Know Your History: Google Has Been a Military-Intel Contractor from the Very Beginning

By Yasha Levine, Surveillance Valley.

Levine's investigative reporting on the connection between the Silicon Valley tech giants and the military-intelligence community has been praised by high-level NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and many others. [See my interviews of Drake here:

"Google has partnered with the United States Department of Defense to help the agency develop artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage, a move that set off a firestorm among employees of the technology giant when they learned of Google’s involvement." — Gizmodo / March 6, 2018

Gizmodo's report on Google's work for the Pentagon has been making headlines all day. It's also thrown the normally placid halls of Google's Mountain View HQ into chaos. Seems that Googlers can't believe that their awesome company would get involved in something as heinous as helping the Pentagon increase its drone targeting capability.

But the fact that Google helps the military build more efficient systems of surveillance and death shouldn't be surprising, especially not to Google employees. The truth is that Google has spent the last 15 years selling souped-up versions of its information technology to military and intelligence agencies, local police departments, and military contractors of all size and specialization — including outfits that sell predictive policing tech deployed in cities across America today.

As I outline in my book Surveillance Valley, it started in 2003 with customized Google search solutions for data hosted by the CIA and NSA. The company's military contracting work then began to expand in a major way after 2004, when Google cofounder Sergey Brin pushed for buying Keyhole, a mapping startup backed by the CIA and the NGA, a sister agency to the NSA that handles spy satellite intelligence.

Spooks loved Keyhole because of the "video game-like" simplicity of its virtual maps. They also appreciated the ability to layer visual information over other intelligence. The sky was the limit. Troop movements, weapons caches, real-time weather and ocean conditions, intercepted emails and phone call intel, cell phone locations — whatever intel you had with a physical location could be thrown onto a map and visualized. Keyhole gave an intelligence analyst, a commander in the field, or an air force pilot up in the air the kind of capability that we now take for granted: using digital mapping services on our computers and mobile phones to look up restaurants, cafes, museums, traffic conditions, and subway routes. "We could do these mashups and expose existing legacy data sources in a matter of hours, rather than weeks, months, or years," an NGA official gushed about Keyhole — the company that we now know as Google Earth.

Military commanders weren’t the only ones who liked Keyhole's ability to mash up data. So did Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

The purchase of Keyhole was a major milestone for Google, marking the moment the company stopped being a purely consumer-facing Internet company and began integrating with the US government. While Google’s public relations team did its best to keep the company wrapped in a false aura of geeky altruism, company executives pursued an aggressive strategy to become the Lockheed Martin of the Internet Age. “We’re functionally more than tripling the team each year,” a Google exec who ran Google Federal, the company's military sales division, said in 2008.

It was true. With insiders plying their trade, Google’s expansion into the world of military and intelligence contracting took off.

What kind of work?

Here are just a few data points from Surveillance Valley:

  • "In 2007, it partnered with Lockheed Martin to design a visual intelligence system for the NGA that displayed US military bases in Iraq and marked out Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad— important information for a region that had experienced a bloody sectarian insurgency and ethnic cleansing campaign between the two groups."

  • "In 2008, Google won a contract to run the servers and search technology that powered the CIA’s Intellipedia, an intelligence database modeled after Wikipedia that was collaboratively edited by the NSA, CIA, FBI, and other federal agencies."

  • "In 2010, as a sign of just how deeply Google had integrated with US intelligence agencies, it won a no-bid exclusive $27 million contract to provide the NGA with “geospatial visualization services,” effectively making the Internet giant the “eyes” of America’s defense and intelligence apparatus."

  • "In 2008, Google entered into a three-way partnership with the NGA and a quasi-government company called GeoEye to launch a spy satellite called GeoEye-1. The new satellite, which was funded in large part by the NGA, delivered extremely high-resolution images for the exclusive use of NGA and Google."

  • A few years ago it started working with PredPol, a California-based predictive policing startup. "PredPol did more than simply license Google’s technology to render the mapping sys- tem embedded in its product but also worked with Google to develop customized functionality, including 'building additional bells and whistles and even additional tools for law enforcement.'"

More from the book:

"Google has been tightlipped about the details and scope of its contracting business. It does not list this revenue in a separate column in quarterly earnings reports to investors, nor does it provide the sum to reporters. But an analysis of the federal contracting database maintained by the US government, combined with information gleaned from Freedom of Information Act requests and published periodic reports on the company’s military work, reveals that Google has been doing brisk business selling Google Search, Google Earth, and Google Enterprise (now known as G Suite) products to just about every major military and intelligence agency: navy, army, air force, Coast Guard, DARPA, NSA, FBI, DEA, CIA, NGA, and the State Department. Sometimes Google sells directly to the government, but it also works with established contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation), a California-based intelligence mega-contractor that has so many former NSA employees working for it that it is known in the business as 'NSA West.'"

—Yasha Levine

Want to know more?

Read "Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet"


CStanford Thu, 03/22/2018 - 09:55 Permalink

Yet with all this surveillance and other technology some disturbed 23 y/o kid can still simply build a bomb and ship it to his intended victim by FedEx.  Go figure. I guess he wasn't being surveilled when he recorded what amounted to a 25 minute manifesto/confession on his smartphone.  Oops, I guessed the NSA missed one -- maybe forgot to put the word "bomb" in their search/listening string.

DownWithYogaPants CStanford Thu, 03/22/2018 - 09:57 Permalink

Any of these guys who take a single dollar of government money should have to be strictly hands off content of users.

Also: Internet safe harbor should ONLY apply to a Youtube that does not in any way censor content.  If they for instance pull down a conservative channel for something that is not illegal all safe harbor protection should immediately cease.

In reply to by CStanford

ThanksChump Adolph.H. Fri, 03/23/2018 - 06:58 Permalink

The internet's real name is DARPANET, moronic article author.


Ooo! Evil! Booga booga!


Levine, huh? Is that some kind of hippie moniker, snowflake? Go back to your mud hut and tweet your disapproval on your jungle drum.


Google sucks but you clearly don't know why.

In reply to by Adolph.H.

oddjob Thu, 03/22/2018 - 09:59 Permalink

Fuck off to the multitude of whores that fully embraced Google and its police state operations, like Reg M. for instance.

So whatever they are pushing today is probably no better, or worse.

VAL THOR Thu, 03/22/2018 - 10:13 Permalink

When the Internet first came into being, it was military based.  Spying on citizens was first order of business and continues to this day.

Biggest con next to yobongoman getting elected.

Fuck you to whoever is watching right now.

StarGate VAL THOR Thu, 03/22/2018 - 15:03 Permalink

Govt = DoD, CIA, NSA, etc.

If US DoD “invented” the internet, why wouldn’t they build spy eyes into all aspects of it?! and TV, phones...

What we learn next is that everything you do “online” is not only fed into the Govt via DoD (etc) but that in turn is fed into a munst(e)r known as Arty Intel (AI) an invisible (usually) M(a)trix  that not only watches you, but wants to be god over you by controlling you. 

Remember REMOTE CONTROL was invented by Tesla and displayed at the World Expo in 1893.

All of Tesla’s inventions were stolen by US govt at his death.

But YOU did not get remote control toys until 1980 - 100 yrs later. So what else can be done NOW you won’t know about for another 100 yrs?

In reply to by VAL THOR

MusicIsYou Thu, 03/22/2018 - 10:28 Permalink

Oh well, they spend $billions collecting "echo" chamber trash. They're actually more like high-tech garbage men. When the garbage men pick up my trash I think to myself: they're like Google/NSA, on the same circle, but on the other side of the circle. Ooo look at that Fred Sanford, you've got their echo chamber garbage.

you_are_cleared_hot Thu, 03/22/2018 - 10:38 Permalink

The irony is that some of the first Google engineers were from the NSA (I'll bet corporate never knew that) AND they got its first levels of funding from the NSA... (shell companies) but they probably didn't know it at the time.

Google Sqrrl /

go look at how they got their start.

grizfish you_are_cleared_hot Thu, 03/22/2018 - 14:15 Permalink

Go back to Apple's start.  Steve Jobs will go down in history as starting the company in his garage.  He somehow came across computer information during his 1 or 2 years at an Ivy League school.  He and his buddy put it all together for home use.

However, it was government funded research that came up with ideas like the mouse in your hand.  It was invented while improving control of ICBMs.  The internet itself goes back to communications and control of the weapons from a central location.

None of this is disclosed because it would show that our tech billionaires had preferential treatment and a little help along the way.  Little things, like information and funding.  There is a reason why many of the tech giants have a certain heritage.

In reply to by you_are_cleared_hot

snblitz grizfish Thu, 03/22/2018 - 19:15 Permalink

The first mouse I ever saw was connected to the Xerox Star computer.  Apple's MacIntosh was just a ripped off copy of the Xerox Star.

I saw the Xerox Star at the Xerox Parc research facility in Palo Alto.  A year or so later I saw the MacIntosh and thought, at the time, that Apple had licensed the Star.

I did not learn until a few years after that that Jobs claimed the MacIntosh was an original creation.

In reply to by grizfish

crazzziecanuck grizfish Fri, 03/23/2018 - 07:55 Permalink

Jobs had been around computers since he was 10.  He met Wozniak at Atari.  There they created their first product, which was a Blue Box.  Their next project was to create a computer terminal, then they decided to make their own version of the kit computers that were being sold.

The problem became that stores wanted to sell "whole" computers.   Steve Jobs and the people at Apple were just the first to do that.  Apple was rarely first.  Apple just did things better and learned from the mistakes made by others. 

That's why people never see just how much luck factors in to the rise of billionaires.

Bill Gates only got his foot in the door at IBM because his mother sat on the United Way board with a senior Vice President from IBM.  At the time the meeting was arranged, Microsoft didn't even have an operating system to sell to IBM and scrambled to by QDOS from Seattle Associates.

Same even with Warrant Buffet.  His initial investors were connected people his father knew in Washington.

Look at Trump too.  Trump was not self made.  Jobs is probably the closest on this list above to really have been "selfmade".  He was the exception, not the rule, yet the media always portrays our systems as meritocratic when it's really more of a racket.

In reply to by grizfish

DuneCreature Thu, 03/22/2018 - 11:28 Permalink

5G is a weapons system.

That makes your local telecom a MIC contractor too.

"Hey, Mom, the Hellfire Missile guy is here! ... He wants to know if he can come in a set up a target homing transmitter out on our back deck? .. Is that OK? ... Can I watch him install it and test our cool new gadget? .... I can do my homework later, I promise!"

Your Local New Policing Device Will Make You Feel Safe And Sound  * ht * WG.

Or paranoid out of your FREAKING SKULL!

(Don't mind me, I write parody and satire. ..... You Chump Monkeys get to live it.)

Live Hard, Plan To Sleep In A Reflective Mylar Bag Next Year, Die Free

~ DC v8.8

DuneCreature house biscuit Thu, 03/22/2018 - 16:57 Permalink

Conforming is for city folk.

Those 5G transmitters have a range of 1000 feet max.

They want 600 feet.

Guess how far away the nearest utility pole is from my shooting bench.

The Ms has taken care of the cooking already and she likes her bacon crisp.

Live Hard, I Range In Yards And Sometimes Meters If I Have To, It Depends On The Scope And How Comfortable I Can Get My Bits To Sit, Die Free

~ DC v8.8

In reply to by house biscuit

VWAndy Thu, 03/22/2018 - 11:42 Permalink

 More double standards folks. Moving goal posts. Call it what you will. The lack of anything even remotely like integrity should be obvious by now.

 So the state is actually in favor of everything google is doing. It is state approved content. Aint that some shit?

Able Ape Thu, 03/22/2018 - 11:45 Permalink

Years ago when I was working for CNN an Army Major showed up and started working in the newsroom; I thought to myself, well maybe he's learning things to take back to the Armed Forces Radio and TV network - NOT, he continued to work in the newsroom for years and was still there when I left.  He worked sans military uniform of course - isn't that right Art....?

VWAndy Thu, 03/22/2018 - 12:18 Permalink

 As a government entity some of the rules governing their actions are very different. Does google answer to congress? Or to the potus?

 What are they doing operating in other countries? 

Reaper Thu, 03/22/2018 - 13:08 Permalink

Trust is the opiate of the controlled.  The flaw in their system is that they trust their operatives and derived info.  Garbage in = garbage out, or false info in = erroneous action out.