Bloomberg News

U.S. Spy Agencies Look to Cloud Computing, Clapper Says

January 31, 2012

(Adds insider threat policy and commercial imagery comments in last four paragraphs.)

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said cloud computing will play a major role as the nation’s spy agencies work to integrate computer and information systems to share more data securely.

Cloud computing has “huge potential for achieving savings and promoting integration,” Clapper told an audience today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy group in Washington.

Cloud computing lets users run programs and store data over the Internet. Along with it will come a requirement for security and privacy, especially as intelligence agencies work toward the “big idea” of a joint information-technology system, Clapper said.

“Over the next five years, I think we’ll make some serious and notable changes” in systems for labeling, tagging, monitoring and accounting for information shared across agencies, he said.

The 2010 WikiLeaks episode, in which hundreds of thousands of classified records and State Department cables were made public, spurred the drive to improve security while ensuring agencies and personnel get the information they need to protect and defend the U.S.

Sharing Intelligence

Intelligence agencies are trying to devise a way of tagging and labeling data to separate more sensitive information about sources and methods used to collect intelligence from the substance that operatives, analysts and officials need. The aim is to allow better information-sharing among traditionally secretive and turf-sensitive agencies without jeopardizing security.

The U.S. also will spend more on auditing and monitoring its information systems to track use of data and prevent unauthorized access, Clapper said.

“We need to develop a national insider threat policy,” he said. Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army private stationed in Iraq at the time, is charged in military proceedings with illegally passing the classified information published on the WikiLeaks website in 2010.

President Barack Obama in October established a task force to develop a government-wide program to detect and stop potential insider threats, when he issued an executive order outlining responsibilities of federal agencies for securing classified information on their computer networks.

The administration also is conducting a review of the applicability and usefulness of commercial imagery, which might allow agencies to share more information with fewer concerns about security. Clapper said the study may be completed “in the next couple of months.”

--Editors: Steven Komarow, Bob Drummond

To contact the reporter on this story: Viola Gienger in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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