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Historically, the U.S. intelligence community operated on a “need to know” basis — even personnel with a security clearance were only allowed to see intelligence they had a need to know.

After U.S. agencies failed to share intelligence about some of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers; and with the huge leaps in computer network technologies and the growth of the World Wide Web as an indispensable communications tool, need to know is being edged out by “need to share.”

“SIPRNet is basically a parallel Internet at the Secret level,” said the specialist. “The different agencies have Web sites, FBI, DEA … Even at the Top Secret level [it’s] the same …You can surf around … there are lots of Top Secret documents routinely posted there without any additional access controls” beyond the fact that are on a highly classified network to which only cleared personnel have access.

“Its beginning to look like the NSA may have had the same kind of issues,” he concluded.