If there is one lesson we should have learned from 9/11 regarding intelligence collection and analysis, it is that the national intelligence bureaucracy's "need to know" bias should be replaced with a cultural emphasis on the "need to share." That's why it is alarming to hear that the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) has decided to shut down uGov, a webmail system for the IC and those who need to work with it on a regular basis.
The exact reasons for the decision are still unclear, but it seems that they primarily involve concerns over network security: Something might leak out or be compromised by hackers. The problem with this logic is that, for better or worse, when computer security barriers go up, users typically react by going around them. When that happens, of course, information security goes almost completely out the window. Given the choice between the two, the need to share almost always trumps security, especially when the job simply has to get done.
The decision to scrap uGov stands in contrast to the IC's recent tendency to share intelligence information beyond the agency of origin, and even beyond the limits of the Federal government. While we'll probably never know the extent to which collaboration -- both among IC agencies and between the IC and non-IC agencies -- has helped foil recent terror plots, the 9/11 Commission report gave us a good idea of how siloing information allowed al-Qaida's operatives to elude detection before launching their attacks within the United States. Although the investigation leading to the arrest last month of Jordanian national Maher Hussein Smadi in Dallas appears to have been handled largely by the FBI, counterterrorism is by no means a mission undertaken by Federal officials alone.