WikiLeaks exposes Stratfor's secret media allies

February 29, 2012

Among the 5 million emails and documents leaked by WikiLeaks from the US-based private intelligence firm Stratfor are details of some of its secret media partners. The company’s “Confederation Partners” are spread across four continents.

In a response to WikiLeaks’ February 27 announcement of the file release, Stratfor CEO George Friedman said the company was “proud of the relationships we have built ... We have developed these relationships with and partnerships with local media in a straightforward manner, and we are committed to meeting the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct.”

But internally, Stratfor refers to its secret media collaborators as its “ConFed Fuckhouse”. That’s the title of a leaked excel spreadsheet that lists the media organisations Stratfor had contracted to provide it with information.

In turn, Stratfor uses that information to package advice to its corporate and Western government clients.

In Eastern Europe, Stratfor has signed contracts with Serbian internet, radio and TV station B92, Romanian news website Hotnews, and newspaper The Baltic Times.

Stratfor approached Czech news agency MediaFax, but by August 2010 there was “some confusion on how the partnership should work and the legal parameters”, the spreadsheet said. The Warsaw Business Journal signed with Stratfor in July 2010, while the Azerbeijan Press Agency made an agreement in September 2009.

Georgian newspaper The Messenger signed an agreement in December 2010, but after a year of negotiations with competitor The Georgian Times a Stratfor staff member wrote: “Visited in June 2010 - not sure this is a good partner for us.” Stratfor also made agreements with Ukraine’s Kyiv Post, the US-based website and the European Union news website EurActiv.

In Asia, Stratfor’s “Confed Fuckhouse” document lists agreements with Chinese finance and business website Caijing, national Filipino daily newspaper The Manilla Times and the influential Malaysian news website Malaysiakini.

Cambodia’s Phnom Penn Post signed with Stratfor in August last year. The Stratfor document says the company also approached The Vietnam News and The Saigon Times. In both cases, Stratfor was “given contact by Nike Vietnam's Govt Affairs Mgr”. Nike manufactures more shoes in Vietnam than anywhere else.

Neither Vietnamese media outlet is listed as having signed a deal with Stratfor.

Stratfor seems to have been unsuccessful in its attempts to include Pakistan’s Dawn or The Indian Express. The Stratfor document notes that “Steve Cohen from [US-based think tank] Brookings put me in touch with” the Indian Express’ editor in chief.

Stratfor also approached Al Jazeera to join its media “fuckhouse”, but there is no record that it agreed. The document says: “Met in Doha at Al Jazeera conference -- set up meeting for George with Director of AJ - talked to me about collaboration. Ball is in our court.”

In Latin America, Stratfor has had trouble signing up media partners. Colombia’s El Espectador signed up in 2009 But Argentina’s La Nacion, Peru’s La Republica and Brazil’s O Tempo appear not to have been interested.

Mexico’s La Reforma stopped replying to Stratfor’s emails, but another Mexican newspaper, El Economista, was “still in contact and exchanging info but [had] not signed [a] contract yet” in early 2011.

The Stratfor document lists no African media that have signed contracts. But it said South Africa’s Mail and Guardian editor in chief Nicolas Dawes “agrees to informal r[elation]ship” but was “worried about being seen as agents of foreign power”.

WikiLeaks said on February 27 that Stratfor’s secret agreements with media in so many countries were a big cause for concern. It said: “While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media organisations, because Stratfor is a private intelligence organisation that services governments and private clients these relationships are corrupt or corrupting.”

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