Late on Sunday night, WikiLeaks began releasing five million emails from Statfor Global Intelligence that they say reveals the inner workings of a corrupt global network of paid informants. The announcement does not reveal the source of the leak, but it’s believed to be related to the hacking of Statfor’s servers by Anonymous/Antisec activists in December. WikiLeaks says it also worked with 25 media organizations who are helping to sift through the data (and honored an embargo not to mention it until last night.)
Stratfor — which has been called a “private CIA” by some — provides intelligence data and analysis to corporations and government agencies. WikiLeaks claims that the emails show that it does that through a network of paid informants, including government employees, diplomats, and journalists who are bribed (and occasionally threatened) to provide confidential information that is then re-packaged and sold to various Stratfor clients. The informants are paid through “Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards” due to the questionable legality of the way it collects that information.
The release also tries to tie Stratfor with that other monster of global conspiracies, Goldman Sachs. One document suggests that Statfor and a Goldman Sachs employee discussed setting up a investment fund that would “trade in a range of geopolitical instruments” based on Stratfor’s gathered intelligence. Stratfor refused to comment on the leak, saying in a statement, “Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimised twice by submitting to questioning about them.” There were rumors last night that Stratfor CEO George Friedman has resigned, but those appear to be unfounded.
With five million emails to read through, it’s not clear yet what if anything it will reveal about the shadow world international politics. Or if anyone will care. Because the dramatic “reveal” happened just hours before the Oscar telecast began, the news was largely ignored last night. Much like WikiLeaks — its press release contains several paragraphs about attempts to silence the website and its founder, Julian Assange — Stratfor’s own sense of self-importance (and the regard of its enemies) may be highly inflated. The idea of a private company making money off major political movements will not be much of a shock to anyone, and absent the revelation of specific conspiracy or criminal incident (which may still come, but doesn’t appear to be there yet) it seems unlikely to elicit much outrage or official response from authorities.