23 April 2002
This story mentions the National Security Agency's "Echelon II" and Bruce McIndoe, a former NSA employee who worked on the program, and may be the first quasi-official confirmation of Echelon which the US Government has consistently denied exists. Duncan Campbell, Jeffrey Richelson and the National Security Archive reported on Echelon II in 2000.
Chief Executive Officer
Bruce McIndoe was the founder & CEO of CSSi, an Inc.500 and four-time Washington Technology FAST 50 company that developed intelligence collection and processing systems for various national intelligence organizations. Bruce was one of the lead architects for the National Security Agency's Echelon II program, identified as one of the most productive intelligence programs in the agency's history. He was also a major contributor to the Future Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Systems Architecture Program, several major Communications Security (COMSEC) programs and numerous technical programs. After successfully growing CSSi to 150 people and $17 million in annual revenues, Bruce sold the company to Nichols Research Corporation where he became VP Enterprise Applications and then VP Sales & Marketing with Nichols InfoTec. Prior to joining iJET, he was President of B2B Web Solutions specializing in supply chain automation using the Internet and XML technologies. Bruce holds an M.S. in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University and is a trustee of Allegheny College, where he received his B.S. in Physics.
New York Times, April 23, 2002
ON THE ROAD
By JOE SHARKEY
I have now deleted from mind all romantic cold war images of international espionage. Having seen the future of spying, I summon instead the image of a tall, dapper man in tasseled loafers, sipping a white wine during a trade-show cocktail reception in the atrium of a nondescript Hyatt hotel while absently toying with a name tag that says: "Hello! My Name Is Bond, James Bond."
Of course, this could be an exaggeration. In all probability, the occasional secret microfilm is still being stashed in the occasional pumpkin. But the tides of history have changed on waves of corporate globalization, and these days, a good portion of the intelligence and counterintelligence efforts that once went into cold war intrigues now goes into making sure that your next business trip to Frankfurt goes off smoothly. Spying has become just another business-travel tool, thanks to cheap, comprehensive technology and to a soaring demand for dependable, real-time information about day-to-day conditions in the world.
"For a couple of thousand dollars of technology, we're doing right now what would have cost the federal government from $2 million to $20 million only five to eight years ago, not to mention in the 1950's and 60's, when it wasn't even feasible to collect" the same amount of data, said D. Bruce McIndoe, the chief executive of iJet Travel Intelligence Inc.
The company employs 65 specialists, many of whom formerly worked for governmental and military intelligence services, at a round-the-clock operations center in Annapolis, Md. There they monitor world sources and deliver travel advisories to help keep international travelers on the road as efficiently and safely as possible. During the 1990's, as international business travel expanded rapidly everywhere and also began incorporating third-world itineraries, a number of companies were started to serve business travelers with up-to-date logistical and political information.
Like iJet, whose headquarters are in an area where lots of intelligence people take their 20-year retirement pension and embrace the suburban life, many of these companies employ former specialists from the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and various military intelligence services, including some people who might properly have been called spies at one time. Corporate security, which used to be an industry of bodyguards, became an industry of spies.
The first of the start-ups in travel intelligence mostly offered custom services to corporate clients. For $300 or $400, a team of analysts would produce a detailed report, on demand, for a business trip to Thailand, say, or Tel Aviv.
Founded in 1999, iJet designed a broader model. It uses existing corporate travel portals and booking systems linked to 21,000 travel agent desktops to push analyses of conditions in 180 countries to a large pool of customers. Last month, for example, iJet services became available on corporate travel-booking sites managed by GetThere, the Sabre subsidiary.
With the technology "it doesn't matter whether your client is a single person or 100,000 people," said Mr. McIndoe, who previously helped develop the National Security Agency's Echelon II program and also founded a company that develops computer intelligence-gathering systems.
As a technology start-up trying to keep its footing during the dot-com crash and then the collapse in travel after Sept. 11, iJet seemed to be on shaky ground last year. But company executives and others say that the company remains viable thanks partly to the deal with GetThere, coupled with a rebound in business travel and $3 million in new financing in February, bringing its total financing to more than $20 million.
The company's analysts speak more than a dozen languages among them and have extensive government, academic and corporate experience in political intelligence, computer data gathering, health, epidemiology, environmental sciences and transportation. "Most of our people are government trained," Mr. McIndoe said. "On average, they have 17 years average governmental intelligence experience.
"Not all United States government, either," said Martin Pfinsgraff, the chief operating officer.
"South African, Israeli, Russian," Mr. McIndoe elaborated.
Not that these James Bonds in the employ of corporate America are tangling with Goldfinger or the Soviet menace.
I visited iJet's headquarters on April 19, a Friday afternoon, as a flubbed coup was playing out in Venezuela. Seated at a bank of monitors, John A. Briley, the senior managing editor for travel intelligence, was able to rattle off a brief summary of the current, aggressively fluid situation in Caracas that, impressively, held up the next day after regular news sources finally sorted out the confusion.
The company provides services that allow home-based corporate officers to monitor and advise, and get immediate feedback from employees traveling in perilous places. But for the most part, business travelers' intelligence requirements are more mundane, Mr. McIndoe said.
"For a business traveler, the probability of being collateral damage in a terrorist attack exists, but it's probably less than getting struck by lightning," he said. "The No. 1 thing that impacts business travelers is the transportation system, including road traffic. The No. 2 is weather. Health and environmental concerns are No. 3, and No. 4 is current reports of petty crime and theft." Street demonstrations, robberies, traffic jams, health scares that's what travel intelligence mostly consists of, he said.
Earlier, incidentally, I had noticed a couple of employees wince when I observed that their headquarters, with row after row of televisionlike monitors being studied intently by headphone-wearing technicians, resembled a television studio more than a spy lair.
So I knew better than to say what I was really thinking: that for all of the James Bonds and George Smileys, for all of the billions of dollars spent on spy planes and trysts with Mata Hari, what we are left with today is a comprehensive, global version of the local news at 11.