The HBGary/Chamber of Commerce/Bank of America/Justice Department would-be espionage case gets deeper and deeper and more and more interesting. For a fantastic background summary, don't miss furiousxxgeorge's diary which runs down what was known in the case as of this weekend.
In a nutshell, a security firm called HBGary, apparently hired by the legal firm Hunton and Williams on behalf of Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce—at the recommendation of the Justice Department—boasted about attempts to infiltrate the group called Anonymous, the loose affiliation of hackers supporting WikiLeaks. Anonymous certainly showed HBGary, hacking the vaunted security company's system and obtaining something like 75,000 exceedingly incriminating e-mails "to launch a highly sophisticated campaign to subvert and sabotage the enemies of their clients. In some cases these plans involved illegal actions. The targets were journalists, labor unions, and political opponents."
Among those political opponents/journalists is the Brad Blog's Brad Friedman who reacts to the story at AlterNet.
As I went on the air Thursday night --- my fifth in a six-day guest hosting stint on the nationally syndicated Mike Malloy Show --- revelations about the planned multi-million dollar political hit job by the security/intelligence firms working to develop a scheme for the U.S. Chamber (and another one, almost identical to it, on behalf of Bank of America) were just beginning to come to light. Both plots were being developed by the Chamber and BofA by the very same law firm, Hunton & Williams and with the cyber intelligence firms HBGary Federal, Berico Technologies & Palantir Technologies.
As the show began, I was able to report the news, based on an exclusive report from Lee Fang at ThinkProgress, that internal emails from one of the firms, confirmed thatVelvetRevolution.us (VR), a progressive non-partisan, non-profit organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG, and its StopTheChamber.com campaign were specifically highlighted as targets of the Chamber's plot which was proposed to include the planting of a "false document", in hopes they'd be publicly released by VR or other progressive groups, so the U.S. Chamber could then claim the groups involved had created a forgery.
The plan also involved creating "two fake insider personas", one at VR and another at the unrelated Change To Win organization, which had employed a coalition of union groups to create a non-profit campaign, some months after VR's, called U.S. Chamber Watch. The plan presented by Team Themis, as the three security firms called themselves, would then use one of the "fake personas" as "leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second" in hopes of publicizing the fraudulent appearance of some sort of "conspiracy" between the various progressive organizations in order to somehow discredit them.
As Thursday's show continued, I received confirmation that I, personally, along withmembers of my family, had been highlighted in Themis' proposed hit job, asThinkProgress followed up with a second story, based on several other emails from HBGary's CEO Aaron Barr. The email focused on me included names, personal information, home addresses, etc. of myself, family members and a number of other members of VR. Naturally, I reported on the then-confirmed news in the second hour of that night's Malloy Show....
Part of the plan included highlighting me as a "Tier 1" player in a sophisticated disinformation/discrediting scheme that relied on high-tech tools developed for the U.S. Government's "War on Terror".
Team Themis' U.S. Chamber of Commerce plan was to deploy the very same techniques and technology used to track terrorists, terror organizations, and nations such as Iran, against private non-profit political advocates and citizens in the U.S.
As disturbing (and there is a lot that every American citizen and every member of the American media ought to be very disturbed by in this story) Hunton & Williams (H&W), the law firm working on behalf of the U.S. Chamber and the Bank of America, had been recommended to BofA, the nation's largest bank, for the parallel hit scheme to target and discredit WikiLeaks, by our own U.S. Department of Justice.
In addition to Barr's email offering personal information on me and my family, the H&W scheme by Team Themis, created for the U.S. Chamber, also included a Power Point presentation in which I am personally highlighted, with photograph, along with my wife "Martha" and "2 boys, James and John Friedman" at our "home at 1055 Raywood Ln, Silver Springs, MD".
Of course, I'm not married and have no children and don't live in MD, but these are the huge private firms receiving millions, if not billions, in U.S. tax-payer dollars to target terrorists, after all, so why let such details like accuracy, or targeting innocent people, or citizens and journalists exercising their right to free speech get in the way of a potential $2 million dollar per month contract from the U.S. Chamber get in the way? The Chamber, of course, is also funded by the world's largest corporations who receive billions in tax-payer bailout dollars and subsidies from the U.S. Government. Can you feel the synergy? Team Themis certainly did...
Read the whole thing, it's a fascinating story, and not just a little disquieting. The Chamber of Commerce, of course, denies any involvement in the scheme, claiming "that HBGary’s proposal 'was never discussed with anyone at the Chamber' and that 'the Chamber was not aware of these proposals until HBGary’s e-mails leaked.'" However:
Emails indicate that three top lawyers at Hunton & Williams — John Woods, Bob Quackenboss, and Richard Wyatt — met on multiple occasions with the Chamber in order to brief them on Team Themis’s proposals.
First, emails clearly indicate that the “client” whom Team Themis was assisting was indeed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
– December 13: Pat Ryan of Berico Technologies emailed John Woods that the team was excited “to provide the client with a powerful, innovative solution” and were “still working through the details of our Phase I research/analysis support for the Chamber.”
– January 9: Pat Ryan emailed his Team Themis colleagues that he had received a message from H&W lawyer Bob Quackenboss’s secretary “requesting a conference call on Mon at 10am to discuss the way ahead for the Chamber effort.”
Despite the Chamber’s insistence that they were “not aware” of HBGary’s proposals, a November 16 email between Aaron Barr of HBGary and Berico Technologies indicated that members of Team Themis had been communicating about the “sensitive” Chamber project.... Other emails records indicate that H&W told Team Themis it was in constant contact with the Chamber about the project.
And this is just from a small portion of the e-mails that have been read so far. The possibility of the damaging revelations to still come as the e-mails are sifted through seem limitless. But one important revelation to come out so far isn't necessarily that damaging to either the Chamber or BOA or Hunton Williams as much as it is to traditional media. This is revealed in the PowerPoint one of Team Themis—Palantir—created referencing Glenn Greenwald and his support of WikiLeaks early on. The slide's bullet points:
- It is this level of support that needs to be disrupted
- These are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional perservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals.
- Without the support of people like Glenn wikileaks would fold.
This is an hilariously misguided assumption about Glenn, but it's probably a pretty damned spot-on assessment of most professional journalists. (Just see how many traditional media outlets are reporting this blockbuster story.) This aspect of the story formed the bulk of a really fascinating discussion Monday on Sam Seder's Majority Report.
Sam also talked about the issue this past Sunday night with me and Jay Ackroyd on Virtually Speaking Sunday, at about 40 minutes in.