Stalking Bhopal: the Stratfor mails on gas tragedy
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks publishes the security analysis company's e-mails on how the gas disaster was being debated and reported. Blog: Wikileaks empowers us on Bhopaldelhi Updated: Feb 28, 2012 20:17 IST
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks published on Monday, more than five million emails from a US-based global security analysis company Stratfor which reportedly monitored activities of Bhopal gas tragedy activists in India at the behest of Dow Chemicals and which counts Fortune 500 companies among its subscribers.
The website claims the e-mails, dated between July 2004 and late December 2011, "reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co." Here is a sample of what "informants" were telling Dow about the Bhopal tragedy.
E-mail from email@example.com to Stratfor officials, on 23 December 2010: This e-mail appears to profile the leaders of Students for Bhopal Advisory Board, a US-based activist group. The Stratfor analyst describes the Board as "representing the North American grassroots supporters of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal". The e-mail profiles the seven leaders of the Board in detail, describing their views and what they have done for Bhopal victims.
E-mail from Ann Sigsby, senior analyst, Allis Information Management to Dow officials, on 21 December 2010: Sigsby talks about PTI, the news agency, doing a report on 'Bhopal gas verdict, compensation issues made headlines in MP' as part it annual review of top annual stories. Sigsby tells Dow officials there were "multiple pickups through India media websites" of the PTI story. The e-mail talks of The Hindu's front page carrying an article on the BJP criticizing the Congress for allowing William Anderson, Union Carbide chief during the gas tragedy "to get away".
E-mail from Ann Sigsby, 3 March 2011, to Dow officials: "Things are much quieter today on the Bhopal issue," Sigsby begins her mail. Sigsby refers to two Indian newspapers writing articles about a protest against Dow participating in a trade show. It quotes a New York Times reporter's article questioning whether companies were influencing the Indian origin governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. Dow had reportedly contributed $100,000 to a charitable foundation run under Jindal's wife's name. The NYT article noted that Dow had not been fined for a December 2009 chemical spill in St. Charles parish, despite the state proposing a fine for the companies.
E-mail from Ann Sigsby, 03 07-11, to Dow officials: Sigsby writes about an activist called Colin Toogood tweeting a link to TV news channel CNN-IBN's "video on the BMHRC drug trials the Bhopal NGOs say used gas victims as 'human guinea pigs'. The tone of the 3-minute piece is accusatory and demanding but does not mention Dow or focus on the gas accident itself." The same e-mail quotes a Hindustan Times opinion piece written by independent commentator Ashok Malik.
E-mail from Ann Sigsby, 16 March 2011: This email cites articles in Indian publications on the nuclear crisis in Japan following an earthquake and tsunami, but assures Dow officials there is nothing to worry about. "As with the majority of recent articles on the nuclear crisis in Japan, the Bhopal gas tragedy is cited, but that is all."
E-mail from Ann Sigsby, 14 June 2011: The e-mail cites a Hindustan Times report on "a group of disaster victims in India who "still await justice" - the families of those killed in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire. The [Association of Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy] president Neelam Krishnamoorthy invoked the Bhopal gas tragedy regarding a 2009 legislative proposal by the AVUT for "legislation to prevent man-made tragedies in public places. For over two years, the matter has been pending with the Law Commission."
E-mail from Ann Sigsby, 6 September 2011: "The media so far today is all tangential to the core Bhopal issues," this e-mail notes in disapproval. It talks about literary fiction on the Bhopal tragedy and how a scientist's speech on the disaster was quoted by four agencies.
E-mail from Ann Sigsby, 8 December 2011: E-mail talks about Shooter Gagan Narang being the first Indian athlete to say Dow Chemical should be allowed to be a sponsor of the 2012 London Games even though the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) wants the organisers to reconsider it. "Pickups (of the story) are not extensive," the mail notes.
E-mail from Ann Sigsby, 8 August 2011: The e-mail notes that "displeasure" in India was growing over Dow being a sponsor at the London Olympics. "Coverage of the activist displeasure over the Olympic stadium wrap is mainly in India at this point in time," it says.
The e-mails indicate that analysts were researching and monitoring what was being reported about the gas tragedy. They contain references to national and regional newspaper reports, links to websites and even the length of news videos on the issues.
Reuters reports Stratfor in a statement shortly said the release of its stolen emails was an attempt to silence and intimidate it. Some of the emails being published "may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic," the company statement said.
"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," the statement said.
WikiLeaks did not say how it had acquired access to the vast haul of internal and external correspondence of the Austin, Texas company, formally known as Strategic Forecasting Inc.
First Published: Feb 27, 2012 23:50 IST