Leave it to one of the most bloated agencies of the U.S. government to name its latest snoop initiative PRODIGAL; it literally means “characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure.”
The latest multi-millions being spent by the bankrupt U.S. is a security research project that has the capability of analyzing 250,000,000 pieces of person-to-person digital communications per day.
The program is being initially tested as a monitoring device for “rogue” federal employees.
The DARPA-sponsored program, led by Science Applications International Corp (SAIC), will search key words and anomalous file activity that could be predictive of subversive “extreme” intent.
SAIC also “delivers end-to-end solutions” for new electric smart grids. The company is owned and operated by the military-industrial complex; their Chairman is from Lockheed, and their CEO is from BAE Systems.
DARPA insists that this is an internal program and one that is incapable of being applied across the Web. This assurance seems disingenuous as the Internet itself is a military creation. Moreover, systems such as Carnivore and ECHELON already have raised the hackles of privacy lovers for their stated capabilities, which extend well beyond federal or military surveillance targets.
According to David Bader, a principal investigator on the project who reported to FOX News:
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Every time someone logs on or off, sends an email or text, touches a file or plugs in a USB key, these records are collected within the organization.
Bader explains in the interview below that their program ADAMS, which analyzes massive sets of data, is looking for officials who may be “breaking bad”, but he claims that no spying is taking place:
The announcement of a search program to identify extreme thought within the government comes at an interesting time, as it was also announced today that the U.S. Military is now a prime target for home-grown terrorism.
Julian Sanchez, of the CATO Institute, writes that although this doesn’t affect the public yet, “It would be a clear and quite outrageous invasion of privacy for such large-scale behavioral monitoring to be conducted on the residential or mobile broadband networks Americans rely on to provide their personal Internet connectivity—a fortiori if the goal is to share the results with the government without a court order.”
Time and again, whether it is collecting babies’ DNA and storing it in a secret database, or engaging in smartphone spying and GPS tracking, the U.S. government has proven that any promise of respecting privacy and civil liberties is mere lip service. If they can’t even respect the privacy of their own federal employees — and they view their own military with open suspicion of extremist behavior — what can that possibly say for the rest of us?
Then there is the final question of how the voluminous data is interpreted. Even DHS security consultants like Anthony Howard seem to have reservations about the system’s practicality:
‘Since there is no real data publicly available to substantiate that any of this technology is preventing terrorist attacks or strengthening our borders from within, [we can’t] really say definitively that this technology is doing any good,’ he said.
So, that appears to be our choice: a further reduction in what little privacy we have left, or a complete and utter waste of taxpayer money during the most difficult economic conditions the country has ever seen. Perhaps, then, this is finally a DARPA project truly worth its name.