Thursday, August 16, 2012

WikiLeaks, Stratfor, and the Assange distraction

While many are focused on the vicissitudes of the Julian Assange case, I should post briefly about WikiLeaks and the Global Intelligence Files. The site went back up a couple of days ago after being inaccessible for a while to a DDoS attack. This followed upon WikiLeaks’ publication over the past two weeks of documents related to Stratfor and TrapWire. There are disagreements over how concerned people should be about TrapWire specifically (here’s what seems a more balanced piece), while others contend that the issue is "not the surveillance, it’s the sleaze."

It’s also that this whole corporate-political business is shadowy as all hell. I’ve read through several of the recently released emails, and they’re…interesting. But even they shouldn’t necessarily divert attention from earlier Stratfor revelations or WikiLeaks documents generally.

I linked to a description of Stratfor’s efforts with regard to Bhopal and the Yes Men in a footnote to a recent post, but they deserve another mention. Back in February, the Yes Men reported:

WikiLeaks begins to publish today over five million e-mails obtained by Anonymous from "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The emails, which reveal everything from sinister spy tactics to an insider trading scheme with Goldman Sachs..., also include several discussions of the Yes Men and Bhopal activists. (Bhopal activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India, that led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.)

After detailing some of this activity, they note:

Perhaps most entertainingly of all, the email trove reveals that Stratfor's "Confederation Partners"—an unethical alliance between Stratfor and a number of mainstream journalists—are referred to informally within Stratfor as its "Confed Fuck House." (Another discovery: Coca Cola was spying on PETA. More such gems are sure to surface as operatives sift through the 5.5 million emails.)…

Many of the documents released in recent months also relate to Latin America (including the Honduran coup), and people there have analyzed the information and some of the implications of their release for Latin American politics.

It’s tempting to take the media’s lead and narrowly follow the legal travails of Assange and associated diplomatic maneuverings, but this is to some extent an unfortunate distraction from the content of the WikiLeaks materials.

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