Following a data dump of over five million of their emails by Wikileaks, Stratfor, the global intelligence company caught in the sights of the whistleblower organization, has responded with a statement that seeks to downplay the security breach as well as emails’ import. The company decried the theft as “deplorable, unfortunate – and illegal.”
While those descriptors may be true, Stratfor attempted to inoculate itself against any potential public relations damage stemming from the content of the leaked materials by claiming that “some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies” while others “may be authentic.” However, thus far, it’s not really been Wikileaks’ modus operandi to alter the content of the data they’ve previously leaked. On their website, Wikileaks details the verification process of the documents to receive:
We assess all news stories and test their veracity. We send a submitted document through a very detailed examination a procedure. Is it real? What elements prove it is real? Who would have the motive to fake such a document and why? We use traditional investigative journalism techniques as well as more modern technology-based methods. Typically we will do a forensic analysis of the document, determine the cost of forgery, means, motive, opportunity, the claims of the apparent authoring organisation, and answer a set of other detailed questions about the document. We may also seek external verification of the document.
Wikileaks’ explanation of their methodology goes on to acknowledge that while the chance of mistake will always exist, “so far our method has meant that WikiLeaks has correctly identified the veracity of every document it has published.”
In addition to trying to hold a magnifying glass over Wikileaks’ integrity, Stratfor was adamant about not answering for any of the revelations that could be found in the leaked emails. On whether emails could be authentic or the product of forgery, Stratfor attested, “We will not validate either. Nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them.”
On January 11, Stratfor CEO George Friedman buffered the public’s expectation of what may be found in the emails. “God knows what a hundred employees writing endless emails might say that is embarrassing, stupid or subject to misinterpretation.” he said. “As they search our emails for signs of a vast conspiracy, they will be disappointed.”
In the same statement released by Stratfor, the company affirmed Friedman would retain his position as chief executive.
Knowledge of the information heist has been known since December when hackers stole a large number of company emails. Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who is currently under house arrest in Britain, told Reuters that the purpose for targeting Stratfor was due to how the company targets “activist organizations fighting for a just cause.”
So far, some revelations have been tweeted out by Wikileaks official Twitter account.
Previously, organizations like The New York Times hosted the leaked materials from Wikileaks on their site in a sort of crowd-sourced investigation of the information, offering readers to share any noteworthy finds they came across. This time around, Wikileaks has been working with different organizations (and more), such as McClatchy, that have been examining the documents. “We have begun reviewing the emails and will publish as warranted,” McClatchy’s Washington bureau chief, James Asher, told Reuters.
So far, one notable piece of information to come from the Stratfor emails: doctors can’t seem to agree on the health assessment of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez.
Stratfor CEO Friedman is probably at least partly right that some of these emails will be trivial but no doubt a fleck of gold will pan out here and there as journalists continue to sort through them