The Disinformation Campaign Bank of America Considered
Wikileaks has posted the presentation three security companies–Palantir, HBGary Federal, and Berico Technologies–made to Bank of America, proposing to help it respond to Wikileaks.
In addition to the degree to which the proposal emphasizes the national security ties and military background of the employees of the company (particularly Berico), the presentation fleshes out what the companies proposed. Under potential proactive tactics, it lists:
- Feed the fuel between the feuding groups. Disinformation. Create messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization. Submit fake documents and then call out the error.
- Create concern over the security of the infrastructure. Create exposure stories. If the process is believed to not be secure they are done.
- Cyber attacks against the infrastructure to get data on document submitters. This would kill the project. Since the servers are now in Sweden and France putting a team together to get access is more straightforward.
- Media campaign to push the radical and reckless nature of wikileaks activities. Sustained pressure. Does nothing for the fanatics, but creates concern and doubt amongst moderates.
- Search for leaks. Use social media to profile and identify risky behavior of employees.
Of particularly interest, they describe HBGary Federal’s abilities to conduct INFOOPS, including “influence operations” and “social media exploitation.”
In other words, in addition to proposing to conduct cyber attacks on Wikileaks’ European-based infrastructure (complete with a picture of WL’s bomb shelter-housed servers), the proposal appears to recommend that these companies be paid to troll social media, like Twitter, to not only “identify risky behavior of employees” but also, presumably, “push the radical and reckless nature of wikileaks activities.” You know–the kind of trolling we often see targeted at Glenn (and in recent days targeted against David House, who was also listed in this presentation).
In addition, the presentation proposes to create a concern over the security of the infrastructure. Interestingly, when additional newspapers in Europe got copies of the State cables (including Aftenposten), some people speculated that the files had come from a hack of Wikileaks servers. (Note how the slide above notes the disgruntled WL volunteers.)
That doesn’t mean we’re seeing this campaign in process. After all, Glenn has a ton of enemies on Twitter. And if the intent behind leaking additional copies of the cables was to suggest WL’s infrastructure had been hacked, that perception has largely dissipated as more and more newspapers get copies.
One final note: according to Tech Herald, the law firm pitching these firms, Hunton and Williams, was itself recommended to BoA by DOJ. As the presentation makes clear, these are significant government contractors. (Remember, we’re getting these documents because Anonymous hacked HBGary Federal, which was offering what it had collected to DOJ.) To what extent is what we’re seeing just an extension of what our own government is trying to combat Wikileaks?
What a shocking development.
Or something like that.
One more thing–note that aside from Assange, Glenn is the ONLY one this presentation targets.
He is Glennzilla after all. ;-)
Sounds like they’ve been reading the writings of Cass Sunstein.
Who was probably not amused by Glenn’s piece exposing his conspiracy theories.
Pretty amazing to see that these kinds of responses only need a little “Nudge.”
People should read
by Dr. David Ray Giffin, which fully responds to the Cass Sustein spine-chilling proposals. It is one of the most important books of our time.
Notice the category called out here in the slide “American Citizens”. So DOJ is telling the bank to go to this contractor who is singling out known “American Citizens”, for what? For targeting them for prosecution? For secret surveilance using the Patriot Act?
I find this whole thing disturbing of course.
Go Glen! Go Marcy! We know how a patriot would act!
I hate to be a grammar Na-i, but it is Glenn.
I was wondering about that myself. Perhaps there are legal considerations for the others, or vice versa.
To what extent is what we’re seeing just an extension of what our own government is trying to combat Wikileaks?
Big time!! Which begs another question. Why is the DOJ hiring a bunch of clownshows? Do they really think they are going to intimidate Greenwald?
Attacking servers based in France or anywhere else in the EU would violate data protection laws, computer security laws, privacy laws and the like. In some cases, the actions are criminal; there’s certainly explicit intent here, so proving guilty mind for criminal liability or punitive damages would be a snap. In other cases, civil fines and penalties are the order of the day.
That would apply to the actual hackers, these three “security” firms, for example (in the even they did or do what they propose), and independent contractors they persuaded to act for them. Liability ought to extend to all those in any criminal conspiracy or tortious enterprise.
These firms are not in the business of implementing costly strategies for global banks out of the goodness of their heart; they do so on instructions from their client. No doubt, each party would attempt to insulate itself from liability for every other parties conduct. But it is presentations like these, if acted upon, that could well demonstrate conspiracy or joint enterprise, and make such attempts fruitless.
Palantir’s claim to fame is their data analysis tools. You can see the UI on slides 4, 9, 10, and 21-24. This tool is used a lot by intelligence and military agencies. These guys are proposing to run the same sort of op that they help the government with. This represents the real danger of all the contracting that goes on. They seem to have forgotten that stuff that may be legal when you are doing for JSOC in Pakistan is not legal when you do it for a private company inside the U.S.
Just finished reading the Wiki for Palantir Technologies.
Yeah, and taxpayer money paid for the Palantir development of the software. It is owned by us. Who in the Pentagon authorized its use in the U.S.?
Can we find that source of funds and get congress to cut it off as a source of wasteful spending and “deficit reduction?” I doubt.
I also see top security consultant Booz Allen Hamilton was involved. They are the Security apparat top contractor.
Bank of America employs hundreds of lawyers. Some actually draft documents and counsel managers high and low. Many others spend more time coordinating the work of dozens of outside counsel as they manage entire groups of risk or other legal issues. They are wired into the relevant legal communities, be they firms with global, national or statewide reach.
The point is that B of A would have no need to have referred to it large corporate law firm such as Hunton & Williams (whose HQ is in Richmond, VA, in the fed systems conservative 4th circuit, but whose reach is national, with a large presence in DC and elsewhere). That is, B of A would have no need were it seeking lawyers to perform whatever passes for “traditional” financial and corporate work today.
B of A might need a referral were it seeking a creative range of legal services wholly unrelated to its corporate existence, its tax or securities exposure, or its banking services. But why on earth would such a referral explicitly come from the DoJ? Such things usually come via individual contacts such as another law firm, a former partner or business peer, a former roommate or an individual lawyer who happened to work for the DoJ or the Treasury or the Dod.
That the recommendation is touted as coming from the ethically challenged DoJ speaks volumes, not just as to the unusual nature of the work B of A is requested, but the consequences – or lack of them – that might follow were it to be performed.
I’ve been thinking about that. This effort was put together in response to the WikiLeaks threat to reveal damaging information about some large bank. BoA had some reason to think they were the bank (guilty conscience, maybe?). Why did BoA contact the DoJ about it and get referred to this law firm? Just some wild speculation, but maybe the damaging information involved the DoJ (or some other govt agency).
An obvious possibility, which EW raises, is that B of A was enlisted to participate in the government’s concerted, years-long campaign against WikiLeaks.
That could have come about several ways, such as by explicit request. More probable would be arranging it through silent understanding that attacking WL in this manner would be mutually beneficial. It’s possible, but it would be gallomping even for this administration, that a quid pro quo was offered that involved a concession B of A was seeking or liability it was hoping to avoid. When such things are part of the mix, expert bureaucrats leave them unsaid (except when seeking to replace senators from Illinois or mayors in Chicago).
You mean, say, something like a favorable settlement with a GSE or two?
Now that would be the far realm of possibility.
I just think the Admin does whatever BoA asks it too and in exchange BoA does whatever it thinks the Admin wants.
Pretty much. As I said, “When such things are part of the mix, expert bureaucrats leave them unsaid (except when seeking to replace senators from Illinois or mayors in Chicago).”
That’s why it’s so important that key players on both sides come from common networks and operate from the same ex-Goldman Scratch or other playbook. God forbid some idiot lawyer, auditor or newbie senior manager calls an audible from another playbook. It’s what makes the City of London and its tax havens work so uninterruptedly, too. David Cornwell’s books may be fiction, but he hasn’t had to go far for archtypes to fictionalize, whether in politics, business, the spygame or the banking game.
I suspect that they asked DoJ for a referal because they needed a firm willing to plan extra-legal activities, like, oh say, cyber attacks on foreign soil. And keep quiet about it. So DoJ gave them the firm they’re using.
BAD mistake! Now people know who might be conducting similar activities on behalf of DoJ and they know where to dig. Not really certain DoJ wanted to bring that law firm to Marcy’s attention.
Boxturtle (Scanning those docs looking for plans suggested to DoJ)
HBGary said they couldn’t/wouldn’t turn all the information collected on Anon principals over to authorities because the methods they used to collect them were not exactly kosher.
So, I think you are probably right on with that.
Would documents concerning such illegal cooperation with a law firm be subject to discovery in some kind of lawsuit?
There is a crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege.
That may be exactly right, but one or more layers of plausible deniability about seeking or authorizing illegal activity would have been built into the process.
Good point. This is war. Hard to believe it would come home, but it looks like we are in an odd way in a civil war. Most of us are by-standers, but that was the way it was the real Civil War. What is so stunning about all this is how it tears the curtain away from how the real power structure works in this country. We knew it worked that way with the Rethugs, but it comes as a little bit of a shock to see that the whole government is involved. It is like we were living in an occupied country. That’s how I see it.
You are seeing things quite clearly, and it is sobering.
The war will become known to even more as time goes on, just as the Egyptians are discovering that even trying to get mere political democracy amounts to the overthrow of the existing establishment.
“Permanent revolution” with a vengeance.
Bank of America employs hundreds of lawyers
They also have huge kennels to house the dogs to eat the homework.
I wonder whether Glenn has ever bought the ingredients to make falafels, or attended a vegan potluck. (Yes, I know those are FBI jokes rather than CIA, but still …)
Figuring some of this out is above my pay grade, but the political naivete stuns me. I know it shouldn’t, but it does. These ultra-expensive people just don’t know what they’re talking about, and that’s because their ideological commitments prevent them from being good detectives.
Somewhat related. Did you see the dustup between HB Gary and Anon regarding the former’s recent attempted “Social Media Exploitation” of the latter? Good stuff.
HBG’s plan to tease alleged information they had about Anon to try and attract contracts from folks wanting to prosecute them is rather interesting. As is Anon’s decision to release 100% of the “intel” HBG collected on them to the public domain.
At any rate, there are some 60,000-odd HBG emails out there on various Torrent sites. Might be some insightful information regarding their methods etc. It seems more germane than it did a few days ago … now that a picture emerges of the company trying to position itself at the nexus of Government vs. the Open Info community.
Ha. Somehow I missed that this was FROM those hacked emails.
Sorry–should have linked back to the post where I laid that out.
I’ve always wondered if there were incriminating docs regarding Paulson’s strong arming Ken Lewis’ BofA to accept acquisition of ailing Merrill Lynch.
I agree with the thought – The strong arming of BofA to accept Merrill after saying that they would not, and the unexpected lack of due diligence in the Countrywide deal, makes me wonder if BofA was used to mop up the mess – dropping the stock price from $50 to $3 – but with the end of the tunnel promise that they would be a very large Bank – bigger than they could otherwise get – and that the majority of the mess that they suffer would be plugged by the Fed and DOJ.
It could have been a grand 6 year plan sold by the government to BofA as patriotic and the right thing to do – and with rewards.
If so the conspirators were the Bush folks finding a way to keep those bonuses going to their friends on Wall Street. If so there are so many important bodies that will go down if BofA goes down it will be quite educational to see how they avoid the fall.
Not to mention the insiders shorting the stock on the way down, and buying options on the way up.
Thank you for the outline of the “proactive tactics”. Along with Jim White’s Deception Execution cycle”, a better analysis can be made of actions and reports in the media, by the military and the private sector.
A standard procedure beloved of in-house lawyers, when a client is contemplating high-risk behavior, is to channel “expert” advice about such behavior through an outside law firm, such as Hunton & Williams. It would be interesting to know whether that was what was intended here.
It works this way: Nominally, the client asks the outside lawyer for “legal” advice. In preparing to render that advice, the outside lawyers collect business and other data from non-lawyers and fold that into the “background” materials eventually submitted to the client. Sometimes, the latter is all the client really wants.
Washing it through an outside lawyer, under certain circumstances, can protect the non-legal advice from disclosure by making it part of the “attorney-client privilege” or “attorney work product”. This sort of unwanted disclosure is usually characterized as something hitting the fan.
I’d love to get your take on the Laura Rozen piece describing a meeting of scholars with NSC staff Dan Shapiro, Samantha Power and Ben Rhodes:
including this nugget:
>”They believe they understand how the president sees it,” he continued. “But to get the Secretary of State on board and the spokesmen and everyone else – they end up having the policy which they believe is clear, which is perceived [on the outside] to be vacillating.”
If I really thought that Samantha Power “understands how the President sees it” but was frustrated that Clinton wasn’t on board, I think I’d feel a little better about this administration, and feel a little less cognitive dissonance about my own relationship to it. But it seems too happy, too unlikely.
Another question for no one in particular. Let’s say you happened to be Facebook friends with the “Foreign Media Coordinator” for the youth committee in Tahrir Square. Whose e-mail addresses would you be gathering for her? I went for mid-level media, assuming that she’s got contact already with the news organizations that are over there, or if not, that they’ve got plenty of Cairene sources if they want her, but that it’s the second layer that she might not get to, and that might not happen to have any sources in Cairo if they wanted to write a story.
So I gave her a Boston Globe columnist and a Berkeley prof who’d written a friendly piece in the SF Chronicle; the Chgo Trib world desk with a note saying that most of it is now done out of LA, but at least get in touch. Told her to try Kerry’s Senate website comment, since that might get someone a direct line to Kerry’s staff, and he’s the friendliest Democrat (called for Mubarak to step down in an op/ed.)
Also, after reading a release, I told her “socialist terms scare Americans, so say the same thing with different words – when journalists and lawyers join your ranks, call them “the professional classes” instead of “the bourgeoisie” just to avoid scaring people who otherwise might listen.” :-) Sad that I’d feel the need, but hey, it seemed like advice worth passing along.
My next bit of advice for her is going to be – whenever she makes a contact, she should remind them that her counterpart, the Foreign Media Coordinator in the Suleiman regime is a prison employee who coordinates their beatings and the changing of their blindfolds.
It’s not funny, but it is, because that should get across to a reporter pretty viscerally what the stakes are.
Good advice about “socialist terms”.
It might be more precise to say that “socialist” descriptions scare the American media. Politicians used them as generic derogative terms all the time, without knowing or caring what they really mean. The American public is split on their reaction: followers of Beck, et al., seem to have a Pavlovian negative response; their opposites usually laugh when comparing the characterization implied by those terms and the underlying facts. Calling Obama centrist, for example, seems a misdescription, let alone calling him or any of his policies “socialist”.
Very interesting and funny. I noticed the emphasis on “professional unrest” this morning in an article at Al-Masry Al-Youm.
excellent point. it’s another facet of the larger gov role in manufacturing consent brought to light (thanks for the sunshine, ew) by targeting those who dissent.
glenn’s support of wikileaks makes him a target just as quakers protesting war made some of them (the afsc) targeted as “criminal extremists.”
i just hope that these jerks are the idiots they appear to be. most people have one or more weakness (threatening family, etc) that can be used to intimidate. i hope glenn and the people he cares about can be protected.
Just as a reminder, it’s still illegal for the USG to spend taxpayer funds – even if washed through international arms sales – to engage in undisclosed domestic propaganda:
The Pentagon pundits scandal, involving coordinated scripts by retired general officers acting as if they were independent commentators in the media and which promoted our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was only one example. The USG’s campaign against WikiLeaks may involve another.
Thanks for the reminder – but it’s been a while since we had rule of law in this country.
Looking over that presentation with the jaundiced eye of an ex-consultant, I’m starting to see a more laughable scenario behind this. Put yourself in Palantir’s shoes. Big law firm puts you in touch with even bigger client. This client is obviously desperate. You start seeing big $$$. But you have to move fast. WikiLeaks could release the documents at any moment and there goes your gravy train. You have to convince the
markclient that you have exactly what they need. In Palantir’s case, that’s this analysis software. You have show that it off. No problem, you already have massive amounts of “unstructured data” you’ve snarfed up off the internet. You plug in a few parameters (like show me the most prominent pro-WikiLeaks journalist”) and up pops “Glenn Greenwald, columnist at Salon”. You’ve never heard of the dude and that means the markclient probably hasn’t either. So, you make him the key part of the presentation. You’re saying to the client, “See this guy, you’ve never heard of him, but he’s the type of guy you need to worry about. We know just how to handle people like him.”
This shows the danger of this type of tool. It is what we used to call a brainpower amplifier. I’m sure it is excellent in the hands of someone who is an expert in the area they are investigating, but it can really be a stupidity amplifier as well.
I think the programmers’ jargon, dating from the days of IBM punch cards, was something to the effect of, “Shit in, shit out.”
GIGO – Garbage in, garbage out.
Is it fair to say the Palantir software is, in fact, what the Project Vigilent folks were claiming they could do, but probably can’t.
Yes, there are a lot of poseurs in this field. By the way, I think this was the software donated to the Pearl Project.
Based on the poking around I did, it’s pretty clunky and requires a mess of tinkering to get it to do much. It doesn’t feel like a product developed by people who had strong development and project management skills — more like something kludgy built by academics.
And Proj. V. was coming from the other direction — hackers from coding or sysadmin backgrounds who may not be developers, kludging from the other direction.
The Palantair software is untestable.
That is, they cannot prove is gives either accurate nor consistent results.
Yeah, I got a similar vibe of a consulting marketing presentation of the “Look at us! Look at our team! Look what we can do for you! Aren’t we clever?”
Yup, have read hundreds of those. There’s always someone on the team, often with decision making authority, who thinks that crap is just peachy.
… it can really be a stupidity amplifier as well
I think you’re right about this aspect. Behind the nefarious attacks, and the wish to preserve “bourgeois” and “imperialist” rule (those socialist words!), is a hefty dose of greed and self-delusion. This, unfortunately, doesn’t make them less dangerous.
I would assume it’s less a marketing effort from Palantir than a desperate need from BofA. Bank is threatened, so someone at the bank gets put in charge of investigating and responding to an impending threat. That special group are not specialists in whatever it is WL might do so they go to outside help; WL is also new to the outside help (which probably assigns them people who are not working on anything at the moment, those not highly sought), who quickly cobble together a collection of public info and flexible in-house tools and produce an off-the-cuff plan: it’s the best they can do with no time and little info. And it turns out spectacularly bad, because they are hacked and publicized.
Just a thought.
It’s always this way with corporate incompetence.
Back in the day when computers were new, corporations would appoint IT guys who would go out and buy IBM just to cover their ass. They didn’t know what they were doing and you couldn’t sell them something else by beating IBM’s specs and cost by a mile because they didn’t know how to evaluate what they were buying.
Even with the Chris Lee FunFest, I still think this is the biggest story of the day. Thanks for the coverage EW.
I haven’t seen a response from Glenn. Have you been in contact with him at all?
He tweeted my first story, then I tweeted him that he was just a careerist hack who put profession above cause and he tweeted back.
That’s all he said that I know of.
Yep, I saw the tweets. I’m sure he’s planning to write about this more in depth. We’ll probably see tomorrow, I suppose.
And you’re in this just for the money. *g*
Thank you EW!!
You would not believe how many of the “real” intel dudes are in awe of you and your well researched conclusions. Several read you to attain an actual understanding of what is going on, distrusting their own “superiors”.
Well done, ma’am.
This is the one that just jumped out at me. Who does that? Hmmmm. This is exactly what they did to Dan Rather.
One of the reasons I was pissed that the Rather case never made it to court was that we could find out how slipped them the fake document and then tipped off “buckethead” that the kerning was wrong. “Check it out! It’s totally wrong! It throws the whole story into question!”
Yeah, that Rather case would have been very illuminating.
You write —
This was exactly my thought when I read about the DOJ recommending the firm — did DOJ just outsource its dirty-work?
I find the DOJ hookup just way too close to separate players. Isn’t the DOJ supposed to be protecting us from TBTF instead of the other way around?
EW, thanks for these updates and for truth telling. One day, they are going to end up with all the documents on their desks with no way to cover it up again.
Thanks so much for exposing this, Marcy. It’s worthy of Goebbels.
Business + Government – Liberty = Fascism.
If it’s a disinformation campaign & it’s leaked so that everyone knows about it, is it still a disinformation campaign?
Yes, because the media that reaches the largest audiences in this country will report the lies and rumors as quasi-truths and the sheeple will eat these quasi-truths up.
EW, your last sentence is the “essence”, it IS winky, winky, nudge, nudge … (and none of those involved sees a single, solitary thing wrong with it … except that it too, now, has been revealed).
One notes, ot, that you, Marcy, Jane Hamsher, and Glenzilla, have been recognized by Jason Linkins, over at HuffPo, for your combined effect upon the US Government’s allegation that Assange induced Manning to “steal” government information. The time lines you established, Marcy, have not only created seriously reasonable doubts, in the minds of many, but have also shown the government to have been, considerably and consistently, less than honest …
As I have said before, and shall say, so long as I’ve breath to do so; should this nation, ever again, be a place of the rule of law and of consistent humanity, a place upholding a life-philosophy to be proud of, then you, Marcy, will deserve the sincere thanks of all of us. Which fact will be and is true … so long as genuine humanity and honest history may prevail.
Something that hits me, you can pressure the media on left because they have the mentality of preserving their careers over cause. Tells us a great deal about why we have so few honest media.
Please excuse this off-topic comment, about the sunsetting PATRIOT Act provisions (I don’t see a recent topical post anywhere at FDL better suited for this, and the House leadership is trying to move before anyone realizes what’s happening or can increase the momentum to slow this down).
I just posted a detailed update about House action today on that front, in this comment in an older thread, and repeat here only its postscript about the activities of our degenerate Senators this week:
P.S. Meanwhile, in the Senate, with the sunset of three PATRIOT Act provisions imminent, the Senate proceeded to adjourn from late morning Tuesday (2/8) through late afternoon Thursday (2/10) to allow the Democratic members of the Senate to spend this week in some sort of private “issues conference.” Before they adjourned, “no roll call votes” were promised the membership of the Senate by the Majority Leader, for the rest of this week and until early next Monday evening. Thus, despite the Senate supposedly being in the midst of a semi-open process of debating and amending a vital Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill since the beginning of last week, exactly four amendments (or equivalents, such as motions to waive budget points of order) have received votes on the floor, and only one of those four was actually germane to the FAA legislation itself. FAA legislation about which Harry Reid has already revealed his itchy supermajority-hand, even as he ensures that the (simple-majority) floor business of the Senate remains suspended (by the make-believe quorum call) until he’s prepared to see it resume, and then only on the terms imposed by Democratic and Republican Party leadership, “regular order” be damned:
If the BOA (or for that matter the DoJ) get taken down for their efforts to investigate and attack Assange, based upon hacks and counter-hacks it would be sweet. It would be Ellsberg getting off all over again. Then again history never quite repeats the same way, though institutional weaknesses and stupidity of governments and organizations are a constant.
That’s the interesting question—has BofA participated in a conspiracy to break the various telecommunication, libel, and anti-cyber stalking laws in various jurisdictions? It looks like they were thinking about it at the very least…
EW, thanks for posting this one.
Slide 4: nice Visio diagram
Slide 5: ‘Glenn’? That’s a bit chummy, isn’t it?
Off topic. Former FBI now ACLU talks about survelience
doj makes a referral to security firms re: bof america.
hutton & williams is the firm referred.
according to sourcewatch bof america is already a h&willie client.
h&willie claims “privacy interests” as one of its specialities.
also claims multi-natl presence
go read sourcewatch:
enter in der goggle:
“huton & williams +tobacco industry”
yes,” tobacco industry”!
h&willie are centered in richmon, va.
big richmond law firms breath smoke.
I’ll have to dig through my infrastructure bank posts for all my links to happy investment bankers “awaiting the big time” through infrastructure.
Reuters: “Exclusive: Assange suggests bank documents are a snore”
Has anybody besides Manning lost his or her job because of WL?
A Tech Fix For Illegal Government Snooping?; NPR; Dina Temple-Raston; 6/13/09
How Team of Geeks Cracked Spy Trade; Siobhan Gorman; Wall Street Journal; 9/409
Palantir: The Next Billion-Dollar Company Raises $90 Million; TechCrunch; Evelyn Rusli; 6/25/10
Gandalf to Saruman [in the movie]:
Your last quote from Lord of the Rings made me laugh. Then I realized that was why the company name Palantir sounded so familiar. The company should rethink its name (or the company’s customers should think twice about using Palantir), because at least in LoTR people had a poor track record when using Palantir to interpret connections. Oh, the irony:
from Palantir entry in wikipedia
synoia @72 and harpie @77
it’s cynical, i know, but somehow i get that familiar feeling that dear old nat’l-security-state gov has been taken – again.