Negroponte Brothers = OLPC + CIA Conspiracy Theory


Nicholas is OLPC all the way

We now have a second OLPC conspiracy theory, perfect for a Friday chuckle.

Spanish-language blogger, Danieloso, has finally realized that Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman of One laptop Per Child has a brother, John Negroponte, who was Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency. And what might that mean? According to Danieloso (via Google Translate):

You would give the education of your children to the Council of National Intelligence of the United States? This is exactly what million parents in the world are on the verge of making thanks to project OLPC (One Laptop Per Child).

Yes, according to Danieloso, just because the Negroponte's are brothers, the CIA will be spying on the educational activities of millions of students in the developing world through the Children's Machine XO.

Danieloso, to be polite: bullshit.

I have the full confidence that neither Negroponte ever entertained such an idea. No matter your opinion of their respective professional career paths, they are professionals. Professional honor, morals, respect, and good old brotherly competition between these two overachievers would make them bristle at the mere suggestion of such a collaboration.

In addition, I am sure every single OLPC developer and corporate sponsor would walk away from OLPC in a heartbeat if the idea of a CIA + OLPC collaboration was even mentioned as a possibility. I know I would personally go epileptic if any law enforcement organ tried to get into the OLPC implementation process.

John was CIA, but now State

Of course, the best part of Danieloso's conspiracy theory is that he is two days late. John Negroponte isn't Director of the CIA any more. As of Tuesday, he is now confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State in the US State Department - a whole other organization with a strong dislike of the CIA.

Still, I'm surprised this conspiracy theory didn't come up earlier. I thought for sure that the Negroponte brothers' connection would've been an early rumor to discredit One Laptop Per Child. In many countries, such a family relationship would be expected to intertwine interests, and there would not be much negative fallout if the country's spying organ associated with an educational cause.

Unfortunately, because of that OLPC's might be used by governments to spy on their populace. The OLPC XO is a communications tool, and like other technology (cell phones, Internet cafes, even radio), governments can use it to control as well as educate.

But again, I have the firm conviction that neither the Central Intelligence Agency, nor the National Security Agency (NSA), and definitely not the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be looking over the shoulder of students in developing countries. As much as Danieloso might think OLPC would be that important, they have way better things to do.

Like be paranoid about free WiFi in the USA.

Related Entries


I think there is some truth to what has been written here. The World is controlled by energy and it's resources, where there is energy at stake there is U.S.A. Hat's off to the Negroponte brothers, they have allot of power between them, but if it's used in a corrupt way to influence decision makers in 3rd World countries, I think it's very, very unfair.

I can hear the conversation now, "Hi John, it's your brother Nicholas here, I'm having trouble getting Brazil to sign up for all the units I want to bring there, let's say 10 (mil) to start with, can you call the President and make him an offer he cant refuse and let's get on with this thing, I mean Brazil is trying to become a self energy supplied country, just let him know we won't let him unless he signs the deal, thanks John, Nicholas"

hello, my name is danieloso and the author of the "conspiracy theory" ;)

1. It is not an educative project, is a hardware project.

2. That pedagogical theory is implemented sustains project OLPC and where is that document?

3. Where this the report of the disadvantages of project OLPC?

4. All the projects have have them. Where is the report on the cultural and economic impact of this project?

5. Would not be economic a computer by One Laptop per Teacher? ;)

Cultural note: The autor of the term “conspiracy theory” is Daniel Pipes [] the objective of this "term" is to ridicule any idea that indicates to the government like intellectual author of some immoral or criminal act.

Thanks for criticize and the ridicule. You gave a great idea me to transform project OLPC into a better educative project (and more cheap). =D


I too agree with your 1-5 list of concerns about the implementation of this project as an educational endeavor. I ask the same questions often on OLPC News.

But making the grand assumption that brotherhood would make this a CIA project is ignorant and insulting.

"In addition, I am sure every single OLPC developer and corporate sponsor would walk away from OLPC in a heartbeat if the idea of a CIA + OLPC collaboration was even mentioned as a possibility."

And you would hardly expect Kofi Annan, who is hardly a friend of the CIA, to be supporting olpc.

Actually, my real fear along the political angle is that villagers will use oplc to network, and as a result authoritarian governments will get scared and confiscate all the laptops.

danieloso: You are looking to the CIA as up to a nasty plot. Is that because you're one of those fellows who believes that the US and capitalism are to blame for everything bad in the world, and that if it weren't for that the world would be a worker's paradise?

Once or twice while I have held forth against the OLPC implementation approach someone in the audience raised the issue of the Nick/John connection. My response has been to discourage any such thinking as forcefully as possible. I say "I also have a brother and I refuse to be defined by him", and refuse to follow that line of discussion any further.

However, Karl has a point. I have always called the project "politically marketed", and this is an area where family connections, real or assumed, have a significant effect. I don't doubt that John would turn Nick down if he asked for anything, but the perception among many in other governments may well be that "blood is thicker than water".

if you have a look for Mr John Negroponte's track record, there is very little signs of "professional honor, morals or respect".

Concerns about the ability of someone (either the local governments or outside agencies) of tracking, monitoring, or spying on the olpc's has been raised in the wiki a few times.
Most have been answered, except the one about the fact that the specs of the "wifi chips" are closed, even if free firmware is being developed for it.
My (an others) concerns were moved to, and I still haven't heard a response about it:
The last part is:
" I originally posted this snippet above. How can the worldwide community if teachers, FLOSS developers, and contributors to the OLPC project be assured that no "spying", or "tracking" code will exist in the antennas firmware, if their specifications wont be disclosed (or will only be to a few select developers who agree to Non Disclosure Agreements)? Personally, my potential involvement with the project will be based on this simple fact: Nobody except a few will know how the antennas and meshing work, and the code that comes out for it, even if free software, may be obscured enough to leave the full functionality of it still in the dark.
I think this is a very serious topic that the OLPC team should look into!"

1. The objective of the OLPC is not “to spy on” the children.

2. The objective of the OLPC it is control and to monopolize the market of the education.

3. In whichever months will send a new version of OLPC? That cost will have for the children?

4. To give stradivarius to the children will not make musicians. To enable the teachers in music teory yes.

5. The pedagogical model must be trim in the teacher, not centered in the student.

6. Front page that is when igniting the navigator of the OLPC is GOOGLE. Because?

7. The OLPC navigator will show publicity of google. At the moment if he does.

8. Whichever money will gain google by each click of the children in the Adense publicity.

9. The MIT had to enable to teachers and developer of educative software of all countries of the world to develop educative contents based on the culture of each country. Because it did not do it?

10. This is a great business for USA. A third contemporary world. To sell to the poor men obsolete technology.

Interesting that this article seems to put OLPC on the defensive. And OLPC does NOT eat kitten no matter what you have heard.

Here's an interesting interview with Jim Gettys. At the end was asked, "How much thought has been given to selling laptops to the developed world at inflated prices?" and answered:

"We've been thinking such thoughts, although there are no plans to date that I'm aware of. We'll probably make machines for adults look different to kids' machines when the time comes. There is great interest for machines like these everywhere we go."

First lesson.

Million poor children + Google Home Page on OLPC = Million click for Google AdsenSe

Great business with Google!

I am absolutely thrilled with this idea. I'm only surpriesd I hadn't heard about it before.

It makes sense 100% for these computers to be distributed to the children. Access to education is very powerful - this is what drove the developed world to where it is today. This is a very courageous and sincere project, and I acknowledge the passion of the designers of the program.

Danieloso, you must understand that this is giving the children the possibility of being in charge of their own futures. I'm totally inspired. And by the way, given that there is so little content in their native language available on the interweb, don't you think it would be inherently difficult for them to surf the web anyway? there aren't even that many translation programs (freely available or otherwise) for the languages of many of the intended recipients of these laptops.

So, refrain from judging the project. You cannot know what will happen in the future. You DO NOT know what will happen in the future.

And really, think about it, what did you look at on the interweb when you were a kid? And what does it matter if anyone knows? It doesn't mean anything.

This is not the first time I have come across the conspiracy theory, and part of me identifies with international interests who are wary of strangers bearing gifts. The lanuage issue is one issue: is this a means of globalizing English? The commercial aspect of the Internet cannot be overlooked. Ads fuel the net in America. I only hope that the potential to open a window to the world from anywhere on the globe ... in an egalitarian spirit ... can be tested before it is rejected out of fear.


"Million poor children + Google Home Page on OLPC = Million click for Google AdsenSe

Great business with Google!"

I guess is was right, you think capitalism is the root of all evil, and I suppose that means you think socialism is the answer. Perhaps you believe the children of the world would be better of if every nation were like Cuba or North Korea.

Capitalism and socialism not, Humanism yes.

Humanism is not an economic system. Perhaps you think people can get along without an economic system? So I was wrong that you're a socialist and instead you're a fuzzy-minded idealist?

You have to think from a "latin american" point of view. We (I am from Argentina, the same latin america country of the Danieloso) are used to being cheated by politicians (some of them, "professionals"), so we will never support something like you said: "Professional honor, morals, respect, and good old brotherly competition between these two overachievers would make them bristle at the mere suggestion of such a collaboration."

The "latin american" point of view????????????

what is the North American point of view?

Killer and to take to innocent children to concentration camps?

To inherit the presidency of parents to children.

The vice-president sells arms to the "enemy"?

Political genocides to Latin America?

It is very simple. The EUA people this sleepy. She cannot see the true government.

"[Negroponte] can also count on guidance from his brother, Deputy Secretary of State and former National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte, who was the first person Nicholas told about his laptop project.

John has helped Nicholas navigate hotspots around the globe as he forges contacts with leaders. "He's my closest adviser," Nicholas says. If Intel and OLPC eventually pool their global efforts, as some people predict, powerful friends and families in both camps may do a world of good."

I'm not sure I understand. Is Nicholas Negroponte in the pay of the CIA? Or is he a clueless dupe taken in by his scheming brother? How about the rest of the OLPC team? All CIA, some CIA, none CIA?

And how's the CIA know where those OLPC's are going to go? The individual governments decide if they want to pay for them or not. If not then there are no OLPC's in that country.

Finally, the OLPC is targeted at poor children. What could the CIA possibly hope to learn from them? Could it possibly be worth the damage that would result from an uncovering of the plot?


I don't think there is a CIA - OLPC connection, only conspiracy theories thought up by people who need to find them. That being said, I don't think its smart for Nicholas to be talking "Trojan horses" when he has a brother who was National Intelligence Director.

And my comment wasn't directed at you, Wayan. Just at conspiratorialists in general. The kind of people who think they're onto something because they read about the awful, secret conspiracy in a book from a shelf loaded with twenty or thirty similar books and never notice the irony.

I personally think that the OLPC initiative is a naively good visionary idea with wrong priorities and a very bad real world implementation.

1) It embodies the the old "let's go out and heal the world" kind of attitude, which is SO lame.

2) It is old as being Prouct centric versus Knowledge centric. If you want to be humanitarian, find a way to bridge the digital divide in the US first and then spread the KNOWLEDGE, not the PRODUCTS

3) It's surpassed in its vision to empower an isolated individual. A laptop and Internet hardly ever promote real, physical human interaction and strong social connections, even if they're great at recording them (see myspace).

4) A book is not a school. A thousand books are not a school. A laptop is not a school.

5) It is subject to being a sneaky way to introduce an extensive cultural massification, marketization and control because it carries all the means and potentials to do so. Saying that this potential will not be used out of "good morals and principles" is just ridiculous

5a) Cultural massification - what are "US closed source" content and news providers doing within this initiative? Where are the local content providers? Is there any plan to include them in the initiative? Even the ones that are not friendly with the US point of view, in sake of completeness?

5b) Marketization - Why should we assume that it's good for developing countries to be linked/dependent to US products and services?

5c) Control - GPS tracking, and what other "little things", as Negroponte calls them, are embedded in the computers' technology to track where they are and how they are being used?

"I personally think that the OLPC initiative is a naively good visionary idea with wrong priorities and a very bad real world implementation."

Any alternative?

More schools and teachers you say.

10 million teachers?
Why aren't we having them now?
What went wrong?
How do we get them?
Should we give up on those children if we can't implement your favorite idea?

In the whole of human history there were three areas of technical progress that have ALWAYS resulted in economic growth:
1 Energy/Power
2 Transport
3 Communication
- General: Books, newspapars, radio, TV, internet
- Personal: (e)Mail, telegraph, (mobile) telephone

The OLPC hings strongly on introducing, 3 Communication, to education in terms of books, writing, information, and inter-personal communication.

I haven't seen a single argument why providing a library+information+communication platform to people will NOT induce growth as it has always done in the past.

(which is not to say that the OLPC will be cost-effective)


And into this stew you can throw Rupert Murdoch's offer to give free internet access. Murdoch of course owns Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, both, by some measures, reliable vessels of right-wing and corporate will.

Do I believe Murdoch would fight the CIA or the NSA if they asked him to turn over or direct all internet activity through their programs, say the way Qwest seems to have done when asked to do just that by the intelligence community? No.

Do I believe Murdoch supports warrantless wiretapping and has a "if you're not doing anything wrong, there's no reason not to let the government see everything you do" mentality. We know he does.

Do I trust Murdoch to tell the truth about, well, anything really? No, I don't.

So a man with close connections to the CIA and intelligence communities has pushed a program to outfit the world with laptops and Murdoch will be your friendly ISP.

Uh... call me paranoid, but let's face it, there's more here than meets the eye. Sure, promoting computer literacy promotes stability through prosperity. I am all for that. I am all for OLPC. I would want my L and all my student's L to be Open Source hardware.

I think anyone who let's Murdoch in on their connectivity basically is a fool- of course it will ALL be put through a Carnivore / ATT-secret-room type setup. Hell, why not let Dick Cheney be your ISP for that matter?

Call it, security through not-having-yet-another-right-wing-paranoiac-CIA-scheme-blow-up-in-America's-face-and-further-ruin-our-credibility

Peace through shared values, mutual respect, transparency of motive and transparency of implementation.

Just let someone show that Murdoch is sniffing packets (of COURSE he's sniffing packets.. he and the intel community are not virtually one and the same? ) or the laptops are rigged in any way.. and see where this all leads.