Saturday, April 12, 2008

Secret Service agents spied on environmental groups

Another entry from the "Who's surprised but who's counting?" department. (Somebody should be counting, but nobody is.)

From the mid-'90s to at least 2000, a private security company staffed by former Secret Service agents spied on environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. They rooted through the groups' dumpsters, tried to plant spies in the groups, and collected activists' phone records.

Naturally, the Maryland-based security firm - known as Beckett Brown International and later S2i - listed Wal-Mart, Halliburton, and Monsanto among its clients. And BBI worked for PR firms that served major corporations like Dow Chemical that were being opposed by environmentalists.

In one instance, BBI's not-so-brilliant sleuths tried persuading the garbage collectors who picked up the trash at a candy company to give them the rubbish they collected. (The trash collectors refused.) Also, a PR firm targeted by BBI suffered a series of suspicious burglaries in which computers were stolen.

To sift through groups' garbage, BBI hired a Washington, D.C., police officer and a former Maryland state trooper. Apparently BBI was also connected with other cops, who BBI had carry out some of its dirty work. Although BBI disbanded in 2001, its officials remain active in other security firms, some of which have offices around the world. The suspect activities seem to be continuing.

This story is remarkable primarily because of its stupidity. When you get down to it, the guys who ran BBI are lightweights (as the run-in with the garbage collectors shows). Everyone knows the FBI was doing stuff like this in the '60s, and I knew horseshit like this was going on in the late '80s that probably did far more damage than BBI's bumbling, wussified antics. And I'm sure it still goes on now. BushAmerica wouldn't be BushAmerica if it didn't. That's why you have to be careful even if you're not doing anything illegal. It's always wise to tear up all discarded paper beyond recognition.

BBI's activities have been likened to 'Mission: Impossible', but I compare these shenanigans to a scene on 'The Dukes Of Hazzard' in which Enos spies on the Duke farm, falls through the trees, and wakes everyone up.


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