Plot Exposed Against Bloggers, Rights Advocates

By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

A secretive hacker’s group has exposed what appears to be a shocking plan by a well-connected security company to defame and otherwise harm human rights advocates, unions and bloggers who have offended powerful companies. A security contractor developed the plan to sell to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce via one of its law firms, Hunton and Williams. The hacker group Anonymous exposed the scandal, described below.

A security company named HBGary Federal that is well-connected to U.S. government and major business clients was exposed as creating a shocking, dirty tricks plan to hurt bloggers, unions and activists who defend Assange and criticize the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The hackers group Anonymous learned that it had been targeted by HBGary and responded by purloining from the company a trove of what it calls some 50,000 emails and similar documents apparently showing how the security firm has been developing an illegal disinformation plan for potential sale this month to the law firm Hunton and Williams. The latter works for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was recommended by the Justice Department to Bank of America for the latter’s defense against WikiLeaks exposure. 

More generally, our reporting at the Justice Integrity Project makes this scandal especially relevant to us, our colleagues and courageous sources. We have published cutting-edge stories on Sweden’s prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains in the news because of his strange extradition hearing this week in the United Kingdom. Sweden wants him for questioning about two sex affairs gone bad last summer that haev resulted in controversial claims of sexual misconduct by him. Sweden initiated a global manhunt for him but denies his claims that the questioning is a ruse to hand him over to the United States for spy charges. Human rights advocate Dr. Marcello Ferrada de Noli, right, a medical school professor in Sweden who also works in Italy, is among those who have been drawing heavily on our work this week. He requested an update, published simultaneously on his Professors Blogg and below, with several updates here to include breaking news.

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Critics Probe WikiLeaks, CIA, Arab Uprisings

By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

There are so many revelations now about WikiLeaks, its supporters and North Africa uprisings that we must postpone publication of alarming news exclusives we've recently received about serious scandals in New Jersey, Alabama, Texas and Mississippi. The future of web-based investigative journalism is at risk by the security-related worldwide crackdown on whistleblowers and journalists. That has to take priority over any one case back home.

In a United Kingdom courtroom this week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faced potential extradition to Sweden to answer sex charges. We know that defenders of Sweden scoff as Assange's attorneys argued that extradition could lead to his extradition to the United States to face a death penalty or other extreme rights deprivations, such as those imposed pre-trial on Army Private Bradley Manning. But feminist author Naomi Wolf, right, cited our work at the Justice Integrity Project in arguing in a new column that Sweden’s all-out manhunt to capture Assange cannot really be just for misconduct in sex. Instead, she draws on research and her extensive experience to suggest political motivatations. She cites eight "aberrations" in normal police prosecedures that's she has studied for nearly a quarter century in rape cases. Similarly, medical school professor and human rights advocate Dr. Marcello Vittorio Ferrada-Noli in Italy published several hard-hitting columns criticizing Swedish legal procedures and political leaders. His critique also of Associated Press and other major media news accounts is part of the much larger story here whereby "old" and "new" media are using the case to battle for survival -- or the kind of vast wealth an power represented in Sweden by the two-century-old media powerhouse Bonnier, AB.

There's lots more. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington announced the sale of her start-up to AOL for more than $300 million. Meanwhile, an Associated Press investigative report shows that CIA personnel are rarely punished after breaking the law in cases of mistaken arrest, rendition, torture and other misconduct. That story is excerpted below. So are the others cited here, including ones about Justice Department investigations of WikiLeaks and the pan-Arab uprisings against dictators. The Wall Street Journal reports, for example, that the DOJ’s much heralded investigation of Manning is failing to find strong evidence linking him to Assange. Yet ligitation expert and legal reformer Harvey Silverglate argues that authorities wield so much power that they don’t need strong evidence to put Assange in prison for many years as a lesson to others tempted to air embarrassing government secrets. As part of this all-out enforcement effort, federal Assange investigators seek to use Twitter accounts go development information on everyone in the social networks. We know of this only because Twitter decided to fight for the protection of its users, with other social networks presumably involved as well but choosing silence and compliance with federal requests for personal data searches.

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Feb. 10 Radio Probes Wild Bill Donovan, OSS Spymaster

The author of the new book Wild Bill Donovan will discuss one of the nation’s most exciting and secretive generals Feb. 10 on the Washington Update radio show that I co-host with Scott Draughon on the My Technology Lawyer radio network. Click to listen Live! worldwide at 

noon (EST) or by archive. In one of his first interviews following book release Feb. 8, Douglas Waller, at left, will describe what’s new and important about his research on Donovan —the man Franklin Roosevelt made his top spy in World War II. Waller’s book describes Donovan as “a mythic figure whose legacy is still intensely debated.” Donovan directed the Office of Strategic Services (the country’s first national intelligence agency and predecessor of today’s CIA.  In announcing the book, the Free Press also said:

Donovan introduced the nation to the dark arts of covert warfare on a scale it had never seen before.  Now, veteran journalist Douglas Waller has mined government and private archives throughout the United States and England, drawn on thousands of pages of recently declassified documents, and interviewed scores of Donovan’s relatives, friends, and associates to produce a riveting biography of one of the most powerful men in modern espionage.

Wild Bill Donovan reads like an action-packed spy thriller, with stories of daring young men and women in his OSS sneaking behind enemy lines for sabotage, breaking into Washington embassies to steal secrets, plotting to topple Adolf Hitler, and suffering brutal torture or death when they were captured by the Gestapo. It is also a tale of political intrigue, of infighting at the highest levels of government, of powerful men pitted against one another. Donovan fought enemies at home as often as the Axis abroad. Generals in the Pentagon plotted against him….Separating fact from fiction, Waller investigates the successes and the occasional spectacular failures of Donovan’s intelligence career.

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Jersey Legislator Questions Christie Role In Prosecutions

By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

A New Jersey state senator wants to learn whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hired an admitted documented fabricator for a plush political job as a reward for court testimony helping Christie, below left, win his state’s governorship in 2009.

I’ll be a guest on Bob Carson’s “Carson’s Corner” radio show Monday on WRRC 107.7 FM in New Jersey discussing the importance of the demand Friday by Democratic State Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck, N.J. She wants the Christie administration documents that show why his team appointed John W. Crosbie to a $110,000-per-year state job even though Crosbie had admitted fabricating documents earlier in his career. Crosbie’s admission of fraud while working at a New Jersey university helped him win immunity in a deal enabling his testimony against a former Democratic state senator. That conviction bolstered Christie’s reputation as a crime-fighting U.S. attorney worthy of the governorship.

“Nobody got hired for a $110,000 a year job in this administration who wasn’t vetted,” Newark’s Star-Ledger quoted Weinberg as saying of Crosbie. “This guy did not parachute from the land of Oz into a job.” The governor's team hired Crosbie to be executive director of three state commissions as executive director for three commissions on autism, spinal cord research and brain injury.

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Revealing the Secrets of Egyptian, U.S. Leaders

By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

Television functions at its best in showing us so vividly the street demonstrations and counter-rampages that likely mark the end of the three-decade rule of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. But written work, often published in obscure locales at least slightly protected from political pressures, better helps us understand the all-important question: “Why?”

To explore motivations by Egyptian and United States leaders that are not readily captured on our nation's TV cameras, we excerpt below recent comments by experts in security and human rights. Some are mainstream. On Feb. 4, the Washington Post published, “The Right Message for Mubarak” by a Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian-born scholar at Drew University in New Jersey who was tried and convicted in absentia on charges of "defaming Egypt's reputation" for writing a Post column in 2007 in support of democratic change. By then in exile, he wrote, “Though Mubarak vowed this week to finally step down in September, few believe him, and with good reason: He has reneged on every election promise for political reform made since coming to power in 1981. Only hours after offering this 'concession,' Mubarak unleashed thugs and provocateurs on unarmed protesters amassed in Tahrir Square. At least five demonstrators were killed and hundreds injured.”

TV vividly portrays such riots. But why doesn’t Mubarak simply retire with his family's ill-gotten, U.S. taxpayer-provided billions to live his last years in peace at a secure locale? Lawyer and commentator Scott Horton, right, provides clues in his column “Gimme Shelter,” recently published in Foreign Policy. “It may be because exile isn't what it used to be; over the last 30 years, things have gotten increasingly difficult for dictators in flight,” Horton writes, adding:

Successor regimes launch criminal probes; major efforts are mounted to identify assets that may have been stripped or looted by the autocrat, or more commonly, members of his immediate family. I witnessed this process myself, twice being asked by newly installed governments in Central Eurasia to advise them on asset recovery measures focusing on the deposed former leader and his family. More menacingly, human rights lawyers and international prosecutors may take a close look at the tools the deposed dictator used to stay in power: Did he torture? Did he authorize the shooting of adversaries? Did he cause his enemies to "disappear"? Was there a mass crackdown that resulted in dozens or hundreds of deaths? A trip to The Hague or another tribunal might be in his future.

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Radio: Common Cause Probes Justice Thomas $$$s

By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

Should the Justice Department investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for failing to disclose his wife’s income, as required of all judges? That’s a question for Common Cause Vice President Mary Boyle, below at right, today on my Washington Update radio show. She will describe during the noon (EST) show her watchdog group’s revelation that Thomas has never complied with legal requirements to reveal his wife’s income. Beyond that, Common Cause seeks a formal investigation of both Thomas and fellow Justice Antonin Scalia for their featured speeches at policy retreats funded by special interests.

Co-host Scott Draughon, founder of the My Technology Lawyer Radio network that distributes the show nationwide, helps lead the discussion. You may hear it nationwide by clicking here and via archive later at the same site. Call in questions via 866-685-7469 or by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In late January, Common Cause announced its findings that Thomas failed to report his wife's income from a conservative think tank on financial disclosure forms for at least five years. Between 2003 and 2007, Virginia Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, earned $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, according to a Common Cause review of the foundation's IRS records first reported by the Los Angeles Times. Thomas failed to note the income in his financial disclosure forms for those years, instead checking a box labeled "none" where "spousal noninvestment income" would be disclosed.

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