[ 00h02m20 - Vaughn Smith] Good Afternoon. Welcome to todays Wikileaks press conference at Frontline Club. Its being livestreamed on ustream.tv/frontlineclub. This press conference is independent, but the Frontline Club is proud to host it and as the Frontline Club’s founder, I am personally very interested in it. As a journalist and ex-soldier, like many, I have become troubled by the rapid corporateization of war. It seems fundamental by both soldiers and spies should be directly employed by governments. The need to collectify defenses is of course the very origin of government. As war, intelligence, and its dark arts become commoditized; where is accountability for it to be held and how do the media fit into this? And is it vulnerable itself to being corrupted by it? Today you’re going to hear from the following people in this order: Jamal Ghosn, Yazan Al-Saadi (both from Al-Akhbar in Lebenon – and we are going to skype into them fairly shortly), Mike Bonanno of “The Yes Men”, Stefania Mauritzi from L’Expresso in Italy, Carlos Enrique Bayo from Publico in Spain – forgive any mis-pronounciations, my English (laughs) – um, but anyway, thank you for coming and I am now going to handover to Julian Assange.
5,000,000 Stratfor emails to be leaked – WikiLeaks press conference (with transcript)
[00h04m54s - Julian Assange] First of all, some thank-you’s. Thank you for the team who have organized this event here for today: Vaughn Smith and WikiLeaks Crew. A special thank you to our technical team who has done heroic work on this particular release, they are often unseen but really they are in some ways the most important people in this organization and of course, thank you to our sources without which all our endeavors are nothing.
[00h05m30s - Julian Assange] So today, WikiLeaks begins its release of 5,000 emails documenting the private lives and private lies of private spies. Over the last ten years, the private intelligence industry has boomed in United States and other countries and is now a real factor in world affairs. But with its growth, there has not been a commensurate growth in accountability mechanisms that should be investigating and controlling these organizations like the controls that are placed on – believe it or not, there are some – on government intelligence organizations and military intelligence organizations.
[00h06m30s - Julian Assange] This particular release concerns a US company, Stratfor, which describes itself as a global intelligence organization. Internally, it describes that its goal is to be number one intelligence organization in the world and to teach US intelligence agencies how to become like them. On the surface, Stratfor presents itself as something else. While it always started out as a private intelligence organization, it has erected a cover that it is simply a provider of intelligence publications. Yes – to government and to military organizations, but also to private organizations and even universities. But the global intelligence files reveal that its roots as a private intelligence organization are strong and are not being dispensed with in any manner whatsoever. In fact, when we look at the accounting data from this organization, we can see that historically, the majority of its income has come from its private clients. Who are those private clients?
[00h08m04s - Julian Assange] Well, yes, they include oil companies, the US air force, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bank of America and so on. But they also include the US marines, which Stratfor states it is preparing the forecast for, the three year forecast, for its commander. It includes the Dow Chemical corporation and Stratfor spies or monitors, activists seeking redress over the Bhopal tragedy which killed thousands in India some twenty-five years ago. It includes other corporate clients in the United States for which, Stratfor spies on activist organizations. So, this information that I have told you just now came from our press release early this morning, but in this publishing endeavor where we have pulled together some 25 media organizations and more being announced in the coming days. Information is coming out all the time. In fact, at noon beginning this press conference, we released a new discovery made last night.
[00h09m38s - Julian Assange] Stratfor was hired by the Coca-Cola corporation to monitor and assess PETA activists in relation to the 2009 Vancouver Olympics. In particular, Stratfor’s Vice president of intelligence (the ex-Department of State diplomatic security service officer and agent) Fred Burton offered access to the FBI’s classified investigation on PETA operatives. The questions from Coke Cola were: What is the number of PETA supporters in Canada? How many of these are inclined towards activism? The links between Peta in Canada and Peta in US or elsewhere, PETA’s methodology for planning and executing activism and the risk of non-PETA hangers-on. The Yes Men and some Bhopal activists whom are here today were also monitored by Sratfor and they will tell you about those experiences.
[00h11m03s - Julian Assange] Stratfor has engaged in a number of actions and discussions in relation to WikiLeaks and to me personally. The detail of that will be coming out over the following days, but there are more than four thousand emails discussing WikiLeaks and our activities. The interconnection between Stratfor and the US government has made that a real issue. This is an organization that does not just collect information, collecting information through bribes, through insiders, it is also an organization that acts on that information to subvert particular groups including WikiLeaks. When we look at the “News of the World” scandal, we must see in relation to private intelligence organizations like Stratfor that this is ‘small cheese’.
[00h12m25s - Julian Assange] Stratfor set up an international payment laundering network going through the Bahamas (you can check email id1409763), through Switzerland, and through prepaid credit cards used to pay off its informers in different countries. Stratfor, according to its own internal documentation spent more than $100,000 a year on such intelligence acquisition related costs. Some sources are put on monthly retainers. “Geronimo,” an informant handled by the Vice President of intelligence Fred Burton, the former State Department agent, was paid $1,200 per month to be an informant for Stratfor. Another example: (and these are all released on the WikiLeaks website, more are being released as we speak) a $500 payment on the 15th of December 2011. The accounting number for Stratfor’s payment to informants is 52000, the description is, “cost of sales: intelligence.” That particular payoff was handled by Jen Richmond and the document ID is 1431520. Rather than steal the thunder of our other partners, I will now hand over to them. Is the connection to Lebanon ready?
[00h14m54s - Julian Assange] Lebanon, can you hear us?
[Jamal Ghosn] I hear you, yes.
[Julian Assange] Ok great, everyone else can hear you as well so..um..you are free to begin whenever you like.
[Jamal Ghosn] Um…
[Julian Assange] First, perhaps, we should introduce you.
[Jamal Ghosn] I will introduce myself if you want.
[Julian Assange] Go ahead
[00h15m20 - Jamal Ghosn] Ok, I am Jamal Ghosn from Al-Akhbar newspaper. Of course here at Al-Akhbar we are based in Beirut which is a city known to attract a lot of attention from intelligence agencies of all sorts. Just last summer, we had an incident with, I want to publicize this event, where the CIA was forced to shut down its Beirut operation because its agents were exposed and an event like this normally helps businesses like Stratfor to step in and fill the void, and thats only natural, the problem with that is a company like Stratfor is out there to make profits and the nature of business makes it cut corners at some point and we saw that where some of the emails we read where they actually used Google translate to read Al-Akhbar news articles and this is a guaranteed way for good intelligence to be lost in translation.
[00h16m33 - Jamal Ghosn] In any case, this type of exposure to this type of atmosphere and agents here and intelligence gathering professionals in Beirut, teaches you one thing basically. It is that it is not all that it is propped up to be. Its not the image portrayed in movies of secret agents. Most intelligence gatherers turned out to be a bit, how shall I put it, geeky. Its not that there is anything wrong with geeks of course. But, there’s really just some people who majored in Middle Eastern studies and ended up doing a semester abroad in Beirut or Damascus or Cairo, and ended up working for companies like Stratfor or for agencies like the CIA or others and they turned out to basically produce information thats a mixture of some good sources that they might get like Stratfor had with the source code being to NE1 or combined with a lot of Google translations which don’t amount to much. And again, I think I didn’t do justice to Geeks, after all some of them are on the other side. Some of the geeks at Anonymous for example. If this is who was behind the hacking incident at Stratfor.
[00h18m20 - Jamal Ghosn] They are a bunch of volunteers fighting for truth, transparency and free flow of information, while the Stratfor professionals get paid to be in the business of making secrets and keeping information a privilege for the few, instead of for everyone. And in this line of course Al-Akhbar stands clearly with the free flow of information and my understanding was always that this is where journalists should always be. Thank you.
[00h19m00s - Vaughn Smith] Thank you Jamal, I understand you have Yazan al-Saadi who might want to say something too? He’s on a different line. No you haven’t, we are going to call somebody else, thank you. While we wait for that, we might move on. We are going to move on to Mike Bonanno of “The Yes Men” who has also to my understanding got some of the Bhopal activists here as well.
[00h20m00s - Mike Bonanno] Right, when we heard that we were being monitored by an intelligence agency, it wasn’t that big of a surprise. One always suspects that the government might be listening to you, especially in the United States. We grew up in the Cold War. What one doesn’t expect is that it’s not the government listening to you. It’s a network of private unaccountable corporations and their only set of standards is their bottom line. And there’s incredible documents in the emails that we were looking at last night that reveal that they really do stop at nothing if it’s profitable.
[00h20m43s - Mike Bonanno] And one of the more entertaining documents is a glossary of intelligence terms and in that glossary of intelligence terms, many of the terms are followed by statements on by what might or might not be profitable. And they talk about basically cooking the books and proving information, making it sound better to clients, simply so that they can make money. So, we are not necessarily talking about good intelligence. We are talking about a lot of intelligence, because more intelligence means more money. That doesn’t mean that its smart.
[00h21m13s - Mike Bonanno] And among the things I consider not smart, are spying on victims of the Bhopal catastrophe. Dow Chemical of course is concerned. They’re concerned about their reputation, rightfully so. They caused the largest industrial accident in history and they didn’t clean up the mess in Bhopal. So now there are two generations of victims. The first generations of victims were the gas victims. The second generation of victims were victims of water contamination from the plant site that they abandoned with all the chemicals still in place.
[00h21m45s - Mike Bonanno] One of those victims is here today, Farah Edwards-Kahn is here, and there’s four activists from the international campaign for justice in Bhopal here today, thats why we there wasn’t room on the stage for them, but I’m going to cede my seat to one of them shortly. And Colin Toogood is also here from the Bhopal Medical Appeal. So he’s partially in charge of trying to get the victims aid money for their primary activity which is called the Sambhavna Trust. It is a hospital for the victims of the gas catastrophe. And Indra Sinha who also started the Bhopal Medical Appeal in the international campaign for justice in Bhopal. He’s book is a Booker-listed as a prize winning author of a book called, “Animals People,” which was about the Bhopal catastrophe.
[00h22m42s - Mike Bonanno] So in short, I think that The Yes Men…we were targeted because we had impersonated Dow Chemical in the past, in order to make a mockery of the way they hadn’t cleaned up the mess they made at Bhopal. And reading the intelligence, it’s kind of comic, sometimes they’re really looking into details. They did things like subscribe to our email list, they monitored where we were going to be. There’s a tremendous amount of information about things like, what speech we were giving at what college or what University. Theres no information as to whether there was somebody there to listen to it. But the point was to get Dow some data, so that Dow could decide how they wanted to monitor us. In terms of the Bhopal activists, I think there are some really interesting things about the way that they’re monitoring.
[00h23m41s - Mike Bonanno] Some of its comic again and since we make films that are made of comedy, these always sticks out for me. For example, they monitored in file 393642 (in case anybody wants to look this up – I don’t think you will, but..) they monitored somebody called the “UK activist, Ian Jarvis” – they were reading his blog – “UK activist Ian Jarvis posted a new item to his blog reporting on a stay at the Sambhavna clinic” (thats the health clinic I mentioned). “The post was solely about the workings of the clinic‘s environmentally friendly clothes washer.“ So this gives you a sense of the kind of detail that they were reporting to Dow. Even when they considered it not useful information, they still reported it.
[00h24m25s - Mike Bonanno] Now, on the other hand, stuff that was a little bit more useful gets more interesting. Rasha Dingra, who is an activist in Bhopal, emailed the ICJB – that’s the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal – distribution list with an item that has nothing to do with the Bhopal issue. She passed along a post from a left-wing US blog discussing a the US chamber of commerce letter to Cass Sunstein, the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, telling him to block the regulation of extremely dangerous chemicals in consumer plastics. I.e., phthalates and BPA. Dow is mentioned at the end of the post along with PNG as well as having contributed millions of dollars to the chamber’s war-chest in recent years.
[00h25m05s - Mike Bonanno] Now, the reason why I find this one interesting is that this points out what they are interested in. And this is the relationship between governments, between these corporations, and between regulatory agencies. They obviously want to have an effect. They want to allow things like phthalates to keep being distributed, unregulated and in the US. And so I think that there’s some revealing details.
[00h25m33s - Mike Bonanno] And as a final note, I just find it shocking that they would consider themselves to be a journalistic organization or that they would portray themselves that way. In Stratfor’s release this morning, to counter the WikiLeaks release, they end by saying “We want to assure everyone that Strafor is committed to recovering from a hack and rebuilding from a trust with the public and will continue to do what we do best; produce and publish industry leading analysis of international affairs.” And I ask Stratfor, when they are reading emails that we send to our mailing list: Is that really “publishing industry leading analysis of international affairs”? I don’t think so, I think it has nothing to do with that. And I think we’re frustrated, angry and we would like to see these intelligent agencies regulated. Can I introduce the Bhopal activists now or is that at the end?
[Julian Assange] Lets go through these now.
[Vaughn Smith] Next we are moving to Stefania Mauritzi.
[00h26m30s - Stefania Mauritzi] Yes. So, Good morning. My name is Stefania, I’m working for the Italian news magazine, “L’Expresso” and I want to give a picture about this material. So when I got access to this database, at the beginning I thought that it was rather dull, but when I started searching I realized that if you go deep in this database you can find very interesting information, like that which you can find in the secure list.
[00h27m13s - Stefania Mauritzi] The secure list is a list where there are most sensitive information – information that normally are not to be published. It’s not – You can read this information, this kind of insights, in the bulletin published by Stratfor. It is just internal information. Some of this email in the secure list, you can understand that Stratfor had access to material about the seize in the Osama Bin Laden safe house. You can understand that they have top secret level sources in the FBI, mentioning information, telling them information about Julian, about his case. You can realize that this people have information about drone attack five months before the actual attack on a terrorist.
[00h28m12s - Stefania Mauritzi] I want to – Some of the story are like a thriller like, for example, when they – There is an email in the secure list mentioning the case of a [reads from notes] “former federal judge Sam Kent”. Sam Kent, he’s the first federal judge found guilty of serious crime in the US. And this judge tell the story linking his story to the fact that he ruled a heavy case against Halliburton. This information is not for publication; it is in the secure list. And this list is indeed very sensitive. And this list make you realize that Stratfor is not only a media organization, like they’re trying to frame themselves. I mean, we don’t have clients. In this list, they put all their information for clients, all sensitive information for clients.
[00h29m10s - Stefania Mauritzi] We are a media organization, we have readers; we have not clients. We don’t gather information about monitoring movements, like Yes Men, like Movements.org – which is another organization monitored. We don’t have clients. We have just readers. Finally, I want to spend some words about this database, because when I got access to this database, in the beginning it was very difficult to manage five million documents. But finally, WikiLeaks was able to create a database which is wonderful. I mean, this is cutting-edge journalism and is stimulating for media organization to work on this cutting-edge journalism.
[00h30m00s - Vaughn Smith] We’re now going back to Lebanon. We’re going to put on – Here is Yazan Al-Saadi of, again of Al-Akhbar.
[Yazan Al-Saadi] Hi everyone. I hope you can hear me.
[Vaughn Smith] We hear you.
[00h30m19s - Yazan Al-Saadi] Excellent. My colleague in Lebanon pointed out a few things. I wanted to elaborate more on the general Middle East situation. And what we saw from our preliminary readings of the emails from WikiLeaks was an institution that completely seems disconnected from the realities, the political, social, and economic realities of the regions they covered. Now for us, specifically, we were looking at the Middle East, because we are a Middle Eastern newspaper.
[00h30m54s - Yazan Al-Saadi] And some of the examples that come to mind are – Well, there is an inherent racism within Stratfor: off-the-cuff remarks that seem to discount Arab statements for whatever reason. There was one example where they were discussing a Palestinian news editor for Ma’an News and he was considered a nut for implying that the only way to liberate Jerusalem was through a military honor. In comparison, when they were talking with an Israeli source, despite the Israeli source’s racism towards Arabs, his aggressive demeanor and all that, his information was considered valuable. And I think that example is symbolic of the way Stratfor values certain types of information that re-enforces the narrative and ideology that they portray and push forward.
[00h31m51s - Yazan Al-Saadi] Other examples – I think Jamal kind of pointed out: they lack Arabic speakers, they lack actual Arab experts. So, they over-rely on sources, specifically ME1. And their over-reliance, it becomes – It’s hilarious, because it’s very – it’s dependent. It’s a dependency kind of relationship where whatever ME1 says, goes. So, in one email there was a whole discussion about two generals in Syria, they are close to the Syrian regime. Now these two generals are Sunni. But ME1 told Stratfor that they were Alawites. And when one analyst pointed out that OSPAIs, which is Open Source Publicly Available Information, shows that these two individuals are Sunni, the handler for ME1 was quick to defend ME1 completely and believe his statements, no matter what. These are just a few examples.
[00h32m55s - Yazan Al-Saadi] Like, I do want to point out that there is so much information that WikiLeaks pulled out for all of us to see and we were only able to scratch the surface. And I definitely think the more you dig in, the more it comes out, the more information and shocking things come out that are very startling.
[00h33m15s - Yazan Al-Saadi] Other things to keep in mind in terms of what Stratfor is doing for the Middle East is their over-emphasis on jihadist militancy. Like, for example, in their creation of their Decade Report for 2005-2015: in terms of the Middle East, they quickly placed aside dissent towards repressive regimes and highlighted the conflict between the US and Al Qaeda as the key conflict, when – if anyone knows anything about the region in West Asia, North Africa – Al Qaeda is nothing. They don’t have as much support and they don’t have that much power and influence as a lot of organizations like Stratfor try to emphasize – for whatever reasons they do. And this leads to the other problem. When media agencies, mainly in the West, and intelligence agencies and government agencies rely on these institutions for information, it reinforces the problems that we have been seeing. Because they believe this flawed information, creating policy that is equally destructive, and it creates a cycle over and over again. So, yeah, like… This is what we’ve gathered so far, but I’m sure the more we dig in, the more exciting things are revealed. It’s an exciting time to be in journalism, that’s for sure. That’s for sure.
[00h34m40s - Vaughn Smith] Yazan, thank you very much. Can you stay on the line there, because I’m sure there will be some questions for you.
[Yazan Al-Saadi] No problem.
[Vaughn Smith] Yes, thank you. We’re now going to move Carlos Enrique Bayo of Publico in Spain.
[00h34m52s - Carlos Enrique Bayo] Hello, good morning. Well, really, it’s been exciting. I’m Carlos Enrique Bayo of Publico, Spain. It’s been exciting to work with this materials, because although it’s very difficult to dig in as he [points at screen to Yazan Al Sadi] has just said, we have been struck by the fact that most of the money that came into Stratfor was from public sources, because most of the customers are government offices, agencies, ministries, the military, etc. So, it’s public money what Stratfor receives for many subscriptions, for its services and analyses.
[00h35m39s - Carlos Enrique Bayo] Public money from many countries, and especially European nations, nations that funds and gives huge profits to a private company that acts as a shadow CIA and basically protects US and US companies’ interests around the word. Public money used for the benefit of American individuals using dirty tricks in espionage (and that is not journalism) used without the knowledge of the citizens, and. well, the taxpayers of these countries.
[00h36m13s - Carlos Enrique Bayo] Moreover, many of those institutional customers became in fact assets of Stratfor giving the companies’ analysts confidential, reserved, privileged information on the governments or agencies or institutions’ interests and activities. Their feedback to Statford’s analysts give them the insiders materials and information – later this same company uses and sells to other clients, as they call them. So our public institutions are not only financing the shadow CIA but also giving for free the very source of their wealth.
[00h37m01s - Carlos Enrique Bayo] Finally, the way they work. It’s very revealing that they are not a media company, they are not journalists. The field agents’ instructions given by the founder and owner of Stratfor, Mr. Friedman, stress that those spies have to use any means, including sexual relations to, as he says, “take control of the sources.” He means informants, of course, not sources. So the undercover agents are using psychological methods to take control of the people who are informants. It’s hardly a coincidence. I believe the only means the US has found to extradite Mr. Assange out of Britain is an accusation of improper sexual relations. And that kind of instructions, given by someone with close links to the American Secret Services must indeed be standard operation material for American spies all over the world – we guess.
[00h38m09s - Carlos Enrique Bayo] Well, our main story today – as we are a news media company in Spain – was about the fact that Stratfor senior analysts are surprised of the extreme hardline positions of former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. One of the three knights of the war in Iraq with Blair and Bush. In matters of counterterrorism, they found him even more “hardcore” than the Israelis (which they thought very hardline of course). That’s shocking enough. As it came from an intelligence closely related with neocon ideologists – like Karl Rove, who is a very close friend to Friedman – that pushed forward the word “terror,” where they, well, we could document as journalists torture and renditions and many other violations of human rights in Guantanamo, Bagram Air Base, and many other places.
[00h39m22s - Carlos Enrique Bayo] So we have the knowledge that this is not a media company. This is an intelligence agency where the espionage has been privatized. It’s like another privatization of a public service. In this case a secret service which has been privatized for the benefit, for the enrichment of, to make wealth for individuals. That is not journalism and will never be. Thank you.
[00h40m03s - Vaughn Smith] Thank you Carlos. Now I think we’ll go to the Bhopal activists that you wanted to bring on.
[00h40m08s - Mike Bonanno] I do want to bring them on, I just want to mention one more thing [turns to Carlos Enrique Bayo]. You were talking about how they’re receiving, you know, money is coming in from the client and then they’re selling information onto other clients, but at the same time that wasn’t enough for them. There is documentation of them setting up their own – basically their own hedge fund – to trade on information that they were getting.
[00h40m30s - Mike Bonanno] [reading from notes] Among the millions of leaked emails are some that reveal dubious financial practices, including an apparent insider trading scheme with Goldman Sachs managing director Shea Morenz, who joined Stratfor’s board of directors and invested substantially more than 4 million dollars in a scheme called “StratCap”. And this is a quote: “‘What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments,’ wrote Stratfor’s CEO George Friedman. StratCap was designed through a complex offshore share trade structure to appear legally independent.” But Friedman in these documents assures his top staff, “do not think of StratCap as an outside organization. It will be integral, it will be useful to you. We are already working on mock portfolios and trades.” This StratCap fund was to launch very soon, in 2012. And let me now introduce the Bhopal activists, Colin, Indra and Farah. *attempts to take off his clip-on microphone*
[00:41:36 - Vaughn Smith] No, I think what we will do is I will give them this microphone. Might be easier if that’s alright.
[00:41:37 - Mike Bonanno] That’s great.
[00:41:38 - Vaughn Smith] Who do you want to go first?
[00:41:40 - Mike Bonanno] Maybe start with Colin since he’s right there. Thanks.
[00:41:43 - Colin Toogood] Hi, my name is Colin Toogood and I’m -
[00:41:45 - Mike Bonanno] Can you stand, Colin?
[00:41:47 - Colin Toogood] Yeah. I represent the Bhopal Medical Appeal. Now, the first thing to point out, the interesting thing to point out is that the Bhopal Medical Appeal is a very, very small charity – very small UK charity – and we raise money for a medical appeal. So, in the first instance, that would really want to make you question why you have a company like this sniffing around us. Now, the answer, of course, is because we are still looking for some form of justice for the Bhopal disaster. In fact in our case, it’s not just a question of justice as an abstract notion, there are still people being poisoned out there. This is a genuine live medical issue. So, you know, the big question is, why are they sniffing around us? And the answer can only be that there is something to hide. But I also would question, as was raised earlier, the value and veracity of some of the so-called intelligence. We, the Bhopal Medical Appeal, work quite closely with the International Campaign for Justice which is arguably, they’re the sort of, if you like, the more hardcore activists and the ones you might more easily expect to being snooped around. But the intelligence we share is facts. It’s not just some, you know – It’s facts around the case, it’s things which can, you know – We’re extremely thorough with our research. It’s things that we can stand up and speak in a court of law. It’s not just a load of stuff, shadowy information about things that we might be doing. But to pick up on that, the funny thing about it is the quality of some of this stuff. One, the information is not great – I mean, they get people’s names wrong, for instance. But it’s also is what they do with the information. An example I’ll give you is something that we did in 2009 with the Yes Men. It was a stunt to produce a bottle of fake mineral water product called B’opal, spelled B’opal. And we decided that we would challenge the boss of Dow UK to drink some actual Bhopal, toxic Bhopal water in this fake bottle. Seemed like a great idea. And we worked on a kind of, pretty much an “Escape from Colditz” level of security up until the day we were going out to (unintelligible) to present this bottle. And when we got there, we found that they’d shut the entire organization for the day. Now one, that tells you, as we suspected anyway, that they were snooping around and that they knew what we were up to. But the second is, it makes you wonder how smart they are. I mean, is that really the right thing to do? And the answer to that is ‘no’, because of course the airwaves, you know, or the internet of course was just alive with this for days. I mean, there was 15, 20 pages of results on Google along the lines of ‘Activists shut Dow down for a day.’ So, just to conclude, as I say, it’s extremely, it’s depressing that something like this is sniffing around us. And I think that what we would ultimately ask is, what is the value in that and how much is it costing? Wouldn’t it be better PR to just go out and clean Bhopal up?
[00:45:05 - Vaughn Smith] Thank you very much. *approaches with microphone*
[00:45:08 - Mike Bonanno] Ah, it would be good for Farah speak or Indra.
[00:45:16 - Farah Edwards-Kahn] Hello, my name is Fara Edwards-Khan and I am from Bhopal and I was there when the accident happened in 1984. I was ten years old and I saw the horror that happened then and I see the horror that happens now and I am not surprised at what is happening. I know that Dow is dirty, because this is what they’ve done to the Children of Bhopal. They are a dirty company and they’ve messed up Bhopal. They’ve messed up our – Around the factory, they’ve made a huge and terrible mess which they don’t want to clean up. I am really angry with them and I’m really grateful to WikiLeaks that they have brought this out into the open. Now what, Dow? Now what?
[00:46:11 - Mike Bonanno] And this is Indra Sinha. Do you have something you want to add?
[00:46:14 - Indra Sinha] Hello, yea, my name is Indra. I’m -
[00:46:16 - Mike Bonanno] Could you stand, please?
[00:46:18 - Indra Sinha] Sorry. I’ve been involved with the Bhopalese since 1993 or 1994, helping to raise money along with Colin with the Bhopal Medical Appeal which run the clinics in Bhopal and also involved with the campaign and with my other hat on, as a writer, as a novelist, I wrote a book called Animal’s People which had some success which was based loosely on what had happened there. I was trying to tell the story like a kind of parable. What I’d like to say vis-à-vis Dow, Bhopal, and the media is this: Dow have long since realized that they can stay out of courts, because of their allies in government and their ability just to complicate and manipulate cases. So what should have been a legal battle about issues like inherited liability and responsibility for contamination have become a PR battle. And so they’re using the media to place soundbytes which are ultimately meaningless, but very few people question them, because there must be a level of understanding for them to be able to decypher them. That’s one thing. They’ve also used the media in a sort of fly-away really. They’ve once tried to portray us as terrorists. It was shortly after 9/11 and the New Jersey, “Ledger” or something – forgot the name of the thing – ran a story that said, “Bhopal’s terrorists stormed our plant.” Apparently, these Bhopal terrorists had taken the guards captive, had stormed into the plant making some demand, had asked for coffee and when the coffee was not to their liking, they’d shot someone and shouted in the middle that “the little things in life matter.” After this, they revealed that it was actually an exercise with the FBI and SWAT teams and what have you, but not before they’d actually made that smear. So, you know, again I think it helps to make the point what Julian’s done with WikiLeaks and these new revelations: that some of the world’s poorest people for nearly 30 years now have been fighting a battle – not just against a company, but against its allies in gove
rnment, allies in Goldman Sachs, all the sort of power and money elites literally on one side and these people with nothing on the other. So that’s where the media could take a deeper interest and look harder and we’re here to help with that. Thank you.
[00:49:14 - Vaughn Smith] Everybody you’ve heard is available for questions and so, who would like to ask some questions? Can we have a hand up first?
[49m30s - Reporter] I’m from (unintelligible) and you’ve said that they’re not only collecting information but also acting on information, subverting activists, can you give some examples?
[Julian Assange] We’ve looked most closely at the actions in relation to us, but those are embargoed for the next few days. I think the biggest story that is likely to come out of this will probably be in three to four days, in relation to WikiLeaks. Unfortunately I can’t give you an example now.
[50m05s - Jerome Taylor, The Independent] Can I ask either Julian or Kristinn or any of the panel members whether they have any concerns about how this information was got at, in that a lot of the previous publications that WikiLeaks has done have come from whistle-blowing, where it seems that this information was stolen as part of a hack attack. Do you have any qualms about how that information was obtained?
[Julian Assange] We are a source protection organization. As a source protection organization, and in fact simply as a media organization, as a matter of policy we do not discuss sourcing or speculate on sourcing. As some people may be aware, WikiLeaks in its sourcing methodology deliberately tries to not even know itself where its information comes from because ultimately that is the strongest protection for sources. We can see looking at this private intelligence agency Stratfor that it is, internally, worse than any journalist at protecting its informants in government agencies, it’s just hopeless. The idea that this organization could be teaching the US Marines or other intelligence agencies how to run agents or informants, under the circumstances, is absurd. In relation to legalities, speaking more generally, the sourcing and publishing of WikiLeaks is protected as it is for other media organizations in the United States under the 1st amendment, and there’s a long history of jurisprudence associated with that, and in other countries that have ratified Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
[Stefania Mauritzi] If you search in this database, you realize that Stratfor doesn’t protect sources. There are files full of names and contact details for their sources. We found an Italian Ambassador – we don’t know what kind of material or information he is providing to Stratfor – but he’s an Ambassador to an African country, a very sensitive country, but we don’t know what he’s doing or what he’s providing. But these sources are not protected, not encrypted, you can have full access to these generals, politicians, whoever. You can even read why they provide information. Who they hacked, there are even hackers, there is one very important hackers. They didn’t encrypt this information.
[53m30s - (Alexandra Ranteria??), (unintelligible) Radio from Colombia] Did you find any relevant information about the health of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, or any relevant information about Latin American countries?
[Julian Assange] Not yet. Some was released last night, there’s a significant amount of other information. There is an example of one of Stratfor’s people speaking to an Israeli informant about information on the health of Hugo Chavez, and going into quite some detail about that, which we have released. Quite an interesting exchange, because people in Stratfor start out as intern-analysts, just reading news on the web, and they progress up to be more senior analysts, and then it appears that they’re sort of tapped on the shoulder to be taken into the darker intelligence collecting activity. For example, the CEO George Friedman on the 6th of December emailed a Stratfor analyst with information on Hugo Chavez obtained from an Israeli source, stating “if this is a source you suspect may have value, you have to take control of him; control means financial, sexual, or psychological control. This is difficult when you are known to be affiliated with an intelligence organization. The decision on the approach should not come from you but from your handler, this is because you’re too close to the source and your judgement is by definition impaired” and then saying “now you are ready to go to the next level.” Elsewhere in the glossary, they discuss how there are two organizations within Stratfor, and there’s some sort of internal recruiting process that occurs. In relation to Latin America more generally, there’s quite a lot of stuff, this is just something that we stumbled over.
[56m20s - Rory McKinnon, The Morning Star] WikiLeaks’ previous releases have been attacked by various countries on the grounds that it’s putting at risk national security. What do you think this latest release says about these countries’ attitudes to national security?
[Carlos Enrique Bayo] I do believe that national security is much more threatened if our diplomatics and militaries and secret agents rely on Stratfor. Because even Friedman recognizes that the problem with the sources of our analysts is that they have a very low qualification. That means that we don’t really evaluate with clarity the situation. That’s one of the sentences he uses to admit that the reformation is low quality. If our governments, our secret services, our diplomats, are using, relying on that information, that is really a threat to our national security.
[Julian Assange] Whenever this word “national security” is used, it should be immediately shot down. Are we talking about the security of the entire nation, all its people, or are we talking about a particular social, economic, and political sector of the economy? Because there is a tremendous confusion between these two and it is used time and time again to try and suggest that the security of all the people in the nation is the same as a particular sector of the economy—namely private intelligence agencies, organizations like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Stratfor, and their government equivalents—are in fact the security of the nation. That is simply false. In the previous material that WikiLeaks has released, despite all these hysterical outpourings attempting to deflect from the severe exposure of the killings of hundreds of thousands—literally hundreds of thousands—of people we have exposed the deaths of by the U.S. Military and other organizations, to instead talk about some speculative hypothetical risks that have proven over the last two years to be completely false. Completely, utterly false. And yet, that smear and that distraction was used all over the world, and is embedded in people’s heads. And it is your responsibility as journalists to not permit that to happen in future, and in fact to undo the willing participation in that sort of hysteria. That sort of neo-McCarthyist hysteria that occured over the last two years. But, as for this material, no we don’t ever see there to ever be any meaningful risks except for those organizations that have committed wrong-doing and need to be taken down.
[01h00m00s - Robert Börjesson, Expressen] Robert Börjesson, Expressen. This is a question to Mr. Assange. There is some information in this release regarding Sweden’s Foreign Secretary Carl Bildt. Do you have any more information about Mr. Bildt? And when will you released the alleged information that he was an informant for the U.S.A.
[Julian Assange] Well, you are from the Expressen newspaper which fabricated an entire story and made it a front-page, and four additional pages last week. And as a result, the Foreign Minister of Sweden has been on some defensive rampage against this organizaiton, completely absurd. Sweden, in relation to Carl Bildt, is acting like a political kindergartener. It is totally absurd. And, as a result, we simply do not answer questions to your organization. As you know, your organizaiton works hand-in-hand with the Moderate Party, it is owned by the Bonniers, come on!
[Peter Wilson, The Australian] Peter Wilson from The Australian newspaper. If I could ask Carlos, you said that… you pointed out that Stratfor will tell its agents to use all sources, including sex, to try to control sources. And you said it’s not a coincidence that Julian is being extradited to Sweden on sexual matters. What are you saying there? That Stratfor is behind those sexual allegations in Sweden?
[Carlos Enrique Bayo] No, no. I was referring to the standard procedures of the American secret services. I was referring to Stratfor as a company that has learned a lot on the systematic operations of the intelligence community of the United States. And so, I said it’s a coincidence, but very revealing, that in the instructions they give to their agents on the field, they insist—and the sentence is the same sentence he read—that they have to… if the source is valuable, or you want that this source or this target acts as you want, you have to take control of him or her, either economically, sexually, or psychologically. That’s a standard procedure then for secret services around… well, around the world maybe not, but the American services I’m sure they do this kind of covert operations. And so, if the American secret services are after Julian Assange it’s also a very revealing coincidence what happened in Sweden.
[01h03m00s - Kristinn Hrafnsson] If I may just say a few words about the culture of the Stratfor company. It would be very interesting for all of you to read the glossary of terms from the CEO of the company that we have already put on our website. It is a good reflection on what the company culture is, if you could say that, and because they maintain that they are a media outlet. It contains, for example, back to what you were saying, Carlos, how they treat their sources, or informants, as you rightly pointed out they are. For example, they think it’s a very useful thing to rattle them up. And here it is, the reference to the usefulness of finding material on the informants, photographs the informant’s wife would not want to see, and in the way they would get more information out of their sources/informations by using blatant blackmail. And they put in on paper by an internal memo by the CEO. And if that’s a standard practice by a media organization, we’re in trouble, I think. And I don’t think anybody would agree that that would be the way to treat the sources. But you should read through that, it’s a quick read, and it’s very interesting and a good reflection of how they really view themselves internally.
[Vaughan Smith] Kristinn, where is that available from?
[Kristinn Hrafnsson] It’s on the website, wikileaks.org.
[Julian Assange] It’s on the “How to Read It” section. So if you go to wikileaks.org/gifiles and you go to the sort-of “How to Interpret the Data” you’ll see “glossary” and there’s a link to that. It’s a PDF.
[Audience Member] Hello. This is a question for anyone in the panel that wants to answer it. Trying your best to put aside wishful thinking, is this a mortal blow for Stratfor? The Italian lady mentioned that they have been unable to protect their sources and that’s their first job as an intelligence agency. Can they recover from this?
[01h05m15s - Julian Assange] Well, they have um… It’s interesting to think about what the company perceives itself as doing. And it perceives itself in a very long letter sent in August or September 2011, to its staff by the CEO George Friedman as being an intelligence organization, growing to be an intelligence organization, and having a syndicated intelligence newsletter on the side. But, also, to be a hedge fund. And Stratfor got together with a then-director in 2009 of Goldman Sachs… (addressing Bonnano) What’s his name, do you remember?
[Mike Bonanno] Uh, yeah… Shea Morenz.
[Julian Assange] Shea Morenz, to take the secret intelligence that Stratfor was collecting—collecting in part by paying insiders—and use that to invest in a wide range of geo-political financial instruments, according to its own descriptions and currency and bonds. And that that is something that would be integral to the organization, that they were developing over two years, that we have published the corporate structures for them and they involve a complex off-shore arrangement extending even to South Africa. I mean, it is completely out of control. It is totally absurd that that sort-of situation could arise and there’s even some awareness about how close they’re running to all being arrested, where George Friedman, and you can see the quote in our press release and the full text is available, talks about how they are worried about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, presumibly in relation to bribing informants, and they had hired lawyers, in fact, because they were so worried about it, and that the CEO didn’t want to, quote, “be doing the perp-walk.” I mean, it’s extraordinary that that culture has flourished. I mean, it is like Enron that some very cowboy-like culture has developed within Stratfor. A sort of people playing James Bond in the most absurd manner in many cases; the most ineffective, hopeless manner. And also, they decide that they’re going to be some kind of James Bond villains by setting up their own captured investment fund at the same time that they’ll use all this intelligence from…. to pull in.
And if we look at their press release from this morning, we see that they are saying that they simply refuse to answer any questions about the material whatsoever. Now, is that a media organization or… Is that the response of a media organization? That they refuse to answer anything about their practice? Let’s look at News International. Now, News International has actually answered a lot of questions, perhaps relunctantly, but it has answered many. This organization is saying, ‘no, we don’t discuss that sort of information.’ And an intelligence agency would say, ‘we refuse to confirm or deny.’ And they say they refuse to confirm or deny, because that is their culture. They are a private intelligence organization. But, if we look at Fred’s Rule #2, the vice president of intelligence, this guy Fred Burton, who has been gunning for us. He comes from the State Department, works for Stratfor. Fred’s Rule #2: “Admit nothing, deny everything, and make counter-accusations.” What did you see in the press release today? That email is 2539287, released today.
[01h10m00s - Audience Member] Is that in the press release?
[Julian Assange] That one is not in the press release, we found that this morning. Thought it might be handy for this event.
[Mike Bonanno] I’d like to just add one more thing to that answer, and that… It’s regardless of whether Stratfor is done after this, regardless of whether they have to fold as a company. What should be targeted, and what I hope the journalists will be looking into more, is the revolving door between these businesses and government. What the end that should be seen, or foreseen by this, hopefully, is that relationship, the problems that we have with privatizing the intelligence industry, which has resulted in this unintelligent result.
[Stefania Maurizi] And also links with intelligence, for example, we want to ask what kind of information these ambassadors, these journalists, these secret service agents are providing Stratfor. For which client? We don’t know. Maybe they provide basic, open-source information. Maybe… we don’t know, basically.
[Julian Assange] Well, there’s a question, who’s next? Stratfor, in this internal cowboy-culture, this hopeless sort-of informant protecting arrangements and their payment laundering system through The Bahamas, has now been exposed. But there are others that are lower-profile that, in fact, financially larger in size, like Kroll group. So, what’s happening there? I presume the same basic methods are done under the surface, but perhaps with a little bit more care, so they haven’t been exposed. But we shouldn’t stop at Stratfor. These sorts of organizations, because of their secrecy, corruption flourishes within them, but the other thing, and in fact it’s the one thing that has really saved the world, is that incompetence also flourishes in the dark. So we can see that this sort of opportunistic incompetence within Stratfor, from email number 1061018, which we released today at midday: Random Business Idea – Network Security: “I was reading a solid Forbes article on Assange and it said that a large number of deep pocket corporations were looking into leak-focused network security after these WikiLeaks episodes. I was wondering if it is possible for us to get some of that “leak-focused” gravy train. This is an obvious fear sale, so that’s a good thing. And we have something to offer that IT security companies don’t, mainly our focus on counter-intelligence and surveillance that Fred and Stick..” this Fred is Fred Burton, diplomatic security service guy, “know better than anyone on the planet. We did a lot of good work with all the personal/executive security analysis…” dadadadada, “In fact, I’m not so sure that leaking is an IT problem that requires and IT solution.” Completely incompetent, opportunistic, and that is the culture within this organization. The problem is: it’s also a very influential organization. It’s intelligence newsletter alone has some two-hundred and um… over two-hundred thousand subscribers in very influential positions.
[01h13m47s - Stephania Maurizi] Yes, three-hundred thousand.
[Julian Assange] Three-hundred thousand. Malcolm Turnbull, for instance, just off the top of my head, who’s the Deputy Leader of the Australian Opposition, and previously Leader of the Australian Opposition, was a subscribed. So these people are being influenced in their activities, and they’re also—some of them—are also giving back, and when they give back it doesn’t just go off to… So, when someone in the State Department gives Fred Burton information about WikiLeaks… Well, it doesn’t necessarily just stay within Stratfor or go to other parts of the American Government… No, as we’ve seen in these other cases, it goes to the private clients of Stratfor, private corporations like Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical and Lockheed Martin.
[Liam Vaughan, Bloomberg] Liam Vaughan from Bloomberg. Can you speak a bit more about the connection with Goldman Sachs and… I’m just trying to understand, is the suggestion this guy was a managing director and then got involved with Stratfor, or is there a potential connection between Goldman Sachs, as a bank and as a company, and Stratfor?
[01h15m00s - Julian Assange] So… (addressing Maurizi) Have you looked into this? (addressing audience) I think I am the only person who’s looked into this. So, this guy is a Texas-originated Goldman Sachs director and he was director in 2009, we don’t know if he was a director in 2010, and in 2011 he joined Stratfor’s board. He, according to an email sent by the Stratfor CEO to employees, he invested 2 million U.S. dollars into Stratfor itself.
[Mike Bonnano] More than 4 million…
[Julian Assange] And substantially more than 2 million dollars into StratCap, the strategic investment captive firm operating within the Stratfor offices on intelligence collected by Stratfor. The degree of involvement by Goldman Sachs, the corporation, we don’t know. We do know that this one director of Goldman Sachs, while he was at Goldman Sachs, was involved in this. And, in fact, the CEO of Stratfor says that it was the Goldman Sachs’ director’s idea to take Stratfor intelligence and make a captive strategic investment fund to invest in these geo-political instruments.
[Unknown Audience Member] Do you have any indication of who would have been privy to that information? (inaudible question)
[Julian Assange] There is a lot of email about it, discussing it, prospective shareholding structures, share pyramids, and layouts of this. We have already released some of those, but will be releasing others as time goes by. An interesting connection, by the way, Thomson Reuters is a Stratfor “confederation” partner. Nearly all the other partners are small things in the ‘Stans, or Radio B92 in Serbia.. they’re all organizations which have a very pro-U.S. agenda. Thomson Reuters is very interesting because it is vastly larger than the others, it is a U.K. based firm, and it is meant to be independent. Perhaps it is worth looking what happened when Thomson merged with Reuters. Because Thomson provides, is an information provider, to clients. It is not a news organization, per se. Reuters was a news organization. And when these two things came together, perhaps something else happened.
When we released the ‘Collateral Murder’ video the editor-in-chief of Reuters… As you may remember that video exposed the murder of two… the killing of two Reuters journalists—the murder of one—by U.S. forces in Iraq. The editor of Reuters did not make a statement demanding for an investigation into what had happened to the deaths of his journalists. And this was a cause of considerable upset within Reuters. The immediately former head of Reuters said, ‘What is going on here? Why hasn’t the editor come out to demand investigation into the slaying of Reuters journalists?’ Is this a Thomson effect? So… that’s a question. Has Reuters been contaminated by its merger with Thomson in the same way that Stratfor is contaminated… it seems that Stratfor was contaminated from birth, because there was no merger. But are other media organizations getting into this sort of business of doing intelligence work for private clients on the side, and then news work here? And not keeping these things air-gapped from each other, but rather swapping data.
[01h19m16s Stephania Maurizi] Yes, and there are many, many journalists among sources. But there are also some journalists who are having just journalistic approach. So some are normal relationship, others are sources. Many, many, many journalists in their list of the sources. Probably there are a dozen list of sources, not encrypted at all. With names, surnames, contact details, whatever. I am wondering… how is it possible that an intelligence company doesn’t protect, doesn’t encrypt this information.
[Carlos Enrique Bayo] Moreover, they even show the Visa cards’ numbers and passwords in their mails—that’s something that not an intelligence company, not even a boot-seller, would do.
[Vaughan Smith] More questions?
[Audience Member] Mr. Assange, you said a lot of the income of Stratfor comes from the public purse. Do you have any idea of the figures involved with the money flows from the American governments, perhaps other governments?
[Julian Assange] We have some ideas. So there are various financial reports that we’re working on. Just last night we discovered a series of about thirty… of the high invoices, about thirty of them. So, top one’s five-hundred thousand for some oil companies, U.S. Air Force, major U.S. corporations and so on. So we will get those figures out, they are there. It is just a matter of coming through to find the client list. At the moment we have invoices for the major clients, but looking at that, just those invoices, a substantial amount of money comes from government organizations, and also a substantial amount from oil companies.
[Audience Member] Would you say the majority of that money is from governments?
[Julian Assange] I couldn’t say at this stage. But it is substantial.
[01h21m36s - Carlos Enrique Bayo] We have verified that (unintelligible: “the real cash cows are”?) inside the Ministries of Defense or Foreign Affairs who subscribe. And sometimes we found invoices for different people in the same organization, public I mean, government, ministry, that don’t know each other and don’t know the other one is a subscriber. And so they are paying several times the same subscription because they believe they are getting such private, secret, reserved information, that they don’t tell other people in their same institution.
[Julian Assange] Stratfor has three… when looking at this data, one must be careful not to confuse what is going on. So Stratfor has the three principle types of incomes or people who pay it. So, those are private clients that it does tasked work for, so for example Coca-Cola trying to find out about PETA: we want you to find out this, this, and this, and this. It also has private meetings to give private briefings that are not tasked. So: we want you to tell us what you know about a particular situation, but we’re not tasking you to go out and collect additional information. And then there’s the sort-of intelligence newsletter that it runs, that anyone can subscribe to. That there’s sort-of corporate subscriptions and corporate packages and so-on.
[Vaughan Smith] Questions? Well, in the absence of questions I think we’ll conclude matters. Hopefully the panelists will be available for interviews if you make individual arrangements with them.
[Panelists] Thank you.