Source: The Guardian
How corporations and spy agencies use “security” to defend profiteering and crush activism
A stunning new report compiles extensive evidence showing how some of the world’s largest corporations have partnered with private intelligence firms and government intelligence agencies to spy on activist and nonprofit groups. Environmental activism is a prominent though not exclusive focus of these activities.
The report by the Center for Corporate Policy (CCP) in Washington DC titled Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage against Nonprofit Organizations draws on a wide range of public record evidence, including lawsuits and journalistic investigations. It paints a disturbing picture of a global corporate espionage programme that is out of control, with possibly as much as one in four activists being private spies.
The report argues that a key precondition for corporate espionage is that the nonprofit in question:
“… impairs or at least threatens a company’s assets or image sufficiently.”
One of the groups that has been targeted the most, and by a range of different corporations, is Greenpeace. In the 1990s, Greenpeace was tracked by private security firm Beckett Brown International (BBI) on behalf of the world’s largest chlorine producer, Dow Chemical, due to the environmental organisation’s campaigning against the use of chlorine to manufacture paper and plastics. The spying included:
“… pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings.”
Other Greenpeace offices in France and Europe were hacked and spied on by French private intelligence firms at the behest of Électricité de France, the world’s largest operator of nuclear power plants, 85% owned by the French government.
Oil companies Shell and BP had also reportedly hired Hackluyt, a private investigative firm with “close links” to MI6, to infiltrate Greenpeace by planting an agent who “posed as a left -wing sympathiser and film maker.” His mission was to “betray plans of Greenpeace’s activities against oil giants,” including gathering “information about the movements of the motor vessel Greenpeace in the north Atlantic.”
The CCP report notes that:
“A diverse array of nonprofits have been targeted by espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups.
Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations – including the US Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON – have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.”
Exploring other examples of this activity, the report notes that in Ecuador, after a lawsuit against Texaco triggering a $9.5 billion fine for spilling 350 million gallons of oil around Lago Agrio, the private investigations firm Kroll tried to hire journalist Mary Cuddehe as a “corporate spy” for Chevron, to undermine studies of the environmental health effects of the spill.
Referring to the work of US investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, the report points out that the notorious defence contractor Blackwater, later renamed XE Services and now Academi, had sought to become “the intel arm” of Monsanto, the agricultural and biotechnology corporation associated with genetically modified foods. Blackwater was paid to “provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.”