2011-01-24 PdF presents: A symposium on WikiLeaks and Internet freedom (II)

Tonight at 6 p.m.(23:00 utc) the Personal Democracy Forum, in partnership with New York University's Interactive Technology Program, will present the second symposium on WikiLeaks and Internet Freedom.

The panel will include:

  • Member of the Parliament of Iceland Birgitta Jónsdóttir
  • NYU professor of media, culture, and communication Gabriella Coleman
  • NYU Distinguished Writer in Residence Clay Shirky
  • Distinguished Fellow at the MIT Media Lab John Hockenberry
  • Constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams

2011-01-24 Whistleblowing: Interview with EU lawyer Guido Strack

In an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau today, Guido Strack, EU lawyer and former official of the EU commission at Luxembourg, outlines some of the pitfalls of whistleblowing.

Responding to the question "Stehen Mitarbeiter, die Rechtsbrüche anprangern, am Ende oft alleine da?"(Current employees who stand up against violations of the law often stand alone; why is that?), Strack says:

Viele geben irgendwann auf. Es ist eine enorme Drucksituation. Man findet gravierende Verstöße und weiß, dass das dem Chef nicht passen wird. Was macht man damit? Entweder man geht in die innere Kündigung, geht weg oder man gibt einen Hinweis auf die Missstände. Oft werden diese Menschen dann als zu widerspenstig angesehen und von der Organisation ausgesiebt.

Some give up at some point. There is tremendous pressure in this situation. One finds serious failures and violations of the law and knows that the boss will not address the issues. What does one do in that situation? Either you resign and have nothing to do with the problem or you report the violation. However, the people who report the violations will be regarded as being insubordinate and blacklisted from other organizations.)

Strack expands on the plight of whistleblowers in reply to the question:"Warum sind die Sanktionen gegen Whistleblower oft so heftig?"(Why are the legal consequences / punishments enacted against whistleblowers often so draconian?)

2011-01-24 Self-immolation "infection" spreads to Syria

Arabic news portal Soparo.com reports today under the headline "Bouazizi infection in the province of Al-Hasakah, Syria" that a 25-year-old man named only as "Hassan" attempted to burn himself to death, following the example set by Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia last December. The report further cites sources claiming that the man was "mentally ill," but also that the attempt was a protest against unemployment and living conditions in the province of Al-Hasakah. The man remains in critical condition in the hospital under security.

Previously on WL Central:

2011-01-23 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

El País: El FBI interroga a sus anchas a los inmigrantes en territorio de México (FBI interrogates freely immigrants in Mexican territory)

"Calderón autorizó a los agentes a seguir la pista del terrorismo internacional. (Calderón authorized the [American] agents to follow the track of international terrorism.)"

Read more (Spanish)

El País: Sicarios adiestrados por EE UU (Hit men trained by the United States)

"Rogelio López Villafana, un ex militar del Ejército mexicano entrenado por EE UU, fue reclutado a la fuerza por los Zetas y estuvo implicado en un plan para asesinar a un ex fiscal general adjunto. (Rogelio López Villafana, an ex-soldier of the Mexican Army trained in the United States was forcibly recruited by the "Zetas" and was involved in a plot to kill an ex attorney.)"

Read more (Spanish)

2011-01-23 Al Jazeera's Transparency Unit goes online with Palestinian Papers

Al Jazeera launches Transparency Unit:

Launched in January 2011, the Al Jazeera Transparency Unit (AJTU) aims to mobilize its audience - both in the Arab world and further afield - to submit all forms of content (documents, photos, audio & video clips, as well as “story tips”) for editorial review and, if merited, online broadcast and transmission on our English and Arabic-language broadcasts. ...

From human rights to poverty to official corruption, AJTU will fairly evaluate and pursue all leads and content submitted, without geographical, political, cultural, or religious bias.

Search the Palestine Papers on AJTU

2011-01-23 David House harassed, detained, and prevented from delivering petition to Bradley Manning

Today, activist David House and Jane Hamsher, publisher of firedoglake, were detained, harassed, and ultimately prevented from delivering the petition to Stop the Inhumane Treatment of Bradley Manning.

David House reported from his twitter feed:

david house@davidmhouse Detained for 40 minutes now upon entering base. Advised that cannot leave.

2011-01-23 Middle East protest round-up: Yemen, Jordan, Algeria

Protests have spread across the Middle East in the wake of Tunisia's popular uprising set in motion by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, resulting in the intimidation, arrest, and imprisonment of dissident voices and journalists. Governments in the region have responded with both carrots and sticks. A short round-up of significant events over the weekend in Yemen, Jordan, and Algeria.

Yemen: Reporters Without Borders: Arrests and threats against journalists.

... Tawakkol Karman, the head of the NGO Women Journalists Without Chains, ... was arrested for unclear reasons in the capital, Sanaa, yesterday evening following a protest in the city in the afternoon. Her family said she is being held in Sanaa’s main prison. Yesterday’s demonstration was part of a 10-day-old wave of protests in Yemen inspired in part by the protests in Tunisia. Around 20 people have been reportedly arrested. ... More than 200 journalists took part in a march this morning to demand their release.

2011-01-23 Best of WikiLeaks in 2010

That "WikiLeaks has divulged nothing new" has become, in the last 8 months, a refrain within officialdom and the mainstream press.

Those who have been following the events for themselves know otherwise. So numerous are the valuable public interest disclosures facilitated by WikiLeaks that to encapsulate them can sometimes seem a daunting task.

Here, though, are five efforts by prominent journalists and organizations to do just that. The five posts here serve as digests of the last year's WikiLeaks news, selected according to personal assessment of newsworthiness and salience. They are a valuable resource for anyone who wants to ascertain for him or herself whether it is true that "WikiLeaks told us nothing new."

The Nation: Greg Mitchell: Why WikiLeaks Matters

The Nation's Greg Mitchell is by now one of the key names in WikiLeaks coverage. His WikiLeaks live blog has been a fixture since late November for anyone wanting to keep abreast of the news on WikiLeaks. He has also written a book on WikiLeaks' activities since April 2009, which will be available soon. In this post, Mitchell compiled, from his own archive, a huge list of valuable points of information WikiLeaks brought to the public eye.

Link

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Rainey Reitman: The Best of Cablegate: Instances Where Public Discourse Benefited from the Leaks
This post by Rainey Reitman lists "a small selection of cables that [have] been critical to understanding and evaluating controversial events." Among the revelations overviewed are the DYNCORP "dancing boy" scandal, and the misuse of the U.S. diplomatic corp to fix contracts and law reform for big business. Valuable commentary is provided for each entry.

2011-01-23 Swedish PM denies political role in Assange extradition case

It is not clear from the UK Press Association report why Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt responded to reporters' questions about Julian Assange in London two days ago by addressing the hypothetical question of Assange's extradition from Sweden to the US, but he didn't dismiss it as hypothetical:

Mr Reinfeldt said Sweden's policy was not to extradite people to countries with the death penalty. But he said Sweden's courts, not its government, would decide that. ...

"We should remember when we ask questions about this that these are legal systems talking to each other, not politicians."

We know from the cables and other sources (see the summary in section 7, 92-96, of the "skeleton" legal argument) that Swedish courts have in the past been complicit in the illegal kidnapping of refugee claimants by US agents. More broadly, the role of diplomacy as mediator between law and politics has arisen repeatedly in many of the cables released by its major media partners and WikiLeaks.

Since the role of the courts is usually to interpret legislation ("policy") or to strike it down if it is unconstitutional, Reinfeldt's apparent failure to affirm Swedish refusal to extradite to countries that retain capital punishment raises questions.

Via @calixte on Twitter

2011-01-23 Sunday morning WikiLeaks entertainment news

Mark Stephens (@MarksLarks), Julian Assange's London-based solicitor, tweets today:

Biographies of the blind. Assange films & books: puffery by people without knowledge of his life http://tiny.cc/c08ut

As well as the biopics discussed in the Independent report and Daniel Domscheit-Berg's book, a growing number of instant books about WikiLeaks have been announced for publication in advance of Assange's autobiography, including a few that may be of substance: Heather Brooke's report on her dealings with the Guardian over a leaked trove of WikiLeaks documents, the Guardian's own version of their history with Assange and WikiLeaks, and Greg Mitchell's forthcoming narrative of WikiLeaks since last April (see his continuing work on WikiLeaks news at The Nation).

2011-01-22 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

El País: EE UU retrata la corrupción en Cuba (The United States portraits corruption un Cuba)

"Sobornos, mordidas, comisiones ilegales, tráfico de influencias... Los informes detallan la generalización de prácticas corruptas en un sistema asediado por la penuria. (Bribes, illegal committees, trafic of influences... The informs detail the generalized corruption in a system chased by poverty.)"

Read more (Spanish)

El País: [Cables:] "La Iglesia ha capitulado" ([Cables:] "The church has capitulated")

"EE UU dibuja una jerarquía resignada a las concesiones del régimen castrista. La Iglesia católica ha renunciado al activismo político en Cuba, e incluso optó por distanciarse de los disidentes católicos, a cambio de que el régimen le permita mantener un espacio para el culto y pueda reconstruir su infraestructura en templos y seminarios. (The United States portraits a hierarchy surrendered to the Castro regime conditions. The Catholic Church has quit the political activism in Cuba and even has chosen to take distance from the catholic dissidents, in exchange for a free spot to worship and infrastructure for temples and seminaries allowed by the Castro regime.)"

Read more (Spanish)

2011-01-22 Hungary faces fines and other administrative action over new media law

Reuters reported today on possible EU legal action against Hungary for its new media law passed in 2010 (reported here by WL Central). Hungary has two weeks to show that the new law complies with EU rules regarding free speech and media freedom, and with EU regulations on broadcasting. The report goes on to state:

The commission, which serves as the EU executive body, is concerned whether the new rules limit freedom of expression in Hungary by requiring all broadcasters to provide balanced coverage of news and to register with a state authority.

The full article can be read here.

2011-01-22 Which US senator put an anonymous hold on the Whistleblower Protection Act?

On December 22, 2010, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act Bill S.372) was killed by an unknown United States Senator, who placed an anonymous hold on the bill (reported here on WL Central).

WNYC, On the Media and the Government Accountability Project have joined forces to uncover the identity of the mystery senator.

WNYC has posted a table, "containing the names, states, and contact information for the 87 [United States] Senators still serving that could have put the anonymous hold on this bill." You can find it here.

They are asking the American public to "call, write, [or] email their Senators and ask them 'did you kill this bill?'” Then, regardless of the Senator's reply, they request you email blowthewhistle@wnyc.org with an update.

Here are some tips about "How To Track Down Anonymous Holds" from Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project

Source: WNYC: Blow the Whistle

2011-01-21 Former Swedish judge Sundberg-Weitman speaks out on the handling of the Julian Assange case

The following summarizes the unfolding of events surrounding the arrest of Julian Assange, as recounted in an article entitled "The European Arrest Order Against Julian Assange," originally published here by Brita Sundberg-Weitman, retired Swedish judge and author in the areas of legal and civil rights. Sundberg-Weitman also expresses concerns about media coverage of the event and about the possible extradition of Julian Assange in this article, which I received via email by a source who also reports that Sundberg-Weitman translated the piece herself. Quotations refer directly to this English translation received.

The article has 3 parts: Background, justification of extradition fears and clarification of related political considerations under Swedish law. Each is summarized here.

Background

2011-01-21 Violent protests in Albania against government corruption

Protests against government corruption in Albania have left 3 people dead and 55 injured, according to an AP report.


Tensions that have been building for months between the government and opposition Socialists came to a head after a top minister was forced to resign this week amid an alleged corruption scandal.

More than 20,000 people hit the streets Friday to demand that Prime Minister Sali Berisha call early elections after the country's deputy prime minister, Ilir Meta, resigned. Opposition supporters battled riot police outside Berisha's office in Tirana, and health officials said three people were shot dead and 30 civilians and 24 policemen and National Guard were injured.

Clashes broke out Friday when several hundred protesters broke away from the main group and started attacking a riot police cordon. Chanting "Get out, Get out!" some protesters overturned and torched cars, smashed paving stones and hurled them at riot police and reached the steps of the government building.

2011-01-21 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

The Guardian: WikiLeaks points to US meddling in Haiti

"US embassy cables reveal how anxious the US was to enlist Brazil to keep the deposed Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of Haiti.

Confidential US diplomatic cables from 2005 and 2006 released this week by WikiLeaks reveal Washington's well-known obsession to keep exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of Haiti and Haitian affairs."

Read more

Le Monde: En 2007, les ministres suédois voulaient stopper les réfugiés irakiens (In 2007, the Swedish ministers wanted to stop the Iraqi refugees)

"Des télégrammes diplomatiques américains transmis par WikiLeaks au quotidien suédois Svenska Dagbladet font état, vendredi 21 janvier, des efforts de plusieurs ministres suédois pour limiter l'arrivée de réfugiés irakiens en Suède. (The American diplomatic cables sent by Wikileaks to the Swedish paper "Svenska Dagbladet" report, this friday January 21st, the efforts of several Swedish ministers to limit the entry of Iraqi refugees in Sweden.)"

Read more (French)

2011-01-21 Ben Ali has used Europe's prejudices

Today, The German news outlet Frankfurter Rundschau reported on some comments made by Jebali Hamadi. Hamadi was the leader of the Islamic party Al-Nahdha just prior to the fall of the Ben Ali government of Tunisia. In the brief interview, Jebali Hamadi is reported to have said:

Aber eine Beteiligung an dieser Regierung lehnen wir ab. Wir wollen eine Regierung, an der sich alle beteiligen, ohne Ausnahme.

(Participation in this government, we reject. We want to be involved in a government in which all political parties are equally represented, without exception.)

Jebali Hamadi continued in the interview to state:

Wir sind gegen Einschränkungen. Aber schauen Sie auf die Straße! Das Volk hat sich gegen die Politik der RCD ausgesprochen. Wer in die Repression verwickelt ist, kann nicht an der Regierung beteiligt werden

2011-01-21 Julian Assange receives Russian visa

According to Russia Times, Julian Assange has been granted a Russian visa and plans to visit the country soon. With his next court hearing scheduled for February 7, Assange may be able to visit Russia in three weeks, but only if the Swedish extradition request is turned down by Britain.

No details of the agenda and schedule have been disclosed. However, by that time a Russia-based pro-WikiLeaks NGO currently being established is likely to get its official registration.

The Russian News Service quoted by Russia Times quotes Israel Shamir as its source for the article. Shamir is a highly controversial figure who was associated with Wikileaks in distributing the US State cables.

In other news, Moscow Times reports "Russia's Own WikiLeaks Takes Off".
http://wlcentral.org/node/1010/edit

2011-01-20 Welt Online: WikiLeaks cables indicate that Israel believes Turkey is lost to the West

The German language website Welt Online continued publication of WikiLeaks cables critical of Turkey, in their bid to "Break the WikiLeaks Cartel". According to cables cited today, the opening of the PLO Embassy in Turkey was only an excuse for Abbas' visit in 2009, and Israel considers Turkey to be "lost to the west".

The cables document how not only the USA and Israel, but also the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah were concerned with Turkey's silent support for Hamas, which the PLO official quoted in the cable of June 3, 2009 called "very dangerous". Turkey's ambivalent relationship to Hamas, while nothing new, required Turkish officials to "talk out of both sides of their mouth" when dealing with American officials. The U.S. Congress' anger is is clearly visible in the cables. This push-me pull-you continued well into 2009, when U.S. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey reported on February 9th that President Gül and especially Foreign Minister Babacan were taking extra care to deal with the "extremely critical" remarks that Erdogan had made towards Israel in order to repair the "traditionally strong relationship between Israel and Turkey".

The cables document the further deterioration of the relationship, to the degree where the Israeli Ambassador to Ankara, Gabi Levy, called Erdogan a fundamentalist who "hates us with religious fury". Whereupon the Americans soberly confirm that their contacts inside and outside of the Turkish government are of the opinion that Erdogan probably "just hates Israel".

2011-01-20 Breaking: WikiLeaks cables cited by defence lawyers in French Guantanamo Trial

Washington Post: PARIS -- Lawyers for ex-inmates of the Guantanamo prison camp used documents released by WikiLeaks to argue for their acquittal in a French terrorism trial Thursday.

The lawyers for five Frenchmen, originally acquitted of the charges in a 2009 trial, argued that it was inappropriate for French investigators to have discussed the ex-inmates' cases with American authorities after a new trial was ordered. Lawyer Dominique Many said it "shocked" him that investigators would discuss ongoing cases with the U.S. government.

In one March 2005 cable, French investigators told American officials that the cases against two of the ex-Guantanamo inmates, Ridouane Khalid and Khaled Ben Mustafa, "would be much more difficult" than for other French former inmates of the prison. The cable was among many released recently by WikiLeaks.

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