[governance] StratforLeaks: Google Ideas Director Involved in ‘Regime Change’

Riaz K Tayob riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Thu Mar 15 03:58:36 EDT 2012

  StratforLeaks: Google Ideas Director Involved in ‘Regime Change’

Google CEO Eric Schmidt gives a speech during the opening ceremony of 
the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover 5 March 2012. (Photo: REUTERS - 
Fabian Bimmer)

By: Yazan al-Saadi <http://english.al-akhbar.com/author/yazan-al-saadi>

Published Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Top Google execs, including the company’s CEO and one of Barack Obama’s 
major presidential campaign donors Eric Schmidt, informed the 
intelligence agency Stratfor about Google’s activities and internal 
communication regarding “regime change” in the Middle East, according to 
Stratfor emails released by WikiLeaks and obtained by Al-Akhbar. The 
other source cited was Google’s director for security and safety Marty Lev.

The briefings mainly focused on the movements of Jared Cohen, currently 
the director of Google Ideas, a “think/do-tank” billed as a vehicle for 
spreading American-style liberal democracy. Cohen was also a former 
member of US Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff and former 
advisor to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.

Email exchanges, starting February 2011, suggest that Google execs were 
suspicious that Cohen was coordinating his moves with the White House 
and cut Cohen’s mission short at times for fear he was taking too many 
risks. Stratfor’s vice-president of counter-terrorism Fred Burton, who 
seemed opposed to Google’s alleged covert role in “foaming” uprisings, 
describes Cohen as a “loose Cannon” whose killing or kidnapping “might 
be the best thing to happen” to expose Google.

*The Cohen Conspiracy*

Stratfor’s spotlight on Cohen began on 9 February 2012 after Burton 
forwarded to the secure email list a Foreign Policy article discussing 
Cohen’s move from the State Department to Google Ideas. With this 
article, Burton noted that Cohen had dinner in Cairo with Wael Ghonim on 
January 27, 2011 just hours before the Egyptian Google Executive was 
famously picked up by Egypt’s State Security. (doc-id 1122191 

On the same day, Stratfor’s staff make reference to a Huffington Post 
article which highlighted Cohen’s role in “delaying the scheduled 
maintenance on Twitter so the Iranian revolution could keep going” and a 
Foreign Policy article that noted that Cohen “was a Rhodes scholar, 
spent time in Iran, [and] hung out in Iraq during the war…”. These 
casual discovers further perked Stratfor’s curiosity about Cohen. 
(doc-id 1629270 <http://english.al-akhbar.com/gi-files/1629270more-cohen>)

The following day, Burton forwarded a message to the secure email list 
from “a very good Google source” who claimed that Cohen “[was] off to 
Gaza next week”. Burton added, “Cohen, a Jew, is bound to get himself 
whacked….Google is not clear if Cohen is operating [with a] State Dept 
[or] WH [White House] license, or [is] a hippie activist.”

Korena Zucha, another senior analyst on the list, queried, “Why hasn’t 
Google cut ties to Cohen yet? Or is Cohen’s activity being endorsed by 
those higher up in the [company] than your contact?”

In turn, Burton replied, “Cohen’s rabbi is Eric Schmidt and Obama 
lackey. My source is trying to find out if the billionaire owners are 
backing Cohen’s efforts for regime change.” (doc-id 1111729 

Later on, Burton forwarded information from the “Google source” of 
Cohen’s links in establishing Movements.org <http://www.movements.org/>. 
The source added, “A site created to help online organization of groups 
and individuals to move democracy in stubborn nations. Funded through 
public-private partnerships.” Burton pointed out that the US State 
Department is the organization’s public sponsor.” (doc-id 1118344 

Indeed, the State Department, partnering with a number of corporations, 
was the main sponsor for the 2008 inaugural Alliance of Youth Movements 
summit in New York City that subsequently established Movements.org. 
Hillary Clinton endorsed the organization and presented a video message 
during the second summit held in Mexico City a year later.

On 11 February, Burton wrote to the secure email list that Cohen was 
still planning to head to Gaza. He added, “The dude is a loose can[n]on. 
GOOGLE is trying to stop his entry into Gaza now because the dude is 
like scorched earth. It’s unclear to GOOGLE if he’s driving without a 
license, but GOOGLE believes he’s on a specific mission of “regime 
change” on the part of leftist fools inside the WH who are using him for 
their agendas.” (doc-id 1113596 

Throughout this day, the idea proposed by Burton, and seemingly felt by 
his Google contacts as well, of Cohen and the White House’s involvement 
in the uprisings was actively discussed among the analysts, especially 
in regards to who would be targeted next. (doc-id 1113965 

By Monday, 14 February 2011, Burton shared intelligence with George 
Friedman, Stratfor’s founder, and Scott Stewart, vice-president of 
Stratfor’s tactical department, from his source in Google that Cohen was 
ordered not to go to Gaza. Burton’s Google source further stated, “Also, 
thinking I [the unnamed source] may be on the right track about him 
despite his denials [in reference to Cohen working for the White 
House/State Department].”

When asked to clarify his sources on Cohen, Burton claimed that they 
were Marty Lev, Google’s director for security and safety, and Eric 
Schmidt, the current CEO of Google. (doc-id 398679 

A week later, Burton forwarded an internal Google email obtained from a 
‘senior Google executive’. This email was seemingly sent by Cohen to the 
senior Google executive to discuss Cohen’s planned trip in March.
In it, Cohen wrote, “I wanted to follow-up and get a sense of your 
latest thinking on the proposed March trip to UAE, Azerbaijan, and 
Turkey. The purpose of this trip is to exclusively engage the Iranian 
community to better understand the challenges faced by Iranians as part 
of one of our Google Ideas groups on repressive societies. Here is what 
we are thinking: Drive to Azerbaijan/Iranian border and engage the 
Iranian communities closer to the border (this is important because we 
need the Azeri Iranian perspective).”

After reading Cohen’s email, Stewart remarked, “Cohen might end up 
having an accident if he is not careful. This is not child’s play.”

Burton responded, “GOOGLE is getting WH [White House] and State Dept. 
support and air cover. In reality, they are doing things the CIA cannot 
do. But, I agree with you. He’s going to get himself kidnapped or 
killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose GOOGLE’s covert role 
in foaming up-risings, to be blunt. The US Gov’t can then disavow 
knowledge and GOOGLE is left holding the shit bag.” (doc-id 1121800 

On 10 March 2011, Burton forwarded another message from his ‘senior 
Google executive’ source detailing how Cohen was requested not to travel 
on his proposed trip. The source explained that Google had concerns over 
Cohen’s “baggage” as a “US State Dept. policy maker, his research and 
publications on Muslim extremists and youth movements and his presence 
in Egypt just as the uprising started.”The source also stated that Cohen 
was recommended to “take a lower profile on this specific trip and let 
time pass before being visible and associated with people known by their 
states to be active in challenging repressive societies.” (doc-id 

A subsequent message from Burton’s source on 22 March 2011 affirmed that 
Cohen “heeded the advice not to go to Turkey or UAE for those meetings.” 
(doc-id 1133861 

The final email dealing with Cohen was on 30 March 2011.
Here, Burton forwarded to the alpha (secure) email list a response by 
his source to Burton’s question of whether Cohen was playing any role in 
Libya at the time. The source stated, “Not that I’m aware of. He heeded 
the advice to avoid Turkey and UAE and didn’t go on that trip.” (doc-id 
1160182 <http://english.al-akhbar.com/gi-files/1160182jared-cohen-google>)


*Google Ideas: Politicizing Technology*

Certainly, there is more than meets the eye to Cohen and his actions; 
even his superiors in Google seem to think so.

The belief, chiefly by Burton, that Cohen had seemingly played a role in 
fermenting the uprisings that toppled Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni 
Mubarak underplays, and at times entirely disregards, the ability and 
agency by local movements in Tunisia and Egypt.

Nevertheless, Google Ideas, which Cohen directs, is a new animal. 
According to a report 
by the Financial Times published last July, Google Ideas seems to bond 
idealistic activist sensibilities with Google’s pursuit for continued 
global expansion - blurring the lines between business and political 
action. Schmidt and Cohen dub Google Ideas as a “think/do-tank” that 
aims to tackle political and diplomatic matters through the use of 

The first public event for the think/do-tank, in partnership with the 
Council on Foreign Relations and the Tribeca Film Festival, was held 
last June in Dublin. It gathered around 80 ‘former’ extremists, 
including former Muslim radicals, neo-Nazis, US gang members, and 
others, in a “Summit Against Violent Extremism”. The announcement 
by Google declared that the summit’s aim is “to initiate a global 
conversation on how best to prevent young people from becoming 
radicalised and how to de-radicalise others” and that “the ideas 
generated at the Dublin summit will be included in a study to be 
published later in the year.”

One spin off was the creation of the Against Violent Extremism 
<http://www.againstviolentextremism.org/> group, apparently a network 
for those who attended the Dublin Summit. Beyond merely networking, the 
group also advertises certain projects that are in need of funding. 
Notably, much of the projects pertain to the Middle East, including an 
“Al-Awlaki Counter-Campaign” - Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen of 
Yemeni origin, was assassinated in September of last year by the US for 
his alleged al-Qaeda connections.

But the Against Violent Extremism site does not seem to be presently 
active. The last update for projects in need of funding was made in 
September and the last announcement regarding the workings of the site 
was made in October.

More recently, Foreign Policy reported in January that the Brookings 
Institute, one of the oldest and most influential think-tanks in 
Washington, DC, named Google Ideas as “the best new think tank 
established in the last 18 months.” Such accolades arguably suggests 
that Google Ideas is expected to be a major player in the near future.


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