Smear campaigns

by Henry Farrell on February 11, 2011

“This”: is perhaps unsurprising, but nonetheless interesting.

bq. According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams. 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, 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

From the “PDF”:

bq. US Chamber Watch is one of the most active members of the opposition to the US Chamber of Commerce (CoC). Unlike some groups, members of this organization are politically connected and well established, making the US Chamber Watch vulnerable to information operations that could embarrass the organization and those associated with it. … we need to discredit the organization through the following. … Paint US Chamber Watch as an operative of CtW and the unions … Craft a message to combat the messaging propaganda of US Chamber Watch. …Create a false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information, and monitor to see if US Chamber 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. … Connect US Chamber Watch’s radical tactics to Velvet Revolution … If needed, create two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second.

The Chamber of Commerce “denies”: that it ever saw the document, or directly or indirectly hired the firm in question (which seems in fact to have been a number of firms, including Palantir Technology, which has been getting a lot of hype in cybersecurity circles over the last couple of years). This may be true, but I’ll be quite interested to see whether there is sufficient legal basis for the targeted organizations to sue the companies in question, and perhaps expand the lawsuit to the US Chamber of Commerce and its agents. In particular, I would be interested to see what further pertinent email communications might be uncovered if the potential plaintiffs manage to get discovery. There are perhaps some parallels to Dow and Sasol’s “corporate spying efforts”: against Greenpeace, where we may see some quite interesting materials indeed emerge as the case wends its way through the courts.

Update: also see “Glenn Greenwald”:, who was targeted by the same people.