Top 5 Stratfor Revelations

Wikileaks is publishing internal memos of the Stratfor security analysis firm. A few tidbits have emerged in these very early days, to wit:

1. Up to 12 Pakistani active-duty and retired officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency knew that Usama Bin Laden was in Abbottabad and were in regular contact with him. The Pakistani chief of staff is denying the report.

2. Dow Chemicals hired Stratfor to spy on activists in Agra who continue to protest over the Bhopal environmental disaster that blinded many workers and destroyed their health. I.e., Stratfor was not just doing analysis but was involved in private intelligence operations against civil society groups that had a right to protest.

3. Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton, a former State Department official involved in counter-terrorism, lamented that in the old days the US would simply have assassinated Venezuelan leftist leader Hugo Chavez and Bolivian leftist leader Evo Morales. The internal emails also suggest that Stratfor had placed a female asset in Venezuela, who was having sex with an officer and pumping him for information. The officer was said also to be “working with Israel.” Chavez is known for his criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

4. Russia sold weapons to Iran but turned around and gave their security codes to Israel.

5. The fifth revelation is that often Stratfor analysts did not know what they were talking about and had an extreme rightwing bias. For instance, this memo on the revolution in Egypt attempts to argue that the officer corps was behind the revolution against Hosni Mubarak and that the masses were insufficiently mobilized to account for it. It is alleged that only 750,000 people came out in Tahrir Square, a small number for a country of 82 million. But in fact that was only in Tahrir. People demonstrated elsewhere in Cairo. And they were in the streets in Alexandria, Suez, Asyut and other cities. Even small towns saw burnings of police stations and HQs of the National Democratic Party. This memo makes a grassroots revolution that shook Egypt from Alexandria to Aswan into an officers’ putsch. While the officers tacked with the wind and did end up siding with the demonstrators against Mubarak, they were clearly playing political catch-up. It was revolutionary groups like April 6 that made the revolution in the cities, and the Muslim Brotherhood in the rural areas. The memo is frankly obtuse and if this is what Booz Allen was paying $20,000 a year for, they should demand their money back.

This fifth point, about the one percent interpreting the world for the one percent as being about the one percent, is a dire problem in our information system, since the one percent has the resources and can try to overwhelm reasoned analysis that recognizes the agency of the people. Ultimately, the political struggle here is an epistemological one (epistemology being the study of how we know what we know).

43 Responses

  1. If the early reports can be backed up, it makes much more sense for the US to retain Assange, rather than indite him. He has uncovered some “intelligence” that the US should be on top of. That’s if he’s released from house arrest, with still no charges filed against him. I hope Julian Assange comes up documentation; this may help him. I’m sure he knows more than he’s “leaking” bit by bit.

  2. Dear Sir, the 20K isn’t necessarily wasted.

    While the report you refer to may have been written from the ignorance…excuse me, bias of a right wing team, there may be something to the crux of the issue.

    While Egypt’s uprising/attempted revolution was organic as you claim and not instigated by the military – from the start there was no indication of opposition from them either. And at that crucial moment when the military publicly claimed they would not “take sides” in the issue, they were basically “taking sides”. This can be seen in the massive increase in the size of protests throughout Cairo, Alex, Suez, the spread to Ismailyia and so on.

    I guess I’m just suggesting that from my perspective here in Cairo, it felt as if there was an on-going negotiation of sorts between the military and the executive (an already shaky relationship over the succession issue with Jimmy being the first non-military presidential candidate). We saw the arrangement reached the day of the “Battle of the Camels” when the military opened the doors of Tahrir Square to regime henchmen on camel and horseback to play polo with protesters bodies.

    It may not have been so much a “catch-up” strategy as you suggest.

    • The fun part is getting a peek at what a whole lot of the Experienced Players and their former colleagues who have migrated into the State Security apparatus, are really up to, and what they think and believe and sell in the privacy (maybe less so, as time goes on? Go Anonymous, and thank all of you, and blessings be on you, and may you hew firmly to your ethics and honor…) of their little anechoic shells.

      Re what happened in Egypt (or anywhere else,) and is ongoing, my bet is we’ll never know, and even if “the dry facts” went on display, the spinning apparatus will create that fog that the shadow people swim in.

    • Originally Egypt was getting hit with the price of bread and rents going up along with suddenly Bahrain a few yrs back.the ppl rose up first then and it ended with an overthrow with the military at the helm. Are ppl getting food? Have the rents gone down?

  3. “1. Up to 12 Pakistani active-duty and retired officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency knew that Usama Bin Laden was in Abbottabad and were in regular contact with him.”

    Although hardly what I would call a “revelation” (one would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to know that Pakistani military officers knew of Bin Laden’s presence), this information (assuming the Stratfor memo was correct) is interesting because it puts a number to those who knew.

      • “Military…or intelligence officers?”

        In the case of the ISI, they are indistinguishable.

        • And one might add that in the context, the writer has penned a marvelous double (or is it treble?) oxymoron.

          Of course, one can be sure that all those “officers,” of whatever nominal part of the hierarchy, are and have been “just doing the best they can do, in a hard service…”

  4. As to bin Laden contacting ISI officers who knew his location, the source Telegraph article raises a disturbing point. It states that someone in the US military or intelligence leaked to Stratfor data found in bin Laden’s compound.

    “According to one of the e-mails, the firm was shown the information papers collected from bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound after the US special forces attack last May that resulted in his death.”

    This is a serious breach of security. Who leaked such sensitive information to Stratfor? Will they be found and prosecuted? If not, why a free pass for the leaker?

    What other sensitive information has been leaked to Stratfor and by whom?

    The Administration aggressively prosecutes those who leak to Wikileaks. Will it be as aggressive here? Or is Stratfor special?

    • “The Administration aggressively prosecutes those who leak to Wikileaks. Will it be as aggressive here? Or is Stratfor special?”

      That assumes that the report can be trusted and the information confirmed. Like battlefield reports, first reports such as this often are overtaken by more reliable information.

      • Like the information on WMD in Iraq, in the runup to ShocknAwe? Like the after-action reports of the encounter that resulted in the death of Pat Tillman? Like the field reports, which were largely ignored for “policy” reasons and have subsequently been so assiduously fogged and obscured, of Saudis learning how to fly and planning something involving large civil aircraft as weapons of mass destruction, in the months before 9-11? Along the lines of a best-seller 1994 action novel by Dale Brown, “Storming Heaven”? link to

        “The only way to win is not to play the game.” Unless, of course, there’s a nice pension and a revolving-door job at the end of one’s tour… or 72 virgins…

  5. You do realize that the story about Russia giving Iranian missile security codes to Israel is part of a plot from the movie “The International,” right?

    • I wouldn’t believe anything along these lines. Too much in the way of disinformation and agendas by people that are too smart for their own good.

      • My grandma called those people “sharp.” As you know, that’s not the same thing as being “smart.”

  6. George Friedman, CEO of Strategic Forecasting International (Stratfor), on collegiate debate:

    “I think you are inflating the relevance, timeliness and significance of college debating. Why not get a date, get drunk, and rob a liquor store. Debating is clearly not good for you.”

    link to

  7. Thing about Stratfor is that it has a perspective/bias that can be read and compensated for, providing a sort of contextual insight. Same can be said for Juan Cole. The two perspectives provide a sort of binocular vision.

    There is a bias to their pieces, which is to be expected by the people they hire, who seem to have largely and prideful military/DOD backgrounds. Doesn’t make them stupid, it just suggests a predisposition to being narrow and closed-minded, which does show itself. But if they didn’t have a bias, their pieces would be too nuanced to absorb. Combine them with a more academic/idealistic read from elsewhere and you stand a better chance of reading the realities appropriately.

    Big George also has his Big Picture geopolitical POV, which is awfully helpful to avoid being blown around by the more humanistic observations of IC. Egypt is a good example, where I took their bottom line assessment as being the revolution was more of a coup, where nothing really happened but that the Old Man got sent to The Home. So, IC makes the case it was a people driven deal, but that still doesn’t mean it wasn’t effectively just a coup. The power of the people has yet to be proven, and the trend of recent events shows who has the power is not shy of using it.

    Stratfor does occasionally whiff on the details, and for clients wanting accuracy or buying tactical situational awareness that’s a shame. For more strategic corp planning, clients would probably be better having their execs keep up with briefings from people like IHS. I gather they get a lot of $ from retail/consumer Walter Mitties.

    • Actually, STRATFOR is great at collecting details….and incompetent at assembling big pictures from them.

      They’re so bad at it, calling it RW bias is unfair to RW bias.

      Just assume the opposite of their conclusions. It’s a higher percentage bet. :)

  8. “Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton, a former State Department official involved in counter-terrorism, lamented that in the old days the US would simply have assassinated Venezuelan leftist leader Hugo Chavez and Bolivian leftist leader Evo Morales.”

    Nazis. Rule of law? What rule of law??

    It’s chilling that these psychopaths are in positions of power.

    • Huh? As in KGB, and NKVD, and those charmers? And their contributions to either the stability of their own state, or the wider world? Or was that stealth snark?

      • Do you mean those same mutual funds that abetted the one percent to shift masses of wealth from the middle class to the one percent through market manipulation, selling short, etc.

        Don’t think for a minute that because the ultra wealthy allow you to play in their sandbox that you’re part of the club. It’s all really just part of the plan to steal your wealth.

        • “Do you mean those same mutual funds that abetted the one percent to shift masses of wealth from the middle class to the one percent through market manipulation, selling short, etc.”

          No, Steamdude, I mean the stock market that allowed millions of ordinary people during the 1980s and 1990s to invest and build large portfolios. You can’t judge the history of the market by 2008.

          My original question to Mr. Stewart about owning stock or mutual funds was to determine his intellectual and moral consistency. If he owns any, he is just as much a willing part of the Capitalist system, hoping to reap gains from it, as those with much more wealth. If he refuses to own any, he at least would be consistent with his words posted above.

      • According to James Poterba’s Spring 2001 Journal of Economic Perspectives article, “Stock Market Wealth and Consumption,” 10% of US households own 91.2% of all stock. 1% own 52.3% of all stock. Therefore, my comment stands.

        There’s some grey area, but the litmus test in determining what class one belongs to is: does one have to sell one’s labor power in order to live? If so, then one is a member of the large working class. If one is able to live through private ownership of means of production, then one is a member of the capitalist class.

        • “You can’t judge the history of the market by 2008.”

          No, but I think there’s been a sea change in the financial world. We’ve passed a tipping point, and deregulation has allowed a certain gaming of the system that’s in the process of shifting so much wealth from the middle class to the “one percent” so as to destroy the former. The lack of re-regulation (ala Glass-Steagall) virtually guarantees a “double dip”, and the real money powers are ready to sell you short in a New York minute!

      • How about you, sir? How is your 401k or IRA making out? are you or your financial manager “smart money” enough to be doing well through all the manipulations and explosive decompressions of all those bubbles? Some of us (not me) have a government defined-benefit pension (or one from a government contractor) in the retirement mix somewhere, which of course is a different creature altogether.

    • They are the capitalist class, and the rest of us have to work for them to survive, and invest the way they invest to try to survive after we are no longer of use to them. That is no different than the situation our ancestors faced during the great labor wars of 1865-1940, when the capitalist class sicced their National Guard dogs on strikers an average of twice a year. The workers had to fight them and work for them at the same time, in the name of leveraging a more just relationship.

      So now they destroy our social safety net so that we become even more reliant on our pension funds invested in their schemes – many of which have been robbed in corporate restructurings and bankruptices – and thus captive to their agendas. Note that economic crises are becoming as common now as they were during the laissez-faire era – but not during the ascendancy of the FDR coalition which forced the capitalists to share power.

      If even calling them “capitalists” now makes me a Communist thug, I guess we really will have to go through with the Revolution this time.

  9. Every political party should have its own intellegence gathering agency. The repubican party can subcontact their intel gathtering to Ztratvor.
    Anyways the part about the Russians giving the Israelis the codes sounds goofy. How hard would it have been for the Iranians to change the codes? Would the Israelis know for sure whether or not the Russians gave them the correct codes before they had been tested under combat conditions?

  10. In my experience only those in power, (e.g. President Obama) get direct access to the real intel, opposition, hopefuls, us, (inc me too now), get leftovers, leaks, and “The Best Money Can Buy” (Stratfor?), what we are being fed these days about Iran, Syria, Israel is clearly is someone’s business interests, not in The National Interest (methinks), so are the People expected to believe the rubbish and vote?
    Vote for whose business interest?
    Mrs Clinton appears to be on the warpath, even if its by remote control, why?

  11. To Mr. Fowler, Yesterday in front of the Intelligence Committee, Mrs Clinton said unequivocally that Iran was not making a bomb, but that could change at anytime – are you speaking to the larger picture, something I am missing.

    • Dear Isobel I am referring to Syria, her recent spoken plans for supporting opposition militants there.
      My thoughts are it is on route to bothering Iran more.
      My wish is Syria and Iran are not meddled with as it only suits the oil business and Israel to disturb both in my opinion.
      Another War is clearly in some groups interests.

  12. It is unbelievable that Russians actually sold S-300 to Iran. If it would be the case, now the codes would be changed and Iran would have operational S-300. But this is not the case! Also, why Iranians want their money back, but there is no word about returning the missiles?

  13. “Russia sold weapons to Iran but turned around and gave their security codes to Israel.” and why is this a shock?

    No, surprise. Iran and Russia have never had a good history with one another. It reinforces something else, NO country that is on the other side of a Geo conflict with Russia should buy anything Israel, or trust Israel.

    • “Iran and Russia have never had a good history with one another.”

      Good comment, D. In fact, after World War II, the Soviet Union occupied Northern Iran and only withdrew under pressure from the U.S. and Britain.

  14. Let’s hope, if nothing else, these leaks finally put to rest the idea that Stratfor gives anything like a neutral, non-ideological analysis.

    It has been obvious for a decade that Stratfor’s claims of neutrality were like South Park and FoxsNews’s similar claims – all three were marketing attempts to disguise their right-wing, warmongering corporatist BS as some sort of ‘real men doing real thinking’ alternative to the ‘liberal’ (i.e warmongering corporatist) media.

    Stratfor was successful because (as they frankly admit in these emails) the corporate flunkies who brought their subscriptions were gullible wannabe Tom Clancys who’d pay $10,000 for a powerpoint snake-oil show.

    The fact the US Marines have anything to do with these guys speaks poorly of them – but in the post-911 private intelligence pork-barrel feeding frenzy anything seems to go…

    • No such thing as a neutral, non-ideological analysis exists, anywhere. It is a myth of journalism schools that somehow reporters (which STRATFOR relys on) can overcome the biases of man and provide a purely objective view of events. Analysis itself further distorts by “digesting” information into a handle-able form. I’m sure STRATFOR’s clients understand this. They also understand what strain of bias they’re getting, and believe some info is better than no info.

      STRATFOR is an info source, reporting on topics that tend to be ignored or glossed over by the MSM. If you cannot do your own thinking with its info, and what you get from elsewhere, then don’t expect much value. I know for a fact that its analysis and reporting on the Kyrgyzstan coup of 2010 was way off, because I spoke frequently with people in Bishkek and Osh at the time, and who worked with the transition government. The political and physical story would be amazing and informative, but STRATFOR missed it in favor of high-level rumination on the effects of the coup to US, European, Russian, and Chinese interests.

      Point? I was better informed than they were, but were I not, I’d have found STRATFOR better than nothing. Take them, and every other second-hand info/analysis source, with a grain of salt. And, keep in mind that there is always LOTS not told, by everyone….

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