Boondoggles

Feds Gave Tor Project $1.8M While NSA Actively Tried to Destroy It

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The Tor Project is a great way for people to cover their tracks on the Internet. Because of this, some in the federal government, specifically the National Security Agency (NSA), really dislikes Tor. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the project actually received over $1.8 million in federal money last year.

The Tor Project, which provides free software to users interested in surveillance- and censorship-resistant web activity, recently released its financial statements and reports for 2013, and sources began taking note yesterday.

The documents show that the State Department directly granted the organization $256,900 as part of its mission to fund "international programs [that] support democracy, human rights and labor." Additional indirect funding from State Department money added up to $882,313.

The Department of Defense didn't provide any direct funding, but through SRI International, "a non-profit research and development centre that aims to bridge the gap between abstract research and industry" according to The Guardian, the Tor Project landed another $830,269. SRI's funding went toward "basic and applied research and development in areas relating to the Navy command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance."

Additional funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Science Foundation added up to a total of $1,822,907 either directly or indirectly from the federal government.

This is a boost over 2012, when Tor received a total of $1.2 million in federal money, all of which was indirect, notes The Guardian.

Tor has rockier relations with other tentacles of the feds, though. BBC provides some history:

Tor was thrust into the spotlight in the wake of controversy resulting from leaks about the National Security Agency and other cyberspy agencies. Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who revealed the internal memos and who now has asylum in Russia, uses a version of Tor software to communicate.

Documents released by Mr Snowden allege that the NSA and the UK's GCHQ had repeatedly tried to crack anonymity on the Tor network.

Tor was originally set up by the US Naval Research Laboratory and is used be people who want to send information over the internet without being tracked.

Part of the network's success lies in the fact that it "has gone mainstream in the past few years, and its wide diversity of users — from civic-minded individuals and ordinary consumers to activists, law enforcement, and companies — is part of its security." 

Tor made headlines earlier this month when a yet-unidentified whistleblower leaked information suggesting that the NSA is still trying to crack the network and snoop on anybody who uses the anonymizing network as well as people who simply browse websites that regularly discuss Tor…like Reason

Watch Reason TV's interview with the Tor Project's development director: