U.S. intelligence agencies’ use of technological innovation to further their agenda is not a revelation in itself. But WikiLeaks’ disclosure of collusion between the State Department and Google has a dark twist, as the former used tech created by the latter to help al-Qaeda gain new recruits.
MINNEAPOLIS— Documents that were released last year by WikiLeaks have shed light on Google’s role in supporting al-Qaeda and other extremist groups that have been operating in Syria for the first few years of the country’s ongoing conflict. Specifically, emails between Jared Cohen, former director of Google Ideas, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reveal Google developed software that al-Qaeda and other opposition groups could use to boost their ranks.
According to one of their email exchanges, there was one software tool – developed in July 2012 – that allowed defections from the Syrian Arab Army to be tracked and mapped. As Cohen stated in the exchange:
“Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition.”
Cohen – who serves as an adjunct senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations – lamented the difficulty of getting information into Syria at the time. It was subsequently decided that Google Ideas would partner with Al-Jazeera, which is owned and funded by the pro-regime change government of Qatar, which also funds Daesh (ISIS). Al Jazeera was given “primary ownership over the tool” and was responsible for broadcasting the data back into Syria.
Al Jazeera admitted involvement in the project, though they have asserted that they were in no way “directly or indirectly involved in the dialogue between Google and the U.S. State Department in relation to this project and the motives behind it.”
Cohen’s predilection for meddling in Middle Eastern affairs was even documented by intelligence analysts. In emails from the intelligence agency Stratfor that were previously published by WikiLeaks, Stratfor analysts, including Stratfor’s vice-president of counter-terrorism Fred Burton, described Cohen as a “loose cannon” who was so deeply involved in Middle Eastern regime change efforts that it even began to raise concerns among Google executives.
While Cohen didn’t specifically name al-Qaeda in his emails – instead referring to the extremists as “the opposition” – the U.S. administration was well aware at the time that the armed opposition to the Syrian government mainly consisted of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.
A now-declassified internal report by the U.S. government that was drafted at the time stated that “the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria. An email sent to Hillary Clinton from her advisor Jacob Sullivan in February 2012 also noted: “AQ [al-Qaeda] is on our side in Syria.”
Watch WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speak at length regarding Google’s links to the U.S. State Department:
Cohen’s email correspondence with Clinton is just one example of Google’s collusion with the U.S. federal government, as well as its tendency to aid U.S.-led regime change efforts. Before the advent of Google Ideas and the rise of Cohen, Google had a cozy relationship with U.S. government agencies, including the NSA and the CIA, in large part due to the machinations of Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt, a regular attendee of the controversial Bilderberg meetings.
The collusion is not altogether surprising, as the NSA and CIA both provided seed funding for Google. These agencies presumably hoped to nurture the company and use its future monopoly on information to their advantage.
Their efforts have clearly paid off, with Google now able to “control elections” and exert great influence on public opinion. But the company may have a harder time influencing the public if even more damning reports about its collusion with U.S. intelligence agencies continue to be released.