Wikileaks dropped a bomb on Texas-based “global intelligence company” Stratfor late Sunday with “The Global Intelligence Files,” a dump of over 5 million hacked emails containing confidential information about Stratfor’s informers, psych ops, pay-offs and the methods they use to make the payments. Anonymous has proudly taken credit for the hack via @YourAnonNews:
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) February 27, 2012
Considering the confidential nature of Stratfor’s business, this may truly be a devastating blow:
Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to “utilise the intelligence” it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. CEO George Friedman explained in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS : “What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like”. The emails show that in 2011 Goldman Sach’s Morenz invested “substantially” more than $4million and joined Stratfor’s board of directors. Throughout 2011, a complex offshore share structure extending as far as South Africa was erected, designed to make StratCap appear to be legally independent. But, confidentially, Friedman told StratFor staff : “Do not think of StratCap as an outside organisation. It will be integral… It will be useful to you if, for the sake of convenience, you think of it as another aspect of Stratfor and Shea as another executive in Stratfor… we are already working on mock portfolios and trades”. StratCap is due to launch in 2012.
The email dump apparently reveals Stratfor-paid moles in the press. Describing Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, employed by the newspaper Haaretz, as “an information mule,” Wikileaks states that Mr. Melman “conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel.”
Other media organizations are name-checked in the emails as well, according to Wikileaks’s release. Wikileaks states that Stratfor made “secret” arrangements with outlets “from Reuters to the Kiev Post.”
“While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media organisations,” writes Wikileaks, “because Stratfor is a private intelligence organisation [...] these relationships are corrupt or corrupting.”
The Wikileaks release makes it clear that some of the motivation for dumping the intelligence firm’s dirty business into the ether is, for lack of a better word, personal:
The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange.
A quick review of some of the emails in the early release seemed to confirm many of Wikileaks’s introductory claims regarding their content. Review also revealed that an article regarding the “Ground Zero Mosque,” written for the New York Observer by Mark Ames in September, 2010 drew the interest of Stratfor staffers, who considered it “very conspiratorial, but interesting.”
UPDATE: Stratfor has responded to the leak with a press release. The company refers to the stolen emails as “a deplorable, unfortunate — and illegal — breach of privacy” and addresses the nebulous nature of “stolen” digital data–how it can be easily altered:
Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic. We will not validate either. Nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them.
Stratfor’s statement goes on to call the release of the emails “a direct attack” and “another attempt to silence and intimidate the company, and one we reject.”