Ex-Wal-Mart Employee Admits Role in Internal Surveillance Ops

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- A former employee at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. who was fired last month said he was part of a large surveillance operation that included snooping on employees, stockholders, and others.

Wal-Mart fired the security worker, Bruce Gabbard, last month, claiming he was intercepting a reporter's phone calls. Gabbard had been with Wal-Mart for 19 years.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Gabbard said he recorded the calls because he felt pressured to stop embarrassing leaks. He also claimed that his superiors were aware of his actions.

Gabbard said that as part of the surveillance, the retailer infiltrated an anti-Wal-Mart group to find out if it was planning protests at the company's annual meeting last year, and deployed monitoring systems to record the actions of anyone connected to its global computer network.

Many of Gabbard's statements were confirmed by other former Wal-Mart employees, according to the Journal. Wal-Mart conducted an internal investigation of Gabbard and his group's activities, fired his supervisor, and demoted a vice president over the group, the paper said.

"This group is no longer operating in the same manner that it did prior to the discovery of the unauthorized recording of telephone conversations," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "There have been changes in leadership, and we have strengthened our practices and protocols in this area."

A U.S. attorney is investigating whether any laws were violated as a result of the phone and pager intercepts, according to the Journal.
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