Massive, hidden illegal or unethical programs lead to massive abuses. While no one wants a less-safe country, we also want oversight, and insight int how things are done.
Palantir databases are the most widely cited when it comes to surveillance abuse, and The Intercept covers this topic widely.
From the Intercept:
In 2014, ICE awarded Palantir, the $20 billion data-mining firm founded by billionaire Trump advisor Peter Thiel, a $41 million contract to build and maintain ICM, according to government funding records. The system is scheduled to arrive at “final operating capacity” by September of this year. The documents identify Palantir’s ICM as “mission critical” to ICE, meaning that the agency will not be able to properly function without the program.
ICM funding documents analyzed by The Intercept make clear that the system is far from a passive administrator of ICE’s case flow. ICM allows ICE agents to access a vast “ecosystem” of data to facilitate immigration officials in both discovering targets and then creating and administering cases against them. The system provides its users access to intelligence platforms maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and an array of other federal and private law enforcement entities. It can provide ICE agents access to information on a subject’s schooling, family relationships, employment information, phone records, immigration history, foreign exchange program status, personal connections, biometric traits, criminal records, and home and work addresses.
“What we have here is a growing network of interconnected databases that together are drawing in more and more information,” said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union. “If President Trump’s rhetoric on mass deportations is going to be turned into reality, then we’re going to see these tools turned in that direction, and these documents show that there are very powerful and intrusive tools that can be used toward that end.”
Although ICM appears to have been originally conceived for use by ICE’s office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the system appears to be widely available to agents within ICE. Officers of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Office (ERO) — the U.S. government’s primary deportation force — access the system to gather information for both criminal and civil cases against immigrants, according to a June 2016 disclosure by the Department of Homeland Security, although ERO will use a separate system to manage its civil cases. “HSI and ERO personnel use the information in ICM to document and inform their criminal investigative activities and to support the criminal prosecutions arising from those investigations,” states the DHS filing. “ERO also uses ICM data to inform its civil cases.”
ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor also uses ICM to represent the office in “exclusion, deportation, and removal proceedings,” among other matters, according to the DHS disclosure.
The DHS disclosure states that Homeland Security Investigations is ICM’s primary user. Although mainly tasked with investigating serious cross-border crimes like drug smuggling, human trafficking, and child pornography, HSI had also been behind some of the most controversial workplace immigration raids of the Obama administration, which immigrant advocates fear could expand massively under President Trump. HSI provided support to the Enforcement and Removal Office during last month’s high-profile enforcement surge, and just last week it was reported that HSI agents spearheaded a controversial sweep of several Asian restaurants in Mississippi that led to the agency apprehending more than 50 immigrants.