Silicon Valley was sent into a dither this week after Vanity Fair indicated that legendary venture capitalist and Trump supporter Peter Thiel is about to become Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB).
Vanity Fair has specialized in dumping on President Donald Trump for being an alleged stooge of the Russians, a Pillar of Ignorance, about to lose his marriage, an Ugly American, and for the imminent exodus of White House staff.
But its in-depth report on the high probability that Thiel is interested in becoming chairman of the non-partisan advisory board is reverberating across Silicon Valley — and Thiel’s silence has given the story credibility.
PIAB and its “Intelligence Oversight Board” assist the President by providing independent oversight on the effectiveness of the national intelligence agencies in terms of meeting their missions and complying with the Constitution, executive orders, presidential directives and all federal laws.
Edward Snowden’s revelations demonstrated that the Obama administration had drastically expanded the intelligence agencies to give them the potential power to spy on every American’s digital life. Just eight days before President Trump was sworn in on January 20, the Obama administration expanded NSA surveillance intercept sharing to 16 other government agencies. The Obama administration justified the move as better protecting Americans — though it also enabled leaks to the press, critics allege.
Peter Thiel is an extraordinarily brilliant technologist. He amassed a $2.6 billion fortune as a founder of PayPal, as the first outside investor in Facebook, and by providing venture capital to dozens of very high-tech start-ups. His hottest investment is Palantir, which he co-founded in Palo Alto, California. Palantir does not do surveillance, but it is already contracted to perform data mining services and strategies to analyze NSA and CIA digital intercepts.
Former Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon told Vanity Fair that Thiel was instrumental in assisting the Trump transition by recommending his former chief of staff, Michael Kratsios, as deputy chief technology officer; and Kevin Harrington as National Security Council deputy assistant to the President. Bannon said in July: “You will see in the near term that Peter will be taking on new responsibilities, like intelligence.”