The pandemic handed Oracle CEO Larry Ellison what he’s wanted for decades — the power to curate the vast datasets housing our medical, financial and personal information.
By Jay Hawker
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As pandemic countermeasures obliterate the middle class and civil rights, Silicon Valley’s billionaire robber barons are cashing in on the global economic collapse and the rise of the surveillance state.
Now, one of these tech titans — a man with deep ties to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) — has claimed the golden ring: the key contract to manage all the personal, health and financial data that will allow government and industry to keep us in line as they build their New World Order.
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison will curate the vast datasets that house our medical, financial and personal information enabling Big Brother to track and trace our movements, our purchases, our preferences and our vulnerabilities, and use that information to control civil populations, suppress dissent and punish disobedience.
Ellison, whose estimated net worth of $87.7 billion makes him the seventh-richest individual in the world, has just achieved a long-sought milestone. On Dec.15, Oracle, the tech company Ellison founded in 1977 with help from the CIA, issued a press release announcing it “will serve as the CDC’s [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] central data repository for all vaccination data in the U.S. This ‘national clearing house’ system will receive data from all U.S. jurisdictions administering vaccinations.”
Almost 20 years since Ellison, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack, offered the government a proposal for a national security database “that collected everything possible to identify someone,” the mogul appears to finally be sitting on cloud nine.
Oracle’s National Electronic Health Records Cloud dates back to the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, a couple of weeks after letting President Trump use his estate near Palm Springs for a $100,000-a-plate golfing fundraiser, Ellison placed a call to the White House. According to a Forbes cover story on Ellison, he “asked Trump if a clearinghouse existed for real-time data about treatment efficacies and outcomes.”
Within a week after the president asked “how much?” and Ellison said, “for free,” the tech titan had brought together a team of Oracle engineers “to build a database and website registering coronavirus cases” and work with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies.
The first public acknowledgment of Oracle’s progress came on July 3, 2020, when the NIH’s National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), overseen by Dr. Anthony Fauci, launched the COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network (COVPN), aimed at enrolling thousands of volunteers in large-scale trials for a variety of investigational vaccines and monoclonal antibodies.
Fauci achieved this by merging four existing networks, all researching HIV/AIDS, something they would continue to do. “The network is expected to operate more than 100 clinical trial sites across the United States and internationally,” according to the NIAID press release which also stated “the COVPN website features a customized data collection platform, which Oracle (Redwood Shores, CA) built and donated, to securely identify potential trial participants.”
In August, a paper published by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security proposed that the “passive reporting” systems managed by the CDC and FDA ought to be revamped to forge “an active safety surveillance system directed by the CDC that monitors all [COVID-19] vaccine recipients — perhaps by short message service or other electronic mechanisms.”
By September, Operation Warp Speed director Moncef Slaoui was telling the periodical Science: “We’re working super hard on a very active pharmacovigilance system, to make sure that when the vaccines are introduced that we’ll absolutely continue to assess their safety.
In October, Slaoui told the New York Times: “The FDA is proposing that at least 50% of the individuals in the study population have at least two months of follow-up on safety before the vaccines are approved. And secondly, we are working really hard with the FDA and the CDC to make sure we have a very active pharmacovigilance surveillance system to allow us to continue to assess the safety of the vaccines as they are being used in the high risk population.”
And the Wall Street Journal reported in a profile of Slaoui that he’d said “tracking systems will have to be ‘incredibly precise’ to ensure that patients each get two doses of the same vaccine and to monitor them for adverse health effects. Operation Warp Speed has selected the medical-distribution company McKesson and cloud operators Google and Oracle to collect and track vaccine data.”
This marked the first time that Oracle’s role was revealed to have expanded to include Operation Warp Speed.
Oracle Chairman Ellison’s lucrative government arrangements trace back to the data software pioneer’s origins. In 1975, then in his early thirties, Ellison worked on a project for the electronics company Ampex in the Bay area, building a large terabit memory system for the CIA.
Ellison revealed in 2014 that the CIA not only became his firm’s first customer for a “relational database” two years later, but that he adopted the name from a CIA project called Oracle. “The news about our hot little database traveled around the intelligence community pretty quickly,” Ellison was quoted as saying in the 2003 book, “Softwar.” “In a little over six months’ time we had won several deals — the CIA, Navy Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence and the NSA [National Security Agency].”
By the turn of the millennium, Oracle had fought off competition from IBM and Microsoft to reach the financial pinnacle of database management. Two days after 9/11, Ellison met with NSA Director Michael Hayden to talk about his proposed data surveillance system. He then went to see Attorney General John Ashcroft to discuss an idea for a national identification card.
Writing an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal (October 18, 2001), Ellison reminded readers that the government already maintained thousands of databases to keep track of people as well as issuing IDs like Social Security cards and driver’s licenses. Ellison wrote:
“The single thing we could do to make life tougher for terrorists would be to ensure that all the information in myriad government databases was integrated into a single national file. My company … has already offered to provide the necessary software for free … It’s important these donations be made with no strings attached. The database would be maintained and run by the government alone, with no question of corporations benefiting … The good news is that a national database combined with biometrics, thumb prints, hand prints, iris scans or other new technology could detect false identities … We don’t need to trade our liberties for our lives.”
In a follow-up op-ed for the New York Times in January 2002, Ellison thought this could be achieved in a few months because it was “technically simple. All we have to do is copy information from the hundreds of separate law enforcement databases into a single database.”
In April 2002, along with Ashcroft, Ellison was a named recipient of an annual “Big Brother Award” presented by Privacy International to the most notorious individuals who had done the most to threaten such liberties.
By 2003, as the Patriot Act brought an explosion in surveillance and data mining, the federal government accounted for about one-fourth of Oracle’s billions in revenue.
“The information about your banks, your checking balances, your saving balance is stored in an Oracle database,” Ellison was quoted in the 2004 book, “The Naked Crowd.” “Your airline reservation is stored in an Oracle database. What books you bought on Amazon is stored in an Oracle database. Your profile on Yahoo! is stored in an Oracle database …Privacy is already gone.”
That same year, Ashcroft — godfather of the Patriot Act — sued Oracle to prevent its acquisition of a multibillion-dollar intelligence contract. But after Ashcroft resigned from the second Bush administration, he founded a lobbying firm which Oracle then hired in 2005, allowing The Ashcroft Group to hit the ground running. With the group’s help, Oracle went on to acquire the contract.
One program that didn’t last long was called Total Information Awareness (TIA), overseen by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which would later become a primary funder of COVID-19 vaccine developer Moderna and other of Fauci’s favored companies.
DARPA had conceived of TIA some years earlier. In addition to what Ellison specified needing, TIA wanted to collect Americans’ medical records, drug prescriptions and even DNA, maintaining that the whole population needed surveillance to prevent not only future terrorist attacks, but bioterrorism and even naturally occurring disease outbreaks.
Citizens’ financial, travel and media consumption habits would also be managed in a “public-private partnership” with the NSA, CIA, private sector and academia. In a mirrored scenario to that now surrounding the pandemic, the “invisible enemy” could be conquered.
But the backlash was swift. The ACLU called TIA “the closest thing to a true ‘Big Brother’ program that has ever been seriously contemplated in the United States. It is based on a vision of pulling together as much information as possible about as many people as possible into an ‘ultra-large-scale’ database.”
A year after its formation by DARPA, Congress defunded TIA in January 2003.
But TIA never really went away. Various of its programs ended up divvied into a web of military and intelligence programs.
In 2013, Ellison told CBS News that the NSA’s domestic spying program was “essential.” A revolving door between Oracle and the CIA, which began with Ellison himself, went on to include Leon Panetta, CIA director and then Defense Secretary under Obama, who joined Oracle’s board in 2015.
Oracle Labs, the research arm, invested in a partnership with DARPA toward “a vision for a ‘macrochip,’ an optically interconnected supercomputer.”
As the FDA revved toward emergency use approval for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines late in 2020, linkages between the CIA and the Big Tech companies escalated simultaneously. An earlier agency contract had gone to Amazon in 2013, but on Nov. 20, it was reported that the CIA “has awarded its long-awaited Commercial Cloud Enterprise, or C2E, contract to five companies – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and IBM.” These companies “will compete for specific task orders issued by the CIA on behalf of itself and the 16 other agencies that comprise the intelligence community.” At the moment, “Microsoft is the competitor closest to attaining authorization to host top-secret data.”
Procurement documents issued by the CIA in 2019 indicated the expected value of the C2E contract could be worth tens of billions over the next decade-and-a- half.
Then in mid-December, Oracle issued a press release that said: “By working collaboratively with the CDC and the U.S. Department of Defense during the pandemic, Oracle was able to extend the capabilities of the Public Health Management Applications Suite to help manage nationwide distribution and to collect patient data around COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.”
Moving well beyond its original sketchy mandate with Fauci’s NIAID, not only would Oracle’s National Electronic Health Records Cloud be the CDC’s new central data repository for vaccination data, but the company said it was “currently in discussions with dozens of countries around the world to adopt Oracle’s Public Health Management Applications Suite to modernize their national public health infrastructure and thus enable efficient COVID-19 vaccine distribution, therapeutic monitoring and diagnostic testing … This is just the beginning.”
It had been a productive and ultimately very profitable year for Ellison and Oracle. Also in mid-December, Ellison announced that his company was leaving Silicon Valley for a new headquarters in Austin, Texas, while he himself was moving to the Lanai Hawaiian island that he owned. Ellison had stepped down as Oracle CEO in 2014, but stayed on as chief technical officer. At the start of the pandemic, on March 23, his stock in the company (and he owned 35 percent of it) had dropped 11 percent. But shortly before he closed the government deal collecting all the vaccine data, his fortune rose $2.5 billion in a single week, bringing Ellison’s net worth to an estimated $81.5 billion.
This was despite a delay in his pending buy-in to the global social media platform TikTok, “an app for teens, filled with goofy dancing and lip-synching videos” as the Wall Street Journal described it — but a highly lucrative, and controversial, one.
Last spring, around the time he started calling COVID-19 the “China virus,” President Trump had ordered TikTok’s Chinese parent company Bytedance to either sell its American operation or be banned on U.S. shores, because the data it gathered somehow threatened national security. Suddenly Microsoft, Twitter and Oracle were reportedly negotiating bids to China’s billionaire entrepreneur Zhang Yming.
One aspect of TikTok that would doubtless have interested Ellison is the app’s use of artificial intelligence to shoot people news based upon their reading habits. “Powered by algorithms that can make its video feed addictive,” TikTok had turned into a global sensation, downloaded more than 2 billion times worldwide and with a $100 billion valuation. For more than a year, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, “the app tracked users using a tactic banned by Google, which enabled it to collect unique identifiers from millions of mobile devices without letting users opt out.” While TikTok said it had stopped the practice and “promised to create a firewall between China and overseas users,” that’s apparently why Trump got so worried about possible Chinese government access to TikTok’s American user data.
In September 2020, Oracle announced it had reached agreement with TikTok for a 12.5 percent stake in the U.S. operation while also providing cloud services and security for the app. Walmart bought an additional 7.5 percent, and Trump declared victory for the new TikTok Global, which will likely go public once the dust settles and the sales are approved by the U.S. and China.
“Oracle hopes to use the TikTok deal as another model to provide security and cloud services to other companies down the road,” CNBC reported in September. Or, as happened less than two months later, to the federal government.
Could there have been an ulterior motive behind Oracle’s plunge into kiddie social media? At the end of August, the Journal of Adolescent Health published an article headlined “Tik Tok and Its Role in Covid-19 Information Propagation.” The NIH website would reprint it in November. Noting that the pandemic had generated the near-complete sudden closure of U.S. educational institutions in the spring, “noneducational screen time among young people has greatly escalated” and “social media have played a large role in youth resocialization in a pandemic society … Given social media’s ability to propagate factually inaccurate medical information at an alarming rate,” and given TikTok’s more than 45.6 million active users in the U.S., the paper’s authors decided to analyze the 100 most popular videos earmarked with hashtags for COVID-19 and coronavirus.
These had reached as many as 93.1 billion views, “demonstrating the platform’s immense ability to encourage sharing.” Only a handful seemed to have provided misleading information, while “videos by healthcare professionals were few in number … [but] often among the most widely ‘liked’ and shared across the board. The distribution suggests that demand on TikTok for more healthcare-related voices currently outpaces supply. TikTok has shown itself to be a viable means for practitioners to educate and dispel myths about COVID-19 to a broad and diverse adolescent demographic,” according to the article.
Some in the public health community took notice. “A growing number of scientists and doctors are making viral videos on TikTok to provide information on COVID-19 vaccines,” Scripps reported on Jan. 1. The group called itself Team Halo, with a goal “to try and reduce hesitancy.”
One of the “dozens of health experts from all over the world,” director of the Harvard Immunology Graduate Program, Dr. Shiv Pillai, went into a great deal about the messenger mRNA used to develop the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, explaining “why it’s safe and effective, as well as the side effects that would be simple to pinpoint.” Pillaj used poetry to get his message across: “The vaccine it will change our lives. To get a shot is to be smart. To make this virus bite the dust, let us all just do our part.”
According to Scripps, in other videos, Pillai talks about a child he treated as an intern. The boy died in his hands from tetanus because he wasn’t vaccinated.
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