When the revelations about the NSA spying hit the media, there was a storm of outrage like no other. Media outlets all over were jumping on the government for spying on its own citizens in ways that appeared to be unethical, if not outright illegal. Remembering that wave of criticism and anger over the spying by the government, I’m left scratching my head why there has been no similar outrage over corporations spying on private citizens, employing methods that would also be unethical, if not outright illegal.
In a report titled Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations by Gary Ruskin, the methods employed by numerous corporate businesses to spy on their critics is laid out for all to see. One would think that there would be outrage accompanying such a revelation, but a cursory Google search shows very little reported on the subject at the time of this writing. Considering these corporations are hiring security firms staffed by the very same people who formerly staffed the NSA, CIA, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies, the actions are quite similar between these companies and the government.
These companies, worried about their critics, used different techniques ranging from infiltration of groups, trash rummaging, and theft of property to work towards undermining the credibility and arguments of their critics. Not believing what I was reading, I Googled a name or two from the report just to see if there was truth to the story. Those searches revealed the names were there as were the stories of their shenanigans. One person named in the report, Mary Lou Sapone, also known by her maiden name Mary McFate, worked as a volunteer for gun control groups going as far to hold seats on boards of these groups. While doing this under her maiden name, she was being paid by the NRA using her married name to spy and report on those very groups.
For those who wonder how these corporations and such are able to have so many bad issues but seem to avoid the negative press and pressure from outside groups, now you know one of the reasons why. When you know what your adversary is planning to do, it is far easier to defeat their efforts. There are probably instances of spying from these non-profit groups as well, but I highly doubt they are anywhere as sophisticated as what the corporations are doing. The money aspect alone all but assures the corporations will have a distinct advantage over their critics.
“Corporate espionage against nonprofit organizations is an egregious abuse of corporate power that is subverting democracy,” said Gary Ruskin, author of Spooky Business. “Who will rein in the forces of corporate lawlessness as they bear down upon nonprofit defenders of justice?”
Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON – have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.
Many different types of nonprofit organizations have been targeted with corporate espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups.
This type of information deserves the same press as the NSA spying. When people are breaking into offices and doing other underhanded and likely illegal things to fellow Americans, we should be screaming outrage at this just as we did over the NSA. Since it involves corporations, I don’t think this story will get much traction from some of the same people who were outraged over government spying.
This seems like a case of follow the leader. The government does something, and those trained by the government then move on to the private sector and do the same thing all over again. Of the numerous media outlets in this country, the lack of press on this is both surprising and at the same time not surprising at all. Most of the major media outlets are corporate owned, and based on the penchant for mergers and such, there are likely a few media outlets that have corporate partners/owners listed in the report.
- Corporations hiring ex-CIA, NSA, FBI agents to spy on activist groups (mintpressnews.com)
- Rising corporate espionage: Why we need Jeremy Hammond (salon.com)
- REPORT: Corporations increasingly spying on nonprofits… (latimes.com)
- Corporate Espionage and the Secret War Against Citizen Activism (rinf.com)
- New Report Documents Corporate Espionage Against Public Interest Groups (corporatecrimereporter.com)