Who’s spying on nonprofits for corporate America?

The Center for Corporate Policy recently released a report demonstrating how large corporations hire former law enforcement officials to spy on nonprofit organizations considered to be a threat to them. We added all of the firms in the report to a list in LittleSis–Corporate Espionage Firms–to take a closer look at some of the people behind these firms.

A sampling of corporate espionage firms, the people behind them and their former government employers

  • TrustWave, formerly known as NetSafe, was paid by the firm S2i, formerly known as BBI, to assist with electronic surveillance of Greenpeace for Dow Chemical. The report notes that TrustWave’s founder and a current director, Joe Patanella, formerly worked for the NSA.  A quick look at TrustWave’s interlocks shows that Phil Smith, current SVP of Government Solutions, formerly worked at the Department of Justice and the Secret Service.
  • Total Intelligence Solutions was hired by Monsanto to infiltrate unknown nonprofits organizing against the company in 2008. The report highlights the role of Cofer Black, chair of Total Intel at the time, in establishing the firm’s relationship with Monsanto. Black was at the helm of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center until 2002, when he took over counterterrorism efforts at the State Department before leaving to join ACADEMI, formerly known as Blackwater, as vice chair in 2004. Total Intel was launched by Erik Prince, owner of Blackwater, in 2007. In addition to Black, he brought on Robert Richer as CEO, who previously worked at the CIA.
  • Stratfor worked for Coca-Cola and Dow spying on animal and human rights activists, according to emails released by WikiLeaks in 2012. Fred Burton, one of the emailers and Stratfor’s VP of Intelligence, came into the private sector from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Stratfor’s interlocks show that another vice-president, Scott Stewart, also came from the State Department.

One of the dangers of corporate espionage is that it can be difficult for journalists and watchdog groups to find information about these activities; CCP’s report is essentially a compilation of many existing case studies that hadn’t been brought together in one document before. The report notes that law enforcement will need to get involved in monitoring these activities, many of which seem to be illegal, in order for change to occur. But will the same agencies that employed many of these spies in the past be willing to investigate and prosecute them in the future?

If you have some free time over the holidays, check out the list in LittleSis and add your own research about the people and organizations involved in corporate espionage.