2010-12-14 Legal Opinions on WikiLeaks

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.”

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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.

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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.

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2010-12-13 Article 19 Statement - WikiLeaks and Internet companies

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.

2010-12-12 Cablegate: Journalists in defence of WikiLeaks part 12

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."
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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.

2010-12-14 Julian Assange in Court

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:

  • Surety of £240,000, according to BBC News
  • Curfew from 10am-2pm and 10pm-2am
  • Assange must report to the police station at 6pm every day
  • 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.

    2010-12-14 Rally in support of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange takes to Melbourne streets again

    Herald SunMORE than a thousand protesters demanding the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have delayed peak-hour public transport and traffic in the CBD.

    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.

    Extradition Part 2 - Bail

    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.)

    2010-12-13 Julian Assange: Readers' Choice for TIME's Person of the Year 2010

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    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.

    2010-12-13 Visa, Mastercard, PostFinance under investigation

    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."

    2010-12-13 Danish media group Politiken hosts Cablegate documents

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    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.

    2010-12-13 Australian media figures in support of WikiLeaks

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    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.

    2010-12-13 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

    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)."
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    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."
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    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."
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    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."
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    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."
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    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."
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    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.'"
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    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."
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    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."
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    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."
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    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.'"
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    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."
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    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."
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    2010-12-13 PEN International statement on WikiLeaks

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    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.)

    2010-12-13 New WikiLeaks rallies announced: Sydney, Dublin, Atlanta [Update 1]

    New rallies in support of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been announced as follows. Please see our Events and protests section for a list of all current rallies.

    AUSTRALIA

    Sydney: Tuesday, December 14, 5:30pm
    Location: Sydney Town Hall
    Rally contact: Patrick on 0422 028 113
    Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=183019401710397

    IRELAND

    Dublin: Saturday, December 18, 11:00am - 6:00pm
    Location: Central Bank of Ireland, Dame Street, Dublin, Ireland
    Directions: Outside the main gates.
    Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=151717948209518

    UNITED STATES

    Atlanta GA: Wednesday, December 15, 5:00pm - 6:30pm
    Location: in front of the CNN Center
    Directions: Centennial and Marietta St.
    Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=182432395101619

    2010-12-12 Cablegate: Journalists in defence of WikiLeaks part 11

    The Washington Post editorial: Don't charge WikiLeaks

    "Such prosecutions are a bad idea. The government has no business indicting someone who is not a spy and who is not legally bound to keep its secrets. Doing so would criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk responsible media organizations that vet and verify material and take seriously the protection of sources and methods when lives or national security are endangered. The Espionage Act is easily abused, as shown by a criminal case that dragged on for years, before being closed last year, of two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who did nothing more than pass along to colleagues and a reporter information they gleaned from conversations with U.S. officials. The act should be scrapped or tightened, not given new and dangerous life."
    Read more

    Sydney Morning Herald editorial: Julian Assange and the public's right to know

    "Men such as Ellsberg and Assange, who are prepared to face the consequences of revealing information authorities would prefer to hide, help keep our system of government healthy and strong. Unfortunately, those in power tend to take a different view. The 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables are the latest documents published by WikiLeaks. Previous documents on WikiLeaks have exposed how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been fought. These leaks have been embarrassing to the governments involved - particularly the US government.[...]

    2010-12-12 Further WikiLeaks support rallies announced

    New rallies in support of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been announced as follows. Please see our Events and protests section for a list of all current rallies.

    GERMANY

    Berlin: Thursday, December 16th, 7:00pm
    Location: Technical University Berlin, Room EB 407 (Erweiterungsbau),
    Straße des 17. Juni 145, 10623 Berlin
    Event page: http://wsws.org/de/2010/dez2010/meet-d10.shtml

    UNITED KINGDOM

    Manchester: Wednesday, December 15, 3:00pm - 5:00pm
    Location: Piccadilly Gardens, M60 1HX
    Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=119100648155152

    AUSTRALIA

    Adelaide: Tuesday, December 14, 4:30pm
    Location: Parliament House

    [!] EVENT UPDATES

    Please note that the date for the Montreal protest has been changed to December 18. Also, the time for the London protest at the Swedish Embassy on December 13 has been changed from 4pm to 2pm.

    2010-12-12 Sweden case updates: Key new evidence

    In an interview with The Daily Mail, Julian Assange's Swedish lawyer, Björn Hurtig, said that he had seen police documents that prove Mr Assange is innocent, and that the accusers had a "hidden agenda" when they went to the police:

    "From what I have read, it is clear that the women are lying and that they had an agenda when they went to the police, which had nothing to do with a crime having taken place. It was, I believe, more about jealousy and disappointment on their part. I can prove that at least one of them had very big expectations for something to happen with Julian."

    He has asked for the Swedish prosecutor's permission to disclose the evidence: "If I am able to reveal what I know, everyone will realise this is all a charade," he said. "If I could tell the British courts, I suspect it would make extradition a moot point. But at the moment I'm bound by the rules of the Swedish legal system, which say that the information can only be used as evidence in this country. For me to do otherwise would lead to me being disbarred."

    Mr Hurtig added that he was ready to fly to London and present the evidence at the court hearing this Tuesday, if he was given permission. "That said, I’m convinced that as soon as the case is heard in Sweden it will be thrown out," he added.

    You can read the full interview here.

    Also, please do not miss Australian lawyer Peter Kemp's new post on the Swedish law and its implications in this case: Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse, But...., and part one of his analysis of the extradition case: Extradition Part 1.

    Extradition Part 1

    This is the first of a series looking into the extradition process by which Sweden is seeking to have Julian Assange extradited from the UK.

    While I'm not a European lawyer, our Aussie system has a lot in common with the UK, which is logical since our legal heritage came from the UK.

    Here's my take on a preliminary examination of legislation and it's application to the Swedish extradition application.

    Firstly, there is the European Arrest Warrant system (EAW) by which signatory parties have a common warrant form in all the different languages which for the purposes of extracting relevant information (and not going through tortuous online translations from Swedish), I shall cite the UK version, but keep in mind it's the UK form designed for UK prosecutors to extradite from other category 1 territories.

    That form template is here:

    http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/d_to_g/extradition/annex_b/

    Scrolling down we find the following:

    Statement

    2010-12-14 Melbourne Rally: Defend Julian Assange & WikiLeaks

    Date: Tuesday 14 December
    Time: 5:30pm - 7pm
    Location: State Library, cnr Swanston St & Latrobe St, Melbourne

    Message from the organizers:

    There is another protest to defend Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to coincide with Julian Assange's next court hearing of his application to be released from detention in Britain on bail.

    We need to keep the pressure up and voice our outrage at this assault on freedom of speech and democratic rights.

    Details of speakers will follow. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=167587746610490

    For more information, please call Colleen on 0449 678 621 or Sue on 0413 377 978.

    Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse, But....

    IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NO EXCUSE, BUT…

    A fundamental maxim of western criminal justice systems is that a citizen cannot say “I am excused because I didn’t know the law”.

    And that is an interesting concept which has a counter maxim which I’ll get to, in the context of a false analogy which has arisen on the web related to the Swedish prosecution of Julian Assange, which needs addressing:

    http://bigthink.com/ideas/25314

    "There seems to be a double standard in terms who counts as a “good victim.” Suppose your investment adviser isn’t paying out returns as promised. You don’t want to press charges, you just want your money. So, you go to the prosecutor’s office, the prosecutor hears you out, and she says, “You got mixed up in a Ponzi scheme. That’s fraud. Do you want to press charges?”

    Up to this point, you just wanted help to get what’s yours, but now an expert has re-framed your experience in legal terms. Is anyone going to argue that you weren’t really defrauded because you didn’t realize you were a victim until someone explained your rights?"

    That is a horrible analogy to time delays in making a complaint of sexual assault.

    2010-12-11 [Reminder] Personal Democracy Forum: WikiLeaks symposium today

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    As previously announced, the Personal Democracy Forum will be hosting an event titled "A Symposium on WikiLeaks and Internet Freedom" today from 10am - 2pm ET in New York City.

    You can tune in live to the event via http://personaldemocracy.com/pdfleakslive

    The discussion will feature Emily Bell, Esther Dyson, Charles Ferguson, Jeff Jarvis, Arianna Huffington, Gideon Lichfield Rebecca McKinnon, Marc Pesce, Jay Rosen, Carne Ross, Micah L Sifry, Dave Winer and more.

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