Data Analytics Firm Deeply Entangled With Intelligence Community Provides Unfettered CIA Database Access to ICE

Posted on March 19, 2017

In a new piece from The Intercept, reports indicate that the surveillance data analytics company Palantir provides a database querying tool to Immigration and Customs Enforcement which, among other features, would allow members of the agency to access files acquired by the CIA and stored in its databases. The tool, known as FALCON, is a modified version of the company’s Gotham product tailored for use by a division of ICE, the Homeland Security Investigations office, dedicated to policing serious transnational criminal activity. However, the revealed documents show that ICE agents outside of this office would also have access to the tool. 

While the materials on Palantir products provided to ICE suggest that limits can be imposed on which datasets are accessible with FALCON, neither Palantir nor ICE offered any comment on whether such limits were being implemented. Furthermore, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request for internal policy or regulatory documents outlining restrictions on FALCON’s use or penalties for its abuse, ICE admitted that it could not comply with the request because no such documents existed. 

The revelation that ICE personnel are afforded unfettered access to intelligence community databases represents an alarmingly sweeping proliferation of surveillance infrastructure into domestic law enforcement practices and activities. In the absence of any written, binding policies against use of the FALCON surveillance tool outside of the division of ICE explicitly authorized to use it, it is not only conceivable but highly likely that other members of the agency, including those pursuing deportation and immigration enforcement, could utilize the tools with neither authorization nor oversight. This presents a grave threat to undocumented immigrants, as it makes them even more susceptible to state monitoring, and threatens even direr consequences.

You can find the full report from The Intercept here