2012–13 Stratfor email leak

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The 2012–13 Stratfor email leak is the public disclosure of a number of internal emails between geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor's employees and its clients, referred to by WikiLeaks as the Global Intelligence Files. E-mails began appearing on WikiLeaks on February 27, 2012, with 5,543,061 emails published as of July 18, 2014.[1]

Stratfor is a security group based in Austin, Texas. On December 24, 2011, hackers took control of Stratfor's website and released a list of names, credit card numbers, passwords, and home and email addresses. Those listed were affiliated with organizations such as Bank of America, the United States Department of Defense, Médecins Sans Frontières, Lockheed Martin, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the United Nations.[2] The hackers included Jeremy Hammond, who worked with Anonymous to release Stratfor's emails to WikiLeaks. The emails revealed Stratfor's surveillance of groups such as Occupy Wall Street and protestors of the Bhopal disaster.[3]

The e-mails claim to include client information, notes between Stratfor employees and internal procedural documentation on securing intelligence data.[4] These communications date from July 2004 through to December 2011.[5] WikiLeaks said it had obtained the e-mails from the hacker group Anonymous, who broke into Stratfor's computer network in 2011.[6] In an initial announcement, WikiLeaks stated that they opened up a database of the emails to two dozen media organizations operating in several countries, including the McClatchy Company, l'Espresso, la Repubblica, ARD, the Russia Reporter,[7] and Rolling Stone,[6] along with a "sneak preview" to the Yes Men.[7]

Email content[edit]

One of the first items released was an email containing a glossary titled "The Stratfor Glossary of Useful, Baffling and Strange Intelligence Terms", which contained concise and sometimes humorously candid definitions, along with pointed assessments of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement.[8]

Julian Assange[edit]

Julian Assange was a frequent topic of discussion in emails from Stratfor staff in the period 2010–2012. Emails from Fred Burton (Stratfor's Vice-President for Counterterrorism and Corporate Security, and former Deputy Chief of the Department of State) indicated that he knew in January 2011 about a United States Government secret indictment against Assange.[9]


An email involving a Stratfor analyst stated that it had been determined that up to 12 officials in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency knew of Osama bin-Laden's safe house.[10]

Ynetnews reported that, according to internal emails between Stratfor employees, Israel and Russia were engaged in an exchange of information in 2008. Israel gave Russia "'data link codes' for unmanned aerial vehicles that the Jewish state sold to Georgia" and that Russia gave "the codes for Tor-M1 missile defense systems that Russia sold Iran". The emails also stated that, during the 2008 South Ossetia war, Georgia "realized that their UAVs were compromised and were looking for a replacement for the Israeli made drones".[11]

International Business Times reported that Stratfor had found that several Central European countries, especially the Czech Republic, have been petitioning NATO for missile defenses and F-16s to use against Russia. The Czech Republic, according to an unknown Stratfor source, has stated that, if the talks with the US fail, then it will be breaking all ties with NATO and the US in general.[12]

Business Insider reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was an intelligence source for Stratfor between 2007 and 2010. In emails, Fred Burton discussed his personal communications with Netanyahu. Burton stated by email that Netanyahu informed him of his success in consolidating power within the Likud party ahead of regaining the position of prime minister, shared thoughts regarding his distrust of US President Barack Obama, threatened assassination of Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, and declared intentions to unilaterally start a war against Iran.[13]

Al Akhbar, citing internal emails from the Stratfor hack, reported former Blackwater director James F. Smith had a relationship with Stratfor and was for a time considered one of their major sources.


As reported by The Times of India, some of the emails reveal that Stratfor was allegedly hired by Dow Chemical Company to spy on protesters of the Bhopal disaster.[5] Dow Chemical Company responded with a written statement that read: "Major companies are often required to take appropriate action to protect their people and safeguard their facilities," and that it had not broken any laws.[6]

The released emails indicated that the Coca-Cola Company paid Stratfor to determine "to what extent will US-based PETA supporters travel to Canada to support activism" at the 2010 Olympics.[14] The Coca-Cola Company responded to the emails with a statement saying that they "consider it prudent to monitor for protest activities at any major event we sponsor".[15]


Official response[edit]

Around midnight on February 27, Stratfor released a statement saying that "the release of its stolen emails was an attempt to silence and intimidate it." It also dismissed rumors of CEO George Friedman's resignation.[7]

Stratfor stated that some of the leaked emails "may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic", but that they would not confirm either possibility. They further stated that the emails represented candid internal language that would probably be ripe for misinterpretation.[7]

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Reuters that his concerns with Stratfor stem from it being a private intelligence firm relying on informants from government agencies with dubious reputations, both from the U.S. and abroad, and especially its monitoring of activist organizations.[7] He also called the company a "shadow CIA" (a term originally coined by Barron's magazine in a 2001 article about the quality of Stratfor's analysis, not any actual association with the CIA[16]) and stated that the emails would "reveal Stratfor's web of informers, payoff structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods."[17]

Other responses[edit]

Former NSA Director Bobby Inman stated that the leak would be damaging to Stratfor's business. He had previously stated that Stratfor was competent, delivering high-quality intelligence analyses.[15]

Max Fisher, the associate director of The Atlantic, argued that Stratfor has a poor reputation "among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners" and that as a result Anonymous and Wikileaks have exaggerated the significance of the information they released. He also suggested that Assange may have targeted a relatively unimportant firm and over-hyped the results in order to "regain some of his former glory".[18] Australian Broadcasting Corporation foreign correspondent and Stratfor subscriber Mark Corcoran also wrote that the e-mails showed Stratfor's methods used to gather information are similar to those employed by journalists, though he wrote that the quality of its reports are often inferior to news reports.[19]


  1. ^ "The Global Intelligence Files". WikiLeaks. Archived from the original on 2015-07-10. Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  2. ^ Perlroth, Nicole (December 27, 2011). "Questions About Motives Behind Stratfor Hack". The New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  3. ^ Kopfstein, Janus (November 21, 2013). "Hacker with a Cause". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  4. ^ Fahmida Y. Rashid (February 27, 2012). "WikiLeaks' Stratfor Email Release Raises Uncomfortable Questions". eWeek. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Stratfor was Dow's Bhopal spy: WikiLeaks". The Times of India. February 28, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Cassandra Vinograd and Raphael Satter (February 27, 2012). "WikiLeaks publishes leaked Stratfor emails". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e "WikiLeaks targets global risk company Stratfor". Reuters. February 27, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
  8. ^ "WikiLeaks begins disclosing intelligence firm's e-mails". CNN. February 27, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  9. ^ Hastings, Michael (28 February 2012). "WikiLeaks Stratfor Emails: A Secret Indictment Against Julian Assange?". RollingStone. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  10. ^ Damien McElroy (February 27, 2012). "Stratfor: Osama bin Laden 'was in routine contact with Pakistan's spy agency'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  11. ^ "WikiLeaks: Russia gave Israel Iranian system's codes". Ynetnews. February 28, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  12. ^ Anissa Haddadi (February 27, 2012). "The WikiLeaks GiFiles: Central Europe States Warn of 'Russian Threat'". International Business Times. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  13. ^ Michael Kelley (March 27, 2012). "Benjamin Netanyahu Was A Stratfor Source From 2007 To 2010". Business Insider. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  14. ^ Weber, Paul J.; Satter, Raphael (28 February 2012). "Leaked emails shine rare light on Stratfor". NBC. AP. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  15. ^ a b Paul J. Weber and Raphael Satter (February 28, 2012). "WikiLeaks publishes leaked Stratfor emails, casting light on workings of private US intel firm". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  16. ^ Laing, Jonathan R. "The Shadow CIA". Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  17. ^ Mark Seibel (February 29, 2012). "WikiLeaks: Stratfor emails reveal problems with Web security". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  18. ^ Fisher, Max (February 27, 2012). "Stratfor Is a Joke and So Is Wikileaks for Taking It Seriously". The Atlantic. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
  19. ^ Corcoran, Mark (February 29, 2012). "Confessions of a Stratfor subscriber". The Drum. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved March 5, 2012.

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