U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Decatur has put himself at the center of a Democratic call for an investigation into an alleged – and complicated — plot by three defense contractors to discredit liberal enemies of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, using the Internet. Eliza Newlin Carney of the National Journal has this:
….[T]he plan that the contractors proposed last month to the law firm Hunton & Williams, which represents the chamber, was arguably lawless in the extreme. It involved privacy invasions, hacking, and creating fake “insider personas” and false documents to infiltrate and discredit watchdog groups like U.S. Chamber Watch and other liberal activists.
The plan was never carried out, but now 20 House Democrats are calling for a congressional investigation into whether the contractors conspired to commit forgery, wire fraud, or criminal defamation, and whether government-funded intelligence technologies pose a threat to U.S. citizens. The CEO of one of the firms, HBGary Federal, has stepped down. And the controversy has created a public-relations nightmare for the chamber, which has vigorously denied any knowledge of the plan.
“We see a clear possibility that people could be silenced through high tech, subversive means,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who’s leading the call for hearings by the House Judiciary and Armed Services committees, on which he sits, and by the Intelligence and Oversight and Government Reform panels. “And when these means were actually acquired at taxpayer expense, it makes it even more unsavory.”
The decision to dub the project “Team Themis” is only one of many ironies in a complicated saga that spotlights the intensifying, high-stakes clash between labor and business coalitions, both in statehouses and nationally. For one thing, the dirty tricks plot to undermine chamber critics was uncovered by activist hackers who used dirty tricks to publish some 40,000 HBGary Federal e-mails.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider