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Is Stratfor a "Joke"? 211

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the wikileaks-releases-back-issues-of-the-economist dept.
daveschroeder writes with an opinion piece that seems to differ from the usual thinking on the Wikileaks release of Stratfor emails: "Max Fisher writes in The Atlantic: 'The corporate research firm has branded itself as a CIA-like "global intelligence" firm, but only Julian Assange and some over-paying clients are fooled. [...] The group's reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor; they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight. [...] So why do Wikileaks and their hacker source Anonymous seem to consider Stratfor, which appears to do little more than combine banal corporate research with media-style freelance researcher arrangements, to be a cross between CIA and Illuminati? The answer is probably a combination of naivete and desperation.'"
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Is Stratfor a "Joke"?

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  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:52PM (#39213925) Homepage

    That's a pretty wafer thin opinion piece. Sure, Stratfor seems like a mess, but I think the most telling aspect of this whole fiasco is that we actually believe an intelligence company could be so moronic. That says a lot about the public's perception of government intelligence, or lack thereof, if imbeciles like Stratfor are actually being paid to provide services.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Stratfor has two purposes.

      1. Steal money from the US people for 'intelligence services'.

      2. Allows the government to obtain massive amounts of your data from google/facebook/amazon and other places without having to explain themselves.

      • by mschuyler (197441) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @05:57PM (#39215331) Homepage Journal

        Total horse pucky. Srsly.

        1. Stratfor sells subscriptions. Buy one or don't. That's not "stealing."

        2. Stratfor does Not "allow" the government to do anything and has nothing whatsoever to do with the government obtaining data from google/facebook/amazon.

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @06:35PM (#39215655) Journal

        I've been observing Stratfor - plus several other similar operations - since the late 1990's

        I've subscribed (paid subscriptions) to many of them

        I do so to gauge the correctness of their so-called "intel reports" as well as learn new and interesting "stuffs" that I'm not aware of

        For Startfor, for the subjects that I'm very familiar with, I would say that they are correct about 20-23% of the time

        For the subjects that I'm not familiar with, however, I won't be able to comment

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @07:29PM (#39216073)

          Stratfor and similar companies are basically specialized newspapers, much heavier on analysis than usual, with aggressive marketing departments. I have never been able to understand why Anonymous has such a stiffie for them-- its like Friedman ran over someone's dog, or something.

          As for the accuracy, I won't dispute that, because I've found some rather questionable statements in areas I'm familiar with. (Although I will raise an eyebrow at the precision implied-- 23%? Really?) It's not meaningful unless you can compare it to other ratings for other news services.

          And finally, I've seen Stratfor make at least grudging motions toward something virtually no other news service ever does-- they'll haul out last year's projections and see where they went wrong and try to explain why. Granted, they don't do a great job at this, but it's a refreshing effort, like when your kid finally learns to say please and thank-you.

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:14PM (#39214173) Journal

      Of course, some of us regard Stratfor as a joke with no tangible wit or discernible punchline. This does not impede idiots with more money than sense of humor from buying its output. Much the same can be said for The Atlantic, unfortunately...

    • by camperslo (704715)

      Perhaps the incompetence is a carefully engineered image to make people think there's nothing insidious to be concerned about?

      they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight.

      Doesn't the public largely have that perception of government already? That would seem to make them fit right in.

      • by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:33PM (#39214415) Homepage Journal

        Perhaps the incompetence is a carefully engineered image to make people think there's nothing insidious to be concerned about?

        they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight.

        Doesn't the public largely have that perception of government already? That would seem to make them fit right in.

        unlikely, the insidious thing is just their incompetence on multiple levels.

        Stratfors main business was implying to people that they're in the know and that they sell information to cia/others- that was their main advertisement point, that the other clients are People Who Matter(tm). yet the information they could provide was always known to be the same quality a normal journalist could whip up. their one on one counsel was probably just pure bullshit too, my bet is that the head honcho acted like he knew more than he was saying all the time like a fucking cult leader he was trying to be - easier that way, no need to be precise. "oh great counter intelligence god will there be turmoil in middle-east?" "yes, we have information that the area is going to be under lots of political movement in the near future, that much is certain"(from even watching the fox news for past 10 years).

        that's not to say that much of their intelligence shouldn't be taken seriously, I'm just implying that paying for it and a mouth that is there just to please you as a client is fucking stupid.

        that business is crushed. that's the point of the leaks in this case, destroying a bullshit business selling snakeoil "intelligence". previously the way to know that they were a joke were to subscribe to them and read al jazeera and public forums - and who would fess up publicly that they paid for crap level intelligence? perhaps there were some people who thought stratfor would have had some inside information about obama being secretly part of KKK along with osama, but that's just stupid, as stupid as looking for proof of ET's in their material(which no doubt many people have done..).

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:16PM (#39214193) Homepage Journal

      That's a pretty wafer thin opinion piece. Sure, Stratfor seems like a mess, but I think the most telling aspect of this whole fiasco is that we actually believe an intelligence company could be so moronic. That says a lot about the public's perception of government intelligence, or lack thereof, if imbeciles like Stratfor are actually being paid to provide services.

      What more effective cover for the deadly efficient than the guise of a disorganised clod?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "What more effective cover for the deadly efficient than the guise of a disorganised clod?"

        Good encryption, for one.

        • "What more effective cover for the deadly efficient than the guise of a disorganised clod?"

          Good encryption, for one.

          Well, yea.


          ... but not on the honeypot ;)

      • That's a pretty wafer thin opinion piece. Sure, Stratfor seems like a mess, but I think the most telling aspect of this whole fiasco is that we actually believe an intelligence company could be so moronic. That says a lot about the public's perception of government intelligence, or lack thereof, if imbeciles like Stratfor are actually being paid to provide services.

        What more effective cover for the deadly efficient than the guise of a disorganised clod?

        Pretty much what I was thinking...

        Security through Obscurity

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          That's a pretty wafer thin opinion piece. Sure, Stratfor seems like a mess, but I think the most telling aspect of this whole fiasco is that we actually believe an intelligence company could be so moronic. That says a lot about the public's perception of government intelligence, or lack thereof, if imbeciles like Stratfor are actually being paid to provide services.

          What more effective cover for the deadly efficient than the guise of a disorganised clod?

          Pretty much what I was thinking...

          Security through Obscurity

          Or Security Through Obfuscation

    • It's over a year now, dust settled... so was Aaron Barr/HBGary a joke? (from the PoV of services, of course it was... but how come powerful institutions came to use or attempt to use them?)
      • It's over a year now, dust settled... so was Aaron Barr/HBGary a joke? (from the PoV of services, of course it was... but how come powerful institutions came to use or attempt to use them?)

        Welcome to Griftopia.

      • by durrr (1316311)

        Becuse like Aron Barr, the idiots in charge of powerful institutions are more often than not idiots themself. I mean, a person that spends all their time backstabbing and sucking ass to climb the corporate/political ladder will often have painfully little spare time to actually be useful for anything else.

        All you need is a nice suite and some confidence and you too can be the president of the united states(after finding some coprate sponsors and people handlers to put you there), i can assure you that you w

      • by tnk1 (899206) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:53PM (#39214651)

        Salesmen often have no special skills or knowledge other than the ability to get people to buy their products. The identify people with a need, or those people come to them. Those are leads. Those leads are qualified and then a sales attempt is made. People then buy those products. The fact that Stratfor is useless is nothing weird or strange. The customers (government or private) were sold a product that they thought suited a need they had. The sales people probably built a convincing case for a subscription to be bought and the everyone proceeded to think it was doing something for them. Like many sales pitches, it probably hit more on the potential of a service that was described in the way they described Stratfor, as opposed to the reality of just what they could provide.

        Stratfor does sound like a joke. I'm still trying to figure out what the conspiracy is. Like the author in TFA said, their super-secret bribed sources are equivalent to freelance writers. Even before this piece, I was thinking to myself, "exactly what is being provided here that is in any way strange or illegal?"

        The only story here is that there are a lot of people paying a lot of money for a crappy product.

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        It's over a year now, dust settled... so was Aaron Barr/HBGary a joke?

        Yes, they got hacked by failing to follow basic security procedure.

    • by saskboy (600063)

      It's a joke, that Coke, Convergys, Dow, and the Marines pay to get each day/week. That's a pretty solid joke. Who is the joke on, though?

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        This sort of stuff is daily business for countless organizations. There are research groups that do nothing but compile weekly reports for people dumb enough to subscribe. The P.T.Barnum business model.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Now if the Us government wasted money on Stratfor I'd be concerned, but if it's just some companies wasting their profits I wouldn't be too concerned. After all corporations are already wasting money on dubious research groups, ala Gartner.

  • by tpotus (1856224) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:56PM (#39213965)
    ... is what this article is.
    • by Desler (1608317) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:59PM (#39214009)

      How is it spin? The guy quotes articles and facts that are easily verified to show that Stratfor is not what it has been claimed to be by a well-known media whore. The only spin is coming from people who can't stand that Wikileaks could be blowing this out of proportion.

      • by tbannist (230135) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:12PM (#39214157)

        Strangely enough either way this goes it's an issue. Either the taxpayer money is being wasted or it's being spent on a private corporation to spy on American citizens. Maybe the real issue is that giving money to these guys is both wasteful and unethical.

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          And we needed Anonymous and Wikileaks to expose that? You could have probably just "leaked" the US Federal budget and made your point. There's nothing secret about that.

          • by glodime (1015179)

            The government is wasting money.

            or

            The government is wasting $x on y because z.

            The latter seems like it would be more useful information.

        • You got some evidence for that "Government paid them to spy on on American citizens" comment?

          Because the only evidence I've seen presented that they spied on American citizens said that they read a protest groups website, and then tell Dow Chemical what it says. Which involves neither spying nor being paid by the government.

          Heck some definitions would be nice. I would have thought spying required wiretaps, and tailing people. But apparently all it takes is reading public websites.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:57PM (#39213973) Journal

    ... the mindset of the intelligence industry. It shows there is an element of self supported dependencies involved. This is not unlike addicts, such as Alcoholic and durg abuses etc. But on th eup side of thise there are help groups such as AA, OA, MA, SPA etc.. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_twelve-step_groups [wikipedia.org] ) where they have buddy systems because once you are so caught up in an addiction it is difficult to stay objective about getting yourself out of the addiction, hence the buddy system comes into play... better objectivity.

    So, perhaps we need such a group for the Intelligence Industry, lets call it IA or better yet lets stay silent about the intelligence part and simply call the help group Anonymous.

    Yeah... thats the ticket...
     

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > such as Alcoholic and durg abuses etc. But on th eup side of thise

      Kid, lay off the "durgs", they're messing you up badly.

  • If it's a joke... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by micheas (231635) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:58PM (#39213985) Homepage Journal
    Can we stop writing checks to them with tax payer money?
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      has someone gone through the leaks to find out how much of that was actually happening? it seems a lot of the hype around their government connections was just so that they would appear credible and to get people to pay for their so called service.

      • So there may be real connections, but not something the government paid for. Stuff like that happens all the time. If you are a Big Name(tm) in an industry, people will give you shit for free just so they can say you use their shit. Marketing. Effective too.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:58PM (#39213987) Journal

    Stratfor's a joke, but the powers that be take them seriously. That makes them a serious threat. Wikileaks, exposing this joke, helps to diffuse that threat. This is not complicated.

    • by Miros (734652) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:04PM (#39214063)
      Couldn't one make the exact same specious point about Anonymous or Wikileaks?
    • by 3seas (184403)

      Uh... what again is the background of those who started up Stratfor and have worked their?

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      People probably take their spouses' opinion seriously in decisions too. Not all of them are very bright. Is bad advice news?

      Did these guys justify the Iraq war or something? Did they pretend to find WMDs?

  • Say the data was worthless / false / dated / phony / a decoy from the start.

    Of course, that doesn't mean that it isn't any and/or all of those things anyway, but still - it does seem that there's a number of folks in power who do take them seriously.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wikileaks is exaggerating the importance of Stratfor. It isn't some spy operation, it is just news gathering and analysis. Stratfor is not a private CIA.
    The Atlantic article has two links to stories claiming Stratfor is a joke but they are both written by Daniel Drezner. I guess Daniel isn't impressed by Stratfor.
    Wikileaks may have some use, but by exposing emails from a bunch of guys who gather and report news for a living I don't think they have saved the world..
    Try again Julian.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:16PM (#39214195)

      Wikileaks is exaggerating the importance of Stratfor. It isn't some spy operation, it is just news gathering and analysis.

      That's what spy operations are, though.

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        Wikileaks is exaggerating the importance of Stratfor. It isn't some spy operation, it is just news gathering and analysis.

        That's what spy operations are, though.

        A spy operation would imply that a certain amount of deception (or at least extreme covertness) was used to secure information that is considered proprietary to an organization (i.e. they don't publish it on the internet or give it to any one who calls and asks). Was either of these things true about Stratfor?

    • by c0lo (1497653)
      Would you please rephrase the above with HBGary and Aaron Barr instead?
    • i dont know what else to say. these guys coming out of the woodwork claiming wikileaks does nothing important, well, i am wondering why they dont more strongly defend Brad Manning and call for the dropping of Espionage charges against Jonisdottir, Assange, et al.

  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:03PM (#39214047)
    This reeks of the sort of thing written to undermine the leaked material.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Desler (1608317)

      Translation: I didn't read the article. He links to stories that were written years ago about Stratfor. So those were all written years in advance for this moment? Are you really that stupid?

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      As far as I can tell, it didn't need much help being undermined. Even the announcement of this from the leakers themselves confused me on why I should give a shit.

      It isn't like these are embassy cables or something. It's like this is "Spy Stuff". Oooooooo, spooky.... Wake me up when they release something good again.

  • From my research: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sixtyeight (844265) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:06PM (#39214099)

    I was going through the Stratfor leak to assist in crowdsourcing research on the material. I found predominantly old news, employees sending each other e-mail links of dated internet articles, and dingbattily off-base novice assessments of geopolitical maneuverings and trends. The rest was industry-specific minutae ("How does [situation] affect the [goods] market in [country]?") and a few Excel spreadsheets of personally-identifiable employee and contact data. Stratfor appears to be what happens when someone with more money than brains gets an inflated sense of self-importance and decides it would be cool to run a corporate cloak-and-dagger firm.

    Yes Stratfor is a joke. But like most jokes, the problem was that people were willing to take it seriously. Worse, Stratfor's intelligence and comprehension of geopolitics was still light-years ahead of the average U.S. citizen's.

    A much better source of intel - though hardly ideal - for the curious would be at Benjamin Fulford's leak site [benjaminfulford.net]. Each Monday morning new updates arrive that are behind a paywall. They are then repeated for free on various blogs within hours.

    • by Andy Dodd (701) <.ude.llenroc. .ta. .7dta.> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:16PM (#39214197) Homepage

      The way I read the article - the author is claiming that Anonymous are idiots for overinflating the importance of Stratfor because Stratfor is a joke.

      The thing is - companies that are jokes but try to pass themselves off to be important are JUST the kind of companies Anonymous loves to go for.

      The Stratfor leaks aren't about "Hey look at this juicy intel!", they are about "Hey, this company says they're hot shit. Check these emails out - these guys are actually morons!"

      • Re:From my research: (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sixtyeight (844265) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @05:00PM (#39214737)

        I've noticed a similar tendency. It's true of Anonymous, of Wikileaks, and of the American People in general.

        If any or all of these groups were better-informed, so would their results be. That they're not has been the result of consolidated media and a systematized effort to make uninformed peasants and dullards of them. That effort is coming to a close.

        Getting people more aware - and aware of what's actually meaningful and how to discern the difference - would appear to be the next part of the process. Fortunately the information technology is already present, and mechanisms like Slashdot's moderation system will serve the People well. Valid stuff gets promoted into public awareness better, and that's just what we need. The combination of unemployed bloggers, information technology, social networking and an increasingly motivated public will enable us to form solutions and information distribution channels and get them noticed. It's less about diagnosing the problem, and getting to the business of forming solutions. Together. Not to mention getting onto the process of exposure and accountability for wrongdoers.

        A lot of the stumbling blocks for people at the moment seem to be that they're predominantly unknowledgeable, they don't yet have sufficient discernment to know what to toss out let alone solutions to contribute or even participate in, and as a result they're pretty reactive to what passes before them, complaining about it or offering uneducated opinions and interpretations. Forming solutions, rather than complaining about the silliness we encounter, is The Next Thing. To stay ahead of the trends, work out what The Next Thing is, and then implement it.

        For instance, how about a hybrid Wiki / Kickstarter specifically for corruption? Crowds can compile research - with citations - on the wrongdoings of corporations, politicians, CEOs and public notables. Each entry could have a fund, with people throwing in $50 or $100 to hire an attorney. When the fund fills up, you take them to court. You then return any damages awarded back to the users who invested in that specific fund, in whatever percentage they invested. Result: Crowd-based accountability to law. A new way to glean money for taking care of the rampant corruption. So instead of complaining about politicians, the public can finally do something about it. It wouldn't matter so much who got into office, provided they were accountable to the law and their sworn duties. And we could stop approaching elections like they were some giant slot machine, not to ineffectually telling each other to "Impeach [politician]" to no avail. With Drupal and BitCoin, it wouldn't take that much for a bunch of geeks to get started.

        Anyone interested? Message me.

        • by jackbird (721605)

          For instance, how about a hybrid Wiki / Kickstarter specifically for corruption? Crowds can compile research - with citations - on the wrongdoings of corporations, politicians, CEOs and public notables. Each entry could have a fund, with people throwing in $50 or $100 to hire an attorney. When the fund fills up, you take them to court. You then return any damages awarded back to the users who invested in that specific fund, in whatever percentage they invested. Result: Crowd-based accountability to law. A n

  • From the email Georgy sent out after the release of emails.
    "The release of these emails is, however, a direct attack on Stratfor. This is another attempt to silence and intimidate the company, and one we reject. As you can see, emails sent to many people about my resignation were clearly forged.
    We do not know what else has been manufactured. Stratfor will not be silenced, and we will continue to publish the geopolitical analysis our friends and subscribers have come to rely on. "

    Well possibly they were forg

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:19PM (#39214243)

    Wikileaks is a platform that hosts the leaks they are sent to. Posting them is in no way a political statement of them. From the site:

    On Monday February 27th, 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files, over five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.

    They don't exaggerate anything, merely state the contents of the leak.

    • The fact that they made a big deal out of it, called a press conference and all that. If they considered this some joke of an org who wasn't really important, they'd just post the stuff as they've done with many, MANY other things. However they are making a big to-do like with the Manning leaks. That is them elevating Stratfor to some special position.

    • But they choose what to leak.

      Moreover in this case they (and their friends) are clearly exaggerating what they've leaked. The last article Slashdot featured on Stratfor was all about how evil it was that the government was paying Stratfor to spy on an American activist group called the Yes Men. But if you read the emails you realized that they said did prove that, they proved Dow Chemical, a major target of the Yes Men's activism, was paying Stratfor to tell them what the Yes Men's official, and very public

  • by tomhath (637240) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:27PM (#39214341)
    I see Stratfor calling itself the "Shadow CIA". But is there really any connection to the CIA? From what I've seen they mostly market themselves to private industry, perhaps they have some subscribers in Washington but the connection seems casual at best.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      that would be interesting to know, because pre-leak and post-leak it seems the cia connections were touted primarily for marketing purposes.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Yes re CIA links are noted on http://cryptocomb.org/ [cryptocomb.org]
      Also seems to be used for a "clean" email in/out, CIA email in/out type droop off box.
      i.e. lots of CIA emails in everyday, lots of press, analyst, pundits, gov people too.
      Whats one more email for a few real spies with to without diplomatic cover?
      As for the shadow CIA, they did want to get into financial news.
      If you have deep gov, diplomatic, commercial and press "friends" around the world, getting new before the bulk of traders would be much less har
      • by tomhath (637240)
        I don't see anything there, other than some guy talking about applying for a job at the CIA.
        • That yes, the CIA probably does read Stratfor. However they read every major news publication. It is part of their intelligence gathering process. They know the news does good intelligence (sometimes at least) and they want to know what the news knows.

  • I think the answer is basically just 'yes', regardless of the veracity of any of the claims in the article, regardless of what you may think of their practices or the quality of their product.

    If you work in intelligence and you don't encrypt your email, you are a joke.

  • Joke or not ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:37PM (#39214461)

    ... people pay money for their analysis.

    If my CEO believes in astrology or that the earth is only 6000 years old, I may think he's crazy. But I still need to know who has his ear.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @05:00PM (#39214747)

    and one who had their information released I feel I can make some credible comments on the quality of Stratfor.

    The primary use of Stratfor was background, especially in regions I was not familar or required too much attention to stay on top of. Second was the channelling of event and other information from various open source media, including local/domestic. Third was their analysis. Whether done by themself, others, or some combination, they usually got the broad picture correct and were good at breaking down economic data. However, Stratfor was poor when it came to near and medium term predictions on both economic and political events. Marginally better on military stuff.

    I was a general subscriber, nothing 'special' ever requested. For the price, they were worth it. If you timed things properly you could have it annually for less than a sub to the WSJ and again, from an informational gathering standpoint they did a decent job. Perhaps a lot was open source and/or available if you really wanted to look, etc but that is exactly why you are paying a firm like stratfor - to do the searching and collating for you and give some kind of summary. They save time and effort.

    posted anonymously for obvious reasons

    • by Hartree (191324) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @06:21PM (#39215529)

      They're useful as one source when combined with others. They at least a have a pretty predictable methodology.

      The one area I saw that they seemed to be better than other sources was on the cartel wars and security situation in northern Mexico. That may have just been because they were more interested, being in Austin rather than say, NY.

      I don't read Spanish, so following Mexican papers would be a problem. Having Stratfor summarize was a pretty good deal. The rates aren't all that much for a general subscription.

  • by guanxi (216397) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @05:09PM (#39214871)

    From TFA:

    A friend who works in intelligence once joked that Stratfor is just The Economist a week later and several hundred times more expensive. As of 2001, a Stratfor subscription could cost up to $40,000 per year.

    I think it costs around $100-200 per year, about the same as the Economist. As a reader of both, and much more, Stratfor is an excellent source of original, well-written analysis that you can't find elsewhere. Certainly calling them a private CIA is an exaggeration (I imagine their budget is a little smaller too), and certainly they have flaws (their obsession with geopolitical analysis, for example), but they are worth reading.

    If you have a strong interest in international affairs, try them; currently their services are free:
    http://stratfor.com/analysis [stratfor.com]
    http://stratfor.com/situation-report [stratfor.com]

    For example, here is an excellent explanation (now slightly out of date) of the groups resisting Assad in Syria:
    http://stratfor.com/analysis/syria-opposition-struggles-gain-foreign-support [stratfor.com]

    • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @08:16PM (#39216381)

      I subscribed during the middle of the Second Congo War. Stratfor was a much better source of info on what was happening then anything else. They weren't giving me rocket science -- it probably wasn't hard for them to figure out that a) the official Congolese Army was worthless, and b) the Rwandans were kicking their asses mostly by coordinating flanking attacks with satellite phones. CNN, the Atlantic, etc. all probably had guys who knew way more then that; but none of them would consistently be posted on their websites because thousands of black people getting shot in a major battle is not very "newsworthy."

      The BBC was a little better, because they have a whole section of their website dedicated to Africa, which mans that even if theirs a news-orgy because the President had a blow-job thousands of people getting killed will be posted somewhere. But they don't focus on the nuts and bolts of military operations the way Stratfor does, so the Congo war wasn't always the number one story on their site either.

  • There you have it. The comments on here are indicative of how conspiracy theorists think. No evidence will ever be sufficient to dissuade them from what they *believe* to be true.

  • Maybe the info that got "hacked" was meant to be.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @05:46PM (#39215227) Journal
    "The answer is probably a combination of naivete and desperation.'"

    Uh huh. So Stratfor is such a bunch of ignorant unworthy losers that "Fortune 500 companies and international government agencies" (wikipedia) have funnelled millions of dollars to these people because they are so useless.

    TFA is classic right wing spin. And not even very good at it. Like Stratfor.

  • The group's reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor

    In an intelligence community that swore, on the record, that Saddam Hussein was pursuing nuclear weapons to add to his already formidable stockpile of conventional WMD's? That Hussein had operational ties to Bin Laddin?

  • by mschuyler (197441) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @06:26PM (#39215571) Homepage Journal
    That's abiout what we have here. One guy, Fisher, has picked up the fact that another guy Drezner, doesn't have a high opinion of Stratfor,, though he has a high opinion of himself and constantly quotes himself in his own articles in <i>Foreign Policy</i>. Based on this one guy's opinion, Drezner, Fisher concludes that EVERYONE thinks Stratfor is "a joke," which is complete hyperbole. And now 100 slashdot posters, the majority of whom have no idea what Stratfor really does and have never been on their web site, get in line to repeat the same thing.

    Certainly Stratfor is not as smart as Stratfor thinks Stratfor is. Their analyses are somewhat uneven. Their "Above the Tearline" segments, for example, are a poster child for simplistic thinking. On the other hand, their analysis of the US Navy and its deployments is as close to perfect as you can realistically get--FAR better than something like Debkafile, for example, that routinley invents destroyer fleets plying the waters of the Indian Ocean. They have a lot of short "quickie" articles you could probably get for yourself on the Web, but their in-depth articles are well written, comprehensive, and insightful.

    They do have people on the ground all over the world. You can call them journalists instead of analysts if you want, but their coverage is far more insightful than a pool reporter for Fox or CNN. At least these guys have studied their subjects rather than spent their time blow drying their hair.

    If you quote Stratfor there is always someone to jump up and down and proclaim them and you worthless, but if you neglect to mention Stratfor is your source, suddenly what you say is considered pure genius.

    And they are hardly ruined. Yeah, the script kiddies walked all over them this time. They may have gotten 5 million emails (Really?) but this is no Climategate or Private Manning. And Stratfor will emerge stronger for it.
    • by dbIII (701233)

      They do have people on the ground all over the world

      Really? They'd be spread pretty thin since their total headcount is well under a hundred of which most would be in the office.
      To show how unimportant they are, when the hacking of Stratfor was reported a major bank near me with a couple of hundred thousand employees reported that they had a total of four logins to Stratfor so were not worried about compromised details.

  • First of all, "Max Fisher" who writes for The Atlantic's international website, is more of a gossip blogger than a serious journalist. If you look at the list of his stories, you will find that they are either completely trivial, or re-tweets of other peoples' work. Some of his stories look suspiciously like press releases. The European edition of the Atlantic's website has nowhere near the reputation for integrity that the US edition enjoys.

    Second, it sounds like a lot of sour grapes or FUD. I want you

  • by JRHelgeson (576325) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:20AM (#39218135) Homepage Journal

    Want to hear a joke? It's called "The New York Times".
    Media these days is so slanted that every news piece has an agenda. If you were to rely on the popular media for your news and information, well, you can forget about being well informed. They excel at filtering out information that disagrees with their world view.

    At its essence, Stratfor is a news company. They gather 'Intelligence' from the 'field' and put it out there. They tell you what is going on, in a boots-on-the-groud point of view. They provide enough background to give context, the news, and what this could mean to the future of the region - and that's it. They don't do human interest stories. It is not your typical news. That is what Open Source Intelligence is.

    So you read through the 'intel' they gather, and unless you have a particular interest in the region, or a business need for the information, it is boring stuff... So?

    I know a company that imports guar gum, an ingredient that is used primarily in food products. The primary manufacturers of the product are in Pakistan. They are continually researching what is going on at the local level in Pakistan, not just the stuff that makes the headlines. Stratfor provides that info, as boring as that is. They also monitor situations in the regions their product is transported through, lest there be any supply disruptions. They want to be able to have contingency plans, such as leaning more on a supplier from India, even though the price may be higher, there is less chance of supply disruption, etc.

    Were you expecting it to be the stuff that movies are made of?

    Give me a break.

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