How the CIA and a Tech Startup Are Arming Police, Intelligence Agencies

March 17, 2017 at 9:25 AM

NEW YORK— It is run out of a quiet, unassuming office on a tree-lined avenue in Bethesda, Maryland.  The rows of hip restaurants are offering young urban professionals all the grande-iced-sugar-free-vanilla-soy-lattes they could ever need. However, this serene suburban idyll belies the fact that serious work for the police state is taking place out of view.

Nestled in a suite just upstairs from the Asian fusion and seafood restaurants is a company that is transforming the way law enforcement, intelligence agencies and even giant corporations communicate within their organizations and with each other.

The company is called BlueLine Grid. It markets itself as “the nation’s premier, trusted collaboration network for law enforcement, first responder and security teams.”  Indeed, BlueLine Grid boasts an impressive array of investors and customers, including the LAPD and General Electric, among others.

But perhaps their most interesting client – and the one that deserves the most scrutiny – is In-Q-Tel, the venture capital and investment arm of the CIA. It is no secret that In-Q-Tel invests in emerging technologies that the U.S. intelligence community, especially the CIA, views as potential tools in their covert trade.

As the “Vault 7” documents published by WikiLeaks have revealed, the CIA’s Directorate for Digital Innovation is involved in hundreds of projects aimed at turning everything from smartphones and televisions to critical computer software into potent weapons for U.S. intelligence. Private companies operating outside of, but in partnership with, the CIA form a vital aspect of the agency’s innovation industry.

BlueLine Grid is a perfect example of the partnership that exists between the intelligence community and the private sector. This partnership raises significant concerns regarding potential breaches of privacy.

BlueLine Grid’s apps allow clients to communicate with team members in a reliable and secure network using a technology called geofencing.  Essentially, the technology allows a particular client (e.g. the Los Angeles or New York police departments) to draw a perimeter on a live map and communicate with all officers within that perimeter.

Put another way, BlueLine Grid uses real-time GPS information to allow police officers, intelligence operatives and other potential clients to communicate and coordinate within a given area and respond, in real-time, to changing developments on the ground. Rather than a walkie-talkie or generic mass text message, BlueLine Grid’s technology allows users to rigidly define a geographic space within which messages can be sent, as well as prevent those messages from being sent outside of the space.

The frightening implication is that this technology could eventually be used to stifle protest and halt communication among protesters. It is not hard to imagine police officers in major U.S. cities using the tech to harass and arrest protesters within specific geographical areas, cutting the legs out from under protests before they even begin.

Considering that police forces across the country are already fully militarized and employ military-style tactics, it would seem that BlueLine Grid is offering yet another potent weapon in the police state’s ongoing war against free speech and assembly. But it goes much further than that, as this technology is now quite literally the property of the CIA thanks to the undisclosed, but assuredly large, investment made in BlueLine Grid by the agency. And the connections to the police state and military-industrial-security complex run far deeper.

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