Former CIA director George Tenet says,
We [the CIA] decided to use our limited dollars to leverage technology developed elsewhere. In 1999 we chartered ... In-Q-Tel. ... While we pay the bills, In-Q-Tel is independent of CIA. CIA identifies pressing problems, and In-Q-Tel provides the technology to address them. The In-Q-Tel alliance has put the Agency back at the leading edge of technology ... This ... collaboration ... enabled CIA to take advantage of the technology that Las Vegas uses to identify corrupt card players and apply it to link analysis for terrorists [cf. the parallel data-mining effort by the SOCOM-DIA operation Able Danger ], and to adapt the technology that online booksellers use and convert it to scour millions of pages of documents looking for unexpected results.
In-Q-Tel sold 5,636 shares of Google Inc., worth over $2.2 million, on Nov 15, 2005. The stocks were a result of Google’s acquisition of Keyhole, the CIA funded satellite mapping software now known as Google Earth.
As of August 2006, In-Q-Tel had reviewed more than 5,800 business plans, invested some $150 million in more than 90 companies, and delivered more than 130 technology solutions to the intelligence community. In 2005 it was said to be funded with about $37 million a year from the CIA.
In-Q-Tel functions partially in public, however what products it has and how they are used is strictly secret. According to the Washington Post, virtually any U.S. entrepreneur, inventor or research scientist working on ways to analyze data has probably received a phone call from In-Q-Tel or at least been Googled by its staff.
"In my view the organization has been far more successful than I dreamed it would be," said Norman R. Augustine, who was recruited in 1998 to help set up In-Q-Tel and is an In-Q-Tel trustee. Critics have questioned the societal benefit gained from the secretive investments.