Rep. secures $4m in high-tech funding - for his own foundation

Monies to be spent on developing high-tech goodies for law enforcement, including robots, encryption cracking and responder WIMAX.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Four million dollars in federal funds are headed to West Virginia to boost high-tech law enforcement, the Charleston Daily Mail reports.

Rep. Allan Mollohand (D-WV) got $3.9 million in funds inserted into a federal spending bill. They money is allocated for the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, a nonprofit organization that just so happens to be founded by Mollohand himself.

Indeed, the conservative National Legal & Policy Center has accused Mollohan of personally benefiting from the nonprofit groups he helped create, including the WVHTC Foundation being one. Mollohan is also alleged to have hired close friends to front his nonprofit groups.

"The programs created with these dollars will help to crack criminal codes, improve emergency communications and defuse dangerous situations with low-cost robotics," Mollohan said in a statement.

One thing the Foundation will spend the money on: BomBots, robotic bomb sniffers adn defusers that that Foundation has sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they want to give the BomBots to local law enforcement. Not that there are a lot of IEDs in West Virginia, but the technology may prove appropriate for other tasks.

"What we want to do is continue with the basic chassis design and develop new sensors, infrared devices and so on to help police officers, firemen or first responders," Foundation president Jim Estep said. "For example, these can enter buildings or drive down a street with a camera attached."

Also to be funded: an encryption-cracking software tool.

"Most of the time, officers have to take a computer into a lab and have an agent disable the encryption," Estep said. "This software tool would allow them to do it in real time out in the field.

Through its Global Grid Exchange -- which achieves supercomputer performance by combining the spare processing power of hundreds of Internet-connected computers -- the WVHTC Foundation will develop a program that finds the passwords needed to crack the criminals' codes.

Finally, the Foundation will work to improve first responder communications with WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access).

"We're starting to see the evolution of more broadband wireless technologies," Estep said. "WiMAX is like WiFi, but only instead of having it within 200 feet or within your house, you can technically have a whole town or little city covered by WiMAX towers."

"For example, if someone's lost in the woods or they're trying to find a body, WiMAX technology can allow them to communicate with different types of data back at a command post that they couldn't do with radio or cell phones," Estep said.

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