The Release of Stratfor Emails by WikiLeaks & Its Significance
The whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks has partnered with more than twenty-five media outlets to release millions of emails from the global private intelligence company known as Stratfor. The release of the emails, which they are calling the “Global Intelligence Files,” shows the full scope of the company’s operations—how they provide intelligence services to major corporations like Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Company. They show how the company has informants and engages in payment-laundering. And, most striking, it shows most of the money Stratfor uses comes from public sources like government offices, agencies, militaries, etc, because members subscribe to their services.
From the moment the release began, media has been ambivalent toward the news that the contents of the emails are now being published. Both how WikiLeaks may have obtained the emails and the fact that Stratfor’s reputation is allegedly poor among foreign policy writers, analysts and practitioners, etc.
Stratfor’s service may be shoddy, but the reality is the company does have a network of operatives that engage in activities around the world. The members take themselves seriously. George Friedman, CEO, writes in one email, after a deputy director of intelligence at the CIA was fired, that Stratfor would show the CIA how to properly run an intelligence organization.
Revealed so far is the following:
—Former Goldman Sachs managing director Shea Morenz to start a hedge fund called StratCap. The idea, which Morenz came up with, was that the company would “trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like.” Morenz invested more than $4 million and joined Stratfor’s board of directors. They put together an offshore share structure that went “as far as South Africa” Friedman said the fund will be useful and they would be “working on mock portfolios and trades.” And, the fund was to launch in 2012.
—Bhopal activists and The Yes Men were being spied on by the company. In response to activism against Dow Chemical for their role in the 1984 gas disaster in Bhopal, India (which victims have not been properly compensated for yet), the activists were tracked. The company kept track of the Yes Men’s speaking engagements along with mentions of Bhopal activism in the media.
—Coca Cola contracted Stratfor to spy on PETA. The organization, which engages in animal rights activism, was monitored. The soda company feared protests from PETA during the Vancouver Olympics. And so, they sent a list of questions to Stratfor and sought answers. Fred Burton, a former State Department official, responded in one email, “The FBI has a classified investigation on PETA operatives. I’ll see what I can uncover.”
—Vice President Fred Burton, former State Department official, has clear ties to Israel. As Al-Akhbar English’s Yazan al-Saadi details Burton was “a special agent with the US Diplomatic Security Service and was appointed by Washington to investigate the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, and a number of bomb plots by al-Qaeda prior to 9/11.” In the emails, his “pro-Israeli sentiments and links to Israeli military and intelligence sectors” are apparent as he argues the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was “funded by questionable sources.” There’s a level of racism in the company toward Palestinians or, in general, Arabs, not to mention the fact that the organization appears to be privy to information on the Mossad’s covert program to assassinate Iranian physicists.
Those are just some of the highlights of what has been gleaned from the emails. Only 200 of the five million emails have been released.
As was noted when news of the hack broke in December, Stratfor apparently had little concern for the “sources” it was working with. In fact, a glossary of terms they use when conducting business shows just how much disregard the business has for the safety of sources.
According to the glossary, “businessmen” are people you have to make “scared shitless of you.” The “most rare and prized variety” of a source is one that is a “coerced source” because “you have him by the balls.” A “green-carder” is “a source working for you because he believes that you will take him to America where he will own a Seven-Eleven. Try not to disabuse him until after you’ve squeezed his sorry ass.” Finally, rattling a source’s cage means “scaring the living shit out of a source in order to get a read on whether he is jerking you around.”
This is an organization with over 300,000 subscribers. This is how it obtains information. And, as one can tell from reading the content, the veracity of the intelligence collected is highly questionable. The company, as it admits, is largely “disconnected” from domestic politics in the countries of which it is producing analysis. If anything, the value of the intelligence is limited to its ability to reinforce already held biases in agencies and institutions toward certain policies, programs or leaders in specific countries.
Finally, the company has tried to publicly operate as a kind of hybrid between a think tank and a media organization. Stratfor was condemned during the Frontline Club press conference on the release because it does offer surveillance of citizens of the world as a service to corporations. The company also has likely engaged in bribery, which is why Friedman said the organization would be getting a law firm to help them establish guidelines so they would be prepared for any charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Bloomberg, Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, and the BBC have all, at some point, in the past decade used “intelligence” or analysis provided by Stratfor in its newsletters to supplement reporting. At least, individuals in these media organizations have consumed the material and tucked nuggets in the back of their head for referencing when necessary.
The release of the Global Intelligence Files has only just begun. This is not all that we are going to find out. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, claims 4,000 emails show how Stratfor was doing work that pertains to the operations of WikiLeaks.
Here is Firedoglake‘s live blog on the release covering what has been revealed thus far along with media coverage of the release. Firedoglake will continue to cover the release as WikiLeaks and its media partners publish new stories on revelations in the millions of emails yet to be released.
I appeared on RT’s “The Alyona Show” yesterday and discussed the “Global Intelligence Files” release. Here’s the video: