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StratFor: Is All Privacy Created Equal?
Author: Raine    Date: 02/27/2012 17:58:01

I woke up this morning to the news that Wikileaks has begun publishing upwards of 1.5 million emails that were gained by Anonymous.

The Guardian UK reports:
WikiLeaks has begun releasing a cache of what it says are 5.5m emails obtained from the servers of Stratfor, a US-based intelligence gathering firm with about 300,000 subscribers.

The whistleblowing site has published 167 emails in its initial release. WikiLeaks says it has partnered with 25 media organisations around the world, including Rolling Stone, McClatchey, the Hindu and Russia Reporter.

Unlike previous WikiLeaks releases, this latest email cache was apparently obtained through a hacking attack on Stratfor by Anonymous in December 2011 rather than through a whistleblower

Anonymous published contact and credit card details from Stratfor and said at the time it had also obtained a large volume of emails for which it would arrange publication.
Bold face mine. Also from the article:
"The material contains privileged information about the US government's attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor's own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks," the whistleblower website said.

"There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States."
I am left with my usual pondering of the effectiveness of WikiLeaks. It's been well documents here in our archives. This is but one example of what I have previously written

What I found interesting is that this batch of information was obtained thru an email cache that was hacked. I asked earlier what people thought about e-mail hacking. I'm not questioning content here. I am questionting the means by which this information was procured.

I am wondering a number of things today, in particular, how and why are some people celebrating Anon/WikiLeaks for revealing information about private individuals stolen from private sources. In many cases, these are the same people who protest against government collecting information about private individuals without due course of legislative channels set up to protect citizens -- also known as the 4th amendment. I don't think Government should have the right to gather information -- cull information -- without due cause and without a warrant to do so. This has always been my stance. I don't want government in my inbox. I also find the Murdoch email/phone hacking investigation completely justified. I believe people deserve privacy. I also believe that outing a covert CIA operative is treasonous. I will quote myself:
I know a lot of people were VERY angry that the former administration outed Valerie Plame -- a covert CIA agent. I am one of them. I still feel more people should have faced jail time for that treasonous act. Shouldn't we feel the same way about what WikiLeaks has done? People are outraged at the treatment of Sibel Edmonds. She is a whistleblower who has had first hand experience with what she speaks. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks do not. Someone 'procured' information that was not theirs and made it public.


The current batch of information was gleaned from a company called StratFor, this is a link to their AboutUs page:
Stratfor is a subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis. Individual and corporate subscribers gain a thorough understanding of international affairs, including what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what will happen next.

Unlike traditional news outlets, Stratfor uses a unique, intelligence-based approach to gathering information via rigorous open-source monitoring and a global network of human sources. Analysts then evaluate events looking through the objective lens of geopolitics. Our goal is simple: to make the complexity of the world understandable to an intelligent readership, without ideology, agenda or national bias.
The is not a defense or a defamation of this company. This is basically their mission statement. You can go to their home page, and you will see that they are now giving thier content for free. This is (as they have stated) a result of the hacking incident that occurred on December 24, 2011. I recommend taking a look at the content they are providing; Much of it is news and analysis. IT appears to be a think Tank. Disclaimer: Today is the first day I have taken a deeper look at this privately held company.

On December 26, PC World published the following
The damage from a weekend data breach at a think tank on international security issues appears to have been inflated by the assault's perpetrators, the hacker collective known as Anonymous.

After Anonymous ransacked think tank Stratfor's computers and stole away thousands of credit card numbers and other personal information, it claimed to have also clipped the company's confidential client list. That list contains sensitive information about Stratfor's high profile clients, such as Apple, the U.S. Air Force, and the Miami Police Department.
Other clients are reported to be Coca-Cola, Dow, Georgetown University and the Knights of Columbus. I'm sure many other clients will be revealed in the coming days. Also of interest was this claim:
While to some it may appear that Anonymous is acting as an Information Age Robin Hood, it may not be doing anyone any favors by ringing up unauthorized charges on other people's credit cards. "These donations will never reach the ones in need," writes security guru Mikko Hypponen at F-Secure. "In fact, these actions will just end up hurting the charities, not helping them."

"When credit card owners see unauthorized charges on their cards, they will report them to their bank or credit card company," he explains. "Credit card companies will do a chargeback to the charities, which will have to return the money. In some cases, charities could be hit with penalties. At the very least, they will lose time and money in handling chargebacks."
On January 3, A website called Technology Spectaor appears to have confirmed this information about Credit card data:
Hackers affiliated with the Anonymous group published hundreds of thousands of email addresses belonging to subscribers of private intelligence analysis firm Strategic Forecasting Inc along with thousands of customer credit card numbers.

The lists, which were published on the Internet late on Thursday, included information on people including former US Vice President Dan Quayle, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey. They could not be reached for comment.

The lists included information on large numbers of people working for big corporations, the US military and major defence contractors - which attackers could potentially use to target them with virus-tainted emails in an approach known as "spear phishing."

The Antisec faction of Anonymous disclosed last weekend that it had hacked into the firm, which is widely known as Stratfor and is dubbed a "shadow CIA" because it gathers non-classified intelligence on international crises.
Bold face mine. Private information was released by Anonymous already, and now it appears that more information in the form of emails have been given to WikiLeaks for publication.

Anonymous calls the company a shadow 'CIA' for gathering NON-classified intelligence on international crises. Others call it a think tank. It provides a service to people.

Who is Anonymous to determine what is or is not immoral enough to have their private information revealed? Anonymous, along with WikiLeaks, have deems themselves as arbiter of what is and is not moral. Many Americans believe that Government spying into personal emails flies in the face of the constitution. Why would we celebrate a group of people doing the same things that we decry when it comes from Government?

Do the ends justify the means? What is the end game? Let me repeat something posted earlier: "The material contains privileged information about the US government's attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor's own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks," the whistleblower website said. I don't believe I need to give the backstory regarding Mr. Assange here. I think it is fair to question motives at this point. I have long held the belief that when a group operates in anonymity we should question motives and reliability. Who is to say that you or I won't be next for writing something unsavory about WikiLeaks or anonymous?

Wired reports that "Stratfor had been aware that the e-mails would likely be published in some form by Anonymous, but said in January that the e-mails should not embarrass the company." I would say that the fact that Anonymous got this info so easily would be embarrassing enough. I digress.

We have a sincere lack of privacy in this nation -- and world. I believe that is a given. That said, I ask: when a group such as Anonymous steals private information and reveals it, how can we expect to see more transparency from the very groups that we desire it from? It appears that Anonymous/Wikileaks had no proof that this company was doing anything illicit aside from what appears to be a "hunch" based on the notion that it may be acting like a shadow CIA. I suspect we will see an ever bigger clampdown of information instead of more transparency.

Why do we justify this situation and criticize others for doing similar things?

and
Raine

81 comments (Latest Comment: 02/28/2012 13:46:30 by BobR)
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