I had planned to stop writing about homeland surveillance (and the government, no doubt, has the e-mails to prove it); but then a newspaper article about Pentagon advisor Richard Perle's conflicts of interest casually mentioned that Perle is a director of Autonomy Corporation. Autonomy, a well-known provider of text search and retrieval software, seemed an oddly pacific interest for the famously bellicose Perle. However, a little research revealed that Autonomy has long received significant revenue from government security agencies. More exploration found that Autonomy competitors including Inxight, Stratify, Attensity and ClearForest also have large intelligence contracts. Interesting. Just how does this technology fit into a surveillance infrastructure?

Or, to put first things first, what technology do these companies offer? The most common answer would probably be search engines –­ software to locate information in word-processing files, Web pages and other unstructured text formats. (Structured formats refer to databases and files where each element has a specified location. XML documents, which tag elements within an unstructured format, are sometimes called semi-structured.)

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