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Article posted Feb 16 2011, 8:58 PM Category: Commentary Source: Print

Why the HB Gary Scandal is Important

by Brad,

The HB Gary/Wikileaks/Anonymous scandal keeps getting more interesting...and more disturbing. Wired reports that HB Gary Federal was "nearly out of money" and desperate to secure some contracts, hence the desire to make a high-profile splash. As it turns out, infiltrating and publicly taunting Anonymous wasn't the smartest choice; and Anonymous has released yet another batch of emails they lifted from HB Gary's servers. Those emails suggest that HB Gary Federal's partners in the "Themis" scheme (Palantir and Berico) knew more about the dirty tricks then they first admitted, and it seems likely that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- another prospective customer -- also was more "in the loop" than its carefully-worded denial might suggest. The legal firm that put all the parties together, Hunton & Williams, is still remaining mum.

It's disturbing to learn that the Bank of America was referred to Hunton & Williams by the U.S. Department of Justice. The pretext is that B of A wanted to know what legal action it could take against Wikileaks, but the first thing Hunton & Williams did was to enlist some private intelligence firms -- and firms that apparently had done defense work. (This has had interesting "blowback" -- according to Threatpost, the published emails reveal "personal and business contact information...[including] the names and e-mail addresses of personnel at DISA, the NSA, CIA, FBI, the Air Force and elite government contractors," information that is "priceless" to social-engineering attackers.)

Marcy Wheeler at Firedoglake accurately describes this as "the use of intelligence techniques developed for use on terrorists deployed for use on citizens exercising their First Amendment rights." Libertarians have been warning for years that once these powers are given to the government, they will be turned inward for domestic use.

And therein lies the most alarming aspect. We've also been warning for years that the U.S. government would get around Constitutional limits on search and seizure by subcontracting that work to private companies. Those companies will then operate with near-immunity -- as Glenn Greenwald reminds us, the Department of Justice has a blind spot when prosecutions of pro-government hackers are concerned. And, with no constraints on their actions, those companies will also misidentify innocent people -- as happened this time.

With the HB Gary scandal, all these fears have come to fruition -- plus the added threat of powerful, well-connected corporations wielding these powers for their own benefit, and the added hazard of your social-networking (Facebook, Twitter) data being used against you. Only the foolish arrogance of one man, and the quick response of the Anonymous hackers, has brought this to light.

Thank you, Anonymous.

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