Emails obtained via a hack of intelligence agency Stratfor have shed light on a secret, comprehensive US surveillance effort led by Virginia-based TrapWire.
The details were released by whistleblower site Wikileaks, but a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against Wikileaks.org made it difficult to access the TrapWire docs as the site went down under the attacks. It is now back online.
"Yes, WikiLeaks revealed a whole bunch of documents on #Trapwire, no, you can't read them easily, because of the current DDOS attack," Wikileaks tweeted last week.
"Attacks on #WikiLeaks are not only intended to prevent secrets from being revealed, but also to maintain an monopoly on influence," according to the Wikileaks press Twitter feed.
Back in February, Wikileaks started publishing more than 5 million emails from Texas-based Stratfor. The emails spanned a seven-year period beginning in July 2004 and detailed Stratfor's dealings with big corporations such as Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, as well as government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Defence Intelligence Agency.
Last week's Wikileaks data dump included emails from Stratfor that detailed how TrapWire's surveillance efforts work. As RT.com reported, TrapWire staff is a who's who of former US intelligence officials.
TrapWire, founded in 2004, describes itself as a firm that designs, build, and deploys "counterterrorism technologies and services for the protection of critical infrastructure and personnel."
"The genesis of our company started with a project initiated in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks," TrapWire said. "The objective of that project was to develop a capability that would prevent such attacks from occurring in the future. This project evolved into our flagship product, TrapWire, and its related methodologies and supporting capabilities."
The released emails, however, were surprising in that they discuss a far-reaching surveillance effort about which many Americans are likely unaware.
RT.com said Trap Wire was developed by Abraxas, whose founder, Richard Helms, told The Entrepreneur Center in 2005 that his company's technology "can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists."
Sophos analyst Carole Theriault said in a Monday blog post that she didn't "think anyone is really surprised that the governments and authorities are quietly using the latest technology to monitor the activities of its people, saying that they are doing this for our general safety."
"The question we all need to ask ourselves is this: What do we value more - privacy or state security?" Theriault wrote. "Sadly, it seems that we cannot get both."
Wikileaks suggested that its ongoing DDoS attack was orchestrated by those who did not want the Stratfor/TrapWire emails released.
"Attacks on wikileaks-press.org escalated after Wikileaks retweeted links to our mirrors of leaked files from WikiLeaks ... on a newly discovered mass surveillance program known as TrapWire," Wikileaks said in a statement.
"With that in mind, these attacks appear at a first glance to be part of an intimidation campaign; in the absence of any statements by the attackers, we are left only with speculation," Wikileaks said.
In December, hackers claiming to be associated with Anonymous hacked Stratfor and published information about the company's clientele, including credit card information. Stratfor subsequently shut down its website and promised free identity theft protection for its customers.