CubaBrief: Google is withdrawing from US Department of Defense Project, while maintaining its cooperation with China and looking for ways to expand links with Cuban regime.

Google has cancelled its participation in a US Defense Department Project, while retiring Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) accompanied Eric Schmidt, a former Google Chief Executive to a meeting with figure-head Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana.  Google does not seem to have concerns about its cooperation with the Chinese regime or an awareness of American security and Chinese strategic ambitions.  ALSO read below a report from the BBC about hundreds of Venezuelans killed by Maduro’s repressive forces.  There are still thousnds of Cuban soldiers helping Maduro with his repression and abuse of dissidents.

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 3.16.40 PM.png

A smiling Senator Flake with Diaz-Canel who was hand-picked by General Raul Castro to be the only candidate for Cuba’s presidential “elections” recently. 


Google Searching for Moral High Ground in the Wrong Places

Jun 21st, 2018 


Klon Kitchen

Senior Research Fellow, Technology

Klon is a senior research fellow for science, technology and national security.

Google and its employees may have deluded themselves into believing that their fates are independent from those of the United States. But this is an illusion.Prykhodov/Getty Images


Google has a problem: The company’s incredibly gifted and creative employees are also profoundly ignorant—and in a way that threatens our national security.

The United States government cannot secure its people or its interests without direct support from our private sector, particularly the technology industry.

Google’s efforts to avoid contributing to wars may very well make future wars more likely and costly.


Google has a problem: The company’s incredibly gifted and creative employees are also profoundly ignorant—and in a way that threatens our national security.

Recently, Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene said the company is withdrawing from the Department of Defense’s Project Maven, which is a multifaceted effort to apply artificial intelligence to the Pentagon’s huge information stores, especially imagery data. The decision comes after more than 4,000 of the tech giant’s employees signed a petition protesting the company’s participation in Maven. At least 12 engineers resigned after the company’s involvement was revealed in March.

“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” the petitioners declared, demanding a policy “that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.” The petition also suggested that working with the Defense Department violates the corporate motto: “don’t be evil.”

The company’s leadership heard the complaint loud and clear, with CEO Sundar Pichai issuing a set of “principles” that will guide Google’s AI development going forward—including prohibiting development of AI for “weapons” or “surveillance,” or threatening “human rights.”

It’s easy to appreciate the humanitarian instincts behind these concerns. That doesn’t make the corresponding ignorance and naivete any less dangerous.

In the contemporary security environment, more and more of the burden for assuring national security falls to the private sector. Put simply: The United States government cannot secure its people or its interests without direct support from our private sector, particularly the technology industry. It’s not a one-way street. The private sector cannot thrive absent the peace and security provided by government.

The growing and evolving threats posed by hostile states, by non-state actors such as terrorists and hacking syndicates, by so-called “gray zone” conflicts like those in Africa and in the Baltics, and a host of other challenges all demand awareness, insight, and capabilities that can be realized only by effectively integrating human and machine capabilities. Many of these capabilities are being developed in the private sector—under the protective economic, social, and political umbrella provided by our government.

Effective cooperation is now essential for both the private and public sectors. But this cooperation should not be coerced—it should be voluntarily pursued, which brings us to the prohibitive ignorance of Google’s protests and “principles.”

Take, for example, its insistence that “Google should not be in the business of war.” War is, and always has been, a fact of life. Recognizing this truth is not the same as wanting war, but denying it does nothing to prevent war. In fact, by minimizing the proven danger of man’s thirst for power, denial makes war more likely.

Certainly efforts like Project Maven aim to improve our military’s lethality. And we need not apologize for that. If wars are inevitable, we ought to win them quickly and decisively. But those same efforts will also improve the Pentagon’s ability to reduce the combat-related deaths of innocents, provide disaster support, prevent terrorist attacks, deter hostile foreign countries, and complete the humanitarian missions with which we frequently task our armed forces. Surely these advances are not evil.

Some things are evil, however—like developing and selling artificial intelligence to authoritarian regimes who will use the technology to control and to oppress their people. Yet, strangely, I haven’t heard of any employee protests or resignations over Google’s expanding AI research in China. Do the company’s engineers not understand that advanced algorithms and mass data processing capabilities being developed at the new Google Artificial Intelligence Center in China could, and likely will, be used to monitor and to oppress Chinese citizens and even political dissidents around the world? Doesn’t this violate Google’s AI “principles?”

Can Google prove that this is not or will not be the case? And is Google so infatuated with gaining greater access to the growing Chinese market that it is willing to hypocritically constrain its cooperation with the U.S. government while turning a blind eye to the totalitarian sins of Beijing?

Perhaps technology leaders are on the horns of a dilemma where they understand many of these global variables but are held hostage by an internal constituency of highly-sought technical experts who can easily secure alternative employment if they become aggrieved by this or that company policy. If that is the case, these leaders have a vested interest in educating and informing their employees, so that they have a fuller understanding of the world as it exists, of the good their efforts can produce, and of the evil that their absence can enable.

Google and its employees may have deluded themselves into believing that their fates are independent from those of the United States. But this is an illusion. Their efforts to avoid contributing to wars may very well make future wars more likely and costly.

This piece originally appeared in the Weekly Standard


June 22, 2018

Venezuela crisis: UN says security forces killed hundreds

Venezuela crisis

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 3.16.54 PM.png

Venezuelan security forces have carried out hundreds of arbitrary killings under the guise of fighting crime, the UN’s human rights body says.

In a report, it cites “shocking” accounts of young men being killed during operations, often in poor districts, over the past three years.

The UN’s human rights chief said no-one was being held to account, suggesting the rule of law was “virtually absent”.

Venezuela has in the past dismissed human rights allegations as “lies”.

The country is going through a protracted political and economic crisis.

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 3.19.36 PM.png

The search for food in Venezuela

What is at the root of the crisis?

Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves. When socialist President Hugo Chávez was in power, from 1999 until his death in 2013, he used oil money to finance social programmes.

But the opposition says much of the income was lost to mismanagement, patronage, and corruption.

Critics accuse Mr Chavez’s successor, President Nicolás Maduro, of using increasingly authoritarian tactics as the economy collapsed, prompting hundreds of thousands of people to flee abroad.

Last year dozens of protesters were killed in clashes during protests against hyperinflation and food shortages.

Mr Maduro was re-elected in May, in a poll boycotted by the opposition and criticised by the UN and other international bodies.


Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 3.17.09 PM.png

What does the report say?

The UN Human Rights Office alleges that extra-judicial killings were carried out by officers involved with the Operations for the Liberation of the People, ostensibly a crime-reduction initiative.

These officers may have killed more than 500 people since July 2015 as a way to showcase crime-reduction results, it says. They are alleged to have faked evidence to make it look as though the victims died in exchanges of fire.

UN investigators have been denied access to Venezuela. They made their findings from interviews with about 150 witnesses and victims contacted through “internet-based technologies”, the report says.

A number of interview with exiles were also held in Geneva, it adds. Some of the other evidence comes from former Attorney General Luisa Ortega. She was fired by Mr Maduro last year and went into exile.

The report says that under her replacement, investigations into allegations of abuses have virtually stopped.

Case study: ‘He was human, not a dog’

The grandmother of a man killed during an operation in March 2018 told UN investigators that 50 officers had broken into their home, all of them dressed in black with a skull symbol on their jackets.

“They woke my 23-year-old grandson up, handcuffed him with plastic ties and took him out,” she said. After a few minutes, the family heard gunshots. When they went downstairs to see what had happened, they were ordered back inside.

“Later, the forensic doctor told me that he had died of two gunshots to the chest and that he had been severely hit on the head.

“The police report mentioned that my grandson was carrying a gun and that he had opened fire against security forces, which is a lie. I want justice, he was a human being, not a dog.”


Katy Watson, BBC South America correspondent

Reports of extrajudicial killings are worrying yet not surprising. The crackdown from government forces during last year’s protests brought international criticism, and impunity is so prevalent that people fear for their safety every day, especially in big cities such as the capital Caracas.

The government’s reaction to such criticism is also predictable – it either denies the problems exist, or blames the US.

Yet the problems don’t go away. They just get worse.

I was in Venezuela for the elections last month and everybody recounted stories of not being able to get enough food or access medicines – they say it’s a situation that’s become impossible. Those who can leave.

Did the UN mention the country’s economic problems?

Yes. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, accused Venezuela of failing to acknowledge the depth of its crisis.

“When a box of hypertension pills costs more than the monthly minimum wage and baby milk formula more than two months’ salary, but protesting against such an impossible situation can land you in jail, the extreme injustice of it all is stark,” he added.

Mr Hussein suggested the International Criminal Court could become involved.