Fired engineer airs Wal-Mart security practices

A former security engineer who was fired by Wal-Mart has disclosed what he says are broad-based surveillance operations by the retailing giant to monitor employee activities.

Bruce Gabbard, fired by Wal-Mart last month for allegedly taping calls between a Wal-Mart executive and a New York Times reporter, has begun speaking out about the company's internal surveillance practices. In a story today in the Wall Street Journal, Gabbard, who worked in Wal-Mart's Threat Research and Assessment Group, is described as having been involved in electronically monitoring directors' meetings and searching for spies and leaks.

The story reports Gabbard belonged to a security team for Project Red, a program to secure information including discussions of a secret plan to boost Wal-Mart's stock price by possibly spinning off the company's Sam's Club unit.

Wal-Mart responded Monday in a statement: "Our senior management, our board and their advisors regularly conduct thorough, strategic reviews of all aspects of our business. That's just good governance. We look at a full range of alternatives, many of which are considered and rejected, and we will not comment specifically, on any of them."

The Wall Street Journal story says the Wal-Mart business reports related to Project Red were encrypted, but that last weekend computer hard drives that Wal-Mart believes contain Project Red information were in the car of Gabbard's wife.

In what is likely to be an ongoing saga of Wal-Mart and its fired security engineer, the Wall Street Journal reports the hard drives have been delivered to the prosecutor's office in Benton County, Ark. Wal-Mart is suing the former security engineer for allegedly leaking trade secrets to the newspaper in a story that ran last week.

Gabbard told the Wall Street Journal that his job included the interception of workers' pager messages containing sensitive information and that he also intercepted outsider calls by mistake. Gabbard also revealed that his security division sent an undercover operative wearing a microphone to spy on a protest group, which planned to attend the annual Wal-Mart meeting.

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