By Denise Tessier
At the dawn of 2012, the American public is informed enough about Mexico’s chilling violence, shocking death numbers and narco-corruption to consider the term “failed state” at least within the realm of possibility for our closest southern neighbor.
But four years ago, in 2008, such a possibility hadn’t yet registered with the public when a global intelligence information service called Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor) first posited it with an article headlined, “Mexico: On the Road to a Failed State?”
I can’t supply ABQJournalWatch readers with a link to that 2008 story (quoted extensively here) because Stratfor’s web site is completely down in the wake of its hacking by a group calling itself “Anonymous”, a news event that was carried by the Albuquerque Journal the day after Christmas on page A5.
Because of the shutdown, readers of Stratfor no longer have access to daily briefings on world events and informative primers on global intelligence.
Stories about the hack job say Stratfor’s subscribers included personnel in the State Department and other agencies, which could give the impression its information was available to only a select few who could afford it. In fact, from the reactions posted on Stratfor’s Facebook page (“Haha” seems to be a common contribution to the comment stream) some people view Anonymous’ actions as deliciously malicious in a Robin Hood sort of way, even though it crossed a line when – not content to simply publicize its ability to hack into personal files — it published personal information affecting thousands of individuals and companies (forcing many to cancel credit cards while traveling and trying to celebrate the holidays).
But Strafor’s readership went beyond spooks, financial seers and the diplomatic corps to include journalists (including myself) who received the service on a complimentary basis.
And in my view, even more worrisome than possible criminal intent is that the hacking has had the chilling effect of eliminating accessibility to valuable, intelligent information during volatile times. Whether intentional or not, Anonymous’ actions have led to censorship. And because the group is “Anonymous”, we have no idea who is behind this censorship and why.
What did Stratfor publish?
It consistently focused attention toward the aforementioned drug wars in Mexico, going so far as to issue a “Weekly Intelligence Memo”, complete with maps, which detailed arrests, slayings and federal activity related to the drug cartels. It included a regular feature titled, “Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels.” Outside of Mexico, its area of coverage was worldwide. Some recent reports, none of which are available online via Stratfor since the hacking, but some of which can be accessed via other sites, include these headlines:
U.S. Diplomatic Security in Iraq After the Withdrawal (Dec. 22)
Iran’s Dubious Capture of a CIA Spy (Dec. 21)
The Implications of China’s Wukan Protests (Dec. 15)
Russia’s Pending WTO Accession (Dec. 15)
EU Crisis: European Unity Versus Political Reality (Dec. 9)
Foreign Interventions and Jihadists in Somalia (Dec. 8 )
One of the things I have found valuable about Stratfor is that while its briefings discuss geopolitical realities, they do not appear to be political or engage in taking sides. Consider the introduction to a Sept. 20 entry from Stratfor chief executive George Friedman entitled, “Obama’s Dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities:”
STRATFOR does not normally involve itself in domestic American politics. Our focus is on international affairs, and American politics, like politics everywhere, is a passionate business. The vilification from all sides that follows any mention we make of American politics is both inevitable and unpleasant. Nevertheless, it’s our job to chronicle the unfolding of the international system, and the fact that the United States is moving deeply into an election cycle will affect American international behavior and therefore the international system.
The United States remains the center of gravity of the international system. The sheer size of its economy (regardless of its growth rate) and the power of its military (regardless of its current problems) make the United States unique. Even more important, no single leader of the world is as significant, for good or bad, as the American president. That makes the American presidency, in its broadest sense, a matter that cannot be ignored in studying the international system.
Note that the underlines in the last paragraph originally were hyperlinks to stories on these subjects, stories that now cannot be retrieved. However, you may read “Obama’s Dilemma” because Friedman’s friend, John Mauldin, reposted the entire essay when it was written. It effectively articulates the U.S. democratic structure, showing that Congress holds the strings when it comes to domestic policies and that the president’s arena of power is foreign policy. From the article:
(Obama’s) primary victory, health-care reform, was the foundation of an edifice that was never built. Indeed, the reform bill is caught in the courts, and its future is as uncertain as it was when the bill was caught in Congress. The Republicans, as expected, agree on nothing other than Obama’s defeat. The Democrats will support him; the question is how enthusiastic that support will be.
Also from that article:
The founders gave the United States a government that, no matter how large it gets, can’t act on domestic policy without a powerful consensus. Today there is none, and therefore there can’t be action.
Another event to consider in terms of the timing of this Anonymous hacking job in December: In December, it was announced that Stratfor’s Geoge Friedman was releasing a book this month. According to Friedman’s friend Mauldin, Friedman’s book posits that:
The big picture of the next 10 years is this: America will dominate, and the American president will have to figure out how to act as global emperor without admitting that’s what he is.
The first chapter of the book is available for reading on Mauldin’s site, InvestorsInsight.com, under the heading “The Unintended Empire.”