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Chevron Could Be Reading Your Emails if You Oppose It

Chevron Could Be Reading Your Emails if You Oppose It

Environmental activism has just become a lot more difficult and risky. A U.S. federal judge has set a new precedent by allowing an oil giant to have access to the private emails of those who have spoken out against the company. Flying in the face of usual Constitutional protections, the judge granted Chevron’s request to subpoena personal emails of over 100 parties (attorneys, journalist, and activists) who worked with the prosecution.

Following years in legal battles, an Ecuadorian court ultimately leveled an $18 billion fine for the massive ecological damage. Rather than paying this fine, however, Chevron has taken the offensive and is countersuing those involved with the prosecution in U.S. courts for what it calls a “conspiracy.” Thus far, presiding judge Lewis Kaplan has entertained the idea that Chevron has been the victim of a smear campaign rather than the perpetrators of an ecological disaster.

Although Chevron has never had a presence in Ecuador directly, Texaco, a company it merged with 12 years ago, did. Thus, the merged company is responsible for the fact that Texaco was found guilty of leaking nearly 20 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon between 1964-1992, harming the river and destroying portions of the rainforest. Ecuador upheld the ruling in appeals court, as well.

Chevron has found success in avoiding responsibility by portraying Ecuador’s courts as corrupt and alleging that judges colluded with the prosecution. It’s a strategy that was developed for Chevron by Sam Singer, a public relations guru, in a 2008 memo. Notably, that’s three years before Ecuador even ruled in the case, suggesting that it was a long-term plan to shout “rigged!” in order to avoid taking responsibility for the waste dumping.

Does justice always prevail in Ecuadorian courts? Probably not. But it’s similarly a joke to pretend that U.S. federal courts with their pro-corporate slants are any less corrupt, particularly after a case like this where all legal precedence is tossed aside to humor what appears to be a corporation’s Hail Mary play.

The subpoena grants Chevron access to every bit of internet activity attached to more than 100 email accounts and IP addresses over a nine year span. Since these internet users have maintained their anonymity, First Amendment protections would generally protect against such a move. However, the judge explained that since the defendants had not demonstrated that they were U.S. citizens, the subpoena could move forward.

As EarthRights International notes:

“It is somewhat amazing then, that Judge Kaplan assumed that the account holders were not U.S. citizens. As far as I know, a judge has never before made this assumption when presented with a First Amendment claim. We have to ask then: on what basis did Judge Kaplan reach out and make this assumption?”

As if trying to challenge giant oil corporations were not already difficult enough, the U.S. judge’s ruling could have major ramifications for the plight of environmental activists moving forward. Although Chevron purportedly needs this information to prove that activists were involved in some “conspiracy” against it, there is plenty of reason to fear it will use the information to come after individuals who oppose it. The lawsuit itself is a clear sign that Chevron will come after anyone who dares to point out its wrongdoing.

We’re in a whole heap of trouble if environmental activists cannot even organize to hold multi-billion dollar companies responsible for their ecological devastation without being charged with “conspiracy.”

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Photo Credit: Tonya Hennessey

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78 comments

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4:17PM PDT on Sep 22, 2013

Hey Chevron terrorists.. you criminals don't scare me.. bring it on have all your pansy thugs read my emails.. I 'm ready for you.. like all terrorists justice will catch up with your criminal acts

1:15AM PDT on Sep 20, 2013

Since when does FAILING TO DEMONSTRATE in a US Court that your are a US citizen VOID your 1st Amendment RIGHTS? Now, I'm really frightened!

I'm certain that the defendants are appealing that decision among other legal actions. Don and I CAN! :-))

3:38PM PDT on Sep 19, 2013

I actually heard about this on "Ring of Fire". I highly recommend the program. They deal with political and environmental issues. Mike Bap Antonio, Sam Cedar and Bobby Kennedy, Jr. are the hosts and it airs once a week.

5:41AM PDT on Aug 12, 2013

thanks for sharing

6:04PM PDT on Aug 4, 2013

I OPPOSE, I OPPOSE, I OPPOSE...

9:27PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Wow, very scary.

3:04AM PDT on Jul 27, 2013

All the better then. They will learn just how out of touch with public opinion they are. Half the problem is getting any of these buggers to actually read what you send them !

The mor time they spend reading half the world's boring emails the less time thay can spend on destruction ;-)

10:21AM PDT on Jul 24, 2013

Frank F I will not attack your post as I see your point. I think

Its not that we are hypocrites, but the fact of the matter is YES we all drive cars so we can get to work so we are forced to buy gas no matter how ridiculous the price per gallon.
YES we have to heat our homes in the winter and we are forced to buy expensive home heating fuel.

We are all being forced to use these products manufactured by Big Oil and they know it. So consequently they put the squeeze on our pockets of which hurts all of us financially

This is the 21st century we should have been using renewable energy long before this. The only renewable energy that is out there is a joke and to expensive to even contemplate.

NASA has been building these renewable energy rovers that have been running on Mars for years without maintenance or need to go to a recharging station

Maybe, just maybe, we should put NASA in charge of implementing a fully capable renewable energy system that will do away with Big Oil once and for all.
But Big Oil will never let this happen, and here we remain with the same problem we have had all our lives .......trying to stay one step ahead of greed and keeping our heads above water.
God help us all!

9:45AM PDT on Jul 24, 2013

FRANK F: Your comments are as meaningful and inflated as your homepage. Don and I CAN! :-))

9:34AM PDT on Jul 24, 2013

Why Frank F....thank you so much for your cogent comments, backed-up as they were by such a wide spectrum of facts and law..... :)

As someone else pointed out, fascism is busting out everywhere here in America. And mindless little corporate toads like yourself are its harbingers.

Oh, and another heads-up.....the majority of people on Care2 are already likely to vote "progressive" in the next elections....so there really is no need for you to remind them just how utterly malignant the "other" side is. Your uberpartisan stupidity is merely redundant in its consequences on here.

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