Privatizing the State Department

Never forget that corporations are creations of government:

Back in 2011 I had a meeting with Eric Schmidt, the then Chairman of
Google, who came out to see me with three other people while I was under
house arrest. You might suppose that coming to see me was gesture that
he and the other big boys at Google were secretly on our side: that they
support what we at WikiLeaks are struggling for: justice, government
transparency, and privacy for individuals.

But that would be a false
supposition. Their agenda was much more complex, and as we found out,
was inextricable from that of the US State Department. The full
transcript of our meeting is available online through the WikiLeaks
website. The pretext for their visit was that Schmidt was then researching a new book, a banal tome which has since come out as The New Digital Age.
My less than enthusiastic review of this book was published in the New
York Times in late May of this year. On the back of that book are a
series of pre-publication endorsements: Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton,
Madeleine Albright, Michael Hayden (former head of the CIA and NSA) and
Tony Blair. Inside the book Henry Kissinger appears once again, this
time given pride of place in the acknowledgements.

Schmidt’s book is not about communicating with the public. He is
worth $6.1 billion and does not need to sell books. Rather, this book is
a mechanism by which Google seeks to project itself into Washington. It
shows Washington that Google can be its partner, its geopolitical
visionary, who will help Washington see further about America’s
interests. And by tying itself to the US state, Google thereby cements
its own security, at the expense of all competitors.

Two months after my meeting with Eric Schmidt, WikiLeaks had a legal
reason to call Hilary Clinton and to document that we were calling her.
It’s interesting that if you call the front desk of the State Department
and ask for Hillary Clinton, you can actually get pretty close, and
we’ve become quite good at this. Anyone who has seen Doctor Strangelove
may remember the fantastic scene when Peter Sellers calls the White
House from a payphone on the army base and is put on hold as his call
gradually moves through the levels. Well WikiLeaks journalist Sarah
Harrison, pretending to be my PA, put through our call to the State
Department, and like Peter Sellers we started moving through the levels,
and eventually we got up to Hillary Clinton’s senior legal advisor, who
said that we would be called back.

Shortly afterwards another one of our people, WikiLeaks’ ambassador
Joseph Farrell, received a call back, not from the State Department, but
from Lisa Shields, the then girlfriend of Eric Schmidt, who does not
formally work for the US State Department. So let’s reprise this
situation: The Chairman of Google’s girlfriend was being used as a back
channel for Hillary Clinton. This is illustrative. It shows that at this
level of US society, as in other corporate states, it is all musical

That visit from Google while I was under house arrest was, as it
turns out, an unofficial visit from the State Department. Just consider
the people who accompanied Schmidt on that visit: his girlfriend Lisa
Shields, Vice President for Communications at the CFR; Scott Malcolmson,
former senior State Department advisor; and Jared Cohen,  advisor to
both Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, a kind of Generation Y
Kissinger figure — a noisy Quiet American as the author Graham Greene
might have put it.

So, whatever happened to Don’t Be Evil?  Or, as I’ve previously thought, perhaps we should have all viewed Google with the same wariness that one views a kindergarten teacher who is constantly gritting his teeth and reminding himself: “Don’t touch the merchandise… don’t touch the merchandise.”