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A cabal is a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views or interests in a church, state, or other community, often by intrigue. Cabals are sometimes secret societies composed of a few designing persons, and at other times are manifestations of emergent behavior in society or governance on the part of a community of persons who have well established public affiliation or kinship. The term can also be used to refer to the designs of such persons or to the practical consequences of their emergent behavior, and also holds a general meaning of intrigue and conspiracy. The use of this term usually carries strong connotations of shadowy corners, back rooms and insidious influence; a cabal is more evil and selective than, say, a faction, which is simply selfish; because of this negative connotation, few organizations use the term to refer to themselves or their internal subdivisions. Amongst the exceptions is Discordianism, in which the term is used to refer to an identifiable group within the Discordian religion.
The term cabal derives from Kabbalah (a word that has numerous spelling variations), the mystical interpretation (of Babylonian origin) of the Hebrew scripture, and originally meant either an occult doctrine or a secret.
The term took on its present meaning from a group of ministers of King Charles II of England (Sir Thomas Clifford, Lord Arlington, the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Ashley, and Lord Lauderdale), whose initial letters coincidentally spelled CABAL, and who were the signatories of the public Treaty of Dover that allied England to France in a prospective war against the Netherlands. However, the Cabal Ministry they formed can hardly be seen as such; the Scot Lauderdale was not much involved in English governance at all, while the Catholic ministers of the Cabal (Clifford and Arlington) were never much in sympathy with the Protestants (Buckingham and Ashley). Nor did Buckingham and Ashley get on very well with each other. Thus the "Cabal Ministry" never really unified in its members' aims and sympathies, and fell apart by 1672; Lord Ashley, who became Earl of Shaftesbury, later became one of Charles II's fiercest opponents. The theory that the word originated as an acronym from the names of the group of ministers is a folk etymology, although the coincidence was noted at the time and could possibly have popularized its use. The group, who came to prominence after the fall of Charles's first prime minister, Lord Clarendon, in 1667, was rather called the Cabal because of its secretiveness and lack of responsibility to the "Country party" then run out of power.
During the rise of Usenet, the term was used as a semi-ironic description of the efforts of people to maintain some order over the chaotic, anarchic Usenet community (see backbone cabal). As in this specific case, references to an alleged cabal often fall within the realm of conspiracy theory.
Valve Software, the creators of games such as Half-Life, use "Cabal Rooms" when working on projects such as new games or bug fixes. Each cabal was usually dedicated to one very specific area of the game which meant the cabal had to meet very regularly, in the case of Half-Life the members had to meet four days a week, six hours a day for five months.
These rooms usually comprise 10-15 people, many computers and design technologies, and at least one whiteboard. (See adjacent image). As mentioned in the article "The Enemy Within" by Mark Bowden, published in the June 2010 edition of The Atlantic, the Conficker Cabal is a team of specialists working to defeat the Conficker worm. The worm is believed to have infected an estimated 1.5 million machines worldwide. The Conficker Cabal includes Rodney Joffey, vice president and chief technologist for Neustar, Adre' M. DiMono, one of the world's foremost authorities on Botnets, and Philip Porras who operates a large network of honeypots for SRI International. Despite the negative connotations associated with the term "Cabal," the name has stuck with this particular team of "good-guy geeks." 
The following are two recent examples of the use of the word 'cabal'.
The first came in an accusation by former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, who claimed that the Bush administration's foreign policy was run by a "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" implying a sinister intent;
The second was by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has rallied the world community to support UN sanctions against Zimbabwe, denouncing the regime's leaders as a "criminal cabal".
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