WikiLeaks on Monday began releasing a trove of 5 million emails from the Texas-based intelligence firm Stratfor. The emails were allegedly stolen by the elusive hacker group known as Anonymous in a penetration of the Stratfor website last December.
Stratfor, a “subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis” has numerous Fortune 500 corporations as clients, in addition to various governmental organizations around the world.
WikiLeaks shared some of the more provocative stories contained within the email cache, including details about a proposed Stratfor spin-off intended to make financial investments based on pertinent intelligence the firm had gathered.
From Wikileaks website:
“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 $4 million 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.”
FOX News website reported:
“The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods,” the (WikiLeaks) website reads. It cites a Dec. 6, 2011, email from CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
“[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,” the email reportedly reads.”
A statement published on Stratfor’s Facebook page about the WikiLeaks release called the action “deplorable, unfortunate – and illegal – breach of privacy.”
Stratfor further advised,
“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.”
The mass release of stolen private property, namely, Stratfor’s 5 million emails, might be crossing the line. Releasing documents, like the widely reported WikiLeaks U.S. State Department communiqués, makes up a basic pillar in the “open-source government” concept—that is, sunshine as the best disinfectant to address institutionalized secrecy and corruption.
But if there are no areas in the economy where private property and information is protected, then this precedent could usher in a new era of unbridled corporate warfare and espionage.
However, if there are significant illegalities uncovered, then the act of exposing private information to prevent a greater and continuing harm would justify WikiLeaks actions. In essence, this has been an ongoing criticism of WikiLeaks’ strategy—that a shotgun approach to releasing huge troves of secret or proprietary material is overreaching and potentially damages innocent actors in the process.
WikiLeaks would most likely assert that they have conducted copious amounts of due diligence in this regard and contend that the corporations or the governments that they choose to publish information about are in such a state of widespread corruption that there cannot be any “innocent” involvement with or within these institutions.