Yesterday, ThinkProgress’ Lee Fang and Scott Keyes reported that a law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had been working with a set of “private security” companies to undermine the Chamber’s political opponents, including ThinkProgress, with a surreptitious sabotage campaign. The emails from Aaron Barr, an executive at the private security firm HBGary, detailed information about political opponents’ children, spouses, and personal lives. While Barr had no problems using the personal information of his opponents, he applies a different standard to himself.
Recall, the document disclosures arose when Barr — while working for corporate clients — triumphantly proclaimed to the Financial Times that he had uncovered the identities of “Anonymous,” the pro-WikiLeaks hacktivist community. The hackers then responded by leaking Barr’s emails. When that occurred, Barr moaned that his personal privacy had been violated:
Why did he talk to the Financial Times in the first place? Barr says he had been preparing to give a talk at the B-Sides security conference in San Francisco on Feb. 14 about information security in social media, and he wanted to drum up some publicity ahead of time to help spur the debate.
“Do I regret it now? Sure,” he says, with a short laugh. “I’m getting personal threats from people, and I have two kids. I have two four-year old kids. Nothing is worth that.”
In another note of irony, the lobbyist firm of Hunton & Williams, which had been serving as an intermediary between the Chamber and HBGary on the private security work, was just named the “top firm for privacy” this week by Computerworld. As Glenn Greenwald notes, “[P]erhaps most disturbing of all, Hunton & Williams was recommended” to Bank of America by the Justice Department as a specialist worth hiring.
The private security firm Palantir, which had been working with HBGary on the snooping project, issued a statement last night announcing that it had severed connections with HBGary while touting its involvement in “supporting progressive values and causes.” As Marcy Wheeler notes, Palantir benefits from millions of dollars in government contracts.
In a statement released today, Berico Technologies – one of the three security firms that worked with the Chamber’s lobbyists – also distanced itself from HB Gary:
Our leadership does not condone or support any effort that proactively targets American firms, organizations or individuals. We find such actions reprehensible and are deeply committed to partnering with the best companies in our industry that share our core values. Therefore, we have discontinued all ties with HBGary Federal. We are conducting a thorough internal investigation to better understand the details of how this situation unfolded and we will take the appropriate actions within our company.