Privacy SOS

Report: As many as one in four activists could be a corporate spy

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In November, 2013, the Center for Corporate Policy released a bombshell report illuminating the shadowy world of corporate espionage. "Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Non-Profit Organizations" describes how major corporations engage in disruptive infiltration and extensive spying operations directed against activists and non-profit organizations that threaten their bottom lines.

In the video above, RT's Abby Martin interviews Guardian investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, who wrote about the report.

In his piece for the Guardian, Ahmed describes the public-private surveillance partnership that works to crush dissident movements, often in favor of protecting corporate interests:

The report uncovers compelling evidence that much corporate espionage is facilitated by government agencies, particularly the FBI. The CCP report examines a September 2010 document from the Office of the Inspector General in the US Justice Department, which reviewed FBI investigations between 2001 and 2006. It concluded that:

    "… the factual basis of opening some of the investigations of individuals affiliated with the groups was factually weak… In some cases, we also found that the FBI extended the duration of investigations involving advocacy groups or their members without adequate basis…. In some cases, the FBI classified some of its investigations relating to nonviolent civil disobedience under its 'Acts of Terrorism' classification."

For instance, on an FBI investigation of Greenpeace, the Justice Department found that:

    "… the FBI articulated little or no basis for suspecting a violation of any federal criminal statute… the FBI's opening EC [electronic communication] did not articulate any basis to suspect that they were planning any federal crimes….We also found that the FBI kept this investigation open for over 3 years, long past the corporate shareholder meetings that the subjects were supposedly planning to disrupt… We concluded that the investigation was kept open 'beyond the point at which its underlying justification no longer existed,' which was inconsistent with the FBI's Manual of Investigative and Operational Guidelines (MIOG)."

The FBI's involvement in corporate espionage has been institutionalised through 'InfraGard', "a little-known partnership between private industry, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security." The partnership involves the participation of "more than 23,000 representatives of private industry," including 350 of the Fortune 500 companies.

But it's not just the FBI. According to the new report, "active-duty CIA operatives are allowed to sell their expertise to the highest bidder", a policy that gives "financial firms and hedge funds access to the nation's top-level intelligence talent. Little is known about the CIA's moonlighting policy, or which corporations have hired current CIA operatives."

The report concludes that, due to an extreme lack of oversight, government effectively tends to simply "rubber stamp" such intelligence outsourcing.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.