WikiLeaks has done it again. They have released the first of 5 million emails from Stratfor or Strategic Forecasting, a corporate intelligence company. Back in December 2011, Anonymous hackers announced that they had gathered more than 200 gigabytes of data from Stratfor's poorly secured database. Thus far, in typical Wikileaks fashion, only 214 emails have been released, among them, this gem between Reva Bhalla and George Friedman.
Here is the Linkedin profile of Reva Bhalla (as an aside, I do find it interesting that a "spy" would post their resume on Linkedin):
George Friedman just happens to be the founder, Chief Intelligence Officer and CEO of Stratfor.
Back to the email exchange between Ms. Bhalla and her boss. The thread starts with Ms. Bhalla updating "watchofficer" and George Friedman on the state of Hugo Chavez's health and power struggles in Venezuela. As a source, she uses a "well-connected VZ source working with Israel" and states that he has a "B" reliability but that:
"...I've gotten better at reading him over the years to tell when he’s feeding me shit and when he’s giving useful info – his info on the VZ regime has checked out, but i tend to be more skeptical on iran-related info.”
She goes on to outline the state of Chavez's health (his long-term prognosis is not good), who will replace him (Finance Minister Nicolas Maduro) and that China, Russia, Iran and Cuba are propping up his regime. She writes the following about the post-Chavez military (spelling errors are hers):
"guess who has been most cooperative with us lately? The military elite. These guys have been living the good life. They love women…lots of women. THey love booze. They love bora bora. They are easy to bribe. They don’t care about chavez, they care about maintaining their current lifestyles.”
Ms. Bhalla feels that Chavez will invest a lot of time and money in the militia to protect his regime as a measure that will cause the military elite to hesitate before acting against him or his hand-picked successor.
She closes with:
"these were the main points. will update with more..little fuzzy from wine right now.”
Her boss, George Friedman, responds with the following:
“The problem with analyst sources is they are unqualified. This means that we don’t have clarity on their sources and therefore can’t evaluate accuracy. This could be valuable humint or pure rumint.
One of the reasons I want you to execute missions is to learn how to evaluate sources. This is a very difficult art but one that you must learn.
The gut is to be trusted only after its well trained."
Yes Grasshopper, you must learn from the Master Spy!
Ms. Bhalla responded, defensively stating that:
"Yes, I have much to learn and I may be just an analyst, but i'm not 100% incapable of evaluating a source i've known for a while. I've listened to waht you've told me about reading a source (the Turk with the twitch). I figured out what this source's twitch is in reading his eyes."
Other than being a bad speller, Ms. Bhalla is convinced that she is fully capable of evaluating the value of an informant's information, contrary to what her boss may think.
Mr. Friedman responds with the following:
"If this is a source you suspect may have value, you have to take control od (sic) him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control to the point where he would reveal his sourcing and be tasked.” (my bold)
It is interesting to see that a private intelligence company that provides data and analysis to large, multinational corporations and government agencies is not above using "financial, sexual or psychological control" to pressure a "source". To say that this oversteps the bounds of decency would be an understatement. It will be interesting to see what other techniques Stratfor uses to glean intelligence from its network of informants. I also found it interesting to note that most of the highly confidential email thread was communicated over the RIM network. Apparently, its security can be trusted!
In the coming days, it will be interesting to see what else is revealed about Stratfor’s modus operandi in the shady world of intelligence gathering.