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US Intel Head: WikiLeaks a 'Terrible Event,' Forced Changes

BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The man in charge of America's intelligence gathering said that the WikiLeaks cable breach was such a "terrible event" that it spurred an overall change in the way the nation will handle its classified information.

Well beyond stamping "Top Secret" on a document, National Intelligence Director James Clapper told an audience in Washington, D.C., that America's intelligence community aims to use a new system that would be far more specific about what information can be accessed and by whom.

According to Clapper and several top intelligence officials who spoke along with him, the new system is part of an effort to find an effective middle ground between the perceived intelligence sharing gaps from the pre-9/11 days and the resulting relatively unregulated over-sharing that led to the WikiLeaks document dumps.

"The goal, of course, is to find that Nirvana, that sweet spot, between the responsibility to share and the need to protect," Clapper said at a conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "If you can be sure that the information that you're sharing is actually going to an authorized recipient, that actually is an inducement to do more sharing."

The new system, as described by Clapper, would employ detailed "tagging" of each piece of intelligence as well as more specific restrictions as to who can access the information.

Tim Doran, a senior director on President Obama's national security staff, said the system's ultimate goal is "the right users having the access to the right information in the right format at the right time in any location, immediately."

Clapper said the new system was already a "work in progress" but cautioned that information sharing between agencies continues to be a "serious challenge." Any "notable changes" in intelligence sharing may not come earlier than five years from now, Clapper said.

WikiLeaks is an anti-secrecy website that has published hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents from the U.S. State Department and Pentagon. An Army private, Bradley Manning, stands accused of being a principle source of the leaks.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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