A Navy officer who works with the NSA on cyber security said that uGov "reveals that I'm
US govt employee, but not that I often work for NSA.In the military,"
-- an important layer of protection for operational security.
CIA analyst who works on open source projects with state and local law
enforcement officials said that uGov provided the only secure way to
provide them with critical homeland security information.
Defense Intelligence Agency employees wrote that the e-mail offered
them cover for their intelligence gathering work -- using uGov at an
internet cafe in a foreign city wouldn't be a problem because, being an
innocuous-sounding domain, did not reveal which agency they worked or
what they did.
"I can't imagine doing my job as effectively without it," an ODNI employee wrote.
Navy officer wrote that, following a "catastrophic loss of
communications" from ground stations in Europe, "Decision makers were
kept in the loop *only* because we could access ugov.gov accounts from
mobile devices and send updates and pictures."
"Ugov may need to go away for reasons that we aren't privy to, but please give us a better solution," another user wrote.
current CIO of the intelligence committee, Priscilla Guthrie, was named
in memorandums as the person who decided to shut the system down.
Sherrill Nicely, a deputy chief information officer at ONDI, wants uGov
to be replaced with a different system. Nicely, detailed to ODNI from
the Central Intelligence Agency, is viewed with suspicion by some
analysts and employees who work at other agencies and who believe that
she intends to restore analytical primacy to the CIA.
spokesman said that the agency had nothing to do with the decision, and
a spokesperson for the ODNI said that it was made by "leadership,"
collectively, and not by any one individual.
the 9/11 Commission report was released, the intelligence community
jumped on the collaboration bandwagon. It created lots of collaborative
tools, started sharing more information between agencies and, at least
rhetorically, committed itself to go for a "risk management" instead of
"risk avoidance" approach for giving clearances to Americans with
Since the ONDI was
established in 2005, it has engaged in a tug of war with, principally,
the CIA over who should speak for the community, how the community
should speak, what it should use to speak, how it should speak to
Congress and how it should foster cross-agency analytical and
collection efforts. From a dispute about who should appoint the senior
intelligence representative of a mission abroad to accusations over
security violations, the organizational tensions have increased since
President Obama was inaugurated.
uGov was an
exception: analysts and employees across the intelligence community
find it reliable and useful. For many, it's the only unclassified
e-mail system they use. It's become a symbol for a model of
intelligence collecting that focuses on gathering information from many
different sources, expanding the number of people who have access to
it, and changing the type of products that the community produces.
Taking uGov away - abruptly -- and not providing a reason for it, other than to say that there were
appears to have struck many uGov users as a slap in the face and a step
in the opposite direction -- a move back toward silos, a "need to know"
culture and top-down management. The implication is that the leadership
at ODNI did not realize how important uGov has become to the work and
identity of those who use it to collaborate. It's so much a matter of
not embracing technology -- the CIA is in love
with cloud computing -- it's about how they use it and who gets to use it.
The original announcement from the DNI read as follows:
1 October 2009, the Director of the Intelligence Staff, ODNI, on advice
of the IC-CIO, issued a memorandum directing uGov Enterprise E-Mail
system termination. In compliance with this directive, IC Enterprise
Solutions (ICES) will begin termination of uGov mail service. Official
termination date is TBD. ICES will work closely with the uGov
enterprise mail customer community to ensure they have adequate time to
arrange transfer of their mail records to other accounts.
It was only after the online petition was launched that the ODNI issued an updated "ticket"
decision to terminate Ugov email, as a DNI provided service, has been
made. The timeline during which the IC CIO and the ICES Center will
work with end users and the total time to complete the transition is
yet to be determined. However, this process will take several months.
No current users will loose service in the short term...that will be
done through a reasonable process. When we develop a full plan, we will
make sure the user community is fully informed. We will limit new
accounts to those with critical and/or forward deployed mission needs,
and some others by exception. If your command has concerns or would
like a briefing, please let me know.
An ODNI spokesperson refused to comment on the internal deliberations.
From the perspective of ODNI, trafficking in information about computer
systems and internal meetings isn't terribly helpful, even if the
underlying information is not classified, as in this case. Moreover,
Dennis Blair, the current Director of National Intelligence, has made
cross-agency collaboration and experimentation a priority. It as
appears as if ODNI is worried about the profusion of new services and
projects, largely unsupervised by senior management, and that some
consolidation is necessary, if only for the sake of efficiency.
more people have access to more sensitive intelligence than before.
From the standpoint of senior intelligence officials, unless the
innovation process is thoughtful and well established, when there
comes a revelation that some technological advance related to the
post-9/11 info-sharing zeitgeist is inevitably revealed to have been
exploited by or have in some way facilitated some act of espionage or
another, the spirit of cooperation can remain, even if the technology
has to be changed.
uGov is based on an
open-source collaboration suite written by Zimbra collaboration, which
which provides Microsoft Exchange And Outlike-like capabilities at
about one third the cost. Internal estimates suggest that if the
entire intelligence community moved their unclassified e-mail to the
system, it could save as much as $50 million per year. If the
Department of Defense did the same thing, it could save the government
as much as $600 million a year.