So finally we learn, via the Sydney Morning Herald, that the Obama administration wants to crush Julian Assange and Wikileaks for the “crime” of revealing a litany of wrongs committed by Washington. And here’s the irony; after demanding answers from governments in America, Britain, Australia and elsewhere about the legal status of Assange, it takes a Wikileaks release to discover the truth:
United States prosecutors have drawn up secret charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, according to a confidential email obtained from the private US intelligence company Stratfor.
In an internal email to Stratfor analysts on January 26 last year, the vice-president of intelligence, Fred Burton, responded to a media report concerning US investigations targeting WikiLeaks with the comment: ”We have a sealed indictment on Assange.”
He underlined the sensitivity of the information – apparently obtained from a US government source – with warnings to ”Pls [please] protect” and ”Not for pub[lication]”.
Mr Burton is well known as an expert on security and counterterrorism with close ties to the US intelligence and law enforcement agencies. He is the former deputy chief of the counter-terrorism division of the US State Department’s diplomatic security service.
Stratfor, whose headquarters are in Austin, Texas, provides intelligence and analysis to corporate and government subscribers.
On Monday, WikiLeaks began releasing more than 5 million Stratfor emails which it said showed ”how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients”.
The Herald has secured access to the emails through an investigative partnership with WikiLeaks.
The Stratfor emails show that the WikiLeaks publication of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables triggered intense discussion within the ”global intelligence” company.
In the emails, an Australian Stratfor ”senior watch officer”, Chris Farnham, advocated revoking Mr Assange’s Australian citizenship, adding: ”I don’t care about the other leaks but the ones he has made that potentially damage Australian interests upset me. If I thought I could switch this dickhead off without getting done I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem.”
But Mr Farnham also referred to a conversation with a close family friend who he said knew one of the Swedish women who had made allegations of sexual assault against Mr Assange, and added: ”There is absolutely nothing behind it other than prosecutors that are looking to make a name for themselves.”
While some Stratfor analysts decried what they saw as Mr Assange’s ”clear anti-Americanism”, others welcomed the leaks and debated WikiLeaks’s longer-term impact on secret diplomacy and intelligence.
Stratfor’s director of analysis, Reva Bhalla, observed: ”WikiLeaks itself may struggle to survive but the idea that’s put out there, that anyone with the bandwidth and servers to support such a system can act as a prime outlet of leaks. [People] are obsessed with this kind of stuff. The idea behind it won’t die.”
Stratfor says it will not comment on the emails obtained by WikiLeaks. The US embassy has also declined to comment.
This week Wikileaks launched a massive new treasure trove and Mother Jones assesses what it says about corporate power in the modern age:
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.”