WikiLeaks Stratfor Emails: A Secret Indictment Against Julian Assange?
RS Politics Daily
by: Michael Hastings
On January 26, 2011, Fred Burton, the vice president of Stratfor, a leading private intelligence firm which bills itself as a kind of shadow CIA, sent an excited email to his colleagues. “Text Not for Pub,” he wrote. “We” – meaning the U.S. government – “have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.”
The news, if true, was a bombshell. At the time, the Justice Department was ramping up its investigation of Julian Assange, the founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which over the past few years has released hundreds of thousands of sensitive government documents. An indictment under the 1917 Espionage Act would be the most serious action taken to date against Assange, possibly paving the way for his extradition to the U.S. (Assange is currently under house arrest in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.)
Burton, a former federal agent with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Services, had reason to trust his information. He often boasted of his stellar government sources (“CIA cronies,” he called them in another email), and in his role as a government counter-terror agent he had worked on some of the most high-profile terrorism cases of recent years, including the arrest of the first World Trade Center bomber, Ramzi Yousef. As the VP of Texas-based Stratfor Global Intelligence, a private firm that contracts with corporations and several government agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security, to collect and analyze intelligence on political situations around the world, it was part of his job to keep those contacts alive and share inside information with analysts at the company. (The emails cited in this story – contained in a leak of 5 million internal Stratfor messages – were examined by Rolling Stone in an investigative partnership with Wikileaks.)