Visit the new Intelligence.gov, and you’ll notice something very different from the mysterious, secretive reputation of the community: people.
The site not only highlights individual workers, it encourages visitors to learn their background, follow their story, and delve into the material they’ve produced working for the Intelligence Community.
“Hopefully, what you see today is somewhat different than the kind of site that you would expect from the Intelligence Community,” said Michael Thomas, the site’s executive editor and Office of the Director of National Intelligence deputy transparency officer. “What we tried to do is build a site that is an effective communicator with the broad range of audiences the Intelligence Community should be thinking about — for the person who wants to have access to some daily news from the community or wants to know what the community is up to and where they’re accessible on social media, for someone who’s looking to find a career in the intelligence community or wants to understand what kind of jobs are available, or someone who doesn’t even know what agencies or elements constitute the Intelligence Community.”
Careers, daily news and information on the IC components are all available and searchable on the new site, though in a call with reporters Thomas clarified that the highlight of the launch is the new platform for transparency, the Intel Vault, which complements the IC On the Record Tumblr account.
“We are taking what used to be the ceiling of how we do things, and making it the floor and continuing to build atop it,” Thomas said. “This database takes all the material specifically devoted to our 702 authorities, and makes it fully text searchable; all the statements, all the attached PDFs, easily searchable in one location. Moving forward, we hope to move the rest of the material from IC on the Record into this database, while continuing to use the Tumblr site as a place for alerting folks of new information being made available, and then we expect to use this same database platform to make lots of other interesting material available to the public in a much more effective way that we’ve had available to us in the past.”
The original Intelligence.gov launched under President George W. Bush, as a kind of “front door” for the community, Thomas explained. It defined the terms of the component agencies, but morphed over time into a jobs portal. That portal was replaced by Intelligencecareers.gov.
But the new site’s roots date back to June 2014, with the request for ODNI civil liberties protection officer to host a meeting to establish the principles of both intelligence and transparency of the IC, Thomas said.
“This same working group, which is now the intelligence transparency council, created an implementation plan that highlighted and prioritized transparency initiatives drawn from across the Intelligence Community,” Thomas said. “One of those initiatives was the redevelopment of Intelligence.gov as a transparency portal for the Intelligence Community, to provide greater visibility into the work that we do, to provide a better platform for the release of documents and data, to provide this centralized resource for the community to use, to better educate the public and help them understand our activities and authorities.”
Visitors to the site follow IC members’ “narrative paths.”
“We hope the main thing that you would notice is actual human beings, people from the intelligence community,” Thomas said. “That was an important facet that we wanted to convey, the people behind the activities and authorities that you might read about in the newspaper.”
There’s also a careers page “to honor the history of Intelligence.gov as a careers portal which is what many people are familiar with,” Thomas said.
“So you’ll find a careers section on the site that delves into the various agencies … and also describes many of the different occupational paths that one can take within the Intelligence Community,” Thomas said.
The site highlights some of the day in the life interviews with intelligence officers, which pull from video from other IC component sites. The idea is that there’s a lot of material that’s existed in other forms across the community, and the new site brings it and new material into one place.
“We’re trying to move the Intelligence Community further down the road of communicating effectively with the public,” Thomas said. “But also finding the gems that are already out there, and being able to kind of put them into a more specific context or more accessible context in one place so that people can see all these folks juxtaposed as opposed to digging in to three levels down on the FBI website.”
The site also includes the “Public’s Daily Brief,” which is a play on the daily brief given to the president. It includes news stories and social media posts from across the Intelligence Community.
Thomas said the hope is also to continue to profile IC personnel. Some of these profiles include “barrier breaker” interviews, which highlight “folks that have really ushered in major change to show how the Intelligence Community is really running in parallel with the major changes and the technology innovations that people expect to see from the private sector.”
Thomas said he expects the same sort of IC component engagement shown in building the site to continue as the site develops and information is added to it over time. He said he expects over the next 6-12 months to see new IC material being pulled together and published on the site.
“We have lots of material that’s been released across the community, but it’s not really consolidated and sometimes it’s fairly hard to find,” Thomas said. “With Intelligence.gov we want to try to provide the filet of what’s out there, the most interesting material that will be useful to a broad range of audiences.”