By Stephen Benavides
Friday, 14 June 2013
In a House Armed Services Committee hearing at the end of April, California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, a former Marine, leveled serious charges against high-level Army officers. He accused them of blocking the use of Palantir technology, the company the military has hired to watch the US public’s every online move for signs of potential terrorist activity.
But the House had concerns of its own: In a letter dated August 1, 2012, the House Committee asked why the $2.3 billion had been spent on research and development of the DCGS-A, a global surveillance and intelligence super platform, that despite the mind-boggling sum, failed to work as planned. Reports submitted to House Armed Services Committee outlining serious issues with the global surveillance and intelligence super platform indicated that DCGS-A is “unable to perform simple analytical tasks.” More specifically, military intelligence analysts from the Army and Air Force have both expressed that DCGS-A does not “provide intuitive capabilities to see the relationships between a wide variety of disparate data sets of information.”
The ongoing fight over the use of Palantir software bubbled over into Congress when the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta requesting documentation of the forward operations assessment for the Palantir system. Before any technology is deployed by the military, that technology must be vetted in the form of an assessment based on a trial resembling real world situations. Instead of receiving the powerful software system with open arms, Army brass refused to fully implement technology that the FBI and CIA already use to monitor digital communications of US citizens, including surveillance of social media platforms as Facebook and Twitter. Given that the CIA provided the start-up to get Palantir going, there is an interest in having all branches of government implement the same, or similar technology. In the age where terrorists lurk around every corner, and international occupations churn out generation after generation of anti-imperialist youth, consolidating the surveillance and intelligence systems employed would seem to make sense. Now that this private company, Palantir, has become a very successful money-making venture, there appears to be an internal security war going on inside the US government over what system to deploy in international theaters. This is not in the name of the public good, but rather an effort by the US Army to hold its own as other federal agencies like the CIA, FBI, NSA, and DIA increase in power and influence post 9-11.