Back in the 1990s, I spent some time writing about military affairs and policies, with a focus on the future of warfare. My research and reporting led me naturally to a then-new firm called Stratfor, whose CEO, George Friedman, had written a book with (to me) the catnippy title, "The Future of War." In those days, Stratfor provided analysis on geopolitical events and various flavors of outlook that was basically free. (You can watch Friedman doing his thing, talking about another book in 2009, in the video above.)
Strafor was a feast. When 9/11 happened, I was living in New York. That entire morning, as I watched the Twin Towers burn and then fall, I monitored Stratfor's website for information. Gradually, however, Stratfor's profile became more elevated and the company began charging for its services. At which point I drifted away.
Now Stratfor is back in the news, with a crazy twist: It's been hacked and "exposed" by the terrible trio of Anonymous, WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. What I've learned is that it's a much more...I guess I would say intense organization that the one I first encountered during the Clinton Administration. This is from CNBC, via Business Insider:
In a press release late Sunday, Wikileaks said the emails “reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.”
"The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods," the Wikileaks press release said. The organization claimed that the emails expose "how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world."
Fascinating! It's not clear to me that Stratfor ever presented itself as anything other that a high-level strategic intelligence-gathering organization, so it doesn't seem that WikiLeaks can offer revelations there. However, I'm seriously intrigued by how what I once saw as a small, entrepreneurial outfit has grown into what some have called a shadow intelligence agency. In 2010, Friedman was predicting World War III, involving a Japan-Turkey axis versus a U.S.-Poland alliance. That would start in space. Heck, Stratfor was even talking to Goldman Sachs about starting a hedge fund! I'm not surprised that WikiLeaks and Anonymous got in there.