Stratfor's 5m emails spilled by Wikileaks

Summary:Wikileaks has begun to publish more than 5 million emails allegedly belonging to intelligence firm Stratfor, which was the subject of a security breach last year, stating that the emails provide evidence that Stratfor used underhanded tactics to gain information and had attempted to subvert Wikileaks.

update Wikileaks has begun to publish more than 5 million emails allegedly belonging to intelligence firm Stratfor, which was the subject of a security breach last year, stating that the emails provide evidence that Stratfor used underhanded tactics to gain information and had attempted to subvert Wikileaks.

At the time of writing, Wikileaks has only published about 167 files, dating between July 2004 and late December 2011, as part of an archive it is calling "The Global Intelligence Files". According to the leaks website, they prove that Stratfor provided confidential intelligence services to Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and US government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency.

In a statement released by Stratfor, the company described Wikileaks' actions as a "deplorable, unfortunate — and illegal — breach of privacy".

"Stratfor is not a government organisation, nor is it affiliated with any government. The emails are private property. Like all private emails, they were written casually, with no expectation anyone other than the sender and recipient would ever see them. They should be read as such."

It further stated that some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies and some may be authentic, but it would not say either way or explain any of the reasoning behind comments in the emails.

"Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimised twice by submitting to questioning about them," the company wrote.

"As with last year's hack, the release of these emails is a direct attack on Stratfor. This is another attempt to silence and intimidate the company, and one we reject. Under the continued leadership of founder and chief executive officer George Friedman, Stratfor will not be silenced and will continue to publish the geopolitical analysis our friends and subscribers have come to rely upon."

It stressed that these emails did not mean there had been another attack on Stratfor's systems and that those systems currently remained secure.

Wikileaks states that Stratfor used underhanded tactics to force sources into providing information, pointing to leaked correspondence purportedly sent by CEO George Friedman to analyst Reva Bhalla on how to work a source for more information:

If this is a source you suspect may have value, you have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control to the point where he would reveal his sourcing and be tasked. This is difficult to do when you are known to be affiliated with an intelligence organisation.

The decision on approach would not come from you but from your handler. This is because your position is too close to the source and your judgment by definition suspect. Each meeting would be planned between you and your handler and each meeting would have a specific goal not built around discussing the topic of interest which would ideally be hidden but in analysing him personally and moving toward control. The justification for the op would be specific classes of information and on gaining control the first step would be determining his access. If he failed the test contact would be terminated.

Wikileaks further accused Stratfor of paying out sources, pointing to what appears to be invoices (PDF) and emails that show individuals being paid.

In a statement, Wikileaks said that these sources include government employees, embassy staff and journalists located throughout the world, which are paid via Swiss bank accounts and prepaid credit cards.

Stratfor defended itself against Wikileak's claims.

"Stratfor has worked to build good sources in many countries around the world, as any publisher of global geopolitical analysis would do. We have done so in a straightforward manner and we are committed to meeting the highest standards of professional conduct."

At the time of the Wikileaks' initial release of the emails, correspondence appearing to be a resignation letter from CEO George Friedman to vice president Fred Burton was "leaked" on to Pastebin, even though Stratfor's email would have been secured at the time. Stratfor told ZDNet Australia that contrary to information circulating on the internet, Friedman has not resigned and remains CEO.

Other correspondence Wikileaks has released delves into CIA links with the mosque built at the former site of World Trade Centre, Ground Zero; an account of a failed attempt to kidnap and possibly assassinate a member of Libya's de facto government, the National Transitional Council; and speculation over whether Israel is mounting an offensive against Iran.

Updated at 5.43pm, 27 February 2012: added comment from Stratfor.

Topics: Security

About

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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