You are hereThe Tech Herald: Representative Johnson refuses to sweep Team Themis under the rug

The Tech Herald: Representative Johnson refuses to sweep Team Themis under the rug

April 8, 2011- During an Armed Services Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia, 4th District) pressed the Dept. of Defense (DOD) for an update on his request to review contracts signed with Team Themis. After having his questions deflected and earning a non-committal agreement to hand over the contracts, Rep. Johnson remarked that he isn’t going to let the situation be swept under the rug.

Collectively, Team Themis consists of HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies, and Berico Technologies. Along with lobbyist law firm Hunton & Williams, the three are tied to a plot to help the U.S Chamber of Commerce target political critics. This is in addition to a plan to target supporters of WikiLeaks, including private citizens and journalists. The WikiLeaks plot was exposed here on The Tech Herald [link], and the ChamberLeaks plot was exposed by Think Progress [link].

Last week, Rep. Johnson sent a letter to the DOD, as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), asking that any information regarding contracts signed with Team Themis be returned to his office within 10 business days.

Rep. Johnson is seeking, “in their entirety”, all past and present contracts held by Team Themis, in addition to a written explanation of what safeguards are in place to restrain federal contractors from using technologies for official use against American citizens. Moreover, he asked for a written explanation of who owns and controls the tools developed by contractors for the government.

This last request is important when you consider that the persona management software developed for the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), also known as MetalGear, isn’t owned by the government, it’s owned by developer Ntrepid [link]. If contractors can sell to anyone with enough money, then critics say the chance for their technologies to be abused will skyrocket.

Rep. Johnson is looking to determine, given the public exposure of previous plans, if Team Themis “violated the law and/or their federal contracts by conspiring to use technologies developed for U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism purposes against American citizens and organizations on behalf of private actors.”

However, his mission is an uphill battle. During Wednesday's subcommittee hearing, his questions to the DOD's Teri Takai (CIO) and Elizabeth McGrath (deputy CMO) were deflected and he was given no solid information.

When asked about the proposals by Team Themis to turn counter terrorism and intelligence techniques in the private sector against critics of Bank of America or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Takai said she was “not familiar with that specific proposal,” noting that the DOD would be happy to gather the information and get back to Rep. Johnson with it.



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