Clear Channel Mounts FBI Billboards Promoting Trade Secrecy

May 30, 2012

Claims of trade secrecy — often unsubstantiated — are a huge barrier to environmental reporters, healthcare providers, firefighters, and policymakers trying to find the truth about chemicals that may harm human health and the environment. Many of the major environmental laws include disclosure exemptions for information that businesses claim is confidential.

To hear the FBI tell it — if only in a few words — the only danger is that foreign companies might steal trade secrets from U.S. firms (even if many major corporations today are truly multinational). The appeals to a ballyhood alien threat — common in much propaganda — belies the likelihood that thieves of trade secrets are just as likely to be domestic competitors.

While alien threats may be well documented in cases filed against foreign nationals recently by federal prosecutors, the FBI is managing to transform the problem into an "insider threat."

The FBI is posting a series of billboards urging Americans to be vigilant against corporate insiders who may appear suspicious — and presumably to turn them in if they do too much Xeroxing after hours.

While the message bears an FBI logo, the billboard space itself is being donated by Clear Channel's outdoor advertising subsidiary. The company trumpets its role proudly in a press release.

Clear Channel is not just any media company. The parent company is by most measures the largest owner of radio stations in the U.S., and also the one that distributes Rush Limbaugh's talk show. Clear Channel is widely considered to be conservative in its political leanings — perhaps demonstrated by the fact that it syndicates most conservative talk shows (e.g. Hannity, Beck, Savage, etc.). It was bought out in 2008 by Bain Capital and Lee Partners. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was a founding partner of Bain, retiring in 2001 with a passive share in profits.