Following the recent undercover police scandal in the UK, the world's largest eco-activist group is turning the tables on one of the world's biggest chemical companies.
Greenpeace has field a lawsuit accusing The Dow Chemical Company of using private investigators to spy on the group, stealing thousands of documents and intercepting phone call details between 1998-2000. The lawsuit also names another chemical company - Sasol North American - as well as public relations firms employed by them and private investigators.
It accuses Dow Chemical of paying the private security firm Beckett Brown International to secure confidential information to 'anticipate and frustrate' Greenpeace's public education and direct action campaigns. It followed reports by the campaign group in the late 1990s that identified Dow as the 'world's largest root-source of dioxin', a cancer-causing chemical.
The corporate spying was uncovered in an investigation by a journalist from the magazine Mother Jones, after it was handed documents by a former insider with the private security firm, since dissolved.
Dow Chemical itself has so far refused to acknowledge it hired private investigators to spy on Greenpeace. It filed a motion earlier this week to dismiss the case saying it 'lacks merit' and was initiated to generate publicity for the campaign group.
Greenpeace campaigner Mark Flogel acknowledged they did want to expose Dow's 'dirty tactics' and hoped that by winning the case they would make other corporations think again before sanctioning spying.
UK activists fight back
This is not the first time Greenpeace has been involved in a corporate spying case. In 2009, the French energy giant EDF was accused of hacking into the group's computer systems in France. They were also alleged to have been spying on Greenpeace activities in the UK, as the campaign group was planning a legal challenge to EDF's plans to build the next generation of nuclear power stations in the country. Investigations by French officials into the allegations are still ongoing.
The two Greenpeace legal cases are part of a wider fightback by environmental activists against corporate and state-sponsored spying. A newly created campaign group 'No Police Spies' is pushing for an public inquiry to expose the true extent of undercover police spying on political groups.
Bradley Day, a spokesperson for the campaign, said there was a suspicion of collusion between the police and corporate spying. He cites the private investigators Global One as one example. The firm is run by ex-special branch officers and on its website offers intelligence gathering on environmental and anti-corporatism activist groups.
'What is so disturbing is that corporate spying is not a separate entity. There is so much cross-over even if indirectly with the police training up officers who then start up private investigation companies and recruit ex-officers,' he said.
Greenpeace website on Dow Chemical case
No Police Spies
Do aggressive and subversive police tactics put-off environmental protesters?
With the recent spate of police aggression, intimidation and infiltration of the environmental movement, the Ecologist asks if these tactics are turning people away from protests?
Melting Point: the crackdown on legal environmental protest
The Ecologist Film Unit's second release documents how espionage, news manipulation, legal threats and even violence have become the knee-jerk response of Government and big business to the increasingly vocal concerns of environmental protesters in the UK.
Climate activist trial collapses over use of undercover police officer
The second trial of activists accused of planning to occupy Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station has collapsed after the use of undercover police officer Mark Kennedy was revealed
|HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The Ecologist guide to video activism
The video camera is the weapon of choice for activists and campaigners around the world, with campaign films an effective way to get a message across and fight back against mainstream media bias. Here's our guide to taking your stand...
Indian activists risk death to expose illegal logging, pollution and mining
The recent death of Indian environmentalist Amit Jethva was the latest in a growing number of disturbing incidents of brutality and violence against activists, report Ambika Hiranandani and Tom Levitt