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FTR #757 The Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook, Part 4: Dramatis Personae, Part 4 (The Gruppenhobbit and the Underground Reich)

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. (The flash drive includes the anti-fascist books avail­able on this site.)

NB: This description contains information not contained in the original program.

Listen: MP3

Side 1   Side 2

The Gruppenhobbit, Alex Karp: why is this man smiling?

Introduction: Continuing our analysis of the “disclosures” of Eddie the Friendly Spook [Snowden], we highlight the Palantir firm which (its official disclaimers to the contrary notwithstanding, appears to be the company that manufactures the PRISM softward at the center of Snowden’s leaking.

Ostensibly “left/progressive,” with a taste for smoking joints and J.R. Tolkien, Palantir CEO Alex Karp heads a firm that would permit one of its intelligence community and/or corporate sponsors to sit down at a keyboard and check someone for hemorrhoids. Karp also heads another firm–RobotX–that makes security robots. The largest investor in both companies is Peter Thiel, whom we examined at length and in detail in FTR #718.

Thiel was also the main financier of Ron Paul’s 2012 Super PAC (Ron Paul was Eddie Snowden’s presidential candidate of choice. Snowden contributed money to his campaign. The milieu of Ron and Rand Paul is inextricably linked with that of Snowden and Wikileaks.)

Thiel is so far to the right that he explicitly rejects democracy, in no small measure because we made what he sees as the mistake of allowing women to vote.

An examination of Karp and his intellectual mentor Juergen Habermas, suggests that both are “not as advertised.” We wonder if the entire Palantir operation might be an Underground Reich data mining entity, ensconced at the very epicenter of American intelligence and corporate existence. IF that is the case, we may be looking at the actions of a “Deep Fifth Column.”

Program Highlights Include:

  • The circumstances of Alex Karp’s professional involvement with Palantir and Peter Thiel seem improbable on their surface. (See text excerpts below.)
  • In this context, we note that Karp is an ostensible “neo-hippy”/lefty/progressive, or his background is so represented. The notion that he would sustain a lifelong, lucrative professional relationship with uber reactionary Peter Thiel seems highly unlikely. Thiel’s political views are so fascistic that he has explicitly denounced democracy as incompatible with freedom, in considerable measure, because we made what he sees as the mistake of allowing women to vote! 
  • NB: The name of the firm is derived from the Palantiri–the seeing stones of The Lord of the Rings. In keeping with the Tolkien theme, Palantir’s headquarters are nicknamed “The Shire”–the homeland of the hobbits. Hence our nickname for Karp as The Gruppenhobbit. A more appropriate nickname for Palantir’s headquarters would appear to be “Mordor,” under the circumstances.
  • In addition to Palantir, which operates in conjunction with multiple intelligence services, the military and law enforcement (including the intrusive PRISM operations), Karp has teamed with Thiel in RobotX, which manufactures security robots.
  • Again, we find the circumstances of Karp’s ascent to be unlikely. A lefty/hippie/freedom loving/”Tolkienesque” individual hooking up with an antediluvian reactionary like Thiel seems improbable. After studying law, Karp decamps for Germany. We wonder if Thiel’s interaction with Karp at Stanford was more than represented here? Did Thiel hook The Gruppehobbit up with the Bormann network/Underground Reich? 
  • In Germany, Karp spends years studying under Juergen Habermas, one of Germany’s most famous postwar intellectual figures, also an ostensible leftist. More about Habermas is to be found below. Habermas appears to be the single greatest intellectual influence on Karp. We suspect the influence may be more than intellectual. Habermas tutored Karp at the University of Frankfurt. The old headquarters of I.G. Farben, Frankfurt is where Thiel was born. His father was a chemical engineer–undoubtedly an employee of one of the postwar I.G. successor organizations.
  • After getting an inheritance from his grandfather, Karp begins to dabble in investments (with no apparent background in securities analysis.) His efforts are so successful, that other investment professionals and people with significant sums to invest start flocking to this “crazy guy,” as he is termed, to invest their money. Theoretically possible, this seems unlikely, under the circumstances.
  • The Gruppenhobbit’s money managing success leads to his establishment of a European-based capital management firm. We wonder if, perhaps, Karp was “hooked up” with elements of the Bormann capital network and/or corporate Germany. Is that where his Caedmon Group has its genesis?
  • After returning to the U.S., the Gruppenhobbit hooks up with Thiel, whose background appears to be Underground Reich, with roots in the I.G. Farben successor organizations.
  • As we have seen, Palantir is inextricably linked with the intelligence community, having its beginnings enabled by In-Q-Tel, a CIA-linked venture capital firm. As can be seen in the Forbes article–which should be read in its entirety–Palantir also works with law enforcement and the financial community. It would appear to be the ultimate data mining entity.
  • Our questions about the Gruppenhobbit’s activities in Germany derive largely from analysis of the ostensible leftist Juergen Habermas’ curriculum vitae. Again, Habermas appears to be the dominant intellectual (and possibly professional) influence on Karp.
  • Habermas was one of the “flakhelfer”–young Germans who served in the Hitler Youth and then served with anti-aircraft units near the end of the war. (See text excerpts below.) Joseph Ratzinger was one such flakhelfer. (See text excerpts below.) Ratzinger/Benedict XVI’s circumstances argue strongly for his belonging to the Underground Reich.
  • The flakhelfer yielded much of the creme de la creme of German intellectuals for the postwar period. (See text excerpts below.)
  • As set forth in pages 78-79 of The Nazis Go Underground, youths such as the flakhelfer were seen as essential for forming the postwar leadership of the postwar Underground Reich. (See text excerpt below.)
  • Among the most prominent of the flakhelfer is Nobel-Prize winning write Gunther Grass. He turned out to have served in the Waffen SS. Rather more than a flakhelfer, under the circumstances. (See text excepts below.)
  • Another of the flakhelfer, write Hans Magnus Enzensberger has been an ardent defender of Eddie the Friendly Spook. (See text excerpts below.)
  • Although the Gruppenhobbit’s intellectual mentor Habermas has written critically of the Nazi period, as well as one of his intellectual antecedents–Martin Heidegger, the primary influences on Habermas were Nazis. Heidegger was an ardent Nazi. (See text excerpts below.)
  • His doctoral supervisors are cases in point. Both were in the Nazi camp. One was Oskar Becker. (See text excerpts below.) 
  • The other of his doctoral supervisors was Erich Rothacker, close to Third Reich luminaries Goebbels and Alfred Rosenberg. (See text excerpts below.)
  • In addition to Nazi party member Martin Heidegger, another of the intellectual influences on Habermas was Gottfried Benn, another who turned to the Nazi philosophy, despite later alleged differences. (See text excerpts below.)
  • Chief among the reasons we seriously doubt the integrity of Habermas’ persona as a “leftist/progressive” concerns the fact that he was appointed director of the Max Planck Institute for 12 years. (See text excerpts below.) We wonder if Palantir might be the derivative of Underground Reich/Max Planck Institute research?
  • The Max Planck Institute was the name given in the postwar period to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. A primary influence on the science of the Third Reich, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute was heavily capitalized by the Rockefeller Foundation and was an epicenter of eugenics thinking and legislation prior to, and during the ascent of, the Third Reich. (Text excerpts from FTR #664 are presented below, to underscore the exact nature of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, rechristened The Max Planck Institute.)
  •  As we have seen, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes were the recipients of Rockefeller Foundation generosity. The Rockefeller milieu saw to it that the best scientists, including Jewish ones, were kept on staff in order to maximize the quality of the work that they were funding. (The War Against the Weak, pp. 302-303.)
  • Generally viewed as an isolated event and an aberration, Josef Mengele’s Auschwitz work with twins was the direct outgrowth of mainstream eugenics research. (See text excerpts below.)
  • Long preoccupied with the study of twins, eugenicists celebrated the Nazi dictatorship for its ability to use coercion to achieve their objective of detailed, intensive research of the subject. (See text excerpt from The War Against the Weak, pp. 352.)
  • The Rockefeller Foundation’s funding went well into the tenure of the Third Reich. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes were the primary focal point of Nazi eugenics research on twins. Eugen Fischer was the director of The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Genetics and Eugenics through most of the Nazi period and was deeply involved in the development of the programs that paved the way for Mengele’s work at Auschwitz. (See text excerpt from The War Against the Weak, pp. 354-355.)
  •  Josef Mengele conducted his brutal, lethal research at Auschwitz in conjunction with the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and his intellectual mentor at that institution, Dr. Freiherr Otmar von Verschuer, who replaced Max Planck’s associate Eugen Fischer. (See text excerpt from The War Against the Weak, pp. 354-355.)
  • Although Mengele’s ghastly work with twins at Auschwitz became fairly well-known after the war, few realize that this endeavor was a direct extension of the eugenics work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute–again, recipients of lavish Rockefeller Foundation funding. (See text excerpt from The War Against the Weak, pp. 359-360.) It is this institution that was headed by Habermas for twelve years after the war.
  • Simply put, Germany was never effectively de-Nazified. The Third Reich continued underground. The notion that an institution such as the Max Planck Institute, nee the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute would have been headed for twelve years by a leftist is not credible. An OSTENSIBLE leftist working as an Underground Reich functionary would make excellent public relations fodder, while maintaining the Reich security necessary for an institution central to German scientific research. 
  • Max Planck himself, although opposed to the Reich’s treatment of Jewish scientists, whom he shielded professionally, headed the Institutes for much of the early period of the Third Reich. (See text excerpts below.) It was during this time that the horrors manifested by Mengele were gathering momentum. His protests against the treatment of Jewish colleagues were consistent with the wishes of the Rockefeller Foundation funders of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes. 
  • Planck was re-installed as head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes just over a week after the conclusion of hostilities. Undoubtedly, Kaiser Wilhelm research and research scientists would have been part of the Project Paperclip recruitment effort, under which the Allies requisitioned much of the Nazi scientific establishment to continue their work in the West.  (See text excerpts below.)
  • The Madrid circular letter of 1950 discussed the Max Planck Institute as a vehicle for continuing the scientific work of the Third Reich during its underground phase. (See text excerpt from Germany Plots with the Kremlin.)
  • His glowing reputation notwithstanding, Planck’s circumstances suggest he may well have been one of the individuals with an anti-Nazi reputation selected to establish continuity during the postwar period. (See The Nazis Go Underground, pp. 181-185.)

“Is This Who Runs Prism?” by Josh Marshall; Talking Points Memo; 6/7/2013.

EXCERPT: I want to stress this is a reader email, not TPM report­ing. But I’m shar­ing it because after read­ing it through and doing some googling of my own there’s lit­tle doubt that Palan­tir is doing stuff like what the gov­ern­ment is doing with those tech com­pa­nies, even if they’re not part of ‘prism’ itself. Give this a read.

From an anony­mous reader …

I don’t see any­one out there with this the­ory, and TPM is my favorite news source, so here goes:

“PRISM” is the government’s name for a pro­gram that uses tech­nol­ogy from Palan­tir. Palan­tir is a Sil­i­con Val­ley start-up that’s now val­ued at well over $1B, that focuses on data analy­sis for the gov­ern­ment. Here’s how Palan­tir describes themselves:

“We build soft­ware that allows orga­ni­za­tions to make sense of mas­sive amounts of dis­parate data. We solve the tech­ni­cal prob­lems, so they can solve the human ones. Com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism. Pros­e­cut­ing crimes. Fight­ing fraud. Elim­i­nat­ing waste. From Sil­i­con Val­ley to your doorstep, we deploy our data fusion plat­forms against the hard­est prob­lems we can find, wher­ever we are needed most.” http://www.palantir.com/what-we-do/

They’re gen­er­ally not pub­lic about who their clients are, but their first client was famously the CIA, who is also an early investor.

With my the­ory in mind, re-read the denials from the tech com­pa­nies in the WSJ (empha­sis mine):
Apple: “We do not pro­vide any gov­ern­ment agency with direct access to our servers…”
Google: “… does not have a ‘back door’ for the gov­ern­ment to access pri­vate user data…”
Face­book: “… not pro­vide any gov­ern­ment orga­ni­za­tion with direct access to Face­book servers…”
Yahoo: “We do not pro­vide the gov­ern­ment with direct access to our servers, sys­tems, or network…”

These denials could all still be tech­ni­cally true if the gov­ern­ment is access­ing the data through a gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor, such as Palan­tir, rather than hav­ing direct access.

I just did a quick Google search of “Palan­tir PRISM” to see if any­one else had this the­ory, and the top results were these pages:

https://docs.palantir.com/metropolisdev/prism-overview.html

https://docs.palantir.com/metropolisdev/prism-examples.html

Appar­ently, Palan­tir has a soft­ware pack­age called “Prism”: “Prism is a soft­ware com­po­nent that lets you quickly inte­grate exter­nal data­bases into Palan­tir.” That sounds like exactly the tool you’d want if you were try­ing to find pat­terns in data from mul­ti­ple companies.

So the obvi­ous follow-up ques­tions are of the “am I right?” vari­ety, but if I am, here’s what I really want to know: which Palan­tir clients have access to this data? Just CIA & NSA? FBI? What about munic­i­pal­i­ties, such as the NYC police depart­ment? What about the gov­ern­ments of other countries?

What do you think?

FWIW, I know a guy who works at Palan­tir. I asked him what he/they did once, and he was more secre­tive than my friends at Apple.

PS, please don’t use my name if you decide to pub­lish any of this — it’s a small town/industry. Let them Prism me instead.

Late Update: Another reader notes that Bridge­wa­ter Asso­ciates LLP, one of the largest hedge funds in the world, is also a major client of Palan­tir, which appears to be con­firmed by many press reports. . .

“This Peter Thiel Company Is Ripping The Army Intelligence Community Apart” by Walter Hickey; Business Insider; 8/3/2012.

EXCERPT: Palantir is a company founded by Peter Thiel — of Paypal and Facebook renown — that has software which absolutely changes the game with intelligence.

It’s one of the best programs at coordinating the vast databases accumulated by the U.S. intelligence apparatus. It’s already in use in federal domestic security.

But it’s also caused a massive fight inside the Army intelligence command.

Palantir is one of the first Silicon Valley companies to view the government as a customer rather than an annoyance and — after stepping into a game dominated by top contractors like Lockheed Martin, IBM, and Raytheon — it’s proven controversial in both what it does and if it should be used.
What it does is assemble comprehensive dossiers on objects of interest, collated from the sprawling databases of intelligence agencies.

If that sounds over-broad, it’s intentional.

The databases and dossiers in question are on everything from Afghan villages to crooked bankers. The can pull crime information and collate it with recent debit card purchases.

The software was developed with the idea that had it existed in 2001, 9/11 would have been obvious. Palantir would have been able to identify the pilots as people of interest from countries that harbor terrorists, connecting that with money wired around, and connecting that with one-way airline tickets to create actionable intelligence.

One controversy comes with the civil liberties issues that come with that particular business model.

The other controversy is much less philosophical: The Army intelligence community is full of infighting over this Valley competitor to defense contractor tech.

The Army Intelligence community is split over software. The $2.3 Billion DCGS-A system, developed by the standard crowd of defense contractors, is either panned by some as complicated and slow or defensed by others as the future of military distributed intelligence.

Likewise, the culty following of Palantir’s alternative have been dismissed as on the take from the Silicon Valley firm. That tech has been deployed by data mining Wall Street banks interested in tracking down fraud, and an early investor in the company was the CIA. The Army, however, isn’t sold. . . .

“How the U.S. Uses Technology to Mine More Data More Quickly” by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau; The New York Times; 6/8/2013.

EXCERPT: When American analysts hunting terrorists sought new ways to comb through the troves of phone records, e-mails and other data piling up as digital communications exploded over the past decade, they turned to Silicon Valley computer experts who had developed complex equations to thwart Russian mobsters intent on credit card fraud.

The partnership between the intelligence community and Palantir Technologies, a Palo Alto, Calif., company founded by a group of inventors from PayPal, is just one of many that the National Security Agency and other agencies have forged as they have rushed to unlock the secrets of “Big Data.” . . . .

“PayPal Founder Peter Thiel Continues to Tout Anti-Government Manifesto” by Leah Nelson [Southern Poverty Law Center]; Intelligence Report [#146]; Summer/2012.

EXCERPT: . . . “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” Thiel wrote in a 2009 manifesto published by the libertarian Cato Institute. “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” . . .

“Utah-Based Super PAC Supports Paul–not Romney” by Matt Canham; Salt Lake Tribune; 2/20/2012.

EXCERPT: . . . . This isn’t a class project or some kind of prank. It’s the work of Endorse Liberty, the biggest super PAC supporting Ron Paul. Founded in late December and headquartered in Utah, this group of political novices backed by a Silicon Valley billionaire has already spent $3.5 million pushing its online ads into early primary states where they have been viewed 12 million times.

“It is safe to say Endorse Liberty is a new force on the scene,” said Michael Beckel, who tracks super PAC spending for the Center for Public Integrity.

Super political action committees have been around for only two years, created in the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations, unions and individuals to give as much money as they want to groups acting independently of the candidates. . . .

“PayPal co-Founder Peter Thiel Donates Millions to Ron Paul Super PAC” by Charles Riley; money.cnn.com ; 2/20/2012.

EXCERPT: Silicon Valley renaissance man Peter Thiel donated another $1.7 million in January to a super PAC that backs Ron Paul, according to disclosure documents filed Monday.

The PayPal co-founder donated $1 million on January 3, and followed that up 10 days later with an additional $700,000 gift.

. . . Thiel’s $2.6 million in total donations account for 76% of the super PAC’s fundraising since it came online late last year, underscoring the ability of deep-pocketed donors to have a major impact on campaign spending. . . .

“How A ‘Deviant’ Philosopher Built Palantir, A CIA-Funded Data-Mining Juggernaut” by Andy Greenberg and Ryan Mac; Forbes; 9/2/2013.

EXCERPT: . . . . Palantir lives the realities of its customers: the NSA, the FBI and the CIA–an early investor through its In-Q-Tel venture fund–along with an alphabet soup of other U.S. counterterrorism and military agencies. . . .

. . . . The answer dates back to Karp’s decades-long friendship with Peter Thiel, starting at Stanford Law School. The two both lived in the no-frills Crothers dorm and shared most of their classes during their first year, but held starkly opposite political views. Karp had grown up in Philadelphia, the son of an artist and a pediatrician who spent many of their weekends taking him to protests for labor rights and against “anything Reagan did,” he recalls. Thiel had already founded the staunchly libertarian Stanford Review during his time at the university as an undergrad.

“We would run into each other and go at it … like wild animals on the same path,” Karp says. “Basically I loved sparring with him.” . . . .

. . . .With no desire to practice law, Karp went on to study under Jurgen Habermas, one of the 20th century’s most prominent philosophers, at the University of Frankfurt. . . .

. . . . Not long after obtaining his doctorate, he received an inheritance from his grandfather, and began investing it in startups and stocks with surprising success. Some high-net-worth individuals heard that “this crazy dude was good at investing” and began to seek his services, he says.To manage their money he set up the London-based Caedmon Group, a reference to Karp’s middle name, the same as the first known English-language poet. . . .

. . . . Enter Karp, whose Krameresque brown curls, European wealth connections and Ph.D. masked his business inexperience. Despite his nonexistent tech background, the founders were struck by his ability to immediately grasp complex problems and translate them to nonengineers. . . .

The Nazis Go Underground by Curt Riess; Doubleday, Doran and Company, LCCN 44007162; pp. 78-79.

EXCERPT: . . . In spite of all this training they are giving the youth for future underground purposes, the leaders do not depend primarily upon these young people in the first place, many of them will be dead at the zero hour, because many of them will have been thrown into the final battles of the war. But far more important than this is another very potent argument: these young men, many of them now still children, have never known the hard times of the Nazi party. They have lived the greater and the most decisive part of their lives in a period when it was very easy to be a Nazi and very dangerous not to be one.

It is still an open question how these boys will behave at a time when it will be extremely dangerous to be a Nazi. It is and always will be doubtful how they will conform to party discipline at a time when much will depend on their personal initiative, and when it will be impossible for the party to supervise the actions of each member as closely as it has done in the past. . . .

“Juergen Habermas–Biography”; The European Graduate School

EXCERPT: . . . .He was 15 when Germany lost the war to the Allies in 1945. He had served in the Hitler Youth and had been sent to defend the western front during the final months of the war. His father was a passive sympathizer with Nazism. . . .

Legality and Legitimacy: Juergen Habermas’s Reconstruction of German Political Thought by Matthew G. Specter; pp. 16-17.

EXCERPT: . . . . The ’58ers, have been defined by one generation of historians as the “Flakhelfer” generation, in terms of its relationship to the Nazi regime and World War II. . . . From 1944, boys as young as twelve were enlisted to help with the anti-air artillery batteries; Habermas was recruited to the Hitler Youth in 1944 and was sent with his group to man the western wall defenses in the Ruhr area. From this generation emerged some of the leading academic protagonists of the liberalization of West German political culture: Habermas, the political scientists Kurt Sontheimer (1929) and Jurgen Seifert (1929), the sociologists Ralf Dahrendorf (1929), Niklas Luhrmann (1927), Renate Mayntz (1927), M. Rainer Lepsius (1928); the writers Hans-Magnus Enzensberger and Gunther Grass (1929). . . .

“Storm Grows over Grass’s Belated SS Confessions” by Samuel Loewenberg; The Guardian; 8/15/2006.

EXCERPT: The 78-year-old author, who has long been seen as the moral conscience of Germany, revealed his SS service in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper published on Saturday, in advance of the release next month of his autobiography, “Peeling the Onion.”

“My silence through all these years is one of the reasons why I wrote this book,” Grass announced. “It had to come out finally.”

Grass said he volunteered at age 15 for the submarine service and was refused, only to be called up for military service two years later.

When he reported for duty in Dresden, he found it was with the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg. He said that under the sway of Nazi indoctrination he did not view the Waffen SS as something repulsive but as an elite force.

Previously Grass had claimed he was a flakhelfer, a youth conscript forced to work on anti-aircraft batteries in 1944. The word gave rise to a generation who claimed they were the unwilling participants in the Nazi war effort. . . .

“Surveillance Revelations Shake U.S.-German Ties” by Alison Smale; The New York Times; 8/25/2013.

EXCERPT: . . . The weekly newspaper Die Zeit noted in its latest edition that the political storm in Germany appeared to be calming down, though Mr. Snowden continued to draw praise from respected figures like the writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger, who called him a “hero of the 21st century” in a television interview last week. . . .

Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1 by Bernard A. Cook.; p. 553.

EXCERPT: . . . . His [Habermas’] most important teachers were Eric Rothacker and Oskar Becker. . . .

Perspectives on Habermas by Lewis Edwin Hahn; p. 361.

EXCERPT: . . . One must appreciate the significance of this event given that not just [Martin] Heidegger, but Habermas’ dissertation directors [in German, doctor-fathers] in Bonn, Erich Rothacker and Oskar Becker, were more or less enthusiastic supporters of national socialism (see Leaman 1993). . . .

Hitler’s Philosophers by Yvonne Sherratt; Yale University Press; p. 239.

EXCERPT . . . . During the post-war years, Jewish scholars struggled for justice, but a pattern of overlooking justice had spread across Germany. Academic authorities did little to exorcise the demons of the university halls. For example, Oskar Becker had been Edmund Husserl’s assistant. After Husserl’s suspension, Becker had collaborated with the Nazis. . . .

Linguistics and the Third Reich: Mother-Tongue Fascism, Race and the Science of Language by Christopher M. Hutton; p. 36.

EXCERPT: Erich Rothacker was an engaged Nazi scholar, a member of the NSDAP, with links to both [Nazi propaganda minister Josef] Goebbels and [Nazi minister Alfred] Rosenberg. . . .

German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past by A. Dirk Moses; Cambridge University Press; p. 116.

EXCERPT: . . . . A month later, in June of 1952, Habermas found stimulation in Gottfried Benn’s latest publication. As with Heidegger, he was still largely ignorant of Benn’s commitments in the 1930’s and 1940’s. . . .

Who’s Who in Nazi Germany by Robert J. Wistrich; Gottfried Benn; p. 11.

EXCERPT: . . . . Taking his inspiration from Nietszche, Goethe and Spengler, Benn rebelled passionately against the demons of a mechanized world, against the rationalism which was paralyzing modern civilization and the political doctrines which derived from it, preaching an aesthetic nihilism and the cult of primitive atavism which initially attracted him to Nazism. Benn’s irrationalism . . . . led him to see in National Socialism a genuine renaissance of the German nation, but he soon became disillusioned with the results. . . .

. . . . He took refuge in the army, ‘the aristocratic form of emigration,’ as he called it, serving as a medical officer from 1939 to 1945. . . .

“Heil Heidegger” by Carlin Romano; The Chronicle of Higher Education; 10/18/2009.

EXCERPT: . . . . Next month Yale University Press will issue an English-language translation of Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy, by Emmanuel Faye, an associate professor at the University of Paris at Nanterre. It’s the latest, most comprehensive archival assault on the ostensibly magisterial thinker who informed Freiburg students in his infamous 1933 rectoral address of Nazism’s “inner truth and greatness,” declaring that “the Führer, and he alone, is the present and future of German reality, and its law.”

Faye, whose book stirred France’s red and blue Heidegger départements into direct battle a few years back, follows in the investigative footsteps of Chilean-Jewish philosopher Victor Farias (Heidegger et le Nazisme, 1987), historian Hugo Ott (Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu Zeiner Biographie, 1988) and others. Aim? To expose the oafish metaphysician’s vulgar, often vicious 1930s attempt to become Hitler’s chief academic tribune, and his post-World War II contortions to escape proper judgment for his sins. “We now know,” reports Faye, “that [Heidegger’s] attempt at self-justification of 1945 is nothing but a string of falsehoods.” . . . .

“Jurgen Habermas”; about.com

EXCERPT: . . In 1964, Habermas became the chair of philosophy and sociology at the University of Frankfurt am Main. He remained there until 1971 in which he accepted a directorship at the Max Planck Institute in Starnberg. In 1983, Habermas returned to the University of Frankfurt and remained there until he retired in 1994 . . .

Kaiser Wilhelm Society; Wikipedia

EXCERPT . . . The Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science (German Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften) was a German scientific institution established in the German Kaiserreich in 1911. During the Third Reich it was implicated in Nazi scientific operations, and after the Second World War was wound up, its functions being taken over by the Max Planck Society. The Kaiser Wilhelm Society was an umbrella organization for many institutes, testing stations, and research units spawned under its authority. . . .

. . . . By the end of World War II, the KWG and its institutes had lost their central location in Berlin and were operating in other locations. The KWG was operating out of its Aerodynamics Testing Station in Göttingen. Albert Vögler, the president of the KWG, committed suicide on 14 April 1945. Thereupon, Ernst Telschow assumed the duties until Max Planck could be brought from Magdeburg to Göttingen, which was in the British zone of the Allied Occupation Zones in Germany. Planck assumed the duties on 16 May until a president could be elected. Otto Hahn was selected by directors to be president, but there were a number of difficulties to be overcome. Hahn, being related to nuclear research had been captured by the allied forces of Operation Alsos, and he was still interned at Farm Hall in England, under Operation Epsilon. At first, Hahn was reluctant to accept the post, but others prevailed upon him to accept it. Hahn took over the presidency three months after being released and returned to Germany. However, the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS) passed a resolution to dissolve the KWG on 11 July 1946. . . .

The War Against the Weak; Edwin Black; Four Walls Eight Windows Press; Copyright 2003 by Edwin Black; ISBN 1-56858-258-7; pp. 302-303.

EXCERPT: . . . . Rockefeller money continued to stream across the Atlantic. The 1933 financial books of the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics reflected the foundation’s continuing impact. Page four of the balance sheet: Rockefeller paid clerical costs associated with research on twins. . . . The Rockefeller Foundation’s agenda was strictly biological to the exclusion of politics. The foundation wanted to discover the carriets of defective blood–even if it meant funding Nazi-controlled institutions. Moreover, Rockefeller executives knew their money carried power, and they used it to ensure that the most talented scientists continued at the various Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes, frequently shielding them from periodic Nazi purges. . . .

. . . . With each passing day, the world was flooded with more Jewish refugees, more noisy anti-Nazi boycotts and protest marches against any scientific or commercial exchanges with Germany, more public demands to isolate the Reich, and more shocking headlines documenting Nazi atrocities and anti-Jewish legislation. Still, none of this gave pause4 to America’s eugenicists. Correspondence on joint research flowed freely across the Atlantic. American eugenicists, and their many organizations and committees, from New York to California and all points in between, maintained and multiuplied their contacts with every echelon of official and semiofficial German eugenics. As the Reich descended into greater depths of depraved mistreatment and impoverishment of Jews, as well as territorial threats against its neighbors, these contacts seemed all the more insulated from the human tragedy unfolding within Europe. Eager and cooperative letters, reports, telegrams and memoranda did not number in the nundreds, but in the thousands of pages per month.

While concentration camps, pauperization and repression flourished in Nazi Germany, and while refugees filled ships and trains telling horrifying stories of torture and inhumanity, it was business as usual for eugenics. . . .

The War Against the Weak; Edwin Black; Four Walls Eight Windows Press; Copyright 2003 by Edwin Black; ISBN 1-56858-258-7; pp. 350-351.

EXCERPT: . . . . Hereditarians sought twins of all ages–not just children–for proper study. The family tree of a New England family of twins, including one pair ninety-one years of age, fascinated eugenicists. Geneticists excavated old journals to discover even earlier examples, such as s seventeenth century Russian woman who gave birth twenty-seven times,m each time producing twins, triplets or quadruplets, yielding a total of sixty-nine children.

Race and twins quickly became an issue for American eugenicists. . . .

Diagnostic and physiological developments in twin studies from any sector of the medical sciences were of constant interest to eugenic readers. So Eugenical News regularly summarized articles from the general medical literature to feed eugenicists’ unending fascination with the topic. In 1922, when a state medical journal reported using stethoscopes to monitor a twin pregnancy, it was reported in Eugenical News. When a German clinical journal published a study of tumors in twins, this too was reported in Eugenical News.

With each passing issue, Eugenical News dedicated more and more space to the topic. The list of such reports became long. By the early 1920’s, articles on twins became increasingly instructive. One typical article explained how to more precisely verify the presence of identical twins using a capillary microscope. Journal of Heredity also made twins a frequent subject in its pages. . . .

. . . . Every leading eugenic textbook included a section on twins. [Paul] Popenoe’s Applied Eugenics explained that identical twins ‘start lives as halves of the same whole’ but ‘become more unlike if they were brought up apart.’ . . .

In a similar vein, most international eugenic and genetic conferences included presentations or exhibits on twins–their disparity or similarity, their susceptibility to tuberculosis, their likes and dislikes. R.A. Fisher opened one of his lectures to the Second International Congress of Eugenics with the phrase: ‘The subject of the genesis of human twins. . .has a special importance for eugenicists.’ . . .

The quest for a superior race continued to intersect with the availability of twins. In the July-August 1935 edition of Eugenical News, Dr. Alfred Gordon published a lengthy article entitled ‘The Problems of Heredity and Eugenics.’ . . .

There were so few twins to study that surgeons in the eugenics community passed along their latest discoveries, one by one, to advance the field’s common knowledge. . . .

The War Against the Weak; Edwin Black; Four Walls Eight Windows Press; Copyright 2003 by Edwin Black; ISBN 1-56858-258-7; p.352.

EXCERPT: . . . . All that changed when Hitler came to power in 1933. Germany surged ahead in its study of twins. . . Twins were now increasingly sought to helpo combat hereditary diseases and conditions, real and imagined. [Otmar Freiherr von] Verschuer’s book, Twins and Tuberculosis, was published in 1933 and received a favorable review in 1933 and received a favorable review in Journal of Heredity. . . .

But many more twins would be needed to accomplish the sweeping research envisioned by the architects of Hitler’s master race. In early December of 1935, Verschuer told a correspondent for the Journal of the American Medical Association that eugenics had moved into a new phase. . . . The article went on to cite Verschuer’s view that meaningful research would require entire families–from children to grandparents. In plain words this meant gathering larger numbers of twins in one place for simultaneous investigation. . . .

The War Against the Weak; Edwin Black; Four Walls Eight Windows Press; Copyright 2003 by Edwin Black; ISBN 1-56858-258-7; pp. 354-355.

EXCERPT: . . . . American eugenicist T.U.H. Ellinger was in Germany shortly after the decree to visit with [Eugen] Fischer at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Heredity and Eugenics. In a Journal of Heredity essay on his visit, Ellinger flippantly reported to his colleagues, ‘Twins have, of course, for a long time been a favorite material for the study of the relative importance of heredity and environment, of nature and nurture. It does, however, take a dictatorship to oblige some ten thousand pairs of twins, as well as triplets and even quadruplets, to report to a scientific institute at regular intervals for all kinds of recordings and tests.’

When twins did report to the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, they were often placed in small, specially-constructed examination rooms, each lined with two-way mirrors and motion picture camera lenses camouflaged into the wallpaper. The staff proudly showed Ellinger all of these facilities. However, eugenicists at the institute could only go so far with mere observations.

Reich scientists needed more if they were to take the next step in creating a super race resistant to disease and capable of transmitting the best traits. Autopsies were required to discover how specific organs and bodily processes reacted to various experiments. Verschuer needed more twins and the freedom to kill them. The highest ranks of the Hitler regime agreed, including Interior Minister Frick, who ran the concentration camps, and SS Chief Heinrich Himmler. Millions of dispensable human beings from across Europe–Jews, Gypsies and other undesirables–were passing through Hitler’s camps to be efficiently murdered. Among these millions, there were bound to be thousands of twins.

Shortly after Verschuer took over for Fischer at the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, he proposed a Zwillingslager or ‘twins camp,’ within Auschwitz. . . . The camp was approved and was bureaucratically filed under the keyword ‘Twins Camp.’

At the end of May 1943, Mengele arrived in Auschwitz, where he took control of the ramps where Jews were brought in. Verschuer notified the German Research Society, ‘My assistant, Dr. Josef Mengele (M.D., Ph.D.) joined me in this branch of research. He is presently employed as Hauptsturmfuhrer [captain] and camp physician in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Anthropological teswting of the most diverse racial groups in this concentration camp are being carried out with permission of the SS Reichsfuhrer [Himmler].’

Nazi Germany had now carried eugenics further than any dared expect. The future of the master race that would thrive in Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich lay in twins. For this reason, there would now be a special class of victims of Auschwitz. There would be a special camp, special medical facilities and special laboratories–all for the twins. . . .

The War Against the Weak; Edwin Black; Four Walls Eight Windows Press; Copyright 2003 by Edwin Black; ISBN 1-56858-258-7; pp. 359-360.

EXCERPT: While evidence of mass murder in the trenches of Russia and the gas chambers of Poland was systematically destroyed, Mengele’s murders were enshrined in the protocols of science. Mengele’s ghastly files did not remain his private mania, confined to Auschwitz. Every case was meticulously annotated, employing the best scientific method prisoner doctors could muster. Then the files were sent to Verschuer’s offices at the [Kaiser Wilhelm] Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics in Berlin-Dahlem for study.

An adult prisoner, chosen to help care for the youngest twins, recounted, ‘The moment a pair of twins arrived in the barrack, they were asked to complete a detailed questionnaire from the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. One of my duties as [the] ‘Twins’ Father’ was to help them fill it out, especially the little ones, who couldn’t read or write. These forms contained dozens of detailed questions related to a child’s background, health, and physical characteristics. They asked for the age, weight, and height of the children, their eye color and the color of their hair. They were promptly mailed to Berlin.’

Nyiszli, who had to fill out voluminous postmortem reports, recalled Mengele’s warning: ”I want clean copy, because these reports will be forwarded to the Institute of Biological, Racial and Evolutionary Research at Berlin-Dahlem.’ Thus I learned that the experiments performed here were checked by the highest medical authorities at one of the most famous scientific institutes in the world.” [Italics are mine–D.E.]

The reports, countersigned by Mengele and sent to Berlin were not just received and warehoused, they were carefully reviewed and discussed. A dialogue developed between Verschuer’s institute and Mengele. Another prisoner assistant of Mengele’s ‘would receive questions about the twins from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, and he would send them the answers.’ . . .

“Max Planck”; Wikipedia

EXCERPT: . . . . When the Nazis seized power in 1933, Planck was 74. He witnessed many Jewish friends and colleagues expelled from their positions and humiliated, and hundreds of scientists emigrated from Germany. Again he tried the “persevere and continue working” slogan and asked scientists who were considering emigration to remain in Germany. He hoped the crisis would abate soon and the political situation would improve.

Otto Hahn asked Planck to gather well-known German professors in order to issue a public proclamation against the treatment of Jewish professors, but Planck replied, “If you are able to gather today 30 such gentlemen, then tomorrow 150 others will come and speak against it, because they are eager to take over the positions of the others.” . . . .

. . . Under Planck’s leadership, the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft (KWG) avoided open conflict with the Nazi regime, except concerning Fritz Haber. Planck tried to discuss the issue with Adolf Hitler but was unsuccessful. In the following year, 1934, Haber died in exile.

One year later, Planck, having been the president of the KWG since 1930, organized in a somewhat provocative style an official commemorative meeting for Haber. He also succeeded in secretly enabling a number of Jewish scientists to continue working in institutes of the KWG for several years. In 1936, his term as president of the KWG ended, and the Nazi government pressured him to refrain from seeking another term. . . .

The Nazis Go Underground by Curt Riess; Doubleday, Doran and Company, LCCN 44007162; pp. 181-185.

EXCERPT: A weak man, a man of compromises—that is exactly what the Nazis will want, a man who to all outward appearances will be opposed to all Nazi ideas, a reactionary, unable ever to break away from the influence of the people he has lived with all his life—the reactionaries. A man who cannot possibly have any understanding of anything new. . . .

. . . . The picture in Germany immediately after the war would be somewhat as follows: at the top a few “decent, neutral” statesmen [or scientific experts/luminaries, such as Max Planck–D.E.] who, at first sight, seem to have no connection with the Nazis. Behind and around them a great number of men who seem willing, even eager, to collaborate with the AMG and the occupying authorities in order to retain their positions. Behind them innumerable front organizations and Nazi cells biding their time, waiting, lying low. . . .

Germany Plots with the Kremlin by T.H. Tetens; Henry Schuman [HC]; 1953; p. 231.

EXCERPT: . . . . Though we are powerless at present, we have nonetheless never permitted ourselves to be disarmed spiritually and scientifically. German scholars are working unremittingly in Germany as well as abroad on great scientific plans for the future. Favorable circumstances enabled us to keep alive the great research organization of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute through a change of name. First-class scientists are working in the fields of interplanetary navigation (“Raumschiff fahrt”), chemistry and on cosmic rays. Our scientists, unhampered in their work, have sufficient time and are planning day and night for Germany’s future. It is the German spirit (“Geist”) that creates modern weapons and that will bring surprising changes in the present relationship of forces. . . .

Discussion

5 comments for “FTR #757 The Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook, Part 4: Dramatis Personae, Part 4 (The Gruppenhobbit and the Underground Reich)”

  1. And the privatization of military-grade intelligence capabilities continues…

    Ryan Mac, Forbes Staff
    12/05/2013 @ 9:00AM
    Palantir Seeks $9 Billion Valuation In New Round As CEO Alex Karp Nears Billionaire Mark

    With Twitter going public last month, investors may be looking for the next Silicon Valley company to assume the mantle of the region’s next hot tech firm.

    On funding alone, Palantir Technologies is making a strong case for that title.

    In a new round of funding, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based data analytics company is looking to raise $100 million at a $9 billion valuation according to sources close to the company. Sources confirmed to FORBES that Palantir has already attained $58 million of the expected total and that it plans to file documents disclosing the round with the Securities and Exchange Commission later on Thursday.

    At $9 billion, Palantir has significantly boosted its valuation in less than three months. A software firm that provides data organization and analysis tools to clients ranging from the FBI to JPMorgan Chase, the company closed a $196.5 million round of funding in late September at about a $6 billion valuation. If it were to attain its expected $100 million this round, Palantir will have raised about $800 million in total backing–a staggering amount for a company that has not yet turned a profit. Revenues are expected to hit $450 million this year, up from $300 million last year based on FORBES estimates.

    It is currently unclear which individuals or entities have invested in Palantir’s latest round. Previous backers include billionaires Kenneth Langone and Stanley Druckenmiller as well as CIA venture arm In-Q-Tel; hedge fund Tiger Global; and Peter Thiel’s venture firm, Founders Fund.

    In seeking investment at a valuation that’s 50% higher than what it was in September, Palantir is looking to become one Silicon Valley’s most valuable private companies, a distinction once held by Twitter. The San Francisco-based social media company maintained a valuation of about $10 billion after raising more than $1 billion in funding prior to its initial public offering in November.

    Palantir CEO Alex Karp remained tepid on the thought of an IPO in interviews with FORBES in August, stating that it would make “running a company like ours very difficult.”

    “Any business company would IPO [at our size],” said Karp.

    Ironically if a public offering were to happen, Karp is among those who would benefit most. With an estimated 10% stake in the company, the CEO’s net worth clocks in at around $900 million at a $9 billion valuation, putting him precariously close to billionaire range. Karp, however, has maintained that his net worth is of little importance to him, calling wealth “culturally corrosive.”

    Just imagine how much Palantir would be worth if it was secretly helping the US intelligence community with mass surveillance tools, which it’s totally not doing at all.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 5, 2013, 10:09 am
  2. Peter Thiel just had another interview where he promotes his theory that technological progress has stagnated due to government regulation (the hippies won, as Thiel sort of puts it). He also puts forth an approach on how to deal with the challenges of mass-surveillance: “If you can figure out effective ways to identify terrorists, then you don’t need to be as intrusive. It’s a lack of technology that drives intrusive behaviour… This is the sort of problem Palantir is trying to solve.” Have fun chewing on that one:

    Financial Times
    Lunch with the FT: Peter Thiel
    December 20, 2013 4:06 pm
    By Richard Waters
    The billionaire investor and libertarian thinker believes that in a world of government surveillance, more technology is the answer

    Peter Thiel has only just sat down at a corner table in Palo Alto’s Evvia restaurant and he is already into a disquisition on the history of financial bubbles.

    “This,” he declares, after listing the frequent market eruptions of the past three decades, “is historically very anomalous. There was one bubble in the 1920s and one in the 1720s.”

    It is the sort of sweeping statement, delivered with flat finality, that Thiel thrives on. Since he has made billion-dollar fortunes twice over, in very different corners of the investment world (though one of the billions was promptly lost again), you’re inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    But you also can’t help thinking: really? What of the railroad bubble of the 1870s or the periodic booms and busts of capitalism’s gilded age? As with many of the eclectic assertions Thiel (pronounced “teal”) uses to pepper his conversation – allusions to Dickens and Shakespeare as well as the broad swaths of economic, technological and political history – you wish you could secretly Google under the table to fact-check.

    Now the 46-year-old Facebook billionaire, former hedge fund star and self-styled libertarian Big Thinker is ready to declare one final bubble. This time it is the result of excessive government borrowing to refloat a world struggling to get beyond the financial crisis. With this, he argues, we have arrived at the Last Bubble. There will be no more. Period.

    His manner is both purposeful and wary. He seems unabashed about making declarative statements that take a big swing at controversial ideas but cloaks them in hesitant “ums” and takes several runs at formulating his thoughts. He begins almost every statement with the words “I think”, as though politely leaving it up to the listener to choose whether to swallow each new assertion as undeniable fact. Such as: “And of course, um, and of course as a libertarian, I think it’s imperative that we stop another massive terrorist attack on the US because the worst thing that could happen to this country is that we could get another Patriot Act.”

    Diving head first into big ideas is a mark of the high seriousness that Silicon Valley types like to affect, and Thiel is no exception. Though it isn’t entirely down to him that we plunged into the history of financial bubbles with barely a moment for niceties.

    Venture capital, where success depends on picking winners in the next hot tech markets and sticking with them, seems a long way from riding booms and busts as a hedge fund manager. In Thiel’s world, however, all things are connected, as he stitches ideas together into a grand unifying theory of our times.

    The pieces fit together something like this. The historically anomalous bubbles of recent years – Japan’s stock market boom of the 1980s, the dotcom mania of the 1990s, the housing finance frenzy of the past decade and, now, the government bubble – all resulted from the fact that people retained outsized expectations for the future, even as reality came up short.

    The reason for this expectation gap, Thiel argues, is that technological progress came to a halt at the end of the 1960s. As the website of Founders Fund declares: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” Thiel is still making it up to Twitter for this jab: it’s a perfectly fine company, he says, and may even be worth the high valuation placed on it by Wall Street, though he adds with deadpan irony that “it may not be enough to take civilisation to the next level”.

    No matter that Thiel has made a fortune on Facebook (according to Forbes, his total wealth is $1.8bn): the internet, in his version of events, has not been enough to make up for an innovation shortfall.

    He is wary of talking publicly about Facebook, since he still sits on its board. But he does say this about the company: “The nuanced truth is, Facebook is a great company, it is a specific success – it is not, however, enough to save our civilisation. Those are not inconsistent statements, you know.”

    As to why progress stalled, he says he is less certain. But if pressed it becomes apparent that he has plenty of theories. In one succinct formulation, he puts it this way: “We landed on the moon in July 1969 and Woodstock started three weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight, that’s when the hippies won and somehow progress sort of died, the idea of progress came to an end.”

    I push him for other shortcomings, with the argument that no one will believe an excess of chess-playing is his main character flaw. He cautiously offers bad time management and says he is “not that detail-oriented.” What about seeing other people’s points of view, I suggest?

    “I think I’ve gotten better at that over the years,” he says. “I think in my twenties I tended to think of all people as sort of more or less alike.”

    He goes on: “I now think that people are really different in all these subtle ways that are very important. So if you give critical feedback to people, there are some people who will be in tears and others with whom it won’t even register.”

    He sounds equally uncomfortable discussing himself. The “ums” multiply as he tries to explain why he threw in law and banking and came to Silicon Valley to pursue something far more world-changing. “There was this decision to move back to California and try something new and different,” he says as though it were something that happened to someone else.

    He is similarly vague when talking about the origins of his personal philosophy. “I’ve always been very interested in ideas and trying to figure things out.” His undergraduate degree, from Stanford University, was in philosophy but his stance against the dominant political philosophy on many issues seems more visceral than intellectual. “I think that one of the most contrarian things one can do in our society is try to think for oneself,” he says.

    He only really regains his stride when talking about how technological ambition has gone from the world, leaving what he calls an “age of diminished expectations that has slowly seeped into the culture”. Predictably, given his libertarian bent, much of this is traced back to regulation.

    This is his explanation for why the computer industry (which inhabits “the world of bits”) has thrived while so many others (“the world of atoms”) have not. “The world of bits has not been regulated and that’s where we’ve seen a lot of progress in the past 40 years, and the world of atoms has been regulated, and that’s why it’s been hard to get progress in areas like biotechnology and aviation and all sorts of material science areas.”

    . . .

    The main courses have long since arrived and Thiel has been picking at his salmon without much interest while ignoring the dollop of mashed potato on the side. The dark wedge of collard greens on my plate packs a rich and tangy punch, like swallowing a week’s supply of vitamins in one go, though it rather overshadows the sole alongside.

    Despite occasional bouts of determinism – “On my bad days I find the sort of Spenglerian decline of the west very compelling” – Thiel says he believes in the unconstrained ability of individuals to make a difference. But, he complains, “People have become too incrementalist and too risk-averse and not trying hard enough.”

    He holds up Elon Musk, a friend from the PayPal days and now head of both electric carmaker Tesla Motors and private rocket company SpaceX, as an example of how big ideas can still flourish. By comparison, says Thiel, most people are trapped by social conformity into spouting received ideas, from “the average liberal in San Francisco … [to] the average church lady in Alabama”. The result, he says, is that “I never know how much people believe any of the stuff they say”.

    Despite this, he still claims to be an optimist. Though his is not the kind that seems endemic in Silicon Valley, where a Pollyanna-ish belief in the best outcome reigns supreme.

    “I believe things could be a lot better,” he says, in self-justification. “There are all these things that aren’t being done.” The fact that “we’re not finding cures to cancer” or that a third of people past the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s, for instance, is a “crazy catastrophe”.

    “I think that all these things could be eminently curable,” he says. “I think that we could find much cheaper sources of energy if we worked at this. I think there could be, you know, radical life extension.” Although Founders Fund has stayed away from energy, which has proved a graveyard for start-up investors, it has backed a number of new biotech and healthcare businesses with ambitious goals.

    For Thiel, only an acceleration of technology can provide the solution. Take the problem of uncontrolled government surveillance. While many would see that as the result of too much technology in the hands of an unchecked intelligence establishment, Thiel thinks there isn’t enough.

    “If you can figure out effective ways to identify terrorists, then you don’t need to be as intrusive. It’s a lack of technology that drives intrusive behaviour,” he says. This is the sort of problem Palantir is trying to solve.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 23, 2013, 2:09 pm
  3. Well here’s an Earth Day warm fuzzy. It’s not much of a warm fuzzy for the Earth. But Palantir comes across as not looking totally scary so it’s a somewhat scary warm fuzzy:

    Land grabs by elites may endanger elephants across Africa
    BY Associated Press April 20, 2014 at 6:08 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON — Political and military elites are seizing protected areas in one of Africa’s last bastions for elephants, putting broad swaths of Zimbabwe at risk of becoming fronts for ivory poaching, according to a nonprofit research group’s report that examines government collusion in wildlife trafficking.

    Zimbabwe has maintained robust elephant populations compared with other countries on the continent. But economic penalties imposed by the United States and Europe have led Zimbabweans with ties to President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party to find new methods of making money. The report, set for release Monday, says they may be turning to elephants’ highly valued ivory tusks.

    Zimbabwe’s embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

    Born Free USA, an animal advocacy group, commissioned the report from Washington-based C4ADS to better understand the role organized crime and corrupt government officials play in ivory trafficking across Africa, said Adam Roberts, Born Free USA’s chief executive officer.

    North of Zimbabwe, in central Africa, an estimated 23,000 elephants, or roughly 60 each day, were killed last year. A pound of elephant tusk sells for about $1,500 on the black market. That’s more than double the price just five years ago. Ivory is used to make carved ornaments and trinkets.

    Rhinoceroses also are heavily poached for their horns, which some Asian cultures believe contain medicinal properties.

    TRAFFIC, a global wildlife trade monitoring network, says there are between 47,000 and 93,000 elephants in Zimbabwe. The gap is due to the fact that full-fledged surveys of the animals have not been carried out since 2007, said Richard Thomas, the organization’s spokesman.

    Across Africa, there are close to 500,000 elephants, a fraction of the nearly 10 million that roamed there just 100 years ago.

    The Obama administration in February published a national strategy for combating the multibillion-dollar poaching industry, relying on many of the same tactics used against terrorist organizations and drug cartels. The plan outlines a “whole of government approach” that includes working with other countries to increase the number of investigations and arrests, using high-tech gear to identify poaching hot spots, and targeting the bank accounts of wildlife traffickers and the corrupt bureaucrats who assist them.

    “Our findings shine a bright light on Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sudan, and Kenya, where poachers move across borders with near impunity, slaughter elephants with complete disregard, and use the ivory to fund violent operations across the continent,” said Born Free USA’s Roberts. “Global leaders cannot stand by while the human tragedy and poaching crisis continue.

    Zimbabwe, the report said, could become a poaching hot spot with little warning.

    Among the areas in jeopardy is Zimbabwe’s Save Valley Conservancy, a 1,000-square-mile collection of unfenced wildlife reserves that is home to most of the country’s elephants and rhinoceroses. Land reform policies have allowed politically connected people to receive hunting permits and land leases in the conservancy, according to C4ADS.

    “Many have histories of exploitative business practices, muscling into firms, stripping them of all value, and moving on, which creates a high risk of systematic poaching on seized lands,” the report said.

    The lack of transparency into the inner workings of Mugabe’s government makes it difficult to establish direct links between government loyalists and their interests in wildlife areas. The report said ownership is often masked through associates, family members, and shell companies.

    Using data-mining software developed by Palantir, a technology company in California, C4ADS named 18 people involved in what the report describes as the “political/military takeover of Save Valley Conservancy.”

    They include Maj. Gen. Engelbert Rugeje, the inspector general of Zimbabwe’s defense forces. Rugeje is not on the sanctions list maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department. He did not respond to a request for comment.

    The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe has long been aware of concerns over Rugeje.

    Well there we go. Palantir’s vast database technology and its ability to find meaningful connections in vast swathes of data can be used to track down elite poaching operations and also prevent all of the other damage associated with their loss. If Peter Thiel wasn’t on record describing environmentalism as a negative force that has ‘outlawed innovation’ this would be much better news. Still, it could be worse! Happy Earth Day.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 22, 2014, 1:01 pm
  4. Here’s another area where IT, government, and the private sector collide in potentially alarming ways: the state of Utah just became the first state to implement “Palantir Law Enforcement”, which links up the records management system of all the participating departments and creates “a really cool criminal Facebook. It shows links, relationships, criminal trends… it will also show you in real time where other crimes are occurring on a dashboard.” It’s “really cool”, it’s filled with criminal records, and it’s run by Palantir:

    Cottonwood Holladay Journal
    CHPD Launches Innovative Technology to Solve Crimes
    July 3, 2014
    By Sherry Sorensen

    Rapidly advancing technology is changing the way we live, and it’s even changing the way police fight crime.

    In February, the Cottonwood Heights Police Department joined with the Salt Lake City Police Department and more than a dozen other agencies in using the Palantir Law Enforcement software.

    Whenever an officer responds to a crime, issues a citation, or arrests someone, the information is entered into the department’s records management system. Palantir allows investigators to search the RMS of any participating agency in the state of Utah.

    “We can input details about a crime or suspect, and within seconds it looks at all those systems. It used to take 2-3 weeks to gather that information using personal contacts from different agencies, and now we can do it in seconds,” Salt Lake City Deputy Chief Mike Brown said.

    Based on a 2010 impact study of the innovative technology’s effectiveness in Salt Lake City, agencies now have access to “more than 988,000 documents, 40,000 mugshots, 117,000 arrest records and 520,000 case reports,” and the time to perform complex investigations has been reduced by 95 percent using the software.

    Police Chief Robby Russo said the benefits for Cottonwood Heights and other participating agencies to have access to the mapping and data sharing capabilities of Palantir are immeasurable.

    “I wish we had had this sort of data 30 years ago,” he said. “It’s like a really cool criminal Facebook. It shows links, relationships, criminal trends… it will also show you in real time where other crimes are occurring on a dashboard.”

    Although the technology company’s website claims that “Palantir Law Enforcement provides robust, built-in privacy and civil liberties protections,” Russo remained cautious when considering contributing data to the system.

    “We were a little apprehensive at first because they’re a private vendor. I’m very concerned when it comes to risking other people’s personal information,” he said.

    In the end, he was satisfied with the safety measures in place to protect that information.

    SLPD and several other agencies deployed the software in 2010 through an Urban Security Initiative Grant. Since then, the state of Utah has also contributed funding, allowing the program to go through several expansions with no cost to the law enforcement agencies.

    Currently, there are 60 agencies in Utah that use Palantir, with an estimated 25 who participate in data integration.

    Utah is the first state nationwide to expand the software to a statewide level.

    “Utah’s really well poised to be a beacon to the rest of the law enforcement community nationwide on how to do data sharing,” Palantir analyst Ben Thomas said.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 14, 2014, 11:18 am
  5. Palantir is, not surprisingly, collecting and analyzing data from sites like Facebook for the US intelligence community. Surprisingly, Palantir claims it wasn’t really comfortable with this job because of the concerns that doing social network data collection for the US government would hurt its reputation in the tech community *snicker*. But, of course, they took the job anyway:

    Quartz
    The US military is already using Facebook to track your mood
    By Patrick Tucker, Defense One July 3, 2014

    Critics have targeted a recent study on how emotions spread on the popular social network site Facebook, complaining that some 600,000 Facebook users did not know that they were taking part in an experiment. Somewhat more disturbing, the researchers deliberately manipulated users’ feelings to measure an effect called emotional contagion.

    Though Cornell University, home to at least one of the researchers, said the study received no external funding, but it turns out that the university is currently receiving Defense Department money for some extremely similar-sounding research—the analysis of social network posts for “sentiment,” i.e. how people are feeling, in the hopes of identifying social “tipping points.”

    The tipping points in question include “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey,” according to the website of the Minerva Initiative, a Defense Department social science project.

    It’s the sort of work that the US military has been funding for years, most famously via the open-source indicators program, an Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) program that looked at Twitter to predict social unrest.

    If the idea of the government monitoring and even manipulating you on Facebook gives you a cold, creeping feeling, the bad news is that you can expect the intelligence community to spend a great deal more time and money researching sentiment and relationships via social networks like Facebook. In fact, defense contractors and high-level USintelligence officials say that social network data has become one of the most important tools they use in the collecting intelligence.

    Defense One recently caught up with Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who said the US military has “completely revamped” the way it collects intelligence around the existence of large, openly available data sources and especially social media like Facebook. “The information that we’re able to extract form social media—it’s giving us insights that frankly we never had before,” he said.

    In other words, the head of one of the biggest US military intelligence agencies needs you on Facebook.

    “Just over a decade ago, when I was a senior intelligence officer, I spent most of my time in the world of ‘ints’—signals intelligence imagery, human intelligence—and used just a little bit of open-source information to enrich the assessments that we made. Fast forward to 2014 and the explosion of the information environment in just the last few years alone. Open-source now is a place I spend most of my time. The open world of information provides us most of what we need and the ‘ints’ of old, they enrich the assessments that we’re able to make from open-source information.”

    Open-source intelligence can take a variety of forms, but among the most voluminous, personal and useful is Facebook and Twitter data. The availability of that sort of information is changing the way that DIA trains intelligence operatives. Long gone are the spooks of old who would fish through trash for clues on targets. Here to stay are the eyes looking through your vacation pictures.

    “We train them differently even than we did a year ago because of the types of tools we have. There are adjustments to the trade craft, and that’s due to the amount of information we can now get our hands on,” Flynn said.

    The growth of social media has not just changed day-to-day life at agencies like DIA, it’s also given rise to a mini gold rush in defense contracting. The military will be spending an increasing amount of the $50 billion intelligence budget on private contractors to perform open-source intelligence gathering and analysis, according to Flynn. That’s evidenced by the rise in companies eager to provide those services.

    Some of them are well known like Palantir, the Silicon Valley data visualization giant that’s been featured prominently in Bloomberg Businessweek and has graced the cover of Forbes. Collecting or analyzing social network data wasn’t something they originally wanted to get into according to Bryant Chung, a Palantir employee. Palantir doesn’t market itself as a data collection company. They provide a tool set to help agencies visualize and share data.

    The company worried that partnering with the intelligence community to do social network data collection could hurt their reputation among the tech community, increasingly wary of the government, according to Chung. When the company was approached by NATO and some US intelligence groups, they decided to explore the marketplace for sentiment analysis of social network data.

    “There are a lot of other commercial companies already in that space. Unless we know we’re going to crush it, we don’t want to get in,” Chung said. “I think we have a differentiated capability, especially at a macro level. For example, you are interested in monitoring an election somewhere in Africa and you want to know who are the people tweeting on one side of an election versus the other, or who are the most influential tweeters or you what if you have intelligence that an explosion is about to happen at a particular square, can you confirm that using Tweets?” That’s the sort of thing Palantir wants to help you with.

    Many of the groups doing this sort of work on behalf of the government are small outfits you probably have never heard of. And ideally, you never would.

    One of them is a company out of Austin, Texas, called SnapTrends, founded in 2012. They provide a “social listening” service that analyzes posts to provide insights about the circumstances of the poster, one of the most important of which is the poster’s location. The company uses cell tower density, social network knowhow, and various other elements to figure out who is posting what and where. Are you someone who refuses to geo-tag your tweets out of concerns for privacy? Do you turn off your phone’s GPS receiving capability to stay under the proverbial radar? It doesn’t matter to SnapTrends.

    One tweet and they can find you.

    “If it’s a dense environment. I can put you within a block. If it’s a [bad] environment I can put you within two or three blocks,” said Todd Robinson, director of operations for Defense Military Intelligence for the company General Dynamics Information Technology, GDIT, and SnapTrends president for Middle Eastern operations. GDIT partnered with SnapTrends to sell their services to the government. “Once I do have you, I click this button right here, I can go back five years [of social media posts.]”

    SnapTrends says that the tool was extremely helpful in the investigation following the 2013 Boston Marathon bomb attacks. Using social network analysis, “we found the college kids that had access to the computers [owned by the suspects]. We were able to get to them first,” said Robins.

    The use of social network data for intelligence isn’t just fair, Robbins says, it’s a no-brainer. Scrawling Facebook for clues about human behavior doesn’t require breaking in via backdoors or other elaborate pieces of technological trickery. “When you join Twitter and Facebook, you sign an agreement saying you will post that to a public web page. We just pull data from that web page.”

    ”I’m a retired intelligence guy,” he said. “This is not that difficult, people.

    But while social data may be an important tool in intelligence collection, it’s hardly a permanent one.

    In the same way that observing the behavior of some subatomic particles changes the behavior of those particles (called the observer effect), watching the tweets and posts of targets can create an environment where people tweet less. You poison your own well by drawing from it. That happens on an individual level in terms of specific human targets but also on a larger, societal level.

    “We’ve seen that already,” Robinson said. “There is always a risk that as people understand this, they’ll quit putting [posts] on there.”

    The view was seconded by SnapTrends co-founder andCEO, Eric Klasson. “The more the ‘bad guys’ know about what is possible, the less they will use social media. This undermines state, local, federal and international law enforcement efforts,” he told Defense One.

    When asked if he was concerned that people might stop using Facebook, Twitter and other social networks as a result of US intelligence activities, Flynn answered matter-of-factly: “Yes.”

    You also have to wonder what other governments might be hiring these kinds of services.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 15, 2014, 2:28 pm

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