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ARS Technica: Dems push for Congressional investigation of HBGary Federal


By FZ - Posted on 01 March 2011

March 1, 2011- Embattled HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr quit his job yesterday as the prospect of a Congressional investigation loomed. A dozen Democrats in Congress asked various Republican committee chairs to launch probes of HBGary Federal's idea for a "reconnaissance cell" targeting pro-union organizers.

HBGary Federal was hacked last month by Anonymous after Aaron Barr believed he had unmasked much of the group's leadership—and Barr's entire cache of corporate e-mails was made public. Those messages revealed that Barr had joined up with two other security firms, Palantir and Berico, to pitch the powerhouse DC law firm of Hunton & Williams on an idea to go after union-backed websites who opposed the US Chamber of Commerce. The scheme, if adopted, would have cost the Chamber up to $2 million a month.

The three companies called themselves Team Themis, and instead of providing simple "business intelligence," they had a few other ideas:

•Create a false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information, and monitor to see if US Chamber Watch acquires it. Afterward, present explicit evidence proving that such transactions never occurred. Also, create a fake insider persona and generate communications with [union-backed Change to Win]. Afterward, release the actual documents at a specified time and explain the activity as a CtW contrived operation.

•If needed, create two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second. Such work is complicated, but a well-thought out approach will give way to a variety of strategies that can sufficiently aid the formation of vetting questions US Chamber Watch will likely ask.

•Create a humor piece about the leaders of CtW.

Now, some members of Congress want an investigation. "The [Team Themis] techniques may have been developed at US government expense to target terrorists and other security threats," said a letter signed by the representatives.

"The e-mails indicate that these defense contractors planned to mine social network sites for information on Chamber critics; planned to plant 'false documents' and 'fake insider personas' that would be used to discredit the groups; and discussed the use of malicious and intrusive software ('malware') to steal private information from the groups and disrupt their internal electronic communications."

Did anything illegal happen? The letter suggests that forgery, wire fraud, and computer fraud might have taken place and that Congress should investigate the ways that private contractors turn their military contracting experience on private targets.

FULL STORY HERE: