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US pokes intelligence agencies into Web 2.0 overhaul

Facespook? Spyspace?

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The US intelligence community plans to introduce an information-sharing portal for spies modelled on the operations of well-known parasite advertising operations MySpace and Facebook.

The spook web forum, however, will be taxpayer-supported rather than ad-based, and instead of lists of favourite boy bands it will presumably feature favourite terrorists, cells, doomsday plots, secret weapons, mysterious femme fatales, agents of malign foreign powers, martini recipes, and so forth.

According to a report in the Financial Times, the scheme has been dubbed "A-Space" and is the brainchild of Thomas Fingar, deputy director of US national intelligence for analysis. One of his officials from the office of the director, Mike Wertheimer, is running with it.

"I am unable to send email, and even make secure phone calls, to a good portion of the Intel community from my desktop because of firewalls," said Wertheimer. He finds that efforts to share information between the thousands of analysts working in the many American spook agencies tend to be frustrated by worries about blowing agents' covers and similar concerns.

"The risk for people under cover... is drawn out so starkly, even though it is speculative, that they tend to carry the day."

Wertheimer seems to argue that such concerns led to poor liaison in the run up to 9/11, and so contributed to the definite loss of thousands of innocent American lives - as opposed to the possible loss of an unknown (but presumably small) number of foreign traitors working for America, or perhaps the diplomatic expulsion of their US handlers.

"We are willing to experiment in ways that we have never experimented before," he says.

"It breaks a lot of traditional senses that people's lives are at risk, and how can you take any step that increases that risk."

It appears that the US would like certain unnamed foreign agencies to log on to A-Space, along with the American spook community. These would probably be the British security and secret-intelligence services (aka MI5 and MI6) and the Australian ASIO plus the Canadians and maybe the New Zealanders - the traditional, long-established Anglophone spying axis.

But apparently the Brits et al aren't too keen.

"I would say in the entire community, the folks most virulently against sharing the information are the foreign partners," says Mr Wertheimer.

Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, has apparently invited the chief executives of Facebook and MySpace to a conference at which the A-Space plans will be discussed. However, Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook is just too busy to do his bit for world security.

A Facebook spokeswoman, according to the FT report, said the decision was purely because of scheduling conflicts. ®

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