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Thorn

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Ashton Kutcher’s suspect NGO claiming to combat child trafficking by providing “free” CIA-linked surveillance technology to US police. As calls for dramatic reforms of U.S. police departments have swept the country in recent months, several of Silicon Valley’s largest companies have tried to salvage their image by asserting that they will no longer sell their facial recognition software to police departments. Among these companies is Amazon, which decided to place a one-year pause on the sale of its software “Rekognition” to U.S. police departments in early June.

At the time the moratorium was announced, The New York Times noted that “the announcement was a striking change for Amazon…” due to the fact that, “more than other big technology companies, Amazon has resisted calls to slow its deployment.” Amazon’s efforts to ensure the widespread adoption of its facial recognition software gained notoriety after a study found that Rekognition falsely tied 28 members of Congress, most of whom were politicians of color, to mugshots, causing critics to accuse Amazon’s product of both racial bias and inaccuracy.

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However, what The Times and other outlets failed to pick up on, then and now, is the fact that Amazon’s Rekognition is still being supplied to U.S. police, despite its official moratorium. Indeed, U.S. law enforcement agencies are still being offered Amazon’s facial recognition software by a NGO partnered with Amazon that was created by actor Ashton Kutcher, who frequently co-invests with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Ashton Kutcher at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Photo: Bill Clark

That NGO, called “Thorn,” continues to supply the controversial software to law enforcement agencies around the country under the guise of helping police “combat child trafficking.” Thorn’s role in supplying such software to law enforcement despite moratoriums is also notable because its founder Ashton Kutcher has publicly and “tearfully” supported Black Lives Matter amid the recent protests that provoked Amazon’s moratorium on sales of Rekognition to police in the first place. In addition, Kutcher is also a major investor, alongside Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, in a company that supplies AI-powered software to law enforcement agencies, further undermining Kutcher’s professed support for ending racial inequities in policing.

Yet, further investigation into Thorn casts even greater doubt on its professed altruistic objectives, given the organization’s ties to CIA cut-outs, Wall Street banks and another “anti-child trafficking” organization that was launched by Hillary Clinton and Cherie Blair, the wife of former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The CIA, Wall Street and Thorn’s “Spotlight”

Thorn was founded in 2012 by actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore with the original goal of “investing in the innovation phase of potential tech-led approaches to ending online child sexual abuse.” Kutcher and Moore were allegedly inspired to create Thorn after watching a documentary on child sex trafficking in Cambodia. Eventually, Thorn’s plan to create its own “tech-led approach” to combatting online child sex abuse was shelved, with them instead partnering with two tech companies — Amazon and Digital Reasoning, to produce “a product to aid in identifying child sex trafficking victims who were sold online.” Thorn then “made the decision to develop the product itself and provide it free to law enforcement.”

Thorn’s partners, per its website, include many of the largest Silicon Valley tech companies, such as Amazon, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce, Microsoft, Intel, Dropbox and Adobe, as well as Goldman Sachs and Verizon. They are also partnered with the NGO Polaris, which operates the U.S. National Trafficking Hotline and whose current CEO is a former operative for USAID, a CIA cut-out. Polaris is also a member organization of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an organization allegedly devised and initially financed by Jeffrey Epstein and also associated with Epstein’s top co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell. Other NGO partners of Thorn include the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the international branch of which was launched in 1999 by Hillary Clinton and Cherie Blair; and the McCain Institute for International Leadership, named for the late, hawkish Senator John McCain and hosted at Arizona State University (ASU).

The majority of Thorn’s work involves providing local and federal law enforcement agencies with a software suite called Spotlight. Spotlight, under the guise of combatting human trafficking, is a sweeping, AI-powered surveillance tool that, per the tech companies that helped create it, is currently used “by more than 2,187 law enforcement and intelligence agencies in North America.” It is provided to U.S. law enforcement free of charge by the Thorn organization, allowing law enforcement easy access to controversial surveillance systems that they ultimately use for much, more more than combatting sex trafficking. The software, per Thorn, is also used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

According to Amazon, Thorn’s Spotlight employs “a serverless Amazon Web Services (AWS) architecture that includes Amazon Rekognition, a deep learning–based image and video analysis service, and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) C5 instances.” Amazon’s website also states that “Amazon Rekognition, which uses deep learning to accurately identify objects, people, activities, and events in images and videos stored in Amazon S3, is at the heart of one of Spotlight’s most crucial capabilities. (emphasis added)”

According to Thorn’s director of product management Kristin Thoorse, Amazon’s facial recognition software was chosen because “it didn’t make sense to build our own facial-recognition service when AWS already offers a best-in-breed solution like Amazon Rekognition.” Amazon has repeatedly cited Thorn’s Spotlight as proof that the controversial Rekognition software does more good than harm as part of its years-long public relations battle over its use by U.S. law enforcement.

Spotlight was also built with components from another lesser-known tech company called Digital Reasoning. Digital Reasoning’s founder and co-CEO – Tim Estes – told Forbes in 2017 that the company is “clearly the emerging leader in surveillance,” adding that “our ambition is to become the best artificial intelligence company to understand human communication.” Digital Reasoning’s flagship product is AI-powered “conduct surveillance,” which analyzes the communications of employees and other individuals to determine if their communications are in line with company codes of conducts and ethics, leading media outlets to refer to Digital Reasoning as a “Robocop” of sorts that constantly monitors employee communications and attentiveness. Currently, a majority of its clients are major Wall Street banks and the company is also partnered with other backers of Thorn, like Google.

Digital Reasoning’s algorithm was built with an undisclosed amount of funding from the CIA’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Spotlight’s other co-creator, Amazon, has acquired several In-Q-Tel-funded start-ups and entities and is a long-time CIA contractor. Two major CIA-connected companies coming together to create “anti-child trafficking” software is concerning given that the CIA has a long and sordid history of sexually abusing children and trafficking children for the purposes of blackmail, including ties to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal as well as several other child sex trafficking rings.

In addition, Digital Reasoning’s current President and co-CEO is a former Goldman Sachs banker and member of the controversial Carlyle Group. The Carlyle Group, which has deep ties to the Bush family, is the current owner of Landmark Aviation, which was also a key part of the CIA’s extrajudicial rendition and torture program. Landmark also took over operations from CIA-linked Southern Air Transport at the controversial Ohio airport linked to Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein, with that airport allegedly being a factor behind Columbus, Ohio’s status as one of the country’s main child trafficking “hot spots.” Ashton Kutcher notably got his start modeling for the clothing company Abercrombie and Fitch, which – until very recently – was owned by Leslie Wexner’s The Limited.

Aside from In-Q-Tel, Digital Reasonings’ lead investor is Barclays bank. Barclays’ CEO, Jes Staley, has been investigated for his close and extensive ties to Jeffrey Epstein before and after his first arrest in relation to the sex trafficking of minors.

Spotlight is also supported by Google, another tech company funded into existence by the CIA via In-Q-Tel that is also a major contractor to the U.S. government and intelligence agencies, as well as the McCain Institute, named for late Senator John McCain. The McCain Institute’s involvement is notable given that Sen. McCain’s widower, Cindy McCain, who is a key part of the Institute’s “Combatting Human Trafficking” initiative, publicly admitted “We all knew about him [Epstein]. We all knew what he was doing.”

Despite having a well-funded initiative to “combat human trafficking” that preceded Epstein’s second arrest by several years and admitting to knowing what Epstein was doing to under-age girls, the McCain Institute’s initiative never made any effort to combat Epstein’s sex trafficking activities. Instead, long-time Jeffrey Epstein associate and the person who connected Epstein to Alan Dershowitz and the Clinton family while Bill Clinton was president, Lynn Forester de Rothschild, is a key member of the McCain Institute.

Two other members of the McCain Institute are closely tied to Thorn, Ashton Kutcher – who co-founded Thorn and remains on its board of directors – and Ernie Allen – who is both the McCain Institute’s and Thorn’s “Human Trafficking expert.” Allen is the long-time head of an “anti-human trafficking” organization launched by the Clinton and Blair families whose software tools “to protect children” are also furnished by Amazon, all of which is discussed in a subsequent section of this investigation.

For now, it is worth noting that Ashton Kutcher – Thorn’s celebrity founder who has received the lionshare of credit in media reports for Thorn’s reported successes in combatting child trafficking, is a top investor in a controversial law enforcement technology company and often co-invests alongside Amazon’s top executive and world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos. For instance, Kutcher is a major investor in the law enforcement software company Mark 43, which provides AI-powered dispatch system, records management software and data-intelligence platform to more than 70 U.S. police departments. Other investors alongside Kutcher in Mark43 include former CIA Director David Petraeus, Jeff Bezos, Ray Rothrock – a former partner in the Rockefeller family’s venture capital firm, and Goldman Sachs. Aside from Mark43, Kutcher and Bezos have publicly co-invested together in several companies, including Airbnb and Fundbox.

Thorn’s Boardroom

In light of Thorn’s alleged mission to “protect children” by providing “free” software to law enforcement, the connections detailed above should be cause for concern. But, a closer look into the organization’s board of directors takes us into more sinister territory, especially when we explore the history of Thorn’s “child protection adviser” and board member, Ernie Allen. However, it is worth examining other members of the board, as well.

Board member Ray Chambers, who co-founded a private equity firm with Nixon’s Treasury Secretary, William Simon, has more recently ventured into a youth-focused “philanthropic” effort with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, with whom he co-founded America’s Promise Alliance. Chambers, in recent years, has also become very involved in the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), where Chambers serves as ambassador for global strategy, giving him a key role in WHO as it relates to the current coronavirus crisis.

Through his work at the UN, Chambers has forged a close association with the former head of Microsoft, Bill Gates. While serving as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Health in Agenda 2030 and for Malaria, Chambers launched the End Malaria Council with the Gates Foundation. Prior to the founding of the council, Chambers and Gates co-authored the paper Aspiration to Action: What will it take to end malaria? Gates, aside from the scrutiny he has attracted due to the coronavirus crisis, has ties to the Epstein scandal and Ghislaine Maxwell’s Israeli intelligence-linked sister, Isabel.

Another board member of Thorn is Joe Lonsdale, one of the co-founders of the data-mining company Palantir. Palantir currently serves as a contractor to all 17 of the U.S.’ intelligence agencies, as well as many other U.S. federal agencies including the Pentagon. It was largely funded into existence by the CIA’s In-Q-Tel and the CIA was Palantir’s only client from 2005 until 2008, during which time the CIA was a key part of directing Palantir’s product development. Palantir is often considered a successor to the PROMIS software, whose theft and abuse by intelligence agencies in the U.S. and Israel was the result of a massive cover-up. Like PROMIS, Palantir can be used to track essentially anything and everything, including individuals, as well as predict the actions and movements of the individuals it tracks.

Notably, Lonsdale was accused by his former girlfriend Elise Clougherty of rape, with Clougherty alleging in court “that Lonsdale regularly degraded her, depriving her of food, physical abused her and raped her. He allegedly told her that women needed to be raped so that they could learn respect.” Clougherty had worked for one of Lonsdale’s post-Palantir start-ups and had previously modeled for Abercrombie Kids, a brand then-owned by Leslie Wexner.

Thorn’s remaining board member is Suzanne Bell, who is a lawyer with the high-powered D.C.-based law firm Covington and Burling. Bell is one of Covington’s main lawyers for the firm’s clients in Silicon Valley and her work at the firm “focuses on emerging areas of technology, including artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, fintech, digital health, autonomous vehicles, and the Internet of Things.” Some of Covington and Burling’s other, better-known partners include former National Security adviser John Bolton and former Attorney General Eric Holder. The law firm has been linked to several illegal acts, including the illegal overthrow of the government of Honduras in 2009, which also involved the U.S. State Department, then led by Hillary Clinton. Covington as well as Palantir are partnered with the NGO Polaris, itself a partner of Thorn and member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

by Whitney Webb via UnlimitedHangout[/ihc-hide-content]

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