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General News    H4'ed 2/15/11

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thugs Used 'Terror Tools' for Disinfo Scheme Targeting Me, My Family, and Other Progressives

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And why they are likely to get away with it...
"[W]ho better to develop a corporate information reconnaissance capability than companies that have been market leaders within the DoD and Intelligence Community."
- 'Team Themis', from their 11/3/10 "Corporate Information Reconnaissance Cell" proposal delivered to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's law firm Hunton & Williams.

message they left on it here, including: "You've tried to bite at the Anonymous hand, and now the Anonymous hand is b*tch-slapping you in the face"); deface Barr's Twitter account; remotely wipe his iPad clean; and downloaded the entire company email database. The account, as stitched together from the now-public record by by Ars Technica's Nate Anderson, is an instant classic.]

The self-discrediting Barr and HBGary have been quickly made the scapegoats in all of this, and so have received the most coverage in the media to date. But the instigators behind all of these diabolical schemes, the bag men at Hunton & Williams and the godfathers at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have still remained largely unscathed in media reports.

Hunton & Williams has yet to release a comment in regard to any of this, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as is their wont, chose to go on the attack, charging, like HBGary, that they are actually the victims of "baseless attacks."

In their first statement on Thursday, Tom Collamore writing for the U.S. Chamber at ChamberPost, offered this remarkably daft "non-denial denial":

We're incredulous that anyone would attempt to associate such activities with the Chamber as we've seen today from the Center for American Progress. 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.

While ThinkProgress and the Center for American Progress continue to orchestrate a baseless smear campaign against the Chamber, we will continue to remain focused on promoting policies that create jobs.

As is her wont, Emptywheel's Wheeler dispatched with the laughable response "From the ChamberPot" in short order (as, in turn, did virtually every single commenter on the Chamber's blog.) You'll note the Chamber's denial of having "hired" HBGary, "the security firm" in question, presumably, as they were the ones highlighted in ThinkProgress' initial "ChamberLeaks" report. But the emails released from HBGary reveal they and their partners constructing and then proposing the scheme to the Chamber's law firm H&W, even as a number of the emails reference H&W sharing the information with the Chamber.

So where they say HBGary was "not hired by the Chamber or by anyone else on the Chamber's behalf," that could well be true, if incredibly disingenuous and misleading.

[I interviewed Wheeler about the entire affair on Friday night's Malloy Show . You can listen to that interview, in "Hour 1" right here.]

A second non-denial denial issued by the U.S. Chamber the following day, claiming again to highlight "Another Smear" against them after ThinkProgress' second article (the one highlighting the email targeting me and my family, among others), was similarly disingenuous.

Both statements carefully avoided admission of the Chamber's retention of Hunton & Williams and what the firm did on behalf of the Chamber. The second statement continued with such weasly phrases as "The U.S. Chamber never hired or solicited proposals from HBGary, Palantir or Berico, the security firms being talked about on the web" and "No money, for any purpose, was paid to any of those three private security firms by the Chamber, or by anyone on behalf of the Chamber, including Hunton and Williams."

Right. The contract -- said to have been worth $2 million per month -- according to one of the emails said to be from Aaron Barr to his HBGary colleagues released on Sunday (versus $2 million for the entire contract, as previously reported ), was apparently never finalized. Wrote Barr:

I have been sucked up for the last, seems like almost 2 weeks working the law firm deal. The potential is huge for us. We are starting the pilot this week, 50K effort. After the pilot the end customer gets briefed. We were talking to the senior partner of the law firm on Friday and he wants a firm fixed price by month for 6 months and the figure we have come to settle on is $2M per month for the 3 team members. That will equal $500-$700K for HBG Federal, thats per month. We still need to close it, so I am spending most of my time making sure we blow them away and get the funding.

But the work H&W ("the law firm" presumably referenced above) was doing was certainly on behalf of the Chamber ("the end customer"), and it's as unlikely H&W took it upon themselves to seek proposals for such an invidious scheme on behalf of the Chamber with their direction, as it is to imagine that Team Themis acted without direction from either H&W or the Chamber, or both, as other emails suggest in contradiction to the Chamber's claims of innocence.

Also worth noting here: While we do not yet have evidence that Team Themis closed the deal with H&W and the Chamber, it seems quite possible that H&W was seeking competing proposals from different "intelligence" firms as well. Did anyone else actually get the deal? Are they working, even as we speak, on behalf of the Chamber to attack perceived enemies through attempts at discrediting them? The Chamber's two responses smartly avoid answers to those questions, or culpability in having sicced H&W against their political opponents on their behalf.

Though I have requested comment from all three cyber-security/intelligence firms as well as H&W on these matters, none have responded to my query at this time.

We do know that H&W -- the law firm recommended to the Bank of America by the DoJ to help defend against purported documents said to be soon published by WikiLeaks -- had been working for the Chamber as long ago as May 2010. That month, one of their attorneys, Michael J. Mueller, sent a threatening "cease and desist" letter to VR's publicist, charging that a press release issued by the group as part of the campaign made "defamatory and false allegations concerning the United States Chamber of Commerce" in reference to the campaigns claim that "The Chamber, like the mafia, also uses threats to get its way."

Mueller's letter, issuing a mafia-like threat, went on to charge "the veracity of these individuals [who worked on] is in question" and the firm demanded the group's press release be retracted. It wasn't.

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