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Chamber of Commerce Law Firm Studied Disinformation, Smear and Coercion Campaign Against Opponents

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On the one hand, it’s a badge of honor of sorts to see the most powerful political lobby, the Chamber of Commerce, have its operatives moving from the “ignore you” to the “fight you” stage of engagement. The flip side is that the tactics that they are willing to consider don’t reflect at all well on their commitment to principles like the rule of law or decency.

ThinkProgress today broke the story of the dirty works being considered. Readers may be aware of a massive leak of e-mails of the security firm HB Gary Federal which made the mistake of trying to hack the computers of Anonymous, the group that has taken to punishing organizations that cut off donations to Wikileaks.

Anonymous obtained and leaked the internal messages and rubbed HB Gary’s face in it a bit too.

The e-mail dump exposed some dirty laundry, namely that of a disinformation campaign that HB Gary plus two other “security” firms Palantir, and Berico Technologies (which together called themselves Team Themis had started to map out for a law firm the Chamber of Commerce works actively with, Hunton & Williams. From ThinkProgress:

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:

Screen shot 2011-02-11 at 4.36.15 AM

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.

To be clear, as Marcy Wheeler points out, Team Themis group had been asked to do Phase 1 on spec. So there was clearly an interest in this sort of work.

A second element of this campaign was to discredit prominent figures, which was the same approach that HB Gary pitched to Bank of America regarding Glenn Greenwald, which HB Gary deemed to be a target by virtue of his pieces sympathetic to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. This is now in the terrain of private detectives looking to find “compromising” information. Again from ThinkProgress:
One of the targets was Mike Gehrke, a former staffer with Change to Win. Among the information circulated about Gehrke was the specific “Jewish church” he attended and a link to pictures of his wife and two children…

This tactic of targeting opponents’ personal lives and family was not simply a random event. Rather, it was a concerted and deliberate effort to use anything possible to smear the Chamber’s political opponents. To dramatize his firm’s intimidation tactics, Barr sent an email to Hunton & Williams attorney John Woods that contained personal details about fellow Hunton attorney Richard Wyatt, who was representing the Chamber. The email was intended to show Woods and Wyatt how “vulnerable” they are:

Screen shot 2011-02-11 at 4.57.21 AM

The Chamber of Commerce issued a pious and legalistic denial:

We’re incredulous that anyone would attempt to associate such activities with the Chamber as we’ve seen today from the Center for American Progress. The security firm referenced by ThinkProgress was not hired by the Chamber or by anyone else on the Chamber’s behalf. We have never seen the document in question nor has it ever been discussed with us.

Duh, the firms were not yet “hired” because no money had changed hands. And note the denial is limited to a specific document and discussions around it. The idea that Hunton & Williams would spend a lot of cycles on an effort that its client would not be interested in entertaining seems quite a stretch. As Marcy Wheeler tells us:

Note, first of all, that they’re not denying hiring Hunton & Williams, the law firm/lobbyist which they hired last year to sue the Yes Men. They’re not even denying that they retain Hunton & Williams right now….

They didn’t hire HBGary and they didn’t read the particular document TP linked to.

But that is far short of denying that they’ve been discussing such a plot with HBGary and/or Hunton & Williams.

Now this is getting into the coercion territory (and I use this word quite deliberately, since libertarians insist that only the state has the power to coerce). HB Gary sought to discredit Glenn Greenwald to the point where he would worry about “professional preservation,” meaning being able to get paid white collar work. But the snooping and the children’s photos point to leveling more basic threats to physical security. Now we have no idea of how low Team Themis would go, but if you don’t think this sort of thing goes on, I suggest you wake up and smell the coffee. I know antiforeclosure lawyers who have gotten the “somebody is going to get hurt if you don’t back down” and “we know where your children are” threats. One had his neighbor alert him to the fact that a black SUV with six men parked behind his house and the men had broken in. The police intercepted them, and nothing appeared to have been removed, but one wonders what the intent was (recall the bugging scene from The Lives of Others).

Since HB Gary also works for the Department of Justice, the odds of it being busted for hacking into home computers is zero. But it also seems naive to think that many of the people they are targeting will back down so easily. True, the act of breaking into someone’s computer, the knowledge of that degree of surveillance, is for the vast majority of people, worse than any dirt one might find. And people who decide to take a stand against the current power structure are by nature somewhat outside it, and in many cases not hostage to the sort of bourgeois conformism that seems to be the logic underlying this sort of thing.

As much as this is creepy and reflects badly on the prospective perps, it also shows how a climate of economic insecurity and class stratification has lowered the bar for effective coercion. HG Bary wouldn’t default to these sort of strategies if they weren’t normally effective. But something is seriously amiss in the body politic if people who are merely on the anti corporate side of the debate can expect to be subjected to surveillance, character/professional reputation assassination, and perhaps even threats to their safety.

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79 comments

    1. Dirk77

      Yes, thanks Yves for posting this. I must admit that even ten years ago I still didn’t really see the power of the Internet. Score one for those who did.

      I’m such a small fry, I am not familiar directly with such people that run, for example, the US CoC. I would really like to to know firsthand what makes them tick. But this will have to do. Fascinating.

    2. sgt_doom

      Ditto on the major thanks for posting this, Madam Yves!

      The US Chamber of Commerce is to the International Chamber of Commerce (which has an eternal seat on the United Nations) what the NY Fed (FRBNY) is to the Federal Reserve System.

      This, of course, legally represents a criminal conspiracy.

      Now various mindless zombie twits will respond “conspiracy theorists” as they are typically ignorant of the law, history, any type of lexicon, and generally brainless.

      Although one of those firms involved have publically apologized to Wikileaks, as well as begging for access again to their e-mail and Twitter accounts.

      Maybe…maybe not…..

  1. Ina Deaver

    If we ask nicely, would the Chamber piss off Anonymous? Looks like that would be a lot more effective than a subpoena in getting a look at their documents regarding any and all tactics they have used on their little campaign.

      1. Joe

        From my understanding of the comment. No, I don’t think they are siding with the CoC. He is pointing out that the a group of “hackers” has better results about uncovering the dealing and misdealings of the CoC than our pitiful “un-Justice system” due to cronyism.

  2. GeneH3

    (1) Shining the light of day on organizations that hold themselves out as respectable is a great public service. Thanks for this post.

    (2) One point of disagreement: Libertarians do not believe that only the government is capable of coercion. Fraud, breaking and entering, and extortion, to name a few, are coercive. Most libertarians (not the anarchists) believe that we need a principled government to protect us against coercion, including the types you detail here. Sadly, one of the great outrages now being perpetrated by Republicans and Democrats alike is intentionally turning a blind eye to, even encouraging, the crimes of their favorites and proxies. From voter intimidation and fraud to the mortgage mess and beyond they foul and trash a system intended to protect the individual from both state and private force.

    (3) The Chamber of Commerce is a corporativist/fascist organization that accepts the proposition that government coercion should be used to support private industry — you don’t hear them screaming about bailouts or subsidies. They only complain when government action negatively affects their members. It is one of many organizations pretending to be capitalist that cede unlimited power to the government and then battle other special interest groups for their piece of the government pie in a war of all against all. It’s no wonder that the tactics used mirror those one would expect in a war.

    1. liberal

      Libertarians do not believe that only the government is capable of coercion. Fraud, breaking and entering, and extortion, to name a few, are coercive.

      Yawn. Most libertarians are quite supportive of the greatest coercive theft going on today: private land ownership in the absence of taxes that recoup the (land) rent on behalf of all those whose liberty to use the land (which the landowner did not create) has been violated.

    2. Fraud Guy

      Most libertarians that I personally know want the government to get out of the employer-employee relationship, feeling that an unfettered market is the best for all concerned. How did that work out in the past?

    3. decora

      this is kind of funny. if you dig into Edwin Black’s book, IBM and the Holocaust, you will notice that Mr Watson of IBM was deeply associated with the International Chamber of Commerce.. which held it’s 1937 convention in Berlin, Germany… i hate to quote glenn beck but.. you know who else was in Berlin Germany in 1937?

      But there is more of course, Mussolini’s Italy was host in 1923, and they really, really wanted to have the 1939 congress in Tokyo, Japan. But somehow someone decided that was in bad taste.

      This innocous looking list has some very fun references if you go dig them up at a library that has access to old New York Times articles.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Chamber_of_Commerce

      The untold story is of course, the relationship between Stalin’s five year plans and the American business community, but that is another story for another time.

  3. James Cole

    Nice piece, but who is “Barr”??

    “To dramatize his firm’s intimidation tactics, *Barr* sent an email to Hunton & Williams attorney John Woods that contained personal details about fellow Hunton attorney Richard Wyatt, who was representing the Chamber.”

  4. pjwrites

    I had a partner who constantly stressed how the same information needed to be downloaded 7 times in order for the staff to understand and retain the information. He was the manager and majority partner.

    Once, he let slip that any lie will be accepted as truth if it is repeated often enough by someone in authority.

    That statement led me to begin digging a little deeper into a few things that didn’t seem quite right with the business. Of course, this revealed that he had been lying about nearly everything, and had been stealing from the business for years. I blame myself for not paying closer attention, but we had been friends and partners for a very long time.

    I sold my interest back to him for a pittance and left the company to make my own way. Later, a staff member told me that he had informed them that I was going crazy, having a nervous breakdown, and that is why I left the company.

    It seems he told them that nearly every day for the first two weeks after I left.

    1. monday1929

      He certainly was consistent, if nothing else. And the fact that he had to lie for three extra days speaks well of your character.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Oh my! AIPAC was the first altar before which Obama bowed, genuflected, and groveled—several times, before his campaign really began. AIPAC’s annointing was in fact the singular prerequisite for the viability of his selection as president. His subsequent selection of Emanuel, his appointment of banksters and Neocons, and his unfailing concessions and obeisance to Netanyahu recently have proven his unconditional loyalty to Israel and AIPAC.

        http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2007/03/obamas_aipac_speech_text_as_pr.html

        http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2008/06/05/4376646-obamas-aipac-speech-riles-palestinians

        http://www.aipac.org/Publications/SpeechesByPolicymakers/PC_08_Obama.pdf

        Never is AIPAC’s near-absolute power more obvious than in Congressional findings and resolutions related to Israel. Votes against are almost always numbered on one hand, never more than two. The Chamber of Commerce would kill for such power.

    1. sgt_doom

      Are you ever clueless, dood, although nice guess.

      The top five most influential organizations in American politics, and all consisting of international memberships, are:
      (1) Trilateral Commission
      (2) Bretton Woods Committee
      (3) Group of Thirty
      (4) Peterson Institute (also referred to as International Institute of Economics, and
      (5) Council on Foreign Relations

      (Group of 30 and Bretton Woods Committee share same fax number and business address, ‘natch!)

      US Chamber of Commerce is simply the operational (action) arm of these outfits.

  5. liberal

    Among the information circulated about Gehrke was the specific “Jewish church” he attended and a link to pictures of his wife and two children…

    “Jewish church”? God, these people are low-IQ morons.

    Pics of wife and two children: the scum who circulated that stuff can’t die quickly enough IMHO.

    1. Francois T

      “the scum who circulated that stuff can’t die quickly enough IMHO.”

      That is why a thank you note to the SCOTUS is in order for Casper.

      Miss Angle was kind enough to remind us of this whole thing during the last election.

      *very evil grin*

  6. McMike

    Big deal. Progressive activists are already under heavy surveillance from the FBI, NSA, et all under the Patriot Act. So what if the Pinkertons join in?

    Seriously, if anti-establishment activists are not already fully aware that they should EXPECT dirty tricks, infiltration, espionage, and provacatuers, they are fools. Study up on the COINTELPRO, or just Google Eliot Spitzer.

    Speaking of Pinkertons, it might be useful to recall that if they can’t intimidate you, can’t frame you up and have you arrested, and can’t smear you into banishment, then they are not above cracking heads and assassination.

    America has repeatedly unlearned everything it has learned about the economic elite and the lengths they will go to perpetrate their piracy.

    1. McMike

      I should add that we need to understand the role of the media in all this.

      There are a bazillion example of how the media gladly participates in character assassination campaigns. It is in fact a living embodiment of the Kafkesque nightmare. Once the storyline is set, it does not matter how ludicrous the storyline is, or what sort of contrary evidence there is, the caricature becomes the reality. I think that I would rather be trapped in a Kafka court system than become the object of a media feeding frenzy that is backed by a savvy and well-financed member of the elite.

      Just think about Al Gore’s “lie” about the internet, Kerry’s Swiftboating, Howard Dean’s “scream,” the ACORN pimp fabrication, the security guard who was wrongly accused of the Atlanta bombing, Susan McDougal, and countless other examples of people both public and private who are subject to the unfair and imbalanced lies and ground up in the media smear machine.

      I wonder how I might be portrayed in the news were I to be arrested. They might described that the police found a cache of guns in my basement. They can cherry pick my associations, statements, spending patterns…. find a neighbor to describe me as a “quiet loner who kept to himself and kept odd hours”… or they can just make stuff up about me from whole cloth. Heck, they can take my picture and then use PhotoShop to darken my face and make me scowl.

      I am afraid I have become thoroughly reflexively cynical about “the news”. I literally do not believe anything I read as I am convinced it is 100% lies, spin, bullshit, self-serving planted leaks, and regurgitated propaganda. When I read descriptions of individuals and events in particular, I am inclined to believe the opposite of what I read. Hell, after I watch the weatherman, I stick my head out the window to verify.

      1. Jack Rip

        There is a difference between MSM invented propaganda as in the case of Al Gore and John Kerry and the Acorn and recently Planned Parenthood attacks. The latter are product of the right wing dirty trick ongoing campaign to discredit liberals and liberal organizations. This post adds yet another instance to this campaign.

        Liberals should be on the alert and not continue business as usual.

  7. Francois T

    Do the CoC honchos seriously believe they’re the only ones able to play this game?

    Seriously?

    Do they have any idea of the number of serious news outlets working on secure electronic mailboxes where any disgruntled employees, associates or business partners can dump a load of compromising personal and professional documents against them?

    And let’s not talk about law firms who could be hired to do exactly the same shit the CoC want to throw at their opponents.

  8. Ipsec Backdoor

    Technical note – nothing is completely anonymous. You’d think the Ministry of Evil would be aware of this – ergo, the real dirty language must go down in the privacy of face to face conversation. The days of embarrassing “email leaks” have been numbered for many years. Facism severely punishes the inside rat, mole, whistleblower or snitch-bitch. Witness B. Manning, who is in solitary for most of each day.

    1. McMike

      It is odd. I think people get lazy and careless. And arrogant: they wouldn’t be crooks if they thought they’d get caught.

      What else can explain the fact that senior executives, attorneys, and Wall Street VPs still continue to incriminate themselves repeatedly in emails and texts every day?

      I know that I send around enough “incriminating” emails – that were another wave of McArthyist witch hunt fascism to sweep the nation, I would be toast just for my anti-establishment opinions. I actually assume that I am being monitored (which is certainly true, at least by a database sniffer) yet I think to myself: “screw it; if it happens, it happens.”

      I mean, every person that ever looks at dirty pictures on the internet (which is just about everyone on the internet), is performing a major act of misplaced faith.

      1. sgt_doom

        “What else can explain the fact that senior executives, attorneys, and Wall Street VPs still continue to incriminate themselves repeatedly in emails and texts every day?”

        Lazy??? Well, when one obviously hasn’t bothered to read ANY of the predatory legislation passed by the US congress, and signed by whatever bankster stooge happens to be in the White House at the time, enacted over the preceding 30 years, I guess “lazy” would cover it.

        As well as those predatory jurisprudence decisions from that criminal US Supreme Court.

        Yup, I guess when all legal risk has been removed, and no one is every brought to justice, and farces such as that Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and that Deficit Commission are foisted upon the public, one must expect such sordid behavior from Korporate AmeriKa.

        But be optomistic, chum. I’m sure eventually Fox(tard), NPR (National Petroleum Radio), CNN, PBS (Petroleum Broadcasting System), and those ‘Cs, will merge into one colossal Zombie News Network.

        [Attention, all you zombies out there, now repeat after me......(Opening mantra of the Zombie News Network)]

      2. Francois T

        “What else can explain the fact that senior executives, attorneys, and Wall Street VPs still continue to incriminate themselves repeatedly in emails and texts every day?”

        Because they know they’re above criminal prosecutions, let alone convictions.

        The latest honcho to go to jail for serious time is Jeffrey Skilling; did you notice that the Supine Court made sure afterward that the investigative methods the FBI used to nail him are now illegal?

        Why d’ya think that is?

    1. Francois T

      This is getting rather creepy. For the article mentioned above:

      My initial reaction to all of this was to scoff at its absurdity. Not being familiar with the private-sector world of internet security, I hadn’t heard of these firms before and, based on the quality of the proposal, assumed they were just some self-promoting, fly-by-night entities of little significance. Moreover, for the reasons I detailed in my interview with The Tech Herald ( http://xrl.in/77hp )– and for reasons Digby elaborated on here ( http://xrl.in/77hq ) — the very notion that I could be forced to choose “professional preservation over cause” is ludicrous on multiple levels. Obviously, I wouldn’t have spent the last year vehemently supporting WikiLeaks — to say nothing of aggressively criticizing virtually every large media outlet and many of their leading stars, as well as the most beloved political leaders of both parties — if I were willing to choose “career preservation over cause.”

      But after learning a lot more over the last couple of days, I now take this more seriously — not in terms of my involvement but the broader implications this story highlights. For one thing, it turns out that the firms involved here are large, legitimate and serious, and do substantial amounts of work ( http://xrl.in/77hm ) for both the U.S. Government and the nation’s largest private corporations (as but one example, see this email ( http://xrl.in/77hn )from a Stanford computer science student about Palantir). Moreover, these kinds of smear campaigns are far from unusual; in other leaked HB Gary emails, ThinkProgress discovered that similar proposals were prepared for the Chamber of Commerce to attack progressive groups and other activists (including ThinkProgress). And perhaps most disturbing of all, Hunton & Williams was recommended to Bank of America’s General Counsel by the Justice Department — meaning the U.S. Government is aiding Bank of America in its defense against/attacks on WikiLeaks.

      The merger of corporate and State power.

      Isn’t there a word describing this sorry state of affairs?

      Anyway, the whole article is a must read.

      1. McMike

        Ok, I cannot say this without sounding like a jerk, but how in God’s name can anyone who pays attention be surprised by this?

        Especially Greenwald.

        Right this moment or soon, this very comment thread is being analyzed by no less than twenty government (and government contract) spooks and corporate goons. Four of them have already hacked into the comment database and have harvested the email addresses and IP addresses of the participants. Yves certainly has at least a dozen fat electronic files right now that grow by the day. Dirty tricks files are already in place for her, to be deployed should her audience and influence grow and stray too deeply into disallowed areas. She certainly has dossiers at FBI and DHS. And probably at “law firms” located a plausibly deniable distance from BoA and Goldman as well.

        Greenwald might as well live naked in an all-glass house.

        1. Michael Roberts

          Well, the issue with Greenwald isn’t that he’s really surprised about it – he eats this stuff for breakfast and his “shock and dismay” is rhetorical in nature.

          No, the surprise is that Barr “identified” him as a Wikileaks activist and recommended shining light on him so that his natural professional embarrassment would discourage him. This represents a fundamental misassessment of the entire situation that deserves ridicule.

      2. sgt_doom

        Francois T, while I applaud your comments, I am rather shocked at any possibility you would normally “scoff at this…” — have you been existing in outer space, or a deep ocean cave???

        You mean you are unfamiliar with Narus (Boeing subsidiary), or Packet Forensics? How about “extreme rendition airlines” (Jeppesen Dataplan, another Boeing subsidiary)?

        You are unfamiliar with how the software product ClearForest, is almost universally used by the American intelligence community and the banksters??? As well as being financed by the same Israeli private equity firm which originally underwrote Narus?

        You haven’t heard of the unlawful acts to shut down Wikileaks???? Nor have you, apparently, ever read any of the Wikileaked cables, or documents, and the Pentagon’s targeting them, beginning back in at least 2008?

        You are unfamiliar with the almost completed privatization of the American intelligence establishment?

        Or the extraordinary influence and power of Booz Allen Hamilton, SAIC, Raytheon, Mantech International, etc., in said intel establishment???

        I’m somewhat shocked by your response, although I appreciate and applaud your honest and forthright comments, sir.

        Mon Dieu!!!!

        1. Francois T

          Oh! Fear not! I am perfectly aware of all that jazz. However, to my eternal shame, I failed to appreciate how extensive the effects of government lawbreaking has been on their “private” partners, a.k.a. the big corporations.

          I should’ve known that since Valeo v Buckley 1976, any govermin systematic behavior that dampers accountability is highly susceptible to be imitated with impunity by the Korporations.

          I’m still shaking my head in disbelief for this blind spot. But hey! That is why I religiously read Glennzilla and Yves. :-)

  9. DownSouth

    Yves said:

    • Now this is getting into the coercion territory (and I use this word quite deliberately, since libertarians insist that only the state has the power to coerce). HB Gary sought to discredit Glenn Greenwald to the point where he would worry about “professional preservation,” meaning being able to get paid white collar work. But the snooping and the children’s photos point to leveling more basic threats to physical security. Now we have no idea of how low Team Themis would go, but if you don’t think this sort of thing goes on, I suggest you wake up and smell the coffee.

    • Since HB Gary also works for the Department of Justice…

    • But something is seriously amiss in the body politic if people who are merely on the anti corporate side of the debate can expect to be subjected to surveillance, character/professional reputation assassination, and perhaps even threats to their safety.

    There was a resurgence of this sort of activity under Bush. Obama has institutionalized it.

    The instances of extralegal and extrajudicial punishment of US citizens that have brought the most attention have been those that involve extraordinary rendition, defined by Wikipedia:

    Extraordinary rendition and irregular rendition describe the abduction and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one nation to another. “Torture by proxy” is used by some critics to describe situations in which the United States has transferred suspected terrorists to countries known to practice torture.

    So if the United States government, a wholly owned subsidiary of private corporations, will stoop to using foreign governments to engage in this sort of extralegal and extrajudicial activity, why would it have any qualms about using private security agencies to engage in the activity, especially if they are paid for by those same corporations that own the government?

    Of course there is nothing new about these public-private partnerships of state sponsored terrorism, though one would have hoped the US government would have now moved beyond such despicable acts. This kind of stuff is old hat here in the good ole USA, as described here:

    During the labor unrest of the late 19th century, businessmen hired Pinkerton agents to infiltrate unions, and as guards to keep strikers and suspected unionists out of factories. The best known such confrontation was the Homestead Strike of 1892, in which Pinkerton agents were called in to enforce the strikebreaking measures of Henry Clay Frick, acting on behalf of Andrew Carnegie, who was abroad; the ensuing conflicts between Pinkerton agents and striking workers led to several deaths on both sides. The Pinkertons were also used as guards in coal, iron, and lumber disputes in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania, as well as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877.

    [….]

    In 1871, Congress appropriated $50,000 to the new Department of Justice (DOJ) to form a suborganization devoted to “the detection and prosecution of those guilty of violating federal law.” The amount was insufficient for the DOJ to fashion an integral investigating unit, so the DOJ contracted out the services to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

    I was listening to this CNN report this morning about the abuses committed by Egyptian security forces:

    Ben Wedeman: There’s almost no accountability among the police. There have been a few cases where police have been brought to trial for brutality but oftentimes they come off with light sentences and are released and go back to service in the police very soon afterward. Really that is one of the main grievances of Egyptians is that the police force is if anything a criminal force that is inflicted upon people here on a daily basis.

    Anderson Cooper: And Ben, under the emergency rules under which Mubarak has operated and ruled for 30 years, can anybody be picked up at any time?

    Ben Wedeman: Arbitrary arrest. You don’t need any reason and oftentimes people are brought into prison or are under arrest or detention and there is no process whereby relatives are informed. People just simply disappear into this massive prison system… They just disappear into this gulag of detention facilities and prisons and no one knows what happened to them.

    Anderson Cooper: And the electric shocks that were taking place, even though you couldn’t see it, that was taking place in that room you were in?

    Robert Tait: Absolutely. Yes it was happening inches, literally two or three away from my face.

    Anderson Cooper: What that tells me is just the feeling of impunity that these security services feel they have that they would actually administer electric shocks to Egyptians sitting around you in the same room knowing you’re a reporter and not caring about the fact that you might go out and tell people about it.

    Robert Tait: Well I think this is a fundamentally important point. When all this happened was after I had explained who I was and who I worked for. They knew I worked for a US-funded organization and they didn’t care. It’s as if they were trying to make a point… And I think that point is, by the way, that they didn’t care what the Americans or anybody else thinks.

    How much difference is there between Mubarak and Obama? Maybe very little. As George Orwell wrote in “England Your England”:

    An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a face. The familiar arguments to the effect that democracy is “just the same as” or “just as bad as” totalitarianism never take account of this fact. All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread. In England such concepts as justice, liberty, and objective truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions. The belief in them influences conduct, national life is different because of them. In proof of which, look about you. Where are the rubber truncheons, where is the castor oil? The sword is still in the scabbard, and while it stays there corruption cannot go beyond a certain point.

    [….]

    For it was not possible for them to turn themselves into mere bandits, like the American millionaires, consciously clinging to unjust privileges and beating down opposition by bribery and tear-gas bombs. After all, they belonged to a class with a certain tradition, they had been to public schools where the duty of dying for your country, if necessary, is laid down as the first and greatest of the Commandments.

  10. Parvaneh Ferhadi

    This looks like something I’ve last seen during the cold war, but that has probably not stopped at any time.
    Producing disinformation, discrediting opponents, threatening them, etc seems to be straight out of the CIA/KGB/MI6/Mossad playbook. Is HBGary a front for them?

    This is serious stuff, as the story of Raymond Davis shows http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/01/27/gordon-duff-and-raja-mujtaba-diplomat-held-by-pakistan-said-to-be-black-ops-contractor/

    1. McMike

      My favorite COINTELPRO trick was to send hookers in to try and seduce the leaders of target groups, for the cameras of course. If that didn’t work, they would just send letters to the spouses of the leaders claiming that their spouses were having an affair when they were supposedly out late organizing.

      The other fun trick is to send infiltrators into meetings to be disruptive by spouting crazy nonsense or try and induce the other members to commit crimes (not unlike the FBI’s current entrapment techniques now directed against hapless and generally inept wannabe jihadists).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO

    2. decora

      The third company, which isn’t getting as much mention in the blogosphere, is Berico Technologies.

      The CEO was in Afghanistan circa 2006 doing counterintelligence work against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, he is with the CFR and a bunch of other groups. You can look at the wikiepdia article i just wrote about them.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berico_Technologies

      I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that if you want to link intelligence work and this attack on Greenwald, then Berico is probably the pertinent link. One generation of military intelligence officers learn their techniques from the previous generation, many things change but I’m assuming lots of them stay the same.

  11. John Hall

    Yves,
    You do a disservice to yourself to criticize a group in a blog post that has nothing to do with anyone else mentioned in it. It would be like if someone makes some comment about someone being stupid and then says like X group. Even if it were true, it would be an example of poor writing. If anything, libertarians side more often with Glen Greenwald than the Chamber of Commerce!

    Like someone said above, the comment about libertarians isn’t even true. Libertarians don’t believe that the state is the only thing that can possibly coerce someone. Libertarians (and many other people who have considered it) realize that the state has a monopoly on force (rightly or wrongly). One way they express that monopoly is through its power to coerce. However, their monopoly on force is not perfect and they cannot always prevent others from using force. Hence, there is no SANE reason why anybody would say that only states can coerce. Power should not be confused with justice.

    1. McMike

      “Libertarians more often side with Greenwald”?

      What Libertarians are those? 99% of the people I meet who describe themselves as libertarians just want to whine about taxes and regulation, when not pontificating about the infallibility of corporate America. They regurgitate the CoC party line quite reliably.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you read Milton Friedman, who is in many ways the granddaddy of libertarian thinking. All of the intellectual/economics wing of this movement promote this view. See Chapter 5 of ECONNED for details.

    3. ScottS

      John: However, their monopoly on force is not perfect and they cannot always prevent others from using force. Hence, there is no SANE reason why anybody would say that only states can coerce. Power should not be confused with justice.

      The problem is staring you in the face. No Libertarian is sane by your definition, since every Libertarian I’ve met professes that the government DOES have a perfect monopoly on force.

      What does it take to convince Libertarians that the use of force has been contracted out to the private sector? I doubt that’s the issue, though, since my guess is that Libertarians think they’ll be on the winning side of the transition to private use of force, and profit from it. See Rand’s admiration of serial killer William Hickman:
      http://www.alternet.org/books/145819/ayn_rand,_hugely_popular_author_and_inspiration_to_right-wing_leaders,_was_a_big_admirer_of_serial_killers

      Is that not the Libertarian end-game? The ones with the biggest guns wins?

  12. Francois T

    Regularly, when Yves post something about politics or civil liberties, there are readers who wonder publicly what is this kind of content doing on a financial blog.

    Here’s a perfect example of the relevancy of posting stuff that goes beyond the mere financial:

    That’s what this anti-WikiLeaks campaign is generally: it’s a concerted, unified effort between government and the most powerful entities in the private sector (Bank of America is the largest bank in the nation). The firms the Bank has hired (such as Booz Allen) are suffused with the highest level former defense and intelligence officials, while these other outside firms (including Hunton & Williams and Palantir) are extremely well-connected to the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government’s obsession with destroying WikiLeaks has been well-documented. And because the U.S. Government is free to break the law without any constraints, oversight or accountability, so, too, are its “private partners” able to act lawlessly. That was the lesson of the Congressional vesting of full retroactive immunity on lawbreaking telecoms, of the refusal to prosecute any of the important Wall Street criminals who caused the 2008 financial crisis, and of the instinctive efforts of the political class to protect defrauding mortgage banks.

    The exemption from the rule of law has been fully transferred from the highest level political elites to their counterparts in the private sector. “Law” is something used to restrain ordinary Americans and especially those who oppose this axis of government and corporate power, but it manifestly does not apply to restrain these elites.

    It should be very easy for anyone around here to come up with 3 or 4 other plausible scenarios where, after literally destroying confidence in the real estate market (feeling safe buying a property today? Any queasy feelings about the soundness of the title? hmmm?) another important sector of the economy would be damaged by such an unholy alliance at the expense of the TRUE rule of law.

    So, that is why these posts can be important. They provide a broader context to the financial activities taking place nowadays.

    1. McMike

      The Military and the Monetary,
      get together whenever they think its necessary,

      They turn our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
      they are turning the planet into a cemetery.
      The Military and the Monetary, use the media as intermediaries,
      they are determined to keep the citizens secondary,
      they make so many decisions that are arbitrary.

      – Gil Scott-Heron, Work for Peace

    2. sgt_doom

      “… another important sector of the economy …..”

      Huh???? What “the economy”??? If 74% of the GDP is made up of the Fantasy Finance Sector — what is this economy you keep prattling on about???

      Sorry, but your naivete is showing.

      Once the Great Flood has washed over everyone, it’s kinda late to notice it!

  13. nowhereman

    This whole topic scares the bejeezus out of me, yet it is something that has been happening for a long time now.
    What really bothers me is the attitude of the general public as there is this “My country right or wrong” mentality. That coupled with American Idol seems to keep outrage at a minimum.
    I just feel really uncomfortable being part of the minority that cares about just this type of thing and what it means to personal freedom in general.
    I feel there is a need for a parallel system of communication, one that is free of state and corporate interference, but alas, I thought the internet was that system, but it has been co-opted in the name of security.
    Where are our geniuses when we need them?

  14. Michael Roberts

    A point of minor pedantry here (with reference to “HB Gary Federal which made the mistake of trying to hack the computers of Anonymous”) is that HB Gary Federal wasn’t trying to hack computers.

    Aaron Barr was researching the social network of Anonymous, attempting to make them less anonymous and thus susceptible to pressure – and selling this as a “laser-focussed, 100% accurate technique” when it is anything but. He published his results and got lots of attention from the FBI and from BankAmerica, and then Anonymous took him and his company apart, starting with reading 30,000 of their emails to discover just how shaky this whole thing was.

    Internal emails showed that lots of people at HB Gary Federal (including Barr’s own coder) were really leery of his claims. Nobody seemed to care enough to rein him in, of course – especially in view of their attempts to sell the company. Those attempts have sadly fallen through, since a security company whose internal emails get stolen when they anger a bunch of Internet activists looks a lot less valuable than one with a laser-focussed, 100% accurate surveillance technique being considered by the FBI.

    From a technical standpoint, this was a lot of hot air, and not nearly as interesting as the press have made it out to be. I think the saddest part of the entire situation is that Bank of America and the FBI really want a way to suppress publicity and can be sold any kind of snake oil that purports to be able to do so.

    1. ScottS

      Barr demanded his programmer modify LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) — the program Anonymous was using to DDoS Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, et al during the Wikileaks tug-of-war — to slip in something that would reveal the identities of people using it. That’s attempted hacking. Or planned attempted hacking.

      Aaron Barr is better than Inspector Clusoe. His “laser tight” analysis seems to consist of looking at Facebook pages and correlating Twitter posts. Then he proceeds to throw rocks at a hornets’ nest, and is surprised that they fight back. I love this line:
      “You just need to program as good as I analyze.”

      Hahah, yeah. You truly do read the tea leaves better than anyone, Aaron. Here’s hoping this mess goes on. This guy truly deserves what he gets. He’s a stupid, brutish thug. Rarely do you see someone so thoroughly get hoisted on his own petard.

    2. monday1929

      Well, since they are not spending any of their own money, why not buy “snake oil”. Plus, there is always the kick-back.

  15. Tom Hickey

    Is there any link between the state’s Total Information Awareness and corporate spying? Considering that corporations and the state are joined at the hip, go figure. This attitude is permeating culture at the top. It making Nixon’s dirty tricks team like like isolated amateurs now that this has become both professional and pervasive. Is Egypt coming to the US?

  16. ScottS

    I think now we see the true strength of non-violent resistance. Anyone who recommends violence is an agent provocateur trying to discredit the movement, or effectively the same thing.

    No movement should ever for a moment listen to anyone proposing violence. They are an obvious narc.

    Always and everywhere every progressive movement should “use it’s words” as your mom would say. Always use the indoor voice. The only appropriate response to shouting or threats of violence is righteous indignation.

    1. ebear

      A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. –Mao Zedong

      1. ScottS

        And how did that go for China? Read 1984 again. Violent revolution is the substitution of one oppressive ruling class for another.

        Egypt’s people make an eloquent case for change by sitting in Tahir Square and saying they won’t be moved, even as mounted attackers trample and whip them and government thugs bombard them from above with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

        Contrast Mao with Ghandi and Martin Luther King and I know which side I’m on.

        1. ebear

          So, what you’re saying is the American colonists shouldn’t have fought the British? Or is it that you just don’t like me quoting Mao?

          Alright then, how about this?
          When all else fails to right a wrong the raising of the sword is just. –Guru Gobind Singh

          or this:
          All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door. –John Kenneth Galbraith

          Notice, he said kicking in, not lying in front of.

          ebear

  17. Cody Willard

    I wrote this on my blog, linking to Yves excellent expose of PP and BR:

    Pete Peterson Using High School Courses As Trojan Horse for Anti-Social Security, Medicare Propaganda – Blackstone and Pete Peterson have privately sucked billions of dollars out of the economy in the last couple decades since they helped create the mortgage securitization market and regulations that destroyed our economy and led to them eventually getting explicit access to billions of dollars in welfare to continue to find other ways to unproductively suck money out of our system. But they have the gall to take that welfare money they live on now and actually try to use it to stop poor people from getting their own welfare? I bet Pete Peterson and Blackstone would tell you they are just capitalists doing their thing…but they themselves are only in business today and they themselves continue to benefit from explicit corporate welfare programs designed to help their firm and they are decidedly not capitalist. And they make me sick.

    I got this reply:

    Dear Mr. Willard:

    I am writing on behalf of Pete Peterson and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation regarding your “Weekend reading for serious investors.”

    Contrary to your allegation that Pete “helped create the mortgage securitization market,” at Blackstone he never created any of the instruments that underwrote the residential real estate market. Blackstone did not hold sub-prime loans, broker mortgage backed securities, or CDOs.

    Your allegation that Pete seeks to dismantle programs such as Social Security and Medicare is likewise false. Pete believes that our nation’s fiscal challenges must be addressed in a compassionate way that maintains a strong safety net. He has said repeatedly that Social Security must be preserved and protected. One of our foundation’s goals is to ensure that this program is strong, solvent and secure for future generations—particularly for America’s most vulnerable populations.

    Finally, you recommend an article about the Columbia Teachers College curriculum. This article’s claim that the Foundation has influenced the content of the Understanding Financial Responsibility pilot curriculum developed by Columbia Teachers College is untrue. Our Foundation was approached by Columbia Teachers College in December 2008 with a proposal to create a curriculum about the nation’s fiscal practices and priorities (not, as reported, limited to personal finance). In issuing this grant, the Foundation gave the College complete discretion and independence to determine the content of the curriculum. The College convened an advisory panel of national experts, commissioned independent research in order to inform the development of the curriculum, and wrote the lessons. The lessons encourage students to examine a variety of sources and form their own points of view. The Foundation did not design or determine the content of the lessons.

    I would therefore appreciate if you would correct the record.

    Thank you,
    K***

    Any thoughts/feedback on this from Yves and the NC readership is welcome.

    1. sgt_doom

      “Blackstone did not hold sub-prime loans, broker mortgage backed securities, or CDOs.”

      Well…technically, it is semi-correct as those CDOs, CPDOs, synthetic CDOs and MBSes were held in their CFOs, Collateralized Fund-or-Financial Obligations.

      Of course, Blackstone has a complete history of leveraged buyouts, whereby the took out loans against their buyout targets, thus rewarding themselves, while saddling their takeover targets with usurious amounts of debt; effectively destroying said companies and employment.

      Likewise, they are interlocked with pension funds, which the private equity firms manage, while saddling such funds with endless categories of worthless credit derivatives.

      And they continue to pay 15% in taxes (once going public, they should pay the standard corporate 35% rate) when they bother to actually pay taxes, which they seldom do as they utilized Special Purpose Vehicles and SIVs, and SPACs to avoid any and all federal taxation.

      Also, Blackstone is responsible for driving up the cost of gas and oil buy purchasing several refineries a few years back and then promptly shuttding them down.

      Also, Blackstone was heavily involved in the prison privatization trend, helping to underwrite Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Prison Realty.

      Also, Peterson does much of his propaganda not only through the Peterson Institute, but also his Peterson Foundation, Fiscal Times, America Speaks, and a host of other lesser-known astro-turf firms.

      Peterson has long been David Rockefeller’s demonic familiar and protege, having been handpicked to succeed Rockefeller at many positions, beginning with the directorship of the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the NY Fed Bank, etc., and several important commissions (the Commission on Foundations [allowing foundations to remain as “tax-free holding companies, which essentially they have been forever — as the holding company was originally a Rockefeller invention, having hired Thomas Dale of Pennsylvania to create it; and Clinton’s foundation to “end welfare as we know it” — remembe that one????).

      Take a quick look at the membership of Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission sometime (they have filled the ranks of either the presidency, or vice-presidency, for the last thirty years or so, including Jimmy Carter, Dick Cheney and at least 9 of the current Obama Administration appointees — and don’t forget that sleazebag on TV, Charlie Rose, also a long-time member).

      1. decora

        wow uhm… i was really learning a lot from your post and then you went off into ‘Charlie Rose, that sleazebag’…

    2. Francois T

      Dear K****,

      I read what Peterson say and I look at the Peterson does.

      Surprise! One contradict the other. Can you venture a guess as to what I’ll choose to believe?

  18. John Merryman

    The scab starts out protecting the flesh, but as it grows harder and crustier, it gets ever more disconnected from the living tissue and eventually those cells in the margin get torn apart…
    Just ask Mubarak how easy it is to keep the proles in line when you have been stomping then down for so long they have nothing left to loose. Not that we will get the the economic level of the average Egyptian, because the blow up will come when those little pieces of plastic in the wallet stop working…
    Post all you want. I commits you to the side of the good when the split comes.

  19. Skippy

    LooLzers you don’t, I repeat, never, never get into a fracas with gamer/coder sorts. It takes years to even get a whiff, soo much anon, the vetting process alone is constant castigation, the errands one is sent on…sigh. Coms on multiple platforms (in-game types especially,individual and group, layers and layers of coms) and some sales guy in a suit looking to pump up his stock trying to play cute with people that spend inordinate amounts of time looking for exploits in every system…the ultimate de-buggers.

    Hell the shenanigans they play on each other, just for fun, would have most computer users crapping themselves, getting viruses, malware and highjackers just to defeat it.

    I have a macro for ctrl+alt+del one red button[!] and some other stuff, its like winter you need LAYERS of stuff, honey pots etc.

    Skippy…a nubling in a shiny suit just got his and his co-workers ass handed too them, even after his coder warned him, buy the 3L33T. Suits do not make people smarter lolz, but, I hear it increases the share price / company value.

    PS. loved the Sun Tzu reference in one of the linked articles above. Pretend to be a pig in order to eat the tiger.

  20. Progressive Ed

    Check out Cass Sunstein’s body of work for the Obama administrations approach to these matters.

  21. nonclassical

    For those who want a true RIDDLE involving 911, CIA, Deutche
    Bank, and Blackwater, chase “Buzzy Krongard”…

  22. c.

    My business partner spent 3 years uncovering and reporting on a dirty act by a tech company. They’ve spent the last 4 or so years attempting to smear his name into the ground. There is one shareholders suit and two or three different class action lawsuits all based upon his reporting. If you go to the wikipedia page about the “dirty act” you will find his name and not a single one of his orginal articles linked. The tech company has scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed.

    People think he’s paranoid for running his own mail server, dumping logs, dumping anything that isn’t archived in PDF form without headers etc.

    They’ve NO clue what it’s like to be a journalist in the US anymore.

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