How you can (legally) read Intellipedia

How you can (legally) read Intellipedia

How to access the “Wikipedia for US intelligence agencies”

Written by
Edited by Shawn Musgrave

You’ve heard of Wikipedia, but did you know about the US government’s own Intellipedia?

In 2006, the US Intelligence Community unveiled a version of Wikipedia for internal use. According to a CIA press release, the idea came from a 2004 paper by Calvin Andrus of the CIA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer. In “The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community”, Andrus contended that the CIA and sister agencies “must transform the Intelligence Community into a community that dynamically reinvents itself by continuously learning and adapting as the national security environment changes.”

Intellipedia is located on Intelink, and is accessible from the Internet with the proper IC credentials. In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the NSA recently released the Intellipedia page for The Vatican. Perhaps more important that knowing what the Intelligence Community finds important to record about The Vatican, the release of one entry shows future researchers an example of what Intellipedia looks like.

Intellipedia has a layout similar to Wikipedia and even links back to Wikepedia. Similar to Wikipedia’s page on Vatican City, the Intellipedia page lists quick facts such as the flag, map, official language, population, time zone and calling code. Like Wikipedia, Intellipedia provides external links to relevant information sources, including the CIA’s World Factbook. The page also links to various other nodes within Intellipedia, such as the “Countries of Europe,” “Sovereign Monarchies in the present World,” and “non-european [sic] traditions,” and even directs visitors to such specific pages as “Pope Benedict XVI US Visit.”

While processing this request, the NSA FOIA office asked if the request was “referring to the Vatican building, City, or Holy See.” The file on the Holy See was selected in this case, but presumably, the system includes entries on all three.

Interestingly, Wikipedia has more recent data than Intellipedia. The released page was retrieved in November 2013 but last edited in April 2011, according to the page footer. The Wikipedia entry on The Vatican draws on a population estimate from July 2013, while Intellipedia lists a figure from 2005.

Per usage statistics released last week, there are three tiers of Intellipedia based on the security classification of the content: Top Secret, Secret, and Unclassified/For Official Use Only (FOUO).

Intellipedia usage statistics Jan 28, 2014

Based on these statistics, the Top Secret version is the most used version of Intellipedia, with 255,402 registered users as of January 28. (For reference, estimated 1.4 million people hold Top Secret clearance, according to figures from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence). The released Vatican page was classified as “Unclassified/For Official Use Only,” but the FOIA process removed the “For Official Use Only” classification prior to release.

The NSA is the proper authority to request additional records from Intellipedia. Recent requests have been made for Intellipedia pages on the Tea Party, the Boy Scouts of America, ACORN, and Edward Snowden.

Image via Wikimedia Commons