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12 Corporate Espionage Tactics Used against Leading Progressive Groups, Activists and Whistleblowers

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page.

Posing as volunteers. Stealing documents. Dumpster diving. Planting electronic bugs. Hacking computers. Tapping phones and voicemail. Planting false information. Trailing family members. Threatening reporters. Hiring cops, CIA officers and combat veterans to do all these dirty deeds-and counting on little pushback from law enforcement, mainstream media or Congress.

These are some of the ways that many of America's largest corporations have spied on nonprofits for years, according to a  detailed new report from the Center for Corporate Policy tracing decades of corporate espionage where tactics developed for American intelligence agencies have been imported by a long list of corporate giants for use against progressives.

"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald's, Shell, BP, BEA, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON have all been linked to espionage against non-profit organizations, activists and whistleblowers," the report said, noting that its targets are "environmental, anti-war, public-interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms-control groups."

"There's so many different tactics," said Gary Ruskin, the center's director and the report's author. "It's so important to talk about the effects on our democracy and privacy. Civic groups can't work if they're surrounded by serious espionage activities. And citizens don't lose their rights to privacy if they disagree with corporations."

Compared to Europe, where some of the same corporate players-and their staff or hired guns-have landed in court, been shamed in the media and even given jail terms, spying against non-profits has flourished with little legal consequence in America. The Justice Department almost never investigates. Nor does Congress look at the practice, which clearly would be illegal with its break-ins, thefts, threats, slander and racketeering.     
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