DARPA Cancels OS Project After Comments
Military Drops OpenBSD Project's Funding After Programmer Makes Anti-War Comments
The Associated Press
SAN JOSE, Calif. April 18, 2003 — The U.S. military's research agency cut off grant money for helping to develop a secure, free operating system after a top programmer made anti-war statements to a major newspaper.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency halted the contract less than two weeks after The Globe and Mail of Toronto published a story in which programmer Theo de Raadt was quoted as saying he was "uncomfortable" about the funding source.
"I try to convince myself that our grant means a half of a cruise missile doesn't get built," de Raadt told the newspaper.
Within a few days, de Raadt said he received an e-mail from Jonathan Smith, a computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the grant's lead researcher, expressing discomfort over the statements.
On Thursday, Smith notified de Raadt of the cancellation.
"A tenured professor was telling me not to exercise my freedom of speech," de Raadt said.
Smith declined to comment on the matter, and DARPA did not return telephone messages Friday. De Raadt's suspicions about the cancellation could not be confirmed.
The $2.3 million grant had funded security improvements to the OpenBSD operating system since 2001 as well as related projects.
OpenBSD, a variation of Unix designed for use on servers, is touted as so secure that its default installation has had only one bug in the past seven years.
Thousands of copies of OpenBSD have been downloaded in the past six months. It's not clear, however, how many are in use.
De Raadt estimates about 85 percent of the DARPA grant has been spent, with about $1 million being used to pay for OpenBSD developers. Much of the work has been handled by a team of 80 unpaid volunteers.
Another $500,000 of the money funded the work of United Kingdom-based researchers on a related project called OpenSSL, which is used to encrypt data.
DARPA, which oversees research activities for the Pentagon, is best known for developing the network that evolved into the Internet.
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.