Julian Assange took some time from his busy television production schedule to leak internal emails the hacktivist collective Anonymous had stolen from a private intelligence firm. The leak is lame, but the new Wikileaks-Anonymous publishing partnership might prove promising.
Last night, Wikileaks began publishing a cache of 5.5 million emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, handed over to it by Anonymous members who stole them last Christmas Eve. The contents are only important if you have some perverse fascination with snooping on other peoples' boring intra-office emails. Stratfor sells itself as having access to super-secret sources and material, but the majority of its work comprises publishing newsletters and reports about world events that are a little more informative than a Wikipedia article and about as well-written.
Accordingly, these emails so far contain such bombshells as a Stratfor analyst asking for "all the information our talented interns can dig up" on PETA, and some bizarre paranoid ramblings about how "black Dems were caught stuffing the ballot boxes" during the 2008 election. The best document so far is this entertaining glossary of terminology Stratfor employees use to make them feel like they're doing actual spy work.
Wikileaks is pumping up Stratfor as some shadowy all-powerful conspiracy. "The Stratfor emails reveal a company that cultivates close ties with US government agencies and employs former US government staff," they write in their press release. But as Christian Science Monitor Middle East reporter Dan Murphy tweeted "all i can say is that anyone who thinks stratfor is some kind of 'shadow cia' needs to get out more." (This is impossible for Assange, given that he's under house arrest in England, fighting extradition to Sweden to face rape and sexual molestation charges.)
The new partnership between Wikileaks and the hacktivists Anonymous is more interesting than anything likely to come out of the leak. Anything big Anonymous now hacks will likely be given to Wikileaks for publication. An Anonymous member involved in the Stratfor email leak told Wired "Basically, WL is the ideal partner for such stuff. [Anonymous] acquires the shit, WL gets it released in a proper manner." Wikileaks is now effectively the house publishing organ of Anonymous.
Any news organization would do well to have such a partnership, as long as they're OK with taking info stolen by hackers. Anonymous has proven able at stealing sensitive information from the FBI, for example. So far, Anonymous' Wikileaks-style leaks have been more about humiliating its victims over their poor security practices than exposing earth-shattering secrets. But it's only a matter of time before Anonymous finds something good.
Since Wikileaks' submission system is still in tatters, Anonymous is its best chance to regain relevance and keep from turning into Late Night with Julian Assange. And Anonymous, which has made some terrible missteps in past leaks, could benefit from even the modicum of professionalism provided by Wikileaks. But it's going to take something better than a bunch of office gossip from wannabe spooks.
[Image via AP]