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Accused EBay Stalker Says He Was Just Mirroring His FBI Work

Aug. 17, 2021, 12:57 AM

A former top eBay Inc. security executive charged with spearheading a bizarre stalking campaign against critics of the company says the tactics he allegedly used were regarded as legitimate in the work he did for years as a federal agent and contractor for the FBI.

James Baugh argues he can show the harassment campaign he’s accused of leading mirrors the kind of deceptions he used in surveillance assignments for the U.S. government from 2014 to 2018, which he said sometimes required “arguably unlawful means” in service of a greater good.

“He reasonably understood the conduct was lawful or, at least, necessary; and he undertook that conduct not to ‘harass or intimidate’ or to ‘corruptly’ mislead but to serve important national security objectives,” Baugh’s lawyers said in a filing Monday in federal court in Boston. The filing hints that Baugh may defend himself by claiming the security staff sought to protect eBay’s executives and their families from an “existential threat” posed by online critics.

Baugh, who was eBay’s senior director of safety and security, and David Harville, who was the company’s director of global resiliency, are still fighting charges after five former eBay employees were convicted in a plot to harass a suburban Boston blogger who angered top executives with posts critical of the company. The campaign allegedly included anonymously sending live cockroaches, a bloody-pig mask and a funeral wreath to the victim’s home and trying to place a GPS tracker on the family car.

Read More: Ex-EBay Security Manager Gets 1 1/2 Years for Cyberstalking

Baugh is seeking to introduce as evidence records of his secret undercover work for the government, which he said included using false pretenses to arrange a meeting between a suspected foreign agent and an undercover U.S. operative who pretended to be a business consultant retained by Baugh.

Federal prosecutors contend such records are “irrelevant.”

“Without confirming or denying the existence of any of the described activities, agreements, instructions, or warnings for the period between 2014 and 2018, or any documents concerning those categories, the government would decline to produce such records,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth B. Kosto told Baugh’s defense team in a July letter. “The period described in the requests is irrelevant because it predates the existence of the conspiracy alleged in the indictment.”

To support the argument that his activities were justified, Baugh says eBay’s management was well aware of his background when he was hired and expected him to keep using the strategies he’d learned in service of the government.

“EBay’s General Counsel, Marie Huber, had advised executives and Mr. Baugh that ordinary legal tools were unlikely to be effective in addressing issues posed by the newsletter and a Twitter account believed to be associated with the victims,” according to Monday’s filing. “Executives therefore turned to Mr. Baugh to solve the problem by less conventional means.”

EBay didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the filing.

The case is U.S. v. Baugh, 20-cr-10263, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

To contact the reporter on this story:
Janelle Lawrence in New York at jlawrence62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Katia Porzecanski at kporzecansk1@bloomberg.net

Peter Blumberg

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.