Thanks to WikiLeaks, some time ago the Russian Reporter got access to millions of e-mail messages that had been leaked from the US company Stratfor, the first and one of the most influential private organizations in the sphere of gathering information, which works under the slogan “global intelligence” (experts describe it even in a more splashy way as the “shadow CIA”). Information obtained by the company is used by the US Department of State, the Pentagon, and even the Israeli government.
Moreover, Stratfor is not only intelligence analysts but “field-workers” as well. Thus, for example, secret service retirees teach Stratfor employees classics of fieldwork. Among other things, they are trained not only how to escape being shadowed but also how to shadow someone themselves (1701604). In a riveting corporate discussion devoted to dealing with information (287965) George Friedman, founder and eternal head of the company writes to his colleagues: “Sources we can’t use are useless. Promiscuous use of sensitive sources is dangerous. This is an ongoing dilemma of intelligence. Since we aren’t journalists there may be ways to deal with this”.
We rather soon found out that in Stratfor employees’ dispatches there was some information enciphered under code RU101 which had allegedly been obtained from the Prosecutor-General of Russia Yury Chaika. According to the messages, Stratfor Senior Eurasia Analyst Lauren Goodrich had access to this source of information. That is the primary intrigue of the Russian part of the files.
The first mention of Yury Chaika as a source appears in August, 2007. Lauren Goodrich sends her colleagues the report titled “INSIGHT -RUSSIA – head of MAJOR criminal group arrested… + chaika craziness” (5411148). Here the Prosecutor-General allegedly gives Lauren details of arresting the leader of the “Tambov Gang” Vladimir Barsukov, describes his own role in the operation, and shares views on the rivalry of Kremlin clans. The letter is followed up with the internal note: “more coming on all of this, I could only chat briefly with Chaika… pls keep the fact that he gave us this info under wraps, but we can use the info other than that”.
In 2008 the presence of the Prosecutor-General grew severalfold. On March, 26 (5540258) a colleague of Goodrich’s offers her to write for Stratfor’s subscribers a material about the increase in the number of contract murders in the RF. She agrees but at this Fred Burton, formerly a special agent for the US Department of State and one of the key US counteragents, who is now Stratfor’s vice president for intelligence, enters into the correspondence. (Based on the date of the letter, Lauren happened to be in Russia at the time of communication).
But, are you sure that you want your name on it Lauren, in light of your past issues and your father? – asks Burton
I am addressing this with both my father and with Chaika tonight… FSB and Surkov’s group already know I work here, so going to ask if it matters anymore… I more worried about my picture than my name, but I will let y’all know, – replies Goodrich
The ragheads and white hate nuts are wimps. The Russians are killers. With your properties and such, it may behoove you not to toss kerosene on a fire. I’ve seen them kill, – worries Burton.
I’ve seen it too… fully understand the consequences. The Russians are so much crazier than what ppl think, – reassures him Goodrich.
Only two days later, on March 28, Lauren Goodrich (apparently, she is still in Moscow as she is messaging from her BlackBerry with an MTS SIM card) sends a report on her conversation with RU101 concerning the bomb explosion in Moscow (5530984) to the headquarters. She quotes the source’s direct speech without taking the trouble of analysis: “I am now on vacation. Don`t respond with complaints. All I know from the reports sent to me is that the device was put on gas tank set to go off when the engine was started. Pissant shit since no body to collect. Took place in Michurinsky Prospekt. Car was Toyota Avensis. Now quit bothering me”.
Sounds like this chap has the red arse. Want me have him “disappeared”? – reacts to this report Fred Burton
He’s just mad at me because I called him 5 times during the night. It’s Chaika (Russia’s Prosecutor General)— #4 in Kremlin, – Lauren explains situation to her boss, adding – He owes his life to me and my dad, so my response to him was “don’t be a dick & just get me the info”
In the letter of November 11 devoted to behind-the-scene fighting of elites appears the definition which later Lauren will use to refer to Yury Chaika little less frequently than code RU101. Here for the first time she calls him godfather (5501854). Here is their dialogue.
“Godfather: Vladislav Yurievich can not rule Russia alone. Nikolai Platonovich Patryushev and Igor Ivanovich Sechin would launch a coup immediately.
Me: Stalin didn’t have the NKVD behind him either, they were loyal to Trotsky.
Godfather: Stalin may not have had the NKVD, but he did have Dzerzhinsky behind him. If Lenin had not died, there was a possibility that Stalin and Dzerzhinsky would have eventually overthrown him.
Me: That proves my point. Does Surkov have anyone in place inside the security services that would help him keep the FSB from staging a coup?
Godfather: This is unsafe waters you are wading in my Elizaveta (Goodrich’s full name is Lauren Elizabeth. – RR). Vladislav Yurievich has many people in many places that are loyal to him. But is that enough to prevent Nikolai Platonovich Patryushev and Igor Ivanovich Sechin from countering a steal for power? I can not say.
Me: Look, Stalin tried a power-sharing time with Trotsky and Bukharin. It failed in the end. Could Surkov be looking for a power sharing deal with Putin while he figures out how to get Sechin and Patryushev out of the picture?
Godfather: Dangerous words and dangerous thoughts, my darling. Cease this. Vladislav Yurievich has never indicated the such to me.
Me: Makes sense though. Must be really why Putin is weary about stepping back into the presidency… he knows that being in control of The Party is where the real power is? Anyway… sorry to have spun you into this one. Sweet dreams!”
From 7 to 13 of December, 2008 Lauren is in Russia again. The preliminary and incomplete (according to her own words) list of her Moscow sources, which she sends “just to be on the safe side” to her management, is both quantitatively and qualitatively impressive. It contains names of 28 people (four meetigs a day on average!) including such “heavyweights” as Surkov, Deripaska, and, sure enough, Chaika (5411655). Apart from that, we don’t know much about the trip – reports on meetings seem to be written on Lauren’s return to Texas or sent to the “headquarters” through channels inaccessible for RR’s analysis. The only message concerned with Chaika (215368) was sent to her friends (also Stratfor employees) at night on December 8: “Have to admit… Russians are sooooo severe and paranoid… meeting with dummy, flirty Venezuelans is nice after my looooong day. They keep offering to take me “shopping tonight’ to buy me “whatever I want”… I have declined for the record. Though if godfather wasn’t picking me up in 20 min, I might play… they’re fun (and veeeery high up in pdvsa) (the Venezuelan state-owned petroleum company. – RR)”
In all, there were more than 50 dispatches discovered that contain references to Yury Chaika (the complete list and original letters can be found on the RR site). It’s clear that it’s a “bomb”. It’s easy to believe such things just because they’re fantastic. Fancy one of a country’s leaders being in ambiguous relationship with a woman spy, owing his life to her, and supplying her with information about the security of the state and intrigues of those in power!
On obtaining such documents it’s necessary to pull oneself together and examine all the variants logically. It’s obvious that someone’s telling a downright and blatant lie – either WikiLeaks, or Goodrich, or the Prosecutor-General’s Office talking about a “hogwash”. We got through to Lauren herself but she couldn’t settle our doubts.
– “WikiLeaks” did a horrible, really horrible thing and I would be glad to explain everything, but I have no legal right to, – gave Goodrich her reasons for refusing. Her management answered us likewise.
There was very little doubt that WikiLeaks had given us authentic correspondence. The organization had never been caught publishing fakes so far. Stratfor had confirmed the fact of the leak. There were so many letters (even those concerning only Russia) and the search of them was so wearisome that the “leak” seemed to be too global (5.5 million messages from all parts of the world) and too complicated to be just a special operation against Chaika.
That is why RR took up checking some of Goodrich’s reports: it’s clear that most of them can’t possibly be verified as it requires a personal comment from the part of either Yury Chaika or Lauren Goodrich. So, what could be verified?
In 2009 the frequency of references to Chaika reached its maximum: Goodrich writes 34 corresponding reports. Perhaps, the most dramatic events in the history of the correspondence start after her arrival in Moscow in late autumn that year.
On November 22, in the morning Lauren writes to her colleages (5531300): “One of the many unexpected impromptu meetings during this trip just popped up. I shall leave in a little over an hour to go meet with the Kremlin’s Advisory Board for the Ministry of Defense. The main contact there is Ruslan Pukhov, though I shall be sitting down with the entire board. It will be at the Ministry of Defense behind the Kremlin. (evidently, she means the Public Council of the Russian Ministry of Defence. – RR)”
At this point a neutral participant seems to step in – the well-known Russian military expert, director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
We took the liberty of acquainting Ruslan Pukhov with the following letter under the catchy title “Fucking Russian Defense Guys” in which Goodrich gives absolutely striking details of the meeting (1702550):
Just wanted to say that I met for 4 hours with the Kremlin’s Advisory Board to the Ministry of Defense & have enough incredible info to fill dozens of pages of intel-all which will make Nate change his pants a few times.
But the meeting did not go as well as I wished-they spent the first 45 min yelling at me for “forcing” them to meet with them on a Sunday. One guy screamed that he was being forcibly kept away from his wife and two babies just because “this girl happens to be the darling of a powerful man in the Kremlin”. Then they yelled at me for being a girl “trying to work in the man’s defense area” and then for being connected to Stratfor and the American Administration. But I had to take it, though I did start shaking at one point as they got pretty heated– but my security team cleared their throats to cut off the yelling. I thought that they were going to blame me for the Kursk and the fall of the Soviet Union they hated me so much.
But we did finally get past all this and discuss the Russian defense sector. I have info on the real stuff behind the French Mistral deal for this week’s meeting. I’ll type that stuff up first (hopefully tonight), since it is most timely. Then I hope to start getting to the other info as I have time. I should have a few hours late tonight as I am staying the night at my godfather’s house after a dinner he is throwing for me.
I just thought y’all would get a chuckle out of my scoldings at the Defense Ministry & to make sure y’all get my info before y’all write on the France-Russia mtg this week.
Miss y’all, Lauren”
Ruslan Pukhov admitted having met with Goodrich but he said, however, it was only once and one-on-one. The possibility of Goodrich meeting the whole Public Council (it’s several dozens of people) was gauged by Pukhov as “extremely unlikely, practically unreal”.
– An angry Russian who doesn’t want to meet a Stratfor employee on Sunday? It sounds like I’m described here, there was such an episode. But we met not in the Ministry of Defence but in the hall of her hotel. And I know nothing about her Kremlin patrons. Besides, I did insist it should be a weekday, – laughed Ruslan having read Lauren’s letter about the meeting with the Council under the Ministry of Defence. – I remember our discussing French “Mistrals”, and “Iskanders” in Georgia, I even gave her the corresponding bulletin of our center. But all competent people have known it for a long time. Yet she is likely not only to have presented it to her management as an “information bomb” but to have turned our meeting into an impressive conference.
The next remarkable letter the facts from which we could potentially verify is written by Goodrich in the small hours of the same long day. In the letter titled “Apparently I’m not making friends this time” Lauren tells her colleagues about a party allegedly held at Yury Chaika’s (1751633):
“So my godfather threw me a little dinner and drinks mixer tonight at his home tonight. It was filled with Kremlin ppl and I was so excited to be there after my disastrous day with the Kremlin Defense group. It was an odd evening though because alot of people seemed kinda irritated by my attendance (though the party was for me).
Anyway, I walked up to a nice looking woman I didn’t know personally – Medvedev’s media representative, Natalia Timakova. I smiled nicely and offered her my hand in introduction. She looked down at my hand and without taking it, said really snidely “I know who you are. We all know who you are. I just wanted to see who all the fuss was about.”
Apparently, she is really pissed off that I wrote that Putin would be willing to throw Medvedev under the bus should the reforms go wrong. It isn’t that she doesn’t believe it won’t happen, but she didn’t want it said publicly.”
In response to the letter a colleague of Lauren’s writes to her:
“This is FASCINATING stuff. I do understand the cold shoulder you are getting, I mean it is only natural. But I find it fascinating that Godfather is so liberally parading you around. I mean isn’t that strange? You are pretty radioactive right now, I mean I’d try to distance myself from you as much as possible. So how does that work?”
Unfortunately, RR didn’t manage to find Lauren’s answer to that natural question. The only thing to be found is a letter asserting that she did stay overnight at Chaika’s (5531300): “Going to bed now at my godfather’s house”.
We showed the text about the scandalous party to Natalya Timakova, who, according to the letter, hadn’t shaken hands with Goodrich. The Press Attache to the Russian President made the following comment on the text:
– I’ve read it and I’ve got a strange feeling. I’m not acquainted with Lauren Goodrich. I always shake a hand extended for a handshake and I never discuss my bosses with strangers. So, it seems to me there’s a great deal of exaggeration in the report, to put it mildly.
The next method of investigation we used was to examine Lauren Goodrich’s personality itself instead of facts from the dispatches. To try to unravel the tangle of the truth or lies the RR correspondent went to Tomsk because, according to the “global intelligence” files, Lauren had lived there with her family for many years, studying and teaching in the Polytechnic University. If what is said in her Stratfor “for official use only” biography (5542777) is true, along with that in 1996 (while born in 1980) Goodrich organized her own NGO “Russian Peace Fund” through which she was engaged in delivering medications, set up five orphan asylums and a school for the deaf in Tomsk (according to letters, she still supervises them (5496794)). Moreover, one of the letters refers to the fact that in Russia she was married (5516963) and another one suggests that she converted to Eastern Orthodoxy (5412158). Richard Goodrich, her father, also lived in Siberia for long periods of time in the 90-s and was also engaged in charity through the organization World Peace Foundation and missionary work through the United Methodist Church (UMC).
First we went to Tomsk methodist church.
– Of course, I remember that girl, – brightened up pastor Elena Chudinova at hearing the surname Goodrich. – Her father came here many times in the nineties, he even headed the mission. And as for her… Well, she was a kind of common young girl who doesn’t know what she wants of life. Decided to take up the Russian language here, packed her things and came – at her father’s expenses. Rented a flat, lived here for several months, studied a little, hanged out a bit. As for her establishing the Russian Peace Fund – here she went overboard, it’s a lie. Probably, she took the credit for it to herself just for greater show. And the Peace Fund had existed long before her, in the days of the USSR. The same can be said about the school for the deaf – perhaps, Lauren visited it a couple of times but even this is not for sure. It seems to me, she didn’t ever come to our place or to the fund when living here.
Answering the question if Lauren belongs to the methodist church and if she can have a Russian godfather, Chudinova said that at least in those years Goodrich-daughter had really been a methodist though not a very active one and that it isn’t customary for their church to have godparents.
Valentina Ermachenko has been the eternal head of the Tomsk branch of the Russian Peace Foundation since the Soviet times.
– Tell me another! Our fund was set up as early as in 1961, at that time it was called the Soviet Peace Foundation and later became the Russian one. I’ve been heading its local branch since 1985. We effectively work with the UMC and are very much obliged to them. Through their programs every year volunteers come to help Tomsk asylums and foster homes – by means of their work, money, toys, and presents for children. They even built one orphanage on their own resources, – says Ermachenko. – As for Lauren Goodrich, surely I remember her, she’s Rick’s daughter, she came here to study. But without doubt it’s utter rubbish. The translator must have muddled it up.
Besides that the story about Lauren’s charity work turned out to be pure nonsense, it appears that the information concerning her teaching in Tomsk Polytechnic University and two-year study there is a biographical falsification.
– Lauren stayed with our family for several months when she came to study, – says Olga Obdalova, head of the foreign languages chair in TSU. – However, she lived in Tomsk less than a year and, as far as I remember, she had nothing to do with teaching.
The Polytechnic University gave us a similar answer to the RR official inquiry. Lauren did study there, only not for two years bur from August till December of 2000. She studied Russian as a Second Language and she could not technically major in Ukrainian (as it is stated in her Stratfor biography) because this language is not taught in the university. She was not a lecturer either – let alone the first American employee in the history of the university.
– I got acquainted with Lauren when, being still a schoolgirl, she came to Tomsk for a couple of weeks with her father and methodist volunteers. I think it was in 1998 and I interpreted for them, – recalls Goodrich’s friend Elena Tyshkevich. – She turned out to be one of us through and through at once. That’s why, when she came here for the second time to study, we shared a rental flat in the science campus. Of course, she had a tough time here but she took great pains. Actually, she is very emotional, oriented to some romantic, fairy stories. She wants life to be like a fairy tale, a prince to appear and everything to become wonderful. Her work in an intelligence agency came as a surprise for me. When we used to mix with each other, she never talked about politics but mostly about boys, cosmetics, clothes and pina colada. Her life should be like wonder and she tried to create such worlds around herself but she didn’t always succeed.
By all accounts, from 2001 to 2005 Lauren studied at home, in Texas, and worked, as it appears from one of her letters written shortly before joining Stratfor, in a shop:
“…. I am still working while going to school at the same clothing store and just past my fifth year of employment with them. I really don’t want to continue working there after I have graduated, but it is fine for now. I just don’t want to work in a place that services selfishness. I know that I am higher up and don’t deal with the customers, but the whole idea of selling over-priced clothes to the wealthy doesn’t make me feel good. It doesn’t help mankind or a greater purpose. I’ve seen too much of the world to not want more in my life. I must make myself better by making the world better”.
Lauren started to actively make the world better than it is in June, 2005 by joining Stratfor. For the first two years she was a trainee there. Then, having been appointed senior Eurasia analyst, she seems to have come to the conclusion that magic and imagination give far more dividends than reality. Not only did the Prosecutor-General Chaika appear among her sources but also many other hard-to-approach Russian trumps. Things were on the upswing; the management was satisfied and appointed Goodrich Stratfor Director of Analysis.
While analyzing the data base further on, we noticed that somewhere between 2010 and 2011 (as it follows from the dispatches) there was some cooling in relations between Goodrich and Chaika, which is inexplicable on its face (Stratfor letters available to RR are the organization’s correspondence till the beginning of 2012). Thus, for example, never does the word “godfather” appear in two years. Code RU101 is also virtually forgotten and, interestingly, has been “marked down” by two major criteria: reliability (from A to B) and credibility (from 1 to 2). In 2010 the source communicates with Lauren only twice: in April he helps to draw up a briefing on the Islamic underground in the Northern Caucasus (5502302), and in December he tells her about measures taken in connection with Moscow nationalists’ actions (1075760). In 2011 he is mentioned just once: RU101 sends Goodrich the list of Putin’s individual physicians (101915).
After our visiting Tomsk we found some probable explanation: at the end of December, 2009 Stratfor started internal investigation into Goodrich’s activities. Five employees examined her correspondence, sources, location, and contacts for several weeks. The investigation resulted in making up a whole file of her hoaxes. Unfortunately, the consolidated file with findings was encrypted and sent through secure channels. Nevertheless, the part of correspondence which was overtly carried on allows gauging the scale. Here are some extracts:
“From what I can tell, there are about three or four groups of friends, and all are getting different stories”. (5338894)
“It’s also nothing new for her to create a fake email account (…) If she’s willing to impersonate people with her friends, why not with sources as well?” (5503589)
“Is there any way we can begin to separate here from the rest of the company?”
“There is a tremendous learning opportunity about trust, source vetting, fabricators and deception operations”. (386254)
“I don’t see what LG could say without discrediting herself in the process. “They hired me, and I’m a complete psycho and I gave you bad information”….” (5301871)
As a result, Goodrich was referred to a psychologist, reprimanded, and deprived of the rank of analytical director – despite the fact that some employees called for her ejection. Presumably, it is because of the exposure and the consequent dressing-down that Lauren practically stopped mentioning Yury Chaika’s name in her reports, which – coupled with other fantasies – indirectly supports the thesis of the Prosecutor-General’s Office about a “hogwash”.
But the most striking aspect of the story is what the internal investigation began with. It was none of the phantasmagorical details of meetings with high-profile sources – they in Stratfor believed it or wanted to (and they might still believe it). Far from it, they started to suspect Lauren of scheming only after she announced to her colleagues that she was engaged to a generous British lord – a young and rich owner of a private yacht and jet. To this end Lauren sent out the employees invitations (5482958) to the wedding which was to take place in the ancient Norman castle Goodrich (Goodrich castle). Besides, she created a special mailbox (5507057) under the name of her imaginary fiancé from which she wrote some florid epistles (387213) to her friends. Moreover, Lauren even introduced her future husband to her friends and relatives: she asked a classmate of hers called Bryan Baxter, who was especially good at imitating the British accent, to play the part of the fiancé. It’s quite likely that, but for this hysterical incident they in Stratfor would never have noticed the rest of the hoaxes about people, trips, and other biographical details with which Goodrich supplied her colleagues, friends and acquaintances without turning an eyelash.
Yet, in spite of everything, Lauren Goodich remained Stratfor senior Eurasia analyst and, as before, churns out analytical notes and reports, comes out on behalf of the organization in the press, and is the co-author of the book on geopolitics in the Caucasus, which was out last year. It seems astonishing at first sight. Two explanations come to mind. All Stratfor employees sign a non-disclosure agreement concerning the organizational mechanics of the firm. Goodrich may have been kept “on contract” so that she couldn’t tell anyone how she had been fooling both her management and Stratfor’s clientele for several years.
But it may well be that Stratfor bosses don’t see Goodrich’s “magic” attitude to collecting information as a proper reason for dismissal. There must be some good grounds for George Friedman, head of the agency, writing Lauren a letter under the heading “Sorry” (5501350) even after everything had come to the surface:
“The point I was making to peter is how valuable you are in spite of everything. He wasn’t denying that as we both believe it. He was challenging my judgment on other things. I was using you as an example of a good choice. I believe that. Please forgive the term I used. I think I covered pretty well. And yes you’re nuts, but you’re very valuable”.
“No worries. I agree that I’m certifiably nuts. But Russia made me that way”, – humbly answered her chief Goodrich.
How world politics is made
The story of dreaming Lauren Goodrich might seem a mere nothing – you never know who suffers from the “Munchausen Syndrome”, you never know who hurries to live and wants to look better than they are. In this case, however, a person in question was determining information delivery and contents of all Stratfor forecasts concerning the whole of the former Soviet Union. Consequently, she – either overtly or covertly – misled not only her friends and colleagues, which would have been Goodrich’s private matter, but also everybody who relied on Stratfor’s data. The organization has over 50 thousand subscribers and most of them are corporate ones. According to its head George Friedman’s estimates, the total number of people who weekly read Stratfor’s informational bulletins amounts to nearly 2.5 million. Furthermore, this refers not only to major private corporations or news agencies: among those who take Stratfor’s opinion into account while developing strategies and making political decisions are CIA, US Department of State, Department of Defense, and US Air Force (5361076).
It’s long since the US authorities understood that a number of functions performed by force structures, which were historically concentrated in state hands, could be transferred into private hands; the tendency reached its full swing in the time of George Bush Jr. Having reserved the right to make political decisions, in executing them the USA increasingly use subcontractors instead of state agencies. Nowadays private military and intelligence men, security guards and jailers work for the state. This comes out of neo-liberal ideology. In addition, it’s just more convenient: unlike government institutions, a private firm doesn’t have to account to taxpayers nor does it have to be transparent. Losses of private companies are not considered in official statistics. Moreover, in case of a high-profile scandal there is no need to dismiss cabinet ministers and, on the whole, there is less responsibility falling on civil servants – you can always change a contractor and that will be that. Just remember the notorious US firm Blackwater, which was caught smuggling arms and killing non-combatants in Iraq, then it did some rebranding and continues to serve the state under the name of Xe Watch.
Stratfor seems to be a similar case of such mutually beneficial partnership between private organization and the state. And it means that longstanding tolerance of the company towards its employee’s sick imagination not only lets fantasy replace reality but directly influences real life through the US policy. In history examples when one person’s hoaxes had primacy for making vital decisions abound. Take the Iraqi chemist Rafid Alwan, for instance, who, having fled his country in 1999, told the US special services about his work in a plant manufacturing mobile laboratories for developing biological weapons. Schemes constructed according to his descriptions provided the basis for Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN and his account became one of the main arguments for launching the Iraq war, which cut off hundreds of thousands of human lives. It was only many years later, in 2011 that Alwan confessed to fabricating the story from beginning to end in order to get US lawful permanent residency.
The results of this RR investigation ought to carry consequences. In terms of common sense Stratfor’s reputation and data should not cost even a cent. It will also be necessary to revise an essential part of political history of the last 15 years. In this fairy world the “global intelligence” has seemingly predicted the date of the outbreak of the Iraq war, the attempted insurrection in Venezuela, the regime change in the Philippines… In the same fairy world almost the first thing Lauren Goodrich’s patron George Friedman discusses both in public appearances and during secret meetings with representatives of the US elite (1116544) is the threat from Russia.