There's a research company called Stratfor. It markets itself as a private intelligence company and sells its research to corporate and financial clients worldwide. The firm hires lots of very junior analysts (it's not able to recruit people with gov't experience at the pay levels and status they offer) and trains them internally.
Recently, Anonymous hacked Stratfor's e-mail database. It is now in the process of publishing those e-mails through Wikileaks (which is proving to many, yet again, to be the future of global journalism). Those e-mails are doing massive damage to:
- its reputation (from it can't protect itself to the details of its research/sausage making process)
- its sources (many of whom are being outed and the corruption used to recruit them), and
- its customers (many of whom are being exposed).
I suspect that it's very possible the firm will lose a huge percentage of its business, some sources will be killed/fired/prosecuted, and some of the senior folks at Stratfor may even do a perp walk. Why did it fail so hard?
This vanity evidenced itself in three ways:
- It saw itself as a CIA or NSA without the money, legal protections, or talent required to operate at that level. This also meant the firm adopted practices of corrupting sources with bribes, sex/booze, and blackmail.
- Promoted the CEO as the company's only visionary. The rest of its analysts are kept in the shadows of his heroic presence (this doesn't allow the firm to keep, attract and grow great talent). This also likely led to the diminishment of information technology talent in the firm (it was likely underfunded and understaffed), hence the scale of the leak. It also meant that there weren't any people senior enough to push back against the CEO's hubris.
- It sought out shady sources of revenue. It started an investment fund with Goldman Sachs alum to exploit some of its insider info.
That a Stratfor, as a private CIA, could grow unmolested for so long is yet another sign that nation-state as we know it is in decline. It's also a good and public warning to the firms that see themselves in this role that they should keep a much lower profile and base themselves in a permissive environment.