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Ear to the Ground

Google Received NSA Money, but That’s Not All

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Posted on Aug 26, 2013
keso (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks show Google was well compensated for its surveillance compliance.

The latest leaks on the NSA disclosed that it gave millions of dollars to several tech companies for their help with PRISM, the data mining program that allows the agency to collect private information on seemingly anyone it chooses. It may come as a shock to many that Google’s among the companies that received a hefty monetary compensation for its compliance in these surveillance endeavors, especially after it point-blank denied it, stating, “Google does not have a backdoor for the government to access private user data.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, however, is not surprised. He writes Saturday in The Stringer:

Google started out as part of Californian graduate student culture around San Francisco’s Bay Area. But as Google grew it encountered the big bad world. It encountered barriers to its expansion in the form of complex political networks and foreign regulations. So it started doing what big bad American companies do, from Coca Cola to Northrop Grumman. It started leaning heavily on the State Department for support, and by doing so it entered into the Washington DC system. A recently released statistic shows that Google now spends even more money than Lockheed Martin on paid lobbyists in Washington.

Assange explains that in 2011, he received a visit from Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Google, along with several others heavily involved in D.C. politics, including Schmidt’s then-girlfriend, Lisa Shields of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Jared Cohen, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice who is currently director of Google Ideas. Assange cites disquieting information regarding Cohen doing the U.S. government’s dirty biddings in the Middle East and beyond, as revealed by WikiLeaks:

Documents published last year by WikiLeaks obtained from the US intelligence contractor Stratfor, show that in 2011 Jared Cohen, then (as he is now) Director of Google Ideas, was off running secret missions to the edge of Iran in Azerbaijan. In these internal emails, Fred Burton, Stratfor’s Vice President for Intelligence and a former senior State Department official, describes Google as follows:

“Google is getting WH [White House] and State Dept support and air cover. In reality they are doing things the CIA cannot do…[Cohen] is going to get himself kidnapped or killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose Google’s covert role in foaming up-risings, to be blunt. The US Gov’t can then disavow knowledge and Google is left holding the shit-bag”

In further internal communication, Burton subsequently clarifies his sources on Cohen’s activities as Marty Lev, Google’s director of security and safety and..Eric Schmidt.

WikiLeaks cables also reveal that previously Cohen, when working for the State Department, was in Afghanistan trying to convince the four major Afghan mobile phone companies to move their antennas onto US military bases. In Lebanon he covertly worked to establish, on behalf of the State Department, an anti-Hezbollah Shia think tank. And in London? He was offering Bollywood film executives funds to insert anti-extremist content into Bollywood films and promising to connect them to related networks in Hollywood. That is the Director of Google Ideas. Cohen is effectively Google’s director of regime change. He is the State Department channeling Silicon Valley.

Google was right in saying it doesn’t have a backdoor for government; its front door is wide open. 

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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