysts of various stripes about
the latest terrorist threats and military maneuvers.

Off-the-Shelf Creation

What makes the network's creation all the more remarkable, in a procurement
culture known for the $600 toilet seat and the $7,600 coffee pot, according
to Martin, is that the handful of computer mavens who started it decided to
use only commercially available software pioneered on the Internet and the
World Wide Web. They believed they could do no better or at less cost than
the software already available.

Intelink now runs with a Netscape browser and a variety of commercial search
engines, including AltaVista. The searchable universe consists of 440,000
electronic pages, which would make it a very large site by commercial
standards. By contrast, washingtonpost.com has 241,000 pages.

For the highly secretive intelligence community, talking the talk of Web
technology proved easier, in some respects, than walking the walk. Indeed,
the power of Web-based data searchable across a vast network forced it to
reexamine -- and ultimately waive -- its "need-to-know" doctrine for

disseminating intelligence, which has for years kept information tightly
compartmentalized and shared only with those who need to know and use it.

"As one can imagine, there were many pockets of resistance -- people who
were adamantly opposed to waiving or even relaxing the 'need-to-know'
principle," Martin writes. "But, interestingly, once the success of Intelink
had been established, there was no turning back, and very little talk about
turning back."

Martin describes the network as impenetrable to attack by hackers because it
runs on dedicated Defense Department networks that have no link to the
Internet. This so-called "air gap" is the first line of defense.

The second is this: In order to open an Intelink account with the network's
24-hour operations center housed at the NSA's Fort Meade headquarters and
obtain a password, a would-be user must first have obtained a top-secret
security clearance.

Also, Intelink terminals are only located inside top-secret government
facilities, and even if a hacker somehow managed to tap into a secure
Pentagon phone line and intercepted raw data moving over that line, Martin
says, he would still have to defeat an encryption algorithm the NSA is
confident cannot be broken.

Still, intelligence officials such as the CIA's John P. Dahms, recently
named the intelligence community's first chief information officer, remain
obsessed with security. They are worried, not so much about hacker threats
from the outside, but the potential for penetration from within. One Capitol
Hill analyst who monitors intelligence recently called Intelink a
"revolution in a positive and negative sense."

"From a counterintelligence point of view, it's as frightening as anything
you could imagine," the analyst said, pointing out that a traitor like the
CIA's Aldrich Ames, if given access to Intelink, could download secrets that
might not otherwise have been available to him.

But even if that were to happen, Dahms said in a recent interview, it's
doubtful that a cyber-traitor could use Intelink to obtain information about
ongoing intelligence operations and the names of foreign intelligence
assets, which Ames sold to the KGB in the mid-1980s. That kind of
information, Dahms said, isn't put up on the network.

All 13 intelligence agencies, Dahms said, maintain their own internal
intranets separated by firewalls from Intelink. Raw, working data about
sources and operations stays inside the firewall, he said, leaving Intelink
largely for "finished" intelligence.

"Some people see that as withholding information -- begrudgingly putting out
the more generic, vanilla intelligence," Dahms said. "CIA especially falls
within that criticism, because so much of our intelligence comes from very
sensitive sources. And we're just not about to put it out for 400,000 people
to browse."

Given its security obsession, Dahms said the intelligence community is now
working on software to reinstitute "need-to-know" compartmentalization on
the network, building certain electronic pages that require their own
digital identifications for a user to gain access.

But security concerns have failed to keep network use from growing rapidly.

Getting Started at CIA

Several months after Steven T. Schanzer, an information systems official at
the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), first sold then-CIA director R. James
Woolsey on his vision of a CompuServe kind of environment for the
intelligence community in 1994, the network went online with a handful of
users. No one was ordered to participate, and no one was told what to post.

"The whole concept was the power of the information," Schanzer, now director
of the Defense Security Service, said in an interview. "It grew almost
exponentially from day one."

Five years ago, production of a "finished" intelligence report often
involved a flurry of secure faxes among analysts at different agencies,
meetings around Washington and mailing lists for 300 or 400 recipients.
Paper documents were then delivered by secure truck and airplane, Dahms
said, "which could have taken anywhere from two days to two months."

Now, with Intelink, documents are posted instantaneously. Also, analysts at
different agencies are starting to produce intelligence reports
collaboratively over the network, Dahms said.

At DIA, the daily intelligence briefing presented every morning to the Joint
Chiefs of Staff is now available to military commanders all over the world
via Intelink within 15 minutes.

"It is," one DIA official said of the network, "the backbone of the
intelligence community's dissemination of intelligence."

At NSA, a daily compendium of communications intercepts from around the
world is posted on Intelink in a user-friendly, searchable format. It can
even be "pushed" to individual users depending upon their areas of interest,
so an analyst tracking Iraq can log on every morning to a waiting summary of
intercepted Iraqi communications.

In his book, Martin calls the NSA's daily report a "feast of the world's
most significant events that were derived from the code-breaking side of
NSA's mission" and produced through "resources on which our government has
spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the years."

And yet, before the advent of Intelink, Martin writes, the NSA's daily
report was "published and disseminated by techniques that would be used if
the [report] were not much more than a club newsletter."

Martin, who retired from the NSA earlier this year and now works as director
of intelligence community programs for Impact Innovations Group, a software
company in Columbia, began his career at the agency in 1962 as a
Farsi-speaking linguist at a remote listening post in the Middle East. He
later earned degrees in mathematics and computer science and rose through
the ranks to become the first director of the agency's Center for Applied
Technology, an office created to keep the NSA abreast of the latest computer

So it is that the book ends with Martin's discussion of Intelink and the
"agile intelligence enterprise" of the future, a concept advanced by Ruth A.
David, who served as the CIA's deputy director for science and technology
until September. Her vision involves teams of analysts all over the world,
linked via Intelink's Web technology, continuously forming and reforming to
meet intelligence needs as they arise, able to access and share vast
quantities of stored data.

"The need for greater speed, capacity and flexibility," David writes in a
prologue to Martin's book, "is pulling each of the separate intelligence
agencies toward greater use of online networks, more use of collaborative
work processes, and more shared access to data -- all core elements of an
Agile Enterprise -- even without any formal consensus to move in this
direction together."

Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company