Why the CIA Is so Hot on the Tech Sector

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

If I told you 10 years ago that one day most police officers would be walking around with cameras on their shirts, you would have probably said I was out of my mind.

But the truth is police departments all over the country are constantly looking for cutting-edge technology that will help them catch bad guys. And law enforcement often has access to the newest and best technology long before it’s available to the general public.

Cut to the Chase

In 2015, the Milwaukee Police Department equipped its vehicles with a device to help them catch criminals in high-speed pursuits. Even today, this tool sounds like something straight out of a James Bond movie. It’s an air-compressed launcher mounted on the front grill of the police car. The launcher fires a GPS tracker shaped like a cylindrical bullet with adhesive on it at the fleeing suspect’s vehicle.

The adhesive attaches the tracker to the moving vehicle. Then — instead of chasing the suspect down busy streets, endangering innocent people — the police can simply follow the GPS to apprehend the fugitive.

This innovative invention was developed to keep the public safe by reducing the need to engage in high-speed chases to catch criminals. The technology was built by a company in Virginia Beach named StarChase.

While the company doesn’t appear to have any direct connection to the U.S. government, the fact is more and more tech companies are working closely with government agencies.

For example, there is a Maryland-based company called BlueLine Grid. The company touts itself as the operator of “the nation’s premier, trusted collaboration network for law enforcement, first responder and security teams.”

They’ve created software that allows a client to draw a map and then communicate with all members of their organization within that geographical location. In other words, if the NYPD were using this technology, they could draw a map on the program to communicate with every officer in that specified area.

Follow the Money

Now, another interesting thing about BlueLine Grid is that one of their investors is the CIA. The truth is the CIA invests in hundreds of private tech companies through its investment capital arm, In-Q-Tel.

(Fun fact: This not-for-profit venture capital firm in Arlington, Virginia, is named for the character “Q” in the Bond films — whose real-life counterpart is a woman.)

In-Q-Tel’s sole purpose is investing in companies in the hope that these companies will design new and improved gadgets to improve spying capabilities.

This brings up the question of whether these tech companies are really private companies or government contractors for the CIA.

Government agencies don’t always have the necessary resources to devote to the research and development of new spy tools, so it makes sense for them to invest in these small tech companies. And with their investments, the CIA is essentially providing state-of-the-art tools and technology for local law enforcement.

Of course, the CIA will also benefit from these innovations. No doubt it will use the full capabilities of any software or technology from these companies for its own operations.

The Catch

All this sounds great. The problem is many of the people who form these tech startups are former politicians and other influential Americans who, obviously, have personal ties to the government.

So the question remains: Are these tech companies part of the government agencies that invest in them or are they truly independent?

Send your thoughts to spy@lfb.org and keep the conversation going.

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson

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