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CIA May Have Bought Faulty Drone Software

Intelligent Integration Systems officials say they didn't know about plans for TwinFin when they signed the contract with Netezza, and that the company never agreed to develop software for future platforms.

Intelligent Integration Systems has filed a counterclaim of wrongful termination. The counterclaim also alleges wrongful use of the Intelligent Integration Systems software. Intelligent Integration Systems executives say -- and a series of email messages among Netezza executives indicate -- that Netezza sold a version of Spatial for TwinFin to the CIA for use in its predator-drone program before the software was feasible, tested and deemed accurate.

The email messages reveal accuracy problems with the software, fueling growing concerns about predator drones -- unmanned aircraft that drop missiles on enemy targets. The systems, used by both the U.S. military and the CIA, include control systems from Raytheon (RTM) and aircraft from General Atomics.

Pilots use joysticks to control the planes remotely, often from thousands of miles away. Drones have faced increasing scrutiny from the United Nations and multiple-incident reports that question the efficacy of targeting enemy from afar. The Obama administration has supported the program for missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and President Obama drew verbal fire when he publicly joked about using drones to kill the boy band Jonas Brothers.

The CIA doesn't publicly disclose information about its drone projects. According to an analysis by the New America Foundation, a public-policy think tank whose board is led by Google (GOOG - Get Report) CEO Eric Schmidt, 142 reported drone attacks in Pakistan killed between 1,013 and 1,362 people from 2004 to 2010. Of those killed, up to a third were non-militants, the analysis found. Meanwhile, the federal government last month approved the use of drones to patrol the Texas/Mexico border for drug trafficking.

Intelligent Integration Systems alleges that in the fall of 2009, "Netezza began asserting to [Intelligent Integration Systems] that an agency of the United States Government needed immediately to purchase and deploy TwinFin to process geospatial data relating to vital military operations. Netezza, fully aware that TwinFin did not have the capability to process geospatial data, further represented to [Intelligent Integration Systems] that the agency was willing to accept an incomplete beta product designed to perform that function, and urged [Intelligent Integration Systems] to immediately begin work on developing such a product."
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