While vaccine passports have been marketed as a boon to public health, promising safety, privacy, and convenience for those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, the pivotal role a shadowy military-intelligence organization is playing in the push to implement the system in digital form has raised serious civil liberties concerns.
Known as MITRE, the organization is a non-profit corporation led almost entirely by military-intelligence professionals and sustained by sizable contracts with the Department of Defense, FBI, and national security sector.
The effort “to expand QR code vaccine passports beyond states like California and New York” now revolves around a public-private partnership known as the Vaccine Credential Initiative (VCI). And the VCI has reserved an instrumental role in its coalition for MITRE.
Described by Forbes as a “cloak and dagger [research and development] shop” that is “the most important organization you’ve never heard of,” MITRE has developed some of the most invasive surveillance technology in use by US spy agencies today. Among its most novel products is a system built for the FBI which captures individuals’ fingerprints from images posted on social media sites.
MITRE’s own COVID-19 umbrella coalition includes In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Palantir, a scandal-stained private spying firm.
Elizabeth Renieris, the founding director of Notre Dame and IBM’s technology ethics lab, has warned that “as dominant technology and surveillance companies” like MITRE “pursue new revenue streams in healthcare and financial services…privately owned and operated ID systems with profit-maximizing business models threaten the privacy, security, and other fundamental rights of individuals and communities.”
Indeed, the involvement of the military-intelligence apparatus in the development of a digital vaccine passport system is yet another indication that behind the guise of public health concerns, the US surveillance state could be due to enhance its control over an increasingly restive population.
The Vaccine Credential Initiative, a neoliberal vehicle advised by military-intelligence professionals
As detailed in the first installment of this series, tech oligarchs like Bill Gates and global capitalist policy hubs such as the World Economic Forum have advanced digital ID and electronic currency systems across the Global South in order to harvest data and profits from populations that were previously out of reach.
The advent of vaccine passports providing access to employment and public life has become the key vector for accelerating their agenda in the West. As the financial consulting firm, Aite-Novarica, declared this September, digital COVID-19 vaccine passports “expand the case for digital IDs beyond COVID-19 vaccination only, and potentially serve as a digital ID as a more comprehensive, universal source of identity information…”
As vaccine passports exclude millions across the West, sparking furious protests and wildcat strikes, the World Economic Forum (WEF) is working with its partners to implement them in digital form.
Led by German economist Klaus Schwab, who says he is leading a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” that is changing the way people “live, work, and relate to one another,” the WEF is an international network of some of the wealthiest and most politically powerful people on the planet. Based in Davos, Switzerland, the WEF positions itself as the thought leader of global capitalism.
In January 2021, several WEF partners, including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, and other mega-corporations announced a coalition to launch the Vaccine Credential Initiative (VCI), which aims to institute QR code-based vaccine passports across the US.
The stated goal of the VCI is to implement a single “SMART Health Card” that could be recognized “across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries.”
In the US, some states are already deploying digital SMART Health Cards developed by the VCI. These SMART Health Cards have laid the basis for a de-facto national standard for vaccine credentials.
A non-profit established by the Rockefeller Foundation and called The Commons Project is leading the lobbying push for digital SMART cards through the VCI it co-founded. And Commons Project CEO Paul Meyer happens to have been cultivated by the WEF as a “young leader.”
As one of the public faces of the VCI, Meyer markets the campaign’s agenda in the language of progressive inclusion, hammering consistently on themes like “empowerment” in public communications.
“The goal of the Vaccination Credential Initiative is to empower individuals with digital access to their vaccination records so they can use tools like CommonPass to safely return to travel, work, school, and life, while protecting their data privacy,” claimed Meyer.
In a press release announcing the formation of the VCI, MITRE echoed Meyer’s woke language, declaring that it had joined the partnership “to ensure that underserved populations have access to this [digital vaccine] verification.”
But what is MITRE, and why might an organization known for mass surveillance and military technology be at the center of an initiative that offers the possibility of unprecedented monitoring of the global population? The organization did not respond to emailed questions from The Grayzone about its participation in the VCI, however, its documented history makes for unsettling reading.
**By Jeremy Loffredo and Max Blumenthal