Israeli spy agency to launch anonymous technology investment fund

MossadThe Mossad, Israel’s primary intelligence agency, is preparing to launch a technology investment fund that will support Israeli-based hi-tech startups, with an eye to utilizing cutting-edge technologies in its spy operations. Israeli spy services are known internationally for their advanced use of technology in intelligence collection and special operations. But the planned investment fund is expected to systematize the Mossad’s use of cutting-edge technological solutions to intelligence challenges. It is interpreted by some commentators as “mark[ing] a new and surprising turn” in the spy agency’s approach to technology.

On Wednesday, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz said it spoke to several unnamed Israeli bankers, who confirmed that the Mossad was “putting the finishing touches” on the anonymous technology investment fund. The bankers also told the newspaper that the fund would be officially launched “at the end of this month”. Once launched, the fund will invest in Israeli-owned technology startups, using money from the Mossad’s budget, without any outside capital. But instead of getting its share of the financial profit, the Mossad will ask instead to own the rights to the startup companies’ end-products and to be able to use them in intelligence-related work, said Ha’aretz.

According to the Israeli newspaper, the move by the Mossad is partly modeled after In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit venture capital firm that operates as the technology investment firm of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Based in Arlington, Virginia, In-Q-Tel invests in hi-tech technology startups focusing on new technologies that may be of use to the US Intelligence Community. Ha’aretz said it contacted the office of the Israeli prime minister for information about the Mossad’s alleged investment fund, and was told that the prime minster was looking into the matter.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 June 2017 | Permalink

Situation Report: CIA venture group funds video recorder firm

In-Q-TelBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
On June 27, In-Q-Tel, the venture arm of the Central Intelligence Agency and other members of the United States intelligence community, announced a strategic partnership with Looxcie, makers of the first ever “wear and share” videocam recorders. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. In-Q-Tel, created in 1999, is the foremost strategic investor on behalf of the US Intelligence Community. Originally called “Peleus”, In-Q-Tel was initially associated with the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T).  Interestingly enough, the “Q” in In-Q-Tel’s branding is apparently derived from a fictional character in the James Bond movies referred to as “Q”.  As many movie fans will recall, “Q” was responsible for outfitting Bond and other 00s with the famed and awe-inspiring gadgetry and technical equipment needed for missions. Having evolved from the CIA’s DS&T, whose primary purpose is to “create, adapt, develop and operate technical collection systems and apply enabling technologies to the collection, processing and analysis of information”, In-Q-Tel’s strategic investments in dual-purpose technology firms is hardly surprising. In fact, In-Q-Tel has a notable track record, especially given the fact that it is a government-run venture capital fund. Successful as it may be, In-Q-Tel represents itself quite humbly, formally explaining that it is a “not-for-profit organization […] created to bridge the gap between the technology needs of the Intelligence Community and new advances in commercial technology”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #697: US edition

David PetraeusBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►What happens when CIA couples divorce? One retired CIA senior paramilitary officer, who served for more than two decades and lives in Virginia, said he was told several years ago that the divorce rate for the agency’s operations division was astonishingly high. But unlike the Pentagon, which studies how often service members split up, and knows, for instance, that 29,456 of 798,921 military couples divorced last year, the CIA does not keep official tabs on its employees’ divorce rates.
►►Spies exchange tips in the cloud. While some US federal agencies shy away from cloud computing for fear of losing control over their data, the intelligence community and military increasingly are turning to networked services expressly to exert tighter security restraints, according to Jim Heath, Senior Science Adviser for the National Security Agency.
►►CIA Chief: We’ll spy on you through your dishwasher. More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them. Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of things” —that is, wired devices— at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies”, Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft”.

News you may have missed #601 (CIA edition)

Tony Mendez

Tony Mendez in 1990

►►CIA invests in information technology. In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s technology investment group, is backing NetBase, which develops semantic search technology, as well as Connectify, which develops VPN software. In-Q-Tel’s role is to back commercial technologies that have the potential to aid intelligence and national security operations if developed further.
►►Interview with CIA disguise experts. The Washington Times has an interesting, lengthy interview with Tony and Joanna Mendez, both retired CIA disguise specialists. The two worked in the CIA’s Office of Technical Services, helping develop and deploy espionage gadgets –including a low-light camera that was used during the first moon landing and miniature lithium batteries that were the predecessors of the batteries used in modern portable electronics.
►►US government fights to keep Osama bin Laden death photos secret. Photographs and videos of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden after he was killed in May in a US military/Central Intelligence Agency raid in Pakistan should not be released publicly. The reason, according ot the Obama administration, is because they would reveal military and intelligence secrets and could lead to violence against US personnel. This was argued by the administration’s lawyers in federal court in Washington on Monday.

News you may have missed #531 (US edition)

  • US spy agencies looking into cloud computing. In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the US intelligence community, recently sunk money into a cloud-based storage company called Cleversafe. The CIA has emerged as one of the US government’s strongest advocates of cloud computing, but some US intel insiders are not so hot on the idea.
  • Obama administration drops most CIA torture probes. So, this is how one of the darkest chapters in US counterterrorism ends: with practically every instance of suspected CIA torture dodging criminal scrutiny. Wired’s Danger Room blog calls it “one of the greatest gifts the Justice Department could have given the CIA as David Petraeus takes over the agency”.
  • US report shows increase in authorized wiretaps. US federal and state applications for orders authorizing or approving the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications increased 34 percent in 2010, compared to the number reported in 2009.

News you may have missed #455

  • Israel says it did not kill German politician. Israel has rejected a claim by a Swiss chemistry professor that the 1987 murder of German politician Uwe Barschel had the hallmarks of a Mossad assassination. For more on Barschel see previous intelNews story here.
  • Foreign cyber spies targeted UK defense official. Foreign spies, probably working for the People’s Republic of China, targeted senior British defense official Joanna Hole, in a sophisticated spear phishing operation that aimed to steal military secrets. The plan was foiled last year when Hole became suspicious of an email she received from a contact she had met at a conference.
  • The 10 most interesting CIA-backed startups. America’s only federally funded venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, was created in 1999 during the tech boom. The company invests in startups developing technologies that could prove useful to the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

News you may have missed #405

  • Democracy Now on Google-CIA partnership. Democracy Now has aired an interview with John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Inside Google project, and Noah Shachtman, of Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, who broke the story of the Google-CIA investment partnership.
  • Ex-CIA chief downplays cyberwar with China. Retired CIA chief Michael Hayden downplayed the notion that the US is in a raging “cyberwar” with China during a speech on Thursday at the Black Hat Technical Security Conference in Las Vegas.
  • Men held over parcel bomb sent to MI6. Two men have been arrested in north Wales, after parcel bombs were sent to the offices of the British government executive at 10 Downing Street, and the headquarters of MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency. The two men, aged 52 and 21, are believed to be related and of Pakistani origin.

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News you may have missed #403

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News you may have missed #336

  • CIA tech arm invests in camera lens start-up. The CIA’s venture-capital investment arm, In-Q-Tel, has struck again. This time it has funded LensVector, a hi-tech start-up that specializes in micro-camera technology for cell phones.
  • NSA cyberdefense exercise underway. Detailed status report on the National Security Agency’s 10th annual Cyber Defense Exercise, a competition that pits students from a series of US military academies against each other –and against the competition’s leaders at NSA– in a bid to see who has the best cyberdefense skills.
  • US spy researchers working on computational intel. IARPA, the US intelligence community’s research arm, is apparently working on a new program, called Aggregative Contingent Estimation, which aims to create a computational model that can enhance human hypotheses and predictions, by catching inevitable biases and accounting for selective memory and stress in intelligence analysis.

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US government urged to release data on social networking spying

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By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An Internet watchdog has filed a court complaint to force the US government to disclose how its law enforcement and spy agencies monitor social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. IntelNews regulars have known since October that the CIA has invested in a private software company specializing in monitoring online social media, such as YouTube, Twitter and Flickr. Additionally, we have previously reported on persistent rumors that the National Security Agency, America’s communications spying outfit, is actively monitoring popular social networking sites in order to make links between individuals and construct maps of who associates with whom. Now the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wants to find out the extent to which US intelligence and law enforcement agencies are secretly monitoring social networking sites on the Internet. Read more of this post

US spy agencies invest in Internet-monitoring company

In-Q-Tel logo

In-Q-Tel logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture-capital investment arm, is funding a private software company specializing in monitoring online social media, such as YouTube, Twitter and Flickr. The company, Visible Technologies, unleashes web crawlers that scan and sift through over half a million Internet sites a day, looking for open-source intelligence (OSINT) of interest to its customers. The latter receive real-time updates of Internet activity, based on specific sets of keywords they provide. Noah Shachtman, of Wired’s Danger Room blog, correctly notes that In-Q-Tel’s latest investment is indicative of a wider trend within US intelligence agencies to enhance their foreign OSINT collection and analysis. Incidentally, the US Pentagon has shown similar interests since 2006. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0107

  • CIA invests with low-power Wi-Fi company. The CIA’s investment arm, In-Q-Tel, has announced a strategic investment and technology development agreement with GainSpan. The company makes single-chip wireless sensor networks and other embedded applications, with the aim of enabling portable devices to run for up to 10 years on a single AA battery. In-Q-Tel has invested with more than 140 companies in recent years, including relatively unknown software startups Lingotek and Lucid Imagination.
  • Indian spies released from Pakistani prison seek compensation. Three Indian intelligence agents, who were in recent years released from captivity in Pakistani jails, have said that the Indian government has not honored its commitment to take care of them and their families.

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News you may have missed #0050

  • Cuban Five to be given new sentences in October. Washington accuses the Five of spying on the US for Cuba. But an appeals court has ruled that the sentences they received (ranging from life to 19 years) were too long. New sentences will be imposed on October 13. The Cuban government has said that it would be willing to swap jailed political dissidents for the Five.
  • CIA invests in web-based software company –again. The CIA’s venture-capital investment arm, In-Q-Tel, appears to be really fond of Lingotek, a tiny software company in Draper, Utah. Last month, In-Q-Tel funded another software start-up, Lucid Imagination.
  • Canada to investigate spy service’s role in Abdelrazik’s torture. Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee has agreed to probe the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik, who was renditioned to Sudan by Canada’s Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). He says he was severely tortured by Sudanese guards and interrogators.

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News you may have missed #0004