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.
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.