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John Soat
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IT Confidential: The CIA Talks The Talk; Public Walks The Line

Did you know that the CIA has a venture-capital arm? (Those guys must be tough to negotiate with!) I was reminded of that when talking with some folks from Language Weaver, a new company that offers language-translation software. Language Weaver, which was started last year by three University of Southern California researchers, markets what it says is a different approach to machine translation, using a statistical method rather than the traditional rules-based one. "It's a fundamental difference" that makes translation faster and more accurate, says CEO Bryce Benjamin. The CIA must have been impressed; its VC arm, which is called In-Q-Tel, recently invested money in the company, though Benjamin won't say exactly how much. As for why: "9/11 put a laser beam of interest on the kind of technology we offer," Benjamin says. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Language Weaver last week unveiled a translation module for Arabic.

SRA International has hired Daniel Chenok, branch chief for information policy and technology at the White House Office of Management and Budget, as its VP and director for policy and management strategies. Chenok is the third senior IT official to leave the OMB since August, when E-government administrator Mark Forman left. Chenok begins his new job in January. He will report to SRA president Renny DiPentima and will help develop offerings across the company's business areas, with a specific emphasis on management services. DiPentima says Chenok will work to expand SRA's ability to support the government in developing end-to-end solutions that integrate technology, policy, and management.

Coldwater Creek, the mall-oriented retailer of women's fashion and jewelry, last week tapped James Brownell as its new senior VP and CIO. Brownell has an impressive retail-market pedigree--he most recently served as senior VP and CIO for Williams-Sonoma, the home-furnishings retailer, and before that he was VP of IT for Gap.

The NPD Group, a market-research firm, estimates that in August, 1.4 million American households deleted all the digital music files on their computers, and it credits the Recording Industry Association of America's litigious anti-piracy campaign for the change in file-sharing habits. Also, according to NPD, the number of households acquiring digital music via file-sharing services dropped by 11% from August to September. Russ Crupnick, VP of The NPD Group, said in a statement, "The message that file sharing is illegal is getting through to mainstream consumers."

Funny how that works--a few high-profile lawsuits by a deep-pocketed industry group and, voila!, a change of heart. But don't have a change of heart about sending me an industry tip, to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about venture-capital opportunities, the feds' revolving door, or copyright infringement, meet me at's Listening Post:

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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