Entries Tagged 'Stratfor' ↓

Reads on the private spy industry aka Oops I missed week 9

Note: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, released on Mondays or so…except when I’m not: I missed week 9!

Hey there, apologies, I missed another week of my blog. However, last week’s oops post draws together an excerpt from Saint Augustine, Rachmaninoff, and Pussy Riot, so despite its oopsident status you might enjoy it—and this one commenting on a tepid New York Times article published today.

Generic bad guy, dressed as if for wedding, walks around looking stern

A New York Times article reminds me of me and everyone else

The piece, “Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups,” should be the stimulus of an article by me, though what makes near as much sense is to list related links under bolded subheads, as I’m about to do below. Sure, weaving the threads into a story would most excellently impart knowledge; however, I have lesson planning and grading to do this weekend, since I’m substitute teaching for a stint of a few weeks.

I investigated and reported on private spies for years, namely Stratfor but not just them, Erik Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos heads the Department of Education under which I teach, plus I’m quite informed about coronavirus, including here in Seattle, as I’ll be posting about on my blog asap, and finally I’m very aware of what Seattle Public Schools’ flimsy response to COVID-19 actually looks like on the ground. These topics, which may seem disparate, really do tie together…basically: fuck you, kill the poor first as well as all other humans plants and animals, and don’t hyperlink solutions because then people feel bad since their

  • ‘already living my best life’
  • ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks; I already know everything, and need no one to tell me anything ever since I’m da best’
  • ‘I throw a fit if someone uses an unfamiliar word: I don’t know what that means

bubbles are punctured. But I can say it in more thorough, cited, and academic-except-upside-down language. Probably as an opinion piece so the most difficult thing maybe happens: my hyperlinks to solutions/answers stay in.

There are many other reasons why I’m well-positioned to write about the material in the NYT article. What I don’t have these days is a commissioning editor. I could make a list of freelance pitch recipients for some of my readers to consider pinging, recommending they commission me? Just an idea…

Regardless, sure, I’ll spit out freelance pitches (yet again!) to the usual suspects in the corporate and corporate-imitating media, using the New York Times piece as a news peg (sadly, major events including wars and genocides are not considered news pegs, but corporate articles, as major news events, are)… but if any of you out there in our coronavirus world might be able to expedite things by connecting me with a commissioning editor, I might not backstab you and your antisocial friends, on behalf of the prosocial worldwide, for at least a few weeks! (I’m such a good businessman!)

The private spy industry

Cartoon for MAD Magazine’s Spy vs Spy

The short version of what activists need to know: if you take on some corporation or state, it’s not just them who will come at you in return, nor also the opposing activists who disagree or are simply envious of you since you manage to get out of bed and do something, but also the private mercenaries they hire, private spies who are professionals at defeating activists and laughing as they make I-refuse-to-read-outside-my-comfort-zone activists chase their own tails till extinction. These are ex-spy agency people, ex-special forces people, ex-supercop people, whoever gets off via a contract to hurt more massively than usual those who help themselves and others and refuse to comply. Don’t forget, these enemies will use the Duchin formula (see below) against you or already have, and your plan countering that is…?

Here are some reads on the private spy industry:

DEA Plan to Kill Narcos, by me at WhoWhatWhy, 17 July 2013

El Chapo Arrested—Why Now? by me at WhoWhatWhy, 24 Feb 2014

The Counterinsurgency War On—and Inside—Our Borders by me at WhoWhatWhy, 16 July 2014

Will Mexico’s Oil Give the U.S. Another Excuse for Covert Intervention? by me at WhoWhatWhy, 9 March 2015

Related generally, the book Green Is the New Red by Will Potter, 2011

The intelligence mafia, by Heather Marsh, 27 November 2010

Divide and conquer: unpacking Stratfor’s rise to power by Steve Horn at Mintpress News, 25 July 2013

How to win the media war against grassroots activists by Steve Horn at Mintpress News, 29 July 2013 … Standfirst from that one, on the Duchin formula:

The playbook: isolate the radicals, “cultivate” the idealists and “educate” them into becoming realists. Then co-opt the realists.

Free Jeremy Hammond, the whistleblowing hacker who exfiltrated more than five million emails from Stratfor and is now doing extra time behind bars for resisting the federal grand jury into all that computer-y hacktivism/transparency stuff. Also Twin Trouble, Jeremy’s podcast from confinement (really!) with his twin Jason Hammond, known for his antifascist, antiracist successes.

Transcript of whistleblowing panel censored by Oxford Union, by Heather Marsh, 31 May 2018 (See also my documentation of that censorship at The Public and Boing Boing, both in May/June 2018.)

Pull quote from that transcript:

security for them means immunity from criminal prosecution, not just for their actions against so-called enemies but against anyone. The current CIA head talks about a bureaucracy that slows down the CIA – that bureaucracy is our human rights and that is how they see our lives – as bureaucracy. If they kill too many of us at once they have to fill out a form. And that slows them down. Pompeo wants ‘agile’ assassins. He wants killers who ‘fail fast and break things’, as if they were writing stupid apps instead of murdering children. He wants ‘disruptive’ terrorism. And their security is the freedom to do this with impunity and in secrecy.

And who is this nation they want security for? The US were supposedly enemies with Syria and allies with Canada when they were abducting Canadians to be tortured in Assad’s prisons. Their allegiances change at the drop of a hat and they all have each other’s secrets anyway. That is the whole point of their industry. The entire supranational intelligence community has access to each other’s secrets – they need security from the rest of us finding out. And their nation is anyone with enough money to pay them, corporations or states. You had Erik Prince speaking here a while back, the crown prince of mercenary contractors. He made his fortune at the top ranks of US military and intelligence and then contracted all that information to supposedly US enemy China. I believe David Shedd is also now in international private practice. Their nations are whoever can pay. We didn’t really need the US Patriot Act to tell us our intelligence agencies may be allies but the people in our states are certainly not their allies.

This is not national security. It is certainly not security for my nation. My nation consists of the caregivers of communities and the environment all over the world. They aren’t spying on corporations and telling communities what corporations are up to, they are spying on communities and selling that information to corporations. The victims of Jeffrey Epstein, all the victims whose abusers are protected by official secrets and taxpayer funded NDA’s, none of these victims are part of their nation. Their nation is the international intelligence community and the politicians and corporations who can afford to pay them. This is not national security. It is a mafia protection racket available to the highest bidder.

Erik Prince

A billionaire connected with Trump and also a lot of dead bodies killed especially illegally and unethically in exchange for dolla dolla bill.

https://twitter.com/YourAnonCentral/status/1236437533908590594

Democracy Now topic tag for Erik Prince, though there’s probably a lot better out there, maybe try an “Erik Prince” site:aljazeera.com Google search for starters.

Betsy DeVos

Articles, other involving the head of the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, Erik Prince’s sister, linked by Rachel Anne Levy, a writer, teacher, and education activist in Virginia

I would also try searching “Betsy DeVos” site:democracynow.org on Google. Democracy Now doesn’t seem to have a tag for Betsy DeVos the way they do for her brother.

And now back to me…and Jaco

I wonder if people benefit from these shorter oops posts as they might the longer, less improvisatory ones. What’s your reaction? Is it Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, Angry or maybe even real?

Anyway, if anyone who knows a commissioning editor with access to a large audience, I’ll write all this up into a ‘tell a story’ format, an article that looks mostly like hard news but the publisher can put in the opinion section, with more thoroughness and whatnot than this post, but until then, I’m working on my forthcoming COVID-19 blog post, another blog post concluding my USian escapes the bubble series about my Summer 2019 adventure to British Columbia, and lesson planning + grading.

Meanwhile, gonna listen to the late jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, who died far too early, in 1987, essentially as a result of what got diagnosed as manic depression, or better put, the lack of effective support for him and everyone else on this planet. Below, two videos that transmit, much like classified information, some transmutation into good moods for me and you.

Bassist Jerry Jemmott interviews Jaco Pastorius in the 1985 Jaco Pastorius Bass Guitar Instructional Video, Modern Electric Bass
“Three Views of a Secret” composed by Jaco Pastorius and released in 1981. Not sure when this live performance is from. Story behind the song by The Music Aficionado
“Liberty City” composed by Jaco Pastorius and released in 1981. This version from his 1981 live ‘birthday concert’

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This blog post, Reads on the private spy industry aka oops I missed week 9, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/03/07/oops-i-missed-week-9/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

The Value of the Stratfor Leak

My speech at Foley Square

On November 15, hacktivist Jeremy Hammond was unjustly sentenced to ten years in prison for, among other actions, hacking confidential emails out of the Austin-based private intelligence firm Stratfor. WikiLeaks published these emails as the Global Intelligence Files. I’ve been researching them intensively for more than a year, and have published two articles on my research at WhoWhatWhy, one on General David Petraeus and one on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division seeking White House permission to kill Mexican drug lord El Chapo. That second also includes a lot of my research into Stratfor’s informants and clients.

The day of Jeremy’s sentencing hearing, I gave a speech at Foley Square outside the courtroom and some interviews about the value of the Stratfor leak. The leak will continue to benefit researchers for years and years. Journalist Chris Hedges (Wikipedia), journalist Alexa O’Brien (Website, Twitter), and defense attorney Jay Leiderman (Website, Twitter) also spoke at Foley Square.

If you want the short version, check out this interview of me conducted by Jeff Durkin (Twitter) of We Are Change Connecticut (Website, YouTube). It was right after the speech. The interview is about seven minutes long and came out really well.

If you want the long version, here is a video of all four speeches and more by Small Affair (Twitter, Tumblr, Donate, Occupy the Stage). My part is from 36:00 minutes to 49:30. Small Affair also took the picture at the top of this post. Below the video is the prepared text of my speech.

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This morning we saw young but longtime hacker and political activist Jeremy Hammond unjustly sentenced to ten years in prison for, among other actions, hacking confidential emails out of the Austin-based private intelligence firm Stratfor, the leak of which WikiLeaks is now publishing. The five million-plus emails Jeremy provided to us through WikiLeaks span 2004 to 2011 and consist of internal and external correspondence, files, and records of the firm’s analysts, spies, executives, writers, and other employees.

I want to talk for a few minutes about why what Jeremy did has been and will continue be so beneficial to us—that is, I want to talk about the value of the Stratfor leak, which is Jeremy’s contribution to what we can call the historical record or humankind’s knowledge repository or simply just the Internet. For more than a year, I’ve been intensively researching the complete cache of Stratfor documents in WikiLeaks’ possession. I’ve published two in-depth articles at WhoWhatWhy using my research, have a third coming out soon there, and many more in the works.

When WikiLeaks began publishing the Stratfor leak, which it calls the Global Intelligence Files, much of the reaction from the US mainstream media was dismissive. The Atlantic published an article the same day WikiLeaks announced the leak, titled “Stratfor Is a Joke and So Is WikiLeaks for Taking It Seriously.” The Atlantic writer, of course, did not read the five million-plus emails. Rather, he was probably acquainted with Stratfor’s free email newsletter reports and media appearances and was itching to discredit WikiLeaks and its source, who we now know was Jeremy. But what the Atlantic writer was acquainted with was just the surface of Stratfor.

The firm does so much more. In the 2004 to 2011 time span the leak covers, Stratfor provided training and created custom intelligence products—reports, predictions, assessments—for big corporations such as Hunt Oil, National Oilwell Varco, Parker Drilling, Lockheed Martin, Dow Chemical, and for government arms such as the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines, and many more. These people weren’t reading the free email newsletter reports. They were buying intelligence products such as Stratfor’s Yemen attack database, in which Stratfor catalogued incidents of violence in Yemen with precise information such as GPS coordinates. They were, in Emerson Electric’s case, paying more than a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year for phone and email access to Stratfor employees who would brief them on political, economic, and security factors affecting their operations. So much of the information Stratfor was providing these clients is available to us now thanks to Jeremy, and most of it hasn’t been researched yet.

National security journalist Joshua Foust said this week that Stratfor isn’t that much different from a private investigator. P.I.s don’t have the clientele I just listed. They also don’t have Stratfor’s informants, who included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mexican diplomat Fernando de la Mora Salcedo, and DEA supervisor William F. Dionne, whom I interviewed and who provided Stratfor information off JWICS, a top-secret US government computer network. Much of what these informants were telling Stratfor is available in the leak, again thanks to Jeremy, and most of it, again, hasn’t been researched yet. So we still don’t yet know the full extent of Jeremy’s contribution.

Joshua Foust also said this week that the Stratfor emails “weren’t surprising” for people in the know. That’s false. And he said “weren’t surprising” as if the leak is already over. We’ve barely scratched the surface. The mainstream media in the US doesn’t want to research the information I’ve been describing, they’re not familiar with it, they don’t care. They bash Jeremy’s contribution on the one hand, but on the other hand, the New York Times (as documented by the NYT Examiner), NPR, and other news organizations collaborate or share information with Stratfor behind the scenes. That’s the US mainstream media for you, hypocritical. Turn them off.

There are easily decades’ worth of research remaining for the Stratfor documents. Not only are there more than five million emails, but many of them have PDF attachments of up to hundreds of pages each. Examples of these attachments include intelligence bulletins from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Intelligence Center, Texas Department of Public Safety threat assessments and situation reports, and intelligence products created by Department of Homeland Security state fusion centers. There are even intelligence products created by Stratfor competitors whom the firm was studying such as Total Intelligence Solutions, the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, and Oxford Analytica. So Jeremy didn’t just provide us with information from Stratfor, but also from other private intelligence firms and government intelligence organizations. Again, most of this material hasn’t been researched yet.

But here are some of the greatest hits of what has been uncovered so far.

The previously unknown Trapwire surveillance system was one of the biggest Stratfor revelations. This company with CIA ties developed software for CCTV cameras that identifies or supposedly identifies suspicious behavior and manages and cross-references suspicious behavior reports from different locations and time periods. It also integrates information from license plate readers and other surveillance inputs. Trapwire has been deployed in DC, Seattle, LA, Las Vegas casinos, Atlanta, the London Stock Exchange, and right here in the NYC subways, 500 cameras’ worth according to Stratfor in 2010. If someone “sees something, says something” about you in a New York subway, your “suspicious activity report” possibly goes to TrapWire. Thanks to Jeremy, we better understand mass surveillance, which is crucial, because giving the people who brought us mass incarceration, more than two million people behind bars in the US, the technology to incriminate anyone, whether rival politicians or ordinary citizens, is obviously an immense threat to freedom.

My work at WhoWhatWhy on the Stratfor documents, thanks to Jeremy, includes an article about General David Petraeus, whom Stratfor shows was probably having an extramarital affair prior to previously known, which besides possibly being a military offense, suggests his mistress Paula Broadwell, who was an intelligence officer, may have had him in her crosshairs for a long time. That makes more sense of Petraeus’s downfall from the CIA and gives a better picture of internal government struggles. Another article of mine is on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division seeking White House permission to assassinate Mexican drug lords. That’s a picture of the increasing militarization of law enforcement and the possible broadening of US assassination policy to merge the war on drugs with the war on terror–a push for a so-called “narcoterrorism” policy. Later this month WhoWhatWhy will publish another Stratfor article of mine of Mexican military presence in the US and US military presence in Mexico. Thanks, Jeremy.

Another contribution of his are the revelations in the media outlet Narco News about the US and Mexican governments easing the path for certain cartels to traffic drugs into the country. Instead of improving the Mexican economy so poor people don’t join cartels or legalizing drugs, the US and Mexican governments pick favorites among drug cartels in hopes that a preferred balance of power among them will reduce the drug war violence. Meanwhile they arrest people for smoking pot. This is a picture of what the drug war really is. And I’ve seen in my research that even Congresspeople are listening to Stratfor on so-called narcoterrorism issues.

Thanks to Jeremy, we learned private intelligence was looking for connections between Alexa O’Brien’s campaign finance reform group US Day of Rage and Islamic fundamentalism, which of course carries the threat of Alexa being smeared as a terrorist. That particular Stratfor memo was cited in her and Chris Hedges’ court case against indefinite detention that went to the Supreme Court. We also learned thanks to Jeremy that the Department of Justice has a sealed indictment against Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, indicating the severity of the US government’s efforts against journalists and the Internet. This revelation was cited by Assange in an affidavit to Swedish police.

There are plenty of other revelations in the Stratfor documents. Those are just some of the greatest hits. You can get involved researching the Stratfor documents yourself. Look them up on the WikiLeaks website, where there is a search engine to look through them.

You might say, Okay, so we grabbed a few headlines, and maybe a few legal documents benefitted, but what’s the use, what does it all add up to? We know Jeremy’s legal case was unjust. The FBI knew Stratfor was being hacked for weeks and did not stop it, and entrapped Jeremy through their informant Sabu. Judge Preska denied Jeremy bail wrongfully. And the sentencing is irrational: if Jeremy had broken into the Stratfor building in Austin and walked off with hard drives, he might have a prison sentence of only about a year. There were other actions he did, but since the US government is cracking down on the Internet and journalists and their sources, he’s stuck with a much more severe sentence. So now he’s in prison. Are the news headlines, past and future, worth that? He says so, but are they really?

Yes. For one, these revelations are examples of why more and more people are ceasing to take the US government and traditional politics seriously. The fewer people trust in the Democratic Party, the better. People who grow disgusted with the System as a result of revelations such as these will begin to look to themselves and solidarity for solutions. Solutions such as the commons or mutual aid. Instead of trying to reform or overthrow the government, we can simply practice governance. Internet technology is a tool that makes mass collaboration for mass self-govenance possible, which is something Heather Marsh writes about, if you know her work. If not, read it.

The best way to look at what Jeremy did is to see it as a permanent contribution to humankind’s knowledge base, our knowledge base, the Internet. Think about checking your phone to look something up. We all know what it’s like to look something up online and find an answer, and we all know what it’s like to feel grateful when we find an especially good answer. That’s the sort of gratitude we should feel toward Jeremy. He improved our knowledge; he’s given us better answers, and they are answers about some of the most important things: what the powers who try to control us are doing. With better information, we can make better decisions and govern our own lives.

Fundamentally, Stratfor is a profit-driven business. It influences big business, government, and the media. It’s an organ of the powerful, but despite its power over all our lives, Stratfor’s employees are not vetted by the people and it’s not open to Freedom of Information Act requests. The knowledge it held between 2004 and 2011 was locked up behind closed doors.

But Jeremy freed it. For that, journalists owe him hard work researching the Stratfor documents, and we all owe him our thanks.

That evening, Vivien Weisman (Twitter) interviewed me about Barrett Brown and my Stratfor research to include in her upcoming documentary The Reality Wars, which is about hacktivists.

Also that evening, I was interviewed on Lorax Live (Website, AnonOps Radio, Twitter, Facebook) about the value of the Stratfor leak. The audio is not online yet, but I will update this page when it is.

Creative Commons License

The Value of the Stratfor Leak by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It does not affect your fair use rights or my moral rights. You can view the full license (the legalese) here; you can view a human-readable summary of it here. To learn more about Creative Commons, read this article. License based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@riseup.net.