The latest batch of emails released from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server show Google officials working with the State Department to promote “defections” in Syria at a time when the United States was looking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The message, which was highlighted by Wikileaks, was sent to Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, senior Clinton adviser Alec Ross and Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan, by Jared Cohen, the head of Google Ideas.
“Please keep close hold, but my team is planning to launch a tool on Sunday that will publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from. Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition.”
Cohen went on to say that once the tool is created, Google planned to give it to Middle Eastern media outlets like Al-Jazeera to “track the data, verify it, and broadcast it back into Syria.”
“Given how hard it is to get information into Syria right now, we are partnering with Al-Jazeera who will take primary ownership over the tool we have built, track the data, verify it, and broadcast it back into Syria. I’ve attached a few visuals that show what the tool will look like. Please keep this very close hold and let me know if there is anything [else] you think we need to account for or think about before we launch. We believe this can have an important impact.”
Cohen sent the email on July 25, 2012, and Sullivan forward it to Clinton, describing the tool as “a pretty cool idea.”
The Washington Examiner reported that before he was hired to lead Google Ideas in 2010, Cohen “worked as a low-level staffer at the State Department” and was “tied to the use of social media to incite social uprisings,” which included asking Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to “hold off of conducting system maintenance that officials believed could have impeded a brief 2009 uprising in Iran.”