Posts Tagged ‘NSA’

by Ian Driscoll

Google’s roots in the American intelligence community run deep.

On Tuesday, March 13th, Regina Dugan, who spent the last two and a half years as the first female director of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), took a position as a senior executive at Google, the world’s foremost search engine.

For those who are unaware, DARPA is responsible for some of the most advanced, invasive, and often downright frightening military technologies the world has ever known. Here’s a short list:

As the article in the Los Angeles Times points out, Dugan is not the first DARPA/Google crossover employee. Vinton Cerf, who worked as a program director for DARPA in the early 80s, has been employed at Google with the job title of “Chief Internet Evangelist” since September of 2005.

But Dugan and Cerf only represent the tip of iceberg when it comes to Google’s connection to U.S. intelligence agencies.

In January 2010, Google was the victim of a highly sophisticated cyber attack, resulting in Google turning to the NSA (National Security Agency) for technical assistance. Thus began a working relationship between the world’s largest search engine and the world’s largest surveillance organization.

Marc Rotenburg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) remarked at the time that “Google and N.S.A. are entering into a secret agreement that could impact the privacy of millions of users of Google’s products and services around the world.”

EPIC has since filed numerous Freedom of Information Act requests, asking for the release of communications between the two entities. The NSA has refused to comply, citing national security concerns and stating that the “NSA is not able to comment on specific relationships we may or may not have with U.S. companies.”

Google was also contracted to provide the search technology and servers which makes up “Intellipedia”, a massive, incredibly secure database through which over 100,000 United States spies and intelligence professionals from 16 government agencies share information. And the NSA has purchased numerous servers from Google, utilizing their search technology to analyze and organize massive amounts of secure data all over the world.

Then there’s Google Earth, which was originally developed by a company called Keyhole Incorporated, acquired by Google in 2004. Keyhole was in turn funded by In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA, charged with “building a bridge between the Agency and a new set of technology innovators.” According to CIA Director George Tenet: “The In-Q-Tel alliance has put the Agency back at the leading edge of technology, a frontier we never should have retreated from in the first place.”

There’s been at least one significant In-Q-Tel/Google crossover as well. In 2004 (the same year Google bought Keyhole), Rob Painter became “Senior Federal Manager” at Google after several years of directly reporting to the CIA in his capacity as Director of Technology Assessment at In-Q-Tel.

And one former CIA agent and Marine Corps veteran, Robert Steele, is on the record stating that Google is “in bed with the CIA.”

Steele alleges that Google was actually started with seed money that the company received from the Central Intelligence Agency back in its fledgling days. Steele elaborates:

“I think Google took money from the CIA when it was poor and it was starting up and unfortunately our system right now floods money into spying and other illegal and largely unethical activities, and it doesn’t fund what I call the open source world. They’ve been together for quite awhile.”

Steele went on to condemn the relationship, and went so far as to name Google’s CIA contact within the Agency:

“I think that Google has made a very important strategic mistake in dealing with the secret elements of the U.S. government – that is a huge mistake and I’m hoping they’ll work their way out of it and basically cut that relationship off.”

“Let me say very explicitly – their contact at the CIA is named Dr. Rick Steinheiser, he’s in the Office of Research and Development.”

Meanwhile, their seems to be increasing interest in monitoring and controlling the free flow of information on the part of the world’s elite. At the 2011 Bilderberg conference (a well-protected gathering of some the world’s most influential people from the realm of politics, entertainment, banking and private business), the list of attendees included the “who’s who” of social media, e-commerce and technology. In attendance:

The co-founder of Facebook; the executive chairman of Google; the co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn; the founder and CEO of Amazon.com; the commander of the American military’s “cyber command” (or USCYBERCOM); Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer; and others.

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Senator John McCain has introduced a new cybersecurity bill that calls for the NSA and the military to actively monitor all levels of communication on the civilian internet with little to no oversight.

Under the McCain bill, data deemed “malicious” would be sent by Internet Service Providers to cybersecurity centers, including the National Security Agency’s Threat Operation Center and the U.S. Cyber Command Joint Operations Center, for evaluation.

The language in the bill is intentionally vague, which has led to concerns among civil libertarians that “malicious data” could eventually come to include emails and internet communications containing simple protest speech, which is protected under the United States Constitution.

Another concern is that the bill guarantees all ISPs that choose to submit suspicious network activity protection from lawsuits and other legal action, making it all but impossible for the average citizen to control or challenge the type of information being collected.

Michelle Richardson, of the ACLU, commented that “This is a privacy nightmare that will eventually result in the military substantially monitoring the domestic, civilian Internet.”

McCain, for his part, dismisses such concerns as nonsense. Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman, stated that “Senator McCain’s priority in crafting this bill has been to make sure it strengthens our security while continuing to safeguard the privacy of consumers. He remains open to addressing legitimate concerns as this process moves forward.”

McCain’s track record on civil liberties has taken a negative turn, of late. Most recently, he co-sponsored the most radical provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, the indefinite detention of American citizens.

What is clear is that the McCain cybersecurity bill would dramatically extend the reach of government intelligence agencies, and include the military in a domestic surveillance role. It represents one more aspect of privacy stripped away from the American people in the name of national security.