The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks yesterday began publishing more than 5 million e-mails from a US-based global security analysis company that has been likened to a shadow CIA.
The e-mails, snatched by hackers, could unmask sensitive sources and throw light on the murky world of intelligence-gathering by the company known as Stratfor, which counts Fortune 500 companies among its subscribers.
Stratfor in a statement said the release of its stolen e-mails was an attempt to silence and intimidate it.
It said it would not be cowed under the leadership of Stratfor founder and chief executive George Friedman. It said Friedman had not resigned, contrary to a bogus e-mail circulating on the Internet.
Some of the e-mails being published “may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic,” the company statement said.
WikiLeaks did not say how it had acquired access to the vast haul of internal and external correspondence of the Austin, Texas, company, formally known as Strategic Forecasting Inc.
Hackers linked to the loosely organized Anonymous hackers group said at the beginning of the year they had stolen the e-mail correspondence of about 100 of the firm’s employees. The group said it planned to publish the data so the public would know the “truth” about Stratfor operations.
Stratfor describes itself as a subscription-based publisher of geopolitical analysis with an intelligence-based approach to gathering information.
WikiLeaks and Anonymous said the e-mails would expose dark secrets about the company.
Stratfor said in its statement it had worked hard to build “good sources” in many countries, “as any publisher of global geopolitical analysis would do.”
In December last year, hackers broke into Stratfor’s data systems and stole a large number of company e-mails.
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said: “Here we have a private intelligence firm, relying on informants from the US government, foreign intelligence agencies with questionable reputations and journalists. What is of grave concern is that the targets of this scrutiny are, among others, activist organizations fighting for a just cause.”
Friedman said on Jan. 11 the thieves would be hard pressed to find anything significant in the stolen e-mails.
“God knows what 100 employees writing endless e-mails might say that is embarrassing, stupid or subject to misinterpretation ... As they search our e-mails for signs of a vast conspiracy, they will be disappointed,” he said.
People linked to Anonymous took credit for the data theft.
“Congrats on the amazing partnership between Anonymous and WikiLeaks to make all 5 million mails public,” AnonSec tweeted.
AnonSec is one of several Twitter accounts used to promote and organize activities associated with Anonymous.
It was not immediately clear what impact the release of the e-mails might have on Stratfor, its employees, clients and information sources.