Palantir’s FALCON Tipline software tool, a tool it sells to the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was used in the Mississippi raids that swept the state in August, when 680 people were arrested en masse by ICE agents.
The Mississippi workplace raids were the largest immigration raid in a decade and among the largest such raids in American history. The raids lead to the arrest, prosecution, and deportation of hundreds of workers, separating them from their families, and terrorizing the immigrant community at large. The raids took place during the first day of school for many in the state, resulting in children returning to empty homes, following the detention of both parents by ICE. At least two children were left alone for eight days after their parents did not return from work.
Palantir — the Silicon Valley tech giant — provided technology used in these raids. Mijente learned of Palantir’s role in the raids after reading an affidavit from an HSI investigator requesting a search warrant for a food processing plant from a Mississippi federal court.
The Palantir FALCON Tipline
According to ICE’s own affidavits, Palantir’s FALCON Tipline (FALCON-TL) was used as part of the investigation into food processing plants when HSI investigators received tips from the public. In this instance, Tipline received numerous tips suggesting Koch Foods (a chicken processing company with a large industrial footprint in the state of Mississippi) was knowingly hiring and employing people without employment authorization.
Upon receiving a tip, an HSI agent uses Palantir’s FALCON-TL to log the data, which then connects to another Palantir product (FALCON Search and Analysis, or FALCON-SA) as well as “other government, open source, and commercial databases” to link other information to that tip, like whether someone named in the tip has already been tracked by ICE. In short, Palantir’s FALCON-TL tool is used by ICE agents in the field to log information and connect that information to various databases, facilitating the creation of profiles of undocumented immigrants for arrest, proseuction, and deportation.
The FALCON Tipline Privacy Impact Assessment, a document published by ICE itself, explains the use of the tool in further detail:
“After receiving the tip, the HSI Tipline specialist inputs the relevant data into FALCON-TL. There are two components of a FALCON-TL record – the report narrative component, which contains all the information related to the tip, and the report subject properties component, which contains a subset of the information in the report narrative component. When a Tipline specialist creates a tip, he or she completes the report narrative component and FALCON-TL creates the associated report subject properties component. The Tipline specialist then conducts a search in FALCON-SA and other government, open source, and commercial databases to identify additional information related to the tip. For example, if an incoming tip provides very specific identifying information about the person alleged to have violated a law that is enforced by ICE, the Tipline specialist’s research in FALCON-SA may reveal that the individual is already the subject of an open ICE investigation… Information that may be added to a tip includes geospatial data, information from news reports, and information from public records including civil litigations, criminal history information, and state incorporation records.”
According to the same Privacy Impact Statement, FALCON-SA “augments ICE’s ability to review and develop information about persons, organizations, events, and locations by ingesting and creating an index of data from other existing operational government data systems and enabling ICE law enforcement and homeland security personnel to search, analyze, and visualize the data to help identify relationships.”
Palantir routinely claims they play no role in family separations. This is false. Earlier this year, Mijente exposed the use of Palantir software in tracking down and prosecuting sponsors and family members of unaccompanied children picked up by federal immigration authorities. It was later revealed that Palantir’s tech was used in workplace raids at 7-11 stores in New York City in 2018. Both of these operations resulted in de facto family separation, as family members arrested by ICE were kept in detention away from their children and relatives. The evidence unearthed following the Mississippi raids further disproves Palantir’s assertion that their technology has not been used in family separations.
As of July 2019, Palantir had at least 29 active contracts with the federal government worth over $1.5 billion in total. These contracts are primarily with different law enforcement and intelligence agencies, like ICE, the FBI, the Army, the Navy, and U.S. Special Operations Command. The current FALCON contract, signed in November 2018 will see Palantir received $42 million from ICE. It’s up for renewal on November 27, 2019.