by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
coverup, government, hoax

US Paid Millions For Bogus (Patented) Intelligence Software; Now Trying To Cover It Up Claiming 'National Security'

from the government-at-work dept

There are so many ridiculous aspects to a NY Times story from this weekend about a nearly decade-long relationship between the US government and what appears to be a con man who conned them out of tens of millions of dollars that it's hard to know where to start, so let's break it down in sections:

First off, the crux of the story is that a guy named Dennis Montgomery seems to have concocted an elaborate con on the US government that worked for years. He created some software, supposedly originally designed to help colorize movies, but it was later pitched for its capability to (I'm not joking) read coded messages in the "crawl bar" on Al Jazeera which (it was claimed) provided clues to planned terrorist attacks. Various US government agencies basically kept handing over millions and millions of dollars to Mr. Montgomery and partners. Some of those former partners now admit that Montgomery's technology was a hoax, and his presentations included doctored videos and test results.

Known, but still purchasing
Next up, there's the news that the CIA figured all of this out way back in 2003 and knew the software was useless, but the government was still paying millions of dollars in new contracts for it and using the software at least until 2009, when it was supposedly used to "detect" Somali terrorist plans during Obama's inauguration -- terrorist plans that later turned out not to exist at all.

And, it wasn't just the CIA that had figured this out. The NY Times report notes that the media -- including reports from both Bloomberg and (of all places) Playboy -- had previously called out "hints of fraud by Mr. Montgomery." Separately, a Pentagon report notes that the government had paid an astounding $285 billion in just three years to contractors accused of fraud or wrongdoing.

Feeling safer?

Relied on the info to make big decisions
What's really scary is how much the government seemed to rely on bogus info from this system that the CIA knew didn't work. In one case, it actually caused an international incident:
In December 2003, Mr. Montgomery reported alarming news: hidden in the crawl bars broadcast by Al Jazeera, someone had planted information about specific American-bound flights from Britain, France and Mexico that were hijacking targets.

C.I.A. officials rushed the information to Mr. Bush, who ordered those flights to be turned around or grounded before they could enter American airspace.

"The intelligence people were telling us this was real and credible, and we had to do something to act on it," recalled Asa Hutchinson, who oversaw federal aviation safety at the time. Senior administration officials even talked about shooting down planes identified as targets because they feared that supposed hijackers would use the planes to attack the United States, according to a former senior intelligence official who was at a meeting where the idea was discussed. The official later called the idea of firing on the planes "crazy."
The French then conducted a study, and also concluded that the technology Mr. Montgomery used was a total hoax, and told the Bush administration, leading them to claim "we got played," though it didn't stop the federal government from continuing to buy the technology for at least another five years.

Oh, also there were no actual repercussions to this massive international incident. The guy at the CIA who had been one of the main supporters of the technology, Donald Kerr, got promoted after this. Another CIA official noted that not only was no one blamed for this massive misstep, but "they acted like it never happened."

FBI's improper search
In 2006, the FBI began investigating things, after Mr. Montgomery and his then business partner had a dispute and split up. There were claims that Montgomery had illegally copied data from the company when he left, and it was during this investigation that employees apparently told the FBI that "Montgomery had manipulated tests in demonstrations with military officials to make it appear that his video recognition software had worked." So, once again, the government discovered the hoax... but, the whole investigation was dropped after a court determined that the FBI screwed up by conducting "an improper search" of Montgomery's home. So the technology lived on, and was still being purchased and used by government agencies.

Patenting software that doesn't work
Oh yeah, did we mention that Montgomery "patented" this apparent hoax of a technology? The NY Times mentions this in passing. In doing a quick search, I've turned up a bunch of different patents from Montgomery and others who worked with him.

Nice to see that you can patent fraudulent systems, huh?

Cover up
Oh yeah, the biggest point in all of this is that the Federal government is working over time to cover this entire story up. It still hasn't admitted to any of this. It hasn't taken Montgomery to court at all (he's facing other legal problems related to passing bad checks at casinos). However, the Justice Department is apparently working overtime to keep this story totally secret:
The Justice Department, which in the last few months has gotten protective orders from two federal judges keeping details of the technology out of court, says it is guarding state secrets that would threaten national security if disclosed. But others involved in the case say that what the government is trying to avoid is public embarrassment over evidence that Mr. Montgomery bamboozled federal officials.
Once again, it appears the government is using secrecy and totally bogus claims of "national security" to hide embarrassing details, rather than for any legitimate reason. This is an unfortunate result of giving the government too much power to declare things as "secret" with little to no oversight. It clearly will abuse that power to hide mistakes, rather than admit them and maybe even learn from them. Instead, we allow a con artist to cost tax payers tens of millions of dollars, and then the government tries to brush it all under the rug.

And, yes, all of this really should make you wonder about all of those claims from politicians supporting the renewals on the Patriot Act and other such legislation, who claim that the government has protected us from multiple terrorist attack attempts. While I'm sure there have been some attempts, it does make you wonder how many such "thwarted" attempts included the ones that were apparently totally made up by Montgomery.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    The eejit (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 8:00am

    IS it wrong that this is less plausible than an Onion article, yet it's real?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 8:51am

    Re: Can you handle the truth?

    Not at all, generally truth is stranger than fiction--until you realize that truth + a monkey dressed like Hitler (mustache and all) is stranger than truth.

    Try not to think about it overly-much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 9:03am

    This article should be wadded up and thrown in the face of every lobbyist/politician that even mentions expanding our already ridiculous defense budget....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 9:06am

    The government does it on purpose. How else can they justify half of what they do without fabricating evidence?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 9:27am

    My favorite story this week!

    I love the part of the story about the "con man who conned"

    That was the best part.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    TheStupidOne, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 9:40am


    I'd suggest printing it on a more permanent material than paper ... try stone tablets perhaps?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 9:42am

    When it comes to anything military, you an almost always sucker a Republican into supporting it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 9:49am


    ...And you can find a Democrat to go along because he doesn't want to 'look weak' on crime/terrorism/alien attack.

    (I'm not a Republican supporter, just stating an unfortunate reality).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Steven (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 9:56am

    Where's the oversight?

    I have no problem with the government needing to keep some things secret for security/safety/operational reasons. But that should never be a 'this is secret, move along' situation. In every one of these cases we should be able to simply force the arm of the government in question to simply hand over all the materials to a judge to determine the legitimacy of the situation. More of a 'we think this is secret, lets see if this judge agrees' situation, complete with all the ability to appeal it up the judicial chain.

    There is no reason, especially in this day and age to keep things secret for decades. If the politicians/agencies/government employees/... don't want to be embarrassed STOP DOING STUPID CRAP!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Mark Flawler, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 10:16am

    this is why we need WIKILEAKS!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    jackwagon (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 10:17am

    in bed with the govt

    a google search returned a MSNBC article where Dennis Montgomery was rolling over on former NV Rep/Governor Jim Gibbons...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Pixelation, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 10:18am

    Hopefully some documents about this will show up on Wikileaks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Trails (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re:

    Case-hardened high-carbon steel is less likely to shatter or deform when thrown against such a thick, dense object as a politician's skull.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Trails (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 10:28am


    Bang on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 10:31am


    yes because god knows that only a republican would continue to errode personal freedoms and allow the administration to let corporations tell it what to do once they have gained the presidency

    .....oh wait...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    jfgilbert (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 10:33am

    They are right

    This should be kept secret to protect National Security. If enemies of the US saw how ridiculously stupid, ineffective, incompetent, and corrupt these agencies are, they would know they can act without fear of being caught.
    So we need to keep these things secret to maintain the illusion that the FBI, CIA, NSA, ICE, DoD, and Secret Service can actually protect the country.
    Shame on you, Techdirt for endangering the nation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    ernestinis, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 10:45am

    It seems that this story appeared in playboy in 2009

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Atkray (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 10:55am


    And people laugh at the notion that men read Playboy for the articles.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    JB, Sr (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:55pm

    Intelligence software - coverup

    Our gov't at work - earning their taxpayer dollar pay !! TYPICAL waste and oversight by incompetent employees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 2:11pm

    Re: They are right

    Exactly what they want you to think, they make themselves out to be the keystone cops of the security world all the while they're just waiting for the unsuspecting terrorist to walk into their trap. 10 years of planning and hundreds of millions of dollars later they can proudly state they foiled a $120 terror plot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    athe, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 3:43pm

    This is how they justify govt spending

    Have you seen the episode of Dilbert where NASA needs to justify funding for further studies - faking data is exactly how a govt justifies the spending... Isn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    FM Hilton, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 7:09pm

    It was "exposed" on the NY Times Sunday edition this past weekend. I'm surprised the Times didn't get a 'National Security Letter" from the DOD for doing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Ughh_dumb, Feb 22nd, 2011 @ 12:20am

    Dummies. Do some research dumbass!

    Reminds me of ADE-651 - the fake drug/bomb finding magic wand that many countries (i.e. Iraq) spent mad money on. It's insane this retarded sheet gets purchased. I mean come on, REALLY?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    mirradric, Feb 22nd, 2011 @ 12:39am

    Cover up?

    Cover up? What cover up? There's no cover up. Who are you to doubt the [ministry of] truth?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Michael, Feb 22nd, 2011 @ 4:52am


    I had that issue for two years and never read that article?

    I'm looking for it now...
    There is the issue...
    Ok, flipping to the page...
    Almost there...
    What was I looking for?
    Oh well, I have to go.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon, Mar 5th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    Tech vs. Tech

    Amusingly, the technology exists to preclude the incessant contradictions created by power-damaged government minds. But it is intellectual technology, the understanding of the functional design of the human mind, not biologically available to the power-damaged mind, and not sought by those involved with computer technology. Therefore enjoy the comedy of the humans who keep fooling themselves with rhetorical illusions rather than learn how those illusions function in the human mind.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Doug, May 2nd, 2015 @ 7:58am

    Check out his patents

    This article (as with the original Times article) does not reveal all the facts- why not ask the subject for a comment or rebuttal? The way that Journalism is supposed to work is that both sides are presented before reaching a conclusion. I'm just saying, don't believe everything you read here. I just ran a patent search for Dennis Montgomery and saw that there are many patents and they are all referenced by very legit companies.

    For example, Microsoft has referenced this patent by him 3 times: p;sa=X&ei=leFEVa7OH4TZsAWR0YHoCg&ved=0CE8Q6AEwBw

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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