February 16, 2011 by Brad Johnson, ThinkProgress
Original reporting by ThinkProgress revealed that Hunton & Williams, a corporate law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, conspired with set of private security companies and lobbying firms to undermine the political opponents of the Chamber with a surreptitious sabotage campaign.
Their plot was revealed when emails from one of the companies involved, HBGary Federal, were leaked by hackers who were angered by boasts by HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr that he could use social media sites such as Facebook and false identities to uncover their identities.
Below is a detailed timeline of the conspiracy to launch a dirty-tricks campaign against labor unions, progressive organizations, and journalists who have challenged the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s right-wing agenda.
Hunton and Williams: Partners John Woods, Bob Quackenboss, David Lashway, and Litigation Group head Richard Wyatt**
Palantir Technologies: Matthew Steckman, Eli Bingham, Ryan Castle, Sean Stenstrom, Shyam Sankar; General Counsel Matt Long*, CEO Alex Karp**
Berico Technologies: Patrick Ryan, Sam Kremin, Amanda McDonald, Danielle Berti, Jeremy Glesner, Katie Crotty, Bill Lantzy, CEO Nicholas Hallam*, COO Guy Filippelli**
HBGary Federal: CEO Aaron Barr, Mark Trynor, COO Ted Vera, HBGary President Penny Leavy-Hoglund
Booz Allen: Senior Vice President Bill Wansley, Renee Way, Lloyd Howell, Chris O’Ferrell
*Signed contracts included in leaked e-mail record but were not involved in sending or receiving the e-mails.
**Mentioned by name in leaked emails but were not involved in sending or receiving them.
On September 10, U.S. Chamber Watch files charges with the IRS that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “violated tax codes by laundering millions of dollars meant for charitable work from a group with ties to the insurance giant AIG.”
On October 5, ThinkProgress exposes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for directing foreign funds into the general account it uses for political expenditures to defeat progressive candidates.
On October 7, MoveOn, Public Citizen, and other progressive organizations protest the Chamber’s plan to spend $75 million against progressive candidates, and their lack of transparency over foreign money, in front of Chamber headquarters in Washington D.C.
On October 19, Matthew Steckman (Palantir) emails Aaron Barr (HBGary) and Patrick Ryan (Berico) about “about offering a complete intelligence solution to a law firm that approached us” using “social media exploitation.” “Looking forward to discussing this opportunity,” Barr replies. Ryan says it “sounds like a great opportunity.”
On October 25, Steckman introduces John Woods to Patrick Ryan and Aaron Barr. They plan to meet on Nov 4 (gets moved to Nov 3) because Woods says “I have to make our formal pitch to the client early the following week.”
On October 28, Ryan outlines H&W’s problem: “A client of theirs is targeted by another entity, specifically a labor union, that is trying to extract some kind of concession or favorable outcome.” They have not yet learned the name of the client.
On October 30, Barr emails the group with a document for the proposal that is a triumph of biztalk verbiage.
On November 1, Barr emails the group with the info he’d collected on H&W, including John Woods’ family, by scraping LinkedIn and Facebook. He “grabbed all the partners friends lists that have facebook accounts,” 21 in all. “One of the steps we will do once we start on contract is do [sic] automate some of the scraping an artifact collection into single files and then develop a helper app that can parse all this information into the right fields. Should be easy.”
On November 2, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue praises the Republican gains in Congress, governorships, and state legislatures: “Today Americans sent a powerful message to Washington: Focus on job creation and economic growth. Voters have resoundingly rejected more government spending, higher taxes, and more burdensome regulations that have caused crippling uncertainty for businesses.” Meanwhile, the group of private security contractors comes up with the name “Team Themis.”
On November 3, John Woods meets with Patrick Ryan, Aaron Barr, etc. to discuss the project. In their “Corporate Information Reconnaissance Cell” slide show: “Purpose: Develop a corporate information reconnaissance service to aid legal investigations through the open source collection of information on target groups and individuals that appear organized to extort specific concessions through online slander campaigns.” It appears that at the meeting it was revealed that the client is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
On November 4, Themis has a conference call to discuss their pricing proposal. Steckman notes “Their client is loaded!” Ryan forwards the group a Chamber of Commerce booklet on corporate campaigns that Sam Kremin had found.
On November 5, Ryan asks Woods what data H&W has, wondering if it includes “Financial Records, Union Rosters, IP addresses” and “access to the union in question’s membership lists”. Ryan attaches a $200,000 cost proposal.
On November 7, Woods tells Ryan he will be meeting on November 9 “with the team at HW who has gathered the underlying data” and asks about how pricing will work.
On November 8 Woods and Ryan talk on the phone.
On November 9, Woods asks Barr to “impress” Richard Wyatt by investigating Stop The Chamber. Woods says Wyatt “might freak out” if he saw all the personal info Barr had collected by scraping social media sites. Barr is already collecting data on a number of anti-Chamber sites, including ThinkProgress. He tells Woods about what he found about Michael Gehrke. Aaron Barr also tells John Woods and Patrick Ryan the info he had found about VelvetRevolution.us, Brad Friedman, Emily Levy, ThinkProgress, and Debbie Fine. He also emails John Woods to tell him “Lets say we can publicly tie Joe Trippi (http://www.facebook.com/trippi) and his company to the development of videos for organization X. We can take videos released by organization Y and analyze the internals to see if there are forensic markers that are a match.”
On November 10, Woods talked with Ryan and “set up a meeting” for November 12 at the Palantir offices intended to get Richard Wyatt “to sign off on the project.”
On November 11, Barr sends Berico’s Kremin and Ryan a document with his research of “Chamber Opposition,” downloads of the Facebook supporters of Change To Win, Code Pink, Stop The Chamber, US Chamber Watch, Velvet Revolution, and a list of the Facebook friends of the Velvet Revolution’s Brett Kimberlin.
On November 12, representatives from Palantir, Berico, and HBGary meet with John Woods and Richard Wyatt. The expectation is set for a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce on November 23.
On November 15, Steckman says that the contractors have agreed on a plan for a $200,000 initial month of work, which would then become $2 million monthly for six months, split 50% Palantir, 25% each for Berico and HBGary. Ryan expresses some concerns that $2 million a month “sounds high.”
On November 16, Berico formally sub-contracts HBGary Federal “to submit a proposal to Hunton & Williams (herein referred to as ‘Customer’) in response to their request for assistance within the realm of legal discovery to provide certain software platforms and maintenance, and systems integrators and analysts in order to better conduct cyber investigations and Corporate Campaign Analysis (herein referred to as the ‘Program.’)” The contract is signed by Nicholas Hallam, Berico COO and Aaron Barr, HBGary CEO. In a separate email, Barr expresses amazement that Palantir wants $1 million a month for six months.
On November 17, Eli Bingham sets up the Themis instance on the Palantir system. He shares a “printable version of the current ontology,” which includes labor organizations, strikes, and demonstrations. The ontology is also designed to hold the social media profiles of people.
On November 18, Ryan Castle (Palantir) tells the team that the “facebook information that you sent to me has been imported” and “mugshots are included.” Barr raises issues about the pricing for this six-month project, pointing out that HBGary and Berico will be doing all the work, and asks for a 40/30/30 split. Ryan agrees on behalf of Berico. Steckman says “we got approval from Dr. Karp and the Board to go ahead with the modified 40/30/30 breakdown proposed” for pricing the project. He notes “it will seem like money falling from the sky for those of us used to working in the govt sector.”
On November 19, Sean Stenstrom (Palantir) sends a license agreement to Berico for the use of Palantir’s services.
On November 22, Palantir general counsel Matt Long signs a “teaming agreement” contract between Palantir and Berico, signed by Hallam the next day.
On November 23, Kremin emails Woods with the contracts between Palantir & Berico and Berico & HBGary. He also attaches a costing proposal, for $200,000 for 11/23 – 12/23, then $2 million total for 12/24 to 6/24/11. The proposal includes creating “in-depth target dossiers for key entities and groups; will include key biographic data, relationships, intentions, etc.” Woods and Kremin discuss setting up a conference call with Bob Quackenboss, “our key client contact operationally.”
On November 24, H&W and Themis have a conference call. After the call, Steckman says: “We need to blow these guys away with descriptions of our capabilities, IP, and talent. Make them think that we are Bond, Q, and money penny all packaged up with a bow.” As they discuss how to bill the client, Steckman reiterates that H&W and the Chamber need to know why they should spend so much: “Most of all that we are the best money can buy! Dam it feels good to be a gangsta.” By the end of the day Katie Crotty had sent a more detailed breakdown of the abilities of the team’s staff to H&W in a “labor category spreadsheet.”
On November 29, Berico completes sample “reports” for H&W and collects resumes of the team members, per H&W’s request. H&W tells Berico the NDA language “needs to be reworked.”
On November 30, Steckman meets with John Woods and briefly meets Bob Quackenboss. Although the $2 million price tag was high, Woods says that Richard Wyatt is “looking to push that number to the Chamber.” Woods tells Steckman the Themis group “has potential for huge gains in this market especially since ‘the results of the election made some people angry.'”
On December 1, John Woods and Bob Quackenboss receive sample “reports” from Themis that involve scraping Facebook to create dossiers of the Chamber’s political opponents (including people at MoveOn).
On December 2, Woods asks Themis for “five to six slides on Wikileaks” for “a large US Bank.” The group eagerly begins work on the presentation.
On December 3, Barr tells the Themis group “I think we need to highlight people like Glenn Greenwald” for the WikiLeaks presentation. By 11:18 am, they have sent a Powerpoint presentation to John Woods.
On December 10, Sam Kremin complains to Aaron Barr that H&W wasn’t responding to them. He also explains to Barr how to upload personal information “scraped” from Facebook onto Palantir’s systems.
On December 13, Berico & HBGary emails John Woods to basically ask what was going on.
On December 21, Guy Filippelli, Berico CEO, meets with Bob Quackenboss who complained about the price.
On December 23, Palantir has a meeting with John Woods and “we are all in for this first opp (obviously lot’s of understood caveats/implications/long term thoughts/etc here).”
On December 28 they email Quackenboss again, who replied that he would try to get back to them the next day. He doesn’t.
On December 30-31 Aaron Barr and Mark Trynor discuss the Facebook scraper app that Trynor developed.
On January 13, H&W gives Themis a “very basic” document “that shows the connections between groups and people involved.” That document is not forwarded over email but sent on CD by courier. The Themis team assumes this act represents official initiation of the $200,000 Phase 1. Aaron Barr and Ted Vera at HBGary talk about finally landing $50K.
Meanwhile, Barr spends two hours giving a presentation on social media exploitation at the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command in Springfield, VA.
On January 14, Ted Vera tells HBGary president Penny Leavy-Hoglund that HBGary will get the contract. Kremkin tells the team that “phase 1 has started” and believes that Bob Quackenboss “will hopefully be able to meet with us to give us his vision and guidance for the project.”
On January 18, Barr goes to the Berico offices to discuss the project.
On January 19, Amanda McDonald (Palantir) creates the Berico Themis instance. Barr tells Leavy-Hoglund: “The law firm deal has been agreed upon but the lawfirm has still not written us a contract. Berico says they have verbally areed [sic] to the pricing and want us to get started but we don’t have the contract yet.”
On January 20, in a conversation with Mark Trynor about Wikileaks, Barr says, “I really dislike corporations. They suck the lifeblood out of humanity,” although: “Governments and corporations should have a right to protect secrets, sensitive information that could be damage to their operations.”
On January 25, Barr asks Ryan for news. “Still waiting for Bob [Quackenboss] to return my calls,” Ryan replies, “also had our lawyer/contracts person reach out to their contracts person to push from that direction. Im pretty much calling bob daily at this point.”
On January 26, Barr tells Woods about the research he’s been doing on Anonymous. Woods puts him in contact with Bill Wansley at Booz Allen. Wansley and Barr set up a meeting for the 28th.
On February 3, Berico’s Pat Ryan discusses a “long-overdue” meeting he had with Bob Quackenboss, who told him that “H&W is unable/unwilling to pay any fees/costs to us for the “Phase I” demo build-out” and “they won’t commit any funds to this project until we’ve helped them earn buy-in from their Client (the Chamber).” Quackenboss “apologized for the confusion/misunderstanding and said he thinks there is a high likelihood of selling the Chamber on this, but asked that we be willing to share the risk with H&W up-front.” Berico is willing to work on a demo to present to the Chamber on February 14.
On February 4, the Financial Times publishes the story about Aaron Barr and Anonymous, and Anonymous soon goes after HBGary. Email record ends February 6.