2.11.2011

Dirty Tricks, Cyber-style

ThinkProgress is reporting that the law firm of the US Chamber of Commerce (an NGO) hired several cyber-security firms to help them sabotage their political opponents:
"[A] law firm representing the US Chamber of Commerce ... is working with set of “private security” companies and lobbying firms to undermine their political opponents ... with a surreptitious sabotage campaign."
"According to e-mails ... the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams [whose] attorney Richard Wyatt ... was hired by the Chamber in October of last year. To assist the Chamber, Wyatt and his associates, John Woods and Bob Quackenboss, solicited a set of private security firms — HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) — to develop tactics for damaging progressive groups and labor unions, in particular ThinkProgress, the labor coalition called Change to Win, the SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com."
This sabotage campaign included feeding false information to discredit opponents, but also spying on the personal lives of opponents and their families:
"New emails reveal that the private spy company investigated the families and children of the Chamber’s political opponents. The apparent spearhead of this project was Aaron Barr, an executive at HB Gary. Barr circulated numerous emails and documents detailing information about political opponents’ children, spouses, and personal lives. 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 ..."
Given how amazing their software is, I'm a bit bummed that Palantir was involved in this.

3 comments:

eldan said...

It sounds like Palantir has pretty comprehensively disowned this proposal:
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/02/11/campaigns

I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but Greenwald seems to be satisfied.

eldan said...

[should probably clarify lest it be unclear: this isn't about whether the proposal is anything but evil; merely about whether Palantir should be considered to be tarred with its brush]

Ken said...

Interesting. Given the language of Karp's apology, I'm puzzled by Palantir's involvement. It could be that they were duped by others, but either way, I'm sure there's more to the story.

As a practitioner, I'm quite concerned about the use of such tools by the ethically impaired - even as I work to persuade both scholars and activists of their positive potential.