News Items – 02.23.17


Palantir’s website says, “Palantir Technologies is a mission-driven company, and a core component of that mission is protecting our fundamental rights to privacy and civil liberties,” but here’s the reality:

Within two years [of GCHQ seeing Palantir in 2008], documents show that at least three members of the ‘Five Eyes’ spy alliance between the United States, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada were employing Palantir to help gather and process data from around the world. … Notably, the partnership has included building software specifically to facilitate, augment, and accelerate the use of XKEYSCORE, one of the most expansive and potentially intrusive tools in the NSA’s arsenal. According to Snowden documents published by The Guardian in 2013, XKEYSCORE is by the NSA’s own admission its ‘widest reaching’ program, capturing ‘nearly everything a typical user does on the internet.’ A subsequent report by The Intercept showed that XKEYSCORE’s ‘collected communications not only include emails, chats, and web-browsing traffic, but also pictures, documents, voice calls, webcam photos, web searches, advertising analytics traffic, social media traffic, botnet traffic, logged keystrokes, computer network exploitation targeting, intercepted username and password pairs, file uploads to online services, Skype sessions, and more.’ For the NSA and its global partners, XKEYSCORE makes all of this as searchable as a hotel reservation site.


Under the Five Eyes arrangement, member countries collect and pool enormous streams of data and metadata collected through tools like XKEYSCORE, amounting to tens of billions of records. The alliance is constantly devising (or attempting) new, experimental methods of prying data out of closed and private sources, including by hacking into computers and networks in non-Five Eyes countries and infecting them with malware. … The novel ways of using Palantir for spying seemed open-ended, even imaginative: A 2010 presentation on the joint NSA-GCHQ ‘Mastering the Internet’ surveillance program mentioned the prospect of running Palantir software on ‘Android handsets’ as part of a SIGINT-based ‘augmented reality’ experience. It’s unclear what exactly this means or could even look like. … While it’s long been known that Palantir got on its feet with the intelligence community’s money, it has not been previously reported that the intelligence community actually helped build the software.


Peter Thiel became one of the American political mainstream’s most notorious figures in 2016 (when it emerged he was bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker Media, my former employer) even before he won a direct line to the White House. Now he brings to his role as presidential adviser decades of experience as kingly investor and token nonliberal on Facebook’s board of directors, a Rolodex of software luminaries, and a decidedly Trumpian devotion to controversy and contrarianism. But perhaps the most appealing asset Thiel can offer our bewildered new president will be Palantir Technologies, which Thiel founded with Alex Karp and Joe Lonsdale in 2004. Palantir has never masked its ambitions, in particular the desire to sell its services to the U.S. government — the CIA itself was an early investor in the startup through In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital branch. But Palantir refuses to discuss or even name its government clientele, despite landing ‘at least $1.2 billion’ in federal contracts since 2009, according to an August 2016 report in Politico. The company was last valued at $20 billion and is expected to pursue an IPO in the near future.”

On Palantir 3.0’s promo video, basically everyone they were analyzing had Muslim-sounding names, when in reality, according to the New York Times: “Homegrown Extremists [Are] Tied to [a] Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in [the] U.S. Since 9/11.” Here’s more on Peter Thiel and Palantir from The Intercept:

Peter Thiel’s CIA-Backed Data Mining Company Wins Court Battle Against the U.S. Army

Transition Adviser Peter Thiel Could Directly Profit From Mass Deportations

Apple, Google and Others at Trump Tech Summit Have Stashed $560 Billion in Profits Overseas

DoJ moves to prevent CIA official from detailing role in Bush-era torture“:

“The psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, are battling a lawsuit by representatives for four men who seek to hold them liable for torture they experienced in secret CIA prisons. Mitchell and Jessen designed for the CIA the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’ program that three of the men endured and which killed one of them. As part of their defense, Mitchell and Jessen are seeking depositions from several former CIA officials, in order to claim that their actions ought to be immunized because they were working in service of the US government. Haspel, a career CIA officer whom Trump selected as deputy director on 2 February, is among them. Haspel has been linked to torture at a CIA black site in Thailand where Mitchell and Jessen’s first torture test case, a man known as Abu Zubaydah, was waterboarded 83 times. Years later, Haspel implemented an order by her then boss, Jose Rodriguez, to destroy videotapes of torture at the black site, an act confirmed recently by the former acting CIA director Michael Morell, who cleared Haspel of ‘any wrongdoing’ in the tapes destruction. In a 14 February filing, Mitchell and Jessen’s attorney, Brian Paszamant, said Haspel was ‘centrally involved’ in the events leading to the torture of the men suing the contractors.”

Fear of Terrorism Is Much More Dangerous than Actual Terrorism

More: “Trump fears terrorists, but more Americans are shot dead by toddlers” – “You’re more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than killed by a terrorist

MIT Technology Review – “How Politics Could Put the Reliability of Future Elections at Risk: Eliminating the Election Assistance Commission would likely delay the process of replacing the nation’s aging and insecure elections infrastructure.

Here’s this week’s interview of Stephen Cohen — professor emeritus of Russian history and studies at Princeton University and New York University.

Islamophobia grows louder in North Carolina: ‘Can we not kill them all?’,” by The Guardian:

“Tom Jones, a soft-spoken man with white hair and wearing a slate-gray jacket, held up a copy of The Terrorist Next Door by the conservative author Erick Stakelbeck in the private dining room of a seafood restaurant in Kernersville, North Carolina, on a recent Thursday evening. … Jones’s presentation was repeatedly interrupted by comments about killing Muslims from Frank del Valle, a staunchly anticommunist Cuban immigrant, with little or no pushback from the others in the room. ‘Can we not kill them all?’ Del Valle asked, about 15 minutes into the presentation, during a discussion about the differences between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam.”

Maybe if you don’t know the 101’s of an entire multi-continental region of the world, you should read a book instead of suggesting to kill allegedly scary brown people from some religion you, again, know practically nothing about.

Absolutely absurd: “Danish man who burned Quran charged with blasphemy

Nepalese, Chinese companies ink joint venture agreement tobuild hydel project“: “As per the MoU, the Chinese company will have a 75% stake in the reservoir typehydropower project with the NEA holding the rest.” More here.

The former managing director of the IMF and “a potential Spanish prime minister” was sentenced to over four years in prison for embezzlement at the Spanish bank he oversaw the collapse of.

The disturbing history of vandalizing Jewish cemeteries,” by the Washington Post:

“The vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in Missouri has caused an uproar after more than 170 headstones were toppled at the historical burial site. There had been several waves of bomb threats made against Jewish community centers in recent weeks, but the recent acts against the cemetery have raised serious alarm and garnered the most prominent media attention yet. … In the 19th century there was an outburst of pogroms against Jews under the Russian empire. ‘One of the aspects of these pogroms, these violent outbursts against the Jewish community, is targeting Jewish property. A very common target is a synagogue or a Jewish store, but also Jewish cemeteries,’ explained Michael Meng, associate professor of history at Clemson University.During World War II, under the Nazi regime, many Jewish cemeteries were damaged across Europe, including in the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia), Poland, Germany and Greece. During Kristallnacht in November 1938, also known as the “Night of Broken Glass,” Jewish cemeteries were vandalized, along with businesses and synagogues, by anti-Semitic mobs throughout the Reich. … In October 2016, a month before the general election, a Jewish cemetery in New York was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti. Earlier that year,two Jewish cemeteries in Hartford, Conn., were targeted. The incidents aren’t limited to the United States. In 2016, cemeteries and Holocaust memorials were vandalized in Germany, with the acts attributed to far-right groups. In February 2015, graves were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in France.”

Democracy Now:

A Message to Trump from a Swede: My Real Concern is Rise of Militant Anti-Muslim Neo-Nazis, Fascists,” by Mattias Gardell — professor of comparative religion at Uppsala University, Sweden.

White House Refuses to Condemn Rise of Islamophobia as Radical Right Enters Political Mainstream

Black Edge: New Yorker’s Sheelah Kolhatkar on Wall Street’s Biggest Insider Trading Story in History

A Champion of the People or Wall Street? Trump Pushes to End Dodd-Frank & Consumer Protection Agency

Here’s today’s show from Democracy Now.


U.S. private prison operator shares seen rising, expanding election rally

Captive Islamic State militant says mass rapes were ‘normal’

Pope suggests ‘better to be atheist than hypocritical Catholic’

Trump revokes Obama guidelines on transgender bathrooms

Glenn Greenwald: “The Increasingly Unhinged Russia Rhetoric Comes From a Long-Standing U.S. Playbook

The Intercept:

Tom Cotton Endorses the Myth Protesters Are Paid, While Seeming to Dismiss It

Trump’s First Terror Arrest: A Broke Stoner the FBI Threatened at Knifepoint” (his only terrorism contacts were the FBI)

Will H.R. McMaster, a Political Novice, Survive the White House Shark Tank?

Why Do So Many Americans Fear Muslims? Decades of Denial About America’s Role in the World

Trump’s New Immigration Crackdown Has Private Prison Investors Salivating

Video: Last Stand at Standing Rock as Police Prepare to Evict Pipeline Opponents

As Construction Near Standing Rock Restarts, Pipeline Fights Flare Across the U.S.” in four pipeline battles: NJ-NY, MX-TX, AL-GA-FL, & PA.

Trump didn’t hire Elliott Abrams — a literal war criminal from both the Bush and Reagan administrations — not for the aforementioned international criminal status, but because he insulted him during the campaign. Reiterated: Trump’s ego is more important than international law in qualifications for his cabinet.

Christina Lin — former researcher at Johns Hopkins University, Office of the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council, Department of State, and Export-Import Bank of the United States:

How the US ends up training al-Qaeda and ISIS collaborators

Chinese surgical strikes on Chinese ‘rebels’ in Syria?

China, Egypt, and the new Middle East alignment

Sleeping with the Enemy: Opposition Grows to CIA‐Backed Al‐Qaeda Proxies in Syria

Here is a podcast with The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer on “dark money” (major US right-wing billionaire political donors) with The Nation Magazine.

Consortiumnews: “The West’s Moral Hypocrisy on Yemen

Catholic Herald, 2015: “Syrian archbishop criticises US for ‘siding with al-Qaeda’

Brahma Chellaney — former lecturer/researcher/professor at the Universities of Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Australian National; and former fellow at the Nobel Institute in Oslo:

2015: “Saudi Arabia’s Phony War on Terror

2015: “The Western Roots of Anti-Western Terror

2017: “China’s Debt-Trap Diplomacy

The irony of this article is that while Pakistan was given two ships by China, two others were being made for Pakistan in China.


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