Wikileaks Stratfor email dump could be FBI sting

Wikileaks obtained Stratfor e-mail from group infiltrated by FBI...

Global law enforcement swooped overnight, arresting a handful of online miscreants who, between them, have generated more headlines than the rest of the online underground put together.

That's right, LulzSec has been comprehensively pwnt. Some were arrested yesterday in raids, others, arrested some time ago, had their indictments unsealed by the courts.

But it was the news that online Anonymous hero Sabu, aka Hector Xavier Monsegur, had been acting as an FBI snitch since August 2011 that came as a shock to many.

It shouldn't have.

Back in September 2011, Sabu returned to Twitter after a one month hiatus as rumours of his arrest swept the Internet. He had indeed been arrested and flipped. By the time he logged back on to Twitter he was an active asset of the FBI.

The game had been up for Sabu since June 2011 at the latest. His identity had been well and truly exposed, with multiple pastebin posts unmasking him.

You would think anyone with half a brain would keep their distance from a high-profile target who was rumoured to be arrested, disappeared for a month, then reappeared.

But no. Everyone stayed tight. That's how the attackers allegedly behind the HBGary Federal attack, Stratfor's mail leak, the law-enforcement con call wiretap and attacks against Sony Entertainment have all wound up in the clink.

None of this matters. The real play here could be for Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

We know these are the people who stole Stratfor's e-mail. This is the e-mail Wikileaks recently began publishing and releasing to its "media partners". We also know that this particular group of hackers had been completely and utterly compromised by the FBI.

Is it possible that the idea of passing Stratfor's mail on to Wikileaks, instead of just publishing it to the Internet, was in fact the FBI's idea? This group published HBGary's stolen mail directly to the Internet, why change now? Could it be that Sabu, at the behest of the FBI, was advocating a different approach?

You would think that the negotiated handover of illegally obtained data could open up all sorts of conversational possibilities. If a Wikileaks staffer asked these anon contacts to illegally obtain more information from other targets, I imagine that would be legally problematic.

The trick for the US Department of Justice could be trying to portray Wikileaks as the document laundering arm of Anonymous.

You can bet your bottom dollar that any communications between Wikileaks and this group were monitored, but it will be some time before we know if prosecutors can make hay from them.

Listen to's news editor Kevin Poulsen discuss the Stratfor email dump. (24 mins in.)

Patrick Gray on Twitter.