Wednesday, September 25, 2019

In-Q-Tel - How American Taxpayers Support Spying on Themselves

While you may or may not realize it, American taxpayers have and may well still be paying to spy on themselves and their social media interactions through a venture capital arm of the American intelligence network. 

Back in February 1999, before terrorism made a regular appearance on the news, a company by the name of In-Q-Tel was founded by Norman R. Augustine, a retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin and Under Secretary of the Army and Gilman Louie, a venture capitalist who became the first CEO of the company.  In-Q-Tel was chartered as a private, independent, non-profit corporation incorporated in Delaware

Here is Mr. Augustine's biography from the Bipartisan Policy Center:

Here is Mr. Louie's biography from the Alsop Louie Partners website:

What you may not be aware of is that In-Q-Tel was chartered by the CIA as a venture capital firm.  In-Q-Tel was envisaged as a platform through which the research and development efforts of the CIA could be expanded into the private sector with the following mission:

"To exploit and develop new and emerging information technologies and pursue R&D that produce innovative solutions to the most pressing problems facing the CIA and Intelligence Community."

Under the In-Q-Tel model, the CIA (aka American taxpayers since the funding is supplied by the federal government) provide investment capital to startup companies that are tasked with finding solutions to problems that the CIA faces in other words, a hybrid "technology accelerator" and a "strategic investment firm".  According to a 2013 study on In-Q-Tel by John T. Reinert in the Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business, the company receives annual funding of about $37 million as part of the CIA's budget for the Directorate of Science and Technology.  After annually assessing approximately 1000 companies out of a database of 100,000, In-Q-Tel makes twelve to fifteen investments annually and, when it finds a company that seems promising, it will invest between $500,000 and $3 million with 15 to 20 percent of that amount going towards an equity position in the company and the remainder being used to cover licensing agreements and contracts to develop the company's technology so that it best suits the needs of the CIA.  As well, given its investment in the company, In-Q-Tel assumes an advisory position on the portfolio company's board of directors in order to ensure that any changes to the company or its product are easily discovered.  When In-Q-Tel realizes a profit on its investments, the profits may then be re-allocated to a new project.

Here is the lead webpage for In-Q-Tel's website:

Here is the current management team and their "photos":

Here is the current Board of Trustees which reads like a who's who of the Deep State given that a number of them have passed through either the CIA or the United States military:

Since its founding, In-Q-Tel has had more than 1,500 venture capital co-investing relationships as shown on this rather meaningless "Investing Ecosystem" graphic:

In-Q-Tel states that it works "side-by-side" with other venture capitalists so that it isn't footing the entire bill to develop technology in key areas of interest including cybersecurity, biotechnology, novel materials, remote sensing and deep learning for data analytics.

As you can see on this screen capture, one of the obvious focuses of In-Q-Tel is national security:

It is this aspect that we will look at next, looking at one of In-Q-Tel's investments that is particularly interesting given the social media kerfuffle following the 2016 presidential election in the United States.  Back in 2009, In-Q-Tel made an investment in Visible Technologies, a software company that monitors social media as you can see on this press release from In-Q-Tel:

Visible Technologies was a private company located in Bellevue, Washington and operates Visible Intelligence, a "technology platform that focuses on social media monitoring, data analytic and insights".  While Visible Technologies works with clients like Microsoft and Xerox, helping them to "monitor, analyze and participate in social media conversations" related to the quality of their products etcetera.

Here's what Visible Technologies has to say about itself:

"Visible Technologies is the leader in social media monitoring, analytics, and services for enterprises globally.  Visible’s award-winning technology and expertise helps businesses analyze social media conversations to better understand consumer preferences, market dynamics, competitive strengths and weaknesses, and other information critical to a company’s reputation and brands. 

Visible is the solution of choice for many Forbes Global 2000 companies in a variety of industries including consumer products, retail, technology, financial services, pharmaceutical, entertainment and others.  In addition to our platform solution, Visible provides deep analytic, reporting and insight services to augment social listening efforts and works closely with client agencies to provide a complete solution.

According to Wired, in 2009, Visible Technologies had the capability to crawl over half a million Web 2.0 sites daily, scraping more than a million conversations and posts taking place on Twitter, YouTube etcetera and then scoring each posting, ranking them as negative, positive, mixed or neutral.  How does this work in the intelligence community?  In-Q-Tel wanted Visible Technologies to keep track of social media in foreign countries which provides the American intelligence community a heads-up on how various issues are playing in other nations.  Fortunately for the CIA, Visible Technologies had the ability to track social media in several foreign languages including Arabic.

The total amount invested by the CIA in Visible Technologies is unknown, however, the company was acquired by Cision and Vocus in 2014 as shown here:

While In-Q-Tel does provide a list of its current investment portfolio as you can see here:

...there is relatively little detail on exactly what each company is doing and, as you can see from this posting, it is quite possible that American taxpayers are still paying to develop technology that will improve the capabilities of their own intelligence community to monitor all of their social media interactions, providing yet another method that Big Brother can use to reduce what little remains of our privacy.

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