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When Corporations Spy

By Tom Murghhardt

As if illegal spying and dirty tricks by state agencies weren’t threat enough to democratic institutions and grassroots activist organizations, hundreds of corporate spy outfits are doing their part–to defend the “homeland” and the bottom line–for the multinational grifters who plunder the world’s wealth.

SourceWatch revealed that Hakluyt & Company, Ltd., a “British private intelligence agency … staffed almost entirely by ex-intelligence services staff,” was outed by a freelance journalist after the company sought to recruit her “services.”

The group reported in August:

Melissa Sweet, a freelance Australian health journalist, reports that she recently received an email from a staffer with Hakluyt. In it she was asked if she would like to become part of a “network of well-placed individuals around the world who are able to provide us, very discreetly, with intelligence on specific commercial or political issues that may arise.” In particular, they were seeking her assistance for an anonymous “financial institution” client on “a new project on the new Australian government’s healthcare policy–how realistic their reform ambitions really are”, “the role of the private sector” and other matters. Sweet responded by pointing out that she was a journalist not a consultant. Undeterred, the Hakluyt staffer wrote back explaining that as a journalist she was likely to have “dozens of well-placed sources in the field” and that the company already has “a number of quality, usually specialist journalists that we deal with”. In 2001 Hakluyt was outed for infiltrating Greenpeace in Europe. (“Hakluyt & Company Limited,” SourceWatch, August 1, 2008)

The Sunday Times reported in 2001 that Hakluyt hired Manfred Schlickenrieder, a German foreign intelligence operative tasked by the firm to spy on Greenpeace at the behest of oil giants BP and Shell.

According to The Sunday Times:

His political credentials seemed impeccable: he had once been chairman of the Munich branch of the German Communist party and the bookshelves of his office held the works of Bertolt Brecht, the Marxist playwright and poet.

Behind the facade, however, Schlickenrieder was a spy working for both the German secret service and for Hakluyt, a private intelligence agency based in London’s West End and set up by former officers of MI6, the secret intelligence service. His codename was Camus after Albert Camus, the existentialist author of L’Etranger.

Hakluyt paid him thousands of pounds to inform on the activities of Greenpeace, Anita Roddick’s Body Shop and other environmental campaigners. The BND, the German equivalent of MI6, allegedly paid him £3,125 a month living expenses. (Maurice Chittenden and Nicholas Rufford, “MI6 ‘Firm’ Spied on Green Groups,” The Sunday Times, June 17, 2008)

Also in 2001, after the Greenpeace scandal exploded, Christopher James, Hakluyt’s Managing Director, wrote to the disgraced CEO of Enron, the convicted felon Jeffrey Skilling, bragging of Hakluyt’s unique “services”:

The range of deployments we have completed for core clients is wide. In all cases we guarantee complete confidentiality. And, although we work for divisional directors on tactical issues, we have found our most rewarding work in personal dealings with CEOs who wish–for whatever reason–to have a confidential agency at their own disposal. It was this, which prompted Phil Carroll to write to you about us in April as he has found our work of considerable value to him personally. We look at people and the issues, which often drive them to make the decisions or act as they do. All our work is unattributable.

To sweeten the pot, James told Skilling,

We also have an association with Kissinger/McLarty Associates for although our work is very different the services we both provide can be complementary. Our US client base is increasing well but at the same time we wish to remain small and discreet. (Confidential email from Christopher James to Jeffrey Skilling, posted by Enron Explorer, July 8, 2001)

Talk about a small (and very greedy) world!


(At the time, Phil Carroll was President of Shell Oil Company.)


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