Wal-Mart Gags Whistleblower; Investor Group Demands Apology; Activists Spied On
By Matthew Rothschild

April 10, 2007

Wal-Mart has won a temporary restraining order against a fired employee who spilled the beans about the company’s spying operations to the Wall Street Journal on April 4.

Bruce Gabbard told the Journal that he was part of a sophisticated company surveillance operation that spied not only on employees but on shareholders and critics. The outfit was called the Threat Research and Analysis Group. He confirmed his story to the Associated Press.

“Wal-Mart’s actions are paranoid, childish, and desperate,” says a spokesperson for Wal-Mart Watch, who himself was tracked by company sleuths.

But he won’t be confirming any more stories for a while, since a judge in Benton, Arkansas, home of Wal-Mart, granted the gag order late Friday, April 6. Wal-Mart successfully argued that Gabbard had gabbed about confidential corporate information. The local judge also ordered Gabbard to cough up “the names of all persons to whom he has transmitted, since January 15, 2007, any Wal-Mart information,” AP reported.

According to Gabbard, Wal-Mart’s spies kept tabs on several groups, including the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). After the story broke, Wal-Mart said it regretted that shareholder groups had been monitored. But that’s not enough for the Interfaith Center. On April 9, it demanded a formal apology.

“We were surprised and disappointed to read the results of the Wall Street Journal investigative report,” four leaders of the group said in a statement. “We view such actions as a serious breach of the trust relationship between shareholders and their company. . . . We ask that Wal-Mart formally apologize to investors and to others whose expectations of privacy has been breached.”

Signing the letter was Sister Judy Byron of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, U.S.-Ontario Province; Sister Susan Mika, who represents the Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, Texas; Father Michael Hoolahan, the interim executive director of the ICCR; and Mark Regier, chair of the ICCR’s governing board.

The Wall Street Journal article said that Wal-Mart had done “some preliminary background work on the potential threat assessment” of the Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, Texas.

Another group the company went to great lengths to keep tabs on was Wal-Mart Watch. Gabbard told The Wall Street Journal that he found photos of Nu Wexler, a spokesperson for the group, on a South Carolina Democratic Party website, and shared the photos with company personnel.

“Wal-Mart’s actions are paranoid, childish and desperate,” Wexler said in a statement on his group’s website. The company’s “thug-like tactics only confirm their critics’ charges. Wal-Mart should stop playing with spy toys and take the criticism of their business model seriously.”

In addition to Wal-Mart Watch, the company also reportedly was concerned about ACORN and Up Against the Wal.

Wal-Mart sent “a long-haired employee wearing a wireless microphone to Up Against the Wal’s Fayetteville, Ark., gathering, and eavesdropped from nearby,” the Journal reported, relaying Gabbard’s story. “We followed around the perimeter with a surveillance van,” he said.

In response to the article, Wal-Mart issued a statement that said, in its entirety: “Our senior management, our board and their advisors regularly conduct thorough, strategic reviews of all aspects of our business. That’s just good governance. We look at a full range of alternatives, many of which are considered and rejected, and we will not comment specifically on any of them.”

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project