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CDC Awards Controversial Palantir $5.3 Million Extension of COVID Drug Distribution Contract

Published: March 4, 2022
Palantir was awarded a contract extension to deliver COVID vaccines and drugs to the public.
Palantir Technologies' worldwide headquarters in Denver, Colorado on Sept. 30, 2020. The controversial AI data surveillance company was recently awarded a $5.3 million contract extension to manage the distribution of COVID vaccines and other drugs awarded under Operation Warp Speed. (Image: JASON CONNOLLY/AFP via Getty Images)

Software giant Palantir has obtained a $5.3 million contract from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to allocate Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines and drugs, predominantly among underserved communities—but some doubt its good intentions.

The order is valid for six months and was an extension of the one year deal both the CDC and Palantir agreed upon in July of 2020 as part of Operation Warp Speed to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We are honored to support the CDC’s efforts in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and build upon our work at other U.S. government agencies,” said Akash Jain, President of Palantir in an announcement of the contract’s award.

“A successful federal response to COVID requires real-time situational awareness to manage rapidly changing epidemiology,” Dr. Bill Kassler, Palantir Chief Medical Officer, said in an announcement. 

Dissenting voices

However, the deal has also stirred up a lot of controversy. In a series of lengthy articles, Unlimited Hangout co-authors Jeremy Loffredo and Whitney Webb outline what they call the intricate relationship Palantir has with high-profile organizations like the Defense Department, ICE, the CIA, and U.S. intelligence. 

The authors stated that although Palantir being awarded a contract “to manage the allocation of the vaccine to ‘priority groups’” may simply appear as innocuous as “the national-security state wanting to award the contract to a familiar and trusted company,” there was more than meets the eye.

“The allocation strategy’s heavy focus on vaccinating minorities first, with questionable justification for doing so, suggests something else may have been behind Palantir’s selection to play a prominent role in Warp Speed,” the outlet posited.

The article goes on to describe how Operation Warp Speed is being almost entirely operated by the U.S. military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Security Agency (NSA), and how Palantir has been increasingly moving into the “public health” surveillance business. 

The Tiberius software developed by Palantir is the driving force behind HHS Protect, an elusive database that accrues all COVID-19 related statistics from “more than 225 data sets, including demographic statistics, community-based tests, and a wide range of state-provided data.” 

Apart from HHS Protect, Palantir obtained many other COVID-19–related deals with subsets of the HHS, in addition to at least ten other governments worldwide, including the UK.

A controversial rise to power

In December of 2019, Business Insider exposed Palantir’s agreement with the Pentagon to take on its drone AI analysis program Project Maven—a deal too hot to handle even for Google given its controversial nature.

Palantir is also involved with many law enforcement agencies to provide policing tools, some of which are “predictive” in nature, meaning they take out individuals who the system’s calculations and algorithms regard as likely to commit a crime.

The company was also instrumental in creating the software for a “public health” panopticon, an all-seeing eye that combines both surveillance and data sharing as developed by the U.S. national-security state called Total Information Awareness (TIA)—a program overseen by DARPA that was considered so controversial because it would wash away all civil privacy rights that it has officially been disbanded.

“This ‘public health’ panopticon, as clearly seen with Palantir and its role in Warp Speed, is all about advancing the long-standing goals of the national-security state,” Loffredo wrote.

“Palantir’s objective is, and always has been, control of information and knowledge and becoming the centerpiece of a vast surveillance enterprise that now extends far beyond the US borders,” he added.