Might Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley’s most famous Trump supporter, take a top post in the administration?
The billionaire entrepreneur has been in talks to become chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which independently monitors the nation’s intelligence agencies, according to a new story in Vanity Fair.
And if he takes the job, it could also affect some of the nation’s biggest tech companies.
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“I cannot overstate his impact on the transition,” former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told the magazine. Thiel’s influence has included recommending his former chief of staff, Michael Kratsios, as deputy chief technology officer. Another former Thiel colleague, Kevin Harrington, joined the National Security Council as deputy assistant to the president. Thiel has also reportedly weighed in on issues including antitrust policy, the drug-approval process and cybersecurity.
Bannon, who was interviewed in July (a month before he left the White House), added: “You will see in the near term that Peter will be taking on new responsibilities, like intelligence.”
Thiel, a member of Silicon Valley’s famed “PayPal Mafia,” knows a thing or two about data mining; he co-founded Palantir — which has worked with the CIA and the NSA — and sits on the board of Facebook. Now, according to Vanity Fair, Thiel could be taking on a role in which he could spy on our spies.
The magazine reports that “people in the intelligence community resent the hell out of” Palantir, which is a for-profit company that isn’t subject to government oversight. (By the way, Vanity Fair also mentions that Palantir has denied that it had a role in the Trump campaign’s data-mining operation and that its CEO, Alex Karp, had supported Hillary Clinton.)
Thiel could become a thorn in the side of a couple of big tech companies, which could lead to conflict-of-interest questions.
One unnamed Vanity Fair source, supposedly a senior administration aide, said: “Peter has indicated that if he takes the P.I.A.B. position he intends to take a comprehensive look at the U.S. intelligence community’s information-technology architecture. He is super-concerned about Amazon and Google” but less so about Facebook. But apparently Thiel is “concerned about the monopolistic tendencies of [all three] companies and how they deny economic well-being to people they disagree with,” the source said. Thiel supposedly thinks of these companies — perhaps not Facebook? — as “New Age global fascists” because of the way they can control information flow.
This new report is interesting in light of a BuzzFeed report last month, which said that despite his public statements of support for the president, Thiel was telling friends privately that there was a 50 percent chance that Trump’s presidency “ends in disaster.”
A spokesman for Thiel’s Founders Fund has not yet returned SiliconBeat’s request for comment.
Photo: Peter Thiel delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)