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[flagged] Trump’s paid Thiel’s Palantir $1.5B so far to build ICE’s surveillance network (thenextweb.com)
129 points by ghobs91 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments
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Domestic surveillance by ICE of everyone, both citizens and those without papers, wouldn't even be necessary if either the border was properly controlled, or if employers were made more liable for employing workers illegally. But somehow we simultaneously have these billions of dollars in surveillance, associated chilling effects, the whole police-industrial complex, and no effect at all on the rate of illegal immigration, which is higher than it was under the Obama admin by some metrics.

Sometimes it seems like the purpose of these contracts is just to give taxpayer money to contractors to put a boot on said taxpayers' faces, rather than whatever is listed.


The whole employment without papers thing is a bit of a mystery to me because: I am an employer. I was also an immigrant. Based on being those two things I can't imagine how you get a job without the legal basis to have one[1]. And yet, very large numbers of people do. I'm guessing there's a whole big story to how this works, but surely it has to depend on the government at least turning a blind eye somewhere.

[1]As a non-citizen I had a driver's licence that indicated my immigration status. I didn't have a US passport. I couldn't buy a gun legally nor could I vote. As an employer we are required to verify immigration status for anyone to whom we make a job offer, a task that our HR people take very seriously.


You can buy a fake social in Queens for $50. It's a deliberately flawed system because fixing it would utterly decimate the pool of cheap labor for the service sector.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/if-youre-a-good-work...


The system is designed to keep illegal immigrants here, but keep them in constant fear.

The raid on Koch Foods that resulted in the arrest of 680 immigrant workers happened only after those workers attempted to unionize, the call to ICE almost certainly came from management, and the people replacing them at those jobs definitely know what the stakes of worker organization are now.


Non-citizen labor is cheap. Milton Friedman explained this decades ago. "Illegal Immigration only helps when its Illegal" [1]

[1] https://youtu.be/C52TlPCVDio


It usually involves fake/stolen documents, with the employer either negligently or intentionally turns a blind eye to, and that's the employer's defense if raided.

A friend who works in the restaurant industry says all the back staff have a social security card. But it's one that they all share.

> rate of illegal immigration, which is higher than it was under the Obama admin by some metrics.

What metrics? Illegal immigration has been in steady decline since the 2008 recession. Because you're not talking about the completely legal process of seeking asylum, right?

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/apr...


That article is from early 2017, with the data right after the Trump inauguration, when immigrants and traffickers were unsure what (if any) changes there would be in enforcement. More recent apprehension data from this year shows a ten year high [1].

Also, only 12% of asylum claims in the US are approved and about half of the rest do not show up to court [2].

[1] https://www.newsweek.com/border-apprehensions-2019-have-alre... [2] https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1161001/download


Shame on Palantir and Thiel for being a part of this; it's still pretty disgusting to me the sheer lack of moral responsibility at play here.

1. Insinuating that the tools will ever predict crime or terrorism.

2. Allowing, fostering, and building tools of mass surveillance without oversight in secret for no reason other than to surveil.

3. Aiding in the human rights abuses through enabling ICE and other organizations which fuel America's concentration camps.

Though this is pretty unsurprising considering he literally wants to consume the blood of the young: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/08/peter-thiel-wants-to... supporting ICE, and trump, is one helluva way to make sure you have a steady supply of it on your hands.


This is the tech company that really deserves to be beaten up in the media!

It’s a “dog bites man” story because the whole point of Palantir is selling this sort of service. Whereas when Google or Facebook does something “right-leaning” it’s more fundamentally unusual and thus newsworthy.

i’m so disappointed that i, early in my career, fell for the palantir koolaid.

I know the feeling. For much of my career I drank the koolaid of the military-industrial complex. Thankfully never worked directly on weapons programs. But still sad that it took me so long to acknowledge how evil it all was and leave it.

what was it like working there?

What’s wrong with enforcing immigration laws effectively?

Assuming this is a sincere question, there is already a great deal of reporting about the harm of (as you put it) "enforcing immigration laws effectively", and it is staggering to believe you're unaware of it.

Just within the 5 days, over 600 immigrants were taken at their workplace by ICE in Mississippi, leaving many children stranded and uncared for [1].

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/08/mississippi-...


Surveillance of the general populace shouldn't be necessary to enforce immigration laws. We didn't even have an immigration enforcement department until 2003.

So how many months/years until the same technology gets used against a group PT regrets, and we hear a repentance speech?

This is extreme ignorance, clickbait, or outright deception.

Headline:

"Study: Trump’s paid Peter Thiel’s Palantir $1.5B so far to build ICE’s mass-surveillance network"

From the actual study:

"It has received over $150 million from ICE alone, and has contracts worth some $1.5 billion with different federal agencies or departments, like the FBI, Navy, and Census Bureau."

So the headline is off by 10x but the study also notes that $800M of that $1.5B is a single contract for the Army. If you remove that single outlier, Palantir's 2017-2019 contract total doesn't look all that different than the 2014-2016 contract totals. Looking through the contracts themselves (later in the report), they're from all over the Feds and consistent over time.. other than the outlier.

There are lots of places and ways to criticize but this doesn't look like one.


I flagged this because the report [1] directly contradicts the headline.

Heck, the article itself contradicts the headline.

The vast majority of the 1.5B is going to the DOD, not ICE.

According to the report, ICE is getting just 44m of that 1.5b. For comparison, the IRS gets 31m and the SEC gets 56m.

It really looks like the article was willfully misrepresenting the numbers in order to get a hot-button social issue into the headline.

[1] https://mijente.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Mijente-The-W...


It surprises the dickens out of me that the editor would allow such an obviously mis-understandable title

That's because the headline (on thenextweb) is aggressively, intentionally politicized. It's partisan clickbait.

The "black budget" is probably a monster of waste and graft. We're lucky we even get to see how much Palantir is getting.

Reminds me of this old article about TARP I was reading recently. They loaned out $700B to a select few companies, many who were former employers of cabinet and treasury members. And they weren't even required to tell the public what they did with it:

> They’d decided not to even ask banks to monitor what they did with the bailout money [..] Instead of lending their new cash to struggling homeowners and small businesses, as Summers had promised, the banks were literally sitting on it. [..] From the start, taxpayer money was used to subsidize a string of finance mergers, from the Chase-Bear Stearns deal to the Wells Fargo­ Wachovia merger to Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

> Congress had approved $700 billion to buy up toxic mortgages, but $250 billion of the money was now shifted to direct capital injections for banks.

Only $4 out of $700 billion ended up going to help home owners directly, the other $696B went to Wall St, even though it only passed congress because it was sold as helping the home owners:

> In fact, the amount of money that eventually got spent on homeowner aid now stands as a kind of grotesque joke compared to the Himalayan mountain range of cash that got moved onto the balance sheets of the big banks more or less instantly in the first months of the bailouts. At the start, $50 billion of TARP funds were earmarked for HAMP. In 2010, the size of the program was cut to $30 billion. As of November of last year, a mere $4 billion total has been spent for loan modifications and other homeowner aid.

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/secrets-...

It's always a great time to have friends in government, but even more so in recent years. Especially the way Trump has only increased spending, just like Obama and Bush did. Likewise public/private partnerships and investments directly into private firms have increased in numbers, particularly in defence.


> They "loaned" out $700B to a select few companies, many who were former employers of cabinet and treasury members. Only $4 out of $700 billion ended up going to help home owners directly, the other $696B went to Wall St

This is false. As of Feb 2019, the government earned $107 billion in profit on TARP. Your source is 6 years old and out of date.

Additionally, funds were not loaned exclusively to financial companies. Automobile companies received ~$60B in TARP, which has netted a loss of approximately $12B for taxpayers.

[0] https://projects.propublica.org/bailout

[1] https://projects.propublica.org/bailout/list/index


Palantir wasn't "given" $1.5 billion either. What's your point?

The TARP article explains how they ended up being almost entirely loans directly to banks and others - which wasn't the original plan when sold to congress, only part it was supposed to be loaned.

The article also mentioned how much they are making off of it as a result of the banks doing a whole bunch of stuff that had little to do with "toxic mortgages" or helping the "little guy" (small business loans and home ownership), again as it was sold to Congress, where it was rushed through with little scrutiny and then administered by a man called a "stooge" for the banks.

The fact they made their money back and a few banks got richer, while the market only got further reduced to a smaller group of bigger banks, wasn't the point. It's the disconnect between why they got the money and how it was sold to congress and the public, and how it went to a well connected select few.

It's funny how everyone thinks all the dirty details are insignificant now that the mega banks paid it back with interest. Which was always the plan for the actual loans part - that were supposed to have strings attached so it was used for mortgages and small business loans. The original plan also involved buying up a whole bunch of the toxic debt directly... but that of course was quickly dropped and it all went to no-strings-attached loans. Which I highly doubt congress or the public would agree to, even with $100B ROI.

Nothing to see here, I guess?


$636B was actually loaned out, and so far $740B has come back to the Treasury in interest and principle. The US government made money on TARP.

https://projects.propublica.org/bailout/


mhm, everyone posts this reply whenever it comes up now as if that was the whole point of TARP was to make some money off mega-banks and car companies.

Subsidizing monopolies and financing M&As which further reduce competition is always a safe bet if your goal is making money. Especially in a down market when no one else has your special access to cheap capital... you can make a killing and help your buddies from private school get the bulk of it. Why doesn't the gov always do that?!

If the public asks questions just show them the sweet 10% interest the government got back. Who cares about moral hazards, long term stability, opportunity costs, lack of competition, oversight, and people lying to congress. We're now $100b richer(?), at least in the short term!


Because the financial crisis wasn't caused by mortgages, it was caused by highly leveraged derivatives packaging those mortgages. But for the derivatives, all we would have seen was a humdrum correction in the mortgage market, possibly without any recession at all.

TARP was principally used to buy those derivatives to shore up the financial system. If it was used to buy mortgages directly it would have required orders of magnitude more money (you couldn't just buy out subprime because the entire market had seized up), and it couldn't have been executed quickly enough to forestall further collapse of the system.

The reason only a handful of entities saw substantial TARP money is precisely because those were the entities at the most critical positions in the system. And the fact that they were so critical and important would have obvious correlations (both nefarious and benign) with their political and bureaucratic ties.

Yes, it was unfair, but the unfairness wasn't with TARP but with the financial system TARP was shoring up. If all we cared about was some superficial notion of fairness we could have simply allowed the entire CDO mortgage market to collapse, taking the rest of the financial system down with it. Indeed, many people at the time argued for precisely that.

If people want to be indignant, be indignant at the limited scope of the subsequent reforms, and be especially indignant at the silent deconstruction of those reforms.


I hope this comes off friendly...

> Only $4 out of $700 billion ended up going to help home owners directly, the other $696B went to Wall St (even though it only passed congress because it was sold as helping the home owners)

TARP bailouts did suck but were also necessary to fend off complete economic collapse [1] of western capitalism... The banks that received the money either didn't need it all because the US government proved to the world the dollar was safe, or they desperately needed it as markets swan dived into the ground and collapsed (which we didn't see)... Quantitative Easing (QE) was necessary as were the monetary policies (low interest rates) to stabilize the economy. It really wasn't allowed to be about healing, it was only ever triage to keep it (the economy) alive.

Unfortunately, the US public didn't get bailed out, and we didn't throw the motherfuckers in jail... so we accomplished very little, but we did keep the world economy afloat. The real problem at the time for appropriate bailouts was political, congress wouldn't allocate more. People by and large do not understand macroeconomics, and that's likely, I believe, because they don't understand large numbers (this might sound silly or rude, but it's just fundamental and not a flippant or derogatory comment).

... with all that said, I totally agree that Trump is increasing spending... Like all republicans do, and to to be clear it's factually republican party who increase our deficits by-and-large through tax cuts [2] which don't grow the fucking economy because trickle down is bullshit. And anyone who wants to say the deficit went up by a ton because of the Obama administration keep in mind two things, please:

1.) TARP bailouts, and all that bullshit were a Bush problem. 2.) Most of the Iraq/Afghanistan war budget was paid for from appropriations by congress which didn't start hitting the books until 2009 (when Obama took office).

I didn't much care for Obama as he was too much of a centrist, but I do believe in trying to present an accurate picture of what happened and why that happened.

[1] I've always been on the fence if the collapse of Keynesian economics (and monetary policy when applicable) would be good for my inner anarcho-syndicalist... I tend to think it's better in steps, but maybe that's not possible; nor, I suppose is it relevant to this conversation...

[2] Don't think I'm trying to solely blame Republicans for our fucked up economy, neoconservative liberal policies from democrats like Slick Willy did a number too... Like letting Glass-Steagall get repealed.


While Trump's undoubtably been helping Palantir, I'm not entirely sure how much can be attributed to Trump vs. ongoing procurement issues. E.g., the military's previous analysis software was arguably vaporware [1] and should have been replaced anyway. If the government doesn't have access to decent analytical software, it runs around like a headless chicken (e.g. the wars in the middle east).

When it comes to ICE, it looks like Palantir's just integrating data from different sources. Surveillance is an issue, so the question seems to be whether the government should be able to tap into that data in the first place.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/palantir-is-the-killer-produ...


Did anybody here played with Palantir's software stack? If so, how is the overall experience especially the UI?

As someone in the software industry, looking at palantirs UI gave me the feeling that this is a glorified pandas/sklearn/hive shop, certainly less accomplished than Apache, but enough to dazzle the dinosaurs in government.

Hard to say if being so pro-Trump was purely a "don't bite the hand that feeds" or if he had indeed went from some sort of libertarian to having a halfie for the road to at least a police state, but this probably explains Thiel's behavior as of late.



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