Share and Share Alike: Intelligence Agencies and Information Sharing

75 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2009 Last revised: 6 Apr 2010

Date Written: April 21, 2009


Why don’t intelligence agencies share information with each other? This article attempts to answer that perennially vexing question by consulting public choice theory as well as insights from other legal disciplines. It begins by considering why intelligence agencies see information sharing as a threat to the various values they maximize, such as influence over senior executive branch policymakers and autonomy to pursue agency priorities. It then proposes a series of analytical frameworks that enrich our understanding of why agencies resist sharing: At times data exchange resembles an intellectual property problem, sometimes it looks like an antitrust problem, and sometimes it looks like an organizational theory problem. Finally, the article examines whether the solutions suggested by these other disciplines can be adapted to the problems of information sharing.

Keywords: 9-11, al qaeda, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, CIA, Central Intelligence Agency, CURVEBALL, Defense Intelligence Agency, eavesdropping, FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, homeland security, horizontal, MKULTRA, NSA, National Security Agency, Pearl Harbor, September 11, vertical, wiretapping

JEL Classification: D23, D73, K21, O34

Suggested Citation

Sales, Ambassador Nathan A., Share and Share Alike: Intelligence Agencies and Information Sharing (April 21, 2009). George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 09-24, George Washington Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 2, pp. 279-352, February 2010, Available at SSRN:

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