Chevron's Private Investigation Firm Attempts to Recruit Independent Journalist To Spy in The Amazon
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An exposé in the Atlanticmagazine reveals how one of the world’s largest private investigation firms, Kroll, hired by oil giant Chevron, tried to recruit an American journalist to undermine a massive $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron brought by the residents of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We speak with the journalist, Mary Cuddehe, and with Han Shan, the coordinator for Amazon Watch’s Clean Up Ecuador campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today with a new twist in the 17-year legal battle between oil giant Chevron and the residents of the Ecuadorian Amazon, who say decades of reckless oil drilling have taken a deadly toll on their health and their environment. They accuse Texaco, now Chevron, of dumping over 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest. Chevron now faces a $27.3 billion lawsuit.
An article in the latest issue of the Atlantic magazine reveals how a private investigation firm, hired by Chevron, tried to recruit an American journalist to undermine the high-profile lawsuit. According to the first-person account of Mary Cuddehe, the investigative firm Kroll flew her to Colombia and offered her $20,000 to spend six weeks in Lago Agrio, the jungle town in Ecuador where the trial is being held. They wanted her to say she was an independent journalist, while spying for Chevron, and find out if the plaintiffs in the lawsuit had "rigged" a health study that found the community suffered abnormally high cancer rates. But Mary Cuddehe said no. She refused the offer to become a corporate spy.
The article is called "A Spy in the Jungle," and Cuddehe writes: "There was a reason they wanted me. With one Google search, anyone could see that I was, in fact, a journalist. If I went to Lago Agrio as myself and pretended to write a story, no one would suspect that the starry-eyed young American poking around was actually shilling for Chevron."
We invited Chevron to come on the program, but they declined. Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson did, however, not directly address Mary Cuddehe’s claims, but acknowledged hiring Kroll. Robertson said in a statement to Democracy Now! that "It should come as no surprise that we have hired an outside investigative firm to help document the fraud being perpetrated by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and their associates in this case. There are now numerous documented examples of falsified expert reports, fraudulent evidence, unsubstantiated health claims and collusion with court experts," he wrote.
Mary Cuddehe is based in Mexico City. She joins me now via Democracy Now! video stream. We welcome you to Democracy Now! , Mary Cuddehe.
MARY CUDDEHE: Thanks. It’s good to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined in the studios in San Francisco by Han Shan, coordinator of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign at Amazon Watch.
But Mary, let’s begin with you. Why don’t you explain what happened, how you were approached by Kroll, who was hired by Chevron?
MARY CUDDEHE: Right. As I wrote in my story, I was in Cancún. I’m a freelance reporter, and I was in Cancún working on another story. It was the typical thing where I was writing for a magazine that has a low budget, and it seemed like I was barely going to break even on the story. I was sort of despairing about the state of journalism. Then I got this phone call, it was kind of like magic. I found out about this job. So I went back to Mexico City, and I got in touch with someone from Kroll. And they didn’t want to speak too much over the phone, so they offered to fly me out to Bogotá for the weekend. So I showed up at this luxury hotel and spent a weekend being briefed on the case. That was how I first found out about the job.