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article imageOp-Ed: DoJ connection to Chamber's Wikileaks plot deserves a closer look

By Bill Lindner     Mar 8, 2011 in Politics
The recent revelation of the Wikileaks plot and collusive smear campaign by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is not surprising, but the implication of the U.S. Department of Justice is, and that warrants a closer look.
Shortly after its high-profile attack on President Barack Obama and other Democrats during last year's midterm elections, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (CoC), not to be confused with your local and state CoCs, was once again revealed as the elobrate fraud that it is when details of an elaborate multi-million dollar smear campaign aimed at sabotaging unions, undermining progressive groups and individuals -- Think Progress, Glenn Greenwald, Change to Win, the SEIU, U.S. Chamber Watch and to name a few -- and discrediting WikiLeaks and other critics and foes were leaked by hactivist group Anonymous.
The U.S. CoC, the big business lobby that represents Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Bank of America (BoA), and other major corporations, hired the lobbying firm Hunton & Williams to collude with three "private security" firms to surreptitiously investigate and sabotage its political foes, including their families and children, and to wage a fraudulent cyber smear campaign to try and discredit them. HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies -- who collectively referred to themselves as Team Themis after the Roman God of law and order -- were solicited by Hunton & Williams to develop and carry out the smear campaign.
67,00 emails from late 2010 and early 2011, and other documents were leaked by Anonymous after Aaron Barr, HBGary Federal's CEO, spent the month of January trying to uncover the real identities of Anonymous. Barr began publicizing his information without divulging the names of Anonymous admins. After Barr had a story published in the Financial Times, Anonymous shut him down. Anonymous also claims to have accessed Stuxnet, the sophisticated computer virus reportedly developed as a joint Israeli-US cyber attack against Iran's nuclear facilities, in HBGary Federal's computer system.
A Team Themis proposal (PDF) provides an overview of what it deems "The WikiLeaks Threat." The presentation provides an elaborate attack plan against WikiLeaks which includes the character assassination of Glenn Greenwald, an avid supporter and defender of WikiLeaks, cyber attacks, disinformation and other proactive tactics. According to a Tech Herald report, Hunton & Williams was recommended to BoA by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) for an internal investigation surrounding WikiLeaks. The proposal makes it clear that Team Themis is comprised of significant government contractors. Is the DoJ's recommendation to BoA to use illicit tactics against WikiLeaks a harbinger of the future for an allegedly free press? Many of the tactics, some of which are illegal, revealed in the leaked documents are the same ones the Pentagon planned to use to try and destroy WikiLeaks in 2008.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a History of Collusion with "Outside Interest Groups"
One document (PDF) created by Team Themis pertained to an entrapment project aimed at U.S. Chamber Watch and their associates. Team Themis proposed creating a "false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information," to give to a progressive group opposing the CoC, and then exposing the document as a fake to undermine the credibility of the CoC's opponents. The document also reveals Team Themis's intention to create "fake insider persona" to "generate communications" with Change to Win.
Team Themis reportedly planned a two-phase operation to try and smear the COC's opponents. A four-page document (PDF) highlighted establishing and operating a Corporate Information Reconnaissance Cell (CIRC) in order to provide Hunton & Williams with a full spectrum capability to collect, analyze, and affect adversarial entities and networks of interest. The team hoped to obtain $200,000 for initial background research, and then charge $2 million for a larger smear campaign against opponents.
A carefully worded statement from the CoC purports to deny any connection with Hunton & Williams and HBGary Federal, but actually does no such thing. The CoC can try and hide behind Hunton & Williams, but its involvement in the scheme is plainly evident in many of the released emails, which also reveal that HBGary Federal and the rest of Team Themis did a month of work for free so Hunton & Williams could decide whether or not to hire them. An email from February 3 shows that Team Themis expected to receive $250-300k per month for the entire team and a deal with the CoC was very close to being released before the emails were leaked. In fact, lawyers from Hunton & Williams met with the CoC numerous times to brief them on the progress of Team Themis.
This is not the first time the CoC has been caught breaking the law, and it probably won't be the last. During the 2010 midterm Congressional elections, the CoC played a major role in bought and paid for Republican victories, spending $75 million while colluding with "outside interest groups" -- including those run by the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove -- whose combined spending totaled $167 million.
U.S. Department of Justice recommended using these tactics
The U.S. Supreme Court's illicit ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case in early 2010 turned over elections to Corporations and labor unions when it decided they were the same as people and could directly spend funds from their treasuries for campaign purposes. The illicit ruling is not surprising: Supreme Court "Justices" Scalia, Thomas, and Alito are affiliated with the CoC or one of its "outside interest groups," and Chief Supreme Court "Justice" Roberts, who lied during his confirmation hearing, has a long list of ties to corporate America from years of working as a lobbyist on behalf of business and special interest groups.
The CoC was caught laundering foreign money to pay for running blatantly fraudulent, misleading political ads. Last year, Aetna and other large insurance companies secretly funneled $20 million to the CoC so it could run attack ads aimed at killing reform.
Some of the recommendations from Team Themis constitute serious crimes, including forgery and fraud. Threatening journalists and activists to force them to be silent could be construed as extortion, and depending on the specific means used, constitute other serious crimes as well. As noted by Glenn Greenwald, in this world, law does not exist as a constraint. It's impossible to imagine the DoJ ever prosecuting a huge entity like BoA or the CoC for doing something like waging war against WiliLeaks, its supporters and other activists because these huge entities and the firms that serve them have no fear of law or government since they control each. Government and law are supposed to apply to everyone, but those institutions are so annexed by the most powerful private sector elites, and so corrupted by the public officials who run them, that it doesn't work that way.
The CoC exists to serve BoA and all the other large corporations that support it. The fact that the CoC has been implicated in yet more illegal activity is not surprising, but the fact that the DoJ -- an allegedly non-biased, non-political branch of the Federal government responsible for the rule of law -- recommended using this type of tactics is surprising and it raises red flags because it means that the U.S. government is aiding BoA in its defense against/attacks on WikiLeaks and should be taken seriously. As the U.S. government is able to break the law with no constraints, oversight or accountability, so too are its private partners, and that deserves a much closer look.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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