||Last Updated: Oct 5, 2007 - 9:39:49 AM
Over the last decade, U.S intelligence funding of academic research has taken on caviler, even brazen qualities.
During the 1960s U.S intelligence agencies and academics frequently showed greater "decorum".
A good example of the latter appears in the June 2007 edition of Antropology Today, "Human Ecology and unwitting anthropological research for the CIA" by David Price, a professor of Anthropology at St. Martins. The article details how during the 1960s the CIA used the Human Ecology Fund to push a covert research agenda into torture and interrogation techniques.
Alan Howard and Robert Scott, two recipients of covert CIA grants who developed a theoretical model for "stress in humans," were given an opportunity to respond:
As David Price points out in his article, we were deeply dismayed to learn that the Human Ecology Fund, which provided a summer stipend to write our article on stress, was a front for the CIA, and that the paper might have been used to generate torture procedures. We are firmly opposed to any actions that are degrading to human dignity under any circumstances, including warfare. All of our contributions to the health and welfare literature have been written with the goal of alleviating human suffering, not using it to gain hegemonic advantage.
In 1999 I reviewed all National Security Agency patents inorder to understand a mystery. Here was the premier spy agency, with bases all over the world and a budget larger than that of the FBI and CIA combined and yet it was the subject of a single, solitary and vaguagely haigiographic book from 1982, James Bamford's "The Puzzle Palace".
For several years the consensus among NSA watchers such as the Guardian's Duncan Cambpell (the C in the ABC trial) was that the NSA had failed in its quest for "the grail" despite over two decades of research. What was this "grail"?
Consider the following joke, popular in U.S university mathmatics departments where for several years the NSA had hired half of all new maths Phds:
The NSA offers exciting and interesting work for recent college graduates in mathematics and computer science. Pick up the phone, call your mom, and ask for an application.
The NSA, not known for its sense of humor, was pained that this joke was not a univeral reality. While its bases, spy sataliites, undersea cable taps and secret deals with telcos could mass-intercept the world's voice calls, the NSA would need millions of employees to listen for "NSA", "application" and whatever else the agency or its political masters were interested in. What the NSA needed was a way to automate both listening and interception.
Removing the human element would permit the NSA to leap from millions of daily voice intercepts, with a few thousand human transcriptions, to millions of daily voice intercepts with millions of transcriptions, archived and "googleable" for eternity. Historically the two primary checks on NSA powers have not been Congressional oversight nor even the economic costs of bulk interception, but of costs of bulk transcription and translation. By 1999 translation had been partially automated (enough for search) and transcription remained as the final barrier to the agency's goal of being the universal spy with an ear in every international (and now every domestic) phone call.
I followed a trail from two of the patents to other sources and front companies such as the "Maryland Speech Research Agency" and showed, in the London Independent that the NSA had found its grail.
But this isn't a story about universal hegemonic spying. It is a story about "academic" research.
Along the way I discovered that many of the NSA's research funding covers were essentially transparent. U.S intelligence agencies, in finding the ideological playing field to themselves, have little need of complex funding concealments. Efforts to hide the true source of intelligence derived academic funding are now minimal. Research funding cover names, at least for the NSA, are not directed at counter-intelligence, they are shields against cursory third-party social approbium and apparently largely voluntary. I will mention a specific example.
The NSA has pushed tens or hundreds of millions into the academy through research grants using one particular grant code. NSA funding sources are often nakedly, even proudly, declared in research papers ("I may be nothing, but look, a big gang threw me a sovereign"). Some researchers try to conceal or otherwise playdown the source using accepted covers, weasel words and acronyms, yet commonality in the NSA grant code prefix makes all these attempts transparent. The primary NSA grant-code prefix is 'MDA904'.
Googling for this grant code yields 39,000 references (Sep, 2007) although some refer to non-academic contracts (scolar.google.com 2,300). The grants issue from a light NSA cover, the "Maryland Procurement Office". From this one can see the board sweep of academic research interests being driven by the NSA.
An examination of academic papers referencing the code gives the impression that most or all research grantees know the true source of their funding. These are not academics who have been fooled. These are willing, even eager, participants.
Various levels of funding concealment can be seen when we subtract out the naked NSA references (from google search results) and look at what remains.
Googling for 'MDA904 -"National Security Agency"' reveals the first level of cursory concealment from social sanction -- just use the acronym. This ploy is not so effective anymore, but it must be remembered that it is only in the last few years that the acronym has come into common political or social parlance. Insiders used to joke that NSA stood for "No Such Agency".
'MDA904 -NSA -"National Security Agency"', shows that many are fond of using the light cover "Maryland Procurement Office" or the umbrella cover "Department of Defence" or "DoD"
'MDA904 -NSA -"National Security Agency" -Maryland -DoD -"Defence"', shows that many more light covers abound, e.g "Advanced Research and Development Activity" (ARDA).
Finally, some researchers are inclined to use the grant code alone without any revealing context.
Far from the "deep dismay" expressed by some academics on being informed about covert CIA grants in the 1960s, I suggest that modern academic recipients of the intelligence budget are clearly "on the take and loving it".
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