Monday, February 27, 2012

Short takes: New WikiLeaks email dump targets Stratfor, a U.S.-based global security company; Leveson inquiry highlights the corruption of the police by media payoffs

The workings of Sratfor, U.S.-based global security analysis company, that Reuters describes as a "shadow CIA", was exposed early this morning with the release of five million hacked emails.

Reuters reported very early this morning on the new data dump by WiliLeaks of the Austin, Texas company. Strafor's CEO immediate responded trying to spread doubt about the authenticity of some of the emails obtained when the company's data systems were hacked last December, claiming that some of the releaed emails "may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies."

According to the WikiLeaks website, the emails "reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency."

The Strafor website describes the company as "a subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis. Individual and corporate subscribers gain a thorough understanding of international affairs, including what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what will happen next."

So far this morning the vast majority of the media world appears to be in the dark concerning the data dump, with neither the NYT or Guardian, two newspapers that have in the past been intimately involved in WikiLeaks data dumps, silent on the new disclosures. This may be due to the fact that WikiLeak's list of media "partners" in the email dump list only one US or UK media outlet – McClatchy.

Update: The NYT has just posted this story on the WikiLeaks email dump. Also, TalkingPointsMemo posted a short notice on the email dump shortly after midnight last night, though they were not listed as one of WikiLeak's "partners" on the story.

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks held a press conference in London to discuss the latest data dump. According to The Independent, Assange described Strafor this way:

On the surface it presents as if it's a media organisation providing a private subscription intelligence newsletter.

"And what we have discovered is a company (Strafor) that is a private intelligence Enron.

"But underneath it is running paid informants networks, laundering those payments through the Bahamas, and through Switzerland, through private credit cards.

"It is monitoring Bhopal activists for Dow Chemicals, Peta activities for Coca-Cola.

"It is engaged in a seedy business."

While the U.S. website for The Guardian is leading with the Oscars and Syria, the U.K. site has dedicated its lead story to the new revelations about The Sun, one of its main rivals in the U.K.

The headline this morning reads "Police chief tells Leveson the Sun had 'culture of illegal payments to sources', and talks about the testimony of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers to the Leveson inquiry.

The testimony outlines what Akers describes as the "culture" of illegal payments by The Sun, Rupert Murdoch's News International tabloid newspaper.

"There appears to have been a culture at The Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money," Akers testified according to the written statement submitted to the inquiry (PDF of written testimony).

"The emails indicate that payments to "sources" were openly referred to with The Sun, with teh category of public official being identified, rather than the individual's identity," the written statement continues.

"There is a recognitionby the journalists that this behavior is illegal, reference being made to staff 'risking losing their pension or job', to the need for'"care" and to the need for "cash payments". There is also an indication of 'tradecraft;', i.e. hiding cash payments to "sources" by making them to a friend or relative of the source. The evidence further suggests that the authority level for such payments to be made, is provided at a senior level within the newspaper."