Climate

Chamber of Commerces lobbyists solicited hackers to sabotage unions and smear its political opponents

Lee Fang, in a TP cross-post.  Head vises are a must!

ThinkProgress has learned that a law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the big business trade association representing ExxonMobil, AIG, and other major international corporations, is working with set of “private security” companies and lobbying firms to undermine their political opponents, including ThinkProgress, with a surreptitious sabotage campaign.

According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams. Hunton And Williams’ attorney Richard Wyatt, who once represented Food Lion in its infamous lawsuit against ABC News, was hired by the Chamber in October of last year. To assist the Chamber, Wyatt and his associates, John Woods and Bob Quackenboss, solicited a set of private security firms “” HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) “” to develop tactics for damaging progressive groups and labor unions, in particular ThinkProgress, the labor coalition called Change to Win, the SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com.

According to one document prepared by Team Themis, the campaign included an entrapment project. The proposal called for first creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” to give to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then to subsequently expose the document as a fake to undermine the credibility of the Chamber’s opponents. In addition, the group proposed creating a “fake insider persona” to “generate communications” with Change to Win. View a screenshot below:

The security firms hoped to obtain $200,000 for initial background research, then charge up to $2 million for a larger disinformation campaign against progressives. We don’t know if the proposal was accepted after Phase 1 was completed.

The e-mails ThinkProgress acquired are available widely on the web. They were posted by members of “Anonymous,” the hactivist community responsible for taking down websites for oppressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and American corporations that have censored WikiLeaks. Anonymous published the emails from HB Gary Federal because an executive at the firm, Aaron Barr, was trying to take Anonymous down. Barr claimed that he had penetrated Anonymous and was hoping to sell the data to Bank of America and to federal authorities in the United States. In response, members of Anonymous hacked into Barr’s email and published some 40,000 company e-mails.

It is widely believed that Wikileaks has sensitive information about Bank of America, and plans to expose it later this year. This revelation prompted Bank of America to hire the law/lobbying firm Hunton and Williams, which in turn, according to the e-mails posted online by Anonymous, hired HB Gary Federal and other firms to go after Anonymous and supporters of Wikileaks. For instance, one proposal from HB Gary Federal and its associates proposed targeting Salon reporter and Wikileaks-supporter Glenn Greenwald with “actions to sabotage or discredit” him.

ThinkProgress has published a series of articles investigating the Chamber and its activities. We exposed the Chamber’s efforts to coordinate a lobbying campaign on behalf of large banks, including JP Morgan, to kill significant portions of financial reform. In October, we published a series looking into the Chamber’s efforts to solicit donations from foreign corporations for the same account the Chamber used to run partisan attack ads during the midterm campaign, as well as the Chamber’s participation in secret fundraising meetings convened by the billionaire plutocrats David and Charles Koch.

ThinkProgress will be posting more details of the Chamber lobbyist campaign to target progressives soon.

Update: The Chamber responds on its blog by dismissing the emails as “baseless attacks” from ThinkProgress.

Update: Commenting on the leaked documents, Marcy Wheeler writes that they’re probably “going to cause the Chamber of Commerce to rethink the spying work with HBGary it apparently has been considering.”

Lee Fang, in a TP cross-post, with reporting from Scott Keyes

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23 Responses to Chamber of Commerces lobbyists solicited hackers to sabotage unions and smear its political opponents

  1. Scrooge says:

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. If it is true its shows another arm of the Kochs shadow government.

  2. Dano says:

    Interesting “new” tactic, although the little f—– who tried to entrap ACORN and Planned Parenthood might be a precursor to a new set of tactics. Fascinating. You know that they will be moving to Mann’s university.

    Best,

    D

  3. paulm says:

    Cant someone take these goons to court. They should not be using the CC as a GOP front!

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Isn’t this called, Conspiracy?

  5. Why are we surprised? These are big boys, big toys and huge profit numbers. We should expect no less.

    It is, however, quite wonderful that the laws of physics do not seem affected by their tactics. Perhaps they are applying pressure in the wrong places.

  6. Alteredstory says:

    They’re probably going to try to find a way to come up with documents that “prove” this was a hoax aimed at taking down the credibility of Anonymous.

  7. MapleLeaf says:

    I would hardly call a screen shot from their site a “baseless’ attack– that is evidence.

    These people are vile and disgust me….and they walk free in society how?

  8. Chris Winter says:

    That’s what it’s called, and one comment I saw from several people on Balloon Juice is that it was the sort of thing that brought down Dan Rather. I don’t know it that’s true, and I’m no fan of Rather, but seeing all those comments (independent AFAIK) is enough to raise suspicions.

  9. The footer on each page of the “Corporate Information Reconnaissance Cell” proposal reads “UNCLASSIFIED/FOUO/PROPIN”, which I think means something like ‘you ain’t see the really serious crap yet’.

    Also, it’s totally weird that a disciplined group of professionals at DC who supposedly work to serve the interests of the people end up losing to … a disparate bunch of lolcat lovers who keep making rookie mistakes.

    frank

  10. Wit's End says:

    Gee, if they want to discredit progressives, why don’t they just catch them taking off their shirts on Craig’s list? oh, wait…

  11. brooks bridges says:

    If the situation were reversed, ie. Chamber was liberal, “Chamber Gate” would already be all over the web.

  12. David Fox says:

    The Chamber and its leadership should be charged under RICO if all this is true. Looks like they’re running an organized crime syndicate over there.

  13. Mark Shapiro says:

    Remember this forever.

    Let it guide us. Somehow.

  14. Wit's End says:

    On a more serious note, it appears that a concerted campaign is ongoing to discredit wikileaks by attacking Assange, here is Glenn Greenwald’s article:

    http://www.salon.com/news/wikileaks/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2011/02/11/campaigns

    Huffpo has a story about the book just published, which smears Assange in various personal ways. Even I was left wondering if he was a bad guy after reading about the Swedish women, and then I found out that wiki leaked the information that the US govt. approved Bayer’s insecticides even though it demonstrably kills those essential pollinators, BEES, as well as secretly pushed European governments to allow GMO seeds, well, I appreciated the challenge Wiki poses to entrenched industrial interests, which is all linked to here: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/12/wikileaks-redeemed.html

    I suppose it shouldn’t be any surprise that entities lacking any scruples will go to unimaginably sordid lengths to protect their profits, but…this shadowy conspiracy to discredit activists and whistleblowers is very dark and disturbing.

  15. Dano says:

    Wit, the Greenwald and this are related. These are all of a piece. As was ClimateGate. But yes, SmearGate will not see the light of day in a Corporatocracy where government and corporations are almost the same thing.

    Best,

    D

  16. Wit's End says:

    Well, Dano, I thinks we should cry us a river – as big a Da Nile.

    If they can spit at the plutocracy in Egypt, and prevail, why the hell can’t we??

  17. Villabolo says:

    Comes the revolution.

  18. BBHY says:

    I agree that the RICO law absolutely must be applied in this case. The Chamber is clearly an ongoing criminal enterprise.

  19. mike roddy says:

    You’re right, Witsend, and othersN too. We can’t keep getting pushed around by gangsters.

  20. Scrooge says:

    What does PROPIN stand for

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    EXPOSED: Attack on Wikileaks
    Corporations are working to take Wikileaks out, and the government is approving of it. Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com explains. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExL4KQ3noOI

  22. Chris Winter says:

    Scrooge asked, “What does PROPIN stand for?

    That means “Proprietary Information” and the FOUO must be “For Our Use Only.”

  23. Another thing: It’s highly inaccurate to call Team Themis a group of “hackers” or “security companies”. I propose instead to call them “public relations burglars”.