WikiLeaks will publish millions of e-mails from Strategic Forecasting, a global security analysis firm commonly known as Stratfor. The documents, which WikiLeaks is calling the Global Intelligence Files and which cover 2004 through last year, could create as big a controversy as the organization's 2010 release of U.S. diplomatic and military communications.
At the moment, WikiLeaks has published only about 200 e-mails, from which snippets of the Texas-based company's world of international security have started dribbling out. Founded in 1996, the privately owned Stratfor describes itself as a subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis, and its clients include multinational companies, universities, military and other governmental organizations. Some observers have called the organization a "shadow CIA."
'Private Intelligence Enron'
Rolling Stone magazine, German broadcaster NDR, and other media outlets have indicated they have access to the material and, if newsworthy, may run related stories.
Julian Assange, the now-famous head of WikiLeaks, told news media that the e-mails reveal "a company that is a private intelligence Enron," a reference to the now-bankrupt energy giant whose manipulation of fuel prices and financial mismanagement have turned it into a metaphor for corporate corruption.
Assange contends the e-mails show that Stratfor sent money as payoffs to informants via offshore accounts, conducted extortion to obtain intelligence, kept tabs on activists for multinationals, and used inside intelligence to make investments, among other things.
According to news media, the e-mails include reports to Dow Chemical about activists concerned with the Bhopal disaster, in which a gas leak in India led to the deaths of thousands and injuries to nearly half a million people. Dow has said in a statement that it did nothing illegal in obtaining the reports, and that "major companies are often required to take appropriate action to protect their people and safeguard their facilities."
'Will Not Be Victimized Twice'
Stratfor has denied any improprieties. In a statement, the company said that it has "worked to build good sources in many countries around the world, as any publisher of global geopolitical analysis would do." It added that its activities have been conducted "in a straightforward manner and we are committed to meeting the highest standards of professional conduct."
In addition, the company indicated it will not be making many more statements on this subject. "Having had our property stolen," its statement said, "we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them." Stratfor has indicated that some of the e-mails may have been forged, although no evidence of such tampering has been provided.
At the moment, it is not clear how the trove of e-mails came into WikiLeaks' possession. Stratfor has indicated that the e-mails may have been part of a breach of its servers at the end of last year, an attack claimed by an offshoot of Anonymous, the hacker activist group. Thousands of credit card and other confidential information were released following that breach.
At the time, the Anonymous-related hackers indicated that the December attack was in retaliation for the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who is charged with having leaked more than a quarter-million U.S. diplomatic cables to the WikiLeaks Web site, which has posted many of them.