Friday, August 19, 2011

There Is Only One

At the Burning Man Festival in 2003, I was introduced to a shaman who lived in the Peruvian Amazon who was conducting ceremonies involving the healing powers of plant medicine.  Through what I learned, I became interested enough to visit Iquitos, Peru in 2006, the largest city in the world you can't drive to. There are no roads to Iquitos; one can travel there by air and boat only. Exploring the area reminded me of the freedoms and liberties I had as a child, exploring the woods steams and ponds around my family home in the Sandhills. One of many attractions to the area was that I could live in a city yet be in the jungle in a few minutes.
I began to hear references to Chullachaqui, Yacumama, Runamula. The people spoke of these unseen forces in common daily life, legends and myths of the jungle, which while perhaps (arguably) not “existing” in the material physical realm existed in non-material spiritual realms. In these I found a rich source of inspiration for my work, visuals and subjects I began to incorporate into my art.
As were all lands, South America was originally part of a immense, universal proto-continent that became defined when the waters of the new earth condensed from the steam of creation, filling the oceans. The titanic forces of plate tectonics and continental drift have caused an unknown number of sunderings and collisions of the land masses of the old and new worlds which have brought us the present map of the world, in process and unfinished. Once flowing west into the Pacific, the Amazon along with predecessors of her present ecosystems may possibly predate the division of the continents.
The vast river systems, rain forests and high, jagged mountains of the South American continent kept the interior and people for the most part uncontacted and isolated, often by their choice. I spoke recently with a friend who accompanied her husband back to the US in a new airplane the couple purchased in Brazil back in the eighties. She described a lengthy flight across the Amazonian interior, hours and hours of unbroken jungle canopy. The people and the interior remained in a pristine, unspoiled state until the seventies when oil exploration began in earnest with the arrival of Occidental Petroleum.
A revealing mistake gave the Nahua their name. When asked who they were, one of the people responded “Nahua” meaning “people” in the language. The questioner took Nahua to be the tribal name and this simple mistake rendering to them their external identity. Beyond obvious characteristics, gender and color, there was no need for the people to differentiate between human beings. To “the people” living in such a sparsely populated area, tribal designations are meaningless. They had very little contact with others, even other indigenines as transportation is mostly with boats specialized for fishing, hunting, transporting people and food. The bulk of their diet is what they forage, hunt and fish. Yucca is boiled and eaten like a potato or made into Masato, a naturally fermented beverage. a staple for jungle nutrition. Most of the biomass is held up in the vegetation instead of the soil which does not support life nor agriculture as can be seen from the effects of deforestation which bare the sandy, low nutrient earth. As the people cannot grow the amount of vegetables or fruit needed to live, they feed themselves and their families from with what they forage, hunt and fish. Millennia of living in the tangled, low light have honed an ability to spot food prey. Where “civilized” eyes see only trees and plants, animal life abounds: fish, monkeys, wild boar. Any animal becomes potential food.
As to where these folks came from first no one can really say. The dominant consensual speculative theory is that of the disputed and unprovable Bering Land Bridge. Certain natives and traditions elsewhere in the Americas assert strongly that the people were simply always there. The science and cultural indicators, practices and cultigens, plants grown to support human life, are inconclusive at best. The only thing one can say and not risk ridicule is simply no one really knows. Fed by realities such as blue eyes in the jungle, there are enough possibilities to keep a lively debate boiling in academia indefinitely. The only certainty is Columbus didn't discover America.
The people live what are among the most detached, natural lives on planet earth, similar in remoteness to the Inuit of the northern latitudes, reliant on the unspoiled Amazon, home to half of the species of flora and fauna on earth. They employ their world for sustenance, healing and spiritual purposes in a direct manner that allows an approach to the mysteries of eternity without the usual suspect interpreters, clergy and churches, which form so much of the spiritual life of the west, very like the “patent” on the new world issued to Sir Walter Raleigh by Elizabeth and the proprietary mindset that pervades commerce.
The more important factor is that however and from wherever these folks came from, they have lessons that we in the sickened, industrialized world can learn from. They were able evolve and maintain a lifestyle complimentary and reciprocally balanced with the resources of the area without having to extract from her that which sustains the ecosystems. The cultigens, DNA and molecules that interchange across the kingdoms, the plant world and the world of animals, protozoa, demonstrate a central paradox of life, the unity of the multiverse. Each entity lives in it own realm, yet these multiple, very different realms are connected with a sublime thoroughness that can be observed and experienced first hand in the jungle, available to the world through modern inventions, the airplane and motors, the same factors which make the region achingly vulnerable at this juncture.
My experiences included shamanistic cleansings, ceremonies, involving the diverse multitude of plant medicines. Foremost among these would be Ayahuasca, or the spirit vine, an ancient visionary plant medicine which Shamans (healers) use for whole mind, body and spirit healing. The visions Ayahuasca induce would be enough to make the plant valuable beyond measure, but Ayahuasca cleanses the whole body, the organs. I'd never experienced such a cleanse, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. As I was vomiting, a part of the experience shared by all who partake, I could see psychic energy that I held onto ten years prior, coming out of me. All I could say was, “why did I hold onto that.'”
As I traveled around the area talking to locals, I began to hear of a darkness coming to this hauntingly beautiful, physical realm. To its crossed fortunes, Amazonia is a point source for what could well hasten the end of the native way of life as well as the residents very lives, no figurative speaking needed. The region is amply possessed with a natural resource “essential” to how the first world lives – petroleum. A supreme, dangerous irony is seen in the maps illustrating a shattering coincidence. The very areas up for oil exploration and extraction are the homes of the last on earth who choose to live in isolation as well as creatures and plants never seen in civilization. In the last few years, an area the size of California is already signed over or up for auction to oil companies. The state-run agency Peru Petro, is hoping to attract US oil companies to buy 11 drilling concessions remaining in the jungle covering an area the size of the state of Maine. With the multinational oil companies will comes contamination of the most pristine land remaining on the planet.
Formerly the petroleum deposits were off limits, Zona Intangible, but with agreements signed during the waning Bush Administration in 2008, the whole of the region is now squarely in the sights of petroleum development, far afield and out of sight of western media who have their own reasons to tread lightly on disclosing the reality of what is happening via shared interests of interlocking corporate directorships. One may notice that US industries frequently seem to operate with a single mindedness. A major reason is that often the same people serve on the boards of multiple corporate entities, manufacturing, media, petroleum and so forth.
We all need oil to make our world tick. This film shoot would be impossible without it. But living in the West, we seldom see the damage caused at point of extraction. This was a devastating illustration of what oil production can to to a remote indigenous population and their traditional way of life. The river is polluted, the animals are contaminated, the children get sick. I'm glad we saw it and filmed it but I am also glad to be leaving. I feel desperately sorry for the people we are leaving behind. It is not somewhere you would want your children to grow up.”
BBC Foreign Correspondent Bruce Parry
"Occidental did not care about ruining the environment for 30 years. All they cared about was making money. The Peruvian state just wants to extract as much oil as they can from our land. They have made billions of dollars, but we have not seen it here." Toma Maynas
With the public outcry that comes with petroleum exploration and extraction, oil companies and investors have practical reasons to conduct their operations quietly. In the jungles of the Amazon, out of sight and not subject to US law, the lure of money frequently leads oil companies to be sloppy and careless. The Indians are barely a help nor a hindrance, just another critter somewhat in the way of the profits. Despite the pretty propaganda governments and oil companies paint their operations with, the very different, more complete picture of the destruction is concealed from the ordinary person, unknowing but complicit nonetheless to what would in the US would be crimes along with the destruction of what sustains a huge percentage of the very life of our little ball of earth.
Some of you may know of the School of Americas in Georgia, where Latin American military go for training. It may not be a surprise to learn that Muskogee County, Georgia, where Fort Benning is located and Muskogee, Oklahoma were the poles, the beginning and end of the Trail of Tears. As a sort of a model of what is happening in Peru, besides the fact that Columbus is the name of the city where the post is, Fort Benning is on what was sacred land for the Cherokee. In 2001, in Ridgeway Hall at Fort Benning, Joel Cassman of the US State Department was asked about oil companies and their operations. Cassman responded:
“The US companies in Latin America are the ones that respect the environmental laws more than any other company. And I think a lot of the American oil companies are the ones who are funding the environmental programs in Latin America. They are the ones who are doing more to try to protect the environment than anyone else. They're funding environmental groups, surveys.”
Joel Cassman, US State Department, transcript, press conference, November, 2001
This is a type of ... one shies from the word “propaganda” but that's what it is. The sort of pretty talk is representative of what one sees in the controlled media of the United States -- if one sees anything at all. A major reason oil companies go places like the wilds of Peru to extract petroleum is that they don't have to spend as much money to keep environment healthy. In remote areas the billion dollar oil business spends less on resistant and safe practices and infrastructure for the simple reason that secure and safe installations cut into profit. The reliance on antiquated, obsolete infrastructure from the seventies and disposal of chemical substances cuts as well -- into the lives of men, women and children as well as the Amazon's forests and rivers.
In the seventies, upon the arrival of Occidental, what used to follow a spill was basically nothing. Today, the same inaction would be the norm, except for the presence of NGOs, non-governmental organizations, serving as liaison between the natives and the outside world. Some of these NGOs are funded by big oil while others are outside agencies genuinely interested in the welfare of the vulnerable. After being informed of spill, these NGOs contact the petrol companies who typically deny the contamination until monitors go to the site and actually test the water or soil. When tests come up positive, the company is forced to admit to the spill and a clean up procedure begins. This can take weeks while the contamination continues to migrate down river. Due to the slow and bureaucratic communication process, clean ups are often initiated only after major contamination occurs and hence become impossible to execute thoroughly. The contamination is often merely concealed.
Lagoons of waste are merely covered with earth by bulldozers, a “band-aid over a bullet wound,” where nothing will grow. Extraction is conducted via the cheapest method known, by pumping water out of the rivers, heating it, injecting it into the earth, sucking it back out, separating the crude oil from the water, now filled with arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead, other heavy metals and toxic salts, and dumping the now-poisoned water back into the river.
Pluspetrol was allowed by the Peruvian government to dump one million gallons of contaminated barrels of water per day. Thirty years prior to Pluspetrol, Occidental Petroleum had no restrictions at all. Petroleum seeps into the water courses and ground water resulting in new. sometimes. fatal diseases entering indigenous tribes, skin allergies and stomach infections. Traditional reliable methods and medicinal plants, from the beginning of indigenous cultures cannot cure them. Children, the weak and the elders simply are unable to live.
“The amount of Peruvian Amazon territory open to exploration has risen from 13% to 70% in two years. At a time when scientists have emphasized the importance of the Amazon as the vanguard against catastrophic climate change, the government of Peru is selling off its tropical forest to oil companies at an exponential rate.
“The Federation of Native Communities of the Corrientes' river (FECONACO) says that for every barrel of oil there are nine barrels of contaminated water produced as a by-product - a total of more than a million barrels a day”.
“The water contains high concentrations of hydrocarbons and heavy metals, like lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic. A survey carried out by Peru's Ministry of Health found that cadmium levels in the blood of more than 98% of the Achuar exceeded safe levels. And more than 66% of children had levels of lead in their blood, which exceeded the maximum permissible. Yet despite the evidence of its own health ministry, the Peruvian government has been slow to act.”
“Geanina Lucana, a nurse who has been working with indigenous communities in the area for six years says the contamination affects every part of the human body, causing a chronic breakdown of the immune system. The Achuars say high levels of toxins in the water are damaging their health. The toxins affect the central nervous system, causing a complete mental and physical breakdown.”
“In the 1990s, an initial meeting with an isolated group resulted in the death of around half the population who were exposed to illnesses to which they had no natural defense.”
BBC's Dan Collyns
Among the the photos you will see the once pristine lake near Trompeteros. The indigenous people can no longer fish from it. Once a beautiful community by the river Corrientes, Trompeteros is now completely taken over by the oil companies. Electricity, noise, money, alcohol, have broken the peace and brought distress and aggression. Contamination results not only from oil spills of old pipelines but also from airports and roads, the infrastructure needed for the oil business.
The United States would not be what it is without roads. A reason the Amazon is so intact and Iquitos so unique is their absence. Industry relies on roads because they are the cheapest way to transport what is needed for operations but they are death to the jungle because of their devastating impact on the environment and social structure. Roads bring with them habitat fragmentation, colonization, unsustainable hunting and illegal logging. One report states that over-hunting of large primates changes composition and spacial distribution of forests. Primates, given their diet and range, are a critical link in the chain of seed dispersion. The din of roads and heavy equipment disrupts delicate ecosystems and the everyday lives of indigenous people, frequently forcing them out of their territories into locations lacking resources needed to survive. The dislocation breaks cultural traits and skills, an end to hunting and fishing and makes the people dependent on modern culture, a universal industrial phenomena common from Appalachia to China. Other accompanying industrial cultural artifacts such as prostitution, alcoholism and accompanying aggressive behavior and exact a severe toll on the culture.
With the arrival of the oil companies and resultant pollution, indigenous tribes are forced to look for alternative survival strategies. Jobs at petroleum companies foster a dependence on money that had never existed. During the press conference at Ft. Benning cited above, Joel Cassman stated also that “oil companies are the ones that pay the highest wages.” Wages are a new and unneeded concept in this place that never needed money. There is a good argument that in a sense money doesn't make one free so much as it make one a slave, a prisoner to the industrial system. All the diversions and baubles of modernity are tied to money. Industrialization squelches cultural practices and self-sufficiency as seen in the Masato tradition. The Yucca beer of the region is being jeopardized by western beer imported by the petrol companies. That is just one example.
When I found out the plan and results of the oil business, I began collecting concealed information and meeting people in organizations working to inform native communities of their rights. It seemed like colonization, the oldest of games. Nothing has changed. Land rights had been given to the native people by industrial nations and powers who didn't even own it but when resources turned up, the rights were taken away.
The main funnels for information and assistance in these people's struggle are a handful of NGOs. While some of the NGOs operating as gatekeepers, conducting public relations for big oil, there are some like Shinai and FECONACO who are helping indigenous tribes. One of the first tasks is to begin a process of mapping territories. The native do have rights to the land they live on, but there are legal hurdles, most notably establishing “ownership,” a tricky problem for whom ownership of land is an abstract notion. There are few if any maps of these places but they must be mapped in order to make them official indigenous lands. It may seem redundant but there has to be a map before the inhabitants can be legal owners of their own territories they have inhabited forever. There never was any sort of question about this being their land until the petrol and logging companies invaded their lands via Peruvian government's illegal and unauthorized permission.
Due to the tireless efforts of outside solidarity organizers and NGOs, there is a growing international movement to consolidate and organize the locals and affinity groups around the globe in opposition to industry's big plans for the region. Twelve thousand indigenous people gathered in Datem, Loreto in August 2008 and demonstrated in defense of their lives and that of the jungle, the first nationally organized native uprising in the history of Peru. 65 native communities attended, informed and organized through village meetings, 2 way radios and word of mouth.
There are matters at hand connected via geography and money that will have to bring us to a new view of the unassailable US lifestyle. One is the concealed trail left by how we live, the stupendous conversion of materials and energy that render to us a limited number of lifestyle options masquerading as freedom. An examination of that can perhaps render an explanation of the ills that seem to plague our culture without change. The ordinary person is unknowing but nevertheless complicit to what would be crimes in the US, along with the destruction of what sustains a huge percentage of life on this ball of earth.
The only ethical responsibility understood by multinational corporation are profits for them and the stockholders. In the absence of any other consideration it is left for the citizens of the US to become the responsible party, both as the consumer of half of Amazonian oil and as citizen of the nation whose government sanctions the companies' operations. The consumer must be the driving force for change. For that reason alone, along with the safe assumption that there will be no substantive change in how the US live, it is a great hope that the reader become involved with the organizations on the ground in Peru and render what assistance they can. While the situation looks bleak, there are millions of people around the globe, increasingly, who are engaging in the struggle to save this critical, irreplaceable global resource. While the forces of development are well-funded, robust and numerous, legal challenges by interested parties have resulted in courts finding for indigenous peoples' and their rights to control their own lands. If we simply sit on our hands and wait for someone else to act, the western Amazon and her people will be destroyed for a few days worth of oil, a trip to the beach, basically.
Think about what you do during your days, how you live. Begin to adjust your life so as to use less energy. If you can do without that car trip, walk or take a bicycle, do so, every day. It is these simple, little things that collectively can make a big difference. Corporate strategies are all based on markets. If people collectively begin to demand and create sustainable markets, industry will be forced to follow. Money is the only thing business understands.
It is critical for the United States begin to develop a comprehensive plan to developing in-country, nationally sourced energy, gas, oil, solar, wind. Returning oil production to the national boundaries will bring scrutiny to oil projects. But we can't just wish and wait for that. How one chooses to think and live, for the salvation the self and the world, is up to you.
In your later, quiet times, reflect on the shared existence, molecules that make us human and at the same time part of the world, calling across the yawning chasms of millennia and the globe, time and space. Strive to become involved in creating your world instead of acquiescing and living an abstract life. Become an active participant in creating your own existence and in what happens, not just for you, although that would and should be enough, but for the world and for others. There really is no difference, there is no “other.” We are all the world and she us. There is only the one.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.
Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.
The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.
Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.
There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.
Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.
The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.
This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.
A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether.” Despite profits of $14.2 billion — $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States — General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.
As The Times’s David Kocieniewski reported, “Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”
G.E. is the nation’s largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.
Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.
New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Military Applications of Social Media
Most people use social media like Facebook and Twitter to share photos of friends and family, chat with friends and strangers about random and amusing diversions, or follow their favorite websites, bands and television shows.
But what does the US military use those same networks for? Well, we can't tell you: That's "classified," a CENTCOM spokesman recently informed Raw Story.
One use that's confirmed, however, is the manipulation of social media through the use of fake online "personas" managed by the military. Raw Story recently reported that the US Air Force had solicited private sector vendors for something called "persona management software." Such a technology would allow single individuals to command virtual armies of fake, digital "people" across numerous social media portals.
These "personas" were to have detailed, fictionalized backgrounds, to make them believable to outside observers, and a sophisticated identity protection service was to back them up, preventing suspicious readers from uncovering the real person behind the account. They even worked out ways to game geolocating services, so these "personas" could be virtually inserted anywhere in the world, providing ostensibly live commentary on real events, even while the operator was not really present.
When Raw Story first reported on the contract for this software, it was unclear what the Air Force wanted with it or even if it had been acquired. The potential for misuse, however, was abundantly clear.
A fake virtual army of people could be used to help create the impression of consensus opinion in online comment threads, or manipulate social media to the point where valuable stories are suppressed.
Ultimately, this can have the effect of causing a net change to the public's opinions and understanding of key world events.
'Classified social media activities'
According to Commander Bill Speaks, the chief media officer of CENTCOM's digital engagement team, the public cannot know what the military wants with such technology because its applications are secret.
"This contract," he wrote in reference to the Air Force's June 22, 2010 filing, "supports classified social media activities outside the U.S., intended to counter violent extremist ideology and enemy propaganda."
Speaks insisted that he was speaking only on behalf of CENTCOM, not the Air Force "or other branches of the military."
While he did reveal who was awarded the contract in question, he added that the Air Force, which helps CENTCOM's contracting process out of MacDill, has even other uses for social media that he could not address.
A series of targeted searches for other "persona management software" contracts yielded no results.
Mystery bidder
While data security firm HBGary Federal was among the contract's bidders listed on a government website, the job was ultimately awarded to a firm that did not appear on the page of interested vendors.
A controversy over the HBGary firm, which recently had its inner-workings dumped onto the Internet by hackers with protest group "Anonymous," was what initially brought the "persona" contract to light.
HBGary, which conspired with Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce to attack WikiLeaksspy on progressive writers and use malware against progressive organizations, was also revealed to have constructed software eerily similar to what the Air Force sought.
"This contract was awarded to a firm called Ntrepid," Speaks wrote to Raw Story. "In addition to the classified activities this software supports, USCENTCOM, like most military commands, does use social media to inform the public of our activities. I should emphasize that such uses do not employ the kind of technology that was the subject of this contract solicitation."
Ntrepid Corporation, registered out of Los Angeles, bills itself as a privacy and identity protection firm in some job postings, and a national security contractor in others, but its official website was amazingly just one page deep and free of even a single word of description.
In spite of their thin online presence, Speaks said the firm was awarded $2,760,000 to carry out the "persona management" contract.
He added that it was unclear why the contract went to an unlisted bidder, and that he would try to find out and report back.
Update: On Wednesday morning, Speaks issued the following statement: "Federal Business Opportunities is a tool used to advertise Government requirements. When a requirement is posted on the website, potential offerors can enter their information into the interested vendors section but, they are not required to in order to be eligible to compete. Additionally, an offeror need not have access to the website in order to compete for Government contracts."
Privacy? Or something else?
Ntrepid's chief technology officer, Lance Cottrellfounded the privacy firm Anonymizer, Inc. in 1995, making him a global leader in identity protection and cryptography. He also runs
Far from just being involved in privacy efforts, Ntrepid is a player in the national security realm and was invited to give a presentation for the US EUCOM i3T conference, which took place in Berlin last week.
Event organizers described the affair as a series of talks "on the challenges to developing technology, demonstrations of advanced technology pertinent to facilitating and/or enabling security and stability, ways and means of analyzing socio-cultural risks and opportunities, and the operationalization and execution of solutions to mitigate or avail issues with U.S. and multinational partners."
Featured speakers included the US EUCOM director of intelligence, the director of the Air Force Research Labratory and the chief information officer of the Defense Intelligence Agency, among other high-profile names.
While the company is remarkably scarce with information on their website, descriptions of the firm's goals seem to vary depending on their job openings.
One post seeking a "senior QA test engineer," filed with corporate candidate tracking firm, describes Ntrepid as "the global leader in online privacy, anonymity, and identity protection solutions".
But another help wanted ad, seeking an "intelligence analyst" on, described Ntrepid as "a leading provider of technology and managed services to national security customers in the areas of cyber operations, analytics, language engineering, and TTL".
Its customers are both public and private sector, the ad said.
A Linked In profile of the company cited them as providers of "software, hardware, and managed services for cyber operations, analytics, linguistics, and surveillance." It had at least 30 employees, according to the business networking site, all located in either San Diego or Washington, DC.
Cottrell himself has advocated on behalf of civil liberties, claiming that widespread Internet surveillance tends to provide no real security benefits.
Efforts to contract both Ntrepid Corporation and Mr. Cottrell did not trigger a response by late Tuesday. A phone number could not be located.