Ned Resnikoff: Media Matters: February 11, 2011 11:47 am ET
The Center for American Progress’ ThinkProgress blog has obtained roughly 40,000 emails that they say reveal private discussions between a law firm hired by the United States Chamber of Commerce and a network of private security firms tapped to smear and investigate the Chamber’s political opponents and their families.
From the first of ThinkProgress’ posts on the subject:
According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams. Hunton And Williams’ attorney Richard Wyatt, who once represented Food Lion in its infamous lawsuit against ABC News, was hired by the Chamber in October of last year. To assist the Chamber, Wyatt and his associates, John Woods and Bob Quackenboss, solicited a set of private security firms — HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) — to develop tactics for damaging progressive groups and labor unions, in particular ThinkProgress, the labor coalition called Change to Win, the SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com.
The tactics these firms reportedly proposed included an entrapment scheme in which one of the security firms would create a phony document, “leak” it to the Chamber’s political opponents, and then expose it as fake and discredit them. You can view the reported proposal for that plan here.
In a later post, ThinkProgress also said that the private security firms engaged by the Chamber’s law firm, notably HBGary Federal, investigated the families and even the children of their political opponents. They claim Aaron Barr of HBGary circulated information to the other firms about which synagogue Mike Gehrke (formerly of Change to Win) attended. They also say he showed them pictures of his wife and children. Barr also reportedly targeted Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog, revealing his home address and information about his partner.
The emails were reportedly obtained and distributed by the hacker group Anonymous, who evidently hacked into Barr’s email account in revenge for his attempted infiltration of their group.
The Chamber of Commerce has denied ThinkProgress’ report in a statement posted on their blog ChamberPost:
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.
This story is bubbling through the liberal and tech media — it remains to be seen whether the mainstream media will pick up the story.