The 200-plus emails that have been released from WikiLeaks’ cache of “Global Intelligence Files”—more than 5 million messages lifted from Stratfor, a private “global intelligence” firm—are a comical mix of breathless geopolitical intrigue and workplace chitchat, equal parts Tom Clancy and Office Space. But the trove also offers insights into the business of corporate intelligence, showing how multinational companies paid Stratfor tens of thousands of dollars to watch global hotspots, cover their competitors, and even monitor pesky activists.
It was all part of Stratfor’s “Global Vantage” plan, a subscription-based program for companies to obtain personalized intelligence briefings. Launched in 2006, the service became an overnight success: Organizations as diverse as Coke, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, the Marine Corps, Duke Energy, and Georgetown University plunked down $20,000 or more a year to get their hands on tailored sensitive information. As Stratfor’s leaked master client list shows, major military contractors were well represented, as were Big Oil and agribusiness.