Situation Report: Is DARPA’s Phoenix Program Intelligence-Related?

DARPA's Phoenix ProgramBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN| intelNews.org |
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the out-there research arm of the United States Department of Defense, is well known for it’s futuristic and bleeding-edge technology research projects. Often times, the Agency’s highflying efforts seem to protrude a motto of “failure is an option”. In fact, a 2003 article in The Los Angeles Times states that DARPA’s failure rates are between 85 and 90 percent. But this has not prevented the Agency from trying out new things, which sometimes help shape the future. It’s predecessor, Advanced Research Projects Agency, renamed DARPA in 1972, helped create what is today the Internet. Multiplexed Information and Computing Service (aka UNIX), Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface (Siri, that female voice on your iPhone —yup, she’s a spinout from a DARPA Artificial Intelligence project called CALO), and Onion Routing (core technique for anonymous communications over computer networks, i.e. the base technology underlying Tor), were all funded, in part, by DARPA. Unsurprisingly, DARPA is at it again. The question remains, though, can the hype become a reality or will the new effort find a home in the vast majority of DARPAs forward-looking failed adventures? Read more of this post

News you may have missed #655

DARPA logoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►DARPA awards team that reassembled shredded documents. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a US government group that funds high-tech military research, has awarded $50,000 to a group of programmers that came up with a way to quickly and effectively piece together shredded documents.
►►Europeans refuse to disclose CIA flight data. A majority of 28 mostly-European countries have failed to comply with freedom of information requests about their involvement in secret CIA flights carrying suspected terrorists, two human rights groups say. London-based Reprieve and Madrid-based Access Info Europe accuse European nations of covering up their complicity in the so-called ‘extraordinary rendition’ program by failing to release flight-traffic data that could show the paths of the planes.
►►Final look at GCHQ’s Cheltenham site. The Oakley site of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s signals intelligence agency, is being decommissioned with the last few staff members leaving for the nearby Benhall site, nicknamed ‘the doughnut’. The BBC published an interesting tour of the site, which opened in 1951.

United States urges Iran to release alleged CIA spy

Amir Mirzaei HekmatiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States has called on Iran to release an American citizen of Iranian descent, who appeared on Iranian state TV last Sunday and acknowledged that he was an operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. In the pre-recorded interview, a man identifying himself as Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, from Arizona, said he was arrested by Iranian counterintelligence while on a CIA mission. Speaking calmly in Farsi and English and —as Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper put it— appearing to be “not under duress”, Hekmati said the joined the US Army in 2001 and served in Iraq. He also said that he was trained “in languages and espionage” while in the US Army, and eventually worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the US Pentagon’s research and development wing. In 2009, after nearly a decade of intelligence training, he said he was recruited by the CIA and was specifically prepared for what intelligence operatives sometimes refer to as a ‘dangling operation’ in Iran.  The aim of the mission, said Hekmati, was to travel to Tehran, contact Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, and pose as a genuine American defector wishing to supply the Iranians with inside information about American intelligence. His immediate task was to gain the trust of Iranian authorities by giving them some correct information, in order to set the stage for a longer campaign of disinformation aimed at undermining a host of Iranian intelligence operations. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0118

  • Second spy operation against media revealed in Bulgaria. A few months ago, Bulgarian public opinion was shocked by revelations about Operation GALLERY (a.k.a. Operation GALERIA), a project by Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (DANS) aimed to intimidate the country’s press. Now a second domestic spying program has been discovered by the appropriately named Bulgarian Parliamentary Committee for Controlling DANS.
  • US military cannot analyze surveillance footage influx. The heaps of intelligence footage gathered by US military spy drones and surveillance cameras are already more than analysts can handle. So DARPA, the US military’s research arm, is looking for a software program that will automate the analysis process.

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A rare look at the new NSA center in Texas

Based on revelations in James Bamford’s new book, The Shadow Factory, Greg Schwartz has produced a rare piece on the new National Security Agency (NSA) data mining facility San Antonio, TX. The gigantic Agency, which is tasked with worldwide communications surveillance, as well as communications security, is in the process of renovating its soon-to-be-unveiled Texas Cryptology Center. The 470,000-square-foot facility will cost “upwards of $130 million” and be used primarily to store intercepted communications data. Bamford speculates that “[c]onsidering how much data can now be squeezed onto a small flash drive, the new NSA building may eventually be able to hold all the information in the world”. Read more of this post