Aug 8, 2019

Report blasts Palantir for ICE work, Trump ties

Data: Mijente; Chart: Axios Visuals

Palantir has more than $1.5 billion in federal government contracts and deep ties to the Trump administration, yet few people know the company or how its products work, according to a new report from Latinx organizing non-profit Mijente.

The big picture: Mijente's report comes a day after ICE arrested 680 people in the largest-yet roundup of undocumented immigrants under the Trump administration.

Between the lines: The goal of the report is to give the public a better understanding of the company, its work and its origins, senior campaign organizer Jacinta Gonzalez told Axios.

  • "For a company that knows a lot about us, we don’t know a lot about Palantir," Gonzalez said in an interview.

By the numbers: According to Mijente, Palantir's federal government work includes:

  • $1 billion worth of work with the Defense Department,
  • Upward of $175 million in business with the Justice Department and
  • $94 million in active contracts with the Department of Homeland Security, consisting largely of the work for ICE.

The report highlights that a key $53 million ICE contract is scheduled for renewal in September. For that, Palantir provides software known as Investigative Case Management, or ICM, which Mijente says was used to target family members of unaccompanied minors.

A second tool used by ICE, known as FALCON, is worth $42 million and is eligible for renewal as early as Nov 2019, but could potentially be used through 2021 under the current deal.The report calls out Palantir for both the volume of data it collects as well as the fact it often results in the arrest of as many "collaterals" as "targets."

"Palantir sells itself as a precision tool for the targeting of migrants and enemy combatants, but the mass data collection that supports Palantir's ICM and FALCON lends itself to dragnet operations."
— Mijente report

Behind the curtain: In addition to the business relationships between Palantir and various government entities, Mijente also points to the intertwining personal relationships between Peter Thiel (Palantir's co-founder and a big Trump supporter), various Thiel-run companies, Palantir and the Trump administration. Notably, the report points to:

  • U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios left his position as chief of staff at Thiel Capital to join the White House, first as deputy assistant to the president for tech policy and, more recently as CTO.
  • Kevin Harrington, a former principal and managing director at Thiel Macro is deputy assistant to the president for strategic planning and was also part of the Trump transition "landing team" at the department of commerce. Palantir, the report says, has a contract to provide economic data to the Census Bureau.
  • Trae Stephens, an early Palantir executive and co-founder of Palmer Luckey's Anduril Industries, was on the Department for Defense transition team.
  • Several aides to former defense secretary Jim Mattis had Palantir ties, including Justin Mikolay, who was a lobbyist before joining the administration as a special assistant to Mattis. After leaving the government, he returned toP alantir from Oct. 2017 to August 2018.

"You see this revolving door starting to form," Gonzalez said.

The bigger picture: It's not just Palantir, but the broader tech community, that is facilitating a range of atrocities, Mijente contends in the report.

"There’s also no denying that the treatment of migrants along the southern border, from separating families, returning asylum-seekers to Mexico, tear-gassing migrants, to caging children in sprawling desert encampments, is nothing short of cruel and inhumane. Tech companies have chosen to do the government’s bidding and directly enable gross human rights abuses."

Yes, but: Other than having close ties with the Trump Administration and helping the government do work that Mijente and others oppose, the report doesn't suggest Palantir is breaking any laws.And Palantir has defended its government work.

"We’re proud that we’re working with the U.S. government,” CEO Alex Karp told the New York Times.

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