As I noted on Friday, the parties implicated in the smear campaigns aimed at WikiLeaks supporters and Chamber of Commerce critics have attempted to heap all the blame on HBGary Federal ("HBGary") and its CEO, Aaron Barr. Both Bank of America and the Chamber -- the intended clients -- vehemently deny any involvement in these schemes and have harshly denounced them. The other two Internet security firms whose logos appeared on the proposals -- Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies -- both issued statements terminating their relationship with HBGary and insisting that they had nothing to do with these plots. Only Hunton & Williams and its partner, John Woods -- the central cogs soliciting these proposals -- have steadfastly refused to comment.
Palantir, in particular, has been quite aggressive about trying to distance itself. They initially issued a strong statement denouncing the plots, then had their CEO call me vowing to investigate and terminate any employees who were involved, then issued another statement over the weekend claiming that "Palantir never has and never will condone the sort of activities that HBGary recommended" and "Palantir did not participate in the development of the recommendations that Palantir and others find offensive." Such vehemence is unsurprising: the Palo-Alto-based firm relies for its recruitment efforts on maintaining a carefully cultivated image as a progressive company devoted to civil liberties, privacy and Internet freedom -- all of which would be obviously sullied by involvement in such a scheme.
But as Salon's Justin Elliott reports, there are newly emerged facts which directly contradict Palantir's denials. On Sunday night, Anonymous released an additional 25,000 emails from HBGary, and Forbes' Andy Greenberg was the first to make this discovery:
The emails also show that it was Barr who suggested pressuring Salon.com journalist Glenn Greenwald, though Palantir, another firm working with HBGary Federal, quickly accepted that suggestion and added it to the PowerPoint presentation that the group was assembling.
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Greenberg is referring to this series of emails, first from HBGary's Barr -- addressed to Palantir's Matthew Steckman and Eli Bingham along with Berico's Sam Kremin (click image to enlarge):
This was the reply from Palantir's Steckman to that email:
Roughly 15 minutes later, Steckman sent another email to Barr: "Updated with Strengths/Weaknesses and a spotlight on Glenn Greenwald...thanks Aaron!" -- indicating he had included the slide featuring this scheme. So much for Palantir's insistence that they "did not participate in the development of the recommendations." As Elliott noted, "Steckman's role in creating the slideshow -- which, it should be noted, also carries Palantir's logo -- would seem to contradict the company's" denials.