By Yasha LevineOn April 23, 2014
So, Google continues to try to distance itself from the military-industrial complex.
Last month, the company made a big stink about refusing a tiny bit of DARPA funding for two robotics companies it purchased, hoping that people already forgot that the companies had been financed by the Department of Defense. And a few weeks ago, Google’s PR team insisted the company had nothing to do with the U.S. Air Force testing out Google Glass for battlefield use:
“The Glass Explorer program includes people from all walks of life, including doctors, firefighters, and parents. Anyone can apply to become a Glass Explorer, provided he or she is a U.S. resident and over the age of 18.”
Right. While this generic statement might be be reassuring to some, Google’s supposed hands-off approach to the intensely lucrative military and intel market is a bit hard to believe.
As I continue to poke around under the hood of Google Federal — as the company’s DC operation is called — I’m surprised by the number of former spooks, high-level intelligence officials and revolving door military contractors running Google’s public sector division.
Many of Google Federal’s top managers come from the biggest and baddest military and intel outfits: US Army, Air Force Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Director of National Intelligence, USAID, SAIC, Lockheed… the list keeps going on and on.
Take Michele R. Weslander Quaid, Google’s Chief Technology Officer of Public Sector and “Innovation Evangelist.”
Chances are you’ve never heard of her. Neither had I. But Weslander Quaid took the top spot in Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of the seven most powerful women to watch in 2014.
She helped bring the Google mindset to federal intelligence agencies.
After 9/11, Weslander Quaid felt a patriotic duty to help fight the War on Terror. So she quit her private sector job at a CIA contractor called Scitor Corporation and joined the official world of US government intelligence. She quickly rose through the ranks, serving in executive positions at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (sister agency to the NSA), National Reconnaissance Office and at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She toured combat zones in both Iraq and Afghanistan in order to see the tech needs of the military first-hand. All throughout her intel career, she championed a “startup” mentality and the benefits of cloud-based services.
Here’s how Entrepreneur Magazine described her mission:
The U.S. government isn’t exactly known for its efficiency or speed. But during her nine years at various national security agencies, including working with the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense, Michele Weslander Quaid acted like an entrepreneur. She shook things up by dropping archaic software and hardware and convincing teams to collaborate via web tools. Basically, she treated each agency like a startup to transform the sclerotic federal agencies for which she worked.
It could have been easy for Weslander Quaid simply to accept that federal agencies don’t share information or collaborate on decisions, but she wouldn’t. She started by convincing higher-ups at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which provides maps and pictures for military intelligence, as well as execs at the National Security Agency, which collects audio feeds, to collaborate on combined reports so that military decision-makers could better understand the data. Her efforts paid off, and she became one of the youngest people appointed a senior government executive. “I call it a wartime promotion,” she says.
In her later roles, Weslander Quaid pushed for an early version of cloud-based software that people could access from outside their D.C. offices. She standardized platforms across agencies and streamlined a technology-testing and procurement process that reduced time and costs–all cutting-edge ideas among the closed fiefdoms of Washington.
Getting intel agencies to go cloud? That’s the kind of government innovation that Sergey Brin and Larry Page can appreciate!
The US government spends somewhere around $80 billion a year on info technology. No wonder they made Weslander Quaid a Google “evangelist” on par with Internet inventor Vint Cerf.
Weslander Quaid told Entrepreneur Mag that a big part of her job at Google entails meeting with intelligence agency directors to discuss technology they want and/or need. She also spends quite a bit of time teaching rank-and-file Google employees on how to hard-sell government clients. “I act as a bridge between the two cultures.”
As I’ve written before, Google has aggressively intensified its campaign to carve out a bigger slice of the lucrative military-intelligence contracting market. It’s been targeting big federal agencies, and pushing its intel technology onto local and state government structures as well. In some cases, Google sells its wares to government intel agencies directly — like it did with the NSA and NGA. It’s also been taking the role of subcontractor: selling its tech by partnering with established military contractors and privatized surveillance firms like SAIC, Lockheed and smaller boutique outfits like the Blackwater-connected merc outfit called Blackbird.
In short: Google’s showing itself willing to do just about anything it can to more effectively hitch itself to America’s military-intelligence-industrial complex. So it’s not surprising that its top brass installed someone like Weslander Quaid as a company evangelist.
What is slightly surprising — and a bit disturbing — is that Weslander Quaid, Google’s liaison with the military, is now using Google’s big data knowhow to help the Republican Party win elections.
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt may have helped Barack Obama build a political technology juggernaut, but now another top Google executive is trying to help Republicans catch up.
Michele Weslander Quaid, who serves as the company’s “Innovation Evangelist” and chief technology officer for its public-sector division, is joining the board of directors of Voter Gravity, a campaign technology company that serves GOP candidates and conservative groups.
It’s a bit of a political coming-out for Weslander Quaid, who joined Google in 2011 and had not previously been active in partisan politics.
Voter Gravity isn’t just some neutral campaign tech company. It was set up by Ned Ryun, a rightwing Christian and an anti-union activist. In 2011, he came to Wisconsin to support Governor Scott Walker’s jihad on public sector workers:
“I applaud what Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin, but I actually feel he didn’t go far enough . . . at the end of the day, the public sector unions are not collectively bargaining for a greater share of earnings, as do the private sector unions. They are bargaining to get a bigger slice of the pie of tax dollars, which the government has taken from the American taxpayer.”
As much as Ryun cares about protecting the taxpaying public from greedy government workers, I have a feeling that he doesn’t mind that his partner Weslander Quaid’s main job function at Google is to siphon as many taxpayer tech contract dollars for the benefit of her company’s shareholder and executive class…
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And Weslander Quaid is not the only military-surveillance insider at Google Federal. Let’s take a look at two other senior executives…
First up: Shannon Sullivan, “Head of Defense & Intelligence, Google Enterprise.”
Sullivan graduated from the US Air Force Air University’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies — which produces “warrior-scholars.” He then served in various signals intelligence capacities in the US Air Force: as a “Senior Military Advisor” and in an unspecified role inside USAF’s “C4ISR Acquisition and Test; Space Operations, Foreign Military Sales” unit. What is C4ISR? Apparently it stands for… “Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.”
Sullivan then took the revolving door, getting a job as a “defense director” at BEA Systems. He then moved to Oracle, where he was the company’s “COCOMs Director” for the Army and Air Force. He is now involved in rolling out Google services for the DoD. His last project: setting up a Google Apps “transformational” test program to supply 50,000 soldiers in the US Army and DoD with a customized Google App Universe.
Then there’s Jim Young, Google’s DoD Sales Manager.
His job at Google is all about “[t]ransforming organizations by empowering their employees with the best cloud computing platforms in the world.”
But Young used to work as a CIA analyst at the Directorate of Science and Technology, a CIA R&D outfit that used to be called the Office of Scientific Intelligence. And as all CIA buffs know, OSI/DST is responsible for churning out Cold War-era spook technology, as well as some of the weirdest and darkest CIA schemes we know of: spy satellites, MKULTRA/ARTICHOKE Manchurian candidate mind control programs, remote viewing, surgically modified spy cats and a bunch of scarier things we’ll only find out about in 100 years. OSI/DST also funded In-Q-Tel… Come to think of it, In-Q-Tel helped fund Google Earth — which is a big part of Google’s military offering.
There are plenty of other people with similar backgrounds working for Google Federal — account managers, sales and marketing people, heads of engineering — but listing them and their intel/DoD work experience would only turn our brains to alphabet soup.
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The Washington Post recently exposed Google’s increasing role in DC’s influence-peddling machine — from partnering with Koch thinktanks to beefing up its rightwing lobby power. Staffing Google’s public-sector division with connected intel and military insiders is just another component of the this larger effort to grab the levers of power. How else can you expect Google to stave off anti-trust investigations and avoid paying for its massive privacy violations — all while expanding its business into the bottomless pit of federal government contracting?
Pando contacted Google for comment on this article [12+ hours before publication] but we have not yet had a response. We will update this story if the company responds.
Want to know more? Read Pando’s surveillance valley coverage…
[Image credit: Brad Jonas for Pando]