Rebecca Burns is an In These Times contributing editor and award-winning investigative reporter. Her work has appeared in Bloomberg, the Chicago Reader, ProPublica, The Intercept, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter @rejburns.
The most recent document release from anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks targets private intelligence firm Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based private intelligence firm that Wikileaks refers to as a “shadow CIA.”Wikileaks said that the more than 5,000 leaked e‑mails, which it began releasing Monday, reveal how Stratfor, a firm that collects and sells information from government and private industry sources, also provides “confidential intelligence services to large corporations” that amount to corporate espionage. Firms with ties to Stratfor include Coca-Cola, Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Goldman Sachs, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.Among the revelations included in “the Global Intelligence Files” are that U.S. prosecutors may have already drawn up a secret indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. This morning, the Sydney Morning-Herald, which has an investigative partnership with Wikileaks, reported that Stratfor executive Fred Burton confirmed the existence of such an indictment in January 2010:
In an internal email to Stratfor analysts on January 26 last year, the vice-president of intelligence, Fred Burton, responded to a media report concerning US investigations targeting WikiLeaks with the comment: ”We have a sealed indictment on Assange.”He underlined the sensitivity of the information — apparently obtained from a US government source — with warnings to ”Pls [please] protect” and ”Not for pub[lication]”.Mr Burton is well known as an expert on security and counterterrorism with close ties to the US intelligence and law enforcement agencies. He is the former deputy chief of the counter-terrorism division of the US State Department’s diplomatic security service.In December 2011, the Herald obtained Australian diplomatic cables confirming that WikiLeaks was the subject of a criminal investigation by the U.S. government ”unprecedented both in its scale and nature.”The leaked Stratfor e‑mails also reveal that the firm spied on Bhopal activists at the behest of Dow Chemical, the company responsible for the 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, India that killed thousands. As the 25th anniversary of the disaster approached, Stratfor monitored and analyzed the online activities of activists seeking address for victims of the disaster.Another set of e‑mails suggests that Israeli forces, potentially with the help of Kurdish fighters, have already carried out critical strikes against Iranian nuclear capabilities and that hostility toward Iran is an attempt to distract the public from the European financial crisis. In an e‑mail from November 2011, a Stratfor official claims that an explosion at an Iranian nuclear base was a diversion because “the Israelis already destroyed all the Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago,” though other officials expressed doubt that this was credible information. The first official asserts that “the current ‘let’s bomb Iran’ campaign was ordered by the EU leaders to divert the public attention from their at home financial problems.”The e‑mails also underscore the deepening connections between government and private intelligence firms, with Stratfor providing strategic support and training to government agencies including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. One e‑mail from Stratfor CEO George Friedman reads:We have also been asked to help the United States Marine Corps and other government intelligence organizations to teach them how Stratfor does what it does, and train them in becoming government Stratfors. We are beginning this project by preparing a three-year forecast for the Commandant of the Corps. This is a double honor for us.Stratfor made headlines earlier this year when hacker group Anonymous infilitrated the firm’s subscriber base and posted the usernames, passwords and credit card details of about half a million government and corporate subscribers online.Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesperson involved in the Global Intelligence Files project, told Democracy Now, “We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the stories. It will come out in the next coming days and weeks.”