What's Brewin: Now it's 'responsibility to provide'

When it comes to intelligence, what you "need to know" has morphed into what is your "responsibility to provide." And it's a system that requires the right mindset.

First there was "need to know" when it came to intelligence. Then after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks exposed the problems that result from tightly compartmentalized information, the country's intelligence community moved to a "need to share" culture. That has met more than its share of resistance, according to folks I talked to in March at the annual Defense Department Intelligence Information Systems Conference.

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Dale Meyerrose, associate director and chief information officer, took the "need to share" culture a step further on Friday with the release of the U.S. Intelligence Community Information Sharing Strategy built around what McConnell described as a "responsibility to provide" mind-set.

Meyerrose said that by developing a "responsibility to provide" culture, agencies will be able to unlock data "from a fragmented information technology infrastructure spanning multiple intelligence agencies and make it readily discoverable and accessible from the earliest point at which an analyst can add value."

Still A Lot of Tech Needed

The new information-sharing model will rely on attribute-based access and data tagged with built-in security to create a trusted collaboration environment Meyerrose said, but the introduction to the new sharing strategy report emphasized that "information sharing is a behavior and not a technology."

At the same time, the report said the intelligence community must develop an advanced information discovery and retrieval system (the digital version of a library card catalog) based on common metadata tagging standards to support discovery, search and retrieval and "universal discovery" processes, standards and tools, as well as integration of intelligence networks.

The new sharing environment and culture will require an integrated intelligence enterprise, the report said, in which "automation will enhance human performance, scouring information streams and repositories to uncover information more efficiently than humans can."

Automated systems will discover and filter the knowledge that users need while guarding against information overload.

There are no details in the report on how this will work, but it sounds like a tall order and assumes that technology has a better ability to make connections than the human brain. I think Einstein used a blackboard to work out E=mc2.

Feds to Help Protect the Electrical Grid?

That's a suggestion made by Franklin Kramer research fellow at the National Defense University's Center for Technology and National Security Policy at a recent hearing on cybersecurity held by the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities.

Kramer, who said he was testifying as an individual and not as a representative of NDU, told lawmakers that besides government networks, national security depends on networks that control operation of the electrical grid as well as those used by financial institutions. Operation of these networks is so critical that Kramer suggested the federal government could impose certain levels of security and provide part of that security, including "monitoring, response and support."

My colleague Jill Aitoro reported in January that the CIA has real concerns that bad actors in cyberspace could try to take down the electrical grid through some fancy hacking. So at first, Kramer's idea looks like a good one.

But there aren't many private power outfits ready to jump with glee when someone from the Homeland Security Department shows up and says, "Hi, we're from the government and we're here to help you."

How About National Cyber Labs?

Kramer told the subcommittee that the government should establish national cyber laboratories and boost cyber research and development budgets. In the case of Homeland Security's budget, that amounts to a rounding error, or less than $50 million in 2007.

Kramer did not identify any possible candidates to take on the national cyber lab mission, but I'll bet that Los Alamos National Laboratory, here in my beautiful home state of New Mexico, would just love the job.

Sounds like a good lobbying job for our newly bearded governor, Bill Richardson, on one of his numerous trips to Washington.

Oops: Video Guy at Sarnoff

In March, I reported on a nifty tool that the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is working with to help it search video footage. I quoted a knowledgeable and amiable gentleman by the name of Ron Krakower, but neglected to name his company, which is Sarnoff Corp.

One reason Krakower talked to me is that he wanted to increase his visibility on Google. I hope this does it for you, Ron.