From the ChamberPot: Number Two

The Chamber of Commerce has tried to craft another non-denial denial that they engaged a bunch of private spooks to spy on people like Brad Friedman.

But it’s still a non-denial denial.

Once again, they emphasize that they didn’t pay HBGary.

The U.S. Chamber never hired or solicited proposals from HBGary, Palantir or Berico, the security firms being talked about on the web.


No money, for any purpose, was paid to any of those three private security firms by the Chamber, or by anyone on behalf of the Chamber, including Hunton and Williams.

But as I already pointed out, that’s because they got HBGary and its partners to work for free for a month or more. Free work on the Chamber’s behalf is still work on the Chamber’s behalf.

But their more interesting tack in this re-nondenial-denial is in how they characterize HBGary (and Palantir and Berico’s) plot to spy on Chamber’s enemies. As with their last nondenial denial, they emphasize the proposal written on October 29 for Hunton & Williams rather than discussing the plot itself.

HBGary’s proposal, which has been written about by ThinkProgress, was not requested by the Chamber, it was not delivered to the Chamber, and it was never discussed with anyone at the Chamber.

Emails show the discussions with the Chamber itself happened weeks after this proposal.

Finally, like Palantir and Berico did in their apologies, the Chamber blamed it all on HBGary.

The leaked e-mails appear to show that HBGary was willing to propose questionable actions in an attempt to drum up business, but the Chamber was not aware of these proposals until HBGary’s e-mails leaked.

Note how vague this is? Note how it portrays the spying HBGary (and others) planned as “willing to propose,” rather than, as the emails show, “did propose?”

We shall see what the status of the proposals were when the Chamber bought off on its free pilot with these security companies.

But once again, the Chamber does not deny that it was working with HBGary to spy on anti-Chamber activists.

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    I dunno what they’re worrying about. It ain’t like their big money members wouldn’t quietly support this sort of thing. The chamber can’t possibly be afraid of the law, not with ObamaLLP in charge of DoJ. They’ve got enough votes in congress to stop any regulation that might come from this. And MSM is carefully ignoring it.

    It’ll be business as normal, as soon as this blows over.

    Boxturtle (And we’ll be back to hippy punching! WaHoo!!)

    • madma says:

      I am thinking that if they try to go after Anonymous for hacking, this information that BofA and chamber is no different then they are, could hurt the case of DOofJ so they have to distance themselves.

      It does seem stupid for them to say “leaked e-mails appear to show that HBGary was willing to propose questionable actions in an attempt to drum up business, but the Chamber was not aware of these proposals until HBGary’s e-mails leaked.” admitting that HB was doing questionable actions? They have got to be really pissed at Aaron Barr for mouthing off to the FT.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    No reference in that NDD about the role actually played by longstanding BofA lawyers Hunton & Williams (which worked for BofA before being recommended to it by the DoJ), other than a vague reference to “vendors”. That might get us into Clintonesque parsing between sellers of goods and sellers of services, ad nauseum, and whether BofA meant to include H&W in its NDD.

    Since the NDD isn’t under oath and is without penalty of perjury, we’ll have to take it as seriously as any other pronouncement from a bank accused of systemic fraud in its mortgage operations, and which has every reason to publicly deny associations it may encourage if not explicitly “enter into”.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Absobloodylutely. The shorthand is likely to come in handy, especially if Anonymous discover evidence that documents H&W or BofA are lying liars about whether and to what extent they are involved in these activities.

        As Glennzilla recently pointed out more elaborately than I did, more than a few of these proposed activities could be criminal or at least civil wrongs. So the players have motivation to lie, if they think they can get away with it. Even if they can’t, establishing criminal liability would require finding a prosecutor willing to look back, not forward. Civil claims could be prosecuted by individuals or groups defamed or otherwise wronged, but those claims can be expensive to prove and to establish a value for the harm caused.

  3. WilliamOckham says:

    I think the part that will hang them is this:

    The leaked e-mails appear to show that HBGary was willing to propose questionable actions in an attempt to drum up business, but the Chamber was not aware of these proposals until HBGary’s e-mails leaked.

    I doubt that is true and if it isn’t, there will be emails.

    • pajarito says:

      Kinda like this:

      BOA: Pssst…over here.

      HG**fed: yeah?

      BOA: I’z got enemies,I don’t like what dey sez. I want youz to mess em up, hurt their kids, wifes, get em in trouble at work. Take their livelyhood away.

      HG**fed: Sure, get right on it…[pause] Here’z da plan.

      BOA: Great, get on it. Oh, we’z nevah spoke. Pay when you get rezults, usual channels.

      Certainly immoral and corrupt…illegal.

      Why is this not comparable with a mob hit? Department of Justice: care to answer that for us citizens?

  4. PeasantParty says:

    Oh! So they didn’t read the emails? Ha!

    The DOJ did not recommend anyone, but just shoved out a list, right?

    Does this mean we can spy on them without consequence? They are currently our business enemies. Sheesh!

    America, home of the free. Yeah, right. Just lie and keep on keeping on.

  5. jdmckay0 says:

    ANONYMOUS certainly has fertile fields for future endeavors… Chamber, RNC, Entire WS, and given available evidence WH email should be child’s play.

    So much corruption, so little time.

    Go get ’em guys!!!

  6. PJEvans says:

    Free work on the Chamber’s behalf is still work on the Chamber’s behalf.

    Ah, that’s their problem: they think that if you don’t give someone money for their work, the work never happened at all.

    They aren’t familiar with actual business practices, are they?

  7. pdaly says:

    No money, for any purpose, was paid

    Speaking of nondenials, this does not rule out a Hawala type system of money transfer, does it?

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Technically, it also does not rule out a bullion transfer.

      BoxTurtle (But I’m with EW, the thieves got it for free)

      • pdaly says:

        Yah, I guess if they were not worried about writing out their illegal plans, they wouldn’t be worried about mentioning payment either–unless paying for such a plan turns a thought crime into a real crime.

        • pdaly says:

          but of course it would take an interested DoJ to prosecute and that element seems missing these days–at least when it comes to prosecuting movers and shakers in corporations.

          • jdmckay0 says:

            In this case, as circle seems to be closing, makes me wonder if (how?) DOJ can prosecute themselves… as it seems they’re kind’a in the loop w/these spooks.

          • manys says:

            You might have trouble finding an interested DOJ when the DOJ gave the phone numbers of these creeps to the Chamber in the first place. The DOJ set this particular ball in motion themselves, with aplomb.

  8. scribe says:

    As you note

    because they got HBGary and its partners to work for free for a month or more. Free work on the Chamber’s behalf is still work on the Chamber’s behalf

    The whole idea of “working for free” just reinforces the image of these clowns as the dumbest fucks to come down the road in a while. One is compelled to wonder whether any of these outfits are publicly traded and, if so, what their shareholders think about “working for free” and its effect on the value of their shares….

    • TobyWollin says:

      So, how does this ‘working for free’ or ‘working on spec’ work in the socalled ‘real world’? Well, let’s see now – who else does this? Architects. Advertising and graphics arts agencies. Lots of people. But the key is this – no one just whips up models, proposals, artwork, etc. without a whole lot of discussions and meetings FIRST because you don’t want to put a whole lot of time into doing this sort of stuff and just shoot blanks. You have to know pretty much what the potential client wants so that when you show up, the only comments you get back are in the range of small tweeks. So, it really doesn’t matter if they ‘hired’ them or if ‘contracts’ were not ‘signed’. Meetings took place. Emails and phone calls were exchanged. These guys did this work with an ‘understanding’, even if it were second or third-hand, through another party.

      • scribe says:

        No fooling. I was being not a little sarcastic, something which cold photons have a hard time conveying.

        But, still, if one of these outfits is a public company, the shareholders might have some interest in finding out just how much unpaid-for work the company is doing.

  9. IntelVet says:

    Cut to the chase.

    What legal recourse does the public have against this “business as usual” practice?

    • emptywheel says:


      Particularly not when the govt has a big disincentive to prosecute because the corporate spooks do so much work for the govt, it would quickly get embarrassing for the govt to prosecute.

  10. ThingsComeUndone says:

    They did propose illegal spying why they thought the bank would go along with it. Why probably past experience lets get an investigation going now.
    Or the Government can be embarrassed more when Wiki leaks and the Hackers do their job for them.
    Chances are DOJ has talked to BOA about this matter or about not prosecuting them for the housing crisis.
    No investigation means others will investigate.

  11. solerso says:

    and all of this is just one more example of how the security state apparatus cant be controlled. all of these private “security” companies,that seem to create more chaos than they prevent, will have to find work. thats the whole point of being a “private security contractor” we’ve already seen some of these companies offer armed troops to surround and “gaurd” voting sites during the 2008 presidential elections. Now theres this travesty. God knows whats going on we dont know about. I wonder if the torture doctors and waterboarders are preparing their resumes for service to local police departments.

    • manys says:

      and all of this is just one more example of how the security state apparatus cant be controlled

      Bull roar. One way to fight this is to start by asking your reps if they think it’s a good idea for the DOJ to be helping private companies find companies to wage dirty tricks campaigns. There are others, but suffice it to say I take specific issue with “cant be controlled.”

    • pajarito says:

      And don’t forget, they also offered to help “guard” the border to keep out brown people. Also, assist with hurricanes and such disasters to boot out the brown people….so the rich corporates can take their land.

      Exactly, a gov’t created industry now needs to feed off the land.

  12. arcadesproject says:

    ‘Chamber Pot’. I like that. Hope it sticks to the USCC, as it certainly deserves it. I think that among the court nobles of Europe in the 17TH, 18TH Century, a guy could become the specific noble whose job it was to give the king his chamber pot. And he would be, like, lord of the chamber pot, or something close to that. Sort of like the MSM.

    • Mauimom says:

      Sort of like the MSM.

      Here it is, Saturday, and over at the various MSM, they’re probably gearing up for their Sunday morning bleatings and circle jerks.

      Reading Marcy’s dissection of this “oh, we’re so clever” non-denial denial, I was struck by how different things would be if she were sitting in David Gregory’s chair tomorrow, or Bob Schieffer’s, or any of the “journalists” who are supposed to be doing this sort of examination and presentation.

      We can fantasize, I guess.

      • arcadesproject says:

        EVer wonder if those people from MSM have any self respect? Or do they just not understand where they fit in the scheme of things, i.e., as delivery systems for the #$%* delivered by MOTU and their employees?

  13. jdmckay0 says:

    OT: as commenting on all this stuff is along lines of exposed corp/gov absurdities passing as “policy” and what have you, brought to mind something I heard yesterday morning on NPR.

    It was early, just a wee hours news summary. Not sure if it was an agency official or (???), but the comment was CIA “intelligence” saying (from memory, pretty close though):

    Intelligence officials deny that their lazer beam focus on Al Quada blinded them to unfolding democracy movement in Egypt.

    I dun’o, munch on that one (was there “official” statement wrt that I missed?) a bit. It sure sent my bs detector dinging away.

    • emptywheel says:

      Nah, it’s true. Just consider how much online surfing they do to track al Qaeda. BUt they didn’t think about using the same skills to track whether or not a country was going to have a revolution. Mostly, though, because a lot of their web crawling depends on people like Omar Suleiman.

  14. yellowsnapdragon says:

    Honestly, HBGary likely spent *very* little time producing the proposal for the ChamberPot. Could the strategy be a template sitting on someone’s computer with appropriate corporate names plugged in where necessary?

    It’s not like discrediting the opponent, fabricating documentation, or spying on high profile individuals has been unusual for the last few years. SOP for spooks, really.

    • manys says:

      I know how to do most if not all of what HBGary was proposing. You’re probably right that it was boilerplate, but it seems apparent that the end result is an idea to pad hours at $250per for dicking around on Facebook and IRC.

  15. Sharkbabe says:

    Y’know, we all assume that the keystone kops/lie machine edifice is so trimphant, powerful, all-pervasive anymore .. but I’m not so sure these days

    I mean, look at what one fed-up guy in Tunisia started .. look at the relentless Glenn/Marcy/Etc axis of truth .. look at Wikileaks .. look at Anonymous .. just wow

    For once I see the Fascist Fuck Complex really back on its heels a bit .. is nice!

  16. madma says:


    Appears Hoglund of HBGary is threatening Anonymous because they work for the governement

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      From your link regarding Anonymous;

      “They didn’t just pick on any company, but we try to protect the US government from hackers,” he said. “They couldn’t have chosen a worse company to pick on.”

      Anonymous must be on to big stuff. Good for them!

      • bmaz says:

        Ooohhh noes, Anonymous picked on the “wrong company”; the big bullies. Ya, cause it’s not like Anonymous didn’t already have the 800 pound gorilla in the form of the US Government hunting them down like Wiesenthal did Mengele. But Anonymous has crossed the rubicon now, and HB Gary is gonna get them. Ooooooohh. Uh huh.

        These dumb bastards apparently got their corporate family jewels hacked in about the time it took to have a beer and eat some wings, but they are gonna bring the big bad wood now. The stupid and arrogance, it burns.

    • pajarito says:

      When you contract with the U.S. Government, your work products are the property of the government. If a work-product, paid for by taxpayers, was used or proposed for use it would be wrong for the contractor and a liability for the gov’t. Gov’t contracts usually require contractor compliance with law.

      If contractor had government software or utilities at their offices on company computers, that may take some prior authorization from the gov’t. Unless the rules are different for spy contractors (likely).

  17. NorskeFlamethrower says:


    Citizen emptywheel:

    It seems to me that what progressives must do is declare their willingness to go after the Obama administration and its potential conflicts of interest or misappropriation of public resources in dealing with the private sector. It is not enough to get the goods on the Chamber of Commerce and its attacks on citizen and public interest groups, what must happen is to keep repeating over and over again the relationship betweeen the White House (James Dailey) and the Justice Department (Eric Holder etc) and the corporate power structure. And call into question ALL business communications from referrals to use of common contractors between the government and the private sector.

    Since the last 2 years of the Clinton administration until this day, there are no longer any real legal restrictions on the interaction of the private sector and the government but there still is the appearance of conflict of interest and moral wrong doing. We progressives must realize that nobody from the corporate elite is gunna go to jail anymore for their use and abuse of government access, but as the economy gets worse and people begin to realize that government services are only provided to those who have the cash to pay for them…well, the power of public anger has been exibited for all to see in Tahrir Square for the last 3 weeks.

    Tie Chambergate and the BofA attacks on public interets and interest groups right back to the White House and the Justice Department and keep reminding people that we no longer have even a charade of a justice system or law making. All we have left is the scandal of crony capitalism and oligarchic government and the power of public anger.


  18. pajarito says:

    Anonymous, the hackers who infiltrated HBGary’s system showed real skills, even social engineering a network administrator into giving them complete control over, a security research site Hoglund has long maintained.

    “They broke into one of HBGary’s servers that was used for tech support, and they got emails through compromising an insecure Web server at HBGary Federal,” Hoglund said. “They used that to get the credentials for Aaron, who happened to be an administrator on our email system, which is how they got into everything else. So it’s a case where the hackers break in on a non-important system, which is very common in hacking situations, and leveraged lateral movement to get onto systems of interest over time.

    HBGary Federal (and Hoglund) top-secret security clearance revoked in 3, 2, 1….

    • emptywheel says:

      One of the emails has their tech guy resetting passwords. But for Aaron Barr, they just said something like, “Aaron is too damn stubborn to change his old standby password.

      Which I suspect means his one password gets you into everything.

      • pajarito says:

        Yeah, once they got Barr’s email addy, they emailed their IT guy posing as him, asked for a port and password reset. The IT guy did it! Once in Anon did that root-stuff, whatever that is. Glen linked to the article with that citation in it….second I’ll find it for link.

        Would you hire this High-tech Security firm now?

          • pajarito says:

            The second image in the KrebsonSecurity expands for the whole email “chat” between ‘Hogland’ and IT. Not Barr.


            IT, this is Hosni.

            I’m stuck in traffic right now, can you change the state TV to Al Jazeera feed right now?

            IT: Sure your Highness.

            Hosni: thanks…

      • PJEvans says:

        It’s probably something easy to guess, or most of it is. (I’m assuming they require a ‘strong’ password, with at least one digit and at least one of their permitted other characters.)

  19. pajarito says:

    Commenter hbgjunkie on KrebsonSecurity piece:

    “The fact that they got hacked means diddle about them as a company.”

    William, buddy… from the mouth of the president of HBGary… ALL of HBGary was compromised through a simple hole in a web server. In combination with the exploitation of Mr. Barr’s system, these guys have EVERYTHING. Anon, a group from who knows which countries, who knows what contacts, has all their source. So much for HBGary’s “ground breaking security solution”, apparently they can’t secure their own systems and I am supposed to drop a cool million plus on their garbage? Seriously, we actually vet our vendors and these jokers just moved, not to the bottom of the list, but completely off the list. Really, not securing your own assets is up to you, but your financial, customer data, customer financial info and YOUR SOURCE CODE???? why would anyone purchase a product that is days away from compromise itself? Good luck with the fire sale.

    Shorter: HBGary is toast.

    Yep, practice what you preach.

  20. jdmckay0 says:

    More Hogland comments:

    Hoglund said he first learned of the attack after attempting to login to his work email after spending much of Sunday afternoon doing work in his garage, purposely avoiding being around his computer.

    “I have a ridiculously long password, so I thought I mistyped it,” a noticeably distraught Hoglund recalled in a telephone interview. When it didn’t work after a couple of tries, “That’s when I realized there was a problem.”


    Hoglund said the timing of the incident couldn’t be worse, considering the RSA Conference in San Francisco is taking place next week, and HBGary was planning a major product release at the show.

    “They are causing me a great deal of pain right now,” he said. “What they’re doing right now is not hacktivism, it’s terrorism. They’ve really crossed a line here. I’ve worked so many years on HBGary, and I don’t deserve this. I never did anything to those people. They completely overreacted to [the Financial Times article]. Why did they need to do that?”

    Cry me a river.

      • pajarito says:

        Exposing truths of the rich and connected today = terrorism.

        Reading exposed truths of the “chosen” = terrorism.

        There are masters and the rest of us.

  21. orionATL says:

    from ew’s first chamberpot post, i quote this comment from furiousxgeorge which i found interesting:


    February 11th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    The chamber won’t let me post anymore. You don’t have to register so if someone would like to post something like this for me:

    From the e-mails:

    “2. Work as joint team to build 5-10 min demo (along the lines of the Iranian shipping demo – which is what Bob Q said sold the Chamber in the first place – great work Sam!)”

    Bob Q. is Robert Quackenboss, an attorney with Hunton and Williams.

    This is the Iranian Shipping Demo:

    Why would anyone need to use technology designed for detecting arms smuggling for simple political activism?

    Further, why was this attorney in your employ claiming you had already been convinced?]


  22. orionATL says:

    gracias, pajarito.

    i’ve just spent an hour reading.

    ceo penny is very focused :”don’t release our emails, please; it will cost us millions.”

    ceo penny and husband greg hoaglund are very morally obtuse, at least publicly; which is the same as saying their public-policy-and-citizenship morals are subservient to their careers.

    but then, that is the fundamental compromise people who work successfully over time within and between organizations must always be ready to make and are always willing to make:

    penny: “b. manning took an


    so he did, but the oath was not to ignore gov’t misconduct or to look the other way at gov’t wrongdoing when he recognized it!!

    like bradley manning,

    penny and greg have also, clearly, taken an oath though it is not a public oath lime manni g’s.

    penny and greg’s silent oath,

    like the oaths taken at goldmansackstheUSA, or citibank, or bofA,

    is to serve themselves and prosper financially no matter what the morality or legality of the gov’t or the corporate institutions they serve.

    they sit at their own corporation’s banquet table, helping themselves to money and comfort,

    while others of their fellow citizens starve for justice.

    • pajarito says:

      De nada,

      I took that same oath once, as did Manning. It says protect and defend the Constitution of the U.S. against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

      It does not say “ignore illegalities” In fact it is broadly interpreted that one has a duty to point out illegalities.