WikiLeaks Goes Inside Corporate America's Wannabe CIA | Mother Jones
Coca-Cola asked about stability problems in China in advance of the Beijing Olympics. Northrup Grumman asked—twice—about the possibility of Japan getting nuclear weapons. Intel asked about Hezbollah's presence in Latin America "and their general ability to blow things up." And the owner of the Radisson Hotel chain inquired: "[D]o you have an expected completion date for the Militant Islamist Perception Report we ordered?"
The 200-plus emails that have been released from WikiLeaks' cache of "Global Intelligence Files"—more than 5 million messages lifted from Stratfor, a private "global intelligence" firm—are a comical mix of breathless geopolitical intrigue and workplace chitchat, equal parts Tom Clancy and Office Space. But the trove also offers insights into the business of corporate intelligence, showing how multinational companies paid Stratfor tens of thousands of dollars to watch global hotspots, cover their competitors, and even monitor pesky activists.
It was all part of Stratfor's "Global Vantage" plan, a subscription-based program for companies to obtain personalized intelligence briefings. Launched in 2006, the service became an overnight success: Organizations as diverse as Coke, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, the Marine Corps, Duke Energy, and Georgetown University plunked down $20,000 or more a year to get their hands on tailored sensitive information. As Stratfor's leaked master client list shows, major military contractors were well represented, as were Big Oil and agribusiness.
Internal documents show how Global Vantage helped build the reputation—and the 300,000-strong client list—of Stratfor, a Texas-based private intelligence company. In an email last year, CEO and founder George Friedman told his employees that the CIA saw them as direct competitors: "Everyone in Langley knows that we do things they have never been able to do with a small fraction of their resources. They have always asked how we did it. We can now show them and maybe they can learn." After Osama bin Laden was killed, Stratfor's vice president for intelligence (a former State Department security agent) claimed in an internal email, "I can get access to the materials seized from the OBL safe house."