If you’ve been following Marcy Wheeler, you know about the ChamberLeaks scandal which has erupted in the past 48 hours. According to hacked documents, a series of private security firms pitched a strategy to the US Chamber of Commerce to engage in smear campaigns against opponents of the Chamber’s work. The Chamber had several particular organizations in mind, including ThinkProgress, Change to Win, the SEIU, StopTheChamber.com and US Chamber Watch. And they hired a lobbying firm, Hunton and Williams, to go out to these private security firms and develop a campaign of sabotage. This included going after individuals and their families associated with these organizations.
The apparent spearhead of this project was Aaron Barr, an executive at HB Gary (one of the security firms). Barr circulated numerous emails and documents detailing information about political opponents’ children, spouses, and personal lives.
One of the targets was Mike Gehrke, a former staffer with Change to Win. Among the information circulated about Gehrke was the specific “Jewish church” he attended and a link to pictures of his wife and two children […]
Another target was Brad Friedman, co-founder of The Brad Blog. Barr’s profile of Freidman included information about his life partner and his home address.
Brad Friedman is the co-founder of the group VelvetRevolution.us, which created StopTheChamber.com, which is unaffiliated to the union-led US Chamber Watch effort. He was actually subbing for Mike Malloy on his national radio show last night when he heard the news. “I learned just before showtime about the attacks on my organization, but during the show I found out they had targeted me and my family,” Friedman said in an interview. “I used it to help explain how appalling and disgusting and anti-American these creeps are at US Chamber of Commerce.”
Friedman has been unable to respond to this at BradBlog, as his server has been down ever since the revelation on last night’s show. It’s possible that the attention and notoriety from this topic crashed the server, but so far, nothing has remedied it. Friedman put up a short statement at MikeMalloy.com explaining the disruption. He will host the radio show again tonight. “I don’t mind the spotlight, I would just like to have my website back up,” he said.
Friedman says that his organization StopTheChamber.com has no formal relationship with US Chamber Watch, contrary to claims from HBGary in the leaked emails. Occasionally one of the groups will link to something the other wrote, but that’s as far as it goes. “We created this campaign calling these guys out for the creeps and the criminals that they are,” Friedman said. “What’s amazing is, US Chamber watch is affiliated with unions, they have some funding. We don’t. We’re a citizens group, period. We raise 5 or 10 bucks wherever we can.”
“But these guys” in the Chamber of Commerce, he continued, “the money they were playing with is our fucking tax money. They’re funded by corporations like AIG and Bank of America who received billions in bailout dollars, and Exxon-Mobil with billions in tax subsidies. They take that money and use it to attack private citizens and private organizations for having the temerity to stand up and say, you guys are wrong. We’re fighting against how our own tax dollars are being spent against us.”
Friedman isn’t sure that the plans were never put into action, cautioning that we only know about the emails we’ve been able to see. He does not recall any incident in the past of being personally targeted, except one. Last year Fox News ran a story about StopTheChamber.com claiming that they put a bounty on the head of Chamber CEO Tom Donohue. “Like clockwork we received hundreds of death threats,” said Friedman. “The article came out of the blue, so somebody clearly tipped off Fox News. We don’t have direct evidence, but it’s interesting.”
His hope is that this incident will actually shine a light, not only on what the Chamber apparently attempted to do to him, but on their activities more generally. “That was the entire thrust of the Chamber campaign, to shed sunlight on who these people are and what they’re about,” he said. Friedman wants to look into legal recourse, though he’s not sure there is any. “If this is not against the law, the disinformation campaigns they were wanting to run, it seems like it damn well should be.” He would like to see hearings in Congress about the issue.
Friedman related this effort to the hoaxes being perpetrated on groups like ACORN and Planned Parenthood. Friedman was involved in a celebrated fight last year with the New York Times to get them to correct a falsehood in their ACORN sting reporting, and it took six months to get a partial correction. “This is a new era of dirty tricks,” he said, “picking up where the ratfuckers left off in the Nixon Administration, and they seem to be getting away with it with impunity. That’s what should be covered.”
Glenn Greenwald, also targeted by security firms in a separate incident related to Wikileaks, offered his thoughts on his website today.