WikiLeaks' steady drip of internal documents from the global intelligence outfit Stratfor hasn't unearthed any bombshells yet, but it has roped in a tantalizing roster of vaunted corporations and international actors that did business with the firm. From Coca-Cola to Goldman Sachs to the Knights of Columbus, Julian Assange's anti-secrecy site threw everything at the wall. Unfortunately, not much of it has stuck.
As The Atlantic's Max Fisher yawned, much of Stratfor's business model as an intelligence firm consists of giving clients a brief of day-old New York Times articles and week-old Economist stories under the guise of valuable "intelligence." Reuters columnist Jack Shafer couldn't find a single scooplet yesterday but did say it revealed something about WikiLeaks and Stratfor: "Both organizations are capable of doing 'good' work. But little of that is on display here." What's all the complaining about? Here's what the leaks have revealed so far:
The sealed indictment against Assange One potential scoop from today is a story in The Sydney Morning Herald about "secret charges" drawn up by U.S. prosecutors against Julian Assange. According to The Herald, an internal Stratfor e-mail from vice president Fred Burton says the U.S. has a "sealed indictment on Assange." The newspaper emphasizes Burton's credentials saying he is "an expert on security and counterterrorism with close ties to the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies." Since Assange hasn't been charged for anything in the U.S., a secret indictment would certainly be newsworthy, especially since many have speculated that Assange's extradition to Sweden on sex charges could lead to an extradition to the U.S. Still, we're just left with Burton's word here with nothing else to back up the secret indictment. Is there nowhere in the 5 million obtained e-mails where Burton explains where he heard about the indictment?
Coca-Cola vs. PETA In one of the more widely-pilloried stories, a surreptitious collaboration between Coca-Cola and Stratfor against animal rights group PETA turns out to be comically harmless. In the e-mails, a Stratfor employee assigns an intern to look at questions including how many PETA supporters exist in Canada, how likely they are to demonstrate against Coca-Cola and what collaboration exists between PETA Canada and PETA USA. As Shafer writes, "If asking an intern to look up some information constitutes spying, you could say that I’ve been in the espionage business for 30 years and my operatives have probed hundreds of government bodies, public institutions and corporations."
Goldman Sachs joins forces with Stratfor The idea of the one of the most reviled investment banks teaming up with an intelligence firm certainly gained attention. Especially with sexy headlines like "Stratfor Plotted with Goldman Sachs to Set Up Investment Fund." Unfortunately, attempting to set up a fund is as far as the story goes, there's nothing else of substance there. There's no sign of nefarious activity.