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.

Rammstein Concert at Madison Square Garden: Rammgut

Saturday night, December 11, I went to a Rammstein concert at Madison Square Garden, my ticket purchased by the best wife ever, Wifely. At the Garden, for about 2.5 hours, the band wonderfully bulldozed my ears. The full set list’s at the end of this post.

To get to the concert, I took the D-line from my friends Janna and Julie’s apartment in the Bronx, then walked a few blocks through Manhattan. A hand-holding, formally-dressed teenage couple arrived at about the same time I did, also threading their way through the assortment of headbangers in fishnet stockings and/or leather jackets & the like. The couple showed an elderly usher their tickets. “No,” he told them, “you don’t want a Rammstein concert.” He gestured. “You want that over there, the stage play.”

I went in.

Nice view! Freebie iPhone pic by me.

Luckily, I (purposefully) missed the opening act, some obnoxious group called Combichrist. I sat (with a great view! How awesome is Wifely???) next to a guy named Kirk, with whom I talked for a while; his girlfriend goes to NYU, he studies education in Pennsylvania.

I wondered if the techs soundchecking the guitars were going to play the main Sweet Leaf riff (the Black Sabbath song title refers to especially tasty tea), or if the tradition of using that riff for metal soundchecks was just an American thing. Well, Rammstein’s soundcheck was really short, which was sort of surprising — just a kick drum check and a power chord check. I have to say the kick drum sounded incredible reverberating around Madison Square Garden.

The lights blacked out suddenly, and after a Spinal Tap-worthy smashing of an artificial wall, the band came onstage for the night’s first song, “Rammlied” (“Ram-song”). The lyrics start with (and frequently repeat) the word “Rammstein” (Ram-stone), which the crowd loudly screamed, fists pumping and heads a-bang, as a very emphatic spondee. I was definitely among the fist-pumpers, for once at a concert where I wasn’t so self-conscious. When the German verses begun, the largely American audience’s fists lowered, their heads rose, and their faces searched one another, puzzled as to how to proceed. Then the chorus came back (Ramm-! -stein!) and the crowd resumed its chant. Any German the crowd managed seemed mostly mumbled until a familiar-enough word crossed by. This was amusing. For all we knew, Till Lindemann, singing mostly in German, could have been cursing us out the whole time!

Here’s what the music sounded like — seriously! Did I not tell you Rammstein plays Bavarian folk music?

During “Ich tu dir Weh” I saw, through the scrim of pot smoke pouched above the bottom floor, a man dressed head-to-toe as Santa Claus, moshing in the pit as intensely as anyone else. Like the band themselves, most Rammstein fans above their teenage years do have a sense of humor about this music and its subculture.

The concert ended with Till enunciating very slowly and very carefully, something like: “We are Rammstein. We thank you very, very much, America.” The closing song was “Engel” (“Angel”), and we walked out to a piano rendition of it, which was quite spooky and nicely fit my sudden sadness at the concert ending. I was so happy, though. On the way back to the Bronx on the D, my ears were, like, deaf, so on my headphones I listened to Patty Griffin, not coincidentally among Wifely’s favorite music.

By the way, before the concert, some guy standing by the elevators handed out what looked like playbills to passersby, some of whom happened to accept them. On the back, I noticed, MSG Entertainment, apparently Rammstein’s management — whom as a ticket-holder I have no relationshp with — asserts the following (though in all caps, and among other things) as part of a “license” (their word) that they granted:

No smoking, alcohol, drugs, weapons, laser pens, food, bottles or cans allowed. By your use of this ticket, you consent to a reasonable search for prohibit items and you agree that you will not transmit or aid in transmitting any description, account, picture or reproduction of the event to which this ticket admits you.

Apparently in Germany they don’t have the saying “Any publicity is good publicity.” And besides, just because some moistened bink lobbed a playbill at me doesn’t make me a licensee.

Here’s the NYT review.

For a disturbing, if overblown, take on Rammstein, try this essay by Claire Berlinski: Rammstein’s Rage. (FYI, at times the essay mis-translates in a way that misleadingly bolsters its points; but, it’s still worth a read.)

Set List (English):

  • Rammlied (Ram-song)
  • B******** (a meaningless neologism)
  • Waidmanns Heil (Hunters’ Salute)
  • Weißes Fleisch (White Flesh)
  • Feuer Frei (Fire at Will!)
  • Wiener Blut (Viennese Blood)
  • Frühling in Paris (Spring in Paris)
  • Ich tu dir Weh (I Hurt You)
  • Du Riechst So Gut (You Smell so Good)
  • Benzin (Petrol)
  • Links 2, 3, 4 (Left 2 3 4)
  • Du Hast (You Have)
  • [a song the title of which I'll not post here]
  • Sonne (Sun)
  • Haifisch (Shark)
  • Ich Will (I Want)
  • Engel (Angel)

THANK YOU WIFELY!!!

Taxicab Drivers’ Marriage Advice

via Phillie Casablanca

Several times during Kate and I’s wedding & honeymoon trip, I asked taxicab drivers in NYC and DC for marriage advice — partly because, like Perot & Obama both, I’m all ears for suggestions; also, partly for the sake of amateur anthropology and since I simply like talking with people. The more unusual the person, the better. The more you feel you understand things well, the more you have to cultivate the attitude that other people might actually outsmart you; and, strangers are often the ones who give you best insights.

However, I don’t think I’ll be taking this one taxicab driver’s advice, which he gave as I stepped out of his cab: that Kate and I need to have children immediately. I replied that we were considering maybe one or two children sometime about five to seven years from now, and he hollered that Kate and I need to output one within a year. It focuses things, he shouted, driving off.

When I rode from St. Mark’s Bookshop (I purchased the rest of Paul Park‘s Roumania Quartet, but wisely left Jung‘s awesome and awesomely expensive Red Book to peruse at local libraries; also, St. Mark’s had a great poster that graphed USA economic inequality — this too I refrained from purchasing, partly because such a purchase seemed ironic splurging) — when I rode from St. Mark’s Bookstore toward Cafe Lalo, where Kate was waiting, a Senegalese taxicab driver poured all sorts of advice into the backseat. “Put water in your mouth!” he advised. “If you are angry, if you are about to speak hastily, put water in your mouth instead! Hold the water in your mouth until it cools your anger!”

Citing the numinous wifely wisdom that causes husbands to tremble, he also said Kate was always right about everything. On this I respectfully disagree. =)

But I do agree with his misleadingly callous-sounding comment that spouses shouldn’t have too high expectations of one another. Because no spouse can fulfill every need for the other; if one spouse isn’t into, say, heavy metal or shoes, the other can share that passion with his or her own friends instead. Plus, if the one spouse does check out a metal band or scrutinize some shoes, it’s a bonus for the other, not the fulfillment of some needy requirement the other has. And that way, with a good marriage, each constantly receives bonuses instead of feeling disappointment at failures to meet unreasonable expectations.

In DC (where we honeymooned) the taxicab drivers were tenser, less prone to talk, and busy listening to political news. The diverse taxicab experiences in both places, however, made me hope even more to be able to approach the world someday such that I genuinely feel that everyone, even the most problematic (mean-spirited, or obnoxious, or …) person has something to teach me.

Gratuitous Wedding Pic, by Katje Hempel

Married!

Kate and I married in NYC on Saturday 29 May 2010 at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Six guests attended: our four parents, her sister, and my best friend. Supporting personnel included LDF Floral and Event Design, the estimable Eileen Regan as officiant, and the very effective Katje Hempel as photographer; all three worked perfectly. (The photograph above is Katje’s, as is the pair below. You can see a few more photographs on Katje’s blog.)

Our short service included a reading from (and this was Kate’s idea!) Theodore Sturgeon’s novel Godbody:

This is the answer!
The answer is not in getting and keeping, but in getting and giving.
The answer is not in saving and preserving, but in growing and changing.
The answer is not in making things stop, but in making things go.
The answer is not in thinking, but in feeling.
The answer is not death, but love.

Kate and I stayed at the On the Ave hotel in NYC between Wednesday 26 May and Monday 31 May; we honeymooned in DC from Monday 31 May to Sunday 6 June, staying at The Jefferson hotel, an amazingly nice place. In DC, among other sites, we really enjoyed visiting the Smithsonian American History Museum (Julia Child’s kitchen!) and the Lincoln Memorial at night. In both cities, we shared some fantastic meals.

Soon I’ll post more about our adventures … and the loquacious taxicab drivers’ marriage advice.