Stratfor Wikileaked

I have been critical of Stratfor for several years, not because of
their corporate customers, supporters or “shadow CIA” reputation.
Rather, I have criticized Stratfor reports for being insipid and dull
at best and full of errors at worst. I remember the first time I read
a Stratfor intelligence report on the situation of extreme violence in
Mexico. It reminded me of the Weekly Readers we got back in junior
high school in the days before Channel 1 took over the lucrative
school media markets. I could honestly see nothing in a Stratfor
report that could not be gleaned from reading ordinary newspaper
stories and a few government think tank reports… These things have
now taken on the fancy name of “OPEN SOURCE INTELLIGENCE.” Librarians
and historians and investigative journalists have always used
government documents as sources. The internet has made these resources
much more accessible than they used to be. It takes a lot of patience
to ferret out the good stuff in GAO and CRS reports, and even more to
search through miles of National Archives microfilm or microcard
versions of the US Congressional Serial Set and other congressional
committee reports and testimonies from thousands of hearings (open and
closed) often stored in the basements of university libraries. All
this stuff is online now and most of it “open source” that is, free of
charge to the reader (investigator, reporter, journalist, or any other
end-user). Basically, what it seemed to me that Stratfor was doing
was employing graduate students or offshore workers with language
skills to read a lot of news sources on the web and then digest them
into the “weekly reader” style reports that they then sold to
corporate clients who were too busy making lots of money to read and
think for themselves… Of course, I never bought any of the stuff
the corporate clients paid for. I wonder how different or better it
was/is?

Expensive corporate newsletters providing business intelligence have
been around forever, long before the internet. These are often priced
beyond the budget of public university libraries, or in some cases,
the publishers will sell one version to government and another pricier
version to corporate clients. Kind of like airline tickets. If
anybody buys their own airline ticket, they will most often look for
the best price. If a corporation or other organization with money buys
a plane ticket, they may default to first class (or business class)
and pay 6 times what the ordinary person pays. Even a ticket bought at
the last minute can often be had for a reasonable price, but the old
corporate travel office model helps keep airlines in business when
they buy a ticket from El Paso to Los Angeles (a real example I know
of) that costs $2,500. In this example, I bought a ticket for the same
route and schedule and paid less than $400.

It seems that Stratfor and other commercial firms claiming to sell
“intelligence” are in the same racket. I think Mr. Friedman is correct
in that the trove of emails will not yield much that is terribly
interesting or damaging to Stratfor or their clients. Actually, the
release of these private communications will probably do more to
reveal the “banality of intelligence” rather than anything
terrifically evil… I don’t agree with hacking and stealing. That
seems to go beyond civil disobedience. But, if it helps people to
think more critically about the real value of what is being sold as
intelligence, well, maybe in the long run it will do some good…
Maybe people will think a little more carefully about what kind of
information they get for their money. Just my two cents… or two
thousand dollars. whatever I can get… molly molloy

REFILE-UPDATE 2-WikiLeaks publishes security think tank emails
Mon Feb 27, 2012 2:14am EST

The Global Intelligence Files

About virginiaisaad

Virginia is a journalist based in Los Angeles who's written for publications including Los Angeles magazine, Upworthy, and Elite Daily. She was born in Argentina and raised in the San Fernando Valley along with her three siblings. Fun fact: She took a Chicanas and Feminism course with Eva Longoria while studying for her master's in mass communication at California State University, Northridge. Follow her on Twitter @virginiaisaad

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