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Assange circa 2007: NSA is funding academia

November 3, 2013 | Written by The Grand Signal
Photo courtesy of Espen Moe on Flickr |

In a post over 6 years ago, Assange claimed to have found a link between the NSA and academia.

“During my investigation 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 concealment. 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 opprobium and apparently largely voluntary. I will mention a specific example” wrote Assange.

The NSA it appears, made no attempt at concealing their identity when distributing grants. Assange specifically pointed out an NSA grant-code prefix, MDA904, that could be used to identify research funded by the NSA. Several papers such as “Video Grammar for Locating People” and “Finding Person X: Correlating Names with Visual Appearances” were given as examples by Assange. Additionally, a paper from 2012 we discovered from Google Scholar writes on the footer, “Both authors were partially supported by NSA grant MDA 904-91-H-0055″.

Many of the papers, despite their esoteric nature, have direct applications to the surveillance programs conducted by the NSA. It’s easy to understand from the abstract of one of the papers that “a comprehensive approach for finding specific persons in broadcast news videos by exploring various clues such as names occurred in the transcript, face information, anchor scenes, and most importantly, the timing pattern between names and people” can be useful for the NSA.

The fact that many scholars willingly pursued research that had profound negative consequences for the rest of the world reflects a growing philosophy of growth and technological advancement without proper evaluation of the social implications. If the greatest minds in our society continue to fuel the advancement of the NSA efforts, expect the practices from the NSA to grow in sophistication and scale.

For more information, visit Assange’s post from 2007 here.

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