DorobekInsider: ODNI response to its decision to shut down Intellipedia’s uGov Web based e-mail system

Thursday - 10/8/2009, 6:45am EDT

We reported earlier about the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s decision to shut down the Web based e-mail system that was one of the intel community’s Intellipedia collaboration suite of tools.

I am still working to get somebody on Federal News Radio 1500 AM — I think it would be very good for ODNI to explain their decision.

That being said, ODNI officials have provided a written statement from ODNI spokeswoman Wendy Morigi:

In order to improve security and enhance collaboration, the decision was made to phase out the “ugov.gov” unclassified web-based email system currently in use by a limited number of personnel. This transition will be executed in an orderly manner that sustains functionality and minimizes the impact on individual users. Access to Intel-link, Intellipedia, and similar services will not be affected. The ODNI remains committed to investing in and providing high-quality enterprise services for the Intelligence Community.

Other background:

Will a replacement service be put in place?
We are looking closely at a number of options and the Intelligence Community CIO, in conjunction with CIOs from the across the Community, will ensure that an appropriate migration plan is in place.

Who will provide this new service?
There are a number of options and when appropriate we will make the announcement to the workforce.

Will emails and data stored on uGov accounts be lost?
The migration plan will include a process for moving emails and data to the replacement system.

Unfortunately those responses don’t really address the questions that people are asking. First off, I’m not sure what they mean that uGov was used by a “limited number” of people. The phrasing seems to discount the capability. But there are many questions out there:

* What are the security concerns?
* Was there some incident that led to this action?
* Why not find fixes rather then shutting it down?
* Sharing information has inherent insecurities. How do you balance those?
* How do you prioritize information sharing?
* What assessment took place with existing, so-called “secure” e-mail systems?
* What does this mean for the rest of the Intellipedia suite of tools?
* We hear that ODNI is also considering shutting down “Bridge,” which allows analysts with security clearances to collaborate with people outside the government who have relevant expertise but no clearances. Is that true?

I’m sure there are others — I hope you will share your questions. I know there are others I have not included.

Part of the issue is that there is something of a battle going on — and there are many fronts.

Intellipedia is way out in front of the rest of government — in fact, in many ways, Intelipedia is way out in front of so much of the world. They are actually doing it. They are on the front lines of these issues. And there are legitimate issues here — on both sides. My concern right now is those aren’t being discussed. And that breads distrust.

It will be interesting to see how this evolves. ODNI officials have a lot of eyes on them right now.