The Pentagon will soon be prying through the personal correspondence and computer files of US military personnel, thanks to a $9-million program that will put soldiers’ private emails under Uncle Sam’s microscope.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has awarded the grant to five institutions led by Georgia Tech to help develop a system of spying on solderis’ Internet and computer habits, a multi-million dollar investment that they say will serve as a preemptive measure to make sure “insider threats” can’t materialize in the military.
The Pentagon is calling the project “Proactive Discovery of Insider Threats Using Graph Analysis and Learning,” or “PRODIGAL,” and it will scour the e-mails, text messages and files transfers of solders’ “for unusual activity,” writes Georgia Tech, using “a suit of algorithms” that will be able to weed out any weirdness within the Department of Defense that could become a security threat.
A spokesman for DARPA deferred to answer to the Army Times how, exactly, they plan on conducting the surveillance over the correspondence. Wired.com’s Danger Room writes, however, that every keystroke, log-in and file upload initiated over DoD networks will be under strict scrutiny in hopes of breaking up any more Bradley Mannings from making their way into the military.
Rep. Peter King (Rep-NY) said at a hearing earlier this month that “The Fort Hood attack was not an anomaly.” According to the congressman, the shooting spree carried out by Nidal Hasan in 2009 “was part of al-Qaeda’s two-decade success at infiltrating the US military for terrorism, an effort that is increasing in scope and threat.”
Given the Senate and House’s recent go-ahead with the National Defense Authorization Act, a legislation that will allow for the government to indefinitely detain and torture American citizens over suspected terrorist ties, a little cyber-sleuthing of soldiers seems like nothing at all.
For the tens of thousands of defense workers separated from their loved ones by a multitude of miles and battle fields, however, the move comes as one big burden from Big Brother, and a smack in the face sent to the very men and women who are defending a supposed freedom for everyone else in America. Operation Homefront, a program that offers aid to military familes during times of deployment, offer campaigns in which they provide soldiers with laptops so that they can stay in touch with loved ones. Earlier this month, they unloaded several computers on soldiers at Fort Riley thanks to a partnership with CDW Government LLC.
"We are grateful that through our continued partnership with Operation Homefront, we are able to honor the sacrifice of military families and help alleviate some of the stress they often feel when separated from their deployed family members,” Brigadier General John Howard (Ret.), CDW-G DoD business development manager, said in a statement at the time. “While email can never replace the presence of a parent or spouse at home, these laptops provide a vital connection to home when it is needed the most.”
“Although we can never take the sacrifice out of a deployment, we hope that the laptops will help improve the quality of life for our military personnel and their families,” added Amy Palmer, chief operating officer for Operation Homefront. “Without the means to afford computers, many soldiers and their families must wait to hear from one another, which can affect morale on and off the battlefield. However, with the help of CDW-G, many families of deployed soldiers can now communicate daily, easing concerns of worried loved ones.”
While PRODIGAL doesn’t stand to exactly put the Pentagon between the sender of the email and the recipient, it will cause soldiers to censor their thoughts with often the only people they can relate to.
In the past year, DARPA has announced other plans to pry into military personnel, including the Narrative Networks project to find out who is most susceptible to propaganda, and Power Dreaming, an initiative that will scan brainwave patterns of sleeping soldiers to try to determine what causes what dreams.