11 February update: The chief executive officer of Palantir Technologies today severed links to HBGary and apologised to journalist Glenn Greenwald, The Tech Herald reported. The admission raises the confidence that the original leak was of genuine documents.
Three information security consultancies with links to US spy agencies cooked up a dirty tricks campaign late last year to destroy Wikileaks by exploiting its perceived weaknesses, reads a presentation released by the whistleblowers’ organisation that it claimed to be from the conspirators.
Around December 3, it was believed consultants at US defence contractors Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and HBGary proposed an alliance to lawyers for a desperate Bank of America to discredit the whistleblowers’ website using a divide and conquer approach.
The conspirators urged a disinformation war to “feed the fuel between feuding groups” that would include leaking fake documents to “call out the error”, creating “concern over the security of the infrastructure”, hacking Wikileaks to discover who the leakers were to “kill the project” and a media campaign to emphasise the “radical and reckless” nature of Wikileaks.
The Wikileaks Threat outlined in a report from The Tech Herald targeted individuals including journalist, constitutional lawyer and outspoken US Government critic Glenn Greenwald and the Tor Project's Jacob Appelbaum for special attention. It called for organisations to actively use social media to spy on potential leakers and highlighted the parlous state of Wikileaks' finances.
SC Magazine understood the document came into the hands of Wikileaks sympathisers Anonymous following a successful raid on HBGary, which saw its secrets recently scattered to the Twittersphere.
Since the plan was hatched, disgruntled volunteers mentioned in the PDF have broken away from Wikileaks and proposed alternative whistleblower sites (that are yet to be built), financial institutions have withdrawn services, Appelbaum has been harassed by US Government authorities and Amazon denied service to Wikileaks' website.
“Wikileaks is NOT in a healthy position right now. Their weakness [sic] are causing great stress in the organisation which can be capitalised on,” the conspirators wrote.
The document mentioned Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland prominently under Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s bio.
“McClelland has not ruled out the possibility of Australian authorities cancelling Assange's passport, and warned that he may face charges, should he return to Australia, due to the ‘potential number of criminal laws that could have been breached by the release of the [US diplomatic cables]',” the document read.
McClelland, who also oversaw the Australian Government’s computer emergency response team CERT Australia, has since said Wikileaks and Assange broke no Australian laws.
The presentation that read in equal measure battle plan and marketing proposal laid out the futility of what it proposed by admitting at the end that “traditional responses will fail”.
“In the new age of mass social media, the insider threat represents an ongoing and persistent threat even if Wikileaks is shut down.”
For a discussion of the Palantir/HBGary plan tune in to this week's Risky Business podcast.