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WikiLeaks Publishes Emails From ‘Shadow CIA’ Firm Stratfor

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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WikiLeaks has begun publishing millions of emails thought to have been obtained from intelligence firm Stratfor in a December hack by Anonymous

WikiLeaks has begun releasing more than five million emails obtained from Stratfor, a Texas-based geopolitical analysis company that has been compared to a private spy agency.

Stratfor, short for Strategic Forecasting, counts large corporations, military bodies and international government agencies among its subscribers, and was compared by business magazine Barron’s to a “shadow CIA”. Prominent individuals such as former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Dan Quayle, former US government vice president, are also said to be subscribers to the company’s reports.

WikiLeaks said the emails would shed light on the group’s “web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods”.

Activists targeted

Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, said the emails would also reveal Stratfor’s use of dubious practices to target legitimate activist groups.

“Here we have a private intelligence firm, relying on informants from the US government, foreign intelligence agencies with questionable reputations and journalists,” Assange told Reuters. “What is of grave concern is that the targets of this scrutiny are, among others, activist organisations fighting for a just cause.”

WikiLeaks said it would release the internal and external emails through a network of more than two dozen news outlets and activist groups over the next few weeks.

The first document released was titled The Stratfor Glossary of Useful, Baffling and Strange Intelligence Terms and includes assessments of US intelligence and law enforcement efforts, speculation about the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the sabotage campaign against Iran’s nuclear programme.

The outlets used by Wikileaks include US newspaper publisher McClatchy Co., Italian newspapers L’Espresso and La Repubblica, German state broadcaster NDR/ARD and Russia Reporter, as well as activist group The Yes Men.

Yes Men member Andy Bichlbaum said the emails shed light on the inner workings of large corporations.

“What is significant is the picture it helps to paint of the way corporations operate. They operate with complete disregard for rule of law and human decency,” Bichlbaum told Reuters.

‘Intimidation’

Stratfor called the release a campaign to intimidate it and said the emails were bound to be misinterpreted as they were not meant for public consumption. The company said its chief executive George Friedman has not resigned, contrary to rumours spread online.

“Stratfor understands that this hack and the fallout from it, including the disclosures by Wikileaks, have created serious difficulties for our subscribers, friends and employees… Stratfor will not be silenced and will continue to publish the geopolitical analysis our friends and subscribers have come to rely upon,” the company stated.

The emails “may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic,” Stratfor stated. “We will not validate either. Nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimised twice by submitting to questioning about them.”

The company said it had worked to build “good sources” internationally “as any publisher of global geopolitical analysis would do”.

WikiLeaks’ action is a “deplorable, unfortunate and illegal breach of privacy”, Stratfor stated.

In January Friedman, acknowledging that emails had been stolen from the company in a security breach, said the documents may be embarrassing but would not reveal anything serious.

“As they search our emails for signs of a vast conspiracy, they will be disappointed,” he said in press reports at the time.

Anonymous hack

WikiLeaks has not stated how it came by the emails but it is assumed that they were provided by the hacker group Anonymous, which claimed to have obtained the data as the result of a hack in December. The emails date from July 2004 to the end of 2011, according to WikiLeaks.

Assange is currently fighting extradition to Sweden for questioning as part of a sexual assault inquiry. WikiLeaks has said in recent months that it is in financial jeopardy, partly because some financial institutions have blocked payments directed to the organisation.

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