U.S. High-Tech Spy Agency Has Low Profile
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
The Associated Press
Sunday, February 22, 2004; 12:40 PM
WASHINGTON - The Advanced Research and Development Activity is not a secret federal office, but it might as well be.
It isn't listed in the U.S. Government Manual, the 684-page official compilation of federal departments, agencies and offices. It isn't listed in major commercial directories of government agencies.
Appropriately for an outfit that sponsors computer research, however, ARDA has a Web site.
CIA Director George Tenet founded the office in 1998, when some experts were questioning the capabilities of the National Security Agency. They worried the United States' electronic spy service, which breaks and makes codes, might lag behind private companies in the information technology industry.
The new office researches and develops computer software and equipment to intercept and analyze foreign intelligence that is transmitted electronically - and to protect the U.S. methods used to obtain and communicate it.
ARDA's director, Dean Collins, oversees offices inside the National Security Agency's heavily guarded headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. Collins' agency uses the NSA for administrative support.
It works for all the nation's intelligence services, including the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and parts of dozens of other departments. Its budget is part of the National Foreign Intelligence Program and is secret, although at least some of its research, particularly at universities, is unclassified.
The office was modeled after the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to subsidize corporate and university research considered too speculative for private financiers to risk their money on. But even more than DARPA, which has 240 employees, ARDA shuns bureaucracy: It employs only eight technologists.
On the Net:
Advanced Research and Development Activity: http://www.ic-arda.org
© 2004 The Associated Press