Palantir Technologies: Soldiering Forward

July 16, 2019

On the positive side, Palantir Technologies landed a $144 million blanket purchase agreement from the US Navy. Presumably, Palantir will provide its government-centric investigation and intelligence analysis system and engineering services. According to GovConWire:

The fixed-price BPA [blanket purchase agreement] has a one-year base term valued at $27.6M and four option years that could run through July 11, 2024.

IBM, Oracle, and other traditional intelware vendors are unlikely to be thrilled with the award.

On the negative side, Liberation, an online information service, reported that protests were held in Palo Alto. The group wants Palantir to be shut down. This is a dramatic statement, and it is not going to stop Palantir from licensing its technology to government agencies.

So, good news and bad news for Palantir. DarkCyber believes the company will focus on staying open and closing deals. Competitive systems are proliferating, and some of the newer systems are easier to use and eliminate some of the fussiness associated with the ageing Gotham system.

Stephen E Arnold, July 16, 2019

Librarians Take a Stand

July 12, 2019

At the recent American Library Association’s annual conference in D.C., the CIA had a booth set up to entice librarians into a new role as intelligence analysts. Pretty smart, I’ll admit, but many ALA members were very unhappy with the agency’s presence. Raw Story reports, “Citing CIA’s Dark History, Librarians Protest Agency’s Recruiting at their Conference.” Protestors cited the CIA’s history of foreign-government overthrows, support of dictators, reliance on torture, and tendency to spy on everyone else while maintaining opacity for itself. They maintain that supporting the agency in any way runs counter to the American Library Association’s stated values.

This is not the first time librarians have made an issue of this particular conference exhibitor. Writer Common Dreams notes:

“That language builds on and mirrors a call from an open letter released last year. Authored by [Alison] Macrina and Dustin Fife and entitled ‘No Legitimization Through Association: The CIA Should Not Be Exhibiting at ALA,’ the letter was published right after the ALA’s 2018 annual conference, when the CIA was also an exhibitor.

We noted:

“‘We refuse to lend credence to the CIA through association and we ask our fellow library workers to join us,’ it said. ‘We should not allow them space to recruit library workers to become intelligence analysts, which was the focus of their booth.’

And this:

“‘Library workers are powerful,’ the statement added. ‘We have a strong reputation in our local communities and across the world as being steadfast stewards of democracy, intellectual freedom, equity, and social justice. We attempt to honor these values through our collections, programs, and services and we recognize that our libraries need continuous examination in a systemically unjust society. Those values should extend to all that we do. A more democratic world is possible, and we believe that library workers can be at the forefront of this charge.’”

At this year’s conference, it was proposed that CIA be banned from recruiting at future events, but the resolution failed. It was reasoned that such a ban would violate the CIA’s freedom of speech. Without noting the irony, Library Freedom Project founder Alison Macrina insists this is not a first amendment issue, predicting the ALA would deny, for example, the KKK should that organization wish to recruit at the conference. Certainly, she is correct there. Right?

Cynthia Murrell, July 12, 2019

Mauritania Shuts Down Internet During Elections

July 12, 2019

Africa was shafted by colonial powers and now the continent is shafting itself with corruption from its numerous countries. Africa remains home to some of the poorest nations on Earth and according to Quartz, many of these countries habitually shut down the Internet in “Mauritania Blocked The Internet Over Protests Though Just One In Five People Are Online.” Countries that have shut off the Internet include Liberia, Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and Algeria. More recently the Sudan shut off lines when protesters demanded president Omar al-Bashir leave office and wanted an end to military rule. Ethopia cut their surfing power to curb cheating on exams and when there were rumors of a coup. The African Internet gets turned off for numerous reasons, mostly due too political ties: elections, government protests, and political referenda.

Mauritania took its turn to shut down the Internet amid its contested election. People hoped the election would be the first peaceful transfer of power since the country gained its independence in 1960. When the results were tallied the ruling party won by 52%, but opposition challenged the results. The government suspended mobile and fixed-Internet lines. It points to the government being afraid of any opposing force and using extreme measurements to maintain control. Most African governments do not offer explanations, but some explain it away as limiting hate speech, fake news, and violence.

Mauritania is indicative of the problems around the entire continent:

“Campaigners say the shutdown in Mauritania is only exacerbating the situation and preventing journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition groups from freely accessing and exchanging information. Mauritanian television also broadcast foreigners from neighboring countries confessing to ferment trouble following the polls—a “toxic and highly problematic” issue, activists say, in a country still battling racial discrimination and the vestiges of slavery.”

Freedom of information and communication is key to a democratic society and gives power to people. Heavy handiness might have its need in times of war, but during elections in a country that is supposed to be democratic it is a sign of societal changes.

Whitney Grace, July 11, 2019

ICE Document Collection

July 10, 2019

DarkCyber noted that Mijente published a collection of US government documents. According the landing page for “Ice Papers”:

The ongoing threat of raids for mass deportations has made it necessary for us to understand the inner workings of ICE’s mass raid operations. We’ve confirmed in government documents that ICE operations are politically motivated and not at all about national security, as the administration claims. In their own words, via plans and tactics we uncovered, you will catch a glimpse into their machinations to target, harass, and expel migrants from their communities. While the documents detail information about raids planned back in 2017, we noted the “rinse-and-repeat” nature of ICE’s operations and what we can expect, as Trump reignites the threat of more raids to come after July 4th.

In the collection are documents which provide some competitive insight into Palantir Technologies. Here’s a snip from the Mijente collection. The blue text is a direct quote.

Palantir’s programs and databases were integrated into all Operation Mega planned raids. They are now part of most enforcement actions by ICE.

These raids now use powerful tech and databases in the field. ICE is given authority to use the newest technology and equipment during local operations, including FALCON, FALCON Mobile, ICE EDDIE and Cellbrite [sic] during arrests. [Source document]

  • Palantir-designed FALCON and FALCON Mobile. FALCON Mobile can scan body biometrics, including tattoos and irises. FALCON and FALCON Mobile can use “link analysis” to connect profiles and biometrics with associates and vehicles.
  • EDDIE is a mobile fingerprinting program that is attached to a mobile fingerprint collection device. These fingerprints are then put into FALCON systems, including ICE’s case management system, Integrated Case Management (ICM, see below). The fingerprints are used to identify people to see if they have criminal history or immigration history, including a final deportation order.
  • Cellbrite is a handheld unit that breaks into smartphones and downloads information – up to 3000 phones for one device. It can even extract data that was deleted from your phone.  ICE claims that they should obtain consent. (See Operation Raging Bull Field Guidance.) FALCON includes access to services provided by Cellbrite.
  • ICM was integrated into Operation Mega. All the systems mentioned above feed into the massive new ICE case management system, ICM, another Palantir Technologies product. ICM is a new intelligence system capable of linking across dozens of databases from inside and outside DHS. ICM is scheduled to be completed by September 2019.

The information is used to support the political objectives of ICE. Both HSI and the Fugitive Operations Team set up a detailed and comprehensive reporting system for arrests and deportations that focused on contact with the criminal system, not on their ties to family or communities.agencies. The reporting system, comprised of Daily Operation Reports (DORs), which included numbers arrested after an immigration raid, and “egregious write-ups,” which were summaries of certain arrests during national or local ICE operations, was aligned with ICE’s public affairs and communications system, e.g. this information usually went into ICE press releases.

DarkCyber’s view is that these types of document collections are likely to be controversial. On one hand, individuals testing intelligence analysis software are likely to find the content useful for certain queries. Those working in other fields may make use of the information in these documents in other ways.

While this information is online (as of July 9, 2019), it may warrant a quick look.

Stephen E Arnold, July 10, 2019

GSA Inspector General Finds Something Obvious

July 3, 2019

I read “GSA IG: Federal Acquisition Service Ineffective in Administering Enterprise IT Modernization Contract.” Startling. Amazing. Shocking.

The write up explained:

The IG said that FAS failed to ensure that the Transition Ordering Assistance task order met the requirements for the EIS information technology modernization initiative, resulting in “high rates of spending with minimal transition progress.” Other findings include deficiencies in planning and management, invoicing and contractor performance assessments.

How does one address the shortcomings?

Easy.

Get in the consultants. Form a team. Work up “metrics for work completion”. Make sure these are in line “with budget concerns.” Then everyone implement “interagency agreements.”

Who knew that solving a problem would be so straightforward.

Why do these problems exist? Maybe consultants and staff struggling to deal with certain types of complex interactions.

What happens to projects underway as these recommendations are followed? Maybe more inefficiency, delays, and waste.

Camus might have dropped Sisyphus as his hero and substituted the GSA’s Inspector General?

Stephen E Arnold, July 3, 2019

ICE Vendors

July 2, 2019

We spotted a list of vendors working with ICE. You can find the company names plus some details about their work in “An Incomplete List of Companies Working with ICE.” The write up uses the phrases “concentration camps” and
ethnic cleansing” which spin the list in a way that advances a particular mental slant. Here’s the description of Palantir Technologies, a vendor providing intelligence software or what DarkCyber classifies as “intelware”:

Palantir Technologies (@PalantirTech): This famously evil company got a $39,340,901 contract from ICE for building and helping to run FALCON, “a database and analytical platform […] to track immigrants and crunch data on forms of cross-border criminal activity.” More info on Palantir’s involvement with ICE and deportation here. Reporting by Spencer Woodman (@SpencerWoodman).

My former employer appears in the list as well:

Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.(@BoozAllen): A huge infotech company which received a contract worth up to $100,457,166 for advising ICE with their ethnic cleansing campaign and concentration camp system.

However, for a company looking to sell support services to firms with existing government contractors, this list is useful. Cross correlate this list with the names of the individuals at these companies responsible for locating specialist subcontractors, and you might find a bonanza.

Recycling public information can be difficult, and this list is a good sales reference for certain types of vendors.

It would be helpful if the list were in alphabetical order, but that’s unnecessary if one has a short attention span and thumb types with agility.

You  may have to register to read the article. However, that ploy is unlikely to deliver the benefits the Medium operation anticipates. Annoying those who suggest others read one’s work seems to be an interesting marketing angle. My dog is now officially a Medium “reader.” He’s a French bulldog, and he is indifferent to Facebook tracking. Good boy!

Stephen E Arnold, July 2, 2019

Facebook and Google: An Obvious Question Ignored

July 2, 2019

I read the Guardian’s opinion essay by Shoshana Zuboff, the author of the beach read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. The write up’s title is “It’s Not That We’ve Failed to Rein in Facebook and Google. We’ve Not Even Tried.” I marked this passage as interesting to me:

The tech companies’ innovation rhetoric effectively blinded users and lawmakers for many years. Facebook and Google were regarded as innovative companies that sometimes made dreadful mistakes at the expense of our privacy.

The argument is that words caused law makers, users, and observers to unwittingly help out the bright folks who created “surveillance capitalism.”

This is one of the themes in Dr. Zuboff’s best selling book. A couple of observations:

  • I am not sure Facebook and Google knew what they were doing. Situational decisions, user acceptance, and revenue pulled the folks forward. Hindsight makes the path easy to spot like a satellite photo that reveals an old Roman road.
  • The technology components became available. In the spirit of tinkerers, a bit of experimentation produced some winners. When internal innovation was not enough, a couple of acquisitions proved to be the spark Facebook and Google needed. Who knew that DoubleClick cookies would be a better idea? Who knew that bad actors would flock to Facebook services?
  • Governments — particularly the Five Eyes’ group — realized that Facebook and Google could be very useful. I recall that after my lecture at the International Chiefs of Police meeting in Canberra seven or eight years ago, quite a few attendees wanted to talk about the utility of non governmental data captured by these two outfits.

So what’s the big question?

What value do Facebook and Google deliver to LE and intel agencies?

Answer that, and there might be some useful topics for discussion. Pointing at committees and officials who are groomed by lobbyists is not particularly helpful.

Stephen E Arnold, July 2, 2019

Have Fun Searching Nonprofit Tax Records

June 21, 2019

If you work at a nonprofit organization, the word free is magical! Databases are also a magical source of information and the life blood for anyone writing grants. A free, authoritative database is like a magic wand. ProPublica is a news source focused on nonprofits and it recently published the story about a free way to search IRS records: “You Can Now Search The Full Text Of 3 Million Nonprofit Tax Records For Free.”

Along with being a newsroom ProPublica also launched a brand new tool: the Nonprofit Explorer database that searches the full text of three million digitally filed IRS nonprofit tax filings. Nonprofit Explorer contains tax records from more than 1.8 million nonprofits as well as names for key employees and organization directors. Users can search for terms anywhere in the tax records. The only catch is the that the nonprofits needed to file their taxes digitally, but nearly two-thirds do so.

How can you use the Nonprofit Explorer:

“For one, this feature lets you find organizations that gave grants to other nonprofits. Any nonprofit that gives grants to another must list those grants on its tax forms — meaning that you can research a nonprofit’s funding by using our search. A search for “ProPublica,” for example, will bring up dozens of foundations that have given us grants to fund our reporting (as well as a few filings that reference Nonprofit Explorer itself).

Just another example: When private foundations have investments or ownership interest in for-profit companies, they have to list those on their tax filings as well. If you want to research which foundations have investments in a company like ExxonMobil, for example, you can simply search for the company name and check which organizations list it as an investment.”

Usually a database like this requires a yearly subscription. Most nonprofits cannot afford subscription fees, so ProPublica is providing a public service that will assist millions. ProPublica probably uses their own database to apply for grants to fund it.

Keep in mind that some bad actors set up non profit organizations for some interesting purposes. Access to these records may provide useful to some investigators.

Whitney Grace, June 21, 2019

New Yorkers: Go to the Library for Declassified Documents

May 31, 2019

The New York Public Library published “US Declassified Documents Online.” According to the write up:

This archive allows researchers to access more than 700,000 pages of selected previously classified government documents online. The archive includes declassified documents from agencies and organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the White House, United Nations, and the Atomic Energy Commission. Content from this archive includes: diary entries, FBI surveillance and intelligence correspondence and memoranda, CIA intelligence studies and reports, Joint Chiefs papers, and technical studies.

Like most collections of this type, allow time for searching and browsing. DarkCyber poked around, and our team will restrain from making any further comment.

Stephen E Arnold, May 31, 2019

US Government Social Media Archive

May 28, 2019

Library of Congress, hello, LOC, are you there? What about other US government agencies? Do you have these data?

Maybe not?

I read “U.S. Navy Creating a 350 Billion Record Social Media Archive” and there is not one word about the Library of Congress. The US Navy wants to build a social media collection. Based on the sketchy information available, the content scope will include:

  • Messages from 200 million unique users (about 30 percent of social media users)
  • Time window: July 1, 2014, to December 31, 2016
  • 100 languages
  • Metadata (date, time, location, etc.).

The RFP is located on FedBizOps.

Stephen E Arnold, May 28, 2019

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta