Stratfor VP for Counter-Terrorism's favourite description of Obama and the White House: "dumb asses"

The Global Intelligence Files

We were able to access the yet-unpublished GI Files material, thanks to an investigative partnership organized by WikiLeaks and involving journalists, academics and human rights organizations such as ours. This is one finding we deemed worth publishing. For more see the Publications section.


– by Mehdi
- First published on 23-08-2012

Is Stratfor's VP for Counter-Terrorism's attitude towards Obama and the White House motivated by the desire to look 'cool' to his subordinates and boss by contemptuously criticizing the government in place, or is there more to it than mere posturing?

In Stratfor emails soon to be made public by Wikileaks, it appears that Fred Burton adopts an aggressive and contemptuous tone towards Obama and the White House, in instances such as "the dumb asses in the WH" (email ID 1117154) and "Does Oboma think sanctions on Iran are going to work? Dumb asses" (email ID 381530). Note that 'Oboma' nickname for Barack Obama – other Burton nicknames of Obama include 'Barry Hussein' (email ID 1192666) and 'Obamanos' (email ID 1641963).

As much as Burton should be able to enjoy his right to free speech, those alleged comments suggest there is more to it than simple ranting, especially since they took place in a written form and in a professional context and were sent to mailing lists comprising dozens of employees and executives.

A search through the alleged emails [George Friedman, Stratfor CEO, has refused to either confirm or deny the authenticity of the leaked documents] shows that among previous presidencies, Burton quite liked the Bush junior one (unfortunately the emails don't go as far as the Clinton presidency for comparison), and displays an almost cult-like respect for Ronald Reagan (he claims he worked closely with the latter – email ID 1230162). He displays similar sentiments in correspondence with conservative journalist Ronald Kessler, to whom he sent a "Good piece" comment directly to his personal email address following an Obama-bashing article by Kessler (email ID 382954) and a "Very well put, but he won't!" comment following an article entitled "Obama Should Credit Bush for Terror Successes" (email ID 383885). This should settle the fact that he probably dislikes Democrats, and more broadly what he calls liberals and "lefties" (email ID 17453). Actually, anti-liberalism is the dominant ideology within Stratfor, as confessed by its founder and CEO George Friedman (see towards the end of email ID 3563232).

However, this ideological stance goes further regarding specifically Obama, with more insulting comments such as "Russian covert action toppled [the Kyrgyz] govt [...] Done while Oboma was with the Russians. Putin knows he has no balls" (email ID 397499). In August 2010, more than two years after Obama posted a copy of his birth certificate online following a controversy over his place of birth, Burton sent the following to the Stratfor Tactical mailing list: "Did Barry Hussein provide proof that he is an American Citizen?" (email ID 374601).

This raises a contentious question: Does Burton dislike (or rather hate) Obama not only because he is a Democrat but because he is black? Al-Akhbar has already published a piece on Burton entitled 'Fred Burton, Stratfor VP for Racist Slurs', documenting some of the racist language used by the VP, such as "Pakis", "towel heads", "camel jockies" and "sleezy arsehole ragheads" (the last three when speaking about Saudi potential clients – email ID 1227888). These comments, if true, would leave little room for doubt over Burton's racist tendencies. Although Burton is a highly visible member of the Stratfor firm, he does not hold a monopoly over racism, which seems to pervade the whole organization: in a 2008 email an analyst sends the following comment to the whole Analyst mailing list: "Russia also knows that under Obama, the Frenchies and Nazis (I mean Germans) will have to be consulted on major foreign moves..." (email ID 1819117).

It is surprising how Burton survived the publication of the embarrassing emails allegedly sent by him and made public so far – apparently he is still employed by Stratfor – not so much vis-à-vis his boss George Friedman, who probably shares Burton's ideology since he hired him, but rather vis-à-vis the potentially numerous clients – both public and private – who may have fled the company's customer pool following shock and anger over the above comments and other similarly shocking statements made in the firm's leaked internal correspondence (not to mention disgusted colleagues). Burton ought to have become a liability for Stratfor. It will be interesting to see whether Stratfor's sales statistics for this year reflect this when they are published.

So why has Burton not been let go yet? The answer might reside in another email (ID 401958), dated 11 December 2011, where Friedman describes his succession plan and in which he analyzes the company's weaknesses, stating: "Compared to other publications of our standing, and certainly compared to what we want to become, our staffing has been laughable, and our organization simplistic." He then goes on to outline the need for more staff and the difficulty of recruiting capable people.

If this is the explanation for Burton's survival after the GI Files publications, it may well be good for him but doesn't suggest good news for Stratfor's future. Unlike the CIA, which is backed by taxpayers' money, the "shadow CIA", as Stratfor is sometimes called, can't afford to be 'bleeding customers', especially “dumb ass” government ones.

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