New entity to govern information sharing

ORLANDO, Fla. - The intelligence community plans a new organization that will rule on disagreements between agencies over sharing classified information, notably homeland security intelligence.

William Dawson, deputy CIO of the intelligence community, told the Information Sharing for Homeland Security symposium here that the director of central intelligence issued an information sharing policy June 4 to improve the practice in homeland security agencies.

"Information we collect and don't share is useless," Dawson said.

The new mandate calls for a "write to release" policy aimed at broad information sharing, Dawson said.

The as-yet-unnamed governing body will serve as an arbiter in disputes among agencies over information sharing.

"If the [National Security Council] wants information from the FBI and the FBI says no, there is going to be an organization" to rule on the dispute, he said.

Another feature of the directive was a set of information sharing implementation guidelines.

Dawson noted that the intelligence community has had an information architecture for four years, and has made its information available via native Web browsers.

The architecture provides for interoperability of systems at various security levels - top secret, secret and sensitive but unclassified.

According to Dawson, senior intelligence community officials at times have bridled at adopting new technology, but new young analysts require "zero training."

In contrast to other conference speakers who called for more information sharing, Dawson said, "Unfortunately, we share a lot of information. I say unfortunately because it is hard to find stuff."

Noting that the community's databases include such voluminous information as the order of battle for all the world's military services, Dawson said, 'The real challenge is to share the right stuff."

The intelligence community has adopted a plan under which program officials who do not comply with the new "write to release" mandate will lose program funding, Dawson said.

He added that while intelligence officials have considered offering a reward for information sharing achievements, they decided that the penalty of removing program funding would have greater effect.

One method of implementing the new information sharing mandate will be to implement technology that will automatically create "tearlines," or less highly classified documents, from some highly classified intelligence, automatically, using metadata tags.

Dawson said that the intelligence community's congressional overseers had responded positively to the plans. "There are a bunch, and I mean a bunch, of information sharing capabilities out there," he said, referring to classified programs.

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