A group of German newspapers, including Die Tageszeitung, Der Freitag, Die Frankfurter Rundschau, Der Tagesspiegel, the European Center For Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and online news site Perlentaucher.de published a joint statement against the attacks and legal threats to WikiLeaks.
The full text of the statement, in German, can be read here. Our translation follows:
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Die Tageszeitung, Der Freitag, Die Frankfurter Rundschau, Der Tagesspiegel, the European Center For Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Perlentaucher.de simultaneously publish this appeal against the attacks on Wikileaks.
1. The attacks on Wikileaks are inappropriate
The Internet publication platform Wikileaks has, since the publication of the secret U.S. embassy cables, come under great pressure. In the U.S., Wikileaks leaders were named "terrorists," with even calls for their assassination. Big international companies like MasterCard, PayPal and Amazon ended their cooperation with Wikileaks - without charges having been issued against the organization, let alone a conviction. At the same time the technical infrastructure of Wikileaks has been subject to anonymous attacks over the Internet.
These are attacks on a journalistic medium in response to its publications. One can criticize these publications with good reason. But we are against any form of censorship by government or private agencies. If Internet companies can use their market power to prevent a news organization from publishing, this would mean democracy is defeated through economic means. These attacks show a disturbing idea of democracy, where freedom of information exists only for as long as it hurts no one.
2. Freedom of publication applies to Wikileaks
In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of publication is evidenced as a foundation of democratic societies. It applies not only to traditional media like newspapers or television. The Internet is a new form of information dissemination. It must enjoy the same protection as traditional media. It would cause a global outcry if the U.S. were to bring an espionage case against the New York Times, a financial crusade against Der Spiegel, or an attack on the servers of the Guardian.
3. The right to control the state
The criminalization and prosecution of Wikileaks goes beyond this individual case. There are calls for the publication of confidential information in such quantities to be prevented. Indeed, the volume of documents revealed to the public a much deeper insight into state action than former publications in top media. Journalism has not only the right but the duty to control the state and to elucidate the mechanisms of governance. It creates transparency. Without transparency, there is no democracy. The state is not an end in itself, and must withstand a confrontation with his own secrets.
We, the initiators and signatories demand a stop to the persecution of Wikileaks, contrary to international law. We call on all States and all companies, to oppose the campaign against civil rights. We urge all citizens, public figures or not, in political positions or as individuals, to take action to stop the campaign against freedom of expression and freedom of information. We invite everyone to participate in the call for media freedom.
The first signatories of this appeal:
Die Tageszeitung, Der Freitag, Die Frankfurter Rundschau, Der Tagesspiegel, the European Center For Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Perlentaucher.de
Update 1: The German Journalists' Association, DJV, has added its support to the statement above. "It is not compatible with the principles of freedom of expression, when politics and business are trying to exercise censorship," DJV national chairman Michael Konken said in a statement. "Those who suppress the source, harm journalism," he added.
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: BP suffered blowout on Azerbaijan gas platform
"Striking resemblances between BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster and a little-reported giant gas leak in Azerbaijan experienced by the UK firm 18 months beforehand have emerged from leaked US embassy cables.
The cables reveal that some of BP's partners in the gas field were upset that the company was so secretive about the incident that it even allegedly withheld information from them. They also say that BP was lucky that it was able to evacuate its 212 workers safely after the incident, which resulted in two fields being shut and output being cut by at least 500,000 barrels a day with production disrupted for months."
Der Spiegel: The Unwanted Iran Brokers: US Irked by Over-Eager Swiss Diplomats
"In 2006 and 2007 Swiss diplomats tried to usher the Americans and Iranians to the negotiating table. Recently published US diplomatic cables show how deeply the Swiss initiative irked Washington -- and how Bern refused to give up despite repeated requests from the US.
That US diplomats posted in Bern were upset by the efforts of Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey to intervene in the conflict surrounding Iran's nuclear program in 2006 and 2007 and force themselves on the United States as an intermediary is well known. But just how upset has now become clear from the confidential diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks."
El País: Vuelos CIA: Sócrates aprobó en secreto los vuelos desde Guantánamo (CIA flights: [Portuguese prime minister José] Sócrates secretly approved flights from Guantanamo)
"El primer ministro portugués, José Sócrates, y el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores, Luis Amado, autorizaron el sobrevuelo de aviones estadounidenses con prisioneros repatriados de la cárcel de Guantánamo, y el uso de la base aérea estadounidense de Lajes, en las islas Azores, aunque el Gobierno luso nunca lo ha reconocido públicamente. Varios cables de la Embajada de EE UU en Lisboa entre los años 2006 y 2009 dan cuenta de las presiones de Washington y la cautela con la que actuó el Ejecutivo portugués para autorizar dichos vuelos. Las denuncias de la existencia de prisiones clandestinas en Europa (Rumania y Polonia) y de vuelos secretos de la CIA, en los que detenidos de origen árabe, sospechosos de terrorismo, eran trasladados clandestinamente en aviones estadounidenses a Guantánamo, habían levantado una gran polvareda en Portugal."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Thai leaders doubt suitability of prince to become king
"Thai leaders harbour grave misgivings about the crown prince's fitness to become king owing to his reputation as a womaniser and links to a fugitive former prime minister, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.
Three senior members of Thailand's powerful privy council, a group of advisers appointed by the king, make clear their preference for an alternative to Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is considered a political liability because of his extramarital affairs in several European countries."
Der Spiegel: 'Coded Language' and Yes Men: Cables of Confusion from the Heart of the Vatican
"US diplomats seem bemused with the hierarchical structures and the lack of sophistication within the Vatican. Not only do most Catholic Church leaders lack an e-mail account, only a few "are aware of imminent decisions."
A month after the German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in the Sistine Chapel, on April 19, 2005, the US Embassy to the Vatican sent a cable to the State Department in Washington providing its first readings on what the United States and the world at large should expect from the new head of the Roman Catholic Church."
El País: Temor a una intervención militar de Chávez a favor del régimen cubano (Worries about a military intervention by Chávez in support of the Cuban regime)
"La Embajada de EE UU en Caracas recomendó al Departamento de Estado que advirtiera a Hugo Chávez contra la tentación de intervenir en Cuba si la enfermedad y eventual fallecimiento de Fidel Castro condujera a algún tipo de convulsión social en la isla caribeña, según consta en un cable enviado a Washington poco después de que en La Habana se anunciara la grave enfermedad de Castro."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Chevron discussed oil project with Tehran, claims Iraqi PM
"The US energy firm Chevron negotiated with Tehran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield in spite of tight US sanctions, according to the Iraqi prime minister in leaked diplomatic cables.
Nouri al-Maliki's claim, reported in the cables, that Chevron was in discussions with the Iranian government will raise eyebrows in Europe and other parts of the world where international companies have come under significant pressure from Washington to end investments and other financial dealings with Tehran.
Chevron declined to either confirm or deny that it had been in contact with Iran, and confined its reaction to a statement saying it had not done, and would not do, anything in violation of US law."
Le Monde: WikiLeaks : Ukraine, la déception Timochenko (Ukraine, Tymoshenko's deception)
"Paralysie politique, gabegie, économie étouffée par la corruption : le bilan ukrainien, six ans après la Révolution orange qui a renversé le président Léonid Koutchma, parait décevant. C'est ce qu'indiquent les télégrammes de l'ambassade américaine à Kiev, obtenus par WikiLeaks et étudiés par Le Monde. Les derniers datent de fin février, alors que Viktor Ianoukovitch, le candidat du Parti des régions, vient de remporter le second tour de l'élection présidentielle le 7 février, contre la premier ministre, Ioulia Timochenko."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: BP accused by Azerbaijan of stealing oil worth $10bn
"The president of Azerbaijan accused BP of stealing billions of dollars of oil from his country and using "mild blackmail" to secure the rights to develop vast gas reserves in the Caspian Sea region, according to leaked US cables.
Ilham Aliyev said the oil firm tried to exploit his country's "temporary troubles" during a gas shortage in December 2006. In return for making more gas supplies available for domestic consumption that winter, BP wanted an extension of its lucrative profit-sharing contract with the government and the go-ahead to develop Caspian gas reserves, one cable from the US embassy in Baku reports. Aliyev also threatened to make BP's alleged "cheating" public, cables show."
Le Monde: WikiLeaks : la torture et le totalitarisme, quotidien de l'Erythrée, pays à la dérive (Torture and totalitarianism, everyday reality in Eritrea, a country adrift)
"Dans l'un des pays les plus fermés au monde, l'Erythrée, les témoignages sur les conditions de détention dans les prisons sont rares. En voici un, recueilli par des diplomates américains en 2008, selon un télégramme diplomatique obtenu par WikiLeaks et révélé par Le Monde. Il s'agit du récit d'un Erythréen, "encore secoué émotionnellement" après cinq mois de détention arbitraire, qui raconte le quotidien des détenus du petit pays de la Corne de l'Afrique.
Le témoin avait été arrêté chez lui, à l'aube, par des soldats venus vérifier sa carte de démobilisation, pratique commune "avant la fête de l'indépendance". Le service militaire est obligatoire en Erythrée, pour les hommes comme pour les femmes, pour une période d'un an et demi généralement reconduite plusieurs fois."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: US fears over west African cocaine route
"When an unidentified plane crashed into the desert in northern Mali in November 2009, it was immediately suspected of smuggling cocaine from Latin America. The west African route to the lucrative European markets had been growing in popularity for some time following successful anti-smuggling operations in the Caribbean.
But what was truly shocking about the mysterious unmarked, burned-out aircraft nearly 10 miles from a makeshift airstrip, was its size. The Boeing 727-200 was big enough to carry 10 tonnes of the drug. It was obvious the Colombian cartels were now plying the west African route on an industrial scale."
FAIR (Freedom and Accuracy in Reporting) has published a petition in support of WikiLeaks, signed by Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Barbara Ehrenreich, Arundhati Roy, Medea Benjamin, Tom Morello, John Nichols and more. The text reads:
As journalists, activists, artists, scholars and citizens, we condemn the array of threats and attacks on the journalist organization WikiLeaks. After the website's decision, in collaboration with several international media organizations, to publish hundreds of classified State Department diplomatic cables, many pundits, commentators and prominent U.S. politicians have called for harsh actions to be taken to shut down WikiLeaks' operations.
Major corporations like Amazon.com, PayPal, MasterCard and Visa have acted to disrupt the group's ability to publish. U.S. legal authorities and others have repeatedly suggested, without providing any evidence, that WikiLeaks' posting of government secrets is a form of criminal behavior--or that at the very least, such activity should be made illegal. "To the extent there are gaps in our laws," Attorney General Eric Holder proclaimed (11/29/10), "we will move to close those gaps."
Throughout this episode, journalists and prominent media outlets have largely refrained from defending WikiLeaks' rights to publish material of considerable news value and obvious public interest. It appears that these media organizations are hesitant to stand up for this particular media outlet's free speech rights because they find the supposed political motivations behind WikiLeaks' revelations objectionable.
But the test for one's commitment to freedom of the press is not whether one agrees with what a media outlet publishes or the manner in which it is published. WikiLeaks is certainly not beyond criticism. But the overarching consideration should be the freedom to publish in a democratic society--including the freedom to publish material that a particular government would prefer be kept secret. When government officials and media outlets declare that attacks on a particular media organization are justified, it sends an unmistakably chilling message about the rights of anyone to publish material that might rattle or offend established powers.
We hereby stand in support of the WikiLeaks media organization, and condemn the attacks on their freedom as an attack on journalistic freedoms for all.
Please join us in signing the petition here.
Human Rights Watch has published a letter to President Barack Obama, urging the US administration not to prosecute WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in conjunction with the publication of the Cablegate documents:
WikiLeaks Publishers Should Not Face Prosecution
Letter to President Barack Obama
December 15, 2010
Dear President Obama:
We write to express our concern at the prospect that the US government would employ espionage laws against WikiLeaks or its founder for the release of US State Department cables. Regardless of how one views the intentions, wisdom or strict legality of the WikiLeaks release, we believe that resorting to prosecution will degrade freedom of expression for all media, researchers and reporters, and set a terrible precedent that will be eagerly grasped by other governments, particularly those with a record of trying to muzzle legitimate political reporting.
Both international law and the US Constitution prohibit criminal punishment of those who report matters of public interest except in fairly narrow circumstances. One such situation would be the release of official secrets with the effect and intent of harming the security of a nation, in the sense of genuine threats to use force against the government or territorial integrity of a country. Diplomatic embarrassment, though potentially detrimental to the interests of the government, is not itself a threat to national security. Indeed, the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, rejected "overwrought" descriptions of the release's impact and described the effect on foreign policy as "fairly modest," a characterization that finds support in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks that "I have not had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with, and discuss matters of importance to us both, going forward."
Even if some cognizable security threat were to be presented by a cable (only half of which are classified, and of those, most classified at low levels of sensitivity), it would be both unwise and of questionable legality to use the 1917 Espionage Act against WikiLeaks or other media who receive or republish information leaked by government employees. A distinguishing characteristic of the United States has always been its high standard of protection for speech. This leadership would be lost if the administration were to reverse the usual practice of pursuing only those who leak information and not those who receive it.
For the same reason, we urge you to reject legislative proposals that would broaden the scope of criminal sanction beyond that permitted by the Constitution and international human rights law to which the US is party. Instead, we urge you to pursue the declassification of information that is of public interest and not essential to national security, rather than to expand the scope of information subject to classification.
Once classified information is released to the public, particularly through means of mass circulation such as the Internet, a very strong presumption should attach that further restriction is unwarranted. Indeed, efforts to remove WikiLeaks and other websites from global accessibility have largely backfired by promoting mirror sites and further circulation. We note with concern government agency directives, such as that issued by the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget, warning employees from accessing the classified materials that have already been published to the world on numerous websites, and reports that the Library of Congress has consequently blocked access to the WikiLeaks site. By asking people to ignore what has become widely known, such directives look ridiculous, invite widespread disobedience, and place federal employees at risk of arbitrary discipline and prosecution. Over-interpreting the 1917 Espionage Act to authorize prosecution of non-government agents who simply receive and publish leaked classified information could have similar chilling results. By that token, not only could the news media who republish the disclosed information be prosecuted, but so could all who download and read the material.
The United States government and the Department of State in particular, has been an outspoken champion of Internet freedom globally, and condemned national "firewalls" and censorship of Internet sites. To maintain its credibility, we urge you to affirm that your administration will not seek to bar services to Internet publishers, or take down websites, merely because they have published material that the government believes should not be publicly available. We also believe it is important for the administration to affirm that it will not seek to pressure or influence any private enterprise to block or undermine any such website in the absence of a legal judgment. Human Rights Watch is very concerned by private companies' denial of services to WikiLeaks in the absence of any showing that any of its publications can legitimately be restricted consistent with the international right to freedom of expression.
This is a signature moment for freedom of expression, a value that the United States has defended vigorously throughout its history, at home and abroad. Human Rights Watch urges your administration to act positively to secure the rights of the media in a democratic society, and the record of the United States as a champion of speech.
Human Rights Watch
It's taken a while before some detailed information has come to light on the arguments presented by prosecutor and defence at the bail hearing yesterday.
The Telegraph reports:
Earlier, during the two hour long hearing, the court was told that the “strength” of the evidence was poor.
His legal team argued that particularly the rape allegation was wrong and if the case was tried in Britain the case would not be classified as such a crime.
This refers or alludes to, apparently, the rape allegation being in the nature of a relatively minor sexual molestation in which case it seems to me, it then doesn't fit within the 12 month European Arrest Warrant system requirement of an offence where the maximum sentence must be 12 months or more for extradition to be valid. If in the UK such an alleged rape evidence was prima facie (on the face of it) low category molestation, per UK law, attracting less than 12 months custodial sentence, then it would not appear to qualify as an extraditable offence.
New rallies in support of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have been announced as follows. For the full list of current rallies, please see our Events and protests page.
San Francisco: Thursday, December 16th, 4pm - 6pm (updated time)
Location: British Consulate (1 Sansome St at Market)
Event page: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/12/13/18666433.php
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=110765495662010
Hamburg: Sunday, December 19, time TBA
Location: To be announced
Organizer website: http://wirsindwl.wordpress.com
Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=13524947986567
Hobart: Saturday, January 8, 12pm
Location: To be announced
Sydney: Saturday, January 15, 1pm
Location: Sydney Town Hall
Contact: Patrick on 0422 028 113
Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=163029660407190
Calgary: Saturday, January 15, 2pm-5pm
Location: University of Calgary, outside the social sciences building
Organizer: Pirate Party of Canada
Organizer website: http://www.pirateparty.ca/
Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=174214409267004
Crikey: Doug Cameron joins Labor Left rally to support Julian Assange
Cameron said WikiLeaks went to the heart of the issue of freedom of the press to publish without fear or favour: ”I support press freedom and believe it is an important element of a democratic society… WikiLeaks seems to be operating consistent with other media outlets only on a massive scale.”
Cameron’s factional colleague, Calwell MP Maria Vamvakinou, who holds her northern Melbourne seat by a commanding 19.7%, also broke ranks, telling Crikey the equation was simple: ”If you believe in freedom of speech and transparency you can’t pick and choose.
“Where government may some concerns about some things not being in the public domain, the reality is a lot of the information WikiLeaks is revealing is of public interest.”
Cameron echoed Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s statements that the leaks are a product of US security failures, saying extremists calling for Assange to be prosecuted under domestic anti-terrorism laws needed to be reined in.
... The uprising within the Left — including Laurie Ferguson, Sharon Grierson and Melissa Parke — will increase pressure on the PM to mollify her public statements on WikiLeaks and comes after a weekend of protests defending Assange across Australia.
New York Times: Rep. Ron Paul, G.O.P. Loner, Comes In From Cold
As virtually all of Washington was declaring WikiLeaks’s disclosures of secret diplomatic cables an act of treason, Representative Ron Paul was applauding the organization for exposing the United States’ “delusional foreign policy.”
For this, the conservative blog RedState dubbed him “Al Qaeda’s favorite member of Congress.”
Rep. McDermott: Could WikiLeaks Have Prevented 9/11?
Jesse Freeston of The Real News joined us on the Stakeout this weekend, asking Congressman McDermott (D-Wash.) his views on WikiLeaks. The Congressman couldn’t speak to the specific nature of the cables Freeston pointed out, but expressed a general sense of openness to the idea that the cables and WikiLeaks work would likely benefit the public. McDermott referenced an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by Coleen Rowley and Bogdan Dzakovic, endorsing the idea that had there been an entity like WikiLeaks in the past, public whistleblowing that might have prevented 9/11 would have been more readily facilitated.
Prosecute leakers, not Assange: Howard
"To publish some cables containing commentary about political figures, while it's very uncomfortable for the diplomat involved ... and uncomfortable to the subject, you can't expect a journalist to hold back on something like that," Mr Howard told ABC Radio in Darwin on Wednesday.
"I'm sure things had been said about me.
"It's embarrassing when it happens but ... you can't condemn the media for running this stuff."
Lawfare: Problems with the Espionage Act
The law also has two additional problems that receive relatively little attention but which are important in contemplating its use. The first is that it contains no limiting principle in its apparent criminalization of secondary transmissions of proscribed material. ...
By its terms, it criminalizes not merely the disclosure of national defense information by organizations such as Wikileaks, but also the reporting on that information by countless news organizations. It also criminalizes all casual discussions of such disclosures by persons not authorized to receive them to other persons not authorized to receive them–in other words, all tweets sending around those countless news stories, all blogging on them, and all dinner party conversations about their contents. Taken at its word, the Espionage Act makes felons of us all. As long as this deficiency remains, it will be a poor instrument against an outlet like Wikileaks, precisely because there will be no way in principle to distinguish between the prosecution of Assange and the prosecution of just about anyone else–from the New York Times to the guy on the street who reads the newspaper and talks about it. That will make Espionage Act prosecutions seem like far more of a menace to legitimate speech than would a prosecution under a better-drawn law. There are ways to fix this problem–an intent element and a clear limitation to material not already made public would be a start–but as long as it goes unfixed, I oppose any prosecutions under it for secondary transmissions.
The second problem is that the statute, by its clear terms, does not cover the overwhelming bulk of the material that Wikileaks disclosed. The Espionage Act is not a general bar against leaking or publishing classified information. It covers only material “relating to the national defense.”
Lawfare: Seven Thoughts on Wikileaks
But as all the hand-wringing over the 1917 Espionage Act shows, it is not obvious what law he has violated. It is also important to remember, to paraphrase Justice Stewart in the Pentagon Papers, that the responsibility for these disclosures lies firmly with the institution empowered to keep them secret: the Executive branch.
The Hill: Judiciary panel to take up Espionage Act, legal options against WikiLeaks
The Judiciary Committee will be looking at the World War I-era Espionage Act and the "legal and constitutional issues raised by WikiLeaks," as directed by Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.).
It will be the first congressional hearing on WikiLeaks since the Nov. 28 publication of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, some of which have proven embarrassing to the U.S. government because of their frank tone. The witness list was not yet available.
Incoming Judiciary Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) also vowed to conduct hearings when he takes the gavel in the new Congress.
But the Justice Department is proceeding with caution: Most experts agree the case crosses into new legal territory where there is little certainty.
ARTICLE 19 is extremely concerned by the political pressure governments and elected officials are exerting on internet companies, to force them to deny provision of services to WikiLeaks without prior authorisation from a court. Recent actions by a number of internet companies against WikiLeaks raise several issues about the rights of free expression on the internet, which is largely controlled by private companies but still subject to state threats.
Intermediaries, such as internet companies, facilitate connections between the providers of information and the users of that information. Increasingly, they are the subject of legal and other actions whose actual end targets are their service-users. Where these companies can do so lawfully, they should resist such interference.
Any removal of information on internet, or blocking of internet access to information should be authorized only by a court. Actions that seek to limit freedom to donate to their service-users should only be allowed after a finding by a court that a service-user has violated the law. Internet companies in turn should be transparent in actions affecting users of their services.
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism,WikiLeaks prosecution ‘will set a dangerous precedent’
"But while we hold varying opinions of Wikileaks’ methods and decisions, we all believe that in publishing diplomatic cables Wikileaks is engaging in journalistic activity protected by the First Amendment. Any prosecution of Wikileaks’ staff for receiving, possessing or publishing classified materials will set a dangerous precedent for reporters in any publication or medium, potentially chilling investigative journalism and other First Amendment-protected activity.
The U.S. and the First Amendment continue to set a world standard for freedom of the press, encouraging journalists in many nations to take significant risks on behalf of transparency. Prosecution in the Wikileaks case would greatly damage American standing in free-press debates worldwide and would dishearten those journalists looking to this nation for inspiration.
We urge you to pursue a course of prudent restraint in the Wikileaks matter."
WikiLeaks and the public interest?
But the question that has been overlooked in all of this is: just how valuable is the information revealed for leading members of civil society - public interest lawyers, human rights investigators, foreign policy analysts and critics? And has WikiLeaks helped or hindered their cause?
Al Jazeera put these questions to members of civil society in the US and beyond.
Julian Assange Bail Appeal Trial
Julian Assange appeared in court this morning to appeal the court's decision last week to deny him a release on bail. Live updates were provided by The Guardian. and live tweeting in the court on the #wikitrial hashtag. It was apparently the first time a UK judge had allowed live tweeting during a trial (according to tweets).
An earlier article in The Guardian stated:
Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens visited him in Wandsworth prison yesterday afternoon and said his client was being held under harsher conditions than last week. He claimed Assange was being confined to his cell for all but half an hour a day, and denied association with others prisoners, access to the library or TV.
"He's subject to the most ridiculous censorship," Stephens said. "Time magazine sent him a copy of the magazine with him on the cover and they censored it not just by ripping off the cover but by destroying the whole magazine."
Stephens also claimed a number of letters to Assange from media organisations have not reached him. He said Assange was under 24-hour video surveillance and had complained that a tooth which broke off while he was eating had later been stolen from his cell.
According to Stephens, Assange's UK legal team had still not seen the prosecution evidence against him. "His Swedish lawyers have some of the material but not all and it's in Swedish so we can't take proper instructions."
Besides the lack of evidence provided by the Swedish prosecution, a key point is the fact that the crime Assange is accused of is not a crime in the UK. For extradition to go forward, the crime must be of a serious nature in both countries. This time, Assange's lawyers also offered a permanent address in England and suggested electronic monitoring, a curfew and travel restrictions as alternatives to incarceration. Over £200,000 was offered in surety for bail and ten international public figures also offered surety.
The appeal was granted with the following conditions:
Assange's counsel pointed out that it was a huge bail amount to be paid in cash, and Assange did not have the option of using Mastercard or Visa. The prosecution immediately appealed the decision, so Assange was taken back to jail to await the appeal trial which must be held within 48 hours. More information can be found here.
The second Melbourne rally in a week started at Swanston Street and continued to the British Consulate in Collins Street where a blockade was formed.
Police and Yarra Trams staff members were at the protest to prevent clashes with frustrated commuters.
Mr Assange's lawyer, Rob Starry, spoke at the rally before the protesters took to the streets. He said that Australian politicians including former prime minister John Howard and current Opposition Leader Tony Abbott should be indicted as war criminals.
Mr Assange's local MP, Greens member Adam Bandt, outlined the WikiLeaks' founder's legal rights and demanded that the Australian Government pursue US politician Sarah Palin over her threats to the safety of Mr Assange.
Police on horseback held the crowd back from the British Consulate. Officers were forced to order the protesters off tram tracks as they attempted to improve the traffic flow in Collins Street.
The protesters have pledged to gather every Friday in front of the consulate until Mr Assange is released.
Mr. Assange is currently in custody in London. He is facing extradition to Sweden to face a range of charges relating to an alleged sexual offence. He is due to face a bail hearing in London in a matter of hours.
INTERLUDE-BAIL APPLICATION 14/12/2010
The principles of bail in both English and Australian law are close. Without looking at bail legislation in the UK (no time sorry) these are most of the factors in NSW Australia that a court will consider in a bail application, with comments as to how they apply, or not,
Firstly there are the presumptions for bail, which have a set of legislated determinants which I won't go into but are an indicator of how a court will ordinarily look on a bail application from the outset. Defence makes submissions on presumptions, prosecutor might have a different view but most often agree on presumption.
OFFENCE: Circumstances of the offence, Strength of prosecution case, Likely penalty on conviction.
Only the strength of the prosecution case is really relevant here and while this is a factor for bail it is not a factor ordinarily for the extradition proper. (Will post on that later, an EU human rights "backdoor" might allow some of it through, per the UK Extradition Act.)
TIME magazine has just closed the Person of the Year readers' poll. Megan Friedman summarized the results: "Readers voted a total of 1,249,425 times, and the favorite was clear. Julian Assange raked in 382,020 votes, giving him an easy first place. He was 148,383 votes over the silver medalist, Recep Tayyip Ergodan, Prime Minister of Turkey."
TIME editors' official choice for Person of the Year will be announced on Wednesday morning on the Today show.
WL Central would like to thank all of you who chose to make a statement by voting for Julian Assange.
The Icelandic Parliamentary General Committee met yesterday to discuss the ban that Visa and Mastercard placed on donations to WikiLeaks, reports The Reykjavik Grapevine. In attendance were representatives of Icelandic electronic payment companies Valitor and Borgun, which work with Visa and Mastercard, The Consumers' Alliance, Amnesty International, and WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, who joined via video link.
Róbert Marshall, the chairman of the committee, said that "People wanted to know on what legal grounds the ban was taken, but no one could answer it. They said this decision was taken by foreign sources." The committee has asked for more information from the companies, to prove that there were legal grounds for such a ban. Marshall added that it was the committee's opinion that Visa and Mastercard's operating licenses be "seriously reviewed," reports The Reykjavik Grapevine.
Datacell, the company handling credit card donations for WikiLeaks, has already declared that it would file legal action against Visa and Mastercard.
PostFinance, the banking arm of the Swiss Post, found itself under investigation as well for potentially breaching secrecy laws by publicly disclosing that it has closed Julian Assange's bank account, reports AFP. "We are investigating if, in relation to the Postfinance press statement, there has been punishable action," Hermann Wenger, examining magistrate of the Bern-Mittelland region, told Sonntags Zeitung.
As previously reported, the Wau Holland Foundation also initiated legal action against PayPal, resulting in PayPal agreeing to release the blocked funds. In an interview with Der Spiegel today, Hendrick Fulda, a board member of the foundation, said that "Every new publication by WikiLeaks has unleashed a wave of support, and donations were never as strong as now. More than €80,000 was contributed in one week via PayPal alone. We will have to see what impact the removal of PayPal has on our incoming funds."
Prominent Danish newspaper Politiken has joined Owni and Libération as one of the major media organizations to officially mirror WikiLeaks. Politiken is mirroring the curently released Cablegate documents here.
In an interesting twist, the Danish Computer World site reports that Politiken's WikiLeaks mirror is currently hosted on Amazon's cloud infrastructure. Per Palmkvist Knudsen, CIO at the JP / Politiken Hus media group, said that there was no political statement behind it, Amazon being selected only on the basis on its service. "Amazon was fast and easy. But I can see that it would be a great story, if we were expelled from Amazon's services again, although that's not our intention," he added "with a wry smile," reports Computer World.
The Walkley Foundation has initiated a letter to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, signed by members of the board, editors of major Australian newspapers and news sites, and news directors of the country's commercial and public broadcasters. The letter reads:
Dear Prime Minister,
STATEMENT FROM AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPER EDITORS, TELEVISION AND RADIO DIRECTORS AND ONLINE MEDIA EDITORS
The leaking of 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables is the most astonishing leak of official information in recent history, and its full implications are yet to emerge. But some things are clear. In essence, WikiLeaks, an organisation that aims to expose official secrets, is doing what the media have always done: bringing to light material that governments would prefer to keep secret.
In this case, WikiLeaks, founded by Australian Julian Assange, worked with five major newspapers around the world, which published and analysed the embassy cables. Diplomatic correspondence relating to Australia has begun to be published here.
The volume of the leaks is unprecedented, yet the leaking and publication of diplomatic correspondence is not new. We, as editors and news directors of major media organisations, believe the reaction of the US and Australian governments to date has been deeply troubling. We will strongly resist any attempts to make the publication of these or similar documents illegal. Any such action would impact not only on WikiLeaks, but every media organisation in the world that aims to inform the public about decisions made on their behalf. WikiLeaks, just four years old, is part of the media and deserves our support.
Already, the chairman of the US Senate homeland security committee, Joe Lieberman, is suggesting The New York Times should face investigation for publishing some of the documents. The newspaper told its readers that it had ‘‘taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security.’’ Such an approach is responsible — we do not support the publication of material that threatens national security or anything which would put individual lives in danger. Those judgements are never easy, but there has been no evidence to date that the WikiLeaks material has done either.
There is no evidence, either, that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have broken any Australian law. The Australian government is investigating whether Mr Assange has committed an offence, and the Prime Minister has condemned WikiLeaks’ actions as ‘‘illegal’’. So far, it has been able to point to no Australian law that has been breached.
To prosecute a media organisation for publishing a leak would be unprecedented in the US, breaching the First Amendment protecting a free press. In Australia, it would seriously curtail Australian media organisations reporting on subjects the government decides are against its interests.
WikiLeaks has no doubt made errors. But many of its revelations have been significant. It has given citizens an insight into US thinking about some of the most complex foreign policy issues of our age, including North Korea, Iran and China.
It is the media’s duty to responsibly report such material if it comes into their possession. To aggressively attempt to shut WikiLeaks down, to threaten to prosecute those who publish official leaks, and to pressure companies to cease doing commercial business with WikiLeaks, is a serious threat to democracy, which relies on a free and fearless press.
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: US keeps Uzbekistan president onside to protect supply line
"The post-Soviet state of Uzbekistan is a nightmarish world of 'rampant corruption', organised crime, forced labour in the cotton fields, and torture, according to the leaked cables.
But the secret dispatches released by WikiLeaks reveal that the US tries to keep President Islam Karimov sweet because he allows a crucial US military supply line to run into Afghanistan, known as the northern distribution network (NDN)."
Der Spiegel: 'Bridges to Nowhere': America's Unsavory Friends in Central Asia
"The US is anxious to broaden its influence in Central Asia -- and limit that of Russia. The result, however, are questionable alliances with some of the strangest despots in the world.
The secret country assessment from the US Embassy in the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe, prepared for General David Petraeus on Aug. 7, 2009 ahead of his visit later that month, described a country on the brink of ruin. Tajikistan, a country of 7.3 million people on the northern border of Afghanistan, is a dictatorship ruled by Emomali Rakhmon, a former collective farm boss and notorious drunkard. "Parliament acts as a rubber stamp, barely discussing important legislation such as the national budget," the dispatch noted.
Some of the state's revenues were from criminal sources: "Tajikistan is a major transit corridor for Southwest Asian heroin to Russia and Europe." The country had "chronic problems with Uzbekistan," its neighbor, and the impoverished former Soviet republic faced the prospect of civil war fomented by Islamists in the east of the country."
Le Monde: Le Pérou face à ses démons : le terrorisme et la corruption (Peru faces its demons: terrorism and corruption)
"A en croire des télégrammes diplomatiques américains obtenus par WikiLeaks et révélés par Le Monde, le Pérou n'arrive pas à conjurer ses vieux démons, le terrorisme et la corruption. La menace représentée par la guérilla maoïste du Sentier lumineux (SL) "a été contenue mais pas éliminée, et elle pourrait s'épanouir à nouveau", estime une note confidentielle de novembre 2009.
Pendant les années 1980 et 1990, le conflit armé interne provoqué par le SL avait fait 70 000 morts. Le principal dirigeant maoïste, Abimael Guzman, est emprisonné depuis 1992. En dépit de bons résultats macro-économiques, les causes sous-jacentes – la pauvreté, la corruption et les inégalités – n'ont pas disparu, reconnaissent les diplomates américains."
El País: La retirada de Kosovo desató una crisis entre España y EE UU (The withdrawal from Kosovo sparked a crisis between Spain and the U.S.)
"Cuando las relaciones entre España y Estados Unidos parecían recuperadas tras la llegada de Obama a la Casa Blanca, una intempestiva retirada militar, esta vez de Kosovo, provocó la mayor crisis que han vivido los dos países en mucho tiempo. Los primeros resquemores comenzaron cuando Madrid se negó a reconocer la independencia de este territorio, bajo control de la comunidad internacional desde los bombardeos de la OTAN de 1999. Washington no aprobaba pero comprendía la posición española: la independencia en Europa de un territorio por motivos étnicos es un precedente preocupante. Pero, cuando la ministra Carme Chacón anunció el 19 de marzo 2009 la retirada de las tropas españolas sin haber consultado con los aliados, de resquemor se pasó a la crisis. Aunque en público se mantuvieron las formas, los despachos del Departamento de Estado muestran que la procesión iba por dentro: el vicepresidente Joseph Biden reprendió la retirada en su primer encuentro con el presidente Zapatero mientras que Hillary Clinton no dudó en hablar de "irritación" ante el ex ministro Moratinos."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: MI5 offered files on Finucane killing to inquiry
"MI5 has said that it is prepared to hand over sensitive files on one of the most high-profile murders during the Northern Ireland Troubles carried out by loyalist gunmen working with members of the British security forces.
The offer in the case of the Pat Finucane, the well-known civil rights and defence lawyer murdered in front of his wife and three young children in 1989, is contained in confidential US embassy cables passed to WikiLeaks.
Supporters of Finucane welcomed the revelation of the offer as "highly significant" and believe it could pave the way for a fresh inquiry into the killing that would be acceptable to the family."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: IRA used Irish boom to turn 'respectable'
"The IRA used the Celtic Tiger economic boom in the Irish Republic to diversify into "more sophisticated business enterprises" by buying up properties in London, Dublin and Spanish resorts, according to leaked US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
A senior Irish police officer told the American embassy in Dublin that the IRA used the booming Irish economy to move on from 1970s-style racketeering as it turned to "apparently respectable businessmen" to raise funds.
The cables also show that the growth of the Celtic Tiger was so admired in Washington that the US treasury secretary travelled to Dublin in 2004 to discover the "secrets" of Ireland's success.
The IRA's changing business practices are revealed in a cable by Jonathan Benton, the then deputy chief of mission at the American embassy in Dublin, which reported on meetings with senior Irish police officers and senior officials from the department of justice."
Der Spiegel: 'Boys and Their Toys' The US Befriends Azerbaijan's Corrupt Elite
"Azerbaijan is rife with corruption and comparisons to European feudalism in the Middle Ages are hardly a stretch. But with vast reserves of oil and natural gas at stake, the US is willing to risk the embarrassment that comes with courting the country.[...]
Azerbaijan, which lies in the Caspian basin and has a population of 9 million, is one of the US's strategic energy partners, despite being located within Russia's sphere of influence. The country boasts proven energy reserves of roughly 7 billion barrels of oil and 1.3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Millions of barrels of these natural resources flow to the West each year via a pipeline connecting the Azerbaijani capital with Ceyhan, a Turkish port on the Mediterranean Sea.[...]
The American documents leave no doubt that the diplomats know exactly who they are courting. Cables bear titles like 'Who owns what?' in which they provide portraits of the country's most powerful families. 'Observers in Baku often note that today's Azerbaijan is run in a manner similar to the feudalism found in Europe during the Middle Ages,' one such cable reads. 'A handful of well-connected families control certain geographic areas, as well as certain sectors of the economy.'"
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Russia 'was tracking killers of Alexander Litvinenko but UK warned it off'
"Russia was tracking the assassins of dissident spy Alexander Litvinenko before he was poisoned but was warned off by Britain, which said the situation was "under control", according to claims made in a leaked US diplomatic cable.
The secret memo, recording a 2006 meeting between an ex-CIA bureau chief and a former KGB officer, is set to reignite the diplomatic row surrounding Litvinenko's unsolved murder that year, which many espionage experts have linked directly to the Kremlin."
El País: Perú pide ayuda a EE UU ante el rebrote de Sendero Luminoso (Peru asks for US help, facing the resurgence of the Shining Path)
"Estados Unidos prestará asistencia militar a Perú para acabar con el terrorismo de Sendero Luminoso, que causó buena parte de los más de 69.000 muertos registrados en las décadas de los ochenta y noventa, según muestran los cables del Departamento de Estado. Esa guerrilla colocó al Estado contra las cuerdas, y ha resurgido en el Alto Huallaga y Valles del Apurímac y Ene, donde cobra peaje al narcotráfico y adoctrina a los empobrecidos habitantes de esas regiones andinas.
El salvajismo de la milicia maoísta fue tan intenso, y los nuevos ataques, tan alarmantes, que la Embajada norteamericana ha pedido a Washington más colaboración con el Ejército peruano y un programa contra las minas detonadas por Sendero Luminoso en las rutas transitadas por el Ejército, según un cable del pasado año. La prioridad del Gobierno es liquidar a Sendero en el Apurímac y para ello firmó un contrato de nueve millones de dólares con un especialista israelí, según otro despacho."
Le Monde: Washington s'inquiète d’un possible programme nucléaire birman (Washington worried about a possible nuclear programme in Burma)
"Depuis 2002, les diplomates américains en poste à Rangoun reçoivent des indications sur la construction possible d'une installation nucléaire près de Minbu, dans la division de Magway, sur le fleuve Irawaddy. Plusieurs télégrammes diplomatiques, obtenus par WikiLeaks et consultés par Le Monde, font état de témoignages dans ce sens, émanant tantôt d'un homme d'affaires expatrié, tantôt d'un collaborateur birman ayant recueilli les confidences d'un proche.
Il a d'abord été question d'une coopération russe, puis, plus récemment, de la présence de "300 Nord-Coréens" pour participer à cette tâche. Chaque fois, l'ambassade prend les plus grandes précautions en rapportant ces témoignages, précisant qu'elle n'est pas en mesure de les confirmer de manière indépendante, ou que le chiffre de 300 lui paraît excessif."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables paint bleak picture of Tajikistan, central Asia's poorest state
"Tajikistan is losing the battle against the flow of drugs from neighbouring Afghanistan and is characterised by "cronyism and corruption" emanating from the president downwards.
A series of leaked US diplomatic dispatches released by WikiLeaks paint a bleak picture of Central Asia's poorest state. They note that it suffers from 'earthquakes, floods, droughts, locusts and extreme weather' and is situated next to 'obstructive Uzbekistan', 'unstable Afghanistan' and the 'rough, remote' Pamir mountains next to western China.
But Tajikistan's worst obstacle is the country's venal president Emomali Rahmon, diplomats say. A secret cable dated 16 February 2010, from the US embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capital, describes how Rahmon runs the ex-Soviet republic's economy for his own personal profit: 'From the president down to the policeman on the street, government is characterized by cronyism and corruption.'"
Le Monde: WikiLeaks: dictatures et mafias d'Asie centrale (Dictatorships and mafias in Central Asia)
"L'Asie centrale: ses ressources naturelles, ses régimes autoritaires, ses aéroports essentiels pour le transit vers l'Afghanistan. Pas évident, pour les Etats-Unis – après étude par Le Monde des télégrammes diplomatiques américains obtenus par WikiLeaks – de défendre ses intérêts nationaux dans cette zone sensible, arrière-cour traditionnelle de la Russie."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables name UK banker as middleman in Kazakh corruption ring
"A British tycoon is identified by US diplomats as the man at the centre of one of America's worst recent corruption scandals, in which large bribes were allegedly handed over in the ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan.
Robert Kissin, a UK banker and commodity trader, is alleged to be the key middleman who handled a $4m (£2.5m) secret payment.
According to leaked US diplomatic dispatches released by WikiLeaks, the cash was moved through a Barclays bank account set up in London on behalf of an offshore shell company registered in the Isle of Man, where true ownerships are easier to conceal.
The money was designed to help Texas oil services company Baker Hughes make corrupt payments to Kazakh state oil chiefs in return for a lucrative $219m contract, according to the company's subsequent admissions."
PEN International, a global writers' organization with special consultative status at UNESCO and the United Nations, has released an official statement on WikiLeaks:
"PEN International champions the essential role played by freedom of expression in healthy societies and the rights of citizens to transparency, information and knowledge.
The Wikileaks issue marks a significant turning point in the evolution of the media and the sometimes conflicting principles of freedom of expression and privacy and security concerns. The culture of increasing secrecy in governments and the rise of new technology will inevitably lead to an increasing number of transparency issues of this sort. PEN International believes it is important to acknowledge that while the leaking of government documents is a crime under U.S laws, the publication of documents by Wikileaks is not a crime. Wikileaks is doing what the media has historically done, the only difference being that the documents have not been edited.
PEN International urges those voicing opinions regarding the Wikileaks debate to adopt a responsible tone, and not to play to the more extreme sections of society. In a world where journalists are regularly physically attacked, imprisoned and killed with impunity, calling for the death of a journalist is irresponsible and deplorable.
PEN International is also concerned by reports that some web sites, fearing repercussions, have stopped carrying Wikileaks, and that individuals, under threat of legal action, have been warned against reading information provided by the organization. PEN International condemns such acts and calls upon corporations and states to avoid breaches of the right to free expression. Governments cannot call for unlimited internet freedom in other parts of the world if they do not respect this freedom themselves.
The Wikileaks matter is a dynamic issue which we shall continue to monitor closely and on which we will refine our position as the situation requires. We welcome this debate and look forward to further discussion with the worldwide PEN membership."
(WL Central note: The statement that "the documents have not been edited" is incorrect. All Cablegate documents published by WikiLeaks on its website have been redacted by the media partners. Please see this report by the Associated Press on the redaction process. Please also see our report on the redaction of the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs.)