Multinational manufacturing giant Caterpillar engaged surveillance firms to monitor political groups, including the family of pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie, the Guardian reported today.
Leaked documents from two corporate intelligence firms have revealed that several international companies gathered information on numerous activist groups they viewed as potential threats to their businesses.
One of the firms, C2i International, used two infiltrators who pretended to be sympathetic to the cause in order to acquire advance warning of demonstrations that were being mounted against firms. They often obtained the campaigners’ internal documents such as emails and accounts of meetings.
Caterpillar, one of the world’s biggest manufacturing companies, is reported to have used the firm to gather information on the family of Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli military bulldozer as she protested the demolition of Palestinian homes.
Corrie’s family took legal action against Caterpillar, which manufactured the bulldozer, alleging that the firm was complicit in war crimes by exporting machinery to Israel knowing that they would be used to demolish Palestinian homes.
Nine days after a US court dismissed the case for insufficient jurisdiction, C2i obtained notes of a conference telephone call by Corrie’s mother Cindy to around 70 members of a campaign that was supporting the family’s lawsuit. The notes were filed as a “corporate intelligence threat”.
Cindy Corrie told the Guardian that she found the revelations that her call had been recorded “really distasteful”, emphasising that her telephone updates were for supporters of the campaign.
According to another set of leaked documents, Caterpillar also hired a second corporate intelligence firm in the UK to monitor protesters in 2005.
C2i also counted among its clients Royal Bank of Scotland, British Airways and Porsche and had even pitched its services to Donald Trump, prior to his presidential bid, offering to gain information on environmental activists threatening the development of a Trump-funded hotel and golf course in Scotland. It is not known whether Trump hired the firm.
In the past, police chiefs have raised concerns that such activities of corporate firms suffer from a lack of regulation and have claimed that commercial firms have had more spies embedded in political groups than there were undercover police officers.