The CIA is to give spooks an online communications and collaboration tool modelled on social-networking websites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace.

According to the Financial Times, A-Space will improve the way spies communicate, allowing agents to better analyse information together. (And you won't be able to get on it, so the agents will feel special. Like proper spies and everything.)

Given the way that US intelligence agencies refused to share information prior to 9/11, a bit of collaboration may be a good idea. There are fewer jurisdiction issues in cyberspace, after all, and no-one can see how big your badge is.

Speculation is rife that the CIA's A-Space will also allow spies to swap photos, flirt and throw virtual food at each other. And how long can it be before someone writes a 'create your own alias and back-story' mash-up tool?

A-Space is set to launch in December. According to Mike Wertheimer of the US DNI (Department for National Intelligence), A-Space will offer revolutionary features such as web-based email and information recommendations tailored to the user.

And it seems that carrier pigeons, microfilm and stuffing 'allo 'allo-style wireless radios under elderly ladies' beds will no longer suffice. Speaking to the Financial Times, Wertheimer said that A-Space would ease the physical communications problems spies face.

"I'm unable to send email, and even make secure phone calls, to a good portion of the community from my desktop because of firewalls," he said.

"We are willing to experiment in ways that we have never experimented before," Wertheimer added.

I can't help but be slightly baffled as to (a) why a secret organisation would announce that is setting up an online collaboration tool and (b) not have one anyway. But it will make a nice juicy target for hackers.

Come to think of it, why doesn't the CIA just take over Friendster? I'm sure no-one would look there.