Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
HBGary leak prompts probe call from Congressmen
Information in e-mails purloined from security contractor HBGary Federal has spurred 19 Congressman to call for an investigation into a planned dirty-tricks campaign to discredit critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The letter sent to four House committee chairmen by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) calls for a probe of revelations found in the pilfered messages that HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies (collectively calling themselves "Team Themis") and the law firm of Hunton & Williams planned a campaign to sabotage and discredit critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, including U.S. Chamber Watch, the union federation Change to Win, the Center for American Progress, the Service Employees International Union and other organizations.
"We are deeply concerned by evidence that intelligence contractors may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to target American citizens on behalf of powerful corporate interests," Johnson said in a statement. "We believe a full Congressional investigation is warranted to determine whether laws were broken and whether existing laws are sufficient to protect Americans from high-tech dirty tricks."
According to the letter an apparent conspiracy was being hatched by the federal contractors and the law firm to exploit techniques developed on Uncle Sam's dime to fight terrorists and other security threats. It noted that the leaked e-mails "indicate that these defense contractors planned to mine social network sites for information on Chamber critics; planned to plant 'false documents' and 'fake insider personas' that would be used to discredit the groups; and discussed the use of malicious and intrusive software to steal private information from the groups and disrupt their internal electronic communications."
The letter was sent to Republican Reps. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform committee; Lamar Smith, chairman of the Judiciary committee; Mike Rogers, chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Howard McKeon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
"The e-mails and documents that have come to light thus far provide a window into a deeply concerning set of circumstances, but not all the facts are known," Johnson concluded in the letter. "We believe it is therefore incumbent upon the Committee to investigate this matter thoroughly and with the utmost urgency."