As I recounted last week, Team Themis was a joint project of data firms Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies, tech security firm HBGary Federal, Security firm Booz Allen Hamilton, and the Hunton & Williams law firm, which represents the US Chamber of Commerce. Headed by HBGary CEO Aaron Barr (above, left), Team Themis was intended to counteract critics of the Chamber, but it quickly morphed into an covert intelligence effort aimed at ruining the reputations of Chamber critics.
The same fate can happen to anyone, including labor and environmental activists, who dare to challenge powerful interests in an effective manner. Various industries have used police agencies to intimidate activists for a very long time, and the public has known about the use of intelligence specialists and methods to spy on activists for many years, but the use of COINTELPRO techniques to destroy reputations and recruit volunteers through social media is of course a newer phenomenon. And the more successful it proves as a strategy, the more likely it will be used on increasing numbers of American families with at least one parent involved in any cause that offends corporate power, with consequences across generations.
During its short known lifespan, Team Themis was heavily focused on Velvet Revolution co-founder Brett Kimberlin, whom they saw as a weak point through which to attack the entire Stop the Chamber effort. While Team Themis was exposed and shut down in February 2011, by the end of that same year a new set of players had become obsessed with Kimberlin and his family. Styling themselves as an online insurgency, their efforts have insulated the corporate goons from negative attention while propagating exactly the sort of conspiracy fodder that Berico’s Sam Kremin advised Team Themis to produce in social media through ‘persona management’ techniques.
As I wrote last week,
When spy agencies want to overthrow a government, they rarely turn to the liberal intelligentsia or freedom activists; instead, they are far more likely to approach the reactionary lunatic fringe of any given society, recruiting militant volunteers who are disaffected, power-hungry, angry, or venal. Empowered, these forces rarely provide a safe social or political space for more progressive elements.
This new gang emerged from the world of Breitbart News, whose founder had deep ties to the national security state before his death in 2012. Foremost among these characters is Mansassas, Virginia attorney Aaron Walker, who first began inserting himself in Brett Kimberlin’s legal disputes before the end of 2011, and blames the object of his obsession for getting him fired from his job thereafter. (In reality, Walker was fired for turning his office into a stalker’s shrine.) Despite lacking any visible means of support other than a PayPal tip jar, Walker has since spent the last three-plus years engaged in a totalistic campaign of legal harassment, stalking, and libelous blogging against Kimberlin, including an attempt to suborn perjury from his wife during a marital dispute in 2013. This bizarre campaign of personal destruction seems to be the only remaining use for Walker’s law degree.
Is Aaron Walker like Ahmed Chalabi, with the Kimberlin family as his Iraq? While there is scant evidence that Andrew Breitbart’s ties to Islamophobic billionaire Aubrey Chernick, Team Themis instigator Aaron Barr, Occupy email list “exposer” Tom Ryan, and other right wing figures in the national security trades are directly responsible for Walker’s newfound career, they underline how popular the Kimberlin topic was in the Breitbart world, and Walker was ambitious about moving up in that world. The email trail shows that many of his activities were closely coordinated with Breitbart writer Mandy Nagy and Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney John Patrick Frey, who blogs as Patterico. At the very least, we should regard Walker as a highly-engaged volunteer whose rivalry with Kimberlin has become intensely personal.
For anyone encountering this story for the first time, it can be difficult to fully grasp the dark depths of Walker’s insane hatred as he plays litigating prophet to a nasty cult of believers. Most recently, when Kimberlin’s daughter asked a Maryland court to protect her from the creepiest members of the Walker clan, Walker published what might just be his most deluded blog post ever.
Walker’s deranged expectation that the teenage girl whose life he has repeatedly tried to ruin will magically transform into his friend and ally — because of his Google ranking! — is indicative of either mental disease or some especially-craven lack of character. Walker’s shrunken, warped universe revolves around a black hole of sanctimonious hatred for Brett Kimberlin, and Walker sees every object in that sky as a means of destroying his rival.
During her abortive court filings in 2013, Mrs. Kimberlin learned the full depth of Walker’s scheming for herself. After weeks of repeatedly trying to convince her to call her husband an unfit father, Walker actually did convince FBI Special Agent Dan Borsuk to show up for her custody interview with Child Protective Services and ask questions that Walker had formulated during his masturbation fantasies about the Kimberlin family.
Mrs. Kimberlin also witnessed the social impact that Walker’s false charges of molestation were having on her children, so she sent him an email requesting that he cease and desist from ruining her daughters’ lives to get at her husband. Walker’s reply, which I have recently seen, is a plaintive, pathetic email begging Mrs. Kimberlin not to go live with relatives in Ukraine, but to “come back” and endorse his accusations: “you know you can’t trust Brett with them,” he says, referring to his own sick fantasies about the Kimberlin children. “Has Brett done anything to you to prompt this? Is he trying to blackmail you? Has he threatened you in any way?” Again, it is indicative of madness that Walker cannot comprehend the effects his actions have on other people, as if he was a sinister Lennie Small.
The Kimberlin family has always been a target for destruction and exploitation. Well-paid security contractors discussed the children’s names and schools while planning to smear her father. After Team Themis was exposed by Anonymous, Aaron Walker moved into the void that was left by Aaron Barr and his friends to smear her father. Does he enjoy the same powerful patrons? Did his role as point man in the Brett Kimberlin blogwar have anything to do with the demise of Team Themis earlier in 2011? We don’t know, but if corporate spooks were involved, then they will surely stay out of sight behind their aggressive cat’s paw.
And just think: if the smear-merchants of the national security state are pleased with the results, then every American activist could have their own Aaron Walker someday.