An eBay Harassment Case Somehow Led to the World of Espionage

An earlier legal case takes an unexpected turn

Surveillance cameras
There's industrial espionage, and then there's just plain espionage.
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In recent years, there have sadly been a number of high-profile harassment cases involving high-ranking corporate executives. A few years ago, a number of eBay executives were embroiled in one, which involved sending inappropriate communications to a pair of journalists whose work had been critical of the company. That was an unsettling enough case in its own right, but it turns out the story doesn’t end there — and, in fact, has an additional component that connects it to the world of international espionage.

Writing at Puck, Eriq Gardner reports on the bizarre twist that’s taken place in the case since then, involving one of the executives in the harassment case, Jim Baugh. Turns out Baugh, a former CIA operative, wrote to the judge in the case and told him that he had been doing undercover work for the CIA in corporate America — specifically, in gathering information from other corporate executives.

The U.S. Department of Justice has, in fact, ordered the letter sealed. Gardner makes it clear that this is unprecedented, writing that “in searching court records, I couldn’t find a single other instance in which the Justice Department had gotten involved in a civil case over alleged classified information.”

This might seem like a digression, but for the journalists at the heart of the case — David and Ina Steiner — Baugh’s background in espionage is all too relevant. Specifically, as Gardner reports, they’re very curious as to whether his resume in the world of spies played a part in his hiring at eBay.

Industrial espionage remains an ongoing concern on a global level. But the way that this case intersects with that world is especially unsettling — and opens the door to a much wider array of questions and suspicions across a number of industries.

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