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Julian Assange: Google's just an arm of US government

Pale, embassy-dwelling blond claims conspiracy betweeen ad giant, politicians

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has claimed that Google is tied up in a conspiracy stretching up to the very highest levels of American government.

Addressing the 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art via live video link on Thursday, the pale blond hacker claimed that Google was a US government "echo".

For the first time, he described interactions with both Google and the State Department which he claimed was "evidence" of intimate relations between the organisations.

Assange famously met up with Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, the young hotshot who is head of Google Ideas and a former high-ranking State Department apparatchik, along with Lisa Shields, a vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, while under house arrest in the UK during 2011.

The group told Assange they wanted to interview him for Schmidt and Cohen's book (published this year), The New Digital Age: Re-shaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, but the WikiLeaks founder claimed they had a different motivation for their visit.

Assange said: "Google wants to ingratiate itself in the national security complex of the US and [establish] itself as a new geopolitical visionary. You might think this meeting is evidence that the big boys at Google are secretly on the side of WikiLeaks. That's not true; they have a much more complex agenda."

WikiLeaks published the transcript of their lengthy conversation earlier this year, but Assange has now described further interactions with the State Department for the first time.

Assange claimed that after the meeting, his team tried to contact Hilary Clinton. He said they managed to get through to her senior legal advisor. In a bid to confirm that the WikiLeaks caller was actually on Assange's staff, the State Department allegedly asked Shields to call them back and act as a "secret backchannel".

Assange, who referred to himself in the third person throughout the keynote, said: "What had happened was that the Google guys - who are really kind of State Department guys - came and paid an unofficial State Department visit to Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks crew, while I was under house arrest, then went back and reported that information at the highest level."

The blond hacker claimed that Google and the State Department work closely together, with the ad giant "doing stuff the government and CIA can't do".

"At this level of American society, it's all musical chairs," he added.

As evidence for this, the pale one pointed to WikiLeaks cables which appear to show intelligence agents were concerned that Google staff were running secret missions around the world, possibly at the behest of the US government.

Although this cannot be confirmed, recent stories do show that Google is keen to win favour with senators and other power brokers, though presumably in this economy, most governments prefer cold hard cash to favours. The Chocolate Factory spent $18.2m on Washington lobbyists last year, more than any other tech firm. Of course, that's not evidence of any wrongdoing.

Assange went on to claim that although Google started out imbued with good, er, "Californian" vibes, it has been corrupted by power. He added: "Google started out as part of Californian graduate school culture, which is a very nice, gentle, humane, somewhat naive and privileged culture around Berkeley in the Bay Area, which is pretty decent. Californians at that level are much like Australians, it's a pretty flat society.

"But as Google dealt with the big bad world, it leaned very heavily on the State Department and entered into its systems, so that there are very close interconnects, where you have a former advisor to Hilary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice [Jared Cohen] working as head of Google Ideas."

The Register has contacted both Google and Lisa Shields for comment, but they have not yet responded. ®

* Other gems from the keynote included:

If we go back to 2010 when I was in prison, and in solitary confinement. Who won the person of the year? I did. With 20 times the vote of Mark Zuckerberg, who Time Magazine decided to give the award to. Really democratic.

and

It’s not that Julian Assange is so cool. Or that Bradley Manning is so cool. It’s rather that our struggle represents this symbol that all of us hold.

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