The next time you hear some lofty conservative twaddle about our freedoms, please point them to this Think Progress post and ask for an explanation. Ask them why they think they're threatened by government when we have large corporations funding private investigations and smear campaigns against people who speak against them.
According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams to spearhead this effort. Hunton And Williams’ attorney Richard Wyatt, who once represented Food Lion in its infamous lawsuit against ABC News, was hired by the Chamber in October of last year. To assist the Chamber, Wyatt and his associates, John Woods and Bob Quackenboss, hired 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.
Tread carefully here. The US Chamber left themselves a layer of plausible deniability, as Marcy Wheeler carefully explains. Bottom line: The Chamber of Commerce hired an attorney, who then farmed out assignments on spec to dig up dirt on their "enemies" and smear them.
Here are some of the proposals (PDF). One that caught my eye was this one:
Create a false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information, and monitor to see if USChamber Watch acquires it. Afterward, present explicit evidence proving that such transactions never occurred. Also, create a fake insider persona and generate communications with CtW. Afterward, release the actual documents at a specified time and explain the activity as a CtW contrived operation. Both
instances will prove that US Chamber Watch cannot be trusted with information and/or tell the truth.
Got it. Plant a false document with financial information, wait for USChamberWatch to "acquire it", and when they use the information, nail them for lying. Lie to them and then get them for lying.
But there's much, much more. Not only did these hired thugs go after ThinkProgress, SEIU and others, they also went after bloggers like Brad Friedman, family members of people they were after, including children. They hacked social media accounts and compiled personal information (dossiers) on everyone.
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 (sensitive information was redacted by ThinkProgress):
Here it is: