Quantcast

«

»

Feb 29 2012

WikiLeaks Exposes Private CIA

WikiLeaks has released about 5 million emails from a company called Stratfor, which appears to operate as essentially a private CIA for governments and corporations around the world. Here is some of what they say is in those emails:

The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example :

“[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control… This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase” – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.

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. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the “Yes Men”, for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.

Stratfor has realised that its routine use of secret cash bribes to get information from insiders is risky. In August 2011, Stratfor CEO George Friedman confidentially told his employees : “We are retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either.”

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 Stratfor emails reveal a company that cultivates close ties with US government agencies and employs former US government staff. It is preparing the 3-year Forecast for the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and it trains US marines and “other government intelligence agencies” in “becoming government Stratfors”. Stratfor’s Vice-President for Intelligence, Fred Burton, was formerly a special agent with the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and was their Deputy Chief of the counterterrorism division. Despite the governmental ties, Stratfor and similar companies operate in complete secrecy with no political oversight or accountability. Stratfor claims that it operates “without ideology, agenda or national bias”, yet the emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad – including through an information mule in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Yossi Melman, who conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel.

Ironically, considering the present circumstances, Stratfor was trying to get into what it called the leak-focused “gravy train” that sprung up after WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan disclosures :

“[Is it] possible for us to get some of that ’leak-focused’ gravy train ? This is an obvious fear sale, so that’s a good thing. And we have something to offer that the IT security companies don’t, mainly our focus on counter-intelligence and surveillance that Fred and Stick know better than anyone on the planet… Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of ´leak-focused’ network security that focuses on preventing one’s own employees from leaking sensitive information… In fact, I’m not so sure this is an IT problem that requires an IT solution.”

Expect a whole lot of interesting information to be found in those emails by bloggers and journalists over the next few weeks.

14 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    dingojack

    How are your tax dollars being spend America? Clearly wisely.
    Got any clue why you are considered as an offensive, morally (and increasingly financially) bankrupt joke?
    Dingo

  2. 2
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I’m not holding my breath for the mainstream media to not sweep this under the rug.

  3. 3
    slc1

    One has to wonder about the reliability of this outfit. Apparently, they took seriously a preposterous report that Iran’s nuclear facilities had been destroyed by a joint Mossad/Iranian Kurd operation.

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/leaked-e-mails-israel-kurds-may-have-destroyed-iranian-facilities-1.415237?localLinksEnabled=false

  4. 4
    Geds

    Y’know, the thing I found least believable about Burn Notice was the notion of a multi-national, non-government intelligence…group? Collective?…operating in parallel and often against the interests of various governments around the world.

    I guess that’s one point for television there…

  5. 5
    captain_spleen

    ” The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example :”

    Wikileaks doesn’t really have the moral high ground here. They got these emails from Anonymous, which stole credit card information of STRATFOR customers and made charges to those accounts, most of whom aren’t shadowy government officials but regular folks who wanted an additional source of information on geopolitical situations, so paid $100/year for the newsletter.

    Not to mention that Wikileaks exploited Manning, apparently a rather psychologically troubled individual.

  6. 6
    davem

    From dingojack’s link:

    But any constitutional challenge for Assange will come years down the track. The Stratfor emails disclose a strategy: ”move him from country to country to face various charges for the next 25 years” and ”[bankrupt] the asshole first … ruin his life. Give him 7-12 years for conspiracy”.

    If accurate, might it be that the charges against Assange are being put up?

  7. 7
    Aquaria

    They got these emails from Anonymous, which stole credit card information of STRATFOR customers and made charges to those accounts, most of whom aren’t shadowy government officials but regular folks who wanted an additional source of information on geopolitical situations, so paid $100/year for the newsletter.

    “Regular folks” don’t associate with scumbag organizations like STRATFOR.

    Try again.

  8. 8
    Chiroptera

    jonhenry, #5: Wikileaks doesn’t really have the moral high ground here.

    What moral high ground are we talking about? I see information about secret government policies that may or may not be illegal and may or may highly unethical; either way, I see information that may be useful for a reasonably intelligent and educated electorate (assuming we’re talking about a healthy democracy) to make an informed decision.

    Now it may be that this information was obtained in an illegal or unethical manner, and/or that the information was obtained that put innocent people (by innocent I mean not attempting to subvert the democratic process by keeping crucial and relevant information secret) at risk for unfair adverse consequences.

    But I don’t see what this has to do with how we evaluate our so-called representatives based on the information that we do have at this moment.

  9. 9
    Ben P

    “Regular folks” don’t associate with scumbag organizations like STRATFOR.

    Try again.

    This isn’t quite relevant to what I was going to post in response to the OP, but I’ll add something.

    First, I’ve skimmed through some of the emails, and read some reports on the others.

    Most of the STRATFOR stuff is really banal. There’s an old saw that most of what the CIA knows is stuff that will be in the New York Times tomorrow morning.

    The Stratfor emails show this to be true to a large degree. Much of their *business* consists of scanning and re-packaging day old NYT stuff and week old economist stuff and selling it to their clients as “analysis.”

    When you’re talking about a service that’s a couple hundred dollars a week, I think you’re underestimating what “regular people” might use it for. The law firm I work for pays literally thousands of dollars a month to LexisNexis for acces to their legal, records and news databases. Our business is routine so we’d have no need for geopolitical stuff, but I can find it quite plausible that banks, companies that do business overseas, and any number of other businesses might find it useful to spend a couple hundred bucks a week on geopolitical information.

  10. 10
    Chiroptera

    And by the way, if Manning had been part of the former Soviet intelligence establishment and leaked that information about the Soviet diplomatic policy during the Cold War, would anyone have been worried whether the recipients of that information was taking advantaged of someone troubled?

    If the current information was obtained about the current Iranian intelligence policies, would anyone be worried about innocent Iranians’ credit card numbers?

    I’m sure some people would, but for those who see a difference, what is the difference? “My side is good, the other side is bad, and the ends justifies the means if and only if it’s an end that makes me comfortable?”

  11. 11
    Ben P

    And by the way, if Manning had been part of the former Soviet intelligence establishment and leaked that information about the Soviet diplomatic policy during the Cold War, would anyone have been worried whether the recipients of that information was taking advantaged of someone troubled?

    This is sort of off-topic, but this isnt’ quite how intelligence usually works (or worked). There was a really interesting article in the washington post about a former CIA case officer whose post-war career was as an investigative journalist.

    Manning of course, did deliberately leak information, but the intelligence business is very rarely about moles and undercover operatives.

    Much more often its precisely about what Ed references in the post. You have agents (people who work for you) who attempt to elicit, buy, badger or coerce information out of informants (people working for the other side who know things). They use any means necessary to get the informants. It might be as innocent as striking up a drinking friendship with someone who likes to talk shop when he’s drunk, or as nefarious as outright blackmail and extortion.

  12. 12
    Rip Steakface

    By the Emperor, even the name sounds like the organization of some supervillain from a comic book or video game. Seriously, StratFor? They’re indulging the fantasies of armchair generals and intelligence officers everywhere just by calling themselves that.

  13. 13
    Chiroptera

    Ben P, #11: This is sort of off-topic, but this isnt’ quite how intelligence usually works (or worked).

    My comment wasn’t really meant to be a comment on how intelligence works. It was a specific reply to a specific comment.

    The last time Wikileaks or Assuage or Manning was in the news, I came to a couple of conclusions about the criticisms of Wikileaks and Assuage.

    (1) A lot of it seemed to be more of an attempt to distract the public from what the leaks were actually revealing, and

    (2) a lot of the critics would never have made these criticisms if the leaks came out of a government that they felt was “the enemy” as opposed to the US.

    I realize that some of the critics were (and are) acting in good faith and that some of the criticisms were (and are) worthy of discussion and debate in the proper forums. But seeing how the information has been made public and allegations have been made, it would be unfortunate if we focused so much on the methods of acquisition (and I don’t dispute that some discussion on that needs to be had) that an issue of importance to the public ends up getting lost.

  14. 14
    grumpyoldfart

    Stratfor is working for intelligence agencies and sends emails in the clear! There’s your weakest link.

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site