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2/25/2010
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Roundup: Spy Agencies On The Web

U.S. intelligence agencies are using the Web to share information and engage the public. Some offer mobile versions and social networking tools -- others badly need an update.




The FBI's Web site is the most visited of all U.S. intelligence agency sites.
(click for image gallery)

U.S. intelligence agencies face a different world than they did a generation ago. It's one characterized by rapidly moving and often highly technical threats, data that comes in faster and in greater volume than ever before, and a public that expects information at its fingertips. These trends are forcing the intelligence community to work in new ways, including how they engage the public and share information on the Web.

The Obama administration is pushing for increased transparency and openness among government agencies, not something that spy agencies are known for. Indeed, the requirements of the recently introduced Open Government Directive don't apply to agencies like the CIA or the FBI. Nevertheless, intelligence agencies are opening up in other ways, and they're doing it in part through the Web.

For example, the National Security Agency's Web site, re-launched a year ago, includes sections on the agency's educational outreach, on doing business with the NSA, and on how to get a job there, as well as links to declassified information and even a section for kids.

Other agencies continue to be more discrete on the Web, offering only basic descriptions of what they do. Their text-heavy sites set a more buttoned-up tone. Our review of intelligence agency Web sites found several in need of updating, both in their overall look and feel and in their use of feeds, mobile access, and social media tools for public outreach.

There are 17 intelligence agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community, which is a coalition of organizations that work independently and collaboratively to collect, generate, analyze, and share information related to national defense, homeland security, and other national interests. Our survey of Web sites draws largely from that group of agencies, though we also look at the sites of the National Counterterrorism Center and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

For more on this subject, see CIA, NSA Adopting Web 2.0 Strategies.

To see a gallery of spy agencies on the Web, click here.

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