Earlier this month, Richard Clarke, who served for both Democratic and Republican Presidents, including a stint as the cyber security czar for the Bush administration, denounced the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for plotting with a group of military contractors to hack into progressive groups. Clarke was in DC speaking at a cyber security conference hosted by Symantec. Although Clarke focused his remarks about the growing threat of global cyber terrorism, ThinkProgress spoke to the longtime public servant about the ChamberLeaks story we originally broke.
According to documents first reported by ThinkProgress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s attorneys began working with three military contractors — Berico, HB Gary, and Palantir — to come up with a proposal to discredit groups like ThinkProgress, the SEIU, StopTheChamber.com, MoveOn.org, and others. The tactics proposed included spying on families, using malware computer viruses to steal private information, using fake documents to embarrass liberals, and creating fake identities to infiltrate their targets.
Clarke denounced the scandal in no uncertain terms. Noting accurately that the Chamber “took foreign money in the last election,” a story also uncovered by ThinkProgress, Clarke said the Chamber had potentially conspired to commit a “felony”:
FANG: Hi. You talked a lot about classifying and recognizing cyber security threats, but you mostly focused on foreign threats. I’m curious about a story that broke last month, that the US Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest trade association, based here in DC, had contracted or attempted to contract military defense firms like HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico, to develop proposals to use the same type of cyber warfare tactics normally reserved for Jihadi websites against left-wing activists, trade — labor unions, and left of center think tanks here in America. What do you think about that type of threat from a lobbyist or a corporation targeting political enemies, or perceived enemies here in the US?
CLARKE: I think it’s a violation of 10USC. I think it’s a felony, and I think they should go to jail. You call them a large trade association, I call them a large political action group that took foreign money in the last election. But be that as it may, if you in the United States, if any American citizen anywhere in the world, because this is an extraterritorial law, so don’t think you can go to Bermuda and do it, if any American citizen anywhere in the world engages in unauthorized penetration, or identity theft, accessing a number through identity theft purposes, that’s a felony and if the Chamber of Commerce wants to try that, that’s fine with me because the FBI will be on their doorstep in a matter of hours.
Clarke, the author of a new book called Cyber War, was right to point out that hacking into progressive groups constitutes a felony. There are a number of federal and state statutes that prohibit the theft of private computer information.
Recently, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) formally requested documents from the NSA and Defense Department relating to contracts with two of the firms involved in this scandal, Berico and HB Gary. Nineteen other lawmakers have called for a wider investigation.
David Chavern, the chief operating officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has responded to Clarke’s comments and this post on the Chamber’s blog. Claiming ThinkProgress is on an “anti-Chamber jihad,” Chavern states:
In more than 70,000 hacked e-mails, not one shred of evidence was found demonstrating that the U.S. Chamber ever hired or solicited proposals from any of these security companies. No evidence was found because it doesn’t exist—it never happened.
In fact, as ThinkProgress has reported, there are over half a dozen e-mails showing that the Chamber’s attorneys discussed and solicited the hacking plans from military contractors Berico, HB Gary, and Palantir. One e-mail notes that a video showing Palantir’s product capability in dealing with Iran for the U.S. government had “sold the Chamber in the first place.” In November, as the military contractors prepared multiple proposals and attack plans for the Chamber, there were several meetings with both Chamber officials and attorneys for the Chamber. On November 23, 2010, a meeting was scheduled where Richard Wyatt, a top attorney for the Chamber, would be “presenting to the client.”