Saturday 26 May 2012

Info Ops boss exposed as mudslinger

Website of Leonie Industries
In March, I reported on a USA Today investigation that catalogued the scandal of US propaganda operations in Afghanistan, focussing in particular on Leonie Industries, a company with little background in working with the military, but which had received US Army contracts worth $130 million.
Following the publication of the original USA Today article reporter Tom Vanden Brook found out that someone had registered the site  and had also opened Twitter and Facebook accounts in his name. A Wikipedia entry mysteriously appeared along with discussion group postings that misrepresented the reporter's coverage of a mining disaster in West Virginia. All of this was clearly an attempt to trash his reputation.
Who was responsible? Step forward Camille Chidiac, former president and 49% owner of Leonie Industries - his sister Rema Dupont owns the rest of the stock.
Chidiac claims in a statement released by his Atlanta attorney that he used his personal funds to create the fake websites, using proxy servers to hide his involvement. "I recognize and deeply regret that my actions have caused concerns for Leonie and the U.S. military. This was never my intention. As an immediate corrective action, I am in the process of completely divesting my remaining minority ownership from Leonie," Chidiac said.
In a public statement the company attempted to distance itself from the actions of its former boss and made it clear that Chidiac's decision to divest himself of his minority ownership was not entirely voluntary:
"When Leonie Industries learned in April of a “misinformation campaign” against two USA Today reporters who had recently reported on the company, Leonie immediately launched an internal investigation to determine whether any employee was involved and Leonie strongly condemned the activity described in the article. In addition, Leonie has since engaged an independent digital forensics firm to augment its internal investigation.
"To date, the investigation indicates that no Leonie employee was engaged in anonymous online activity directed against the reporters. However, on Sunday, May 20, Leonie’s management was informed by Camille Chidiac, who owns a minority interest in Leonie and who was personally referenced in the USA Today coverage, that he was involved in the online activity....This was the act of an individual, not the company. Leonie was not aware of and did not authorize Mr. Chidiac’s online activity concerning the reporters...Mr. Chidiac is being removed as an owner of the company. In addition, Leonie has contacted government officials to inform them of the situation and will continue to work with government officials on this matter."
I think we would all be better off if government officials decided in future never to work with Leonie Industries again.

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