An analysis of mainstream media coverage of the Global Intelligence Files emails.
The Global Intelligence Files^
On 27 February 2012, WikiLeaks and over 25 media partners began publishing from a database of over 5 million emails dating from July 2004 to December 2011 from the private US-based “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The Stratfor emails illuminate the methods and practices used by private intelligence firms, with little or no accountability or oversight. The emails reveal details about Stratfor’s clients, individuals and groups targeted for surveillance, and the shocking methods used to obtain information.
GIFiles Matrix: Media Coverage by topic and country^
The cabledrum project has created a table of media coverage – the GIFiles Matrix – from the GIFiles Top 20 (the 20 most covered topics from the GIFiles) for 24 selected countries. The table presents an approximate overview of the depth of media coverage around the world. Only print media and TV broadcasters are presented in this table, as it is otherwise difficult to distinguish online media organizations from news blogging sites. Details on the article gathering and sorting methods used to create the GIFiles Top 20 and the GIFiles Matrix are given below.
The following are notable trends in coverage of the GIFiles based on the GIFiles Matrix data. Although we cannot claim to prove any instances of censorship or inflammatory coverage of topics, the data does highlight interesting trends. Unless otherwise stated, referral to coverage in a certain country applies only to data from the GIFiles Matrix.
UK and Australian media coverage of the sealed indictment against Julian Assange^
Coverage of the GIFiles emails discuss how Stratfor’s VP Fred Burton claimed the US already had a sealed indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. An indictment is a formal accusation of crime issued by grand jury if there is probable cause for the crime, but it is not a determination of guilt. An extract of the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution states: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia when in actual service in time of War or public danger.”
The topic had good coverage in Australia, but comparatively poor coverage elsewhere in the countries that reported on the topic (France, Italy, Greece, Germany, Russia, India, Iran). Articles tended to have very few quotes – typically the one line quote from Stratfor VP Fred Burton stating, “We have a sealed indictment on Assange.” – and no links to the source emails. In contrast, the articles from Australian media outlets Crikey and ABC contained extensive quotes from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who has publicly advocated for protecting Assange as an Australian citizen, and has issued a FOIA request to the Australian government for information on the charges against Assange. Also quoted was Leader of the Government in the Senate Chris Evans’ response that the Australian government had heard nothing of a Grand Jury indictment for Assange.
The GIFiles Matrix includes the following UK media outlets: the BBC, The Guardian, the Independent, Reuters, and The Telegraph. Although these outlets covered several GIFiles topics, none of them had articles on the sealed indictment against Assange (although The Guardian did publish a guest article by Amy Goodman which mentions the indictment). In the full GIFiles news index, the only UK media who did cover the topic were the online blog WikiLeaks Grand Jury and the IBTimes.
Swedish media on the GIFiles and Expressen’s falsified story^
With a few exceptions, Swedish media ignored the GIFiles almost entirely. Only three topics from the GIFiles Top 20 are covered by Swedish media in the GIFiles Matrix by Dagens Nyheter, Svierges Television, Svenska Dagbladet and Expressen: a general description of the GIFiles and Stratfor, reports on Chavez’ health, and emails discussing former Swedish PM Carl Bildt. The Stratfor source for Carl Bildt was a Swedish MEP who relayed that Bildt believed Sweden should become a world power and was very critical Russia, Croats, and Albanians.
In addition to the lack of GIFiles coverage, some media outlets reported on the emails in conjunction with an unverified story from Expressen. Articles from Expressen and Svenska Dagbladet on GIFiles information on Carl Bildt also cited a story of a WikiLeaks ‘smear campaign’ against Sweden. The February 22 article from Expressen did not cite any specific documents, but claimed that Expressen had access to a WikiLeaks memo on plans to act against Sweden by using a document proving that PM Carl Bildt had been a US informant since 1973. On March 5, Svierges Television (SVT) published a letter from WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson stating that WikiLeaks had no plans to start a smear campaign against Sweden, and that Expressen had fabricated its reports of a WikiLeaks memo. He urged Expressen to publish the documents they claimed to have.
The headline, “Russia tried to prevent Kaczynski landing in Smolensk,” was not mentioned in Russian media. Eight other countries reported on Stratfor intel of a rumor of Russia’s involvement in the death of former Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 of Poland’s political and military officiates. Their plane crashed during an attempted landing in foggy weather near Smolensk on April 10, 2010. According to a Stratfor email from April 2010 released by WikiLeaks, Fred Burton, vice-director of counter intelligence, reported that their source ‘Comrade J,’ a former KGB agent, had speculated on a Russian intention to obstruct Kaczynski’s landing in order to delay him for the Katyn second world war memorial service on the same day.
Although Russia Today has covered numerous GIFiles topics, it has not actually published any of these articles in Russian on its website. Their GIFiles coverage is either in English, Spanish, or Arabic. Some content from Stratfor published in Russian by RT does not mention WikiLeaks or the GIFiles.
NATO military in Syria^
“NATO troops operating inside Syria,” was a headline from an email written by Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla. The email described a meeting between US officials who “said without saying” that NATO troops were already in Syria training opposition forces. In the GIFiles Matrix, the only media outlets based in NATO countries which reported on the topic were in France and the US (by Mediapart and Liberation News, respectively). Media outlets in the UK, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Canada did not cover the topic. Given that another email reported a Turkish official describing the role Turkey was playing in training Syrian opposition, the omission of the topic in Turkish print and TV media is notable.
Israeli media covering the topic, “Israel destroyed nuclear facilities in Iran” were Haaretz, Maariv, The Jeruselem Post, and Yedioth Ahronoth. An Israeli Stratfor source claimed that reports of Israel planning a military offensive against Iran were a “diversion.” He said that a team of Israeli commandos in collaboration with Kurd forces already destroyed all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure “weeks ago” in an email dated 11 November 2011.
Several Israeli media outlets also mentioned the topic “Russia and Israel swapped defense systems codes on Iran and Georgia” – Maariv, The Jeruselem Post, and Yedioth Ahronoth. According to a Stratfor source, Israel provided Russia with secret codes for Georgian drones, allowing them to hack and disable the unmanned aircrafts. This was reportedly part of a swap deal in which Russia gave Israel access codes on Iranian Tor-M1 missile systems.
But none of these outlets published stories on the headline “Israeli PM Netanyahu was a Stratfor source.” Prime Minister Netanyahu was reported in Stratfor emails to have “aimed to assert his intention of ‘neutralizing the Iranian nuclear menace’” during his first meeting with President Barack Obama. He was a source of information for Stratfor VP Fred Burton as early as 2007, and claimed that Iran had two nuclear missiles in December 2009.
Gathering and sorting methods^
The GIFiles news index^
The articles categorized in the top 20 were selected from 1,081 articles in the GIFiles news index, spanning 47 countries, 18 languages, and 162 media outlets. Articles were searched for manually, and one to two-line articles were excluded. Because of this, and because the GIFiles leak is ongoing (to date 1098 emails out of over five million are released) the database of articles is most likely incomplete.
The GIFiles Matrix^
The articles in the GIFiles matrix are those from the GIFiles news index, from 24 selected countries, assigned to one of the “GIFiles Top 20″ topics. Topics were assigned to articles by keyword, then manual checks for topic relevance. Articles that might fall under two or more topics were assigned to the topic most relevant. Not all articles were given topics, since not all articles fall under the top 20 most covered topics. Of 441 articles assigned to a topic, a total of 315 articles are in the GIFiles matrix.
Only media which do print or TV are included in this analysis – this means that outlets which only publish online, such as The Business Insider and WikiLeaks, are excluded from the Matrix view. Because of this restriction, some WikiLeaks media partners (for instance, Asia Sentinel and Nawaat) are not included in the GIFiles Matrix. Without this restriction, distinguishing between online news organizations and news blogging sites is subjective and difficult in terms of classification.
The cabledrum project is an ongoing attempt to gather all articles based on the GIFiles material. But the task is never complete, as new articles get published daily, and it is impossible to verify completeness in this case. Thus, to be able to analyze data, some clear restrictions need to be drawn. No one can draw any clear conclusions from the data otherwise. We have attempted to make the process as transparent as possible for journalists, researchers, analysts, and the general public to be able to gauge reliability of the data.