Intel chief looks to metadata, identity management to prevent WikiLeaks redux

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The intelligence community has embarked on a 5 year metadata and identity management effort meant to prevent a repeat of incidents such as the WikiLeaks disclosure of State Department cables, said James Clapper, director of national intelligence.

Clapper spoke Jan. 26 at an event held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

"Over the next, say, five years I think we will have made some serious and noticeable changes," Clapper said. Robust identity management is needed to ensure that only bona fide recipients of information receive data shared electronically, while the tagging of data should permit the wider sharing of that information among legitimate consumers, he explained.

For example, tagging could segment data such that intelligence could be tagged in a way to foster sharing while sources and methods information would be tagged in a different way. The combination of identity management with metadata results in greater information sharing, Clapper said.

"If you have the data labeled and you know the people who need to have access to the data--and we can do that and do it on an automated basis, which we can't do now very well--I think you promote the interests of both sharing and security," he added.

Identity management and metadata efforts are not the only way the intelligence community and the Defense Department have reacted to WikiLeaks, of course. Write capabilities to external media on many secret network computers have been disabled, and Clapper said that the ODNI has installed "all the appropriate mousetraps." He also called for development of a "national insider threat policy."

Member agencies of the intelligence community are also working to integrate their information technology systems, Clapper said, a move brought about by budget pressures. Cloud computing, he added, "has a huge potential for achieving savings and promoting integration."

The U.S. federal government is not the only one feeling the a budget pinch, he said. An Australian colleague, he added, said the down-under government has taken to calling cuts an "efficiency dividend."

For more:
- go to a CSIS webpage with archived video, audio and a partial transcript of the all-day event

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