TrapWire Spooks Dangled Their Wares in Front of Google, Salesforce
The makers of a video surveillance program developed by former United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) staffers attempted to sell their system to several big-name tech firms, according to leaked memos.
One of several internal emails written by executives at intelligence firm Stratfor has been published by WikiLeaks. It claims that Salesforce.com expressed interest in the program, dubbed, "TrapWire," after a briefing.
The executive, Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton, apparently wrote the email in February 2010. In it, he also apparently wrote that it was time to approach Google again, noting the Internet giant was becoming increasingly frustrated with penetrations of its network by hackers.
TrapWire describes its eponymous product as a predictive software system designed to detect patterns indicative of terrorist attacks or criminal operations.
The software uses a proprietary rules-based engine to detect and analyze suspicious events and send out alerts in advance of a possible attack. The idea is that criminals and potential terrorists visit a target several times to gather tactical information. Video camera feeds from potential targets are fed into the software for analysis.
The company offers three TrapWire systems. One is TrapWire Critical Infrastructure. This identifies surveillance activities by possible criminals or terrorists around specific sites within the TrapWire Network.
The second system, TrapWire Community Member, supports the online reporting of suspicious behavior by community members such as the iWatch program in Los Angeles.
The third, TrapWire Law Enforcement, lets law enforcement agencies gather, analyze and disseminate information culled from various sources, including the other two TrapWire systems.
TrapWire did not respond to our request to comment.
The TrapWire Story
TrapWire's roots lie in a company named "Abraxas," which was set up by former CIA employee Richard "Hollis" Helms, who worked in counter-terrorism. Another Richard Helms headed the CIA under the late President Nixon.
Abraxas offered data collection and analytical skills, fraud investigation and containment, and other services, Helms told The Entrepreneur Center @NVTC.
The company developed the TrapWire software package.
Abraxas and Stratfor entered a deal for Stratfor to provide Abraxas' situation reports to clients, Stratfor president Don Kuykendall apparently wrote in an email dated May 2009 that has also been published by Wikileaks.
Clients include the White House, Scotland Yard, the British Prime Minister's official residence at 10 Downing Street, and many multinational corporations. Stratfor wanted to introduce the Abraxas service to companies such as WalMart and Dell, whose executives were Burton's "cronies," Kuykendall said.
The TrapWire technology "is designed as a preventive measure" and the concept is "strong," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. While he has "little doubt that this is a better way to keep people safe," it will "create huge due process problems as we attempt to take action before someone has actually committed a crime."
Whether or not Salesforce.com is interested in the technology is not clear because Burton's note "just says that SalesForce didn't toss the guy out on his ear," Enderle pointed out. "It doesn't prove they are truly interested."
Salesforce.com and Google did not respond to our request to comment for this story.