Whistleblower website WikiLeaks has announced it will soon publish recent emails acquired from the servers of Stratfor, a clandestine U.S.-based intelligence firm stationed in Texas. One of WikiLeaks’ hacker organizations, known as Anonymous, claim they have obtained about 5.5 million emails dated from 2004 through 2011 revealing the sinister workings of Stratfor.
Stratfor is an American-based intelligence-gathering firm that Amy Goodman of independent news organization DemocracyNow calls, “a shadow CIA”. WikiLeakes claims the company fronts as an intelligence publisher, but actually provides classified intelligence to major corporations. It has over 300,000 subscribers. Corporations involved with Stratfor include companies like Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and some divisions of the U.S. government including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.
Thus far the leaked Stratfor emails have revealed very contentious information, from the insider trading scheme with Goldman Sachs to Stratfor CEO George Friedman’s disturbing proposals for psychological and sexual control methods.
Recent emails have also revealed that the major chemical industry conglomerate Dow Chemical was intently surveying activists around the time of the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy. This was a gas leak that occurred on the night of December 2nd of 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. UCIL is a subsidiary of Dow Chemical. Methyl isocyanate as well as other chemicals made their way into the shantytowns in the surrounding area. Over 100,000 people were exposed to the chemical and death toll estimates vary from 3,500 to 25,000 people.
The leaked Stratfor correspondence has revealed that Dow Chemical has been keeping a particularly close eye on activist group The Yes Men, an anti-corporate organization. The Yes Men’s statement of purpose is, “Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Our targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.” This group is responsible for the famous ruse in 2004 that led many to believe Dow Chemical had finally taken official responsibility for the Bhopal disaster.
On December 3rd of 2004, the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal catastrophe, Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men posed as a supposed CEO of Dow Chemical on BBC World under the alias Jude Finistera (derivative of the Latin finis terra, meaning ‘end of the earth’). He announced on the broadcast that, as a spokesperson for the Dow Corporation, the company was prepared to take full responsibility for the tragedy. He claimed that Dow had begun liquidation of Union Carbide to develop a 12 billion dollar monetary compensation plan for the victims. He also announced that Dow Chemical, “will perform a full and complete remediation of the Bhopal site which, as you mentioned, has not been cleaned up … the site continues to be a playground used by children.”
Dow Chemical corrected the apology later that day. Marina Ashanin, a spokesperson for Dow Chemical revealed that no individual by the name of Jude Finistera was ever employed anywhere within the company, and she revoked the apology. The hoax was purportedly conducted to raise awareness about the gravity of the tragedy and to alert people to the dangers of allotting too much power to a corporation, as Dow Chemical’s lack of accountability clearly demonstrates.
The Stratfor emails have also revealed that Coca-Cola had requested that Stratfor monitor the protest plans of animal activist group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Coke was concerned with PETA’s plans for the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. They wanted to thwart any disrupting protests PETA may have been planning for the Coca-Cola sponsored world event. Stratfor was hired in early June of 2009 to find out what kind of Canadian support PETA had, what its typical methods were for performing its demonstrations, and whether or not PETA might be associated with anarchist groups. It also looked into how many U.S. PETA supporters were likely to travel to Canada and to what extent PETA’s actions are, “controlled by an oversight board/governing body.”
PETA spokesperson Jane Dollinger said in an email to Postmedia that they, “can’t imagine that anyone who drinks Coca-Cola will celebrate the fact that the company, which touts itself as being ‘people-friendly,’ secretly conspired … to stop PETA protests over the bloody seal slaughter.”
Many of the groups targeted by the Stratfor espionage are surprised at the content of the recent Stratfor emails. For instance, Bichlbaum says in an interview with Goodman that Stratfor was not so much interested in the Bhopal incident, but was paying more attention to whether The Yes Men or other organizations such as Green Peace and Amnesty International, “are going to draw this into a bigger critique of corporate power.” They seem to be more concerned with activism that could affect policy. Bichlbaum reasons that the fact that Stratfor is not concerned with the “bottom line” of the individual companies themselves, but instead with the entire corporate world, suggests a broader corporate system with its own collective agenda.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesperson and vital member of the project to publish the Stratfor emails says, “We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the stories based on the material. They will come out in the next coming days and weeks.”