• Public records search reveals Bank of America created spy teams to snoop on Americans
By Keith Johnson
Bank of America (BofA), the notorious bailout recipient at the heart of multiple financial scandals, has once again demonstrated their absolute contempt for the American people.
The bank’s latest intrigues are a direct assault on the constitutional guarantee of free speech and lawful assembly, as was revealed in early January when Washington state activist Andrew Hendricks posted an email he obtained through a public records search. According to Mikael Thalen of the news website “Storyleak,” the email confirmed the existence of a BofA spy team that has been set up to carry out surveillance on multiple political groups.
The email, dated September 23, 2013, was authored by BofA Global Corporate Security Vice President Kim Triplett-Kolerich and addressed to a member of the Washington State Patrol (WSP), whom Kolerich asks for help in identifying and tracking the movements of political activists set to take part in a then-upcoming demonstration at the state capitol.
“If you find any intel on anarchists or occupy protesters please let me know—I will most likely find it first as social media trolling is not what the WSP does best,” wrote Ms. Kolerich, who also serves as the bank’s senior United States crime and intelligence analyst in 14 western states. “Bank of America has a team of 20 people and that’s all they do all day and then pass it to us around the country.”
In this sense, social media trolling refers to Internet-based operations that monitor social media websites like Facebook and Twitter and web groups for political and anti-banking discussions.
This latest revelation lends credibility to earlier allegations made by the cyber-hacktivist group “Anonymous,” which claimed to have obtained data from an unsecured computer server in Tel Aviv, Israel that implicated BofA executives to an ongoing effort to “spy and collect information on American citizens.”
In a press release from March 2013, Anonymous accused the bank of hiring Internet technology firm TEKsystems, Inc. to spy on social media networks and gather information on groups and individuals expressing anti-BofA sentiment. According to technology website “CNET,” “The documents leaked by Anonymous include ‘intelligence’ reports allegedly compiled by TEKsystems on ‘daily cyber threats’ from around the world and Internet activity related to the Occupy Wall Street movement.”
In an effort to determine the full extent of BofA’s spying activities, this AMERICAN FREE PRESS reporter spoke with Gary Ruskin, director of the Center for Corporate Policy and author of a 2013 report entitled “Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations.”
“Bank of America has a very long rap sheet of wrongdoing,” Ruskin tells AFP. “As is common for companies that are highly nervous about exposure for what they do for business, they often have extensive intelligence and public relation shops that work to protect any shred of credibility they can cobble together to keep their brand going.”
In his report, Ruskin detailed BofA’s complicity in a 2010-2011 plan to undermine the whistleblowing website Wikileaks after its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, announced “his intention to ‘take down’ a top U.S. bank and reveal a corruption scandal within it.”
As Ruskin explained: “The basic story is that Hunton & Williams, a blue chip law firm in Washington D.C., was solicited with a proposal to destroy Wikileaks on behalf BofA, which was concerned that they might be the subject of the upcoming revelation.”
Ruskin went on to say that the proposal came from a group collectively known as “Team Themis,” a trio of dirty tricksters comprised of the now defunct security technology firm HBGary Federal, the intelligence analysis firm Palantir Technologies, Inc. and Berico Technologies, which provides intelligence services to the U.S. military and intelligence agencies.
“We have copies of the proposal that was pitched to Hunton & Williams on behalf of BofA,” Ruskin continued. “Most of the stuff they propose is plainly illegal and some is, at a minimum, highly unethical.”
According to the proposal, the suggested tactics include cyber attacks against Wikileaks’ infrastructure, obtaining and exposing the identities of document submitters, spreading disinformation about the organization and submitting false documents to the Wikileaks website in hopes of undermining the group’s credibility.
Ruskin says the federal government also appears to have played a key role in these events.
“Hunton & Williams were recommended to Bank of America’s general counsel by the Department of Justice, according to the email chain viewed by [technology website] ‘The Tech Herald.’” Ruskin wrote in his report, “If this is true, it raises the question of whether the Justice Department assisted Bank of America in its battle against WikiLeaks, and how much Justice Department officials knew of and even supported corporate espionage against WikiLeaks and its allies.”
This private-public partnership that Ruskin alludes to is no mere conspiracy theory. In January 2013, this AFP reporter wrote about documents that identified a department within the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), known as the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), as being directly involved in coordinating the intelligence gathering activities against the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and corporate America.”
On their website, DSAC describes itself as “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector” and boasts a leadership board of nearly 30 representatives from various corporations, including—that’s right—Bank of America.