Has the Central Intelligence Agency infiltrated corporate America, and even enlisted executives for espionage? It would appear so, at least judging by the Justice Department’s unusual intervention in a civil case brought by a pair of married journalists who were harassed by eBay executives including Jim Baugh, a former C.I.A. operative whose security firm once contracted with the likes of Apple, Amazon, and even the Oscars (he provided a protection detail for Joe Biden at the 2016 show).
The harassment case was undoubtedly one of the more bizarre episodes in recent Silicon Valley history. One day in 2019, David and Ina Steiner, who had spent two decades running a small trade publication for online resellers, began receiving threats on Twitter. The situation rapidly escalated, with the couple receiving disturbing mail packages including live spiders, cockroaches, a bloody pig mask, a funeral wreath, and a book entitled Grief Diaries: Surviving Loss of a Spouse. At another point, their neighbors started getting issues of Hustler: Barely Legal in David’s name; the couple also found that they had been mysteriously registered as potential franchise owners of Adam & Eve, an “adult toy” store.
As it turned out, the Steiners had made an enemy of eBay, allegedly due to their unflattering coverage of the ecommerce giant. At the time, however, the Steiners were baffled and terrified. Fearing for their lives, they froze their credit cards, installed security cameras around their home, and repeatedly called the police. Eventually, they uncovered the truth, thanks to payment records from a peculiar 4:30 a.m. pizza delivery and the license plate of a rental car that David managed to capture on film: Shockingly, it turned out executives at eBay had been surreptitiously surveilling them.