On Sept. 18, Julian Assange’s new book of that name was published. The material was largely fashioned by conversations he’d had with Google’s Eric Schmidt in 2011 at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest. The ostensible purpose of the requested meeting was to discuss idea for a book that Schmidt and Jared Cohen (advisor to both Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton) were going to write, and in fact did: ‘The New Digital Age’ (2013). They were accompanied by the book’s editor Scott Malcomson, former senior advisor for the UN and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, who eventually worked at the US State Department, plus Lisa Shields, vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, closely tied to the State Department, who was Schmidt’s partner at the time. Hmmm. The plot, as they say, thickens. From the book’s blurb:
‘For several hours the besieged leader of the world’s most famous insurgent publishing organization and the billionaire head of the world’s largest information empire locked horns. The two men debated the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network—from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin. They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with US foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to American companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently.’
Some background that will hopefully entice you to listen to the 42-minute Telesur video (sorry, no transcript) I’ll embed below; this is the short version: ‘Assange claims Google is in bed with US government’
Note that in other interviews Assange names ‘other private and public security agencies’ as well, and names the figures showing how deep Google is into smartphones and almost every nation on the planet. ‘Do not be evil’. I
If your appetite hasn’t been sufficiently whetted to watch the 38-minute Telesur interview, you might at a minimum read ‘When Google Met WikiLeaks: Battle for a New Digital Age’ by Nozomi Hayase. An excerpt or three, after reminding us that in his earlier 2012 book Cypherpunks, Assange had said that “the internet, our greatest tool for emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen”:
‘Assange unveils how, contrary to Google’s efforts to create a positive public image by giving away free storage, making it appear not like a corporation driven solely by profit motives, this seemingly philanthropic company is a willing participant in its own government co-optation. Indeed, he argues, Google Idea was birthed as a brainchild of a Washington think-tank.
Assange described how “Google’s bosses genuinely believe in the civilizing power of enlightened multinational corporations, and they see this mission as continuous with the shaping of the world according to the better judgment of the ‘benevolent superpower.’” (p. 35). This process is so gradual and discrete that it is hardly conscious on the part of the actors. This digital mega-corporation, through getting too close to the US State Department and NSA, began to incorporate their ambitions and come to see no evil. This internalization of imperial values created what Assange called “the impenetrable banality of ‘don’t be evil’” (p. 35). It appears that bosses at Google genuinely think they are doing good, while they are quickly becoming part of a power structure that Assange described as a “capricious global system of secret loyalties, owed favors, and false consensus, of saying one thing in public and the opposite in private” (p. 7). Allegiance creates obedience and an unspoken alliance creates a web of self-deception through which one comes to believe one’s own lies and becomes entangled in them. [snip]
‘…Assange pointed to how “the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps” (p. 43).
Google does not see evil in itself. By embedding with U.S. central authority, this global tech company not only fails to see the invisible fist of “American strategic and economic hegemony” that dictates the market, but moreover aspires “to adorn the hidden fist like a velvet glove” (p. 43). By advancing the force of monopoly, they subordinate civic values to economic and U.S. hegemonic interests and escape any real accountability. They no longer recognize the unmediated market that responds to people’s demands, a true market that functions as a space of democratic accountability. This normalization of control leads to a subversion of law, creating a rogue state where a ripple effect of corruption is created, as individuals, companies and the state each betray their own stated principles.’
‘In a sense, one might conclude that Assange’s new book is in itself another leak. In publishing what one might call the “GoogleFiles”, Assange conducts his usual job of publishing in the public interest with due diligence by providing the verbatim transcript and audio of the secret meeting. This time, the source of the material was Google themselves who sought out Assange for their publication.
Assange’s polemics (or not), how wonderful it is that he’s rocking Google’s Very Large Boat. Hayase also writes that Cohen and Schmidt engage in their own ‘statist’version of the ‘good whistleblower/bad whistleblower meme we’re familiar with. Pfffft.
From Imaginary Lines:
Google used its front page to back the US government’s campaign to bomb Syria: snapshot
More if you’d like it:
From HuffPo’s: Julian Assange Fires Back At Eric Schmidt and Google’s ‘Digital Colonialism’, one exchange that’s significant:
‘HP: What about the substance of Schmidt’s defense, that Google is pretty much at war with the U.S. government and that they don’t cooperate? He claims that they’re working to encrypt everything so that neither the NSA nor anyone else can get in. What would you say to that?
JA: It’s a duplicitous statement. It’s a lawyerly statement. Eric Schmidt did not say that Google encrypts everything so that the US government can’t get at them. He said quite deliberately that Google has started to encrypt exchanges of information — and that’s hardly true, but it has increased amount of encrypted exchanges. But Google has not been encrypting their storage information. Google’s whole business model is predicated on Google being able to access the vast reservoir of private information collected from billions of people each day. And if Google can access it, then of course the U.S. government has the legal right to access it, and that’s what’s been going on.
As a result of the Snowden revelation, Google was caught out. It tried to pretend that those revelations were not valid, and when that failed, it started to engage in a public relations campaign to try and say that it wasn’t happy with what the National Security Agency was doing, and was fighting against it. Now, I’m sure that many people in Google are not happy with what has been occurring. But that doesn’t stop it happening, because Google’s business model is to collect as much information as possible and people store it, index and turn it into predictive profiles. Similarly, at Eric Schmidt’s level, Google is very closely related to the U.S. government and there’s a revolving door between the State Department and Google.’
‘Within hours, Harrison’s call was answered via State Department backchannels. Lisa Shields, then-Google Executive Eric Schmidt’s girlfriend and vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, reached out through one of WikiLeak’s own, Joseph Farrell, to confirm it was indeed WikiLeaks calling to speak with Clinton. [snip]
‘But in an act of gross negligence the Guardian newspaper—our former partner—had published the confidential decryption password to all 251,000 cables in a chapter heading in its book, rushed out hastily in February 2011.(1) By mid-August we discovered that a former German employee—whom I had suspended in 2010—was cultivating business relationships with a variety of organizations and individuals by shopping around the location of the encrypted file, paired with the password’s whereabouts in the book. At the rate the information was spreading, we estimated that within two weeks most intelligence agencies, contractors, and middlemen would have all the cables, but the public would not.’
‘Julian Assange: Bitcoin is Much More Than Just a Currency’ is on youtube here (eight minutes)
Students Sue Google for Monitoring Their Emails http://mashable.com/2014/03/19/students-sue-google-gmail/ … More: http://when.google.met.wikileaks.org
Debate over Google heats up: Eric Schmidt: “Whatever Julian #Assange says is wrong,” http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2544103440 … More: http://when.google.met.wikileaks.org
(cross-posted at My.Firedoglake.com)