Michael Hastings’ death and a security firm called Endgame

EndgameAt the time of his death in a fiery car crash on June 18, journalist Michael Hastings was working on a story about alleged Anonymous leader Barrett Brown. Currently under federal indictment on charges related to computer hacking, Brown is the journalist who first reported on a shadowy private security firm in Atlanta called Endgame.
The Web site freebarrettbrown.org reports that Hastings was planning to interview Brown in late June and had announced to his followers, “Get ready for your mind to be blown.”
A Hastings/Brown interview almost certainly would have included questions about Brown’s research on “black hat” private security firms that work with the official U.S. intelligence community. Some of these outfits also have powerful ties to corporate America via the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Primary among such firms is Endgame, which is based on the seventh floor of the former Biltmore Hotel building in Atlanta.
Before the interview could take place, Hastings was killed when his car exploded, with the engine blown some sixty feet from the wreckage on a Los Angeles street. Were individuals connected to Endgame and the U.S.Chamber–fearing possible exposure in government-sponsored wrongdoing–involved in Michael Hastings’ death?
We don’t have a solid answer to that question? But a report last week from Alabama attorney Jill Simpson and election-integrity specialist Jim March presents perhaps the most disturbing revelations yet about Endgame and similar private security firms. The report, dated June 24, 2013, is titled “Black Hat Versus White Hat: The Other Side of the Snowden/Hastings/Barrett Brown Cases.”
Here is how March summarizes the report in a piece at OpEd News:

 

This is a look into the world of the private contractors that work in alliance with the official US intelligence community and appear to be state-sanctioned to commit crimes. We focus on one of these shady contractors, Endgame–an Atlanta GA corporation that both Barrett Brown and Michael Hastings were looking at. We show who they are, what they do, what their founders did before, who funds them and who they are connected to. We even filmed and photographed their building and lobby.

Simpson is best known as a former Republican operative who became a whistleblower in the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. March is on the board of directors of blackboxvoting.org and is a former board member for the Southern Arizona chapter of the ACLU.
They note the ominous meanings behind the term “Endgame” and provide background on the firm’s early days. Information about the people behind Endgame can be found here, at the company’s Web site:

The final moves in a chess game are called the “endgame.” It has come to the attention of American whistleblowers and election integrity specialists that the CIA, NSA and White House have designed the ultimate final “endgame” for the free world as we know it–with a group of computer “security specialists.”

One key component of this is a corporate office called Endgame, based in Atlanta, Georgia, (at the old Biltmore Hotel building, 817 W. Peachtree NW suite 770). This company is a spin-off from the major intelligence source X-Force that was founded originally by Chris Klaus whose career dates to at least 1994 when he founded Internet Security Systems, a private “white hat” counter-hacker group.

The X-Force was a team of elite cyber-security specialists who operated within ISS in an Atlanta office and made daily reports to the intelligence community and White House about Internet security and malicious software threats. They were allegedly defensive in nature, at least when they started out, and protective of US security. One of their members was Christopher Rouland who was a famous hacker who got caught attacking the Pentagon’s systems by US Airforce cyber-cop Jim Christy who gave him a “break” so long as he would work from then forward as a “white hat” cybersleuth for the US government.

What about the terms “white hat” and “black hat”? Simpson and March explain:

“White hat” in this context means defensive Internet security–fighting the “black hat” attackers. We write this in part to show that Rouland and his company Endgame have in fact gone back to “black hat” with the approval of the Federal government, doing (and facilitating for others) the sorts of attacks that the Pentagon, the NSA and the like don’t want their fingers found in.

Firms who engage in such activities apparently are not anxious to receive publicity. March went undercover to provide insight into the environment surrounding Endgame, and his work can be viewed in a video at the end of this post.

No one has done more to shine unwanted attention on Endgame than Barrett Brown. His role in the story began with the February 2011 hack of the private intelligence company HBGary. From a report at The Nation, titled “The Strange Case of Barrett Brown,” by reporter Peter Ludlow:

The HBGary hack may have been designed to humiliate the company, but it had the collateral effect of dropping a gold mine of information into Brown’s lap. . . .

The data dump from the HBGary hack was so vast that no one person could sort through it alone. So Brown decided to crowdsource the effort. He created a wiki page, called it ProjectPM, and invited other investigative journalists to join in. Under Brown’s leadership, the initiative began to slowly untangle a web of connections between the US government, corporations, lobbyists and a shadowy group of private military and information security consultants.

One connection was between Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce. WikiLeaks had claimed to possess a large cache of documents belonging to Bank of America. Concerned about this, Bank of America approached the United States Department of Justice. The DOJ directed it to the law and lobbying firm Hunton and Williams, which does legal work for Wells Fargo and General Dynamics and also lobbies for Koch Industries, Americans for Affordable Climate Policy, Gas Processors Association, Entergy among many other firms. . . .

In November 2010, Hunton and Williams organized a number of private intelligence, technology development and security contractors—HBGary, plus Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and, according to Brown, a secretive corporation with the ominous name Endgame Systems—to form “Team Themis”—‘themis’ being a Greek word meaning “divine law.” Its main objective was to discredit critics of the Chamber of Commerce, like Chamber Watch, using such tactics as creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” giving it to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then subsequently exposing the document as a fake to “prove that US Chamber Watch cannot be trusted with information and/or tell the truth.”

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