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2010-12-03

Greenpeace Sues Chemical Companies for Corporate Espionage

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Charlie Cray, senior researcher with Greenpeace USA and director of the Center for Corporate Policy in Washington, D.C.

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Greenpeace has filed a lawsuit against two major chemical companies and their PR firms for corporate espionage. The complaint alleges that Dow Chemical and Sasol — formerly CONDEA Vista — hired private investigators to spy on Greenpeace in the late 1990s. The charges of espionage center on surveillance of the Greenpeace office in Washington, D.C., and the infiltration of a community group in St. Charles, Louisiana, that was working with Greenpeace on dioxin contamination. Greenpeace accuses the corporations of engaging in this level of surveillance "with the intention of preempting, blunting, or thwarting" the organization’s environmental advocacy campaigns. For more on this story, we speak with Greenpeace USA senior researcher Charlie Cray. Dow Chemical declined to comment on the lawsuit. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Greenpeace has filed a federal lawsuit against Dow Chemical and Sasol North America for engaging in corporate espionage. Also named in the suit are the public relations firms Dezenhall Resources and Ketchum and the now-defunct firm Beckett Brown International. The lawsuit alleges that corporate spies stole thousands of confidential documents from Greenpeace, including campaign plans, employee records, phone records, and donor and media lists.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on the lawsuit, we’re joined now from Washington, D.C. by Greenpeace senior researcher Charlie Cray.

Charlie Cray, you’re talking about corporations that infiltrated Greenpeace around the country and stole all these documents. Explain exactly what happened.

CHARLIE CRAY: Well, Dow Chemical and Sasol Resources, which used to be CONDEA Vista, are two large chemical companies that Greenpeace was campaigning against for their emissions of dioxin and other pollutants. And Dow had these public relations companies — these two companies did — that went to this firm, this former Secret Service, FBI, NSA people, who in turn pilfered Greenpeace documents, intruded on Greenpeace property, surveilled individuals, intercepted electronic communications, and it went on and on.

And after this company fell apart, the former owner, who was left holding the bag, called a reporter, Jim Ridgeway, who published a story in Mother Jones in April of 2008, revealing some of these activities. When we read that, we launched an investigation. We collected as much evidence as we can, and we filed suit here in the District of Columbia on Monday. People can find the complaint at spygate.org, spygate.org, as well as a fraction of the supporting evidence. I mean, we have seen essentially a company that will — and the charges are laid out in the case — trespass, intrusion and RICO, which is, you know, conspiring to create an enterprise to commit illegal acts and the sharing of information among all these parties. And, you know, we’re going to take this issue to court, because we feel we have a very strong case against all these entities.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how it all happened. I mean, this is massive, and it goes well beyond Greenpeace, when you look at these companies infiltrating your organization. Give examples for us.

CHARLIE CRAY: Well, BBI, the defunct private investigation firm, hired subcontractors, including off-duty police officers, who went through Greenpeace’s trash to find useful documents on a regular basis over two years. They did this almost twice a week on average. They also used subcontractors who had colleagues who attempted to infiltrate Greenpeace as volunteers. They cased the Greenpeace office, looking for we don’t know what, but probably doing advance scouting for people who would then intrude upon the property. We found a list of door codes. We found a folder that said "wiretap info," which was empty. We know this company has subtracted with a company called NetSafe, which is a company that was made of former NSA officials skilled in computer hacking and things like that. So, we really don’t know the full extent of this, but what we’ve seen is incredibly shocking. And our goal is to bring this out into the light of day and to stop it if it’s still going on.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, in some cases, they actually — in one case that was reported, they actually used a Washington, D.C. police officer to assist them in this, and they were gathering credit card information, Social Security numbers of Greenpeace employees, as well?

CHARLIE CRAY: We found that — we found that information. We found campaign plans. We found media plans, lists of media. You can imagine what a company like Dow can do with that kind of information, preempting Greenpeace strategies and so forth. And it wasn’t just Dow. There were dozens of companies that were clients of both these PR firms and the investigative firm.

AMY GOODMAN: Charlie Cray, we want to thank you for being with us. And as Jim Ridgeway reported — and he’s the one who exposed GM spying on Ralph Nader decades ago, that was exposed in Congress, and there was a big settlement for Ralph Nader — he also reported spying targeted Friends of the Earth, GE Food Alert, the Center for Food Security, Fenton Communications. Charlie, thanks for being with us. Greenpeace is his organization. We’ll be covering Greenpeace and many other organizations from around the world as we broadcast from Cancún, Mexico, all next week at the U.N. global warming summit.

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