Knowledge is Power
Given all this it is hardly surprising that in 2012, a few months after Highlands Forum co-chair Regina Dugan left DARPA to join Google as a senior executive, then NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander was emailing Google’s founding executive Sergey Brin to discuss information sharing for national security. In those emails, obtained under Freedom of Information by investigative journalist Jason Leopold, Gen. Alexander described Google as a «key member of [the US military’s] Defense Industrial Base», a position Michele Quaid was apparently consolidating. Brin’s jovial relationship with the former NSA chief now makes perfect sense given that Brin had been in contact with representatives of the CIA and NSA, who partly funded and oversaw his creation of the Google search engine, since the mid-1990s.
In July 2014, Quaid spoke at a US Army panel on the creation of a «rapid acquisition cell» to advance the US Army’s «cyber capabilities» as part of the Force 2025 transformation initiative. She told Pentagon officials that «many of the Army’s 2025 technology goals can be realized with commercial technology available or in development today», re-affirming that «industry is ready to partner with the Army in supporting the new paradigm». Around the same time, most of the media was trumpeting the idea that Google was trying to distance itself from Pentagon funding, but in reality, Google has switched tactics to independently develop commercial technologies which would have military applications the Pentagon’s transformation goals.
Yet Quaid is hardly the only point-person in Google’s relationship with the US military intelligence community.
One year after Google bought the satellite mapping software Keyhole from CIA venture capital firm In-Q-Tel in 2004, In-Q-Tel’s director of technical assessment Rob Painter — who played a key role in In-Q-Tel’s Keyhole investment in the first place — moved to Google. At In-Q-Tel, Painter’s work focused on identifying, researching and evaluating «new start-up technology firms that were believed to offer tremendous value to the CIA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency». Indeed, the NGA had confirmed that its intelligence obtained via Keyhole was used by the NSA to support US operations in Iraq from 2003 onwards.
A former US Army special operations intelligence officer, Painter’s new job at Google as of July 2005 was federal manager of what Keyhole was to become: Google Earth Enterprise. By 2007, Painter had become Google’s federal chief technologist.
That year, Painter told the Washington Post that Google was «in the beginning stages» of selling advanced secret versions of its products to the US government. «Google has ramped up its sales force in the Washington area in the past year to adapt its technology products to the needs of the military, civilian agencies and the intelligence community», the Post reported. The Pentagon was already using a version of Google Earth developed in partnership with Lockheed Martin to «display information for the military on the ground in Iraq», including «mapping out displays of key regions of the country» and outlining «Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, as well as US and Iraqi military bases in the city. Neither Lockheed nor Google would say how the geospatial agency uses the data». Google aimed to sell the government new «enhanced versions of Google Earth» and «search engines that can be used internally by agencies».
White House records leaked in 2010 showed that Google executives had held several meetings with senior US National Security Council officials. Alan Davidson, Google’s government affairs director, had at least three meetings with officials of the National Security Council in 2009, including White House senior director for Russian affairs Mike McFaul and Middle East advisor Daniel Shapiro. It also emerged from a Google patent application that the company had deliberately been collecting «payload» data from private wifi networks that would enable the identification of «geolocations». In the same year, we now know, Google had signed an agreement with the NSA giving the agency open-ended access to the personal information of its users, and its hardware and software, in the name of cyber security — agreements that Gen. Alexander was busy replicating with hundreds of telecoms CEOs around the country.
Thus, it is not just Google that is a key contributor and foundation of the US military-industrial complex: it is the entire Internet, and the wide range of private sector companies — many nurtured and funded under the mantle of the US intelligence community (or powerful financiers embedded in that community) — which sustain the Internet and the telecoms infrastructure; it is also the myriad of start-ups selling cutting edge technologies to the CIA’s venture firm In-Q-Tel, where they can then be adapted and advanced for applications across the military intelligence community. Ultimately, the global surveillance apparatus and the classified tools used by agencies like the NSA to administer it, have been almost entirely made by external researchers and private contractors like Google, which operate outside the Pentagon. …
As the nature of mass surveillance suggests, its target is not merely terrorists, but by extension, ‘terrorism suspects’ and ‘potential terrorists,’ the upshot being that entire populations — especially political activists — must be targeted by US intelligence surveillance to identify active and future threats, and to be vigilant against hypothetical populist insurgencies both at home and abroad. Predictive analytics and behavioural profiles play a pivotal role here.
Mass surveillance and data-mining also now has a distinctive operational purpose in assisting with the lethal execution of special operations, selecting targets for the CIA’s drone strike kill lists via dubious algorithms, for instance, along with providing geospatial and other information for combatant commanders on land, air and sea, among many other functions. A single social media post on Twitter or Facebook is enough to trigger being placed on secret terrorism watch-lists solely due to a vaguely defined hunch or suspicion; and can potentially even land a suspect on a kill list.
The push for indiscriminate, comprehensive mass surveillance by the military-industrial complex — encompassing the Pentagon, intelligence agencies, defense contractors, and supposedly friendly tech giants like Google and Facebook — is therefore not an end in itself, but an instrument of power, whose goal is self-perpetuation. But there is also a self-rationalizing justification for this goal: while being great for the military-industrial complex, it is also, supposedly, great for everyone else.
The ‘long war’
No better illustration of the truly chauvinistic, narcissistic, and self-congratulatory ideology of power at the heart of the military-industrial complex is a book by long-time Highlands Forum delegate, Dr. Thomas Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map. Barnett was assistant for strategic futures in the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation from 2001 to 2003, and had been recommended to Richard O’Neill by his boss Vice Admiral Arthur Cebrowski. Apart from becoming a New York Times bestseller, Barnett’s book had been read far and wide in the US military, by senior defense officials in Washington and combatant commanders operating on the ground in the Middle East.
Barnett first attended the Pentagon Highlands Forum in 1998, then was invited to deliver a briefing about his work at the Forum on December 7th 2004, which was attended by senior Pentagon officials, energy experts, internet entrepreneurs, and journalists. Barnett received a glowing review in the Washington Post from his Highlands Forum buddy David Ignatius a week later, and an endorsement from another Forum friend, Thomas Friedman, both of which helped massively boost his credibility and readership.
Barnett’s vision is neoconservative to the root. He sees the world as divided into essentially two realms: The Core, which consists of advanced countries playing by the rules of economic globalization (the US, Canada, UK, Europe and Japan) along with developing countries committed to getting there (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and some others); and the rest of the world, which is The Gap, a disparate wilderness of dangerous and lawless countries defined fundamentally by being «disconnected» from the wonders of globalization. This includes most of the Middle East and Africa, large swathes of South America, as well as much of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It is the task of the United States to «shrink The Gap», by spreading the cultural and economic «rule-set» of globalization that characterizes The Core, and by enforcing security worldwide to enable that «rule-set» to spread.
These two functions of US power are captured by Barnett’s concepts of «Leviathan» and «System Administrator». The former is about rule-setting to facilitate the spread of capitalist markets, regulated via military and civilian law. The latter is about projecting military force into The Gap in an open-ended global mission to enforce security and engage in nation-building. Not «rebuilding», he is keen to emphasize, but building «new nations».
For Barnett, the Bush administration’s 2002 introduction of the Patriot Act at home, with its crushing of habeas corpus, and the National Security Strategy abroad, with its opening up of unilateral, pre-emptive war, represented the beginning of the necessary re-writing of rule-sets in The Core to embark on this noble mission. This is the only way for the US to achieve security, writes Barnett, because as long as The Gap exists, it will always be a source of lawless violence and disorder. One paragraph in particular sums up his vision:
«America as global cop creates security. Security creates common rules. Rules attract foreign investment. Investment creates infrastructure. Infrastructure creates access to natural resources. Resources create economic growth. Growth creates stability. Stability creates markets. And once you’re a growing, stable part of the global market, you’re part of the Core. Mission accomplished».
Much of what Barnett predicted would need to happen to fulfill this vision, despite its neoconservative bent, is still being pursued under Obama. In the near future, Barnett had predicted, US military forces will be dispatched beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to places like Uzbekistan, Djibouti, Azerbaijan, Northwest Africa, Southern Africa and South America. …
Barnett’s Pentagon briefing was greeted with near universal enthusiasm. The Forum had even purchased copies of his book and had them distributed to all Forum delegates, and in May 2005, Barnett was invited back to participate in an entire Forum themed around his «SysAdmin» concept.
[That ends this abbreviated version of Nafeez Ahmad’s article.]
THE BROADER CONTEXT
Here is the famous article by James Bamford in the 17 November 2005 Rolling Stone about John Rendon: «The Man Who Sold the War: Meet John Rendon, Bush's general in the propaganda war». In 1990 right before George Herbert Walker Bush nearly destroyed Iraq in the First Gulf War, Rendon worked with Britain’s Hill & Knowlton PR firm to get an attractive young Kuwaiti woman — «Nayirah» is the only way she publicly identified herself, and she refused to give her last name in order «to respect her need to protect her family» — to testify to Congress (see the video of it here) about Saddam Hussein’s ‘cruelty to Kuwaitis’. The American public weren’t told that she was Nayirah al-Sabah, the daughter of Saud Nasir al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. Even more importantly, that family own Kuwait and its oil. The Sabah family are the royal family of Kuwait. Nayirah was the daughter of the nephew (who was serving then as Kuwait's U.S. Ambassador) of the Emir or king, of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Her father subsequently became Kuwait's Prime Minister, 2006-2011. THAT'S HOW HIGH UP AND CONNECTED 'Nariyah' WAS. And that testimony she gave to the U.S. Congress was lies, engineered by GHW Bush and his team, which included all of the Arabic royals, including especially the Sabahs. Saddam Hussein was at war against Shiite Iran but was, like post-1979 Iran was, on friendly terms with Russia, which GHWB wanted his successors ultimately to conquer, either by coup or by invasion, even after the USSR ended. So, the U.S. regime and its ‘news’ media spread its propaganda about «Iraqi atrocities in Kuwait», and the Sabah family got to keep its ancestral loot.
And Rendon continued to be paid after the First Gulf War in order to set up ultimately an overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He worked continuously on that campaign, starting under GHW Bush and then straight through Bill Clinton’s and into G.W. Bush’s Presidency, when Rendon’s decade-plus U.S.-government-funded propaganda-operation to deceive the American public in order for the U.S. government to invade Iraq and kill Saddam culminated in 2003.
So, with a government that for decades deceives its own public in order to carry out what are essentially atrocities against foreign countries, and which cost U.S. taxpayers over $5 trillion, how can one reasonably call that a ‘democracy’? It’s obviously an aristocracy, otherwise known as an «oligarchy».
Eric Schmidt, the top person at Google (now called «Alphabet Corporation»), worked along with Jared Cohen of Hillary Clinton’s State Department, in 2011, helping them to set up the coup d’etat that culminated in February 2014 by overthrowing the democratically elected President of Ukraine, who had been elected Ukraine’s President barely a year before Schmidt started working with the State Department to organize the coup. And then, Schmidt provided the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign with crucial advice that helped defeat Bernie Sanders, but that subsequently failed to defeat Donald Trump.
Whether Trump’s victory turns out to restore democracy to America will become known only by what Trump now does, and by what he avoids doing. It’s too early to tell.
In order to understand all of this in its broadest realistic context, see my «Understanding the Power-Contest Between Aristocracies». Basically (starting on 24 February 1990, and up till at least the election of Donald Trump) what we’ve had is an alliance of the U.S. and Saudi aristocracies and their respective vassal-aristocracies, against Russia and Iran and their vassal-aristocracies. The two nuclear superpowers remain the superpowers even after the end of the Cold War, and the U.S.-led group have, with increasing ferocity been building toward nuclear war, and proceeded very near to the precipice in their aggression against the Russia-led group.
«the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come. But the world is changing with accelerating speed. This presents opportunity, but also new dangers. We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of individuals, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm. Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums».
He was saying that Russia and any nation that allies with it is «dispensable», only the United States is not; and that the military is central to, and serves, the economic sphere — guns exist to protect dollars not people. It was a quintessential aristocratic statement.
And Hillary Clinton was supposed to culminate it.