This week, Wikileaks began publishing the first of some five million hacked emails from the private intelligence firm, Stratfor, which cultivates anonymous sources in governments and business in order to provide intelligence assessments on a variety of matters to paying clients. Many of the emails are mundane and not particularly insightful, while others, if accurate, are more revelatory. Based on my readings of all the emails released thus far, here are the five most interesting:
#5. Sharif Mobley wasn’t in Al Qaeda, despite media claims. The real story here isn’t so much about Mobley himself, but what it says about the American media. American-born Mobley was arrested in Yemen in 2010 in a sweep of suspected Al Qaeda militants by Yemeni authorities. After weeks of interrogation in Yemen by the FBI and U.S. Department of Defense officials, Mobley attempted to escape his indefinite detention and killed a guard. Despite no real evidence that Mobley was connected to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or any other terrorist group, that hasn’t stopped the American press from portraying him as a cautionary tale about the dangers of homegrown terrorism. As this Stratfor email indicates, Mobley “was not part of AQAP,” and the Yemenis “simply picked him up on suspicions.”
Money quote: “Heard from a very reliable source close to the folks who debriefed Mobely that the dude’s a] bat shit crazy; and b] he's going to die here.”
#4. Stratfor and former Goldman Sachs director start investment fund. Stratfor CEO and founder George Friedman and former Goldman Sachs regional director Shea Morenz plan to launch their own investment fund, Stratcap. According to a Friedman email, Morenz has invested $2 million in Stratfor, and “more in Stratcap.” The venture “would allow [Stratfor] to utilize the intelligence we were gathering about the world in a new but related venue — an investment fund. Where we had previously advised other hedge funds. We would now have our own, itself fully funded by Shea.” Specifically, Stratcap will use “Stratfor's intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currency, and the like in the world's emerging markets.” Thus Morenz, a former Texas Longhorns quaterback, provides the capital while Stratfor provides the intelligence, i.e., inside information. Whether this enterprise would be susceptible to insider trading accusations will depend on how exactly Stratcap plans to trade its information and the sources it utilizes.
Money quote: “We have also been asked to help the United States Marine Corps and other government intelligence organizations to teach them how Stratfor does what it does, and train them in becoming government Stratfors.”
#3. Arms dealers Russia and Israel sold out own customers. In the months prior to Georgia’s 2008 war with Russia, the Georgians were scrambling to replace some unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) they bought from Israel that had become compromised. The Russians were able to hack the UAVs and force them down because the Israelis gave Moscow the data links. In exchange, the Russians provided the Israelis with the codes for Iran’s Russian-made Tor-M1 missile launchers. The Georgians tried to buy some UAVs from a Mexican company called Idra, but were turned away because the sale would have caused tension between Mexico and Russia.
The leak also revealed that Turkey has been sharing intelligence with Israel on Russia’s S-300 missile launchers, which they’ve been “cracking” for about eight years, in the event Iran buys them from the Russians.
Money quote: “The Mexican government is now paying some $25m for UAVs from Israel. Idra is basically like WTF, but the reason is basically corruption. There is a deal b/w the Mexican interior ministry and the Israelis where they're getting a hefty kickback.”
#2. U.S. government has sealed indictment on Julian Assange. This January 2011 brief email confirms the suspicion held by some that the Australian founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, has a sealed indictment against him in the United States. For what, the email doesn’t say, but Assange may very well be facing charges under the 1917 Espionage Act. It must be pointed out that nobody in the U.S. has ever been charged with a crime simply for publishing government information that has been leaked to them, as Assange has done. The very existence of this secret indictment would seem to prove Assange's point about the U.S. government's lack of transparency.
#1. Pakistanis knew where bin Laden was. These email exchanges suggest that a number of Pakistani military and intelligence officials knew about Osama bin Laden’s location in Abbottabad, Pakistan: “Mid to senior level [Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence] and Pak[istan] Mil[itary] with one retired Pak[istan] Mil[itary] General that had knowledge of the OBL arrangements and safe house. Names [unknown] to me and not provided. Specific ranks [unknown] to me and not provided. But, I get a very clear sense we (US intel) know names and ranks.”
Money quote: “God knows how many years were wasted chasing the sob in the tribal belt.”
Photo Credit: espenmoe