Chevron's Private Investigation Firm Attempts to Recruit Independent Journalist To Spy in The Amazon
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AMY GOODMAN: Who spoke to you? What did they say?
MARY CUDDEHE: They spoke about the details of the case, they gave me the background. When I first found out about it, I knew almost nothing. I basically went to Bogotá sight unseen. They just briefed me on the background of the case, and they told me what they would want me to do.
AMY GOODMAN: And what exactly did they tell you?
MARY CUDDEHE: Everything that’s in my story is basically what I was told. I was told about this health study that Chevron suspected had been done, that there was fraud in this health study, and they wanted me to go down to Lago Agrio and investigate who had done the interviews and whether there had been collusion between the Spanish human rights activists who had conducted the health study and the plaintiffs in that study.
AMY GOODMAN: And you were to say you were who?
MARY CUDDEHE: I was to say that I was myself. And that was ultimately the reason that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t think that I was being asked to do anything illegal at any point. I just felt that if I went down to Lago Agrio and was investigating, doing an investigation for Chevron and acting as a journalist, I felt that I was walking into territory, as a journalist, I wouldn’t be able to come back from. That was ultimately why I had to say no.
AMY GOODMAN: The person who recruited you, Mary, you called him "Sam" in the piece?
MARY CUDDEHE: I did.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us who he was and how he identified with you.
MARY CUDDEHE: As I wrote in the story the people that I met from Kroll were very friendly and upfront, and we kind of all got along. They were very nice. We went out to dinner. We went dancing the first night I was there. And it was a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. And I didn’t feel at any time that I was being lied to, nothing like that happened. I felt that they were totally upfront with me. But that was pretty much the extent of it.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Mary Cuddehe, the American journalist who was approached by Kroll. Mary, tell us the significance of Kroll, what Kroll is.
MARY CUDDEHE: Kroll bills itself as a risk management company. It has offices all over the world. And at least in the capacity that I was going to be working for them, it was going to be as a private investigator.
AMY GOODMAN: And were they very clear on exactly how they wanted you to identify yourself when you went down?
MARY CUDDEHE: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: What did they say exactly?
MARY CUDDEHE: Well, these were preliminary talks, but I was going to go down there and be myself. Just say that I was a reporter, ask questions and do the investigation under that premise.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you meet anyone there, or did they tell you about anyone, who’s doing what they were asking you to do?
MARY CUDDEHE: No.
AMY GOODMAN: So you would be their first spy posing as a journalist?
MARY CUDDEHE: As far as I know, yes. I noticed the way that the plantiffs’ attorneys have kind of seized on my story. I didn’t believe that I was asked to do anything illegal. I mention that because it was a tough decision to make, honestly, because $20,000 is a lot of money for someone in my position, and it did seem like an interesting case. But ultimately, I had to say no, because I just didn’t feel that as a journalist it was something that I could do, ethically, and then return to journalism.