On November 13th 2010, Burma's most famous political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi, was released from house arrest. She had been confined to her house for almost 15 years. The event provoked an outpouring of feeling across the world. People rejoiced because she had been set free, and her great spirit of endurance was celebrated. And under this all, a great sigh, at the loss of hours and days and years of a life. She had done nothing wrong. Hers was the plight of a political prisoner.
On Tuesday 7th of December, Julian Paul Assange, after willingly meeting with the British police, was placed under arrest, and remanded in custody for a week, pending an extradition hearing.
On December 14th, almost exactly a month to the day from the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from Burmese house arrest, a court of the United Kingdom will decide whether it is going to play its own role in an expeditious slide by Western democracies, increasingly visible in the last two weeks, into the habits of authoritarian rule.
The allegations from Sweden provide the veneer of legality for a political imprisonment. In truth, Julian Assange is not being accused of "rape," no more than Socrates was accused of "corrupting the youth of Athens." The two women who are alleged victims did not allege rape - their story has been co-opted by the Swedish prosecutor to pursue Assange. At every single stage of this Swedish case there has been absurd and frightening departures from the norms of criminal procedure. A cursory examination of the history of the case reveals abundant and suspicious oversights.
Isolated, these irregularities might be attributed to incompetence. In aggregate, that explanation becomes less credible. They point resolutely towards the abuse of the Swedish criminal justice system for a political end: the suppression of Julian Assange at all costs.
The following statement was released today, signed by Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Grevil, Katharine Gun, David MacMichael, Ray McGovern, Craig Murray, Coleen Rowley and Larry Wilkerson; all are associated with Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
WikiLeaks has teased the genie of transparency out of a very opaque bottle, and powerful forces in America, who thrive on secrecy, are trying desperately to stuff the genie back in. The people listed below this release would be pleased to shed light on these exciting new developments.
How far down the U.S. has slid can be seen, ironically enough, in a recent commentary in Pravda (that's right, Russia's Pravda): "What WikiLeaks has done is make people understand why so many Americans are politically apathetic ... After all, the evils committed by those in power can be suffocating, and the sense of powerlessness that erupts can be paralyzing, especially when ... government evildoers almost always get away with their crimes. ..."
So shame on Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and all those who spew platitudes about integrity, justice and accountability while allowing war criminals and torturers to walk freely upon the earth. ... the American people should be outraged that their government has transformed a nation with a reputation for freedom, justice, tolerance and respect for human rights into a backwater that revels in its criminality, cover-ups, injustices and hypocrisies.
Odd, isn't it, that it takes a Pravda commentator to drive home the point that the Obama administration is on the wrong side of history. Most of our own media are demanding that WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange be hunted down -- with some of the more bloodthirsty politicians calling for his murder. The corporate-and-government dominated media are apprehensive over the challenge that WikiLeaks presents. Perhaps deep down they know, as Dickens put it, "There is nothing so strong ... as the simple truth."
STATEMENT: "We will not be gagged"
Following the detention of Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assangem, Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said:
“Today, Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange was refused bail by a UK court. While we are troubled by this bizarre decision, we know Julian is grateful for the support of both his legal team and prominent figures such as Ken Loach, Jemima Khan and John Pilger.
“However, this will not stifle Wikileaks. The release of the US Embassy Cables – the biggest leak in history – will still continue. This evening, the latest batch of cables were released, and our media partners released their next batch of stories.
“We will not be gagged, either by judicial action or corporate censorship. Today Visa joined Mastercard, Paypal, Amazon, EveryDNS and others in cutting off their links.
“Wikileaks is still online. The full site is duplicated in more than 500 locations. Every day, the cables are loaded more than 50 million times.
“US Senator Joe Lieberman today attacked the New York Times for its decision to publish the cables, just days after calling for companies to boycott Wikileaks.
“Just minutes later, the State Department announced the US will host next year’s UNESCO Press Freedom day. The irony is not lost on us. We hope in future, UNESCO celebrates press freedom somewhere where it exists.”
Visit the Cablegate site at http://www.wikileaks.ch/cablegate
The Australian has posted today an op-ed written by Julian Assange. In it, he talks about the ideas that inspired WikiLeaks, the concept of scientific journalism, the role of the media in a democratic society, the threats that he and WikiLeaks have been receiving and the Australian government's failure to respond to them. Also addressed are the contradictory and false accusations that on the one hand WikiLeaks disclosures are very dangerous but on the other hand that they are "nothing new," some of the most significant revelations in the Cablegate documents, and the reasons why the media's right to report the truth must be defended.
A few excerpts are reproduced below:
"Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.
People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.
If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.
WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain ‘s The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.
Visa became today the fifth financial institution to suspend payments to WikiLeaks, after Moneybookers, PayPal, Mastercard, and PostFinance. A spokesman said: "Visa Europe has taken action to suspend Visa payment acceptance on WikiLeaks' website pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules," reports the Press Association.
The Guardian wrote: "Charles Arthur, the Guardian's technology editor, points out that while MasterCard and Visa have cut WikiLeaks off you can still use those cards to donate to overtly racist organisations such as the Knights Party, which is supported by the Ku Klux Klan.
The Ku Klux Klan website directs users to a site called Christian Concepts. It takes Visa and MasterCard donations for users willing to state that they are 'white and not of racially mixed descent. I am not married to a non-white. I do not date non-whites nor do I have non-white dependents. I believe in the ideals of western Christian civilisation and profess my belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God.'"
Probably no further comment is needed. (You can still donate to WikiLeaks via other methods.)
The London Metropolitan Police has confirmed that Julian Assange was arrested this morning on behalf of the Swedish authorities, reports The Guardian: "Julian Assange, 39, was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant by appointment at a London police station at 9.30am."
The statement notes that he is due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court today.
"As of last night Assange had still not been told of the full allegations against him, his lawyer Jennifer Robinson explained in a Guardian video to be released soon," notes The Guardian.
WL Central would like to ask all of our readers to support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. You can donate to WikiLeaks to help with legal costs, speak up in support, contact your elected representatives and ask them to uphold Julian Assange's rights, join a protest.
If Julian Assange can be silenced, so can every one of us. Stand up, speak up: for him, for yourself, for all of us. Before it's too late.
Update 1: Jennifer Robinson's video statement is now available on the Guardian site.
Update 2: Kristinn Hrafnsson told the Associated Press that Julian Assange's arrest is an attack on media freedom and that it won't prevent the organization from spilling secrets on the web.
The ITV's Keir Simmons said on Twitter that Julian Assange will appear in court at 2pm London time according to a court source.
CLA released an official statement today:
Civil Liberties Australia unreservedly supports Julian Assange's right to operate as a journalist/blogger, and to post leaked material online. By doing so, he commits no legitimate offence we're aware of in the USA or Australia*.
In fact, he is following in a proud US tradition, along the lines of Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with leaker 'Deep Throat' in the Nixon era, and the now-revered leaker Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers at the time of the Vietnam war.
If the person who leaked the material to Assange has broken a US law, it would be the same law that leaker Ellsberg would have broken in the case of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 during Vietnam...and Ellsberg is now a US hero.
If Assange himself has broken a US law, it would be the same law that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke in the Watergate – Deep Throat case which led to the impeachment and departure in disgrace of President Richard Nixon. Both journalists are American heroes, with at least one movie and many books about them and their leaking/reporting ways.
What was the problem in both the Pentagon Papers and Watergate cases? US military and Administration officials were caught lying.
Plus ca change...
As regards Assange and the Australian Government, CLA is alarmed that a government can so readily abandon an Australian citizen as Prime Minister Gillard and Attorney-General McClelland appeared to do at the outset of this matter.
CLA recalls how even extremely conservative Australians eventually rebelled and forced the Howard Liberal Government to do something to help David Hicks, whom that government had abandoned to fabricated American laws and prison-without-reason at the Guantanamo Bay hellhole in Cuba.
Support WikiLeaks rally called
Supporters of the website Wikileaks will mobilise on Friday (10/12/10) to protest against the backlash it has faced for its release of more than 250,000 US government cables.
The protest will hear from independent journalist Antony Loewenstein, award-winning author of My Israel Question. Pirate Party spokesperson Simon Frew will also speak. Other speakers will be announced soon.
The rally date coincides with International Human Rights Day. Rally organisers say the Australian government has failed to uphold the human rights of Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.
“The Australian government should be ashamed for its attacks on Wikileaks, which has been charged with no crime”, spokesperson Simon Butler said.
“Australia should not join the campaign to censor Wikileaks. Wikileaks has released evidence of government lies and duplicity — information that, as citizens, we have a right to know.
“We want the Gillard government to make sure Julian Assange has the same basic rights as every other Australian citizen. Threats have been made against Assange’s life, the Australian government has a duty to protect him, not threaten him.”
Butler said community support for Wikileaks was very high. “We expect a good turnout to the rally. There is a great deal of anger at what’s happening. The bid to silence Wikileaks threatens the rights of everyone.”
The rally will take place at Sydney Town Hall @ 1pm, Friday December 10.
Rally information: [contact details redacted on request]
Media contact: Simon Butler 0421 231 011
A number of prominent Australian and international personalities have drafted an open letter to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in protest of the government's treatment of Julian Assange. We are taking the liberty of reproducing the letter below. Please visit the ABC site to see all the signatories and add your support:
"Dear Prime Minister,
We note with concern the increasingly violent rhetoric directed towards Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.
“We should treat Mr Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him,” writes conservative columnist Jeffrey T Kuhner in the Washington Times.
William Kristol, former chief of staff to vice president Dan Quayle, asks, “Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are?”
“Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?” writes the prominent US pundit Jonah Goldberg.
“The CIA should have already killed Julian Assange,” says John Hawkins on the Right Wing News site.
Sarah Palin, a likely presidential candidate, compares Assange to an Al Qaeda leader; Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator and potential presidential contender, accuses Assange of “terrorism”.
And so on and so forth.
Such calls cannot be dismissed as bluster. Over the last decade, we have seen the normalisation of extrajudicial measures once unthinkable, from ‘extraordinary rendition’ (kidnapping) to ‘enhanced interrogation’ (torture).
In that context, we now have grave concerns for Mr Assange’s wellbeing.
Irrespective of the political controversies surrounding WikiLeaks, Mr Assange remains entitled to conduct his affairs in safety, and to receive procedural fairness in any legal proceedings against him.
As is well known, Mr Assange is an Australian citizen.
Dan Gillmor, Salon: Defend WikiLeaks or lose free speech
"Journalists cover wars by not taking sides. But when the war is on free speech itself, neutrality is no longer an option.
The WikiLeaks releases are a pivotal moment in the future of journalism. They raise any number of ethical and legal issues for journalists, but one is becoming paramount.
As I said last week, and feel obliged to say again today, our government -- and its allies, willing or coerced, in foreign governments and corporations -- are waging a powerful war against freedom of speech.
WikiLeaks may well make us uncomfortable in some of what it does, though in general I believe it's done far more good than harm so far. We need to recognize, however, as Mathew Ingram wrote over the weekend, that "Like It or Not, WikiLeaks is a Media Entity." What our government is trying to do to WikiLeaks now is lawless in stunning ways, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald forcefully argued today.[...]
Media organizations with even half a clue need to recognize what is at stake at this point. It's more than immediate self-interest, namely their own ability to do their jobs. It's about the much more important result if they can't. If journalism can routinely be shut down the way the government wants to do this time, we'll have thrown out free speech in this lawless frenzy."
The Hindu: Editorial: Digital McCarthyism
The Guardian reported that, after the new European Arrest Warrant had been received by SOCA, Julian Assange's lawyers were in talks with the police to arrange a meeting:
"Jennifer Robinson, a solicitor with Finers Stephens Innocent which represents the Australian freedom of information campaigner, told the Guardian: 'We have a received an arrest warrant [related to claims in Sweden]. We are negotiating a meeting with police.'
Another lawyer representing Assange, Mark Stephens, added: 'He has not been charged with anything. We are in the process of making arrangements to meet the police by consent in order to facilitate the taking of that question and answer that is needed ... It's about time we got to the end of the day and we got some truth, justice and rule of law.'"
While there have been reports that Julian Assange would appear before a UK court tomorrow in order to negotiate bail, The Australian quotes Mark Stephens saying: "I haven't arranged any court hearing for tomorrow. I'm still in the midst of my discussions about how this is going to work. Nothing has been agreed definitively. There is discussion of meeting up with police but we haven't got to that point yet. Schedules have to be worked out. Their team has to be ready and we have to be ready. They have ten days to act on this warrant so there is time."
Stephens went on to reiterate that "Their request is to interview Julian Assange - he's not been charged with anything - and we are in the process of making arrangements to meet with the police by consent in order to facilitate the taking of that question and answer."
Today, PostFinance, the banking arm of SwissPost, announced that it closed the account created for the Julian Assange Defence Fund, on the grounds that he provided a Geneva address while not being a Swiss resident. WikiLeaks has clarified that the address provided belonged to his lawyer. PostFinance Alex Josty told AP that "That's his money, he will get his money back. We just close the account and that's it." However, Marc Andrey, another PostFinance spokesman, told The New York Times that "efforts to contact Mr. Assange to arrange for the funds in the account to be transferred had been unsuccessful." The status of the funds appears unclear.
Australia Post has announced on Friday that it would be closing the University of Melbourne Post Office on December 17, and, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, insisted that the closure "has nothing to do with the fact that Box 4080 is the Australian postal address for submissions to the whistleblower website." The post pox has long been used by WikiLeaks for submissions and donations via postal mail. "Coincidence? Or has the ever-closing security net around WikiLeaks been tightened a notch further?", asks the Herald's Daniel Flitton. "The architecture and planning building, where the post office is located, is to be demolished soon. But plans are not yet fixed and insiders expressed 'surprise' Australia Post had decided to close so early."
Tue 7 Dec 15.55 GMT
Julian Assange Defense Fund frozen.
The Swiss Bank Post Finance today issues a press release stating that it had frozen Julian Assange's defense fund and personal assets (31K EUR) after reviewing him as a "high profile" individual.
The technicality used to seize the defense fund was that Mr. Assange, as a homeless refugee attempting to gain residency in Switzerland, had used his lawyers address in Geneva for the bank's correspondence.
Late last week, the internet payment giant PayPal, froze 60Keur of donations to the German charity the Wau Holland Foundation, which were targeted to promote the sharing of knowledge via WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks and Julian have lost 100Keur in assets this week.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Cablegate exposure is how it is throwing into relief the power dynamics between supposedly independent states like Switzerland, Sweden and Australia.
WikiLeaks also has public bank accounts in Iceland (preferred) and Germany.
Please help cover our expenditures while we fight to get our assets back.
(If you missed the previous installments in this series, please click here.)
New Zealand Herald: Editorial: Red alert over WikiLeaks unnecessary
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has suggested the disclosure "puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems". Such language does not bode well for a cogent and calculated response. In fact, the intelligence information released so far contains nothing to substantiate Mrs Clinton's claims.[...]
Obviously, Washington is embarrassed. But, so far, that is all. There has, contrary to the Secretary of State's view, been no irresponsible naming and endangering of individual lives or national security.
Much of the credit for this must go to WikiLeaks' decision, as with military documents released this year, to rely on three major newspapers - the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel - for a reasoned analysis of the cables. This has been no anarchic exercise, based on a naive view that it is right and proper for all information to be in the public domain.[...]
The cork is out of the bottle. If WikiLeaks is silenced, others will pick up its ideas."
Paul Craig Roberts, CounterPunch: What the Wiki-Saga Teaches Us
"The reaction to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange tells us all we need to know about the total corruption of our “modern” world, which in fact is a throwback to the Dark Ages.
Some member of the United States government released to WikiLeaks the documents that are now controversial. The documents are controversial, because they are official US documents and show all too clearly that the US government is a duplicitous entity whose raison d’etre is to control every other government.
(This article originally appeared in Libération)
"So why so much ado about these leaks? For one thing, they say what any savvy observer already knows: that the embassies, at least since the end of World War II, and since heads of state can call each other up or fly over to meet for dinner, have lost their diplomatic function and, but for the occasional ceremonial function, have morphed into espionage centres. Anyone who watches investigative documentaries knows that full well, and it is only out of hypocrisy that we feign ignorance. Still, repeating that in public constitutes a breach of the duty of hypocrisy, and puts American diplomacy in a lousy light.[...]
But let’s turn to the more profound significance of what has occurred. Formerly, back in the days of Orwell, every power could be conceived of as a Big Brother watching over its subjects’ every move. The Orwellian prophecy came completely true once the powers that be could monitor every phone call made by the citizen, every hotel he stayed in, every toll road he took and so on and so forth. The citizen became the total victim of the watchful eye of the state. But when it transpires, as it has now, that even the crypts of state secrets are not beyond the hacker’s grasp, the surveillance ceases to work only one-way and becomes circular. The state has its eye on every citizen, but every citizen, or at least every hacker – the citizens’ self-appointed avenger – can pry into the state’s every secret.[...]
One last observation: In days of yore, the press would try to figure out what was hatching sub rosa inside the embassies. Nowadays, it’s the embassies that are asking the press for the inside story."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists
"Saudi Arabia is the world's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.
"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," she said. Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates."
The Guardian: Brazil denied existence of Islamist militants, WikiLeaks cables show
"Brazil's government covered up the existence of Islamist terrorist suspects in São Paulo and border areas in an apparent bid to protect the country's image, according to secret US documents released by WikiLeaks.
The administration of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva publicly denied that militant Islamists were active in Brazil, even while its law enforcement agencies co-operated closely with the US in monitoring suspects.
"Despite publicly expressed sentiments of high-level officials denying the existence of proven terrorist activity on Brazilian soil, Brazil's intelligence and law enforcement services are rightly concerned that terrorists could exploit Brazilian territory to support and facilitate terrorist attacks, whether domestically or abroad," said a US embassy cable."
"The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops," wrote John Perry Barlow on Twitter.
The censorship vs. free speech battle is escalating. This week has seen Amazon, Tableau, EveryDNS and PayPal dropping WikiLeaks services in quick succession, DDoS attacks that caused the site to go offline multiple times, and mounting political pressure from the US (2), Australian and French governments.
The US government went so far as to warn Switzerland against granting Julian Assange political asylum, reports 20 Minuten. In an open letter in Der Sonntag, the US ambassador to Switzerland, Donald Beyer, wrote that "Switzerland will have to consider very carefully whether to provide shelter to someone who is a fugitive from justice." However Swiss politicians including Cédric Wermuth, president of the Young Socialist Party, Bastien Girod, president of the Greens National Council, and the Swiss Pirate Party have reiterated their support for Assange and willingness to grant him asylum.
In an interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr, lawyer Mark Stephens said:
"In Sweden it's quite bizarre though, because the chief prosecutor, the director of public prosecution in Sweden dropped the entire case against him, saying there was absolutely nothing for him to face, back in September. And then, a few weeks ago, after the intervention of a Swedish politician, a new prosecutor, not in Stockholm, where Julian and these women had been, but in Gothenburg, began a new case, which of course has resulted in these warrants and of course the Interpol red notice being put out across this week.
It does seem to be a political stunt, I mean, I have, and his Swedish lawyer, have been trying to get in touch with the prosecutors since August. Now, usually, it's the prosecutor who does the pursuing, not the pursued. And in this particular case, Julian Assange has tried to vindicate himself, has tried to meet with the prosecutors, to have his good name restored."
He remarked that "A warrant was issued on Thursday by reports. We've asked for it. We've been ignored at this point," adding that "He's only wanted for interview, why not have that interview by consent, rather than this show trial?"
He also talked about the calls for assassination coming from "credible sources around the world," and particularly the United States, including people as high up as Sarah Palin. He said that Julian Assange would certainly fight deportation to Sweden on the grounds that it could lead to him being handed over to the US, where senior politicians have called for him to be executed.
Julian Assange: "Geopolitics will be separated into pre and post 'Cablegate'"
El País features an interview with Julian Assange in the December 5th edition. He talked about the numerous death threats he has been receiving, the attacks against WikiLeaks, the significance of the Cablegate release, and fighting the Swedish case allegations.
On death threats: "We have hundreds of specific death threats from US military militants. That is not unusual, and we have become practiced from past experiences at ignoring such threats from Islamic extremists, African kleptocrats and so on. Recently the situation has changed with these threats now extending out to our lawyers and my children. However it is the specific calls from the elites of US society for our assassination, kidnapping and execution that is more concerning. These range from a US senate bill by John Ensign which seeks to declare us a "transnational threat" to assassination calls from former Bush speechwriters such as Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post and Bill O'Reilly of Fox News."
On the consequences of Cablegate: "It is too early to say yet. The ripples are just starting to flow throughout the world. But I believe geopolitics will be separated into pre and post Cablegate phases."
On the Swedish charges: "We will fight them and expose them, naturally. That there is something "wrong" with this case is now obvious to everyone."
Photo credit: AFP