DC's Dirty Tricks, Revealed in Memo for the Chamber of Commerce
A tale of double agents and strategic humor pieces--the tricks aren't so much dirty as strange
Let's say you're the Chamber of Commerce. Let's say a watchdog group called U.S. Chamber Watch is bothering you, filing legal complaints and asking pesky questions about your relationships with corporate entities and conservative interest groups. What do you do? Do you reach out to a trio of information companies and discuss shady tactics you could use to delegitimize your critics? To "discredit, confuse, shame, combat, infiltrate, [and] fracture" them?
Seriously--do you? That's what people are asking, now that the hacking group Anonymous has leaked a cache of e-mails and documents that appear to link Hunton & Williams, the Chamber's law firm, with a trio of cyberintelligence companies that calls itself Team Themis. (The Themis masthead is pretty great: it shows a gladiator brandishing a pike, with the words "Committed to Impact.") Some of the leaked Themis documents describe strategies for undermining the credibility of U.S. Chamber Watch. One such document offers a six-point plan. Highlights include:
1. Paint US Chamber Watch as an operative of CtW [labor group Change to Win] and the unions, while at the same time highlighting the organization of the unions against the chamber. We should show also the flow of members from unions to CtW as well as the closeness of CtW and US Chamber Watch.
3. Create a false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information, and monitor to see if US Chamber Watch acquires it. Afterward, present explicit evidence proving that such transactions never occurred. Also, create a fake insider persona and generate communications with CtW. Afterward, release the actual documents at a specified time and explain the activity as a CtW contrived operation. Both instances will prove that US Chamber Watch cannot be trusted with information and/or tell the truth. [...]
5. If needed, create two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second. Such work is complicated, but a well-thought out approach will give way to a variety of strategies that can sufficiently aid the formation of vetting questions US Chamber Watch will likely ask.
6. Create a humor piece about the leaders of CtW.
A humor piece! Presumably something like "I'm Comic Sans, Asshole."
According to Politico, the Themis documents also provide "biographical information about Chamber Watch employees, their allies and families," and the Los Angeles Times reports that some of these dossiers also included photographs of anti-Chamber activists. For its part, the Chamber of Commerce has disavowed any knowledge of Themis's proposals, saying of one, "[It] was not requested by the Chamber, it was not delivered to the Chamber, and it was never discussed with anyone at the Chamber." However, Think Progress reports that "at least six separate leaked [Themis] emails suggest that, contrary to their denials, the Chamber was repeatedly made aware of the activities" of the Themis groups.