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CIA recruits video game mogul for IT venture

Ex-Holobyte exec Louie to pick high tech investments for spies

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The CIA has smartened its image with the creation of In-Q-It, a high-tech venture capital firm playfully named for the eccentric gadget meister "Q" of James Bond fame. As if to build further on the fun and games motif, the agency has chosen former Spectrum Holobyte and Microprose exec Gilman Louie for its CEO. The new company will invest in emerging technologies on the agency's behalf, and at times enter into strategic partnerships. The hope of course is to update the agency's IT systems at the speed of commerce, which defines technology, rather than at the speed of the defence bureaucracy, which spends much of its time scratching its head and wondering how it is that 13-year-old kids play with better flight simulators than the Air Force has got. The normally secretive agency is breaking with tradition by hiring a cultural outsider to run one of its ventures, and again by sidestepping its stable of stodgy, bloated defence contractors in favour a public company to be managed on the somewhat more libertarian Silicon Valley model. The nonprofit In-Q-It opens with a modest $28 million in federal money allocated by Congress last year. The CIA budget is classified, so it's impossible to guess what proportional investment of resources this figure represents. The experiment is interesting, but the question is whether technologies so often developed for consumer gadgets and entertainment will provide the CIA with much that it can use. Certainly the agency will benefit from improvements in Internet security and data processing; certainly the cultural experience will be of some educational value. And no doubt working for In-Q-It will be a fun assignment. Well, at least for those agents who don't mind taking orders from unkempt, cola-addicted pubescent geeks, that is. ®

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