Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Petition: Investigate the chamber's spying operation

The mainstream media is beginning to pick up the story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's plans to run an undercover smear campaign against critics of its agenda to send jobs overseas and destabilize working families by lowering their wages.

Yesterday both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times had stories. Reports the LA Times:
Hoping to win a lucrative agreement with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, three data security contractors for federal defense and intelligence agencies developed a proposal to monitor and manipulate the chamber's left-leaning critics, according to recently released e-mail correspondence.

Employees of the firms compiled short dossiers on a few activists that included photographs, references to their families and charts of their relationships with other liberal and labor leaders.

A review of the correspondence, dating from late October through last week, suggested that the surveillance and intelligence gathering had begun only on a superficial basis in anticipation of a coming meeting with chamber officials.

The proposals were received by Hunton & Williams, a law firm that represents the chamber.
Brad Friedman, founder of StopTheChamber and therefore a target, is pretty steamed. He has posted an online petition calling for Congressional and Department of Justice investigations into these outrageous and unconstitutional activities. Sign the petition here.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is "incredulous" that anyone would accuse it of running an undercover smear campaign against its critics, which also include Change to Win (the Teamsters' labor federation) and the ThinkProgress blog.

Critics, though, have picked apart the Chamber's "non-denial denial." The Chamber issued a statement saying:
The security firm referenced by ThinkProgress was not hired by the Chamber or by anyone else on the Chamber’s behalf. We have never seen the document in question nor has it ever been discussed with us.
As emptywheel points out, the Chamber isn't denying that its lawyers were planning to hire spies to spread lies and false accusations against its critic. The Chamber's lawyers managed to get a spy firm called BGary to do a month of work for free to decide whether they wanted to hire them.

Note also that the Chamber is only denying that it hadn't seen "the document in question." As emptywheel points out,
That’s not a denial they’ve seen a proposal offering to create false documents to try to fool USChamberWatch and hire false personas to try to impugn the reputation of those who criticize the Chamber.