Curiosity prompted me to peruse some of the material placed on the web today by Wikileaks. My curiosity was whetted by Startfor’s location only a mile or so from the University of Texas. Moreover, a few students of mine have penetrated the inner sanctum as interns. Here are my impressions based on my examination of the material and the testimony of those interns. They concentrate on Stratfor as a phenomenon rather than on the substance of the leaked documents which are pretty anodyne.
Stratfor is a sleazy outfit. It was established as a money machine by George Friedman and a former Texas Congressman (now out of the picture) who served at one time on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. His being the co-founder along with the presence in the vicinity of numerous retired military people and civilian officials helps explain the selection of Austin as the company’s home. They hustle; everything they do smacks of a hustle. They exploit the student interns while playing on their desire to partake of the mysterious and the romantic. Those they do hire for regular positions get the skimpiest of wages. Expertise and languages are little valued. Their hallmark tool is an electronic pair of scissors. One student had spent four years as an interrogator for the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served as an employee of a contract firm there. His first assignment as a junior member of the Stratfor team was to prowl around the Rio Grande Valley looking for stuff on the drug cartels; he never had been there before.