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23 January, 2018

The war on Whistleblowers and WikiLeaks

The PayPal-offshoot Becomes a Weapon in the War Against Whistleblowers and WikiLeaks. The Palantir document notes that most well-known journalistic professionals “with a liberal bent . . .if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals.”

WikiLeaks, the transparency organization known for publishing leaked documents that threaten the powerful, finds itself under pressure like never before, as does its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange. Now the fight to silence WikiLeaks is not only being waged by powerful government figures but also by the media, including outlets and organizations that have styled themselves as working to protect whistleblowers.

Pierre Omidyar – eBay billionaire and PayPal’s long-time owner – holds considerable sway over several journalists and organizations that once championed WikiLeaks but now work for the Omidyar-owned publication, The Intercept. Thanks to his deep ties to the U.S. government and his own long-standing efforts to undermine the organization, Omidyar is using his influence to bring renewed pressure to WikiLeaks as it continues to publish sensitive government information. However, Pierre Omidyar is not the only PayPal-linked billionaire with strong government connections and a dislike for WikiLeaks.

Part 1

Peter Thiel, who once compared writers at Gawker to Al Qaeda after they wrote about his sexuality, is a close confidant of Donald Trump — who, as president, continues to crack down on whistleblowers (even denying them bail) and whose administration has named arresting WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange a top priority.

Thiel is a perfect companion for the Trump administration in this regard — having, through his management of a top government technology contractor, overseen the creation of a “pre-crime” algorithm that targets would-be whistleblowers. Not only that, but that very contractor once created a plan challenging “the WikiLeaks threat,” a plan that displays some frightening similarities to current efforts to silence or discredit the organization and its famous editor.

Thiel, after Trump’s inauguration, was nearly appointed chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, until Thiel withdrew his name. Several of Thiel’s top aides and associates have been given high-profile positions, including important positions on the National Security Council.

However, Thiel’s strongest relationship to the government comes not from his Trump White House ties, but from his being chairman of the government contractor Palantir Technologies, a company Fortune called “one of Silicon Valley’s biggest, most secretive software startups.

Palantir began at PayPal as an antifraud algorithm that detected “unusual account activity.” However, following September 11, PayPal co-founder Thiel theorized it could be used to look for “terrorists.” He, along with his long-time associate Alex Karp, decided to name their offshoot company, which was based around the algorithm, after the all-seeing crystal from The Lord of the Rings. It was launched in 2004, two years after PayPal was acquired by eBay’s Pierre Omidyar.

Upon launching, Palantir was largely funded by Thiel himself as well as by In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA – an agency also connected to Pierre Omidyar. Since its founding, Thiel has long had a hand in how Palantir is run and currently serves as its chairman. As of 2015, PayPal employees still composed 80 percent of Palantir’s management team.

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