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OTTAWA – At least 13 Canadian government agencies have had subscriptions with U.S. private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, Inc. or Stratfor, sometimes dubbed a shadow CIA, newly released WikiLeaks emails indicate.
Stratfor came under fire recently after a leaked company document prepared for an oil company outlined ways to counter activist groups, such as Greenpeace, who oppose Canada’s oil-sands development.
The same cache of leaked emails indicates Canadian federal agencies have purchased at least half a million dollars in Stratfor services.
Stratfor’s Presentation On Countering Anti-Oilsands Activists
Reportedly prepared for Suncor, 2010.
(Story continues below)
Emails from January 2009 and February 2011 show invoices of $13,125 and $13,725 for one-year Stratfor subscriptions for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which were not publicly disclosed by the department.
Under proactive disclosure policy, Canadian government contracts worth more than $10,000 must be posted on the web.
Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jean-Bruno Villeneuve says there was a clerical error in not reporting the contracts.
Villeneuve added the subscriptions were “used widely within the department to help inform policy development and analysis.”
Stratfor declined to answer questions about the recent leaks, referring The Canadian Press to a posted statement about its policy not to comment on any of the WikiLeaks documents.
“Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic,” the statement reads.
“We will not validate either. Nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them.”
A Canadian intelligence expert says some federal departments use private firms such as Stratfor to augment their supply of intelligence.
“I think it’s not uncommon,” Wesley Wark said in an interview.
“Particularly for people in the intelligence analysis world of the Canadian government … to have contracts from time to time with private-sector firms for delivery of certain kinds of analytical problems, which is basically what Stratfor does.”
Wark says such services can be expensive and beyond the budgets of government agencies.
In another leaked email, dated March 3, 2011, a senior executive in the firm applauds a Stratfor employee for cementing a long-term contract with National Defence.
The deal was on behalf of the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, worth $240,600 over three years.
The leaks suggest National Defence has had the highest-value agreements with Stratfor.
“We locked them in for a three-year commitment,” says the email, with several replies of congratulation for the coup.
According to the same email chain, National Defence paid Stratfor $78,225 in 2011, $80,175 in 2012 and $82,200 for this year. The contract was publicly disclosed by the department.
The deal gave the college “Authenticated Access to STRATFOR Enterprise Premium Portal,” which includes “Up to 10 individual user accounts” with access to sophisticated analysis and geopolitical forecasts.
National Defence’s publicly posted contract reports also show an agreement with Stratfor worth $182,377 from 2008 to 2011.
In 2006, a Stratfor analyst described in an email another deal with comparable value.
“We just inked a deal beginning yesterday similar to the Air Force,” the analyst wrote to a colleague, “except it covers the Canadian Forces for $50k (the) first year and $60k for (the) subsequent year.”
Industry Canada used an “enterprise premium portal” subscription similar to that of National Defence, an April 2005 email indicates, although a dollar figure was not reported. Another email indicated a renewal of a subscription in 2010.
Additional emails from the WikiLeaks database show the Public Safety Department, whose umbrella includes the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, had a deal with Stratfor in 2010 and 2011, although the valuation was not given.
WikiLeaks obtained the emails from a high-profile hacking of over five million Stratfor emails by alleged Internet activist and Anonymous member, Jeremy Hammond. Hammond pleaded guilty in a U.S. court and received a 10-year sentence last month.
“I don’t think they (Stratfor) have formal access to classified material,” said Wark.
“But the people who work at Stratfor are for the most part former members of the American intelligence community and have some connections. … But they’re primarily, I think, working with open-source material.”
Here is the Stratfor Canadian government subscription list, according to WikiLeaks cables: Transport Canada; Industry Canada; Export Development Canada (Crown corp.); Citizenship and Immigration; Canadian International Development Agency (now part of Foreign Affairs); Natural Resources; Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission; Treasury Board; Canadian Air Transport Security Authority; RCMP; Public Safety; National Defence; Foreign Affairs.
A strategic analysis carried out in 2010 for the oilsands identifies a “worst-case scenario” for the industry that appears to have come to pass.
In a PowerPoint presentation evidently put together for oilsands giant Suncor, Texas-based intelligence consultancy Stratfor warns of a scenario in which the anti-oilsands movement “becomes the most significant environmental campaign of the decade as activists on both sides of the border come to view the industry as arrogant.”
That scenario is “exactly what has happened,” Mark Floegel, a senior investigator for Greenpeace, told Inside Climate News.
The North American environmental movement has coalesced around opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oilsands product from Alberta to an oil terminal in Cushing, Okla. With the Obama administration repeatedly delaying a final decision on allowing the pipeline, the movement to stop it has grown into the most high-profile environmental battle of recent years.
The Stratfor presentation was released by Wikileaks, and was part of a massive trove of millions of documents it has obtained from the intelligence consultancy over the past two years.
Stratfor presents several options for oilsands companies to address opposition to their business. Among those options is simply doing nothing. Not responding could work because “activists are not stopping oilsands’ growth and they have no power in Alberta or Ottawa,” the PowerPoint presentation stated.
In the best case, the presentation said, environmental activists would move on to protesting the new hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, methods being used to extract oil. But while opposition to fracking has indeed materialized, the debate over the oilsands continues to dominate environmentalists’ agenda.
As New Republic puts it, the documents provide “rich evidence of how the industry thinks about its foes.”
Aside from doing nothing, the presentation also set out a number of other options for oilsands companies, including “rapid negotiations,” “intentionally delayed negotiations,” and “flying in formation” — meaning oilsands companies could come up with their own environmental initiatives, rather than bending to the demands of environmental groups.
The Stratfor presentation breaks down oilsands opponents into four groups: “radicals,” “idealists,” “realists” and “opportunists.” Each of the major environmental groups campaigning against Keystone are located within one of those four categories (see slideshow above).
Suncor denies ever seeing this report, Inside Climate News reports, however the presentation mentions Suncor by name repeatedly.
Stratfor, which Barron’s magazine once described as a “shadow CIA,” is not universally embraced as a source of corporate intelligence. The company has been criticized for preparing intel reports that are little more than analysis of publicly available information.
“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,” Max Fisher wrote in The Atlantic.
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