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2012-02-28

WikiLeaks: Leaked Emails Expose Inner Workings of Private Intelligence Firm Stratfor, a "Shadow CIA"

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The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun publishing what it says are 5.5 million emails obtained from the servers of Stratfor, a private U.S.-based intelligence-gathering firm known to some as a "shadow CIA" for corporations and government agencies. The emails were reportedly obtained by the hackers group, Anonymous. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the files implicate some of the world’s largest firms in corporate espionage. Firms with ties to Stratfor include Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, and sectors of the U.S. government, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Coke asked Stratfor to keep tabs on the protest plans of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the stories based on the material. They will come out in the next coming days and weeks," said Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesperson who has been a key member of the project to release the Stratfor emails. "What we were doing yesterday was introducing the project, the nature of Stratfor and how they operate and their ties." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun publishing what it says are five-and-a-half million emails obtained from the servers of Stratfor, a private U.S.-based intelligence-gathering firm known to some as a "shadow CIA" [...] for corporations and government agencies. The emails were reportedly obtained by the hackers group Anonymous. At a news conference in London Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the files implicate some of the world’s largest firms in corporate espionage.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Today, WikiLeaks begins its release of 5,000 emails documenting the private lives and private lies of private spies. This is an organization that does not just collect information, collecting information through bribes, through insiders; it is also an organization that acts on that information to subvert particular groups, including WikiLeaks.

AMY GOODMAN: The companies in business with Stratfor are shown to have a keen interest in monitoring critics and activists. The firms include the soft-drink giant Coca-Cola, which asked Stratfor to keep tabs on the protest plans of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

The chemical industrial giant Dow Chemical is shown to have a major interest in activism around the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster, the 1984 gas leak that killed anywhere between 3,500 and 25,000 people. Of particular interest to Dow is the group The Yes Men, the anti-corporate pranksters who pulled off a famous 2004 hoax that led the world to believe Dow had finally taken responsibility for the Bhopal tragedy.

The emails also raise questions around potential ties between Stratfor and the investment giant Goldman Sachs. A former Goldman Sachs regional director, Shea Morenz, plays a major role in Stratfor and a new subsidiary, Stratcap. The emails suggest Goldman may have also been a Stratfor client.

Others that have dealings with Stratfor include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and U.S. government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the Marines and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

For more on the Stratfor emails, we’re joined by two guests. In London, Kristinn Hrafnsson is with us, a spokesperson for WikiLeaks who’s been a key member of the project to release the Stratfor email. And here in New York, we’re joined by Andy Bichlbaum, member of The Yes Men, a group that the emails show was monitored by Stratfor for the chemical giant Dow Chemical. The Yes Men’s latest film is called The Yes Men Fix the World.

I wanted to go first to London to ask you just about the release of these documents.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, Amy, I mean, we are working with 25 media organizations in—who are pouring over the material and analyzing it, and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the stories based on the material. They will come out in the next coming days and weeks. What we were doing yesterday was introducing the project, the nature of Stratfor and how they operate and their ties. So, I mean, the most important stories, I would suggest, would be coming from our media partners in the next coming days. It will take, of course, time. They have access to a database, which we have created with these five million emails, and will be searching for stories on the basis of that data.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about some of the leaks that are coming out now. I mean, you’re talking about five-and-a-half million email?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Five million, yes. As I said, it’s a bit difficult for me to go into details concerning stories, although I know some of the stories, because we want our partners to publish those stories first. They will be coming out in the coming days.

We have, of course, mentioned the connection that Stratfor has to some of the big corporations, working for Coca-Cola, for example, in Canada, as you mentioned, in monitoring PETA. We mentioned that to show the access that Stratfor had to government information, because it comes out in one of the email that the Stratfor director is offering access to a secret FBI investigation into PETA. Then, of course, you have the information on how Dow Chemical did hire Stratfor to monitor The Yes Men and the Bhopal activists.

There are other stories that have come out. For example, one that mentions that the source of Stratfor in Israel claims that the Israelis had only taken action against Iran last year in nuclear facilities. But in that instance, it was to point out that, according to our journalists who are covering us in the Middle East, it’s a very low-grade information that they are gathering in that region, and so it is a bit difficult to say whether this is actually information of any quality. But on the other hand, this is information that is now being sold by Stratfor even to U.S. government agencies.

AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of Israel and Iran, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports some of the leaked emails suggest Israel may have sent commandos into Iran, perhaps with the assistance of Kurdish fighters or Iranian Jews to carry out operations to destroy Iranian nuclear installations.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Yes. I can’t really go into details on that story. It will come out in a day or two from one of our media partners. But we pointed out this email in the discussion about the nature of the material that Stratfor is gathering and actually how they are operating in relation to their informants. For example, the CEO of Stratfor is urging his agent to use financial, sexual and psychological control over the—his informant in Israel to get information, more information, and so on.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of Pakistan government knowledge of the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden before his assassination, what has come out in these Stratfor email, Kristinn?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: It is a claim by Fred Burton, the vice president of Stratfor, that he has information, that he had seen, actually, material that was obtained in Osama bin Laden’s house after—and gathered after he was assassinated, showing that top officials in the Pakistani secret services knew about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and actually were in frequent contact with him. This is to show that the vice president of Stratfor seems to have had pretty good access to information in the Secret Services in the U.S., and he was actually an agent of the State Department’s Secret Services prior to joining Stratfor.

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