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Group Welcomes Sen. Grassley’s Probe Of Google’s Use Of NASA Airfield

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Wed, May 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm

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Group Welcomes Sen. Grassley’s Probe Of Google’s Use Of NASA Airfield

Consumer Watchdog Report Revealed How Google Bases Jet Fleet At Moffett Field

SANTA MONICA, CA — Consumer Watchdog today welcomed an investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa) into Google’s use of NASA’s Moffett Federal Airfield in Santa Clara County, California, near Google headquarters.

Grassley, ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote Charles F. Bolden Jr., NASA Administrator, expressing concern about “troubling allegations regarding the Google fleet of aircraft housed at Moffett Airfield.”

In January 2011 Consumer Watchdog released a report, Lost in the Cloud: Google and the US Government, detailing how Google has inappropriately benefited from its ties to the Obama Administration, including how NASA’s Moffett Airfield, near Google’s world headquarters, was turned into a taxpayer-subsidized private airport for Google and their corporate junkets.

“Whistleblowers have questioned the benefit to the U.S. government from the Google fleet being housed at Moffett Airfield,” wrote Grassley. “Additionally, my office received allegations that Google has purchased jet fuel from the government at a discounted price, a price allegedly well below the market price due to its tax treatment.”

“Sen. Grassley is finally asking the right tough questions about Google’s sweetheart deal with NASA,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project.

Click here to read Sen. Grassley’s letter here.

Consumer Watchdog’s study found that a growing fleet of jets and helicopters based at Moffett stand ready to ferry the company’s top executives near or far, for business or pleasure, for vacations or schmoozing. The trips included at least three wintertime jaunts to the Caribbean and a trip by Google’s then chief executive Eric Schmidt to the Cannes Film Festival.  Humanitarian groups, by contrast, have been denied access to the airport.

Click here to read Consumer Watchdog’s report, Lost in the Cloud.

Grassley asked Bolden to respond to these questions by May 25:

1) How did NASA arrive at the lease amount of $3.7 million per year? Does that represent a fair market rate for the lease? Which individuals at NASA and Google negotiated the lease amount?

2) As of the date of this letter, how many aircraft owned or operated by Google are present at Moffett Airfield? Provide detailed descriptions of all aircraft.

3) Why does Moffett Airfield house Google aircraft and when did this arrangement begin? Provide all contracts between Google, NASA, and/or the military related to aircraft and aircraft fuel at Moffett Airfield.

4) Please describe the agreements by which Google obtains fuel for its aircraft at Moffett Airfield and provide fueling records for each aircraft over the past five years.

5) Are any of the aircraft used to support NASA research? Provide a specific explanation regarding the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet.4

6) Have any NASA officials flown on the Google aircraft? Please provide a list of each official and describe the nature and purpose of each trip in detail.

7) For each aircraft owned or operated by Google, provide all flight plans and passenger manifests for each flight originating and landing at Moffett Airfield in the last five years.

8- In the last five years, have any other aircraft owned by private companies or individuals housed aircraft at Moffett Airfield? If yes, provide a detailed description of the aircraft, the ownership of the aircraft.

Consumer Watchdog had brought its report to the attention of Congress by sending it to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and had asked him to investigate.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 361 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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