nettime's roving reporter on Sun, 20 Apr 2003 20:30:17 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Darpa withdraws money for OpenBSD

Defense agency pulls OpenBSD funding
By Robert Lemos
April 18, 2003, 5:00 AM PT

The unused portion of a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency to fund development of the open-source operating system OpenBSD has
been pulled for unspecified reasons.

The project's leader, Theo de Raadt, said Thursday he was informed by
email that the remaining portion of the $2.3 million grant has been
pulled. An e-mail from a professor who is managing the grant did not
provide a reason, but de Raadt said he believes the cancellation was
prompted by concerns about the money going to too many foreign developers
and to antiwar statements that de Raadt made to reporters.

"They decided that they didn't want (our project) anymore," de Raadt said
Thursday, less than hour after he received notification. "This is it. It's

DARPA, the arm of the U.S. Department of Defense that funds research and
development and is best known for funding the project that later became
the Internet, awarded the grant in 2001 as part of its Composable
High-Assurance Trusted Systems (CHATS) projects, said de Raadt.

About $1 million had been allotted to add new security features to
OpenBSD, an open-source OS that many consider to be the most secure free
implementation of a Unix-like system. The project had finished most of the
work in the first three months of the grant and had been recently using
the money to fund more security enhancements to the software, de Raadt
said at a recent security conference.

A University of Pennsylvania computer science professor, Jonathan Smith,
had originally applied for the grant under the title, "Portable
Open-Source Security Enhancements," or POSSE. About $500,000 of the money
went to several U.K. researchers to do a vulnerability analysis on
OpenSSL, a widely used program for encrypting communications, especially
to and from Web sites. A handful of flaws were found, de Raadt said.

Smith refused to comment on the funding, citing the sensitivity of the
issue. An e-mail to the POSSE project's DARPA representative wasn't

Earlier this week, de Raadt said he was told that officials from DARPA
were concerned about statements appearing in press reports that indicated
most of the grant was being funneled to foreign researchers, an apparent
no-no for government-funded projects. Moreover, de Raadt believed that the
U.S.  government took exception to comments he made indicating that the
money spent on his project meant that fewer cruise missiles were being

"In the U.S., today, free speech is just a myth," de Raadt said.

He estimated that about 85 percent of the money has already been spent and
that the remaining portion would have continued the project for another
six months. "The only money that I got was my salary," he said.

With nearly 60 OpenBSD hackers traveling to Canada to take part in a
"hackathon"--a week's worth of programming sessions--the project now finds
itself about $30,000 short of the money it needs to house the attendees.

"We are left in the lurch very seriously...and will need to struggle to
keep our conference facilities in some way," de Raadt said.

The project plans to ship version 3.3 of the OpenBSD system on Friday. An 
acknowledgment of the role that DARPA played, which was to appear on the 
back of the box, will instead be covered by a sticker, he said.

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