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Executive Summary November 3, 2022

In brief: A ten-step guide to transforming intelligence sharing with US allies

By Transatlantic Security Initiative

Top lines

  • The US intelligence community should entirely remove the NOFORN (Not for Release to Foreign Nationals) caveat—which restricts sharing classified information with any foreign nationals—for personnel from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom working in US intelligence agencies.
  • Allies should make sharing easier by developing joint requirements to collect intelligence. If they start from the same questions, sharing the answers may be easier.
  • Open-source intelligence is the way of the future and will help overcome burdens to sharing information.


Enhancing intelligence sharing is a perennial issue, so why the focus now? The war in Ukraine has proven an inflection point not just for the transatlantic community, but also for the sharing of intelligence within that community. As the US-led counterterrorism response after the 9/11 attacks also demonstrated, political will and a shared threat assessment can spur states to surge intelligence sharing—even with non-traditional partners. As an entity that exists to provide strategic warning, the US intelligence community can no longer afford to wait for crises to remove critical barriers to information sharing.

Simultaneously, technological advances in information management are changing the way the intelligence community must function if it is to remain relevant. Emerging disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, coupled with the sheer volume of data now available, mean there is a great opportunity to automate the foreign disclosure process.


With the right political will, there are steps the intelligence community and intelligence officers can take to revamp their policies, processes, and culture in order to share more intelligence with allies and partners.

  1. Remove the NOFORN caveat for Five Eyes representatives in US agencies.

    For personnel from Five Eyes (FVEY) allies—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—who are working in US intelligence agencies, the removal of the NOFORN caveat would ensure that they have full access to as much information as possible and thus that they can fulfill their responsibilities completely and efficiently.
  2. Adopt “Releasable to FVEY” as the default classification for finished intelligence products.

    Empower the US director of national intelligence with greater authority to oversee the intelligence sharing process across the intelligence community, and create a centralized clearinghouse function within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Similarly empower the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security within the Department of Defense. By centralizing authority in these positions and releasing intelligence to the other Five Eyes allies, the intelligence community can begin to make sharing information, not classifying it, the default.
  3. Devise a template to define and standardize intelligence sharing classifications.

    This process could be streamlined through a template attached to every finished intelligence product that notes the question the intelligence answers, specifies which allies to share the intelligence with, and includes any caveats.
  4. Classify single-source reporting at the NOFORN level on rare occasions, and adopt a common referencing system for single-source intelligence reports.

    Currently, single-source reporting—such as intelligence gathered by satellite or human assets—is often classified at the NOFORN level by default. This should be the exception, not the rule, and only occur when actually needed to protect sources and methods.
  5. Develop joint intelligence requirements with allies.

    Developing requirements together would result in releasable collection plans and shareable finished intelligence. It would also contribute to more even burden-sharing and optimize collection capabilities.
  6. Explore AI and machine learning applications to automate the foreign disclosure process.
  7. Maximize the use of open-source intelligence to enable increased sharing with allies without risking sources and methods.

    This will require greater integration of open-source intelligence (and resources committed to it) by US intelligence agencies.
  8. Establish and sustain a network of officers committed to facilitating intelligence sharing.

    Increase embeds, liaisons, and exchange personnel. A formalized cadre of officers in senior grades in the intelligence community and across Five Eyes agencies could ease information sharing. Requiring intelligence professionals to attend a Five Eyes officer certification program as a prerequisite to promotion would instill these values early.
  9. Change the risk calculus of intelligence sharing at the analytical level.

    Analysts at the working level assume most of the risk for deciding which intelligence to share, a heavy burden that discourages release because of the potential for serious penalties both for the individual analyst (who could lose their security clearance or job) and US national security (if information that shouldn’t be released is). Enhanced education and training, greater risk assumption at the leadership level, and the support of a greater network of foreign disclosure professionals would remedy this.
  10. Undertake a comprehensive review of policy guidance to remove policy constraints, encourage intelligence sharing, and ensure a uniform approach.


The difficulties—bureaucratic, cultural, and legal—of sharing information plague not only the intelligence community but also other government agencies and private industry. Similar barriers prevent government agencies from sharing classified military information with each other or with private industry. Companies struggle to share commercially sensitive information. Moreover, these barriers are slowing the pace of Western technological innovation. This has wide-ranging defense implications, and some of the recommendations above could be applied in this scope as well.

Intelligence is at its core about trust. For the recommendations above to be implemented, both intelligence providers and consumers must prove they can protect the information itself and, even more critically, the sources and methods required to obtain it. A comprehensive counterintelligence strategy, more frequent security training and education, and more consistent protocols will go a long way in ensuring the success of the policies outlined above.

Like what you read? Dive deep into our full report.

Issue Brief

Oct 31, 2022

Beyond NOFORN: Solutions for increased intelligence sharing among allies

By AVM Sean Corbett, CB MBE and James Danoy

Intelligence sharing is a perennial issue, but modern solutions exist to balance enhancing cooperation with key allies with providing decision advantage to policymakers.

Defense Policy Europe & Eurasia

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Related Experts: James Danoy