Bobby Inman, former director of the National Security Agency and former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, called Stratfor's paid intelligence service competent and said the company has delivered "high-quality" analysis in the past.
Inman said Monday that the leaked list of clients would almost "certainly be damaging" to Stratfor's business for now.
"If you think who might find that information useful, it would be a competitor out there looking for clients," he said.
Some clients are already facing questions. Among the emails are reports apparently compiled for The Dow Chemical Co. on activists who have targeted the company over its links to the Bhopal gas leak disaster, which killed thousands of Indians and spawned a long-running legal battle.
Dow said in a written statement that "major companies are often required to take appropriate action to protect their people and safeguard their facilities," adding that it operated within the law.
Coca-Cola also defended reaching out to Stratfor before the 2010 Olympics, releasing a statement Monday that read, "''We consider it prudent to monitor for protest activities at any major event we sponsor, as such activities may affect our partners, customers, consumers or employees."
How WikiLeaks got the company's emails remains unclear. Assange refused to answer questions about the matter Monday, but Stratfor said the messages appeared to be the same ones stolen by hackers in December. That breach, claimed by the Internet activist group Anonymous, ravaged the company's servers and led to the disclosure of thousands of credit card numbers and other information.
Wired magazine quoted an unnamed member of Anonymous as saying that the stolen data had been transferred to WikiLeaks, which allegedly acknowledged receiving the transfer using a coded message on Twitter. Anonymous appeared to confirm that account, pointing to the cryptic message "rats for donavon," which WikiLeaks posted Dec. 30.
Several media groups, including Rolling Stone magazine and German broadcaster NDR, said they have been offered advance access to the emails and will publish stories based on the documents if appropriate.
Satter reported from London. Associated Press writers Cassandra Vinograd in London and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.
Raphael Satter can be reached at: http://twitter.com/razhael
Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at: http://twitter.com/CassVinograd
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