Wikileaks empowers us on Bhopal

Wikileaks has started releasing what it claims are more than 5 million emails from Stratfor, the Texas-based strategic analysis company, and other so-called intelligence firms to their clients, who include massive corporations such as Dow Chemical Company, as well as US government agencies.

No doubt many of these email will be about the controversy over Dow being a sponsor to the London Olympics. The choice of Dow as a sponsor has outraged activists in Bhopal and elsewhere in the world, as well a group of British MPs.

Wikileaks says that Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the Yes Men, for Dow Chemical. However, it must be said that a quick look at the emails on Dow released by Wikileaks until the afternoon of Feb 27 showed that much of the information was routine stuff – wouldn’t set any the Thames or any river on fire.

The emails are from two American companies – Stratfor and Allis Information Management, or AIM, which describes itself as a “highly respected and leading intelligence firm with a broad range of experience in both business intelligence and media/issues research.”

Some of them merely summarise the day’s media coverage on Dow and Bhopal. The summaries (with mistakes in spelling Indian names) are written up by someone called Ann Sigsby, who describes herself as Senior Analyst at AIM. The Stratfor emails just copy press releases to their recipients. An example is a press release about changes to the board of a Bhopal activists’ group.

There is no original research – just what the press release says about the background of each board member.

There is a wider issue here: what to do with the all this information. By alerting the public to an issue, the anti-secrecy activist Julian Assange is simply placing a mass of information with us. It entirely depends on how we, or our chosen representatives the MPs or the governments we elect decide to take this forward.

One starting point could be to inquire whether Stratfor or AIM have broken any Indian law. Legality aside, there’s an important issue of ethics too.

As to the quality of information supplied by Stratfor and AIM, the campaigning Labour MP Barry Gardiner can’t stop laughing: “I don’t know how much Dow Chemical paid these companies, but if it wished to hire me instead, I’ll give much fuller information at half the cost and put all the money into Bhopal victims’ funds,” he tells me.

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