WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wearing Anonymous’ iconic Guy Fawkes mask at a London protest last October.
The leaderless collective Anonymous once acted as WikiLeaks’ vigilante avenger, attacking the secret-spilling group’s enemies while WikiLeaks kept a careful remove from their offensives. But with the leak of a vast trove of emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, Anonymous now says it’s upgraded its relationship with WikiLeaks from friendly acquaintance to partner.
On Sunday night, WikiLeaks announced the initial release of what it’s calling the Global Intelligence Files, a collection of 5.5 million emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor. The group claims those emails, to be released over the coming weeks, show Stratfor’s involvement in operations like monitoring activists seeking redress for the Bhopal chemical disaster on behalf of Dow Chemical, payments to the former head of the controversial Pakistani secret service, and even the use of the company’s information for insider trading.
WikiLeaks has partnered with 25 media organizations to sift, analyze and publish those emails: It lists Rolling Stone, the McClatchy News Agency, the Italian newspaper L’Espresso and the Indian paper The Hindu among them.
But more unusual is its other apparent partnership: Several mouthpieces for Anonymous say the hacker group gave WikiLeaks the leaked emails after a widely-publicized breach of the company’s network in December of last year. The Anonymous twitter feeds Anonops and AnonymousIRC both claimed credit for the leak, and the Anonymous “news service” YourAnonnews spelled it out even more clearly: “To clarify to all journalists – YES, #Anonymous gave the STRATFOR emails obtained in the 2011 LulzXmas hack to WikiLeaks.”
WikiLeaks, per its usual practice, won’t comment on its source. But Wired.com reports that a coded tweet from WikiLeaks last December signaled the successful handoff of the files, which Anonops has identified as this one.
Publishing documents taken by Anonymous’ digital intruders would represent a new level of collaboration between the two groups. When Anonymous launched attacks against Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Amazon and others in retaliation against those companies’ financial blockade against WikiLeaks last year, WikiLeaks kept a careful remove. “We neither condemn nor applaud these attacks,” WikiLeaks’ Icelandic spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson wrote at the time. “We believe they are a reflection of public opinion on the actions of the targets.”
When the Anonymous sub-group LulzSec hacked the security firm HBGary a few months later, exposing a proposed plan to sabotage WikiLeaks and intimidate its donors, WikiLeaks posted a PowerPoint presentation from the hacked documents on its site, but left it to Anonymous to publish the rest of the cache on its own site, AnonLeaks.
The Global Intelligence Files represent a far cozier relationship between the two groups, with WikiLeaks actively distributing and promoting the fruits of Anonymous’ work. It’s certainly not the first time that WikiLeaks has published documents that were explicitly hacked rather than leaked by an insider–its past publications have included the stolen “Climategate” emails from East Anglia University and the hacked emails of Sarah Palin. But since hitting the spotlight in 2010, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange has played down the group’s associations with hacker and focused more on its role as a media organization and a conduit for whistleblowers. …
The messages, which date from between July 2004 and December 2011, will reveal Stratfor’s “web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods,” claimed a WikiLeaks press release.
“The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients,” added the press release.
The online organisation claims to have proof of the firm’s confidential links to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co. and Lockheed Martin and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. …
Stratfor, which was founded by George Friedman in 1996, describes itself as “a subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis.”
“Unlike traditional news outlets, Stratfor uses a unique, intelligence-based approach to gathering information via rigorous open-source monitoring and a global network of human sources,” according to the Texas-based firm’s website.
The company promises subscribers will “gain a thorough understanding of international affairs, including what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what will happen next.” …