"For this, there's only one similar example. It's like the
This was no idle threat. Back in January, Swiss whistleblower Rudolf
Elmer, a former executive with Switzerland's Bank Julius Baer turned
over two CDs to Assange at a London press conference.
first brush with notoriety, readers will recall, came in 2008 when a
federal district court judge in San Francisco first clamped down
and then rescinded
an order that would have shuttered the web site over their release of highly-compromising internal Baer documents
; files which revealed secret trust structures used for asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion.
The next Baer disclosures are reportedly chock-a-block with new
information on tax dodges by "about 40 politicians along with business
people, multinational conglomerates and figures from the art world,"
leaks which The Independent
claims could spark a major international scandal.
Elmer, once Baer's man in the British-controlled corporatist
paradise, handed Assange information that purportedly included "all the
back-up data held on Julius Baer's computer server in the Caymans at the
time he was sacked, including accounts, correspondence, memos and
resolutions dealing with 114 trusts, 80 companies, 60 funds and 1,330
individuals," according to The Guardian
It was enough to get Bank of America executives to break out in a cold sweat. After all, Assange told Forbes
WikiLeaks has the hard drive of a bank official loaded with some 5
gigabytes, or 200,000 pages of text, disclosures that would "take down" a
major American bank and reveal a pervasive "ecosystem of corruption."
Better break out the biohazard suits!
Shortly after the Forbes interview, The New York Times
that a high-level conference call amongst key executives, led by BofA's
chief risk officer, Bruce R. Thompson, brain-stormed what damaging
information might lay buried in the dark silicon brain of that missing
hard drive, and concluded that the bank's "counterespionage work was
only just beginning."
In full crisis mode, BofA brought in the ultra-spooky consulting
firm and private spy shop Booz Allen Hamilton, former National
Mike McConnell's current haunt along with the high-powered law firm and lobby shop Hunton & Williams
Clocking in at No. 9
on Washington Technology's 2010 list of "Top 100 Government Contractors
," Booz Allen raked-in some $3.3 billion last year from various defense and intelligence agencies across the secret state.
Reporting for CorpWatch
investigative journalist Tim Shorrock informs us that "among the many
services Booz Allen provides to intelligence agencies ... are wargaming
... as well as data-mining and data analysis, signals intelligence
systems engineering (an NSA specialty), intelligence analysis and
operations support, the design and analysis of cryptographic or
code-breaking systems (another NSA specialty), and
'outsourcing/privatization strategy and planning'."
For their part, Hunton & Williams have long been connected with
lobbying for right-wing causes and corporate clients (two terms entirely
synonymous) in the banking and energy sectors. The Center for
Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org
site reports that anti-union stalwarts, far-right Koch Industries, paid
the firm some $160,000 last year for lobbying and other unspecified
Other clients, according to OpenSecrets
include Acxiom Corporation, American Electric Power, the climate
change-denying Americans for Affordable Climate Policy, Bank of America,
Berkshire Hathaway, Duke Energy, Entergy Corporation, Gas Processors
Association (the friendly "fracking
people!), General Dynamics, MasterCard, the National Association of
Manufacturers, the Southern Company, Wells Fargo and many, many more!
According to published reports, in early December H&W's go-to
guy, John W. Woods, held a meeting with BofA's management team touting
the firm's expertise--and connections to the White House and
Congress--in hopes of convincing the bank to retain them for their
internal probe of WikiLeaks.
It didn't help matters in the "perception management" department when word leaked out that the bank had begun buying up
web addresses and domain names that might prove embarrassing should disclosures bring forth those proverbial "smoking guns."
So BofA crisis managers did what they do best when faced with
similar sticky situations: they turned to the "experts" and outsourced.
In turn, Booz Allen and H&W also did what they
best: they subcontracted out the dirty tricks portfolio to security
grifters meant to do the heavy-lifting they believed would provide that
indispensable element of "plausible deniability" lusted after by
capitalist thugs and governments everywhere.
Unfortunately for the principals, that high-speed corporate spy train was about to make an unannounced stop.
Anatomy of an "Information Op"
Last month The Tech Herald
revealed that private security firms HBGary Federal
(currently offline), HBGary
, Palantir Technologies
and Berico Technologies
were contacted by Hunton & Williams and called upon to "develop a strategic plan of attack against Wikileaks."
We learned that H&W "would act as outside counsel on retainer,
while Palantir would take care of network and insider threat
investigations. For their part, Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal
would analyze WikiLeaks," The Tech Herald reported.
According to journalist Steve Ragan, that campaign was to have
included a dirty tricks operation targeting critical journalists,
including Salon's Glenn Greenwald, WikiLeaks supporters, their families
and the group itself through "cyber attacks, disinformation, and other potential proactive tactics."
It seemed like a smart bet at the time. After all, HBGary Federal
sold themselves as "experts in threat intelligence and open source
analysis" with a focus on "Information Operations (INFOOPS); influence
operations, social media exploitation, new media development."
Palantir claimed their security "products" are "broadly deployed
throughout the National intelligence and defense communities" as well as
"Fortune 50 companies focused on cybersecurity, counter-fraud and
insider threat investigations."
even bragged that they deliver "the only platform that can be used at
the strategic, operational, and tactical levels within the US
Intelligence, Defense, and Law Enforcement Communities," and that they
can draw "in any type of data, such as unstructured message traffic,
structured identity data, link charts, spreadsheets, SIGINT, ELINT,
IMINT and documents."
Playing second fiddle to none, Berico told prospective clients that
"we are trusted advisors in the areas of technology integration,
high-end consulting, cyberspace operations, and intelligence analysis
for specialized units and agencies throughout the intelligence community
As a dark world denizen of the Pentagon Berico had partnered-up with
SAIC and--guess who!--Booz Allen, "winning" a five year, $130 million
contract with the Army Intelligence Campaign Initiatives Group (AI-CAG).
According to Berico
we learned that the firm "will assist the AI-CIG government program
office in producing and developing strategies, concepts, architectures,
road maps, and analyses regarding integration of existing and future ISR
programs, as well as support to the Army's Intelligence mission."
Meanwhile, a second covert op, also brokered by H&W and using the same players was being stitched-up on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
journalist Lee Fang revealed that sordid corporate campaign sought to
undermine Chamber critics through the production and selective leaking
of false documents that could then be called out as fabrications.
Fang reported that "the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and
Williams" and the above-named security outfits "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 security firms," Fang wrote, "hoped to obtain $200,000 for
initial background research, then charge up to $2 million for a larger
disinformation campaign against progressives."
Rounding out what appears to be part of a larger "public-private partnership" targeting corporate and government critics, The Tech Herald learned
that the H&W team "were recommended to Bank of America's general
counsel by the Department of Justice," and that the firm was "using the
meeting to pitch Bank of America on retaining them for an internal
investigation surrounding WikiLeaks."
On paper it seemed like a slam dunk.
Anonymous Enters the Frame
Published reports, notably those of Ars Technica
Nate Anderson, have since revealed that Aaron Barr, HBGary Federal's
CEO claimed he could exploit social media networks such as Facebook,
Twitter and IRC and "easily" gather information about WikiLeaks and
their supporters which could then be used to "take down" the
But when Barr boasted to the Financial Times
that he had penetrated the cyber-guerrilla collective Anonymous
the group that launched distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks
against PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and other firms which cut-off funds to
claiming "he had collected information on the core leaders, including
many of their real names, and that they could be arrested if law
enforcement had the same data," it was a boast too far.
Shortly thereafter, the masked
"You have blindly charged into the Anonymous hive, a hive from which
you've tried to steal honey. Did you think the bees would not defend it?
Well here we are. You've angered the hive, and now you are being
In a stunning coup, Anonymous had penetrated HBGary Federal and
parent company HBGary's "secure" servers, seizing a treasure trove of
more than 70,000 internal emails and other documents, then posted them
on the internet
along with a search engine
It didn't help win hearts and minds when Forbes'
Greenberg reported that "the head of one of those firms also suggested
going after the thousands of individuals who have donated to the group."
"A quick search of the company's WikiLeaks-related conversations," Forbes reports,
"shows that Aaron Barr, the HBGary chief executive who first caught the
attention of Anonymous by boasting that he'd penetrated the group and
identified its leaders, also suggested other tactics against WikiLeaks
... namely, tracking and intimidating anyone who had given money to
Another in a long line of "smartest guys in the room," Barr averred
that "the security firms 'need to get people to understand that if they
support the organization we will come after them. Transaction records
are easily identifiable'."
While BofA has sought to distance the bank from the project and
Hunton & Williams have refused to comment, leaked emails paint a
damning picture indeed.
In early December, John Woods wrote
at HBGary, Berico and Palantir that "Richard [Wyatt, another H&W
partner] and I am meeting with senior executives at a large US Bank
tomorrow regarding Wikileaks. We want to sell this team as part of what
we are talking about. I need a favor. I need five to six slides on
Wikileaks--who they are, how they operate and how this group may help
this bank. Please advise if you can help get me something ASAP. My call
is at noon."
, "Sure thing. I will work on it tonight. Sam?"
Eli Bingham, a top Palantir executive chimed in
, "Fine by me."
A day later, Palantir code monkey Matthew Steckman wrote
that Woods and other principles should review the attached WikiLeaks slide deck.
That now-infamous PowerPoint presentation appearing under the Palantir logo, titled "The WikiLeaks Threat
was rushed into production by the firms' self-styled "Themis Group,"
named after the Greek Titan who embodied divine order, law and custom.
Lacking imagination, it was suspiciously similar to a 2008 Pentagon proposal
to destroy WikiLeaks.