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24 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 2 - Palantir and its connections

While Palantir Technologies has many high-profile clients, including some of Wall Street’s largest banks, its most important customer is the U.S. government. Palantir has benefited greatly from government contracts over the last decade, raking in more than $419 million between fiscal year 2007 and fiscal year 2016 from a total of 121 contracts. In recent years, its profits from government work have grown substantially, to over $132 million in government contracts during fiscal year 2016.

The main government agencies that have contracted – and continue to contract – with Palantir are the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense. Its intelligence arm, called Palantir Government, is also used by the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and the Pentagon to “uncover terrorist networks,” fraudsters and “subversives.” Its track record for government work has long been celebrated by key officials in the Trump administration — including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, current National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Though Palantir has largely been hailed in the press for helping track down white-collar criminals like Bernie Madoff and aiding U.S. troops in tracking insurgents in occupied Iraq, it also has another less-publicized use that is of utmost interest to the U.S. government: preventing the leaking of classified information and silencing whistleblowers. By 2012, Palantir had developed a means of indexing information accessed by its software and had created “an audit trail of what the Palantir users were reading, whether they’d handled the information properly and whether they’d modified it in any way.

Not only that, but – in recent years – Palantir has allowed the Orwellian concept of “pre-crime” to be put into practice. It tracks people the government suspects may commit crimes, including suspected “subversives.” Essentially, Palantir not only enables the government to catch leakers; by recording if classified information was improperly handled and by whom; it also predicts which government employees are most likely to blow the whistle, before it even happens.

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