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 3 - The Palantir Plan
It’s no surprise that Palantir has developed capabilities that allow it to thwart the leak of government information to organizations like WikiLeaks by tracking – and predicting – the actions of potentially disgruntled government employees, soldiers and contractors. In 2010, the U.S. government was left reeling following WikiLeaks’ publication of the Iraq War logs and other documents allegedly leaked by Chelsea Manning. Already a top government contractor at the time, Palantir, along with two other top technology companies contracted by the government — HBGary Federal and Berico Technologies – was tasked with developing a plan not only to silence WikiLeaks but to destroy it completely.
The resulting plan of attack devised by three firms, titled “The WikiLeaks Threat,” was made public in 2011 after hackers associated with Anonymous targeted HBGary and gained access to scores of emails sent between HBGary, Berico and Palantir. It seeks mainly to take advantage of existing fractures within the community of WikiLeaks and its supporters through an elaborate media disinformation campaign. The leaked correspondence among the three contractors showed that the plan was meant to target WikiLeaks’ “global following and volunteer staff” as well as its donor group.
Read “The WikiLeaks Threat”:
The plan is based largely on what the firms identified as WikiLeaks’ three biggest weaknesses and how those weaknesses could be “capitalized on.” The first weakness mentioned is “financial” and references the financial blockade against WikiLeaks that began in 2010. HBGary’s CEO at the time, Aaron Barr, had also mentioned, in the leaked correspondence relating to the document, that it was important to “get people to understand that if they support the organization we will come after them. Transaction records are easily available.” In other words, Barr asserted that those individuals donating to WikiLeaks should also be targeted.
The next weakness noted regards “security.” Though it doesn’t reference any existing security problem, the document calls for the “need to create doubt about their security and increase awareness that interaction with WikiLeaks will expose you.” The latter was also part of an anti-WikiLeaks strategy laid out in a U.S. Army report.
The final weakness noted in the document targets the “mission” of WikiLeaks. It notes that “there is a fracture among the followers because of a belief that Julien [sic] is going astray from the cause and has selected his own mission of attacking the U.S.” The document later notes that this fracture should be exploited by working to “feed the fuel between the feuding groups” by using “disinformation” and by creating “messages around [WikiLeaks] actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization.” A “media campaign to push the radical and reckless nature of WikiLeaks activities” is also cited.
Most interesting of all, perhaps, is the attention the document gives to one individual in particular: journalist and the shining star of The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald. The document notes that Greenwald was critical in moving WikiLeaks’ U.S.-based server to a French one following the release of the Manning leaks, stating specifically that “it is this level of support that needs to be disrupted.” This statement refers more broadly to well-known journalistic professionals with “a liberal bent.” The document further notes that most of these professionals “if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals.”
The document concludes that “without the support of people like Glenn, WikiLeaks would fold.”