The close ties between certain Google executives and the U.S. government (as well as Hillary Clinton’s campaign specifically), have been well documented over the past few years. For example, recall last fall’s post titled, Meet “Groundwork” – Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s Stealth Startup Working to Make Hillary Clinton President, in which we learned:
An under-the-radar startup funded by billionaire Eric Schmidt has become a major technology vendor for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, underscoring the bonds between Silicon Valley and Democratic politics.
The Groundwork, according to Democratic campaign operatives and technologists, is part of efforts by Schmidt—the executive chairman of Google parent-company Alphabet—to ensure that Clinton has the engineering talent needed to win the election. And it is one of a series of quiet investments by Schmidt that recognize how modern political campaigns are run, with data analytics and digital outreach as vital ingredients that allow candidates to find, court, and turn out critical voter blocs.
Schmidt did not respond to several requests for comment. But several Democratic political operatives and technologists, who would only speak anonymously to avoid offending Schmidt and the Clinton campaign, confirmed that the Groundwork is funded at least in part by the Alphabet chairman.
There is also another gap in play: The shrinking distance between Google and the Democratic Party. Former Google executive Stephanie Hannon is the Clinton campaign’s chief technology officer, and a host of ex-Googlers are currently employed as high-ranking technical staff at the Obama White House. Schmidt, for his part, is one of the most powerful donors in the Democratic Party—and his influence does not stem only from his wealth, estimated by Forbes at more than $10 billion.
If that piqued your interest, I also suggest checking out the following post published earlier this year: Clinton Emails Reveal Google’s Role in Attempting to Oust Syria’s Assad.
With all that in mind, I found the words of Wikileaks’ Sarah Harrison during an interview with The Irish Independent to be particularly noteworthy. In it, we learned:
WikiLeaks isn’t just interested in US and international politics. At its ten-year anniversary this month, it warned that it has Google in its sights.
But why Google? “We’re in a time now where corporations are getting huge,” says Harrison. “The advancements in technology bring bad sides as well as good ones. We now have these huge monolithic companies that can operate quite secretly whether it’s in technology or agriculture or whatever. And in this set-up, many of these companies are getting involved in government. Google is a big one.”
Harrison says that the search giant, which famously has a motto of ‘don’t be evil’, has become too cosy with controlling government interests. She even goes so far as to accuse it of “censoring results” and limiting information flows “at critical times” and in “a dishonest and secretive way”. Harrison claims to have personal experience of tight connections between Google and the US government. She says that a years-ago query that she submitted on behalf of Julian Assange with the US State Department was instantly ‘fact checked’ by US officials with Harrison’s WikiLeaks colleague who had been dealing with Google’s boss, Eric Schmidt. Harrison took this as an indication of close communication between the US government and Google on apparently unrelated issues.
“She was confirming for the State Department that I was legit on behalf of Julian Assange. First off was the fact that the State Department knew they [Harrison’s colleague and Google] had met. And then using that to verify who I was. There are documents showing links between Google and State Department.
“It’s clearly a close one. When so much of our lives these days goes through the internet, when so many of us have Google accounts, what might Google be doing on the government’s behalf? Of course it’s of interest.”
Meanwhile, she is in very close contact with Julian Assange, who she works with on WikiLeaks projects. Having only recently returned to Britain after a threat of arrest was lifted from her, she got to visit him in his makeshift quarters in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
“That was a bit sad,” she said. “But he occupies himself with work and keeps himself busy with his own legal case and WikiLeaks work.”
The above interview was originally published on October 13th. Since then, evidence has emerged from the Podesta emails that highlight some of Schmidt’s work with the Clinton campaign. The more interesting question is whether much more is to follow. I guess we’ll have to stay tuned.
Given all of the above, I highly recommend you read (or reread) the powerful 2013 post: Highlights from the Incredible 2011 Interview of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange by Google’s Eric Schmidt.