Friday, May 25, 2007

Speech technology company in court (4)

When Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products (LHSP) went into bankruptcy, rumours about conspiracy started to circulate. The bankruptcy was caused by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the Secret Service and a host of other intelligence and security agencies. These agencies employed equipment of Dragon Systems, Dictaphone and Aptec, all US companies acquired by LHSP. The Americans were said to have conspired to get those companies back in US hands.

All those intelligence gathering services employed systems such as:
- Echelon, which monitors the majority of electronic communication in the world;
- Carnivore, which intercepts email;
- Tempest, a technology that can read a computer monitor's display from over a block away;
- Keyhole satellites that have a resolution of four inches.

The conspiracy theory was also expressed by Jo Lernout in an interview in the magazine Humo (March 30, 2002). He claimed that the bankruptcy was a direct result of the trade and communication war between the Europe and the USA. Lernout says in fact that he is sure, that LHSP has been monitored by the Americans: We knew about Echelon, simply because we had the technology necessary for every intelligence gathering service. It is cynical: but we probably developed the machines with which we were spied on. Of course we could have known as it was already known that Echelon was not only there for terrorism and drugs running, but also for industrial espionage.

LHSP had bought four US companies, which delivered equipment and technology to the US intelligence gathering services:
- Dictaphone, an US company which produced digital recorders, which recorded voices and could search in the content. Dictaphone delivered machines to the Pentagon.
- Dragon was also a US company which was a specialist in audio mining. Speech was converted into text, which could be searched by search prompts or by robots.
- ISI was a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon University, where Professor Alex Waibel had developed a method to record digital pictures of people talking to each other and to analyse the conversation.
- Aptec was a US company, located near the Pentagon, which had developed translation software from Arabic to English and from Korean to English.

With all these technologies marching out of the USA, the Americans were probably very unhappy, Lernout suspects. He knows that when Dragon had been bought by LHSP, the top of Dragon was ordered to Washington for an explanation. Janet Baker, the founder of Dragon, heard there, that LHSP pumped up its figures with money from the Middle East in order raise the quote of its shares; in this way LHSP could acquire American top technology.

In the interview Jo Lernout focuses on the last two CEOs of the company Mr John Duerden, the former boss of Dictaphone, and Mr Phillipe Bodson, a compatriot but Wallon. They have, according to Lernout, done everything to ruin LHSP. Mr Duerden wanted his company back. And the Americans put pressure on Mr Bodson, when he was selling the Mendez translation company.

LHSP was producing equipment which could be used for intelligence gathering operations and spy activities. But it should be noted that Lernout had to explain something to the 130.000 shareholders who had bought shares with their saving. Besides, creating the impression of a David and Goliath fight between LHSP vs. USA Inc., would take away the attention from the fraud. So far it did not as the court case has started, at last. An interesting question remains: what happened to the speech and translation industry since the bankruptcy of LHSP?

Blog Posting Number: 764

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