Sheila O'Donnell speaking
N5M Conference, March 1999
I am a licensed California private investigator; I have been a private investigator since the early seventies. I cut my teeth as an activist working in Washington, D. C. to top the war in Vietnam in the late '60's. I learned quickly that the US government was not only fighting a war in Vietnam but also a war at home against their own citizens. I also saw the collusion of industry.
During the 1970's in Washington DC we saw the beginnings of the rise of the right wing and we also saw the privatization of the police function. We saw FBI and CIA agents leave their agencies and join industry as the heads of security. Private security took over where law enforcement left off. It isn't seamless but what happens is that there is no oversight and the private sector is only bound by the laws of the country. It is only when they are caught that there is any question about whether they have 'overstepped their bounds.' There is no such thing as a former FBI or CIA agent or any government intelligence operative. They keep their ties to the intelligence community and they only know how to operate one way and that is through brute force and/or cunning.
Activists are increasingly being harassed, threatened, attacked and killed all over the world. As resources become more precious, the stakes for corporations exploiting those resources become higher.
Corporations view opposition to their policies the same way they view competition: a threat to their well being. While activists do not generally possess proprietary information, they do gather important evidence against corporations. Transnationals use operatives skilled in gathering information to counter both competition and dissident voices. They also advise their PR people of what they learn.
What's more alarming is that the governments of the countries in which multi-nationals operate often consider opposition to corporate depredation a threat to their national security. The rationale is that business provides jobs, and without jobs, the economy could collapse as consumption of tools and luxury goods decline or cease.
Activists from all communities have faced attempts at intimidation from corporations, law enforcement, the FBI and hate groups. Contrary to the media image, most of those at the front lines are women and so it is that women are the most attacked, often in rural areas or in marginalized communities. Women run most grassroots environmental organizations and most of the groups are small organizing against large corporations. While it is women who have borne the brunt of the attacks, men have been targeted as well and their sorrow and rage cannot be minimized. The human toll and waste of resources must stop and only we can do that.
The Wise Use Movement was created in the late eighties partially funded by resource extractive industries. In the words of their leadership, The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise formed the Wise Use movement 'to eradicate the environmental movement. We're dead serious, we're going to destroy them.' The organizers speak in the violent terms that thugs and criminals use. After the press started to pay attention to their gangster verbiage, Wise Use launched a campaign asking their membership to sign pledges of non-violence in an attempt to deflect the bad press they received.
The violence has not stopped in spite of this public relations ploy, nor has their violent rhetoric. On the contrary, as the Wise Use movement has grown in the West, the Militia movement and other extremists have joined forces with it.
The Wise Use movement has put public employees under siege for doing their jobs as mandated by the federal government. Federal land management employees in the field are targets of a growing campaign of violence, threats, and harassment. In the last two years, employees of the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management have been the victims of bombings, arson, beatings, and death threats; in many instances, the threats have been directed at the families of the employees.
In an attempt to demonize environmentalists, Wise Use leadership has created an 'Eco-terrorist Response Network' that attempts to paint environmentalists as responsible for 'crimes committed in the name of saving nature' but when they present their case, there is never proof that any environmentalist was the perpetrator. Wise Use labels environmentalists as anti-family, anti-Christian, anti-American, anti-people, anti-human, and in league with the federal government and the liberal media. The Wise Users portrays environmentalists as 'Watermelons, green on the outside and red on the inside' which has become the next communist threat. Not just Wise Use but corporations, the government, and the media conspire, whether deliberately or inadvertently, to demonize activists as terrorists. The damage done by these false claims is enormous.
PR firms create bogus citizen groups and tell us that oil companies and other major polluters are 'green.' The public is barraged by misinformation, silly science, and the scapegoating of individuals.
Corporations use Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) in an attempt to stop citizens from exercising their First Amendment right to petition the government. Governments, corporations, corporate-sponsored public relations firms, and ersatz 'community groups' target individual environmentalists and organizations.
The Good News
The good news is that activists have been successful in fighting for their issues as well as in defending themselves against the forces that would stop them. When we see attempts to intimidate an individual or an organization, it is clear that the group or individual is successfully raising the consciousness of the community. These attempts at intimidation are not personal; it is not because of something personal anyone has said or done. However, the damage done can be quite personal.
Judi Bari, a timber activist and member of Northern California Earth First!, was targeted by someone(s) yet to be discovered. While riding with her passenger Darryl Cheney, she was permanently maimed when a bomb exploded in her car in northern California in 1990. Pat Costner, a Greenpeace scientist, was the target of arsonist(s) when her library, office, and home in Arkansas were burned to the ground in 1991. She lost the library it took thirty years to build and all her personal possessions. After this fire, as other attacks on other activists we reported over the ensuing years, it became clear that the siege on activists was a much more serious problem, than had been perceived.
While we don't know who is doing the dirty work, we can look to history for patterns. The FBI instituted a program called Cointelpro (spy-speak for 'Counter Intelligence Program') that was operational from 1956 to 1971. At the peril of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, it was meant to stop 'disruption' by civil rights, peace and justice, and anti-war activists. A study of Cointelpro makes clear to what lengths the American government will go to maintain the status quo. As FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover acknowledged at the time, no matter what the program is called, the tactics will remain the same. Industry uses the same tactics: infiltration, psychological warfare, harass through the legal system, extralegal force and violence
In my own work, I have seen the Federal Bureau of Investigation refuse to investigate cases of
harassment against environmentalists, and indeed watched them work with the Oakland
(California) Police to create a media circus falsely blaming Bari and Cheney for carrying a
The FBI worked tirelessly and spent millions of dollars to set up Dave Foreman, a founder of Earth First!, in Arizona. In some respects, the government works for the corporations. The heads of security for virtually every multi-national corporation are former CIA and FBI agents. The same tactics used when working for the federal government are utilized in support of the corporations. The fraternity of former agents includes support from their brethren who have remained inside the walls of the intelligence agencies.
There are two stories that I want to tell you that I think are illustrative of the lengths that
multi-nationals will go to stem dissent. These tales are also important because they expose
their methods, which they are not wont to do. We know about these because they got caught!
The two operations that I will talk about now were not launched against environmentalists or other 'troublemakers'. They were launched against a former peer who complained about being treated badly and the second against a Wall Street Journal reporter. If they use these methods against their former friends and the media, there is no question, they will use these tactics against dissidents.
The Wackenhut Corporation
George Wackenhut, the founder, bragged in 1965 that the corporation had continued 'to update its files after the McCarthy period of hysteria, adding the names of civil rights and anti-war testers and other 'derogatory types' according to Frank Donner in his seminal book, the Age of Surveillance. He claimed to have four million files but in 1975 after a Congressional investigation, he donated his files to the Church League of America, a now defunct organization that supplied information to red squads (police intelligence units) and corporations as well as the FBI.
The Wackenhut Corporation claimed six hundred million dollars worth of contracts came from the US government on an annual basis; in 1991, that was one-third of the corporate revenue. The Wackenhut Corporation (Wackenhut) has the contract to supply security to US embassies and some of the most sensitive and strategic federal facilities in the country, such as the Alaskan oil pipeline, Aleyska Pipeline Service Company, the Hanford nuclear waste facility, Savannah River plutonium plant and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Wackenhut has a favored relationship with the US government and the right-wing not only because its founder was a former FBI agent and had close working relationships with right-wing organizations and multi-nationals but because numerous current and past intelligence officials sit on the board. Some of these include: Anti-communists Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, General Mark Clark and Ralph E. Davis, a John Birch Society leader; Clarence Kelley, former FBI director; Frank Carlucci, former Defense Secretary and former CIA Deputy Director; General Joseph Carroll, former Defense Intelligence Agency director; James J. Rowley, former US Secret Service Director; P. X. Kelley, former Marine Commandant; and, Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, Acting Chairman of President former U. S. President Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and former CIA Deputy Director. Former CIA Director William Casey was Wackenhut's outside legal counsel before he officially joined the CIA.
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company
The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company operates the Trans-Alaska Pipeline as the designated
agent for seven companies in a consortium comprised of: British Petroleum; Exxon; ARC;
Mobil; Amerada Hess; Phillips Petroleum; and Unocal.
As such, Aleyska hired Wackenhut to stop the leaks.
The Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs
In July of 1991 Charles Hamel complained to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs of the US House of Representatives that he had been the target of an undercover sting operation conducted by a private security company on behalf of the pipeline company and that Wackenhut had set up a bogus office to lure whistle blowers and others concerned about violations of state and federal laws in an effort to keep him from continuing his investigation. Hamel is a former independent oil broker who claims he lost his business as a result of oil contaminated with water, which was supplied by Aleyska. Hamel became one of Aleyska's chief critics and as such he gathered data about the pipeline company's environmental, health and safety violations. Hamel was a source for the committee on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Aleyska's Alaska operations.
As a result of Hamel's complaint, the committee held a series of hearings on the issue and, according to the Draft Report of the Committee found the following:
Aleyska admitted to hiring Wackenhut but asserted that it did so to search for stolen documents, which Alyeska feared, would fall into the hands of 'competitors, terrorists, or saboteurs.' Alyeska contended that they were only trying to plug unlawful leaks. The committee found otherwise. They found that 'Wackenhut agents watched Hamel's home, picked through his trash, obtained personal credit, banking and long-distance telephoned records, as well as information about his divorce, his family, his ownership of property, his business disputes with Exxon, and virtually all his activities in the environmental arena.'
Wackenhut was also found to have gathered information on other critics not known to be competitors, pipeline terrorists or industrial saboteurs. They spied on: participants in a demonstration against Aleyska for its role in the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill; Trustees for Alaska, a public interest law firm, Dan Lawn, an Alaska state Department of Environmental Conservation employee; Dr.Tiki Out, a Cordova marine pollution expert on the board of Cordova District Fisherman United; and Lewis 'Frank' Dehong, a prominent oil industry commentator and Fairbanks radio talk show host.
The committee also found that not only was Wackenhut attempting to stop Hamel from continuing to provide information to state and federal authorities, Wackenhut considered it a 'goal' of the investigation to have both Hamel and the Chairman, George Miller (D-California), indicted for alleged solicitation and receipt of stolen Alyeska documents. They also found that Aleyska and Wackenhut obstructed the committee's investigation of their undercover operation by withholding and possibly destroying and altering key documents and records of the covert activities.
The committee 'further concluded that the Wackenhut agents engaged in a pattern of deceitful, grossly offensive and potentially, if not blatantly, illegal conduct to accomplish their objectives ... Aleyska's disastrous campaign to silence its critics'
The Sting Begins. The Exxon Valdez oil spill led to disclosures about the failure of Aleyska's Oil Spill Contingency Plans. Pipeline owners were concerned about the leaks (of information, not oil) so they hired Wackenhut and provided the investigators with various articles and memos as the opening salvo.
Covert Billing. Aleyska's Manager of Corporate Security set up a covert billing system for the Wackenhut investigation. The Wackenhut subsidiary which guards the pipeline (AG&G) was to bill on behalf of the subsidiary which was doing the spying, conveniently creating a bill which appeared on first glance to be for guard services. The spy operation did provide a detailed bill directly to Alyeska' s Manager of Corporate Security but the bill to the guard operation was only figures, no details. Alyeska's payment route was also circuitous.
Bogus Environmental Litigation Group. Wackenhut set about laying its trap. Wackenhut created a bogus environmental litigation group called 'The Accolade Group' which they described: '...formed a responsible group of individuals dedicated to the preservation and proper management of this planet. Towards that end, we are conducting specific and selected research to assist organizations in dealing with oil companies and other [sic] who have demonstrated little regard to [sic] live in sustained harmony with our planet's life support systems ... Our main objective, through litigation in every Court available, is the maintenance of essential ecological precocious [sic] and life support systems, the preservation~ of genetic diversities and the sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems.' Note that Wackenhut is so disrespectful of environmentalists that they created grammatical errors to appear less professional than a law office would normally be.
Surveillance and Set Up. In March of 1990, three operatives traveled to Anchorage because
they believed that Hamel would be there for a meeting, which was subsequently canceled.
However, Hamel planned to attend an environmental conference scheduled during the same
week. The female operative, using her maiden name, attended the conference with instructions
to become familiar with environmental groups and was provided with cards claiming that she
was a researcher for The Accolade Group.
She was also to look for the conference roster to see if Hamel was listed. She located Hamel and followed him to a meeting in a bar with Hamel and another man but denies that she overheard the conversation. As she traveled back to Miami, she met Hamel and he invited her to sit with him on the plane for the first leg of her trip.
The woman subsequently testified that she gave Hamel her business card and he told her of his activities regarding Aleyska and Exxon and he discussed information which astonished her and made her uncomfortable at the amount of detail he gave a complete stranger. Hamel made plans to call the operative in the Accolade offices in Miami the following month.
Trash Cover and Surveillance. While the three were in Alaska, they discovered that Hamel was staying at the Voyager Hotel and they attempted to get account information and the record of telephone calls made from Hamel's room; the committee was told that they did not receive it. One of the men traveled to the Trustees for Alyeska office building and took photographs and seventeen items from the trash bin located behind the building. He also took two rolls of film of a demonstration on the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, identifying people he believed to be key members of the demo and noted license plates, which he subsequently had identified. He obtained the names of the organizers of the demo and added them to his index.
Bogus Office Set Up. Wackenhut operatives opened the Accolade office in the Coconut Grove area of Miami, Florida equipped with one desk and chair, telephone and answering machine, a sofa and end table, some environmental posters and Accolade's letterhead and brochure. Starting in early April, 1990, Wackenhut operatives worked in the office to make it appear real. Invasion of privacy: Wackenhut operatives collected AT&T's computer records of long distance calls made from Hamel's Alexandria, Virginia home until May of 1990 when Hamel switched carriers. Using the telephone numbers on Hamel's bills, the investigators identified four 'suspects'. They also obtained telephone records for Frank Dehong, Lois Simpson, secretary to Alyeska's General Counsel and calls to the 907 area code.
Bugs, Videotapes and Bogus Solicitation. Two of the operatives returned to Alaska on 1 April 1990 hoping to engage Aleyska employees in conversation about the consortium and its business. Towards that end, they rented two rooms at the hotel and they wired one with a low-light monochrome camera concealed in a hotel item, which allowed full view of all people entering the room. He ran wires to the other room, which allowed him to monitor the audio/video/telephone traffic and made it look like he had home video equipment at the hotel. They placed an ad in the 4 April 1990 Valdez Vanguard announcing Accolade's interest in confidential interviews with Valdez citizens willing to talk about the oil spill and other environmental issues. They placed similar notices on bulletin boards and car windshields but there were no takers. Apparently the local joke was that the Drug Enforcement Agency or spies for Exxon were in town.
Invasion of Privacy. Not to make the trip a total waste, the operatives befriended a bartender who filled them in on locals and the community; they obtained his credit report, vehicle registrations in Alaska and Florida, Florida driver's license, police record and property records. Another purpose of the trip was to lure an Aleyska employee and purchase documents from him. While they were unsuccessful in corrupting him, they did obtain his credit report, Sawyerville his home, checked his driver's license, vehicle registration and property ownership and collect garbage from in front of his home twice and tried to eavesdrop on him at dinner with his wife.
Hamel Falls Into Trap. Hamel learned about the notices on the windshields and contacted
Accolade to congratulate them on their audacity in getting past Aleyska security to place the
flyers on employee cars. He again called and spoke to the female operative and talked about
meeting in Washington.
Another one of the Wackenhut operatives spent four days in Alexandria spying on Hamel and his wife. They photographed Mrs. Hamel walking the dog and took two bags of trash and ran a record search on Hamel, including the bank balance from one of his accounts. At a pre-arranged meeting, two of the operatives rode in Hamel's car to his office and home in Virginia. During the ride or while at the house, one of the operatives stole at least one piece of mail. The same operative attempted to secretly tape-record the dinner conversation but his attempt was unsuccessful. In another visit, the operative stole three documents from Hamel's desk.
Setting up Congressman Miller. By 17 May 1990, the Wackenhut/Alyeska team decided that going after Congressman Miller was a good idea. The sought outside counsel regarding the legality of setting the Congressman up and ordered an operative to find out what she could about Miller. The attorneys noted the difficulties of an under cover operation aimed at the Congressman but suggested that since Wackenhut had such a close relationship with the FBI they might consider asking the FBI to authorize Wackenhut to do the job. They counseled the operatives to tape record all conversations with the Congressman and told them where it was legal to surreptitiously tape conversations. Two operatives testified before the committee that they were told to gather information about Hamel and his sources as well as the Congressman because they were embarrassing Exxon and Alyeska. One testified that Alyeska and Exxon have spent over one million dollars on the sting.
More Surreptitious Videotapes. In June of 1990, a Wackenhut operative videotaped a two hour meeting with Hamel in one hotel room while another operative monitored the conversation from a second room.
Abuse of Legal Process. Aleyska decided to sue Hamel in a SLAP suit intended to silence him and stop him from working with Congress and 'to get even' with him.
Branch of Bogus Accolade Office Bugged. August, 1990, Wackenhut sets up a branch of the bogus law firm, Accolade, which includes a video camera installed in a dummy ceiling sprinkler head. Several doors down the hall, the bogus International Overseas Trading Corporation (IT) opened for business. IT was the spot where Wackenhut operatives ran wires for the video and audio surveillance equipment through the ceiling from IT using a remote-controlled toy dune buggy. Meanwhile in the Ecolit office, they concealed a tiny video camera inside a desktop radio.
Surveillance of Hamel Continues. A Wackenhut operative wears a body wire and meets with Hamel while a second operative outside in a van records the conversations. During this event on 18 August 1990, the operative attempts to pay Hamel $2,000.00 for documents which he received for free; Hamel doesn't fall for it. The following day, after the third offer of money, Hamel accepts $2,000.00 for expenses.
Public Relations Coup. Alyeska agrees with Wackenhut that Wackenhut should investigate all instances of environmental degradation because it would look bad for Alyeska if the undercover operation surfaced and they had not researched the issues. The second reason was that Alyeska could turn the investigation into a public relations coup.
The Sting Continues. Hamel continues to work with Wackenhut employees imagining that he is working with real environmentalists interested in stopping the environmental damage, sharing documents and information, strategies and tactics and information about sources. Hamel talks of his own undercover investigation and the experts with whom he is working to document illegal dumping by Exxon and BP in Florida and California.
Owners Stop Undercover Activities. After a meeting with Aleyska, Exxon and ARC during
which Wackenhut operatives discussed the methods and activities of the undercover activities,
Wackenhut's clients ordered them to cease and discussed how to keep the documents,
videotapes, etc. from discovery through subpoena. On 3 October 1990, the operation was shut
down. The Accolade office in Virginia was closed and Hamel was told that the group had lost
its funding. In December 1990, the Florida office was closed.
The Aleyska consortium members sought legal counsel to see if what they had done was illegal and if they could become liable in some way for the behavior of their agent, Wackenhut. Their law firm was concerned about the behavior of the operatives but was also concerned because Aleyska could be considered to have obstructed a Congressional investigation.
The Sting Discovered. In May of 1991, an investigator working for Wackenhut resigned his
position because he disagreed with the practices of the chief investigator on the Alyeska sting.
Wackenhut asked the investigator to look into complaints of sexual harassment made against
the chief investigator, which he did. He found that not only were the other operatives upset
about the harassment, they were concerned about the propriety and legality of the surveillance
techniques used. Wackenhut seemed to have no problem with any of it so the investigator
resigned, obtained legal counsel, and contacted Hamel and told him of the sting .
Six Wackenhut operatives from the sting met with Congressional investigators and told their story. Outside counsel for Wackenhut demanded that the operatives cease working with Congressional investigators but after receiving a letter from Congressional investigators telling him that his actions could be construed as attempting to harass or intimidate a witness, he agreed to back off.
The Committee held hearings on 406 November 1991 and six witnesses were subpoenaed while another seven appeared voluntarily. Two of the six who were subpoenaed, the main operatives for Wackenhut, refused to testify citing their Fifth Amendment rights to refuse to testify.
Aftermath. Wackenhut's chief investigator resigned under pressure and the company set up
guidelines under which investigators will not: remove or inventory garbage from an individual
or entity; obtain or review financial or credit data without written permission from the subject;
monitor any persons or entities with telephone, video or audio surveillance equipment without
consent of all parties; review telephone records of any persons without consent; or, install or
utilize pen registers (records numbers dialed.)
Wackenhut provided records of consumer credit searches in June of 1992 after Mercantile Credit admitted to Congressional investigators that it had provided the information to Wackenhut.
After one Aleyska employee learned that he was fired as a result of his whistle blower status, he filed a complaint with the Department of Labor. During discovery in that matter, numerous documents were found that had not been provided to Congress although Committee investigators found that they were not relevant.
Extortion. Aleyska has for years responded to Hamel's allegations regarding Aleyska's and Exxon's violations of environmental, health, and safety laws by attempting to paint Hamel as an extortionist who threatens to expose their illegal activities unless he is paid a multi-million dollar settlement of claims against Exxon ... He has said over and over again that he would be able to retire from his activities if he were paid what he believes is owed to him; if Aleyska would implement a health plan which will help those workers exposed to dangerous conditions in the work place; and if Aleyska and Exxon would stop polluting the environment.' The Committee found the claim unfounded.
Aleyska's Role. While the Committee found that Wackenhut performed the services and the surveillance, they also found that as the agent for Alyeska, Alyeska was responsible. But they further found that Alyeska has at least on one prior occasion used the 'stolen documents' theory in an attempt to discredit critics. Alyeska believed that an employee was stealing documents but after the Alyeska State Troopers closed the case because they were unable to support the charges, Aleyska hired a private investigator who threatened the wife of the employee with being in receipt of stolen documents. Aleyska's response was that the PI conducted himself as he did in the course of his business and it was not of interest to Alyeska.
Obstruction of Justice. The Committee found that the covert sting operation was at least in part an attempt to obstruct a Congressional investigation.
Recommendations of the Committee. The Committee recommended that the Department of Justice, appropriate state and local jurisdictions look at the violations of privacy and violations of federal laws regarding obstruction of justice and that Aleyska and Wackenhut review their internal practices. They also took Aleyska and Wackenhut to task for inflicting covert spying operations on the public and Congress. They asked for assurance that the companies would never do the same again that Aleyska and the consortium members look at the environmental problems discovered during the surveillance. The recommended that federal and state departments look into the environmental problems and that there be a federal presence at the Alyeska terminal and that federal, state, and local regulatory people meet on a regular basis with Alyeska employees. The Committee finally called for Congressional committees with jurisdiction over the pipeline and Aleyska to be vigilant in oversight so that 'outrageous' attempts to silence its environmental critics will not happen again.
Proctor & Gamble
Wall Street Journal reporter, Alecia Swasy, wrote a book about Procter & Gamble, Soap Opera: The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble, which was published by Random House, Inc. in 1993. Swasy, a Pittsburgh reporter for the Wall Street Journal became of interest to the security department of Procter & Gamble (P&G) in June of 1991 when she reported on the pending resignation of one executive and the possible sale of a division of the corporation. She quoted former and, at that time, current employees of the conglomerate, which led to the corporate, claims to the Cincinnati Police Department against the newspaper.
Law enforcement obtained Cincinnati Bell, Inc. records of citizens who were ostensibly interviewed from the Wall Street Journal's Pittsburgh office as well as Swasy's residence. The Fraud Division of the Cincinnati Police Department moved in to get the records, because P&G alleged that Swasy was talking about trade secrets. A company spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that 'Cincinnati police are investigating criminal charges regarding the disclosure of highly confidential and proprietary information. It involves the unauthorized disclosure of business secrets, and that presents a potential violation of Ohio criminal law.' The investigation came to light after the Cincinnati Police questioned a former manager from the company for an hour. During the interrogation, the police disclosed that they had the records of his calls to the Pittsburgh office of the newspaper and Swasy's home. They questioned him about whether he had spoken to Swasy about business performance or if the company intended to sell its food business. The following day, the former manager was called into the Security Department of the corporation for an other interview, which he declined. General Counsel for P & G confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the police were sharing information about interviews and admitted that the company was cooperating with the police. About six weeks after the investigation began, it was disclosed that the lead detective worked part0time for the consumer product giant, further blurring the line between public and private interests. P&G's Chairman and CEO denied that there was any impropriety but he admitted to being concerned about the appearance. He also denied having influenced the investigation in any way.
The legal explanation is that the 1974 Ohio law makes 'conversion of trade secrets' a felony.
But another Ohio law, as well as the U. S. Constitution protect reporters. It appears that a
prosecutor was able to convince a grand jury that the trade-secrets law covered press leaks. In
the end, it is known that the police searched 803,000 business and home phones to investigate
a misdemeanor. An article in the New York Times questioned whether the police in Ohio
would have done the same job if a sandwich shop had lodged the same complaint. In the same
New York Times article, Greg Burgess, an analyst with The Greater Cincinnati Center
For Economic Education (partially funded by the corporation) at the University of Cincinnati
says: in one sense, if you've hurt Procter & Gamble, you've hurt Cincinnati. People in
Cincinnati take pride in Procter & Gamble in the same way they do with Cincinnati Reds.'
The Cincinnati Post wasn't as kind. In an August 1991, editorial they said, 'The use of taxpayer money to invade the privacy of just about every person in the region is, at best, heavy-handed. After years of working to improve its reputation as a corporate bully and impenetrable fortress, this incident paints that picture all over again.'
The City Manager of Cincinnati was also upset, telling The New York Times: 'This is not a town run by P&G. But the company made a bad mistake, using a crazy Ohio law. I hope the law is court-tested and thrown out. And I hope P&G never makes such a mistake again.'
William Safire chimed in his Essay column titled 'At P&G, It Sinks', an allusion to a certain bar
of soap sold by the company. The CEO told Safire that after a fishing trip, he had decided:
'We made an error in judgment. We regret it. We thought we were doing the right thing, and frankly, we were just plain wrong.
There's no question, we had a legal right to seek the assistance of the authorities but we really made an error in pursing that option, particularly to filing the complaint that led to a search of telephone records.
We deplore the idea of invading people's privacy and interfering with freedom of the press. I went to journalism school myself. This is not an issue of ethics; I do not feel our action was unethical or improper. We shouldn't have done it, that's all; sometimes it isn't easy to see all the implication s of a decision.'
To his credit, Safire doesn't swallow the CEO's line and notes that the overriding concern to the executive is the bad press which followed their attempt to breach the press privilege and the massive civil fights violation of some 803,000 citizens.
All this preceded the release of Swash's book on the enterprise, which detailed the close monitoring of employees, outside advertisers, suppliers and reporters covering the company. Swash discloses that the security department is staffed by former CIA, FBI and former as well as current police officers. She says they conduct investigations bordering on harassment and invasion of privacy including obtaining medical records of employees, videotaping them, monitoring their telephone calls from their offices and home and following them on business trips.
One employee is quoted as saying that in an effort to see if she was being monitored, she prearranged with a friend to arrange a meeting on company phones. The two were the only ones who knew. A P&G manager showed up at the meeting place.
Ad agencies have been under scrutiny of the corporation if they work for the soap giant. A merger of one had to be approved and guidelines accepted from their client. Another PR firm had to drop one account or lose P&G, Swash says in her book that the same CEO who felt he made a mistake in the 1991 fiasco 'bullied those who asked permission to talk to me. Some insiders said they were told they would be fired if they met with me.'
But am I going to come here and tell you horror stories and leave you to your own devices?
No, there are lots of things to be done!
We can do something about what is happening. Violence is designed to silence critics. Don't be silenced. Those doing the intimidating are trying to frighten you.
Your work has been successful if someone is trying to silence you.
Work with your local community and build bridges to other communities. Just as we are seeing done here.
When one is injured, so are we all. One of the problems we see when an activist is attacked is that others in the community try to distance themselves. This makes the activist or activists doubly vulnerable.
There is a terrible price emotionally when one is attacked.
When Earth Firster Jude Bari was bombed, Greenpeace International came forward and said 'We saw what happened when the French bombed us and we are not going to stand for this.' Greenpeace threw its considerable weight behind the activists.
They hired me so that I could work with the attorneys to defend them against potential criminal charges.
When the activists were bombed, the FBI and local police mounted a campaign against them saying that EF! was a terrorist group and that the pair were carrying bombs not musical instruments. A good defense was paramount. We hired an accident reconstruction specialist with expertise in explosives to explain what happened. We knew that Judi did not sit on an armed anti-personnel weapon and drive through the city but we didn't know what happened.
Greenpeace support went considerably further. Everyone from the Greenpeace office in San Francisco came to every court hearing carrying banners to show their solidarity. They met with the press and talked about the relentless lies being told and they set the story straight.
The Sierra Club activists came out as did the Rainforest Action Network people.
Earth Firstness stayed outside the hospital where Jude had been taken and others went to the jail and held all night vigils. They sang and talked to the press and told everyone who would listen that Judi and Darryl were not guilty.
Some went to Jude's cabin which she was roofing and finished her work. They made the house wheelchair accessible but gratefully she did not need the chair by the time she finished rehabilitation.
People cut wood for her stove and planted her garden because she was no longer able to bend or swing an axe. I went to her cabin and worked out a method for her children to escape through the woods should they need to run and established a means of communication that would alert her closest neighbors that she was in need.
By standing with the tiny Earth First!, and the beleaguered activists everyone knew that Jude and Darryl were not alone and that people would be watching.
If there is an act of violence, investigate. Call in experts. Get every perspective on the story and soon enough, you'll know who's lying. Call the police. Takes notes at every turn and either record the conversation with the police or take careful notes. Go up the ladder. Be the squeaky wheel.
Investigation and research are key tactics to add to your stable of strategies. Get every detail that you can possibly think of and then use the information to expose them for who they are.
Learn every fact you can possibly learn. Then get some more facts. Every piece of paper that has ever been filed, and in the United States there are plenty, has information.
Do backgrounds on their scientists. Get their college yearbooks, graduate thesis, see if you can get company newsletters, get any document that is public. Get the PR from the company about the person.
Have samples of degraded water, soil, etc. analyzed by experts.
Do backgrounds on their presidents. Check the local courthouse and review the court files. Some of them beat their wives or get caught drunken driving and sometimes they even get prosecuted for their dirty deeds.
Garbology is a wonderful past time. Collecting the trash from a multi-national is not an easy task but some are careless. What people throw away can be a treasure trove of information. (France sent DGSE agents to the US posing as diplomats to steal garbage of North American computer experts.)
Protect Your Information:
Duplicate critical files and store the copy off-site. Don't throw your trash away outside your house or if you do, make sure it goes out just as the collectors appear. Don't leave documents lying around; file them. It makes your space nicer and your information isn't waiting to be stolen.
Don't talk about actions in your office if the surprise element is important. Either have activists meet a few blocks away from your target, of if that's too obvious, meet across town and then go to your target.
Be careful with your backpack when you are in public places.
Don't talk about sensitive issues until you know you cannot be overheard.
Don't leave your computer on and walk away from it. Protect it with a password that you change every so often. If you are working on something that you do not want anyone to see under any circumstances, keep it on a disk and take it with you.
Don't talk to strangers on the telephone. If the press calls you and you don't believe it, call the reporter back.
Publish your information
Make sure your facts are well researched and do a heavy edit on the rhetoric. Publish on the Internet and in paper.
Take your information to the press. If you are fortunate to be able to confront someone with a dirty deed, bring the press.