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For The Record  

FTR #1077 Surveillance Valley, Part 3: Cambridge Analytica, Democracy and Counterinsurgency

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Carl Schmitt, on the right. Arguably Nazi Ger­many’s top legal the­o­reti­cian and a dom­i­nant influ­ence on Face­book and Palan­tir king­pin Peter Thiel’s think­ing.

Intro­duc­tion: Con­tin­u­ing the dis­cus­sion from FTR #1076, the broad­cast recaps key aspects of analy­sis of the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca scan­dal.

In our last pro­gram, we not­ed that both the inter­net (DARPA projects includ­ing Project Agile) and the Ger­man Nazi Par­ty had their ori­gins as coun­terin­sur­gency gam­bits. Not­ing Hitler’s speech before The Indus­try Club of Dus­sel­dorf, in which he equat­ed com­mu­nism with democ­ra­cy, we high­light how the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca scan­dal reflects the coun­terin­sur­gency ori­gins of the Inter­net, and how the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca affair embod­ies anti-Democ­ra­cy/as coun­terin­sur­gency.

Key aspects of the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca affair include:

  1. The use of psy­cho­graph­ic per­son­al­i­ty testing on Face­book that is used for polit­i­cal advan­tage: ” . . . . For sev­er­al years, a data firm even­tu­al­ly hired by the Trump cam­paign, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, has been using Face­book as a tool to build psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­files that rep­re­sent some 230 mil­lion adult Amer­i­cans. A spin­off of a British con­sult­ing com­pa­ny and some­time-defense con­trac­tor known for its coun­tert­er­ror­ism ‘psy ops’ work in Afghanistan, the firm does so by seed­ing the social net­work with per­son­al­i­ty quizzes. Respon­dents — by now hun­dreds of thou­sands of us, most­ly female and most­ly young but enough male and old­er for the firm to make infer­ences about oth­ers with sim­i­lar behav­iors and demo­graph­ics — get a free look at their Ocean scores. Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca also gets a look at their scores and, thanks to Face­book, gains access to their pro­files and real names. . . .”
  2. The par­ent com­pa­ny of Cam­bridge Analytica–SCL–was deeply involved with coun­tert­er­ror­ism “psy-ops” in Afghanistan, embody­ing the essence of the coun­terin­sur­gency dynam­ic at the root of the devel­op­ment of the Inter­net. The use of online data to sub­vert democ­ra­cy recalls Hitler’s speech to the Indus­try Club of Dus­sel­dorf, in which he equat­ed democ­ra­cy with com­mu­nism: ” . . . .  Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca was a com­pa­ny spun out of SCL Group, a British mil­i­tary con­trac­tor that worked in infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions for armed forces around the world. It was con­duct­ing research on how to scale and digi­tise infor­ma­tion war­fare – the use of infor­ma­tion to con­fuse or degrade the effi­ca­cy of an ene­my. . . . As direc­tor of research, Wylie’s orig­i­nal role was to map out how the com­pa­ny would take tra­di­tion­al infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions tac­tics into the online space – in par­tic­u­lar, by pro­fil­ing peo­ple who would be sus­cep­ti­ble to cer­tain mes­sag­ing. This mor­phed into the polit­i­cal are­na. After Wylie left, the com­pa­ny worked on Don­ald Trump’s US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign . . . .”
  3. Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca whistle­blow­er Christo­pher Wylie’s obser­va­tions on the anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic nature of the fir­m’s work: ” . . . . It was this shift from the bat­tle­field to pol­i­tics that made Wylie uncom­fort­able. ‘When you are work­ing in infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions projects, where your tar­get is a com­bat­ant, the auton­o­my or agency of your tar­gets is not your pri­ma­ry con­sid­er­a­tion. It is fair game to deny and manip­u­late infor­ma­tion, coerce and exploit any men­tal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties a per­son has, and to bring out the very worst char­ac­ter­is­tics in that per­son because they are an ene­my,’ he says. ‘But if you port that over to a demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem, if you run cam­paigns designed to under­mine people’s abil­i­ty to make free choic­es and to under­stand what is real and not real, you are under­min­ing democ­ra­cy and treat­ing vot­ers in the same way as you are treat­ing ter­ror­ists.’ . . . .”
  4. Wylie’s obser­va­tions on how Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca’s method­ol­o­gy can be used to build a fas­cist polit­i­cal move­ment: ” . . . . One of the rea­sons these tech­niques are so insid­i­ous is that being a tar­get of a dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign is ‘usu­al­ly a plea­sur­able expe­ri­ence’, because you are being fed con­tent with which you are like­ly to agree. ‘You are being guid­ed through some­thing that you want to be true,’ Wylie says. To build an insur­gency, he explains, you first tar­get peo­ple who are more prone to hav­ing errat­ic traits, para­noia or con­spir­a­to­r­i­al think­ing, and get them to ‘like’ a group on social media. They start engag­ing with the con­tent, which may or may not be true; either way ‘it feels good to see that infor­ma­tion’. When the group reach­es 1,000 or 2,000 mem­bers, an event is set up in the local area. Even if only 5% show up, ‘that’s 50 to 100 peo­ple flood­ing a local cof­fee shop’, Wylie says. This, he adds, val­i­dates their opin­ion because oth­er peo­ple there are also talk­ing about ‘all these things that you’ve been see­ing online in the depths of your den and get­ting angry about’. Peo­ple then start to believe the rea­son it’s not shown on main­stream news chan­nels is because ‘they don’t want you to know what the truth is’. As Wylie sums it up: ‘What start­ed out as a fan­ta­sy online gets port­ed into the tem­po­ral world and becomes real to you because you see all these peo­ple around you.’ . . . .”
  5. Wylie’s obser­va­tion that Face­book was “All In” on the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca machi­na­tions: ” . . . . ‘Face­book has known about what Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca was up to from the very begin­ning of those projects,” Wylie claims. “They were noti­fied, they autho­rised the appli­ca­tions, they were giv­en the terms and con­di­tions of the app that said explic­it­ly what it was doing. They hired peo­ple who worked on build­ing the app. I had legal cor­re­spon­dence with their lawyers where they acknowl­edged it hap­pened as far back as 2016.’ . . . .”
  6. The deci­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion of “Spy Tech” firm Palan­tir in the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca oper­a­tion: Peter Thiel’s sur­veil­lance firm Palan­tir was appar­ent­ly deeply involved with Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca’s gam­ing of per­son­al data har­vest­ed from Face­book in order to engi­neer an elec­toral vic­to­ry for Trump. Thiel was an ear­ly investor in Face­book, at one point was its largest share­hold­er and is still one of its largest share­hold­ers. In addi­tion to his oppo­si­tion to democ­ra­cy because it alleged­ly is inim­i­cal to wealth cre­ation, Thiel does­n’t think women should be allowed to vote and holds Nazi legal the­o­reti­cian Carl Schmitt in high regard. ” . . . . It was a Palan­tir employ­ee in Lon­don, work­ing close­ly with the data sci­en­tists build­ing Cambridge’s psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing tech­nol­o­gy, who sug­gest­ed the sci­en­tists cre­ate their own app — a mobile-phone-based per­son­al­i­ty quiz — to gain access to Face­book users’ friend net­works, accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by The New York Times. The rev­e­la­tions pulled Palan­tir — co-found­ed by the wealthy lib­er­tar­i­an Peter Thiel — into the furor sur­round­ing Cam­bridge, which improp­er­ly obtained Face­book data to build ana­lyt­i­cal tools it deployed on behalf of Don­ald J. Trump and oth­er Repub­li­can can­di­dates in 2016. Mr. Thiel, a sup­port­er of Pres­i­dent Trump, serves on the board at Face­book. ‘There were senior Palan­tir employ­ees that were also work­ing on the Face­book data,’ said Christo­pher Wylie, a data expert and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca co-founder, in tes­ti­mo­ny before British law­mak­ers on Tues­day. . . . The con­nec­tions between Palan­tir and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca were thrust into the spot­light by Mr. Wylie’s tes­ti­mo­ny on Tues­day. Both com­pa­nies are linked to tech-dri­ven bil­lion­aires who backed Mr. Trump’s cam­paign: Cam­bridge is chiefly owned by Robert Mer­cer, the com­put­er sci­en­tist and hedge fund mag­nate, while Palan­tir was co-found­ed in 2003 by Mr. Thiel, who was an ini­tial investor in Face­book. . . .”
  7. The use of “dark posts” by the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca team. (We have not­ed that Brad Parscale has reassem­bled the old Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca team for Trump’s 2020 elec­tion cam­paign. It seems prob­a­ble that AOC’s mil­lions of online fol­low­ers, as well as the “Bernie Bots,” will be get­ting “dark posts” craft­ed by AI’s scan­ning their online efforts.) ” . . . . One recent adver­tis­ing prod­uct on Face­book is the so-called ‘dark post’: A news­feed mes­sage seen by no one aside from the users being tar­get­ed. With the help of Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, Mr. Trump’s dig­i­tal team used dark posts to serve dif­fer­ent ads to dif­fer­ent poten­tial vot­ers, aim­ing to push the exact right but­tons for the exact right peo­ple at the exact right times. . . .”

Peter Thiel

Sup­ple­ment­ing the dis­cus­sion about Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, the pro­gram reviews infor­ma­tion from FTR #718 about Face­book’s appar­ent involve­ment with ele­ments and indi­vid­u­als linked to CIA and DARPA: ” . . . . Face­book’s most recent round of fund­ing was led by a com­pa­ny called Grey­lock Ven­ture Cap­i­tal, who put in the sum of $27.5m. One of Grey­lock­’s senior part­ners is called Howard Cox, anoth­er for­mer chair­man of the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. What’s In-Q-Tel? Well, believe it or not (and check out their web­site), this is the ven­ture-cap­i­tal wing of the CIA. After 9/11, the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty became so excit­ed by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of new tech­nol­o­gy and the inno­va­tions being made in the pri­vate sec­tor, that in 1999 they set up their own ven­ture cap­i­tal fund, In-Q-Tel, which ‘iden­ti­fies and part­ners with com­pa­nies devel­op­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies to help deliv­er these solu­tions to the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency and the broad­er US Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty (IC) to fur­ther their mis­sions’. . . .”

More about the CIA/DARPA links to the devel­op­ment of Face­book: ” . . . . The sec­ond round of fund­ing into Face­book ($US12.7 mil­lion) came from ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Accel Part­ners. Its man­ag­er James Brey­er was for­mer­ly chair­man of the Nation­al Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Asso­ci­a­tion, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm estab­lished by the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency in 1999. One of the com­pa­ny’s key areas of exper­tise are in ‘data min­ing tech­nolo­gies’. Brey­er also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Tech­nolo­gies, which was one of those com­pa­nies respon­si­ble for the rise of the inter­net. Dr Ani­ta Jones joined the firm, which includ­ed Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board, and had been direc­tor of Defence Research and Engi­neer­ing for the US Depart­ment of Defence. She was also an advis­er to the Sec­re­tary of Defence and over­see­ing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is respon­si­ble for high-tech, high-end devel­op­ment. . . .”

Oleh Tihany­bok, leader of the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion Svo­bo­da, to which Face­book’s Katery­na Kruk belonged.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: Review of Face­book’s plans to use brain-to-com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy to oper­ate its plat­form, there­by the enabling of record­ing and data­bas­ing peo­ple’s thoughts; Review of Face­book’s employ­ment of for­mer DARPA head Regi­na Dugan to imple­ment the brain-to-com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy; Review of Face­book’s build­ing 8–designed to dupli­cate DARPA; Review of Face­book’s hir­ing of the Atlantic Coun­cil to police the social medi­um’s online con­tent; Review of Face­book’s part­ner­ing with Naren­dra Mod­i’s Hin­dut­va fas­cist gov­ern­ment in India; Review of Face­book’s emloy­ment of Ukrain­ian fas­cist Katery­na Kruk to man­age the social medi­um’s Ukrain­ian con­tent.

1a. Face­book per­son­al­i­ty tests that alleged­ly let you learn things about what make you tick allows who­ev­er set up that test learn what makes you tick too. Since it’s done through Face­book, they can iden­ti­fy your test results with your real iden­ti­ty.

If the Face­book per­son­al­i­ty test in ques­tion hap­pens to report your “Ocean score” (Open­ness, Con­sci­en­tious­ness, Extra­ver­sion, Agree­able­ness and Neu­roti­cism), that means the test your tak­ing was cre­at­ed by Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, a com­pa­ny with one of Don­ald Trump’s bil­lion­aire sug­ar-dad­dies, Robert Mer­cer, as a major investor. And it’s Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca that gets to learn all those fun facts about your psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­file too. And Steve Ban­non sat on its board:

“The Secret Agen­da of a Face­book Quiz” by McKen­zie Funk; The New York Times; 1/19/2017.

Do you pan­ic eas­i­ly? Do you often feel blue? Do you have a sharp tongue? Do you get chores done right away? Do you believe in the impor­tance of art?

If ever you’ve answered ques­tions like these on one of the free per­son­al­i­ty quizzes float­ing around Face­book, you’ll have learned what’s known as your Ocean score: How you rate accord­ing to the big five psy­cho­log­i­cal traits of Open­ness, Con­sci­en­tious­ness, Extra­ver­sion, Agree­able­ness and Neu­roti­cism. You may also be respon­si­ble the next time Amer­i­ca is shocked by an elec­tion upset.

For sev­er­al years, a data firm even­tu­al­ly hired by the Trump cam­paign, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, has been using Face­book as a tool to build psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­files that rep­re­sent some 230 mil­lion adult Amer­i­cans. A spin­off of a British con­sult­ing com­pa­ny and some­time-defense con­trac­tor known for its coun­tert­er­ror­ism “psy ops” work in Afghanistan, the firm does so by seed­ing the social net­work with per­son­al­i­ty quizzes. Respon­dents — by now hun­dreds of thou­sands of us, most­ly female and most­ly young but enough male and old­er for the firm to make infer­ences about oth­ers with sim­i­lar behav­iors and demo­graph­ics — get a free look at their Ocean scores. Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca also gets a look at their scores and, thanks to Face­book, gains access to their pro­files and real names.

Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca worked on the “Leave” side of the Brex­it cam­paign. In the Unit­ed States it takes only Repub­li­cans as clients: Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz in the pri­maries, Mr. Trump in the gen­er­al elec­tion. Cam­bridge is report­ed­ly backed by Robert Mer­cer, a hedge fund bil­lion­aire and a major Repub­li­can donor; a key board mem­ber is Stephen K. Ban­non, the head of Bre­it­bart News who became Mr. Trump’s cam­paign chair­man and is set to be his chief strate­gist in the White House.

In the age of Face­book, it has become far eas­i­er for cam­paign­ers or mar­keters to com­bine our online per­sonas with our offline selves, a process that was once con­tro­ver­sial but is now so com­mon­place that there’s a term for it, “onboard­ing.” Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca says it has as many as 3,000 to 5,000 data points on each of us, be it vot­ing his­to­ries or full-spec­trum demo­graph­ics — age, income, debt, hob­bies, crim­i­nal his­to­ries, pur­chase his­to­ries, reli­gious lean­ings, health con­cerns, gun own­er­ship, car own­er­ship, home­own­er­ship — from con­sumer-data giants.

No data point is very infor­ma­tive on its own, but pro­fil­ing vot­ers, says Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, is like bak­ing a cake. “It’s the sum of the ingre­di­ents,” its chief exec­u­tive offi­cer, Alexan­der Nix, told NBC News. Because the Unit­ed States lacks Euro­pean-style restric­tions on sec­ond- or third­hand use of our data, and because our free­dom-of-infor­ma­tion laws give data bro­kers broad access to the inti­mate records kept by local and state gov­ern­ments, our lives are open books even with­out social media or per­son­al­i­ty quizzes.

Ever since the adver­tis­ing exec­u­tive Lester Wun­der­man coined the term “direct mar­ket­ing” in 1961, the abil­i­ty to tar­get spe­cif­ic con­sumers with ads — rather than blan­ket­ing the air­waves with mass appeals and hop­ing the right peo­ple will hear them — has been the marketer’s holy grail. What’s new is the effi­cien­cy with which indi­vid­u­al­ly tai­lored dig­i­tal ads can be test­ed and matched to our per­son­al­i­ties. Face­book is the microtargeter’s ulti­mate weapon.

The explo­sive growth of Facebook’s ad busi­ness has been over­shad­owed by its increas­ing role in how we get our news, real or fake. In July, the social net­work post­ed record earn­ings: quar­ter­ly sales were up 59 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year, and prof­its almost tripled to $2.06 bil­lion. While active users of Face­book — now 1.71 bil­lion month­ly active users — were up 15 per­cent, the real sto­ry was how much each indi­vid­ual user was worth. The com­pa­ny makes $3.82 a year from each glob­al user, up from $2.76 a year ago, and an aver­age of $14.34 per user in the Unit­ed States, up from $9.30 a year ago. Much of this growth comes from the fact that adver­tis­ers not only have an enor­mous audi­ence in Face­book but an audi­ence they can slice into the tranch­es they hope to reach.

One recent adver­tis­ing prod­uct on Face­book is the so-called “dark post”: A news­feed mes­sage seen by no one aside from the users being tar­get­ed. With the help of Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, Mr. Trump’s dig­i­tal team used dark posts to serve dif­fer­ent ads to dif­fer­ent poten­tial vot­ers, aim­ing to push the exact right but­tons for the exact right peo­ple at the exact right times.

Imag­ine the full capa­bil­i­ty of this kind of “psy­cho­graph­ic” adver­tis­ing. In future Repub­li­can cam­paigns, a pro-gun vot­er whose Ocean score ranks him high on neu­roti­cism could see storm clouds and a threat: The Demo­c­rat wants to take his guns away. A sep­a­rate pro-gun vot­er deemed agree­able and intro­vert­ed might see an ad empha­siz­ing tra­di­tion and com­mu­ni­ty val­ues, a father and son hunt­ing togeth­er.

In this elec­tion, dark posts were used to try to sup­press the African-Amer­i­can vote. Accord­ing to Bloomberg, the Trump cam­paign sent ads remind­ing cer­tain select­ed black vot­ers of Hillary Clinton’s infa­mous “super preda­tor” line. It tar­get­ed Miami’s Lit­tle Haiti neigh­bor­hood with mes­sages about the Clin­ton Foundation’s trou­bles in Haiti after the 2010 earth­quake. Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion rules are unclear when it comes to Face­book posts, but even if they do apply and the facts are skewed and the dog whis­tles loud, the already weak­en­ing pow­er of social oppro­bri­um is gone when no one else sees the ad you see — and no one else sees “I’m Don­ald Trump, and I approved this mes­sage.”

While Hillary Clin­ton spent more than $140 mil­lion on tele­vi­sion spots, old-media experts scoffed at Trump’s lack of old-media ad buys. Instead, his cam­paign pumped its mon­ey into dig­i­tal, espe­cial­ly Face­book. One day in August, it flood­ed the social net­work with 100,000 ad vari­a­tions, so-called A/B test­ing on a bib­li­cal scale, sure­ly more ads than could eas­i­ly be vet­ted by human eyes for com­pli­ance with Facebook’s “com­mu­ni­ty stan­dards.”

1b. Christo­pher Wylie–the for­mer head of research at Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca who became one of the key insid­er whis­tle-blow­ers about how Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca oper­at­ed and the extent of Facebook’s knowl­edge about it–gave an inter­view last month to Cam­paign Mag­a­zine. (We dealt with Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca in FTR #‘s 946, 1021.)

Wylie recounts how, as direc­tor of research at Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, his orig­i­nal role was to deter­mine how the com­pa­ny could use the infor­ma­tion war­fare tech­niques used by SCL Group – Cam­bridge Analytica’s par­ent com­pa­ny and a defense con­trac­tor pro­vid­ing psy op ser­vices for the British mil­i­tary. Wylie’s job was to adapt the psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare strate­gies that SCL had been using on the bat­tle­field to the online space. As Wylie put it:

“ . . . . When you are work­ing in infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions projects, where your tar­get is a com­bat­ant, the auton­o­my or agency of your tar­gets is not your pri­ma­ry con­sid­er­a­tion. It is fair game to deny and manip­u­late infor­ma­tion, coerce and exploit any men­tal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties a per­son has, and to bring out the very worst char­ac­ter­is­tics in that per­son because they are an ene­my…But if you port that over to a demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem, if you run cam­paigns designed to under­mine people’s abil­i­ty to make free choic­es and to under­stand what is real and not real, you are under­min­ing democ­ra­cy and treat­ing vot­ers in the same way as you are treat­ing ter­ror­ists. . . . .”

Wylie also draws par­al­lels between the psy­cho­log­i­cal oper­a­tions used on demo­c­ra­t­ic audi­ences and the bat­tle­field tech­niques used to be build an insur­gency. It starts with tar­get­ing peo­ple more prone to hav­ing errat­ic traits, para­noia or con­spir­a­to­r­i­al think­ing, and get them to “like” a group on social media. The infor­ma­tion you’re feed­ing this tar­get audi­ence may or may not be real. The impor­tant thing is that it’s con­tent that they already agree with so that “it feels good to see that infor­ma­tion.” Keep in mind that one of the goals of the ‘psy­cho­graph­ic pro­fil­ing’ that Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca was to iden­ti­fy traits like neu­roti­cism.

Wylie goes on to describe the next step in this insur­gency-build­ing tech­nique: keep build­ing up the inter­est in the social media group that you’re direct­ing this tar­get audi­ence towards until it hits around 1,000–2,000 peo­ple. Then set up a real life event ded­i­cat­ed to the cho­sen dis­in­for­ma­tion top­ic in some local area and try to get as many of your tar­get audi­ence to show up. Even if only 5 per­cent of them show up, that’s still 50–100 peo­ple con­verg­ing on some local cof­fee shop or what­ev­er. The peo­ple meet each oth­er in real life and start talk­ing about about “all these things that you’ve been see­ing online in the depths of your den and get­ting angry about”. This tar­get audi­ence starts believ­ing that no one else is talk­ing about this stuff because “they don’t want you to know what the truth is”. As Wylie puts it, “What start­ed out as a fan­ta­sy online gets port­ed into the tem­po­ral world and becomes real to you because you see all these peo­ple around you.”

“Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca whistle­blow­er Christo­pher Wylie: It’s time to save cre­ativ­i­ty” by Kate Magee; Cam­paign; 11/05/2018.

In the ear­ly hours of 17 March 2018, the 28-year-old Christo­pher Wylie tweet­ed: “Here we go….”

Lat­er that day, The Observ­er and The New York Times pub­lished the sto­ry of Cam­bridge Analytica’s mis­use of Face­book data, which sent shock­waves around the world, caused mil­lions to #Delete­Face­book, and led the UK Infor­ma­tion Commissioner’s Office to fine the site the max­i­mum penal­ty for fail­ing to pro­tect users’ infor­ma­tion. Six weeks after the sto­ry broke, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca closed. . . .

. . . . He believes that poor use of data is killing good ideas. And that, unless effec­tive reg­u­la­tion is enact­ed, society’s wor­ship of algo­rithms, unchecked data cap­ture and use, and the like­ly spread of AI to all parts of our lives is caus­ing us to sleep­walk into a bleak future.

Not only are such cir­cum­stances a threat to adland – why do you need an ad to tell you about a prod­uct if an algo­rithm is choos­ing it for you? – it is a threat to human free will. “Cur­rent­ly, the only moral­i­ty of the algo­rithm is to opti­mise you as a con­sumer and, in many cas­es, you become the prod­uct. There are very few exam­ples in human his­to­ry of indus­tries where peo­ple them­selves become prod­ucts and those are scary indus­tries – slav­ery and the sex trade. And now, we have social media,” Wylie says.

“The prob­lem with that, and what makes it inher­ent­ly dif­fer­ent to sell­ing, say, tooth­paste, is that you’re sell­ing parts of peo­ple or access to peo­ple. Peo­ple have an innate moral worth. If we don’t respect that, we can cre­ate indus­tries that do ter­ri­ble things to peo­ple. We are [head­ing] blind­ly and quick­ly into an envi­ron­ment where this men­tal­i­ty is going to be ampli­fied through AI every­where. We’re humans, we should be think­ing about peo­ple first.”

His words car­ry weight, because he’s been on the dark side. He has seen what can hap­pen when data is used to spread mis­in­for­ma­tion, cre­ate insur­gen­cies and prey on the worst of people’s char­ac­ters.

The polit­i­cal bat­tle­field

A quick refresh­er on the scan­dal, in Wylie’s words: Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca was a com­pa­ny spun out of SCL Group, a British mil­i­tary con­trac­tor that worked in infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions for armed forces around the world. It was con­duct­ing research on how to scale and digi­tise infor­ma­tion war­fare – the use of infor­ma­tion to con­fuse or degrade the effi­ca­cy of an ene­my. . . .

. . . . As direc­tor of research, Wylie’s orig­i­nal role was to map out how the com­pa­ny would take tra­di­tion­al infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions tac­tics into the online space – in par­tic­u­lar, by pro­fil­ing peo­ple who would be sus­cep­ti­ble to cer­tain mes­sag­ing.

This mor­phed into the polit­i­cal are­na. After Wylie left, the com­pa­ny worked on Don­ald Trump’s US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign . . . .

. . . . It was this shift from the bat­tle­field to pol­i­tics that made Wylie uncom­fort­able. “When you are work­ing in infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions projects, where your tar­get is a com­bat­ant, the auton­o­my or agency of your tar­gets is not your pri­ma­ry con­sid­er­a­tion. It is fair game to deny and manip­u­late infor­ma­tion, coerce and exploit any men­tal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties a per­son has, and to bring out the very worst char­ac­ter­is­tics in that per­son because they are an ene­my,” he says.

“But if you port that over to a demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem, if you run cam­paigns designed to under­mine people’s abil­i­ty to make free choic­es and to under­stand what is real and not real, you are under­min­ing democ­ra­cy and treat­ing vot­ers in the same way as you are treat­ing ter­ror­ists.”

One of the rea­sons these tech­niques are so insid­i­ous is that being a tar­get of a dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign is “usu­al­ly a plea­sur­able expe­ri­ence”, because you are being fed con­tent with which you are like­ly to agree. “You are being guid­ed through some­thing that you want to be true,” Wylie says.

To build an insur­gency, he explains, you first tar­get peo­ple who are more prone to hav­ing errat­ic traits, para­noia or con­spir­a­to­r­i­al think­ing, and get them to “like” a group on social media. They start engag­ing with the con­tent, which may or may not be true; either way “it feels good to see that infor­ma­tion”.

When the group reach­es 1,000 or 2,000 mem­bers, an event is set up in the local area. Even if only 5% show up, “that’s 50 to 100 peo­ple flood­ing a local cof­fee shop”, Wylie says. This, he adds, val­i­dates their opin­ion because oth­er peo­ple there are also talk­ing about “all these things that you’ve been see­ing online in the depths of your den and get­ting angry about”.

Peo­ple then start to believe the rea­son it’s not shown on main­stream news chan­nels is because “they don’t want you to know what the truth is”. As Wylie sums it up: “What start­ed out as a fan­ta­sy online gets port­ed into the tem­po­ral world and becomes real to you because you see all these peo­ple around you.” . . . . 

. . . . Psy­cho­graph­ic poten­tial

. . . . But Wylie argues that peo­ple under­es­ti­mate what algo­rithms allow you to do in pro­fil­ing. “I can take pieces of infor­ma­tion about you that seem innocu­ous, but what I’m able to do with an algo­rithm is find pat­terns that cor­re­late to under­ly­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­files,” he explains.

“I can ask whether you lis­ten to Justin Bieber, and you won’t feel like I’m invad­ing your pri­va­cy. You aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly aware that when you tell me what music you lis­ten to or what TV shows you watch, you are telling me some of your deep­est and most per­son­al attrib­ut­es.” . . . .

. . . . Clash­es with Face­book

Wylie is opposed to self-reg­u­la­tion, because indus­tries won’t become con­sumer cham­pi­ons – they are, he says, too con­flict­ed.

“Face­book has known about what Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca was up to from the very begin­ning of those projects,” Wylie claims. “They were noti­fied, they autho­rised the appli­ca­tions, they were giv­en the terms and con­di­tions of the app that said explic­it­ly what it was doing. They hired peo­ple who worked on build­ing the app. I had legal cor­re­spon­dence with their lawyers where they acknowl­edged it hap­pened as far back as 2016.” . . . . 

1c. In FTR #946, we exam­ined Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, its Trump and Steve Ban­non-linked tech firm that har­vest­ed Face­book data on behalf of the Trump cam­paign.

Peter Thiel’s sur­veil­lance firm Palan­tir was appar­ent­ly deeply involved with Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca’s gam­ing of per­son­al data har­vest­ed from Face­book in order to engi­neer an elec­toral vic­to­ry for Trump. Thiel was an ear­ly investor in Face­book, at one point was its largest share­hold­er and is still one of its largest share­hold­ers. ” . . . . It was a Palan­tir employ­ee in Lon­don, work­ing close­ly with the data sci­en­tists build­ing Cambridge’s psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing tech­nol­o­gy, who sug­gest­ed the sci­en­tists cre­ate their own app — a mobile-phone-based per­son­al­i­ty quiz — to gain access to Face­book users’ friend net­works, accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by The New York Times. The rev­e­la­tions pulled Palan­tir — co-found­ed by the wealthy lib­er­tar­i­an Peter Thiel — into the furor sur­round­ing Cam­bridge, which improp­er­ly obtained Face­book data to build ana­lyt­i­cal tools it deployed on behalf of Don­ald J. Trump and oth­er Repub­li­can can­di­dates in 2016. Mr. Thiel, a sup­port­er of Pres­i­dent Trump, serves on the board at Face­book. ‘There were senior Palan­tir employ­ees that were also work­ing on the Face­book data,’ said Christo­pher Wylie, a data expert and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca co-founder, in tes­ti­mo­ny before British law­mak­ers on Tues­day. . . . The con­nec­tions between Palan­tir and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca were thrust into the spot­light by Mr. Wylie’s tes­ti­mo­ny on Tues­day. Both com­pa­nies are linked to tech-dri­ven bil­lion­aires who backed Mr. Trump’s cam­paign: Cam­bridge is chiefly owned by Robert Mer­cer, the com­put­er sci­en­tist and hedge fund mag­nate, while Palan­tir was co-found­ed in 2003 by Mr. Thiel, who was an ini­tial investor in Face­book. . . .”

“Spy Contractor’s Idea Helped Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca Har­vest Face­book Data” by NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and MATTHEW ROSENBERG; The New York Times; 03/27/2018

As a start-up called Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca sought to har­vest the Face­book data of tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans in sum­mer 2014, the com­pa­ny received help from at least one employ­ee at Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies, a top Sil­i­con Val­ley con­trac­tor to Amer­i­can spy agen­cies and the Pen­ta­gon. It was a Palan­tir employ­ee in Lon­don, work­ing close­ly with the data sci­en­tists build­ing Cambridge’s psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing tech­nol­o­gy, who sug­gest­ed the sci­en­tists cre­ate their own app — a mobile-phone-based per­son­al­i­ty quiz — to gain access to Face­book users’ friend net­works, accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by The New York Times.

Cam­bridge ulti­mate­ly took a sim­i­lar approach. By ear­ly sum­mer, the com­pa­ny found a uni­ver­si­ty researcher to har­vest data using a per­son­al­i­ty ques­tion­naire and Face­book app. The researcher scraped pri­vate data from over 50 mil­lion Face­book users — and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca went into busi­ness sell­ing so-called psy­cho­me­t­ric pro­files of Amer­i­can vot­ers, set­ting itself on a col­li­sion course with reg­u­la­tors and law­mak­ers in the Unit­ed States and Britain.

The rev­e­la­tions pulled Palan­tir — co-found­ed by the wealthy lib­er­tar­i­an Peter Thiel — into the furor sur­round­ing Cam­bridge, which improp­er­ly obtained Face­book data to build ana­lyt­i­cal tools it deployed on behalf of Don­ald J. Trump and oth­er Repub­li­can can­di­dates in 2016. Mr. Thiel, a sup­port­er of Pres­i­dent Trump, serves on the board at Face­book.

“There were senior Palan­tir employ­ees that were also work­ing on the Face­book data,” said Christo­pher Wylie, a data expert and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca co-founder, in tes­ti­mo­ny before British law­mak­ers on Tues­day. . . .

. . . .The con­nec­tions between Palan­tir and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca were thrust into the spot­light by Mr. Wylie’s tes­ti­mo­ny on Tues­day. Both com­pa­nies are linked to tech-dri­ven bil­lion­aires who backed Mr. Trump’s cam­paign: Cam­bridge is chiefly owned by Robert Mer­cer, the com­put­er sci­en­tist and hedge fund mag­nate, while Palan­tir was co-found­ed in 2003 by Mr. Thiel, who was an ini­tial investor in Face­book. . . .

. . . . Doc­u­ments and inter­views indi­cate that start­ing in 2013, Mr. Chmieli­auskas began cor­re­spond­ing with Mr. Wylie and a col­league from his Gmail account. At the time, Mr. Wylie and the col­league worked for the British defense and intel­li­gence con­trac­tor SCL Group, which formed Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca with Mr. Mer­cer the next year. The three shared Google doc­u­ments to brain­storm ideas about using big data to cre­ate sophis­ti­cat­ed behav­ioral pro­files, a prod­uct code-named “Big Dad­dy.”

A for­mer intern at SCL — Sophie Schmidt, the daugh­ter of Eric Schmidt, then Google’s exec­u­tive chair­man — urged the com­pa­ny to link up with Palan­tir, accord­ing to Mr. Wylie’s tes­ti­mo­ny and a June 2013 email viewed by The Times.

“Ever come across Palan­tir. Amus­ing­ly Eric Schmidt’s daugh­ter was an intern with us and is try­ing to push us towards them?” one SCL employ­ee wrote to a col­league in the email.

. . . . But he [Wylie] said some Palan­tir employ­ees helped engi­neer Cambridge’s psy­cho­graph­ic mod­els.

“There were Palan­tir staff who would come into the office and work on the data,” Mr. Wylie told law­mak­ers. “And we would go and meet with Palan­tir staff at Palan­tir.” He did not pro­vide an exact num­ber for the employ­ees or iden­ti­fy them.

Palan­tir employ­ees were impressed with Cambridge’s back­ing from Mr. Mer­cer, one of the world’s rich­est men, accord­ing to mes­sages viewed by The Times. And Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca viewed Palantir’s Sil­i­con Val­ley ties as a valu­able resource for launch­ing and expand­ing its own busi­ness.

In an inter­view this month with The Times, Mr. Wylie said that Palan­tir employ­ees were eager to learn more about using Face­book data and psy­cho­graph­ics. Those dis­cus­sions con­tin­ued through spring 2014, accord­ing to Mr. Wylie.

Mr. Wylie said that he and Mr. Nix vis­it­ed Palantir’s Lon­don office on Soho Square. One side was set up like a high-secu­ri­ty office, Mr. Wylie said, with sep­a­rate rooms that could be entered only with par­tic­u­lar codes. The oth­er side, he said, was like a tech start-up — “weird inspi­ra­tional quotes and stuff on the wall and free beer, and there’s a Ping-Pong table.”

Mr. Chmieli­auskas con­tin­ued to com­mu­ni­cate with Mr. Wylie’s team in 2014, as the Cam­bridge employ­ees were locked in pro­tract­ed nego­ti­a­tions with a researcher at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty, Michal Kosin­s­ki, to obtain Face­book data through an app Mr. Kosin­s­ki had built. The data was cru­cial to effi­cient­ly scale up Cambridge’s psy­cho­met­rics prod­ucts so they could be used in elec­tions and for cor­po­rate clients. . . .

2a. There are indi­ca­tions that ele­ments in  and/or asso­ci­at­ed with CIA and Pentagon/DARPA were  involved with Face­book almost from the begin­ning: ” . . . . Face­book’s most recent round of fund­ing was led by a com­pa­ny called Grey­lock Ven­ture Cap­i­tal, who put in the sum of $27.5m. One of Grey­lock­’s senior part­ners is called Howard Cox, anoth­er for­mer chair­man of the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. What’s In-Q-Tel? Well, believe it or not (and check out their web­site), this is the ven­ture-cap­i­tal wing of the CIA. After 9/11, the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty became so excit­ed by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of new tech­nol­o­gy and the inno­va­tions being made in the pri­vate sec­tor, that in 1999 they set up their own ven­ture cap­i­tal fund, In-Q-Tel, which ‘iden­ti­fies and part­ners with com­pa­nies devel­op­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies to help deliv­er these solu­tions to the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency and the broad­er US Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty (IC) to fur­ther their mis­sions’. . . .”

“With Friends Like These . . .” by Tim Hodgkin­son; guardian.co.uk; 1/14/2008.

. . . . The third board mem­ber of Face­book is Jim Brey­er. He is a part­ner in the ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Accel Part­ners, who put $12.7m into Face­book in April 2005. On the board of such US giants as Wal-Mart and Mar­vel Enter­tain­ment, he is also a for­mer chair­man of the Nation­al Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Asso­ci­a­tion (NVCA). Now these are the peo­ple who are real­ly mak­ing things hap­pen in Amer­i­ca, because they invest in the new young tal­ent, the Zucker­bergs and the like. Face­book’s most recent round of fund­ing was led by a com­pa­ny called Grey­lock Ven­ture Cap­i­tal, who put in the sum of $27.5m. One of Grey­lock­’s senior part­ners is called Howard Cox, anoth­er for­mer chair­man of the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. What’s In-Q-Tel? Well, believe it or not (and check out their web­site), this is the ven­ture-cap­i­tal wing of the CIA. After 9/11, the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty became so excit­ed by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of new tech­nol­o­gy and the inno­va­tions being made in the pri­vate sec­tor, that in 1999 they set up their own ven­ture cap­i­tal fund, In-Q-Tel, which “iden­ti­fies and part­ners with com­pa­nies devel­op­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies to help deliv­er these solu­tions to the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency and the broad­er US Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty (IC) to fur­ther their mis­sions”. . . .

2b.  More about the CIA/Pentagon link to the devel­op­ment of Face­book: ” . . . . The sec­ond round of fund­ing into Face­book ($US12.7 mil­lion) came from ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Accel Part­ners. Its man­ag­er James Brey­er was for­mer­ly chair­man of the Nation­al Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Asso­ci­a­tion, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm estab­lished by the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency in 1999. One of the com­pa­ny’s key areas of exper­tise are in ‘data min­ing tech­nolo­gies’.  Brey­er also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Tech­nolo­gies, which was one of those com­pa­nies respon­si­ble for the rise of the inter­net. Dr Ani­ta Jones joined the firm, which includ­ed Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board, and had been direc­tor of Defence Research and Engi­neer­ing for the US Depart­ment of Defence. She was also an advis­er to the Sec­re­tary of Defence and over­see­ing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is respon­si­ble for high-tech, high-end devel­op­ment. . . .”

“Facebook–the CIA Con­spir­a­cy” by Matt Greenop; The New Zealand Her­ald; 8/8/2007.

. . . . Face­book’s first round of ven­ture cap­i­tal fund­ing ($US500,000) came from for­mer Pay­pal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-mul­ti­cul­tur­al tome ‘The Diver­si­ty Myth’, he is also on the board of rad­i­cal con­ser­v­a­tive group Van­guard­PAC.

The sec­ond round of fund­ing into Face­book ($US12.7 mil­lion) came from ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Accel Part­ners. Its man­ag­er James Brey­er was for­mer­ly chair­man of the Nation­al Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Asso­ci­a­tion, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm estab­lished by the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency in 1999. One of the com­pa­ny’s key areas of exper­tise are in “data min­ing tech­nolo­gies”.

Brey­er also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Tech­nolo­gies, which was one of those com­pa­nies respon­si­ble for the rise of the inter­net.

Dr Ani­ta Jones joined the firm, which includ­ed Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board, and had been direc­tor of Defence Research and Engi­neer­ing for the US Depart­ment of Defence.

She was also an advis­er to the Sec­re­tary of Defence and over­see­ing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is respon­si­ble for high-tech, high-end devel­op­ment. . . .

3. Face­book wants to read your thoughts.

  1. ” . . . Face­book wants to build its own “brain-to-com­put­er inter­face” that would allow us to send thoughts straight to a com­put­er. ‘What if you could type direct­ly from your brain?’ Regi­na Dugan, the head of the company’s secre­tive hard­ware R&D divi­sion, Build­ing 8, asked from the stage. Dugan then pro­ceed­ed to show a video demo of a woman typ­ing eight words per minute direct­ly from the stage. In a few years, she said, the team hopes to demon­strate a real-time silent speech sys­tem capa­ble of deliv­er­ing a hun­dred words per minute. ‘That’s five times faster than you can type on your smart­phone, and it’s straight from your brain,’ she said. ‘Your brain activ­i­ty con­tains more infor­ma­tion than what a word sounds like and how it’s spelled; it also con­tains seman­tic infor­ma­tion of what those words mean.’ . . .”
  2. ” . . . . Brain-com­put­er inter­faces are noth­ing new. DARPA, which Dugan used to head, has invest­ed heav­i­ly in brain-com­put­er inter­face tech­nolo­gies to do things like cure men­tal ill­ness and restore mem­o­ries to sol­diers injured in war. But what Face­book is propos­ing is per­haps more radical—a world in which social media doesn’t require pick­ing up a phone or tap­ping a wrist watch in order to com­mu­ni­cate with your friends; a world where we’re con­nect­ed all the time by thought alone. . . .”
  3. ” . . . . Facebook’s Build­ing 8 is mod­eled after DARPA and its projects tend to be equal­ly ambi­tious. . . .”
  4. ” . . . . But what Face­book is propos­ing is per­haps more radical—a world in which social media doesn’t require pick­ing up a phone or tap­ping a wrist watch in order to com­mu­ni­cate with your friends; a world where we’re con­nect­ed all the time by thought alone. . . .”

Face­book Lit­er­al­ly Wants to Read Your Thoughts” by Kris­ten V. Brown; Giz­modo; 4/19/2017.

At Facebook’s annu­al devel­op­er con­fer­ence, F8, on Wednes­day, the group unveiled what may be Facebook’s most ambitious—and creepiest—proposal yet. Face­book wants to build its own “brain-to-com­put­er inter­face” that would allow us to send thoughts straight to a com­put­er.

What if you could type direct­ly from your brain?” Regi­na Dugan, the head of the company’s secre­tive hard­ware R&D divi­sion, Build­ing 8, asked from the stage. Dugan then pro­ceed­ed to show a video demo of a woman typ­ing eight words per minute direct­ly from the stage. In a few years, she said, the team hopes to demon­strate a real-time silent speech sys­tem capa­ble of deliv­er­ing a hun­dred words per minute.

“That’s five times faster than you can type on your smart­phone, and it’s straight from your brain,” she said. “Your brain activ­i­ty con­tains more infor­ma­tion than what a word sounds like and how it’s spelled; it also con­tains seman­tic infor­ma­tion of what those words mean.”

Brain-com­put­er inter­faces are noth­ing new. DARPA, which Dugan used to head, has invest­ed heav­i­ly in brain-com­put­er inter­face tech­nolo­gies to do things like cure men­tal ill­ness and restore mem­o­ries to sol­diers injured in war. But what Face­book is propos­ing is per­haps more radical—a world in which social media doesn’t require pick­ing up a phone or tap­ping a wrist watch in order to com­mu­ni­cate with your friends; a world where we’re con­nect­ed all the time by thought alone.

“Our world is both dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal,” she said. “Our goal is to cre­ate and ship new, cat­e­go­ry-defin­ing con­sumer prod­ucts that are social first, at scale.”

She also showed a video that demon­strat­ed a sec­ond tech­nol­o­gy that showed the abil­i­ty to “lis­ten” to human speech through vibra­tions on the skin. This tech has been in devel­op­ment to aid peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, work­ing a lit­tle like a Braille that you feel with your body rather than your fin­gers. Using actu­a­tors and sen­sors, a con­nect­ed arm­band was able to con­vey to a woman in the video a tac­tile vocab­u­lary of nine dif­fer­ent words.

Dugan adds that it’s also pos­si­ble to “lis­ten” to human speech by using your skin. It’s like using braille but through a sys­tem of actu­a­tors and sen­sors. Dugan showed a video exam­ple of how a woman could fig­ure out exact­ly what objects were select­ed on a touch­screen based on inputs deliv­ered through a con­nect­ed arm­band.

Facebook’s Build­ing 8 is mod­eled after DARPA and its projects tend to be equal­ly ambi­tious. Brain-com­put­er inter­face tech­nol­o­gy is still in its infan­cy. So far, researchers have been suc­cess­ful in using it to allow peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties to con­trol par­a­lyzed or pros­thet­ic limbs. But stim­u­lat­ing the brain’s motor cor­tex is a lot sim­pler than read­ing a person’s thoughts and then trans­lat­ing those thoughts into some­thing that might actu­al­ly be read by a com­put­er.

The end goal is to build an online world that feels more immer­sive and real—no doubt so that you spend more time on Face­book.

“Our brains pro­duce enough data to stream 4 HD movies every sec­ond. The prob­lem is that the best way we have to get infor­ma­tion out into the world — speech — can only trans­mit about the same amount of data as a 1980s modem,” CEO Mark Zucker­berg said in a Face­book post. “We’re work­ing on a sys­tem that will let you type straight from your brain about 5x faster than you can type on your phone today. Even­tu­al­ly, we want to turn it into a wear­able tech­nol­o­gy that can be man­u­fac­tured at scale. Even a sim­ple yes/no ‘brain click’ would help make things like aug­ment­ed real­i­ty feel much more nat­ur­al.”

“That’s five times faster than you can type on your smart­phone, and it’s straight from your brain,” she said. “Your brain activ­i­ty con­tains more infor­ma­tion than what a word sounds like and how it’s spelled; it also con­tains seman­tic infor­ma­tion of what those words mean.”

Brain-com­put­er inter­faces are noth­ing new. DARPA, which Dugan used to head, has invest­ed heav­i­ly in brain-com­put­er inter­face tech­nolo­gies to do things like cure men­tal ill­ness and restore mem­o­ries to sol­diers injured in war. But what Face­book is propos­ing is per­haps more radical—a world in which social media doesn’t require pick­ing up a phone or tap­ping a wrist watch in order to com­mu­ni­cate with your friends; a world where we’re con­nect­ed all the time by thought alone.

4. The broad­cast then reviews (from FTR #1074) Face­book’s inex­tri­ca­ble link with the Hin­dut­va fas­cist BJP of Naren­dra Modi:

Key ele­ments of dis­cus­sion and analy­sis include:

  1. Indi­an pol­i­tics has been large­ly dom­i­nat­ed by fake news, spread by social media: ” . . . . In the con­tin­u­ing Indi­an elec­tions, as 900 mil­lion peo­ple are vot­ing to elect rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the low­er house of the Par­lia­ment, dis­in­for­ma­tion and hate speech are drown­ing out truth on social media net­works in the coun­try and cre­at­ing a pub­lic health cri­sis like the pan­demics of the past cen­tu­ryThis con­ta­gion of a stag­ger­ing amount of mor­phed images, doc­tored videos and text mes­sages is spread­ing large­ly through mes­sag­ing ser­vices and influ­enc­ing what India’s vot­ers watch and read on their smart­phones. A recent study by Microsoft found that over 64 per­cent Indi­ans encoun­tered fake news online, the high­est report­ed among the 22 coun­tries sur­veyed. . . . These plat­forms are filled with fake news and dis­in­for­ma­tion aimed at influ­enc­ing polit­i­cal choic­es dur­ing the Indi­an elec­tions. . . .
  2. Naren­dra Mod­i’s Hin­dut­va fas­cist BJP has been the pri­ma­ry ben­e­fi­cia­ry of fake news, and his regime has part­nered with Face­book: ” . . . . The hear­ing was an exer­cise in absur­dist the­ater because the gov­ern­ing B.J.P. has been the chief ben­e­fi­cia­ry of divi­sive con­tent that reach­es mil­lions because of the way social media algo­rithms, espe­cial­ly Face­book, ampli­fy ‘engag­ing’ arti­cles. . . .”
  3. Rajesh Jain is among those BJP func­tionar­ies who serve Face­book, as well as the Hin­dut­va fas­cists: ” . . . . By the time Rajesh Jain was scal­ing up his oper­a­tions in 2013, the BJP’s infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy (IT) strate­gists had begun inter­act­ing with social media plat­forms like Face­book and its part­ner What­sApp. If sup­port­ers of the BJP are to be believed, the par­ty was bet­ter than oth­ers in util­is­ing the micro-tar­get­ing poten­tial of the plat­forms. How­ev­er, it is also true that Facebook’s employ­ees in India con­duct­ed train­ing work­shops to help the mem­bers of the BJP’s IT cell. . . .”
  4. Dr. Hiren Joshi is anoth­er of the BJP oper­a­tives who is heav­i­ly involved with Face­book. ” . . . . Also assist­ing the social media and online teams to build a larg­er-than-life image for Modi before the 2014 elec­tions was a team led by his right-hand man Dr Hiren Joshi, who (as already stat­ed) is a very impor­tant advis­er to Modi whose writ extends way beyond infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy and social media. . . .  Joshi has had, and con­tin­ues to have, a close and long-stand­ing asso­ci­a­tion with Facebook’s senior employ­ees in India. . . .”
  5. Shiv­nath Thukral, who was hired by Face­book in 2017 to be its Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Direc­tor for India & South Asia, worked with Joshi’s team in 2014.  ” . . . . The third team, that was intense­ly focused on build­ing Modi’s per­son­al image, was head­ed by Hiren Joshi him­self who worked out of the then Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office in Gand­hi­na­gar. The mem­bers of this team worked close­ly with staffers of Face­book in India, more than one of our sources told us. As will be detailed lat­er, Shiv­nath Thukral, who is cur­rent­ly an impor­tant exec­u­tive in Face­book, worked with this team. . . .”
  6. An osten­si­bly remorse­ful BJP politician–Prodyut Bora–high­light­ed the dra­mat­ic effect of Face­book and its What­sApp sub­sidiary have had on Indi­a’s pol­i­tics: ” . . . . In 2009, social media plat­forms like Face­book and What­sApp had a mar­gin­al impact in India’s 20 big cities. By 2014, how­ev­er, it had vir­tu­al­ly replaced the tra­di­tion­al mass media. In 2019, it will be the most per­va­sive media in the coun­try. . . .”
  7. A con­cise state­ment about the rela­tion­ship between the BJP and Face­book was issued by BJP tech office Vinit Goen­ka” . . . . At one stage in our inter­view with [Vinit] Goen­ka that last­ed over two hours, we asked him a point­ed ques­tion: ‘Who helped whom more, Face­book or the BJP?’ He smiled and said: ‘That’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion. I won­der whether the BJP helped Face­book more than Face­book helped the BJP. You could say, we helped each oth­er.’ . . .”

5. In Ukraine, as well, Face­book and the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tions func­tion sym­bi­ot­i­cal­ly:

CrowdStrike–at the epi­cen­ter of the sup­posed Russ­ian hack­ing con­tro­ver­sy is note­wor­thy. Its co-founder and chief tech­nol­o­gy offi­cer, Dmit­ry Alper­ovitch is a senior fel­low at the Atlantic Coun­cil, financed by ele­ments that are at the foun­da­tion of fan­ning the flames of the New Cold War: “In this respect, it is worth not­ing that one of the com­mer­cial cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­nies the gov­ern­ment has relied on is Crowd­strike, which was one of the com­pa­nies ini­tial­ly brought in by the DNC to inves­ti­gate the alleged hacks. . . . Dmitri Alper­ovitch is also a senior fel­low at the Atlantic Coun­cil. . . . The con­nec­tion between [Crowd­strike co-founder and chief tech­nol­o­gy offi­cer Dmitri] Alper­ovitch and the Atlantic Coun­cil has gone large­ly unre­marked upon, but it is rel­e­vant giv­en that the Atlantic Coun­cil—which is is fund­ed in part by the US State Depart­ment, NATO, the gov­ern­ments of Latvia and Lithua­nia, the Ukrain­ian World Con­gress, and the Ukrain­ian oli­garch Vic­tor Pinchuk—has been among the loud­est voic­es call­ing for a new Cold War with Rus­sia. As I point­ed out in the pages of The Nation in Novem­ber, the Atlantic Coun­cil has spent the past sev­er­al years pro­duc­ing some of the most vir­u­lent spec­i­mens of the new Cold War pro­pa­gan­da. . . .

(Note that the Atlantic Coun­cil is dom­i­nant in the array of indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions con­sti­tut­ing the Ukrain­ian fascist/Facebook coop­er­a­tive effort. We have spo­ken about the Atlantic Coun­cil in numer­ous pro­grams, includ­ing FTR #943. The orga­ni­za­tion has deep oper­a­tional links to ele­ments of U.S. intel­li­gence, as well as the OUN/B milieu that dom­i­nates the Ukrain­ian dias­po­ra.)

In May of 2018, Face­book decid­ed to effec­tive­ly out­source the work of iden­ti­fy­ing pro­pa­gan­da and mis­in­for­ma­tion dur­ing elec­tions to the Atlantic Coun­cil.

” . . . . Face­book is part­ner­ing with the Atlantic Coun­cil in anoth­er effort to com­bat elec­tion-relat­ed pro­pa­gan­da and mis­in­for­ma­tion from pro­lif­er­at­ing on its ser­vice. The social net­work­ing giant said Thurs­day that a part­ner­ship with the Wash­ing­ton D.C.-based think tank would help it bet­ter spot dis­in­for­ma­tion dur­ing upcom­ing world elec­tions. The part­ner­ship is one of a num­ber of steps Face­book is tak­ing to pre­vent the spread of pro­pa­gan­da and fake news after fail­ing to stop it from spread­ing on its ser­vice in the run up to the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. . . .”

Since autumn 2018, Face­book has looked to hire a pub­lic pol­i­cy man­ag­er for Ukraine. The job came after years of Ukraini­ans crit­i­ciz­ing the plat­form for take­downs of its activists’ pages and the spread of [alleged] Russ­ian dis­in­fo tar­get­ing Kyiv. Now, it appears to have one: @Kateryna_Kruk.— Christo­pher Miller (@ChristopherJM) June 3, 2019

Oleh Tihany­bok, leader of the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion Svo­bo­da, for which Katery­na Kruk worked.

Katery­na Kruk:

  1. Is Facebook’s Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Man­ag­er for Ukraine as of May of this year, accord­ing to her LinkedIn page.
  2. Worked as an ana­lyst and TV host for the Ukrain­ian ‘anti-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da’ out­fit Stop­Fake. Stop­Fake is the cre­ation of Ire­na Chalu­pa, who works for the Atlantic Coun­cil and the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and appears to be the sis­ter of Andrea and Alexan­dra Chalu­pa.
  3. Joined the “Krem­lin Watch” team at the Euro­pean Val­ues think-tank, in Octo­ber of 2017.
  4. Received the Atlantic Coun­cil’s Free­dom award for her com­mu­ni­ca­tions work dur­ing the Euro­maid­an protests in June of 2014.
  5. Worked for OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion Svo­bo­da dur­ing the Euro­maid­an protests. “ . . . ‘There are peo­ple who don’t sup­port Svo­bo­da because of some of their slo­gans, but they know it’s the most active polit­i­cal par­ty and go to them for help, said Svo­bo­da vol­un­teer Katery­na Kruk. . . . ” . . . .
  6. Also has a num­ber of arti­cles on the Atlantic Council’s Blog. Here’s a blog post from August of 2018 where she advo­cates for the cre­ation of an inde­pen­dent Ukrain­ian Ortho­dox Church to dimin­ish the influ­ence of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church.
  7. Accord­ing to her LinkedIn page has also done exten­sive work for the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. From March 2016 to Jan­u­ary 2017 she was the Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ag­er for the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment where she was respon­si­ble for social media and inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions. From Jan­u­ary-April 2017 she was the Head of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Min­istry of Health.
  8. Was not only was a vol­un­teer for Svo­bo­da dur­ing the 2014 Euro­maid­an protests, but open­ly cel­e­brat­ed on twit­ter the May 2014 mas­sacre in Odessa when the far right burned dozens of pro­tes­tors alive. Kruk’s twit­ter feed is set to pri­vate now so there isn’t pub­lic access to her old tweet, but peo­ple have screen cap­tures of it. Here’s a tweet from Yasha Levine with a screen­shot of Kruk’s May 2, 2014 tweet where she writes: “#Odessa cleaned itself from ter­ror­ists, proud for city fight­ing for its identity.glory to fall­en heroes..” She even threw in a “glo­ry to fall­en heroes” at the end of her tweet cel­e­brat­ing this mas­sacre. Keep in mind that it was month after this tweet that the Atlantic Coun­cil gave her that Free­dom Award for her com­mu­ni­ca­tions work dur­ing the protests.
  9. In 2014, . . .  tweet­ed that a man had asked her to con­vince his grand­son not to join the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a neo-Nazi mili­tia. “I couldn’t do it,” she said. “I thanked that boy and blessed him.” And he then trav­eled to Luhan­sk to fight pro-Russ­ian rebels.
  10. Lion­ized a Nazi sniper killed in Ukraine’s civ­il war. In March 2018, a 19-year neo-Nazi named Andriy “Dil­ly” Krivich was shot and killed by a sniper. Krivich had been fight­ing with the fas­cist Ukrain­ian group Right Sec­tor, and had post­ed pho­tos on social media wear­ing Nazi Ger­man sym­bols. After he was killed, Kruk tweet­ed an homage to the teenage Nazi. (The Nazi was also lion­ized on Euro­maid­an Press’ Face­book page.)
  11. Has staunch­ly defend­ed the use of the slo­gan “Sla­va Ukrai­ni,”which was first coined and pop­u­lar­ized by Nazi-col­lab­o­rat­ing fas­cists, and is now the offi­cial salute of Ukraine’s army.
  12. Has also said that the Ukrain­ian fas­cist politi­cian Andriy Paru­biy, who co-found­ed a neo-Nazi par­ty before lat­er becom­ing the chair­man of Ukraine’s par­lia­ment the Rada, is “act­ing smart,” writ­ing, “Paru­biy touche.” . . . .

Discussion

6 comments for “FTR #1077 Surveillance Valley, Part 3: Cambridge Analytica, Democracy and Counterinsurgency”

  1. It sounds like Palan­tir is expe­ri­enc­ing some sig­nif­i­cant employ­ee morale prob­lems. Why? Because it turns out Palan­tir’s Inves­tiga­tive Case Man­age­ment, or ICM, sys­tem that is cur­rent­ly being used by Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE) has been used to build pro­files and track undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants, includ­ing those immi­grant fam­i­lies where chil­dren have been sep­a­rat­ed by par­ents. Palan­tir’s soft­ware is also used to deter­mine tar­gets for arrest. For exam­ple, ICE agents relied on Palantir’s ICM dur­ing a 2017 oper­a­tion that tar­get­ed fam­i­lies of migrant chil­dren. ICE agents were instruct­ed to use ICM to doc­u­ment any inter­ac­tion they have with unac­com­pa­nied chil­dren try­ing to cross the bor­der and they deter­mined the chil­dren’s par­ents or oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers facil­i­tat­ed smug­gling them across the bor­der, the fam­i­ly mem­bers could be arrest­ed and pros­e­cut­ed for depor­ta­tion. Ear­li­er this month, the ICE unit that car­ried out the recent high-pro­file raid in Mis­sis­sip­pi — where 680 peo­ple were arrest­ed and detained dur­ing a school day, result­ing in hun­dreds of chil­dren be sent home from school to homes with­out their par­ents — uses Palan­tir’s ICM soft­ware. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, Palan­tir was con­tract­ed in 2014 to build this ICM sys­tem that lets agents access dig­i­tal pro­files of peo­ple sus­pect­ed of vio­lat­ing immi­gra­tion laws and orga­nize records about them in one place. The data in the pro­files includes emails, phone records, text mes­sages and data from auto­mat­ic license plate cam­eras so this is poten­tial­ly very inva­sive data­bas­es of infor­ma­tion on the US immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty.

    The fact that the ICM sys­tem is now being used to iden­ti­fy the par­ents and chil­dren who end up get­ting sep­a­rat­ed has under­stand­ably result­ed in a num­ber of Palan­tir employ­ees expe­ri­enc­ing crises of con­science. Although Palan­tir’s lead­er­ship has­n’t expe­ri­ence this cri­sis. Quite the oppo­site. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, Palan­tir has in fact used sim­i­lar sto­ries about employ­ee con­cerns at Google over work the Google was doing for the US mil­i­tary as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to bash Google and declare that Palan­tir would­n’t have such con­cerns about con­tro­ver­sial gov­ern­ment work. And more recent­ly, the com­pa­ny just renewed a $42 mil­lion con­tract with ICE and CEO Alex Karp has defend­ed the role Palan­tir plays with ICE dur­ing com­pa­ny town hall meet­ings. In gen­er­al, it appears that Palan­tir is active­ly try­ing to brand itself in Wash­ing­ton DC as the Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­ny that won’t suf­fer from moral qualms about the work its con­tract­ed to do (even if many of the employ­ees are actu­al­ly suf­fer­ing moral qualms):

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    The war inside Palan­tir: Data-min­ing firm’s ties to ICE under attack by employ­ees

    By Dou­glas MacMil­lan and Eliz­a­beth Dwoskin
    August 22, 2019

    Alex Karp faced a dilem­ma last year, when employ­ees of the data-min­ing com­pa­ny Palan­tir con­front­ed the chief exec­u­tive with their con­cerns over a part­ner­ship with Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment, accord­ing to three peo­ple famil­iar with the inci­dent.

    Palan­tir pro­vid­ed dig­i­tal pro­fil­ing tools to the fed­er­al agency as it car­ried out Pres­i­dent Trump’s increas­ing­ly con­tro­ver­sial poli­cies for appre­hend­ing and deport­ing undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants, trou­bling more than 200 employ­ees who signed a let­ter to Karp, the peo­ple said.

    End­ing the con­tracts with ICE would risk a back­lash in Wash­ing­ton, where Palan­tir was quick­ly becom­ing a go-to provider of data-min­ing ser­vices to a wide range of fed­er­al agen­cies. Data min­ing is a process of com­pil­ing mul­ti­tudes of infor­ma­tion from dis­parate sources to show pat­terns and rela­tion­ships. Google’s deci­sion, ear­li­er the same year, to end a con­tract with the Pen­ta­gon over pres­sure from its employ­ees had chilled the Inter­net giant’s rela­tion­ships with some gov­ern­ment lead­ers who accused it of betray­ing Amer­i­can inter­ests.

    Karp refused to budge. He renewed an ICE con­tract worth up to $42 mil­lion and defend­ed the pro­gram at a com­pa­ny town hall meet­ing, the peo­ple said. In media inter­views and an online ad cam­paign this year, Karp bashed Google for back­ing out of its gov­ern­ment con­tract and sug­gest­ed Palan­tir wouldn’t do the same.

    “Sil­i­con Val­ley is telling the aver­age Amer­i­can ‘I will not sup­port your defense needs,’” Karp told an inter­view­er in Jan­u­ary, a quote the com­pa­ny repeat­ed in a recent ad on Twit­ter. Peter Thiel, Palantir’s bil­lion­aire co-founder, echoed that mes­sage at a con­fer­ence last month, when he called Google’s actions “trea­so­nous.”

    “Sil­i­con Val­ley is telling the aver­age Amer­i­can ‘I will not sup­port your defense needs’ while sell­ing prod­ucts to coun­tries that are adver­sar­i­al to Amer­i­ca. That is a los­er posi­tion.”

    — Palan­tir (@PalantirTech) July 18, 2019

    The con­tro­ver­sy around ICE high­lights a ten­sion at the cen­ter of Palantir’s busi­ness, which relies on the U.S. gov­ern­ment for con­tracts and on Sil­i­con Val­ley for tal­ent. As Trump’s poli­cies divide tech work­ers in the large­ly lib­er­al Bay Area, Palan­tir must bal­ance keep­ing work­ers hap­py and pre­serv­ing the trust of its No. 1 cus­tomer.

    Palantir’s predica­ment illus­trates the tightrope walk many busi­ness­es must per­form in an age of ris­ing polit­i­cal activism, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Sil­i­con Val­ley, where tech work­ers have staged walk­outs and cir­cu­lat­ed peti­tions to protest col­lab­o­ra­tions with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. In their respons­es to work­er upris­ings, the lead­ers of Ama­zon, Google, Microsoft and Sales­force have tried to grap­ple with the eth­i­cal con­cerns posed by their employ­ees — Microsoft, for exam­ple, told employ­ees they don’t have to work on mil­i­tary projects if they don’t want to — while mak­ing it clear they want to keep doing busi­ness with the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

    So far, Palan­tir has stood firm in its sup­port of the gov­ern­ment, even as employ­ees and activist groups say there is grow­ing evi­dence that Palan­tir lends sup­port to agents whose work vio­lates the civ­il lib­er­ties of undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants. A work­place raid result­ing in the arrest of 680 migrant work­ers in Mis­sis­sip­pi on Aug. 7 was car­ried out by the unit of ICE that uses Palan­tir soft­ware to inves­ti­gate poten­tial tar­gets and com­pile evi­dence against them.

    In anoth­er employ­ee peti­tion this month, more than 60 Palan­tir work­ers asked man­age­ment to redi­rect the prof­its from ICE con­tracts to a non­prof­it char­i­ty, the peo­ple said. The com­pa­ny renewed a sec­ond ICE con­tract on Aug. 19.

    In an inter­view with Bloomberg News this week, Karp said the gov­ern­ment should be respon­si­ble for answer­ing dif­fi­cult ques­tions about how tech­nolo­gies may be used to sur­veil cit­i­zens.

    “I do not believe that these ques­tions should be decid­ed in Sil­i­con Val­ley by a num­ber of engi­neers at large plat­form com­pa­nies,” Karp said in the inter­view.

    ...

    Found­ed in the patri­ot­ic fer­vor that fol­lowed the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attacks, with $2 mil­lion in seed mon­ey from a CIA incu­ba­tor, Palan­tir has always pro­mot­ed a mis­sion to defend Amer­i­can inter­ests. Fed­er­al author­i­ties rely on its data plat­form to track down ter­ror­ists, insur­gents, drug smug­glers and insid­er traders, records show.

    Palantir’s busi­ness has flour­ished since Trump took office, with rev­enue from U.S. gov­ern­ment con­tracts under his first two-and-a-half years in office already sur­pass­ing its total under Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s entire sec­ond term. The Army con­tract, award­ed in March and poten­tial­ly worth more than $800 mil­lion, marked the first time a Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­ny had been cho­sen to lead a defense pro­gram of record, a type of con­tract with a ded­i­cat­ed line of fund­ing from Con­gress.

    Many of Palan­tir 2,500 employ­ees have debat­ed the ICE con­tracts in town hall meet­ings, office hall­ways, Slack chan­nels and email threads, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer employ­ees, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because the com­pa­ny bound them to con­fi­den­tial­i­ty agree­ments. Palan­tir employ­ees, called “Palan­tiri­ans,” have tak­en both sides of the issue: Immi­grant employ­ees have writ­ten heart­felt let­ters shar­ing why they are opposed to the ICE con­tracts, while at least one for­mer ICE offi­cial who now works at Palan­tir has defend­ed them, accord­ing to a cur­rent engi­neer at the com­pa­ny.

    Employ­ees who sup­port the ICE part­ner­ship believe Palan­tir has helped the agency do more good than bad, includ­ing sup­port­ing mis­sions to appre­hend dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals, accord­ing to two cur­rent employ­ees. But oth­ers have felt deflat­ed by what they see as management’s lack of recep­tiv­i­ty to their con­cerns, two for­mer employ­ees said. A com­pa­ny with a mis­sion to “work for the com­mon good,” accord­ing to recent job list­ings, increas­ing­ly feels to some work­ers like a tool for Trump’s polit­i­cal agen­da.

    “There’s a ver­sion of the sto­ry where they are the good guys,” one for­mer employ­ee said. “Every­one wants to pro­tect ser­vice mem­bers from IEDs. Every­one wants to pre­vent human traf­fick­ing. Not every­one can get behind work­ing for ICE to help deport immi­grants.”

    ‘Sil­i­con Val­ley kids’ earn respect

    For years, Palan­tir was viewed skep­ti­cal­ly by Wash­ing­ton insid­ers, who saw the Palo Alto, Calif.-based com­pa­ny as a rag­tag team of tech pro­gram­mers who wore hood­ies and flip-flops to work. They were “a bunch of Sil­i­con Val­ley kids,” said a for­mer gov­ern­ment offi­cial who award­ed Palan­tir a con­tract in 2009.

    That image began to change as ser­vice mem­bers deployed in Afghanistan grew impressed with Palantir’s abil­i­ty to quick­ly assim­i­late troves of data into maps and charts, show­ing the move­ments, for exam­ple, of insur­gents across a land­scape and the like­ly posi­tions of impro­vised explo­sive devices. After tri­al runs with the Navy, Army and Spe­cial Forces, sev­er­al top Pen­ta­gon offi­cials saw Palantir’s plat­form as more pow­er­ful and reli­able than com­pet­ing tools sup­plied by long­time gov­ern­ment con­trac­tors such as Raytheon. The com­pa­ny still strug­gled to win defense busi­ness because of a con­tract pro­cure­ment process that heav­i­ly favored incum­bents.

    The $800 mil­lion Army con­tract, in which Palan­tir will build the nerve cen­ter of a vast intel­li­gence gath­er­ing net­work, was pos­si­ble only because Palan­tir suc­cess­ful­ly argued in court that the gov­ern­ment was required by law to con­sid­er pur­chas­ing com­mer­cial prod­ucts, instead of only cus­tom ones made by con­tract­ing firms. It won the court case in 2016, under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, and won the con­tract this past March, amid a blitz of lob­by­ing and rela­tion­ship-build­ing with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    Palantir’s most vis­i­ble tie to the White House is Thiel, the company’s out­spo­ken co-founder, chief backer and exec­u­tive chair­man. An avowed lib­er­tar­i­an who has railed against the tech industry’s pre­dom­i­nant­ly lib­er­al pol­i­tics, Thiel fre­quent­ly embraces con­tro­ver­sy. He gained noto­ri­ety for bankrolling a suc­cess­ful law­suit against the news site Gawk­er, lead­ing to its bank­rupt­cy in 2016. (In an inter­view with the New York Times, he said Gawk­er pub­lished arti­cles that were “very painful and par­a­lyz­ing for peo­ple who were tar­get­ed,” adding: “I thought it was worth fight­ing back.”)

    Thiel donat­ed $1.2 mil­lion to Trump’s 2016 cam­paign and stumped for him at the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion, argu­ing he was the leader with the most poten­tial to rebuild the Amer­i­can econ­o­my. He was award­ed a spot on Trump’s tran­si­tion team and helped orga­nize the president’s ini­tial out­reach to tech indus­try lead­ers. At a Trump Tow­er sum­mit for tech CEOs on the eve of Trump’s pres­i­den­cy, Karp was invit­ed to rep­re­sent Palan­tir. Flanked by titans of Ama­zon, Microsoft and Google, his was the small­est com­pa­ny by mar­ket val­ue rep­re­sent­ed at the meet­ing.

    The investor, who now lives in Los Ange­les, makes rare appear­ances in Wash­ing­ton, but remains in favor with the pres­i­dent, accord­ing to a per­son close to him. Thiel joined Trump and Ora­cle CEO Safra Catz for a pri­vate din­ner at the White House ear­li­er this year, accord­ing to two peo­ple briefed on the meet­ing. The trio dis­cussed tech com­pa­nies includ­ing Google and Ama­zon, and the $10 bil­lion cloud-com­put­ing con­tract for which Ama­zon is com­pet­ing with Ora­cle, one of the peo­ple said. (Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Wash­ing­ton Post.)

    Sev­er­al Thiel asso­ciates have worked in the admin­is­tra­tion, includ­ing on the tran­si­tion teams at the Pen­ta­gon and the Depart­ment of Com­merce. Both agen­cies sub­se­quent­ly award­ed con­tracts to Palan­tir.

    The data-min­ing firm paid lob­by­ists $1.7 mil­lion in 2018 to push for laws that would help open the gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment process to com­mer­cial tech­nol­o­gy providers.

    The busi­ness of war

    Google’s with­draw­al from the Defense Depart­ment pro­gram called Project Maven in sum­mer 2018 ignit­ed a debate about how U.S. tech giants should bal­ance the eth­i­cal con­cerns of rank-and-file work­ers and the secu­ri­ty inter­ests of the nation. Thou­sands of Google employ­ees signed a peti­tion argu­ing the com­pa­ny “should not be in the busi­ness of war,” but end­ing the arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence part­ner­ship may have risked Amer­i­can lives, for­mer deputy defense sec­re­tary Bob Work said at the time.

    With Google pulling out of a Pen­ta­gon part­ner­ship, Palan­tir saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty to tell gov­ern­ment cus­tomers they wouldn’t do the same, said Kara Fred­er­ick, an asso­ciate fel­low at the Cen­ter for a New Amer­i­can Secu­ri­ty.

    “They see that there is a gap in the mar­ket for a com­pa­ny that is will­ing to stand up and say, ‘Yes, we are going to help the U.S. gov­ern­ment achieve its ends,’” said Fred­er­ick, who research­es the use of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies in defense.

    Palantir’s lead­ers joined the crit­i­cism of Google. In a CNBC inter­view in Jan­u­ary, Karp said Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies that refuse to work with the U.S. gov­ern­ment are “bor­der­line craven” and added that he’s hap­py Palan­tir is “not on that side of the debate.” In a speech to the Nation­al Con­ser­vatism Con­fer­ence in July, Thiel claimed, with­out evi­dence, that Google has been “infil­trat­ed by Chi­nese intel­li­gence.”

    Thiel didn’t men­tion his own ties to a com­pa­ny that ben­e­fit­ed from Google’s deci­sion to pull out of the Pen­ta­gon deal. Anduril, a defense start-up backed by Thiel’s invest­ment firm, Founders Fund, was recent­ly award­ed a con­tract on Project Maven.

    In a tweet this month, Trump respond­ed to Thiel’s alle­ga­tions against Google, call­ing the investor “a great and bril­liant guy who knows this sub­ject bet­ter than any­one.” In a sep­a­rate fol­low-up, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said there was no rea­son to sus­pect espi­onage at Google.

    In a state­ment, a Google spokes­woman said the com­pa­ny con­tin­ues to work with the Defense Depart­ment in areas such as cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and health care, and does not work with the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

    Raids and depor­ta­tions

    Now, Palan­tir is in the crosshairs of activists.

    Pro­test­ers from civ­il rights groups, includ­ing Mijente and Jews for Racial and Eco­nom­ic Jus­tice, have gath­ered out­side Palantir’s Man­hat­tan offices in recent weeks to call for an end to the company’s work with ICE. As employ­ees filed into work in the morn­ing, vol­un­teers hand­ed out fliers explain­ing how Palantir’s soft­ware has been used by ICE agents tar­get­ing migrant work­ers.

    “Tell man­age­ment that you do not want Palan­tir involved in con­tracts that harm immi­grants,” one fli­er read.

    Palan­tir began work­ing with the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, the agency that over­sees ICE, in 2011. The com­pa­ny was involved in an effort called “Oper­a­tion Fall­en Hero,” which hunt­ed down mem­bers of the Los Zetas drug traf­fick­ing ring believed to have mur­dered an ICE spe­cial agent. Palantir’s soft­ware was used to assim­i­late data from the Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion, FBI and DHS — includ­ing sur­veil­lance images, smug­gling routes and elec­tron­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tions — to quick­ly find leads, records show. The oper­a­tion led to 782 arrests for crim­i­nal vio­la­tions and 634 “non­crim­i­nal immi­gra­tion arrests,” accord­ing to an ICE official’s tes­ti­mo­ny.

    In 2014, Palan­tir won a con­tract to build a cen­tral dig­i­tal repos­i­to­ry of records, called an Inves­tiga­tive Case Man­age­ment, or ICM, sys­tem. The ICM sys­tem lets agents access dig­i­tal pro­files of peo­ple sus­pect­ed of vio­lat­ing immi­gra­tion laws and orga­nize records about them in one place, accord­ing to DHS doc­u­ments. These records may include inves­tiga­tive evi­dence such as emails, phone records, text mes­sages and data from auto­mat­ic license plate cam­eras, accord­ing to DHS.

    ICE agents relied on Palantir’s ICM sys­tem dur­ing a 2017 oper­a­tion that tar­get­ed fam­i­lies of migrant chil­dren, accord­ing to an ICE doc­u­ment pub­lished in May by Mijente and the Inter­cept, an online news ser­vice. As part of the mis­sion, ICE agents were instruct­ed to use ICM to doc­u­ment any inter­ac­tion they have with unac­com­pa­nied chil­dren try­ing to cross the bor­der. If the agency deter­mined their par­ents or oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers facil­i­tat­ed smug­gling them across the bor­der, the fam­i­ly mem­bers could be arrest­ed and pros­e­cut­ed for depor­ta­tion, the ICE doc­u­ment said.

    Mijente has argued that by sup­port­ing this oper­a­tion, Palan­tir was com­plic­it in Trump’s pol­i­cy of sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies of undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants and plac­ing peo­ple in bor­der deten­tion cen­ters with ques­tion­able con­di­tions. Pri­va­cy rights groups includ­ing the Elec­tron­ic Pri­va­cy Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter have raised con­cerns that ICM and FALCON, anoth­er Palan­tir tool used by ICE, may vio­late the pri­va­cy of the peo­ple tracked by these data­bas­es.

    Palan­tir has a con­tract with the divi­sion of ICE called Home­land Secu­ri­ty Inves­ti­ga­tions, or HSI. It does not have a con­tract with anoth­er ICE divi­sion called Enforce­ment and Removal Oper­a­tions, or ERO, the unit that his­tor­i­cal­ly has tak­en the lead on raids and depor­ta­tions of undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants. Karp has fre­quent­ly brought up this dis­tinc­tion when defend­ing the company’s work with ICE, accord­ing to for­mer employ­ees.

    How­ev­er, this month, author­i­ties con­firmed that the raids in Mis­sis­sip­pi were car­ried out by HSI, the divi­sion that uses Palan­tir. It’s not clear to what extent Palantir’s prod­ucts have been used to plan or exe­cute work­place raids. Dur­ing prepa­ra­tions for an ICE raid of 7‑Eleven stores across the coun­try last year, an ICE super­vi­sor instruct­ed agents to use Palantir’s FALCON mobile app “to share info with the com­mand cen­ter about the sub­jects encoun­tered in the stores as well as team loca­tions,” accord­ing to emails pub­lished by WNYC last month.

    ...

    ———-
    “The war inside Palan­tir: Data-min­ing firm’s ties to ICE under attack by employ­ees” by Dou­glas MacMil­lan and Eliz­a­beth Dwoskin; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 08/22/2019

    End­ing the con­tracts with ICE would risk a back­lash in Wash­ing­ton, where Palan­tir was quick­ly becom­ing a go-to provider of data-min­ing ser­vices to a wide range of fed­er­al agen­cies. Data min­ing is a process of com­pil­ing mul­ti­tudes of infor­ma­tion from dis­parate sources to show pat­terns and rela­tion­ships. Google’s deci­sion, ear­li­er the same year, to end a con­tract with the Pen­ta­gon over pres­sure from its employ­ees had chilled the Inter­net giant’s rela­tion­ships with some gov­ern­ment lead­ers who accused it of betray­ing Amer­i­can inter­ests.

    This is the fun­da­men­tal busi­ness prob­lem Palan­tir faces when con­fronting fun­da­men­tal moral prob­lems: its main cus­tomer is the US fed­er­al gov­ern­ment so if it refus­es a con­tract like the ICE case man­age­ment soft­ware con­tract the com­pa­ny risks the rest of those fed­er­al con­tracts. That’s Palan­tir’s busi­ness mod­el. A busi­ness mod­el that includes build­ing the Inves­tiga­tive Case Man­age­ment (ICM) sys­tem that allows ICE to cre­ate detailed dig­i­tal pro­files on indi­vid­u­als. It’s the kind of pow­er­ful tech­nol­o­gy that all sorts of gov­ern­ment agen­cies might be inter­est­ed ing, and maybe even the Palan­tir’s cor­po­rate clients. Build­ing pow­er­ful pro­files of large num­bers of indi­vid­u­als is a gener­i­cal­ly use­ful capa­bil­i­ty to offer clients. But in the end, it’s the US fed­er­al gov­ern­ment that is Palan­tir’s core client and that’s why the com­pa­ny can’t eas­i­ly dis­miss con­tro­ver­sial con­tracts with agen­cies like ICE and when its tools are being used to break up migrant fam­i­lies:

    ...
    In 2014, Palan­tir won a con­tract to build a cen­tral dig­i­tal repos­i­to­ry of records, called an Inves­tiga­tive Case Man­age­ment, or ICM, sys­tem. The ICM sys­tem lets agents access dig­i­tal pro­files of peo­ple sus­pect­ed of vio­lat­ing immi­gra­tion laws and orga­nize records about them in one place, accord­ing to DHS doc­u­ments. These records may include inves­tiga­tive evi­dence such as emails, phone records, text mes­sages and data from auto­mat­ic license plate cam­eras, accord­ing to DHS.

    ICE agents relied on Palantir’s ICM sys­tem dur­ing a 2017 oper­a­tion that tar­get­ed fam­i­lies of migrant chil­dren, accord­ing to an ICE doc­u­ment pub­lished in May by Mijente and the Inter­cept, an online news ser­vice. As part of the mis­sion, ICE agents were instruct­ed to use ICM to doc­u­ment any inter­ac­tion they have with unac­com­pa­nied chil­dren try­ing to cross the bor­der. If the agency deter­mined their par­ents or oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers facil­i­tat­ed smug­gling them across the bor­der, the fam­i­ly mem­bers could be arrest­ed and pros­e­cut­ed for depor­ta­tion, the ICE doc­u­ment said.

    Mijente has argued that by sup­port­ing this oper­a­tion, Palan­tir was com­plic­it in Trump’s pol­i­cy of sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies of undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants and plac­ing peo­ple in bor­der deten­tion cen­ters with ques­tion­able con­di­tions. Pri­va­cy rights groups includ­ing the Elec­tron­ic Pri­va­cy Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter have raised con­cerns that ICM and FALCON, anoth­er Palan­tir tool used by ICE, may vio­late the pri­va­cy of the peo­ple tracked by these data­bas­es.

    Palan­tir has a con­tract with the divi­sion of ICE called Home­land Secu­ri­ty Inves­ti­ga­tions, or HSI. It does not have a con­tract with anoth­er ICE divi­sion called Enforce­ment and Removal Oper­a­tions, or ERO, the unit that his­tor­i­cal­ly has tak­en the lead on raids and depor­ta­tions of undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants. Karp has fre­quent­ly brought up this dis­tinc­tion when defend­ing the company’s work with ICE, accord­ing to for­mer employ­ees.

    How­ev­er, this month, author­i­ties con­firmed that the raids in Mis­sis­sip­pi were car­ried out by HSI, the divi­sion that uses Palan­tir. It’s not clear to what extent Palantir’s prod­ucts have been used to plan or exe­cute work­place raids. Dur­ing prepa­ra­tions for an ICE raid of 7‑Eleven stores across the coun­try last year, an ICE super­vi­sor instruct­ed agents to use Palantir’s FALCON mobile app “to share info with the com­mand cen­ter about the sub­jects encoun­tered in the stores as well as team loca­tions,” accord­ing to emails pub­lished by WNYC last month.
    ...

    It’s that busi­ness mod­el that’s built around keep the US fed­er­al gov­ern­ment as a core client that makes it no sur­prise to learn that Alex Karp not only dis­missed the con­cerns of those 200 employ­ees, but Palan­tir recent­ly renewed a con­tract with ICE worth $42 mil­lion. In addi­tion, Thiel has pub­licly attacked Google for back­ing out of a fed­er­al gov­ern­ment con­tract and sug­gest­ed that Google was trea­so­nous (as part of alle­ga­tion that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary had infil­trat­ed Google). And Alex Karp recent­ly gave an inter­view where he shared his view that “I do not believe that these ques­tions should be decid­ed in Sil­i­con Val­ley by a num­ber of engi­neers at large plat­form com­pa­nies.” So the mes­sage from Karp appears to be that Palan­tir aren’t actu­al­ly going to engage in any kind of moral deci­sion-mak­ing when it comes to its con­tracts with fed­er­al gov­ern­ment at all. Not con­sid­er­ing the moral­i­ty of its actions is part of this busi­ness mod­el:

    ...
    Palan­tir pro­vid­ed dig­i­tal pro­fil­ing tools to the fed­er­al agency as it car­ried out Pres­i­dent Trump’s increas­ing­ly con­tro­ver­sial poli­cies for appre­hend­ing and deport­ing undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants, trou­bling more than 200 employ­ees who signed a let­ter to Karp, the peo­ple said.

    ...

    Karp refused to budge. He renewed an ICE con­tract worth up to $42 mil­lion and defend­ed the pro­gram at a com­pa­ny town hall meet­ing, the peo­ple said. In media inter­views and an online ad cam­paign this year, Karp bashed Google for back­ing out of its gov­ern­ment con­tract and sug­gest­ed Palan­tir wouldn’t do the same.

    “Sil­i­con Val­ley is telling the aver­age Amer­i­can ‘I will not sup­port your defense needs,’” Karp told an inter­view­er in Jan­u­ary, a quote the com­pa­ny repeat­ed in a recent ad on Twit­ter. Peter Thiel, Palantir’s bil­lion­aire co-founder, echoed that mes­sage at a con­fer­ence last month, when he called Google’s actions “trea­so­nous.”

    “Sil­i­con Val­ley is telling the aver­age Amer­i­can ‘I will not sup­port your defense needs’ while sell­ing prod­ucts to coun­tries that are adver­sar­i­al to Amer­i­ca. That is a los­er posi­tion.”

    — Palan­tir (@PalantirTech) July 18, 2019

    The con­tro­ver­sy around ICE high­lights a ten­sion at the cen­ter of Palantir’s busi­ness, which relies on the U.S. gov­ern­ment for con­tracts and on Sil­i­con Val­ley for tal­ent. As Trump’s poli­cies divide tech work­ers in the large­ly lib­er­al Bay Area, Palan­tir must bal­ance keep­ing work­ers hap­py and pre­serv­ing the trust of its No. 1 cus­tomer.

    ...

    In an inter­view with Bloomberg News this week, Karp said the gov­ern­ment should be respon­si­ble for answer­ing dif­fi­cult ques­tions about how tech­nolo­gies may be used to sur­veil cit­i­zens.

    “I do not believe that these ques­tions should be decid­ed in Sil­i­con Val­ley by a num­ber of engi­neers at large plat­form com­pa­nies,” Karp said in the inter­view.
    ...

    And that ‘amoral con­trac­tor for hire’ atti­tude has clear­ly paid off. In March of this year, Palan­tir was award­ed a mas­sive $800 mil­lion con­tract to devel­op a new intel­li­gence gath­er­ing net­work for the US mil­i­tary. Inter­est­ing­ly, in order to win this con­tract, Palan­tir first had to win a court case that found that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is required by law to con­sid­er com­mer­cial­ly avail­able prod­ucts instead of only the cus­tom prod­ucts built by con­tract­ing firms. This 2016 court rul­ing essen­tial­ly forced the mil­i­tary into recon­sid­er­ing its deci­sion to go with the estab­lish­ment con­trac­tor, Raytheon, for this big new con­tract and Palan­tir end­ed up win­ning in that con­test. So giv­en that Palan­tir’s com­mer­cial­ly avail­able soft­ware is pre­sum­ably poten­tial­ly applic­a­ble to a lot more gov­ern­ment agen­cies than cur­rent­ly use it, it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see how many new fed­er­al con­tracts with the US gov­ern­ment the com­pa­ny ends up secur­ing in com­ing years:

    ...
    Found­ed in the patri­ot­ic fer­vor that fol­lowed the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attacks, with $2 mil­lion in seed mon­ey from a CIA incu­ba­tor, Palan­tir has always pro­mot­ed a mis­sion to defend Amer­i­can inter­ests. Fed­er­al author­i­ties rely on its data plat­form to track down ter­ror­ists, insur­gents, drug smug­glers and insid­er traders, records show.

    Palantir’s busi­ness has flour­ished since Trump took office, with rev­enue from U.S. gov­ern­ment con­tracts under his first two-and-a-half years in office already sur­pass­ing its total under Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s entire sec­ond term. The Army con­tract, award­ed in March and poten­tial­ly worth more than $800 mil­lion, marked the first time a Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­ny had been cho­sen to lead a defense pro­gram of record, a type of con­tract with a ded­i­cat­ed line of fund­ing from Con­gress.

    ...

    The $800 mil­lion Army con­tract, in which Palan­tir will build the nerve cen­ter of a vast intel­li­gence gath­er­ing net­work, was pos­si­ble only because Palan­tir suc­cess­ful­ly argued in court that the gov­ern­ment was required by law to con­sid­er pur­chas­ing com­mer­cial prod­ucts, instead of only cus­tom ones made by con­tract­ing firms. It won the court case in 2016, under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, and won the con­tract this past March, amid a blitz of lob­by­ing and rela­tion­ship-build­ing with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    ...

    The data-min­ing firm paid lob­by­ists $1.7 mil­lion in 2018 to push for laws that would help open the gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment process to com­mer­cial tech­nol­o­gy providers.
    ...

    So Palan­tir is going to be even more deeply embed­ded into the US nation­al secu­ri­ty state and mil­i­tary fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion of this new giant Army con­tract to build the nerve cen­ter of a vast intel­li­gence gath­er­ing net­work. What kinds of giant data­bas­es of per­son­al pro­files might this con­tract involve?

    And since Palan­tir’s case man­age­ment soft­ware (ICM) that allows for the build­ing of detailed pro­files on large num­bers of peo­ple is one of the main prod­ucts ICE is inter­est­ed in, and pre­sum­ably a lot of oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies too, it’s worth recall­ing that the PROMIS mega-scan­dal involved bugged com­mer­cial case man­age­ment soft­ware also devel­oped in coop­er­a­tion with the US gov­ern­ment. It’s espe­cial­ly notable since Palan­tir has oth­er cor­po­rate clients too, as was the case with PROMIS. And, of course, there’s the whole PRISM saga that makes it abun­dant­ly clear Palan­tir is hap­py to assist with spy­ing. In oth­er words, if we were to see a repeat of PROMIS in the mod­ern age, it’s a good bet Palan­tir will be involved. At a min­i­mum, we know the com­pa­ny won’t have any moral qualms about being the next PROMIS.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 27, 2019, 2:20 pm
  2. Here’s the lat­est exam­ple of the GOP’s ongo­ing and grow­ing efforts to ‘work the refs’ in the media and tech indus­try. We’ve already seen how the laugh­able claims of anti-con­ser­v­a­tive bias waged against social media com­pa­nies have become a cen­tral part of the core right-wing strat­e­gy of get­ting favor­able social media treat­ment and ensur­ing the plat­forms remain viable out­lets for right-wing dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns. Now there appears to be a sig­nif­i­cant fund-rais­ing effort to finance a project ded­i­cat­ed to research­ing the past of jour­nal­ists work­ing for vir­tu­al­ly all major main­stream new out­lets, includ­ing their past social media post­ings, and find any­thing that can be embar­rass­ing. The effort is being led by Arthur Schwartz, a Steve Ban­non ally who is described as Don­ald Trump Jr’s “fix­er”.

    But it get more devi­ous: this group is claim­ing that they aren’t just going to engage in deep oppo­si­tion research of jour­nal­ists who report things crit­i­cal of Trump. They are also going to be look­ing into the fam­i­ly mem­bers of jour­nal­ists who hap­pen to be active in pol­i­tics and any­one else who works at a media orga­ni­za­tion crit­i­cal of Trump. And any lib­er­al activists of oth­er oppo­nents of Trump will also be sub­ject to this oppo­si­tion research cam­paign. In oth­er words, pret­ty much any­one who does­n’t sup­port Trump and their fam­i­ly mem­bers will be sub­ject to this oppo­si­tion research.

    The group has already released dam­ag­ing anti-Semit­ic old tweets from a New York Times edi­tor and a CNN edi­tor. The New York Times edi­tor wrote the tweets while he was in col­lege. The CNN edi­tor wrote them while he was a 15 and 16 year old grow­ing up in Egypt. It under­scores how, after more than a decade of wide­spread social media usage, we now have a large num­ber of peo­ple work­ing in media who were teens clue­less­ly tweet­ing away years ago and now all that old teenage-gen­er­at­ed con­tent is avail­able for use by this net­work.

    We’re told by for­mer Ban­non-ally Sam Nun­berg that part of the motive of this oper­a­tion is revenge. Specif­i­cal­ly, revenge against the media for its depic­tion of Trump as a racist. Yep. It’s all part of the gener­ic ‘no, you’re the real racist’ meme that we so often hear these days. But while revenge is the stat­ed goal of this oper­a­tion, it’s also clear­ly part of a media intim­i­da­tion cam­paign as evi­denced by the fact that they are being very out in the open out this:

    The New York Times

    Trump Allies Tar­get Jour­nal­ists Over Cov­er­age Deemed Hos­tile to White House
    The oper­a­tion has com­piled dossiers of poten­tial­ly embar­rass­ing social media posts and oth­er pub­lic state­ments by hun­dreds of peo­ple who work at promi­nent news orga­ni­za­tions.

    By Ken­neth P. Vogel and Jere­my W. Peters

    Pub­lished Aug. 25, 2019
    Updat­ed Aug. 26, 2019

    WASHINGTON — A loose net­work of con­ser­v­a­tive oper­a­tives allied with the White House is pur­su­ing what they say will be an aggres­sive oper­a­tion to dis­cred­it news orga­ni­za­tions deemed hos­tile to Pres­i­dent Trump by pub­li­ciz­ing dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion about jour­nal­ists.

    It is the lat­est step in a long-run­ning effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to under­cut the influ­ence of legit­i­mate news report­ing. Four peo­ple famil­iar with the oper­a­tion described how it works, assert­ing that it has com­piled dossiers of poten­tial­ly embar­rass­ing social media posts and oth­er pub­lic state­ments by hun­dreds of peo­ple who work at some of the country’s most promi­nent news orga­ni­za­tions.

    The group has already released infor­ma­tion about jour­nal­ists at CNN, The Wash­ing­ton Post and The New York Times — three out­lets that have aggres­sive­ly inves­ti­gat­ed Mr. Trump — in response to report­ing or com­men­tary that the White House’s allies con­sid­er unfair to Mr. Trump and his team or harm­ful to his re-elec­tion prospects.

    Oper­a­tives have close­ly exam­ined more than a decade’s worth of pub­lic posts and state­ments by jour­nal­ists, the peo­ple famil­iar with the oper­a­tion said. Only a frac­tion of what the net­work claims to have uncov­ered has been made pub­lic, the peo­ple said, with more to be dis­closed as the 2020 elec­tion heats up. The research is said to extend to mem­bers of jour­nal­ists’ fam­i­lies who are active in pol­i­tics, as well as lib­er­al activists and oth­er polit­i­cal oppo­nents of the pres­i­dent.

    It is not pos­si­ble to inde­pen­dent­ly assess the claims about the quan­ti­ty or poten­tial sig­nif­i­cance of the mate­r­i­al the pro-Trump net­work has assem­bled. Some involved in the oper­a­tion have his­to­ries of blus­ter and exag­ger­a­tion. And those will­ing to describe its tech­niques and goals may be try­ing to intim­i­date jour­nal­ists or their employ­ers.

    But the mate­r­i­al pub­li­cized so far, while in some cas­es stripped of con­text or pre­sent­ed in mis­lead­ing ways, has proved authen­tic, and much of it has been pro­fes­sion­al­ly harm­ful to its tar­gets.

    It is clear from the cas­es to date that among the cen­tral play­ers in the oper­a­tion is Arthur Schwartz, a com­bat­ive 47-year-old con­ser­v­a­tive con­sul­tant who is a friend and infor­mal advis­er to Don­ald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. Mr. Schwartz has worked with some of the right’s most aggres­sive oper­a­tives, includ­ing the for­mer Trump advis­er Stephen K. Ban­non.

    “If the @nytimes thinks this set­tles the mat­ter we can expose a few of their oth­er big­ots,” Mr. Schwartz tweet­ed on Thurs­day in response to an apolo­getic tweet from a Times jour­nal­ist whose anti-Semit­ic social media posts had just been revealed by the oper­a­tion. “Lots more where this came from.”

    The infor­ma­tion unearthed by the oper­a­tion has been com­ment­ed on and spread by offi­cials inside the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and re-elec­tion cam­paign, as well as con­ser­v­a­tive activists and right-wing news out­lets such as Bre­it­bart News. In the case of the Times edi­tor, the news was first pub­lished by Bre­it­bart, imme­di­ate­ly ampli­fied on Twit­ter by Don­ald Trump Jr. and, among oth­ers, Kat­ri­na Pier­son, a senior advis­er to the Trump cam­paign, and quick­ly became the sub­ject of a Bre­it­bart inter­view with Stephanie Grisham, the White House press sec­re­tary and com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.

    The White House press office said that nei­ther the pres­i­dent nor any­one in the White House was involved in or aware of the oper­a­tion, and that nei­ther the White House nor the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee was involved in fund­ing it.

    The Trump cam­paign said it was unaware of, and not involved in, the effort, but sug­gest­ed that it served a wor­thy pur­pose. “We know noth­ing about this, but it’s clear that the media has a lot of work to do to clean up its own house,” said Tim Mur­taugh, the campaign’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.

    The cam­paign is con­sis­tent with Mr. Trump’s long-run­ning effort to dele­git­imize crit­i­cal report­ing and brand the news media as an “ene­my of the peo­ple.” The pres­i­dent has relent­less­ly sought to dimin­ish the cred­i­bil­i­ty of news orga­ni­za­tions and cast them as polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed oppo­nents.

    Jour­nal­ism, he said in a tweet last week, is “noth­ing more than an evil pro­pa­gan­da machine for the Demo­c­rat Par­ty.”

    The oper­a­tion has com­piled social media posts from Twit­ter, Face­book and Insta­gram, and stored images of the posts that can be pub­li­cized even if the user deletes them, said the peo­ple famil­iar with the effort. One claimed that the oper­a­tion had unearthed poten­tial­ly “fire­able” infor­ma­tion on “sev­er­al hun­dred” peo­ple.

    “I am sure there will be more scalps,” said Sam Nun­berg, a for­mer aide to Mr. Trump who is a friend of Mr. Schwartz.

    Mr. Nun­berg and oth­ers who are famil­iar with the cam­paign described it as meant to expose what they see as the hypocrisy of main­stream news out­lets that have report­ed on the president’s inflam­ma­to­ry lan­guage regard­ing race.

    “Two can play at this game,” he said. “The media has long tar­get­ed Repub­li­cans with deep dives into their social media, look­ing to car­i­ca­ture all con­ser­v­a­tives and Trump vot­ers as racists.”

    But using jour­nal­is­tic tech­niques to tar­get jour­nal­ists and news orga­ni­za­tions as ret­ri­bu­tion for — or as a warn­ing not to pur­sue — cov­er­age crit­i­cal of the pres­i­dent is fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent from the well-estab­lished role of the news media in scru­ti­niz­ing peo­ple in posi­tions of pow­er.

    “If it’s clear­ly retal­ia­to­ry, it’s clear­ly an attack, it’s clear­ly not jour­nal­ism,” said Leonard Down­ie Jr., who was the exec­u­tive edi­tor of The Post from 1991 to 2008. Ten­sion between a pres­i­dent and the news media that cov­ers him is noth­ing new, Mr. Down­ie added. But an orga­nized, wide-scale polit­i­cal effort to inten­tion­al­ly humil­i­ate jour­nal­ists and oth­ers who work for media out­lets is.

    “It’s one thing for Spiro Agnew to call every­one in the press ‘nat­ter­ing nabobs of neg­a­tivism,’” he said, refer­ring to the for­mer vice president’s famous cri­tique of how jour­nal­ists cov­ered Pres­i­dent Richard M. Nixon. “And anoth­er thing to inves­ti­gate indi­vid­u­als in order to embar­rass them pub­licly and jeop­ar­dize their employ­ment.”

    ...

    The oper­a­tion is tar­get­ing the news media by using one of the most effec­tive weapons of polit­i­cal com­bat — deep and labo­ri­ous research into the pub­lic records of oppo­nents to find con­tra­dic­tions, con­tro­ver­sial opin­ions or tox­ic affil­i­a­tions. The lib­er­al group Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca helped pio­neer close scruti­ny of pub­lic state­ments by con­ser­v­a­tive media per­son­al­i­ties.

    The con­ser­v­a­tive oper­a­tive James O’Keefe has twist­ed that con­cept in ways incon­sis­tent with tra­di­tion­al jour­nal­is­tic ethics, using false iden­ti­ties, elab­o­rate cov­er sto­ries and under­cov­er videos to entrap jour­nal­ists and pub­li­cize embar­rass­ing state­ments, often in mis­lead­ing ways, to under­cut the cred­i­bil­i­ty of what he con­sid­ers news media biased in favor of lib­er­als.

    In the case of the pro-Trump net­work, research into jour­nal­ists is being deployed for the polit­i­cal ben­e­fit of the White House. It is tar­get­ing not only high-pro­file jour­nal­ists who chal­lenge the admin­is­tra­tion, but also any­one who works for any news orga­ni­za­tion that mem­bers of the net­work see as hos­tile to Mr. Trump, no mat­ter how tan­gen­tial that job may be to the cov­er­age of his pres­i­den­cy. And it is being used explic­it­ly as ret­ri­bu­tion for cov­er­age.

    Some reporters have been warned that they or their news orga­ni­za­tions could be tar­gets, cre­at­ing the impres­sion that the cam­paign is intend­ed in part to deter them from aggres­sive cov­er­age as well as to inflict pun­ish­ment after an arti­cle has been pub­lished.

    Trained as a lawyer, Mr. Schwartz has endeared him­self to mem­bers of the president’s fam­i­ly by becom­ing one of their most aggres­sive defend­ers, known for bad­ger­ing and threat­en­ing reporters and oth­ers he believes have wronged the Trumps.

    He has pub­licly gone after Repub­li­cans he views as dis­loy­al, includ­ing the for­mer White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, about whom he admit­ted spread­ing an unsub­stan­ti­at­ed rumor. He has called him­self a “troll on Twit­ter,” which is where he has boast­ed of being aware of, or hav­ing access to, dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion on dozens of jour­nal­ists at CNN and The Times that could be deployed if those out­lets ran afoul of Mr. Trump or his allies.

    The operation’s tac­tics were on dis­play last week, seem­ing­ly in response to two pieces in The Times that angered Mr. Trump’s allies. The paper’s edi­to­r­i­al board pub­lished an edi­to­r­i­al on Wednes­day accus­ing Mr. Trump of foment­ing anti-Semi­tism, and the news­room pub­lished a pro­file on Thurs­day morn­ing of Ms. Grisham, the new White House press sec­re­tary, which includ­ed unflat­ter­ing details about her employ­ment his­to­ry.

    One per­son involved in the effort said the pro-Trump forces, aware ahead of time about the cov­er­age of Ms. Grisham, were pre­pared to respond. Ear­ly Thurs­day morn­ing, soon after the pro­file appeared online, Bre­it­bart News pub­lished an arti­cle that doc­u­ment­ed anti-Semit­ic and racist tweets writ­ten a decade ago by Tom Wright-Pier­san­ti, who was in col­lege at the time and has since become an edi­tor on the Times’ pol­i­tics desk. The Times said it was review­ing the mat­ter and con­sid­ered the posts “a clear vio­la­tion of our stan­dards.”

    Mr. Schwartz tweet­ed a link to the Bre­it­bart piece before 7 a.m., which Don­ald Trump Jr. retweet­ed to his 3.8 mil­lion fol­low­ers — the first of about two dozen times that the president’s son shared the arti­cle or its con­tents. Oth­er promi­nent Repub­li­cans, includ­ing Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz of Texas, joined in high­light­ing the report.

    Breitbart’s arti­cle quot­ed sev­er­al peo­ple or groups with close ties to Mr. Schwartz, includ­ing Richard Grenell, Mr. Trump’s ambas­sador to Ger­many, and the Zion­ist Orga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­ca. It was writ­ten by the site’s Wash­ing­ton polit­i­cal edi­tor, Matthew Boyle, whose rela­tion­ship with Mr. Schwartz start­ed when Mr. Ban­non ran the web­site.

    Mr. Boyle’s arti­cle includ­ed a ref­er­ence to the Times pro­file of Ms. Grisham, which it char­ac­ter­ized as “attack­ing White House Press Sec­re­tary Stephanie Grisham.” Mr. Wright-Pier­san­ti was unin­volved in the edit­ing of the arti­cle about Ms. Grisham.

    The tweets revealed in the Bre­it­bart arti­cle quick­ly spread to oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive out­lets favored by the pres­i­dent and his allies, includ­ing the radio shows of Rush Lim­baugh and Mark Levin.

    Mr. Wright-Pier­san­ti apol­o­gized on Twit­ter on Thurs­day morn­ing and delet­ed offen­sive tweets. Mr. Schwartz then issued his warn­ing that he had fur­ther dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion about Times employ­ees.

    Mr. Wright-Pier­san­ti, 32, said the tweets, post­ed when he was a col­lege stu­dent with a Twit­ter fol­low­ing con­sist­ing most­ly of per­son­al acquain­tances, were “my lame attempts at edgy humor to try to get a rise out of my friends.”

    But he said “they’re not fun­ny, they’re clear­ly offen­sive,” adding, “I feel deep shame for them, and I am tru­ly, hon­est­ly sor­ry that I wrote these.”

    He said he had for­got­ten about the tweets as he start­ed a career in jour­nal­ism.

    “For my gen­er­a­tion, the gen­er­a­tion that came of age in the inter­net, all the youth­ful mis­takes that you made get pre­served in dig­i­tal amber, and no mat­ter how much you change and mature and grow up, it’s always out there, wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered,” Mr. Wright-Pier­san­ti said.

    Like Mr. Wright-Pier­san­ti, oth­er tar­gets of the pro-Trump net­work have been young peo­ple who grew up with social media and wrote the posts in ques­tion when they were in their teens or ear­ly 20s, in most cas­es before they became pro­fes­sion­al jour­nal­ists.

    A week after a White House reporter for CNN sparred with Mr. Trump dur­ing a news con­fer­ence, Mr. Schwartz high­light­ed a tweet by the reporter from 2011, when the reporter was in col­lege, that used an anti-gay slur. Oth­er sim­i­lar tweets quick­ly sur­faced, and the reporter apol­o­gized, though Mr. Schwartz has con­tin­ued to antag­o­nize the reporter on Twit­ter.

    In recent months, Mr. Schwartz high­light­ed a near­ly decade-old tweet in which a reporter for The Post had repeat­ed in an ambigu­ous man­ner a slur used by a politi­cian.

    In March, Mr. Schwartz tweet­ed a link to an arti­cle from Bre­it­bart, writ­ten by Mr. Boyle, about a reporter from Busi­ness Insid­er whose Insta­gram account includ­ed anti-Trump ref­er­ences and a pho­to­graph of the reporter demon­strat­ing against the pres­i­dent.

    In July, around the time CNN pub­lished an arti­cle expos­ing old posts by a Trump appointee spread­ing sug­ges­tions that Barack Oba­ma was a Mus­lim whose loy­al­ty to the Unit­ed States was in ques­tion, Mr. Schwartz resur­faced anti-Semit­ic tweets from 2011 by a CNN pho­to edi­tor. Mr. Schwartz sug­gest­ed that a CNN reporter who spe­cial­izes in unearthing prob­lem­at­ic archival con­tent should “look into the social media activ­i­ties of your employ­ees.”

    The tweets became the basis for sev­er­al arti­cles in con­ser­v­a­tive news out­lets and hun­dreds of tweets from con­ser­v­a­tives tar­get­ing the pho­to edi­tor, Mohammed Elshamy, which did not stop even after he resigned under pres­sure from CNN and apol­o­gized.

    “It felt like a coor­di­nat­ed attack,” said Mr. Elshamy, who said he had received death threats. “It was over­whelm­ing.”

    Mr. Elshamy, who is now 25, said he post­ed the tweets when he was 15 and 16 years old, grow­ing up in Egypt, when he was still learn­ing Eng­lish and did not ful­ly grasp the mean­ing of the words.

    “I was repeat­ing slo­gans heard on the streets dur­ing a high­ly emo­tion­al time in my nation’s his­to­ry,” he said. “I believe that my sub­se­quent work and views over the years redeems for the mis­takes I made as a kid.”

    While he said he under­stands “the sever­i­ty and harm of my com­ments,” he ques­tioned the moti­va­tion of the cam­paign that cost him his job. “It is a very dirty tac­tic that they are using to cause as much harm as they can to any­one who is affil­i­at­ed with these media out­lets,” he said. “It actu­al­ly feels like a com­pe­ti­tion and every ter­mi­na­tion or vil­i­fi­ca­tion is a point for them.”

    Mr. Ban­non, at the time the head of Bre­it­bart, over­saw the site’s efforts in 2015 to attack Meg­yn Kel­ly, then of Fox News, after she called out Mr. Trump for tweets dis­parag­ing women as “fat pigs,” “dogs” and “slobs.” In an inter­view, he said the work that Mr. Schwartz was under­tak­ing should be seen as a sign that Mr. Trump’s sup­port­ers were com­mit­ted to exe­cut­ing a frontal assault on news media they con­sid­ered adver­sar­i­al.

    “A cul­ture war is a war,” he said. “There are casu­al­ties in war. And that’s what you’re see­ing.”

    ———-
    “Trump Allies Tar­get Jour­nal­ists Over Cov­er­age Deemed Hos­tile to White House” by Ken­neth P. Vogel and Jere­my W. Peters; The New York Times; 08/25/2019

    “Oper­a­tives have close­ly exam­ined more than a decade’s worth of pub­lic posts and state­ments by jour­nal­ists, the peo­ple famil­iar with the oper­a­tion said. Only a frac­tion of what the net­work claims to have uncov­ered has been made pub­lic, the peo­ple said, with more to be dis­closed as the 2020 elec­tion heats up. The research is said to extend to mem­bers of jour­nal­ists’ fam­i­lies who are active in pol­i­tics, as well as lib­er­al activists and oth­er polit­i­cal oppo­nents of the pres­i­dent.

    Do you sup­port Trump? Nope? Well, get ready for oppo­si­tion research con­duct­ed on you. And this is all being framed as ‘revenge’ against Trump’s oppo­nents for por­tray­ing him, and/or por­tray­ing his sup­port­ers, as racist. This is pre­sum­ably how this kind of intim­i­da­tion cam­paign will be sold to the right-wing audiences...as a ‘we’re fight­ing for you and your hon­or!’ oper­a­tion:

    ...
    Mr. Nun­berg and oth­ers who are famil­iar with the cam­paign described it as meant to expose what they see as the hypocrisy of main­stream news out­lets that have report­ed on the president’s inflam­ma­to­ry lan­guage regard­ing race.

    “Two can play at this game,” he said. “The media has long tar­get­ed Repub­li­cans with deep dives into their social media, look­ing to car­i­ca­ture all con­ser­v­a­tives and Trump vot­ers as racists.”

    ...

    In the case of the pro-Trump net­work, research into jour­nal­ists is being deployed for the polit­i­cal ben­e­fit of the White House. It is tar­get­ing not only high-pro­file jour­nal­ists who chal­lenge the admin­is­tra­tion, but also any­one who works for any news orga­ni­za­tion that mem­bers of the net­work see as hos­tile to Mr. Trump, no mat­ter how tan­gen­tial that job may be to the cov­er­age of his pres­i­den­cy. And it is being used explic­it­ly as ret­ri­bu­tion for cov­er­age.

    Some reporters have been warned that they or their news orga­ni­za­tions could be tar­gets, cre­at­ing the impres­sion that the cam­paign is intend­ed in part to deter them from aggres­sive cov­er­age as well as to inflict pun­ish­ment after an arti­cle has been pub­lished.
    ...

    And the guy behind, Arthur Schwartz, is both an infor­mal advis­er to Trump Jr. with a his­to­ry of work­ing with Steve Ban­non. As Ban­non describes it, the peo­ple tar­get­ed by this are just casu­al­ties in a cul­ture war:

    ...
    It is clear from the cas­es to date that among the cen­tral play­ers in the oper­a­tion is Arthur Schwartz, a com­bat­ive 47-year-old con­ser­v­a­tive con­sul­tant who is a friend and infor­mal advis­er to Don­ald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. Mr. Schwartz has worked with some of the right’s most aggres­sive oper­a­tives, includ­ing the for­mer Trump advis­er Stephen K. Ban­non.

    “If the @nytimes thinks this set­tles the mat­ter we can expose a few of their oth­er big­ots,” Mr. Schwartz tweet­ed on Thurs­day in response to an apolo­getic tweet from a Times jour­nal­ist whose anti-Semit­ic social media posts had just been revealed by the oper­a­tion. “Lots more where this came from.”

    ...

    Mr. Ban­non, at the time the head of Bre­it­bart, over­saw the site’s efforts in 2015 to attack Meg­yn Kel­ly, then of Fox News, after she called out Mr. Trump for tweets dis­parag­ing women as “fat pigs,” “dogs” and “slobs.” In an inter­view, he said the work that Mr. Schwartz was under­tak­ing should be seen as a sign that Mr. Trump’s sup­port­ers were com­mit­ted to exe­cut­ing a frontal assault on news media they con­sid­ered adver­sar­i­al.

    “A cul­ture war is a war,” he said. “There are casu­al­ties in war. And that’s what you’re see­ing.”
    ...

    Of course, the Trump White House and reelec­tion cam­paign is claim­ing it has noth­ing to do it. So if any jour­nal­ist point out the clear con­nec­tions between this oper­a­tion and the Trump White House they will pre­sum­ably become tar­gets:

    ...
    The infor­ma­tion unearthed by the oper­a­tion has been com­ment­ed on and spread by offi­cials inside the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and re-elec­tion cam­paign, as well as con­ser­v­a­tive activists and right-wing news out­lets such as Bre­it­bart News. In the case of the Times edi­tor, the news was first pub­lished by Bre­it­bart, imme­di­ate­ly ampli­fied on Twit­ter by Don­ald Trump Jr. and, among oth­ers, Kat­ri­na Pier­son, a senior advis­er to the Trump cam­paign, and quick­ly became the sub­ject of a Bre­it­bart inter­view with Stephanie Grisham, the White House press sec­re­tary and com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.

    The White House press office said that nei­ther the pres­i­dent nor any­one in the White House was involved in or aware of the oper­a­tion, and that nei­ther the White House nor the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee was involved in fund­ing it.

    The Trump cam­paign said it was unaware of, and not involved in, the effort, but sug­gest­ed that it served a wor­thy pur­pose. “We know noth­ing about this, but it’s clear that the media has a lot of work to do to clean up its own house,” said Tim Mur­taugh, the campaign’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.

    The cam­paign is con­sis­tent with Mr. Trump’s long-run­ning effort to dele­git­imize crit­i­cal report­ing and brand the news media as an “ene­my of the peo­ple.” The pres­i­dent has relent­less­ly sought to dimin­ish the cred­i­bil­i­ty of news orga­ni­za­tions and cast them as polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed oppo­nents.

    Jour­nal­ism, he said in a tweet last week, is “noth­ing more than an evil pro­pa­gan­da machine for the Demo­c­rat Par­ty.”

    The oper­a­tion has com­piled social media posts from Twit­ter, Face­book and Insta­gram, and stored images of the posts that can be pub­li­cized even if the user deletes them, said the peo­ple famil­iar with the effort. One claimed that the oper­a­tion had unearthed poten­tial­ly “fire­able” infor­ma­tion on “sev­er­al hun­dred” peo­ple.

    “I am sure there will be more scalps,” said Sam Nun­berg, a for­mer aide to Mr. Trump who is a friend of Mr. Schwartz.
    ...

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, Arthur Schwartz has decid­ed to make this intim­i­da­tion cam­paign even more overt­ly intim­i­dat­ing by now open­ly fundrais­ing for this effort. He wants to raise at least $2 mil­lion to fund this oper­a­tion (and clear­ly wants the pub­lic to know this):

    Axios

    Scoop: Trump allies raise mon­ey to tar­get reporters

    Mike Allen
    Sep 3, 2019

    Pres­i­dent Trump’s polit­i­cal allies are try­ing to raise at least $2 mil­lion to inves­ti­gate reporters and edi­tors of the New York Times, Wash­ing­ton Post and oth­er out­lets, accord­ing to a 3‑page fundrais­ing pitch reviewed by Axios.

    Why it mat­ters: Trump’s war on the media is expand­ing. This group will tar­get reporters and edi­tors, while oth­er GOP 2020 enti­ties go after the social media plat­forms, alleg­ing bias, offi­cials tell us.

    * The group claims it will slip dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion about reporters and edi­tors to “friend­ly media out­lets,” such as Bre­it­bart, and tra­di­tion­al media, if pos­si­ble.
    * Peo­ple involved in rais­ing the funds include GOP con­sul­tant Arthur Schwartz and the “loose net­work” that the NY Times report­ed last week is tar­get­ing jour­nal­ists. The oper­a­tions are to be run by undis­closed oth­ers.
    * The prospec­tus for the new project says it’s “tar­get­ing the peo­ple pro­duc­ing the news.”

    The irony: The New York Times exposed an extreme­ly impro­vi­sa­tion­al effort that had out­ed a Times edi­tor for past anti-Semit­ic tweets. This new group is now using the expo­sure to try to for­mal­ize and fund the oper­a­tion.

    ...

    Under “Pri­ma­ry Tar­gets,” the pitch lists:

    * “CNN, MSNBC, all broad­cast net­works, NY Times, Wash­ing­ton Post, Buz­zFeed, Huff­in­g­ton Post, and all oth­ers that rou­tine­ly incor­po­rate bias and mis­in­for­ma­tion in to their cov­er­age. We will also track the reporters and edi­tors of these orga­ni­za­tions.”

    This isn’t an entire­ly new con­cept. The lib­er­al group Media Mat­ters mon­i­tors jour­nal­ists and pub­li­ca­tions and goes pub­lic with com­plaints of bias. But being this bla­tant and spe­cif­ic about try­ing to dis­cred­it indi­vid­ual reporters is new.

    ———-

    “Scoop: Trump allies raise mon­ey to tar­get reporters” by Mike Allen; Axios; 09/03/2019

    “CNN, MSNBC, all broad­cast net­works, NY Times, Wash­ing­ton Post, Buz­zFeed, Huff­in­g­ton Post, and all oth­ers that rou­tine­ly incor­po­rate bias and mis­in­for­ma­tion in to their cov­er­age. We will also track the reporters and edi­tors of these orga­ni­za­tions.”

    Intim­i­dat­ing all of the media that does­n’t rou­tine­ly fête Trump isn’t going to be cheap. But Arthur Schwartz is pub­licly sig­nal­ing that his intim­i­da­tion oper­a­tion is going to all the resources it needs. And don’t for­get that in the age of Big Data and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca-style mass data-col­lec­tion oper­a­tions, a lot of this oppo­si­tion research will prob­a­bly be high­ly automat­able. So if you assume that you’re too insignif­i­cant to end up being tar­get­ed by this oper­a­tion that’s prob­a­bly not a safe assump­tion. And giv­en that it’s not just jour­nal­ists, but lib­er­al activists and any­one else who open­ly oppos­es Trump (nev­er-Trumpers) that are being tar­get­ed too, it points towards the next phase of the far right’s assault on democ­ra­cy and civ­il soci­ety: micro-tar­get­ed intim­i­da­tion cam­paigns against polit­i­cal dis­si­dents. Today it’s jour­nal­ists and lib­er­al activists who don’t sup­port Trump. But in the era of social media and vast data­bas­es of bil­lions of tweets and social media posts there’s no rea­son the intim­i­da­tion needs to be lim­it­ed to jour­nal­ists or activists. Vir­tu­al­ly all cit­i­zens will poten­tial­ly be vul­ner­a­ble.

    So let’s hope today’s teenagers get the memo about their social media use: watch what you post, kids, because some day it might be used against you. Espe­cial­ly by the Repub­li­can Par­ty.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 4, 2019, 12:42 pm
  3. There was a recent sto­ry in Politi­co that appears to solve the mys­tery of who was behind the “stringray” devices found in Wash­ing­ton DC in recent years. The exis­tence of the devices — which col­lects cell-phone data by mim­ic legit­i­mate cell-phone tow­ers — near the White House and oth­er sen­si­tive areas in DC was first pub­licly acknowl­edged by the US gov­ern­ment in April of 2018. These reports were deemed at the time to be extra alarm­ing giv­en the fact that Pres­i­dent Trump was known to use inse­cure cell­phone for sen­si­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Accord­ing to the new Politi­co report, the US gov­ern­ment has con­clud­ed that the sting-ray devices were most like­ly put in place by Israel, and yet there have been no con­se­quences at all fol­low­ing this find­ing. Israel has denied the reports and Trump him­self told Politi­co, “I don’t think the Israelis were spy­ing on us...My rela­tion­ship with Israel has been great...Anything is pos­si­ble but I don’t believe it.”.

    So we have reports about a US gov­ern­ment inves­ti­ga­tion con­clud­ing Israel we behind one of the most mys­te­ri­ous, and poten­tial­ly sig­nif­i­cant, spy­ing oper­a­tion uncov­ered in DC in recent years cou­pled with US gov­ern­ment denials that this hap­pened. Which is large­ly what we should have expect­ed giv­en this find­ing. On the one hand, giv­en the extreme­ly close and long-stand­ing ties between US and Israeli mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence, if this real­ly was an oper­a­tion that Israel was gen­uine­ly behind with­out the tac­it approval of the US gov­ern­ment there would like­ly be an attempt to min­i­mize the diplo­mat­ic fall­out and deal with these things qui­et­ly and out of the pub­lic eye. On the oth­er hand, if this was the kind of oper­a­tion done with the US gov­ern­men­t’s tac­it approval, we would expect at least down­play­ing of the scan­dal too.

    But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, there’s anoth­er huge we should expect the down­play­ing by the US gov­ern­ment about a sto­ry like this: The US and Israel have been increas­ing­ly out­sourc­ing their cyber-spy­ing capa­bil­i­ties to the pri­vate sec­tor and joint­ly invest­ing in these com­pa­nies. Beyond that, Jef­frey Epstein appears to be one of the fig­ures who appears to have been work­ing on this merg­ing of US and Israeli cyber-spy­ing tech­nol­o­gy in recent years. So when we talk about Israel spy­ing oper­a­tions in the US involv­ing the covert use of tech­nol­o­gy, we have to ask whether or not this was an oper­a­tion involv­ing a com­pa­ny with US nation­al secu­ri­ty ties.

    The fol­low­ing report, the lat­est for Whit­ney Webb at Mint­Press
    on the Epstein scan­dal, describes this grow­ing joint US/Israeli invest­ment in cyber sec­tor in recent years and some of the fig­ures behind it in addi­tion to Epstein. The piece focus­es on Car­byne (Carbyne911), the Israeli com­pa­ny start­ed in 2014 by for­mer mem­bers of Israel’s Unit 8200 cyber team. Car­byne cre­at­ed Reporty, a smart­phone app that promis­es to pro­vide faster and bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tions to pub­lic emer­gency first respon­ders. As we’ve seen, Reporty isn’t just a smart­phone app. It also appears to work by mon­i­tor­ing pub­lic emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems and nation­al civil­ian com­mu­ni­ca­tions infra­struc­ture for the osten­si­ble pur­pose of ensur­ing min­i­mal data loss dur­ing emer­gency response calls, which is the kind of capa­bil­i­ty with obvi­ous dual use poten­tial.

    As we also saw, while for­mer Israeli prime min­is­ter Ehud Barack was pub­licly the big investor who helped start Car­byne back in 2014, it turns out Jef­frey Epstein was qui­et­ly the per­son behind Barack­’s financ­ing. Barack was a known asso­ciate of Epstein and report­ed­ly fre­quent­ed Epstein’s Man­hat­tan man­sion. So we have Epstein, a fig­ure with clear ties to Israeli intel­li­gence but also very clear ties to US intel­li­gence, invest­ing in Car­byne. Well, as the piece describes, it turns out that one of the oth­er investors in Car­byne is Peter Thiel. And Car­byne’s board of advi­sors includes for­mer Palan­tir employ­ee Trae Stephens, who was a mem­ber of the Trump tran­si­tion team. For­mer Sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty Michael Chertoff is also an advi­so­ry board mem­ber. These are the kinds of investors and advi­sors that make it clear Car­byne isn’t sim­ply an Israeli intel­li­gence front. This is, at a min­i­mum, a joint oper­a­tion between the US and Israel.

    It’s also note­wor­thy that both Thiel and Epstein appear to have been lead­ing financiers for ‘tran­shu­man­ist’ projects like longevi­ty and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. Both have a his­to­ry of spon­sor­ing sci­en­tists work­ing in these areas. Both appeared to have very sim­i­lar inter­ests and moved in the same cir­cles and yet there pre­vi­ous­ly weren’t indi­ca­tions that Thiel and Epstein had a rela­tion­ship. Their mutu­al invest­ments in Car­byne helps answer that. The two def­i­nite­ly knew each oth­er because they were secret busi­ness part­ners.

    How many oth­er secret busi­ness part­ner­ships might Epstein and Thiel have been involved in and now many of them involve the Israeli tech sec­tor? We obvi­ous­ly don’t know, but as the fol­low­ing arti­cle points out, Palan­tir opened an R&D branch in Israel in 2013 and there have long been sus­pi­cions that Palan­tir’s ‘pre-cog’ pre­dic­tive crime algo­rithms have been used against Pales­tin­ian pop­u­la­tions. So Palan­tir appears to be well posi­tioned to help lead any qui­et joint US-Israeli efforts to devel­op cyber-intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ties in the pri­vate sec­tor.

    Omi­nous­ly, as the arti­cle also describes, the idea of a joint US-Israeli project on ‘pre-crime’ detec­tion is one that goes back to 1982 when the “Main Core” data­base of 8 mil­lion Amer­i­cans deemed to be poten­tial sub­ver­sives was devel­oped by Oliv­er North under the “Con­ti­nu­ity of Gov­ern­ment” pro­gram and main­tained using the PROMIS soft­ware (which sounds like a com­pli­men­ta­ry pro­gram to “Rex 84”). Accord­ing to anony­mous intel­li­gence sources talk­ing to Mint­Press, this “Main Core” data­base of US cit­i­zens con­sid­ered “dis­si­dents” still exists today. Accord­ing to these anony­mous U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials who report­ed­ly have direct knowl­edge of the US intel­li­gence community’s use of PROMIS and Main Core from the 1980s to 2000s, Israeli intel­li­gence played a role in the deploy­ment of PROMIS as the soft­ware used for the Main Core. And Palan­tir, with its PROMIS-like Inves­tiga­tive Case Man­age­ment (ICM) soft­ware already being offered to the US gov­ern­ment for use in track­ing immi­grants, is the com­pa­ny well posi­tioned to be main­tain­ing the cur­rent ver­sion of Main Core. The arti­cle also reports that Main Core was used by at least one for­mer CIA offi­cial on Ronald Reagan’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil to black­mail mem­bers of Con­gress, Con­gres­sion­al staffers and jour­nal­ists. That obvi­ous­ly has the­mat­ic ties to the Epstein sex­u­al traf­fick­ing net­work that appears to have black­mail­ing pow­er­ful peo­ple as one of its core func­tions.

    Also note­wor­thy in all this is is that Car­byne’s prod­ucts were ini­tial­ly sold as a solu­tion for mass shoot­ings (‘solu­tion’, in the sense that vic­tims would be able to con­tact emer­gency respon­ders). That’s part of what makes Thiel’s invest­ment in Car­byne extra inter­est­ing giv­en the pre-crime pre­dic­tion tech­nolo­gies capa­bil­i­ties Palan­tir has been offer­ing law enforce­ment in recent years. As the arti­cle notes, this all poten­tial­ly ties in to the recent push by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to cre­ate HARPA, a new US gov­ern­ment agency mod­eled after DARPA, that could cre­ate tools for track­ing the men­tal­ly ill using smart­phones and smart­watch­es and pre­dict­ing when they might become vio­lent. Palan­tir is per­fect­ly sit­u­at­ed to cap­i­tal­ize on an ini­tia­tive like that.

    And that’s all part of the con­text we have to keep in mind when read­ing reports about “string-ray” devices in Wash­ing­ton DC being set up by Israel and the response from the US gov­ern­ment is a big *yawn*. When fig­ures like Thiel and Epstein are act­ing as mid­dle-men in some sort of joint US-Israeli cyber-spy­ing pri­va­ti­za­tion dri­ve, it’s hard not to won­der if those stingray devices aren’t also part of some sort of joint ini­tia­tive:

    Mint­Press

    How the CIA, Mossad and “the Epstein Net­work” are Exploit­ing Mass Shoot­ings to Cre­ate an Orwellian Night­mare

    Fol­low­ing anoth­er cat­a­stroph­ic mass shoot­ing or cri­sis event, Orwellian “solu­tions” are set to be foist­ed on a fright­ened Amer­i­can pub­lic by the very net­work con­nect­ed, not only to Jef­frey Epstein, but to a litany of crimes and a fright­en­ing his­to­ry of plans to crush inter­nal dis­sent in the Unit­ed States.
    by Whit­ney Webb

    Sep­tem­ber 06th, 2019

    Fol­low­ing the arrest and sub­se­quent death in prison of alleged child sex traf­fick­er Jef­frey Epstein, a lit­tle-known Israeli tech com­pa­ny began to receive increased pub­lic­i­ty, but for all the wrong rea­sons. Not long after Epstein’s arrest, and his rela­tion­ships and finances came under scruti­ny, it was revealed that the Israeli com­pa­ny Carbyne911 had received sub­stan­tial fund­ing from Jef­frey Epstein as well as Epstein’s close asso­ciate and for­mer Prime Min­is­ter of Israel Ehud Barak, and Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and promi­nent Trump backer Peter Thiel.

    Carbyne911, or sim­ply Car­byne, devel­ops call-han­dling and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion capa­bil­i­ties for emer­gency response ser­vices in coun­tries around the world, includ­ing the Unit­ed States, where it has already been imple­ment­ed in sev­er­al U.S. coun­ties and has part­nered with major U.S. tech com­pa­nies like Google. It specif­i­cal­ly mar­kets its prod­uct as a way of mit­i­gat­ing mass shoot­ings in the Unit­ed States with­out hav­ing to change exist­ing U.S. gun laws.

    Yet, Car­byne is no ordi­nary tech com­pa­ny, as it is deeply con­nect­ed to the elite Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence divi­sion, Unit 8200, whose “alum­ni” often go on to cre­ate tech com­pa­nies — Car­byne among them — that fre­quent­ly main­tain their ties to Israeli intel­li­gence and, accord­ing to Israeli media reports and for­mer employ­ees, often “blur the line” between their ser­vice to Israel’s defense/intelligence appa­ra­tus and their com­mer­cial activ­i­ty. As this report will reveal, Car­byne is but one of sev­er­al Israeli tech com­pa­nies mar­ket­ing them­selves as a tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tion to mass shoot­ings that has direct ties to Israeli intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    In each case, these com­pa­nies’ prod­ucts are built in such a way that they can eas­i­ly be used to ille­gal­ly sur­veil the gov­ern­ments, insti­tu­tions and civil­ians that use them, a trou­bling fact giv­en Unit 8200’s doc­u­ment­ed prowess in sur­veil­lance as a means of obtain­ing black­mail and Israel’s his­to­ry of using tech com­pa­nies to aggres­sive­ly spy on the U.S. gov­ern­ment. This is fur­ther com­pound­ed by the fact that Unit 8200-linked tech com­pa­nies have pre­vi­ous­ly received U.S. gov­ern­ment con­tracts to place “back­doors” into the U.S.’ entire telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem as well as into the pop­u­lar prod­ucts of major Amer­i­can tech com­pa­nies includ­ing Google, Microsoft and Face­book, many of whose key man­agers and exec­u­tives are now for­mer Unit 8200 offi­cers.

    ...

    Anoth­er fun­der of Car­byne, Peter Thiel, has his own com­pa­ny that, like Car­byne, is set to prof­it from the Trump administration’s pro­posed hi-tech solu­tions to mass shoot­ings. Indeed, after the recent shoot­ing in El Paso, Texas, Pres­i­dent Trump — who received polit­i­cal dona­tions from and has been advised by Thiel fol­low­ing his elec­tion — asked tech com­pa­nies to “detect mass shoot­ers before they strike,” a ser­vice already per­fect­ed by Thiel’s com­pa­ny Palan­tir, which has devel­oped “pre-crime soft­ware” already in use through­out the coun­try. Palan­tir is also a con­trac­tor for the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty and also has a branch based in Israel.

    Per­haps most dis­turb­ing of all, what­ev­er tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tion is adopt­ed by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, it is set to use a con­tro­ver­sial data­base first devel­oped as part of a secre­tive U.S. gov­ern­ment pro­gram that involved noto­ri­ous Iran-Con­tra fig­ures like Oliv­er North as a means of track­ing and flag­ging poten­tial Amer­i­can dis­si­dents for increased sur­veil­lance and deten­tion in the event of a vague­ly defined “nation­al emer­gency.”

    As this report will reveal, this data­base — often referred to as “Main Core” — was cre­at­ed with the involve­ment of Israeli intel­li­gence and Israel remained involved years after it was devel­oped, and poten­tial­ly to the present. It was also used by at least one for­mer CIA offi­cial on Pres­i­dent Reagan’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil to black­mail mem­bers of Con­gress, Con­gres­sion­al staffers and jour­nal­ists, among oth­ers.

    ...

    Demys­ti­fy­ing Car­byne

    Carbyne911, which will be referred to sim­ply as Car­byne in this report, is an Israeli tech-start­up that promis­es to rev­o­lu­tion­ize how calls are han­dled by emer­gency ser­vice providers, as well as by gov­ern­ments, cor­po­ra­tions and edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions. Not long after it was found­ed in 2014 by vet­er­ans of Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence, Car­byne began to be specif­i­cal­ly mar­ket­ed as a solu­tion to mass shoot­ings in the Unit­ed States that goes “beyond the gun debate” and improves the “intel­li­gence that armed emer­gency respon­ders receive before enter­ing an armed shoot­er sit­u­a­tion” by pro­vid­ing video-stream­ing and acoustic input from civil­ian smart­phones and oth­er devices con­nect­ed to the Car­byne net­work.

    ...

    As a result of increased scruti­ny of Epstein’s busi­ness activ­i­ties and his ties to Israel, par­tic­u­lar­ly to Barak, Epstein’s con­nec­tion to Car­byne was revealed and exten­sive­ly report­ed on by the inde­pen­dent media out­let Nar­a­tiv, whose exposé on Car­byne revealed not only some of the key intel­li­gence con­nec­tions of the start-up com­pa­ny but also how the archi­tec­ture of Carbyne’s prod­uct itself rais­es “seri­ous pri­va­cy con­cerns.”

    Mint­Press detailed many of Carbyne’s main intel­li­gence con­nec­tions in Part III of the inves­tiga­tive series “Inside the Jef­frey Epstein Scan­dal: Too Big to Fail.” In addi­tion to Barak — for­mer Israeli prime min­is­ter and for­mer head of Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence — serv­ing as Carbyne’s chair­man and a key financer, the company’s exec­u­tive team are all for­mer mem­bers of Israeli intel­li­gence, includ­ing the elite mil­i­tary intel­li­gence unit, Unit 8200, which is often com­pared to the U.S. Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency (NSA).

    ...

    Notably, the NSA and Unit 8200 have col­lab­o­rat­ed on numer­ous projects, most infa­mous­ly on the Stuxnet virus as well as the Duqu mal­ware. In addi­tion, the NSA is known to work with vet­er­ans of Unit 8200 in the pri­vate sec­tor, such as when the NSA hired two Israeli com­pa­nies, to cre­ate back­doors into all the major U.S. telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems and major tech com­pa­nies, includ­ing Face­book, Microsoft and Google. Both of those com­pa­nies, Verint and Narus, have top exec­u­tives with ties to Israeli intel­li­gence and one of those com­pa­nies, Verint (for­mer­ly Com­verse Infos­ys), has a his­to­ry of aggres­sive­ly spy­ing on U.S. gov­ern­ment facil­i­ties. Unit 8200 is also known for spy­ing on civil­ians in the occu­pied Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries for “coer­cion pur­pos­es” — i.e., gath­er­ing info for black­mail — and also for spy­ing on Pales­tin­ian-Amer­i­cans via an intel­li­gence-shar­ing agree­ment with the NSA.

    Unlike many oth­er Unit 8200-linked start-ups, Car­byne also boasts sev­er­al tie-ins to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, includ­ing Palan­tir founder and Trump ally Peter Thiel — anoth­er investor in Car­byne. In addi­tion, Carbyne’s board of advis­ers includes for­mer Palan­tir employ­ee Trae Stephens, who was a mem­ber of the Trump tran­si­tion team, as well as for­mer Sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty Michael Chertoff. Trump donor and New York real-estate devel­op­er Eliot Taw­ill is also on Carbyne’s board, along­side Ehud Barak and Pin­chas Buchris.

    Yet, pri­va­cy con­cerns with Car­byne go beyond the company’s ties to Israeli intel­li­gence and U.S. intel­li­gence con­trac­tors like Peter Thiel. For instance, Carbyne’s smart­phone app extracts the fol­low­ing infor­ma­tion from the phones on which it is installed:

    Device loca­tion, video live-streamed from the smart­phone to the call cen­ter, text mes­sages in a two-way chat win­dow, any data from a user’s phone if they have the Car­byne app and ESInet, and any infor­ma­tion that comes over a data link, which Car­byne opens in case the caller’s voice link drops out.” (empha­sis added)

    ...

    Anoth­er cause for con­cern is how oth­er coun­tries have used plat­forms like Car­byne, which were first mar­ket­ed as emer­gency response tools, for the pur­pose of mass sur­veil­lance. Nar­a­tiv not­ed the fol­low­ing in its inves­ti­ga­tion of Car­byne:

    In May, Human Rights Watch revealed Chi­nese author­i­ties use a plat­form not unlike Car­byne to ille­gal­ly sur­veil Uyghurs. China’s Inte­grat­ed Joint Oper­a­tions Plat­form brings in a much big­ger data-set and sources of video, which includes an app on people’s phones. Like Car­byne, the plat­form was designed to report emer­gen­cies. Chi­nese author­i­ties have turned it into a tool of mass sur­veil­lance.

    Human Rights Watch reverse-engi­neered the app. The group dis­cov­ered the app auto­mat­i­cal­ly pro­files a user under 36 “per­son types” includ­ing “fol­low­ers of Six Lines” which is the term used to iden­ti­fy Uyghurs. Anoth­er term refers to “Hajj,” the annu­al Islam­ic pil­grim­age to Mec­ca. The app mon­i­tors every aspect of a user’s life, includ­ing per­son­al con­ver­sa­tions [and] pow­er usage, and tracks a user’s move­ment.”

    Such tech­nol­o­gy is cur­rent­ly used by Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence and Israel’s domes­tic intel­li­gence agency Shin Bet to jus­ti­fy “pre-crime” deten­tions of Pales­tini­ans in the occu­pied West Bank. As will be not­ed in greater detail lat­er in this report, Pales­tini­ans’ com­ments on social media are tracked by arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence algo­rithms that flag them for indef­i­nite deten­tion if they write social media posts that con­tain “trip­wire” phras­es such as “the sword of Allah.”

    Carbyne’s plat­form has its own “pre-crime” ele­ments, such as it’s c‑Records com­po­nent, which stores and ana­lyzes infor­ma­tion on past calls and events that pass through its net­work. This infor­ma­tion “enables deci­sion mak­ers to accu­rate­ly ana­lyze the past and present behav­ior of their callers, react accord­ing­ly, and in time pre­dict future pat­terns.” (empha­sis added)

    ...

    Israeli intel­li­gence, Black­mail and Sil­i­con Val­ley

    Though many of the indi­vid­u­als involved in fund­ing or man­ag­ing Car­byne have proven ties to intel­li­gence, a clos­er look into sev­er­al of these play­ers reveals even deep­er con­nec­tions to both Israeli and U.S. intel­li­gence.

    One of Carbyne’s clear­est con­nec­tions to Israeli intel­li­gence is through its chair­man and one of its fun­ders, Ehud Barak. Though Barak is best known for being a for­mer prime min­is­ter of Israel, he is also a for­mer min­is­ter of defense and the for­mer head of Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence. He over­saw Unit 8200’s oper­a­tions, as well as oth­er units of Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence, in all three of those posi­tions. For most of his mil­i­tary and lat­er polit­i­cal career, Barak has been close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with covert oper­a­tions.

    ...

    Yet, more recent­ly, it has been Barak’s close rela­tion­ship to Epstein that has raised eye­brows and opened him up to polit­i­cal attacks from his rivals. Epstein and Barak were first intro­duced by for­mer Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Shi­mon Peres in 2002, a time when Epstein’s pedophile black­mail and sex traf­fick­ing oper­a­tion was in full swing.

    ...

    In 2015, Barak formed a lim­it­ed part­ner­ship com­pa­ny in Israel for the explic­it pur­pose of invest­ing in Car­byne (then known as Reporty) and invest­ed mil­lions of dol­lars in the com­pa­ny, quick­ly becom­ing a major share­hold­er and sub­se­quent­ly the company’s pub­lic face and the chair­man of its board. At least $1 mil­lion of the mon­ey invest­ed in this Barak-cre­at­ed com­pa­ny that was lat­er used to invest in Car­byne came from the South­ern Trust Com­pa­ny, which was owned by Jef­frey Epstein.

    In July, Bloomberg report­ed that Epstein’s South­ern Trust Com­pa­ny is iden­ti­fied in U.S. Vir­gin Islands fil­ings as “a DNA data­base and data min­ing” com­pa­ny. Giv­en Carbyne’s clear poten­tial for data-min­ing and civil­ian pro­fil­ing, Epstein’s invest­ment in Car­byne using this spe­cif­ic com­pa­ny sug­gests that Carbyne’s investors have long been aware of this lit­tle adver­tised aspect of Carbyne’s prod­uct.

    In a state­ment to the Israeli news­pa­per Haaretz, Barak assert­ed:

    I saw the busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ty and reg­is­tered a part­ner­ship in my con­trol in Israel. A small num­ber of peo­ple I know invest in it…Since these are pri­vate invest­ments, it wouldn’t be prop­er or right for me to expose the investors’ details.”

    How­ev­er, Barak lat­er admit­ted that Epstein had been one of the investors.

    Mint­Press’ recent series on the Jef­frey Epstein scan­dal not­ed in detail Epstein’s ties to CIA/Mossad intel­li­gence assets, such as Adnan Khashog­gi; CIA front com­pa­nies, such as South­ern Air Trans­port; and orga­nized crime, through his close asso­ci­a­tion with Leslie Wexn­er. In addi­tion, Epstein’s long-time “girl­friend” and alleged madam, Ghis­laine Maxwell, has fam­i­ly links to Israeli intel­li­gence through her father, Robert Maxwell. While it appears that Epstein may have been work­ing for more than one intel­li­gence agency, Zev Shalev, for­mer exec­u­tive pro­duc­er for CBS News and jour­nal­ist at Nar­a­tiv, recent­ly stat­ed that he had inde­pen­dent­ly con­firmed with two uncon­nect­ed sources “close­ly con­nect­ed to the Epstein sto­ry and in a posi­tion to know” that Epstein had “worked for Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence.”

    Exclu­sive: We have two inde­pen­dent sources con­firm­ing Jef­frey Epstein worked for Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence. In each case the source is close­ly con­nect­ed to the Epstein sto­ry and in a posi­tion to know. You can take it to the bank. @narativlive https://t.co/BdK1DrZEO6

    — Zev Shalev (@ZevShalev) August 20, 2019

    Notably, Epstein, who was known for his inter­est in obtain­ing black­mail through the sex­u­al abuse of the under­aged girls he exploit­ed, also claimed to have “dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion” on promi­nent fig­ures in Sil­i­con Val­ley. In a con­ver­sa­tion last year with New York Times reporter James Stew­art, Epstein claimed to have “poten­tial­ly dam­ag­ing or embar­rass­ing” infor­ma­tion on Sil­i­con Valley’s elite and told Stew­art that these top fig­ures in the Amer­i­can tech indus­try “were hedo­nis­tic and reg­u­lar users of recre­ation­al drugs.” Epstein also told Stew­art that he had “wit­nessed promi­nent tech fig­ures tak­ing drugs and arrang­ing for sex” and claimed to know “details about their sup­posed sex­u­al pro­cliv­i­ties.”

    In the lead-up to his recent arrest, Jef­frey Epstein appeared to have been attempt­ing to rebrand as a “tech investor,” as he had done inter­views with sev­er­al jour­nal­ists includ­ing Stew­art about tech­nol­o­gy invest­ing in the months before he was hit with fed­er­al sex traf­fick­ing charges.

    ...

    It is unknown whether Epstein’s “dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion” and appar­ent black­mail on notable indi­vid­u­als in the Amer­i­can tech­nol­o­gy indus­try were used to advance the objec­tives of Car­byne, which recent­ly part­nered with tech giants Google and Cis­co Sys­tems — and, more broad­ly, the expan­sion of Israeli intel­li­gence-linked tech com­pa­nies into the Amer­i­can tech sec­tor, par­tic­u­lar­ly through the acqui­si­tion of Israeli tech start-ups linked to Unit 8200 by major U.S. tech com­pa­nies.

    ...

    Carbyne’s ties to U.S. intel­li­gence

    While Epstein and Barak are the two financiers of Car­byne whose ties to intel­li­gence are clear­est, anoth­er fun­der of Car­byne, Peter Thiel, has ties to U.S. intel­li­gence and a his­to­ry of invest­ing in oth­er com­pa­nies found­ed by for­mer mem­bers of Unit 8200. Thiel co-found­ed and still owns a con­trol­ling stake in the com­pa­ny Palan­tir, which was ini­tial­ly fund­ed with a $2 mil­lion invest­ment from the CIA’s ven­ture cap­i­tal fund In-Q-Tel and quick­ly there­after became a con­trac­tor for the CIA.

    After the suc­cess of its con­tract with the CIA, Palan­tir became a con­trac­tor for a vari­ety of fed­er­al agen­cies, includ­ing the FBI, the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA), the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency (NSA), the Depart­ment of Home­land Security(DHS) and the military’s Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand, among oth­ers. Last year, it won a con­tract to cre­ate a new bat­tle­field intel­li­gence sys­tem for the U.S. Army. Palan­tir is also in demand for its “pre-crime tech­nol­o­gy,” whichhas been used by sev­er­al U.S. police depart­ments. Accord­ing to the Guardian, “Palan­tir tracks every­one from poten­tial ter­ror­ist sus­pects to cor­po­rate fraud­sters, child traf­fick­ers and what they refer to as ‘sub­ver­sives’… it is all done using pre­dic­tion.”

    Thiel has gained atten­tion in recent years for his sup­port of Pres­i­dent Trump and for becom­ing an advis­er to Trump fol­low­ing the 2016 elec­tion, when he was “a major force in the tran­si­tion,” accord­ing to Politi­co, and “helped fill posi­tions in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion with for­mer staff.” One of those for­mer staffers was Trae Stephens, who is also on Carbyne’s board of advis­ers. Thiel also has busi­ness ties to Trump’s son-in-law and influ­en­tial advis­er, Jared Kush­n­er, as well as to Kushner’s broth­er Josh. A senior Trump cam­paign aide told Politi­co in 2017 that “Thiel is immense­ly pow­er­ful with­in the admin­is­tra­tion through his con­nec­tion to Jared.”

    ...

    Anoth­er Car­byne-con­nect­ed indi­vid­ual worth not­ing is the for­mer head of the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, Michael Chertoff, who serves on Carbyne’s board of advis­ers. In addi­tion to Chertoff’s ties to DHS, Chertoff’s com­pa­ny, The Chertoff Group, employ­ees sev­er­al promi­nent for­mer mem­bers of the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty as prin­ci­pals, includ­ing Michael Hay­den, for­mer direc­tor of the CIA and for­mer direc­tor of the NSA; and Charles Allen, for­mer assis­tant direc­tor of Cen­tral Intel­li­gence for Col­lec­tion at the CIA, who worked at the agency for over 40 years.

    ...

    Meld­ing into Sil­i­con Val­ley

    Beyond its trou­bling con­nec­tions to Sil­i­con Val­ley oli­garchs, Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence and the U.S.-military indus­tri­al com­plex, Carbyne’s recent part­ner­ships with two spe­cif­ic tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies — Google and Cis­co Sys­tems — raise even more red flags.

    Car­byne announced its part­ner­ship with Cis­co Sys­tems this past April, with the lat­ter announc­ing that it would begin “align­ing its uni­fied call man­ag­er with Carbyne’s call-han­dling plat­form, allow­ing emer­gency call cen­ters to col­lect data from both 911 callers and near­by gov­ern­ment-owned IoT [Inter­net of Things] devices.” A report on the part­ner­ship pub­lished by Gov­ern­ment Tech­nol­o­gy mag­a­zine stat­ed that “Carbyne’s plat­form will be inte­grat­ed into Cis­co Kinet­ic for Cities, an IoT data plat­form that shares data across com­mu­ni­ty infra­struc­ture, smart city solu­tions, appli­ca­tions and con­nect­ed devices.” The report also not­ed that “Car­byne will also be the only 911 solu­tion in the Cis­co Mar­ket­place.”

    As part of the part­ner­ship, Carbyne’s Pres­i­dent of North Amer­i­can Oper­a­tions Paul Tatro told Gov­ern­ment Tech­nol­o­gy that the Car­byne plat­form would com­bine the data it obtains from smart­phones and oth­er Car­byne-con­nect­ed devices with “what’s avail­able through near­by Cis­co-con­nect­ed road cam­eras, road­side sen­sors, smart street­lamps, smart park­ing meters or oth­er devices.” Tatro fur­ther assert­ed that “Car­byne can also ana­lyze data that’s being col­lect­ed by Cis­co IoT devices … and alert 911 auto­mat­i­cal­ly, with­out any per­son mak­ing a phone call, if there appears to be a wor­thy prob­lem,” and expressed his view that soon most emer­gency calls will not be made by human beings but “by smart cars, telem­at­ics or oth­er smart city devices.”

    A few months after part­ner­ing with Cis­co Sys­tems, Car­byne announced its part­ner­ship with Google on July 10, just three days after Car­byne fun­der Jef­frey Epstein was arrest­ed in New York on fed­er­al sex traf­fick­ing charges. Carbyne’s press release of the part­ner­ship described how the com­pa­ny and Google would be team­ing up in Mex­i­co “to offer advanced mobile loca­tion to emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions cen­ters (ECCs) through­out Mex­i­co” fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of a suc­cess­ful four-week pilot pro­gram between Car­byne and Google in the Cen­tral Amer­i­can nation.

    The press release also stat­ed:

    Car­byne will pro­vide Google’s Android ELS (Emer­gency Loca­tion Ser­vice) in real time from emer­gency calls made on AndroidTM devices. Deploy­ment for any ECC in the coun­try won’t require any inte­gra­tion, with Car­byne pro­vid­ing numer­ous options for con­nec­tion to their secure ELS Gate­way once an ECC is approved. The Car­byne auto­mat­ed plat­form, requir­ing no human inter­ac­tion, has the poten­tial to save thou­sands of lives each year through­out Mex­i­co.”

    The rea­son Carybne’s part­ner­ships with Cis­co Sys­tems and Google are sig­nif­i­cant lies in the role that Cis­co and for­mer Google CEO Eric Schmidt have played in the cre­ation of a con­tro­ver­sial “incu­ba­tor” for Israeli tech start-ups with deep ties to Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence, Amer­i­can neo­con­ser­v­a­tive donor Paul Singer, and the U.S.’ Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency (NSA).

    This com­pa­ny, called Team8, is an Israeli com­pa­ny-cre­ation plat­form whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, for­mer com­man­der of Unit 8200. Two of the company’s oth­er three co-founders are also “alum­ni” of Unit 8200. Among Team8’s top investors is Schmidt, the for­mer CEO of Google, who also joined Peter Thiel in fund­ing the Unit 8200-linked Bill­Guard, as well as major tech com­pa­nies includ­ing Cis­co Sys­tems and Microsoft.

    Last year, Team8 con­tro­ver­sial­ly hired the for­mer head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Com­mand, Retired Admi­ral Mike Rogers, and Zafrir stat­ed that his inter­est in hir­ing Rogers was that Rogers would be “instru­men­tal in help­ing strate­gize” Team8’s expan­sion in the Unit­ed States. Jake Williams, a vet­er­an of NSA’s Tai­lored Access Oper­a­tions (TAO) hack­ing unit, told Cyber­Scoop:

    Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his tech­ni­cal expe­ri­ence. …It’s pure­ly because of his knowl­edge of clas­si­fied oper­a­tions and his abil­i­ty to influ­ence many in the U.S. gov­ern­ment and pri­vate-sec­tor con­trac­tors.”

    ...

    Mossad gets its own In-Q-Tel

    This “delib­er­ate pol­i­cy” of Netanyahu’s also recent­ly result­ed in the cre­ation of a Mossad-run ven­ture cap­i­tal fund that is specif­i­cal­ly focused on financ­ing Israeli tech start-ups. The ven­ture cap­i­tal fund, called Lib­er­tad, was first announced by Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and was cre­at­ed with the explic­it pur­pose of “increas­ing the Israeli intel­li­gence agency’s knowl­edge base and fos­ter­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with Israel’s vibrant start­up scene” It was mod­eled after the CIA’s ven­ture cap­i­tal fund In-Q-Tel, which invest­ed in sev­er­al Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies turned gov­ern­ment and intel­li­gence con­trac­tors — includ­ing Google and Palan­tir — with a sim­i­lar goal in mind.

    Lib­er­tad declines to reveal the recip­i­ents of its fund­ing, but announced last Decem­ber that it had cho­sen five com­pa­nies in the fields of robot­ics, ener­gy, encryp­tion, web intel­li­gence, and nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cess­ing and text analy­sis. In regard to its inter­est in web intel­li­gence, a Mossad employ­ee told the Jerusalem Post that the intel­li­gence agency was specif­i­cal­ly inter­est­ed in “inno­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies for [the] auto­mat­ic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of per­son­al­i­ty char­ac­ter­is­tics – per­son­al­i­ty pro­fil­ing – based on online behav­ior and activ­i­ty, using meth­ods based on sta­tis­tics, machine learn­ing, and oth­er areas.” (empha­sis added)

    ...

    The road to fas­cism, paved by a cor­rupt­ed PROMIS

    Though Israeli intelligence’s inter­est in tech com­pa­nies goes back sev­er­al years, there is a well-doc­u­ment­ed his­to­ry of Israeli intel­li­gence using bugged soft­ware to sur­veil and gain “back­door” access to gov­ern­ment data­bas­es around the world, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Unit­ed States.

    ...

    While the PROMIS soft­ware is per­haps best known for offer­ing Israeli intel­li­gence a back­door into as many as 80 intel­li­gence agen­cies and oth­er sen­si­tive loca­tions around the world for near­ly a decade, it was also used for a very dif­fer­ent pur­pose by promi­nent offi­cials linked to Iran-Con­tra.

    One key Iran-Con­tra fig­ure — Lt. Col. Oliv­er North, then serv­ing on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil — decid­ed to use PROMIS nei­ther for espi­onage nor for for­eign pol­i­cy. Instead, North turned PROMIS’ pow­er against Amer­i­cans, par­tic­u­lar­ly per­ceived dis­si­dents, a fact that remained unknown for years.

    Begin­ning in 1982, as part of the high­ly clas­si­fied Con­ti­nu­ity of Gov­ern­ment (COG) pro­gram, North used the PROMIS soft­wareat a 6,100-square-foot “com­mand cen­ter” in the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, as well as at a small­er oper­a­tions room at the White House, to com­pile a list of Amer­i­can dis­si­dents and “poten­tial trou­ble­mak­ers” if the COG pro­to­col was ever invoked.

    Accord­ing to a senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial with a high-rank­ing secu­ri­ty clear­ance and ser­vice in five pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tions who spoke to Radar in 2008 , this was:

    A data­base of Amer­i­cans, who, often for the slight­est and most triv­ial rea­son, are con­sid­ered unfriend­ly, and who, in a time of pan­ic might be incar­cer­at­ed. The data­base can iden­ti­fy and locate per­ceived ‘ene­mies of the state’ almost instan­ta­neous­ly.”

    In 1993, Wired described North’s use of PROMIS in com­pil­ing this data­base as fol­lows:

    Using PROMIS, sources point out, North could have drawn up lists of any­one ever arrest­ed for a polit­i­cal protest, for exam­ple, or any­one who had ever refused to pay their tax­es. Com­pared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon’s ene­mies list or Sen. Joe McCarthy’s black­list look down­right crude.”

    The COG pro­gram defined this “time of pan­ic” as “a nation­al cri­sis, such as nuclear war, vio­lent and wide­spread inter­nal dis­sent, or nation­al oppo­si­tion to a US mil­i­tary inva­sion abroad,” where­by the gov­ern­ment would sus­pend the Con­sti­tu­tion, declare mar­tial law, and incar­cer­ate per­ceived dis­si­dents and oth­er “unfriend­lies” in order to pre­vent the government’s (or then-serv­ing administration’s) over­throw.

    This secre­tive data­base has often been referred to as “Main Core” by gov­ern­ment insid­ers and, most trou­bling of all, it still exists today. Jour­nal­ist Christ Ketcham, cit­ing senior gov­ern­ment offi­cials, report­ed in 2008 that, at that time, Main Core was believed to con­tain the names of as many as 8 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. Eleven years lat­er, it is high­ly like­ly that the num­ber of Amer­i­cans includ­ed in the Main Core data­base has grown con­sid­er­ably.

    Author and inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Tim Shorrock also cov­ered oth­er dis­turb­ing aspects of the evo­lu­tion of Main Core back in 2008 for Salon. At the time, Shorrock report­ed that the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion was believed to have used Main Core to guide its domes­tic sur­veil­lance activ­i­ties fol­low­ing the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks.

    Cit­ing “sev­er­al for­mer U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials with exten­sive knowl­edge of intel­li­gence oper­a­tions,” Shorrock fur­ther not­ed that Main Core — as it was 11 years ago at the time his report was pub­lished — was said to con­tain “a vast amount of per­son­al data on Amer­i­cans, includ­ing NSA inter­cepts of bank and cred­it card trans­ac­tions and the results of sur­veil­lance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and oth­er agen­cies.”

    Bill Hamil­ton, for­mer NSA intel­li­gence offi­cer and the orig­i­nal cre­ator of the PROMIS soft­ware, told Shorrock at the time that he believed that “U.S. intel­li­gence uses PROMIS as the pri­ma­ry soft­ware for search­ing the Main Core data­base” and had been told as much by an intel­li­gence offi­cial in 1992 and an NSA offi­cial in 1995. Dan Mur­phy, for­mer deputy direc­tor at the CIA, had told Hamil­ton that the NSA’s use of PROMIS was “so seri­ous­ly wrong that mon­ey alone can­not cure the prob­lem.” “I believe in ret­ro­spect that Mur­phy was allud­ing to Main Core,” Hamil­ton had told Shorrock.

    Though most report­ing on Main Core, from the time its exis­tence was first revealed to the present, has treat­ed the data­base as some­thing used by the U.S. gov­ern­ment and U.S. intel­li­gence for domes­tic pur­pos­es, Mint­Press has learned that Israeli intel­li­gence was also involved with the cre­ation of the Main Core data­base. Accord­ing to a for­mer U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial with direct knowl­edge of the U.S. intel­li­gence community’s use of PROMIS and Main Core from the 1980s to 2000s, Israeli intel­li­gence played a role in the U.S. government’s deploy­ment of PROMIS as the soft­ware used for the Main Core domes­tic sur­veil­lance data­base sys­tem.

    Israeli intel­li­gence remained involved with Main Core at the time of the August 1991 death of jour­nal­ist Dan­ny Caso­laro, who was inves­ti­gat­ing not only the government’s mis­use of the stolen PROMIS soft­ware but also the Main Core data­base. This same offi­cial, who chose to remain anony­mous, told Mint­Press that, short­ly before his death, Caso­laro had obtained copies of com­put­er print­outs from the PROMIS-based Main Core domes­tic sur­veil­lance data­base sys­tem from NSA whistle­blow­er Alan Stan­dorf, who was found mur­dered a few months before Casolaro’s life­less body would be found in a West Vir­ginia hotel room.

    The source also stat­ed that Main Core’s con­tents had been used for the polit­i­cal black­mail of mem­bers of Con­gress and their staff, jour­nal­ists, and oth­ers by Wal­ter Ray­mond, a senior CIA covert oper­a­tor in psy­ops and dis­in­for­ma­tion who served on Pres­i­dent Reagan’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil dur­ing and after Main Core’s cre­ation. If used for this pur­pose by Ray­mond in the 1980s, Main Core has also like­ly been used by oth­er indi­vid­u­als with access to the data­base for black­mail­ing pur­pos­es in the years since.

    ...

    Peter Thiel’s See­ing Stone

    As was men­tioned ear­li­er in this report, Palan­tir — the com­pa­ny co-found­ed by Peter Thiel — is set to prof­it hand­some­ly from the Trump administration’s plans to use its “pre-crime” tech­nol­o­gy, which is already used by police depart­ments through­out the coun­try and also used to track Amer­i­cans based on the company’s inte­gra­tive data-min­ing approach. Palan­tir, named for the “see­ing stones” in the Lord of the Rings nov­els, also mar­kets soft­ware to for­eign (and domes­tic) intel­li­gence agen­cies that pre­dicts the like­li­hood that an indi­vid­ual will com­mit an act of ter­ror­ism or vio­lence.

    Aside from its “pre-crime” prod­ucts, Palan­tir has come under fire in recent years as a result of the company’s con­tracts with Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE), where it cre­at­ed an intel­li­gence sys­tem known as Inves­tiga­tive Case Man­age­ment (ICM). The IB Times described ICM as “a vast ‘ecosys­tem’ of data to help immi­gra­tion offi­cials in iden­ti­fy­ing tar­gets and cre­at­ing cas­es against them” and also “pro­vides ICE agents with access to data­bas­es man­aged by oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies.” ICM fur­ther gives ICE access to “tar­gets’ per­son­al and sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion, such as back­ground on school­ing, employ­ment, fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships, phone records, immi­gra­tion his­to­ry, bio­met­rics data, crim­i­nal records as well as home and work address­es.” In oth­er words, Palantir’s ICM is essen­tial­ly a “Main Core” for immi­grants.

    Notably, part of Oliv­er North’s orig­i­nal inten­tions in “Main Core” was to track immi­grants then com­ing from Cen­tral Amer­i­ca as well as Amer­i­cans who opposed Rea­gan era pol­i­cy with respect to Cen­tral Amer­i­ca. At that time, Main Core was believed to be con­trolled by the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Admin­is­tra­tion (FEMA), which is now part of the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS).

    ...

    If the Trump admin­is­tra­tion moves for­ward with its pro­pos­al of employ­ing tech­nol­o­gy to detect poten­tial mass shoot­ers before they strike, Palantir’s tech­nol­o­gy is set to be used, giv­en that it has already been used by U.S. law enforce­ment and U.S. intel­li­gence to deter­mine which peo­ple run “the high­est risk of being involved in gun vio­lence,” accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion of Palan­tir by The Verge. Fur­ther­more, Palantir’s close ties to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion make the company’s role in a future nation­wide “pre-crime” pre­ven­tion sys­tem based on tech­nol­o­gy appear inevitable.

    Worse still is the appar­ent over­lap between Palan­tir and Main Core. Palan­tir — which has obvi­ous sim­i­lar­i­ties to PROMIS — is already known to use its soft­ware to track poten­tial ter­ror threats, includ­ing domes­tic ter­ror threats, and a cat­e­go­ry of peo­ple it refers to as “sub­ver­sives.” Palantir’s track­ing of these indi­vid­u­als “is all done using pre­dic­tion.” Palantir’s close ties to the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty sug­gest that Palan­tir may already have access to the Main Core data­base. Tim Shorrock told Mint­Press that Palantir’s use of Main Core is “cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble,” par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of the company’s use of the term “sub­ver­sive” to describe a cat­e­go­ry of peo­ple that its soft­ware tracks.

    Palan­tir also has alleged ties to Israeli intel­li­gence, as there have long been sus­pi­cions that Israeli intel­li­gence has used Palan­tir as part of its AI “pre-crime” algo­rithms tar­get­ing Pales­tini­ans after Palan­tir opened a research and devel­op­ment (R&D) cen­ter in Israel in 2013. The cur­rent head of Palan­tir Israel, Hamul­tal Meri­dor, pre­vi­ous­ly found­ed a brain-machine inter­face orga­ni­za­tion and was senior direc­tor of web intel­li­gence at Verint (for­mer­ly Com­verse Infos­ys), which has deep con­nec­tions to Unit 8200, a his­to­ry of espi­onage in the Unit­ed States and was one of the two com­pa­nies con­tract­ed by the NSA to insert a “back­door” into the U.S. telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem and pop­u­lar prod­ucts of major Amer­i­can tech com­pa­nies.

    Giv­en the above, Peter Thiel’s 2018 deci­sion to fund Car­byne, the Unit 8200-linked start-up that mar­kets itself as a tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tion to mass shoot­ings in the U.S., strong­ly sug­gests that Thiel has been antic­i­pat­ing for some time the now-pub­lic efforts of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to employ “pre-crime” tech­nol­o­gy to track and tar­get Amer­i­cans who show signs of “men­tal ill­ness” and “vio­lent ten­den­cies.”

    A night­mare even Orwell could not have pre­dict­ed

    In ear­ly August, in the wake of the shoot­ing at an El Paso Wal­mart, Pres­i­dent Trump called on big tech com­pa­nies to col­lab­o­rate with the Jus­tice Depart­ment in the cre­ation of soft­ware that “stops mass mur­ders before they start” by detect­ing poten­tial mass shoot­ers before they cnm act. Though Trump’s ideas were short on specifics, there is now a new pro­pos­al that would cre­ate a new gov­ern­ment agency that will use data gath­ered from civil­ian elec­tron­ic devices to iden­ti­fy “neu­robe­hav­ioral” warn­ing signs, there­by flag­ging “poten­tial shoot­ers” for increased sur­veil­lance and poten­tial­ly deten­tion.

    This new agency, as pro­posed by the foun­da­tion led by for­mer NBC Uni­ver­sal pres­i­dent and vice chair­man of Gen­er­al Elec­tric Robert Wright, would be known as the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) and would be mod­eled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Per the pro­pos­al, recent­ly detailed by the Wash­ing­ton Post, the flag­ship pro­gram of HARPA would be “Safe Home” (Stop­ping Aber­rant Fatal Events by Help­ing Over­come Men­tal Extremes), which would use “break­through tech­nolo­gies with high speci­fici­ty and sen­si­tiv­i­ty for ear­ly diag­no­sis of neu­ropsy­chi­atric vio­lence,” specif­i­cal­ly “advanced ana­lyt­i­cal tools based on arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and machine learn­ing.”

    The pro­gram would cost an esti­mat­ed $60 mil­lion over four years and would use data from “Apple Watch­es, Fit­bits, Ama­zon Echo and Google Home” and oth­er con­sumer elec­tron­ic devices, as well as infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by health-care providers to iden­ti­fy who may be a threat.

    The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed that Pres­i­dent Trump has react­ed “very pos­i­tive­ly” to the pro­pos­al and that he was “sold on the con­cept.” The Post also not­ed that Wright sees the president’s daugh­ter, Ivan­ka, as “the most effec­tive cham­pi­on of the pro­pos­al and has pre­vi­ous­ly briefed her on HARPA him­self.” Ivan­ka has pre­vi­ous­ly been cit­ed as a dri­ving force behind some of her father’s pol­i­cy deci­sions, includ­ing his deci­sion to bomb Syr­ia after an alleged chem­i­cal weapons attack in 2017.

    ...

    For any­one famil­iar with DARPA, such claims should imme­di­ate­ly sound loud alarm bells, espe­cial­ly since DARPA is already devel­op­ing its own solu­tion to “men­tal health” issues in the form of a “brain-machine inter­face” as part of its N3 pro­gram. That pro­gram, accord­ing to reports, involves “non­in­va­sive and ‘minute­ly’ inva­sive neur­al inter­faces to both read and write into the brain,” help dis­tance sol­diers “from the emo­tion­al guilt of war­fare” by “cloud­ing their per­cep­tion” and “to pro­gram arti­fi­cial mem­o­ries of fear, desire, and expe­ri­ences direct­ly into the brain.” Though N3 is intend­ed to improve the prowess of Amer­i­can sol­diers, it is also set to be used as a means of pur­su­ing DARPA’s Sys­tems-Based Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy for Emerg­ing Ther­a­pies (SUBNETS) project, which aims to “to devel­op a tiny, implant­ed chip in the skull to treat psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders such as anx­i­ety, PTSD and major depres­sion.”

    ...

    ———-

    “How the CIA, Mossad and “the Epstein Net­work” are Exploit­ing Mass Shoot­ings to Cre­ate an Orwellian Night­mare” by Whit­ney Webb; Mint­Press; 09/06/2019

    Anoth­er fun­der of Car­byne, Peter Thiel, has his own com­pa­ny that, like Car­byne, is set to prof­it from the Trump administration’s pro­posed hi-tech solu­tions to mass shoot­ings. Indeed, after the recent shoot­ing in El Paso, Texas, Pres­i­dent Trump — who received polit­i­cal dona­tions from and has been advised by Thiel fol­low­ing his elec­tion — asked tech com­pa­nies to “detect mass shoot­ers before they strike,” a ser­vice already per­fect­ed by Thiel’s com­pa­ny Palan­tir, which has devel­oped “pre-crime soft­ware” already in use through­out the coun­try. Palan­tir is also a con­trac­tor for the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty and also has a branch based in Israel.”

    As we can see, Peter Thiel and Jef­frey Epstein’s paths did indeed cross with their mutu­al invest­ments in Car­byne. And while we should have expect­ed their paths to cross giv­en the enor­mous over­lap between their inter­ests and activ­i­ties, this is the first con­fir­ma­tion we’ve found. It’s also a big rea­son we should­n’t assume that sto­ries about Israeli spy­ing on the US gov­ern­ment aren’t being done with the US gov­ern­men­t’s par­tic­i­pa­tion. Don’t for­get that let­ting Israel spy on US cit­i­zens and oth­ers in the DC area could be a means of the US intel­li­gence ser­vices get­ting around legal and con­sti­tu­tion­al restric­tions on domes­tic sur­veil­lance. In oth­er words, there are a some poten­tial­ly huge incen­tives for a joint US-Israeli spy­ing oper­a­tion that includes spy­ing on Amer­i­cans. Espe­cial­ly if that spy­ing allows for the black­mail­ing of US politi­cians. And based on the his­to­ry of pro­grams like the “Main Core” dis­si­dent data­base that was report­ed­ly used for black­mail­ing mem­bers of con­gress, and the sup­port­ing role Israeli intel­li­gence report­ed­ly played in set­ting “Main Core” up, we should­n’t be sur­prised by any sto­ries at all about Israel spy­ing oper­a­tions in DC. Giv­en that his­to­ry, the only thing we should be sur­prised by is if this oper­a­tion was­n’t done in coor­di­na­tion with US intel­li­gence:

    ...
    Per­haps most dis­turb­ing of all, what­ev­er tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tion is adopt­ed by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, it is set to use a con­tro­ver­sial data­base first devel­oped as part of a secre­tive U.S. gov­ern­ment pro­gram that involved noto­ri­ous Iran-Con­tra fig­ures like Oliv­er North as a means of track­ing and flag­ging poten­tial Amer­i­can dis­si­dents for increased sur­veil­lance and deten­tion in the event of a vague­ly defined “nation­al emer­gency.”

    As this report will reveal, this data­base — often referred to as “Main Core” — was cre­at­ed with the involve­ment of Israeli intel­li­gence and Israel remained involved years after it was devel­oped, and poten­tial­ly to the present. It was also used by at least one for­mer CIA offi­cial on Pres­i­dent Reagan’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil to black­mail mem­bers of Con­gress, Con­gres­sion­al staffers and jour­nal­ists, among oth­ers.

    ...

    While the PROMIS soft­ware is per­haps best known for offer­ing Israeli intel­li­gence a back­door into as many as 80 intel­li­gence agen­cies and oth­er sen­si­tive loca­tions around the world for near­ly a decade, it was also used for a very dif­fer­ent pur­pose by promi­nent offi­cials linked to Iran-Con­tra.

    One key Iran-Con­tra fig­ure — Lt. Col. Oliv­er North, then serv­ing on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil — decid­ed to use PROMIS nei­ther for espi­onage nor for for­eign pol­i­cy. Instead, North turned PROMIS’ pow­er against Amer­i­cans, par­tic­u­lar­ly per­ceived dis­si­dents, a fact that remained unknown for years.

    Begin­ning in 1982, as part of the high­ly clas­si­fied Con­ti­nu­ity of Gov­ern­ment (COG) pro­gram, North used the PROMIS soft­wareat a 6,100-square-foot “com­mand cen­ter” in the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, as well as at a small­er oper­a­tions room at the White House, to com­pile a list of Amer­i­can dis­si­dents and “poten­tial trou­ble­mak­ers” if the COG pro­to­col was ever invoked.

    Accord­ing to a senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial with a high-rank­ing secu­ri­ty clear­ance and ser­vice in five pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tions who spoke to Radar in 2008 , this was:

    A data­base of Amer­i­cans, who, often for the slight­est and most triv­ial rea­son, are con­sid­ered unfriend­ly, and who, in a time of pan­ic might be incar­cer­at­ed. The data­base can iden­ti­fy and locate per­ceived ‘ene­mies of the state’ almost instan­ta­neous­ly.”

    In 1993, Wired described North’s use of PROMIS in com­pil­ing this data­base as fol­lows:

    Using PROMIS, sources point out, North could have drawn up lists of any­one ever arrest­ed for a polit­i­cal protest, for exam­ple, or any­one who had ever refused to pay their tax­es. Com­pared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon’s ene­mies list or Sen. Joe McCarthy’s black­list look down­right crude.”

    The COG pro­gram defined this “time of pan­ic” as “a nation­al cri­sis, such as nuclear war, vio­lent and wide­spread inter­nal dis­sent, or nation­al oppo­si­tion to a US mil­i­tary inva­sion abroad,” where­by the gov­ern­ment would sus­pend the Con­sti­tu­tion, declare mar­tial law, and incar­cer­ate per­ceived dis­si­dents and oth­er “unfriend­lies” in order to pre­vent the government’s (or then-serv­ing administration’s) over­throw.

    This secre­tive data­base has often been referred to as “Main Core” by gov­ern­ment insid­ers and, most trou­bling of all, it still exists today. Jour­nal­ist Christ Ketcham, cit­ing senior gov­ern­ment offi­cials, report­ed in 2008 that, at that time, Main Core was believed to con­tain the names of as many as 8 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. Eleven years lat­er, it is high­ly like­ly that the num­ber of Amer­i­cans includ­ed in the Main Core data­base has grown con­sid­er­ably.

    Author and inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Tim Shorrock also cov­ered oth­er dis­turb­ing aspects of the evo­lu­tion of Main Core back in 2008 for Salon. At the time, Shorrock report­ed that the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion was believed to have used Main Core to guide its domes­tic sur­veil­lance activ­i­ties fol­low­ing the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks.

    Cit­ing “sev­er­al for­mer U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials with exten­sive knowl­edge of intel­li­gence oper­a­tions,” Shorrock fur­ther not­ed that Main Core — as it was 11 years ago at the time his report was pub­lished — was said to con­tain “a vast amount of per­son­al data on Amer­i­cans, includ­ing NSA inter­cepts of bank and cred­it card trans­ac­tions and the results of sur­veil­lance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and oth­er agen­cies.”

    Bill Hamil­ton, for­mer NSA intel­li­gence offi­cer and the orig­i­nal cre­ator of the PROMIS soft­ware, told Shorrock at the time that he believed that “U.S. intel­li­gence uses PROMIS as the pri­ma­ry soft­ware for search­ing the Main Core data­base” and had been told as much by an intel­li­gence offi­cial in 1992 and an NSA offi­cial in 1995. Dan Mur­phy, for­mer deputy direc­tor at the CIA, had told Hamil­ton that the NSA’s use of PROMIS was “so seri­ous­ly wrong that mon­ey alone can­not cure the prob­lem.” “I believe in ret­ro­spect that Mur­phy was allud­ing to Main Core,” Hamil­ton had told Shorrock.

    Though most report­ing on Main Core, from the time its exis­tence was first revealed to the present, has treat­ed the data­base as some­thing used by the U.S. gov­ern­ment and U.S. intel­li­gence for domes­tic pur­pos­es, Mint­Press has learned that Israeli intel­li­gence was also involved with the cre­ation of the Main Core data­base. Accord­ing to a for­mer U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial with direct knowl­edge of the U.S. intel­li­gence community’s use of PROMIS and Main Core from the 1980s to 2000s, Israeli intel­li­gence played a role in the U.S. government’s deploy­ment of PROMIS as the soft­ware used for the Main Core domes­tic sur­veil­lance data­base sys­tem.

    Israeli intel­li­gence remained involved with Main Core at the time of the August 1991 death of jour­nal­ist Dan­ny Caso­laro, who was inves­ti­gat­ing not only the government’s mis­use of the stolen PROMIS soft­ware but also the Main Core data­base. This same offi­cial, who chose to remain anony­mous, told Mint­Press that, short­ly before his death, Caso­laro had obtained copies of com­put­er print­outs from the PROMIS-based Main Core domes­tic sur­veil­lance data­base sys­tem from NSA whistle­blow­er Alan Stan­dorf, who was found mur­dered a few months before Casolaro’s life­less body would be found in a West Vir­ginia hotel room.

    The source also stat­ed that Main Core’s con­tents had been used for the polit­i­cal black­mail of mem­bers of Con­gress and their staff, jour­nal­ists, and oth­ers by Wal­ter Ray­mond, a senior CIA covert oper­a­tor in psy­ops and dis­in­for­ma­tion who served on Pres­i­dent Reagan’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil dur­ing and after Main Core’s cre­ation. If used for this pur­pose by Ray­mond in the 1980s, Main Core has also like­ly been used by oth­er indi­vid­u­als with access to the data­base for black­mail­ing pur­pos­es in the years since.
    ...

    So is the sto­ry about Israeli “stingrays” in DC real­ly just a sto­ry about an Israeli spy­ing oper­a­tion? Or is it a sto­ry about a joint US-Isre­ali spy­ing oper­a­tion? And if it is a joint oper­a­tion, is it part of a black­mail oper­a­tion too? Is Palan­tir involved? These are the kinds of ques­tions we have to ask now that we’ve learned that Peter Thiel and Jef­frey Epstein were qui­et co-investors in Israeli tech com­pa­nies with clear ‘dual use’ capa­bil­i­ties.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 14, 2019, 4:31 pm
  4. Here’s some arti­cles are worth keep­ing in mind regard­ing the ongo­ing ques­tion of who Jef­frey Epstein was coor­di­nat­ing with in his Sil­i­con Val­ley invest­ments and the peo­ple involved with reha­bil­i­ta­tion of Epstein’s rep­u­ta­tion in recent years. We’ve already seen how one of Epstein’s co-investors in Carbyne911 — the Israeli tech com­pa­ny that makes emer­gency respon­der com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy with what appears to be pos­si­ble ‘dual use’ intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ties — is Peter Thiel. Epstein was report­ed­ly the financier behind the 2015 invest­ments in Car­byne by for­mer Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Barak. Thiel’s Founders Fund invest­ed in Car­byne in 2018. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, Epstein was get­ting intro­duced to major Sil­i­con Val­ley financiers like Thiel back in 2015. And it was appar­ent­ly Sil­i­con Val­ley investor Reid Hoff­man, a mem­ber of the ‘Pay­Pal Mafia’, who arranged for an August 2015 din­ner where Epstein was a guest along with Elon Musk, Mark Zucker­berg, and Peter Thiel.

    Hoff­man has sub­se­quent­ly pub­licly apol­o­gized for invit­ing Epstein to this din­ner, say­ing in an email, “By agree­ing to par­tic­i­pate in any fundrais­ing activ­i­ty where Epstein was present, I helped to repair his rep­u­ta­tion and per­pet­u­ate injus­tice. For this, I am deeply regret­ful.” So Hoff­man acknowl­edges that this din­ner helped repair Epstein’s rep­u­ta­tion.

    Hoff­man also acknowl­edges sev­er­al inter­ac­tions with Epstein that he says were for the pur­pose of fundrais­ing for MIT’s Media Lab, which has been reel­ing for the rev­e­la­tions of the exten­sive dona­tions it received from Epstein even after his 2009 child sex traf­fick­ing con­vic­tions. Hoff­man asserts that Epstein’s pres­ence at this din­ner was at the request of Joi Ito, then the head of Media Lab, for the pur­pose of fund-rais­ing for Media Lab. Giv­en that Epstein had already been donat­ing to MIT Media Lab for years, it’s unclear how Epstein’s pres­ence at the din­ner would assist in that fundrais­ing effort. Was Epstein sup­posed to con­vince Musk, Thiel, and Zucker­berg to donate too?

    Recall that Hoff­man was report­ed­ly the fig­ure who financed the oper­a­tion by New Knowl­edge to run a fake ‘Russ­ian Bot’ net­work in the 2017 Alaba­ma spe­cial Sen­ate race. Also recall how, while Hoff­man’s polit­i­cal dona­tions are pri­mar­i­ly to Democ­rats, he’s also expressed some views strong­ly against the New Deal and gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions. If he’s a real Demo­c­rat, he’s decid­ed­ly in the ‘cor­po­rate Demo­c­rat’ wing of the par­ty.

    So Hoff­man invit­ed Epstein to an August 2015 din­ner with lead­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley investors like Thiel, Zucker­berg, and Musk, appar­ent­ly at the request of the head of the MIT Media Lab to help with fundrais­ing despite Epstein hav­ing donat­ed to the lab for years. At least that’s the expla­na­tion we’re being giv­en for this August 2015 din­ner:

    Busi­ness Insid­er

    LinkedIn founder and Grey­lock part­ner Reid Hoff­man apol­o­gizes for his role in rehab­bing Jef­frey Epstein’s pub­lic image in 2015

    * In an email to Axios on Thurs­day, LinkedIn founder and Grey­lock part­ner Reid Hoff­man apol­o­gized for his role in help­ing repair Jef­frey Epstein’s image in 2015.
    * Hoff­man invit­ed Joi Ito, direc­tor of the MIT Media Lab, and Epstein to an August 2015 din­ner in Palo Alto with Elon Musk, Mark Zucker­berg, and Peter Thiel.
    * Epstein had finan­cial­ly backed Ito’s Media Lab in addi­tion to per­son­al­ly help­ing fund Ito’s ven­ture cap­i­tal fund.
    * In the email, Hoff­man says his inter­ac­tions with Epstein “came at the request of Joi Ito, for the pur­pos­es of fundrais­ing for the MIT Media Lab.”

    Megan Hern­broth
    09/13/2019

    Reid Hoff­man, the founder of LinkedIn and one of Sil­i­con Val­ley’s most high-pro­file ven­ture cap­i­tal investors, apol­o­gized on Thurs­day for his role in help­ing to repair the image of con­vict­ed sex offend­er Jef­frey Epstein.

    In an email to Axios, Hoff­man acknowl­edged sev­er­al inter­ac­tions with Epstein, which he said were for the pur­pose of fundrais­ing for MIT’s renown Media Lab. Hoff­man said he had been told that MIT had vet­ted and approved Epstein’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in fundrais­ing, but said his deci­sion to be involved with Epstein was nonethe­less a mis­take.

    By agree­ing to par­tic­i­pate in any fundrais­ing activ­i­ty where Epstein was present, I helped to repair his rep­u­ta­tion and per­pet­u­ate injus­tice. For this, I am deeply regret­ful,” Hoff­man said in the email.

    Epstein’s ties to Sil­i­con Val­ley and to MIT have come under scruti­ny in recent weeks, fol­low­ing the financier’s arrest on sex traf­fick­ing charges and his sub­se­quent death by sui­cide.

    Hoff­man invit­ed Joi Ito, direc­tor of the MIT Media Lab, and Epstein to an August 2015 din­ner in Palo Alto with Tes­la CEO Elon Musk, Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg, and Palan­tir founder Peter Thiel.

    “My few inter­ac­tions with Jef­frey Epstein came at the request of Joi Ito, for the pur­pos­es of fundrais­ing for the MIT Media Lab. Pri­or to these inter­ac­tions, I was told by Joi that Epstein had cleared the MIT vet­ting process, which was the basis for my par­tic­i­pa­tion,” Hoff­man wrote.

    In addi­tion to back­ing MIT Media Lab, Epstein also report­ed­ly helped per­son­al­ly finance Ito’s ven­ture cap­i­tal fund. Grey­lock, the ven­ture cap­i­tal firm at which Hoff­man is a part­ner, has denied that Epstein had invest­ed in any funds as a lim­it­ed part­ner. There remains the pos­si­bil­i­ty, how­ev­er, that Epstein invest­ed in Grey­lock and oth­ers through a ” fund of funds,” which does not have to dis­close its investors to ven­ture firms it backs.

    Accord­ing to Axios, Hoff­man fund­ed the Media Lab’s Dis­obe­di­ence Award for “indi­vid­u­als and groups who engage in respon­si­ble, eth­i­cal dis­obe­di­ence aimed at chal­leng­ing norms, rules, or laws that sus­tain soci­ety’s injus­tices,” which last year went to lead­ers of the #MeToo move­ment.

    Hoff­man’s email was made pub­lic only min­utes after a let­ter from MIT pres­i­dent L. Rafael Reif, which also blamed Ito for the uni­ver­si­ty’s over­sight of Epstein’s involve­ment. The let­ter report­ed “pre­lim­i­nary” find­ings of an inves­ti­ga­tion that was sparked by rev­e­la­tions that Epstein had fund­ed Ito’s Media Lab in addi­tion to his ven­ture cap­i­tal fund.

    ...

    ———-

    “LinkedIn founder and Grey­lock part­ner Reid Hoff­man apol­o­gizes for his role in rehab­bing Jef­frey Epstein’s pub­lic image in 2015” by Megan Hern­broth; Busi­ness Insid­er; 09/13/2019

    ““By agree­ing to par­tic­i­pate in any fundrais­ing activ­i­ty where Epstein was present, I helped to repair his rep­u­ta­tion and per­pet­u­ate injus­tice. For this, I am deeply regret­ful,” Hoff­man said in the email.”

    So the way Hoff­man is spin­ning this, he was help­ing to repair Epstein’s rep­u­ta­tion by hav­ing him present at this august 2015 meet­ing for “fundrais­ing activ­i­ties” for MIT’s Media Lab. And Epstein’s involve­ment in this fundrais­ing was done at the behest of Joi Ito:

    ...
    Hoff­man invit­ed Joi Ito, direc­tor of the MIT Media Lab, and Epstein to an August 2015 din­ner in Palo Alto with Tes­la CEO Elon Musk, Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg, and Palan­tir founder Peter Thiel.

    My few inter­ac­tions with Jef­frey Epstein came at the request of Joi Ito, for the pur­pos­es of fundrais­ing for the MIT Media Lab. Pri­or to these inter­ac­tions, I was told by Joi that Epstein had cleared the MIT vet­ting process, which was the basis for my par­tic­i­pa­tion,” Hoff­man wrote.
    ...

    But, again, Epstein has been donat­ed to the Media Lab for years. So why would he need to attend anoth­er fundrais­ing din­ner? Was Epstein mak­ing future dona­tions con­tin­gent on Media Lab some­how rehab­bing his rep­u­ta­tion? Or was he at this meet­ing to make a pitch to Musk, Zucker­berg, and Thiel for why they should donate to Media Lab too?

    Note that, in addi­tion to Hoff­man fund­ing the Media Lab’s Dis­obe­di­ence Award, he also sites on Media Lab’s advi­so­ry coun­cil. So he’s more than just a donor and fundrais­er for Media Lab.

    It’s also worth not­ing that, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, some­one in Sil­i­con Val­ley appeared to be try­ing to assist Epstein in the pub­lic reha­bil­i­ta­tion of his rep­u­ta­tion as late as this sum­mer, after the Mia­mi Her­ald’s explo­sive report­ing on him in Decem­ber. So Epstein has some pret­ty huge mys­tery fans in Sil­i­con Val­ley:

    Busi­ness Insid­er

    Jef­frey Epstein was meet­ing with Sil­i­con Val­ley reporters before his arrest, ‘ram­bling’ about all the peo­ple he knew in tech

    * Jef­frey Epstein met with at least three reporters, two of them for The New York Times, in the months lead­ing up to his arrest on child-sex-traf­fick­ing charges.
    * The inter­views seemed to touch on Epstein’s rela­tion­ship with Sil­i­con Val­ley, sug­gest­ing that he was try­ing to reha­bil­i­tate his image and become known as a tech investor.
    * Yes­ter­day, The New York Times pub­lished a year-old inter­view that Epstein gave to the colum­nist James B. Stew­art, but it has not pub­lished a sep­a­rate inter­view that the Times reporter Nel­lie Bowles con­duct­ed at Epstein’s Man­hat­tan man­sion before his arrest.
    * A reporter for The Infor­ma­tion inter­viewed Epstein in June about “tech­nol­o­gy invest­ing.” The site’s edi­tor-in-chief said Epstein “ram­bled about peo­ple he knew in the indus­try” but that she was­n’t pub­lish­ing the inter­view because it “was­n’t news­wor­thy.”

    John Cook
    Aug. 13, 2019, 2:33 PM

    The new­ly deceased sex crim­i­nal Jef­frey Epstein spoke from beyond the grave yes­ter­day, thanks to report from the New York Times colum­nist James B. Stew­art, who spilled his note­book from a year-old “back­ground” inter­view Epstein had giv­en at his Man­hat­tan man­sion.

    Busi­ness Insid­er has learned that Stew­art isn’t the only reporter that vis­it­ed Epstein in recent months. The sex offend­er also grant­ed inter­views to anoth­er New York Times reporter, Nel­lie Bowles, and a reporter for tech site The Infor­ma­tion in the weeks and months lead­ing up to his most recent arrest on child-sex-traf­fick­ing charges in July. Nei­ther The Times nor The Infor­ma­tion has yet pub­lished the fruits of those inter­views, and the edi­tor-in-chief of The Infor­ma­tion said she had no plans to do so.

    Epstein’s meet­ings with reporters, one of which took place as recent­ly as June, sug­gest that the dis­graced financier was try­ing to reha­bil­i­tate his image — or at least fos­ter rela­tion­ships with news out­lets — even as fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors were clos­ing in.

    All three inter­views seem to have touched on Epstein’s rela­tion­ship with Sil­i­con Val­ley. Stew­art wrote that he con­tact­ed Epstein to con­firm a rumor that Epstein was advis­ing Tes­la founder Elon Musk, and both The Infor­ma­tion and Bowles cov­er the tech sec­tor. Stew­art reached out direct­ly to Epstein, but it’s unclear who bro­kered the oth­er meet­ings. The tech focus sug­gests that some­one in Sil­i­con Val­ley may have been try­ing to help Epstein con­nect with reporters.

    A jour­nal­ist for The Infor­ma­tion met with Epstein in June to dis­cuss “tech­nol­o­gy invest­ing,” Jes­si­ca Lessin, the site’s edi­tor-in-chief, con­firmed to Busi­ness Insid­er. That was just weeks before his July arrest and sev­en months after the Mia­mi Her­ald’s bru­tal inves­ti­ga­tion laid bare the extent to which Epstein escaped account­abil­i­ty for his crimes against under­age vic­tims.

    “One of our reporters met with Jef­frey Epstein, in June, to talk about tech­nol­o­gy invest­ing,” Lessin said in a state­ment to Busi­ness Insid­er. “This was before his July arrest. She was intro­duced to him because he was believed to be an investor in ven­ture cap­i­tal funds, which we could not ver­i­fy. The dis­cus­sion was­n’t news­wor­thy; he ram­bled about peo­ple he knew in the indus­try. His death has not changed our judg­ment about the news­wor­thi­ness.”

    Since Epstein’s arrest in July, his con­nec­tions to fig­ures in the tech, finan­cial, phil­an­thropic, polit­i­cal, and sci­en­tif­ic worlds have become of intense inter­est to reporters, who have spent thou­sands of hours attempt­ing to deter­mine whom, pre­cise­ly, Epstein knew and where, pre­cise­ly, he invest­ed his mon­ey.

    Stew­art, who believes that Epstein’s death released him from an oblig­a­tion to con­sid­er the inter­view “on back­ground” and thus anony­mous, revealed that Epstein claimed to have ongo­ing rela­tion­ships with Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the dis­graced direc­tor Woody Allen, the for­mer Trump advis­er Steve Ban­non, and the jour­nal­ist Michael Wolff.

    Busi­ness Insid­er has also learned that Stew­art’s Times col­league Bowles, who has made a name for her­self skew­er­ing tech oli­garchs and iden­ti­fy­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley cul­tur­al trends, also recent­ly met with Epstein in his Man­hat­tan town­house for an inter­view. It’s unclear if that inter­view was on or off the record, and it’s unclear pre­cise­ly when it occurred. Bowles was list­ed as a con­tribut­ing reporter on a July Times sto­ry fea­tur­ing archi­tec­tur­al and design details about the inte­ri­or of Epstein’s $56 mil­lion town­home, but The Times does not appear to have pub­lished any oth­er report­ing from Bowles’ con­ver­sa­tion with Epstein.

    ...

    The Times and oth­er out­lets have cov­ered Epstein’s efforts, in the wake of his 2008 plea deal, to reha­bil­i­tate his image as a sex offend­er by pay­ing free­lance writ­ers and pub­li­cists to write pos­i­tive sto­ries about him on sites like Huff­Post, Nation­al Review, and Forbes. He also lever­aged a friend­ship with Peg­gy Sie­gal, a pub­li­cist for A‑list celebri­ties, to intro­duce him to a social net­work that includ­ed George Stephanopou­los and Katie Couric.

    Town & Coun­try report­ed that Epstein also sought the pub­lic-rela­tions advice of the New York pub­li­cist R. Couri Hay, though Hay nev­er signed him as a client. Hay’s free advice, the mag­a­zine report­ed, was that Epstein should offer him­self up as an exclu­sive inter­view to The Times. Hay declined to com­ment for the record; Sie­gal did not return a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment.

    ———-

    “Jef­frey Epstein was meet­ing with Sil­i­con Val­ley reporters before his arrest, ‘ram­bling’ about all the peo­ple he knew in tech” by John Cook; Busi­ness Insid­er; 08/13/2019

    All three inter­views seem to have touched on Epstein’s rela­tion­ship with Sil­i­con Val­ley. Stew­art wrote that he con­tact­ed Epstein to con­firm a rumor that Epstein was advis­ing Tes­la founder Elon Musk, and both The Infor­ma­tion and Bowles cov­er the tech sec­tor. Stew­art reached out direct­ly to Epstein, but it’s unclear who bro­kered the oth­er meet­ings. The tech focus sug­gests that some­one in Sil­i­con Val­ley may have been try­ing to help Epstein con­nect with reporters.

    Was Hoff­man the mys­tery per­son who may have been bro­ker­ing inter­views with Epstein? Recall that Peter Thiel became an Epstein co-investor in Carbyne911 last year. Might Thiel have been the mys­tery bro­ker? We have no idea, and giv­en the num­ber of con­tacts Epstein has in Sil­i­con Val­ley it’s not like Hoff­man or Thiel are the only sus­pects. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle by Epstein’s biog­ra­ph­er, James B. Stew­art, describes, Epstein was alleged­ly involved with help­ing Elon Musk find a new Tes­la chair­man (some­thing Musk denies). Beyond that, Epstein told Stew­art dur­ing an inter­view last year that he had per­son­al­ly wit­nessed promi­nent tech fig­ures tak­ing drugs and arrang­ing for sex. So when we think about the poten­tial black­mail Epstein’s prob­a­bly had a Sil­i­con Val­ley fig­ures, the num­ber of pos­si­ble fig­ures who may have will­ing­ly or unwill­ing­ly been work­ing to reha­bil­i­tate Epstein’s rep­u­ta­tion is a pret­ty long list:

    The New York Times

    The Day Jef­frey Epstein Told Me He Had Dirt on Pow­er­ful Peo­ple

    By James B. Stew­art
    Aug. 12, 2019

    Almost exact­ly a year ago, on Aug. 16, 2018, I vis­it­ed Jef­frey Epstein at his cav­ernous Man­hat­tan man­sion.

    The over­rid­ing impres­sion I took away from our rough­ly 90-minute con­ver­sa­tion was that Mr. Epstein knew an aston­ish­ing num­ber of rich, famous and pow­er­ful peo­ple, and had pho­tos to prove it. He also claimed to know a great deal about these peo­ple, some of it poten­tial­ly dam­ag­ing or embar­rass­ing, includ­ing details about their sup­posed sex­u­al pro­cliv­i­ties and recre­ation­al drug use.

    So one of my first thoughts on hear­ing of Mr. Epstein’s sui­cide was that many promi­nent men and at least a few women must be breath­ing sighs of relief that what­ev­er Mr. Epstein knew, he has tak­en it with him.

    Dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, Mr. Epstein made no secret of his own scan­dalous past — he’d plead­ed guilty to state charges of solic­it­ing pros­ti­tu­tion from under­age girls and was a reg­is­tered sex offend­er — and acknowl­edged to me that he was a pari­ah in polite soci­ety. At the same time, he seemed unapolo­getic. His very noto­ri­ety, he said, was what made so many peo­ple will­ing to con­fide in him. Every­one, he sug­gest­ed, has secrets and, he added, com­pared with his own, they seemed innocu­ous. Peo­ple con­fid­ed in him with­out feel­ing awk­ward or embar­rassed, he claimed.

    I’d nev­er met Mr. Epstein before. I had con­tact­ed him because my col­leagues and I had heard a rumor that he was advis­ing Tesla’s embat­tled chief exec­u­tive, Elon Musk, who was in trou­ble after announc­ing on Twit­ter that he had lined up the fund­ing to take Tes­la pri­vate.

    The Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion began an inves­ti­ga­tion into Mr. Musk’s remarks, which moved mar­kets but didn’t appear to have much basis in fact. There were calls for Mr. Musk to relin­quish his posi­tion as Tesla’s chair­man and for Tes­la to recruit more inde­pen­dent direc­tors. I’d heard that Mr. Epstein was com­pil­ing a list of can­di­dates at Mr. Musk’s behest — and that Mr. Epstein had an email from Mr. Musk autho­riz­ing the search for a new chair­man.

    Mr. Musk and Tes­la vehe­ment­ly deny this. “It is incor­rect to say that Epstein ever advised Elon on any­thing,” a spokes­woman for Mr. Musk, Keely Sul­prizio, said Mon­day.

    When I con­tact­ed Mr. Epstein, he read­i­ly agreed to an inter­view. The caveat was that the con­ver­sa­tion would be “on back­ground,” which meant I could use the infor­ma­tion as long as I didn’t attribute it direct­ly to him. (I con­sid­er that con­di­tion to have lapsed with his death.)

    He insist­ed that I meet him at his house, which I’d seen referred to as the largest sin­gle-fam­i­ly home in Man­hat­tan. This seems plau­si­ble: I ini­tial­ly walked past the build­ing, on East 71st Street, because it looked more like an embassy or muse­um than a pri­vate home. Next to the impos­ing dou­ble doors was a pol­ished brass plaque with the ini­tials “J.E.” and a bell. After I rang, the door was opened by a young woman, her blond hair pulled back in a chignon, who greet­ed me with what sound­ed like an East­ern Euro­pean accent.

    I can’t say how old she was, but my guess would be late teens or per­haps 20. Giv­en Mr. Epstein’s past, this struck me as far too close to the line. Why would Mr. Epstein want a reporter’s first impres­sion to be that of a young woman open­ing his door?

    The woman led me up a mon­u­men­tal stair­case to a room on the sec­ond floor over­look­ing the Frick muse­um across the street. It was qui­et, the light­ing dim, and the air-con­di­tion­ing was set very low. After a few min­utes, Mr. Epstein bound­ed in, dressed casu­al­ly in jeans and a polo shirt, shook my hand and said he was a big fan of my work. He had a big smile and warm man­ner. He was trim and ener­getic, per­haps from all the yoga he said he was prac­tic­ing. He was unde­ni­ably charis­mat­ic.

    Before we left the room he took me to a wall cov­ered with framed pho­tographs. He point­ed to a full-length shot of a man in tra­di­tion­al Arab dress. “That’s M.B.S.,” he said, refer­ring to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Sau­di Ara­bia. The crown prince had vis­it­ed him many times, and they spoke often, Mr. Epstein said.

    He led me to a large room at the rear of the house. There was an expan­sive table with about 20 chairs. Mr. Epstein took a seat at the head, and I sat to his left. He had a com­put­er, a small black­board and a phone to his right. He said he was doing some for­eign-cur­ren­cy trad­ing.

    Behind him was a table cov­ered with more pho­tographs. I noticed one of Mr. Epstein with for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, and anoth­er of him with the direc­tor Woody Allen. Dis­play­ing pho­tos of celebri­ties who had been caught up in sex scan­dals of their own also struck me as odd.

    Mr. Epstein avoid­ed specifics about his work for Tes­la. He told me that he had good rea­son to be cryp­tic: Once it became pub­lic that he was advis­ing the com­pa­ny, he’d have to stop doing so, because he was “radioac­tive.” He pre­dict­ed that every­one at Tes­la would deny talk­ing to him or being his friend.

    He said this was some­thing he’d become used to, even though it didn’t stop peo­ple from vis­it­ing him, com­ing to his din­ner par­ties or ask­ing him for mon­ey. (That was why, Mr. Epstein told me with­out any trace of irony, he was con­sid­er­ing becom­ing a min­is­ter so that his acquain­tances would be con­fi­dent that their con­ver­sa­tions would be kept con­fi­den­tial.)

    If he was ret­i­cent about Tes­la, he was more at ease dis­cussing his inter­est in young women. He said that crim­i­nal­iz­ing sex with teenage girls was a cul­tur­al aber­ra­tion and that at times in his­to­ry it was per­fect­ly accept­able. He point­ed out that homo­sex­u­al­i­ty had long been con­sid­ered a crime and was still pun­ish­able by death in some parts of the world.

    Mr. Epstein then mean­dered into a dis­cus­sion of oth­er promi­nent names in tech­nol­o­gy cir­cles. He said peo­ple in Sil­i­con Val­ley had a rep­u­ta­tion for being geeky worka­holics, but that was far from the truth: They were hedo­nis­tic and reg­u­lar users of recre­ation­al drugs. He said he’d wit­nessed promi­nent tech fig­ures tak­ing drugs and arrang­ing for sex (Mr. Epstein stressed that he nev­er drank or used drugs of any kind).

    I kept try­ing to steer the con­ver­sa­tion back to Tes­la, but Mr. Epstein remained eva­sive. He said he’d spo­ken to the Saud­is about pos­si­bly invest­ing in Tes­la, but he wouldn’t pro­vide any specifics or names. When I pressed him on the pur­port­ed email from Mr. Musk, he said the email wasn’t from Mr. Musk him­self, but from some­one very close to him. He wouldn’t say who that per­son was. I asked him if that per­son would talk to me, and he said he’d ask. He lat­er said the per­son declined; I doubt he asked.

    When I lat­er reflect­ed on our inter­view, I was struck by how lit­tle infor­ma­tion Mr. Epstein had actu­al­ly pro­vid­ed. While I can’t say any­thing he said was an explic­it lie, much of what he said was vague or spec­u­la­tive and couldn’t be proved or dis­proved. He did have at least some ties to Mr. Musk — a wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed pho­to shows Mr. Musk with Ghis­laine Maxwell, Mr. Epstein’s con­fi­dante and for­mer com­pan­ion, at the 2014 Van­i­ty Fair Oscars par­ty.

    “Ghis­laine sim­ply insert­ed her­self behind him in a pho­to he was pos­ing for with­out his knowl­edge,” Ms. Sul­prizio, the spokes­woman for Mr. Musk, said.

    It seemed clear Mr. Epstein had embell­ished his role in the Tes­la sit­u­a­tion to enhance his own impor­tance and gain atten­tion — some­thing that now seems to have been a pat­tern.

    About a week after that inter­view, Mr. Epstein called and asked if I’d like to have din­ner that Sat­ur­day with him and Woody Allen. I said I’d be out of town. A few weeks after that, he asked me to join him for din­ner with the author Michael Wolff and Don­ald J. Trump’s for­mer advis­er, Steve Ban­non. I declined. (I don’t know if these din­ners actu­al­ly hap­pened. Mr. Ban­non has said he didn’t attend. Mr. Wolff and a spokes­woman for Mr. Allen didn’t respond to requests for com­ment on Mon­day.)

    Sev­er­al months passed. Then ear­ly this year Mr. Epstein called to ask if I’d be inter­est­ed in writ­ing his biog­ra­phy. He sound­ed almost plain­tive. I sensed that what he real­ly want­ed was com­pan­ion­ship. As his biog­ra­ph­er, I’d have no choice but to spend hours lis­ten­ing to his saga. Already leery of any fur­ther ties to him, I was relieved I could say that I was already busy with anoth­er book.

    ...

    ———-

    “The Day Jef­frey Epstein Told Me He Had Dirt on Pow­er­ful Peo­ple” by James B. Stew­art; The New York Times; 08/12/2019

    “Mr. Epstein then mean­dered into a dis­cus­sion of oth­er promi­nent names in tech­nol­o­gy cir­cles. He said peo­ple in Sil­i­con Val­ley had a rep­u­ta­tion for being geeky worka­holics, but that was far from the truth: They were hedo­nis­tic and reg­u­lar users of recre­ation­al drugs. He said he’d wit­nessed promi­nent tech fig­ures tak­ing drugs and arrang­ing for sex (Mr. Epstein stressed that he nev­er drank or used drugs of any kind).”

    Hav­ing Jef­frey Epstein wit­ness you arrang­ing for sex is prob­a­bly the kind of sit­u­a­tion that will make you high­ly com­pli­ant when it comes to help­ing his rep­u­ta­tion. Or make donations...might that be part of the val­ue Epstein pro­vid­ed for that 2015 din­ner par­ty that was osten­si­bly a fundrais­ing oper­a­tion for Media Lab? Epstein’s pres­ence could pre­sum­ably make any for­mer ‘clients’ of his much more like­ly to open their check­books.

    It’s also worth not­ing that Mohammed bin Salman could arguably be con­sid­ered a promi­nent Sil­i­con Val­ley indi­vid­ual giv­en the exten­sive Sau­di invest­ments in Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies:

    ...
    Before we left the room he took me to a wall cov­ered with framed pho­tographs. He point­ed to a full-length shot of a man in tra­di­tion­al Arab dress. “That’s M.B.S.,” he said, refer­ring to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Sau­di Ara­bia. The crown prince had vis­it­ed him many times, and they spoke often, Mr. Epstein said.
    ...

    So when Epstein talks about M.B.S. speak­ing to him often and vis­it­ing him many times, while part of the nature of those vis­its could obvi­ous­ly include pros­ti­tu­tion, it’s also very pos­si­ble M.B.S. was using Epstein as a kind of Sil­i­con Val­ley invest­ment front too.

    And that’s part of what makes the mys­tery of the iden­ti­ty of Epstein’s main Sil­i­con Val­ley bene­fac­tor so mys­te­ri­ous: there are just way too many viable sus­pects.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 19, 2019, 12:26 pm
  5. Remem­ber when a group of Repub­li­can mem­bers of con­gress stormed into the secure room for high­ly sen­si­tive work (the SCIF) where the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee was hold­ing a impeach­ment hear­ing last month, prompt­ing secu­ri­ty con­cerns over the fact that they brought their cell phones into this room where smart­phones aren’t allowed? Well, here’s an exam­ple of why bring­ing those smart­phones into that room real­ly did pose a very real secu­ri­ty risk. It also hap­pens to be an exam­ple of how smart­phone rep­re­sent a secu­ri­ty risk to pret­ty much any­one:

    A new secu­ri­ty flaw was just dis­cov­ered in Google’s wide­ly-used Android oper­at­ing sys­tem for smart­phones. Secu­ri­ty firm Check­marx dis­cov­ered the flaw and cre­at­ed an app demon­strat­ing the large num­ber of ways it can be exploit­ed. It’s like the per­fect flaw for sur­rep­ti­tious tar­get­ed spy­ing or mass spy­ing. The flaw enables any app to poten­tial­ly take con­trol of your smart­phone’s cam­era and micro­phone. Audio and video record­ings and pic­tures can be made and sent back to a com­mand and con­trol serv­er. The attack appears to rely on Google Cam­era app to get around these per­mis­sions. The flaw also allows the attack­er to search through your entire col­lec­tion of pho­tos and videos already stored on the phone and send them back to the serv­er. It can col­lect your GPS loca­tion data too. So it basi­cal­ly turns your smart­phone into the per­fect spy­ing device.

    But it gets worse. Because while the use of this flaw would be notice­able if it was being exe­cut­ed while a user was look­ing at their phone (for exam­ple, they would see the video being record­ed in the app), it’s pos­si­ble to use a phone’s prox­im­i­ty sen­sor to deter­mine when the phone is face down when it would be safe to start record­ing with­out the user notic­ing. Anoth­er high­ly oppor­tune time to exploit this vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty is when you are hold­ing your phone up to your ear allow­ing for pic­tures and video to be tak­en of the sur­round­ing room. This is also some­thing apps can detect. Check­marx’s exam­ple mal­ware had both of these capa­bil­i­ties.

    Per­haps the worst part of this dis­cov­ered vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty is that it demon­strat­ed how apps were able to eas­i­ly bypass the restric­tions in Android’s oper­at­ing sys­tem that is sup­posed to pre­vent apps from access­ing things like cam­eras or micro­phones with­out users explic­it­ly giv­ing their per­mis­sions. So apps that did­n’t request access to cam­eras and micro­phones could still poten­tial­ly access them on Android phones until this vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty was found. And to upload and videos to the attack­ers’ com­mand and con­trol serv­er only required that the app be giv­en access to phone’s stor­age, which is an extreme­ly com­mon per­mis­sion for apps to request.

    At this point we that Android phones built by Google and Sam­sung are vul­ner­a­ble to this attack. We’re also told by Check­marx that Google has pri­vate­ly informed them that oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers are vul­ner­a­ble, but they haven’t been dis­closed yet. Google issued a state­ment claim­ing that the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty was addressed on impact­ed Google devices with a July 2019 patch to the Google Cam­era Appli­ca­tion and that patch­es have been made avail­able to all part­ners. Note that in the time­line pro­vid­ed by Check­marx, they informed Google of the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty on July 4th. So it should have hope­ful­ly been fixed for at least some of the impact­ed peo­ple back in July. At least for Android phones built by Google or Sam­sung. But that still leaves the ques­tion of how long this kind of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty has been exploitable:

    Ars Tech­ni­ca

    Google & Sam­sung fix Android spy­ing flaw. Oth­er mak­ers may still be vul­ner­a­ble
    Cam­era and mic could be con­trolled by any app, no per­mis­sion required.

    Dan Good­in — 11/19/2019, 6:32 AM

    Until recent­ly, weak­ness­es in Android cam­era apps from Google and Sam­sung made it pos­si­ble for rogue apps to record video and audio and take images and then upload them to an attack­er-con­trolled server—without any per­mis­sions to do so. Cam­era apps from oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers may still be sus­cep­ti­ble.

    The weak­ness, which was dis­cov­ered by researchers from secu­ri­ty firm Check­marx, rep­re­sent­ed a poten­tial pri­va­cy risk to high-val­ue tar­gets, such as those preyed upon by nation-spon­sored spies. Google care­ful­ly designed its Android oper­at­ing sys­tem to bar apps from access­ing cam­eras and micro­phones with­out explic­it per­mis­sion from end users. An inves­ti­ga­tion pub­lished Tues­day showed it was triv­ial to bypass those restric­tions. The inves­ti­ga­tion found that an app need­ed no per­mis­sions at all to cause the cam­era to shoot pic­tures and record video and audio. To upload the images and video—or any oth­er image and video stored on the phone—to an attack­er-con­trolled serv­er, an app need­ed only per­mis­sion to access stor­age, which is among one of the most com­mon­ly giv­en usage rights.

    The weak­ness, which is tracked as CVE-2019–2234, also allowed would-be attack­ers to track the phys­i­cal loca­tion of the device, assum­ing GPS data was embed­ded into images or videos. Google closed the eaves­drop­ping hole in its Pix­el line of devices with a cam­era update that became avail­able in July. Check­marx said Sam­sung has also fixed the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, although it was­n’t clear when that hap­pened. Check­marx said Google has indi­cat­ed that Android phones from oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers may also be vul­ner­a­ble. The spe­cif­ic mak­ers and mod­els haven’t been dis­closed.

    “The abil­i­ty for an appli­ca­tion to retrieve input from the cam­era, micro­phone, and GPS loca­tion is con­sid­ered high­ly inva­sive by Google them­selves,” Check­marx Direc­tor of Secu­ri­ty Research Erez Yalon wrote in Tues­day’s analy­sis. “As a result, AOSP cre­at­ed a spe­cif­ic set of per­mis­sions that an appli­ca­tion must request from the user.”

    To demon­strate the risk, Check­marx devel­oped a proof-of-con­cept rogue app that exploit­ed the weak­ness. It mas­quer­ad­ed as a sim­ple weath­er app. Hid­den inside were func­tions that could:

    * Take pic­tures and record videos, even when the phone was locked, the screen was off, or the app was closed
    * Pull GPS data embed­ded into any pho­to or video stored on the phone
    * Eaves­drop and record two-way phone con­ver­sa­tions and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly record video or take images
    * Silence the cam­era shut­ter to make the spy­ing hard­er to detect
    * Trans­fer any pho­to or video stored on the phone to an attack­er-con­trolled serv­er
    * List and down­load any JPG image or MP4 video stored on the phone’s SD card

    An attack would­n’t be com­plete­ly sur­rep­ti­tious. The screen of an exploit­ed device would dis­play the cam­era as it record­ed video or shot an image. That would tip off any­one who was look­ing at the hand­set at the time the attack was being car­ried out. Still, the attack would be able to cap­ture video, sound, and images at times when a phone dis­play was out of eye­sight, such as when the device was placed screen down. The app was able to use the prox­im­i­ty sen­sor to deter­mine when the device is face down.

    Check­marx’s PoC app was also able to use a phone’s prox­im­i­ty sen­sor to detect when it was held to a tar­get’s ear, as often hap­pens dur­ing phone calls. The app was able to record both sides of the con­ver­sa­tion. It could also record video or take images, a use­ful capa­bil­i­ty in the event the back of the phone was fac­ing a white­board or some­thing else of inter­est to an attack­er. Check­marx’s report includes a video demon­strat­ing the capa­bil­i­ties of the PoC app.

    In a state­ment, Google offi­cials wrote: “We appre­ci­ate Check­marx bring­ing this to our atten­tion and work­ing with Google and Android part­ners to coor­di­nate dis­clo­sure. The issue was addressed on impact­ed Google devices via a Play Store update to the Google Cam­era Appli­ca­tion in July 2019. A patch has also been made avail­able to all part­ners.”

    Sam­sung offi­cials wrote: “Since being noti­fied of this issue by Google, we have sub­se­quent­ly released patch­es to address all Sam­sung device mod­els that may be affect­ed. We val­ue our part­ner­ship with the Android team that allowed us to iden­ti­fy and address this mat­ter direct­ly.”

    ...

    Check­marx said Google has pri­vate­ly indi­cat­ed that oth­er mak­ers of Android phones besides Sam­sung may also be vul­ner­a­ble. Google’s state­ment did­n’t direct­ly con­firm this or say if any oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers have installed an update.

    In an email, Check­marx’s Yalon said it was­n’t clear why apps could access the cam­era with­out the user pro­vid­ing per­mis­sion. He spec­u­lat­ed that the weak­ness may be the result of Google mak­ing the cam­era work with the voice-acti­vat­ed Google Assis­tant and oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers fol­low­ing suit.

    Users of Pix­el phones can con­firm they aren’t vul­ner­a­ble by access­ing Apps and Noti­fi­ca­tions from the set­tings menu, choos­ing Cam­era > Advanced > and App details. The screen should show that the app has been updat­ed since July (and ide­al­ly much more recent­ly than that).

    Check­ing if oth­er Android phones are sus­cep­ti­ble will be dif­fi­cult for most users. Those who are more tech­ni­cal­ly skilled can run the fol­low­ing com­mand:

    $ adb shell am start-activ­i­ty ‑n
    com.google.android.GoogleCamera/com.android.camera.CameraActivity –ez
    extra_turn_screen_on true ‑a android.media.action.VIDEO_CAMERA –ez
    android.intent.extra.USE_FRONT_CAMERA true

    The above com­mand will force the phone to take video. The fol­low­ing com­mand will force the phone to take a pho­to:

    $ adb shell am start-activ­i­ty ‑n
    com.google.android.GoogleCamera/com.android.camera.CameraActivity –ez
    extra_turn_screen_on true ‑a android.media.action.STILL_IMAGE_CAMERA -
    ‑ez android.intent.extra.USE_FRONT_CAMERA true –ei
    android.intent.extra.TIMER_DURATION_SECONDS 3

    The skill and luck required to make the attack work reli­ably and with­out detec­tion are high enough that this type of exploit isn’t like­ly to be used against the vast major­i­ty of Android users. Still, the ease of sneak­ing mali­cious apps into the Google Play store sug­gests it would­n’t be hard for a deter­mined and sophis­ti­cat­ed attack­er to pull off some­thing like this. No won­der phones and oth­er elec­tron­ics are barred from SCIFs and oth­er sen­si­tive envi­ron­ments.

    ———-

    “Google & Sam­sung fix Android spy­ing flaw. Oth­er mak­ers may still be vul­ner­a­ble” by Dan Good­in; Ars Tech­ni­ca; 11/19/2019

    “The skill and luck required to make the attack work reli­ably and with­out detec­tion are high enough that this type of exploit isn’t like­ly to be used against the vast major­i­ty of Android users. Still, the ease of sneak­ing mali­cious apps into the Google Play store sug­gests it would­n’t be hard for a deter­mined and sophis­ti­cat­ed attack­er to pull off some­thing like this. No won­der phones and oth­er elec­tron­ics are barred from SCIFs and oth­er sen­si­tive envi­ron­ments.

    Have sophis­ti­cat­ed attack­ers been using this vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty all along? We don’t know, but it did­n’t sound like Check­marx had a very hard time dis­cov­er­ing this. And giv­en how Check­marx was able to build their proof-of-con­cept app to only oper­ate when the phone was either face down or being held up to some­one’s ear, it’s pos­si­ble this has been a wide­ly used hack that no one noticed:

    ...
    To demon­strate the risk, Check­marx devel­oped a proof-of-con­cept rogue app that exploit­ed the weak­ness. It mas­quer­ad­ed as a sim­ple weath­er app. Hid­den inside were func­tions that could:

    * Take pic­tures and record videos, even when the phone was locked, the screen was off, or the app was closed
    * Pull GPS data embed­ded into any pho­to or video stored on the phone
    * Eaves­drop and record two-way phone con­ver­sa­tions and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly record video or take images
    * Silence the cam­era shut­ter to make the spy­ing hard­er to detect
    * Trans­fer any pho­to or video stored on the phone to an attack­er-con­trolled serv­er
    * List and down­load any JPG image or MP4 video stored on the phone’s SD card

    An attack would­n’t be com­plete­ly sur­rep­ti­tious. The screen of an exploit­ed device would dis­play the cam­era as it record­ed video or shot an image. That would tip off any­one who was look­ing at the hand­set at the time the attack was being car­ried out. Still, the attack would be able to cap­ture video, sound, and images at times when a phone dis­play was out of eye­sight, such as when the device was placed screen down. The app was able to use the prox­im­i­ty sen­sor to deter­mine when the device is face down.

    Check­marx’s PoC app was also able to use a phone’s prox­im­i­ty sen­sor to detect when it was held to a tar­get’s ear, as often hap­pens dur­ing phone calls. The app was able to record both sides of the con­ver­sa­tion. It could also record video or take images, a use­ful capa­bil­i­ty in the event the back of the phone was fac­ing a white­board or some­thing else of inter­est to an attack­er. Check­marx’s report includes a video demon­strat­ing the capa­bil­i­ties of the PoC app.
    ...

    So if you have an Android phone with some ques­tion­able apps , espe­cial­ly phones not man­u­fac­tured by Google or Sam­sung and there­fore poten­tial­ly still vul­ner­a­ble, it might be worth run­ning that app and then lay­ing the phone down a glass sur­face so you can still see what’s hap­pen­ing on the phone’s screen.

    Also note how Check­marx’s report isn’t just dis­clos­ing this vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty exploit­ed via the Google Cam­era app. It’s also a reminder that when apps are access to a phone’s stor­age device, there’s noth­ing real­ly stop­ping those apps from root­ing through all of the oth­er data on your phone’s stor­age card. Like all your pho­tos and videos. And then upload­ing them to a serv­er:

    ...
    The weak­ness, which was dis­cov­ered by researchers from secu­ri­ty firm Check­marx, rep­re­sent­ed a poten­tial pri­va­cy risk to high-val­ue tar­gets, such as those preyed upon by nation-spon­sored spies. Google care­ful­ly designed its Android oper­at­ing sys­tem to bar apps from access­ing cam­eras and micro­phones with­out explic­it per­mis­sion from end users. An inves­ti­ga­tion pub­lished Tues­day showed it was triv­ial to bypass those restric­tions. The inves­ti­ga­tion found that an app need­ed no per­mis­sions at all to cause the cam­era to shoot pic­tures and record video and audio. To upload the images and video—or any oth­er image and video stored on the phone—to an attack­er-con­trolled serv­er, an app need­ed only per­mis­sion to access stor­age, which is among one of the most com­mon­ly giv­en usage rights.
    ...

    As Check­marx describes in their report, when you give an app in Android access to the stor­age on the device, you aren’t just giv­ing it access to its own stored data. You are giv­ing the app access to every­thing stored on that SD card:

    Check­marx

    How Attack­ers Could Hijack Your Android Cam­era to Spy on You

    Nov 19, 2019 by Erez Yalon

    In today’s dig­i­tal­ly-con­nect­ed soci­ety, smart­phones have become an exten­sion of us. Advanced cam­era and video capa­bil­i­ties in par­tic­u­lar are play­ing a mas­sive role in this, as users are able to quick­ly take out their phones and cap­ture any moment in real-time with the sim­ple click of a but­ton. How­ev­er, this presents a dou­ble-edged sword as these mobile devices are con­stant­ly col­lect­ing, stor­ing, and shar­ing var­i­ous types of data – with and with­out our know­ing – mak­ing our devices gold­mines for attack­ers.

    In order to bet­ter under­stand how smart­phone cam­eras may be open­ing users up to pri­va­cy risks, the Check­marx Secu­ri­ty Research Team cracked into the appli­ca­tions them­selves that con­trol these cam­eras to iden­ti­fy poten­tial abuse sce­nar­ios. Hav­ing a Google Pix­el 2 XL and Pix­el 3 on-hand, our team began research­ing the Google Cam­era app [1], ulti­mate­ly find­ing mul­ti­ple con­cern­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties stem­ming from per­mis­sion bypass issues. After fur­ther dig­ging, we also found that these same vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties impact the cam­era apps of oth­er smart­phone ven­dors in the Android ecosys­tem – name­ly Sam­sung – pre­sent­ing sig­nif­i­cant impli­ca­tions to hun­dreds-of-mil­lions of smart­phone users.

    In this blog, we’ll explain the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties dis­cov­ered (CVE-2019–2234), pro­vide details of how they were exploit­ed, explain the con­se­quences, and note how users can safe­guard their devices. This blog is also accom­pa­nied by a proof-of-con­cept (PoC) video, as well as a tech­ni­cal report of the find­ings that were shared with Google, Sam­sung, and oth­er Android-based smart­phone OEMs.

    Google & Sam­sung Cam­era Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties

    After a detailed analy­sis of the Google Cam­era app, our team found that by manip­u­lat­ing spe­cif­ic actions and intents [2], an attack­er can con­trol the app to take pho­tos and/or record videos through a rogue appli­ca­tion that has no per­mis­sions to do so. Addi­tion­al­ly, we found that cer­tain attack sce­nar­ios enable mali­cious actors to cir­cum­vent var­i­ous stor­age per­mis­sion poli­cies, giv­ing them access to stored videos and pho­tos, as well as GPS meta­da­ta embed­ded in pho­tos, to locate the user by tak­ing a pho­to or video and pars­ing the prop­er EXIF data [3]. This same tech­nique also applied to Samsung’s Cam­era app.

    In doing so, our researchers deter­mined a way to enable a rogue appli­ca­tion to force the cam­era apps to take pho­tos and record video, even if the phone is locked or the screen is turned off. Our researchers could do the same even when a user was is in the mid­dle of a voice call.

    The Impli­ca­tions

    The abil­i­ty for an appli­ca­tion to retrieve input from the cam­era, micro­phone, and GPS loca­tion is con­sid­ered high­ly inva­sive by Google them­selves. As a result, AOSP cre­at­ed a spe­cif­ic set of per­mis­sions that an appli­ca­tion must request from the user. Since this was the case, Check­marx researchers designed an attack sce­nario that cir­cum­vents this per­mis­sion pol­i­cy by abus­ing the Google Cam­era app itself, forc­ing it to do the work on behalf of the attack­er.

    It is known that Android cam­era appli­ca­tions usu­al­ly store their pho­tos and videos on the SD card. Since pho­tos and videos are sen­si­tive user infor­ma­tion, in order for an appli­ca­tion to access them, it needs spe­cial per­mis­sions: stor­age per­mis­sions. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, stor­age per­mis­sions are very broad and these per­mis­sions give access to the entire SD card. There are a large num­ber of appli­ca­tions, with legit­i­mate use-cas­es, that request access to this stor­age, yet have no spe­cial inter­est in pho­tos or videos. In fact, it’s one of the most com­mon request­ed per­mis­sions observed.

    This means that a rogue appli­ca­tion can take pho­tos and/or videos with­out spe­cif­ic cam­era per­mis­sions, and it only needs stor­age per­mis­sions to take things a step fur­ther and fetch pho­tos and videos after being tak­en. Addi­tion­al­ly, if the loca­tion is enabled in the cam­era app, the rogue appli­ca­tion also has a way to access the cur­rent GPS posi­tion of the phone and user.

    Of course, a video also con­tains sound. It was inter­est­ing to prove that a video could be ini­ti­at­ed dur­ing a voice call. We could eas­i­ly record the receiver’s voice dur­ing the call and we could record the caller’s voice as well.

    ...
    ———-

    “How Attack­ers Could Hijack Your Android Cam­era to Spy on You” by Erez Yalon; Check­marx; 11/19/2019

    “It is known that Android cam­era appli­ca­tions usu­al­ly store their pho­tos and videos on the SD card. Since pho­tos and videos are sen­si­tive user infor­ma­tion, in order for an appli­ca­tion to access them, it needs spe­cial per­mis­sions: stor­age per­mis­sions. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, stor­age per­mis­sions are very broad and these per­mis­sions give access to the entire SD card. There are a large num­ber of appli­ca­tions, with legit­i­mate use-cas­es, that request access to this stor­age, yet have no spe­cial inter­est in pho­tos or videos. In fact, it’s one of the most com­mon request­ed per­mis­sions observed.”

    So while this recent­ly dis­closed vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty is pri­mar­i­ly focused on how the Google Cam­era app had this mas­sive vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty that allowed for the hijack­ing of cam­eras and micro­phones, it’s also a remind that all of the con­tents of your Smart­phone’s SD cards are poten­tial­ly avail­able to any app on your phone as long as those apps have been giv­en the “Stor­age” per­mis­sions. And that’s not just a vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty that needs to be fixed. It’s a basic part of how the Android oper­at­ing sys­tem works.

    Also don’t for­get that Google was start­ed with seed fund­ing from the CIA. So when we learn about these kinds of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that are almost tai­lor made for spies, maybe that’s what they are.

    It’s all a reminder that mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy regime is pred­i­cat­ed on sys­tems of trust. Trust in soft­ware and hard­ware devel­op­ers that the vast major­i­ty of users can’t real­is­ti­cal­ly have a basis for giv­ing and yet must giv­en in order to use the tech­nol­o­gy. In oth­er words, our mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy regime is pred­i­cat­ed on sys­tems of untrust­wor­thy trust. Which seems like a pret­ty huge secu­ri­ty vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 20, 2019, 2:35 pm
  6. Here’s a sto­ry about Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca that’s real­ly about a much larg­er sto­ry about Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca that’s going to be unfold­ing over the com­ing months: a large leak over over 100,000 Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca doc­u­ments has start­ed trick­ling online from the anony­mous @HindsightFiles twit­ter account. The files came from the emails accounts and hard dri­ves of Brit­tany Kaiser. Recall how Kaiser, the direc­tor of busi­ness devel­op­ment at SCL between Feb­ru­ary 2015 and Jan­u­ary of 2018, has already come for­ward and claimed that the ~87 mil­lion esti­mate of the num­ber of peo­ple who had their Face­book pro­file infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed by Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca is too low and the real num­ber is “much greater”. We don’t know yet if Kaiser is the direct source of these anony­mous leaks, but it’s her files get­ting leaked. Kaiser has decid­ed to speak out pub­licly about the full scope of Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca’s activ­i­ties fol­low­ing the elec­tion in the UK last month. The way she puts it, her cache of files con­tains thou­sands and thou­sands more pages which showed a “breadth and depth of the work” that went “way beyond what peo­ple think they know about ‘the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca scan­dal’”. The files also turn out to be the same files sub­poe­naed by the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion.

    So what new infor­ma­tion has been released so far? Well, it’s quite a tease: we’re told the doc­u­ments are going to relate to Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca’s work in 68 coun­tries. And the “indus­tri­al scale” nature of the oper­a­tion is going to be laid bare. The doc­u­ment release began on New Year’s Day and includ­ed mate­ri­als on elec­tions in Malaysia, Kenya, and Brazil. The files also include mate­r­i­al that sug­gests Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca was work­ing for a polit­i­cal par­ty in Ukraine in 2017. We don’t yet know which par­ty.

    Unsur­pris­ing­ly, there’s also a Dark Mon­ey angle to the sto­ry. The doc­u­ments include emails between major Trump donors dis­cussing ways of obscur­ing the source of their dona­tions through a series of dif­fer­ent finan­cial vehi­cles. So the unlim­it­ed secret financ­ing of polit­i­cal cam­paigns allowed by US elec­tion law includes the secret financ­ing of secret sophis­ti­cat­ed social media psy­cho­log­i­cal manip­u­la­tion cam­paigns too. Sur­prise. Only some of the 100,000+ doc­u­ments have been leaked so far and more are set to be released in com­ing months. So the @HindsightFiles twit­ter account is going to be one to watch:

    The Guardian

    Fresh Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca leak ‘shows glob­al manip­u­la­tion is out of con­trol’

    Company’s work in 68 coun­tries laid bare with release of more than 100,000 doc­u­ments

    Car­ole Cad­wal­ladr
    Sat 4 Jan 2020 11.55 EST
    Last mod­i­fied on Mon 6 Jan 2020 06.37 EST

    An explo­sive leak of tens of thou­sands of doc­u­ments from the defunct data firm Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca is set to expose the inner work­ings of the com­pa­ny that col­lapsed after the Observ­er revealed it had mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ed 87 mil­lion Face­book pro­files.

    More than 100,000 doc­u­ments relat­ing to work in 68 coun­tries that will lay bare the glob­al infra­struc­ture of an oper­a­tion used to manip­u­late vot­ers on “an indus­tri­al scale” are set to be released over the next months.

    It comes as Christo­pher Steele, the ex-head of MI6’s Rus­sia desk and the intel­li­gence expert behind the so-called “Steele dossier” into Trump’s rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia, said that while the com­pa­ny had closed down, the fail­ure to prop­er­ly pun­ish bad actors meant that the prospects for manip­u­la­tion of the US elec­tion this year were even worse.

    The release of doc­u­ments began on New Year’s Day on an anony­mous Twit­ter account, @HindsightFiles, with links to mate­r­i­al on elec­tions in Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil. The doc­u­ments were revealed to have come from Brit­tany Kaiser, an ex-Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca employ­ee turned whistle­blow­er, and to be the same ones sub­poe­naed by Robert Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    Kaiser, who starred in the Oscar-short­list­ed Net­flix doc­u­men­tary The Great Hack, decid­ed to go pub­lic after last month’s elec­tion in Britain. “It’s so abun­dant­ly clear our elec­toral sys­tems are wide open to abuse,” she said. “I’m very fear­ful about what is going to hap­pen in the US elec­tion lat­er this year, and I think one of the few ways of pro­tect­ing our­selves is to get as much infor­ma­tion out there as pos­si­ble.”

    The doc­u­ments were retrieved from her email accounts and hard dri­ves, and though she hand­ed over some mate­r­i­al to par­lia­ment in April 2018, she said there were thou­sands and thou­sands more pages which showed a “breadth and depth of the work” that went “way beyond what peo­ple think they know about ‘the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca scan­dal’”.

    Steele made a rare pub­lic inter­ven­tion to com­ment on the leaks. He said that while he didn’t know what was in them, the con­text couldn’t be more impor­tant because “on our cur­rent tra­jec­to­ry these prob­lems are like­ly to get worse, not bet­ter, and with cru­cial 2020 elec­tions in Amer­i­ca and else­where approach­ing, this is a very scary prospect. Some­thing rad­i­cal needs to be done about it, and fast.”

    ...

    Kaiser said the Face­book data scan­dal was part of a much big­ger glob­al oper­a­tion that worked with gov­ern­ments, intel­li­gence agen­cies, com­mer­cial com­pa­nies and polit­i­cal cam­paigns to manip­u­late and influ­ence peo­ple, and that raised huge nation­al secu­ri­ty impli­ca­tions.

    The unpub­lished doc­u­ments con­tain mate­r­i­al that sug­gests the firm was work­ing for a polit­i­cal par­ty in Ukraine in 2017 even while under inves­ti­ga­tion as part of Mueller’s inquiry and emails that Kaiser says describe how the firm helped devel­op a “sophis­ti­cat­ed infra­struc­ture of shell com­pa­nies that were designed to fun­nel dark mon­ey into pol­i­tics”.

    “There are emails between these major Trump donors dis­cussing ways of obscur­ing the source of their dona­tions through a series of dif­fer­ent finan­cial vehi­cles. These doc­u­ments expose the entire dark mon­ey machin­ery behind US pol­i­tics.” The same machin­ery, she says, was deployed in oth­er coun­tries that Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca worked in, includ­ing, she claims, Britain.

    Emma Bri­ant, an aca­d­e­m­ic at Bard Col­lege, New York, who spe­cialis­es in inves­ti­gat­ing pro­pa­gan­da and has had access to some of the doc­u­ments for research, said that what had been revealed was “the tip of the ice­berg”.

    “The doc­u­ments reveal a much clear­er idea of what actu­al­ly hap­pened in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which has a huge bear­ing on what will hap­pen in 2020. It’s the same peo­ple involved who we know are build­ing on these same tech­niques,” she said.

    “There’s evi­dence of real­ly quite dis­turb­ing exper­i­ments on Amer­i­can vot­ers, manip­u­lat­ing them with fear-based mes­sag­ing, tar­get­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble, that seems to be con­tin­u­ing. This is an entire glob­al indus­try that’s out of con­trol but what this does is lay out what was hap­pen­ing with this one com­pa­ny.”

    ———-

    “Fresh Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca leak ‘shows glob­al manip­u­la­tion is out of con­trol’” by Car­ole Cad­wal­ladr; The Guardian; 01/04/2020

    “The release of doc­u­ments began on New Year’s Day on an anony­mous Twit­ter account, @HindsightFiles, with links to mate­r­i­al on elec­tions in Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil. The doc­u­ments were revealed to have come from Brit­tany Kaiser, an ex-Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca employ­ee turned whistle­blow­er, and to be the same ones sub­poe­naed by Robert Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    So the trove of Kaiser’s doc­u­ments hand­ed over to the Mueller team are set to be released in com­ing months. That’s excit­ing. Espe­cial­ly since she’s describ­ing the full scope of the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca oper­a­tion as includ­ing the coor­di­na­tion of gov­ern­ments and intel­li­gence agen­cies, in addi­tion to the polit­i­cal cam­paigns we already knew about. Hope­ful­ly we get to learn about about which Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal par­ty Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca was work­ing with in 2017:

    ...
    The doc­u­ments were retrieved from her email accounts and hard dri­ves, and though she hand­ed over some mate­r­i­al to par­lia­ment in April 2018, she said there were thou­sands and thou­sands more pages which showed a “breadth and depth of the work” that went “way beyond what peo­ple think they know about ‘the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca scan­dal’”.

    ...

    Kaiser said the Face­book data scan­dal was part of a much big­ger glob­al oper­a­tionthat worked with gov­ern­ments, intel­li­gence agen­cies, com­mer­cial com­pa­nies and polit­i­cal cam­paigns to manip­u­late and influ­ence peo­ple, and that raised huge nation­al secu­ri­ty impli­ca­tions.

    The unpub­lished doc­u­ments con­tain mate­r­i­al that sug­gests the firm was work­ing for a polit­i­cal par­ty in Ukraine in 2017 even while under inves­ti­ga­tion as part of Mueller’s inquiry and emails that Kaiser says describe how the firm helped devel­op a “sophis­ti­cat­ed infra­struc­ture of shell com­pa­nies that were designed to fun­nel dark mon­ey into pol­i­tics”.

    “There are emails between these major Trump donors dis­cussing ways of obscur­ing the source of their dona­tions through a series of dif­fer­ent finan­cial vehi­cles. These doc­u­ments expose the entire dark mon­ey machin­ery behind US pol­i­tics.” The same machin­ery, she says, was deployed in oth­er coun­tries that Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca worked in, includ­ing, she claims, Britain.
    ...

    So with much greater scope of the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca oper­a­tion in mind, here’s a Gray­zone piece from 2018 that describes “Project Tita­nia”, the name for an oper­a­tion focused on psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly pro­fil­ing the Yemeni pop­u­la­tion for the US mil­i­tary. The arti­cle is based on doc­u­ments that describe SCL’s work as a mil­i­tary con­trac­tor in coun­tries around the world and includes some ear­li­er work SCL did in Ukraine. The work is so ear­ly it either pre­ced­ed the for­mal incor­po­ra­tion of SCL or must have been one of SCL’s very first projects. Because accord­ing to the inter­nal SCL doc­u­ments they obtained, SCL was work­ing on the pro­mot­ing the “Orange Rev­o­lu­tion” in Ukraine back in late 2004. SCL was start­ed in 2005. So Ukraine appears to have been one of SCL’s very first projects. The doc­u­ments obtained by the Gray­zone Project also describe oper­a­tions across the Mid­dle East as a US and UK counter-insur­gency con­trac­tor, includ­ing an oper­a­tion in Iran in 2009. It points towards a key con­text to keep in mind as Kaiser’s 100,000+ doc­u­ments are released in com­ing months: while much of what Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca and its SCL par­ent com­pa­ny were doing in those 68 coun­tries was prob­a­bly done at the behest of pri­vate clients, we can’t for­get that SCL has a long his­to­ry as a mil­i­tary con­trac­tor too. The US and UK mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence agen­cies were prob­a­bly clients in most of those cas­es, but it’s also prob­a­bly not lim­it­ed to the US and UK. As Kaiser warns us, this is glob­al oper­a­tion. And these ser­vices have been up for sale since as far back as Ukraine’s Orange Rev­o­lu­tion:

    The Gray­zone Project

    Exclu­sive Leaked Docs Expose Yemen-Based Counter-Insur­gency Pro­gram by Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca Par­ent Com­pa­ny SCL

    Part one of a two part inves­ti­ga­tion into Cam­bridge Analytica/SCL’s glob­al oper­a­tions

    By Max Blu­men­thal
    May 23, 2018

    Inter­nal doc­u­ments exclu­sive­ly obtained by the Gray­zone Project and embed­ded at the end of this arti­cle show how Cam­bridge Analytica’s UK-based par­ent com­pa­ny, SCL group, con­duct­ed a sur­veil­lance oper­a­tion in Yemen, using psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing, “strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions cam­paigns,” and infil­tra­tion of for­eign oper­a­tives into indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties through unwit­ting local part­ners whom they were instruct­ed to deceive.

    The SCL doc­u­ments describe “a research and analy­sis study under­tak­en by Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Lab­o­ra­to­ries (SCL) on behalf of Archimedes,” a US-based mil­i­tary con­trac­tor. The name of the oper­a­tion was “Project Tita­nia.” It relied heav­i­ly on decep­tion to gain access to the local pop­u­la­tion, order­ing project oper­a­tives to devel­op a “cov­er sto­ry” that placed their pres­ence in the coun­try in a more inno­cent light.

    The geo­graph­ic tar­gets of the project were Yemen’s Hadra­mout and Marib provinces. These regions have served as orga­ni­za­tion­al bases for Al Qae­da in the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la, and were at the time in the crosshairs of then-Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s drone assas­si­na­tion pro­gram.

    Many of the meth­ods of sur­veil­lance and manip­u­la­tion revealed in these SCL doc­u­ments close­ly mir­ror the tac­tics that were lat­er applied in West­ern elec­toral con­tests. And when these tac­tics were exposed in ear­ly 2018, they ignit­ed a polit­i­cal firestorm.

    The data and behav­ioral ana­lyt­ics firm Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca closed shop this May fol­low­ing dam­ag­ing rev­e­la­tions that it obtained the raw data of over 80 mil­lion Face­book users dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign, and exploit­ed this infor­ma­tion to influ­ence the out­come of numer­ous polit­i­cal cam­paigns. The dam­age spread across the Atlantic, to Cam­bridge Analytica’s UK-based par­ent com­pa­ny, SCL group, forc­ing it to shut­ter its oper­a­tions as well.

    Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca was par­tial­ly owned by Steve Ban­non, the for­mer man­ag­er of Trump’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and ex-White House chief of staff. It was co-owned by Bannon’s main finan­cial angel at the time, reclu­sive right-wing tech bil­lion­aire Robert Mer­cer, and his daugh­ter, Rebekah Mer­cer, who served as its vice pres­i­dent.

    Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca debuted its work with a series of Repub­li­can Get Out the Vote efforts in 2014, deploy­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing tech­niques that have become the company’s bread and but­ter. “Its dirty lit­tle secret was that there was no one Amer­i­can involved in [the 2016 effort], that it was a de fac­to for­eign agent, work­ing on an Amer­i­can elec­tion,” for­mer Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca research direc­tor Christo­pher Wylie revealed.

    Dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca played a cen­tral role in Trump’s dig­i­tal out­reach efforts. In a hid­den cam­era inves­ti­ga­tion by the UK’s Chan­nel 4, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca exec­u­tives took cred­it for gen­er­at­ing sev­er­al endur­ing lines of attack against Hillary Clin­ton. “We just put infor­ma­tion into the blood­stream of the inter­net and then watch it grow, give it a lit­tle push every now and again over time to watch it take shape,” one exec­u­tive boast­ed. “And so this stuff infil­trates the online com­mu­ni­ty, but with no brand­ing, so it’s unat­trib­ut­able, untrack­able.”

    SCL Group and ‘Project Tita­nia‘

    The eth­i­cal­ly dubi­ous tac­tics that Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca rolled out dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign had been honed by its par­ent com­pa­ny, the Lon­don-based SCL Group, in an array of influ­ence oper­a­tions in con­flict zones and Third World elec­tion con­tests.

    Found­ed in 2005, SCL spe­cial­izes in what com­pa­ny lit­er­a­ture has described as “influ­ence oper­a­tions” and “psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare” around the globe. An SCL brochure leaked to the BBC revealed how the firm exac­er­bat­ed eth­nic ten­sions in Latvia to assist their client in 2006.

    A year lat­er, the firm orches­trat­ed “anti-elec­tion” ral­lies to sup­press the oppo­si­tion vote in Nigeria’s 2007 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Then, in 2010, accord­ing to the BBC, SCL ini­ti­at­ed an “ambi­tious cam­paign of polit­i­cal graf­fi­ti” that “osten­si­bly came from the youth,” enabling its client to “claim cred­it for lis­ten­ing to a ‘unit­ed youth.’”

    SCL has also applied its influ­ence in Ukraine, first as part of the broad­er pub­lic rela­tions cam­paign dur­ing the country’s NATO-backed 2004 “Orange Rev­o­lu­tion,” then in Ukraine’s con­test­ed Don­bas region, where it boast­ed in com­pa­ny lit­er­a­ture that it “suc­ceed­ed in main­tain­ing the cohe­sion of the coali­tion to ensure a hard fought vic­to­ry.”

    But SCL has also played an equal­ly unset­tling role as a pri­vate arm of British and US counter-insur­gency efforts in the Mid­dle East.

    Inter­nal doc­u­ments legal­ly obtained by the Gray­zone Project pro­vide an exclu­sive look at one such effort over­seen by SCL. The mate­ri­als show how the com­pa­ny used psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing, “strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions cam­paigns,” and for­eign oper­a­tives, in meth­ods of sur­veil­lance and manip­u­la­tion that par­al­lel the tac­tics that were sub­se­quent­ly used to influ­ence West­ern elec­tions.

    A media pro­fes­sion­al whom SCL attempt­ed to recruit for an influ­ence oper­a­tion in Iran described to the Gray­zone Project an array of covert cam­paigns across the region. Speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, the source said they were solicit­ed in 2009 by a SCL staffer seek­ing a per­son to infil­trate Iran under jour­nal­is­tic cov­er and gath­er data on its pop­u­la­tion.

    Though the media pro­fes­sion­al reject­ed the job, express­ing deep reser­va­tions about the company’s empha­sis on sub­terfuge, they described sim­i­lar oper­a­tions they learned about that tar­get­ed pop­u­la­tions in Libya, Pak­istan, and Syr­ia.

    The source was told that the Syr­i­an oper­a­tion gath­ered human intel­li­gence by using for­eign­ers either pos­ing as Ara­bic lan­guage stu­dents or enrolled in study abroad-style pro­grams.

    SCL has acknowl­edged in com­pa­ny doc­u­ments that it has oper­at­ed in Libya, Syr­ia and Iran.

    The doc­u­ments obtained by the Gray­zone Project pro­vide per­haps the first inside look at one of these pro­grams. They shine light on the “research and analy­sis study” that SCL con­duct­ed in Yemen on behalf of the mil­i­tary con­trac­tor Archimedes, known as Project Tita­nia.

    ‘A Cov­er Sto­ry Will Be Used’

    When SCL launched Project Tita­nia, US drones reg­u­lar­ly shad­owed the skies over the Yemeni regions of Marib and Hadra­mout. Al Qae­da in the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la (AQAP) had suc­cess­ful­ly turned both areas into train­ing and recruit­ment grounds, as well as bases for attacks on gov­ern­ment troops.

    In May 2010, an Amer­i­can drone strike acci­den­tal­ly killed the deputy gov­er­nor of Marib, pro­vok­ing his tribe to attack the country’s main oil pipeline in revenge and drain its econ­o­my of $1 bil­lion in rev­enue. A year lat­er in Marib, a drone strike per­son­al­ly autho­rized by then-Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma killed AQAP pro­pa­gan­dist Anwar al-Awla­ki and his son, Abdu­rah­man, who was a US cit­i­zen.

    Project Tita­nia was defined by its authors as a counter-rad­i­cal­iza­tion study aimed at reduc­ing the appeal and influ­ence of AQAP across Yemen. The oper­a­tion first aimed to iden­ti­fy a “Non Desired Behav­ior” — defined as “sup­port for, and engage­ment in, vio­lent Jihadism” — and to explain the fac­tors that account­ed for its exis­tence and growth. Next, the project called for a pro­pos­al for a “Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Cam­paign” to under­mine the spread of jihadist ide­ol­o­gy.

    SCL instruct­ed its field researchers to dis­sem­i­nate ques­tion­naires to Yemeni locals in order to gath­er their psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­files. The goal spelled out in Project Titania’s mis­sion plan was to gain a “detailed psy­choso­cial under­stand­ing of the groups that can be used to most effec­tive­ly influ­ence” young Yemeni men deemed vul­ner­a­ble to jihadist recruit­ment. These meth­ods pre­dat­ed the use by Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca of Face­book ques­tion­naires to gath­er per­son­al data on Amer­i­can vot­ers.

    The for­eign­ers dis­patched to imple­ment Project Tita­nia were explic­it­ly instruct­ed to deceive the Yemeni cit­i­zens they would rely on for field research. “A cov­er sto­ry will be used to explain the pur­pose of the research to the researchers; the local researchers will not be informed of the objec­tives or spon­sors of the study,” a SCL doc­u­ment states. “The ques­tion­naire and inter­view pro­to­col will be com­plete­ly non-attrib­ut­able to the orig­i­nal source.”

    SCL even pro­posed options for the cov­er sto­ry: “Pri­or to com­plet­ing the inter­view or the ques­tion­naire, all par­tic­i­pants will be giv­en a ratio­nale for the study (i.e., that the study is part of a uni­ver­si­ty research pro­gramme or a mar­ket research pro­gramme) and they will be informed that their respons­es will be kept con­fi­den­tial.”

    The use of cov­er sto­ries in West­ern intel­li­gence oper­a­tions has led to severe social dam­age in some cas­es. In Pak­istan, locals had long sus­pect­ed that the CIA was hunt­ing for drone tar­gets behind the smoke­screen of a vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram run by Pak­istani Polio Erad­i­ca­tion Ini­tia­tive. When news broke that the CIA had run a bogus hepati­tis B erad­i­ca­tion cam­paign in an unsuc­cess­ful bid to obtain the DNA of Osama bin Laden’s fam­i­ly, mil­i­tant ele­ments ini­ti­at­ed a boy­cott of vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams. Over 3 mil­lion chil­dren went with­out polio vac­cines as a result, and the dis­ease spread into neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

    Did the UK Gov­ern­ment Con­tract SCL in Yemen?

    The leaked Project Tita­nia doc­u­ments high­light the British government’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in SCL’s covert activ­i­ties in Yemen, and sug­gest that it was the client that had con­tract­ed the pri­vate counter-insur­gency oper­a­tion.

    A sec­tion labeled “risk reg­is­ter” con­tains the fol­low­ing secu­ri­ty guide­line for field oper­a­tives: “All for­eign nation­al team mem­bers to liaise with con­tact at British embassy and reg­is­ter with UK FCO LOCATE ser­vice.” (The British For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Office’s LOCATE ser­vice pro­vid­ed expats with secu­ri­ty issue updates; it was abol­ished in 2013 because so few cit­i­zens enrolled in it).

    Project Tita­nia doc­u­ments list­ed an array of NGOs oper­at­ing in Marib and appeared to sug­gest them as poten­tial vehi­cles for obtain­ing intel­li­gence on the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion. The names of those NGOs have been redact­ed from this report to pro­tect staff from reper­cus­sions that might result from their con­nec­tion to a covert West­ern influ­ence oper­a­tion. If any wound up as par­tic­i­pants in Project Tita­nia, they did so unwit­ting­ly, as project mate­ri­als specif­i­cal­ly demand­ed they be coerced into the oper­a­tion under false pre­tens­es.

    Yasha Levine, a jour­nal­ist and author of “Sur­veil­lance Val­ley: The Hid­den His­to­ry of the Inter­net,” saw SCL’s Project Tita­nia as a fair­ly typ­i­cal counter-insur­gency oper­a­tion. “Look­ing at these doc­u­ments about SCL’s Yemen data-dri­ven coun­terin­sur­gency pro­gram, the most remark­able thing about them is just how unre­mark­able it is,” Levine told the Gray­zone Project.

    “If you change the word­ing a bit,” he con­tin­ued, “SCL’s pro­pos­al could have been writ­ten a half cen­tu­ry ago for the Viet­nam War, where com­put­er-aid­ed coun­terin­sur­gency tech­nolo­gies were first pio­neered. Back then the idea was that to fight insur­gen­cies — wars in which ene­my com­bat­ants came out of the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion — you first need­ed to under­stand the cul­tur­al, social and polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment in which the ene­my oper­at­ed. That meant first and fore­most study­ing and sur­veilling restive pop­u­la­tions as if they were lab rats, and then using advanced com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy to shift through and process all the infor­ma­tion com­ing in.”

    ...

    But there was more to Project Tita­nia than what was revealed in the SCL doc­u­ments. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions obtained by the Gray­zone Project linked the project’s prin­ci­pal direc­tor to a much wider pro­gram of sur­veil­lance and data min­ing aimed not only at a region or two, but at the entire Arab world.

    ———-

    “Exclu­sive Leaked Docs Expose Yemen-Based Counter-Insur­gency Pro­gram by Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca Par­ent Com­pa­ny SCL” by Max Blu­men­thal; The Gray­zone Project; 05/23/2018

    Found­ed in 2005, SCL spe­cial­izes in what com­pa­ny lit­er­a­ture has described as “influ­ence oper­a­tions” and “psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare” around the globe. An SCL brochure leaked to the BBC revealed how the firm exac­er­bat­ed eth­nic ten­sions in Latvia to assist their client in 2006.”

    SCL’s found­ing doc­u­ments going back to 2005 tout its abil­i­ty to wage “influ­ence oper­a­tions” and “psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare” around the globe. That’s how far back the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca sto­ry goes. Although it appears to go even fur­ther back since SCL’s brochure boast­ed of its suc­cess “in main­tain­ing the cohe­sion of the coali­tion to ensure a hard fought vic­to­ry,” of the 2004 Orange Rev­o­lu­tion in Ukraine:

    ...
    A year lat­er, the firm orches­trat­ed “anti-elec­tion” ral­lies to sup­press the oppo­si­tion vote in Nigeria’s 2007 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Then, in 2010, accord­ing to the BBC, SCL ini­ti­at­ed an “ambi­tious cam­paign of polit­i­cal graf­fi­ti” that “osten­si­bly came from the youth,” enabling its client to “claim cred­it for lis­ten­ing to a ‘unit­ed youth.’”

    SCL has also applied its influ­ence in Ukraine, first as part of the broad­er pub­lic rela­tions cam­paign dur­ing the country’s NATO-backed 2004 “Orange Rev­o­lu­tion,” then in Ukraine’s con­test­ed Don­bas region, where it boast­ed in com­pa­ny lit­er­a­ture that it “suc­ceed­ed in main­tain­ing the cohe­sion of the coali­tion to ensure a hard fought vic­to­ry.”
    ...

    Lat­er, in 2009, SCL was doing some sort of psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing Iran. Along with Libya, Pak­istan, and Syr­ia:

    ...
    But SCL has also played an equal­ly unset­tling role as a pri­vate arm of British and US counter-insur­gency efforts in the Mid­dle East.

    Inter­nal doc­u­ments legal­ly obtained by the Gray­zone Project pro­vide an exclu­sive look at one such effort over­seen by SCL. The mate­ri­als show how the com­pa­ny used psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing, “strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions cam­paigns,” and for­eign oper­a­tives, in meth­ods of sur­veil­lance and manip­u­la­tion that par­al­lel the tac­tics that were sub­se­quent­ly used to influ­ence West­ern elec­tions.

    A media pro­fes­sion­al whom SCL attempt­ed to recruit for an influ­ence oper­a­tion in Iran described to the Gray­zone Project an array of covert cam­paigns across the region. Speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, the source said they were solicit­ed in 2009 by a SCL staffer seek­ing a per­son to infil­trate Iran under jour­nal­is­tic cov­er and gath­er data on its pop­u­la­tion.

    Though the media pro­fes­sion­al reject­ed the job, express­ing deep reser­va­tions about the company’s empha­sis on sub­terfuge, they described sim­i­lar oper­a­tions they learned about that tar­get­ed pop­u­la­tions in Libya, Pak­istan, and Syr­ia.

    The source was told that the Syr­i­an oper­a­tion gath­ered human intel­li­gence by using for­eign­ers either pos­ing as Ara­bic lan­guage stu­dents or enrolled in study abroad-style pro­grams.

    SCL has acknowl­edged in com­pa­ny doc­u­ments that it has oper­at­ed in Libya, Syr­ia and Iran.
    ...

    So years before the 2016 elec­tion, SCL was already act­ing as a psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare con­trac­tor in coun­tries around the world. It points to anoth­er impor­tant con­text for the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca scan­dal: the US pop­u­lace tar­get­ed in 2016 may have effec­tive­ly been guinea pigs for this tech­nol­o­gy in the con­text of using Face­book to gath­er psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­files on large num­bers of peo­ple. But they weren’t the first guinea pigs on SCL’s psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing tech­niques because that’s what SCL has been for years in soci­eties across the world. Appar­ent­ly start­ing in Ukraine.

    So this sto­ry is promis­ing to get much big­ger as more doc­u­ments are leaked. It also rais­es an inter­est­ing ques­tion in the con­text of Pres­i­dent Trump’s deci­sion to drone assas­si­nate one of Iran’s most revered lead­ers: from a psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare per­spec­tive, was that a good idea? It does­n’t seem like it was a very good idea, but it would be inter­est­ing to know what the regime change psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare spe­cial­ists say about that. Since Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca has unfor­tu­nate­ly rein­cor­po­rat­ed as Emer­da­ta maybe some­one can ask them about that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 6, 2020, 2:01 pm

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