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[] NYT 24.04.03: Canadian Programmer Says U.S. Cut Funding After Comments,

New York Times
April 24, 2003

Canadian Programmer Says U.S. Cut Funding After Comments

By Jennifer Lee

WASHINGTON, April 23 A respected Canadian computer programmer says the 
United States government severed research financing for a computer security 
project he was working on after he made remarks in the Canadian press 
critical of the American military.

The programmer, Theo de Raadt, the 35-year-old founder of an international 
collaborative software project known as OpenBSD, had been receiving support 
from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or Darpa, a research arm 
of the American military that is closely tied to the founding of the Internet.

The money, part of a $2.3 million grant given to the University of 
Pennsylvania, was part of a military effort to create computer systems more 
resilient to hacking, viruses and other attacks. The American military 
estimates that it experiences 250,000 cyberattacks each year.

The controversy highlights the delicate balance between the military and 
the anti-establishment bent of some in the technology community. It also 
shows that the international pool of computer programmers and hackers, 
possessing vast technological expertise, is not entirely sympathetic to the 
American military's current role in world affairs.

A recent interview with Mr. de Raadt, published by The Globe and Mail of 
Toronto, portrayed him as being uneasy about the military source of the 
financing. He was quoted as saying, "I try to convince myself that our 
grant means a half of a cruise missile doesn't get built." The article also 
said he considered the war in Iraq a grab for oil.

Mr. de Raadt said that a few days after the interview was published, 
Jonathan Smith, the Penn professor who heads the military grant project, 
told him people had "expressed discomfort with what I had said." Then last 
Friday Professor Smith sent out an e-mail message saying that work had to 
cease immediately because the military stopped the financing and the 
project was "over."

Mr. de Raadt said this left the OpenBSD project in crisis because it had 
already committed tens of thousands of dollars to bringing together 60 
programmers from around the world for a four-day "hackathon" in Calgary in 
May. Darpa money has supported other hackathons for this project.

Some cautioned about reading too much into the military's decision. "These 
kinds of `stop works' happen all the time," said Fernando Pereira, the head 
of Penn's computer science department. "Federal budgets and priorities 
change all the time."

Nevertheless, some computer specialists saw the incident as a rebuke. 
People quickly voiced their displeasure on Web sites, over e-mail lists and 
to the organizations involved.

On Monday, Darpa said it had not cut off all financing for the project, 
just money for the hackathon. Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for Darpa, said the 
agency was reviewing the rest of the project, which has three months left 
in its two-year contract. Decisions about financing had been made because 
of "recent world events and specifically the evolving threat posed by 
increasingly capable nation-states," Ms. Walker said.

Mr. de Raadt said the decision extended beyond the hackathon because the 
project's staff members had been notified this week that their salaries 
would no longer be paid by the military financing. He said the hackathon 
would go on, financed by modest online donations of $50 or $100. He noted 
that even while he was on the phone with a reporter, $65 in donations had 
come in.

"We are free people, we are hobbyists," he said. "We do this for fun."

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