U.S. Chamber and high-tech dirty tricks

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a leading—maybe the leading—lobbyist for big business and conduit for big business campaign funds.  Now a new high-techninitiative, code-named Team Themis, has begun to use disinformation and NSA-type surveillance to discredit the Chamber’s critics.

Lee Fang of The Baffler has the story.

ChamberOfCommerce_Logo_black_med_TeamThemisFollowing the 2010 midterm elections, a group of defense contractors, including Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley data analysis startup, exchanged hundreds of emails discussing how to customize their wares for an exciting new prospective client.  The contractors were developing a state-of-the-art surveillance system and had been in direct conversations with the Chamber and its law firm, Hunton and Williams … … .

The spying operation would gather massive amounts of personal information, some from meta-data scraped off social media accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and some stolen through illicit “custom malware” attacks.

The group, nicknamed “Team Themis” after the Greek goddess of law and order … … would keep tabs on an array of journalists, activist groups, and labor unions.

As one of the people crafting the proposal explained, Team Themis would resemble the “fusion cell” used by the Joint Special Operations Command—the elite military unit that hunted down Osama bin Laden.

For these contractors, the opportunity seemed like a natural application for their technology.

USChamber_Themis_PPT_BradFriedman_medAfter all, Palantir, a Big Data firm founded in part with an investment from the Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, has won contracts from several U.S. intelligence agencies, the Marines, and the Army. And Palantir’s proprietary software scans through immense quantities of information, searching for patterns. It’s tracked Taliban insurgents and Somali pirates, and it’s gained traction within the private sector, including a well-publicized contract to help JPMorgan Chase detect fraud.

The two other firms that make up Team Themis, HBGary Federal and Berico Technologies, employ a roster of executives with extensive backgrounds in clandestine cyber-security work.

The president of HBGary Federal’s sister company, HBGary, is a legendary developer of “rootkits”—undetectable software that can be planted on a target computer for malicious purposes.

For a modest charge of $60,000, HBGary offered a rootkit designed in partnership with General Dynamics that could monitor keystrokes, delete files, and crash a computer infected with its proprietary code.  HBGary Federal—which, as the name suggests, is the government-sector wing of the company—attempted to sell contracts to the U.S. Air Force, among other clients.

There is no evidence that Team Themis is being paid directly by the Chamber.  It is working with the Chamber’s law firm, Huntoon & Willaims, not with the Chamber itself.  But its targers are critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, such as U.S. Chamber Watch, which may have little influence as yet, but are seen by the Chamber as a major threat.

The trio of defense contractors seeking to land the Themis deal concluded that a concerted campaign to undermine the U.S. Chamber Watch’s “messaging capabilities and credibility would represent a huge win for the CoC and should be a focus.”

So in short order, Team Themis had worked out a plan of sabotage, including a proposal to create a “fake insider persona” to “generate communications” with the Chamber’s union critics, while planting phony documents with the Chamber’s watchdog groups.  The architects of this counter-messaging initiative would feed Palantir’s proprietary software with information gleaned from metadata concerning the personal lives of activists.

The targets included labor unions SEIU, IBT, UFW, UFCW, and AFL-CIO and the labor coalition Change to Win, as well as left-leaning organizations such as the Center for American Progress, MoveOn.org, Courage Campaign, the Ruckus Society, Agit-Pop, Brave New Films, and others.

greenwaldAs the Chamber’s attorneys haggled with the contractors, Team Themis shopped the same idea to Bank of America in a proposal to undermine WikiLeaks, which was rumored at the time to have in its possession private files from Bank of America. A plan similar to the one devised against U.S. Chamber Watch was detailed in a PowerPoint presentation that called for destroying the credibility of Glenn Greenwald, WikiLeaks’ biggest booster in the press.

Though the Themis plan began as a proposal to help the Chamber counter certain left-leaning groups, Hunton & Williams and the contractors clearly expected to adapt this model of activist surveillance for other markets—anywhere that perceived rivals and enemies could be profitably surveilled or undermined.

Click on The Business of America is Dirty Tricks to read the entire article, which has important background information.   [Hat tip to Naked Capitalism].

I failed to notice it, or maybe forgot it, but the Team Themis story has been out there for a long time.

Click on U.S. Chamber of Commerce thugs used ‘terror tools’ for disinfo scheme targeting me, my family, other progressive U.S. citizens, groups for a 2011 report by Brad Friedman on The Brad Blog.  The strong language in the headline is fully justified by the facts.

Click on Think Progress, SEIU and others targeted by US Chamber of Commerce for smears for a 2011 report on the Crooks and Liars web log.

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One Response to “U.S. Chamber and high-tech dirty tricks”

  1. b-psycho Says:

    The all – seeing eye tends towards watching certain types of people so often. We’re beyond coincidence and into it being the very nature of such.

    “Who watches the watchers?” may be cliché, but it remains the question of the moment for a reason…

    Like

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