ICE Planning New Raids with Help of Amazon, Palantir, & YOUR Social Media Data: Six Questions with Barrett Brown, Part 2

This interview with the crusading tech journalist examines how ICE plans to use data collected by Silicon Valley to ensnare more undocumented workers in raids this summer.


Click Here to Read Part 1.

The reasons for a recent purge of the Department of Homeland Security are connected to refusal by these officials to sign off on a new round of ICE raids and detentions that President Trump has been proposing for some time now, a plan allegedly called “Operation Rocket Docket.”.

Video produced by Tabriz Ghazi

One group of actors that has gotten very little coverage, however, are the Big Tech/Data companies across America that are actively collaborating with ICE in helping locate, detain, and deport undocumented workers. Corporations like Amazon and Palantir have been sweeping up terabytes of data from public records, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and even the DMV to develop a map of where to find their targets. This was described in great detail by a 2018 Empower LLC report written in collaboration with Mijente, Immigrant Defense Project, and National Immigration Project titled Who’s Behind ICE?: The Tech Companies Fueling Deportations.

Palantir, a shadowy corporation that has a relatively opaque profile in comparison with Amazon, has been covered for years by tech reporter and activist Barrett Brown. His work has revealed a web of intricate operations and corporate alliances with the American government that are truly disturbing when understood in connection with Donald Trump’s nativist agenda of state violence. This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

Click the player above to listen to the complete audio.
Palantir logo/Fair Use.

AS: Back up for a second and explain to me what the hell a transhumanist is in the first place.

BB: That’s a tough one.

Transhumanism movement logo/Image by Antonu (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The more common understanding is that it is an urge towards immortality, the sorts of things alchemists, hermeticists, the educated classes always had in the back of their minds and which now, thanks to the real magic of technology, are feasible. Palantir and Anduril are both named after things from The Lord of the Rings.

Think about someone like Peter Thiel who has created this product that searches the world, that approaches omniscience to the powerful that he can provide or take away at will. He can and has used it to support what seemed at the time to be a very unrealistic presidential bid by Donald Trump. He has to think of himself very much as a superman.

In the case of Peter Thiel, he is the perfect mixture of capability, nihilism, luck, and an environment in which someone like him can proceed without any force being arrayed to hold him in.

They believe that they are the new aristocracy. They don’t believe in democracy any more than anyone else does these days, deep down, they are very national security-oriented, and that is a horrible combination.

AS: That sounds very indebted to Nietzsche and therefore lends itself quickly to what eventuated Hitler’s philosophy.

BB: Absolutely.

It’s not a coincidence that Thiel and others have been helpful to Trump.

AS: So mainstream publications are covering this recent DHS purge that was over a proposed ICE campaign of further raids this summer. This Empower LLC report says:

ICE is preparing to use tech for mass deportation at an unprecedented scale that could make “Sanctuary” city- and state-level protections obsolete… ICE wants to organize mass personal information it buys from private vendors, such as license plate information; collect intimate biometric information in mass quantities, such as fingerprints, iris scans, facial recognition software; buy the “cloud” space to store the data and hire people to analyze the mass data information – all for surveilling, arresting and deporting immigrants. These programs have enormous implications for protective policies in cities and states by making the separation of information impossible, granting full access to Trump’s federal police force. Amazon and Palantir as two companies that are at the forefront of these developments, providing the collection, storage, and management of the vast amount of information required by ICE to increase its reach to the levels promised by the Trump administration. Both companies have enabled DHS to apply new technologies and expand its data-sharing capabilities to undermine and get around any local protections that were hard-fought and won by immigrant rights organizers. This interoperability has effectively expanded the reach of immigration enforcement by rendering detentions and deportations more likely to occur… Palantir is building ICE’s case management software — tech that allows immigration agents to scour regional, local, state, and federal databases across the country, build profiles of immigrants and their friends and family based on both private and public information, and use those profiles to surveil, track, and ultimately deport immigrants.

Your thoughts?

BB: It’s hard to frighten me these days but that’s the kind of thing that does.

The frightening aspect is that Thiel, people in this administration, and people behind the Republican Party, they know that, since they have the means of effectively doing this, they have little to worry about in terms of opposition.

They’ve seen what “the resistance” is and how it materialized. It’s hashtags.

They know that, unless there is some sort of insurgency, there is nothing to prevent this.

I hope that when this happens that it at least shocks Americans enough that doesn’t dissipate as quickly as the Trump election shock did.

It should be opposed, it will be to the extent that it is exposed to the public, but regardless, that should be the wake-up call that this is not the ’90s anymore [in terms of computing and the internet]. The norms that we are used to are gone.

And with climate change on the horizon, this is a preview of what this citizenry is not prepared for.

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