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Secret US cybersecurity program to protect power grid confirmed

The National Security Agency is spearheading a program, dubbed Perfect Citizen, to develop technology to protect the power grid from cyberattack. The project worries privacy rights groups.

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In this 2006 file photo, a worker connects fiber optic cable that will serve a home in North Bellmore, N.Y. The National Security Agency is spearheading a cloaked and controversial program to develop technology that could protect the US power grid from cyberattack.

Mark Lennihan/AP/File

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Newly released documents confirm that the National Security Agency (NSA), America's top cyberespionage organization, is spearheading a cloaked and controversial program to develop technology that could protect the US power grid from cyberattack.

Existence of the program, dubbed Perfect Citizen, was revealed in a 2010 Wall Street Journal article. But intriguing new details are revealed in documents released by the NSA last month to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), an Internet privacy group that petitioned for them in 2010 under the Freedom of Information Act.

Of the 188 pages of documents released by the agency, roughly half were redacted to remove classified information. Even so, the documents show Perfect Citizen to be in the fourth year of a five-year program begun in 2009. Valued at up to $91 million, the Perfect Citizen technology is being developed by Raytheon, the Waltham, Mass., defense contractor that won it.

The released documents are the contract that the NSA drew up with Raytheon. A Raytheon spokesman referred all comments on the program to the NSA.

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