It allegedly targets groups and individuals whose activities might embarrass or hurt its clients
WikiLeaks on Monday revealed how Indian rights activists campaigning against Dow Chemical over its links with the Bhopal gas tragedy had been targeted by a Texas-based data analysis company Stratfor which, while claiming to be an “independent” organisation, “secretly” fed intelligence to American security agencies, military officials and powerful global corporations.
The disclosure is contained in the “Global Intelligence Files,” a cache of more than 5 million secret emails, which WikiLeaks began publishing.
The emails, dating from July 2004 and late December 2011, revealed Stratfor's “web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods,” providing a glimpse of the murky world of intelligence gathering, and the company's invisible links with governments and power corporations.
They also revealed Stratfor's covert links with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Israel's Mossad, WikiLeaks said pointing out that the company gave “a complimentary membership” to Hamid Gul, former head of ISI who, according to U.S. diplomatic cables, “planned” an IED attack on NATO-led forces in Afghanistan in 2006.
Releasing the files at a press conference here, WikiLeaks said they exposed how Stratfor recruited “a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards.” It had a mix of covert and overt informants, including government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.
“Here we have a private intelligence firm, relying on informants from the U.S. government, foreign intelligence agencies with questionable reputations and journalists,” said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“What is of grave concern is that the targets of this scrutiny are, among others, activist organisations fighting for a just cause.”
Once likened by an American magazine to a “shadow CIA,” Stratfor allegedly targets groups and individuals whose activities might embarrass or hurt its clients.
WikiLeaks itself had been a target of Stratfor's surveillance, it said.
“The material contains privileged information about the U.S. government's attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor's own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks,” it said pointing out that it contained more than 4,000 references to Mr. Assange or WikiLeaks.
While Stratfor claimed that it operated “without ideology, agenda or national bias,” yet the emails revealed “private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with U.S. government policies and channel tips to the Mossad…”
Revealing the company's hidden links with the American government, it said: “Stratfor's Vice-President for Intelligence, Fred Burton, was formerly a special agent with the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service and was their Deputy Chief of the counter-terrorism division. Despite the governmental ties, Stratfor and similar companies operate in complete secrecy with no political oversight or accountability.”
It also claimed that Stratfor did “secret deals with dozens of media organisations and journalists.”
“While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media organisations, because Stratfor is a private intelligence organisation that services governments and private clients, these relationships are corrupt or corrupting,” it said.
WikiLeaks did not say how it obtained the emails.
In a statement ahead of the WikiLeaks disclosure, Stratfor said : “In December, thieves compromised Stratfor's data systems and stole a large number of company emails, along with other private information of Stratfor readers, subscribers and employees. Those stolen emails apparently will be published by Wikileaks. This is a deplorable, unfortunate — and illegal — breach of privacy.”
WikiLeaks said there was a systematic campaign to destroy it by choking off its funds through an “unlawful” and “arbitrary” financial blockade imposed on it by the Bank of America, VISA, Mastercard, PayPal and Western Union as part of a “politically motivated” attack by American authorities. Last October, it was forced to suspended its publishing operations to focus on raising funds .
Mr. Asssange described the financial blockade as an “existential” threat to the organisation and said if it continued, WikiLeaks would not be able to carry on its work.