But what, if anything, can or will be done by the U.S. Government for accountability against the use of such "possibly criminal" tactics used against American citizens by private corporations (fueled by tax payer dollars)?
As it was the Dept. of Justice themselves who are said to have recommended the firm Hunton & Williams to the Bank of America in their scheme to attack WikiLeaks, the DoJ would likely need to recuse themselves from any such criminal investigation. A Special Prosecutor would need to be assigned to the case, if the DoJ agreed. It seems unlikely that the Republican-led U.S. House Judiciary or Oversight Committees would be inclined to even hold hearings on a matter which would reflect so poorly on the corporations and top Right-wing lobbying group to whom they are so dearly beholden. That seems nearly as true even if it were Democrats who still held the majority. So it seems unlikely Congress would ask for a Special Prosecutor either. I'd love to be proven wrong.
A civil suit could possibly be brought by the individuals or organizations targeted in these schemes under a number of statutes that have been suggested to me over the weekend by a number of different sources.
Such a case, however, could also find itself bumping up against the U.S. Government if the Dept. of Justice decided to invoke the once-arcane, now-ubiquitous so-called "State Secrets Privilege," as used to entirely shut down cases said to potentially reveal national security secrets. More often than not, however, it's now invoked simply to avoid embarrassment to the U.S. Government and/or its favored associates. (See Marcy Wheeler's coverage last week of the government "declaring children's nosebleeds a state secret", not to mention the way it's been abused for years against national security whistleblowers such as former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds and many others.)
As you can see above, such a law suit, they might claim, could result in the exposure of tools and tactics, methods and means used in the so-called "War on Terror," as developed by Palantir, Berico and HBGary and contracted for use by the government to the tune of more than $6 million in the case of Palantir alone. Both Berico and HBGary also subsist off of enormous government contracts in the "War on Terror."
Still, the matter, at least from a civil angle, is being explored.
For now, the revelation of terror tools used so brazenly against political opponents in the private corporate sector is disturbing, to say the least. While the notion of paid political operatives subversively using social media to discredit opponents has long been suspected by many, here we have evidence that these tactics are, in truth, fairly common among those who can afford to deploy them. That commenter who always shows up to hijack a comment thread on a specific topic may very well be working for $250/hour.
Greenwald, as usual, cuts to the heart of the disturbing revelations:
The very idea of trying to threaten the careers of journalists and activists to punish and deter their advocacy is self-evidently pernicious; that it's being so freely and casually proposed to groups as powerful as the Bank of America, the Chamber of Commerce, and the DOJ-recommended Hunton & Williams demonstrates how common this is. These highly experienced firms included such proposals because they assumed those deep-pocket organizations would approve and it would make their hiring more likely.
But the real issue highlighted by this episode is just how lawless and unrestrained is the unified axis of government and corporate power. I've written many times about this issue -- the full-scale merger between public and private spheres -- because it's easily one of the most critical yet under-discussed political topics. Especially (though by no means only) in the worlds of the Surveillance and National Security State, the powers of the state have become largely privatized. There is very little separation between government power and corporate power. Those who wield the latter intrinsically wield the former. The revolving door between the highest levels of government and corporate offices rotates so fast and continuously that it has basically flown off its track and no longer provides even the minimal barrier it once did. It's not merely that corporate power is unrestrained; it's worse than that: corporations actively exploit the power of the state to further entrench and enhance their power.
The exemption from the rule of law has been fully transferred from the highest level political elites to their counterparts in the private sector. "Law" is something used to restrain ordinary Americans and especially those who oppose this consortium of government and corporate power, but it manifestly does not apply to restrain these elites.
Greenwald goes on to describe how the Dept. of Justice announced they'd bring full resources to bear against Anonymous after they'd briefly disrupted Paypal, MasterCard and Amazon's websites in retaliations for those organizations cutting off service to WikiLeaks, a media organization charged with no crimes whatsoever. Yet a "far more damaging and serious cyber-attack... launched at WikiLieaks" never brought a public peep from the very same DoJ in response.
He goes on to quote blogger John Cole's response to this mess ...
One thing that even the dim bulbs in the media should understand by now is that there is in fact a class war going on, and it is the rich and powerful who are waging it. Anyone who does anything that empowers the little people or that threatens the wealth and power of the plutocracy must be destroyed. There is a reason for these clowns going after Think Progress and unions, just like there is a reason they are targeting Wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald, Planned Parenthood, and Acorn...
You have to understand the mindset- they are playing for keeps. The vast majority of the wealth isn't enough. They want it all. Anything that gets in their way must be destroyed. ... And they are well financed, have a strong infrastructure, a sympathetic media, and entire organizations dedicated to running cover for them...
I don't even know why we bother to hold elections any more, to be honest, the game is so rigged. We're a banana republic, and it is just a matter of time before we descend into necklacing and other tribal bullshit.- Advertisement -
At this point, it's become quite difficuilt to dispute Cole's fatalistic sentiments.
Team Themis' "Corporate Information Reconnaissance Cell" proposal [PDF] submitted to Hunton & Williams last November offers this as its final thought in the "Conclusion" graf:
[W]ho better to develop a corporate information reconnaissance capability than companies that have been market leaders within the DoD and Intelligence Community.
When things blow up, as they have, clients of Team Themis are now virtually guaranteed to get off scot-free from accountability by the DoJ or anyone else in the government, and perhaps even against those private citizens and organizations they were targeting. The U.S. Chamber, Bank of America and all of the thugs tied to their nefarious schemes knew that full well going on.