www.aljazeerah.info looks at the drawbacks to mainstream media and provides a list of recommended alternative websites and writers. "Twenty years ago several journalists expressed concern that the number of major news sources in America had diminished to 50." according to the article. "Today, conglomerates have bought up most of those news sources; and the number of major news sources has been reduced to six! These six control all the news reported in America and much of what gets reported in the UK and Europe."
The recently revealed story of New York Times reporter David Rohde is an apparently justifiable example of press censorship.
On 22 June 2009, when news came that Rohde had escaped from his Taliban captors, few knew he had even been kidnapped, because for the seven months he and two Afghan colleagues were in the Taliban's hands, the New York Times kept that information under wraps.
Kelly McBride, who teaches ethics to journalists, says she was "really astounded" by the media blackout. "It makes me wonder what else 40 international news organizations have agreed not to tell the public."
ACLU released a statement condemning the court order from the US government requiring Twitter to provide information about subscribers who are associated with Wikileaks. From Aden Fine, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy and Technology Project:
"These government requests for detailed information about individuals' Internet communications raise serious First Amendment concerns and will have a chilling effect on people's willingness to engage in lawful communications over the Internet. There are serious doubts as to whether the government's interest in obtaining all of this private and constitutionally protected information is sufficiently compelling to outweigh the constitutional interests at stake.
"Twitter should be commended for moving to unseal the court order, but we are very troubled that the order was filed under seal in the first place. Except in truly extraordinary circumstances, Internet users should receive notice, and an opportunity to go to court to defend their constitutional rights, before their rights are compromised."
One of the people named in the order is US citizen Jacob Appelbaum who is flying back to the US today. According to his twitter, ACLU members will be meeting him at the airport.
The US National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, released in a 39 page draft on June 25, 2010, is back. CBS News reports White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said on Friday that the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace will be released by Obama in the next few months.
Details about the "trusted identity" project are unusually scarce. Last year's announcement referenced a possible forthcoming smart card or digital certificate that would prove that online users are who they say they are. These digital IDs would be offered to consumers by online vendors for financial transactions.
Schmidt stressed today that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. "I don't have to get a credential if I don't want to," he said. There's no chance that "a centralized database will emerge," and "we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this," he said.
EFF raised some concerns about the original draft. Since most criticisms of the draft focused on the overall concept, not the detail, it is not likely that they have been addressed.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir, who has recently been the subject of a US Department of Justice subpoena to Twitter for her online information, will be flying to Canada tomorrow. Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson has called the subpoena “very odd and grave.” Jónsdóttir herself says she wants clear answers on whether she can stay on as a member of the Foreign relations committee of Althingi and whether it is safe for her to travel abroad. “I don’t know if I can go to the US without risking that my phone or computer will be confiscated.”
She will be speaking about IMMI (Icelandic Modern Media Initiative) at the first Samara/Massey journalism seminar, of the year. IMMI brought to Iceland the most extensive free speech, freedom of the press and transparency laws of any country in the world, and Jónsdóttir was its chief parliamentary sponsor.
In a new study of the effectiveness of freedom of information laws in five parliamentary democracies, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada, Canada placed last.
Video from BTV "With only three days until Julian Assange appears again in court, supporters of WikiLeaks have returned to the streets simultaneously in different Spanish cities. In Barcelona, thirty people have been concentrated in the Sant Jaume square to demand the release of the leader WikiLeaks." More video from Televisio De Catalunya
Avui: "We believe that governments and organizations are trying to silence this site, which is a symbol for freedom of expression and dissemination of what our rulers," proclaimed representative of Free WikiLeaks in Barcelona, David Molina. "Any attempt to end the activity of WikiLeaks is harmful to democracy and all citizens," he added.
The information to be supplied, however, pertains to both the sources and destinations of these accounts. This is to include
records of user activity for any connections made to or from the Account, including the date, time, length, and method of connections, data transfer volume, user name, and source and destination Internet Protocol address(es).
[N]on-content information associated with the contents of any communication or file stored by or for the account(s), such as the source and destination email addresses and IP addresses. (Source; original pdf subpoena)
Note that the requirement of turning over user names and "destination IP addresses" would range over any electronic device (like a phone or computer) receiving communications from the above named individuals. (To see the information revealed by your IP address, click here. )
As other sources have pointed out, the order implicates more than just the above named users and user accounts. The language seems to implicate every Twitter follower of each of the named accounts, which explains Wikileaks' announcement that "all 637,000 @wikileaks followers are a target".
In examining the language of the subpoena, this seems like a real possibility. "Communication" would seem to encompass the receipt of any tweet on Twitter, given that data transmission is involved. Hence the language is inclusive of any individual following the primary targets who receives Wikileaks tweets on their Twitter timeline, for instance. The same is true of any Twitter user receiving tweets from ioerror, rop_g, and so on.
Yet if we grant that all followers will be implicated by virtue of having received tweet data from the 7 primary targets, it seems the present language is also inclusive of anyone who has clicked on a link directing them to a tweet from any of the above accounts. If you did view one of these tweets at some point on or after November 1, 2009 (the cut-off date in stipulated in the subpoena) but were not signed in to Twitter, then even if you are not a registered user, it seems you too qualify as a "connection made to or from" the accounts. There is no stipulation that 'connections' must be from users who are following Wikileaks et al., or even that they must be from users who are signed in. If Twitter logs visitors, and it certainly does, then visitor data will be in these logs irrespective of whether they have a Twitter account.
While the data logged by Twitter are managed by Twitter, and while keeping your information private is a significant priority for any such large company hoping to stay in business, presumably, the same cannot be said of U.S. government entities. Even if there is no concern over how your data will be used by those entities, the likelihood that your information will remain private decreases significantly with every additional party possessing access to it.
Yet concern over the manner in which your information can be used may be legitimate. In tracking paths to and from Twitter, logs exist that document internet browsing tendencies, sites visited, timestamps, host name, search terms used and more. All this information can be easily accessed from any user not browsing through an anonymity tool like Tor and you don't need to be logged in to a site in order to disclose your data.
Although anyone can get this information from you when you visit their site, the concern here is over the manner in which the data will be used. Insofar as your information exists in the database that brought us the Terror Watch List, and insofar as you have been suspected of being the ally of a "high tech terrorist", trivial data have the potential of becoming legally relevant. And if the language of the court order is inclusive of all individuals ever having accessed a tweet from any of the targeted accounts (since 2009), then the number of people affected by the subpoena is much larger than the previous estimate of 600,000 Wikileaks followers.
The official Wikileaks Twitter account has just tweeted the following official statement:
WARNING all 637,000 @wikileaks followers are a target of US gov subpoena against Twitter, under section 2. B http://is.gd/koZIA(Source)
Tweeters expressed outrage at the prospect of relinquishing their right to deny the U.S. government access to their IP addresses, banking details, connection records, email addresses or other private information. Talk of a class action law suit is already under way and a #ClassActionWL thread has been initiated. In most cases, anonymous Tweets are not considered official sources, but it seems an exception must be made in the present case, given that users are the very parties involved.
Users unfollowing the Wikileaks Twitter account at this time will not be exempt from the order, which seems to apply to users having received Wikileaks tweets in the past:
Too late to unfollow; trick used is to demand the lists, dates and IPs of all who received our twitter messages. (Source)
Update: Iceland blasts US demands for lawmaker's details in Wikileaks probe.
As reported today by the German news organization Deutsche Welle, the Icelandic government is taking the DOJ's request for personal information of one of their Parliament members seriously.
Icelandic politicians have blasted US demands for Twitter to hand over a member of parliament's account details. Birgitta Jonsdottir faces investigation as one of several people connected to the website WikiLeaks.
Icelandic Foreign Minister Oessur Skarphedinsson said it was not acceptable that US authorities had demanded the information.
Today is the start of a series of rallies being held world wide in support of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Assange's next scheduled hearing is on January 11. The details of Sweden's extradition request and the EU arrest warrant should be heard at that time. Currently, Twitter and possibly other social media have been subpoenaed for information about Wikileaks volunteers and supporters. Information on upcoming rallies is posted here, campaigns and petitions here.
It was December 14 when Twitter first received the sealed order to turn over information on several of its users. Twitter could simply have provided the information requested, instead of acting, on January 5, to have the order unsealed. The unsealing of the subpoena allowed the Twitter users in question to become aware of the situation, and it allowed them an opportunity to dispute the order--an opportunity they would not otherwise have had.
The question arises as to why Twitter made this decision and the answer may lie in a recent interview, in which Twitter CEO Dick Costolo expresses his distaste for censorship and rights violations:
In general, he hates government mandates to keep things quiet. And he hates that a woman in China was punished for retweeting something. He reiterates Twitter’s desire to connect people with useful information. “We’re going to lash out at things that prevent us from doing that, as aggressively as we can.” The proof is that we’re banned in China. “We’re not going to sacrifice what we’re trying to do to.”
Mr. Costolo is likely referring to Google's recent decision to reenter the Chinese search market despite China's firm stance on content filtering. As Google CFO Patrick Pichette told The Times:
“China has 1.2 billion people. For Google to say, ‘We’re going to live on our mission but not serve 1.2 billion people’ — it just doesn’t work.” (Source)
Questions of integrity arise, of course, but it is an open question whether Google's presence in China would hinder or improve access to information for its users. "As one example, Pichette cites the fact that [without Google] there wouldn’t be a single result for 'Nobel Peace Prize' anywhere on the current search engines in China." (Source)
The battle against censorship tends to go hand in hand with the constant fight to preserve individual privacy and it is clear that neither can be won without the other. If social networking sites do not take steps to ensure individual privacy, users will not have much incentive to tweet, blog or tag themselves in a public photo. It took some time to acknowledge the repercussions of sharing personal information online, but user awareness is increasing, as is evidenced by a recent poll showing that 60% of Facebook users consider leaving the network over concern for their privacy. So perhaps Twitter's recent gesture in the direction of user privacy serves as a model not only for integrity, but for good business, too.
Shortly after news of the subpoena issued to Twitter by the The U.S. Department of Justice emerged, an electronic copy of the subpoena surfaced and was, of course, circulated via Twitter. (A copy of the subpoena can be found here in pdf format.)
Birgitta Jónsdóttir, one of 63 members of Iceland's national parliament, said this afternoon that Twitter notified her of the order's existence and told her she has 10 days to oppose the request for information about her account since November 1, 2009. (Source)
Ms. Jónsdóttir remarked on Twitter: "USA government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?"
A Wikileaks tweet indicated that numerous others had also been named in the subpoena and a further update verified this fact:
"...the Subpoena ... seeks the same information for numerous other individuals currently or formerly associated with WikiLeaks, including Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gongrijp, and Julian Assange. It also seeks the same information for Bradley Manning and for WikiLeaks' Twitter account." (Source)
The Subpoena was signed by a federal Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, Theresa Buchanan, and served on Twitter by the DOJ division for that district. It states that there is "reasonable ground to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation." It was issued on December 14 and ordered sealed -- i.e., kept secret from the targets of the Order. (Source)
It has been assumed, naturally, that Twitter is unlikely to be the only social networking or technology site to have been targetted. However, if Facebook or Google have also received subpoenas, they have, unlike Twitter, remained silent on the matter.
On January 5, the same judge ordered the subpoena unsealed at Twitter's request in order to inform the users of the Subpoena and give them 10 days to object; had Twitter not so requested, it could have turned over this information without the knowledge of its users. A copy of the unsealing order is here.(Source)
A further update has also been provided which states the following:
Four other points: first, the three named producers of the "Collateral Murder" video -- depicting and commenting on the U.S. Apache helicopter attack on journalists and civilians in Baghdad -- were Assange, Jónsdóttir, and Gongrijp. Since Gongrijp has had no connection to WikiLeaks for several months and Jónsdóttir's association has diminished substantially over time, it seems clear that they were selected due to their involvement in the release of that film. Second, the unsealing order does not name either Assange or Manning, which means either that Twitter did not request permission to notify them of the Subpoena or that they did request it but the court denied it. Finally, WikiLeaks and Assange intend to contest this Subpoena. (Source)
The letter from Twitter to Rop Gonggrijp regarding the subpoena has been published. Mr. Gonggrijp notes that Twitter "does the right thing in wanting to inform their users when one of these comes in" and provides a copy of Twitter's order to unseal the subpoena. He adds:
I did get a second PDF with a January 5 order to unseal the subpoena so that twitter could tell me, which is quite possibly the result of some communication between twitter and the DOJ. Heaven knows how many places have received similar subpoenas and just quietly submitted all they had on me.(Source)
A month ago, on the 7th of December, a week after Peter King made his controversial Wikileaks Is Terrorism" comments, I posted this rather lengthy article to my blog, and linked to it from WL Central, documenting both King's hypocrisy and the possible motives he might have for taking such a radical line against Wikileaks in particular. Lately, the same story has been getting more coverage. emptywheel posted a story of much the same content on Sunday 2nd of January, and a post on Salon outlined the background to King's past with the IRA. We thought it would be timely to republish the story in full on WL Central, since it brings certain aspects of the story into focus that still have not received an airing.
Extremist opposition to Wikileaks by American career politicians may not be entirely out of a stated concern for American national security. A credible argument can be made that, instead, some political self-interest might be involved
[R]ead George Bush's favorite philosopher: there's a famous definition in the Gospels of the hypocrite, and the hypocrite is a person who refuses to apply to himself the standards he applies to others. By that standard the entire commentary and discussion of the so-called 'war on terror' is pure hypocrisy, and virtually without exception... It's ugly, but it's standard.
The US Department of Justice has issued a subpoena on Twitter for material related to Birgitta Jónsdóttir, including her personal details and, it can be assumed, all her private direct messages.
While this is not in any way confirmed, it appears that while the subpoena is from the DOJ it may actually emanate from the Grand Jury so far held in secret (but often mentioned or alluded to in the mainstream media) to examine whether or not Wikileaks people in general and Julian Assange in particular can be charged with an offence.
Subpoenae are a normal part of a criminal justice system and ordinarily there are restrictions against abuse, for both prosecution and defence.
The normal common law test for subponae is the "legitimate forensic purpose" test. Arguable for and against (with respective case law in mind in whatever jurisdiction one happens to be in), the test is for the purpose of eliminating or significantly reducing "fishing expeditions: to reduce waste of a court's time and to eliminate the speculative and wide subpoena that would require truckloads of documents to satisfy it.
EFF has chosen the cables they feel have "been critical to understanding and evaluating controversial events." Their choices:
They include a summary of each with relevant links.
An unreliable* source (Vanity Fair), now widely cited, claims that WikiLeaks possesses "a fourth cache" of U.S. government documents "containing the personal files of all prisoners who [have] been held at Guantánamo."
In this essay and podcast, Andy Worthington, archivist of most that is known about most of the prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo, talks about the "gulf" between U.S. government claims about the prisoners and the truth of who they are and how they were captured.
In running through the prison’s history, I spoke about the huge gulf between the Bush administration’s claim that the prisoners in Guantánamo were “the worst of the worst,” who were all “captured on the battlefield,” and the rather less glorious truth: that the majority of the men — and boys — were sold to the US military by its Afghan or Pakistani allies for bounty payments averaging $5000 a head. I also pointed out how, on capture, none of the men were screened according to the Geneva Conventions’ competent tribunals, held close to the time and place of capture, and used to separate combatants from civiians when those detained are not wearing uniforms, even though, during the first Gulf War, around 1200 of these tribunals were held, and in three-quarters of the cases the men were sent home.
This led to the filling of Guantánamo with “Mickey Mouse prisoners,” as an early commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey explained, and resulted in a prison that has never held more than a few dozen genuine terrorist suspects, with the majority of the prisoners being either completely innocent men, or foot soldiers for the Taliban, recruited to fight the Northern Alliance in an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before 9/11 and had, for the most part, nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism.
Rob and I also spoke about the conflict between the prisoners’ ongoing habeas corpus petitions, and the findings of the Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama to review the Guantánamo cases in 2009, and how the mainstream media in the US has not focused enough on the court’s rulings in the habeas cases. This is in spite of the fact that the judges have regularly revealed that the goverment’s supposed evidence consists of nothing more than unreliable statements — many extracted under duress, or through the use of torture — made by the prisoners themselves, or by their fellow prisoners, and how the ongoing habeas litigation has, shamefully, been sidelined by ther administration — with the evident cooperation of Attorney General Eric Holder — in favor of the Task Force’s findings.
* Sarah Ellison's narrative of this first encounter between Julian Assange and Nick Davies of the Guardian seems to have come entirely from interviews with Nick Davies, even though she has set some statements from Assange in quotation marks.
2010 was the worst year in 14 years for imprisonment of journalists according to statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists. 145 journalists were jailed worldwide, with Iran and China (34 apiece), Eritrea, Burma, and Uzbekistan among most oppressive nations. 14 years ago the number was inflated by Turkey's imprisonment of 78 journalists, and in 2010 the number was decreased by Cuba's release of 17 journalists from jail into Spanish exile. If those numbers were ignored, the 1996 number would be 107 to 2010's 162. Almost half of the jailed journalists worked primarily online. By far the majority were jailed for criticizing the state.
If we look at other censorship initiatives happening now, there is little room for optimism in 2011. Without a significant rise in global activism against censorship, it is poised to become worse in 2011.
The first day of 2011 was the day Hungary took over the presidency of the EU and also the first day of Hungary's new media law. This week has seen multiple media personalities disappear off the air as the effects of that new law are being felt.
The first week of 2011 Tunisia has been fighting to be heard over a mass censorship of protests, triggered by the December 17 self immolation of a 26 year old man who reportedly died on January 5. One of the best known Tunisian bloggers was apparently arrested today, adding to weeks of government crackdown on the use of social media in Tunisia and counter attacks on the Tunisian government by Anonymous (hilariously credited for a picture in the Al Jazeera article).
Three more Tibetan writers were sentenced to jail in China.
Saudi Arabia welcomed the new year by announcing their new internet regulation law which regulates electronic press, forums and blogging. The thirteen forms of internet publishing include websites, electronic ads, mobile phone or other broadcasts, email groups, electronic archives, room dialogues, and "any form of electronic publishing the ministry wishes to add". There are ten terms required to obtain a license, including good conduct and behaviour.
Belarus has at least 20 journalists jailed and have used beatings and raids of journalist homes in their intimidation this week.
The Obama administration announced its fifth prosecution for unauthorized disclosures of classified information.
A regional council in France has suspended an employee for setting up a website called Wikileaks 13 looking to publish evidence of malpractice in the region. After uploading audio of a council commission meeting he was suspended "for having failed to respect his duty of loyalty as an employee".
The Seattle Times reports that "hundreds of human-rights activists, foreign government officials and businesspeople" were relocated by the U.S. State Department yesterday out of fear that their identities may be compromised in the leaked cables that have yet to appear. They have apparently "moved a handful to safer locations".
The U.S. State Department might instead have taken a more economical route and assisted in the redaction of names when contacted by Wikileaks prior to the release of The Afghan War Logs, or when asked to do the same for the Cablegate release. Previously, "Administration officials said they were not aware of anyone who has been attacked or imprisoned as a direct result of information in the 2,700 cables that have been made public to date by WikiLeaks." (Source)
It might have been safer for any potential victims to have been relocated silently and outside the glare of the mainstream media.
In the latest chapter of an exchange that started with a Guardian piece by Nick Davies, was responded to by Bianca Jagger, rebutted by Nick Davies, and defended by our own x7o, Bianca Jagger has again responded in the Huffington Post.
In it Jagger provides many clear and well supported arguments, including a reminder of the constantly and willfully misunderstood difference between private citizens and public organizations in a democracy:
As all good investigative journalists know -- from George Orwell to Paul Foot and John Pilger -- there is a profound difference between exposing the deeds of powerful governments, corporations and the rich and throwing mud at those who released the information. One is investigative journalism; the other is muck-raking aimed at opponents of the powerful.
Rallies for Julian Assange and Wikileaks are again gaining momentum in the lead up to the next scheduled hearing January 11. The details of Sweden's extradition request and the EU arrest warrant should be heard at that time.
London supporters will gather from 11am to 7pm outside the court, apparently now Belmarsh in souitheast London. Along with many events in Spain scheduled for January 8, Free Wikileaks and others are organizing global protests on January 11, 12 and 15. The Pirate Party of Canada is holding rallies on January 15, from 2pm to 5pm. Australia also has rallies scheduled for January 15.
Israel Shamir, the subject of some controversy in a recent Guardian piece has published an interesting article at Counterpunch, which not only tries to address many of the concerns raised in the Guardian, but takes the battle to the Guardian, and takes up the cause of Wikileaks quite forcefully.
The piece is very interesting, for a number of reasons. It provides new developments in the Shamir-Wikileaks story. Shamir claims to have no official or professional relationship with Wikileaks. He also points out a pre-publication page on Amazon that may or may not indicate that the Guardian is preparing a book on Wikileaks called "The Rise and Fall of Wikileaks." Shamir alleges that the Guardian is engaged in a smear campaign against Assange in anticipation of this "fall."
Certainly, over the last week, we at WL Central have had the opportunity to catch The Guardian falling short of what one might expect of an exemplary journalistic publication. Nick Davies was seen to propagate a straightforward falsehood when he alleged that Julian Assange had been using the Wikileaks Twitter account to smear the alleged victims of his alleged crimes. And on Monday the Guardian published an article by James Richardson which accused Wikileaks of potentially fatal negligence in the clearance for publication of a cable from Harare, when it was in fact the Guardian that cleared this cable.
Der Spiegel: Amerikaner lästern über Chaos-Konzern Gazprom (Americans gossiped about Gazprom chaotic corporation)
"Gazprom sollte Russland wieder zur Supermacht machen, Manager träumten vom "wertvollsten Unternehmen der Welt". Doch Geheimberichte aus Moskaus US-Botschaft zeichnen ein anderes Bild: Die Amerikaner halten den Megakonzern für chaotisch organisiert - und korrupt. (Gazprom should make of Russia a superpower again, or so dreamed the manager of the "world most valuable business". Though secret reports by the American embassy in Moscow showed a different image: the Americans accused the mega-corporation of being chaotic and corruptly organized.)"
Der Spiegel: US-Diplomaten wollten EU für Genmais-Blockade bestrafen (American diplomats wanted to punish the EU for commercial blocking of genetically modified sweetcorn)
"Die von WikiLeaks enthüllten Botschaftsdepeschen zeigen, wie die USA die Gentechnik in Europa vorantreiben wollten: Ein US-Botschafter in Europa verlangte von Washington, genmaisblockierende EU-Staaten unter Druck zu setzen - und die "schlimmsten Übeltäter" zu bestrafen. (The secret diplomatic cables exposed by Wikileaks show how the United States wanted to push forward the genetic engineering in Europe. An American diplomat in Europe requested from Washington to establish a commercial blocking against the States of the EU in order to punish the "worst offenders".)"
Le Monde: WikiLeaks : les Etats-Unis n'avaient pas cru possible un coup d'Etat au Honduras (The United States did not believe a coup in Honduras was possible)