DNI Awards $2 Million in Hush-Hush Money

By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 29, 2006

Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte awarded $200,000 grants earlier this month to 10 scientists in the intelligence community, one of whom could not be named and several of whom declined to be interviewed, for projects whose details remain secret.

The DNI office issued a news release with nine of the recipients' names, agencies, job titles and educational backgrounds. One awardee's information was omitted "because of the sensitive position he occupies in his organization," the release said.

This is the second annual DNI Fellows award program. Last year's recipients, the release says, "made significant progress with technology to locate terrorists and to extract intelligence from remote areas."

How they did that remains secret.

"We want to keep that spark of innovation alive and healthy," said Eric C. Haseltine, associate director of national intelligence for science and technology, whose office selected the grant recipients.

But "we haven't talked yet about any specific things the fellows have done," he said.

The Department of Homeland Security and science and technology branches of intelligence agencies -- including the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency -- nominated employees. The criteria, Haseltine said, are "first and foremost, virtuoso technical achievement," plus risk-taking, innovation and "teamwork, because sometimes virtuosos don't play well with others."

Playing well with reporters is not a criterion. All of the CIA awardees declined interviews; ditto for the NSA, whose spokesman, Ken White, said the agency's grantees are "not in a position of wanting to go there." Other fellows couldn't be located, or persuaded, by deadline.

"It's great news," said one agency representative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussing the reasons for not discussing the projects could violate secrecy rules. "But because it's classified, you can't talk about it."

Last try: the Department of Homeland Security, which doesn't fall under the traditional intelligence structure. Its awardee, Michelle Keeney, was downright chatty about how she will spend her grant money.

"The plan is kind of generally to sponsor a research project on the evolution of radical movements over time and their adoption of violence as a strategy," she said, in order to document patterns of rhetoric or behavior -- such as acquisition of materials -- that could be used to predict a move toward violence in other groups.

"We want to really try and look at all movements that have occurred over history, make comparisons and contrast" them, Keeney said.

"It's not an intelligence exercise but a research project using information that is historically gathered in the public domain."

That's why she can talk about it.

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