EXPLOSIVE NEW OP/ED IN NEW YORK TIMES BY ERIC SCHLOSSER RAISES STAKES IN BK’S “SPYGATE”


(New York Times illustration)

With a powerful new op/ed published in today’s New York Times, entitled "Burger With a Side of Spies," award-winning investigative author Eric Schlosser takes the spreading "spygate" scandal to a new level.

Schlosser reports that Burger King executives not only confirmed to him that the fast-food giant hired the private security firm "Diplomatic Tactical Services" to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA), but that Burger King CEO John Chidsey (right) knew about the company’s use of the firm, whose owner, Cara Schaffer, was denied a private investigator’s license by the state of Florida. EXPLOSIVE NEW OP/ED IN NEW YORK TIMES BY ERIC SCHLOSSER RAISES STAKES ON BK’S “SPYGATE” (New York Times illustration) Update 5/7/08: With a powerful new op/ed published in today’s New York Times, entitled “Burger With a Side of Spies,” award-winning investigative author Eric Schlosser takes the spreading “spygate” scandal to a new level. Schlosser reports that Burger King executives not only confirmed to him that the fast-food giant hired the private security firm “Diplomatic Tactical Services” to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance, but that Burger King CEO Jonh Chidsey (right) knew about the company’s use of the firm, who’s owner, Cara Schaffer, was denied a private investigator’s license by the state of Florida. Here are some highlights from the explosive op/ed: “In an interview, a Burger King executive told me that the company had worked with Diplomatic Tactical Services for years on “security-related matters” and had used it to obtain information about the Student/Farmworker Alliance’s plans.” “Ms. Schaffer is the 25-year-old owner of a private security firm. Her company, Diplomatic Tactical Services, seems like the kind of security firm you’d find in one of Carl Hiaasen’s crime thrillers. Last year Ms. Schaffer was denied a private investigator’s license; she had failed to supply the Florida licensing division with proof of “lawfully gained, verifiable experience or training.” “Even more unsettling, one of her former subcontractors, Guillermo Zarabozo, is now facing murder charges in United States District Court in Miami for his role in allegedly executing four crew members of a charter fishing boat, then dumping their bodies at sea.” “Burger King’s use of an unlicensed private investigator to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance may have been illegal under Florida law.” “John Chidsey, the chief executive of Burger King, knew about the use of Diplomatic Tactical Services.” Schlosser concludes his article callng for Congressional hearings into corporate espionage, adding, “Mr. Chidsey should get a chance to raise his right hand and tell members of Congress why he thinks this sort of behavior is acceptable.” Don’t miss this eye-opening new article! What does all this mean?… Two weeks ago, a report in the Ft. Myers News-Press broke the story of a multi-faceted “dirty tricks” campaign aimed at: Discrediting the CIW through an anonymous, bogus blogger campaign of emails and internet postings questioning the CIW’s integrity and calling the Immokalee workers’ organization the “lowest form of life” and “bloodsuckers,” among other things. That smear campaign has since been tied to Burger King Vice President Steven Grover (“Burger King VP puts self on grill; Daughter says dad wrote anti-coalition postings,” 4/28/08) Infiltrating the Student/Farmworker Alliance, a key CIW ally in the Campaign for Fair Food. The use of Diplomatic Tactical Services to infiltrate and spy on the SFA has now been tied directly to Burger King, with knowledge of the DTS hire being linked to BK CEO John Chidsey (“Burger With a Side of Spies,” 5/7/08). Over the course of the past two weeks, investigative reporters have followed the leads revealed in the original News-Press story in an effort to determine to what degree Burger King officials participated in the campaign against the CIW. Those efforts have succeeded in connecting the dots, and today the picture of a multi-billion dollar corporation determined to spy on students and farmworkers, and defame the farmworkers’ organization, has come into sharp focus. Internal investigation… or public hearing? Yesterday, in a separate article, the News-Press reported that Burger King has undertaken “an internal investigation, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken” in response to the news of BK’s Vice President Grover’s involvement in the internet attacks against the CIW (“Burger King investigates VP’s online postings,” 5/6/08). But, in light of the latest revelations in today’s New York Times, an internal investigation no longer seems even remotely adequate. Clearly, a corporation implicated in this sort of unethical behavior cannot be trusted to investigate itself. Exhibit A: In announcing the coming investigation into Grover’s internet attacks on the CIW, Burger King declared definitively that “senior management of the company had no knowledge of Grover’s postings,” effecively launching the investigation with the key issue to be determined already answered. BK CEO John Chidsey’s implication in the spying scandal makes any internal investigation even less likely to reach the bottom of this ever-widening scandal. Instead, as the stain of this dirty tricks campaign continues to spread, it is now clear that these allegations must be thoroughly investigated. A thorough investigation can only take place through an independent inquiry, such as the Congressional hearings suggested by Eric Schlosser in today’s New York Times op/ed. The public has a right to know what corporations do to their critics. Because, ultimately, the public — not Burger King — will be the the judge.” class=”medlinks”>"Diplomatic Tactical Services" to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA), but that Burger King CEO John Chidsey (right) knew about the company’s use of the firm, whose owner, Cara Schaffer, was denied a private investigator’s license by the state of Florida.

Here are some highlights from the explosive op/ed (images below are from the DTS website):

  • "In an interview, a Burger King executive told me that the company had worked with Diplomatic Tactical Services for years on “security-related matters” and had used it to obtain information about the Student/Farmworker Alliance’s plans."

  • "Ms. Schaffer is the 25-year-old owner of a private security firm. Her company, Diplomatic Tactical Services, seems like the kind of security firm you’d find in one of Carl Hiaasen’s crime thrillers. Last year Ms. Schaffer was denied a private investigator’s license; she had failed to supply the Florida licensing division with proof of ‘lawfully gained, verifiable experience or training.’”

  • "Even more unsettling, one of her former subcontractors, Guillermo Zarabozo, is now facing murder charges in United States District Court in Miami for his role in allegedly executing four crew members of a charter fishing boat, then dumping their bodies at sea."

  • "Burger King’s use of an unlicensed private investigator to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance may have been illegal under Florida law."

  • "John Chidsey, the chief executive of Burger King, knew about the use of Diplomatic Tactical Services."

Schlosser concludes his article by calling for Congressional hearings into corporate espionage, adding, "Mr. Chidsey should get a chance to raise his right hand and tell members of Congress why he thinks this sort of behavior is acceptable."

Don’t miss this eye-opening new article!

What does all this mean?… Three weeks ago, a report in the Ft. Myers News-Press broke the story of a multi-faceted "dirty tricks" campaign aimed at:

  1. Discrediting the CIW through an anonymous, bogus blogger campaign of emails and internet postings questioning the CIW’s integrity and calling the Immokalee farmworkers’ organization the "lowest form of life" and "bloodsuckers," among other things. That smear campaign has since been tied to Burger King Vice President Steven Grover (above right, "Burger King VP puts self on grill; Daughter says dad wrote anti-coalition postings," 4/28/08)

  2. Infiltrating the Student/Farmworker Alliance, a key CIW ally in the Campaign for Fair Food. The use of Diplomatic Tactical Services to infiltrate and spy on the SFA has now been tied directly to Burger King, with knowledge of the use of DTS being linked to BK CEO John Chidsey ("Burger With a Side of Spies," 5/7/08).

Over the course of the past three weeks, investigative reporters have followed the leads revealed in the original News-Press story in an effort to determine to what degree Burger King executives participated in the campaign against the CIW. Those efforts have succeeded in connecting the dots, and today the image of a multi-billion dollar corporation determined to spy on students and farmworkers, and defame the farmworkers’ organization, has come into sharp focus.

The question remains, however: Just how much is there still to uncover in this whole tawdry affair? Given how outrageous the facts are to this point, it is almost impossible to believe that there is not more to this story.

Internal investigation… or public hearing? Yesterday, in a separate article, the News-Press reported that Burger King has promised to undertake "an internal investigation, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken" in response to the news of BK’s Vice President Grover’s involvement in the internet attacks against the CIW ("Burger King investigates VP’s online postings," 5/6/08).

But, in light of the latest revelations in today’s New York Times, how can an internal investigation have any credibility at all?

Clearly, a corporation implicated in this sort of unethical behavior cannot be trusted to investigate itself. Exhibit A: In announcing the coming investigation into Grover’s internet attacks on the CIW, Burger King declared that "senior management of the company had no knowledge of Grover’s postings." But isn’t that the very question that any independent investigation would seek to answer? Furthermore, Steve Grover is himself senior management, so the real question becomes "Did other senior management have knowledge of Grover’s actions?" Now, with BK CEO John Chidsey implicated in the spying scandal, any internal investigation is even less likely to get to the bottom of this ever-widening scandal.

Instead, as the stain of this dirty tricks campaign continues to spread, it is now clear that these allegations must be thoroughly investigated. An independent inquiry, such as the Congressional hearings suggested by Eric Schlosser in today’s New York Times op/ed, is the right way to proceed.

The public has a right to know what corporations do to their critics. Because, ultimately, the public — not Burger King — will be the the judge.