Wikileaks Wasn't The Only Operation HBGary Federal, Palantir And Berico Planned To Defraud
from the with-the-help-of-the-government dept
By now the exposed plan of HBGary Federal, Palantir and Berico to attack Wikileaks and its supporters through fraud and deception, in order to help Bank of America, has been discussed widely. However, the leaked HBGary Federal emails suggest that this sort of plan involving these three companies had been used elsewhere. Apparently the US Chamber of Commerce had approached the same three firms to plan a remarkably similar attack on groups that oppose the US Chamber of Commerce.
That leaked plan (embedded below) includes a similar plan to create fake documents and give them to these groups to publish, with the intent of “exposing” them later, to raise questions about their credibility.
That giant US companies and lobbyist organizations are interested in underhanded, dirty tricks is no surprise (though, there’s no evidence that either BofA or the CoC agreed to these proposals). However, as Glenn Greenwald (a key target in the original proposal for BofA) explains, what’s really troubling is the chummy relationship between these organizations and the US government. The US government is supposed to protect people from frauds perpetrated by big companies. But the evidence here suggests that the federal government was pretty closely connected to all of this.
The reason HBGary Federal, Palantir and Berico were even talking to BofA in the first place was because BofA contacted the Justice Department to ask what to do about Wikileaks, and the Justice Department turned them on to the law firm of Huntoon and Williams, who was instrumental in arranging both of these proposals.
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.
That’s what this anti-WikiLeaks campaign is generally: it’s a concerted, unified effort between government and the most powerful entities in the private sector (Bank of America is the largest bank in the nation). The firms the Bank has hired (such as Booz Allen) are suffused with the highest level former defense and intelligence officials, while these other outside firms (including Hunton Williams and Palantir) are extremely well-connected to the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government’s obsession with destroying WikiLeaks has been well-documented. And because the U.S. Government is free to break the law without any constraints, oversight or accountability, so, too, are its “private partners” able to act lawlessly. That was the lesson of the Congressional vesting of full retroactive immunity on lawbreaking telecoms, of the refusal to prosecute any of the important Wall Street criminals who caused the 2008 financial crisis, and of the instinctive efforts of the political class to protect defrauding mortgage banks.
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. Just consider one amazing example illustrating how this works.
Greenwald’s language may be a bit hyperbolic (though, considering he was one of the people “targeted,” that seems entirely understandable), but he has a point. And his very next paragraph shows how the government isn’t doing its job of protecting people in law enforcement, but is selectively picking what laws to enforce mainly when it protects themselves and big corporations. For example, while the FBI is spending so much time trying to track down Anonymous for its brief virtual sit-ins in the form of temporary DDoS attacks, it has not bothered to put any effort into looking at a similar DDoS attack on Wikileaks itself.
Why? Because crimes carried out that serve the Government’s agenda and target its opponents are permitted and even encouraged; cyber-attacks are “crimes” only when undertaken by those whom the Government dislikes, but are perfectly permissible when the Government itself or those with a sympathetic agenda unleash them. Whoever launched those cyber attacks at WikiLeaks (whether government or private actors) had no more legal right to do so than Anonymous, but only the latter will be prosecuted.
That’s the same dynamic that causes the Obama administration to be obsessed with prosecuting WikiLeaks but not The New York Times or Bob Woodward, even though the latter have published far more sensitive government secrets; WikiLeaks is adverse to the government while the NYT and Woodward aren’t, and thus “law” applies to punish only the former. The same mindset drives the Government to shield high-level political officials who commit the most serious crimes, while relentlessly pursuing whistle-blowers who expose their wrongdoing. Those with proximity to government power and who serve and/or control it are free from the constraints of law; those who threaten or subvert it have the full weight of law come crashing down upon them.
This really should trouble people. I’m not a big fan of “conspiracy theories,” and I don’t believe there’s any big Hollywood-style conspiracy going on here. But I do think that the incentives are screwed up, and that our federal government is way too beholden to large private companies whose main goal is protectionism and survival, rather than in benefiting the American public the most. It’s incredibly disheartening.