In the wake of the Edward Snowden data dump, the CIA and Silicon Valley have had a rather chilly public relationship. But the two are closer than you might think, with the US intelligence agency investing in some Valley ventures.
One that’s received a lot of attention lately is Palantir. The shadowy, Peter Thiel-founded data-mining operation has hit a few roadblocks lately, according to a recent BuzzFeed profile. The company is reportedly buying up its own stock from employees rather than pursuing an IPO, perhaps because one of its investors is best known for its secrecy: In-Q-Tel.
In-Q-Tel is the arm of the CIA specifically set up to fund “projects of mutual interest to both the CIA and the commercial marketplace.” It’s been around since the late 90s, when the CIA became concerned that it was falling behind in the new digital age. The traditional government procurement process is less flexible than the “move fast and break things” motto of many start-ups, so In-Q-Tel looks to merge venture capital sensibilities with CIA cash.