Leaked documents revealed that Caterpillar, a heavy machinery company which has Israel as a client, hired a private intelligence firm in the early 2000s to spy on the family of student activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by a bulldozer while protesting on behalf of Palestinians, the Guardian reported Tuesday.
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British Airways, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Porsche also reportedly paid for similar private intelligence services to fend off various environmental and social activism groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and local environmental groups in Oxford, the report said.
According to the report based on hundreds of pages of leaked documents reviewed by both the Guardian and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, Caterpillar hired now-defunct intelligence firm C2i International to spy on the campaign organized by Rachel Corrie's family – including posing as sympathizers to the Corrie's cause.
Corrie, 23, was protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes when she was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer in 2003, after which her family took legal action against Caterpillar, which had manufactured and sold the equipment to Israel.
Israel's military maintains Corrie's death was an accident, and the bulldozer's driver did not see Corrie.
A judge in 2007 dismissed the Corrie family's allegations, concluding that they did not have the jurisdiction to decide the case. After this verdict, C2i allegedly obtained notes of a phone call Corrie's mother placed to supporters about their legal strategy and possible next steps in their attempts to charge Caterpillar with war crimes for their role in the incident.
Israel's Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a lower court exempting the country from paying civil damages to Corrie's family, as the incident occurred in a war zone.
Cindy Corrie responded by telling the Guardian that she found the corporate spies' misrepresentation of themselves "really distasteful," noting that she had reached out to Caterpillar for an open dialogue but was turned down.
The documents also reportedly show Caterpillar hired a second intelligence firm to monitor activists in 2005.