Edit wars come to spy agencies' Intellipedia

U.S. government's Wikipedia-for-spies is beset by editing wars, with Attorney General Michael Mukasey repeatedly undoing DNI Mike McConnell's spelling of Osama bin Laden as "Usama."

Caption: This partially redacted screen snapshot of Intellipedia, a Wikipedia-like site used by the U.S. intelligence community, hints at the severity of edit wars between executive branch agencies.

WASHINGTON, D.C.--It turns out that the federal government's Intellipedia, a classified Wikipedia just for spies and spooks, is as prone to altercations as is its public counterpart.

The latest edit war on the top-secret Web site started with the "Best Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episode" entry, which CIA Director Michael Hayden claimed would be the acclaimed episode in which a series of human heart-gathering demons cast a spell to steal everyone's voices.

Then, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Vice President Dick Cheney reverted the classified Intellipedia entry to the earlier version that listed the Buffy musical "Once More, With Feeling" as the top choice. "The juxtaposition of Buffy's emotional dependence on her mentor and the interpretive dance number was deeply moving," Cheney said. "Plus there was some serious blood and gore toward the end."

Internecine warfare in the executive branch has frequently broken out on Intellipedia, which hosts approximately 40,000 users and 35,000 articles, an estimated 50 of which discuss Iraq, terrorism, and national security. Google has a $350 million contract with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Intelligence Community Enterprise Services in Ft. Meade, Md., to provide servers and search services for Intellipedia, which has been cloaked in secrecy until now. (Access to articles requires Intelink, JWICS, or SIPRNet, the intelligence community's secure networks.)

Other topics of editorial disagreement have included the long-running Osama vs. Usama spelling debate pitting the CIA against the Justice Department, which of the supernatural sisters (one played by Rose McGowan from 2001 to 2006, and the other by Shannen Doherty from 1998 to 2001) on the Charmed television show was hotter, and whether the new Knight Rider series could be "even half as cool" as the iconic original starring K.I.T.T. and David Hasselhoff.

"K.I.T.T.'s Tri-Helical Plasteel 1000 molecular bonded shell and hydrogen-fueled turbine engine could clearly kick the ass of a Ford Mustang that has only 540 HP," the vice president wrote in a discussion accompanying one classified Intellipedia entry. "The new K.I.T.T. isn't even a Trans Am. Sheesh."

One source close to the intelligence community blamed Cheney for defacing the Intellipedia entry on the forthcoming Speed Racer film, written and directed by the Wachowski brothers. The culprit, who was traced by Internet Protocol address to the Office of the Vice President, posted: "This is going to bomb like Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Any remake without the original Defensor mode is clearly inferior."

"The vice president abhors remakes," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the vice president's taste in films. "You should have seen how he savaged the Transformers movie entry. We ended up locking that for weeks and blaming it on (former Attorney General) Al (Gonzales) after he quit."

One of the most innovative Intellipedia features is its multimedia component. Popular entries include Windows Media videos of satellite imagery from the National Reconnaissance Office depicting intimate encounters between Pamela Anderson and ex-husband Tommy Lee. Another top 10 entry features racy e-mail attachments exchanged between actress Jessica Alba and fiance Cash Warren--intercepted by the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program.

"Such tools enable experts from different disciplines to pool their knowledge, form virtual teams, and quickly make complete intelligence assessments," J. Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate in September. "It's true that we now are intercepting sex videos that Americans create in the privacy of their own home--9/11 really did mean that everything has changed."

Another intelligence community project, A-Space, is known as a Facebook and MySpace for spies. Apart from a brief surge of interest when it launched in December, usage has dropped off significantly in the last few months.

"It was fine until Condoleezza Rice got on, and then started sending everyone A-Space 'friend' requests," said Homeland Security assistant secretary Stewart Baker. "Like, what do you do, say 'no' to the secretary of state? Then you start getting all these status updates about 'transnational diplomacy' and Ferragamo pumps and your in-box is clogged pretty quickly."

[Editor's note: Remember, today is April 1, a day reserved in the U.S. for some levity.]

 

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