INTERNATIONAL NEWS - WikiLeaks on Monday started to release more than 5 million emails from private intelligence firm Stratfor, in a move the US company called "illegal."
Stratfor, or Strategic Forecasting Inc, provides intelligence services to a wide range of high-level clients, believed to include government agencies as well as large corporations.
The emails were written between July 2004 and late December, and "show Stratfor's web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods," WikiLeaks said in a statement on its website.
Stratfor released a statement from its headquarters in Texas, calling the publication a "direct attack"on the company.
"Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic. We will not validate either," the company said.
Like previous dumps by WikiLeaks, including hundreds of thousands of US State Department cables, the Stratfor cache is heavy on chatter and speculation based on questionable or biased sources, but also includes insights into how the company works.
"Only Chavez can get the most politicized medical team in the world," wrote analysts in one dispatch about a quarrel-ridden team of Russia, Cuban and Chinese doctors treating the Venezuelan president.
Stratfor employees also seem to have a less-than favourable opinion of Jose Maria Aznar, Spanish premier from 1996-2004.
They doubt the information given to them in Aznar's name, and appear more focused on asking if he would host them at his Mediterranean villa. They noted his looks and "gorgeous locks."
The emails, crucially, reveal that Stratfor worked for other private clients. For example, the intelligence outfit kept tabs for Dow Chemicals on environmental activists who pursued action on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, in which thousands of people died.
The group appeared concerned by public speaking events organized by the Yes Men - two filmmakers who managed to play a hoax on the broadcaster BBC, pretending to be Dow spokesmen and giving an interview promising a large compensation for the Bhopal victims.
Also, in an email, Stratfor hears from an employee of a US private security firm that the US government had asked it to offer trainings to the rebels in Libya. The firm said it moved into the North African country just after a no-fly zone resolution was passed at the UN.
Some of the most embarrassing emails for the company relate to its relationships with sources and clients.
"If this is a source you suspect may have value, you have to take control [of] him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control to the point where he would reveal his sourcing and be tasked," wrote Stratfor chief George Friedman to his staff.
A 20-page "Stratfor Glossary of Useful, Baffling and Strange Intelligence Terms," includes some insights into how the company thinks.
"Does run up the client's bill and makes it appear that you are busy. Clancy move," said the glossary about "background checks." The reference appears to be to suspense writer Tom Clancy.
In an internal discussion about marketing new products, the firm's directors came out against releasing raw information, out of fear it could explain Stratfor's methods.
"People don't know how we collect our intelligence and that's one of the cool, mysterious things about STRATFOR."
Friedman - who in one email is shown trying to help arrange, through advisor Karl Rove, for an Indonesian diplomat to meet former President George W Bush in 2011 - was often aware that what was being discussed could throw his firm into disrepute.
"This must not be published or discussed outside Stratfor," Friedman wrote at the end of one email, which like many to follow, is now in the public domain.
More than 4,000 of the emails being released mentioned WikiLeaks or its founder Julian Assange, the organization's press release said.
Assange is in Britain fighting a request to extradite him to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations. He has claimed the accusations are driven by his opponents out of revenge for WikiLeaks' activities.