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Feds Pay Millions For Bogus Spy Software

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the show-of-hands-who-is-surprised dept.

Software 221

gosuperninja writes "The US Government paid tens of millions of dollars to Dennis Montgomery because he said he had created software that could decode secret Al-Qaeda messages embedded in Al-Jazeera broadcasts. Even though the CIA figured out that his software was fraud in 2003, other defense agencies continued to believe in it. To date, the government has not prosecuted Montgomery, most likely to save itself the embarrassment."

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Likely more prevalent an issue than we realize.. (5, Insightful)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259280)

Mr. Montgomery is about to go on trial in Las Vegas on unrelated charges of trying to pass $1.8 million in bad checks at casinos.

I'd say he has more than a "penchant" for gambling, it sounds like this guy genuinely has a problem.

Gambling issue aside, the sad thing regarding his behavior is that it's probably more commonplace than we're aware of. After 9/11, government officials were and still are under serious pressure to produce results, and often all too eager to sign a few papers here and there if it would magically solve their problems. The government trying to save face is merely a symptom, and should be treated as such. The only things I can think of that would discourage this behavior is active prevention through transparency and follow-up enforcement when that fails. One way or another, these charades must not be allowed to continue. I'm sure there's a lot more where that came from which fell into the well along the way, and it's going to add up. After all, it is the taxpayer that will shoulder the weight of these transactions.

Re:Likely more prevalent an issue than we realize. (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259374)

The government trying to save face is merely a symptom, and should be treated as such.

It certainly does make them look stupid when they're supposed to be protecting us from a big, determined, ruthless threat like Al-Qaeda and it ends up that they can't even protect themselves from simple fraud. It makes them look unnecessary, too, and that's the part they can't stand. It's the sort of thing that can make the political pressures no longer operate in their favor. Until this event they had the whole "be afraid!" thing working well for them.

 

The only things I can think of that would discourage this behavior is active prevention through transparency and follow-up enforcement when that fails.

In any kind of merit-based organization that would mean firing and replacing every decision-maker who chose to invest in this software. That's how they could regain credibility, by showing that they won't tolerate such gross incompetence within their ranks. Otherwise the question remains valid: how do they propose to protect the entire country from shadowy underground terrorist organizations bent on our destruction if they cannot even protect themselves from a common con-man?

Re:Likely more prevalent an issue than we realize. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259430)

And still they use Microsoft software.

Re:Likely more prevalent an issue than we realize. (4, Informative)

Takichi (1053302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259434)

This all happened way back in the early GW Bush administration. It's unclear how many of these guys are still around. The article is definitely worth a read. There was talk of shooting down passenger aircraft over some of the "intelligence" gathered by his software (ok, so it wasn't really considered, but the fact it was suggested at all is alarming). In regards to firing the people responsible, FTA:

The C.I.A. never did an assessment to determine how a ruse had turned into a full-blown international incident, officials said, nor was anyone held accountable. In fact, agency officials who oversaw the technology directorate — including Donald Kerr, who helped persuade George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, that the software was credible — were promoted, former officials said.

Re:Likely more prevalent an issue than we realize. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259458)

Doh! Should have finished reading the entire article before posting. This went on with contracts being awarded up until the Obama administration, with people likely still around who made some of the decisions.

Re:Likely more prevalent an issue than we realize. (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260362)

In any kind of merit-based organization that would mean firing and replacing every decision-maker who chose to invest in this software. That's how they could regain credibility, by showing that they won't tolerate such gross incompetence within their ranks

Somehow, I think I could live with this.

Re:Likely more prevalent an issue than we realize. (4, Insightful)

bcmm (768152) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259624)

This is another tech story which doesn't really involve tech: humans can get paid a lot to tell people what they want to hear too. Feds would really like to believe that Al-Jazeera is somehow connected to terrorism, even though it's a preposterous idea, and they're happy to pay someone for that information so they don't look like frauds themselves.

Re:Likely more prevalent an issue than we realize. (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259666)

"$1.8 million in bad checks at casinos...." I'd say he has more than a "penchant" for gambling, it sounds like this guy genuinely has a problem.

And the previous sentence, "Mr. Montgomery, 57, who is in bankruptcy and living outside Palm Springs, Calif..."

Whatever his cut of the $20 million the government paid, he evidently didn't make good use of.

Re:Likely more prevalent an issue than we realize. (2)

osgeek (239988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260048)

Even before 9/11, they were blowing money on thousand dollar toilet seats and quackery like divining rods to locate land mines.

They're children and need close supervision. As much as I hate taxes and government spending, we need to spend more money on oversight. They need to be watched like hawks.

File suit against the government (2)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259300)

If we have this solid evidence, file suit against the government for criminal negligence. Do something that will force them to lay punishment down on the lying son of a bitch.

Re:File suit against the government (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259328)

If we have this solid evidence, file suit against the government for criminal negligence. Do something that will force them to lay punishment down on the lying son of a bitch.

I'd rather leave him alone and punish the government for being so incompetent. Cutting the budget of the DHS by 2/3 would be a good start; the bureaucrats would really hate that (y'know, the ones who scramble to spend all their money at the end of the year because next year's budget will be smaller if it turns out they didn't really need that much). Maybe take that money and put it into a scholarship fund so that ultimately the private sector will benefit.

Re:File suit against the government (1, Flamebait)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259784)

I'd rather leave him alone and punish the government for being so incompetent

Absolutely. She was ASKING for it! She had on a tight dress!

Re:File suit against the government (4, Insightful)

osgeek (239988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260070)

Blaming a woman for the way she dresses in a rape trial would be attacking her freedom of expression.

Blaming the government for spending millions of our tax dollars on a blatant scam would be attacking the government officials for being abjectly stupid.

The former is not okay. The latter is responsible and should be expected.

Re:File suit against the government (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260248)

Blaming a woman for the way she dresses in a rape trial would be attacking her freedom of expression.

No, it would be blaming the victim.

The former is not okay. The latter is responsible and should be expected.

Nonsense. You're effectively saying that it's not ok to criticize people - it's only ok to criticize the government. That's idiotic.

Re:File suit against the government (1)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260400)

I think the difference between government and conman, and rape victim and rapist is that the government has a responsibility to not be conned. They have a responsibility to spend the money they gather from their citizens in taxes in a way that aids the country. The girl does not have a responsibility to avoid the rapist, as in she should not have to dress from head to toe in cloth to make sure she isn't raped.

Re:File suit against the government (3, Interesting)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260540)

Sure, of course there are going to be differences. Analogies are always imperfect. However, the original comment stated that the criminal should be "left alone" and the government punished for the failure. If you find that approach to be in any way reasonable, there's something very wrong with you.

(and no, I'm not suggesting that YOU do, I'm only explaining why I responded in the way I did)

Re:File suit against the government (1)

scotts13 (1371443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259946)

(y'know, the ones who scramble to spend all their money at the end of the year because next year's budget will be smaller if it turns out they didn't really need that much).

THAT has been going on for years, at every level of government. One of my jobs as a computer vendor was to find stuff for schools to buy at the end of the year, so as to use literally every single penny of their budget. "Now, what item in your catalog is closest to, but does not exceed, $22.50?"

Re:File suit against the government (1)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259402)

If we have this solid evidence, file suit against the government for criminal negligence. Do something that will force them to lay punishment down on the lying son of a bitch.

If they have a mind to prosecute him, then he may just discover that at least some of the time, Uncle Sam will spend ten million dollars to get his five cents back.

Re:File suit against the government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259416)

USA? You cannot sue your government, unless the government specifically allows you to. the thing is, the government belongs to you, the people, so it doesn't make sense to sue yourself.

Re:File suit against the government (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259606)

the thing is, the government belongs to you, the people, so it doesn't make sense to sue yourself.

So I have sole ownership of the federal government as a voting citizen of the US? I'll be sure to send a couple of guys around to give you a wedgie then.

If I don't have sole ownership of the federal government, which happens to be the case, then your argument doesn't make sense. For it is indeed possible for the federal government to act against my wishes and interests, and court is a place where such conflicts often end up.

Re:File suit against the government (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259660)

The government ain't mine. It's all made up of Wall Street and big banks and union people and military and people with degrees who look down on real amaricans who have to take all the crappy jobs because there's a big conspiracy to only hire people with degrees and you have to be a mason and know someone on the inside.

Re:File suit against the government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259598)

Is just another example of Obama rewarding his friends from Wall St.

Re:File suit against the government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259706)

Careful Khyber, You are threatening my $49,999.99 ZR-2 MTV Subliminal Message detectorintellectual property. Dubious?, There is a validated message coming across now.... J I H A D f o r B O O T Y

They should have been suspicious (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259316)

When the message decoded to "There's a sucker born every minute."

Re:They should have been suspicious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259532)

+funny..

Re:They should have been suspicious (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259620)

Drink your Ovaltine.

Embarrassment? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259382)

This kind of hoaxes happens all the time. Check out Quadro Tracker [wikipedia.org] and friends...

Re:Embarrassment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259390)

What? You mean electronic dowsing rods aren't reliable?

Re:Embarrassment? (1)

slugstone (307678) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260194)

I have a dog that can find tennis balls wherever she goes. I wonder if she can do the same thing. She is a foster dog too. :-)

Pennies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259414)

... compared to the future waste on dubious cyber security software...

Yet Another duplicate article (3, Informative)

Rick Zeman (15628) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259426)

I realize this is winter..but must we go on with the repeats?" [slashdot.org]

Re:Yet Another duplicate article (5, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259734)

I realize this is winter..but must we go on with the repeats?" [slashdot.org]

It's a bit more interesting than that. This guy had been outed two years ago. The Federal government, instead of just admitting it got screwed, decided to toss the whole incident under the rug and declare it a secret. This is even more outrageous than the initial fraud and incompetence. Using secrecy as an excuse for incompetence is nothing new, however it is such a serious issue that it needs to be brought up every time it's discovered.

I saw something very similar. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259438)

I worked at one of the 'Agenices' and during my time there (in the last 3 years) I worked with a similar fellow. He was introduced to me as this utter genius. An independant subcontractor who, with his never seen friend, had come up with a software solution that could allow their laptop to snoop on any Internet traffic, anywhere in the world at any time...instantly. "It sees everything, you just look at the part that interests you", he explained to me. Sort of like a machine running Wireshark with the NIC in PROM mode, but for the entire Internet. No one in the Gov questioned him. No a single soul. He was a contractor (like myself) and was being paid so much that he was given two billets to cover the cost. So I sat through his presentation and immediately threw a BS flag. He flipped out, stormed out and no one knew what to do. I did my best to explain the facts that made his claims impossible. I asked the room if they'd ever tested his system in a real world environment. "Call your wife, have her get online and tell her what's going on. Then have Peter look at her traffic". After about a half-hour, they started to realize what had happened, you could see it on their faces. Thing is, this guy had been paid millions in funding a salary. I don't think his business partner ever existed. What did they do about it? Nothing. You see, in order to go after him, they'd look foolish. Not going to happen. Not in the Intel community.

Sooner or later... (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259474)

the grand budget axe will fall on these agencies and they'll *have* to act. I just wonder how many times they have to be spanked by these frauds before they feel the pain...

Re:I saw something very similar. (2, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259500)

if your story is remotely true, then you are an idiot.

You could have made millions on this - everybody is in on the game, so are you holier than the rest of them?

You should have approached this fella privately and 'sold' him a module to his application that would also provide ability to track all GPS systems installed in all cars/other vehicles with just a few simple clicks.

If/when he would have told you: "BS/impossible", you could have just point back at him and winÐ and said something like - "not less possible than whatever you are selling", and you would have been in business.

Millions, you could have made millions.

Re:I saw something very similar. (0, Troll)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259534)

Of course it's not true. Contrary to government-is-full-of-idiots lore, intelligence agencies aren't easy to become part of and you don't just get random contractors walking in and making sales pitches. Anything involved with signals processing requires you to not just be a mathematician but a fucking good one - something you must prove with academic records and with copious testing. And that's before all the lengthy background checks and character suitability which might just let you get in the building. Even though I'm in the right discipline with good academic results and have a nice conservative background, I fail on "not being academically brilliant enough" and "not loving my country enough".

The above does not apply to the rest of government, where any old shit will go - especially, in the UK, if the minister / civil servant with decision-making powers stands to benefit personally from giving a contract to a particular private entity. I imagine the same applies in US land, despite the suggestion of a fair bidding process. (That's how Halliburton works, right?)

Re:I saw something very similar. (5, Informative)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259630)

Ha ha ha ha! You have just made my day.

ade 651 [wikipedia.org] and the company's website [ade651.co.uk] - they sell them to gov'ts and military at around 60,000USD/pop.

GT200 [wikipedia.org] - these are cheaper I think, about half the price of ADE. They are sold to governments.

Quadro Tracker [wikipedia.org]

Sniffex [wikipedia.org]

hedd1 [hedd1.com]

h3tec [h3tec.com]

etc. all of these are sold to and bought by various government institutions. From schools to military to airports to subway systems, etc.etc.

Makes you so much securer. Or does it? Reliance on these devices KILLS people, who 'use' them and then believe the place is safe.

Re:I saw something very similar. (0, Troll)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259668)

Learn to read, Sir. For one:

The above does not apply to the rest of government, where any old shit will go

For another, it's often the more competent branches of government in less incompetent countries which have exposed the con. The fact that some ministry in Thailand or Kurdistan was involved - and probably knew what it was doing and was engaged in some money laundering operation anyway - has little impact on security in the US and the UK.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259694)

Really? [southflorida.com] less incompetent? [yahoo.com]

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259736)

Publicised "evidence" for WMDs in Iraq was produced for nothing but political reasons. The intelligence agencies don't care whether you blame them or not. They're not going anywhere, and they will carry on producing accurate reports for people who need to know.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259744)

aaaaa ooooo ok but are they less incompetent [mit.edu] or what?

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259838)

What is your point? I don't know much about how US government works behind the scenes, but in the UK any release by almost every department of government or civil service is designed to effect a particular goal, not to inform. If something is released by government to suggest the impotence of a particular department and grave consequences of that impotence, for example, it is because representative and popular support for increased budget or powers is sought.

For example, all the "CIA/FBI/NSA/etc were clueless" released after 9/11 was just a pretext for increasing their surveillance powers and introducing various privacy-intruding Acts, none of which had anything to do with solving whatever problem caused 9/11 in the first place.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259798)

just in case, some more questions about the intelligence's intelligence [necn.com]

The Arab 'revolutions' caught the 'intelligence' by surprise after all.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1, Interesting)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260448)

The Arab revolutions did not catch 'intelligence' by surprise. The agencies warned the regimes in the mid-east were fragile for years. The hard part is predicting exactly what-when will set off a revolution. Maybe you have the secret, I'm sure they'd listen to you.

Hell, even Clinton warned the Arabs at a conference in the mid-East in October that they risked being swept aside if they didn't loosen controls. Bush warned them in 2002-3 that the U.S. would support democracy everywhere. Democrats and Republicans laughed. Reagan set up a democracy agency in the federal government which was bipartisan and whose writ was to support democracy movements everywhere. Then Obama came along and cut their funding.

Why is Slashdot using double spacing for some posts and not others...and how can I turn it off or is this another new feature?

Re:I saw something very similar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35260064)

Ever heard of signal to noise? It doesn't matter if the intelligence agencies can produce quality reports; if they continuously make bungled reports like this then they cannot be trusted.

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260082)

Re-read. The obviously bungled reports are known not to be true (except, perhaps, by you?), but are created to further a particular goal. Or is propaganda something only the Axis of Naughtiness engages in?

Re:I saw something very similar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259680)

Don't forget HBGary.

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260484)

Even with these there is a silver lining. As stated in the Quadro Tracker article on Wikipedia, if the institution knows these devices are frauds, but their (e.g.) students, don't, and the students think the administration really does have a device that can detect drugs even in airtight containers...Well there are obviously positive effects going on there. The only thing is ... why pay so much? The administration could probably kludge together stuff from the local hobby shop/Radio Shack (just ask the science lab teacher, he/she is probably bored out of their mind anyway, and looking for something fun) to 'design' it.. then begin circulating the rumor that they have it, and stage a couple 'stings' that prove the device's efficacy... Presto! You have less drugs on campus.

And in a similar vein, the game of Intelligence is as much about misinformation as it is about information, and if your "enemies" think you have a lock on their communications (even though you don't) that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Again... The price seems steep... but perhaps in this case it was needed to provide credibility. I don't know. For all we know the guy never actually got the money but a game of cups was played with it just to make AQ think something was up... To make them use another channel of communication which we really did have access to? Who knows. These things are rarely so cut and dry.

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260524)

Quite. I'm sure the quantity of money was just an exercise in budget redistribution anyway, and it's likely that the public "it's a fake!" warnings many years later by Western agencies were simply ways of adjusting the behaviour of the governments/departments using the tools. (Maybe some unrelated negotiation failed. Maybe someone's trying to sell another solution.)

Intelligence agencies aren't there to publish timely and accurate reports directly for the people. They're merely a branch of government and they employ people sufficiently skilled in particular areas to do whatever the government tells them to do. If that means finding something out, they'll do it. If it means publishing misinformation, they'll do it. The final goal is not decided by the agency.

Re:I saw something very similar. (3, Funny)

Oswald (235719) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259724)

I'm not sure you're following the game. This conversation all started with an article about U.S. intelligence agencies paying a man US$20,000,000 to detect and decode (presumably) steganographic messages in news broadcasts. That charlatans can weasel their way into the most sensitive parts of the government on this side of the pond is, if not a proven fact, at least a given for the purposes of our little chat here.

The closest I've ever gotten to being in an intelligence agency was taking the tour at the FBI in D.C. about 20 years ago. But I did spend 25 years working for the FAA, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of aviation in the U.S. (presumably without choking off air travel to a trickle), and I saw examples of ignorance and incompetence in positions of authority and consequence that have scarred me for life. Most people don't know anything, and they don't know anything about what they might know if they did know anything, and they don't know any way to figure out the extent of their ignorance if they did want to know (which they don't).

As a humorous aside, here's an example of what passes for "security" in the U.S.: a supervisor of mine (we'll call him Tom, since that's his name) told the story of how, when he had been in the agency for just a couple of years, a friend of his broke up with his wife. The wife got angry and called the ATC center where we worked and told management that her (future ex-)husband and his buddies (including, naturally, Tom) had smoked marijuana in her presence. This, of course, started a witch hunt which ended with Tom being interviewed by his superior. It went something like this:

Tom's Boss: Tom, we hear you've smoked pot. Is that true?
Tom: Yes.
Tom's Boss: We can't fire you for that because we can't prove it, but since you admitted it to me we'll have to fire you for falsifying government documents.
Tom: What documents?
Tom's Boss: Your SF-171 Application for Government Employment. Where it asks if you've used illegal drugs, you said "no."
Tom: No, I didn't. I said yes.
Tom's Boss: Huh?
Tom: When I filled out the SF-171, I said I had used marijuana.
Tom's Boss: You did?
Tom: Yes.
Tom's Boss: Oh.

And that was it. As far as I know (I'm retired now), Tom still works there, 30 years after the PATCO strike opened up a position for him. And that, my friend, is what passes for due diligence in the U.S. government.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259794)

I certainly don't regard the FAA as an intelligence agency. But:

TI saw examples of ignorance and incompetence in positions of authority and consequence that have scarred me for life. Most people don't know anything, and they don't know anything about what they might know if they did know anything, and they don't know any way to figure out the extent of their ignorance if they did want to know (which they don't).

It's fairly typical for geeks to recount times where they felt they were surrounded by clueless idiots controlling everything around them. Yet, oddly enough, the organisations still manage to function and nothing happens to indicate a serious failure of operation. Perhaps you overestimated the extent of incompetence, or were yourself finding something hard to understand and assumed someone else was acting irrationally?

This, of course, started a witch hunt which ended with Tom being interviewed by his superior. It went something like this:

So Tom's boss, who might not have been responsible for the hiring decision, is only guilty of not properly reviewing the employment application before the meeting - perhaps assuming (perhaps due to changed regulations?) that ever having smoked marijuana excluded you from Tom's position. Many government positions involving significant responsibility allow for taking soft drugs in youth providing you admit to it and you're not doing drugs any more.

I really fail to see anything particularly awful about that exchange. The boss was corrected and Tom retained his position.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260212)

It's fairly typical for geeks to recount times where they felt they were surrounded by clueless idiots controlling everything around them. Yet, oddly enough, the organisations still manage to function and nothing happens to indicate a serious failure of operation

- really?

nothing [wikipedia.org] happens [cnn.com] ?

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260284)

The "crisis" is you being on the losing end of a collection of similar financial deals over the past decade which have made other people very rich. Nothing has happened which was not planned. And do you think that debt appeared overnight? It's been building up in the past decade.

Everyone relevant was aware of what Madoff was up to. Since at least 1999 people were warning about his behaviour, but who of relevance would benefit if he were called out so soon? His scheme was simply not sustainable through 2008 and for some reason known only personally to him he didn't run off / stage a Maxwell. I'm sure he had guesstimated the period of time he could sustain his entertaining financial stunt - perhaps he'd already planned for a cosy jail sentence when the inevitable shit hit the fan.

After all, if you're going to be the best in the world at something, why not set up the largest Ponzi scheme in history? He won.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260372)

Oh, please.

Madoff didn't set up the biggest ponzi scheme in history.

THIS [federalreserve.gov] is the biggest ponzi scheme in history, followed by this. [youtube.com]

Both are government creations, btw.

As to having those crises described as 'planned'. Well, yeah. Every failure can be described as planned if you use the word 'planned' in a peculiar manner and add a fresh doze conspiracy theories to it, mix it up with the complacency and stupidity... your ideology is not-non-similar to that of a creationist.

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260430)

If you want, you can describe 2008 as "inevitable" rather than planned: Now if some ongoing behaviour is unsustainable then it will inevitably eventually fail. Do you regard that the past decade of behaviour was sustainable? If the answer is no then you must accept that what happened in 2008 was inevitable. If the answer is yes then provide evidence.

The whole "social security is a ponzi scheme" is bullshit: everyone takes part in SS whereas a ponzi scheme collapses because there are not enough new investors to give profitable returns the older investors. The changing demographic will mean that pension ages may need to be tweaked, but that's happening anyway. AFAIK accusations that the Federal Reserve is a ponzi scheme are based on the way it behaves in certain situations - there is nothing inherently ponzi about it. But I don't know enough about it. If it is a ponzi scheme, when is it considered that it will fail and what's retarding it?

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260432)

I'm not sure why you think your story is proof of lack of due diligence in the US government. Previous use of marijuana isn't an absolute bar to obtaining government employment. Tom's boss was an idiot for confronting Tom without checking, but he didn't actually take any action based on his mistaken assumption.

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259730)

Contrary to government-is-full-of-idiots lore ...

The government is full of idiots (hell, we vote for a good chunk of them). But there are enough non-idiots to keep this type of shit from happening (usually). I'd be worried if there were more non-idiots then idiots though, because with all the malice and plotting they do at the moment we're safer because most of them aren't much smarter than my cat.

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259804)

You insult your cat. If cats could talk, they wouldn't; the vanity of man revolts from the serene indifference of the cat; etc.

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260224)

You are not safer [huffingtonpost.com] even when they are not necessarily ignorant. [nytimes.com]

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259970)

The above does not apply to the rest of government

Why? What is magically different about the intelligence community that they somehow evade the problems which are rife throughout the US government?

My view is that the very story shows you are wrong. The creeping incompetence and corruption which affects every other part of the federal government also infects US intelligence.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260032)

Why? What is magically different about the intelligence community that they somehow evade the problems which are rife throughout the US government?

It is in the interest of relevant parties for an intelligence agency to act efficiently, collecting intelligence, whereas with most other departments it is in the interest of relevant parties for it to act fairly inefficiently, collecting revenue.

My view is that the very story shows you are wrong. The creeping incompetence and corruption which affects every other part of the federal government also infects US intelligence.

You may wish to review your understanding of "military intelligence". Just because a military department purchases some technology which claims to help with intelligence gathering it doesn't mean it's operating through an intelligence agency.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260306)

effective? [sup.org]

no major failures? [guardian.co.uk]

intelligent? [greenchange.org]

useful? [autentico.org]

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260316)

For whom do you understand intelligence agencies to work?

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260350)

if national agencies do not work for the better of the nation, then they definitely have no place in this world.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260378)

Intelligence agencies do not answer directly to the people in any country.

For whom do they work? IOW, who tells them what to do? To whom do they report?

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260406)

Hey, if those they report to have a preference for one 'kind' of intelligence over another, it's easy to see that intelligence agency then becomes not intelligence gathering agency, but just a propaganda machine. For that kind of work you don't need to 'gather intelligence', you just need to put the expected words into the expected reports.

But to have that, you need not a conspiracy, but a massive bureaucracy that is terrible at its job in totality and only cares about funding and job security. In that environment there is no effective difference between ineffectiveness/stupidity and malicious intent.

If that's the case, then CIA is WORSE than useless.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260438)

You're not really answering the question. Try again: For whom do they work? IOW, who tells them what to do? To whom do they report?

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260500)

CIA reports to the National Intelligence Director and the POTUS.

Now you, try again, this time with a better argument than CIA is intelligent and/or efficient at it. [slashdot.org]

Re:I saw something very similar. (0)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260566)

CIA reports to the National Intelligence Director and the POTUS.

So, not to you, then.

Now you, try again, this time with a better argument than CIA is intelligent and/or efficient at it. [slashdot.org]

Possibly a foreign government / unfriendly organisation was being allowed to continue using Montgomery's snake oil in order to further US interests. Or perhaps the impression that the tools were effective changed the behaviour of some adversary. For the adversary to continue believing the tools are effective, the US must appear to continue using them and not act on possible evidence that the tools were useless.

$20 million is absolutely nothing in military or intelligence spending terms, and I bet not all that money is actually in Montgomery's account.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260424)

Interviews with more than two dozen current and former officials and business associates and a review of documents show that Mr. Montgomery and his associates received more than $20 million in government contracts by claiming that software he had developed could help stop Al Qaedaâ(TM)s next attack on the United States. But the technology appears to have been a hoax, and a series of government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Air Force, repeatedly missed the warning signs, the records and interviews show.

- this is from the story at hand.

For 8 years CIA missed the warning signs?

I agree, this sounds more effective and intelligent than I gave it credit for. It only took 8 years to understand that this was not a magic piece of software.

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260084)

By committing fraud against the US government, with the hopes that it wouldn't catch up to him? Yeah, that's brilliant. The guy in the story here is luckily the CIA didn't take care of business properly to cover up this little fuckup. Why would you want to aspire to that? I know it may be hard for you to wrap your brain around, but it's not so hard to make the kind of money you are describing without committing massive fraud, and you actually get to enjoy the fruits of your labor without ending up in jail, disgraced or dead.

Re:I saw something very similar. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260324)

Oh, please, stop the drama.

As long as you do it BIG ENOUGH [salon.com] you not only do not get 'caught' (wtf?) but you get tens or more BILLIONS of dollars and gov't "thank you"s, not jail. Jail is so 'early last century', it doesn't happen for defrauding government anymore.

What's 'defrauding' anyway? Who cares today if you steal some money that the Fed prints? Nobody cares. US is destroying its currency with all that printing - nobody is going to jail for that one, and that will end up taking down the entire economy.

Re:I saw something very similar. (2)

Purist (716624) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259554)

Ever hear of whistle blower laws? You get a cut of the money you save the government...

These apply to Intel agencies as well.

Anytime anyone calls someone a "genius" I'm always on alert...especially when people doing the labeling aren't qualified to do so.

:-)

AJ (5, Informative)

Ender_Wiggin (180793) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259490)

What's pretty disturbing is that the government is so gullible over such a lie that's ridiculous on its face. Really, secret messages from Al Qaeda in Al Jazeera? Why not hidden messages from Al Qaeda on MTV or CNN? That would be just as plausible.

I'm still mystified by how much neocons despise the channel. No wonder Bush planned to bomb Al Jazeera [harpers.org] , he was so quick to jump onto the false notion. Never mind that Al Qaeda hates Al Jazeera [foxnews.com] and has done so for years (AQ supporters call it "Al-Khinzeera," which means The Pig)

Re:AJ (5, Interesting)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259574)

I've actually found Al Jazeera reporting to be much better than most American news sources. The Al Jazeera articles are usually well written, don't have sensationalist headlines, and you don't have to sift through all the latest celebrity crap. And the bias is nowhere near as blatant and pervasive as CNN, Fox News, and the like. I can't comment too much on the Arabic version however, as my Arabic is nowhere near good enough for that yet.

Re:AJ (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259686)

I The Al Jazeera articles are usually well written, don't have sensationalist headlines, and you don't have to sift through all the latest celebrity crap.

all the latest celebrity crap

Add me to the list!

Me, too!

Re:AJ (4, Insightful)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259746)

That's the thing, don't you see? That their agenda is not incredibly obvious, that they're not spouting hate and misinformation every 10 microseconds. The US govt can't help but think they're hiding something. Any self-respecting news outlet should be biased and trollish on the edges!

Re:AJ (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259764)

I've actually found Al Jazeera reporting to be much better than most American news sources. The Al Jazeera articles are usually well written, don't have sensationalist headlines, and you don't have to sift through all the latest celebrity crap.

Then how am I supposed to know which article to click on with headlines like "Charlie Sheen's Porn Stars Save Egypt's Treasures From Lindsey Lohan's 'Shopping Spree' "?

Re:AJ (2)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259738)

Really, secret messages from Al Qaeda in Al Jazeera? Why not hidden messages from Al Qaeda on MTV or CNN? That would be just as plausible.

They were worried about those, too. Even now, and especially back then [schneier.com] , there was great reluctance to rebroadcast any terrorist video for fear it would contain hidden signals, such as a "go code" or somesuch (steganography). If you were worried about that, Al Jazeera would be the biggest threat vector simply because they normally get the scoop on terrorist videos.

Re:AJ (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260442)

For all but the simplest messages(ie. time-based triggers for instructions previously communicated by some other channel, or very rough information transfer) TV seems like a pretty awful medium. Most of the really fun stegonography can't be performed by humans, and may or may not survive ADC(or one of the not-always-predictable transfer and/or compression steps that can occur as your source video goes through the TV process on its way to the viewer). That seriously limits your bandwidth. So too does the need to do something newsworthy every time you need to send a message.

Now, spam email on the other hand... vast volume, chunks of nonsensical anti-filtering text are a genre convention, plenty of people willing to send it, no questions asked, etc...

Re:AJ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35260044)

There's interesting wikileaks cable that explains how this TV is used for political trade with everyone. They are as objective as CNN is about US-involving conflicts.

Re:AJ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35260580)

Really, secret messages from Al Qaeda in Al Jazeera?

Didn't the Capitol Steps already do a spoof on this? The "al Jazeera" guy claimed that there were no hidden messages in their broadcasts, then sang an song to an "American" (i.e., French) tune. The song contained a "hidden" "terrorist" message that was hidden so badly that the claim that there were no hidden messages in the broadcast was arguably true!

Doesn't this show the need for Open Source? (1, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259646)

More than ever, especially at the government level?

With closed source, they just get magical black boxes that somehow work (or not, in this case), without actually understanding what it does. Unless they want to spend more money reverse engineering the whole thing.

Sure, we've got the money for that... (4, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259650)

This month, our government has proposed a budget in which we confess that we're so fucking poor that we cannot afford to subsidize nutritional supplements for babies born with low birth weight. And yet there seems to be a whole parallel word of government, where insane shit like this must still look insane, but fuck it, we'll fund it anyway, because we're rich and we don't give a fuck. I mean seriously, who could possibly make the decision "Yeah, that's worth paying for" when they hear a sales pitch like this? Only an organization that's so flush with money that they're experimenting with using it for toilet paper. It's a little shocking, given the nature of all the sacrifices the government is forcing on normal people.

Re:Sure, we've got the money for that... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259742)

Wonder why we are so poor?
FTA: "A Pentagon study in January found that it had paid $285 billion in three years to more than 120 contractors accused of fraud or wrongdoing. "

Re:Sure, we've got the money for that... (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260090)

Why in the world would the government have to subsidize that? Did vitamins become a rare and precious commodity when I wasn't looking?

Here's an idea, just because the government has money, doesn't mean it should be paying for things you can easily pay for yourself,

Re:Sure, we've got the money for that... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35260234)

Babies can't pay for anything themselves. Sorry, but it's true. Now you might say "Well, it's the parents that should pay for it" but the fact is, not all parents are wise or prudent, and so rather than punish the innocent babies, as a society, it might be better for us to choose another path than the one you espouse.

Of course, then you may fear the onslaught of the Marching Morons or the Idiocracy, but I fear the Selfishness your method would create would be far worse.

Assuming any of it is genetic, which is not a given anyway.

Re:Sure, we've got the money for that... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260462)

Given the assorted delightful cognitive deficiencies associated with malnutrition in infancy and childhood, there is a strong argument to be made that such a policy is simply pragmatic(even if one has no ethical qualms with letting children suffer for their parents' positions).

Nutritional adequacy is cheap, a cognitively dysfunctional underclass is not...

Our tax dollars at work.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259696)

FTA:
"A Pentagon study in January found that it had paid $285 billion in three years to more than 120 contractors accused of fraud or wrongdoing. "

I'm rather confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259708)

- They didn't ask to see source code for something so delicate as this?
- They didn't probe too deep into how the technology actually works, just took his word for it?
- They didn't test it before paying for it?

Hopefully I'm not the only confused one?

Reminds me of bogus bomb detector (5, Informative)

danceswithtrees (968154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35259814)

Yet another way to waste money in the fight against terror.

This one sunk $85M on a bogus bomb detector used widely in Iraq until its export was banned-- ie demand for it was still present and they wanted to continue importing into Iraq! http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/8471187.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Airport body imagers, duct tape and plastic wrap... Is there no end?

Twenty mil? (1)

Geminii (954348) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260000)

Twenty mil would buy a lot of Slashbeer and Firehose accounts. Come on, someone, get onto it!

Business Plan (3, Informative)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260030)

  • Fill Markov-chain based language generator with Osama bin Laden transcripts, Koran verses, Mein Kampf and the works of Robert Ludlum
  • Load onto Arduino
  • Place Arduino into box with LCD display on one side and large parabolic antenna on other.
  • ???
  • Profit

GSA Schedule? (1)

echucker (570962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260216)

So if the CIA found out they were hokey, why didn't they get booted off of the GSA schedule, or the spook equivalent?

Can this software decode this message... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35260232)

370H55V

unfortunately not uncommon (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260336)

There are a lot of people doing research (defense or anything) who honestly believe their work is real and practical despite fundamental impossibilities. Some of these results end up with glowing reviews here on Slashdot.

In highly technical fields, it's really easy to push BS past just about anyone, even other specialists in your field. The best con artists in science honestly believe their research is real. They run entire companies or research centers. They push their employees extremely hard for positive results, fire employees who can't deliver and turn a blind eye to the signs that the data is misrepresented, oversold or just plain faked.

The same thing happens on the granting/contracting side. They push for results and ignore warning signs. In extreme cases, almost the entire scientific apparatus gets played.

Well, the cat's out of bag now. (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260414)

So if they don't prosecute now, then it has nothing to do with saving themselves embarrassment at all.

It's almost refreshing to think that apathy may still be alive and well and working within today's governing bodies.

More dangerous than it sounds (2)

bkmoore (1910118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35260568)

I read this article and I have to wonder...the CIA and Air Force believed at some point that his software could detect a black blob as a terrorist from a black blob who's not a terrorist, off of a UAV video feed. So did they incorporate this into their Rules of Engagement (ROE) at some point and actually declare anyone hostile based on feedback from his software? Because if this is the case, then this guy is probably guilty of more than just ripping the government off. If the government admits to wrongfully killing someone based on bogus software, then who is liable and at what level? On another note, he claimed he could decipher hidden messages in Al Jazeera broadcasts. For this to be correct, Al Jazeera would have to be providing some form of communication services for Al Queda. Did anyone believe there was a link? And if this were the case, why would Al Queda telegraph their plans on an open channel given the more secure alternatives. It pretty much fails the common sense test. Oh well... More government buffoonery for our general entertainment.
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