What price bad intelligence? Some 5m internal emails from Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based company that brands itself as a "global intelligence" provider, were recently obtained by Anonymous, the hacker collective, and are being released in batches by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing website, starting Monday.
The most striking revelation from the latest disclosure is not simply the military-industrial complex that conspires to spy on citizens, activists and trouble-causers, but the extremely low quality of the information available to the highest bidder. Clients of the company include Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, as well as US government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Marines.
Analysts working on the Middle East for the company appeared to be very poorly informed, with no more experience than a semester of studying abroad, according to journalists who have studied the documents. "They used Google translate to read al-Akbar news articles," says an incredulous Jamal Ghosn, associate editor of that newspaper in Beirut, Lebanon. "This is a guaranteed way for good intelligence to be lost in translation."