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Intel Observers See WikiLeaks Chilling Effect on Information Sharing

Image: Melanie Gamarra

In the wake of WikiLeaks, many observers predicted a chilling effect on information sharing.

After all, the accused leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning, is alleged to have exploited the joint Defense Department and State Department computer network, originally created to give forward-deployed soldiers valuable in-field information, to pass on information from secret diplomatic cables to whistle-blower site WikiLeaks.

The Information Sharing Environment, of which the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network is part, was a key post-9/11 restructuring. But far from an intelligence panacea, it likely opened an entirely new can of worms.

“What [intelligence planners and legislators] did not envision was how that world of shared information would facilitate one of the largest insider information thefts in U.S. government history, but that may be exactly what happened,” according to a new article in Security Management magazine.

Now, as the dust begins to settle from the WikiLeaks fallout, intelligence officials are giving the idea of information sharing a renewed look.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called WikiLeaks a “big yellow flag,” and predicted a “chilling effect on the need to share,” the magazine reported.

Intel officials acknowledge the technological difficulties of thwarting insider threats, those with access who are bent on exploiting information sharing. Increased monitoring of networks will only get them so far, they realize. Above all is the presence of the unknown — the human factor.

Former ODNI chief information officer and information-sharing executive Dale Meyerrose, who now works on cyber solutions for Harris Corporation, gave Security Management a grim view of the insider threat.

“A complicit insider is probably the most troublesome of all situations,” he said. “It’s akin to a pilot deciding he’s going to fly a plane into the ground. There’s little or nothing you can do to prevent it.”

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