The Gandalf Program is classified Secret/NOFORN, meaning only American firms whose personnel hold coveted U.S. Department of Defense "secret clearances or higher" need apply. The October 28, 2008 Industry Day will be held at the Rosslyn, Virginia headquarters of the Scitor Corporation. An appropriate venue if ever there were one.
Deriving its name from a Latin word meaning "to seek to know," Scitor's website has little in the way of useful information for the researcher, aside that is, from the usual banalities about "excellence" and "solving customer needs."
However, a profile on Yahoo! Finance reveals that Scitor "hopes to aid you in your search for technological knowledge and harmony." (!) There we also learn that the firm "offers a wide range of professional and technological services, including consulting work, risk management, software development and systems engineering." Unsurprisingly, "Scitor works primarily for U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense."
Founded in 1979, the company was acquired in 2007 by the private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners LLP. With $421.9 million in revenue in 2007, the company employs some 1,100 people with top secret and above security clearances. Their main competitors according to Yahoo's profile are Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services, Northrop Grumman Information Technology and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).
But as investigative journalist Tim Shorrock revealed in his essential book Spies For Hire,
...Scitor, a CIA and defense contractor company...has become a $300 million company without creating a single ripple in the media. "It's the biggest company you never heard of," said a former NSA officer who knows the company well.
Scitor is a technology company that does extensive work for the U.S. Air Force in aerospace communications and satellite support services. The privately held company is also an important contractor for the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology... Within that directorate, two sources said, it is used primarily by the Office of Technical Services, the secretive unit that develops the gadgets, weapons and disguises used by spies. ...
A Scitor contract with the General Services Administration posted on the GSA's Web site lists the CIA among the company's clients. It states that Scitor helps government agencies manage "major acquisitions and cradle-to-grave programs that are vital to national defense." Those agencies include the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, the NGA [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency], the CIA and the Pentagon. (Tim Shorrock, Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008, pp. 141, 142)
Clearly, DARPA's cell phone tracking proposal falls well within the parameters of Scitor's spooky brief.
While the "specific goals and performance objectives associated with RF geolocation and SEI for the Gandalf system are classified," it doesn't take a rocket scientist--or securocrat--to realize there's real money to be made here.
Former Royal Navy officer Lew Page who unearthed the project for the U.K. online tech publication The Register, reports that "Project Gandalf" will supplement work "already done by surveillance aircrafts and/or drones." The "new wrinkle" according to Page, "is being able to do it using handheld devices" at close quarters. Page writes,
So it would appear that a group of undercover operatives or special-forces troops dispersed near a target (perhaps a specific cell or satellite phone) might carry portable gadgets, presumably networked. The netted devices would be able to pick out the phone, radio or whatever they were after and track it. ...
As far as the technology goes, the idea sounds feasible. Commercial pico/microcell gear, for instance--with all the capabilities needed to ID and locate cell phones--is already easily down to briefcase size. Satellite phones would be harder, of course. (Lew Page, "DARPA to Begin Mysterious 'Project Gandalf'," The Register, October 8, 2008)
As I wrote in "Niche Telecom Providers Assisting NSA Spy Operations," enterprising capitalist grifters in the telecom industry are already "providing security agencies with real-time cell phone tracking capabilities." What makes this research so insidious are the workarounds supplied--at a premium price--by under-the-radar companies to NSA or the U.K.'s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) not covered by any law.
Project Gandalf clearly travels along the same repressive continuum but with a twist. If the program pans out it will give security agents an "up close and personal" capacity, let's just call it for the sake of argument, that real-world intel touch required to disrupt meetings or smash an organizing drive even as they're taking place. Now that's real progress!
~ more... ~