Louisiana Court to BBI Spies: Testify or Else

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


A ruling by a Louisiana court could shed further light on the shadowy work of Beckett Brown International (BBI), the now defunct private security and investigations firm that spied on Greenpeace and other targets on behalf of corporate clients.

On Monday, state appeals court judge Kent Savoie ordered two of the firm’s former officials, Tim Ward and Jay Bly, to testify or face potential contempt charges in a case related to a massive spill of ethylene dichloride in Lake Charles, Louisiana by chemical manufacturer Condea Vista. Working for Condea in the late 1990s, BBI mounted a wide-ranging operation to gather intelligence on the company’s opponents, including local activists and lawyers suing the chemical maker on behalf of clients harmed during the cleanup of the 1994 spill. In addition to tailing activists and obtaining the phone records of Condea opponents, BBI installed a mole inside a Lake Charles environmental group to report inside information about the organization’s strategy and campaigns.

Up until now, Ward and Bly have balked at testifying about their work for Condea, both citing a Maryland statute that protects private investigators from disclosing their clients and operations.

At the hearing, Tom Filo, a Lake Charles attorney targeted by BBI, testified that in 2006 he got a call from John Dodd, a onetime investor in the security firm, who said he had discovered documents from Filo’s law firm among BBI’s files. These confidential documents included medical information about plaintiffs, correspondence related to fees among attorneys, and unfiled legal documents. Filo has contended that these documents were stolen from his offices.

In February 2007, Peter M. Markey, a former Condea Vista superintendent at Condea’s Lake Charles plant, acknowledged that from 1997 to 2000 the company employed “a detective agency to monitor and get information of environmental groups in Lake Charles.” At the time, Markey said in a deposition that this was part of a PR effort “to understand environmental groups and what was going on here.”

On Monday, lawyers for Condea Vista argued that BBI’s work for the company had no bearing on the case at hand—brought by a plaintiff charging he was harmed during the cleanup of Condea’s 1994 spill—but Savoie’s ruling could pave the way for further disclosures about what BBI called its “Lake Charles Project.”

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate