This is Part 1 of a Mint Press News investigation into the story of Stratfor.
On Christmas Day 2011, the hacktivist collective Anonymous ruined the day for a security firm that, throughout much of its history, enjoyed operating in the shadows.
The firm: Strategic Forecasting, Inc., an Austin, Texas-based intelligence-collecting contracting company better known as Stratfor. Its clients include some of the most profitable multinational corporations on the planet, such as the American Petroleum Institute, Archer Daniels Midland, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, Northrop Grumman, Intel and Coca-Cola.
Anonymous hacked into the content management system of Stratfor’s computer system, eventually handing over 5.2 million emails and accompanying attachments to WikiLeaks, which coined the database the “Global Intelligence Files.”
In March 2012, the FBI raided Hammond’s apartment and handed him charges. After more than a year of sitting in the Manhattan Correctional Center, Hammond eventually settled out of court in May 2013. He pleaded guilty to violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and his sentence will be handed down on Sept. 6. He may serve up to 10 years in prison.
Stratfor’s precursor, Pagan International, built the corporate public relations playbook still utilized by the firm today.
The goal of a corporate PR plan “must be to separate the fanatic activist leaders … from the overwhelming majority of their followers: decent, concerned people who are willing to judge us on the basis of our openness and usefulness,” Pagan stated in 1982, fully understanding that the public should never know this was the game plan.
Hammond — perhaps without knowing every detail of the history of the playbook itself — essentially cited it as the rationale behind his Stratfor hack and leak to WikiLeaks.
“I believe in the power of the truth. In keeping with that, I do not want to hide what I did or to shy away from my actions,” he stated in a press release announcing the plea deal. “I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors.”
In this investigation, Mint Press examines Stratfor’s rise to power and its use of the “divide and conquer” philosophy to take on some of the largest boycott movements against multinational corporations.
‘Divide and conquer’
The story of Stratfor begins with a short-lived but deeply influential firm called Pagan International.
If there’s a short description of the modus operandi of Stratfor’s predecessors, military-like “divide and conquer” perceptions management — or rough-and-tumble public relations — is it.
That’s not by accident. Two of Pagan’s co-founders started their careers doing covert work for the U.S. military. Modern public relations got its start in military psychological operations, or psy-ops. “Divide and conquer” is one of the tenets laid out in the “U.S. Counterinsurgency Field Manual.”
Pagan International was named after Rafael D. Pagan Jr., who joined the U.S. Army in 1951 and spent two decades doing upper-level military intelligence work. He used it as a launching point into the corporate PR world.
“A former Army intelligence officer, the Potomac resident briefed Presidents Kennedy and Johnson on the Soviet bloc’s military and economic capabilities. He advised Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush on policies promoting Third World social and economic development,” explains his 1993 obituary in The Washington Times.
Upon leaving the Pentagon, Pagan got three public relations jobs for corporations seeking markets for their products in the developing world.
“Pagan began his international business career in 1970 as a senior executive in new business development with three major multinational companies, International Nickel of Canada (now Inco), Castle & Cooke (now Dole), and Nestle,” according to his obituary. “He specialized in addressing conflicts for multinational companies seeking to invest and operate in Third World countries.”
Pagan followed in the footsteps of the father of modern public relations, Edward Bernays, who helped with the PR surrounding United Fruit Company’s work with the U.S. government to foment a coup in 1954 in Honduras. Pagan also did PR for Castle & Cooke in Honduras.
Pagan’s experiences working in the Honduran “banana republic” under the U.S.-installed right-wing, corporate-friendly military dictatorship would suit him well for his the next step of his career: doing the PR bidding of multinational corporate behemoth Nestle.
The playbook in action for Nestle
Speaking at the April 1982 Public Affairs Council conference to his colleagues in the PR industry, Pagan revealed the skeleton of the playbook that would last all the way through the Stratfor days.