On Monday last week, WikiLeaks began publishing the first of what it claims are 5.5 million e-mails from the U.S.-based global intelligence firm Stratfor, dubbed as a ‘shadow CIA’.
Reportedly snatched in December 2011 by the hacker group Anonymous, these emails, dating from 2004 to 2011 and under the heading of ‘Global Intelligence Files’, have exposed the inner workings of Stratfor’s web of intelligence-gathering. Announcing the release of the material on Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange kicked off a press conference in London by declaring that the e-mails documented “the private lives and private lies of private spies”. In a statement, Stratfor said “some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic”, adding that it would not be submitted “to questioning about them”.
Stratfor was founded in 1996 by political scientist and author George Friedman and defines itself as a “subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis” with an “intelligence-based approach to gathering information”.
According to the leaks, the intelligence firm has garnished a list of high profile clients, including major corporations and government agencies such as Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, the US Marine Corps and the US Department of Homeland Security.
Some e-mails reveal major companies hired Stratfor to monitor the online activities of activist groups, especially due to fears that their efforts might develop into a successful and organised struggle against unlawful corporate actions.
In the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas tragedy in Bhopal, India, for instance, major chemical Dow requested surveillance on Yes Men, a group of activists seeking compensation for the victims of the tragedy.
The gas leak remains India’s worst industrial disaster to date, killing as many as 25,000 people and leading to the exposure of hundreds of thousands. Stratfor officials assured Dow that ” have made a slight nod toward expanded activity, but never followed through on it”, adding: “You’d think that the major players—especially Amnesty —would have branched out from Bhopal to make a broader set of issues. I don’t see any evidence of it”, wrote Stratfor Vice President Bart Mongoven.
In e-mails dated November 2011, a Stratfor source in Israel “was asked what he thought of reports that the Israelis were preparing a military offensive against Iran. Response: I think this is a diversion. The Israelis already destroyed all the Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago. If a massive attack on Iran happens soon, then the attack will have political and oil reasons and not nuclear”.
In other e-mails, 12 unidentified Pakistani intelligence and army officials are suggested to have been aware of Bin Laden’s refuge in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, including a “General” who had “knowledge of the OBL arrangements and safe house”.