Chevron to Seize Private Data from American Activists and Journalists

800px-NewchevrongasstationAdd Chevron to the list of organizations groping through Americans’ personal email metadata. And the reason appears largely retaliatory for testifying against them or protesting some toxic business practices. Chevron, in turn, charges conspiracy and racketeering to justify getting access to the personal information.

The more I learn about public surveillance the more it seems recent news of NSA surveillance is a case of the Federal Government getting for free what other powerful folks have to pay for. In this case, Chevron. The bottom line is that our personal data is too easily had across the board. And organizations are all too willing to invade our first amendment rights to get whatever they want.

Last month a federal judge handed Chevron the rights to paw through nine years of email metadata from people who publicly criticized Chevron for their polluting practices in Ecuador.  Lawyers, witnesses, environmental activists, and even journalists who helped lead to a $18 billion judgement against the oil company are now the subject of Chevron’s spying eyes.

If you were on the list of folks who criticized them, testified against them, or protested them on this matter, they would have nine years of your email metadata including names, email addresses of folks you’ve talked to, phone numbers, billing information, time stamps, computer use logs,  and detailed location data, meaning they can find out the locations from which some emails were sent. Even if you’re an American. First amendment rights and all.

Chevron’s reason for subpoenaing the email metadata:

Over the course of several years defendants Steven Donzinger and his co-defendants and co-conspirators have sought to extort, defraud, and otherwise tortiously injure plaintiff Chevron by means of a plan they conceived and substantially executed in the United States.

Conspiracy. Racketeering. They claim “colluding with the Republic of Ecuador to bring sham charges against Chevron’s attorneys” as part of a larger attempt to frame them for environmental damage, for which they bring up pages of evidence which…maybe they forgot to bring up at their multiple failed appeals?

Who knows.

It’s not like this case hasn’t been reviewed. And then reviewed. And reviewed again. The original judgement was for $9 billion. Chevron failed to pay that and was subsequently hit with an increased judgement. This case has been dragging on for years. The US Supreme Court denied Chevron’s final appeal request. The conspiracy apparently goes all the way to the Roberts court!

And another court denied Chevron’s attempts to subpoena internal documents from and advocacy group.

Finally the company found an avenue and a sympathetic judge for scraping blanket email metadata from American citizens to keep pounding on a lawsuit they seem to lose over and over again.

Perhaps Chevron hasn’t been paying attention to Americans’ latest irritation with being spied on. Not a winning PR move. Because maybe you’re not on the list of folks they’re spying on. But maybe you talked to them. And now they know that.

At some point, many appeals and a denied U.S. Supreme Court appeal later, it’s time to wonder if this is more a retaliatory attempt to intimidate activists and silence folks who ask questions. A preference for burning the first amendment rights of Americans rather than paying the judgement the courts have agreed on. Because it’s cheaper.

Eric Justian

Eric Justian is a professional writer living near the natural sugar sand beaches and singing sand dunes of Lake Michigan in Muskegon, Michigan. When he's not wrangling his kids or tapping at his computer, he likes to putter in his garden, catch king salmon from the Big Lake, or go pan fishing with his boys.As a successful blogger his main focus has been energy, Great Lakes issues and local food.Eric is a founding member of the West Michgian Jobs Group, a non-profit organization that evolved from a Facebook page called Yest to West Michigan Wind Power which now has over 8000 followers. West Michigan Jobs Group promotes independent businesses and sustainable industries in the West Michigan area. As the Executive Director of that organization he has advocated renewable energy as both a clean energy alternative for Michigan and a new industry with which to diversify our economy and spark Michigan innovation and jobs.

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