Are Julian Assange and Anonymous hacktivists collaborating? Photo credit: OperationPaperStorm
Julian Assange’s whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun publishing a collection of 5.5 million emails documents from Stratfor, a private intelligence firm based in Texas that has been dubbed a “shadow CIA.” In December, hacker-activist collective Anonymous hacked Statfor, and, although WikiLeaks has not revealed the source of the reported five gigabytes of e-mails it promises to publish online, the data has reportedly come from AntiSec, a strand of Anonymous.
WikiLeaks claims the emails, to be released over the coming weeks, show Stratfor’s involvement in operations like monitoring activists seeking redress for the Bhopal chemical disaster on behalf of Dow Chemical, payments to the former head of the controversial Pakistani secret service, and even the use of the company’s information for insider trading, reported Forbes.com.
WikiLeaks, who held a Monday press conference at London’s Frontline Club, has published 167 emails in its first release. In a press release, WikiLeaks said it has partnered with 25 media organisations around the world, including Rolling Stone, the McClatchy News Agency, the Italian newspaper L’Espresso and the Indian paper The Hindu.
Anon: Yup, we’re most definitely the source. One of the largest Anonymous-linked accounts on Twitter, @AnonymousIRC, put out a series of tweets on Monday morning seemingly confirming it was the source of the WikiLeaks release, reported The Guardian. “We promised you those mails and now they’ll finally be delivered. Five million (that’s 5,000,000) emails at your pleasure,” said the Anonymous account. “There’s a treasure trove of nasty details in those emails. We think there’s something for everyone.” YourAnonnews spelled it out even more clearly: “To clarify to all journalists – YES, #Anonymous gave the STRATFOR emails obtained in the 2011 LulzXmas hack to WikiLeaks.”
Anonymous and WikiLeaks: A powerful new alliance? Writing at Wired’s Threat Level blog, Quinn Norton reported that Wired’s sources at Anonymous insist that they went to WikiLeaks with the hacked information: “Members of Anonymous with direct knowledge of the hack and transfer of data to WikiLeaks told Wired that the group decided to turn the information over to WikiLeaks because the site was more capable of analyzing and spreading the leaked information than Anonymous would be. ‘WikiLeaks has great means to publish and disclose,’ the anon told Wired. ‘Also, they work together with media in a way we don’t.’” Norton revealed that “Anons also told Wired that future collaborations with WikiLeaks could involve a series of hacks that will be announced, one after another, every Friday for the foreseeable future. If that happens, the Stratfor e-mail release could be the first sign of a new, powerful alliance between the two groups, each of which has vexed and angered the world’s most powerful governments and corporations.” The collaboration between WikiLeaks and Anonymous “is an odd couple pairing,” suggested Norton. “WikiLeaks has largely crumbled over the last 18 months, due to internal disagreements over the management style and legal problems of its outspoken leader Julian Assange. By contrast, Anonymous is an amorphous group with no leadership structure.”
Mutually beneficial alliance. At The Washington Post blog Post, Elizabeth Flock said the dump shows that WikiLeaks and Anonymous “just upgraded from buddies to fast friends.” Flock noted that the “two have long been something like partners-in-crime, with the leaderless hactivist collective Anonymous having attacked enemies of WikiLeaks in the past — but WikiLeaks always remained carefully removed.” However the Global Intelligence Files “marks an unprecedented partnership between the two.” Flock said both parties benefit from increased collaboration: “WikiLeaks gets revived relevance to the public” and “Anonymous gets to work closely with the media.”
WikiLeaks rolls the dice. At Forbes.com, Andy Greenberg said Anonymous has gone from WikiLeaks’ “vigilante avenger” to its partner organization: “The Global Intelligence Files represent a far cozier relationship between the two groups, with WikiLeaks actively distributing and promoting the fruits of Anonymous’ work.” Greenberg warned Assange and co that a “public association with a hacker group like Anonymous may hurt WikiLeaks’ moral credibility just when the group needs it most,” and reminded that the group is struggling to raise cash and faces an ongoing grand jury investigation that could result in charges against members of the group. However, Greenberg acknowledged that, for Assange’s outfit, “a partnership with Anonymous could revive WikiLeaks’ relevance to the public. Since September of 2010, the group hasn’t had a functioning dropbox for leakers, and doesn’t seem to have one in the works any time soon. With no public, secure conduit for whistleblowers, a massive collective of nameless hackers might be WikiLeaks’ most prolific new source.”