The leaked info from rent-a-spy agency Statfor both highlights the intel that Israeli forces wiped out Iran’s nuclear infrastructure – and casts doubts on the report’s validity.
According to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, both Stratfor’s methods and the quality of their information gathering raise eyebrows. Speaking at a press conference in London, Assange drew attention to examples from the company’s communications.
Over 5 million emails have been released – but one has already caught international attention. In November 2011, Stratfor employees discussed the increasing tensions surrounding Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the possibility of a military strike against the Islamic Republic by Israel. The source, who was commenting on the rumors of a ground offensive against Iran, said “I think this is a diversion. The Israelis already destroyed all the Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago.”
The intelligence company officials then floated the idea that Israel had sent commandoes into Iran – possibly with the help of Kurdish militants.
But in the murky and complex world of intelligence-gathering, Stratfor – known as “the shadow CIA” – seems to be a little lost. Or perhaps overly self-confident. The analysts simply accept the one source and completely ignore a reasonable question raised by their colleague in that same email exchange – “How and when did the Israelis destroy the infra on the ground?”
The leaks reveal not only Stratfor’s willingness to rely on one source in sensitive matters, but the way that source is controlled. As one analyst was told by the CEO, control – “financial, sexual or psychological control” – must be taken over a source.
But according to Assange, a lot of the information was very low-grade- and when it came to the Middle East, Stratfor analysts took control over just one (!) source. The Wikileaks founder went on to highlight the fact that despite all this, the company’s so-called intelligence reports were still presented, accepted and acted upon by the US government.
Assange also accused Stratfor of running a network of paid informants, monitoring activist groups on behalf of major multinationals and making investments based on its secret intelligence. “What we have discovered is a company that is a private intelligence Enron”, he told reporters, referring to the Texas oil giant whose spectacular bankruptcy turned the company’s name into a byword for corporate misconduct and fraud.
Statfor has refused to comment on the information made available by Assange, and it is unclear whether their partnership with the US government and other clients is likely to be redefined after the leaks. Wikileaks, meanwhile, is working with its partners, such as Rolling Stone, ARD, La Reppublica and dozens more around the world, to spread the information it obtained…allegedly, with the help of a new partner.
Collective hacktivist group Anonymous have confirmed they gave the emails to Wikileaks. “YourAnonNews”, the hacker group’s news service, have posted the statement on Twitter. “To clarify to all journalists – YES, Anonymous gave the STRATFOR emails obtained in the 2011 LulzXmas hack to WikiLeaks.”
Leaking the Global Intelligence Files represents a new, much closer type of relationship between the two groups, with WikiLeaks actively distributing and promoting the fruits of Anonymous’ work. It’s certainly not the first time that WikiLeaks has published documents that were explicitly hacked rather than leaked by an insider–its past publications have included the stolen “Climategate” emails from East Anglia University and the hacked emails of Sarah Palin. But in September 2010, Wikileaks did not have a dropbox for insider info – and a collective of nameless hackers might be their most prolific new source.