Nanotech useful for spies, government report says

Nanotechnology developments eventually may help U.S. spies, a new government report concludes.

Devices that are incredibly and near-undetectably tiny--under 100 nanometers--offer "exciting possibilities" for exploitation by U.S. spy agencies, says the National Research Council report. More precisely, that's from the report's unclassified executive summary--the only document that appears to have been made public.

While their report offers few details, the NRC members seem to be envisioning surveillance devices that would be undetectable to the naked eye and sport miniaturized electronic circuits to match. Other "examples include quantum computing and communication, molecular electronics, and intelligent sensor networks," the executive summary says.

At the same time, though, the NRC panel said that it "remains skeptical of claims that nanotechnology will have the kind of broad, revolutionary impact that has characterized fields such as biotechnology or microelectronics." NRC panelists who prepared the report include the director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's nanosciences lab, an MIT professor, and a nanoscience center director at Sandia National Laboratories.

The U.S. intelligence community, which at the time was headed by the CIA director, asked the NRC to prepare the report.

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About the author

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

 

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