News Archive - 2011-01 (January 2011)

2011-01-01 Censorship of Tunisian Riots

Coverage of the Tunisian riots is being subject to censorship within the country and what some are calling a media blackout internationally. Excerpt from Global Voices coverage follows:

A game of cat and mouse and an actual “cyberwar” is taking place for two weeks now between Tunisian netizens and “Ammar”, the nickname of the very elaborated censorship system deviced by the Tunisian minister of interior. Blogger Astrubal explains its secret techniques.

Tunisian bloggers have long been using circumventing softwares, getting news on facebook and share censored posts, videos, photos or news updates ( like the beating of a journalist) on the main Tunisian blogging platforms and information gateways hosted overseas or via twitter and key words like #sidibouzid.

Still, “Ammar” also seem to want to be rid off social media network: ...

Tunisian netizens- the most connected community on facebook in North Africa- could not upload any photos or videos on facebook on the afternoon of december 30. ...

Demonstrations of support to the #sidibouzid movement took place in Paris, Munich, and Beyrouth. The “media black out” by the main international media outlets and western diplomacy, in addition to the domestic censorship, was a frequent subject of bitterness amongst many Tunisian activists. ...

No internet in Tunis but the media says that the situation is stable yet the protests continue in all regions #sidibouzid ...

The English press seems mostly exempted from the accusations of blackout directed at others.

2011-01-01 EL PAÍS: Why EL PAÍS chose to publish the leaks

EL PAÍS editor, JAVIER MORENO, explains the decision to publish the State Department cables, which expose on an unprecedented scale the extent to which Western leaders lie to their electorates. MORENO provides some of the best analysis of Cablegate yet.

From Why EL PAÍS chose to publish the leaks

Cynics will argue that none of what we have learned from WikiLeaks differs from the usual way in which high-level international politics is conducted, and that without diplomatic secrets, the world would be even less manageable and more dangerous for everyone. Political classes on both sides of the Atlantic convey a simple message that is tailored to their advantage: trust us, don't try to reveal our secrets; in exchange, we offer you security.

But just how much security do they really offer in exchange for this moral blackmail? Little or none, since we face the sad paradox that this is the same political elite that was incapable of properly supervising the international financial system, whose implosion triggered the biggest crisis since 1929, ruining entire countries and condemning millions of workers to unemployment and poverty. These are the same people responsible for the deteriorating quality of life of their populations, the uncertain future of the euro, the lack of a viable European project and the global governance crisis that has gripped the world in recent years, and which elites in Washington and Brussels are not oblivious to. I doubt that keeping embassy secrets under wraps is any kind of guarantee of better diplomacy or that such an approach offers us better answers to the problems we face.

The incompetence of Western governments, and their inability to deal with the economic crisis, climate change, corruption, or the illegal war in Iraq and other countries has been eloquently exposed in recent years. Now, thanks to WikiLeaks, we also know that our leaders are all too aware of their shameful fallibility, and that it is only thanks to the inertia of the machinery of power that they have been able to fulfill their democratic responsibility and answer to the electorate.

The powerful machinery of state is designed to suppress the flow of truth and to keep secrets secret. We have seen in recent weeks how that machine has been put into action to try to limit the damage caused by the WikiLeaks revelations.

Given the damage they have suffered at the hands of WikiLeaks, it is not hard to see why the United States and other Western governments have been unable to resist the temptation of focusing attention on Julian Assange. He seems an easy enough target, and so they have sought to question his motivation and the way that WikiLeaks works. They have also sought to question why five major news organizations with prestigious international reputations agreed to collaborate with Assange and his organization. These are reasonable questions, and they have all been answered satisfactorily over the last four weeks, despite the pressure put on us by government, and worse still, by many of our colleagues in the media.


2011-01-01 ScienceLeaks, GlobalLeaks, Crowdleak and Wikispooks

Meet ScienceLeaks.

This blog exists so that people may anonymously post links to peer-reviewed scientific papers that been liberated from behind journal-subscription paywalls. Use comments in the 'Requests for papers' threads to post requests for papers, and comments in the 'Papers available' threads to post links to the requested pdfs.

GlobalLeaks "a project to create a worldwide distributed Leak Amplification Network supporting whistleblowers all around the world."

Crowdleak (formerly Operation Leakspin) which is dedicated to summarization, translation and publication of the US state cables.

Wikispooks "building a comprehensive reference source of deep political structures and events, together with the people and organisations connected to them."

Note: Listing a site on WL Central in no way constitutes a recommendation of the site by WL Central or Wikileaks.

2011-01-01 The Internet and the State Cables

For all those who felt that the world would never wade through 251,287 United States embassy cables, once more, they have underestimated the internet. Presenting, the US State Cables:

Cablegate Comix

Cablegate Chronicles


And to warm up:

So why is Wikileaks a good thing again?

Leaky World

Wikileaks: The Game

Real-time Wikileaks Twitter search results set to the Beatles

It's going to be a great year.

2011-01-01 WikiLeaks in the Jordan Media - Arabic Cable Translations

On November 30, 2010, an article appeared on criticizing the coverage of Wikileaks in the Jordan media:

It is arguably the biggest global story of the month, and quite possibly the year. Yet the biggest leak of confidential government cables in history has not been enough to elicit a proportionate reaction from the Jordanian media, even when Jordan plays an actual role in this bit of news. With the US embassy in Amman apparently being one of the top sources in the world when it comes to the leaks, and cables regarding Jordanian officials positions on Iran and the Middle East peace process being largely quoted in the international media, one is forced to wonder why the local media has initiated a self-imposed embargo on the story.

As the second day of the post-”cablegate” news cycle unfolds, local media in Jordan seems to have only stuck out its head enough to disseminate the government’s position in a slew of standardized articles in the major newspapers all reiterating the same denials and reaffirming the same positions.

Since then, has joined radio station and internet news provider AmmanNet, and Ammon News, all translating the US state cables from Wikileaks into Arabic. has eight cables so far, all mentioning Jordan. AmmanNet has three cables issued by the U.S. Embassy in Amman and eleven cables for Jordan and the Arab region.

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

El País: Pacto fallido entre EE UU y Japón para reducir la caza de ballenas (Failed agreement between the United States and Japan to reduce the whale hunting)

"Tokio solicitó mayor dureza contra los ecologistas 'piratas' que acosan a su flota A. Hillary Clinton estuvo de acuerdo, pero Australia impidió el pacto. (Tokyo asked for a rougher attitude towards the "pirat" ecologists that harass their A fleet. Hillary Clinton agreed, but Australia stopped the agreement.)"

Read more (Spanish)

El País: EE UU no dio 'luz verde' a Sadam Husein para que invadiera Kuwait (The United States did not approved Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait)

"El presidente iraquí, desesperado por la ruina del país tras la guerra con Irán. (The Iraqi President, desperate due to the ruin of his country.)"

Read more (Spanish)

2011-01-02 Bank of America hires Booz Allen Hamilton to help prepare for WikiLeaks

In Julian Assange's Nov. 29, 2010 interview with Forbes magazine, he indicated that he had information on a major US bank, to be released early this year. He did not specify the Bank of America, but they have been preparing anyway. The NY Times writes:

Since then, a team of 15 to 20 top Bank of America officials, led by the chief risk officer, Bruce R. Thompson, has been overseeing a broad internal investigation — scouring thousands of documents in the event that they become public, reviewing every case where a computer has gone missing and hunting for any sign that its systems might have been compromised.

In addition to the internal team drawn from departments like finance, technology, legal and communications, the bank has brought in Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, to help manage the review. ...

“This is a significant moment, and Bank of America has to get out in front of it,” said Richard S. Levick, a veteran crisis communications expert. “Corporate America needs to look at what happens here, and how Bank of America handles it.” ...

Last month, the bank bought up Web addresses that could prove embarrassing to the company or its top executives in the event of a large-scale public assault, but a spokesman for the bank said the move was unrelated to any possible leak.

Booz Allen Hamilton, who has been brought in "to help manage the review" is one of the largest and most controversial US intelligence contractors.

With revenues of $3.7 billion in 2005, Booz Allen is one of the nation's biggest defense and intelligence contractors. Under McConnell's watch, Booz Allen has been deeply involved in some of the most controversial counterterrorism programs the Bush administration has run, including the infamous Total Information Awareness data-mining scheme. As a key contractor and advisor to the NSA, Booz Allen is almost certainly participating in the agency's warrantless surveillance of the telephone calls and e-mails of American citizens.

2011-01-02 Deeper Insights into Israel's Military

According to Haaretz, Israel has only 12 minutes to respond to an attack by Iran. This insight into military preparedness comes from a leaked cable released today.

The cable quotes Ashkenazi as saying that Israel is preparing for a large-scale war with Hamas or Hezbollah. Ashkenazi said that he believes Hezbollah to possess 40,000 rockets, while U.S. officials put the number at closer to 50,000 rockets. "Hamas will have the possibility to bombard Tel Aviv, with Israel's highest population concentration," Ashkenazi reportedly said.

2011-01-02 Julian Assange given Press Freedom award by

Romanian online media organization has given the Press Freedom award to Julian Assange for service to freedom of expression and democratic values.

Criticizing Europe for today handing over the EU presidency to Hungary, which just implemented a widely condemned new media law severely curtailing freedom of expression in that country, the organization warns against trying to conceal dangerous and questionable decisions in countries vulnerable to economic and financial crisis. Besides a vote of solidarity with Julian Assange, the award is meant as a call to all fellow free citizens to "Defend freedom of expression!"

2011-01-02 Reining in freedom on the web

SFGate has an article about facebook and the internet translated from Philippe Rivière of Le Monde:

The world's most powerful online architects and its political leaders plan to "civilize" the free Internet, which they still see as a lawless zone. If they succeed in domesticating the Internet, stating your real identity will be the price you have to pay in order to enjoy full access. The word "web" was originally an image used to describe a decentralized system of interconnected information networks. Nobody imagined that a spider would actually take up residence at its center and start spying on the activities of all Internet users.

2011-01-02 Saudi Arabia Regulates internet publishing

The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Culture and Information has adopted regulation for internet publishing, including electronic newspapers, forums, and blogs. outlines the regulations in an article.

Besides the electronic press, forums and blogging, the thirteen forms of internet publishing include websites, electronic ads, mobile phone or other broadcasts, email groups, electronic archives, room dialogues, and "any form of electronic publishing the ministry wishes to add".

There are ten terms required to obtain a license, including good conduct and behaviour.

2011-01-02 Update: Anonymous Attacks on Tunisian Government Sites

Update 1 :

Anonymous hacktivists have been busy today carrying out attacks on the Tunisian government site located here (IP address: The site is still down as of the publication of this update, and has been down for several hours.

According to IRC chats with various Anonymous members who appear to be well-informed regarding current events in Tunisia, the motivations for the attacks are numerous, ranging from Tunisia's general and long-standing affinity to Internet censorship, to recent riots in Sidi Bouzid and surrounding towns being covered by various media sources.

Another relatively recent act of censorship that seems to have served as the basis for the present call to arms is the Tunisian government's decision to censor online access to Wikileaks and other whistleblowing sites (like TuniLeaks) that make reference to Tunisia or contain certain keywords that might suggest reference to Tunisia.

The Anonymous group, while diverse, intractable and virtually indefinable in terms of a steady membership class, is nevertheless united in its ideals pertaining to freedom of expression and a collective distaste for censorship, inspiring this most recent declaration:

The Tunisian government wants to control the present with falsehoods and misinformation in order to impose the future by keeping the truth hidden from its citizens. We will not remain silent while this happens. - Anonymous

There have been rumors of possible imminent attacks on 3 further Tunisian sites but they do not appear to be in progress at this time.

Read more here and here. For those who are unable to access media sources due to censorship in their own area, this screenshot may be accessible as an alternative (c/o @AnonymousIRC via Twitter).

Update 2 :

The following sites have also been taken down: and As of 9:05 Eastern Standard Time, the former site displayed this message. This is the welcome page for Mohamed Ghannouchi, the Tunisian Prime Minister. A cached version of the page can be viewed here.

Go to the third update, containing a more exhaustive list of sites taken down.

See WikiLeaks leaks involving Tunisian censorship, via WikiLeaks Cable Viewer.

2011-01-02 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

New York Times: Diplomats Help Push Sales of Jetliners on the Global Market

"The king of Saudi Arabia wanted the United States to outfit his personal jet with the same high-tech devices as Air Force One. The president of Turkey wanted the Obama administration to let a Turkish astronaut sit in on a NASA space flight. And in Bangladesh, the prime minister pressed the State Department to re-establish landing rights at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York."

Read more

El País: América Latina recela de la expansión de China (Latin America mistrusts the Chinese expansion)

"Los cables de la diplomacia estadounidense revelan desconfianza entre los líderes latinoamericanos tras la gira por la región de los dirigentes comunistas chinos Xi Jinping y Hui Liangyu y el aumento de las inversiones del gigante asiático. (The American diplomatic cables reveal mistrust between the Latin American leaders over the increasing investments of the Asian giant after the tour made by the Chinese communist leaders Xi Jinping and Hui Liangyu all over the region.)"

Read more (Spanish)

Aftenposten: Amerikansk ambassadør advarte mot Khader (U.S. ambassador in Copenhagen warned three years ago against the Danish politician and writer Naser KHAD and stamped him as too extreme in his attacks on Muslims.)

"We no longer see KHAD as a useful contact to promote Muslim integration in Denmark ... He has been so extreme in his attacks on both Muslims and believers in our programs that we are alienating more Muslims by working with KHAD than by ignoring him, writes the American ambassador."

Read more (Norwegian)

2011-01-03 PsySR Open Letter on PFC Bradley Manning's Solitary Confinement

Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) have posted an open letter to Robert Gates calling upon him "to rectify the inhumane, harmful, and counterproductive treatment of PFC Bradley Manning immediately."

As an organization of psychologists and other mental health professionals, PsySR is aware that solitary confinement can have severely deleterious effects on the psychological well-being of those subjected to it. We therefore call for a revision in the conditions of PFC Manning’s incarceration while he awaits trial, based on the exhaustive documentation and research that have determined that solitary confinement is, at the very least, a form of cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment in violation of U.S. law.

2011-01-03 US Dep't of State Internet Freedom Programs

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) are looking for organizations interested in submitting proposals for projects that support what the document terms 'internet freedom'. Specifically, they have US$30 million for

projects that will foster freedom of expression and the free flow of information on the Internet and other connection technologies in East Asia, including China and Burma; the Near East, including Iran; Southeast Asia; the South Caucasus; Eurasia, including Russia; Central Asia; Latin America, including Cuba and Venezuela; and Africa. Programming may support activities in Farsi, Chinese, Russian, Burmese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, French, and other languages spoken in acutely hostile Internet environments.

The State Department's previous attempts at promoting 'internet freedom' met with a lack of success, according to Foreign Policy because "By aligning themselves with Internet companies and organizations, Clinton's digital diplomats have convinced their enemies abroad that Internet freedom is another Trojan horse for American imperialism." The statement from the link above: "DRL and NEA support programs ... in countries and regions of the world that are geo-strategically important to the United States." may have helped convince their enemies. They will have the opportunity to disprove that idea when all of the following technology is turned in all other directions, as history shows it will be. Always assuming any of the new projects work better than, for instance, Haystack.

Counter-censorship Technology: ... to get around firewalls and filters in acutely hostile Internet environments.

Building the Technology Capacity of Digital Activists and Civil Society in Hostile Internet Environments in the Near East: Training on and access to communication platforms to share electronic information securely; training for activists, bloggers, citizen journalists, and civil society organizations to allow them to safely and anonymously participate in online forums; and promotion of peer-to-peer data sharing between mobile devices.

Virtual Open Internet Centers: ... identify and archive censored content and creatively reintroduce content and counter-censorship tools into those online environments. ... Competitive proposals will include centers focused on two or more of the following languages: Farsi, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Russian, Spanish, and Burmese, in addition to languages of other countries with hostile Internet environments.

Emergency funding: Establishment of an emergency fund for netizens under threat because of their web-based activism. ...

Internet Public Policy: Support for projects focused on media law reform in countries where changing legal and regulatory frameworks for the Internet have the potential to create acutely hostile Internet environments. ...

From Foreign Policy:

"The Internet is far too valuable to become an agent of Washington's digital diplomats. The idea that the U.S. government can advance the cause of Internet freedom by loudly affirming its commitment to it -- especially when it hypocritically attempts to shut down projects like WikiLeaks -- is delusional. The best way to promote the goals behind the Internet Freedom Agenda may be not to have an agenda at all.

2011-01-03 Update: The Wrath of Anon in Tunisia

If you thought the The Anonymous Group had hung their suits for the night, think again. The following is a list of additional Tunisian government and financial sites that have been rendered nonoperational; at the time of this publication, each is still down: - Tunisian Stock Exchange - Tunisian Foreign Relations - The Ministry of Industry - Tunisian Government Commerce - The Carthage Palace: Presidency of The Republic of Tunisia - Presidential Elections Site - Tunisian government site listing various ministries

Expressed motivations for these attacks, as well as yesterday's DDoS attack updates, can be found here.

2011-01-03 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

Der Spiegel: USA und Deutschland planen Späher im All (USA and Germany plan to spy on everybody)

"Die USA und Deutschland denken gemeinsam über die Entwicklung von neuen Satelliten nach, die auch für Spionage genutzt werden könnten. Das geht aus Depeschen der US-Botschaft in Berlin hervor. Laut den WikiLeaks-Dokumenten gibt es dabei Widerstand aus Frankreich. (The United States and Germany are considering together the development of new satellites that could also be used for spionage purposes, according with the cables from the American embassy in Berlin. The Wikileaks documents include a strong opposition [to this issue] by France.)"

Read more (German)

The Guardian: WikiLeaks: US targets EU over GM crops

"US embassy cable recommends drawing up list of countries for 'retaliation' over opposition to genetic modification.

The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show."

Read more

Le Monde: Washington et Berlin développent des satellites espions, affirme WikiLeaks (Washington and Berlin develop spy satellites, affirms Wikileaks)

"Les Etats-Unis et l'Allemagne développent conjointement et secrètement, sous couvert d'activités commerciales, de nouveaux satellites espions malgré de vives oppositions françaises, selon des câbles diplomatiques obtenus par WikiLeaks et publiés lundi par le journal norvégien Aftenposten. (The United States and Germany develop together and in secrecy, under the cover of commercial activities, new spy satellites despite a strong French opposition, according to the diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks and published last Monday by the norwegian paper Aftenposten.)"

Read more (French)

Le Monde: WikiLeaks : le département d'Etat américain, VRP de Boeing (The American Department of State, commerce representative for Boeing)

"Des diplomates américains sont intervenus à plusieurs reprises pour favoriser la vente d'avions Boeing face au rival européen Airbus, révèlent des télégrammes diplomatiques obtenus par WikiLeaks et publiés par le New York Times lundi. (The American diplomats are addressed again due to their commercial favor for the planes Boeing instead of their European rival Airbus, has been revealed by the diplomatic telegrams obtained by Wikileaks and published by The New York Times last Monday.)"

Read more (French)

Asian Sentinel: WikiLeaks Finds Another Malaysian Scandal

"Prominent UMNO stalwart allegedly raped his housemaid in 2007 but wasn't investigated

The latest round of WikiLeaks cables to embarrass Malaysia alleges that a "VVIP" later identified as Rais Yatim, the Information, Communications, and Culture Minister, raped his Indonesian maid in 2007, but got away with it because then-Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi apparently didn't want an embarrassing confrontation with the Indonesian government."

Read More Glaspie Memo Leaked: US Dealings With Iraq Ahead of 1990 Invasion of Kuwait Detailed

"One of the crown jewels of secret pre-Gulf War negotiations was unveiled tonight when the notorious Glaspie Memo, or as it is now known 90BAGHDAD423, was released by WikiLeaks

The cable, whose official title was “Saddam’s Message of Friendship to President Bush” details the meeting between US Ambassador April Glaspie and Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990, just a week before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait."

Read More

International Business Times: WIkileaks: US Pressures German Internet Privacy

"The U.S. Government had doubts that the German Free Democratic Party would be a reliable partner in combating terrorism on the Internet, according to cables made public by Wikileaks, and after the elections some officials felt those doubts were vindicated."

Read more

2011-01-04 Bradley Manning's Trial - Update

The army court-martial defense specialist and Bradley Manning's attorney David E. Coombs published his Motion to Dismiss Manning's case for Lack of Speedy Trial in his blog Army Court Martial Defense dot Info.

The Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial is applied to military jurisprudence through two separate and distinct provisions-- Rule for Court-Martial (R.C.M.) 707 and Article 10 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) (10 U.S.C. § 810). While both provisions seek to protect the same constitutional right, and while there is considerable overlap between the two, each provision has separate rules regarding when the protections attach and when they are breached.

Whether stemming from R.C.M. 707 or from Article 10 UCMJ, a motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial must be raised before the court-martial is adjourned, and it is waived by a guilty plea, as provided in R.C.M. 907(b)(2)(A) and 905(e). Once the issue is raised, the burden of persuasion rests with the government. R.C.M. 905(c)(2)(B). Before hearing on the motion, the parties may stipulate as to undisputed facts and dates of relevant pretrial events. The stipulation will provide the court a chronology detailing the processing of the case. R.C.M. 707(c)(2).

Bradley Manning Case Update

An update has just been posted regarding the confinement conditions of Bradley Manning.

13 January 2011

The defense has raised its objection to the documented confinement conditions of PFC Bradley Manning on multiple occasions with the Quantico confinement facility and the Staff Judge Advocate’s (SJA) Office. On 5 January 2011, the defense filed a formal complaint with the commander of the Quantico Brig. On the same day, PFC Manning also filed a formal complaint through the confinement grievance process. Both complaints requested that the confinement facility remove PFC Manning from Prevention of Injury (POI) watch and that his classification level be reduced from "Maximum" to "Medium Detention In." The confinement facility did not respond to either complaint.

Due to the lack of response from the confinement facility, the defense, pursuant to the provisions of Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M.) 305(g), filed a request earlier today with the Garrison Commander to direct the release of PFC Bradley Manning from pretrial confinement. This request is based upon the fact that the confinement conditions currently being endured by PFC Manning are more rigorous than necessary to guarantee his presence at trial, and that the concerns raised by the government at the time of pretrial confinement are no longer applicable. Further steps to address PFC Manning's confinement conditions will be taken, if necessary.

Posted by Army Court-Martial Defense Specialist at 4:00 PM

This update and future updates from the Law Offices of David E. Coombs can be found here.

2011-01-04 Convictions of an Anonymous Legion

ImageUnless the sources of the DDoS attacks being carried out by Anonymous are identified and stopped, there seems to be no end in sight for their deluge of operations. These 'AnonOps' are presented as global outreach operations of sorts, aimed at assisting individuals and organizations subjected to persecution by governments and other institutions aiming to silence free expression and dissent.

The Tunisian people are perceived by Anonymous to be in need of global support and the same can be said of Wikileaks. In particular, the consensus seems to be that governments and other powerful bodies have chosen to pursue Julian Assange and his collaborators for having exposed crimes committed by those same institutions. As Assange has often pointed out himself, it is a disturbing fact about the current situation that upon learning about the horrendous crimes exposed through the leaks, the first impulse has not been to pursue the culprits, but instead to punish individuals who acted on conscience to make those crimes known.

Whether the Anonymous group can succeed in its attempts to raise awareness of these issues and to discourage censorship hangs on the question of whether its members can be stopped. How likely is it that Anonymous members will be identified prosecuted?

While 2 DDoS attack-related arrests have apparently been made in December, deterrence does not seem to be in the cards, given the number of participants actively engaged in these operations. The situation is reminiscent of illegal peer-to-peer file sharing activities worldwide, for instance, in which innumerable users freely share illegitimate content without fear of legal repercussion. Although some arrests are occasionally made, the torrent of active users unleashed by Napster, Limewire and later BitTorrent technology, has become unmanageable for law enforcement.

A direct analogy can be drawn with respect to the now widespread use of LOIC software. As of mid December, one study estimated that the number of LOIC downloads topped 43,000 in just one week. The number has surely escalated dramatically since then. Interestingly, nearly one-third of the LOIC downloads are based in the United States. Other countries with significant numbers include UK, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, France, Spain, Poland, Russia and Australia. (Source)

With overflowing prisons and national defense spending becoming clearly unsustainable in the United States, for instance, it is natural to wonder whether government possesses the resources required to identify and pursue any significant number of hacktivist participants. As participant numbers grow and technology provides new methods of attack, the likelihood of deterrence and prosecution seems to approach negligible probabilities.

While the Anonymous self-imposed title of "Legion" may have seemed like little more than a cliché to the casual reader, the data indicate otherwise. And while popular headlines may suggest that "the world is at cyberwar with America" and other enemies of Wikileaks, the data show that a vast number of Americans are on board with Anonymous ideals. As numbers grow, use of the term "Legion" begins to look less like a metaphor than an accurate description.

2011-01-04 Decentralized Infrastructure for WikiLeaks

Some technical details on the idea of creating a secure, distributed architecture for the Wikileaks site without the need for hosting providers and hardware servers:

The idea is simple - each participant can download and run a small program which runs a web server and serves the files and information from the site. Thus anyone who wishes to participate and to help WikiLeaks may install a small software that would not take up a lot of resources.

Read the article by Delian Delchev and join the discussion on

2011-01-04 James Richardson's Collateral Damage in the Guardian: WikiLeaks & Tsvangirai

Submitted by x7o on Tue, 04/01/2011 - 02:57

Today, James Richardson had an opinion and analysis piece published in The Guardian about the fallout in Zimbabwe from the publication of the 09HARARE1004 cable. Information about Morgan Tzvangirai's meetings with US embassy officials was disclosed in the Harare cable, and this will likely be the subject of a politically motivated high treason trial brought against Tzvangirai by Mugabe, the ultimate penalty for which is a death sentence.

It shouldn't be downplayed how serious it is that Tsvangirai might be facing the death penalty. But there are problems with the conclusions that Richardson draws, and they derive from a worrying looseness with the facts.

It would surely be unreasonable to claim that merely expressing approval of the sanctions in private meetings with US officials warrants a treason trial. But these are the sorts of concerns that journalists must consider when conducting harm minimization, and the unreasonableness of a particular regime is always something that has to be considered a factor when assessing the consequences of publication.

But it is in the apportioning of blame that Richardson reveals a troubling lack of balance in his attitude to Wikileaks.

From WikiLeaks' collateral damage in Zimbabwe | James Richardson |

When WikiLeaks whistleblowers began circulating in April footage of a 2007 Iraq war incursion in which US military personnel unwittingly killed two war correspondents and several civilians, the international community was aghast at the apparent murder. With sobering questions on the material's full context largely falling on deaf ears, the group was free to editorialise the scene as it pleased: "collateral murder".

Here, he places undue weight on "sobering concerns" about the lack of context for the Collateral Murder video, omitting the fact that Wikileaks posted the full video for viewing, as well as the edited version, and that those concerns did not fall on deaf ears, but were debated intensively on the blogosphere for months after the release.

From WikiLeaks' collateral damage in Zimbabwe | James Richardson |

Now, in the wake of the WikiLeaks' release, one of the men targeted by US and EU travel and asset freezes, Mugabe's appointed attorney general, has launched a probe to investigate Tsvangirai's involvement in sustained western sanctions. If found guilty, Tsvangirai will face the death penalty. And so, where Mugabe's strong-arming, torture and assassination attempts have failed to eliminate the leading figure of Zimbabwe's democratic opposition, WikiLeaks may yet succeed. Twenty years of sacrifice and suffering by Tsvangirai all for naught, as WikiLeaks risks "collateral murder" in the name of transparency. Before more political carnage is wrought and more blood spilled - in Africa and elsewhere, with special concern for those US-sympathising Afghans fingered in its last war document dump - WikiLeaks ought to leave international relations to those who understand it - at least to those who understand the value of a life.

Richardson shows in the article an express willingness to countenance already discredited falsehoods alleging Wikileaks' failure to conduct harm minimization in the War Log releases, without making reference to the fact that Wikileaks has, to date, killed nobody during its releases.

These in themselves are suspicious omissions. The most conspicuous flaw in the conclusion Richardson builds towards, however, is the notion that Wikileaks is the sole bearer of responsibility for the fallout from the release of 09HARARE1004.

Wikileaks has been releasing its cables only in collaboration with its media partners, using its media partnerships to outsource its harm minimization procedures. This ensures that cables are only released after they have been greenlighted and redacted by professional and accredited journalists working for one of the media partners.

From: Associated Press: Respected media outlets collaborate with WikiLeaks (Google Cache)

Unlike earlier disclosures by WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of secret government records, the group is releasing only a trickle of documents at a time from a trove of a quarter-million, and only after considering advice from five news organizations with which it chose to share all of the material.

"They are releasing the documents we selected," Le Monde's managing editor, Sylvie Kauffmann, said in an interview at the newspaper's Paris headquarters.
WikiLeaks turned over all of the classified State Department cables it obtained to Le Monde, El Pais in Spain, The Guardian in Britain and Der Spiegel in Germany. The Guardian shared the material with the New York Times, and the five news organizations have been working together to plan the timing of their reports.

They also have been advising WikiLeaks on which documents to release publicly and what redactions to make to those documents, Kauffmann and others involved in the arrangement said. Each publication suggested a way to remove names and details considered too sensitive, and "I suppose WikiLeaks chooses the one it likes," El Pais Editor in Chief Javier Moreno said in a telephone interview from his Madrid office. As stories are published, WikiLeaks uses its website to release the related cables. For example, The Guardian published an article Thursday based on diplomatic cables discussing the assassination of former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko by radiation poisoning, and WikiLeaks quickly posted three cables on the same subject.

Assange also confirmed this methodology in a Q&A session published by the Guardian.

cargun:Mr Assange, Can you explain the censorship of identities as XXXXX's in the revealed cables? Some critical identities are left as is, whereas some are XXXXX'd. Some cables are partially revealed. Who can make such critical decisons, but the US gov't? As far as we know your request for such help was rejected by the State department. Also is there an order in the release of cable or are they randomly selected?
Thank you.

Julian Assange: The cables we have release correspond to stories released by our main stream media partners and ourselves. They have been redacted by the journalists working on the stories, as these people must know the material well in order to write about it. The redactions are then reviewed by at least one other journalist or editor, and we review samples supplied by the other organisations to make sure the process is working.

If this is actually the method by which the cables are published, then it will be important to find which media partner first published 09HARARE1004. A glance at the datestamp for 09HARARE1004 reveals it was published on the 8th of December, 2010. The only publication making reference to 09HARARE1004 as early as this, is a publication of the full cable in The Guardian. The Guardian's title for the cable is "US embassy cables: Tsvangirai tells US Mugabe is increasingly 'old, tired and poorly briefed'". It identifies gossip about Mugabe at the salient content of the cable, and entirely fails to identify the importance of the material on international sanctions against Zimbabwe, which is the material which allegedly incriminates Tsvangirai.

7. (C) On the subject of Mugabe himself, Tsvangirai said that in his recent meetings, though Mugabe seems mentally acute, he appears old and very tired. He comes to many meetings unbriefed and unaware of the content. It appears that he is being managed by hardliners. Tsvangirai said his goal now is to find a way to 'manage' Mugabe himself. One way, perhaps, would be to give him something to give his hardliners. Precisely what that something is, he said, is something he is still wrestling with.

If the above outline of the procedure for publication is accurate, and the dates seem to suggest it is, the cable was published in full on the Guardian website before it was ever published by Wikileaks. It was released as part of a group of cables in support of an article in the Guardian by Xan Rice, which treats the Harare cables merely as a quote mine for salacious opinions voiced in diplomatic confidence about Mugabe. The article is called "WikiLeaks cables reveal differing views of 'crazy', 'charming' Robert Mugabe". This batch of cables, and the Guardian's choice of emphasis in their release, actually helped contribute to the pernicious article of common wisdom that "the cables disclose only gossip about world leaders."

An accompanying cable, released on the same day by the Guardian, in conjunction with another article, appears even more incriminating for Tsvangirai.

From: US embassy cables: Tsvangirai sets out options for removing Mugabe


The possibility that these cables might be used to eliminate Tsvangirai, who was a firm favourite in the running for Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, is very grave. But if a lapse in journalistic due diligence bears part of the responsibility, it will be important not to apportion that responsibility in a partisan fashion. A lot of commentators hostile to Wikileaks are willing to attribute to its media partners every triumph, and to Wikileaks itself every pitfall. But as often happens, with the present case this story does not agree with the apparent facts. It was very probably the Guardian which greenlighted the Harare cables, and it was very probably the Guardian's harm minimization efforts which have failed. But the whole episode is to Richardson an indictment of Wikileaks and of Wikileaks only.

Before more political carnage is wrought and more blood spilled – in Africa and elsewhere, with special concern for those US-sympathising Afghans fingered in its last war document dump – WikiLeaks ought to leave international relations to those who understand it – at least to those who understand the value of a life.

As a final note, it is worrying that the Guardian was willing to publish Richardson's article without reminding the public of the facts above. The publication practices employed during Cablegate ought to be well known to the Guardian editors. It ought to be a matter of record that the Harare cables were published in The Guardian first.

The result of Richardson's article is that Wikileaks will shoulder the entire blame for whatever eventually happens in Zimbabwe, a journalistic failure in the Guardian will likely fail to be adequately identified and addressed, and the Guardian will meanwhile generate more internet traffic off the back of it all.

(2011-01-04, 03:32 GMT) Update 1: An interesting article on explores the issues raised by Richardson, and poses the question "Does Robert Mugabe really need WikiLeaks?"

(2011-01-04, 04:28 GMT) Update 2: A tweet from the official Wikileaks twitter account immediately prior to the tweet linking to this article would appear to confirm the accuracy of the details above about how the cables are cleared for publication.

NB: On this point, there is now some controversy. Please see Update 7 for details.

(2011-01-04, 14:00 GMT) Update 3: I am informed of the following by a contact, all of which checks out:

I can confirm that the 09HARARE1004 cable was released in a torrent (which I still have) time-stamped 8 December 2010 22.31 UTC (while the Guardian's article is time-stamped 8 December 2010 21.30 GMT (aka UTC)... [T]he torrent was named "cablegate-201012082231.7z". If you [search for] it, it still can be found some places.

This confirms that the publication of the 09HARARE1004 cable in the Guardian predates the publication by Wikileaks by 61 minutes.

(2011-01-04, 15:00 GMT) Update 4: More on the publication arrangement between Wikileaks and its media partners.

There appears to be some dispute over the precise terms of the arrangement between Wikileaks and its media partners, and the publication procedure. Much of the misinformation likely derives from this rather skewed and remarkably vindictive piece in the Washington Post, which claims that the agreement Wikileaks offered to media partners specified monetary compensation if the embargo was broken. This has to do with the embargo only, and not with editorial control after the release of the embargo, but it may have given rise to false rumours that Wikileaks maintains editorial control over Cablegate.

Hilde Haugsgjerd, the editor of the Norwegian paper Aftenposten, which has received the full complement of cables from a source other than Wikileaks, appears to have been propagating the idea that Wikileaks maintains veto powers over the publication of cables - a relationship from which she claims her paper is free. This Nina Berglund article recaps on these claims, and sets against them recent statements by Guardian editorial staffers, Nick Davies and David Leigh, to Norwegian publication Journalisten, which roundly contradict Haugsjerd's story.

Davies rubbished the idea that Assange maintains editorial control in his HuffPost article last week in response to Bianca Jagger (which I have written about here.) And Leigh lays out clearly the terms on which the Guardian publishes the cables. (relying on Google translate for the quote.)

"There are apparently many misconceptions about the original" consortium " So these are the terms:

1. We at Guardian have all the telegrams. So do the other newspapers.

2. We have even decided exactly what we wanted to publish, and when it happens. After we had written cases, we sent daily copies of the relevant telegrams to WikiLeaks, edited (deletion of names, etc., editor.) In accordance with our decisions, so they could publish at the same time as us.

3. The other papers in the "consortium" made it the same way. We had, of course, various special interests.

4. We agreed with WikiLeaks to start the process on a specific date - March 29 November. "

Leigh says that the process he describes above, took place in just over two weeks it established cooperation between newspapers and the organization was in effect. During that time also worked for the newspapers to avoid scooping each other.

- Apart from that, we acted as fully independent editorial .(..) We all had at all times full and independent control over their own publishing decisions.

These clarifications of the editorial approach to Cablegate at the Guardian would appear to further undermine James Richardson's argument. A further confirmation is given at the end of this Luke Harding piece.

(2011-01-05, 20:10 GMT) Update 5: A post from zunguzungu deals with the issue above, while also providing some convincing political analysis of the Zimbabwean context in which the above story is unfolding. The thrust of the argument is that James Richardson and others are taking a simplistic perspective on the issue, and invoking Zimbabwean politics only insofar as it serves to make a point about Wikileaks.

(2011-01-12, 20:43 GMT) Update 6: Yesterday, a week late, The Guardian issued a marginal retraction of the Richardson story. I covered the inadequacy of this effort on WL Central, here.

Glenn Greenwald also gave the issue a full treatment, here on Greenwald tweeted at Alan Rusbridger, who
tweeted back that a reply at greater length would be forthcoming, so it is likely that we will see some more on this matter from the Guardian.

(2011-01-12, 21:34 GMT) Update 7: Some more information has emerged on the timestamp of the original release by Wikileaks of the 09HARARE1004 cable. I am writing a new post about this, and will link to it presently from here. (Edit: Here is the link.)

(2011-01-13, 19:42 GMT) Update 8: Further clarifying the publication procedure of the Wikileaks / media partnership relationship is this article on Bloomberg, apparently syndicated from the Associated Press article linked above. I have also been directed to the Guardian's statement, at the outset of Cablegate, about the publication procedure:

WikiLeaks has not revealed the source of its information. It has played no part in the preparation, editing and reporting of the individual papers. Co-operation with WikiLeaks has been restricted to agreeing the dates on which we could cover specific regions. The news organisations have redacted some of the cables in order to protect a number of named sources and so as not to disclose certain details of current special operations. We have shared our redactions with WikiLeaks.

(2011-01-13, 19:52) Update 9: The Guardian this afternoon published an article by Ian Katz which acknowledges the worries I outlined in this post, and proceeds to outline a balanced appraisal of the situation. The piece represents a public notice of the mistake in the Richardson article, and an attempt by The Guardian to address its own unfair practices. It puts to bed the notion that Wikileaks bears the sole responsibility for the publication of 09HARARE1004. There can remain difference of opinion about who bears more blame, whether that blame is justifiably apportioned, but The Guardian's move here ensures that those debates will occur with reference to the facts about how the cables are published. This can only be described as commendable.

2011-01-04 Journalists killed in 2010 covered corruption

Under the light of the killing of members of the WikiLeaks staff and the death threats Julian Assange has received in the last months, taken seriously by the British authorities, the website Committee to Protect Journalists dot Org published today (01-04-2011) an interactive tool that shows the 44 Journalists Killed in 2010 after Confirmed Motive. Below, extracts from a short article in The Wall Street Journal on the topic:

The Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, which defends media workers around the world, tracks and investigates the circumstances surrounding the deaths of journalists, and it created an interactive infographic showing where, how and why most were killed last year. Thirteen of the 44, or 30%, were corruption beat reporters. Other top beats of journalists killed included politics, war, culture and crime. Some of the beats overlapped, however, causing the aggregated percentages to go far over 100%.

2011-01-04 LimeWire fights to the death

The music industry is claiming more than one billion dollars in damages against LimeWire for copyright violations and LimeWire is fighting back by attempting to get subpoenas forcing "third-party licensees to hand over a range of documents, including contracts, royalty payments, accounting books and even internal company communications where executives at leading digital outfits discuss their relationship with the record business.". According to World News Australia:

In further papers to support its motion, LimeWire argues that these documents are relevant, that internal emails from third-party licensees/distributors like Amazon (and presumably, Apple) should be turned over so they can see what really went on during negotiations over licensing songs for sale. The documents, the company says, "could illuminate Plaintiffs' views as to the true value of their works and how Plaintiffs acted toward Amazon and other online digital music providers."

In other words, LimeWire is dragging a whole host of parties into its dispute with the record industry, and looking to shed light on its range of dealings in the past decade. The courts will have to figure out whether this is a reasonable request or too burdensome.

Last week a California court turned down LimeWire's request to subpoena information from MediaDefender, which provides anti-piracy software to the record industry, as being irrelevant to the question of what damages are owed.

2011-01-04 Nonoperational Site Update: Wrath of Anon in Tunisia

As of yesterday, the following 7 Tunisian sites appeared to be down. They remain nonoperational at this time.

The following 2 sites have been down for longer than 24 hours:

In addition to these, the following sites are also down today:

It is likely that the DDoS attacks are being continually carried out on sites that have managed to regain temporary functionality. To verify whether a site is only inaccessible in your own area or more generally, you may enter the site URL here.

Go to: Convictions of an Anonymous Legion

2011-01-04 TruthOut: Ray McGovern | Obama Should Read WikiLeaks Docs

Submitted by x7o on Tue, 04/01/2011 - 02:57

A solid, if colourful, commentary from ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern, which criticizes the Obama administration Afghanistan War strategy on the basis of information divulged in diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks. Highly recommended reading, which goes beyond the Wikileaks surface story, and puts Cablegate to genuine use, placing it in the context of press reports on Afghanistan over the last few years, and developing a credible long term overview of the Afghanistan War. Of all of the commentary we've seen, McGovern's article demonstrates the formidable public interest value of the Wikileaks disclosures when they are applied, rather than talked about.

One particularly interesting point raised is that the cables indicate that the Obama administration is developing Bagram so as to sustain military operations far beyond the projected draw out date of 2014.

From Ray McGovern | Obama Should Read WikiLeaks Docs:

Perhaps President Barack Obama should give himself a waiver on the ban prohibiting U.S. government employees from downloading classified cables released by WikiLeaks, so he can better understand the futility of his Afghan War strategy. For instance, if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hidden from him Ambassador Karl Eikenberry's cables from Kabul, he might wish to search out KABUL 001892 of July 13, 2009, in which Eikenberry reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is "unable to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state building." And, while he's at it, he should dig out the September 2009 cable from the U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan, Anne Patterson, in which she warns: "There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these [Taliban and similar] groups in Pakistan." The same conclusion is contained in the recent National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan. My advice to Obama would be: Don't let anyone gist them for you; read at least the Key Judgments.


2011-01-04 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

Le Monde: WikiLeaks : l'espionnage économique de Paris dérange ses alliés européens (Paris' economic espionage disturbs French allies)

"La France, plus encore que la Chine et la Russie, serait le pays le plus actif en matière d'espionnage industriel chez ses alliés européens, rapporte mardi 4 janvier le journal norvégien Aftenposten sur la foi de télégrammes diplomatiques obtenus par WikiLeaks. (France, even more than China and Russia, is the most active country in the matter of industrial espionage on their European allies, reported tuesday January 4th the Norwegian paper Aftenposten based on the source of diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks.)"

Read more (French)

Herald Sun: France heads industrial espionage: WikiLeaks cables

"France is the country that conducts the most industrial espionage on other European countries, even ahead of China and Russia, said leaked US diplomatic cables quoted today by Norway's Aftenposten."

Read more

Toronto Star: Canada’s soccer team played under match-fixing suspect: WikiLeaks

"Figuring prominently is a 2009 friendly match between Canada and Macedonia, which was refereed by a Bulgarian official under suspicion for match-fixing. At issue was an investigation into the actions of referee Anton Genov, who officiated the Canada-Macedonia match in December of 2009 in the former Yugoslavian republic."

Read more

Aftenposten: Norge godtok rakett-shield all in 2007 skjold alt i 2007

"Her finner du ambassadedokumentene Aftenposten har publisert fra Wikileaks.
Enkelte dokumenter er redigert og anonymisert der journalisten har vurdert dette som nødvendig."

Read more (Norwegian)

2011-01-06 Censorship in 2011

2010 was the worst year in 14 years for imprisonment of journalists according to statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists. 145 journalists were jailed worldwide, with Iran and China (34 apiece), Eritrea, Burma, and Uzbekistan among most oppressive nations. 14 years ago the number was inflated by Turkey's imprisonment of 78 journalists, and in 2010 the number was decreased by Cuba's release of 17 journalists from jail into Spanish exile. If those numbers were ignored, the 1996 number would be 107 to 2010's 162. Almost half of the jailed journalists worked primarily online. By far the majority were jailed for criticizing the state.

If we look at other censorship initiatives happening now, there is little room for optimism in 2011. Without a significant rise in global activism against censorship, it is poised to become worse in 2011.

The first day of 2011 was the day Hungary took over the presidency of the EU and also the first day of Hungary's new media law. This week has seen multiple media personalities disappear off the air as the effects of that new law are being felt.

The first week of 2011 Tunisia has been fighting to be heard over a mass censorship of protests, triggered by the December 17 self immolation of a 26 year old man who reportedly died on January 5. One of the best known Tunisian bloggers was apparently arrested today, adding to weeks of government crackdown on the use of social media in Tunisia and counter attacks on the Tunisian government by Anonymous (hilariously credited for a picture in the Al Jazeera article).

Three more Tibetan writers were sentenced to jail in China.

Saudi Arabia welcomed the new year by announcing their new internet regulation law which regulates electronic press, forums and blogging. The thirteen forms of internet publishing include websites, electronic ads, mobile phone or other broadcasts, email groups, electronic archives, room dialogues, and "any form of electronic publishing the ministry wishes to add". There are ten terms required to obtain a license, including good conduct and behaviour.

Belarus has at least 20 journalists jailed and have used beatings and raids of journalist homes in their intimidation this week.

The Swedish parliament has passed a law that requires new TV and radio services to be approved by the Swedish government before launching.

The Obama administration announced its fifth prosecution for unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

A regional council in France has suspended an employee for setting up a website called Wikileaks 13 looking to publish evidence of malpractice in the region. After uploading audio of a council commission meeting he was suspended "for having failed to respect his duty of loyalty as an employee".

2011-01-06 Bianca Jagger: The Julian Assange 'Trial by Newspaper' - A Response to Nick Davies

In the latest chapter of an exchange that started with a Guardian piece by Nick Davies, was responded to by Bianca Jagger, rebutted by Nick Davies, and defended by our own x7o, Bianca Jagger has again responded in the Huffington Post.

In it Jagger provides many clear and well supported arguments, including a reminder of the constantly and willfully misunderstood difference between private citizens and public organizations in a democracy:

As all good investigative journalists know -- from George Orwell to Paul Foot and John Pilger -- there is a profound difference between exposing the deeds of powerful governments, corporations and the rich and throwing mud at those who released the information. One is investigative journalism; the other is muck-raking aimed at opponents of the powerful.

2011-01-06 Observations on Israel Shamir in Counterpunch: Julian Assange's Deal With the Devil

Israel Shamir, the subject of some controversy in a recent Guardian piece has published an interesting article at Counterpunch, which not only tries to address many of the concerns raised in the Guardian, but takes the battle to the Guardian, and takes up the cause of Wikileaks quite forcefully.

The piece is very interesting, for a number of reasons. It provides new developments in the Shamir-Wikileaks story. Shamir claims to have no official or professional relationship with Wikileaks. He also points out a pre-publication page on Amazon that may or may not indicate that the Guardian is preparing a book on Wikileaks called "The Rise and Fall of Wikileaks." Shamir alleges that the Guardian is engaged in a smear campaign against Assange in anticipation of this "fall."

Certainly, over the last week, we at WL Central have had the opportunity to catch The Guardian falling short of what one might expect of an exemplary journalistic publication. Nick Davies was seen to propagate a straightforward falsehood when he alleged that Julian Assange had been using the Wikileaks Twitter account to smear the alleged victims of his alleged crimes. And on Monday the Guardian published an article by James Richardson which accused Wikileaks of potentially fatal negligence in the clearance for publication of a cable from Harare, when it was in fact the Guardian that cleared this cable.

There is certainly more to this story, but perhaps the most interesting thing about Shamir's piece is the analytic he offers. The article offers some very intriguing, and I would say accurate, analysis of the structural limitations of the media, and its effects on a story of the magnitude of Cablegate.

Shamir invokes this analysis to explain the recent apparent cooling of relations between the Guardian and Wikileaks. But what he says raises some interesting broader questions about whether the world actually has an information infrastructure adequate to something like Cablegate. Shamir's criticism of the mainstream media's approach to Cablegate is colourful, but seductive:

So here we are: in order to get valuable data to the people, Julian Assange had to make a deal with the devil: the mainstream media. It was most natural for him to deal with the liberal flank of the mainstream, for the hardliners would not even touch it. But since the liberal papers are also embedded, they freely distort the cables by attaching misleading headlines and misquoting from the text.

What arises out of Shamir's analysis is that the information biases at work in something like the mainstream media hamstring the accuracy of any dissemination of information through any such infrastructure. The information resource of Cablegate is vast. Newspapers, journalists, employ a selection bias towards "newsworthy" material. Even credible or careful analysis by a journalist is often swept to the side by an editorial headline which primes a reader to employ an interpretive bias while reading.

These US State Department cables are double-edged swords. They are full of rumors, trial balloons, and hopeful thinking. Worse, the newspaper headlines often declare that Wikileaks is the source of the rumor, and leave it to the discerning reader to discover that an embassy staffer was the real source of the story. Readers often do not understand that headlines are little more than come-ons, and reflect a very loose interpretation of the article content. They tend to believe the misleading headline that says, “Wikileaks: Iran prepares nuclear weapons” or, “Wikileaks: all Arabs want the US to destroy Iran”. Wikileaks never said it! It was the Guardian and the NY Times that said it, and loudly. A corrected headline would look like this:

"Wikileaks reveals that US diplomats spread unsubstantiated rumours on the Iran nuclear program in order to ingratiate themselves with the State Department"

But you will not live long enough to see this headline. Such is the price for using mainstream media: they will eventually poison the purest source.

Media organizations are overwhelmed by Cablegate. Because of the sheer quantity of information, Cablegate has become a maelstrom of sensational headlines. Readers rely on the selection efforts of the media. Eventually, the headlines and editorial emphases occlude the actual content of the cables, and their impact is muted, their meaning distorted. We are inclined towards a broad analogy with data encoding technology. An extremely large amount of high resolution data is given, but the only available technique for transmitting it involves lossy compression. The result is a huge loss in potentially valuable data. As the stories disseminate, generation loss occurs.

Shamir in fact describes the breakdown of the traditional media in its attempts to accurately report on a deluge of information many times more vast than it was ever built to accommodate. And this is quite a valuable insight. One of the most fascinating stories of the last month (and in fact, the last year of Wikileaks activity) has been the sheer incompetence of the media, faced with a story like this. Glenn Greenwald documents how the media voraciously passes on unkillable falsehoods. At a certain point, mendacity ceases to be a credible explanation. We revert to the stark inadequacy of existing media structures. Our media has been breaking under the strain of too much news, and of too pure a grade of news.

It raises the question, to what extent could the world ever fully comprehend the magnitude of the information contained in Cablegate, or indeed, any of Wikileaks' previous "megaleaks?" Much of the coverage has explored the ethics of leaking, but we have had little mention of the idea that there is an information threshold, above which any leak will diminish in impact proportional to its magnitude. Is it possible to have a media apparatus that transmits news with the ideal fidelity? Is our best possible media analogous only to some lossy compression technique? And what of citizen journalist efforts, such as CrowdLeaks or CableWiki?

One of Shamir's final comments is timely. Assange has given us reason to believe, in the past, that theory on the transmission of information such as this plays a strong role in the design of Wikileaks. It seems unlikely that the present performance of the mainstream media will escape someone with these interests and concerns.

However, I would rather place my bet on Assange. He is smart, and he has a mind of a first-class chess player. He has many surprises up his sleeve. It is possible that the Guardian will have to rename their book The Rise and Rise of Wikileaks.

2011-01-06 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

Der Spiegel: Amerikaner lästern über Chaos-Konzern Gazprom (Americans gossiped about Gazprom chaotic corporation)

"Gazprom sollte Russland wieder zur Supermacht machen, Manager träumten vom "wertvollsten Unternehmen der Welt". Doch Geheimberichte aus Moskaus US-Botschaft zeichnen ein anderes Bild: Die Amerikaner halten den Megakonzern für chaotisch organisiert - und korrupt. (Gazprom should make of Russia a superpower again, or so dreamed the manager of the "world most valuable business". Though secret reports by the American embassy in Moscow showed a different image: the Americans accused the mega-corporation of being chaotic and corruptly organized.)"

Read More (German)

Der Spiegel: US-Diplomaten wollten EU für Genmais-Blockade bestrafen (American diplomats wanted to punish the EU for commercial blocking of genetically modified sweetcorn)

"Die von WikiLeaks enthüllten Botschaftsdepeschen zeigen, wie die USA die Gentechnik in Europa vorantreiben wollten: Ein US-Botschafter in Europa verlangte von Washington, genmaisblockierende EU-Staaten unter Druck zu setzen - und die "schlimmsten Übeltäter" zu bestrafen. (The secret diplomatic cables exposed by Wikileaks show how the United States wanted to push forward the genetic engineering in Europe. An American diplomat in Europe requested from Washington to establish a commercial blocking against the States of the EU in order to punish the "worst offenders".)"

Read More (German)

Le Monde: WikiLeaks : les Etats-Unis n'avaient pas cru possible un coup d'Etat au Honduras (The United States did not believe a coup in Honduras was possible)

"L'ambassadeur des Etats-Unis au Honduras, Hugo Llorens, ne croyait pas aux "rumeurs" sur un coup d'Etat qui circulaient à Tegucigalpa, dix jours avant le putsch de 2009. C'est ce que révèlent les télégrammes diplomatiques obtenus par WikiLeaks et examinés par Le Monde. (The American ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, did not believe the "rumors" about the coup that were circulating in Tegucigalpa, said days after the 2009 takeover. This has been revealed by the telegrams obtained by Wikileaks and examined by Le Monde.)"

Read More (French)

Aftenposten: Cable Detailing Economic Strategy of Israeli-Gaza Blockade

"Since the Hamas takeover, Israel has designated Gaza as a &hostile entity," and maintained an economic embargo against the territory. Under this designation, decisions on shekels in circulation in Gaza and the territorys economy in general are treated by the GOI as security matters, and therefore are subject to the same high levesl of uncertainty that the GOI uses to keep potential sources of security threat off-balance. Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis."

Read Cable: 08TELAVIV002447
CBS News: Israel Intentionally Kept Gaza on Brink of Economic Collapse

Der Spiegel: The Gazprom Cables - 'Not a Competitive Global Company'

"Gas giant Gazprom was meant to catapult Russia back into its role as a global superpower. Executives dreamed of the "most valuable company in the world." But secret cables from the US Embassy in Moscow provide a different picture: The Americans consider the mega firm to be chaotically organized and corrupt."

Read More

The Irish Times: Dwyer 'second in command' of group, says cable

"A BOLIVIAN government minister told foreign diplomats that Irishman Michael Dwyer was the “second in command” of a group of alleged mercenaries, days after he and two colleagues were shot dead by police on April 16th, 2009."

Read More
Related Cable:09LAPAZ600
Related Cable:09LAPAZ635
El País: EE UU sospecha que el Gobierno de Bolivia simuló una trama terrorista

2011-01-07 Andy Worthington discusses Guantánamo and WikiLeaks

An unreliable* source (Vanity Fair), now widely cited, claims that WikiLeaks possesses "a fourth cache" of U.S. government documents "containing the personal files of all prisoners who [have] been held at Guantánamo."

In this essay and podcast, Andy Worthington, archivist of most that is known about most of the prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo, talks about the "gulf" between U.S. government claims about the prisoners and the truth of who they are and how they were captured.

In running through the prison’s history, I spoke about the huge gulf between the Bush administration’s claim that the prisoners in Guantánamo were “the worst of the worst,” who were all “captured on the battlefield,” and the rather less glorious truth: that the majority of the men — and boys — were sold to the US military by its Afghan or Pakistani allies for bounty payments averaging $5000 a head. I also pointed out how, on capture, none of the men were screened according to the Geneva Conventions’ competent tribunals, held close to the time and place of capture, and used to separate combatants from civiians when those detained are not wearing uniforms, even though, during the first Gulf War, around 1200 of these tribunals were held, and in three-quarters of the cases the men were sent home.

This led to the filling of Guantánamo with “Mickey Mouse prisoners,” as an early commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey explained, and resulted in a prison that has never held more than a few dozen genuine terrorist suspects, with the majority of the prisoners being either completely innocent men, or foot soldiers for the Taliban, recruited to fight the Northern Alliance in an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before 9/11 and had, for the most part, nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism.

Rob and I also spoke about the conflict between the prisoners’ ongoing habeas corpus petitions, and the findings of the Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama to review the Guantánamo cases in 2009, and how the mainstream media in the US has not focused enough on the court’s rulings in the habeas cases. This is in spite of the fact that the judges have regularly revealed that the goverment’s supposed evidence consists of nothing more than unreliable statements — many extracted under duress, or through the use of torture — made by the prisoners themselves, or by their fellow prisoners, and how the ongoing habeas litigation has, shamefully, been sidelined by ther administration — with the evident cooperation of Attorney General Eric Holder — in favor of the Task Force’s findings.

* Sarah Ellison's narrative of this first encounter between Julian Assange and Nick Davies of the Guardian seems to have come entirely from interviews with Nick Davies, even though she has set some statements from Assange in quotation marks.

2011-01-07 EFF: The Best of Cablegate: Instances Where Public Discourse Benefited from the Leaks

EFF has chosen the cables they feel have "been critical to understanding and evaluating controversial events." Their choices:

  • “Dancing Boy” Scandal Alleges Child Prostitution, Possible Drug Use among U.S. Private Contractors
  • Pfizer Allegedly Sought to Blackmail Nigerian Regulator to Stop Lawsuit Against Drug Trials on Children
  • U.S. Failed to Bully Spain Into Adopting Untested Anti-P2P bill
  • U.S. to Uganda: Let Us Know If You Want to Use Our Intelligence for War Crimes
  • U.S. Haggling over Guantánamo Detainees

They include a summary of each with relevant links.

2011-01-07 High Exposure Relocation for 'Potential Cablegate Victims'

The Seattle Times reports that "hundreds of human-rights activists, foreign government officials and businesspeople" were relocated by the U.S. State Department yesterday out of fear that their identities may be compromised in the leaked cables that have yet to appear. They have apparently "moved a handful to safer locations".

The New York Times and The Boston Globe are also reporting this news.

The U.S. State Department might instead have taken a more economical route and assisted in the redaction of names when contacted by Wikileaks prior to the release of The Afghan War Logs, or when asked to do the same for the Cablegate release. Previously, "Administration officials said they were not aware of anyone who has been attacked or imprisoned as a direct result of information in the 2,700 cables that have been made public to date by WikiLeaks." (Source)

It might have been safer for any potential victims to have been relocated silently and outside the glare of the mainstream media.

2011-01-07 Rallies in Support of Assange

ImageRallies for Julian Assange and Wikileaks are again gaining momentum in the lead up to the next scheduled hearing January 11. The details of Sweden's extradition request and the EU arrest warrant should be heard at that time.

London supporters will gather from 11am to 7pm outside the court, apparently now Belmarsh in souitheast London. Along with many events in Spain scheduled for January 8, Free Wikileaks and others are organizing global protests on January 11, 12 and 15. The Pirate Party of Canada is holding rallies on January 15, from 2pm to 5pm. Australia also has rallies scheduled for January 15.

If you have further information on rallies in your area, please contact us
at we will post them on our Events page.

2011-01-07 Twitter Details & Messages of Birgitta Jónsdóttir Subpoenaed

The US Department of Justice has issued a subpoena on Twitter for material related to Birgitta Jónsdóttir, including her personal details and, it can be assumed, all her private direct messages.

Ms Jónsdóttir twittered thus:
department of justice are requesting twitter to provide the info - i got 10 days to stop it via legal process before twitter hands it over.

usa government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. do they realize i am a member of parliament in iceland?

While this is not in any way confirmed, it appears that while the subpoena is from the DOJ it may actually emanate from the Grand Jury so far held in secret (but often mentioned or alluded to in the mainstream media) to examine whether or not Wikileaks people in general and Julian Assange in particular can be charged with an offence.

Subpoenae are a normal part of a criminal justice system and ordinarily there are restrictions against abuse, for both prosecution and defence.

The normal common law test for subponae is the "legitimate forensic purpose" test. Arguable for and against (with respective case law in mind in whatever jurisdiction one happens to be in), the test is for the purpose of eliminating or significantly reducing "fishing expeditions: to reduce waste of a court's time and to eliminate the speculative and wide subpoena that would require truckloads of documents to satisfy it.

Arguably, the subpoena upon Twitter for Ms Jónsdóttir's personal details and presumably personal messages to other Twitter members, is a fishing expedition. Inherent in that subpoena is a belief by the DOJ that some sort of incriminating evidence exists to use against Julian Assange, given that Mr Assange was in Iceland and had conversations with Ms Jónsdóttir on various matters, including the "Collateral Murder" video, a Wikileaks major"leak" at that time.

Unfortunately, the power of a grand jury may well allow such "fishing expeditions". This writer is not a USA attorney so I will leave commentary on that to others, however, if that power allows it, then a question of enforceability arises if as a result of the first subponena, Ms Jónsdóttir is herself subpoenaed. That might appear to be far fetched, but accurate personal details are extraordinarily helpful IF a second subpoena is on the drawing board.

With Ms Jónsdóttir being outside the jurisdiction, which would appear to be an insurmountable problem for the DOJ, (and Europeans would likely close ranks to protest), the USA seems determined on "fishing expeditions".

Even if there is no second subpoena, this first subpoena on Twitter again puts a US corporation in a difficult position. Complying with the subpoena would set a precedent that could do Twitter a lot of commercial damage with its members, for obvious reasons.

We have no idea of the return date of the subpoena, when it is due for court, (or Grand Jury as the case may be) nor the venue. All we can say is that it will after 10 days have expired, the time allowed for Ms Jónsdóttir to lodge objections to Twitter, on grounds of privacy, (and possibly legitimate forensic purpose) etc.

Assuming the grand jury, (wherever and whenever that is), Twitter's corporate attorneys will likely answer the subpoena in secret, (as is the whole process before any possible indictement of Julian Assange) and we probably won't ever know the arguments presented.

This writer is of the opinion that this subpoena represents a dangerous precedent with a threat both to privacy and political communication.

Update 1: If the subpoena has been issued by a US court (process), Ms Jónsdóttir should have the opportunity for an attorney representing her to appear and object. It remains to be seen what Twitter's position is, but it would seem to be in their interests to oppose the subpoena. Ordinarily the material is served on a court's registry office (Australia) and the court decides whether it is to be released to the parties or not. Admissability issues of that material (hearsay, whatever) arise later, such as at trial.

Update 2:
The subpoena is issued on a document labelled the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division.

Originally sealed, then unsealed to allow the persons named apparently to respond, the subpoena names rop_g; ioerror; birgittaj; Julian Assange; Bradley Manning; Rop Gongrijp; Birgitta Jonsdottir for the time period November 1, 2009 to present.

It requests in Part A of the attachment subscriber names, user names etc; mailing addresses, residential addresses, business addresses ect; connection records; length of service; telephone numbers; assigned network addresses; payment arrangements and billing records and other miscellaneous records (part B)such as correspondence and notes related to the accounts of the persons named.

What is interesting are the grounds for the subpoena order:

that the applicant has offered that there are specific and articulable facts showing there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.

In the sealed version, Twitter was given three days to comply.

The unsealing order dated 5th January 2011, while simply unsealing (Twitter was then able to advise the subjects of the subpoena), states all other previous orders are to remain in effect. The material is almost certainly, already in the hands of the Clerk (Registrar)of the Court pursuant to the original orders.

It would be interesting to see any affidavit/document that the applicant submitted to the court supporting the subpoena, ie the "reasonable grounds"which are "relevant" and "material."

The very idea of Julian Assange and Birgitta Jónsdóttir incriminating themselves even with direct messages to colleagues and each other, on Twitter, is beyond belief.

This is a bigger fishing expedition than what was expected on Ms Jónsdóttir's original tweets.

But now there is a court where the subpoena is to be/has been returned and will be argued over. Expect mass filing of motions to dismiss the subpoena.

That argument, we hope not "in camera", may well be be very illuminating. In this writer's opinion, the whole exercise smacks of desperation on the part of the Department of Justice.

2011-01-08 Peter King: Zeal of Hypocrites

A month ago, on the 7th of December, a week after Peter King made his controversial Wikileaks Is Terrorism" comments, I posted this rather lengthy article to my blog, and linked to it from WL Central, documenting both King's hypocrisy and the possible motives he might have for taking such a radical line against Wikileaks in particular. Lately, the same story has been getting more coverage. emptywheel posted a story of much the same content on Sunday 2nd of January, and a post on Salon outlined the background to King's past with the IRA. We thought it would be timely to republish the story in full on WL Central, since it brings certain aspects of the story into focus that still have not received an airing.

Cablegate: Zeal of Hypocrites


Extremist opposition to Wikileaks by American career politicians may not be entirely out of a stated concern for American national security. A credible argument can be made that, instead, some political self-interest might be involved

[R]ead George Bush's favorite philosopher: there's a famous definition in the Gospels of the hypocrite, and the hypocrite is a person who refuses to apply to himself the standards he applies to others. By that standard the entire commentary and discussion of the so-called 'war on terror' is pure hypocrisy, and virtually without exception... It's ugly, but it's standard.
-Noam Chomsky

The last week has seen hysterical rhetoric out of U.S. media personalities and politicians, as a reaction to Cablegate. The worst excesses have seen calls for extra judicial killings of Wikileaks spokesman Julian Assange ostensibly for reasons of national security, reasons that don't carry much weight given high profile convictions that Cablegate poses no clear threat.

Congressmen Joseph Lieberman (Senate) and Peter King (House of Representatives) did not go this far, but both have suggested rather radical action on the part of the U.S. government. Both politicians have held positions as Chairmen for their respective houses of Congress' Homeland Security Committees. Lieberman's hostility to a free internet is long running and well documented, and it will not have come as a surprise that he takes a hard line.

King's comments however, during a radio interview on WCBS 880 on Sunday 28th Nov, 2010, were more surprising. In the past 10 years, King has become one of the more outspoken anti-terror activists in the US legislature, but the connection between this and a whistleblower organization might have been difficult to see. King eagerly made the connection for us.

I am calling on the Attorney General, and supporting his efforts to fully prosecute Wikileaks' founder, for violating the Espionage Act, and I'm also calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare Wikileaks a foreign terrorist organization. By doing that we will be able to seize their funds, and go after anyone who provides them with any help or contributions or assistance whatsoever. To me they are a clear and present enemy of the United States of America.

King was not content merely equating the publication of already-leaked US government documents with violent politically motivated atrocities responsible for the deaths of countless innocents. He went on to claim that Wikileaks was engaged in activity that was more serious than, presumably, the activity of Al Qaeda and other violent terrorist organizations.

This is worse even then a physical attack on Americans. It's worse than a military attack, because what it has done is, it gives our enemies, and even some of our allies, insight into what our thinking is, what our plans are, meetings we've held. It undermines our strategy. Now, this is absolutely devastating to American diplomacy, and by doing that it puts American lives at risk all over the world.

It may seem alarming that a United States legislator might have so little respect for the victims of genuine terrorist atrocities that he would abuse the word in this manner. Peter King, however, is quite used to demonstrating with his actions a cavalier attitude towards the loss of innocent life at the hands of terrorists. He has historically made a habit of it. Last week, he did this by misapplying the word "terrorism." In the past, however, he did it by refusing to apply the word with any conviction.

Peter King's history of open support for the Provisional IRA (PIRA) is well documented. In a period from the late 1970s until the turn of the century, Peter King famously offered moral support through the means of the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID) to Republican terrorist operations in the North of Ireland, and was a vocal advocate of the campaign of political violence pursued by the PIRA during its 25 year terror campaign. NORAID itself is documented as having been a front group for directing financial support to the IRA. A New York Sun article by Ed Moloney covers the details:

It was in the late 1970s that Mr. King first got involved in the Irish issue, but it struck some as an unlikely choice. His family hailed from Limerick and Galway, but apart from a great-uncle who was in the IRA in the 1920s, the Sunnyside native had no roots in revolutionary politics...

In 1980, Mr. D'Amato, then the senator-elect, fulfilled a campaign pledge and went to Belfast on a fact-finding trip, taking Messrs. King and Dillon with him. It was the start of Mr. King's long entanglement with the IRA, and he took to it with the zeal of a convert.

He forged links with leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Ireland, and in America he hooked up with Irish Northern Aid, known as Noraid, a New York based group that the American, British, and Irish governments often accused of funneling guns and money to the IRA. At a time when the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten and its fierce bombing campaign in Britain and Ireland persuaded most American politicians to shun IRA-support groups, Mr. King displayed no such inhibitions. He spoke regularly at Noraid protests and became close to the group's publicity director, the Bronx lawyer Martin Galvin, a figure reviled by the British.

Mr. King's support for the IRA was unequivocal. In 1982, for instance, he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County: "We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry."

By the mid-1980s, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic were openly hostile to Mr. King. On one occasion, a judge threw him out of a Belfast courtroom during the murder trial of IRA men because, in the judge's view, "he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA." When he attended other trials, the police singled him out for thorough body searches...

If Peter King helped give the IRA a respectable face in America, in Ireland and Britain the IRA's reputation as a ruthless and skilled terrorist group was solidifying. The product of street disorders in 1969 in the wake of a civil rights campaign on behalf of Northern Ireland's minority Catholic population, the IRA's violent effort to end British rule against the wishes of the majority Protestant population lasted 25 years. Despite killings by state forces and Protestant terrorist groups who favored retaining Northern Ireland's British links, the IRA emerged as the single most violent group. More than 3,600 civilians, soldiers, and policemen died in the conflict between 1969 and 1994 - the per-capita equivalent death toll in America would be nearly 700,000 - and the IRA was responsible for around half of those killings.

Ireland was no stranger to episodic political violence, but the strife in Northern Ireland was the most intense and prolonged of all. At one stage, Britain had 30,000 troops stationed there to quell the violence. Meanwhile, the IRA took its campaign to Britain - where London's financial district was twice devastated by bombs - and to mainland Europe, where British NATO bases were frequently targeted. The IRA nearly killed Prime Minister Thatcher and her cabinet with a bomb in 1984, and it assassinated prominent British politicians and members of the royal family. The IRA's primary contribution to international terrorist know-how, the car and truck bombs now commonplace in Iraq, were devised and first deployed by the IRA in Belfast in 1972. The organization also developed homemade explosives, like the fertilizer-based device that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma in 1995.

Much of the conventional weaponry and a great deal of the money necessary for IRA violence came from Irish-American sympathizers. Mr. King's advocacy of the IRA's cause encouraged that flow and earned him the deep-seated hostility of the British and Irish governments. In America, official animosity was no less intense. The GOP in Nassau tried, unsuccessfully, to muzzle him, and he complained that the FBI was opening mail sent from Ireland, including letters from Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. In 1984, the Secret Service listed him as a threat when President Reagan made a trip to Nassau County to watch a Special Olympics event.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, then, that Peter King is accustomed to the idea of there being human collateral in the realization of political goals. The callous disregard for the loss of human life that enables someone to actively support a terrorist organization as it murders innocents and destablizes national governments is equally well applied when trivializing the deaths of thousands of Americans by applying the word 'terrorist,' in all seriousness, to a foreign publisher of US government secrets.

King's contacts in Ireland eventually yielded him some political capital, in that he came to fill an advisory role to President Bill Clinton during the 1990s, when peace negotiations in Northern Ireland involved the U.S. presidency. To be fair, this affords King some role in those negotiations, albeit a small one. The role of Irish American support networks in the Irish peace process is however somewhat equivocal. Close associates of King through Noraid, such as Peter Galvin, opposed the Good Friday agreement, and urged the continuance of political violence, leading to criticism from Irish Prime Minister Bertie Aherne, who was a broker in the agreement.

Mr Ahern also rounded on US-backed newspaper adverts taken out last week which called for the settlement talks to be scrapped. The adverts could influence republican voters in both parts of Ireland as fringe groups on both sides of the divide seek to scupper the peace blueprint.

The Taoiseach said the groups which had paid for the adverts may as well have signed them off with: "Therefore we want to see a continuation of violence." He said: "If you want to spend large amounts of money and let on that there's easy solutions, then you're a hypocrite. If you want to say you don't want to see any change, then you should say really what that view stands for, that you believe in the continuation of violence. If people want the continuation of violence they can go for it towards the end of May in the referendum. I don't."

He added: "The people here will be voting for the agreement. This is the new way forward. This is going to be a serious vote about a serious issue. I would have confidence that the Irish people will come out and vote for democratic politics."

Opposition to the agreement, at home and among groups like NORAID (but not by Peter King in particular) was responsible for the fracture of the IRA into a number of dissident republican groups, one of which, the Real IRA (RIRA) carried out the Omagh Bombing. This presaged a gradual cooling of American diasporic relations with sectarian activists in Ireland.

King distanced himself from the pro-IRA Irish American community after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. In 2003 King voiced support for republican compliance with the Good Friday Agreement and expressed disapproval of dissident republican activity in the face of the settlement. Pursuing the cause of U.S. security against Islamic terrorism with distinctive zeal, he found himself the Chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee in 2005 and 2006. As late as 2008 however, King was willing to vouch for the reliability in bail of arrested PIRA member Pól Brennan.

King's rather extreme comments on Sunday 28 November have a precursor. In 2006, during his tenure with the Homeland Security Committee, King made a similar appeal to the U.S. Attorney General to have the New York Times prosecuted under the Espionage Act, the law under which both he and Joseph Lieberman are now advocating prosecution of Wikileaks. NYT journalists, editors and publisher were to be brought on espionage charges before the courts for running a story exposing a secret Bush administration programme, carried out by the NSA and the CIA, to monitor international transactions with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) in Belgium. The programme was ostensibly to monitor the possible use of SWIFT to fund international terrorist operations.

Wayne Madsen argues that there is a possible reason why this particular journalistic effort was close to Peter King's heart.

WMR has learned that the monitoring of SWIFT by the National Security Agency (NSA), via links with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN), a Treasury Department financial monitoring activity located in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, and CIA financial monitoring systems connected to SWIFT mainframe gateways in La Hulpe, Belgium; Culpeper, Virginia; and Zouterwoude, Netherlands, is nothing new and predates 9-11 by almost two decades. The Bush administration has expanded the program to monitor transactions involving smaller monetary transfers.

In fact, during the 1980s and 90s, the NSA and CIA collected intelligence on financial transactions between the United States and Ireland and Northern Ireland involving Irish terrorist groups supported by Peter King. The group Irish Northern Aid (NORAID) funneled money to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that was used to buy weapons used to blow up civilians and members of the British government, military, and police.

King was an active supporter of NORAID, a tax-exempt front for the IRA. Martin Galvin, King's friend and former NORAID chief, rejected the Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement and supports the agenda of the terrorist "Real IRA."

During the 1980s, NSA's British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), intercepted a number of King's phone calls from the United States and from within Britain, in which his political and financial support for the IRA was discussed. GCHQ relied on Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to monitor King's domestic phone calls in New York and Long Island since U.S. law, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), prohibited the surveillance of King by NSA assets.

King's financial and political support for the IRA coincided with the terrorist group's alliances with Palestinian, Lebanese, Latin American, Basque, Corsican, German, and Breton terrorist groups and the Libyan government of Muammar el Qaddafi. NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) intercepts demonstrate that Libya and Lebanese terrorist groups targeted Americans in terrorist attacks during the 1980s, while King supported their Irish compatriots with money and weapons.

If Madsen's analysis is correct, it does suggest reasons for the extremity of King's accusations against the NYT. Given that he was at this point Chairman of Homeland Security in the House, King can't have been particularly worried about seeing criminal charges for his past involvement with a support group which bankrolled foreign terrorism. But the New York Times story threatened to bring to public attention his vocal solidarity with an organization within the terrorist networks implicated in atrocities like the 1983 U.S. embassy bombing in Beirut, in which over 60 Americans were killed. In a post-911 United States highly sensitive to the threat of terrorist organizations to United States citizens, this is the sort of public association a career politician might be best advised to avoid. If we are to trust Madsen, it would be understandable if this were the cause for King's immoderate stance with the NYT.

Which brings us to Cablegate. King's bellicose rhetoric last week is ostensibly motivated by concern for U.S. security and the wellbeing of U.S. citizens and foreign interests. It would be laudable if any of these were seriously threatened by Cablegate. But carrying on the logic from the Madsen article, there remains the possibility that Peter King has more personal interest in the Cablegate affair than at first appears. To my knowledge, this possibility has not been explored by any of the world media.

On August 24th, when the press was beginning to speculate about the possibility of American retaliation over the Afghanistan War Logs, Wikileaks tweeted that it would soon release a CIA paper. Unaffiliated Wikileaks coverage site, WL Central's Twitter archive reveals that the next day, that paper was released, and that it was verified by the CIA. A further tweet hinted that the CIA's confirmation might have been strategic. The next day, August 26, Wikileaks' site went down, and although much of the material was still accessible through a mirror site (now inactive), the original MediaWiki site was unavailable throughout September, October and even during November's Iraq War Logs release. In fact, the original site has never been restored, but was instead replaced last week with a new one. Since the CIA document was therefore available for a mere day on the Wikileaks site, it has not received a large amount of attention. It is, however, available via torrent, for anyone who wishes to access it.

The document is a special memorandum from the CIA Red Cell, a division of the Directorate of Intelligence charged with "taking a pronounced "out-of-the-box" approach that will provoke thought and offer an alternative viewpoint on the full range of analytic issues." It is entitled ”What If Foreigners See the United States as an ’Exporter of Terrorism’”, classified SECRET//NOFORN, and dated 5 February 2010. The purpose of the document is summarized:

What If Foreigners See the United States as an “Exporter of Terrorism”? (S//NF)
Much attention has been paid recently to the increasing occurrence of American-grown Islamic terrorists conducting attacks against US targets, primarily in the homeland. Less attention has been paid to homegrown terrorism, not exclusively Muslim terrorists, exported overseas to target non-US persons. This report examines the implications of what it would mean for the US to be seen increasingly as an incubator and “exporter of terrorism.

The document contains an unequivocal confirmation that there is a history of exportation of terrorism from the United States.

Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.

It enumerates several varieties of terrorism exportation, concluding with the Irish American example, and confirming a direct relation between NORAID and PIRA arms purchases.

Some Irish-Americans have long provided financial and material support for violent efforts to compel the United Kingdom to relinquish control of Northern Ireland. In the 1880s, Irish-American members of Clan na Gael dynamited Britain’s Scotland Yard, Parliament, and the Tower of London, and detonated bombs at several stations in the London underground.In the twentieth century, Irish-Americans provided most of the financial support sent to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The US-based Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID), founded in the late 1960s, provided the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) with money that was frequently used for arms purchases. Only after repeated high-level British requests and then London’s support for our bombing of Libya in the 1980s did the US Government crack down on Irish-American support for the IRA. (S//NF)

Finally, the document lists the consequences in terms of diplomatic and foreign relations capital of the perception that the United States is an exporter of terrorism, particularly .

Impact on Foreign Relations if US Seen as “Exporter of Terrorism” (S//NF)
If the US were seen as an exporter of terrorism, foreign partners may be less willing to cooperate with the United States on extrajudicial activities, including detention, transfer, and interrogation of suspects in third party countries. As a recent victim of high-profile terrorism originating from abroad, the US Government has had significant leverage to press foreign regimes to acquiesce to requests for extraditing terrorist suspects from their soil. However, if the US were seen as an “exporter of terrorism,” foreign governments could request a reciprocal arrangement that would impact US sovereignty.

  • Foreign regimes could request information on US citizens they deem to be terrorists or terrorist supporters, or even request the rendition of US citizens. US failure to cooperate could result in those governments refusing to allow the US to extract terrorist suspects from their soil, straining alliances and bilateral relations.
  • In extreme cases, US refusal to cooperate with foreign government requests for extradition might lead some governments to consider secretly extracting US citizens suspected of foreign terrorism from US soil. Foreign intelligence operations on US soil to neutralize or even assassinate individuals in the US deemed to be a threat are not without precedent. Before the US entered World War II, British intelligence carried out information operations against prominent US citizens deemed to be isolationists or sympathetic to the Nazis. Some historians who have examined relevant archives even suspect that British intelligence officers assassinated Nazi agents on US soil. (S//NF)

Foreign perception of the US as an “exporter of terrorism” also raises difficult legal issues for the US, its foreign allies, and international institutions. To date, the US is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and instead, has pursued Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs) with other countries to ensure immunity for US nationals from ICC prosecution. The US has threatened to terminate economic aid and withdraw military assistance with countries that do not accede to BIAs.

  • If foreign regimes believe the US position on rendition is too one-sided, favoring the US, but not them, they could obstruct US efforts to detain terrorism suspects. For example, in 2005 Italy issued criminal arrest warrants for US agents involved in the abduction of an Egyptian cleric and his rendition to Egypt. The proliferation of such cases would not only challenge US bilateral relations with other countries but also damage global counterterrorism efforts.
  • If foreign leaders see the US refusing to provide intelligence on American terrorism suspects or to allow witnesses to testify in their courts, they might respond by denying the same to the US. In 2005 9/11 suspect Abdelghani Mzoudi was acquitted by a German court because the US refused to allow Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a suspected ringleader of the 9/11 plot who was in US custody, to testify. More such instances could impede actions to lock up terrorists, whether in the US or abroad, or result in the release of suspects. (S//NF)

The document therefore reveals the rather casual role extra judicial rendition plays in relations with the U.S. government, and straightforwardly refers to the aggressive use of U.S. economic and miltary influence to force other countries to accede to bilateral immunity agreements, thereby avoiding the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. These are the most significant details about the document.

But the indication that domestic involvement with foreign terrorism is a potential diplomatic liability should not be overlooked. No indication is given of any actual diplomatic fallout caused by terrorist exportation. It does not say that these issues have already been broached in diplomatic contexts, or that the activity of American citizens like Rep. Peter King has been a matter of some forward-looking concern for U.S. diplomats. But the document confirms that this sort of issue would constitute a significant problem for the U.S. war on terrorism. Even without any information which would directly cast him in a bad light, coverage of this document would, by mere association, run the risk of provoking very negative press for someone in Peter King's position.

Wikileaks has at the time of press released less than 1,000 of the 250,000 diplomatic cables. Approximately 249,000 remain to come to light. A single Red Cell document released by Wikileaks in August encourages scrutiny of a topic that brings Peter King's history of support for and links with the Provisional Irish Republican Army into painful focus. For someone with a history like King's, and a career that relies on public image and electoral support, the airing of the content of a quarter of a million diplomatic communications, during a period of enhanced U.S. pursuit of international terrorism, might indeed present a worrying prospect. No mention of King would even need to be made - and this article is not suggesting that any such information will appear. The risk is that broader discussion of domestic support for foreign terrorism would lead to greater media attention for his history with the IRA support network. King claims that truth is terrorism: worse, even, than the killing of innocent American citizens. One has to wonder who here is the terrified party, and why.

This is worse even then a physical attack on Americans. It's worse than a military attack, because what it has done is, it gives our enemies, and even some of our allies, insight into what our thinking is, what our plans are, meetings we've held. It undermines our strategy. Now, this is absolutely devastating to American diplomacy, and by doing that it puts American lives at risk all over the world.


UPDATE: Some of the cables are already revealing details of cash flows funding terrorism. There is yet nothing on the material speculated about in the Red Cell document. But as outlined earlier, that is not even the worry. The worry is that there would be American media attention for the topic of domestic support for foreign terrorism.

2011-01-08 WikiLeaks Rallies Today

ImageToday is the start of a series of rallies being held world wide in support of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Assange's next scheduled hearing is on January 11. The details of Sweden's extradition request and the EU arrest warrant should be heard at that time. Currently, Twitter and possibly other social media have been subpoenaed for information about Wikileaks volunteers and supporters. Information on upcoming rallies is posted here, campaigns and petitions here.

Rallies today:


Rosario: Saturday, January 8, 6pm
Location: Mitre y Cordoba, Ciudad de ROSARIO
Event page:


Miraflores: Saturday, January 8, 6pm
Location: Avenida José Larco1301, Miraflores
Event page:


Demonstration and Operation Freedom Assange

Valencia: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza del Ayuntamiento /Town Hall Square - Valencia, Spain
Event page:

Madrid: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza del Callao (frente al Corte Inglés) / Callao Square (Opposite El Corte Inglés – Underground Stations: Callao/sol/Gran Vía) - Madrid, Spain
Event page:

Málaga: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza de la Constitución - Málaga, Spain
Event page:

Sevilla: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza Nueva / New Square - Sevilla, Spain
Event page:

A Coruña: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza Galicia, delante del TSXG / Galicia Square at the TSXG - A Coruña, Spain
Event page:

Bilbao: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza Moyua / Moyua Square - Bilbao, Spain
Event page:

Zaragoza: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza de España, Diputación Provincial / Spain´s Square, Plaza of Spain, Provincial - Zaragoza, Spain
Event page:

Badajoz: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza de San Francisco / Spain´s Square - Badajoz, Spain
Event page:

Albacete: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza del parque de Abelardo Sánchez, Punta Abelardo Sánchez Park - Albacete, Spain
Event page:

Mallorca: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza de España / Spain´s square - Mallorca, Spain
Event page:

Murcia: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 5pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza Glorieta frente Ayuntamiento/ Roundabout Square opposite the Town Hall, Murcia, Spain
Event page:

Barcelona: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 6pm - 7pm
Location: Plaza Sant Jaume, Barcelona, Spain
Event page:

Pamplona: Saturday, January 8, 2011, 6pm - 7pm
Location: Kiosko Plaza Castilla /Castilla Square kiosk, Pamplona, Spain
Event page:

Alicante: Pendiente / to be confirmed.

Zamora: pendiente / to be confirmed

2011-01-09 Government Requests for Twitter Users' Personal Information Raise Serious Constitutional Concerns, Says ACLU

ACLU released a statement condemning the court order from the US government requiring Twitter to provide information about subscribers who are associated with Wikileaks. From Aden Fine, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy and Technology Project:

"These government requests for detailed information about individuals' Internet communications raise serious First Amendment concerns and will have a chilling effect on people's willingness to engage in lawful communications over the Internet. There are serious doubts as to whether the government's interest in obtaining all of this private and constitutionally protected information is sufficiently compelling to outweigh the constitutional interests at stake.

"Twitter should be commended for moving to unseal the court order, but we are very troubled that the order was filed under seal in the first place. Except in truly extraordinary circumstances, Internet users should receive notice, and an opportunity to go to court to defend their constitutional rights, before their rights are compromised."

One of the people named in the order is US citizen Jacob Appelbaum who is flying back to the US today. According to his twitter, ACLU members will be meeting him at the airport.

2011-01-09 Birgitta Jónsdóttir Speaking at Canadian journalism seminar January 11

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, who has recently been the subject of a US Department of Justice subpoena to Twitter for her online information, will be flying to Canada tomorrow. Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson has called the subpoena “very odd and grave.” Jónsdóttir herself says she wants clear answers on whether she can stay on as a member of the Foreign relations committee of Althingi and whether it is safe for her to travel abroad. “I don’t know if I can go to the US without risking that my phone or computer will be confiscated.”

She will be speaking about IMMI (Icelandic Modern Media Initiative) at the first Samara/Massey journalism seminar, of the year. IMMI brought to Iceland the most extensive free speech, freedom of the press and transparency laws of any country in the world, and Jónsdóttir was its chief parliamentary sponsor.

In a new study of the effectiveness of freedom of information laws in five parliamentary democracies, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada, Canada placed last.

2011-01-09 Coverage of January 8 Rallies for WikiLeaks

Video from BTV "With only three days until Julian Assange appears again in court, supporters of WikiLeaks have returned to the streets simultaneously in different Spanish cities. In Barcelona, thirty people have been concentrated in the Sant Jaume square to demand the release of the leader WikiLeaks." More video from Televisio De Catalunya

Avui: "We believe that governments and organizations are trying to silence this site, which is a symbol for freedom of expression and dissemination of what our rulers," proclaimed representative of Free WikiLeaks in Barcelona, David Molina. "Any attempt to end the activity of WikiLeaks is harmful to democracy and all citizens," he added.

More coverage from Agencia Catalana de Notícies,, Agencia Catalana de Notícies again, and

2011-01-09 DOJ subpoena applicable to anyone who viewed WikiLeaks tweets?

Previous Update

The issued subpoena ordered Twitter to provide information regarding any account either registered to or in any way associated with the following individuals or user names:

  • rop_g
  • ioerror
  • birgittaj
  • Julian Assange
  • Bradley Manning
  • Rop Gonggrijp
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir
  • WikiLeaks

The information to be supplied, however, pertains to both the sources and destinations of these accounts. This is to include

records of user activity for any connections made to or from the Account, including the date, time, length, and method of connections, data transfer volume, user name, and source and destination Internet Protocol address(es).

[N]on-content information associated with the contents of any communication or file stored by or for the account(s), such as the source and destination email addresses and IP addresses. (Source; original pdf subpoena)

Note that the requirement of turning over user names and "destination IP addresses" would range over any electronic device (like a phone or computer) receiving communications from the above named individuals. (To see the information revealed by your IP address, click here. )

As other sources have pointed out, the order implicates more than just the above named users and user accounts. The language seems to implicate every Twitter follower of each of the named accounts, which explains Wikileaks' announcement that "all 637,000 @wikileaks followers are a target".

In examining the language of the subpoena, this seems like a real possibility. "Communication" would seem to encompass the receipt of any tweet on Twitter, given that data transmission is involved. Hence the language is inclusive of any individual following the primary targets who receives Wikileaks tweets on their Twitter timeline, for instance. The same is true of any Twitter user receiving tweets from ioerror, rop_g, and so on.

Yet if we grant that all followers will be implicated by virtue of having received tweet data from the 7 primary targets, it seems the present language is also inclusive of anyone who has clicked on a link directing them to a tweet from any of the above accounts. If you did view one of these tweets at some point on or after November 1, 2009 (the cut-off date in stipulated in the subpoena) but were not signed in to Twitter, then even if you are not a registered user, it seems you too qualify as a "connection made to or from" the accounts. There is no stipulation that 'connections' must be from users who are following Wikileaks et al., or even that they must be from users who are signed in. If Twitter logs visitors, and it certainly does, then visitor data will be in these logs irrespective of whether they have a Twitter account.

How significant is this and what information about you will be visible if you fall under the range of affected parties? To get an idea, note that Twitter stores (or "may" store) the following data, according to the following excerpt from its privacy policy.

  • Location Information, including "exact coordinates"
  • Log Data created by your use of the Services. Log Data may include information such as your IP address, browser type, the referring domain, pages visited, and search terms. Other actions, such as interactions with advertisements, may also be included in Log Data.
  • Links: Twitter may keep track of how you interact with links in Tweets across our Services including third party clients.

While the data logged by Twitter are managed by Twitter, and while keeping your information private is a significant priority for any such large company hoping to stay in business, presumably, the same cannot be said of U.S. government entities. Even if there is no concern over how your data will be used by those entities, the likelihood that your information will remain private decreases significantly with every additional party possessing access to it.

Yet concern over the manner in which your information can be used may be legitimate. In tracking paths to and from Twitter, logs exist that document internet browsing tendencies, sites visited, timestamps, host name, search terms used and more. All this information can be easily accessed from any user not browsing through an anonymity tool like Tor and you don't need to be logged in to a site in order to disclose your data.

Although anyone can get this information from you when you visit their site, the concern here is over the manner in which the data will be used. Insofar as your information exists in the database that brought us the Terror Watch List, and insofar as you have been suspected of being the ally of a "high tech terrorist", trivial data have the potential of becoming legally relevant. And if the language of the court order is inclusive of all individuals ever having accessed a tweet from any of the targeted accounts (since 2009), then the number of people affected by the subpoena is much larger than the previous estimate of 600,000 Wikileaks followers.

Update: Open letter to Twitter and DOJ from Anonymous (

2011-01-09 National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

The US National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, released in a 39 page draft on June 25, 2010, is back. CBS News reports White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said on Friday that the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace will be released by Obama in the next few months.

Details about the "trusted identity" project are unusually scarce. Last year's announcement referenced a possible forthcoming smart card or digital certificate that would prove that online users are who they say they are. These digital IDs would be offered to consumers by online vendors for financial transactions.

Schmidt stressed today that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. "I don't have to get a credential if I don't want to," he said. There's no chance that "a centralized database will emerge," and "we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this," he said.

EFF raised some concerns about the original draft. Since most criticisms of the draft focused on the overall concept, not the detail, it is not likely that they have been addressed.

2011-01-09 U.S. DOJ access to information on Twitter followers

The official Wikileaks Twitter account has just tweeted the following official statement:

WARNING all 637,000 @wikileaks followers are a target of US gov subpoena against Twitter, under section 2. B

Tweeters expressed outrage at the prospect of relinquishing their right to deny the U.S. government access to their IP addresses, banking details, connection records, email addresses or other private information. Talk of a class action law suit is already under way and a #ClassActionWL thread has been initiated. In most cases, anonymous Tweets are not considered official sources, but it seems an exception must be made in the present case, given that users are the very parties involved.

Users unfollowing the Wikileaks Twitter account at this time will not be exempt from the order, which seems to apply to users having received Wikileaks tweets in the past:

Too late to unfollow; trick used is to demand the lists, dates and IPs of all who received our twitter messages. (Source)

Update: Iceland blasts US demands for lawmaker's details in Wikileaks probe.

As reported today by the German news organization Deutsche Welle, the Icelandic government is taking the DOJ's request for personal information of one of their Parliament members seriously.

Icelandic politicians have blasted US demands for Twitter to hand over a member of parliament's account details. Birgitta Jonsdottir faces investigation as one of several people connected to the website WikiLeaks.

Icelandic Foreign Minister Oessur Skarphedinsson said it was not acceptable that US authorities had demanded the information.

Complete coverage from DW

Update: 2011-01-09: Another consequence of the DOJ subpoena

2011-01-09 WikiLeaks in the media: Cablegate coverage

Politiken.DK: [Danish] government involved in double-dealing regarding CIA flights: documents reveal new aspects of the political manoeuvrings around illegal prisoner transports

The government, with former foreign minister Per Stig Møller in the lead, was involved in double-dealing in 2008, when it was forced to investigate whether the CIA had used Danish airspace for secret prisoner transports. While the government had to promise parliament to ask critical questions of the U.S. regarding the flights, both Per Stig Møller and the former prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen let their top officials say the opposite to the American ambassador in London: the government wants silence, not answers, hoping the story will die down.

Read more (Danish)

2011-01-10 Croatian site joins other whistleblowers

A Croatian group announces its own whistleblowing site, making it time for another updated list.

While looking at this list, please consider the radically varying quality of the sites and the security. The Croatian one is actually found at and calls itself Wikileaks Croatia, without being in any way associated with Wikileaks. ScienceLeaks is asking people to upload material as comments to a blog.

Please don't take the appearance of a site on this list as any kind of a recommendation from WL Central. Buyer beware.

BalkanLeaks "The Balkans are not keeping secrets anymore." According to an article in Sofia Echo this site is set up by a Paris-based Bulgarian, Atanas Chobanov and seeks confidential documents related to political, criminal or financial topics.

BrusselsLeaks This site is seeking corporation, consultancy, institution or NGO information in "Brussels – the European Capital and the place where decisions are made which impact the globe".

Many of these decisions happen behind closed doors and we have been working to make it more transparent for many years. Journalists, activists and communications professionals have now come together to form Brussels Leaks, a place to centralise intelligence gathered on the inner-workings of the EU.

Crowdleak (formerly Operation Leakspin) which is dedicated to summarization, translation and publication of the US state cables.

GlobalLeaks "a project to create a worldwide distributed Leak Amplification Network supporting whistleblowers all around the world."

IndoLeaks Jakarta Globe says this appeared on December 10.

israeliLeaks "Requesting information on WikiLeaks Organization, Events, and Content, WikiLeaks/Israel Connection, Palestine/Israel history and current events, Hacktivism. Nothing is off limits. Linkage between otherwise divergent topics / regions / organizations / movements is highly valued. Please send any and all information that would be of interest to the public, including journalism, education, and research."

OpenLeaks Started by ex-Wikileaks member Daniel Domscheit-Berg, this site is still "Coming Soon!" It will serve only as a conduit between whistleblowers and their media destinations without being involved in the publishing.

Pinoy Leaks is dedicated to exposing corruption in the Philippine national and local governments.

PinoyLeaks is similar to Wikileaks, except the mission is specifically focused on exposing corruption only, the scope is limited to the Philippines, and PinoyLeaks works with bloggers instead of traditional media. It is up to the bloggers whether to spread news about a leak.
This site is launching on Rizal Day, 2010. Our goal is to start publishing leaks by February 1, 2011. Please help us reach this goal by spreading the word about PinoyLeaks.

Pirate Leaks Started by the Czech Pirate Party to offer a service similar to Wikileaks but focusing on the Czech Republic and with transparent accounting, they want to tackle the network of political corruption and organized crime in the Czech Republic and are looking for classified materials related to crime or finance.

Rospil An extension of popular Russian blogger Alexei Navalny's website, he is actively seeking documentation of corruption in the higher echelons of the national government and economy.


This blog exists so that people may anonymously post links to peer-reviewed scientific papers that been liberated from behind journal-subscription paywalls. Use comments in the 'Requests for papers' threads to post requests for papers, and comments in the 'Papers available' threads to post links to the requested pdfs.

Swiss Whistleblower was founded in March 2008 by Rudolf Elmer, a former Julius Baer bank employee, currently being charged for his whistleblowing activities. This site concentrates on the Swiss banking industry.

thaicables is trying to combat the Thai government's censorship of over 300,000 websites.

We do not believe in censorship and think that everyone in Thailand should get access to any information available on the internet, which also includes Wikileaks. This is the reason for this blog.

Thaileaks makes all Thai-related content from the Wikileaks website available for direct download and provides magnet links to Wikileaks material.

TuniLeaks This seems, at least at present, to serve as a forum to post and discuss Wikileaks state cable releases as they relate to Tunisia, along with the Twitter hashtag #tunileaks . According to Global Voices Advocacy they have been under heavy censorship threats and actions since they were started.

Wikileaks Hravtska (Wikileaks Croatia) Despite its name, this site is in no way associated with Wikileaks. Currently, it's content is Wikileaks related news and a tab titled "About Wikileaks". Founded by a former Croatian presidential candidate, its objectivity has been questioned.

Wikispooks "building a comprehensive reference source of deep political structures and events, together with the people and organisations connected to them."

Updated from the December 19th post.

2011-01-10 Exclusive interview with Julian Assange (Paris Match), Mark K. Jensen (trans.)

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University

[Translated from Paris Match]

Link to Original Interview in French

In a long interview published in the Paris Match of Dec. 23-29, 2010, translated below in its entirety, Julian Assange said that whether he's extradited to the United States "depends on the American people: if they decide that it's not tolerable to extradite a journalist for espionage, then there will be no extradition."[1]

By David Le Bailly

** The founder of WikiLeaks, who set the world of diplomacy on fire, accorded us an interview in Suffolk as he awaited his hearing **

Paris Match
December 23-29, 2010
Pages 86-89

[PHOTO CAPTION: On December 17, in front of Ellingham Hall. The property, which includes a park of nearly 1,500 acres, belongs to Vaughan Smith, a former British army officer turned war reporter. Assange has to respect a 10:00 p.m. curfew, and report to the local police station every day between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.]

[PHOTO CAPTION (print edition only): Julian Assange, on December 20, in the living room at Ellingham Hall. On his left ankle is the electronic bracelet the court forced him to wear. He has access to the Internet, and therefore continues to work -- even as he complains about the poor quality connection in this region.]

After a year with no fixed address, he is preparing to spend Christmas in an English country house. Freed on bail on December 16 by a London court, Julian Assange is staying with a friend at Ellingham Hall, in Suffolk. On February 7, an English court will decide whether he should be extradited to Sweden, where the Australian is suspected of having committed acts of sexual assault. But the cofounder of WikiLeaks is above all afraid of being extradited to the United States, a risk that he considers "more and more likely." The site, created in 2006, has multiplied its revelations: "Collateral Murder," the video of an American army air raid in Baghdad, the "War Logs," secret documents about the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and the release, still ongoing, of diplomatic cables sent by American embassies. Despite the threats, at 39 years of age he has no intention of stopping. He confided to our reporter: "We have only accomplished one fiftieth of our mission."

* * *

The founder of WikiLeaks met us in a large dark living room. A firm handshake. He's tall and looks quite youthful, with a rather stiff, almost comical gait. Wearing a tweed jacket and a little V-necked sweater, he could pass for the owner of the place were it not for his rocker hair style. "'Rolling Stone Italy' has conferred on me the title of rock star of the year!" he told us with a laugh, his eyes as crinkly as a child's. It made him laugh, the way a schoolboy laughs at a joke. But when he answered questions, he turned into a thinker: his face serious, slow delivery, his words weighed and carefully chosen.

PARIS MATCH: Those nine days in prison, in solitary confinement, have they affected your determination?

JULIAN ASSANGE: During my detention I asked myself this question: "Is what I'm doing worth it?" I asked myself: "Have I made mistakes? Do my ideals match the real world?" But in the end, my sense of conviction has been strengthened by it. I came to an understanding that I'm on the right path. Even if the obstacles on this path are "uncomfortable."

PARIS MATCH: Are there nevertheless moments when you've said to yourself: "I should be more careful. I've gone too far"?

JULIAN ASSANGE: No. The day when I heard the judge announce that I would be imprisoned, I wanted to explode. But then I thought that the world would understand that there was something wrong about the way my case was handled. And that that would cause a lot of people to come to the support of our organization, to protect my work. And that is exactly what happened.

PARIS MATCH: You're under house arrest until February 7, the day of the hearing to decide about your extradition. You're wearing an electronic ankle bracelet. Do you feel you're a free man?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Wearing a bracelet is much more bothersome than being in prison. It's like... like a chastity belt. Something that undermines your physical integrity. Even if I'm beginning to think of it as a sort of... electronic jewelery!

PARIS MATCH: In France, you often hear this question: Who is Julian Assange? What cause is he fighting for?

JULIAN ASSANGE: I find that question disturbing. As if our enemies wanted to cast doubt on what we're doing. We've said what our cause is, what we're fighting for: to help build a more civilized world.

PARIS MATCH: After the publication of the first diplomatic cables, a French minister said this: "A transparent society is a totalitarian society."

JULIAN ASSANGE: Was it a former Communist? The Germans have a different way of answering, a way that's more nuanced, because of their past. Their answer is: "A transparent government, not transparent individuals." Transparency should be proportional to the power that one has. The more power one has, the greater the dangers generated by that power, and the more need for transparency. Conversely, the weaker one is, the more danger there is in being transparent.

PARIS MATCH: You call for transparency but we know very little about WikiLeaks.

JULIAN ASSANGE: And what do we know about News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch's company? About the assets he's hidden in offshore tax havens? What do we know about most multinationals? Absolutely nothing. I have no excuses to make. It's true, the names and addresses of our collaborators are not available. Two of our collaborators were assassinated in Kenya, we've also been attacked in Luxembourg. We are faced with security risks. Our finances were public, and because of that they've been frozen, seized. In order to protect ourselves, to protect our sources, we need secrecy. We're not promoting transparency. Only the transparency of the most powerful organizations.

PARIS MATCH: WikiLeaks has become a powerful organization.

JULIAN ASSANGE: That's absurd! We are an extremely small entity that's being deprived of financial resources. And we are attacked by the United States and its allies. We're not a superpower!

PARIS MATCH: Yet you have acquired real power. Everybody today has heard about WikiLeaks.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Everybody has heard about WikiLeaks. But the reality is that I was in solitary confinement, and today I'm under house arrest. Whereas people in the American adminstration who have organized murders by the thousands, war crimes, torture, are free. We are certainly a courageous organization, but not a powerful one.

PARIS MATCH: When you created WikiLeaks four years ago, could you have imagined that it would become this important?

JULIAN ASSANGE: I thought that we would have this much importance two years ago. We've only accomplished one fifthieth of our mission.

PARIS MATCH: Are you surprised by the violence of the American reactions, the calls to assassinate you that some senators have issued?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Their reactions are interesting. . . . And then we see that Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and Bank of America are instruments of control at the beck and call of the White House. The American system is getting more and more like the Soviet system. Without the slightest legal process, large companies exercise economic censorship on orders from Washington.

PARIS MATCH: What are the financial consequences for WikiLeaks of the freezing of your bank accounts?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Seventy thousand euros that should have been transferred by PayPal have been blocked. Our foundation's lawyers are in the process of getting a grip on the situation. We'll get that money, it's a matter of time. We are constantly creating new systems of financing. But the ban put in place by Visa and MasterCard are hard to bear. After the first publications of the American cables, we lost nearly 80,000 euros a day because of them, and 15,000 euros a day because of PayPal.

PARIS MATCH: Do you feel like you're being treated like a terrorist?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Sarah Palin said that I should be pursued like Osama bin Laden. I say to her: "Good, that'll take you at least ten years!"

PARIS MATCH: What do you fear the most today, for you and for WikiLeaks?

JULIAN ASSANGE: There is a plan underway to accuse me in the United States of espionage. Joe Biden -- the American vice president -- confirmed that. It's something I take very seriously. I am protected, to a certain degree, by my celebrity. But I have become the principal target, because organizations that powerful cannot lose face. For that, they have to bring down the central figure, that is, me.

PARIS MATCH: It's also you who have chosen to put yourself forward.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes, because it's a shield for our team.

PARIS MATCH: Isn't there a inebriate thirst to defy the leaders of the world, though?

JULIAN ASSANGE: A euphoria? No. We're just doing our work, as we promised we would.

PARIS MATCH: According to the New York Times, you said you were "the heart and soul of WikiLeaks."

JULIAN ASSANGE: That's true. But WikiLeaks is in the process of growing and a part of my heart and soul has been transmitted to other people, who are strong enough to continue the mission without me. As founder, I can make the first moves in a more determined, more risky way. But our members are intelligent and courageous. On every continent, except Antarctica!

PARIS MATCH: Any French people?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes, quite a few. We have several servers based in France. Groups like La Quadrature du Net. The French are supporting us a lot.

PARIS MATCH: Yet there aren't many leaks about France.

JULIAN ASSANGE: That's because we are entirely mobilized by the American embassy leaks. We have no choice: publish or perish. We have to get all this material out, it's almost lethal.

PARIS MATCH: Let's talk about your legal problems in Sweden. Two women accuse you of having sexually assaulted them. You deny it. Have you tried since then to get in contact with them?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Unfortunately, I don't have the right to call them. Because of the proceedings. We have the statement of a friend of one of the two women that states that they were incited by the police to make a complaint against me. And a report according to which one of the two no longer wants to be associated with all that. As for the other one, she was pushed, I'd even say driven to make a complaint.

PARIS MATCH: Wouldn't it have been simpler to turn yourself into the Swedish police?

JULIAN ASSANGE: But I answered the police's questions!

PARIS MATCH: You didn't go to a second interrogation.

JULIAN ASSANGE: I had things to do in London. You have to understand the situation: there were incredible abuses of procedure in this proceeding. The matter was dropped at first, but, because of political pressures, the affair was got going again. Confidential information was communicated illegally to the media, my name thrown in as fodder. Why? Who did that? Again last week, on the eve of the hearing that was to decide my conditional release, parts of the file, which are supposed to be secret, were given to the press. Why, if not to influence the judge? And that's just one example among all abuses that this affair has seen.

PARIS MATCH: Do you think there's a frame-up?

JULIAN ASSANGE: I don't understand and that bothers me. I have not been charged. So why is all this money being spent on this affair, why these press releases, these carefully orchestrated leaks? Why is all this happening now? Something is being cooked up beneath all this.

PARIS MATCH: If the United States initiates an extradition proceeding against you, do you intend to turn yourself in or to flee?

JULIAN ASSANGE: More and more Americans are angry about the calls to assassinate me, to extradite me. Everything depends on the American people: if they decide that it's not tolerable to extradite a journalist for espionage, then there will be no extradition.

PARIS MATCH: And if that happens?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Extradition for espionage is a classical political tactic. It's up to the guest country to decide whether or not to pursue the extradition request. This is a purely political affair.

PARIS MATCH: Who is Julian Assange when he's not behind a computer?

JULIAN ASSANGE: It's not for me to answer that question! Let's say that one of my bedside books is Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Cancer Ward. I like to walk with dogs, fish, hunt, ride horses. You know, I grew up like Tom Sawyer, on farms. I love to live outdoors, in the country, like here. So I like where I find myself today a lot, even if I can't really walk around much.

2011-01-10 Fine Gael Claims To Have Been Hacked By Anonymous [Updates: 9]

In an odd turn of events, the Irish opposition party, Fine Gael, claims on its website that the site was hacked on the evening of January 9th by "a group calling itself the Anonymous group."

The statement goes on to link Anonymous to Wikileaks, in a move possibly betraying a lack of understanding of Anonymous. The statement follows.

From: Fine Gael Website





Why Fine Gael might have been targeted by Anonymous is as yet a mystery. Anonymous has reportedly been engaging in recent actions against government and private websites, but these actions are reported as having been DDOS attacks, which do not appropriately fall under the banner of "hacking." There is also little apparent reason in recent news why Anonymous would target an Irish political party.

A screengrab of the website is attached to this post.

Updates will be posted as they come.

Update 1
RTÉ News has posted a statement by Fine Gael elaborating on the above information.

Last night, we regret to report, the Fine Gael website was professionally hacked. The group that participated in this attack called themselves the Anonymous Group. This group has been associated with the Wikileaks investigation and attacks on companies such as Visa, MasterCard and Amazon. The attack occurred from 8.00pm to 12.00am last night.
We were alerted this morning that the Anonymous Group was able to secure the database of the information submitted by members of the public during the previous week. This affected just under 2,000 subscribers.
As a result we have now taken the necessary action to report this "hacking crime" to the proper authorities including the Data Protection Commissioner and the Gardaí. This morning the Party has emailed each of the individuals who submitted their comments and contact data (emails, IP addresses and mobile phone numbers) to the site to notify them of this event. We deeply regret any inconvenience that has been caused to them.

Update 2:
The hack appears to have comprised the replacement of the FG website with an Anonymous banner, making vague allegations of FG negligence, and the appropriation of the private log in details of visitors and contributors to the FG website.

Update 3:
Kevin Doyle, with the Evening Herald, tweeted the following:

Have confirmed - Data Protection Com has been informed that the details of nearly 4,000 people has been stolen by hackers on FG website.

Update 4:
A FG officeholder is reported as having claimed, in an RTÉ broadcast, that the FG site has been attacked by Wikileaks. The podcast is yet to be released, which might allow us to confirm this statement. At the very least, it seems indicative of a lack of understanding of the relationship between Anonymous and Wikileaks.

Update 5:
There are few data available to suggest that the present story is anything to do with Wikileaks, and much to recommend that conclusions are being jumped to. RTÉ reports that "hackers attacked [the website] removing the content and posting a message referring to censorship by the political party." But there is little to suggest in the actual message that censorship is the issue considered important by the Anonymous hackers. The message suggests that Fine Gael "takes no measures to protect you."

A more cautious explanation might see the attack as motivated to expose lax information security on the upgraded FG site, which, according to RTÉ, recently added web community features. The delivery of the requisitioned information by an unnamed party to an Evening Herald journalist would appear to substantiate this hypothesis. There is a good chance that the recent newsworthiness of the actions of Anonymous, and its misleading association with Wikileaks by the press, has led FG and the Irish broadcaster to infer more than is appropriate from the facts of the case.

Update 6:
On the other hand, a Belfast Telegraph article reports that the message was slightly different from that in the screengrab we sourced from the RTÉ website.

"Nothing is safe, you put your faith in this political party and they take no measures to protect you. They offer you free speech yet they censor your voice. Wake Up."

Still nothing there to suggest any reason to implicate Wikileaks support as a motive in this activity.

Update 7:
The Press Association is reporting that the FBI are now involved, because the site was hosted by a US company.

Update 8:
The FG official formerly mentioned (in Update 4) is Senator Pascal Donohue. Donohue was interviewed about the incident on the January 10th RTÉ Radio One O'Clock News. Donohue's statement reveals a troubling lack of awareness of the nature of Anonymous, the tenuousness of its reported links with Wikileaks, and the mechanics of hacking.

  • Donohue immediately mentioned links between Anonymous and Wikileaks, without qualifying these. "Our understanding is that some of the organizations that are associated with Wikileaks decided to attack our website."
  • He continually refers to Anonymous as "an outside presence."
  • He explicitly states that FG took every precaution necessary "and more" to ensure that the site was secure, a proposition which appears dubious, given that the hack appears to have had the intention of exposing lax security, and does not appear to have been a sophisticated operation.
  • Donohue insists that the attacks on Mastercard and Visa demonstrate that the "organization we're dealing with" are "very very sophisticated, and have an agenda of targeting political parties [which is a straightforward falsehood] and multinational companies." FG's possible responsibility for the incident(lax data security) is therefore mitigated by the abilities of Anon. This statement glosses over the fact that Anon is a decentralized swarm of internet users employing an idiot-proof piece of software (LOIC) to deny services on particular websites. This does not bely sophistication. Furthermore, this incident bears no resemblance to actions by Anonymous, and there has been no prior publicity about it from Anon's Twitter channels.
  • Donohue's imputation of political motives to the hackers is dubious, given that he neither appears to fully comprehend the political agenda of Anon's recent WL-related actions, nor has any idea why Anon might target FG in connection with WL. He merely appears certain that they did, and for "political reasons." This does not hold water.

It is becoming difficult to avoid the conclusion, in the absence of any hard evidence, and the predominance of ignorant statements about the matter, that the link between this incident and Wikileaks is the result of a perfect storm of inflated self-importance, overwhelming ignorance about Wikileaks, Anonymous and the technology and culture of hacking, and a propensity to jump to shrill conclusions. There appears to be a prima facie case in defamation against Donohue, if Wikileaks were disposed to pursue it. One must also conclude that the involvement of the FBI in this matter is a waste of U.S. tax payer's money.

2010-01-11: Update 9:
Forbes article on the matter introduces new information, mostly confirming the informed suspicions above. The article characterizes the attack as a "rogue attack." But it is probably more accurate to see it simply as using the Anon banner, but being unrelated, in organization and motive, to the WL-related Anon actions, since the Anon movement is not an organization in the proper sense.

  1. Anon sources involved in the WL-related actions claim the attack is not a WL-related Anon attack.
  2. FG website was not on any WL-related Anon target lists
  3. The attack does not include the Anon signature message
  4. The attack is not in the form that Anon typically employ.
  5. The hackers posted their aliases on the site during the hack. This is atypical of an Anon attack.
  6. Searches of Anon chatlogs demonstrate that persons using those aliases have been inactive in the Anon movement.
  7. Sources close to the investigation claim that at least one of the hackers was Irish. This contradicts (apparently baseless) assertions to the contrary by Fine Gael Senator Pascal Donohue.

The relevant portions of the article are quoted in the News Coverage section below. It is nearly certain at this stage that this story has nothing to do with Wikileaks.

News Coverage

RTÉ News
Irish national broadcaster reports that the private login details for the website, of just under 2000 people, were appropriated during the hack. Little information is provided on the alleged motive or of the reason Fine Gael linked the action to Wikileaks.

Fine Gael has confirmed that the contact details of just under 2,000 people were compromised in the attack on its website last night.
The party contacted the office of Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes following the website attack, which is investigating.
It also contacted the Garda Computer Crime Unit in relation to the incident.The Fine Gael website was forced offline last night after hackers attacked it removing the content and posting a message referring to censorship by the political party.
Fine Gael rebranded its main website,, last week as and invited members of the public to post comments and register their mobile numbers and email addresses to receive campaign messages.

RTÉ News: 2,000 affected in Fine Gael data breach

Silicon Republic
SR carries a story, claiming the number of compromised persons is as many as 4000.

The Data Protection Commissioner is investigating the attack on the Fine Gael website yesterday, after an Evening Herald journalist claimed he was sent data of nearly 4,000 users of the site after the hack occurred.

The Data Protection Commissioner said Fine Gael contacted him after their site was attacked by those using the "Anonymous" banner.

On Twitter, Kevin Doyle, an Evening Herald journalist claimed the commissioner was informed the data of nearly 4,000 users of the site was stolen by those who attacked it.

Silicon Republic: Nearly 4,000 users’ data possibly stolen in Fine Gael site hack

Forbes Jan 11th

But sources within Anonymous say the hack wasn’t their doing. Fine Gael has not been on the group’s recent target list, had not been discussed on its chat forums and the image used to deface Fine Gael’s web site (now taken down) does not include the group’s usual message: “We are Anonymous, we do not forgive, we do not forget.” A member of the group added that it would not collectively release the private data of members of the public, and typically would deface government Web pages to berate them about freedom of speech.

The message posted on Fine Gael’s site instead reads:

Nothing is safe, you put your faith in this political party and they take no measures to protect you.

They offer you free speech yet they censor your voice.


It also boasts that is “owned by Raepsauce and Palladium.” A search on Anonymous’ chat logs shows ‘Palladium’ only once this month saying “Hi,” and it appears the user took on a number of nicknames on the network.

The FBI is currently investigating the incident, along with Ireland’s police and the Data Protection Commission. American authorities are involved because Fine Gael’s Web site is hosted by the American IT company Rack Space. “We are confident that the police investigation will be successful,” said a spokesman for Fine Gael.

Two sources close to the situation said that at least one of the perpetrators was based in Ireland. According to, the malicious code was housed on a server in Samoa, under a domain registered anonymously.

Forbes: Rebel Member Of Anonymous Hacks Irish Opposition Party Site

Fine Gael.png145.07 KB
Anon.png124.6 KB

2011-01-10 Weapons of Murdoch's Mass Deception: Time to Turn to Alternative Media looks at the drawbacks to mainstream media and provides a list of recommended alternative websites and writers. "Twenty years ago several journalists expressed concern that the number of major news sources in America had diminished to 50." according to the article. "Today, conglomerates have bought up most of those news sources; and the number of major news sources has been reduced to six! These six control all the news reported in America and much of what gets reported in the UK and Europe."

The recently revealed story of New York Times reporter David Rohde is an apparently justifiable example of press censorship.

On 22 June 2009, when news came that Rohde had escaped from his Taliban captors, few knew he had even been kidnapped, because for the seven months he and two Afghan colleagues were in the Taliban's hands, the New York Times kept that information under wraps.

Kelly McBride, who teaches ethics to journalists, says she was "really astounded" by the media blackout. "It makes me wonder what else 40 international news organizations have agreed not to tell the public."

2011-01-10 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

Le Monde: WikiLeaks dévoile aussi comment fut gérée la crise bancaire (WikiLeaks reveals as well how the banking crisis was handled)

A U.S. diplomatic cable in which figure Mervyn King, chairman of the Bank of England, Robert Kimmitt, then U.S. deputy treasury secretary, and Robert Tuttle, U.S. ambassador to Britain, has been released by WikiLeaks. It shows the players agreeing, March 17, 2008, on a diagnosis of the crisis, one that they admit ceased, from summer 2007, to be a liquidity crisis and that became instead a solvency crisis generalized within the banking sector. Although a view widely shared by commentators in the financial press at the time, it will reverse the diagnosis that these players have chosen to present to the public, a position from which they have never departed.


Read more (French)

2011-01-11 Bank Leak 2011 - A History

Speculation was renewed in early January as to the subject of Wikileaks anticipated release, related to a major American bank. WL Central has gathered the history of this story over the last two years to provide context for the speculation. This feature will be updated as more becomes available.

October 2009
In a ComputerWorld article from October 2009, Dan Nystedt reported on an interview with Julian Assange from the Hack In The Box conference in Malaysia. The relevant quote is the following:

"At the moment, for example, we are sitting on 5GB from Bank of America, one of the executive's hard drives," he said. "Now how do we present that? It's a difficult problem. We could just dump it all into one giant Zip file, but we know for a fact that has limited impact. To have impact, it needs to be easy for people to dive in and search it and get something out of it."

November 2010
In an Andy Greenberg interview with Julian Assange preparing for a cover story by Forbes, some information came out which indicated that a "megaleak" on "a major American bank" would be released "early in the new year." The substance of the leak was elaborated upon, but the bank was not named. A full reading of the interview is highly recommended for an understanding of Wikileaks intentions as regards the leak.

You’ve been focused on the U.S. military mostly in the last year. Does that mean you have private sector-focused leaks in the works?

Yes. If you think about it, we have a publishing pipeline that’s increasing linearly, and an exponential number of leaks, so we’re in a position where we have to prioritize our resources so that the biggest impact stuff gets released first.

So do you have very high impact corporate stuff to release then?

Yes, but maybe not as high impact…I mean, it could take down a bank or two.

That sounds like high impact.

But not as big an impact as the history of a whole war. But it depends on how you measure these things.

Later on in the interview, the conversation returned to the bank leak.

These megaleaks, as you call them, we haven’t seen any of those from the private sector.

No, not at the same scale as for the military.

Will we?

Yes. We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak. It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it.

Is it a U.S. bank?

Yes, it’s a U.S. bank.

One that still exists?

Yes, a big U.S. bank.

The biggest U.S. bank?

No comment.

When will it happen?

Early next year. I won’t say more.

What do you want to be the result of this release?

[Pauses] I’m not sure.

It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.

Usually when you get leaks at this level, it’s about one particular case or one particular violation. For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron emails. Why were these so valuable? When Enron collapsed, through court processes, thousands and thousands of emails came out that were internal, and it provided a window into how the whole company was managed. It was all the little decisions that supported the flagrant violations.

This will be like that. Yes, there will be some flagrant violations, unethical practices that will be revealed, but it will also be all the supporting decision-making structures and the internal executive ethos that cames out, and that’s tremendously valuable. Like the Iraq War Logs, yes there were mass casualty incidents that were very newsworthy, but the great value is seeing the full spectrum of the war.

You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.

How many dollars were at stake in this?

We’re still investigating. All I can say is it’s clear there were unethical practices, but it’s too early to suggest there’s criminality. We have to be careful about applying criminal labels to people until we’re very sure.

Can you tell me anything about what kind of unethical behavior we’re talking about?


December 01, 2010

The Forbes interview had a substantial (but brief) effect on Bank of America shares, as well as on Goldman-Sachs, as this France24 article reports:

Shares in Bank of America, the largest US bank, tumbled more than three percent Tuesday amid speculation it will be the next target of leaked documents from WikiLeaks.

Shares closed 3.18 percent lower at 10.95 dollars.

In an interview published Monday by Forbes magazine, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed a fresh "megaleak" will target a major US bank "early next year."...

Assange mentioned Goldman Sachs by name in the interview, but did not confirm the Wall Street investment giant will be the target of the leak.

Goldman shares fell 1.75 percent to 156.14 dollars Tuesday.

December 18, 2010
About a week after Swiss Post, Paypal, Visa and Mastercard decided to cut off donation transactions to Wikileaks, the Bank of America announced a similar decision. As the New York Times reported:

In a sign of the increasing tensions between WikiLeaks and the corporate world, Bank of America has said it will no longer help process payments for the organization, which released a huge cache of secret State Department cables in late November and has threatened to “take down” a major United States bank with another data dump.

“Bank of America joins in the actions previously announced by MasterCard, PayPal, Visa Europe and others and will not process transactions of any type that we have reason to believe are intended for WikiLeaks,” the bank said in a statement issued on Friday. “This decision is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.”

Wikileaks immediately responded through its Twitter account, first by announcing the BoA decision:

Bank of America bans ALL transactions to WikiLeaks receive better interest:

Next, Wikileaks asked for a principled consumer action in response to the decision.

We ask that all people who love freedom close out their accounts at Bank of America.

Finally, Wikileaks issued an entirely more ominous statement, suggesting that it would be wise, or unsafe, to continue to do business with Bank of America:

Does your business do business with Bank of America? Our advise is to place your funds somewhere safer.

December 20, 2010

DomainWire reported that Bank of America was buying up domain names in an attempt to preempt its critics, and to protect its senior members from having fun made of them on the internet. The move was the subject of much mirth. The story is elaborated upon in a Dec 23 Financial Times article:

Hundreds of website addresses that disparage Bank of America executives and board members have been registered in recent days in an apparent effort to protect the bank and its senior leaders, according to internet companies who track the buying and selling of such domain names.

More than 300 addresses that disparage BofA officials using variations on “sucks” and “blows”, including and, referring to the bank’s chief executive, were registered on December 17.

Domain names that targeted Charles Noski, the chief financial officer, and board member Charles Rossotti were also registered.

The company doing the registering was MarkMonitor, a San Francisco-based group that protects the identity of large corporations.

December 22, 2010
In a Charlotte Observer article, Rick Rothacker reported that Bank of America was shaping up its security procedures:

A Bank of America employee told the Observer that it appeared the bank had stepped up security internally recently, taking steps to block access to websites such as Gmail on company laptops. The bank declined to comment on security procedures.

Elsewhere, Andy Greenberg addressed a rumour that had developed, from a paywalled article in The Times, that Assange had confirmed that Bank of America was the target. Greenberg clarified that no such thing had been confirmed in the Times article.

January 2, 2011
A New York Times article outlined various strategies the Bank of America has been employing to prepare for what it appears to believe is a substantial and imminent public affairs situation:

a team of 15 to 20 top Bank of America officials, led by the chief risk officer, Bruce R. Thompson, has been overseeing a broad internal investigation — scouring thousands of documents in the event that they become public, reviewing every case where a computer has gone missing and hunting for any sign that its systems might have been compromised.

In addition to the internal team drawn from departments like finance, technology, legal and communications, the bank has brought in Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, to help manage the review. It has also sought advice from several top law firms about legal problems that could arise from a disclosure, including the bank’s potential liability if private information was disclosed about clients.

January 5, 2011
It is no more than an unconfirmed report attributed to nameless sources, but this blog post got some attention, purporting to provide details on the likely content of a projected forthcoming Bank of America leak:

Informed sources in New York last night were suggesting that the main ‘smoking gun’ in the stolen Bank of America files in Wikileaks’ possession is “the creation of fraudulent loans ready for repackaging on a massive scale”. During the US housing bubble, most top banking firms either repackaged or sold on sub-prime loans for slicing into deliberately indecipherable credit swaps. But very few have been fingered for knowingly doctoring loan forms – and to date nobody has been charged with falsification as a company policy…where the evidence consists of an electronic record.

January 7, 2011
Amid growing speculation as to why Wikileaks had halted parallel publication of cables with its media partners on the 5th of January, CNBC's Senior Editor John Carney voiced a suspicion that this was in preparation for the next big release:

The last release of diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks came out on January 4th. This three day gap between Wikileaks releases is the longest ever to occur since Wikileaks began releasing the diplomatic cables.

I suspect this means something big is about to come out of WikiLeaks. Something they are taking their time to put together. And that is likely to be the much talked about release of the tens of thousands of documents WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shows a culture of corruption inside a US bank.

We still don't know for sure what bank the documents will allegedly indict. But all indications point to Bank of America [BAC 14.69 0.29 (+2.01%) ].

January 11, 2011
After his bail hearing Julian Assange made an announcement that could be interpreted as indicating that Wikileaks was preparing to release "other materials" - that is, materials other than the Cablegate material.

"We are stepping up our publishing for matters related to Cablegate and other materials," Assange said. "Those will shortly be occurring through our newspaper partners around the world -- big and small newspapers and some human rights organizations."

Furthermore, John Carney reported that an "unnamed source" had confirmed that the Bank of America would be the subject of the next leak.

Bank of America is the target of the next "megaleak" from WikiLeaks, according to a person who has close contact with top people at Wikileaks.


Our source has confirmed that Bank of America is indeed the target of the next big leak. The source couldn't elaborate on the materials held by Assange.

2011-01-11 Jacob Appelbaum on entering the US on Monday

Jacob Appelbaum is a security analyst who works on Tor and Wikileaks, and has been very instrumental in discovering weaknesses in the Haystack system, among other things. He has gained notoriety with the US government through acting as a speaker and advocate of Wikileaks, and became widely known last fall after a Rolling Stone article calling him "The Most Dangerous Man in Cyberspace" and "The American hacker behind Wikileaks". Recently he was one of the subjects of a subpoena from the US DoJ requesting information from Twitter.

While the Twitter story broke he was in Iceland, and he returned to the US on Monday. He has been the subject of repeated harassment at airports this year, and apparently Monday was no exception, despite members of the ACLU meeting him at the airport. He will be headed to Toronto this weekend and will be able to experience the independence (or not) of Canadian customs.

His tweets on his most recent experience arriving in the US:

Jan 7: 9:07PM - It seems quite wrong that I feel safe in Iceland while simultaneously having a sense of apprehension about returning to the USA next week.

Jan 7: 9:20PM - Motivation: ..."I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear."...

Jan 7: 9:33PM - Now's a good time to note that *the world* needs strong anonymity. Help out:

Jan 9: 10:52AM - After a good deal of thought, I've decided to fly home from Iceland tomorrow to Seattle as planned. The ACLU will meet me at the airport.

Jan 9: 11:12AM - I am not practically able to transport electronic devices. I will be radio silent before, during, and for some time after my flight.

Jan 9: 11:31AM - I think that it is unlikely that there will be any serious trouble. With secret courts and sealed orders... the only way to know is to go.

Jan 10: 5:30AM - I'm heading to the airport from Reykjavik and expect to be in the US around 16:40 PST Monday afternoon. Perhaps everything will go smoothly.

Jan 10: 7:40PM - I am out of the airport and back in Seattle. Nothing more for now, sleep time.

Yesterday (January 12) he added:

- It's very frustrating that I have to put so much consideration into talking about the kind of harassment that I am subjected to in airports.

- I was detained, searched, and CPB did attempt to question me about the nature of my vacation upon landing in Seattle.

- The CPB specifically wanted laptops and cell phones and were visibly unhappy when they discovered nothing of the sort.

- I did however have a few USB thumb drives with a copy of the Bill of Rights encoded into the block device. They were unable to copy it.

- The forensic specialist (who was friendly) explained that EnCase and FTK, with a write-blocker inline were unable to see the Bill of Rights.

- The CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) agent was waiting for me at the exit gate. Remember when it was our family and loved ones?

- When I handed over my customs declaration form, the female agent was initially friendly. After pulling my record, she had a sour face.

- She attempted to trick me by putting words into my mouth. She marked my card with a large box with the number 1 inside, sent me on my way.

- While waiting for my baggage, I noticed the CBP agent watching me and of course after my bag arrived, I was "randomly" selected for search.

- Only US customs has random number generator worse than a mid-2007 Debian random number generator. Random? Hardly.

- During the search, I made it quite clear that I had no laptop and no cell phone. Only USB drives with the Bill of Rights.

- The CBP agent stated that I had posted on Twitter before my flight and that slip ended the debate about their random selection process.

- The CBP agents in Seattle were nicer than ones in Newark. None of them implied I would be raped in prison for the rest of my life this time.

- The CBP agent asked if the ACLU was really waiting. I confirmed the ACLU was waiting and they again denied me contact with legal help.

- All in all, the detainment was around thirty minutes long. They all seemed quite distressed that I had no computer and no phone.

- They were quite surprised to learn that Iceland had computers and that I didn't have to bring my own.

- There were of course the same lies and threats that I received last time. They even complemented me on work done regarding China and Iran.

- I think there's a major disconnect required to do that job and to also complement me on what they consider to be work against police states.

- While it's true that Communist China has never treated me as badly as CBP, I know this isn't true for everyone who travels to China.

- All in all, if you're going to be detained, searched, and harassed at the border in an extra-legal manner, I guess it's Seattle over Newark.

- It took a great deal of thought before I posted about my experience because it honestly appears to make things worse for me in the future.

- Even if it makes things worse for me, I refuse to be silent about state sponsored systematic detainment, searching, and harassment.

- In case it is not abundantly clear: I have not been arrested, nor charged with any crime, nor indicted in any way. Land of the free? Hardly.

- I'm only counting from the time that we opened my luggage until it was closed. The airport was basically empty when I left.

- It's funny that the forensics guy uses EnCase. As it, like CBP, apparently couldn't find a copy of the Bill of Rights I dd'ed into the disk.

- The forensics guy apparently enjoyed the photo with my homeboy Knuth and he was really quite kind. The forensics guy in Newark? Not so much.

- The CBP agent asked me for data - was I bringing data into the country? Where was all my data from the trip? Names, numbers, receipts, etc.

- The mental environment that this creates for traveling is intense. Nothing is assured, nothing is secure, and nothing provides escape.

- I resisted the temptation to give them a disk filled with /dev/random because I knew that reading them the Bill of Rights was enough hassle.

- I'm flying to Toronto, Canada for work on Sunday and back through Seattle again a few days later. Should be a joy to meet these guys again.

- All of this impacts my ability to work and takes a serious emotional toll on me. It's absolutely unacceptable.

- What happens if I take a device they can't image? They take it. What about the stuff they give back? Back doored? Who knows?

- Does it void a warranty if your government inserts a backdoor into your computer or phone? It certainly voids the trust I have in all of it.

- I dread US Customs more than I dreaded walking across the border from Turkey to Iraq in 2005. That's something worth noting.

- I will probably never feel safe about traveling internationally with a computer or phones again.

- None the less, safe or not, I won't stop working on Tor. Nor will I cease traveling. I will adapt and I will win. A hard road worth taking.

- A solid argument for free software: To check the integrity of your hardware and your software against tampering. No binary (firmware) blobs.

- I'd like to think that when I visit my family in Canada this wekend and attend a work conference that Canada won't hassle me. Am I dreaming?

- Will the Canadian government simply act as an arm of the US policy of detaining, searching, and harassing me? Oh Canada! I hope not.

- It's interesting to note that some media initially reported that I had no trouble because I said nothing at all. Irony abounds.

- Why do we allow US Customs to lie and to threaten people? It's a crime to lie to them and they do it as their day job. Why the inequality?

- A few points: I was not arrested, I did not consent to any searching, and of course - this isn't about travel, this is about liberty

- @squeakie Yes, I was searched but I did not consent to this search.

- @tbeckett No, I asked if I was free to go and I was denied the ability to leave.

Our articles on the Twitter subpoena:

Twitter Details & Messages of Birgitta Jónsdóttir Subpoenaed.
2011-01-08: U.S. DOJ Twitter Subpoena Updates
2011-01-08: Twitter on censorship: No censorship on Twitter
2011-01-09: U.S. DOJ access to information on Twitter followers
2011-01-09: DOJ subpoena applicable to non-Twitter users who viewed tweets?
2011-01-09 Government Requests for Twitter Users' Personal Information Raise Serious Constitutional Concerns, Says ACLU

2011-01-11 Jason Ching's Legal Analysis on Prospects for Prosecution of Assange

National Law Journal: Jason Ching: Journalism WikiLeaks Style

Jason Ching surveys the prospects of a prosecution by the United States Government against Julian Assange, as a response to its recent document releases. The article is detailed, and considers U.S. law in detail, touching also on the case against Bradley Manning. Ching is not altogether favourable to Wikileaks, nor does he conclude that Wikileaks will avoid all legal liability, but his conclusion is that Wikileaks' proximity to the news and publishing industry is such that it will avoid the more drastic of the prosecutory efforts currently underway.

In summary, let's sweep away the tendentious arguments that Assange should not be extradited to the United States or that it is a violation of due process or other constitutional rights to prosecute him. Any fair analysis of the Espionage Act shows that he is chargeable, and yet any fair analysis of the political reality indicates that he is untouchable. The administration is faced with an impossible dilemma — WikiLeaks is joined at the hip with The New York Times et al., and its unofficial policy against charging news organizations protects them all. WikiLeaks, whether acting out of magnanimity or cleverness, cut the major news sources into the deal and in return gained functional immunity from prosecution for espionage.

2011-01-11 Julian Assange's Hearing Summary

Tweeters were on site to report the unfolding events this morning as Julian Assange appeared in court for his bail hearing. He was granted bail and requested to stay at the Frontline Club on February 6 and 7, rather than at the Norfolk Mansion, so that he would not be required to wake up at 3am in order to arrive on time for his extradition hearing (to be held on February 7 and 8). The judge granted him permission to do this.

The defense must present its evidence for the extradition hearing by January 14.

To follow the live feed of events in the courtroom in future hearings, follow this Twitter feed.

Provisional Skeleton Argument on Behalf of Mr. Assange

2011-01-11 Key Points from Provisional Skeleton Argument on Behalf of Mr. Assange

The extradition hearing in this case has been set for 7-8 February 2011.

The key arguments set out today in the PROVISIONAL SKELETON ARGUMENT ON BEHALF OF MR. ASSANGE presented to the media by defense counsel Mark Stephens are as follows:

(1) It is not accepted that the Swedish prosecutor is authorised to issue European Arrest Warrants (EAW). “The sole Issuing Judicial Authority [in Sweden] for the enforcement of a custodial sentence or other form of detention is the Swedish National Police Board”.

(2) European arrest warrants should only be issued for the purposes of prosecution, and it has been made very clear that Mr. Assange is wanted for further questioning.

Ms. Ny has repeatedly and publicly stated that she has sought an EAW in respect of Mr. Assange simply in order to facilitate his questioning and without having yet reached a decision as to whether or not to prosecute him.

Her statements can be considered as additional evidence because the European Arrest Warrant is itself equivocal:

The EAW is defective in respect of section 2 of the Act. It does not contain a clear indication that:

(3) The statement is one that—
(a) the person in respect of whom the Part 1 warrant is issued is
accused in the category 1 territory of the commission of an offence
specified in the warrant, and
(b) the Part 1 warrant is issued with a view to his arrest and extradition
to the category 1 territory for the purpose of being prosecuted for the

It leaves it entirely unclear as to whether the EAW is even a conviction EAW or an accusation EAW (assuming that it is one or the other, and not an interrogation EAW).

Nowhere in the EAW is Mr. Assange referred to as an “accused”.

Ms. Ny went from informal discussions about arranging an interview of Mr. Assange straight to the issuance of an EAW, without taking the reasonable and proportionate, intermediary step of formally summoning him for an interview or formally requesting his interrogation.

The proper, proportionate and legal means of requesting a person’s questioning in the UK in these ircumstances is through Mutual Legal Assistance.

(3) There has been abuse of process: non-disclosure by the Swedish Prosecutor

The Swedish prosecutor confirmed to the Australian ambassador on December 16, 2010: "if a decision is made to charge Mr Assange, he and his lawyers will be granted access to all documents related to the case (no such decision has been made at this stage)."

Mr. Assange has not been provided with copies of the SMS messages sent by the Complainants in which – in contrast to what is alleged in the EAW – Ms. Wilen says that she was “half asleep” at the time of the sexual intercourse.

In passing it should be noted that if the Complainant’s own evidence that she was “half asleep” has been bolstered in the EAW into an allegation that she was fully asleep, in order to support the making of a rape allegation, then this would in itself constitute prosecutorial abuse.

Other text messages from and between the Complainants which the Swedish Prosecutor has refused to disclose but which Mr. Assange’s lawyer, Mr. Hurtig has seen (but was not allowed by the Prosecutor to take notes or copies of), speak of revenge and of the opportunity to make lots of money and of going to the Swedish national newspaper, Expressen

The horns of the Swedish Prosecutor’s dilemma are these: either (1) Mr. Assange’s extradition is sought for purposes of prosecution, and thus a decision has been taken as to his prosecution and he is then entitled under Swedish law to disclosure of the entire investigation file, including the SMS messages and blog evidence – and yet these crucial items of evidence have not been disclosed to him, representing a serious violation of Swedish criminal procedure law and dereliction of duty on the part of Ms. Ny, and thus an abuse of process, or (2) Mr. Assange’s extradition is not being sought for the purposes of prosecution, in which case it should not have been sought at all. Either way, it is an abuse of process for Ms. Ny to proceed in the way in which she is doing.

(4) There has been a further abuse of process: the conduct of the prosecution in Sweden

Contrary to Swedish law, an acting Prosecutor released (Mr. Assange's) name to the press as the suspect in a rape inquiry, thus ensuring his vilification throughout the world;

After the Swedish authorities announced that Mr Assange had been cleared of rape by the Stockholm prosecutor, a secret process took place from which Mr Assange and his lawyers were excluded and by virtue of which, at the behest of a lawyer acting for the complainants, the rape allegation was revived by a new prosecutor, Marianne Ny. This secret process was a blatant breach of Article of the ECHR;

The repeated refusal of the new prosecutor, Ms. Ny, either to interview Mr Assange on dates offered in Sweden or to interview him by telephone, Skype, interview or at the Swedish embassy in London was disproportionate or unreasonable behaviour under Article 5 of the ECHR;

The prosecutor’s office has refused all requests - and still refuses all requests - to make the evidence against Mr. Assange available in English, which is his right under Article 6 of the ECHR;

The prosecutor’s office has, illegally under Swedish law, made extracts of that file available to the English media, with the object that he should be further vilified in the UK and elsewhere.

Swedish law apparently permits and even pays for the lawyer representing complainants to attack the credibility of suspects even before they are charged. In this case, the Swedish state has paid Mr Claes Borgstrom to give interviews to international journalists assassinating the character of Mr Assange and prejudicing his fair trial on these charges. Sweden has no law of contempt of court or of perverting the course of justice of the kind that is necessary to prevent media character assassination of a potential defendant prior to charge. This is a breach of Article 6 of the ECHR.

The Swedish prosecution refuses to disclose Twitter and SMS messages to and from the complainants at relevant times, which messages destroy their credibility. This is a breach of UK law as well as European human rights law.

(5) The offences alleged in the EAW are not of serious nature in the UK, as they must be to constitute extradition offences.

The issuing Judicial Authority has yet to state, in an Opening Note, which offences under English law it says would have been committed had the conduct alleged in box (e) occurred in the UK.

None of the conduct alleged against the requested person would constitute an offence in England and Wales.

The defense also reserves the right to argue the 2005 amendments to the sexual offences laws in Sweden which deny to men the protection of mens rea.

(6) Extraneous considerations (section 13 of the Act)

Mr Assange reserves the right to argue extraneous considerations. A person’s extradition to a category 1 territory is barred by reason of extraneous considerations if (and only if) it appears that—

(a) the Part 1 warrant issued in respect of him (though purporting to be
issued on account of the extradition offence) is in fact issued for the
purpose of prosecuting or punishing him on account of his race,
religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or political opinions, or

(b) if extradited he might be prejudiced at his trial or punished, detained
or restricted in his personal liberty by reason of his race, religion,
nationality, gender, sexual orientation or political opinions.

The defense reserves the right to argue that the case may result in prosecuting or punishing him for his political opinions and/or that he will be prejudiced at trial, etc., by reason of those opinions, or by reason of his gender as a result of the 2005 amendments to the sexual offences laws in Sweden which deny to men the protection of mens rea.

(7) The extradition would be incompatible with Mr. Assange's human rights, in particular under Articles 3, 6, 8 and 10.

Mr. Assange reserves the right to argue that Article 3 of the European Commission on Human Rights may be breached by virtue of onward rendition to the USA.

Reliance is placed on two cases in which Sweden has been found to have violated the international prohibition on torture by virtue of rendition of persons to Egypt.

There is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the US will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, in conditions which would breach Article 3 of the ECHR.

Indeed, if Mr. Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty. It is well-known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr. Assange should be executed.

It is submitted that, based on its record as condemned by the United Nations Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee, Sweden would bow to US pressure and/or rely naively on diplomatic assurances from the USA that Mr. Assange would not be mistreated, with the consequence that he would be deported/expelled to the USA, where he would suffer serious ill-treatment, in breach of Article 3 of the ECHR, as well as in breach of Articles 6, 8 and 10 of the ECHR.

2011-01-11 Misleading press coverage of Julian Assange Trial

Julian Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, delivered a 35-page skeleton outline of his court arguments to various media after the brief review hearing this morning at Belmarsh magistrates court (paraphrased in brief):

(1) It is not accepted that the Swedish prosecutor is authorised to issue European Arrest Warrants (EAW).
(2) European arrest warrants should only be issued for the purposes of prosecution, and it has been made very clear that Mr. Assange is wanted for further questioning.
(3) There has been abuse of process: non-disclosure by the Swedish Prosecutor.
(4) There has been a further abuse of process: the conduct of the prosecution in Sweden.
(5) The offences alleged in the EAW are not of serious nature in the UK, as they must be to constitute extradition offences.
(6) Mr Assange reserves the right to argue extraneous considerations.(section 13 of the Act).
(7) Mr. Assange reserves the right to argue that his extradition may be incompatible with Articles 3, 6, 8 and 10 of the European Commission on Human Rights.

In partial support of point number 7, the one Assange is only reserving the right to argue, on page 34 of the 35 page document, item number 98 of 100, the document states:

It is submitted that there is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the US will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, in conditions which would breach Article 3 of the ECHR. Indeed, if Mr. Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death

Despite having access to the complete document, various media have headlined the 98th point as if it were the primary or even only defense instead of partial support for an auxiliary argument he is reserving the right to make.

From the Guardian: Headline: WikiLeaks: Julian Assange 'faces execution or Guantánamo detention' - Skeleton argument outlined by Australian's defence team claims he could face rendition to US if extradited to Sweden

In the eighth paragraph, the article mentions that there were seven points in the argument. They are listed beginning on the eleventh paragraph.

From Financial Review: Headline: Assange lawyers highlight execution risk: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange could be at “real risk” of the death penalty or detention in Guantanamo Bay if he is extradited to Sweden on accusations of rape and sexual assault, his lawyers claim.

From Arab News: Headline: Journalists back Assange as whistle-blower fears execution

The 39-year-old whistle-blower is wanted by the Swedish authorities over claims that he sexually assaulted two women during a visit to Stockholm in August.

But his defense team believe there is a “real risk” he could be extradited on to the US, where he could be detained in Guantanamo Bay or even face the death penalty. The claim emerged in a skeleton argument released by Assange’s lawyers in the wake of a preparatory legal hearing at Woolwich Crown Court.

Assange’s legal team suggested that extraditing him to Sweden could breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which bans torture.

They wrote: “Indeed, if Assange were rendered to the USA without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty.”

(Does not mention other arguments.)

The Independent: 'If my client ends up in the US he'll go to Guantanamo, or be executed,' says Assange's lawyer - Claim that grisly fate awaits the WikiLeaks founder if he is extradited

Julian Assange fears that he will be sent to Guantanamo Bay and ultimately executed if he is extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, his legal team said yesterday.

The Independent: Assange fears of trial in US justified, says expert

ABC: Lawyers fear Julian Assange could face death penalty

Primarily the defence documents argue that the case is a pretext for a criminal prosecution in the United States, which has the prospect of landing Julian Assange in an electric chair.

Wired: Lawyer Fears Assange Could Face Death Penalty in U.S. (Does not mention other arguments.)

Huffington Post: Julian Assange Fears 'Guantanamo' Or 'Death Penalty' If Extradited To U.S. (Does not mention other arguments.)

The Wall Street Journal: Assange Lawyers See U.S. Extradition 'Risk' (Does not mention other arguments.)

Update 1:
A much better article from Crikey covers the entire argument.

This was the original live blog from the Guardian during the trial. An interesting read beside the story they later extracted from this information.

2011-01-11 Plea for tolerance and humanity

On March 25, the glass panel door at Gabrielle Giffords’ office in Tucson was vandalized and destroyed, apparently in anger directed at her recent vote on healthcare. When asked whether she was afraid, she said no. Nor was she afraid, on that day, of Sarah Palin.

Are you afraid? Are you fearful today?

You know, I'm not... we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the way she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. And when people do that, they’ve got to realize that there’s consequences to that action.” (Source)

Sarah Palin is also well-known for the violent rhetoric she uses to expound her depiction of Democrats as ‘the enemy’. Her solution: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" (Source)

Reminiscent of the same variety of hate speech is Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign against the energy tax:

“I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people — we the people — are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country.” (Source)

On March 24, 2009, Rep. Bachmann showed up outside the White House holding a shotgun. She called upon “thousands of loyal Americans to march here this morning, with whatever weapons they have on hand … anything that’s going to let the Washington Elite know that we are serious!” (Source)

The implication is that Democrats and other opponents are not merely opponents in the political arena, they’re dangerous enemies. The weapon of choice recommended for the people: Not argument, not peaceful protest, but gunfire. When Gabrielle Giffords was shot point blank in the head Saturday morning by a shooter who killed a total of six people and wounded 14, the idea of “being at war with our own people” lost its status as a metaphor. Incitements of violence appear to have become clear prescriptions for action.

Gov. Jan Brewer called the shooting “an assault on democracy” and many others are calling it a direct and natural result of the right-wing campaign of hatred and fear. Ironically, Palin told Glen Beck this weekend that she hates violence and war. "Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence." (Source)

Yet the political campaign to depict Julian Assange and his supporters as terrorists has been under way for some time now. Palin herself suggested Julian Assange be hunted down "like the Taliban."<.em> Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters insisted that Julian Assange "should be killed," adding the qualification, "but we won't do that." He then added that Mr. Assange should be on a "kill or capture list."

Similarly, Bob Beckel of FOX News has asserted that a "dead man can't leak stuff," adding:

"This guy's a traitor, he's treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. And I'm not for the death penalty, so there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch." (Source)

Hence as an organization that aims to inform and protect the people from injustice and violence, Wikileaks calls on "U.S. authorities and others to protect the rule of law by aggressively prosecuting these and similar incitements to kill.”

And as we contemplate the causal connection between violence and demands by government and military personnel to break the law and take up arms against Julian Assange and others, Private First Class Bradley Manning deteriorates both mentally and physically in a 12 x 6 solitary confinement cell for having acted in accordance with his conscience when he exposed horrendous war crimes which themselves have not been investigated. Murder and indiscriminate killing cannot continue to be modus operandi either in war or in a democratic society that presumably aims to house opposing views and promotes a fruitful exchange of ideas.

WikiLeaks' plea to the people of the United States, and to the world, is to treat the incitement of violence seriously and to take a hard look at the current state of affairs. If ever we're left with the political dilemma of whether to grant someone The Nobel Peace prize or try him for treason, we can rest assured that something is profoundly wrong with the political discourse that gave rise to the question in the first place.

2011-01-11 Possible Upcoming Leak on Bank of America

Today has seen increased anticipation of a forthcoming megaleak on an American bank. John Carney, Senior Editor at CNBC, posted on the CNBC "Network Network" blog a report purporting to confirm that the target of the next leak will be, as widely speculated, Bank of America:

Bank of America is the target of the next "megaleak" from WikiLeaks, according to a person who has close contact with top people at WikiLeaks.


Our source has confirmed that Bank of America is indeed the target of the next big leak. The source couldn't elaborate on the materials held by Assange.

A cautious reader of the news will regard with a healthy suspicion that an 'unnamed source' has confirmed something to do with WikiLeaks, especially given the uncertainty generated in the past by "WikiLeaks insiders".'s Adam Clark Estes carried forward Carney's information, but added some information:

Assange also confirmed this morning outside of the British Magistrates court that the next leak would come soon.

It has to be questioned whether the quote cited as confirmation that the next leak will come soon indeed confirms that:

"We are stepping up our publishing for matters related to Cablegate and other materials," Assange said. "Those will shortly be occurring through our newspaper partners around the world -- big and small newspapers and some human rights organizations."

This statement doesn't necessarily confirm that the anticipated bank-megaleak will be what will 'shortly be occurring.' The statement is vague, and doesn't confirm even that "other materials" will be among "those" leaks. It is arguable that one could read the statement as confirming that more Cablegate releases will occur through new media partners, and that "other materials" are also in the pipeline, although on an unconfirmed schedule.

These are merely cautionary remarks, however, in recognition that making predictions about what WikiLeaks is about to do has proven to be quite a cagey issue in the past. It has to be said that the above predictions are agreeable to anyone with a shrewd sense of how WikiLeaks operates, and who has been paying attention to the organization over the last few years.

Click here for a timeline of the Bank Leak 2011 story.

2011-01-11 Press Release from WikiLeaks


10 Jan 2011, 10:15 PM EST

“WikiLeaks: treat incitement seriously or expect more Gabrielle Giffords killing sprees.”

Wikileaks today offered sympathy and condolences to the victims of the Tucson shooting together with best wishes for the recovery of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords, a democrat from Arizona's 8th district, was the target of a shooting spree at a Jan 8 political event in which six others were killed.

Tucson Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, leading the investigation into the Giffords shooting, said that "vitriolic rhetoric" intended to "inflame the public on a daily basis ... has [an] impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with." Dupnik also observed that officials and media personalities engaging in violent rhetoric "have to consider that they have some responsibility when incidents like this occur and may occur in the future."

WikiLeaks staff and contributors have also been the target of unprecedented violent rhetoric by US prominent media personalities, including Sarah Palin, who urged the US administration to “Hunt down the WikiLeaks chief like the Taliban”. Prominent US politician Mike Huckabee called for the execution of WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange on his Fox News program last November, and Fox News commentator Bob Beckel, referring to Assange, publicly called for people to "illegally shoot the son of a bitch." US radio personality Rush Limbaugh has called for pressure to "Give [Fox News President Roger] Ailes the order and [then] there is no Assange, I'll guarantee you, and there will be no fingerprints on it.", while the Washington Times columnist Jeffery T. Kuhner titled his column “Assassinate Assange” captioned with a picture Julian Assange overlayed with a gun site, blood spatters, and “WANTED DEAD or ALIVE” with the alive crossed out.

John Hawkins of has stated "If Julian Assange is shot in the head tomorrow or if his car is blown up when he turns the key, what message do you think that would send about releasing sensitive American data?"

Christian Whiton in a Fox News opinion piece called for violence against WikiLeaks publishers and editors, saying the US should "designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them."

WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange said: "No organisation anywhere in the world is a more devoted advocate of free speech than Wikileaks but when senior politicians and attention seeking media commentators call for specific individuals or groups of people to be killed they should be charged with incitement -- to murder. Those who call for an act of murder deserve as significant share of the guilt as those raising a gun to pull the trigger."

“WikiLeaks has many young staff, volunteers and supporters in the same geographic vicinity as these the broadcast or circulation of these incitements to kill. We have also seen mentally unstable people travel from the US and other counties to other locations. Consequently we have to engage in extreme security measures.”

“We call on US authorities and others to protect the rule of law by aggressively prosecuting these and similar incitements to kill. A civil nation of laws can not have prominent members of society constantly calling for the murder and assassination of other individuals or groups.”

More examples:

2011-01-11 Ryan Singel on Twitter's Decision over WikiLeaks Subpoena

Ryan Singel, at Wired's Threat Level Blog, presents a laudatory analysis of Twitter's decision to challenge the DoJ's move, during a secret Grand Jury investigation in Virgina, to subpoena the private details of various accounts related to WikiLeaks. WL Central has covered this issue in detail (listed at the bottom of this post. Singel's article presents Twitter's decision in an industrial context, and plays counterpoint to the idea that "good corporate citizenship" should always mean complying with government wishes whenever that seems expedient.

From:WIRED.COM: Twitter's Response to WikiLeaks Subpoena Should Be the Industry Standard

Of course, it's not the first time tech companies have stood up to requests for user data. Google beat back a government order to turn over search logs in 2006, after AOL and Microsoft quietly acquiesced. We've seen ISPs stand up for their users when movie studios try to force ISPs turn over user information in mass peer-to-peer lawsuits. And just last year, Yahoo successfully resisted the Justice Department's argument that it didn't need a warrant to read a user's e-mails once the user had read them.

But there's not yet a culture of companies standing up for users when governments and companies come knocking with subpoenas looking for user data or to unmask an anonymous commenter who says mean things about a company or the local sheriff.

In the WikiLeaks probe, it's not yet clear whether the feds dropped the same order on other companies.

Regardless, Twitter deserves recognition for its principled upholding of the spirit of the First Amendment. It's a shame that PayPal, Amazon, Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America and the U.S. government all failed - and continue to to fail - at their own versions of that test.

Other Coverage of the Twitter Subpoena on WL Central

2011-01-07 Twitter Details & Messages of Birgitta Jónsdóttir Subpoenaed
2011-01-08 U.S. DOJ Twitter Subpoena Updates
2011-01-08 Twitter on censorship: No censorship on Twitter
2011-01-09 U.S. DOJ access to information on Twitter followers
2011-01-09 DOJ subpoena applicable to non-Twitter users who viewed tweets?
2011-01-09 Government Requests for Twitter Users' Personal Information Raise Serious Constitutional Concerns, Says ACLU

2011-01-11 Swiss whistleblower faces charges

Rudolf Elmer, founder of Swiss Whistleblower will appear in court on January 19. He was fired from Swiss bank Julius Bär in 2002, after which he sent documents to several media outlets and Wikileaks, exposing allegedly illegal activities by Julius Bär clients in the Cayman Islands. Wikileaks was briefly shut down by a US court following publication of these documents.

Unlike most whistleblowers, Elmer's identity was never a secret.

I wasn’t looking for anonymity. I signed the first whistle-blower letter to emphasise the credibility but also to show my civil disobedience. It is my conviction that my name is important. People then got in touch with me and I received additional information from other bank clients and further data.

The Associated Press has an article about the case, but apparently because of the unwillingness of the mainstream press to use the word 'whistleblower' in association with Wikileaks, the article either awkwardly refers to Elmer as the "Swiss banker who used WikiLeaks" or confusingly calls him a "Wikileaks informant".

Elmer said he will admit certain counts of coercion, but insisted he didn't break Swiss banking secrecy laws because the files he distributed belonged to a Julius Baer subsidiary in the Cayman Islands, where he worked for the bank for eight years.

"This data wasn't subject to Swiss banking secrecy," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday.

Jan Vonder Muehll, a spokesman for Julius Baer, confirmed Monday that the bank is one of the plaintiffs in the case against Elmer next week before the Zurich court. But he said the trial would focus on the earlier release of data to Swiss media, not their publication on WikiLeaks.

2011-01-11 TVOntario: The Agenda: Livestream interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, member of the Icelandic parliament and former WikiLeaks volunteer, in Toronto to speak at the first Samara/Massey journalism seminar, will be interviewed by Steve Paikin of Television Ontario's The Agenda at 2 p.m. EST today. The interview will be livestreamed and will be archived on the program's website.

From Samara:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, now a member of Iceland’s Parliament, has led a movement in her country to take the most far-reaching steps towards advancing free speech, freedom of the press and transparency in government of any country in the world. This initiative, the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI) aims to bring together transparency laws from multiple jurisdictions to create the strongest media freedom laws in the world, with the goal of improving democracy and Iceland's standing in the international community.

In her talk, Birgitta Jónsdóttir will describe how and why she decided to help transform Iceland into the world’s safe haven for transparency, and what the impact has been to date, including her reflections on WikiLeaks’ ongoing revelations.

2011-01-11 WikiLeaks Rallies This Week



Global: Media Blitz to support Wikileaks
Date and time: Tuesday, January 11 · 10:30h - 13:30h

Global: Wikileaks Flash Mob Event
Date and time: Wednesday, January 12 · 15:30h - 17:00h

Global: Global Protest
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011, 18:00h

Global: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011
Event Information:

Global: Global WikiLeaks Support Rally
Date and time: Saturday 5 February 2011, 15:00h local time

Global: Freedom of Information Rally
Date and time: Third Saturdays Every Month
Location: Earth, Everywhere
Event Information:


Adelaide: Saturday, January 15 · 13:00h - 15:00h
Location: Victoria Sqaure, Adelaide, Australia
Event page:

Hobart: Saturday, January 15, TBA
Location: Information Day, at Franklin Square and surrounds

Sydney: Saturday, January 15, 13:00h
Location: Sydney Town Hall
Contact: Patrick on 0422 028 113
Event page:

Brisbane: Saturday, January 15, 20:30h
Location: Brisbane Square, Top of Queen St Mall
Event page:

Hobart: Saturday, January 29, 10:30h
Location: Franklin Square Hobart.

Launceston: Saturday, January 29, TBA
Location: To be announced

Melbourne: Saturday, January 29, 14:00h - 17:00h
Location: State Library of Victoria
Event page:


London: Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 11:001 - 19:00h
Location: London, Magistrates' High Court.
Event page:

Liverpool: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h PST
Location: Chavasse Park
Event Information:


Vancouver: Saturday, January 15, 1400h - 1700h
Location: Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, 350 West Georgia Street
Organizer: Pirate Party of Canada
Organizer website:
Event page:

Calgary: Saturday, January 15, 1400h - 1700h
Location: University of Calgary, outside the social sciences building
Organizer: Pirate Party of Canada
Organizer website:
Event page:


Belfast: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h
Location: Victoria Square, BT1 4QG, Victoria Square
Event Information:


Lisbon: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 11:00h
Location: R. Garrett, Front of A Brasileira café.
Event Information:


Göteborg: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 12:00h
Location: Götaplatsen
Event Information:


Washington DC, other locations: Saturday, January 15
Location: To be announced
Event page:

San Francisco: Saturday, January 15th, 16:00h - 18:30h
Location: Clay St and Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA
Event page:

Boston: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression Saturday, January 15th, 11:00h-05:00h EST
Location: Copley Square, Boston
Event page:

Seattle: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 08:00h PST
Location: 1000 4th Ave Seattle, WA 98104, TBD
Event Information:

Los Angeles: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 08:00h PST
Location: TBD
Event Information:

Minneapolis: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 11:00h -18:00h CST
Location: 1011 Nicollet Mall, Party Hard Central
Event Information:

San Diego: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 18:00h PST
Location: 326 Broadway San Diego, CA 92101, City Park across the street from The Grant
Event Information:

Raleigh: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 18:00h
Location: 2 East South Street, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27601
Event Information:

Portland: Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality: Meetings to discuss Wikileaks
Date and time: Tuesday, January 11, 19:30h
Location: Portland State University, Room 262, Smith MemorialUnion, 1825 SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon
Event page:

Rock Island: Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality: Meetings to discuss Wikileaks
Date and time: Tuesday, January 19, 17:30h
Location: Theo’s Java Club, 213 17th Street, Rock Island, Illinois
Event page:

Ann Arbor: Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality: Meetings to discuss Wikileaks
Date and time: Tuesday, January 20, 19:00h
Location: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Henderson Room of the Michigan League, 911 North University, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Event page:

Chicago: Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality: Meetings to discuss Wikileaks
Date and time: Saturday, January 22, 15:00h
Location: Bezazian Public Library, 1226 West, Chicago, Illinois
Event page:

Pasadena: Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality: Meetings to discuss Wikileaks
Date and time: Saturday, January 22, 15:00h
Location: Room 21 of the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church of Pasadena, 301 N Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, California
Event page:

Columbia: Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality: Meetings to discuss Wikileaks
Date and time: Monday, January 24, 18:00h
Location: University of South Carolina, Russell House University Union
Room 302, Columbia, South Carolina
Event page:

New Orleans: Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality: Meetings to discuss Wikileaks
Date and time: Tuesday, January 25, 19:00h
Location: Tulane University, Kendall Cram Lecture Hall, Lavin-Bernick Center 213, McAllister Pl between Feret St and Drill Rd, New Orleans, Louisiana
Event page:

New York City: Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality: Meetings to discuss Wikileaks
Date and time: Sunday, January 30, 15:00h
Location: University Settlement at the Houston Street Center,
Multi-purpose room 1&2
273 Bowery (corner of Houston St)
Closest subways: 6 train/Bleeker St. stop;
B & D trains/Bway-Lafayette stop; F train/Second Ave. stop
New York City, New York
Event page:

Houston: Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality: Meetings to discuss Wikileaks
Date and time: Wednesday, February 16, 19:00h
Location: University of Houston, Main Campus
Spindletop Room (Rm 242) of the University Center
Houston, Texas
Event page:


GLOBAL MOBILIZATION: Saturday, January 15, 2011, 1800h
Event page:

Vitoria Gasteiz: Saturday, January 15, 2011, 1800h
Location: Plaza de la Virgen Blanca / White Virgin´s Square.

Málaga: Saturday, January 15, 2011, 1800h
Location: Plaza de la Constitución /Constitution Square.

Bilbao: Saturday, January 15, 2011, 1800h
Location: Plaza Moyua.

Valencia: Saturday, January 15, 2011,(17:30h 19:00h)
Location: Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
Event page:

2011-01-12 Cablegate Resumes

List of Cables released 2011-01-07, 2011-01-09, 2011-01-10, 2011-01-11 + Summaries

Sicilian mafia reeling from police and business actions
Created 2007-12-06 15:03
Released 2011-01-07 21:09
Reference ID 08NAPLES37

Sensitive but unclassified - handle accordingly.

Summary: A series of law enforcement successes in Sicily, including the arrest of a major mafia boss in November and a raid that netted 70 suspects on December 4, has the Cosa Nostra reeling. Business owners have increasingly banded together, refusing to pay the protection money that has traditionally been a major source of mafia income. The success in combating organized crime in Sicily stands in stark contrast to the general lack thereof in other regions of southern Italy.

Organized crime in Italy II: How organized crime distorts markets and limits Italy's growth
Created 2008-06-06 10:10
Released 2011-01-07 21:09
Reference ID 08NAPLES37


Summary: This is the second of a three-part series; this message examines the economic dimension of organized crime in Southern Italy. According to a recent study, organized crime is the biggest individual segment of the Italian economy, accounting for seven percent of GDP. Wherever it occurs, organized crime in Italy distorts markets. While in some instances it lowers prices (but usually with adverse side effects), in general its activities (e.g., extortion, rigging of public contracts) lead to higher costs for the government, business owners and consumers. Estimates of how much organized crime costs the country are at best approximate, and do not always take into account the lost opportunities for foreign investment, the pernicious environmental and health effects, the losses due to corruption and inefficiency, and social costs related to higher rates of drug dependency and drug-related crimes. The three main organized crime groups in Italy earn tens to hundreds of billions of euros a year, depending on the estimate.

Organized crime crime III: Confronting organized crime in southern Italy
Created 2008-06-06 17:05
Released 2011-01-07 21:09
Reference ID 08NAPLES38


Summary: This is the third of a three-part series (see reftels A-B for parts I and II); this message offers views on how to combat organized crime in Italy. The USG has a significant stake in the fight against organized crime in Italy. The Italian crime syndicates help support terrorist groups in Colombia and Central Asia through drug trafficking; violate the intellectual property rights of American businesses and artists; buttress organized crime in the United States; pose potential public health risks to U.S. military and dependents stationed in southern Italy; and weaken an important ally. Law enforcement cooperation has led to many important arrests, particularly in Sicily, but could be strengthened. However, the apprehension of criminals is not enough. Trials need to be swifter and sentences tougher. The seizure of mob assets, not only in Southern Italy but in the North and in other countries, is another way to hit hard at these groups, and the economy needs to offer young people an honest alternative to crime. Education and awareness-raising among politicians, average citizens and students are essential elements to any successful strategy against organized crime. The Italian Catholic Church can also play a more prominent role, as a couple of brave clerics have demonstrated. We can also publicly support grassroots strategies to foster a societal rejection of organized crime. ConGen Naples strongly supports OFAC's decision to add the 'Ndrangheta to its Drug Kingpin list.

Can Calabria be saved?
Created 2008-12-02 15:03
Released 2011-01-07 21:09
Reference ID 08NAPLES96


Summary: If it were not part of Italy, Calabria would be a failed state. The 'Ndrangheta organized crime syndicate controls vast portions of its territory and economy, and accounts for at least three percent of Italy's GDP (probably much more) through drug trafficking, extortion and usury. Law enforcement is severely hampered by a lack of both sources and resources. Calabrians have a reputation as a distant, difficult people, and their politicians are widely viewed as ineffective. Much of the region's industry collapsed over a decade ago, leaving environmental and economic ruin. The region comes in last place in nearly every category of national economic assessments. Most of the politicians we met with on a recent visit were fatalistic, of the opinion that there was little that could be done to stop the region's downward economic spiral or the stranglehold of the 'Ndrangheta. A few others disingenuously suggested that organized crime is no longer a problem. Nearly every interlocutor complained that the region lacks a civil society. Amid the doom and gloom, there are a few positive signs, nearly all from young people. This most problematical of Italy's regions will continue to be a drag on the country until the national government devotes the necessary attention and resources to solving these thorny problems.

Sicily: Regional government in turmoil while the mafia is down, but not out
Created 2009-06-15 07:07
Released 2011-01-07 21:09
Reference ID 09NAPLES69


Summary: As host to an important U.S. Navy base, location of recently discovered gas reserves, and home to 17,000 U.S. citizens, Sicily's future is clearly of interest to the United States. For now, political feuding has replaced the war on organized crime in the headlines: Regional President Raffaele Lombardo dissolved the regional cabinet on May 25 after months of tensions with his coalition partner, Prime Minister Berlusconi's party. The rocky relations between Palermo and Rome have resulted in Berlusconi's blockage of four billion euros in EU structural funds for the region. Political grandstanding blocked an American gas drilling operation last year, and threatens to at least delay an important U.S. Navy satellite communications system. However, the major challenge to economic development remains the Mafia, which may well be the principal beneficiary if the bridge over the Strait of Messina, talked about for centuries, is eventually built. A variety of interlocutors in several Sicilian cities told us during recent visits that the grip of organized crime has loosened through a combination of law enforcement success and civil society rebellion against the Cosa Nostra. Anti-Mafia prosecutors are optimistic they can continue to make progress against the mob, but note that ongoing budgetary and personnel constraints (particularly the difficulty in filling magistrate positions) hamper their effectiveness. The one exception we have heard to the optimistic outlook is from a journalist under police protection from the mob, who believes that most anti-Mafia measures have been superficial and have not taken root in society.

France's Changing Africa Policy: Part III

Created 2008-09-09 16:04
Released 2011-01-09 00:12
Reference ID 08PARIS1698


SUMMARY: France's new Africa policy may have its most immediate impact on France's military presence in Africa. The French are planning to consolidate their military presence and want to orient it towards cooperation with Africa's sub-regional groupings (e.g., ECOWAS, SADC, et al.) and away from bilateral efforts. They foresee their military presence coalescing into two hubs, one on the Atlantic Ocean (Senegal or Gabon) and one on the Indian Ocean (Djibouti or French overseas department Reunion Island). Even these bases may eventually disappear if Africans prove capable of maintaining peace and security. Another priority will be the renegotiation of France's Defense Agreements with eight African countries, which now feature outdated provisions from the colonial era. The French announced in June 2008 the set of priorities that will henceforth frame French economic assistance to Africa. The Foreign Ministry is creating a fourth "sous-direction" (akin to a Department Office) that will more closely match Africa's sub-regional groups, and may also reconfigure French Embassies in Africa on a large, medium, and small basis to align priorities with budget constraints.

Subject: Brazil: Ambassador's Meeting With Costa Rican President Pacheco, 5 November 2004

Created 2004-11-09 16:04
Released 2011-01-10 00:12
Reference ID 04BRASILIA2787


Summary: Ambassador Danilovich met over dinner in Rio de Janeiro on 5 November 2004 with Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco and vice foreign minister Vargas, who were in the city for the Rio Group meeting. Pacheco provided some candid and provocative observations...

Subject: Tocumen International Airport flying high but corruption causing drag

Created 2009-12-18 18:06
Released 2011-01-11 12:12
Reference ID 09PANAMA893


Summary: A series of law enforcement successes in Sicily, including the arrest of a major mafia boss in November and a raid that netted 70 suspects on December 4, has the Cosa Nostra reeling. Business owners have increasingly banded together, refusing to pay the protection money that has traditionally been a major source of mafia income. The success in combating organized crime in Sicily stands in stark contrast to the general lack thereof in other regions of southern Italy.

2011-01-12 Confusion over WikiLeaks-Tsvangirai Cable Timestamp UPDATED

In response to Glenn Greenwald's coverage of the Wikileaks-Guardian-Tsvangirai controversy and the Guardian's recent retraction, The Atlantic's Max Fisher tweeted an interesting point, which throws into confusion the issue of exactly what time Wikileaks released the 09HARARE1004 cable:

Max Fisher:

@ggreenwald Not trying to start a fight, but WL time stamp looks to be older than Guardian's?

4:39PM Jan 12th 2011


Max Fisher:

@ggreenwald Correct me if I'm wrong, but from these, it looks like WikiLeaks published 21 minutes before the Guardian.

4:40PM Jan 12th 2011

Fisher is pointing out that the timestamp in the header of the 09HARARE1004 cable released on the Wikileaks website reads "2010-12-08 21:09"

The publication date of The Guardian's version of the cable reads "Wednesday 8 December 2010 21.30 GMT."

This would appear to indicate that Wikileaks published the cable on their website 21 minutes before The Guardian did.

This is an important point, and it raises an issue I have been contacted about recently.

I should state at the outset that I think the exact timestamp of the cables is rather moot, for this reason: David Leigh has clarified the exact procedure as regards publication of the cables. The media partners (in this case, The Guardian) choose which cables to publish from their own cache of the cables, given them by Wikileaks. They research, write their stories, and then inform Wikileaks of their decision to publish, also sending Wikileaks their greenlighted and redacted version of the cable. Wikileaks then publishes this. In light of this, even if Wikileaks technically published the cable a few minutes before the Guardian did on its own website, the decision to publish, and which content within each cable to publish, is carried out by The Guardian. The ultimate responsibility for the decision to publish, therefore, lies with the relevant media partner for each cable. The Guardian's decision to publish their (rather unsatisfactory) retraction represents an apparent acknowledgement of this fact.

Nevertheless, I want to point out a reason why we should regard the timestamp of the 01HARARE1004 cable on the Wikileaks site with suspicion. The matter is rather complicated, and there are two broad points to consider.

A contact got in touch a few weeks ago to point out an interesting bug in the timestamping of the Wikileaks cables, as hosted on their Cablegate site, and its multiple mirrors.

The timestamp for every cable published there, which is written in 24-hour time, always has a minute count equal to the hour count, if you convert the time to the 12-hour clock. So, if a cable is published at 1AM, it will read "1:01." If it is published at 1PM, it will read "13:01." If it is published at 10AM it will read "10:10" and if at 10PM it will read "22:10." Irrespective of how many minutes past the hour the cable was really published, the minute-count will always be the same as the 12-hour version of the hour-count. A cable published at 11:54PM will read as having been published at "23:11."

Not only this, but the "Created" datestamp in the header seems to be doing the same thing. The "Created date" indicates the time at which the cables were originally created and sent from their respective embassies. It is implausible to think that diplomats around the world chose to send their cables only during the precise minute in every hour when the number of minutes past the hour was equal to the number of hours past midday or midnight, but this is what these "Created" datestamps appear to indicate. So, for instance, 09HARARE1004 has a "Created" datestamp of "2009-12-24 08:08" and a "Released" timestamp of "2010-12-08 21:09." And, in fact, if one chooses to glance at the header of the main body of the Wikileaks version of the cable, it gives a time which contradicts the "08:08" time in the metadata header.

Thursday, 24 December 2009, 08:26
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001004
EO 12958 DECL: 12/24/2019

This anomaly bears out across all of the cables I have checked. To pick a random sampling of cables, 06MOSCOW6545, for instance, has a "Created" datestamp of "2006-05-30 09:09" and a "Released" datestamp of "2010-12-01 23:11." 07KUWAIT808 has a "Created" datestamp of "2007-05-22 09:09" and a "Released" datestamp of "2010-12-05 21:09." And 08BEIRUT586 has a "Created" datestamp of "2008-05-01 12:12" and a "Released" datestamp of "2010-12-05 21:09." In each of these cables, the header in the actual text of the cable contradicts the too-regular timestamp in the metadata header.

This is, obviously, strange. I can only surmise that it is due to some bug in Wikileaks cable publishing system. At the very least, it should incline us to regard with suspicion the minute count in the timestamp as indicated in those cables that are published on the Wikileaks website. The phenomenon appears to have been occurring since Wikileaks began releasing cables on the 27th of November. The fault for this would appear to lie with Wikileaks. If a clarification on this bug could be forthcoming from Wikileaks, it would certainly be good to have it. But it throws some uncertainty on the matter of who published the cable first.

The second point is a point which I suspect can only be confirmed for us by people who host mirrors of Wikileaks' site, but it is argued in this comment under James Richardson's piece for the Guardian, as a response to a discussion on this very topic:

The "release date" of a cable is not the date at which the cable was
published. The Wikileaks site is updated once in a while, not in a
continuous manner.

Take the latest update, which brought the number of released cables from
1947 to 1997. The "release" time stamp on these last 50 cables varies
from "2010-12-28 21:09" to "2011-01-01 21:09", even though these 50
cables were published at once on "2011-01-02 19:15:00"

and this comment, from the same commenter:

Take this cable:

Its "released" time stamp says "2010-12-30 21:09", yet, Wikileaks was updated only on January 2nd, and the prior update was on December 28th. Up to January 2nd, only 1947 cables were available for viewing.

That cable which release date is time-stamp December 30 wasn't available until January 2nd: it was not available for viewing on the site. On January 2nd, the number of cables available for viewing went to 1997.

This account agrees, in essence, with what I've been told by contacts who host mirrors of Wikileaks site. It would, however, be useful if some clarification on this point could be forthcoming, and openly discussed, with specific reference to 09HARARE1004. It appears that cables were released in batches, and that the timestamp on the cables (as indicated on each of the cables as posted on the Wikileaks site) does not normally indicate the time at which Wikileaks uploaded each batch of cables to its site, and to the various mirrors.

All of these observations, I hope, incline readers to judge with caution the exact time indicated as the "Release date" of the cables, on the Wikileaks sites. I will attempt to find out if the exact publication date of the 09HARARE1004 batch of cables can be verified and corroborated by independent and checkable sources. Until then, I leave readers with the statement from a contact, which I posted in Update 3 on my first post on this issue. This statement confirms the release time of the torrent in which the batch of cables containing 09HARARE1004 was released, and the datestamp appears to be reliable and independently verifiable. Nevertheless, it has to be noted, that this does not necessarily give us any insight into the time at which the cables might have been uploaded to the Wikileaks website, information which I hope will be forthcoming soon:

I can confirm that the 09HARARE1004 cable was released in a torrent (which I still have) time-stamped 8 December 2010 22.31 UTC (while the Guardian's article is time-stamped 8 December 2010 21.30 GMT (aka UTC)... [T]he torrent was named "cablegate-201012082231.7z". If you [search for] it, it still can be found some places.

ADDENDUM: As I've already stated, I believe that in the light of David Leigh's statement on the publication arrangement between Wikileaks and the media partners to Journalisten, and reported in English by Nina Berglund, this matter is largely academic. If David Leigh accurately portrayed the publication procedure, Wikileaks role in the publication of this cable will have been automatic, upon receipt of the modified and cleared batch of cables from The Guardian. The decision to publish the 09HARARE1004 cable, and the failure to redact the content dealing with sanctions, lay with The Guardian.

(2010-01-13, 04:47 GMT) Update 1: Wikileaks began releasing cables again, for the first time since January 5th, between 23:00 GMT on Jan 12th, and 02:00 GMT on Jan 13th.

It is important to note the pattern of the release. Prior to recommencing releases, the last cable releases on the Wikileaks site were those in the category Browse by 2011/01/05.

Since that day, no new releases appeared. As of the time of this update, there are 8 new cables. Five of these are in the category Browse by 2011/01/07. One each is in the categories Browse by 2011/01/09, Browse by 2011/01/10 and Browse by 2011/01/11.

The cables are still being uploaded to the various mirrors, as LeakyLinks will verify, while the process is ongoing. Here is a screengrab from 5AM GMT of the divide on LeakyLinks between "Up" and "Outdated" mirrors. Here, also, is a screenshot, showing CablegateSearch, which is not at this moment yet updated, showing the latest cables as having been from 7 days ago. Likewise, here is a screengrab from CableSearchBETA displaying, on the right, the most recent update ("2011-01-13 03:07") and in the list in the main portion of the screen, that most recent cable, marked as having been uploaded "2 h ago" but as having been "leaked 2011-01-07 21:09." Other cables with similarly disparate statuses are visible on the screen too.

I think this is proof positive that the "Released" datestamps in the metadata header of the cables, and date categories under which Wikileaks lists its cables, should not be interpreted as indicating the moment they were first uploaded to the Wikileaks website, nor to any of the mirrors. These cables, datestamped in the header as having been "released" on the 7th, the 9th, the 10th and the 11th of January, did not appear on those days on the Wikileaks site, but only in the last few hours. Nevertheless, having appeared, they present themselves in release batch categories according to those dates.

This does not confirm for us that the 09HARARE1004 cable was definitely "published" by Wikileaks after 21:30 GMT on December 8th - the time the Guardian's datestamp displays. Nevertheless, it does undermine the notion, if that needed any more undermining, that we should regard with certainty the time of "21:09" - on that cable's datestamp - as being the moment that Wikileaks released it on their website.

(2011-01-13, 20:35) Update 2: The Guardian this afternoon published an article by Ian Katz which acknowledges the worries I outlined in this post, and proceeds to outline a balanced appraisal of the situation. The piece represents a public notice of the mistake in the Richardson article, and an attempt by The Guardian to address its own unfair practices. It puts to bed the notion that Wikileaks bears the sole responsibility for the publication of 09HARARE1004. There can remain difference of opinion about who bears more blame, whether that blame is justifiably apportioned, but The Guardian's move here ensures that those debates will occur with reference to the facts about how the cables are published. This can only be described as commendable. The clarification also conclusively renders academic the issue of the above post, although I will continue to track down the detail I've been looking for, merely in the interests of completeness, or lest the data here become relevant again.

(2011-01-13, 21:14) Update 3: In a conversation with some of the community, I've managed to clarify the procedure by which Wikileaks uploads cables to its website, and to the mass mirrors. This information will be relevant to determining the exact time of the release of a cable by Wikileaks.

The procedure, roughly, follows this pattern.

  1. After a) deciding to publish a specific cable, b) prepararing, c) editing and d) reporting on that cable, and e) redacting it, the media partner f) shares that redacted version of the cable with Wikileaks. (Taking into account the minute-count issue noted above, I believe, but have not been able to verify, that the "Released" datestamp in the metadata of the cables on Wikileaks site in fact reflects the time that Wikileaks received that cable from one of its media partners. I will post more on this, if I find whether this is true or not.)
  2. Having received the redacted cable from the media partner, Wikileaks adds this to the batch of cables that has been accruing since it last made an upload.
  3. At regular intervals, Wikileaks uploads a batch to one of its main servers, and then begins accruing a new batch.
  4. The uploaded batch is then synced to the other main servers.
  5. A .7z archive is automatically generated, comprising all of the old cables and the new ones, and the mktorrent script is then run, which generates a torrent file. This is then logged in the file, and can be downloaded automatically. The name of the torrent which first included the batch in which 09HARARE1004 released is "cablegate-201012082231.7z" - readers will see that it is in the magnet.txt file. Here is a backup of the magnet.txt file at the date I accessed it for this update.
  6. Perhaps simultaneously, perhaps slightly before or slightly after the generation of the torrent file, the new batch of cables begins to be pushed out to the mass mirrors. The mass mirrors are the vast number of private servers that have signed up to the Cablegate Mass Mirroring list, in order to ensure that Wikileaks is not taken off the internet. The cables are not updated on every mirror at the same time - rather the cables are uploaded to each mirror rather slowly, and in stages. Sometimes it will take hours for a mirror to be brought in sync with the main servers. Sometimes, mirrors never catch up. The asynchronicity involved here can be seen on the LeakyLinks site, which monitors the entire mirror list, and keeps track of which ones have been brought up to date with the main server.

The upshot of the above information is that it is difficult to say at what precise time Wikileaks "released" its cable. The "Released" date on the cable metadata has already been seen to be untrustworthy - or not to represent the date at which Wikileaks actually made a cable available on its websites. But the above information demonstrates that the cable is released quite asynchronously over the mass mirror and torrent systems.

Perhaps the best candidate for an exact release date from Wikileaks of each cable is the exact moment that it was uploaded to the first main server it touched. This data is not yet forthcoming, but I have contacted the administrator of the LeakyLinks site in order to inquire if LeakyLinks has this data, since, by the nature of their work, they are most likely to see that kind of data.

Others have claimed that the release date of the torrent file, cablegate-201012082231.7z, is a good indicator. The torrent file is indeed datestamped, on the various torrent trackers, as having been released at 22:31, as I outlined above. But on the basis of the above procedure, it is difficult to say whether the torrent is released before or after the files are pushed onto the mass mirrors. The torrent might have been generated and released immediately after the files were uploaded to the first main server, or several hours later, during or after the push of the newest batch to the mass mirrors. So a time of 22:31 does not prove that 09HARARE1004 was published after The Guardian published it (at 21:30). So no certainty is forthcoming here. I feel as if it would make procedural sense for the torrent to be generated and released as soon after the initial upload to the main server as possible, but that's just a personal organizational sense, and nothing to go by.

I was advised by one of the community I was discussing this with to download the cablegate-201012082231.7z torrent, unzip it, and check the properties of the 09HARARE1004 cable's html file, looking for the "Last Modified" date. I have done this. Sadly, it casts no light on the proceedings: the last modified date is 22:39 on December 8th. This appears to be after the
torrent was released, at 22:31. The anomaly is explainable if the system clock on the system which last modified this html file is fast by 8 minutes. But we do not, alas, discover anything of importance.

I will update this post again if I hear back from LeakyLinks about the update logs.

Once again, though, I will note, in light of the Guardian's commendable address to this issue, the detail after which this post has been seeking is fast becoming irrelevant.

(2011-01-13, 23:28) Update 4: Further to the above points to consider, I refer the reader to the comment by markw, below, which have regard to the publication date on the Guardian's version of the publication, and its reliability.

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2011-01-12 Frontline Club: WikiLeaks: Holding a mirror up to journalism?

Last night in London the Frontline Club presented its first "On the Media" event of 2011, hosted by the club's founder, Vaughan Smith. The topic was WikiLeaks and its relationship with and impact on conventional journalism.

The panel was chaired by Richard Gizbert, presenter of The Listening Post on Al Jazeera English. Panel members were:

Ian Katz, deputy editor of the Guardian
David Aaronovitch, author and columnist for the Times (London)
Gavin MacFadyen, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism
Mark Stephens, media lawyer and attorney for Julian Assange

Video and text summary of the discussion

Reflections from Dominique Jackson of Babel @ Bedlam, who was present at the event.

2011-01-12 Futures for the Internet

The explosion of Wikileaks related news, and the manifestation of the internet's political potential to those who had previously ignored it, or only superficially acknowledged it, has led to a debate of increased intensity about the nature of the net, its political dimension, and its uncertain future. WL Central compiles some valuable commentary on this issue:

Rop Gonggrip: Keynote at 27C3

Rop Gonggrip's fascinating keynote speech from 27C3 projects an uncertain future, online and off, and offers some visions of what the role of the internet, and the hacker community, will be in this future. His riveting pessimism is tempered by a reassuring pragmatism, and a veteran's insight into the subject matter.

We still have to tell most of the people out there, but privacy is not in fact brought about by some magic combination on the intentionally confusing privacy radiobutton page on Facebook. It does come from, among other things, code some of us have already written and code that we still need to write: we need many things by yesterday. And we need to properly security-audit the tools we build, even if that means we can’t put in new features as quickly.

The future

As for the future, I stand by our basic story in “We lost the war”: it’s going to be a mess. I’ve just calmed down a lot when I decided for myself that this is not only bad news. Let’s face it: the current situation was never sustainable anyway. And people, both in rich and in poor countries, are not very happy now. Just remember the massive loads of ant-depressants apparently needed to keep us going. The decline of the Roman Empire was probably a very interesting period to live in and for most inhabitants life simply went on, with or without Rome.

OK, so the world is going to be a mess for a bit… You are maybe asking yourself: “What do I do with this knowledge?”. First of all, John Stewart nailed it when he recently said “we live in difficult times, not end times.” The future is not about finding solitude and a farm on a hill, it’s not about guns and ammo. But it is about having working trust relationships with the most varied group of people you can find. And it is about imagining beyond today and picking up a wide range of skills. It’s about positioning yourself such that you have some flexibility. Even if everything stays the same, there’s not much risk in any of that.

If on the other hand some of the structures around us indeed implode, we as a community will become no less important. Again: the world is not going to end. I promise there will be no zombies and humanity will survive. A lot of structures will survive. It’s just going to be quite messy for a little bit. Lots of people will freak out. For us the news sites will just be more like Fefe’s blog and the TV news will be more like the Fnord show.

If the shit hits the fan, a lot of things are going to be decentralized, but in a still very networked world. Some of us will likely be reverse engineering and then reengineering systems to get rid of some of the crazy complexity and dependencies. Improvising and doing more with less is something we are good at, not to mention making things when we need them and repairing them instead of throwing them away.

Douglas Rushkoff: The Next Net

Douglas Rushkoff takes a grim view towards the potential for the internet to meet the aspirations of hacker philosophy, but puts a positive spin on this, issuing a call to start designing a successor network. The comment stream also provides a fascinating discussion of the idea.

So let's get on it. Shall we use telephony, ham radio, or some other part of the spectrum? Do we organize overlapping meshes of WiMax? Do we ask George Soros for some money? MacArthur Foundation? Do we even need or want them or money at all? How might the funding of our network by a central bank issued currency, or a private foundation, or a public university, bias the very architecture we are trying to build? Who gets the ability to govern or limit what may spread over our network, if anyone? Should there be ways for us to transact?

To make the sorts of choices that might actually yield our next and truly decentralized network, we must take a good look at the highly centralized real world in which we live - as well as how it got that way. Only by understanding its principles, reckoning with the forces at play, and accepting the battles we have already lost, might we begin to forge ahead to create new forms that exist beyond any authority's ability to grant them protection.

3QD: What Kind of Space is Cyberspace?

A September 2009 post drawing together some excellent sources to argue that the exponential increase of energy consumption necessary to power the world's graduation into "the cloud" is insustainable, predicting an internet energy crisis.

In order to maintain total, ubiquitous availability, as today's internet users have come to expect, a lot of things have to be happening simultaneously. The millions of hard disc drives that store the internet's contents have to be powered up and spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute, not just in one place but at backup mirror sites elsewhere. The drives' read-write arms are constantly racing over the surfaces of the discs. Other servers have to be available to handle spikes in demand, as when everyone searches for Michael Jackson or Teddy Kennedy at the same time. Electrons run at light speed through miles of transmission wires and power cables. Air conditioning keeps the whirring servers cool. Real estate has to be acquired and developed to house it all. Electrical grids have to be extended to the sites. And lots of electricity has to be generated, which means lots of carbon dioxide gets produced.

How much? According to Vanderbilt:

Data centers worldwide now consume more energy annually than Sweden. And the amount of energy required is growing, says Jonathan Koomey, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. From 2000 to 2005, the aggregate electricity use by data centers doubled. The cloud, he calculates, consumes 1 to 2 percent of the world's electricity.

That is what it takes to maintain Facebook's reported 15 billion photos, entertain Microsoft's 20 million Xbox Live subscribers, and host all the other always-on content that we use. But at what cost?

According to a July 20, 2009 report by Wired magazine, Google's millions of servers 'process about 1 petabyte of user-generated data every hour'. What is a petabyte? It's a million gigabytes. The Charlotte Observer reported on June 3, 2009 that Apple is planning to build a $1 billion server farm in North Carolina, thanks in part to a $46 million tax break from the state. Cyberspace already consumes more energy than Sweden. How long before it needs more space than Sweden?

The economics of cyberspace and server farms provides no automatic curb to their growth. The key questions for business are how to get energy cheaply and how to keep transmission times in the low milliseconds. Revenues for services like Facebook and Youtube do not come from costs to users. From a naive user's perspective, cyberspace is infinite, free, and clean. As long as people perceive no cost in uploading their photos and videos, they will do so—and their content will stay there without expiring. Free video is like free petrol or free air conditioning: anyone not paying the bill for a resource will use it without restraint. And that is exactly what is happening in cyberspace.

Morozov: Parsing the impact of Anonymous
Evgeny Morozov has weighed in with numerous blog posts offering insightful analysis on the recent actions carried out under the Anonymous banner - the most clearly political and widescale example of its kind. Morozov followed up with several other blog posts, clarifying his position, and developing his ideas.

As far as long-term developments are concerned, I think that much depends on whether the WikiLeaks saga would continue being a debate about freedom of expression, government transparency or whistle-blowing or whether it would become a nearly-paranoid debate about the risks to national security. Anonymous is playing with fire, for they risk tipping the balance towards the latter interpretation -- and all the policy levers that come with it.

That said, I don't think that their attacks are necessarily illegal or immoral. As long as they don't break into other people's computers, launching DDoS should not be treated as a crime by default; we have to think about the particular circumstances in which such attacks are launched and their targets. I like to think of DDoS as equivalents of sit-ins: both aim at briefly disrupting a service or an institution in order to make a point. As long as we don't criminalize all sit-ins, I don't think we should aim at criminalizing all DDoS.

I can spend hours debating this subject but, in short, while Anonymous' actions may result in greater government oversight of the Internet, they are not necessarily illegal or immoral just because they involve DDoS attacks. The danger here is obviously that if the narrative suddenly becomes dominated by national security concerns, we can forget about DDoS as legitimate means of expression dissent -- that possibility would be closed, as they would be criminalized.

zunguzungu: Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government

Aaron Bady's (zungzungu's) now famous post, in which he brought Julian Assange's essays on conspiracies to the attention of the more attentive mainstream press, and those engaged netizens who had not been following the Wikileaks story with obessessive zeal. The essay is succinct, accessible, and encapsulates Assange's work in a manner which led to its huge popularity, provoking a global shift in the understanding of Wikileaks and the reasons for its existence. The article is coveredwith some further speculation, by a post at 3QD.

it’s worth reflecting that the conspiracy’s ability to deceive others through propaganda can also be the conspiracy’s tendency to deceive itself by its own propaganda. So many people genuinely drink the Kool-Aid, after all. Would our super-spies in Afghanistan ever have been so taken in by the imposter Taliban guy if they didn’t, basically, believe their own line of propaganda, if they didn’t convince themselves — even provisionally — that we actually are winning the war against Talibothra? The same is true of WMD; while no one in possession of the facts could rationally conclude that Saddam Hussein then (or Iran now) are actually, positively in pursuit of WMD’s, this doesn’t mean that the people talking about ticking time bombs don’t actually believe that they are. It just means they are operating with bad information about the environment. Sometimes this works in their favor, but sometimes it does not: if Obama thinks Afghanistan is winnable, it may sink his presidency, for example, while the belief of his advisors that the economy would recover if the government rescued only the banks almost certainly lost the midterm elections for the Democrats (and was the death-knell for so many of the Blue Dogs who were driving that particular policy choice). Whether this actually hurts the conspiracy is unclear; those Blue Dogs might have lost their seats, but most of them will retire from public service to cushy jobs supported by the sectors they supported while they were in public service. And lots of successful politicians do nothing but fail.

This is however, not where Assange’s reasoning leads him. He decides, instead, that the most effective way to attack this kind of organization would be to make “leaks” a fundamental part of the conspiracy’s information environment. Which is why the point is not that particular leaks are specifically effective. Wikileaks does not leak something like the “Collateral Murder” video as a way of putting an end to that particular military tactic; that would be to target a specific leg of the hydra even as it grows two more. Instead, the idea is that increasing the porousness of the conspiracy’s information system will impede its functioning, that the conspiracy will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function. You destroy the conspiracy, in other words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire

2011-01-12 Stephen M Walt: WikiLeaks, April Glaspie & Saddam Hussein

Wikiileaks, April Glaspie, and Saddam Hussein

Stephen M. Walt provides some much needed analysis on the 90BAGHDAD4237 cable, which casts new light on the long debated meeting between U.S. ambassador April Glaspie and Saddam Hussein in July 1990, a week before the outbreak of war between Iraq and Kuwait. Walt addresses arguments made after the release of the cable by Wikileaks to the effect that the cable exonerates Glaspie of the now 20 year old suspicion that she condoned a prospective war with Kuwait. His verdict: that the cable reveals that the U.S. diplomatic stance towards Iraq was insufficiently stern, and is in part responsible for the outbreak of the war.

[T]his incident seems to be a classic illustration of a country applying what IR theorists describe as a "spiral model" remedy to a "deterrence model" situation. (In the "spiral model," states are aggressive solely because they are insecure, and therefore reassuring them is the best way to avoid war. In the deterrence model, states are aggressive because they are simply greedy or ideologically driven, and the only way to avoid war is to pose a credible deterrent threat.) The Glaspie meeting reveals that U.S. leaders were concerned about about Saddam's intentions, and the U.S. government tried to reassure him that we were friendly so that he won't do something precipitous. What was needed, however, was a clear and explicit statement that an attack on Kuwait would be met with an American military response. Glaspie never uttered such a statement, and we all know what happened next.

2011-01-12 The Guardian Fails to Adequately Retract Wikileaks-Tsvangirai Falsehood

Last week, The Guardian published an article by James Richardson, a political and communications consultant who has worked in electoral campaigns for the Republican Party in the United States, in which Richardson aggressively criticized Wikileaks for the release of 09HARARE1004, a cable that, he argued, gave Robert Mugabe's faction within the Zimbabwe government a pretext for bringing a high treason trial against Morgan Tsvangirai.

I outlined here on WL Central how The Guardian was in breach of its journalistic duty in the publication of the piece.

[I]t will be important to find which media partner first published 09HARARE1004. A glance at the datestamp for 09HARARE1004 reveals it was published on the 8th of December, 2010. The only publication making reference to 09HARARE1004 as early as this, is a publication of the full cable in The Guardian. The Guardian's title for the cable is "US embassy cables: Tsvangirai tells US Mugabe is increasingly 'old, tired and poorly briefed'". It identifies gossip about Mugabe at the salient content of the cable, and entirely fails to identify the importance of the material on international sanctions against Zimbabwe, which is the material which allegedly incriminates Tsvangirai.

7. (C) On the subject of Mugabe himself, Tsvangirai said that in his recent meetings, though Mugabe seems mentally acute, he appears old and very tired. He comes to many meetings unbriefed and unaware of the content. It appears that he is being managed by hardliners. Tsvangirai said his goal now is to find a way to 'manage' Mugabe himself. One way, perhaps, would be to give him something to give his hardliners. Precisely what that something is, he said, is something he is still wrestling with.

If the above outline of the procedure for publication is accurate, and the dates seem to suggest it is, the cable was published in full on the Guardian website before it was ever published by Wikileaks. It was released as part of a group of cables in support of an article in the Guardian by Xan Rice, which treats the Harare cables merely as a quote mine for salacious opinions voiced in diplomatic confidence about Mugabe. The article is called "WikiLeaks cables reveal differing views of 'crazy', 'charming' Robert Mugabe". This batch of cables, and the Guardian's choice of emphasis in their release, actually helped contribute to the pernicious article of common wisdom that "the cables disclose only gossip about world leaders."


The possibility that these cables might be used to eliminate Tsvangirai, who was a firm favourite in the running for Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, is very grave. But if a lapse in journalistic due diligence bears part of the responsibility, it will be important not to apportion that responsibility in a partisan fashion. A lot of commentators hostile to Wikileaks are willing to attribute to its media partners every triumph, and to Wikileaks itself every pitfall. But as often happens, with the present case this story does not agree with the apparent facts. It was very probably the Guardian which greenlighted the Harare cables, and it was very probably the Guardian's harm minimization efforts which have failed. But the whole episode is to Richardson an indictment of Wikileaks and of Wikileaks only.

Before more political carnage is wrought and more blood spilled – in Africa and elsewhere, with special concern for those US-sympathising Afghans fingered in its last war document dump – WikiLeaks ought to leave international relations to those who understand it – at least to those who understand the value of a life.

As a final note, it is worrying that the Guardian was willing to publish Richardson's article without reminding the public of the facts above. The publication practices employed during Cablegate ought to be well known to the Guardian editors. It ought to be a matter of record that the Harare cables were published in The Guardian first.

The result of Richardson's article is that Wikileaks will shoulder the entire blame for whatever eventually happens in Zimbabwe, a journalistic failure in the Guardian will likely fail to be adequately identified and addressed, and the Guardian will meanwhile generate more internet traffic off the back of it all.

A journalistic error of this magnitude, the issue of which could be of great and unjust harm to the reputation of an organization like Wikileaks when reputational capital is of grave importance to it, demands a full and visible retraction. This has not been forthcoming.

Today, eight full days late, The Guardian performed a token action designed to alleviate its culpability in this regard. The original Richardson article was amended slightly, and a small note placed at the bottom of it.

• This article was amended on 11 January 2011 to clarify the fact that the 2009 cable referred to in this article was placed in the public domain by the Guardian, and not as originally implied by WikiLeaks. The photo caption was also amended to reflect this fact

The article is still plentifully available in its old form, because it was informally 'syndicated' by the parasite blog mill. It is therefore possible to work out which amendments were made. Where formerly the article read:

With little regard for the nuances and subtlety of soft international diplomacy, WikiLeaks released last week a classified US state department cable relating a 2009 meeting between Tsvangirai and American and European ambassadors, whose countries imposed travel sanctions and asset freezes on Mugabe and his top political lieutenants on the eve of Zimbabwe's 2002 presidential election.

it now reads:

The Guardian last week published a classified US state department cable relating a 2009 meeting between Tsvangirai and American and European ambassadors, whose countries imposed travel sanctions and asset freezes on Mugabe and his top political lieutenants on the eve of Zimbabwe's 2002 presidential election.

Additionally, the caption to the photograph formerly read:

Zimbabwe's PM Morgan Tsvangirai faces a treason inquiry after WikiLeaks revealed his talks with US embassy officials about possible sanctions. Photograph: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

Whereas now it reads:

Zimbabwe's PM Morgan Tsvangirai faces a treason inquiry after the Guardian's publication of a US embassy cable via WikiLeaks revealed his talks with US embassy officials about possible sanctions. Photograph: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

These changes are superficial. The mere update of the article, without a published and prominent notice, fails to address the fact that damage has been done, and that these minor efforts will avoid the notice of many who will have read the original article. For a mistake of this magnitude, one might expect that a dedicated retraction would be published. But failing this, it is proper that at least a post might be made in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications section. No such post has to date been made.

Worse, the thrust of the article, which has not been addressed in the Guardian, nor, to my knowledge, in any print newspaper, remains the same, and the impression any sensible reader would draw from it is that culpability for whatever happens in Zimbabwe remains with Wikileaks. This is certainly unfair, because it is not a moot point who first published the cable. As I argued in my post on this, Wikileaks relies for decisions as to which cables to publish, and for its harm minization and redaction procedures, on its media partners. The Guardian published this cable as part of flippant and sensational coverage of gossip about Mugabe. Its editors failed to identify the salience of the information on sanctions in 09HARARE1004, and failed therefore, to redact that information.

This superficial effort to set the record straight on responsibility for the oversight in 09HARARE1004 is insufficient by any standards of conscientious journalism. The negative publicity generated by James Richardson's article continues to circulate, and The Guardian, which will have benefited from significant internet traffic from the publication of his story, appears happy to engage in token correctional efforts. In a media climate where the mainstream press is proven to voraciously propagate straightforward falsehoods about Wikileaks, The Guardian's lapse is disappointing.

(2011-01-13, 20:25) Update 1: There was some confusion last night over the reliability of the timestamps on Wikileaks cables - a matter of some importance to this story. I covered the issue here.

(2011-01-13, 20:33) Update 2: The Guardian this afternoon published an article by Ian Katz which acknowledges the worries I outlined in this post, and proceeds to outline a balanced appraisal of the situation. The piece represents a public notice of the mistake in the Richardson article, and an attempt by The Guardian to address its own unfair practices. It puts to bed the notion that Wikileaks bears the sole responsibility for the publication of 09HARARE1004. There can remain difference of opinion about who bears more blame, whether that blame is justifiably apportioned, but The Guardian's move here ensures that those debates will occur with reference to the facts about how the cables are published. This can only be described as commendable.

2011-01-12 US Politicians call for WikiLeaks Sanctions

Peter King, the Republican who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security and whose hypocritical zeal in persecuting Wikileaks was explored in an article on December 7, 2010 by our own x7o, continues his campaign. According to an article in Nasdaq he has asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Wednesday to prohibit people and companies within the U.S. from doing business with Wikileaks or Julian Assange. He would like both to be placed on the Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List, which the Treasury Department can use to bar companies and individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction from conducting business with a given entity.

King noted that some U.S. companies had voluntarily cut off ties to Wikileaks, but that a New York publisher had recently agreed to pay Assange for an autobiography. Assange has said the book fees would help "keep Wikileaks afloat."

"The U.S. government simply cannot continue its ineffective piecemeal approach of responding in the aftermath of Wikileaks' damage," King wrote in a letter to Geithner. "The U.S. government should be making every effort to strangle the viability of Assange's organization."

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, US senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins write: "We all support transparency, but these criminal leaks were not about open government. WikiLeaks's recklessness compromised our national security and could put the lives of our citizens, soldiers and allies at risk." If you don't find enough falsehoods in the first two sentences to satisfy you, the rest is behind a paywall.

2011-01-12 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

The Guardian: [Greek] Citizen Protection Minister Upbeat on Reorganization, Cooperation

"The Greek security minister told US diplomats in a private meeting early last year that police in his country knew the identities of almost every member of a new generation of home-grown terrorist groups but lacked the evidence to arrest and imprison them, according to a US diplomatic cable."

6. (C/NF) Chrysochoidis severely criticized the state of EYP, Greece's domestic security and intelligence service. He said bluntly, "EYP is nothing." It does not serve its mission of protecting Greece and in fact is dangerous to national security because of its many shortcomings, not the least of which is a unionized labor force. As a result, Chrysochoidis declared, he intends to "collapse and rebuild it" via a draft law that is in the process of being drawn up.


Read more

2011-01-13 BBC: Palin e-mail hacker starts prison term

The BBC report on U.S. government intervention in the sentencing of David Kernell does not include the information that WikiLeaks published the contents of what it called a "pseudo-private" account because then-Governor Sarah Palin appeared to be using that account to avoid Alaska's freedom-of-information laws.

The BBC:

A man who broke into Sarah Palin's e-mail has been imprisoned - despite being told he might be spared jail. David Kernell, 23, was found guilty last year of illegally accessing Mrs Palin's e-mail during the 2008 presidential campaign. At the time, a judge suggested he should serve his year-long sentence in a halfway house. But after intervention from US government officials he is now in federal prison, the BBC has learned.

Read more

2011-01-13 Bradley Manning Support Network: WikiLeaks fulfills pledge

Jeff Paterson, speaking for the Bradley Manning Support Network, released this statement today about WikiLeaks' contribution towards the defence of the accused whistleblower.

WikiLeaks fulfills pledge to support accused whistle-blower Bradley Manning

Providence, RI, January 13, 2011 -- On Monday, WikiLeaks fulfilled its pledge to contribute toward the legal defense of accused whistleblower Bradley Manning by transferring $15,100 to the legal trust account of Manning's attorney. WikiLeaks publicly solicited donations specifically for the expenses of Manning's legal defense following his arrest in May 2010.

In light of WikiLeaks' current fiscal challenges -- due in large part to the shameful actions of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal in cutting off services to WikiLeaks at the behest of the US government -- the Bradley Manning Support Network commends WikiLeaks for their contribution at this time. "This donation from WikiLeaks is vital to our efforts to ensure Bradley receives a fair, open trial," says founder and steering committee member Mike Gogulski.

The Support Network does not name donors as a matter of course. However, WikiLeaks' pledge and anticipated contribution have been a matter of public record and ongoing interest.

This contribution by WikiLeaks brings the total funds raised and transferred to Bradley's civilian legal defense team, led by attorney David Coombs, to over $100,000. The minimum amount necessary to mount a vigorous defense for Bradley Manning is estimated to be $115,000.

Having funded nearly the entire legal bill months prior to court-martial, the Support Network is now turning its efforts to broadening a public education campaign regarding the charges against Bradley as well as the inhumane conditions that he currently endures in confinement at the brig in Quantico, Virginia. The issues at hand include government transparency, online freedom of expression, the content of the leaked materials in question and the urgency of bringing an end to America’s wars of occupation.

The components of this campaign will include the public "Stand with Brad" declaration at, nationwide events to coincide with Bradley's pre-trial Article 32 hearing, expected in March, and another round of events in conjunction with the court-martial itself, anticipated for this summer.

"We have seen an enormous outpouring of support internationally, in donations as well as volunteers," stated Jeff Paterson, steering committee member for the Bradley Manning Support Network. "Internationally, people are speaking out against the unjust imprisonment of Bradley Manning, who is for all intents accused of acting out of moral conviction. Our network applauds WikiLeaks for making this donation and urges others to protest any attempt by the government to use Manning as a scapegoat or to hold a secret trial."

Jeff Paterson
Bradley Manning Support Network

Via Cryptome

2011-01-13 The Guardian adequately addresses WikiLeaks-Tsvangirai Falsehood

Early last week, The Guardian published an Op-Ed piece by a James Richardson, which attributed to Wikileaks all of the journalistic responsibility for possible fallout in the Zimbabwean government following from the release of the 09HARARE1004 cable.

I covered the initial James Richardson piece several hours after its publication, here on WL Central, where I pointed out that the Guardian in fact bears as much if not more responsibility for the consequences of the publication of any of the Cablegate cables, because it is in fact the media partners who greenlight and redact (or fail to redact) each of the cables, before they are forwarded to Wikileaks.

Here is my post about the inadequate correction by the Guardian, which was performed on Tuesday, a full week after the original article was published. Glenn Greenwald also covered the issue yesterday, in a comprehensive article on There was also some dispute about a minor detail of the case, which I covered here.

The Guardian's Alan Rusbridger yesterday responded to a tweet by Greenwald to the effect that The Guardian would "reply at greater length" to questions he had raised about the satisfactoriness of The Guardian's correction of its James Richardson piece.

The Guardian has now done so, in a piece by Ian Katz, which acknowledges the worries I outlined in this post, and proceeds to give a reasonably balanced appraisal of the situation.

We learn of the mitigating factors: that neither Richardson, nor the American editor who cleared his piece for publication, knew of the publication procedure which problematized Richardson's argument. While there is some merit to this excuse, I think this represents a low standard of research for anyone producing an Op-Ed piece.

But while I do not agree with everything Katz argues, it represents an adequately public notice of the mistake in the Richardson article, and an attempt by The Guardian to address its own unfair practices.

It puts to bed the notion that Wikileaks bears the sole responsibility for the publication of 09HARARE1004. There can remain difference of opinion about who bears more blame, whether that blame is justifiably apportioned, whether the amendments to the original Richardson paper were adequate, and on the broader issues of journalistic responsibility generated by the Tsvangirai affair, but The Guardian's move here ensures that those debates will occur with reference to the facts about how the cables are published.

This can only be described as commendable. The dearth of facts in the history of reportage on Cablegate has been the most oppressive facet of the issue. Citizens with an interest in Wikileaks have become painfully aware of the willingness of the mainstream media, not only to distort the news (which one might realistically expect) but to be blatantly irresponsible with matters of straightforward fact.

Differences of opinion on a matter are sorely undermined if the discourse has lost contact with crucial and salient facts on that matter. While it would be preferable if falsehood-based Op-Ed pieces like Richardson's were spotted at the editorial stage, it would yet be fortunate if we could rely on The Guardian to adhere to the minimal standard of professional honesty it demonstrated today.

2011-01-13 WikiLeaks editorial: "WikiLeaks condemns U.S. embargo move"

WikiLeaks responded overnight to a call for sanctions against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks from Rep. Peter T. King, chair of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security.

Press release:

WikiLeaks condemns US embargo move

WikiLeaks today condemned calls from the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security to "strangle the viability" of WikiLeaks by placing the publisher and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, on a US "enemies list" normally reserved for terrorists and dictators.

Placement on the US "Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List" would criminalize US companies who deal with WikiLeaks or its editor. "The U.S. government simply cannot continue its ineffective piecemeal approach of responding in the aftermath of Wikileaks’ damage," King wrote in a letter to the Secretary of the US Treasury, Geithner. "The U.S. government should be making every effort to strangle the viability of Assange’s organization."

’The Homeland Security Committee chair Peter T. King wants to put a Cuban style trade embargo around the truth—forced on US citizens at the point of a gun,’ said Julian Assange.

’WikiLeaks is a publishing organization. It is time to cut through the bluster. There is no allegation by the US government or any other party, that WikiLeaks has hurt anyone, at any time during its four-year publishing history, as a result of anything it has published. Very few news organizations can say as much.’

’WikiLeaks has "terrorized" politicians from Kenya to Kansas over the last four years. Quite a few have lost office as a result. That doesn’t mean we are "terrorists"—it means we doing our job. We intend to "terrorize" Peter King, Hillary Clinton, corrupt CEOs and all the rest for many years to come, because that is what the people of the world demand.’

King noted that some U.S. companies had voluntarily cut off ties to Wikileaks, but that a New York publisher had recently agreed to pay Assange for an autobiography. Assange has said the eventual book royalties would help ’keep Wikileaks afloat’.

’By targeting WikiLeaks and the US publisher Knopf for economic censorship, King reveals his abiding hatred for the US constitution. When the founding fathers wrote, "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press", they did not provide an exception for blustering fools like Peter T. King.’

2011-01-14 Eyewitness Account from Belmarsh Court

Last Monday at 16.30, I was on the internet, trying to help some people find their way around London to be able to go to Belmarsh court. And then it suddenly dawned on me that, after having followed Wikileaks intensely over the last couple of weeks, it would be a good thing to go as well. This is a short account of my experiences - together with practical ideas about the next court-hearing on the 7th and 8th of February.

How to get there:
Travel to Bank-underground station
Take the "light rail train" to Woolwich-Arsenal from there
A short walk away from the trainstation is a busstop - take bus 244/380
The journey took me 1 1/2 hour.

I had mailed the court in advance to ask if there was anything I should be aware of. And this was their reply:

Please see link, the hearing is at 10am, there will be a public gallery, but please get there early.

So I did - I planned to be there at 8.00 and the whole place was already full of press, vehicles, cameras etc. They were all huddled up behind some type of railing & I was told to go to the front-door of the court and start a queue there. Before I did I had a bit of a chat with whoever was interested. The most intriguing conversation was with a journalist from Expressen: the Swedish paper that broke the news on the rape charges. I said to her that they would know who would have told them the news (see this link,00.shtml I don't like the tone of the article, but I love the logic!) & she was like "but we keep our sources confidential". And I was like - "but you must know the full story, would a rape victim have gone to you to advertise??" Funniest was that another journalist joined me and she became more and more agitated.

When I stood by the door I saw all the court-staff come in and around 9.30 I had become part of the furniture - still being a 1-person queue for "the public". They were all very friendly and I found out that, because England has so many complex cases, the case meant nothing special to them. It was business as usual.

When the doors finally opened we all had to go through scanners etc. Some of the journalists had a bit of stress because, apparently, not all of them knew that they were supposed to register in advance. The journalists then went to their registration desk and I went to the public gallery of the court-room. A balcony with a thick glass-fence, occupied by two policeman and for the rest completely empty. The courtroom had a similar glass wall at the back of it with some church-benchlike furniture & two policewomen behind it & that was meant for Julian.

I was in the middle of reading a magazine when downstairs (in the courtroom itself) a lady arrived who became completely hysterical and told me to leave the gallery ("you are not supposed to be there, how can I work while people are watching me") As I had only done as I was told, the policemen apologized ;-) and I waited outside. While I stood there a lot was going on: They first told me that there were so many journalists that there might not be a place for public. Then I was told that I could stay, but was not allowed to write anything down. I now saw Julian and all his lawyers etc. arrive and the people who had supported him with bail money & in the end I was back in the gallery where I overheard the NYTimes journalist saying that the Times are also going to do a book on Assange.

What was scary about the process was that the sound system was very bad. If the judge or the lawyers did not speak in the microphone they were hard to understand, I could get only meaning from their faces. I hope that it is not the habit of Belmarsh court to have people attend to their own court-case without being able to hear things. But maybe the sound in the glassbox downstairs was better...

When the hearing was over - I went looking for other supporters. It was quite worrying that I had seen no one else. It turned out that they were not allowed in because they wore signs and masks and hats. Court-workers told me that all this type of decisions are at the discretion of the judge.

I felt that it was very important that there were supporters there. From court cases I have done in the past - I have learned from the judge that they'll note it when there is a huge public interest and that it is important to be a witness to what the juridical system is doing. It is not a complex task - watching them with concentration and subtly reacting to what they say is enough.

On top of that we got the opportunity to talk to the press and express support for Wikileaks. Because I am blond I spoke to German/ARD and Hongkong/Phoenix (!) television. I also talked to two newspapers and was able to annoy the woman from the Expressen again. She had never heard of Karl Rove and didn't think she should....

So - I hope that my writing has gotten more of you interested in coming to the next hearing (I don't know yet if I will be able to attend that one) to support Julian Assange and Wikileaks. If you are - I think it is a good move to mail the court to ask for a place already. That might force them to consider moving the case to a different court because they need even more seats ;-)

Practical stuff: I think it was really wise from me to come in a business outfit and to present myself with my professional personality. Next time I'll bring businesscards and a telephone.

2011-01-14 Murdoch & News Corp: A Preview

Much ink has been spilled in the last 24 hours over the insurance file Julian Assange alluded to in his interview with John Pilger of New Statesman. In the event that something should happen to WikiLeaks or Assange himself, insurance files will be released which contain "504 files on one broadcasting organisation." There are also "cables on Murdoch and News Corp," Assange tells us.

Interesting possibilities for the scope of the leaks are vast and include technology, politics and the media. Each in turn.

News of the Wikileaks files comes at what might be an inconvenient time for Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corp., who is in the midst of launching his "new baby" in conjunction with Apple founder Steve Jobs. The baby is apparently worth $300M to Murdoch and comes in the form of an iPad-only publication called "The Daily" (Source).

News Corp. has also ventured into the domain of online education technology. In November 2010,

...News Corporation announced that it had signed an agreement to buy 90 percent of Wireless Generation for $360 million in cash, its first foray into the for-profit world of education since its book publishing arm, Harper Collins, got out of the textbook business in the mid-1990s. The deal thrusts one of the world’s largest media conglomerates behind a concept championed by New York City’s schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein: a numbers-based system to evaluate and rank schools and to improve teaching. (Source)

Exactly how Klein’s burgeoning passion for this stuff will take shape inside News Corp. has yet to be hammered out. But he makes clear that he believes the “huge transformation in the field of education” that is coming is “going to be driven by private markets”—by a wave of digital-learning start-ups now swelling around the country. (Source)

Another notable project on Murdoch's plate involves some generous contributions to the The Republican Governors Association in June 2010, clearly revealing unabashedly the kinship between Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and the GOP (The Republican Party). News Corp. contributed $1 million dollars, claiming that "News Corp. believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy." (Source)

The stakes? Former Governors Mitt Romney, Governor Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin are potential 2012 presidential candidates for the Republican Party. So is Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who took over the RGA as Chairman in June 2009.

News Corp. also contributed $1 million in 2010 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been "running an aggressive campaign in support of the Republican effort to retake Congress" (Source).

“The Republican Party was not going to be rebuilt out of Washington,” said Mike Schrimpf, an RGA spokesman. “Our party has always fared best when our leaders came from the states.” (Source)

"NBC gives us money," said Governor Haley Barbour. "There is nothing wrong with corporations contributing to governors' races. It is perfectly legal. Lots of them do it, including lots of them that are in the news businesses." (Source)

The Media
Perhaps the most historical project in the making is Murdoch's potential takeover of satellite broadcaster BSkyB. "News Corp already owns 39% of BSkyB but is looking to take full control of the company." (Source) News Corp's first bid was rejected, but a recent takeover bid in December 2010 was approved by the European Commission.

The news came before the revelation that UK Business Secretary Vince Cable had said he planned to block the move to take full control of BSkyB.

Mr. Cable told undercover reporters that he had "declared war" on Mr Murdoch. (Source).

Cable was shortly thereafter "relieved of some of his powers".

The idea of one man or company controlling a large proportion of the nation's newspaper and broadcasting interests is an issue of public concern - particularly when that person takes a close interest in the political agenda of his newspapers and one of them claims to influence general elections.

The famous headline "It's The Sun Wot Won It" appeared on the front page of The Sun on 11 April 1992 after it supported the Conservatives in the lead-up to their election victory.

It is generally accepted that freedom of speech is enhanced by having a diversity or plurality of editorial voices. There are legal restrictions on media ownership (at a local level, as well as national), and major takeovers are subject to scrutiny by regulators - provided the politicians give the go-ahead. (

It remains to be seen which, if any of these projects will be jeopardized by the information in Wikileaks' possession. One thing is certain, however. For an ambitious man like Murdoch who has so much to gain from his numerous ventures, some riskier than others, news of the insurance file cannot be comforting. Where there is much to be be gained, there is at least an equal proportion of potential loss.

2011-01-14 Tunisia: Ben Ali Out, Mohamed Ghannouchi Out

Today marked the end of a 23 year rule by Tunisian president Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia after police in the country killed at least 23 protesters. “What happened here is going to affect the whole Arab world,” said protester Zied Mhirsi. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced his intention to serve as interim president, and protesters immediately refused to have him.

Fadhel Bel Taher, whose brother was one of dozens of people killed in protests, said: "Tomorrow we will be back on the streets, in Martyrs Square, to continue this civil disobedience until... the regime is gone.

"The street has spoken."

Protesters had gathered on Twitter under the hashtag #sidibouzid, named for the city where an unemployed college graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, burned himself to death in frustration and anger at being ordered to buy a license to sell fruit. The Tunisian government attempted to shut down social media gathering by blocking access to Twitter accounts, bloggers and Facebook pages, but were circumvented and attacked by online activists world wide. Al Jazeera is also widely commended by protesters for getting their story told.

2011-01-14 Wall Street Journal: Treasury cannot sanction WikiLeaks or Julian Assange

In response to Rep. Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, who had demanded that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange be placed on a blacklist maintained by the US Treasury Department, a department representative said today, "We do not have evidence at this time as to Julian Assange or Wikileaks meeting criteria under which [Treasury] may designate persons and place them on the [sanctions list]."

Read more

2011-01-14 WikiLeaks Rallies Tomorrow



Global: Global Protest
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011, 18:00h

Global: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011
Event Information:


Location: Victoria Sqaure, Adelaide, Australia
Event page:

Brisbane: Saturday, January 15, 20:30h
Location: Brisbane Square, Top of Queen St Mall
Event page:

Sydney: Saturday, January 15, 13:00h
Location: Sydney Town Hall
Contact: Patrick on 0422 028 113
Event page:

Hobart: Saturday, January 15, TBA
Location: Information Day, at Franklin Square and surrounds


Vancouver: Saturday, January 15, 1400h - 1700h
Location: Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, 350 West Georgia Street
Organizer: Pirate Party of Canada
Organizer website:
Event page:

Calgary: Saturday, January 15, 1400h - 1700h
Location: University of Calgary, outside the social sciences building
Organizer: Pirate Party of Canada
Organizer website:
Event page:

Montreal, Qc:
Date and time: Saturday, January 15, 1400h - 16:00h
Location: Grande bibliotheque, 475 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est
Event Information:


Copenhagen: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 10:00h - 12:00h CET
Location: Jernbanegade 6, Copenhagen, Denmark
Event Information:

Aarhus: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 10:00h - 12:00h CET
Location: Strøget, Banegårdspladsen, Aarhus C, DK-8000, Denmark
Event Information:


Lyon: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h - 16:00h
Location: Place des Terreaux Lyon, france
Event Information:

Paris: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h - 16:00h GMT
Location: METRO ODEON, Paris, france
Event Information:


München: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h - 17:00h
Location: Marienplatz, München, Germany
Event Information:


Athens: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h
Location: Sidagma (Athens Center), Sidagmatos (Plateia Suntagmatos)
Event Information:

Athina: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h
Location: Σύνταγμα @37.975344,23.735511, Σύνταγμα‎
Event Information:


Dublin: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 11:00h
Location: 62-64 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1
Event Information:


Rotterdam: Saturday, January 15, 8:00h
Location (updated): Stationsplein 1 3013 AJ Rotterdam, Rotterdam Stationsplein (Rotterdam centraal
Event Information:


Łódź: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 13:00h - 16:00h EET
Location: Plac Wolności, Łódź, Polska
Event Information:

Piła: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h - 16:00h EET
Location: Rondo JP II, Piła 64-920, Polska
Event Information:


Lisbon: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 11:00h
Location: R. Garrett, Front of A Brasileira café.
Event Information:


Belfast: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h
Location: Victoria Square, BT1 4QG, Victoria Square
Event Information:


Bucuresti: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 12:00h
Location: Piata Centrala, Romania
Event Information:


Edinburgh: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h
Location: TBD
Event Information:

Glasgow, Lanarkshire: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 4 February 2011 13:00h - 15:00h
Location: St. Enoch Centre, Outside the underground, 55 St Enoch Square
Event Information:


Barcelona: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 13:00h
Location: Plaza Catalnuya
Event Information:

Bilbao: Global Mobalization
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 18:00h
Location: Plaza Moyua.
Event Information:

Málaga: Global Mobalization
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 18:00h
Location: Plaza de la Constitución /Constitution Square.
Event Information:

Madrid: Global Mobalization
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 18:00h
Location: Plaza del Rey 1, Madrid, Ministerio de Cultura
Event Information:

Valencia: Global Mobalization
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, (17:30h 19:00h)
Location: Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
Event Information:

Vitoria Gasteiz: Global Mobalization
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 18:00h
Location: Plaza de la Virgen Blanca / White Virgin´s Square.
Event Information:


Göteborg: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 12:00h
Location: Götaplatsen
Event Information:

Stockholm: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 12:00h
Location: Plattan, Sergels torg, Stockholm
Event Information:


Geneva: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 17:00h - 23:00h
Location: Parc des bastions, Place Neuve - Meeting in front of the Kiosque (Bar-Restaurant) in the parc
Event Information:

Zurich: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 11:00h
Location: Hauptbahnhof, Zurich, 8000, Treffpunkt am
Event Information:


Ankara: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 19:00h 23:00h EET
Location: Güven Park, Kızılay, Ankara
Event Information:

Istanbul: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h 16:00h EET
Location: Galatasaray Square, Taksim, Beyoglu, Istanbul
Event Information:


Liverpool: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h PST
Location: Chavasse Park
Event Information:

London: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 11:00h PST
Location: 146 Queen Victoria Street London, EC4V 4BY
London Dianetics and Scientology Exhibition
Event Information:

London: University of London - Students' Union
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 18:00h
Location: Trafalger Square
Event Information:

Peterborough: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 19:00h 21:00h
Location: High Street outside queensgate shopping center, start outside KRCS store
Event Information:

Newcastle Upon Tyne: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 5 February 2011 13:00h
Location: TBA
Event Information:


Boston: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 11:00h-05:00h EST
Location: Copley Square, Boston
Event page:

NWI/Chicago, Indiana/Illinois: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, TBD
Location: TBD
Event Information:

Cincinnati, Ohio: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 08:00h - 22:00h
Location: Great American Ball Park: 100 Joe Nuxhall Way
Event Information:

Dallas, TX: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 11:00h
Location: 1100 Commerce Street, Earle Cabell Federal Building
Event Information:

Dover, DE: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 22nd, 12:00h
Location: 55 The Green, Delaware Supreme Courthouse
Event Information:

Denver, CO: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 13:00h
Location: 101 West Colfax Avenue, Colorado Supreme Court Clerk
Event Information:

Elkton, MD: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 10:00h - 12:00h
Location: Walmart, 1000 East Pulaski Highway
Event Information:

Eugene, OR: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 16:00h
Location: 420 park - Saturday market area
Event Information:

Los Angeles: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 08:00h PST
Location: TBD
Event Information:

Miami, FL: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h PST
Location: 11401 NW 12 St, Miami
Event Information:

Missoula, MT: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 12:00h
Location: Corner of 4th St. and Higgins Ave., Higgins Ave. Bridge
Event Information:

New Haven, CT: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 12:00h PST
Location: Broadway, The Broadway Island
Event Information:

New York: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 17:00h PST
Location: 226 West 46th Street, Butt Land
Event Information:

Pittsurgh: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 12:00h
Location: 201 Wood St., Point Park University
Event Information:

Portland: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 12:00h PST
Location: pioneer square or anywhere downtown between sw 6th, sw broadway,sw morrison st, sw taylor st are the four streets surrounding the square - portland oregon 97024 pioneer square
Event Information:

Providence RI: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 00:00h 06:00h 16 Jan
Location: 7 Dike Street
Event Information:

Ortonville, MI: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 15:00h PST
Location: 476 Mill Street, Ortonville Village Office
Event Information:

Raleigh: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 18:00h
Location: 2 East South Street, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27601
Event Information:

Saint Louis, MO: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 13:00h
Location: 1200 Market St, St Louis, MO, Saint Louis Information Services
Event Information:

Saint Paul, MN: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 11:00h -18:00h CST
Location: 1011 Nicollet Mall, Party Hard Central, Saint Paul, MN
Event Information:

Salt Lake City, UT: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 14:00h
Location: 400 s. 200 E, Salt Lake City Public Library Open grounds
Event Information:

San Diego: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 18:00h PST
Location: 326 Broadway San Diego, CA 92101, City Park across the street from The Grant
Event Information:

San Francisco:
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 16:00h - 18:30h
Location: Clay St and Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA
Event page:

San Jose, CA: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 11:00h
Location: 650 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose/Los Gatos
Event Information:

Sanford, FL: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 14:00h
Location: 648 E 1st St, Fort Mellon Park
Event Information:

Seattle: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday 15 January 2011 08:00h PST
Location: 1000 4th Ave / 1200 12th Avenue
Event Information:

Tampa, FL: Anonymous in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression
Date and time: Saturday, January 15th, 10:00h
Location: 4202 E Fowler Ave, The University of South Florida
Event Information:

Washington DC:
Date and time: Saturday, January 15, 12:00h - 18:00h
Location: Dupont Circle
Event page:

2011-01-15 Global Freedom of Information Rallies

Global rallies were held on Saturday, January 15, for Freedom of Information and in support of Wikileaks. Here are some of the protests that were held yesterday, primarily organized by Anonymous and Free Wikileaks (Europe).

Istanbul, Turkey:Wonderful video of Anonymous in Istanbul.

Sydney, Australia: More than a thousand in attendance. Here are some Photos. In addition, there is a video of the Pirate Party's own Rodney Serkowski speaking: Video. (Stick around for the written message from Phillip Adams--you won't regret it!)

Our own JLo, who was on the scene, has now covered the Sydney protest, and provided a gallery of photographs from the event.

Vancouver, Canada: The number of protesters was much lower than in Sydney, but rest assured that their passion made up for their numbers. Read about it!

Seattle, U.S.A.: Several protesters show up in the rain: (Video) Now that's dedication! Thank you Washington!

Calgary, Canada: Freedom of the press and government transparency at the University of Calgary. Go Calgary! We're very proud of those who came. Send us some video and images!

San Francisco, U.S.A.: "A Media Intervention for Wikileaks" (Video). Very powerful: "We have never been more empowered to fight back than we are right now." Thank you San Francisco!

Global Freedom of Information rallies were an absolute success, and further success stories are coming, to be updated right here as they roll in. Please send us video or images so that we might put our strength and numbers on display! Send these as attachments or links to: ke[at]WLCentral[.]org

Thank you, world! This is just the beginning.

2011-01-15 Julian Assange & Mens Rea, Sweden & Doli Incapax: Extradition Part 4

We are indebted to Julian Assange who apparently instructed his counsel to make available the "Skeleton Argument" for the extradition hearing proper.

It was expected, per my previous post Extradition Part 3 that the issue of extradition (and arrest) for the purposes of investigation only, would be a highly significant issue for the extradition arguments, and so it was.

One part of that document however that shocked me, that I have discussed with colleagues (likewise shocked) was paragraph 88, the legal implications of which I was unaware. It now seems that some (or indeed all?) of the prospective charges of a sexual nature in Sweden do not have as a required element that the prosecution must prove (for a conviction to be sustained) the element of mens rea, the "guilty mind" otherwise known as the fault element.

I have not found the relevant Swedish law and even if I did, the Google translator would not do it justice, so to speak. In the meantime I have no reason to doubt the lack of mens rea in Swedish sexual offences law per the Skeleton Argument.

Fault elements, while they can be inferred from the circumstances, range for example, from explicit clear knowledge of wrongdoing to recklessness, but as a general principle of criminal law, with exceptions and modifications of course, criminal justice systems require that not only the unlawful conduct be proven, but that the element of knowing that it was wrong needs also to be proven.

Paragraph 88 of the Skeleton Argument reads:

Mr. Assange reserves the right to argue that his extradition is barred by reason of extraneous considerations, namely that the EAW has been issued against him for the purposes of prosecuting or punishing him for his political opinions (limb (a)) and/or that he will be prejudiced at trial, etc., by reason of those opinions (limb (b)), or by reason of his gender as a result of the 2005 amendments to the sexual offences laws in Sweden which deny to men the protection of mens rea.

The latter point will also be made in respect of the “extradition offence” issue (see earlier), in that these gender amendments preclude any assumption that the Swedish offence contains the requisite element of mens rea.

Wipedia gives a good account of mens rea: actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea meaning that the act alone is not sufficient, the mind also must be guilty, which is a questioning into the subjective mind of the accused.

At the opposite end, as opposed to the mens rea element, there are strict liability laws such as parking laws. Irrespective of state of the mind of the parking perpetrator, whether the coin meter is jammed; the power to the meter went off; you were having a baby in the car park and ran out of coins; even a life or death situation such as an earthquake: the "brown bombers" we well know are without mercy and will go the last mile to get you.

Nothing will save us from liability of the Scourge of the Streets, the Mania of local authority Mafia for a quick dollar: the ubiquitous, universally hated parking meters and their attendants.

Swedish law thus moves in the direction of a strict liability regime, with a prosecutor not entirely unlike a parking meter attendant, recently convicted of speeding, lacking in the finer points of persuadeability, ticketing a British judge in a car park outside the Old Bailey.

We can assume then that Swedish law has conduct alone as the necessary element which if proven establishes guilt, and that lack of consent is built into the conduct element.

Looking at consent issues for the moment:

The NSW Crimes Act, for example, on knowledge of consent to sexual intercourse states:

61HA(3) Knowledge about consent. A person who has sexual intercourse with another person without the consent of the other person knows that the other person does not consent to the sexual intercourse if:

(a) the person knows that the other person does not consent to the sexual intercourse, or

(b) the person is reckless as to whether the other person consents to the sexual intercourse, or

(c) the person has no reasonable grounds for believing that the other person consents to the sexual intercourse.

This knowledge as it pertains to guilt or knowledge of wrongdoing, (or the opposite) is subjective, but can have external proofs, like a witness or a camera.

Juries are asked in the case of recklessness, in effect, not to apply an objective test but to focus on the mind of the accused. (R v O'Meager (1997) 101 A Crim R 196)

Apparently this is all of little to no account under Swedish law.

Instead of proving the guilty mind, a Swedish prosecution of sexual offences will ignore any reasonably held belief that the accused had as to consent, or even as to the belief and the "absolutely not guilty mind" of explicit consent: The State will instead impose an evidentiary test based on the accusation and evidence of conduct without a subjective element at all.

The state of mind of the accused, that he was innocent, along with the close corollary of belief of full consent, is no longer relevant.

(When one thinks of that at the "subjective" level, it's a corollary of sorts, perhaps it's more accurate to describe it as synonymous, but it's difficult to separate the two. In the case of sexual assault, the subjective mind knowing of consent has it it practically indistinguisable from innocence. Conversely lack of consent and guilt.)

Such a non subjective regime fits in rather well with Claes Borgstrom's statement not so long ago, "They are not jurists"

The only realistic interpretation of that is that Mr Borgstrom is saying (and I stress, not the alleged victims) that the women had difficulty in knowing, or don't know whether or not they consented. An odd circumstance to say the least, and counter intuitive.

The Swedish Prosecution, with guidance apparently from that same political figure, will decide when the alleged victims are not sure, to lay a charge, and so we see law becoming subverted by a new policy, a new politics of gender.

For sexual assault in Sweden, an indictment would read in effect something like this, ie NSW law without a mental element:

That the accused, Joe Bloggs on 3rd March 2010 at Euroville in the State of Sweden did have sexual intercourse with Heidi X without the consent of of Heidi X

The last bit, what we have in common law nations is the bit related to the mental element: "knowing she did not consent" is left out and irrelevant to the elements required in Sweden.

The Swedish elements required would therefore be:
1) The accused had sexual intercourse with the victim
2) The sexual intercourse occurred without the consent of the victim.

In such a regime there would be only one defence (that I can think of) and that would be for the accused to prove his innocence, and the only way to do that effectively would be to video record with audio, any and all acts of sexual intercourse.

Defence evidence otherwise by way of protestations of consent as a defence, and evidence of the subjective mind of an innocent accused, (not reckless, most reasonably believing there was consent), is of little to no account, or at best, having eliminated the subjective mens rea, an objective test is applied by the tribunal of fact, which asks, "Irrelevant to the mind of the accused, was consent given by our objective standards?"

That has to be the legal result of eliminating mens rea.

Imagine such an objective test in the hands of Mr Claes Borgstrom on the bench at trial, given the brand of gender politics that he espouses?

It's hard not to say that my advice to all men in Sweden (which I don't give incidently) is to video record all acts of sexual intercourse.

Proving one's innocence of course reverses the onus of proof contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 6, but that is the practical effect of eliminating mens rea as a required provable element of crime in Sweden.

That's what I would be arguing at Assange's extradition hearing, that if indeed the test for consent is objective and the subjective mens rea element is removed, the effect is to reverse the onus of proof, contrary to human rights law.

Most are familiar with the legal concept that a child under 10 cannot be held criminally liable--Australia and the UK among others. The principle in Latin, Doli Incapax is a rebuttable presumption of no liability (the situation in Australia, not the UK due to amendments) for children aged 10 to 14.

Sexual offences against children under 14 has lack of consent, and knowing of that, (a mental element on the part of the accused), a complete, irrelevant, non issue.

And that is so redolent of the Swedish regime, apparently: when it comes to consent as a defence, when the alleged victim is perhaps not sure of it, Sweden's legal regime may decide, as a matter of apparent gender policy, in effect, that the victim is not only innocent like a child, but is doli incapax incapable of giving that consent as a defence for the accused.

I don't think Swedish women should be treated as doli incapax, but I'm beginning to think the Swedish criminal justice system should be.

2011-01-15 Julian Assange & Mens Rea, Sweden & Doli Incapax: Extradition Part 4

We are indebted to Julian Assange who apparently instructed his counsel to make available the "Skeleton Argument" for the extradition hearing proper.

It was expected, per my previous post Extradition Part 3 that the issue of extradition (and arrest) for the purposes of investigation only, would be a highly significant issue for the extradition arguments, and so it was.

One part of that document however that shocked me, that I have discussed with colleagues (likewise shocked) was paragraph 88, the legal implications of which I was unaware. It now seems that some (or indeed all?) of the prospective charges of a sexual nature in Sweden do not have as a required element that the prosecution must prove (for a conviction to be sustained) the element of mens rea, the "guilty mind" otherwise known as the fault element.

I have not found the relevant Swedish law and even if I did, the Google translator would not do it justice, so to speak. In the meantime I have no reason to doubt the lack of mens rea in Swedish sexual offences law per the Skeleton Argument.

Fault elements, while they can be inferred from the circumstances, range for example, from explicit clear knowledge of wrongdoing to recklessness, but as a general principle of criminal law, with exceptions and modifications of course, criminal justice systems require that not only the unlawful conduct be proven, but that the element of knowing that it was wrong needs also to be proven.

Paragraph 88 of the Skeleton Argument reads:

Mr. Assange reserves the right to argue that his extradition is barred by reason of extraneous considerations, namely that the EAW has been issued against him for the purposes of prosecuting or punishing him for his political opinions (limb (a)) and/or that he will be prejudiced at trial, etc., by reason of those opinions (limb (b)), or by reason of his gender as a result of the 2005 amendments to the sexual offences laws in Sweden which deny to men the protection of mens rea.

The latter point will also be made in respect of the “extradition offence” issue (see earlier), in that these gender amendments preclude any assumption that the Swedish offence contains the requisite element of mens rea.

Wipedia gives a good account of mens rea: actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea meaning that the act alone is not sufficient, the mind also must be guilty, which is a questioning into the subjective mind of the accused.

At the opposite end, as opposed to the mens rea element, there are strict liability laws such as parking laws. Irrespective of state of the mind of the parking perpetrator, whether the coin meter is jammed; the power to the meter went off; you were having a baby in the car park and ran out of coins; even a life or death situation such as an earthquake: the "brown bombers" we well know are without mercy and will go the last mile to get you.

Nothing will save us from liability of the Scourge of the Streets, the Mania of local authority Mafia for a quick dollar: the ubiquitous, universally hated parking meters and their attendants.

Swedish law thus moves in the direction of a strict liability regime, with a prosecutor not entirely unlike a parking meter attendant, recently convicted of speeding, lacking in the finer points of persuadeability, ticketing a British judge in a car park outside the Old Bailey.

We can assume then that Swedish law has conduct alone as the necessary element which if proven establishes guilt, and that lack of consent is built into the conduct element.

Looking at consent issues for the moment:

The NSW Crimes Act, for example, on knowledge of consent to sexual intercourse states:

61HA(3) Knowledge about consent. A person who has sexual intercourse with another person without the consent of the other person knows that the other person does not consent to the sexual intercourse if:

(a) the person knows that the other person does not consent to the sexual intercourse, or

(b) the person is reckless as to whether the other person consents to the sexual intercourse, or

(c) the person has no reasonable grounds for believing that the other person consents to the sexual intercourse.

This knowledge as it pertains to guilt or knowledge of wrongdoing, (or the opposite) is subjective, but can have external proofs, like a witness or a camera.

Juries are asked in the case of recklessness, in effect, not to apply an objective test but to focus on the mind of the accused. (R v O'Meager (1997) 101 A Crim R 196)

Apparently this is all of little to no account under Swedish law.

Instead of proving the guilty mind, a Swedish prosecution of sexual offences will ignore any reasonably held belief that the accused had as to consent, or even as to the belief and the "absolutely not guilty mind" of explicit consent: The State will instead impose an evidentiary test based on the accusation and evidence of conduct without a subjective element at all.

The state of mind of the accused, that he was innocent, along with the close corollary of belief of full consent, is no longer relevant.

(When one thinks of that at the "subjective" level, it's a corollary of sorts, perhaps it's more accurate to describe it as synonymous, but it's difficult to separate the two. In the case of sexual assault, the subjective mind knowing of consent has it it practically indistinguisable from innocence. Conversely lack of consent and guilt.)

Such a non subjective regime fits in rather well with Claes Borgstrom's statement not so long ago, "They are not jurists"

The only realistic interpretation of that is that Mr Borgstrom is saying (and I stress, not the alleged victims) that the women had difficulty in knowing, or don't know whether or not they consented. An odd circumstance to say the least, and counter intuitive.

The Swedish Prosecution, with guidance apparently from that same political figure, will decide when the alleged victims are not sure, to lay a charge, and so we see law becoming subverted by a new policy, a new politics of gender.

For sexual assault in Sweden, an indictment would read in effect something like this, ie NSW law without a mental element:

That the accused, Joe Bloggs on 3rd March 2010 at Euroville in the State of Sweden did have sexual intercourse with Heidi X without the consent of of Heidi X


The last bit, what we have in common law nations is the bit related to the mental element: "knowing she did not consent" is left out and irrelevant to the elements required in Sweden.

The Swedish elements required would therefore be:
1) The accused had sexual intercourse with the victim
2) The sexual intercourse occurred without the consent of the victim.

In such a regime there would be only one defence (that I can think of) and that would be for the accused to prove his innocence, and the only way to do that effectively would be to video record with audio, any and all acts of sexual intercourse.

Defence evidence otherwise by way of protestations of consent as a defence, and evidence of the subjective mind of an innocent accused, (not reckless, most reasonably believing there was consent), is of little to no account, or at best, having eliminated the subjective mens rea, an objective test is applied by the tribunal of fact, which asks, "Irrelevant to the mind of the accused, was consent given by our objective standards?"

That has to be the legal result of eliminating mens rea.

Imagine such an objective test in the hands of Mr Claes Borgstrom on the bench at trial, given the brand of gender politics that he espouses?

It's hard not to say that my advice to all men in Sweden (which I don't give incidently) is to video record all acts of sexual intercourse.

Proving one's innocence of course reverses the onus of proof contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 6, but that is the practical effect of eliminating mens rea as a required provable element of crime in Sweden.

That's what I would be arguing at Assange's extradition hearing, that if indeed the test for consent is objective and the subjective mens rea element is removed, the effect is to reverse the onus of proof, contrary to human rights law.

Most are familiar with the legal concept that a child under 10 cannot be held criminally liable--Australia and the UK among others. The principle in Latin, Doli Incapax (not to be confused with Australia's former foreign minister Dolli Downer) is a rebuttable presumption of no liability (the situation in Australia, not the UK due to amendments) for children aged 10 to 14.

Sexual offences against children under 14 has lack of consent, and knowing of that, (a mental element on the part of the accused), a complete, irrelevant, non issue.

And that is so redolent of the Swedish regime, apparently: when it comes to consent as a defence, when the alleged victim is perhaps not sure of it, Sweden's legal regime may decide, as a matter of apparent gender policy, in effect, that the victim is not only innocent like a child, but is doli incapax incapable of giving that consent as a defence for the accused.

I don't think Swedish women should be treated as doli incapax, but I'm beginning to think the Swedish legal system should be.

2011-01-15 New York Times: Documentary filmmaker doesn't qualify for a journalist's privilege, says court

A US court decision appears to draw a line between advocacy and journalism that could have dangerous consequences for other publishers and artists.

New York Times:

A federal appeals court has ruled that Joe Berlinger, a filmmaker who was ordered to hand over footage from his 2009 documentary “Crude” to the Chevron Corporation, cannot invoke a journalist’s privilege in refusing to do so because his work does not constitute an act of independent reporting. ...

In a decision issued on Thursday concerning Mr. Berlinger’s contention that he was protected as a journalist from being compelled to share his materials, the Second Circuit judges said they did not find the argument, which his lawyers presented to the court in July, to be persuasive.

“Given all the circumstances of the making of the film,” the judges wrote, “as reasonably found by the district court, particularly the fact that Berlinger’s making of the film was solicited by the plaintiffs in the Lago Agrio litigation for the purpose of telling their story, and that changes to the film were made at their instance, Berlinger failed to carry his burden of showing that he collected information for the purpose of independent reporting and commentary.”

Via @jeffjarvis on Twitter

2011-01-15 What the US state cables on Tunisia said

The US state cables have been credited with enormous importance in the Tunisian revolution. Preserved for the Tunisians by organizations such as Tunileaks and other online media, they may have provided the spark to an already very volatile situation. In any case, they enhance our understanding of the situation, as understood by the US embassy. Arguably the most interesting of the cables may be 09TUNIS492#1 which describes the US ambassador's belief that the US cannot make the progress they wish to in the country while Ben Ali is president and outlines the embassy's policy of using social media to communicate with the people in the country.

In 2006 and 2007 we see cables where France is accusing Tunisia of not cooperating on "counter-terrorism".

2006/03/30: 06PARIS2069#1

intelligence-sharing relationships recently had become strained between Tunisia and France. The strain originated on the Tunisian side, said Ricard, and he assumed that it was due to political calculations. (Comment: Since a FM Douste-Blazy visit to Tunis last fall, the GOF has become more outspoken on human rights in Tunisia, though still much less so than the U.S. End comment.)

2007/01/26: 07PARIS322#1

France,s chief counterterrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, told us on January 19 that a recent surge in overall GSPC activities worried French counterterrorism officials, who are convinced there is now a significantly higher threat against France and its interests abroad. Tunisian security services, he said, had essentially shut the French out, preferring to deny the existence of a threat.

Information exchange with Tunisia, he said, was now virtually non-existent. The Tunisian government was either in denial or did not know how to proceed and was shutting out the French. Morocco continues to be relatively reliable with information, with Algeria as, "as usual," excellent on some days and like Tunisia on others.

2006/10/17: 06TUNIS2570#1

Suha Arafat acquires Tunisian nationality to the great puzzlement of the US ambassador.

We remain puzzled as to why Mrs. Arafat would want Tunisian citizenship, and why now, since she already enjoyed the privilege of a Tunisian diplomatic passport, and we doubt that she was eager to exercise her right to vote in Tunisia or become a member of the Tunisian National Assembly. The only other tangible benefit of citizenship is that Tunisian law forbids foreigners to own agricultural land -- and Mrs. Arafat is not known to be an aspiring farmer. One possible motivation is that under Tunisian law, foreign participation in a totally non-exporting service industry cannot exceed 50 percent. Several months ago, Mrs. Arafat set up one such company -- to build an international school in Tunis. Tunisian citizenship will allow her to control this company. As for what was in such a move for the GOT, Post suspects that a continuing desire on the part of the government to market itself as closely tied to the Palestinian people played a role. The GOT probably feels the need for some Palestinian "cover" during this time when newspapers are full of stories on the government's campaign against the hijab (reftel). In addition, Mrs. Arafat is said to be good friends with the First Lady, Leila Ben Ali.

2007/11/16: 07TUNIS1489#1

In less than a year Suha Arafat's Tunisian citizenship is revoked, prompting speculation from the US embassy, particulary regarding possible corruption surrounding closure of the Bouebdelli Schoola, a private school in competition with one owned by Tunisian first lady Leila Ben Ali. Other theories are discussed in the cable but not included here.

In a mid-October telcon with the Ambassador, Ms. Arafat blamed her ouster on the personal animus of First Lady Leila Ben Ali. "I can't believe what she's has done to me," Arafat exclaimed, "I've lost everything!" She charged that all of her properties in Tunisia had been confiscated, even by falsifying documents transferring ownership. (Note: It is rumored that Mrs. Arafat had invested -- and lost -- some 2.5 million euros in the Carthage International School. End Note.) In addition, she said, her friends and colleagues in Tunisia, including her banker, had also come under pressure. "Anyone who supports me is punished."

Mrs. Arafat attributed her ouster to her falling out with First Lady Leila Ben Ali over the Carthage International School, a new, private, for-profit school, of which they had been co-owners. According to Mrs. Arafat's version of events, the dispute stemmed from Leila Ben Ali's decision to force the closure of the Bouebdelli school (also known as by the name of its parent group, Le Fondation Louis Pasteur), a highly respected private school, from which many of Tunisia's elite have graduated. (Note: The Bouebdelli school was notified in mid-May that the Minister of Education had ordered it to close, ostensibly for failure to comply with registration regulations. Public outcry ensued, fueled in part by a petition and letter-writing campaign organized by parents of Bouebdelli schoolchildren. Many local and international media reports criticized the decision to close the school as a flagrant attempt to stifle potential competition of the International School of Carthage. The fact that parents of Bouebdelli schoolchildren were encouraged to enroll their children at the Carthage school only served to fuel these charges, as did the August 29 Presidential decree in which President Ben Ali granted 1,794,600 Tunisian Dinars (approximately US $ 1.5 million) to the Carthage School, an estimated 25 percent of its operating budget.)

Other rumors have circulated with a different spin on the school story. According to this theory, it was Mrs. Arafat who overreached, not Leila Ben Ali. Specifically, it is said that Mrs. Arafat convinced the Ministry of Education to force the closure of the Bouebdelli School. She reportedly did so by invoking the name of Mrs. Ben Ali. Critically, though, according to this theory, Leila Ben Ali was not aware that her name was being invoked. Thus, the Tunisian First Lady was incensed when she learned about the school's closure -- and her alleged role in that decision -- in the highly critical pieces in the local and international media. (Comment: The fact that the Bouebdelli School did not reopen, even after the revocation of Suha Arafat's citizenship, would seem to cast doubt on the accuracy of this theory. End Comment.)

No doubt as a result of her tribulations, Mrs. Arafat was not shy about sharing with the Ambassador her negative impressions of President Ben Ali, his wife, and her family members, whom, she said, collectively represent a web of corruption. Drawing on her close contact with the first family over the past several years, she made several allegations, among them the following:
-- President Ben Ali remains weakened by his battle with cancer (NFI);
-- President Ben Ali spends all his time playing with his son and following him around the residence;
-- President Ben Ali simply does what his wife asks him to do;
-- Leila Ben Ali and her family are stealing everything of value in the country;
-- Leila Ben Ali believes that she will succeed her husband as President of Tunisia;
-- The members of Ben Ali's extended family can do whatever they want with impunity, including the falsification of documents;
-- Leila Ben Ali dropped the American curriculum that had been planned for the Carthage school because she fundamentally wants nothing to do with Americans.

Suha Arafat has an ax to grind with the Ben Ali clan, so her allegations must be taken with a big grain of salt. Although difficult to prove, there is a certain ring of truth to the stories of corruption swirling around the school issue. While it is not clear who was behind the Bouebdelli closure, the ready-made pool of students for whom Bouebdelli was no longer an option was certainly convenient for filling the classrooms in the Carthage School's opening year. Indeed, during a mid-September visit to the Carthage School, MgmtCouns learned that the school is filled to capacity. Beyond that, no school in recent memory has been constructed so quickly, had municipally provided access roads, street signs, and traffic lights installed so efficiently, or had such ease in getting certified (although it has not yet received the French accreditation the Bouebdelli School had). Nor is it common practice for the GOT to so generously subsidize a for-profit educational institution. Finally, it must be noted that the school affair, while rather blatant, is not an isolated case of favoritism and corruption.

2008/03/03: 08TUNIS193#1

In 2008 Ben Ali meets with Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and co-operation is very forthcoming.

A/S Welch thanked Ben Ali and expressed appreciation for his commitment to cooperation on counter-terrorism. He said he had two specific requests: 1) access for US officials to interview Tunisian terrorist Noureddine Taam and 2) a commitment to accept the Tunisian
detainees in Guantanamo on the basis of earlier assurances on treatment. Ben Ali responded that the United States would have immediate access to Taam. (NB. Additional details reported in GRPO channels.) He continued that the GOT would accept the detainees and do so on the basis of the Tunisian constitution. (NB. The Tunisian constitution offers guarantees on human rights, humane treatment and respect for international commitments.) Ben Ali emphasized again that on counter-terrorism and intelligence Tunisia would "cooperate with the United States without inhibitions" and the cooperation would be "total."

2008/03/03: 08RABAT194

At the same time, corruption is obvious.

He expressed concern about rapacity and brittleness in Tunisia.

Mansouri was surprised when Welch expressed concern about Tunisia. Mansouri said Morocco is quite concerned about the greed and brittleness of the Ben Ali regime. Mansouri added that the December 2006/January 2007 events had scared the GOT.

He noted that while counterterrorism cooperation must work, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had recently completely rejected a Tunisian initiative to organize a security summit of Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) members.

But the US seems to value Tunisian co-operation in the region.

2008/03/03: 08ALGIERS261#1

Bouteflika complained that the U.S. treats Algeria as "second class" compared to the preferential treatment it gives to Tunisia and Morocco.

2008/06/04: 08MADRID620#1

The Ministers of Interior of Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia agreed May 22 to strengthen counter-terrorism information exchange.

2009/06/16: 09TUNIS372#1

A 2009 cable tells of an author criticizing the Ben Ali regime including the "duality" between official discourse and the reality on the ground, the stifling of political liberties and omnipotent controls on the media, illusory freedom of association and "the rule of law is more fiction than reality."

Asked whether he had also been in touch with other western embassies, he said that he had avoided reaching out to the French, in particular, arguing that Ambassador Degallaix is seen as Ben Ali's Ambassador to French President Sarkozy, not vice versa. In addition, he alleged that the GOT has improperly given Ambassador Degallaix a villa, which is registered in his daughter's name, on rue Sidi Dhrif, near the President's own residence. He did not offer any evidence of this alleged corruption or explain how this knowledge came to him.

He recounted an incident in which Ben Ali came off as "very uneducated" in the meeting, failing to grasp some of the key points ... Ben Ali abruptly told him that he wanted a 50-50 stake in the enterprise. Fearful of responding in the negative, he said he "played dumb," pretending not to understand the President's proposition.

He offered a theory as to what was behind the GOT's decision to revoke Suha Arafat's Tunisian citizenship in 2007. (Note: Reftel also reports on this incident.) He said that he had heard that Leila Ben Ali at that time had been scheming to marry off an 18 year-old niece (NFI) to UAE Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheik Mohamed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, one of whose wives is the half-sister of the King of Jordan. According to this rumor, Suha Arafat warned Jordanian Queen Rania about Leila Ben Ali's plans. Word of Arafat's intervention got back to the Tunisian First Lady, who turned against Arafat and soon forced her out of Tunisia.

He is extremely well respected and considered an upstanding member of the community. While we might doubt the veracity of some of the rumors that he shared with us, we have no reason to doubt his account of his conversation with President Ben Ali, in which he described the President as seeking a 50 percent stake in his private university. We routinely hear allegations of corruption, and such allegations are inherently difficult to prove. The anecdote strikes us as credible. It is also significant in that it implicates Ben Ali himself, while so many other reported incidents of corruption involve his extended family.

2009/06/18: 09TUNIS399#1

The US ambassador discusses Tunisian prison conditions with International Red Cross Committee Regional (ICRC) Delegate Yves Arnoldy who had concerns about overcrowding and treatment of prisoners. He did not specifically recommend against transferring prisoners from Guantanamo. He asked to be kept informed about transferees and thanked the US government for its financial support of the ICRC.

2008/06/23: 08TUNIS679

This was the most explosive of the cables and the one that caused the most anger. It is here in its entirety.


According to Transparency International's annual survey and Embassy contacts' observations, corruption in Tunisia is getting worse. Whether it's cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali's family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants. Beyond the stories of the First Family's shady dealings, Tunisians report encountering low-level corruption as well in interactions with the police, customs, and a variety of government ministries. The economic impact is clear, with Tunisian investors -- fearing the long-arm of "the Family" -- forgoing new investments, keeping domestic investment rates low and unemployment high (Refs G, H). These persistent rumors of corruption, coupled with rising inflation and continued unemployment, have helped to fuel frustration with the GOT and have contributed to recent protests in southwestern Tunisia (Ref A). With those at the top believed to be the worst offenders, and likely to remain in power, there are no checks in the system. End Summary.

The Sky's the Limit

According to Transparency International's 2007 index, the perception is that corruption in Tunisia is getting worse. Tunisia's ranking on the index dropped from 43 in 2005 to 61 in 2007 (out of 179 countries) with a score of 4.2 (with 1 the most corrupt and 10 the least corrupt). Although corruption is hard to verify and even more difficult to quantify, our contacts all agree that the situation is headed in the wrong direction. When asked whether he thought corruption was better, worse, or the same, XXXXXXXXXXXX exclaimed in exasperation, "Of course it's getting worse!" He stated that corruption could not but increase as the culprits looked for more and more opportunities. Joking about Tunisia's rising inflation, he said that even the cost of bribes was up. "A traffic stop used to cost you 20 dinars and now it's up to 40 or 50!"

All in the Family

President Ben Ali's extended family is often cited as the nexus of Tunisian corruption. Often referred to as a quasi-mafia, an oblique mention of "the Family" is enough to indicate which family you mean. Seemingly half of the Tunisian business community can claim a Ben Ali connection through marriage, and many of these relations are reported to have made the most of their lineage. Ben Ali's wife, Leila Ben Ali, and her extended family -- the Trabelsis -- provoke the greatest ire from Tunisians. Along with the numerous allegations of Trabelsi corruption are often barbs about their lack of education, low social status, and conspicuous consumption. While some of the complaints about the Trabelsi clan seem to emanate from a disdain for their nouveau riche inclinations, Tunisians also argue that the Trabelsis strong arm tactics and flagrant abuse of the system make them easy to hate. Leila's brother Belhassen Trabelsi is the most notorious family member and is rumored to have been involved in a wide-range of corrupt schemes from the recent Banque de Tunisie board shakeup (Ref B) to property expropriation and extortion of bribes. Leaving the question of their progenitor aside, Belhassen Trabelsi's holdings are extensive and include an airline, several hotels, one of Tunisia's two private radio stations, car assembly plants, Ford distribution, a real estate development company, and the list goes on. (See Ref K for a more extensive list of his holdings.) Yet, Belhassen is only one of Leila's ten known siblings, each with their own children. Among this large extended family, Leila's brother Moncef and nephew Imed are also particularly important economic actors.

The President is often given a pass, with many Tunisians arguing that he is being used by the Trabelsi clan and is unaware of their shady dealings. XXXXXXXXXXXX a strong supporter of the government and member of XXXXXXXXXXXX, told the Ambassador that the problem is not Ben Ali, but "the Family" going too far and breaking the rules. Nevertheless, it is hard to believe Ben Ali is not aware, at least generally, of the growing corruption problem. This might also reflect the seeming geographical divisions between the Ben Ali and Trabelsi fiefdoms, with the Ben Ali clan reportedly focused on the central coastal regional and the Trabelsi clan operating out of the greater Tunis area and therefore, generating the bulk of the gossip. The Ben Ali side of the Family and his children and in-laws from his first marriage are also implicated in a number of stories. Ben Ali has seven siblings, of which his late brother Moncef was a known drug trafficker, sentenced in absentia to 10 years prison in the French courts. Ben Ali has three children with his first wife Naima Kefi: Ghaouna, Dorsaf and Cyrine. They are married respectively to Slim Zarrouk, Slim Chiboub, and Marouane Mabrouk -- all significant economic powers.

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

With real estate development booming and land prices on the rise, owning property or land in the right location can either be a windfall or a one-way ticket to expropriation. In summer 2007, Leila Ben Ali received a desirable tract of land in Carthage for free from the GOT in order to build the for-profit Carthage International School (Ref F). In addition to the land, the school received a 1.8 million dinar (US $1.5 million) gift from the GOT, and within a matter of weeks the GOT had built new roads and stoplights to facilitate school access. It has been reported that Ms. Ben Ali has sold the Carthage International School to Belgian investors, but the Belgian Embassy has as yet been unable to confirm or discount the rumor. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that the school was indeed sold for a huge, but undisclosed sum.He noted any such sale would be pure profit since Ms. Ben Ali's received land, infrastructure, and a hefty bonus at no cost.

Construction on an enormous and garish mansion has been underway next to the Ambassador's residence for the past year. Multiple sources have told us that the home is that of Sakhr Materi, President Ben Ali's son-in-law and owner of Zitouna Radio. This prime real estate was reportedly expropriated from its owner by the GOT for use by the water authority, then later granted to Materi for private use. A cafe owner recounted a similar tale to an Embassy employee, reporting that Belhassen Trabelsi forced him to trade in a cafe he previously owned in a prime location for his current cafe. The cafe owner stated Trabelsi told him he could do whatever he wanted there; if 50 dinar bribes to the police were not effective, Trabelsi said the owner had only to call him and he would "take care of it."

Yacht Wanted

In 2006, Imed and Moaz Trabelsi, Ben Ali's nephews, are reported to have stolen the yacht of a well-connected French businessman, Bruno Roger, Chairman of Lazard Paris. The theft, widely reported in the French press, came to light when the yacht, freshly painted to cover distinguishing characteristics, appeared in the Sidi Bou Said harbor. Roger's prominence in the French establishment created a potential irritant in bilateral relations and according to reports, the yacht was swiftly returned. The stolen yacht affair resurfaced in early 2008 due to an Interpol warrant for the two Trabelsis. In May, the brothers were brought before Tunisian courts, in a likely effort to satisfy international justice. The outcome of their case has not been reported.

Show Me Your Money

Tunisia's financial sector remains plagued by serious allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement. Tunisian business people joke that the most important relationship you can have is with your banker, reflecting the importance of personal connections rather than a solid business plan in securing financing. The legacy of relationship-based banking is a sector-wide rate of non-performing loans that is 19 percent, which remains high but is lower than a high of 25 percent in 2001 (Ref I). Embassy contacts are quick to point out that many of these loans are held by wealthy Tunisian business people who use their close ties to the regime to avoid repayment (Ref E). Lax oversight makes the banking sector an excellent target of opportunity, with multiple stories of "First Family" schemes. The recent reshuffle at Banque de Tunisie (Ref B), with the Foreign Minister's wife assuming the presidency and Belhassen Trabelsi named to the board, is the latest example. According to a representative from Credit Agricole, Marouane Mabrouk, another of Ben Ali's sons-in-law, purchased a 17 percent share of the former Banque du Sud (now Attijari Bank) shares immediately prior to the bank's privatization. This 17 percent share was critical to acquiring controlling interest in the bank since the privatization represented only a 35 percent share in the bank. The Credit Agricole rep stated that Mabrouk shopped his shares to foreign banks with a significant premium, with the tender winner, Spanish-Moroccan Santander-Attijariwafa ultimately paying an off the books premium to Mabrouk. XXXXXXXXXXXX recounted that when he was still at his bank he used to receive phone calls from panicked clients who stated that Belhassen Trabelsi had asked them for money. He did not indicate whether he advised them to pay.

The Trickle Down Effect

While the stories of high-level, Family corruption are among the most flagrant and oft-repeated, Tunisians report encountering low-level corruption more frequently in their daily lives. Speeding tickets can be ignored, passports can be expedited, and customs can be bypassed -- all for the right price. Donations to the GOT's 26-26 Fund for development or to the Bessma Society for the Handicapped -- Leila Ben Ali's favored charity -- are also believed to grease the wheels. Hayet Louani (protect), a well-connected member of Parliament, faced increased pressure from the GOT after refusing several "requests" to donate money to Trabelsi's soccer team. XXXXXXXXXXXX reported that customs inspectors demanded 10,000 dinars to get his goods through customs; he did not reveal whether or not he acquiesced to the demand.

Nepotism is also believed to play a significant role in awarding scholarships and offering jobs. Knowing the right people at the Ministry of Higher Education can determine admission to the best schools or can mean a scholarship for study abroad. An Embassy FSN stated that the Director of International Cooperation, a long-time contact, offered to give his son a scholarship to Morocco on the basis of their acquaintance. If you do not know someone, money can also do the trick. There are many stories of Tunisians paying clerks at the Ministry of Higher Education to get their children into better schools than were merited by their test scores. Government jobs -- a prize in Tunisia -- are also believed to be doled out on the basis of connections. Leila Ben Ali's late mother, Hajja Nana, is also reported to have acted as a broker for both school admissions and government job placement, providing her facilitation services for a commission. Among the complaints from the protestors in the mining area of Gafsa were allegations that jobs in the Gafsa Phosphate Company were given on the basis of connections and bribery.

Mob Rule?

The numerous stories of familial corruption are certainly galling to many Tunisians, but beyond the rumors of money-grabbing is a frustration that the well-connected can live outside the law. One Tunisian lamented that Tunisia was no longer a police state, it had become a state run by the mafia. "Even the police report to the Family!" he exclaimed. With those at the top believed to be the worst offenders, and likely to remain in power, there are no checks in the system. The daughter of a former governor recounted that Belhassen Trabelsi flew into her father's office in a rage -- even throwing an elderly office clerk to the ground -- after being asked to abide by laws requiring insurance coverage for his amusement park. Her father wrote a letter to President Ben Ali defending his decision and denouncing Trabelsi's tactics. The letter was never answered, and he was removed from his post shortly thereafter. The GOT's strong censorship of the press ensures that stories of familial corruption are not published. The Family's corruption remains a red line that the press cross at their own peril. Although the February imprisonment of comedian Hedi Oula Baballah was ostensibly drug-related, human rights groups speculate his arrest was punishment for a 30 minute stand-up routine spoofing the President and his in-laws (Tunis D). International NGOs have made the case that the harsh prison conditions faced by journalist Slim Boukdhir, who was arrested for failing to present his ID card and insulting a police officer, are directly related to his articles criticizing government corruption. Corruption remains a topic relegated to hushed voices with quick glances over the shoulder.

The Elephant in the Room

Several Tunisian economists argue that it does not matter whether corruption is actually increasing because "perception is reality." The perception of increasing corruption and the persistent rumors of shady backroom dealings has a negative impact on the economy regardless of the veracity. Contacts tell us they afraid to invest for fear that the family will suddenly want a cut. "What's the point?" Alaya Bettaieb asked, "The best case scenario is that my investment succeeds and someone important tries to take a cut." Persistently low domestic investment rates bear this out (Ref H). Foreign bank accounts, while illegal, are reportedly commonplace. A recent Ministry of Finance amnesty to encourage Tunisians to repatriate their funds has been an abject failure. Bettaeib stated that he plans to incorporate his new business in Mauritania or Malta, citing fear of unwanted interference. Many economists and business people note that strong investment in real estate and land reflects the lack of confidence in the economy and an effort to keep their money safe (Ref C).

Thus far, foreign investors have been undeterred, and according to Tunisian business contacts, largely unaffected. Foreign investment continues to flow in at a healthy rate, even excluding the privatizations and huge Gulf projects which have yet to get underway. Foreign investors more rarely report encountering the type of extortion faced by Tunisians, perhaps reflecting that foreign investors have recourse to their own embassies and governments. British Gas representatives told the Ambassador they had not encountered any impropriety. XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that several years ago Belhassen Trabelsi attempted to strong arm a German company producing in the offshore sector, but that after the German Embassy intervened Trabelsi was explicitly cautioned to avoid offshore companies. Despite pronouncements about increasing domestic investment, the GOT focuses heavily on increasing FDI flows to the country, particularly in the offshore sector. Nevertheless, there are still several examples of foreign companies or investors being pressured into joining with the "right" partner. The prime example remains McDonald's failed entry into Tunisia. When McDonald's chose to limit Tunisia to one franchisee not of the GOT's choosing, the whole deal was scuttled by the GOT's refusal to grant the necessary authorization and McDonald's unwillingness to play the game by granting a license to a franchisee with Family connections.


Although the petty corruption rankles, it is the excesses of President Ben Ali's family that inspire outrage among Tunisians. With Tunisians facing rising inflation and high unemployment, the conspicuous displays of wealth and persistent rumors of corruption have added fuel to the fire. The recent protests in the mining region of Gafsa provide a potent reminder of the discontent that remains largely beneath the surface. This government has based its legitimacy on its ability to deliver economic growth, but a growing number of Tunisians believe those as the top are keeping the benefits for themselves.

Corruption is a problem that is at once both political and economic. The lack of transparency and accountability that characterize Tunisia's political system similarly plague the economy, damaging the investment climate and fueling a culture of corruption. For all the talk of a Tunisian economic miracle and all the positive statistics, the fact that Tunisia's own investors are steering clear speaks volumes. Corruption is the elephant in the room; it is the problem everyone knows about, but no one can publicly acknowledge. End Comment.

2009/06/23: 09TUNIS415#1

The Tunisian government informs German, Italian, Spanish, UK and Canadian governments that the Tunisian government wants the tunisian prisoners in Guantanamo returned to them. Tunisia requests that the European governments do not accept the US request to take Tunisian detainees. There is concern that Tunisia's image would suffer if the detainees were sent to other countries.

The Canadian Ambassador noted the GOT has offered, as evidence that it does not torture, the case of Imam Said Jaziri who was repatriated from Canada to Tunisia despite allegations that he would be mistreated. The Canadian Ambassador said the comparison between Jaziri and the Guantanamo detainees is "crap", explaining that Jaziri was a petty criminal and not accused of terrorism. The Canadian government reviewed Jaziri's case carefully and decided he could be transferred since he did have links with terrorism. The Canadian decision, Picard suggested, might well have been otherwise if Jaziri had been accused of terrorism.

The Canadian Ambassador said the GOT's statements that it does not torture are "bullshit." The Canadian Ambassador (protect) said he had direct, first hand evidence of torture/mistreatment of a prisoner that lasted several months. The Canadian and German Ambassadors agreed that anyone in Tunisian prisons on terrorism charges is at risk of mistreatment or torture.

The GOT clearly and strongly wants the Tunisian detainees in Guantanamo returned home. As we suggested in Ref A, Washington agencies may wish to consider whether to offer to return the Tunisian detainees if the GOT agrees to permit US access to the first two transferees and ongoing access to any future transferees. Such an understanding would need to include a mechanism to address the problems that may arise. While there is no absolute guarantee against mistreatment, such an understanding would provide transferees additional protection. Whether the GOT would accept such an arrangement is another matter. We are not optimistic, but it is worth considering. If Washington decides to continue with efforts to transfer the Tunisian detainees to third countries, we need to officially inform the GOT at a high-level and soon.

2009/07/17: 09TUNIS492#1

Tunisian independence is annoying to the US government, but Tunisia remains strategically important to the US. Ben Ali's departure will be welcomed. The US ambassador has set a priority on engaging the people of Tunisia, especially the young, and emphasizes using online social media to deliver the US message. "The Embassy is already using Facebook as a communication tool. In addition, we have the Ambassador’s blog, a relatively new undertaking that is attracting attention."

Tunisia has big problems. President Ben Ali is aging, his regime is sclerotic and there is no clear successor. Many Tunisians are frustrated by the lack of political freedom and angered by First Family corruption, high unemployment and regional inequities. ... Major change in Tunisia will have to wait for Ben Ali’s departure.

On foreign policy ...its goal has been to &get along with everyone.

Finally, although Tunisians have been deeply angry over the war in Iraq and perceived US bias towards Israel, most still admire the &the American dream. Despite the anger at US foreign policy, we see a growing desire for English-language instruction, a wish for more educational and TUNIS 00000492 002 OF 005 scientific exchanges, and a belief in the American culture of innovation. Tunisians see these as important for their future.

Despite Tunisia’s economic and social progress, its record on political freedoms is poor. Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems. The GOT can point to some political progress in the last decade, including an end to prior review of books and ICRC access to many prisons. But for every step forward there has been another back, for example the recent takeover of important private media outlets by individuals close to President Ben Ali.

The problem is clear: Tunisia has been ruled by the same president for 22 years. He has no successor. And, while President Ben Ali deserves credit for continuing many of the progressive policies of President Bourguiba, he and his regime have lost touch with the Tunisian people. They tolerate no advice or criticism, whether domestic or international. Increasingly, they rely on the police for control and focus on preserving power. And, corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising. Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, First Lady Leila Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock her; even those close to the government express dismay at her reported behavior. Meanwhile, anger is growing at Tunisia’s high unemployment and regional inequities. As a consequence, the risks to the regime’s long-term stability are increasing.

We need to keep the focus, especially with 2009 an election year in Tunisia. Ben Ali is certain to be reelected by a wide margin in a process that will be neither free nor fair. In this context, we should continue to underscore the importance of these issues, and to maintain contacts with the few opposition parties and civil society groups critical of the regime.

In addition to talking to the GOT, we need to engage directly with the Tunisian people, especially youth. The Embassy is already using Facebook as a communication tool. In addition, we have the Ambassador’s blog, a relatively new undertaking that is attracting attention. Over the past couple of years, the Embassy has substantially increased its outreach to Tunisian youth through concerts, film festivals, and other events. Our information resource center and America’s Corners are popular ways for Tunisians to access unfiltered news and information. We should continue and increase such programs.

In the end, serious change here will have to await Ben Ali’s departure. But President Obama’s new tone and policies may create a window of pportunity. We should use it to make overtures to the GOT in areas where they seek our involvement or assistance. And, we should seek to engage all Tunisians (especially the young) in ways that will improve the future for both our countries.

2009/07/27: 09TUNIS516#1

Details of a meeting between the US ambassador and presidential son-in-law and wealthy businessman Mohamed Sakher El Materi, and his wife, Nesrine Ben Ali El Materi. The president's son-in-law brags of his influence and is surrounded by evidence of wealth. The US ambassador provides detailed descriptions of the extravagant dinner provided, along with complaints that the Tunisian government is slow in allowing McDonald's franchises in the country. El Matari "complained about the unhealthy food served by McDonald’s, however, adding it is making Americans fat."

El-Materi Unplugged: Home/Personal Life

El-Materi’s house is spacious, and directly above and along the Hammamet public beach. The compound is large and well guarded by government security. It is close to the center of Hammamet, with a view of the fort and the southern part of the town. The house was recently renovated and includes an infinity pool and a terrace of perhaps 50 meters. While the house is done in a modern style (and largely white), there are ancient artifacts everywhere: Roman columns, frescoes and even a lion’s head from which water pours into the pool. El Materi insisted the pieces are real. He hopes to move into his new (and palatial) house in Sidi Bou Said in eight to ten months.

The dinner included perhaps a dozen dishes, including fish, steak, turkey, octopus, fish couscous and much more. The quantity was sufficient for a very large number of guests. Before dinner a wide array of small dishes were served, along with three different juices (including Kiwi juice, not normally available here). After dinner, he served ice cream and frozen yoghurt he brought in by plane from Saint Tropez, along with blueberries and raspberries and fresh fruit and chocolate cake. (NB. El Materi and Nesrine had just returned from Saint Tropez on their private jet after two weeks vacation. El Materi was concerned about his American pilot finding a community here. The Ambassador said he would be pleased to invite the pilot to appropriate American community events.)

El Materi has a large tiger (“Pasha”) on his compound, living in a cage. He acquired it when it was a few weeks old. The tiger consumes four chickens a day. (Comment: The situation reminded the Ambassador of Uday Hussein’s lion cage in Baghdad.) El Materi had staff everywhere. There were at least a dozen people, including a butler from Bangladesh and a nanny from South Africa. (NB. This is extraordinarily rare in Tunisia, and very expensive.)

They have three children, two girls and a boy. Leila is four and another daughter that is about 10 months. Their boy is adopted and is two years old. The youngest daughter is a Canadian citizen, by virtue of birth in Canada. The family’s favorite vacation destination spot is the Maldives Islands.

El Materi said he has begun an exercise and diet regime. He has, he said, recently lost weight (it was visibly true). El Materi said he eats in a “balanced” way. He had just spent an hour on a bike, he claimed. Nesrine said she gets no exercise.

Both El Materi and Nesrine speak English, although their vocabulary and grammar are limited. They are clearly eager to strengthen their English. Nesrine said she loves Disney World, but had put off a trip this year because of H1N1 flu. Nesrine has, for sometime, had Tamiflu nearby (even taking it on trips). Originally it was out of fear of bird flu. She packs it for El Materi too when he travels. Nesrine said she has visited several US cities. El Materi had only been to Illinois recently in connection with the purchase of a plane.

Throughout the evening, El Materi often struck the Ambassador as demanding, vain and difficult. He is clearly aware of his wealth and power, and his actions reflected little finesse. He repeatedly pointed out the lovely view from his home and frequently corrected his staff, issued orders and barked reprimands. Despite this, El Materi was aware of his affect on the people around him and he showed periodic kindness. He was unusually solicitous and helpful to the Ambassador’s wife, who is disabled. Occasionally, he seemed to be seeking approval. One western Ambassador in Tunis, who knows El Materi, has commented that he has western-style political skills in his willingness to engage with ordinary citizens. It is an uncommon trait here.

El Materi, in recent months, has been ever more visible in the local diplomatic community. He has clearly decided (or been told) to serve as a point of contact between the regime and key ambassadors. Nesrine, at age 23, appeared friendly and interested, but nave and clueless. She reflected the very sheltered, privileged and wealthy life she has led. As for the dinner itself, it was similar to what one might experience in a Gulf country, and out of the ordinary for Tunisia.Most striking of all, however, was the opulence with which El Materi and Nesrine live. Their home in Hammamet was impressive, with the tiger adding to the impression of “over the top.” Even more extravagant is their home still under construction in Sidi Bou Said. That residence, from its outward appearance, will be closer to a palace. It dominates the Sidi Bou Said skyline from some vantage points and has been the occasion of many private, critical comments. The opulence with which El Materi and Nesrine live and their behavior make clear why they and other members of Ben Ali’s family are disliked and even hated by some Tunisians. The excesses of the Ben Ali family are growing.

2011-01-15 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

Le Monde: Corruption en Tunisie, "ce qui est à vous est à moi" (Corruption in Tunisia, "What is yours is mine")

"Le Monde publie exceptionnellement une traduction en français d'un télégramme diplomatique américain dévoilé par WikiLeaks et décrivant la corruption au plus haut niveau du régime du président Ben Ali. (Le Monde publishes exceptionally a French translation of an American diplomatic cable unveiled by Wikileaks, which describes the corruption at the highest level of President Ben Ali's regime.)"

Read more (French)

2011-01-16 Early reports of unrest in Libya [UPDATE 1]

EA World View is reporting protests in Darna on the northeast coast of Libya, in Beida, the third-largest city, and at the Press Syndicate in Cairo, supporting the rising in Tunisia and calling for a change in Egypt's politics: "Revolution, revolution until victory, revolution in Tunisia, and revolution in Egypt!"

More news is appearing under the hashtag #Libya including the following: has some perspective. Colonel Gaddafi has been in power for almost 42 years, compared with a mere 23 for Ben Ali.

Contrary to what many people imagine, protests and even large-scale riots are not uncommon in the Arab countries. They occur mostly in marginalised regions or among marginalised sections of the population and, normally, they pose no great threat to the regime.

Last month – one day before the trouble started in Tunisia – there was a Sunni-versus-Shia riot in the Saudi city of Medina. Eight hundred people are said to have taken part; windows were smashed and dozens of cars damaged or destroyed. Outside the kingdom, hardly anyone noticed.

The tricky part is judging the significance of such protests when they occur. One test is whether they are outside the norm for the country concerned: ten dead in a tribal battle with the Yemeni army would be no big deal, but the same thing in Oman, next door, would be hugely significant.

Applying the "Tunisia test", the following are also useful pointers for distinguishing minor from major protests:

1. Disturbances sustained for more than a few days.

2. Disturbances steadily growing in strength and spreading to other areas, especially those areas not traditionally regarded as marginalised.

3. Focus of protests shifting strongly from the original grievances to a more generalised critique of the regime.

4. Regime starting to show signs of inability to reassert control.

Al Jazeera (Arabic) reports people in several Libyan cities have broken into thousands of housing units after an interview in Sabha with Muammar Gaddafi. Thousands of citizens stormed a project containing 800 residential units in the city of Benghazi in Aguarcp. [Very bad translation: if anyone has a better, please post in the comments. Thank you.]

More youtube video

2011-01-16 Murder incitement domain names becoming a fad

Setting up death threats against Julian Assange as domain names is a new fad.  Just don't try setting up "" or "".  The site is devoted to tracking these explicit threat domain names. At the moment it lists 6 domains of the "kill Assange" variety.

Here's a summary of coverage:

From the above HuffPo item:

Go Daddy, the site which registered both and said there is nothing that can be done about either site while they are contentless. Go Daddy registers a domain name every .8 seconds -- any domain name can be registered and there is no human intervention.


"Unless and until there is content associated with there is no way for us to know what that means," said Christine Jones, Go Daddy's General Counsel. "There's no way to judge whether there's going to be something done with that domain name or if it is going to be violating any rule."

In the past week, Go Daddy has received numerous calls regarding the death threat domain names, but the company has no intention of taking action at this time. The one exception to this, Jones said, would be a domain name death threat for the President, "if the secret service contacted us, we would almost certainly take action on those domain names."

Other links on the topic:

 (cited in HuffPo piece)

  Note: @exiledsurfer did the logo for above link - HuffPo actually links to his announcement here:

  (cited in BoingBoing piece)  (direct link)

Laura L. Russwurm's blog has an item "GoDaddy is OK with"

  Laura wrote to GoDaddy to find out the scoop - see her Post for the full response. In part GoDaddy said,

As your complaint addresses the issue of wording of the domain name itself, we are unable to take action at this time. The complaint either needs to be taken up with the domain name owner directly, or should be filed in a UDRP or court proceeding...

From Reuters "Wikileaks founder says  guards against death threats (Dec.4 2010)

(Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Friday he and colleagues were taking steps to protect themselves after death threats following the publication of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables on their website... the 39-year-old Australian said anyone making threats against his life should be charged with incitement to murder..."The threats against our lives are a matter of public record, however, we are taking the appropriate precautions to the degree that we are able when dealing with a superpower," Assange was quoted as saying on the Guardian website.

Icerocket Search "wikileaks domain death threat":

  • News - 2 results
  • Web - 393,000 results
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  • Twitter - 2.4 posts/day (as of 1053hrs EST 011610


Here's Jan Wildeboer's take on it.  This was also reported by wikinews030.

-DaveM (@dredeyedick)




2011-01-16 New Miss America spurns WikiLeaks

Teresa Scanlan of Nebraska, newly crowned Miss America, was asked her opinion of WikiLeaks in the final stages of the competition last night.

Here is her answer (video):

You know when it came to that situation it was actually based on espionage, and when it comes to the security of our nation we have to focus on security first, and then people's right to know. Because it's so important that everyone in our borders is safe, and so we can't let things like that happen and they must be handled properly... and I think that was the case.

2011-01-16 Panama's Tourism Minister in hot seat over cable alleging drug ties

Image Courtesy of Panama reports the Secretary General of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PDR) is calling  for the removal Salomon Shama, the country's Minister of Tourism, because of revelations in cable released by Wikileaks, wherein the US Ambassador Barbara Stephenson voiced suspicion Shama had "suspected links with drug traffickers." [Source]

Panama’s main opposition party has called for the removal from office of the head of the country’s tourism authority following Wikileaks revelations that the former U.S. Ambassador suspected links to drug traffickers.

Members of the governing administration, including Vice President Juan Carlos Varela have leapt to the defence of Colombian born Salomon Shamah who ambassador Barbara Stephenson had said in a cable she considered had 'suspected links with drug traffickers. "
...Reports of the ambassadorial cables concerning Shamah were carried On Saturday, January 18 in El Siglo, and the story was the main lead in La Estrella on Sunday.

El Siglo report:  [Source - english via google]


Un reporte de Wikileaks, supuestamente enviado el 18 de diciembre de 2009 por la entonces embajadora de Estados Unidos en Panamá, Barbara Stephenson, apunta al actual ministro de Turismo, Salomón ‘Salo’ Shamah, al que cita como sospechoso de tener vínculos con narcotraficantes.

Además de relacionar al aeropuerto de Tocumen con el lavado de dinero, el tráfico de indocumentados y el narcotráfico, en el cable, Stephenson, cuestiona la designación de Shamah en la junta directiva de la terminal aérea por sospechar de los vínculos del funcionario con narcotraficantes.

[ Source


A Wikileaks report, allegedly sent on December 18, 2009 by the then U.S. ambassador in Panama, Barbara Stephenson, says the current tourism minister, Solomon 'Salo' Shamah, who cites as suspected of having links to drug traffickers.

In addition to relating the Tocumen airport with money laundering, alien smuggling and drug trafficking in the cable, Stephenson, Shamah questioned the appointment of the board of the airport on suspicion of links with drug official.


La Estrella:


PANAMA. El opositor PRD exigió ayer que el administrador de la Autoridad de Turismo, Salomón Shamah, sea separado de su cargo para ser investigado por el Ministerio Público por supuestos vínculos con el narcotráfico, tal como señalara la ex embajadora de EEUU en Panamá, Barbara Stephenson, según WikiLeaks.
'Las acusaciones que le han hecho son realmente serias', apuntó Mitchell Doens, secretario general del colectivo.



PANAMA. The opposition PRD demanded yesterday that the administrator of the Tourism Authority, Solomon Shamah, be removed from office for investigation by the Public Prosecutor for alleged links to drug trafficking, as noted by the former U.S. Ambassador to Panama, Barbara Stephenson, by WikiLeaks.

'The accusations that have made are really serious," said Mitchell Does, secretary general of the collective.

[Source - english via Google]

Wikileaks Catalysed Reporting

 In an article posted by Wikileaks January  11, 2011 entitled Latin America - Panamá: Airport "tainted by a seamy underside of smuggling, trafficking and corruption," the contents of the cable are interpreted.

Wikileaks reports:

Tocumen international airport in Panama is fast becoming a major criminal hub in Latin America, according to a cable sent by the U.S. embassy from Panama City in December 2009.
"Tocumen’s legitimate status as a crux of Latin America’s passenger and cargo traffic is tainted by a seamy underside of alien smuggling, money laundering, narcotics trafficking and corruption," according to the memo that was signed by Barbara J. Stephenson, the last U.S. ambassador to Panama.”

This report goes on to describe the laundering of money through the mostly unregulated, duty-free shops.  Then in a section describing "archaic" paper-based Customs procedures, it reports the cable mentions Shamah:

The memo also says that "drug trafficking is a major problem at the cargo terminal, where DEA has seen an increase in 200 to 300 kilogram shipments moving via established cargo carriers. Such large shipments are impossible without the complicity of corrupt customs and law enforcement officials, and most likely cargo company employees as well."

The embassy notes that the board of directors at Tocumen includes Salomon Shamah, the tourism minister, who is "suspected of links to drug traffickers."


From The Cable: 09PANAMA893

Comment: There are signs that the GOP understands the importance of Tocumen to their status as a regional center for transit of goods and people. The board of directors at Tocumen includes the Deputy Finance Minister Frank De Lima and the Deputy Minister of the Presidency, Maria Fabrega, both of whose bosses are among the most powerful leaders in the Martinelli administration. Yet the board also includes Tourism Minister Salomon Shamah, suspected of links to drug traffickers.


Image Courtesy of La Estrella

2011-01-16 Protests in Algeria

Algerian man Mohsen Bouterfif died on Saturday. He had doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire on Thursday after a meeting with the mayor of the small city of Boukhadra who was unable to provide him a job and a house, according to El Khabar news. His death has been followed by protests in Boukhadra and reportedly, the firing of the mayor.

Several Algerian towns, including the capital Algiers, have experienced riots in recent weeks over unemployment and a sharp rise in the prices of food staples.

Official sources say two people have been killed and scores were injured during the unrest, which unfolded in parallel to street violence in Tunisia and demonstrations over high food prices in other North African and Middle Eastern countries.

To calm the protests, Algeria has cut the cost of sugar and cooking oil.

2011-01-16 Protests in Egypt

Al Jazeera reports from Cairo, Egypt, where some are hoping to follow Tunisia's example and have an uprising of their own. "Down with corruption, Down with autocracy, Down with dictators!" they chant.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit downplayed any risk of a Tunisian style uprising in Egypt.

"The talk about the spread of what happened in Tunisia to other countries is nonsense. Each society has its own circumstances," Abul Gheit told reporters in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Egypt is not Tunisia, But ... is the headline of an article from uruknet which debates the differences and the likelihood of sudden regime change in Egypt. Many agree that revolt is less likely in Eqypt. But,

They are alike in that nobody wants them and nobody likes them," says Ibrahim Issa, editor of the online daily Al-Dostor and one of the main critics of the regime in Egypt.

2011-01-16 Suspected constitutional infringement in Zimbabwe

The Times Live reports that a probe team has been appointed by Zimbabwe's attorney general to determine whether any of the leaked diplomatic cables are in breach of Zimbabwe's security laws.

"I am seeking a professional legal opinion from registered lawyers to see whether there is need to prosecute anyone following revelations by the Wikileaks website," Johannes Tomana, the attorney general told the state-run Sunday Mail.

"People should understand that this is a serious matter...after their recommendations, I will then decide whether there is need to open a docket against anyone.

"This is not a commission of inquiry, but a panel of experts whose recommendations will inform whether to prosecute anyone or not."

Tomana was quoted over the holidays as stating that

[T]he WikiLeaks appear to show a treasonous collusion between local Zimbabweans and the aggressive international world, particularly the United States. With immediate effect, I am going to instruct a team of practising lawyers to look into the issues that arise from the WikiLeaks.

However, he denied having made the statement and insisted that appointing an investigative team was beyond his power:

If you look at the scenarios around the appointment of commissions, it must be of national importance and it is only the president who can appoint a commission. I do not know where all this is coming from"

Tomana is currently on an EU and US blacklist for "suspected constitutional infringement bordering on conspiracy by several Zimbabweans arising from WikiLeaks reports" (Source).

2011-01-16 Swiss Whistleblower to leak bank documents to WikiLeaks two days before trial

Rudolf Elmer, the founder of Swiss Whistleblower who we wrote about here is in the news again. He will return to Switzerland to appear in court on January 19, where he will face charges of stealing banking information. Two days earlier he will be at the Frontline Club in London to present Wikileaks with CD's containing the offshore bank account details of 2,000 "high net worth individuals" and corporations.

Elmer told the Observer that the details on the CD's will include information on business people, approximately 40 politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates, from US, Britain, Germany, Austria, Asia, and all over.

Elmer, says he is releasing the information "in order to educate society". He is concerned about the wealthy individuals and multinationals who use banking secrecy to hide possibly criminal activities such as tax evasion.

"What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures, I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering – although these cases involve tax evasion."

"I agree with privacy in banking for the person in the street, and legitimate activity, but in these instances privacy is being abused so that big people can get big banking organisations to service them. The normal, hard-working taxpayer is being abused also.

"Once you become part of senior management, and gain international experience, as I did, then you are part of the inner circle – and things become much clearer. You are part of the plot. You know what the real products and service are, and why they are so expensive. It should be no surprise that the main product is secrecy … Crimes are committed and lies spread in order to protect this secrecy."

In 2008, Wikileaks published data released to them by Elmer on fifteen Julius Baer clients that had their names redacted (as the next release will also have). Following that leak, Wikileaks was briefly shut down by a US court order. Elmer says the current charges against him of violating Swiss banking secrecy laws do not apply since he was working in the Cayman Islands and the data was from the Cayman Islands.

2011-01-16 Syria, Jordan and Algeria Respond to Protest Threat

Arab leaders are demonstrably nervous as protests continue throughout the Arab world, fueled by hope that other countries can follow Tunisia's example for change. Some are responding proactively to the protests, attempting to appease, rather than quell the unrest.

Nearly one thousand demonstrators rallied outside parliament in Jordan today. Food prices in Jordan have dropped 5% in the 24 hours since Ben Ali fled Tunisia, possibly in response to a government order. Demonstrations in Jordan also brought about the reversal of what had been the ninth increase in fuel prices since 1989.

Syria has announced 12 billion Syrian pounds (US$250 million) for a fund to help the most needy families in Syria.

Around 11.4 percent of the total population of 22 million people, ie around 2.2 million people can not meet their basic needs, according to a report issued by the United Nations Development Programme.

Algeria, rushed through a $225 million package of price cuts last week on types of fuel and goods at government run stores.

Meanwhile, on facebook and in street protests throughout the Arab world, protesters continue to wave the Tunisian flag.

2011-01-17 Advanced Cablegate Resource Sites

Primary Resources for Cablegate

Wikileaks Official Cablegate Site
Wikileaks' Cablegate site is well laid out and easy to navigate, using the metadata navigation links on the left sidebar. This is the most up to date place to search for Cablegate material.


  • No search function
  • Some cables are retracted in new updates, and are not retained on the official site

LeakyLinks Mirror Monitor
If the official site is ever down, LeakyLinks keeps an extremely useful list of all of the some 2000 mirrors of Wikileaks site - sites that have signed up for the Wikileaks mass mirroring programme. LeakyLinks monitors each mirror and compares it with the official site to determine which of the mirrors are up to date, and which have fallen behind in their mirroring of all of the cables.

Leakfeed provides a handy assortment of different feeds, in various languages, for those who want to keep as up to date as possible on the cables using a feed system. The feeds include the latest 50 releases, a feed for a specific cable, a feed based on search parameters, or a feed based on filter criteria.

Cablegate Database on Google Fusion Tables
While the cables are being released slowly, in batches, in collaboration with Wikileaks' media partners, a database generated from the metadata of the entire cache was released in November by The Guardian. The database contains certain fields of metadata from all 251286 cables, including the Creation Date, the Source, the Address, and the Tags. (It does not contain the Reference IDs or the Subject Headers.) This resource is invaluable for seeing the spread of all the cables, how many are yet to be released from a certain embassy, whether there were cables at a specific time, etc. It is a good place to check claims about as yet unreleased cables, too.

Privetbank Cablegate Anomaly Monitoring Site
Privetbank's site is unique and invaluable. The authors of PrivetBank site compare the contents of each successive release of batch torrents from the Wikileaks official site, and detect anomalies. It transpires that some torrents actually remove cables that had been released in earlier torrents, or that some cables appear with new redactions imposed on them. While there is little reason to regard this phenomenon with outright suspicion, since it may represent the detailed work of harmonizing redactions across an extremely sophisticated release operation, Privetbank documents this in painstaking detail, so that the practice can be subjected to proper scrutiny by the public. Privetbank also contains information about the "Unofficial Cables" - those cables that have been documented on the media partner sites, but that have not, as yet, been released by Wikileaks. The site is not always completely up to date, but is well made, has a sophisticated and pleasing interface, provides links to various mirrors for each cable, offers every torrent so far released for download, and offers a very useful tool for Wikileaks investigators.

Search and Archival Sites

The following sites address the lack of a search function on the main Wikileaks site, and also represent efforts by private individuals to present the data in a useful form that lends itself to investigative reading.

An excellent site. The search function is instant and intuitive, the cables are presented in an attractive and readable list, and can be expanded by clicking on the + button. A function is provided to add certain cables to a "cart" to be exported. Metadata is intelligently handled, expanded where abbreviations are used, and fully hyperlinked. The site also presents a fascinating tagcloud of the cables released to date.

Another excellent search engine for Cablegate, CableSearch also offers a tabbed interface whereby readers can explore and search within categories defined by metadata terms. The interface is clear and pleasant to use, and information is kept on how up to date the present database is. It is often easier to see what cables have been released most recently here than on the official site.

A neat and simple interface makes Dazzlepod a painless way of searching through the Cablegate material. Cables are also easily navigable by source using the links on the left. Dazzlepod offers a service whereby you can sign in to receive email and other alerts for specific releases. The tabs at the top provide some useful criteria for filtering the cables, one of which, indispensably, is the "Recently Updated Cables" where readers can see which already-released cables have been modified in latest releases, and compare these against their earlier versions.

Aftenposten WikiLeaks Wordle
Allows for analysis of cables from US embassies and consulates and provides an insight into what US ambassadors found interesting. The interactive wordle visualizes a word count of more than 200,000 messages between the US State Department and its embassies and consulates from 1966 though February 2010.

An aesthetically very pleasing site, Kabels also provides some innovative visual navigation options. Cables are navigable by source embassy, and searchable on the left. A clickable colour-coded mesh graph heads every cable, showing the rest of the cables from the same embassy, with the level of classification represented by colour. Clicking on each cell of the mesh graph brings the reader to the corresponding cable. Kabels also implements a crowd-rating system for the cables, offering readers the choice of tagging each cable they read as "Interesting" or not.

OWNI Statelogs Site
OWNI is the group which prepared the applications through which the Iraq War Logs were released. OWNI released their Statelogs site at the end of November in anticipation of the release of Cablegate. The site is straightforward enough, with a slightly clumsy interface. Interestingly, it provides a facility whereby readers can sign in, and comment on specific cables - an effort to combine archival and crowdsourced reading.

Combined Google Custom Search - War Logs, Cables, & WLCentral
Our own dredeyedick created a custom search tool which uses Google to search both the Afghanistan War Log and Iraq War Log releases from 2010, and the Cablegate archive to date, as well as the WL Central site, for any entered terms. The search is quite useful, and raises the interesting question of whether it will ever be possible to search the combined coverage of all of the media partners on Cablegate along with the original source material. It is also accessible on dredeyedick's Twextra site, here.

Crowd-sourced Cablegate sites

The following sites are crowdsourced citizen journalism efforts to give Cablegate the attention and treatment it deserves by the internet community. The communities around them are still in development and appear to be seeking dedicated contributors.

CableWiki is a crowdsourced attempt to archive and document each cable that is released in an internationally amenable way. The central mandate of the CableWiki site is summarization and translation into languages other than English to facilitate the accessibility of key information by non English speakers.

CableGateWiki's stated mandate is to document, summarize and analyse each Cabelgate document in full, using methods similar to those through which Wikipedia was created. The site is facilitating a merger with CableWiki.

CrowdLeak is a successor project of Operation Leakspin, which was a project towards which the swarm moved after worldwide ambivalence about Anon's Operation Payback. CrowdLeak's raison d'etre is to scour the Cablegate releases for the most interesting and urgent revelations contained there, and to document them in a manner that is accessible to the public, and which is likely to activate individuals politically. The site engages in the summarization, translation and publication of cables, in German, Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian. The site uses an innovative collaborative review process for publication of articles.

Wikispooks is a crowdsourced project designed to build a credible and comprehensive knowledge of "deep political structures and events." The use of Cablegate material takes a central role in this effort, and an editorial policy designed to arbitrate political disagreements as to source material is implemented. An interesting concept, using the MediaWiki engine, with some potential for good material.

2011-01-17 Aftenposten WikilLeaks Cable Releases Focus on Haiti [UPDATE 1]

Aftenposten's cable releases for today focus on Haiti. Rather than editorializing, they have posted in full in English the following cables:




Aftenposten's editorial analysis is reserved for Iran, examining the country's pursuit of materials for their nuclear program (in English). Update to follow.

Update 1:

Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, inherited power from his father in 1971, and ruled with the support of his father's Tontons Macoutes militia until forced to flee the country to France after a popular uprising in 1986.

The cables highlight U.S. concerns that Duvalier would attempt to return to Haiti, with France receiving the most pressure, as that was where Duvalier was residing at the time (even though the French authorities coud not find him in a hotel). Neighboring Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso is quoted as saying Duvalier's return to Haiti (along with Aristide) would be "unhelpful", because supporters of either side might seek revenge, "even after 20 years". U.S. efforts to get Duvalier's passport revoked fell on deaf ears, with Haitian Foreign Minister Abraham stating:

"Every Haitian citizen has a right to a passport (former president's have a right to a diplomatic one), and that he would defend his decision even after he completes his term as Foreign Minister..

Since Haitian citizens are not required to have a passport to re-enter the country, the issuance of a passport was considered a non issue.

The cables reflect the palpable fear that the governing politicians of the time had for the retaliatory bloodlust of opponents.

Aftenposten's release comes one day after Duvalier returned to Haiti "to help my country". The Miami Herald reports:

Duvalier's return comes as the country slowly recovers from last January's catastrophic earthquake, a deadly cholera outbreak and a political crisis stemming from November's flawed elections. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said his government didn't know that Duvalier was headed home until the former president was in the air.

Duvalier's return to Haiti also caught the foreign diplomatic community by surprise. "At least in the short term, the Haitian political chessboard has changed and changed utterly," said Robert Fatton, Jr., a government and foreign affairs professor at the University of Virginia.

2011-01-17 BBC: CEO of German partner in the EU Galileo consortium loses job over cable revelations

The BBC reports that Berry Smutny, chief executive of the German partner in the EU's Galileo satellite-navigation project, has been removed by the board of OHB-System because of statements critical of the project that appear in a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks:

... Smutny [is] alleged to have told diplomats at a meeting in Berlin in October 2009 that Galileo, a flagship space programme of the EU, was a waste of taxpayers' money.

The cable, which was published by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten last Thursday, quoted the OHB-System chief as saying, "I think Galileo is a stupid idea that primarily serves French interests", and, in particular, French military interests.

Mr Smutny was further reported to say that Galileo was "doomed for failure" or would "have to undergo drastic scalebacks for survival".

Mr Smutny has denied making the statements reported in the cable.

Via Greg Mitchell at The Nation

Read more

2011-01-17 Comments on the new national government formed in Tunisia

The New York Times, the Guardian, and WL Central have all reported on a new national-unity government being formed in Tunisia today. However, the NYT and the Guardian have delivered notably different accounts of what is unfolding in Tunisia, with the Guardian stressing national unity and concessions, and the NYT concentrating on the continued unrest and dissatisfaction. As reported by the Guardian:

The government hopes the new coalition cabinet will help to stabilise the north African country of 10 million, which is still in turmoil after the sudden collapse of Ben Ali's rule last week amid a popular uprising. "We are committed to intensifying our efforts to re-establish calm and peace in the hearts of all Tunisians," Ghannouchi told a news conference. "Our priority is security, as well as political and economic reform." He named Chebbi, founder of the opposition PDP party, as minister of regional development.

And the NYT reported:

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, a close ally of Mr. Ben Ali, announced that the new unity government negotiated with the recognized opposition parties would include ministers of the interior, state, finance and defense taken from the old ruling party. Leaders of the recognized opposition parties assumed lesser posts. Najib Chebbi, the founder of the biggest and most credible recognized opposition party, the Progressive Democratic Party, was made minister of regional development.The Communist and Islamist parties, which have been outlawed, were excluded from the talks and the unity government. And their officials bitterly denounced the new coalition.

As reported by WL Central, the strife in Tunisia has been an ongoing concern. From the self-immolation on December 17 of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi to the arrest of Slim Amamou, it is clear that Tunisia has been skirting the brink for some time. Further, the Tunisian government's efforts to crack down on protests and online freedoms, with the subsequent counter-efforts by Anon, aggravated an already tense stand-off.

This all culminated in several news organizations asking "Is this the first WikiLeaks revolution?" These somewhat dubious accolades prompted US State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley to issue this tweet

Tunisia is not a Wiki revolution. The Tunisian people knew about corruption long ago. They alone are the catalysts of this unfolding drama.

Perhaps Philip J. Crowley is right. It is believable that the Tunisian people did not need to read the cable that stated bluntly:

Corruption in Tunisia is getting worse. Whether it's cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali's family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants.

But the rest of the world surely did. Further, it is more than likely that the Tunisians who were protesting for greater freedom of expression and association did not need to read about it in this cable:

Ambassador raised the need for more freedom of expression and association in Tunisia. El Materi agreed. He complained that, as the new owner of Dar Assaba, the largest private newspaper group in the country, he has been getting calls from the Minister of Communications complaining about articles he has been running (Comment: This is doubtful). He laughed and suggested that sometimes he wants to “give Dar Assaba back.” El Materi noted the interviews his newspapers have been running with opposition leaders (he mentioned FDTL Secretary General Mustapha Ben Jaafar). He was clearly proud of the interviews.

Again though, the rest of the world did.

2011-01-17 Coverage of WikiLeaks Protest Rally in Sydney 15 January 2011

Photos of the rally here.

The mood on the day was convivial, despite the heavy police presence and the memory of the December 14th's rally looming large, which saw some clashes between protesters and police as a result of the NSW police's refusal to issue a demonstration permit.

The thousand-strong crowd began their march from Town Hall, stopping by the headquarters of the U.S Consulate General at the MLC Centre for some civilized but impassioned shouting, before descending upon Hyde Park.

Speakers at the event included David Shoebridge, the NSW Greens MP; Wendy Bacon, Director of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism; Marcus Strom, reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald and member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance; and Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist.

Unfortunately I didn't take notes of the speeches as I was too busy taking pictures, but some of my recollections are as follows:

Bacon spoke of the need to place increased and continual emphasis on the contents of the cable leaks. Although the legal quandaries of Assange and Manning are of serious and global importance, she said , we should not let our focus slip from the scrutiny of those in power that Cablgegate allow us.

Antony Loewenstein pointed out that the hounding and prosecution of whistleblowers in the United States and Australia has increased exponentially during the Obama and Rudd administrations. Loewenstein also remarked on the hostile reaction to Wikileaks from traditional media quarters, noting that many in established media roles see themselves as 'players' and merely cosy up to power when they could be preventing unjust wars from gaining support instead.

The next rally is scheduled for 1pm Sunday February 6th, at Town Hall. Please see our Global Rallies page for upcoming event details.

2011-01-17 Die Welt attempts to "Break the WikiLeaks Cartel"

Die Welt Online breaks "The WikiLeaks Cartel"

In an online editorial published today, Germany's Die Welt Online writes:

"Up until now, only a few newspapers and magazines have been allowed to release a small percentage of selected cables under the supervision of WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange. This cartel is now broken. Die Welt Online, thru the Norwegian paper Aftenposten, now has unimpeded access to all cables, without restrictions."

"Aftenposten received access to all of the cables in the middle of december last year. Die Welt Online will now sift through the cables without being bound to the approval of WikiLeaks, and the stories that result will be handled under the same research criteria and ethical guidelines as the rest of our stories."

"The material will be treated as "source material", and the editors of Die Welt Online will decide what is interesting, and what can be released under the standards of security or privacy concerns."

2011-01-17 Dutch EU ambassador nominee Pieter de Gooijer comes under fire after WikiLeaks disclosures reports that Labour MP Frans Timmermans is objecting to Mr Peter De Gooijer becoming the Dutch ambassador to the European Union, after messages from the US embassy in The Hague sourced from Wikileaks were reported in Dutch newspapers.

The challenge to De Gooijer comes days after he was named the top representative of the Netherlands at the EU last Friday, having until then served as director-general for political affairs at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. De Gooijer previously served as the counselor for political-military affairs for the Netherlands embassy in Washington 1994--97.

According to the cables cited by the newspapers, De Gooijer asked the US embassy to put pressure on the then Labour leader and deputy prime minister, Wouter Bos. He hoped Mr Bos would be pushed into agreeing to an extension of the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan.

Labour Party members want to know whether Mr De Gooijer was acting on his own initiative or on instructions from the then foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, who is deputy prime minister under the present government. Mr Timmermans says that, even if acting on instructions from Mr Verhagen, the civil servant was still not expressing the official government position. Original article

2011-01-17 Egyptian man sets himself on fire [UPDATE: 1]

A man set himself on fire outside Egypt’s parliament in Cairo. Restaurant owner Abdo Abdelmoneim from Qantara stood in front the parliament building in (downtown Cairo) and set fire to himself reportedly because he did not receive the bread coupons for his restaurant. He was immediately taken to hospital to receive treatment.

AllVoices reports that the man appeared at first as though he had come to sit in front of the Council, then he poured gasoline on the lower half of his body and dove to the ground. Security guards and a taxi driver used fire extinguishers to put out the fire.

The guard said, "Security Council found in his identity card is the name .. Abdou Abdel Moneim Hamada Jaafar Khalifa, born on the tenth of February 1962 from the city west of Kantara, Ismailia, and the owner of a restaurant."

According to one eyewitness said the man was repeating shout, "The security of the State of the State Security, my right subconscious is lost by air (inside) of the State."

Earlier in Tunisia, 26-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi died from self inflicted burn wounds, in Algeria, at least four attempted public suicides were reported this week, and a man in Mauritania also set himself on fire on today.

2011-01-17 Mauritanian man sets himself on fire [UPDATE: 1]

A Mauritanian man set himself on fire today in an anti-government protest.

Yacoub Ould Dahoud, 42, stopped his car in front of the Senate, which is several metres (feet) from the presidency in the capital, and set himself alight inside the vehicle, witnesses said.

He had called journalists to tell them he intended to carry out the act because he was 'unhappy with the political situation in the country and angry with the government.'

Police intervened and he was taken to hospital with burns to his face and hands, a hospital source said.

AllVoices writes "a man set himself on fire in front of the West African state's presidential palace. The man, described as a 40-year-old entrepreneur from a wealthy family, was protesting over alleged government mistreatment of his tribe, police sources said."


Al Arabiya writes

In Mauritania, a young man with a graduate degree from France and who belongs to a wealthy family set himself on fire to protest against alleged government mistreatment of his tribe.

The family of Yacoub Ould Dahoud, 40, reportedly faced government abuse and was excluded from vital decision-making positions thought the country and from government deals with the country's tribes, according the Mauritanian's independent news agency Al-Khabar.

Dahoud's tribe demands that the government fulfill its commitments in a deal it had made with the tribe over a number health ministry posts, the agency added.

The tribe's business in agriculture and trade in marine appliances was also reportedly hard-hit by government policies.

Witnesses said Dahoud was shouting epithets against President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Earlier in Tunisia, 26-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi died from self inflicted burn wounds, in Algeria, at least four attempted public suicides were reported this week, and a man in Cairo set himself on fire today as well.

2011-01-17 Press conference at Frontline with Rudolf Elmer and Julian Assange

This morning at the Frontline club, Rudolf Elmer handed over to Julian Assange a set of CDs containing leaked banking materials for 2,000 offshore bank accounts. As we reported on Sunday, "[d]details on the CD's ... include information on business people, approximately 40 politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates, from US, Britain, Germany, Austria, Asia" and other currently undisclosed locations. The context of today's press conference, as well as Elmer's previously expressed motivations, can be found here.

Elmer clarified his position as a banker who "has the right" to prevent further "damage to society" by taking steps to inform the public of ongoing unethical activities. He expressed his gratitude to Wikileaks, which he described as a tool that allowed him to tell the people what he thinks "society has a right to know."

His aim today was to discuss the system, and not to reveal any names or other details contained in the leaked materials.

Elmer added that he was offered an abundance of money for his silence in the past, but that his conscience would not allow him to accept a bribe--this despite the fact that buying silence seems to be modus operandi in the banking industry.

In response to a question regarding his motives for turning over the information to Wikileaks, Elmer clarified that he is not using Wikileaks to secure his own protection against potential criminal allegations. In fact, prior to having made the decision to leak this information through Wikileaks, he felt his mental stability was being jeopardized by the moral predicament that came with knowing about activities being carried out.

Hence the decision was made today to hand over the data to Wikileaks so that they might be investigated. "I'm taking responsibility for this," he added, pointing out that he was solely responsible for the collection of the data and that under no circumstances would he reveal his own sources.

Julian Assange also made a brief statement in which he emphasized that the press conference should not be focused on Wikileaks. When asked about Wikileaks, he replied, "this is not my news conference, this is Mr. Elmer's news conference. I am here to support him... he has important things to say."

When asked how long it would be before the data would be released, he replied that it could be weeks or longer, depending on the amount of "stuff" on the CDs, and on various other circumstances. The material will be treated in the same manner as all leaked materials are treated.

The question arose as to "Why Wikileaks?" Why would the data not be released to the press, instead?

Assange stated that sources must be protected. To this end, Wikileaks is a sound choice because the organization has developed expertise in scientific journalism, which also serves to "keep the press honest":

"Good journalists write honestly, but we all know that there are opportunists that twist and distort and hype up material, and as a result, distort the historical record on which all our political decisions are made. So primary sources must be available at the same time that news stories are available."

Only in this way can we ensure that "honest journalists rise high and dishonest journalists are made to struggle."

Many thanks go out to on-site journalists who shared their insights in real-time via Twitter.

2011-01-17 Slim Amamou named Tunisia's Secretary of Youth and Sports


Slim Amamou, the blogger and net-neutrality activist jailed by Ben Ali's outgoing government during Tunisia's Sidibouzid revolution, has been named the new secretary of state for Youth and Sports, reports Anne Brigaudeau.

"Thursday he announced on Twitter, 'I am free.' And Monday: 'I am secretary of state for Youth and Sports. :)'"

Amamou's first tweet as secretary was "My boss is Mohamed Aloulou. Who is he?"

2011-01-17 Tunisia's new government

After one month (to the day) of turmoil, Tunisia has announced a new interim government. Mohamed Ghannouchi, the Tunisian prime minister, has announced that the former defense, foreign affairs, interior and finance ministers will keep their key posts, and a number of opposition members will be assigned to ministerial posts

Najib Chebbi, founder of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), will be minister of regional development, Ahmed Ibrahim, leader of the Ettajdid party, will be minister of higher education, and Mustafa Ben Jaafar, head of the Union of Freedom and Labour, will be the minister of health. The ministry of information, formerly devoted to suppression of information, is abolished in the new government. There is now a separation of the state from political parties, so the collection of parties will not fall under the control of a ruling party.

The government has committed to releasing all political prisoners and a ban on the activities of human rights groups will be lifted. Anyone with great wealth or suspected of corruption will face investigation. Internet and social media restrictions have been dropped and the government has promised "total freedom" for the media.

Al Jazeera reports:

Fouad Mebazza, Speaker of parliament sworn in as interim president, had asked Ghannouchi to form a government of national unity, and constitutional authorities said a presidential election should be held within 60 days.


Protests were still going strong prior to the announcement of a new government. Security forces used water cannon and tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse the protest. Many have vowed to oppose any government that contains any of the old ministers, and the new government announced is primarily old ministers. The protesters want the old CDR party completely abolished, and new members appointed from within their ranks. From Al Jazeera:

About 1,000 people gathered in the capital's main boulevard in a demonstration against the ruling RCD party, chanting: "Out with the RCD!" and "Out with the party of the dictatorship!"

One demonstrator, Monji Amari, said: "We are here to say 'No'. We have had enough of this party of power. We do not want to see them any more. Together with Ben Ali they are responsible for the situation that we are in now."

One of Tunisia's best known opposition figures, Moncef Marzouki, on Monday branded his country's new government a "masquerade" still dominated by supporters of ousted strongman Ben Ali.

"Tunisia deserved much more," the secular leftist declared. "Ninety dead, four weeks of real revolution, only for it to come to this? A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of the party of dictatorship, the RCD,"said Marzouki on France's I-Tele.

He complained that, despite Ben Ali having fled the country to escape a popular revolt, his supporters in the former ruling party had retained key government posts, including the interior ministry "which is supposed to organise elections".

(In fact, according Ahmed Friaa, Tunisia's interior minister, 78 people have been killed in the country during the recent turmoil, almost quadrupling the official death toll. He also estimated that the unrest had cost the country's economy $2.2 bn as a result of disruption of economic activity and lost export revenues.)

Rachid al-Ghannouchi (no relation to Mohamed Ghannouchi), the exiled leader of the Nahdha Movement party, told London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper that leaders of his party had not been invited to participate in the negotiations in forming the new unity government.

Ghannouchi said he believed there was "deliberate alienation to Islamists in Tunisia". But he added that "If we were invited in the future for taking part in the government, we would consider the offer".

2011-01-17 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

The Guardian: TNK-BP boss predicted break-up of Russian joint venture

"Leaked comments suggest that BP sees Rosneft as its long-term partner, not TNK-BP, according to cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

BP's top executive in Russia predicted that its TNK-BP subsidiary would be carved up by the end of this year by Rosneft, the British oil company's new partner, acting with Gazprom, according to leaked US embassy cables."

Read more

The Guardian: Turkey let US use airbase for rendition flights

"Turkey allowed use of Incirlik airbase as refuelling stop, US embassy cable reveals, after Turkish denials of involvement.

Turkey allowed the US to use its airbase at Incirlik in southern Turkey as part of the "extraordinary rendition" programme to take suspected terrorists to Guantánamo Bay, according to a US diplomatic cable."

Read more

The Guardian: 'Baby Doc' Duvalier's possible return to Haiti concerned US

"US envoy said in 2006 that return of 'Baby Doc' Duvalier could complicate ability of Haiti's new government to establish itself.

The US expressed its concern about the possible return of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier to Haiti as far back as 2006, when the country was about to hold elections, according to a confidential US diplomatic cable."

Read more

Le Monde: Les prédateurs du clan Ben Ali vus par les diplomates américains (The predators of Beli Ali's clan viewed by the American diplomats)

"Une blague circulait à Tunis avant la chute du régime : un jour, le président Ben Ali roulait au volant de sa voiture, dans les rues de la capitale, seul et sans garde du corps. A un feu rouge, un policier l'arrête. Ben Ali explique qu'il s'appelle Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali et qu'il est le président de la République. "Jamais entendu parler de vous ", lui rétorque l'homme en uniforme, avant de le conduire au poste de police. Le chef du poste est là. Il examine les papiers de Ben Ali et les lui remet aussitôt en disant : "C'est OK pour lui. C'est un parent des Trabelsi." (A joke circulated in Tunisia before the fall of the regime: one day, President Ben Ali was driving at the wheel of his car in the streets of the capital, alone and without a bodyguard. At a red light, a policeman stops him. Ben Ali says he is called Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and he is the President of the Republic. "Never heard of you", the man in uniform answers back before driving him to the police station. The head of the station is there. He looks at the papers of Ben Ali and tells right back: "It's okay for him. He's a parent of Trabelsi.")"

Read more (French)

2011-01-18 Reaction to Tunisia's new government

Yesterday, Tunisia's new government was announced. Today, four of the new ministers resigned in accord with protesters who continued to demand the complete resignation of the old regime. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi is one of eight ministers of former president Ben Ali's government who will remain in the new government announced yesterday.

Junior Minister for Transportation and Equipment Anouar Ben Gueddour resigned along with Houssine Dimassi, the labor minister, and minister of prime ministerial affairs Abdeljelil Bedoui. All three are members of labour union UGIT. The labour union's supporters staged a protest Tunis today, calling for a general strike, constitutional changes and the release of all imprisoned union leaders.

Al Aribya reports

Health Minister Mustapha Ben Jaafar of the FDLT opposition party also resigned, party member Hedi Raddaoui told The AP. It was not immediately clear if the resignations could bring down the government, which has 40 full and junion ministers. Speaking to the AP, Ahmed Ibrahim, the new minister for higher education from the opposition Ettajdid party, denied reports he'd resigned.

Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri said the government is in talks with other members of the opposition in the cabinet who are considering resigning unless certain conditions are met.

Moncef Marzouki, an exiled opposition leader and presidential hopeful, on Monday branded his country's new government a "masquerade" still dominated by supporters of ousted strongman Ben Ali.

"Tunisia deserved much more," the secular leftist declared.

"Ninety dead, four weeks of real revolution, only for it to come to this? A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of the party of dictatorship, the CRD," Marzouki said.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra reported that Marzouki, a 65-year-old medical doctor and human rights activist, was met by a crowd on his supporters at Tunis airport on Tuesday.

Marzouki told them that he would ask Saudi Arabia to hand over Ben Ali to be prosecuted in Tunisia for "crimes committed against the people of Tunisia".

Rachid al-Ghannouchi (no relation to Mohamed Ghannouchi), the exiled leader of the Nahdha Movement party, told London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper that leaders of his party had not been invited to participate in the negotiations in forming the so-called unity government.

He expressed anger at the exclusion, but said his party would consider joining the government if asked to do so.

The labour union UGIT refused to recognize the government. Protests continue in the capital and several other major cities, while police attempt to prevent protesters from gathering by using tear gas to break up crowds.

Ahmed Friaa, Tunisia's interior minister, announced that 78 people have been killed in the country during the recent turmoil.

2011-01-18 Ahmed Hashem El-Sayed dies in Alexandria hospital from self-immolation wounds

The spate of "copycat" self-immolation protests taking place across the Middle East has claimed another victim.

Twenty-five-year-old Ahmed Hashem El-Sayed, the third Egyptian to set himself ablaze this week, died in hospital late Tuesday. El-Sayed is the third Egyptian to copy Tunisia's Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on December 17, triggering riots and the ensuing Tunisian revolution. Original source

Previously on WL Central:

2011-01-17 Egyptian man sets himself on fire [UPDATE: 1]
2011-01-17 Mauritanian man sets himself on fire [UPDATE: 1]
2011-01-16 Protests in Algeria

2011-01-18 Cable: Guatemalan President Colom called Rigoberta Menchu "a fabrication"

Hispanically Speaking News:

The President of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom, was the latest world leader to blush and issue damage control half-apologies following an embarrassing WikiLeaks revelation.

A diplomatic document leaked to WikiLeaks and published by the whistle-blowing site says the Guatemalan President described the revered Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu as a “fabrication” of French anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos. Burgos helped author the biography “I Rigoberta Menchú,” which introduced the Nobel Prize winner known as a human rights activist to the world.

Via @Asher_Wolf on Twitter

2011-01-18 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

The Guardian: US advised to sabotage Iran nuclear sites by German thinktank

"As Stuxnet cyber attack pinned on US and Israel, US embassy cable reveals advice to use undercover operations.

The United States was advised to adopt a policy of "covert sabotage" of Iran's clandestine nuclear facilities, including computer hacking and "unexplained explosions", by an influential German thinktank, a leaked US embassy cable reveals."

Read more

The Guardian: US feared Turkish military backlash in 'coup plot' arrests

"Turkish arrests of senior military officers last year could trigger 'unpredictable reaction', US embassy cable warned.

US diplomats in Turkey feared that a wave of arrests of senior military officers last year over an alleged plot to topple the country's Islamist-rooted government could trigger an "unpredictable military reaction", according to a leaked diplomatic cable."

Read more

2011-01-19 Bulgarians trapped by EC conspiracy on corruption scandal appeal to EU employees to leak classified report

Bulgarian citizens concerned about a corruption scandal involving the country’s prime minister sent through the media today an appeal to EU employees to leak the report submitted by the Bulgarian Justice Ministry to the authorities in Brussels, because this report has been kept secret from the media and Bulgarian society.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen from the European institutions,

A huge corruption scandal is raging in Bulgaria. Secret recordings, which leaked through the media, revealed our Prime Minister and Members of the Parliament from his ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party are providing political cover-up for corruption practices at the Customs Agency and for individuals evading taxes through excise duty scams.

Bulgarian people demand to know the truth about the authenticity of these recordings. They also want to know if the spying had been done legally and if Bulgarian authorities are violating basic privacy laws.

Those within the Bulgarian justice system know the truth, but have chosen the cynical silence. “I know plenty, but I am not saying,” Chief Prosecutor, Boris Velchev, stated.

Also from the media, we found out that the Bulgarian Justice Ministry, under the request of the European Commission, has sent information to Brussels about the scandalous recordings.

The situation is, indeed, outrageous. It looks like Bulgarian and EU authorities are plotting against Bulgarian citizens.

We appeal to you, EU employees, if you have access to the above said document, to please send a copy anonymously to Bulgarian media or to the specialized whistle-blowing sites and/or

We do realize this plea is a call for you to violate your job duties related to safeguarding classified information.

But are extending it because we value more your civil duty before the citizens from the European Union’s poorest country, who in times of crisis, also scape their pockets to pay your salaries.


The members of the Facebook group "EC Must Reveal Bulgaria's Tanovgate Response"

2011-01-19 Reuters: Swiss re-arrest Rudolf Elmer for giving data to WikiLeaks [UPDATE: 1]


Swiss police on Wednesday arrested former banker Rudolf Elmer on fresh charges of breaching Swiss bank secrecy law for giving data to WikiLeaks, hours after he was found guilty of another secrecy offense.

"The state prosecutor's office is checking to see whether Rudolf Elmer has violated Swiss banking law by handing the CD over to WikiLeaks," the Zurich cantonal (state) police and state prosecutor said in a joint statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, a court found Elmer guilty of breaching banking secrecy for publicising private client data. He was also found guilty of threatening an employee at his former firm Julius Baer.

Update 1:
Submitted by KnowledgeEmpire on Wed, 01/19/2011 - 15:57

Mr. Elmer, who was chief operating officer at private bank Julius Baer's office in the Cayman Islands, argued in his defence that Swiss banking laws were not officially breached since the disclosed information does not refer to Swiss bank accounts, only accounts in the Caymans.

Judge Sebastian Aeppli rejected the prosecution's demand for an eight-month prison sentence, opting instead for a suspended fine of 6,000 Swiss francs.

Mr. Elmer did not deny making threats to Julius Baer and admitted to a BBC correspondent that he had "made big mistakes," but he denied acting on the basis of revenge, adding "I defended myself. That's human nature." A further update points out that "[d]uring the one-day hearing in Zurich on Wednesday, Mr Elmer alleged that his former employer had him followed and that he felt desperate."

"We were under surveillance," he said. "The situation was very threatening. We were very scared and I thought the bank was behind it."

He said this is why he sent the bank emails in 2005 threatening to pass the offshore bank account details of Julius Baer clients onto tax authorities in Switzerland, the US and the UK, as well as to the media.

As previously reported here, Mr. Elmer handed over to Wikileaks two CDs containing leaked information on 2,000 bank accounts. The account holders involved "include celebrities, as well as business leaders and lawmakers."

Mr. Elmer's lawyer, Jack Blum, told the New York Times (NYT) that the documents

detail the undisclosed role of American investment management companies in funnelling American, European and South American clients who wished to avoid taxes to Julius Baer; the backdating of documents to establish trusts and foundations used to evade taxes; and the funnelling of trades for hedge funds and private equity firms from high-tax jurisdictions through Baer entities in the Cayman Islands.

“What he has is the confirmation of something very important: that a number of other banks in the voluntary disclosure process are turning up,” Mr. Blum said, referring to 14,700 wealthy Americans, many of them UBS clients, who came forward to disclose their secret accounts last year. The I.R.S. declined to comment on Mr. Elmer’s case but said in a statement that it was “investigating other banks that have enabled Americans to evade taxes.”

As was reported in the same January 18 NYT article, Julius Baer, a 120-year-old private bank, "is known for intense privacy. Its board chairman, Raymond J. Baer, told shareholders last April that “the fiction of citizens being fully transparent must never become reality.”

2011-01-19 Self-immolation protest spreads to Yemen reports

A 25 year old Yemeni youth set himself on fire in the Radaa province to the south of the capital city Sanaa today, alluding to the "stick of security" being used to deal with any demonstrations in the country.

Yemini sources say that he is now in intensive care in a hospital in Sanaa, where his condition remains critical.

Sanaa saw popular demonstrations for the fourth consecutive day in support of the popular Sidibouzid movement in Tunisia. Demonstrations were mostly peaceful escept at Sanaa Unniversity, where the campus was turned into a military barracks after hundreds of students participated in demonstrations there. The Yemini Ministry of Interior has declared any marches or demonstrations illegal, according to a security source in the ministry, declaring that such bans are not inconsistent with Yemen's constitution.

Clashes with the government have continued now for more than a week in the cities of Habilayn, Radfan and Lahj.

Previously on WL Central:Unrest in Arab States

2011-01-19 Unrest in Arab States [Update 1]

"The lesson from what's happening in Tunisia is that (Arab leaders) won't be able to hide any more behind the Islamist threat argument."

-Amel Boubekeur

If Tunisians are protesting for freedom, not religion, what role did Wikileaks and online social networks play in mobilizing Arab populations to throw off the shackles of authoritarian, repressive, and corrupt regimes? Are our western institutions responsible for the waves of protest threatening to drown capitals in the Middle East?.

Self immolation has a long history as an act of faith, desperation, or protest, but the spate of copycat protests in Algeria, Egypt, and Mauritania has many Arab leaders worried that what started in Tunisia could spread to their populations. Islamist leaders have started calling "Tunisian style" suicides a sin, labeling the protestors as unbelievers, but stopping short of calling for a Fatwa (ruling) on the issue.

After Ben Ali found refuge in Saudia Arabia on January 15th, the Swiss government ordered a freeze on all funds held by him in Switzerland. on January 18th. Al Arabiya is cited claiming that Ben Ali had no intention to resign, and only "fled due to a lie by his head of security". Meanwhile, as the interim government experiences growing pains the well-known dissident Moncef Marzouki returned to a moving reception, while other opposition leaders have aired intentions to investigate anyone displaying ostentatious wealth in Tunisia. [Update 1]: When Ben Ali told Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi he was considering returning from exile after fleeing to Saudia Arabia, Ghannouchi told him that was impossible, a government minister told Reuters.

Najib Chebbi, an opposition leader who is now regional development minister in a coalition government, said the exchange happened in a telephone conversation after Ben Ali, toppled by weeks of protests, fled to Saudi Arabia last week.

"Did WikiLeaks cause a revolution? Did Twitter? Did rain in Los Angeles a couple of weeks back cause a mild spell in the UK today? Probably not, but it is impossible to tell anyway. They are all aspects of non-linear complex systems sitting on the edge of chaos, a googol of tiny threads interacting in ways that produce unpredictable and sometimes emergent outcomes."-Ben King

The Revolution in Tunisia which started in Sidi Bouzid is shaking the fabric of many Arab countries. On December 17 2010 when Mohammed Bouazizi, an unemployed 26-year-old in the town of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire in an attempt to commit suicide after Police had confiscated fruit and vegetables he was selling because he lacked a permit. Bouazizi's act of desperation highlighted the public's boiling frustration over living standards and a lack of human rights. His self-immolation sparked demonstrations which in the end brought down the regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and the RCD party which had ruled Tunisia with an iron fist. After 1000's of protestors took to the streets in Tunis, and 300 lawyers held a rally in solidarity with protesters, things became more violent and bloody, with government security forces cracking down on protests. While accounts vary, it is estimated that more than 60 Tunisians died in clashes with the government.

A full timeline of events in Tunisia is available on Al Jazeera English.

After hacktivists acting under the name "Anonymous" announced Operation Tunisia to counter the attempts of the government to censor Tunisian's communicating and organizing via the Facebook social network, authorities arrested a group of bloggers, journalists, activists, and a rap singer, all of which were held in prison until Ben Ali departed Tunisia on January 14, 2011. One of the arrested activists, Slim Amamou, was appointed to the newly formed interim government as Secretary of Youth and Sports Amamou immediately came under fire from other activists, responding to their criticisms of complicity in a video interview.

As hacktivists call for more cyber attacks on government websites in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Libya, commentators in the west have debated back and forth whether or not Wikileaks and social networks have played a role in what started in Sidi Bouzid, Ben King cuts through the noise, making a powerful argument for the systems view, and gives an answer for who and what is responsible for the revolutionary spirit gripping the Arab world:

"Wikileaks is a node, Twitter and Facebook a network of links and people. Yet they are but parts of a larger whole, the internet. This is itself but a part of a larger network, one that encompasses all of the culture and civilization that each node experiences. To give credit to one or the other for people taking to account the previously unaccountable would be glib to the extreme. It would ignore the decades of suffering for a society who for the most part didn’t even have the internet.

"Ultimately it was the Tunisian government that was responsible for the revolution."

In the end, all governments and regimes which censor their population's free speech, distribute their wealth unequally, and fail to recognize nationalism as a 20th century paradigm ill-suited to a rapidly shrinking resource base on an ever more socially connected planet, will suffer the same fate as all other genetic and memetic life forms which fail to adapt to the ever-changing flux of evolution: extinction.

2011-01-19 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

Le Monde: "La Tunisie fait des progrès sur les droits de l'homme..." ("Tunisia makes progress on human rights")

""La Tunisie n'est pas une dictature..." La phrase figure en sous-titre d'un télégramme diplomatique de l'ambassade des Etats-Unis, daté du 14 août 2007, obtenu par WikiLeaks et révélé par Le Monde. Les mots sont ceux de Serge Degallaix, ambassadeur de France en Tunisie de juillet 2005 à septembre 2009. ("Tunisia is not a dictatorship..." The sentence is found on the title of a diplomatic cable from the American embassy, dated August 14th 2007, obtained by Wikileaks and revealed by Le Monde. The words come from Serge Degallaix, ambassador of France in Tunisia between July 2005 and September 2009.)"

Read more (French)

2011-01-20 Bloomberg discloses FBI Contractor admits to Spying on Swedish [UPDATE]

In a report on Wikileaks, Bloomberg disclosed on January 20 that U.S. authorities may now be using contractors to spy on Swedish servers looking for creative ways to prosecute Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

Bloomberg reports that Robert Boback, Chief Executive Officer of Tiversa, Inc., a spying and surveillance firm that contracts with the FBI, declined to say who his company's client was when his firm surveilled four unidentified Swedish servers.

According to Boback, during a 60 minute period on February 7, 2009:

"Tiversa’s monitors detected four Swedish computers engaged in searching and downloading information on peer-to-peer networks. The four computers issued 413 searches, crafted to find Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and other information-rich documents among some of the 18 million users the company estimates are on such file-sharing networks at any given moment."

Tiversa also claims that:

"Those searches led to a computer in Hawaii that held a survey of the Pentagon’s Pacific Missile Range Facility

The company also claims that it "captured the download of the PDF file by one of the Swedish computers."

Tiversa's Sam Hopkins, identified by ZDNet as the company's CEO in 2009, says that events like these are "hardly unusual", when discussing how details about Marine One, the president’s helicopter, were found on a computer in Tehran in March of 2009. Hopkins remarks:

Everybody uses(P2P). Everybody. We see classified information leaking all the time. When the Iraq war got started, we knew what U.S. troops were doing because G.I.’s who wanted to listen to music would install software on secure computers and it got compromised. -- We see information flying out there to Iran, China, Syria, Qatar–you name it. There’s so much out there that sometimes we can’t keep up with it.

The reporter for Bloomberg, Michael Riley, did not indicate whether he had asked Mr. Boback or U.S. government authorities if there had been any use of P2P disruption and entrapment strategies by either party, in like manner to the Entertainment Industry's attempts to stop illegal downloads of copyrighted music.

Dubious Evidence

Riley's article betrays a credulity that could only come from a lack of acquaintance with the technologies involved. He goes on to report that Tiversa concluded that the searches came from Wikileaks because Wikileaks has servers in Sweden. Boback states:

“It would be highly unlikely that someone else from Sweden is issuing those same types of searches resulting in that same type of information.”

Beyond the location of the servers, however, little more is offered to support Tiversa's claims about the identity of the Swedish computers. Apparently, Tiversa also claims that the same document that the company asserts was downloaded by a Swedish server, "was renamed and posted on the WikiLeaks website two months later, on April 29, 2009." Riley confirms this, "according to a mirror image of the site."

He does not, however, link to the identified document or the site. Instead the article links to a list of Wikileaks mirror located at

Boback also claims his company estimates that "as much as half of the postings by the group [Wikileaks] could originate from information siphoned from peer-to-peer users." But no further methodology or analysis is offered to substantiate this allegation.

Undermining Wikileaks as a Media Organization

Tiversa claims that the company has turned over its evidence to the U.S. government in order to "aid what Boback called the early stages of an investigation into the matter." Congressional committees, "are pursuing a separate inquiry to undermine WikiLeaks’ claim that it’s a legitimate media organization with protections under the First Amendment," according to Boback.

Again, a naivety about the technology involved is in evidence. Riley reports that the tracking methodology employed by Tiversa was "using so-called Internet protocol addresses that every computer, server or similar equipment has." The use of the adjective "so-called" to qualify "Internet protocol [sic] address" is not elucidated by Riley.

It is relatively common knowledge that 'IP address' is a term widely used to identify the numerical label assigned to a devices - for example, a computer - that participate in a computer network using the Internet Protocol as a means of communication" (Source:

Tangled Web

Bloomberg reports Tiversa has "done investigative searches on behalf of U.S. agencies including the FBI," and that "Howard Schmidt, a former Tiversa adviser, is cybersecurity coordinator and special assistant to U.S. President Barack Obama." However, the U.S. Department of Justice spokesman, Dean Boyde, declined to comment as to whether the agency was officially investigating the downloads Tiversa asserts were done by Wikileaks. Furthermore, as we learn, Tiversa also declined to say who its client was when the company observed the Swedish downloads, leaving some questions as to Tiversa's interests in the matter.

Mark Stephens, Wikileaks' London attorney, wrote in an email to Bloomberg that "Tiversa’s claim is “completely false in every regard."

(Source: Bloomberg | "WikiLeaks May Have Exploited Music, Photo Networks to Get Classified Data")

[UPDATED February 4, 2011]

See also 2011-02-04 UPDATE on Bloomberg reports about FBI contractor and Wikileaks

Yesterday, Bloomberg reporter Michael Riley 're-drafts' his flawed article as a magazine story in Bloomberg Business Week.

On the day the original Bloomberg article appeared, Andy Greenberg of Forbes reported that he interviewed Robert Boback of Tiversa about the original Bloomberg article claims:

Boback sounded distinctly less sure of his firm’s deductions than he did in the Bloomberg piece. 'What we saw were people who were searching [computers connected to filesharing networks] for .xls, .doc, .pdf, and searching for those generic terms over and over again,' says Boback. 'They had multiple Swedish IPs. Can I say that those are WikiLeaks? I can’t. But we can track the downloads of people doing that, and a short time after those files were downloaded, they’re listed on WikiLeaks.' (Source: Forbes)

Greenberg also writes that:

Boback...says that he saw downloads of documents that later were posted to WikiLeaks from other countries too, both 'in the U.S. and across Europe.' 'Many of the searches are in Sweden, many are outside,' adds Boback. 'It’s hard for us to say that any IP address was WikiLeaks.' (Source: Forbes)

Even Paul Ohm, the "expert in cyber crime at the University of Colorado in Boulder," who Riley quotes in the original Bloomberg piece, posts his own response to the quality of Riley's reportage.

On his blog, Freedom to Tinker, Ohm writes:

I have no idea whether these accusations are true, but I am interested to learn from the story that if they are true they might provide 'an alternate path for prosecuting WikiLeaks,' most importantly because the reporter [Michael Riley] attributes this claim to me. Although I wasn't misquoted in the article, I think what I said to the reporter is a few shades away from what he reported, so I wanted to clarify what I think about this.The question presented by the reporter to me (though not in these words) was: is it a violation of the CFAA to systematically crawl a p2p network like Limewire searching for and downloading files that might be mistakenly shared, like spreadsheets or word processing documents full of secrets?

I don't think so. With everything I know about the text of this statute, the legislative history surrounding its enactment, and the cases that have interpreted it, this kind of searching and downloading won't "exceed the authorized access" of the p2p network. This simply isn't a crime under the CFAA.

But although I don't think this is a viable theory, I can't unequivocally dismiss it for a few reasons, all of which I tried to convey in the interview. First, some courts have interpreted 'exceeds authorized access' broadly, especially in civil lawsuits arising under the CFAA. For example, back in 2001, one court declared it a CFAA violation to utilize a spider capable of collecting prices from a travel website by a competitor, if the defendant built the spider by taking advantage of 'proprietary information' from a former employee of the plaintiff.

Second, it seems self-evident that these confidential files are being shared on accident. The users 'leaking' these files are either misunderstanding or misconfiguring their p2p clients in ways that would horrify them, if only they knew the truth. While this doesn't translate directly into 'exceeds authorized access,' it might weigh heavily in court, especially if the government can show that a reasonable searcher/downloader would immediately and unambiguously understand that the files were shared on accident.

Third, let's be realistic: there may be judges who are so troubled by what they see as the harm caused by Wikileaks that they might be willing to read the open-textured and mostly undefined terms of the CFAA broadly if it might help throw a hurdle in Wikileaks' way. I'm not saying that judges will bend the law to the facts, but I think that with a law as vague as the CFAA, multiple interpretations are defensible.

But I restate my conclusion: I think a prosecution under the CFAA against someone for searching a p2p network should fail. The text and caselaw of the CFAA don't support such a prosecution. Maybe it's 'not a slam dunk either way,' as I am quoted saying in the story, but for the lawyers defending against such a theory, it's at worst an easy layup. (Source: Freedom To Tinker)

In the newer Bloomberg version, Riley does not add anything of substance to his original draft. He merely adds a stylistic flourish more suitable to magazine reportage. He recounts, for example, how a Tiversa analyst, "taps a few keys, and up pops the cell phone number of actress Lucy Liu along with the pseudonym she uses to check into hotels—attached to a production company document clearly labeled 'not to be made public.'"

The article then jumps into a spin cycle of logic saying, "Assange has told interviewers that his group has damaging information on pharmaceutical, energy, and financial companies, Boback confirms that confidential corporate documents are readily accessible [on file-sharing platforms]." Indeed, Tiversa told Riley that it hacks into other people's computers, and then demonstrates this fact. WL Central confirms that Riley is a 'sloppy' reporter.

Traditional media industries operate in what economists refer to as a 'dual product market'. They produce two commodities: content and audiences. Audiences are attracted to content, and those audiences are then sold to advertisers.

Media firms, like Bloomberg, fall under the traditional research and development business model - with its characteristic high production and low replication costs. Since creativity and intellectual property are both expensive and time consuming - what economists refer to as Baumol's effect, media firms, like Bloomberg L.P., have an economic imperative to control the entire supply chain and their downstream access to audiences.

What that means is that while most industries today are under pressure to flatten their business models, media firms, like Bloomberg L.P., are compelled to grow both horizontally and vertically. A natural by-product of this growth is that they have the ability to exploit their vertical and horizontal economies of scale by repurposing flawed and provocative content across multiple platforms.

The power of the press lies not merely in its capacity to express ideas. Media firms, like Bloomberg L.P., have the capacity to actually set the agenda for 'what' and 'how' the public in the United States discuss anything at all - simply by virtue of the fact that these firms can replicate, and thereby amplify, their messages across a multitude of communication platforms, which they control.

The print media landscape in the United States, for example, is dominated by 14 corporations, which own a myriad of vertically and horizontally integrated communication organs for print, TV, and film. (Source: Considering this reality, it would appear, that Bloomberg L.P., 85% of which is owned is by one man, is an example of the alternative press in the United States.

Riley ends his second draft of the Bloomberg article with a thesis set in stark relief:

The bottom line: WikiLeaks, which says it's a passive drop box for whistle-blowers, is accused of searching hard drives for classified documents.

In a like manner, we have our own thesis, set in equally sharp relief:

The bottom line: Bloomberg, which states on its ethics page that it adheres to:

  • 1. Accuracy.

    For the reader to believe our interpretations, we must start with accurate information, honestly and professionally gathered. Moreover, our interpretation must flow from the facts and be reasonable.

    Inaccurate or sloppy reporting of material that appears anywhere under the BusinessWeek name violates the spirit of this Code. The responsibility for accuracy lies with everyone who touches the editorial product. (Source: Bloomberg Business Week | Ethics

is accused of violating its own journalistic standards.

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

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

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

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

2011-01-20 Cablegate, Ireland, and extraordinary rendition

Cablegate reinforces suspicions of Irish government complicity in US rendition: US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks are gradually adding to a picture wherein the government of Ireland ignored public opposition to suspected US rendition flights through its territory, and looked for ways to co-operate with alleged US abuses while avoiding liability and political fallout.

What is the context?

The Shannon airport has a history of use as a military stopover point for foreign militaries. Post-9/11, the US military had been allowed to use Shannon as a conduit for "War on Terror" flights involving munitions, supplies, and the transport of vehicles and troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. This move was unpopular since the status of the Iraq war under international law was controversial, and the Shannon stopover was perceived by the Irish anti-war community as a violation of the principle of Irish neutrality.

A High Court challenge by an Irish ex-soldier in Horgan v. An Taoiseach on the grounds that the Shannon stopover was unconstitutional, pursuant to an Irish constitutional commitment (Art. 28.1) to neutrality, was rejected by Kearns J. on the basis that it was not for the judiciary to determine the degree to which the Shannon stopover constituted "participation" in the Iraq war.

The stopover was the subject of numerous activist campaigns and High Court cases. During the Iraq war, opposition to the Shannon stopover was at times as high as 58 per cent.

On December 6, 2005, BBC's Newsnight covered the possibility that Shannon was being used for CIA extraordinary rendition flights, whereby individuals were abducted from their home countries without legal or judicial oversight and flown to US-controlled sites within which their interrogation and extralegal incarceration could be facilitated more effectively. It was speculated that the US was outsourcing the tortuous interrogation of its detainees to client states that were not signatories to human-rights treaties.

What has Cablegate been revealing?

The role of the Irish government in the US use of Shannon is broadly outlined in three diplomatic cables from the Dublin embassy, released by WikiLeaks.

2010-11-30: A CONFIDENTIAL cable, 06DUBLIN1020 provides a brief on the Shannon situation to the State Department, and openly discusses the support of the Irish government for military stopovers in Shannon, interpreting new limitations on the use of Shannon by the US military more as an appeasement of public opinion in the face of a general election than as genuine concern for the abuse of Shannon airport.


For segments of the Irish public, however, the visibility of U.S. troops at Shannon has made the airport a symbol of Irish complicity in perceived U.S. wrongdoing in the Gulf/Middle East...In late 2005/early 2006, EU-wide debate on extraordinary renditions similarly galvanized this lobby, and the Irish public generally, to question U.S. military access to the airport... The Irish Government consistently has acted to ensure continued U.S. military transits at Shannon in the face of public criticism... Notwithstanding its general support for U.S. interests, the Irish Government has more recently begun to place limits on certain forms of U.S. transits at Shannon... The Irish public's overwhelming opposition to Israeli military actions in Lebanon has exacerbated the governing Fianna Fail party's sensitivity to public criticism ahead of Ireland's May 2007 general elections. The major opposition party, Fine Gael, supports continued U.S. military use of Shannon, but the Labour Party and the Green Party, Fine Gael's opposition partners, favor a review, if not reversal, of Irish policy on U.S. transits. Against this political backdrop, U.S. missteps at Shannon could easily become campaign grist, a Fianna Fail concern that mid-level DFA officials have cited in informal discussions with Post... We suspect that the Government aims with tese new constraints to dampen public criticism ahead of the 2007 general elections[.]

2010-11-30: A CONFIDENTIAL cable, 07DUBLIN916 reports a meeting with (then) Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, and relates approvingly his "tamping down" of public reaction to a report by the Irish Human Rights Commission on Extraordinary Rendition. The report had demanded that the Irish government inspect flights to ensure Extraordinary Rendition was not occurring, a demand that Ahern had unequivocally rejected - a move that drew the censure of the European Parliament. 07DUBLIN916 reveals that Ahern had assured the public that rendition was not occurring, but was apparently reasonably certain that several renditions had in fact occurred. Ahern requested of the Ambassador a token inspection agreement, so as to provide political cover, lest the renditions become public knowledge.


Ambassador Foley thanked Ahern for his staunch rejection of the Irish Human Rights Commission's (IHRC) demand that the Irish Government inspect aircraft landing in Ireland that are alleged to have been involved in so-called extraordinary rendition flights (Ref B)...Ahern noted that he had "put his neck on the chopping block" and would pay a severe political price if it ever turned out that rendition flights had entered Ireland or if one was discovered in the future. He stated that he "could use a little more information" about the flights, musing that it might not be a bad idea to allow the random inspection of a few planes to proceed, which would provide cover if a rendition flight ever surfaced. He seemed quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refueled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions elsewhere... While Ahern's public stance on extraordinary renditions is rock-solid, his musings during the meeting seemed less assured. This was the only issue during the meeting that agitated him; he spent considerable time dwelling on it. Ahern seemed to be fishing for renewed assurances from the ambassador that no rendition flights have transited Ireland, or would transit in the future.

2011-01-13: A SECRET and partially redacted cable, 04DUBLIN1739, reinforces the impression given in 07DUBLIN916 that throughout the Iraq War the Government of Ireland adopted a public stance of certainty that no rendition flights were occurring through Shannon, but privately suspected that they were occurring. It reveals that the primary worry of Irish government officials pertaining to rendition flights was not the prevention of internationally prohibited offenses against human beings, but the avoidance of political and legal liability. The Irish official, whose name was redacted, is primarily concerned that allowing rendition flights might constitute a criminal violation of Ireland's international treaty obligations, under treaties such as the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Human and Degrading Punishment, which besides forbidding torture, forbids also the neglect to intervene, and the refoulement of individuals to states where they might be subject to torture. The official scrupulously avoids asking whether rendition flights are occurring, since with that knowledge deniability would no longer be plausible. The ambassador diplomatically neglects to confirm, in return.


DCM met with XXXXXXXXXXXX issues surrounding U.S. use of Shannon airport. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that while there always has been an element of Irish society that objects to the U.S. military’s use of Shannon, the government feels increasingly under pressure. On a weekly basis, members of parliament question the ministers...The political problem is that the government’s defense of Shannon rests heavily on friendship with the U.S. and the Irish government saying it relies on the “good faith” of the USG... He cautioned that if it were ever to be discovered that the U.S. was not good on its word or had transported prisoners through Shannon in the context of the war on terrorism, there would be enormous political pressure on the government. As for the legal issue, he said that were a plane to include Shannon in an itinerary that also included transporting prisoners, GOI lawyers might be forced to conclude that the GOI itself was in violation of torture conventions...The DCM told XXXXXXXXXXXX that the USG would be in no position to respond to the detailed questions asked about particular planes, such as the Gulfstream jet, but stood by its commitment to abide by Irish law, consult with the Irish and avoid actions that would bring embarrassment to the Irish government... XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed that there is no/no change pending to Irish policy allowing U.S. use of Shannon, but reiterated that some ministers feel they are going out on a limb defending U.S. use of Shannon and that the GOI is counting on the fact that the word of the USG is good and that the U.S. has not and will not transfer prisoners through Shannon or engage in any other activity that would place the government in legal or political difficulty. He said that the government consistently says the same thing and that this must not be shown later “to have holes in it.” He also said it is critical that no “blue water” be found between statements that Irish and U.S. officials make.

The revelations in Cablegate appear to have vindicated the fears of the Irish anti-war community, and have galvanized parliamentary support for strengthening the judiciary's competency in the prevention of abuses. Irish Labour spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Michael D Higgins, has urged renewed support for his 2008 Private Members Bill, the Air Navigation and Transport (Prevention of Extraordinary Rendition) Bill, which would render explicit Irish obligations under international law. Coverage of Higgins' statement can be consulted here.

2011-01-20 Cablegate: Ireland and US predator drones

State department cable reveals possible use of Irish IT infrastructure to pilot unmanned drones in Afghanistan. A recent article in Phoenix Magazine (behind paywall) conjectures that undersea fibre-optic cables channeled through sites in Ireland, revealed in Wikileaks release of 09STATE15113, are in fact part of the U.S. military infrastructure for piloting Predator Drones in Afghanistan from a military base in Nevada. If true, this could be illegal under Irish constitutional commitments to neutrality.

US Predator Drone

The 09STATE15113 cable was widely discussed in the media, after a former British Defence and Foreign Secretary and chairman of the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee suggested that its publication by Wikileaks might pose a significant threat to U.S. and British national security. These claims were addressed by WL Central, here. The cable itself is an inventory released by the State Department documenting U.S. infrastructural and strategic assets listed under the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Protection Programme (NIPP).

The cable, signed by Hillary Clinton, proclaims that "[t]he overarching goal of the NIPP is to build a safer, more secure, and more resilient America by enhancing protection of the nation's [Critical Infrastructure]/[Key Resources] to prevent, deter, neutralize or mitigate the effects of deliberate efforts by terrorists to destroy, incapacitate or exploit them; and to strengthen national preparedness, timely response, and rapid recovery in the event of an attack, natural disaster or other emergency." A scan of the inventory of critical infrastructure, however, reveals that the entire world is peppered with sites designated critical to American security. For instance, the three Irish sites listed include a building in an industrial estate on Dublin's north side, owned by Hibernia Atlantic. Hibernia Atlantic was unavailable for comment to the press after the release of the cable:


Ireland: Hibernia Atlantic undersea cable landing, Dublin
Ireland Genzyme Ireland Ltd. (filling), Waterford,
Ireland: Thymoglobulin,

The Phoenix article draws attention to the Hibernia site, pointing out that it ought to be a curiosity to Irish Military Intelligence why it is designated in this way by the American government.


HOPEFULLY, Irish Military Intelligence (G2) has worked out by now why an anonymous building in a Coolock industrual estate is of such importance to the US that it features in the top secret National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) - published worldwide by Wikileaks. The NIPP lists include the Hibernia Atlantic Cable Network Operations Centre (NOC) at Clonshaugh, Dublin 17.

The Phoenix author goes on to suggest that the U.S. government has paid for the use of the transatlantic undersea fibre-optic cable, in order to facilitate its deployment of unmanned Predator drones in Central Asia.

The General Atomics MQ-1 "Predator" drone is an unmanned forward reconnaissance aircraft, which has been adapted for combat operations, and fitted with Hellfire missiles. It is one of an array of unmanned aircraft used by the United States military. A second, more secret Predator programme is run by the C.I.A. in covert targeted strikes. They have to date been deployed in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen.

The use of Predator drones has been criticized even internally within the U.S. military, on account of their role in a number of events with high civilian deaths. A United Nations report raised concerns over whether the use of Predator drones violates international law.

The Predator has nonetheless been the focus of many PR spots on news networks, and has been celebrated in military technology documentaries as a staple of the 21st century American war effort. These often depict Predator drones in Central Asia being flown by satellite link from offices in a military base in Nevada. The Phoenix author makes the argument that the latency on satellite connections is too high for the Predator programme, and that the US military must instead use fibre-optic links to pilot the aircraft.


In all these reports emphasis was placed on the use of earth satellites to control the killer drones... This secret media spin - that Predators are controlled in their Afghan area of operations through earth satellite links - is a fib aimed at securing the earth-based high speed links like Hibernian Atlantic from attack by jihadists.

Satellite links have one big draw back: they are far out in space (22,000 miles for some) and the speed with which they can transfer data is considerably slower than land-based and under-ocean fibre optic cables. Data takes 500 milliseconds to travel by satellite. But with Hibernian Atlantic's Dublin connection it takes 60 milliseconds to cross the ocean. The effect is called latency: the Coolock connection has low latency, a Nevada-Afghan satellite link has high latency.

An earth based system, of course, is more vulnerable to physical attack. A Holy Warrior who arrived at Sutton (where the Hibernian Atlantic cable comes ashore and from whences its east-bound companion heads to Southport and thence the Middle East) could do untold damage to the Predator campaign in Afghanistan, with little more than a spade and a hatchet. It is this, rather than considerations about Irish neutrality, which is the reason for the Dublin 17 centre being on that top secret list of vital facilities. But now the cat is out of the bag. No wonder the Yanks are so cross with Julian Assange. And no wonder the responsible Irish media has failed to follow up with investigation and publication of yet another example of Irish involvement in Uncle Sam's military exploits.

The possibility that Hibernia Atlantic is a conduit for Predator drone strikes raises a very new slant on a traditional Irish legal problem: what constitutes a breach of Irish constitutional commitments to neutrality. The Irish constitution, ratified during Ireland's neutrality in the Second World War, contains unusually strong restrictions on the participation in international conflicts, and various ancillary statutes build on this provision.

This issue has been the subject of significant legal activism over the history of the state, in recent years most visibly demonstrated in Horgan v. An Taoiseach, a High Court case in which an ex-soldier took a case against the Prime Minister of Ireland. The grounds for this case were that the allowance of the transmission of supplies and troops through Shannon airport, and the use of Irish airspace in U.S. flights to the Middle East and Central Asia as part of the "War on Terror" violated Irish neutrality, and were therefore unconstitutional. Some background for this case is given on WL Central here.

The idea that information infrastructure going through Irish territory, and using an Irish company, might be directly instrumental in the remote conduct of a war in Asia has analogies with the use of Irish airspace, and raises new questions over whether Irish neutrality is being breached.

However, the argument in Phoenix Magazine is hardly conclusive, and appears to assume that all assets listed in the NIPP list in 09STATE15113 are military assets, as opposed to assets important to American interests by more indirect means. 09STATE15113 does not appear to justify this assumption, and leaves open the possibility that a high capacity transatlantic fibre-optic cable might be important to U.S. strategic interests purely because its destruction would have a deleterious effect on certain U.S. industries, and thereby, on the national economy:


¶3. (U//FOUO) In addition to a list of critical domestic CI/KR, the NIPP requires compilation and annual update of a comprehensive inventory of CI/KR that are located outside U.S. borders and whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States. DHS in collaboration with State developed the Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative (CFDI)to identify these critical U.S. foreign dependencies -- foreign CI/KR that may affect systems within the U.S. directly or indirectly. State is coordinating with DHS to develop the 2009 inventory, and the action request in Para. 13 represents the initial step in this process.

¶4. (U//FOUO) The NIPP does not define CI/KR. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 (HSPD 7) references definitions in two separate statutes. In the USA Patriot Act of 2001 (42 U.S.C. 5195(e)) "critical infrastructure" is defined as systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States the incapacitation or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters. In the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 101(9)) "key resources" are defined as publicly or privately controlled resources essential to the minimal operations of the economy and government.

¶5. (U//FOUO) The NIPP identifies 18 CI/KR sectors: agriculture and food; defense industrial base; energy; healthcare and public health; national monuments and icons; banking and finance; drinking water and water treatment systems; chemical; commercial facilities; dams; emergency services; commercial nuclear reactors, materials, and waste; information technology; communications; postal and shipping; transportation and systems; government facilities; and critical manufacturing. Obviously some of these sectors are more likely to have international components than other sectors.
Building upon the initial survey completed in 2008, Department requests each post reassess and update information about infrastructure and resources in each host country whose loss could immediately affect the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States.

It remains to be seen whether the possibilities raised by the Phoenix magazine have any correspondence with the facts. 899 diplomatic cables from the Dublin embassy have yet to be released by Wikileaks. Of the eleven that have been released at the time of this post, three have cast new and possibly incriminating light on the Shannon airport case, as has been explored by WL Central here. The prospect that they may cast light on the designation of Irish sites in the NIPP can not be ruled out.

Update: The Phoenix Magazine article is republished here.

2011-01-20 Cablegate: Statement on rendition by Irish Labour spokesperson for Foreign Affairs

Irish Labour politician calls out Irish government on rendition: A senior member of the Irish Labour party and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Michael D Higgins, has criticized the Fianna Fáil government for apparent collusion with the US government on suspected rendition flights from Shannon airport in County Clare, indicated in US diplomatic cables from the Dublin Embassy.

In a statement made on January 17, Higgins referred to 04DUBLIN1739 and 07DUBLIN916 in support of his claim that the Irish government had knowingly conspired against popular and legal opinion in the use of Shannon airport by the U.S. military, while secretly harbouring a strong suspicion that it was being used for extraordinary rendition flights.

The latest US cable revealed by Wikileaks shows how even in 2004 the Government's legal advice was that allowing the use of Shannon Airport to aircraft en-route to, or returning from, a rendition mission, made Ireland complicit in torture.

Yet the Dáil and Irish citizens were continually assured by Ministers that permitting the use of Irish territory as a staging post was not a breach of Ireland's committments under the international convention against torture. The Government ignored its own legal advice and maintained the same line until June 2006 when the Council of Europe and the Irish Human Rights Commission stated that such aircraft were conducting illegal activity.

The disclosure of this cable comes after earlier revelations that former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, was 'quite convinced' in 2007 that Shannon Aiport had been used on at least three occasions by aircraft involved in rendition flights. Clearly there was then, as there is now, a strong need to change the law in this country to ensure that even when there is a Government without the mettle to stand up for Ireland's commitments to human rights, Irish airports are not used in rendition circuits and that any such aircraft are subject to proper inspection by the Irish authorities.

Higgins made reference to a private member's bill he had introduced in 2008, the intention of which was to render explicit in Irish law Ireland's obligations under international human-rights treaties:

  • that persons are not transported by aircraft out of the State in state custody otherwise than in accordance with the laws of the State and the international agreements to which it is a party,
  • that aircraft suspected of being used for the transport of persons in state custody to a place where they may be exposed to the risk of a breach of human rights are not permitted to enter the airspace of the State or, if such aircraft are within the airspace of the State, that all practicable measures are taken to prevent the commission of a breach of human rights within the territory of the State.

Higgins urged that legislative measures be taken to strengthen Irish legal protections against extraordinary rendition.

I would now urge the government either accept this Bill or to produce similar legislation of their own. Around the time my Bill was published, the Green Party announced that a government committee had been established to look at the whole area of extraordinary rendition, but nothing has been heard of this since.
Extraordinary rendition is the term used to describe the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another and gives rise to particular concerns in the context of alleged transfers of suspected terrorists to countries known to torture prisoners or to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture. It is contrary to international law and Ireland has an obligation to ensure that we do not facilitate this practice in any way.

In response to public and opposition pressure in the wake of the recent IMF deal, the Irish government is expected to announce a general election within the next month. Because of a sea change in Irish politics in the wake of Ireland's banking crisis, the coming election is widely regarded as being open beyond precedent in Irish history. It remains to be seen whether the revelations in Cablegate achieve legislative influence in the limited time before the Dáil is dissolved, or whether (government party) Fianna Fáil complicity in US rendition becomes an election campaign issue.

Click Here for our overview of the history of the Shannon airport rendition story.

Update: Within three hours of this post, the Irish government announced the election for the 11th of March.

2011-01-20 Former Quantico HQ company commander questions Manning's treatment

Pardoned Felon Lt. Colonel Oliver North - Image Courtesy of



General James F. Amos
Commandant of the Marine Corps
3000 Marine Corps Pentagon
Washington DC 20350-3000

Dear General Amos:

As a former regular Marine Corps captain, a Korean War combat veteran, now retired on Veterans Administration disability due to wounds suffered during that conflict, I write you to protest and express concern about the confinement in the Quantico Marine Corps Base brig of US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Manning, if the information I have is correct, is charged with having violated provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice by providing to unauthorized persons, among them specifically one Julian Assange and his organization Wikileaks, classified information relating to US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and State Department communications. This seems straightforward enough and sufficient to have Manning court-martialed and if found guilty sentenced in accordance with the UCMJ.

What concerns me here, and I hasten to admit that I respect Manning’s motives, is the manner in which the legal action against him is being conducted. I wonder, in the first place, why an Army enlisted man is being held in a Marine Corps installation. Second, I question the length of confinement prior to conduct of court-martial. The sixth amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing to the accused in all criminal prosecutions the right to a speedy and public trial, extends to those being prosecuted in the military justice system. Third, I seriously doubt that the conditions of his confinement—solitary confinement, sleep interruption, denial of all but minimal physical exercise, etc.—are necessary, customary, or in accordance with law, US or international.

Indeed, I have to wonder why the Marine Corps has put itself, or allowed itself to be put, in this invidious and ambiguous situation.  [Source]

[Image Courtesy of]

2011-01-20 Three reasons why WikiLeaks is dangerous to corporations

Corporations are being pressured to behave more ethically and transparently as a result of the increasing influence of Julian Assange's scientific journalistic enterprise, WikLeaks. Public relations professionals in Germany say that trying to sit out the storm is no longer a strategy for success in a post-cablegate world.

In the wake of the removal of Galileo CEO Berry Smutny and Rudolph Elmer's handover of banking data to Wikileaks, the German public relations portal PR Professional defines three reasons why WikiLeaks is dangerous for corporations, and advises them on how to avoid coming into difficulties resulting from potentially damaging disclosures.

According to Jörg Forthmann of Faktenkontor, WikiLeaks is dangerous to corporations because:

1. Until now, it has not been proven that WikiLeaks has published any falsified information acquired from its sources, and journalists are becoming less and less critical of the validity of WikiLeaks sourced documents. Therefore, press officers have little chance to deflect the crisis through lies or claims challenging a misuse of facts. Whoever tries that end up being outed as a liar.

2. WikiLeaks is clever enough not to interpret the documents itself, and leaves that job up to the media. In this manner, WikiLeaks remains "clean". An attack on WikiLeaks has no chance because WikiLeaks has become sacrosanct in the eyes of many important journalists and a broad segment of the public. WikiLeaks publishes - according to public opinion - only that which has been swept under the carpet to hide it from public view.

3. Although WikiLeaks' is a challenge enough on its own, the collaboration with opinion leading media partners secures its disclosures strong publicity. Large media organizations are fighting for exclusive access to any breadcrumbs of potentially damaging information from WikiLeaks original source data, guaranteeing increase in circulation; this determines the media's participation in the denunciation and damage to targeted individuals or corporations.

Corporations are therefore well advised to behave preventatively:

Whoever doesn't value ethical behavior towards their workers, customers, suppliers, partners and so on, are taking the risk of being publicly branded and embarrassed. Businesses should learn from the mistakes of the U.S. government, and institute IT policies restricting access to sensitive documents.The outsourcing of data storage and applications to the Cloud increases the danger of non-authorized access to data. Employees being released should be encouraged to not denounce the company upon their termination. Finally. public relations departments should prepare themselves to be challenged with compromising data which will be released through leak portals. In this situation there are few options to reduce the damage. Be proactive, consequent,and build allies; trying to sit out the storm won't work anymore.

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

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

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

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

2011-01-20 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

The Guardian: Iran has cleared major hurdle to nuclear weapons

"Tehran has 'technical ability' to make highly enriched uranium, say experts, as efforts turn to disrupting supply of other materials.

US officials believe Iran now has the "technical ability" to make highly enriched uranium, an essential step towards building a nuclear bomb, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable."

Read more

The Guardian: US embassy cables: Botswana's forced relocation of indigenous tribespeople condemned

"Ambassador Huggins visited Botswana's western town of Ghanzi and the San/Basarwa relocation settlement of New Xade on March 10-11. Rural poverty, severe dependence on government assistance, lack of income-generating opportunities, despair among youth, and the underperformance of the parastatal Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) were identified by interlocutors as dominant issues in the district. Officials proclaimed the advantages of the relocation of the San/Basarwa out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve into villages. NGOs emphasized the forcible aspect of the exercise and the psychological trauma and cultural disorientation it had produced. The GOB, as revealed in a subsequent meeting with the MFA PermSec, views the San as a group which, like other ethnic minorities in Botswana, should use education to move forward."

Read cable

Hispanically Speaking News: Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom Said Rigoberta Menchu is “A Fabrication”

"A diplomatic document leaked to Wikileaks and published by the whistle-blowing site says the Guatemalan President described the revered Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu as a “fabrication” of French anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos. Burgos helped author the biography “I Rigoberta Menchú,” which introduced the Nobel Prize winner known as a human rights activist to the world."

Read more

El País: EE UU afirma que las mafias italianas ayudan al terrorismo (The US affirms the Italian Mafia helps terrorism)

"Según los cables de Wikileaks, el FBI considera que el dinero de la droga de la Ndrangheta y la Camorra financia a grupos armados en Afganistán y Colombia. El servicio exterior elaboró en 2008 un plan para ayudar a Italia a luchar contra el crimen organizado. (According with the Wikileaks cables, the FBI considers that the drug money from the organizations "la Ndrangheta" and "la Camorra" finances armed groups in Afghanistan and Colombia. The Secret Service made in 2008 a plan to help Italy against its organized crime.)"

Read more (Spanish)

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

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

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

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

Jebali Hamadi continued in the interview to state:

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

(We are opposed to any restrictions. But look at the streets! The people have spoken out against the policies of the RCD. Those who have been involved in the repression can not be involved in the new government.)

The quotes, taken apparently only days before the fall of the Ben Ali and RCD's government, conclude with these observations by Jebali Hamadi:

Was den Islam betrifft, herrscht in Europa eine Psychose. Ich habe neun Jahre in Paris gelebt. Ich kenne die Mentalität in Europa. Ich habe versucht, Europäer zu verstehen, mich in die Lage eines Europäers zu versetzen. Es wäre gut, wenn die Europäer versuchen würden, den Islam zu verstehen. Bevor man jemanden verurteilt, soll man mit ihm sprechen und ihm zuhören. Ben Ali hat die Vorurteile der Europäer genutzt, um seine Herrschaft zu stabilisieren.

A sort of prejudice, psychosis prevails in Europe regarding Islam. I lived in Paris for nine years. I know the mentality in Europe. I have tried to understand Europeans; to put myself in the position of a European. It would be good if Europeans would try to understand Islam. Before condemning someone they should speak with them and listen to them. Ben Ali has taken advantage of these prejudices; of the Europeans lack of understanding in order to stabilize and maintain his rule.

The original German article can be found here.

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

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

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

On Friday, August 20, 2010, the decision was made by Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand to arrest Julian Assange, in absentia, on grounds of “suspected rape. This decision was made upon a telephone report by a police officer.” As we know, the police had interviewed the two women concerned. However, Sundberg-Weitman points out that the arrest decision was made “before the police interviews of the two women concerned were finished.”

It was also previously known that “[s]omebody leaked the decision to the Swedish tabloid Expressen, and it was made public all over the world,” and that the decision “was overruled within 24 hours by chief prosecutor Eva Finné. She stated that Assange was no longer suspected of rape.”

Claes Borgström, a lawyer known for feminist activism, lodged an appeal on behalf of the two women. The appeal was examined by Marianne Ny, chief of a prosecution “development center” specialized in, among other things, sexual offences.

[Ny] decided to overrule Finné’s decision and reopen the case of suspected rape. Like Borgström Ny is a feminist. She is known to have said that when a woman alleges she has been a victim of assault by a man, it is a good idea to have the man detained, because it is not until he is arrested that the woman has time to think of her life in peace and realize how she has been treated. According to Ny the detention has a good effect as protection for the woman ”even in cases where the perpetrator is prosecuted but not found guilty”.

Sundberg-Weitman then notes that despite the belief that an accused man should be detained irrespective of innocence, Ny did not arrest Julian Assange, who was in Sweden at the time. “[Nor] did [Ny] interview him about the allegations under investigation.”

When Assange had left Sweden (his application for a residence permit was rejected) Ny decided to arrest him in absentia and applied to the Stockholm District Court to confirm her decision. The District Court granted her application and, after appeal, its decision was confirmed by the Svea Court of Appeal. However, even before the Court of Appeal had had time to examine the appeal, Ny issued a European Arrest Warrant against Assange.

It is also noted that “[t]he Court of Appeal was chaired by its President, who was until recently National Prosecutor General.”

The question Sundberg-Weitman raises is that of why Ny did not take the opportunity “to interview Assange whilst he was still in Sweden” and “why she did not accept Assange’s proposal to be interrogated in England,” which is a legitimate request, in accordance with “rules valid in both Sweden and Britain on Mutual Legal Assistance.” She goes on to explain that The Handbook on International Legal Assistance, published by the Swedish National Prosecutor General, provides various means by which to proceed with interrogations in such cases. This detail is highlighted because Ny had claimed that “it would not be compatible with Swedish law to interrogate Assange in England.” Sundberg-Weitman notes that this “obviously is not true.”

In later interviews Ny answered that in the case of where it turned out after an interrogation of Assange that he should be immediately arrested, that would not be possible unless he was in Sweden. Possibly we see here a reflection of her view that it is a good thing to have a ”perpetrator” (!) locked up even in cases where he is subsequently acquitted in a court of law.

Assange’s fear of being extradited from Sweden to US
Sundberg-Weitman points out that Assange was opposed to the idea of being surrendered to Sweden because his fear was “that Sweden would in its turn extradite him to US, where he would be likely to be put away in jail or even murdered as a result of the anger Wikileaks has caused in US.” She reminds us that “there are prominent persons who have expressed the view that he should be treated as a terrorist and sentenced to death,” due to the perception that Assange “violated US law on espionage.” She adds that arguments have been raised to the effect that “it would be legally easier for US to have him extradited from UK than from Sweden.”

However, Sundberg-Weitman notes that this argument overlooks some important points. She states that Assange “has much more popular support in UK than in Sweden” and concludes that an extradition from the UK to the US would be less probable, on a political level, than an extradition from Sweden to the US.

[H]aving him extradited from Sweden would probably not cause much protest amongst Swedes. All the mass media in Sweden have a rather biased view on the case to the detriment of Assange, and they express great confidence in Sweden’s judiciary in the present case.

Sundberg-Weitman points out 2 facts that justify, in her own view, Assange’s “fear of being extradited from Sweden to US.”

  1. [T]here are extremely strong interests in US who want him delivered because of Wikileaks.
  2. [R]eports from the US embassy in Stockholm published by Wikileaks have revealed that the Swedish Government has gone out of its way to be helpful to US in various controversial matters.

She goes on to ask, in closing: “So why would the US not make use of its influence to put pressure on Sweden in order to have Assange extradited to the US?"

Political considerations under Swedish law
This final section deals with the question of whether it would be illegal, under Swedish law, for “political considerations” to influence the manner in which Assange is treated “by Swedish authorities as to the suspected sexual offences”. Questions pertaining to the events involving the arrest and its media coverage are also discussed.

Sundberg-Weitman considers the possibility that perhaps “Marianne Ny should not be blamed for wanting to press the definition of rape in cases of consensual sex,” noting that Ny “is, after all, she “heading a ‘development center’ specialized in sexual offences.” She argues:

To be sure, there can be no doubt that [Ny] has acted contrary to European law as established by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The issuing of a European Arrest Warrant against Assange runs counter to the European principle of proportionality: in interfering with a person’s freedom a State authority must limit itself to what is necessary in order to achieve its objective. In the present case Ny has clearly stated that her objective by issuing the European Arrest Warrant is to question Assange, because only after having heard his statements will she able to decide whether or not to prosecute him. Obviously Ny could have had Assange interrogated in England.

Sundberg-Weitman explains that “the Swedish version of the principle of proportionality is more blurred than that developed by the Court of Justice of the European Union.”

Thus, the Swedish statutory instrument regulating the issuance of European Arrest Warrants provides (under the headline ”Proportionalitet”) that a warrant may be issued only in cases where, considering the harm inflicted upon the person concerned, the delay and the costs that may be expected, an Arrest Warrant should be justified with respect to the nature and gravity of the offence “and other circumstances”.

Sundberg-Weitman points out that the words and other circumstances “seem to put no limit to what considerations are legal under the Swedish principle of proportionality enshrined in the statutory instrument.” This entails, in her opinion, that under Swedish law, it is therefore legal “to let considerations of foreign relations policy influence a prosecutor’s decision whether or not to issue a European Arrest Warrant”.

The previous point emphasizes not only the broadness of the Swedish principle of proportionality, but also various peculiarities that ensued in events involving both Ny’s subsequent actions and media coverage of the situation.

In point of fact the Swedish fundamental law, the Instrument of Government, provides that where an issue of importance for Sweden’s relation to another State appears in a public authority, the authority has to inform the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Chapter 10 § 8). The official comment to this provision states that the Minister must have an opportunity to explain to the authority what aspects of foreign policy may be involved. As a corollary of this provision the Handbook on European Arrest Warrant published by the National Prosecutor General provides that in case of doubt the National Prosecutor General’s office is to be consulted.

It follows from these provisions, says Sundberg-Weitman, that Ny was required to consult the National Prosecutor General prior to issuing the European Arrest Warrant against Assange, and that the National Prosecutor General, in turn, “must have presented the matter before the Minister of Foreign Affairs.” Yet an Expressen interview with National Prosecutor General Anders Perklev indicates otherwise. In the interview, says Sundberg-Weitman, he

gives the impression that Marianne Ny has been acting totally independently in the Assange case: ”Every prosecutor dealing with the case makes an independent evaluation. It is not the Prosecution Authority as such that makes a decision, it is the individual prosecutor who decides in his or her own name.

This, according to Sundberg-Weitman , “seems odd”.

Another rather peculiar thing is a communication made by Ny when the Westminster City Magistrates’ Court in London released Assange on condition of bail and rather severe restrictions. Sweden was given two hours’ time to decide whether or not to appeal. When the two hours were almost gone it was reported on the radio that Sweden had not appealed. But then, in the very last moment, it was dramatically noted that Sweden had indeed decided to appeal.

Events following the announcement do not appear consistent with the facts, however, since

[t]he following day Ny communicated on the Prosecutors’ home page that it was ”the British prosecutor” who had made the decision to appeal. Likewise, a representative of the National Prosecutor General, Nils Rekke, confirmed on TV that the appeal was a ”purely internal British” decision. Later on, however, Ny stated that she was ”content” with the decision – one may guess that the British Prosecutor had protested against being indirectly accused of high-handedness.

Sundberg-Weitman concludes by asking, “Why these half-truths allocating all responsibility to Ny for the procedure in Sweden and to the British for Sweden´s appeal in Britain?” Her answer: “Well, I don’t know the answer to that, but it does appear as if something is being hidden under the carpet.”

2011-01-21 Julian Assange receives Russian visa

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

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

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

In other news, Moscow Times reports "Russia's Own WikiLeaks Takes Off".

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

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

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

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

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

Police used tear gas and water cannons to beat them back. As the night fell, hundreds of riot policemen and national guard officers swept through the center of the capital, beating protesters with batons and detaining dozens of youths. There was no immediate word on arrests.

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

The Guardian: WikiLeaks points to US meddling in Haiti

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

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

Read more

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

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

Read more (French)

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

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

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

The full article can be read here.

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

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

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

Read more (Spanish)

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

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

Read more (Spanish)

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

Al Jazeera launches Transparency Unit:

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

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

Search the Palestine Papers on AJTU

2011-01-23 Best of WikiLeaks in 2010

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

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

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

The Nation: Greg Mitchell: Why WikiLeaks Matters

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


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


CBS News: Joshua Norman: How WikiLeaks Enlightened Us in 2010
This excellent piece by Joshua Reitman on CBS' "World Watch" breaks down noteworthy Cablegate revelations by state. A comprehensive and valuable collection of news headlines.


Salon: Glenn Greenwald: What WikiLeaks revealed to the world in 2010
Glenn Greenwald at Salon is a tireless writer on the subject of WikiLeaks. He has a formidable ability to dig up old news to give context to today's headlines - serving often as the institutional memory journalism seems to have lost. Greenwald here collects the headlines from 2010, sets them beside each other, and lets the argument develop itself. Res Ipsa Loquitur.


Huffington Post: Vince Warren: WikiLeaks and Democracy
Taking issue specifically with claims that WikiLeaks has exposed nothing new, Vince Warren develops a counterargument with reference to actual cables and source materials released by WikiLeaks. The collection of references is couched in a valuable discussion of the fundamental commitments of democracy, and the role of journalistic organizations like WikiLeaks in this.


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

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

David House reported from his twitter feed:

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

Meanwhile visiting hours are expiring... Hopeful that I get to see Brad today. These visits are his only reprieve from solitary.

@davidmhouse david house
My, that's a big shotgun.

@davidmhouse david house
I am on approved visitation list; have been visiting since September. Was planning on asking Brad about his conditions today.

@davidmhouse david house
Vehicle being searched and impounded.

@davidmhouse david house
I am not being allowed to move on-base to see Bradley. The petition is in my lap in a tow-truck surrounded by MPs. Welcome to Quantico.

@davidmhouse david house
MPs still not letting us leave. To clarify I am authorized to be on base; have been on approved visitation list + visiting for 5 months.

davidmhouse david house
RT @janehamsher Quantico Marine brass don't want Manning 2 have sole visitor now. Isolation & enforcement of solitary confinement complete.

@davidmhouse david house
Finally released, right as visiting hours conclude. What's going on in the brig?

Via Twitter and FDL's live feed

Statement of Events: Bradley Manning’s Primary Visitor Detained at Quantico

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

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

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

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

Reporters from Al-Arabiya and Al Jazeera attempting to cover the demonstrations were also allegedly detained and roughed up.

In the southern city of Aden, police yesterday arrested Abdel Khaliq Al-Hawad, who works for the newspaper Akhbar Aden (Aden News), as he tried to cover a demonstration staged by an opposition party ... Al Jazeera’s Aden correspondent, Fadel Mubarak, was warned by the provincial head of security of Abyan that he would be added to the list of wanted persons if he continued to cover events. These threats come in the wake of a journalist who has specialized in covering Al-Qaeda, Ilah Haydar Shae, was sentenced to five years in prison on January 18th by a Sanaa court.Shae, who was the first Yemeni journalist to allege US involvement in an attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah in the Abyan area of southern Yemen on December 17, 2009, has vowed not t appeal his sentence, according to journalists present in the courtroom:

I do not stand now in front of a judiciary but in front of a gang belonging to the national security apparatus.

-Haydar Shae

Read Wikileaks sourced U.S. embassy cables from Yemen.

Jordan, Al Arabiya: Measures designed to "drug people".

More than 5000 people rallied in Amman and other cities in Jordan after weekly prayers on Friday against Jordan's economic policies, demanding real political and socio-economic reforms, despite Prime Minister Samir Rifai's announcement of a $ 283 million plan to raise salaries of government staff and pensions of retired government employees in the face of popular discontent. Opposition leaders viewed this move as "measures designed to drug people".

The government should change its economic policies and mentality. We are protesting today because we want to protect ourselves and our nation. We have gone 50 years backwards.

-Unionist Maisarah Malas

A $1.5 billion deficit, equivalent to 5% of gross domestic product, is expected on Jordan's $8.8 billion budget this year.

Read Wikileaks sourced U.S. embassy cables from Jordan.

Algeria, CNN: Injuries and "unauthorized" free speech.

Baton-wielding Algerian security forces clashed Saturday with protesters who defied a ban and took to the streets of the capital demanding political reform. Eleven individuals and eight policemen were injured, two seriously, and nine protestors were arrested. In Algeria, the protests broke out over spiraling food costs. The opposition blames the government of failing to use the north African nation's energy wealth to better the lives of ordinary people. In Algeria, the protests broke out over spiraling food costs.

We asked to do a march, in a legal way, but they told us: 'You are the opposition and you don't have any rights in your country.'

-Said Saadi, head of Algeria's largest opposition party, Rally for Culture and Democracy

The government called the demonstration "small" with about 250 people and said it was "unauthorized." Security forces prevented journalists from photographing the demonstration or interviewing organizers. A law adopted in 2001 indefinitely bans all demonstrations in Algiers, according to the monitoring group Human Rights Watch. A nationwide state of emergency in effect for nearly two decades allows the government to ban any event that is "likely to disturb public order and tranquility."

Read Wikileaks sourced U.S. embassy cables from Algeria.

2011-01-23 Sunday morning WikiLeaks entertainment news

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

Biographies of the blind. Assange films & books: puffery by people without knowledge of his life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via @calixte on Twitter

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

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

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

Read more (Spanish)

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

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

Read more (Spanish)

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

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

The panel will include:

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

The techpresident'sMicah L. Sifry gives a brief overview of some of the issues that will be discussed at tonight's symposium. Among other issues, the role that technology plays will be highlighted.

Citizenship, wherever you may hold it, comes with boundaries. Right now, it appears that both WikiLeaks and Anonymous have found ways to stretch, if not completely break, those limits.

The symposium will be streamed live at Pdf

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

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

Previously on WL Central:

2011-01-19 Self-immolation protest spreads to Yemen
2011-01-19 Unrest in Arab States
2011-01-18 Man dies in Alexandria from self-immolation wounds
2011-01-17 Egyptian man sets himself on fire
2011-01-17 Mauritanian man sets himself on fire
2011-01-16 Early reports of unrest in Libya
2011-01-16 Protests in Egypt

2011-01-24 Tunisia today: "It’s not a unity government, it’s a fake unity government”

Events in Tunisia continue to develop quickly. Protesters from rural areas streamed into the capital overnight, defying a curfew, to protest the continued presence of remnants of the Ben-Ali regime. Here is a round-up of today's events in Tunisia.

Al Jazeera:

Talks underway for new Tunisia govt - Politicians said to be meeting to negotiate the creation of a committe of "wise men" to replace current government.

Tunisian politicians are reportedly negotiating the creation of a committee of "wise men" to replace the interim government and "protect the revolution".

Sources have told the Reuters news agency on Monday that the committee could include respected opposition politician Ahmed Mestiri. The comments echo that of the country's army chief, Rachid Ammar, who also vowed to "defend the revolution" that ousted former president Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, but warned of a "power vacuum" that may result if a solution to the subsequent political crisis is not found. [Source]

The Guardian (Video):

Tunisian protesters defy curfew - Police cordon off Kasbah area of Tunis after night of demonstrations outside Mohamed Ghannouchi's compound [Video] [Source]

Christian Science Monitor:

Tunisia's opposition defends unity government as pressure mounts
Tunisia's opposition leaders appear to have miscalculated by rushing into a unity government that many people will not accept, as protests Monday demonstrated that public anger has not subsided ... Exiles and protesters from Tunisia's interior, where the revolution began, have converged on the capital, adding significant pressure on the week-old government. ...“It’s not a unity government, it’s a fake unity government,” says Moncef Marzouki [Source]

Tunisia plans panel to oversee government - sources
TUNIS (Reuters) - A cabinet reshuffle is also expected within the next few days to fill ministries vacated by a slew of resignations, though this could include changes to other portfolios, Education Minister Tayeb Baccouche said. ...
In Tunis Monday, police and army blocked off around 500 protesters who were inside the government compound in the old city, or casbah. Around 1,000 other demonstrators filled the streets and a large square nearby, unable to approach the area. "Are they afraid the government will really be shaken? It seems that Ben Ali's regime is back," said Kamal Ashour, from Tunis. The teachers' union called a strike Monday, when primary schools were to reopen as part of moves to bring the country back to normal. But the level of support was not clear. [Source]

ChannelNewsAsia Report<

IceRocket Search on Tunisia, past 24 hours:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Das Schlimmste, was einer Organisation passieren kann, ist nicht, dass jemand nicht mehr funktioniert. Dann wird er eben ausgetauscht. Das Schlimmste ist, wenn jemand die Organisation in Frage stellt, etwa die Rechtmäßigkeit ihres Handelns. Wer das wagt, muss abgestraft werden. Sichtbar muss an ihm ein Exempel statuiert werden, damit andere verstehen, dass sie dies auf keinen Fall tun dürfen.

(The worst that can happen to an organization is not that they lose a valuable employee; the employee can just be replaced. The worst is when someone questions the legality of the organization's actions. And whoever dares to question must be punished. Not only must they be punished but the whistleblower must be made an example. The more public, the better, to act as a warning to others who question the organization's actions.)

The full interview by Matthias Thieme can be found at Frankfurter Rundschau

2011-01-25 Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is sentenced to life in prison

The New York Times reported today on former Guantánamo Bay detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. On Tuesday, Ghailani was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in East Africa. Ghailani is the first former Guantánamo detainee to be tried in the civilian court system.

Lewis A. Kaplan of the US District Court wrote of the evidence that Ghailani had been acquitted of more than 280 charges of murder and conspiracy:

Mr. Ghailani knew and intended that people would be killed as a result of his own actions and the conspiracy he joined.

Mr. Ghailani, 36, was convicted on November 17 of a single count of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property. After over two months of deliberation, judge Kaplan handed down the sentencing earlier today.

From the NYT:

Mr. Ghailani’s lawyers had argued for leniency, citing what they say was the torture that Mr. Ghailani suffered while he was being detained in a “black site” run by the C.I.A. after his capture. They contended that he had also provided “extraordinarily valuable information and intelligence” while in the agency’s custody.

To our knowledge, the lawyers wrote, no prior defendant has ever stood before a court of the United States and asked the court to fashion a reasonable sentence by taking into consideration the pattern of torture inflicted upon him by a government-sponsored program.

The article concludes with this quote from Judge Kaplan:

No matter how Mr. Ghailani was treated while in detention, the impact on him pales in comparison to the suffering and the horror he and his confederates caused.

2011-01-25 Bradley Manning placed on suicide watch

In a development which may cast new light on yesterday's incidents at Quantico military prison, NBC reports that "U.S. military officials" indicated that Bradley Manning was placed on suicide watch last week by Brig Commander James Averhart, in a violation of procedure.


The officials told NBC News, however, that a U.S. Marine commander did violate procedure when he placed Manning on "suicide watch" last week.

Military officials said Brig Commander James Averhart did not have the authority to place Manning on suicide watch for two days last week, and that only medical personnel are allowed to make that call.

The official said that after Manning had allegedly failed to follow orders from his Marine guards. Averhart declared Manning a "suicide risk." Manning was then placed on suicide watch, which meant he was confined to his cell, stripped of most of his clothing and deprived of his reading glasses — anything that Manning could use to harm himself. At the urging of U.S. Army lawyers, Averhart lifted the suicide watch.

As WL Central related last night, Jane Hamsher and David House were prevented from delivering to the Quantico facility a petition with 42,000 signatures in support of Bradley Manning. Hamsher and House related the incident live via Twitter. Military police detained both at the main entrance to the Quantico facility on the pretext of dealing with formalities arising from an out-of-date auto insurance card. They were not allowed to leave the base until after visiting hours had expired, preventing David House from resuming his customary visits to Bradley Manning in the brig. FireDogLake related the incident in detail here.

As FDL describes, the incident is highly irregular for the Quantico facility, which House has been visiting since September 2010. House's last tweet about the incident last night expressed a question that was being asked across the web: "What's going on in the brig?" The news that Manning had been placed on suicide watch provides possible context for the irregular behaviour at Quantico yesterday. Marcy Wheeler notes on her blog that last night's incident might be explained with reference to the information that Manning had been unjustly treated.


This certainly puts the events from Quantico yesterday in a different light. According to MSNBC, government lawyers realized last week Manning had been improperly treated. By preventing David House from visiting Manning yesterday, they made sure that he wouldn’t have confirmation of that from Manning directly. But since Jane and David’s comments said they’d be back next week, DOD realized they’d need to ‘fess up themselves.

We are told that the anonymous "military officials" quoted as a source on the article also informed NBC that the U.S. attempt to substantiate a connection between Bradley Manning and Julian Assange has not thus far been fruitful.


The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

No indication is given in the article that the untoward treatment of Manning is connected to the reported failure of the U.S. investigation against Julian Assange. Human rights advocates and supporters of Manning will be particularly attentive to the possibility of the coercion of evidence from detainees, given the recent history of judicial decisions to throw out prosecution evidence in cases against Guantanamo detainees, on the basis that it had been obtained through the use of cruel and inhumane treatment, or of torture.

The identities of the "U.S. Marine and Army officials" responsible for the information are not disclosed by NBC.

2011-01-25 Revolution Day in Egypt

Egyptians will be demonstrating today in solidarity with Tunisia and in hope for change within their own government. An Egyptian national holiday in honour of the police, has been renamed 'The Day of Wrath', 'Revolution Day', and the 'Koshari Revolution', the latter referring to a rice, lentils and pasta dish frequently eaten by lower income Egyptians.

There has been a significant amount of support and planning for the protest online, causing the government and police to promise an equally strong suppression. Over 85,000 people have liked the Facebook page for the protest day, calling for a day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment.

April 6 Youth Movement, whose group said they distributed over 150,000 flyers for the event, had at least three members arrested last week for distributing pamphlets, according to Egypt's al-Masry al-Youm. Almost half of Egypt's 80 million people live on less than or just above USD$2 a day. The protesters are calling for a raise of minimum wage to 1200 pounds, linking wages to prices, getting rid of the Interior Minister, and abolishing the state of emergency that Egypt has imposed since 1981.

It is this state of emergency, which bans protests without government permits, and allows the government to make arrests without charge, that will give the police the authority to enact a severe crackdown on any protesters. Monsters and Critics writes:

On Monday, the head of security for Cairo, Ismail Shaer, said that police 'will deal firmly and decisively' with anyone attempting to take part in unauthorised protests based on the directives of Minister of Interior Habib al-Adly.'

The Defence Front for Egyptian protesters, an umbrella organisation representing over a dozen human rights NGO's, are planning to provide lawyers for protesters that might be arrested.

Al Jazeera reports:

Habib el-Adli, the interior minister, has issued orders to "arrest any persons expressing their views illegally".

"I tell the public that this Facebook call comes from the youth," Adli said in an interview published by the state-owned newspaper al Ahram.

"Youth street action has no impact and security is capable of deterring any acts outside the law," he said, adding that he welcomed "stationary protests held for limited periods of time" and that police would protect the protesters.

Fear of the police, who Al Jazeera call "a key force in keeping president Hosni Mubarak in power for 30 years", may cause less people to attend the protest. "We are not less than Tunisia." organizers wrote on the Facebook page. "On Jan. 25, we have to show the world that we are not a cowardly, submissive people." Organizers also told people to bring an Egyptian flag, and leave any other banners that represent their religious or political affiliation at home. This day is for all Egyptians.

According to Al Arabiya

The call for protests was first initiated by "The Martyr" Facebook page, set up in the name of a young Egyptian man, Khaled Said, whose family and witnesses say was beaten to death by a pair of policemen in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria last year. His case has become a rallying point for the opposition.

Witnesses say the two plainclothes policemen dragged him from a cafe and beat him to death on the sidewalk. Two policemen are currently on trial in connection with his death.

President Hosny Mubarak's National Democratic Party was reelected just two months ago with more than 80 per cent of seats. The Muslim Brotherhood lost all of their previously held 88 seats in the parliament in the election. Al Arabiya reports:

Legal parties such as the liberal Wafd and Al-Ghad in addition to supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt's best organized opposition group - workers, students, government employees and activists said they will join the rally.

WL Central has reported on the unrest in Egypt since the Tunisian uprising, here, here, here and here. According to Al Arabiya

The government has played down self-immolation attempts, with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif telling reporters on Monday that those who committed the act were driven by "personal issues." ...

On Monday alone, police reported at least two self-immolation attempts in two provinces. In Cairo, a man in his 60s slashed his wrists in the middle of a small demonstration. None of the three died.

Not a single day passes in Egypt without more than one suicide attempt reported. A recent study by the Cabinet Center for Information and Decision Making, an official body, showed that around 100,000 Egyptians took their own lives or attempted to do so in 2010.

The revolution is well publicized, promised reaction from the police has been issued, and sympathizers around the world are now watching and ready to report. Whether the world watching will make a difference remains to be seen. From Al Jazeera:

Commenting on the wave of public unrest in Tunisia, Adli said talk that the "Tunisian model" could work in other Arab countries was "propaganda" and had been dismissed by politicians as "intellectual immaturity".

2011-01-25 US can't link accused Manning to Assange

In an NBC News report dated January 24, US military officials reportedly confessed that they have been unable to find any direct connections between Bradley Manning, suspected of leaking secret documents, and Julian Assange:

Officials with the U.S. military, say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

Further, in the same briefing, the Defense Department officially denied the mistreatment of Bradley Manning, while admitting that:

Brig Commander James Averhart did not have the authority to place Manning on suicide watch for two days last week, and that only medical personnel are allowed to make that call.

2011-01-26 The Palestine Papers (Part 1 of 2)

On January 23, Al Jazeera announced their possession of 1,684 files of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and with the release of these documents, they launched their new Transparency Unit. They released the Palestine Papers and reported on their contents between January 23-26th, 2011. The documents include:

  • 275 sets of meeting minutes
  • 690 internal e-mails
  • 153 reports and studies
  • 134 sets of talking points and prep notes for meetings
  • 64 draft agreements
  • 54 maps, charts and graphs
  • 51 “non-papers” (including power point presentations)

These accounts of high level exchanges and strategy papers cover a period from 1999 to 2010. As promised by Al Jazeera, they have revealed new details regarding:

The Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.

Erekat's solution for the Haram Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority (PA), had suggested unprecedented compromises on the division of Jerusalem and its holy sites. Minutes of negotiations at the US State Department in Washington DC indicate that Erekat was willing to concede control over the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, to the oversight of an international committee.

"The biggest Yerushalayim"In a June 15 meeting in Jerusalem, involving Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state, Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, Ahmed Qurei, PA's former prime minister, and Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Palestinian negotiators agreed to allow Israel to annex the settlement Ramat Shlomo, along with almost every other bit of illegal construction in the Jerusalem area – an historic concession for which they received nothing in return.

From the minutes:

Qurei: This last proposition could help in the swap process. We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa). This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so in Camp David.

The "napkin map" revealed Not only did the Israeli government offer no concessions in return for the Jerusalem settlements, but Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert responded by adding the annex of more than 10% of the West Bank (including the major settlements in Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and elsewhere), in exchange for sparsely-populated farmland along the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel would keep all of its major West Bank settlements – Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Kedumim and others – none of which were included in the Palestinian offers. Olmert also proposed a link between the West Bank and Gaza that would be under Palestinian control yet remain under Israeli sovereignty. A special road would connect Bethlehem with Ramallah, bypassing East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem concessions are discussed further in "Shocking revelations" on Jerusalem.

The compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return.

PA selling short the refugees
Some six million Palestinian refugees are scattered around the world, including more than 400,000 in Lebanon where they are deprived of basic rights, not permitted to buy or sell property, and are banned from more than 70 job categories. They live in poverty, dependent on a United Nations agency for aid.

The Palestinian Authority chief negotiator, Saeb Erekats, told US diplomat David Hale on January 15, 2010, that the Palestinians offered Israel the return of "a symbolic number" of refugees. Further, Erekat said that refugees would not have voting rights on a possible peace deal with Israel.

In a meeting on March 23, 2007, between Erekat and then-Belgian foreign minister Karel De Gucht, Erekat said, "I never said the Diaspora will vote. It's not going to happen. The referendum will be for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Can't do it in Lebanon. Can't do it in Jordan."

In a negotiation meeting on January 27, 2008, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, told the Palestinian negotiators, "Your state will be the answer to all Palestinians including refugees. Putting an end to claims means fulfilling national rights for all."

Erekat seemed to buy into this idea. In a meeting with US diplomats, including Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, on October 21, 2009, Erekat said, "Palestinians will need to know that five million refugees will not go back. The number will be agreed as one of the options. Also the number returning to their own state will depend on annual absorption capacity".

So even a future Palestinian state could not accommodate the millions of displaced who would want to settle there.

Israeli aspirations to expel the Israeli Arab population.

Expelling Israel's Arab population? During several 2008 meetings with Palestinian negotiators, Tzipi Livni, Israel's former foreign minister, proposed annexing Arab villages to the future Palestinian state, forcing tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs to choose between their citizenship and their land. She described Israeli Arabs as "Palestinians" and the villages they lived in as "Palestinian villages".

From the minutes of a June 2008 meeting

There are some Palestinian villages that are located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta’a, Baqa al-Sharqiyeh and Baqa al-Gharbiyyeh.

The confusion of nationality with ethnicity is even more apparent in a meeting which includes senior Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei and Israeli negotiator Tal Becker:

Qurei: This will be difficult. All Arabs in Israel will be against us.

Becker: We will need to address it somehow. Divided. All Palestinian. All Israeli.

This is discussed further in A dangerous shift on 1967 lines

This is an earthquake. It not only up-ends the two-state solution as it is conventionally understood, but opens the door to possible future American acceptance of Israeli aspirations to create an ethnically-pure Jewish state by "exchanging" territories where many of Israel's 1.4 million Palestinian citizens are concentrated. This would be a violation of these Palestinians' most fundamental rights and a repudiation of the universally-accepted self-determination principles established at the Versailles Conference after World War I. It potentially replaces the two-state solution with what Israeli officials call the "two states for two peoples solution."

Details of the Palestinian Authority’s security cooperation with Israel.

Demanding a demilitarized state Israeli negotiators demanded that they keep Israeli troops in the West Bank, maintain control of Palestinian airspace, and dictate exactly what weapons could and could not be purchased by the Palestinian security forces. In May 2008, Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, tells Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat In order to create your state you have to agree in advance with Israel – you choose not to have the right of choice afterwards. These are the basic pillars.

From a meeting between Amos Gilad, the Israeli general and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat:

Erekat: So no army, no navy… fine. But what do I do if my security is at stake? What should I do?

Gilad: Consult.

The above exchange is discussed in greater depth on January 25 The limits of autonomy

The al-Madhoun assassination Notes in the Paelestine Papers reveal an exchange in 2005 between the Palestinian Authority and Israel on a plan to kill a Palestinian fighter named Hassan al-Madhoun, who lived in the Gaza strip.

The Palestine Papers show how the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, once the spearhead of action against the Israeli occupation, has been transformed into a body that helps maintaining it.

With the common goal of destroying Hamas, the Palestine Papers reveal the extent to which the PA, the US and Israel were willing to work together, and the extent to which the PA linked the fate of Hamas with its own political survival.

From a meeting between Saeb Erekat, the PA’s chief negotiator with David Hale, the deputy US Middle East envoy on September 17, 2009.

Erekat: We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law. We continue to perform our obligations. We have invested time and effort and killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.

The recurring theme throughout The Palestine Papers of the Palestinian Authority's collusion with Israel to keep the pressure on Hamas.

Qurei: "Occupy the crossing" The 14km-long Philadelphi corridor between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been controlled by Hamas since 2007. In February of 2008, after hundreds of thousands of Gazans entered Egypt to buy food and supplies, Ahmed Qurei, the former Palestinian Authority prime minister, asked Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister, if Israel could re-occupy the Philadephi corridor to seal the border and cut off supplies to Hamas. During another meeting later that month, Livni reintroduced the subject.

Livni: Regarding Philadelphi, whether or not it was a mistake to leave it. If indeed it was a mistake, since Egypt is not effective like Jordan, can our agreement provide for Israeli presence in Philadelphi?

Qurei: Palestine will be independent but can co-ordinate. Agreement should reflect that with a commitment to security. Therefore regarding parameters I believe security is part of regional vision. Other neighbours don't have a problem -- regional security is interconnected.

This is discussed further in Cutting off a vital connection and in Erekat: "I can't stand Hamas".

A sense of moving backwards during meetings with Obama officials.

Deep frustrations with Obama Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told Obama early in the latter’s presidency that Israeli-Palestinian talks would not be credible without a complete Israeli settlement freeze, to no avail.

Netanyahu rejected the US president’s request for a complete settlement freeze, agreeing only to suspend new construction in the West Bank (thousands of new tenders were issued in East Jerusalem during the freeze period). But the White House accepted the offer, and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, would later praise Israel for its "unprecedented” concession".

During the 10-month West Bank freeze, the Jerusalem municipality approved, among other projects, 1,600 housing tenders in Ramat Shlomo; 377 in Neve Yaakov; 230 in Pisgat Ze’ev; 117 in Har Homa; and 20 in Sheikh Jarrah.

(Settlers in the West Bank quickly made up for lost time, too: They started 1,629 new houses in six weeks after the freeze ended, nearly as many as they started in all of 2009, according to the Israeli group Peace Now.)

Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state, explicitly endorsed using 1967 borders as a baseline for negotiations. Under Obama, the US "would not agree to any mention of ’67 whatsoever” in order to avoid “difficulties with the Israelis".

The role of Tony Blair and the British government

MI6 offered to detain Hamas figures The British government played a significant role in equipping and funding the Palestinian security forces, several of which have been linked to torture and other abuses and the UK’s MI-6 intelligence service proposed detaining members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Under the heading “degrading the capabilities of the rejectionist groups,” the MI-6 document suggests:

"... the disruption of their leaderships' communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources held within the Occupied Territories. US and - informally - UK monitors would report both to Israel and to the Quartet. We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures, making sure they are welltreated, with EU funding."

An appendix to the document outlines how the British government might help the Palestinian Authority. It includes British plans to seize firearms and rockets from the West Bank and Gaza; to cut off funding to “rejectionist groups” like Hamas; and to reduce weapons smuggling through tunnels into Gaza.

Tony Blair's role is discussed in more detail in Blair's counter-insurgency "surge" and PA questions Tony Blair's role.

Part 2 of the Palestine Papers summary is here.

2011-01-26 The Palestine Papers (Part 2 of 2) [UPDATE 1]

Part 1 of the Palestine Papers summary is here. The summary concludes with the last documents released on January 26th, and Al Jazeera's editorials on the documents.

Private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.

PA stonewalled the Goldstone voteThe UN Human Rights Council was to vote on a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza, on October 2, 2009. The Palestine Papers document exchanges between the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority during that period. The Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, looking for an agreement he could politically agree to, was convinced by the US, who were determined that Obama's promises of renewed negotiations would be met, that renewing negotiations was in their best interests.

During a series of meetings, Erekat presses for some guidelines or foundations for the discussion "SE cautioned that if the US announced negotiations and there is no agreement on these issues, there will be a disaster." The US refuses to provide any, making clear that for them, the process is the important object. "Undoubtedly you'’ve perceived the sense of urgency of the President. He attitude was consistent: we need to proceed to negotiations ... Regardless of the package with the Israelis, we are not asking you to agree to it. So there is no risk of acquiescence."

From minutes of a meeting between Saeb Erekat and George Mitchell on September 24, 2009:

SE: No. For me Jerusalem is the same as the rest of West Bank. No one, including your government says it’s not occupied territory! So by allowing them this to take place we will be acquiescing to it. We cannot allow it. Again, I appreciate your efforts, but Israel is the occupier, not the US, so it is not enough for Obama to merely say the word Jerusalem. That’s why I asked if you have anything new to tell me. For me this is about international law, legitimacy and principles, not making these deals. With this, you’re better off without a deal than with one. The mere fact that Jerusalem is not part of the moratorium will mean the Arabs won’t accept it. It’s a victory for Netanyahu and he can continue to rule for years, and I will continue to live under occupation. I’ve stated this to you every time we met – wherever and whenever: Anything that takes Jerusalem out will be a non-starter. ...

SE: Let’s go back to the Roadmap. It is US language. You knew what you were writing. What we have is ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem ...

SE: You know Bibi! I’ve heard this before and I’ve been there before. I simply cannot afford to go into a process that is bound to fail. I am trying to defend my existence and way of life. You know I asked to meet with the Israelis several times- they refused because they told want to answer my questions. And then he says I am a “wild beast of a man” – you know the reference to Ishmael … what a disgrace. I would shake hands with Lieberman and tell him “Shana Tovah” instead of this incitement. You talked about incitement – we have taken significant steps, the sermons in the mosques are under control ...

SE: When BO says settlements are illegitimate in front of the whole world, Israel continues, despite this and despite all of international law – the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention, Security Council resolutions. Why then did you reach the position that there needs to be a freeze, including natural growth? This was your language. And why did you then change your mind? Why is it now changed to “restraint”? ...

SE: ... If you couldn’t deliver on this why did you say that at the beginning? Why didn’t you say “limitations” instead of “freeze”? Now BO is saying “restraints”. ...

The US prevailed. The Al Jazeera report states that on October 2, 2009, as the Palestinian Authority called for a deferral of the UNHRC vote, they also had agreed to a US document containing the sentence:

“The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”

The fallout of Erekat's support of a deferral among Palestine's Arab neighbours is discussed by Al Jazeera in Erekat "told Amr Moussa to behave".

What the minutes actually reveal here is that almost 18 years into the (failed) peace process, the Palestinians have edged too closely towards the Americans, to the detriment of their relations with the Arabs. On the other hand they oppose any level of new Israeli-Arab rapprochement they’re not central to.

This is discussed further in "The region is slipping away".

The possibility that the Palesinian Authority had foreknowledge of the attack on Gaza that killed approximately 1400 Palestinians

Al Jazeera discusses this in PA's foreknowledge of the Gaza war? pointing to quotes such as

Gilad: The West Bank is coming and this is Hamas' strategic goal. We are not negotiating with them but we allow the entry of food and fuel into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian reasons. My strategic advice for you is to be ready. It is like Achilles' heel; if the situation goes on as it is for a year or two more, you will become weaker and Hamas will have control over the West Bank. They in Hamas understand the situation and they are fearful. Gaza was only an example. They understand the mood in Israel.

to contradict Erekat's claims that the Palestinian Authority did not discuss with Israel their attacks on Gaza that left 1400 Palestinians dead. According to Erekat, "We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war ... there were never any actual consultations between us and the Israelis before the war."

The increasingly frequent threat from Palestine of a one state solution as a negotiating tool or a viable option.

The threat of a one-state solution From 2007 on, Erekat, the chief PA negotiator, began referring to the one-state solution as a so-called BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. In a meeting on October 2, 2009, he stated, "It is the last time for the two states. My option, the BATNA, if all this goes down, is the one state."

In a meeting on October 21 2009 he repeated the threat:

Erekat: We know what it take[s], after 19 years. They [the Israelis] cannot decide if they want two states. They want to keep settling in the areas of my state.

Mitchell: But they will settle more if you continue this way.

Erekat: Then we announce the one state and the struggle for equality in the state of Israel. If our state will not be viable and will have the wall we will fight against apartheid. You either have a decision for peace or a decision for settlements. You cannot have both.

From Al Jazeera:

A poll released in April 2010 by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, for example, found 34 per cent support for a bi-national state, up from 21 per cent in June 2009. An October 2010 pollf from the Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research found 27 per cent support for a one-state option, up from 23 per cent in May 2009.

In 2003, Muammar Qadafi was one of the first Arab leaders to publicly endorse a one-state solution, which he named 'Isratine' [a combination of the words 'Israel' and 'Palestine']. Qadafi argued that a two-state option would create unacceptable security hazards for Israel on the one hand, and would do little to address the issue of the Palestinian refugees on the other.

Miscellaneous items of interest.

A glimpse into the negotiation room Al Jazeera has collected a few of the lighter moments of the negotiations in this article including:

  • US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who was prone to anecdotes of what her father used to say, and suggested sending the Palestinian diaspora to live in Chile and Argentina, seriously suggested Palestine use Jordan's airspace as their own since Palestine's was "too small".
  • Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni joked, "We’ve a saying too. When you want to curse somebody you tell him “Go to hell” but we shorten it and say “Go to Gaza.”
  • Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “Whoever will be able to reach an agreement to solve this conflict will be the most important figure in the region after Jesus Christ!”
  • And more ...

Al Jazeera revisits the extent to which the Palestinian Authority was prepared to subordinate the immediate needs of Palestinians to the battle with Hamas, of which they often spoke of with Israeli officials as a common enemy, in PA lobbying blocked Shalit swap .

The PA vs. Al Jazeera highlights the mentions of the Qatar based Al Jazeera media in the Palestine Papers.

Ahmed Qurei: Al-Jazeera is not our friend, they are with Hamas. So this leak is not the result of journalism, it is a political decision.

Al Jazeera: We adhere "to the highest editorial standards and offer viewers impartial, balanced and in-depth coverage of events in the region and beyond. ... To underline our commitment to transparency and accountability, we are publishing all of the documents in the Palestine Papers online, including allegations made against Al Jazeera."

The conclusions drawn from the Palestine Papers by Al Jazeera.

An Al Jazeera editorial by Alistair Crooke, What prospect for reconciliation?, looks at the current situation revealed by the Palestine Papers:

The Palestine Papers show that the so-called mission of “establishing rule of law” has become a mere codeword for suppressing Hamas, the Islamist organization that won elections in 2006. From 2001 until present, the Palestinian security forces went from being accused by Israel and the West of complicity in terrorism against Israel, to terrorizing their own society. This was clearly reflected in a conversation between U.S. Security Coordinator Lt. General Keith Dayton (USA), and Saeb Erekat on June 24, 2009.

Dayton: “By the way, the intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them. They say they are giving as much as they are taking from them – but they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people”.

The Palestinian Authority laid out the extent of its cooperation with Israel in a confidential memo they gave Senator George Mitchell in June 2009. Among the actions they highlighted:
  • Arrested approximately 3,700 members of armed groups;
  • Summoned around 4,700 individuals for questioning about various offences, including affiliations with armed groups;
  • Confiscated over 1,100 weapons;
  • Seized over 2,500,000 NIS belonging to armed groups;
  • Confiscated numerous materials used to incite violence.

The editorial concludes that reconciliation between the Fatah leadership and Hamas is not possible because

Firstly, it is impossible because the enmity towards Hamas has been so systemized, so ‘built-in’ to every aspect of life, and to every institution, that it would require the dismantling of everything that was built by Abbas and the Americans during the last decade, to make ‘reconciliation’ mean something more than empty words.

But secondly, it will not happen because simply – as the Palestine Papers so starkly reveal – there was nothing on offer. Netanyahu and Livni offered Abbas nothing. In short, what is there to talk about with Hamas? Abbas had nothing to give.

The relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the US is discussed further in US sidelined Palestinian democracy, The US role as Israel's enabler and A letter to the Palestinian people.

Full coverage of the Palestine Papers, with maps and profiles of the main featured players, is available at the Guardian as well as Al Jazeera.

UPDATE: Added section The possibility that the Palesinian Authority had foreknowledge of the attack on Gaza that killed approximately 1400 Palestinians which had been inadvertently deleted.

2011-01-26 Week of "rage" in Egypt sees casualties, global support [UPDATE 1]

As we reported on Tuesday, Egyptians and other activists working remotely planned to begin protesting on Tuesday January 25. From the start,

[t]here has been a significant amount of support and planning for the protest online, causing the government and police to promise an equally strong suppression. Over 85,000 people have liked the Facebook page for the protest day, calling for a day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment.

The turnout may have surprised even Egyptian authorities, however, and support is coming in many forms. This Facebook page called for video production and quickly received a link to this piece. Many videos are surfacing on Youtube and elsewhere (see the this collection, for instance).

Anonymous has joined in the protests, recruiting activists and delivering their now well-known wrath in the form of DDoS attacks on Egyptian websites:

Analysis from NetCraft shows server failure for Egypt's Ministry of the Interior (MOI) website, and other reports indicate that the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology may also have been targeted.

Attacks from Anonymous were direct results of Egyptian censorship. As of yesterday, access to Twitter has been blocked, while Youtube remains accessible. Vodafone Egypt was quoted as having denied allegations of censorship yesterday, stating: "We didn't block twitter - it's a problem all over Egypt and we are waiting for a solution." Yet Twitter confirmed "Tuesday that Egypt was indeed blocking access to their service. Access to the US-based social network Facebook was also reportedly cut off by early Tuesday."

Various sources have independently reported that Mobinil is also blocking access to Facebook and Twitter, and that residents are being arrested "just for leaving the house." The modus operandi has supposedly become that of "arresting first and asking questions later." There is a general fear of speaking out and being penalized, and apparently, individuals are even being "hunted down" in their own homes.

The BBC reports that approximately "700 people have been arrested throughout Egypt in a crackdown against anti-government protests." Water cannons are being used to silence the protesters, but in many cases, to no avail, as this video shows. Tear gas has also been used, along with guns shooting rubber bullets.

At least 6 people have been killed so far, and many others injured.

Updates will follow as protests persist throughout the night. Thursday promises to be an important day, given mounting tensions and the arrival of reform campaigner el-Baradei, as does Friday, when it is expected that even larger numbers will be gathering after prayer, which ends at 1pm.

Update 1:
The Associated Press reports that Associated Press Television News cameraman, Haridi Hussein Haridi, 54, and his assistant, Haitham Badry, 23, were arrested Wednesday. In addition, an "AP photographer was beaten by a policeman and injured while shooting demonstrations."

2011-01-26 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

El País: Estados Unidos temió que Chávez influyera en Paraguay (The United states feared Chavez influence in Paraguay)

"El Departamento de Estado considera a Lugo un presidente afable y honesto. (The State Department considers Lugo as a kind and honest president.)"

Read more (Spanish)

2011-01-27 Budapest willing to make changes to media law in the face of international condemnation

Today, the Financial Times reported that the Hungarian government was willing to accommodate the legal issues raised last week by the EU commission. Mr Martonyi, Hungary's foreign minister said:

This issue of the Hungarian media law has become the subject of a pan-European political fight. Some political families felt that this is perhaps the topic they can use for their own political purposes. Brussels’ legal findings against the government’s media law could easily be overcome.

However, Mr Martonyi's nonchalance may be in question as reported by the German news outlet Die Presse. The German news organization outlined the concerns the EU commission has:

Die Kommission bemängelt das Mediengesetz, das mit Beginn des ungarischen EU-Ratsvorsitzes zu Jahresbeginn in Kraft trat, in mehreren Punkten. So heißt es zur nun gesetzlich verpflichteten „ausgewogenen“ Berichterstattung aller Medien: „Eine derart weit gefasste Auferlegung zur ausgewogenen Berichterstattung, die außerdem in so genereller Weise verfasst wurde, lässt einen großen Raum für Interpretationen und könnte ein Hindernis sowohl für die Niederlassungsfreiheit als auch für die freie Dienstleistungsfreiheit darstellen.“

(The Commission criticized the media law, Hungary is now legally obligated to "balanced" coverage of all media: However, such a broad imposition of balanced reporting, which was written in such a vague manner, leaving a large room for interpretation, could be an obstacle to both freedom of establishment and for the freedom of speech.)

The full articles can be found: Financial Times (English) and Die Presse (German)

2011-01-27 Algerians plan big protest rally for February 9

The Algerian opposition is regrouping after thousands of police were deployed on Saturday to suppress several hundred demonstrators. They too are inspired by the Tunisian revolution. With public protests being so strongly suppressed some Algerians have turned to a more drastic demonstration of their opposition to the status quo. At least four people in Algeria have attempted self-immolation, some successfully, since Tunisia freed itself of Ben Ali.

As with Tunisia and Egypt, activist in Algeria have been able to make creative use of the Internet to organize in spite of the governments best efforts to stop them. France24 reports:

And as the Algerian blogosphere is in a fever of excitement, web users are accusing the government of taking measures to censor the Internet. They believe Twitter, Facebook and SMS services have been intermittently blocked over the past few days.

And this was all that was needed for Anonymous to launch an operation against the Algerian government. This cyber activist group that lent its support to Tunisian demonstrators is reportedly behind a series of cyber-attacks that notably blocked the web site of the Interior Ministry.

This is what they said about the rally:

Police broke up an opposition march calling for democracy in the Algerian capital on Saturday, with troops out in force and streets barricaded to prevent protests in the wake of a popular revolt that toppled the president in neighboring Tunisia.

Algeria’s capital awoke to a virtual state of siege on Saturday, with a heavy police presence and many streets blocked in order to prevent protesters from reaching the May 1 Square, where opposition groups planned to stage a pro-democracy march.
The opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) planned to defy a 19-year-old ban against marches in Algiers, despite warnings from the authorities and in the wake of a popular revolt that overthrew neighboring Tunisia's long-time president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali only a week ago.

The pictures below were taken by David Davidson in Algier and posted on 22/01/11 @ 22:08. We found them through the Anonymous OpAlgeria board. You can see the whole collection on his Facebook page here. I copied some to my flickr account so that I could post them here.

In co-ordination with these protests on the ground the hacker group Anonymous has launched Operation Algeria. They have been supporting the struggle on the ground my transmitting and translating materials from the struggle. They have also been getting pictures and video out on the net.

Through OpAlgeria Anonymous has launched DDOS attacks against 'Attaque DoS contre le site Internet du ministère de l'Intérieur algérien' and other government websites. Apparently they have been successful at shutting down some Algerian websites and cracked one. They put there own "Message Presse Anonymous" on an Algerian government website.

Anonymous also issued this video Press Release on Operation Algeria:

The date to watch in Algeria is February 9th, the 19th anniversary of the establishment of the state of emergency. Numerous trade unions and political parties are calling on people to take to the streets on that day.

2011-01-27 Bradley Manning: The Week in Review

The last 7 days have seen numerous developments in the Bradley Manning story, which indicate clear problems with the official line on Manning's detainment and on the criminal investigation into Manning's charges. We have also been given insight into the management of the Brig at Quantico, and into the process by which the United States government discourages supporters of causes it find troublesome. (For the complete background on the Bradley Manning story, please see FDL's excellent timeline, here.)

Manning on Suicide Watch

Last week, as summarised in this Jane Hamsher post on FDL, Bradley Manning's conditions were decidedely worsened when Quantico Brig Commander James Averhart moved him to suicide watch - a move allowing his confinement in conditions equivalent to solitary confinement, while ostensibly being "for his own good."


For over five months, Bradley Manning has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch at the Quantico Brig against the recommendations of three forensic psychiatrists. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, has filed an Article 138 Complaint under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, asserting that this represents an abuse of Brig Commander James Averhart’s discretion.

Coombs’ complaint was filed after the Brig Commander placed Manning under “suicide risk” and MAX custody earlier this week, which made his conditions dramatically worse. Glenn Greenwald broke the story about the inhumane conditions of Manning’s pre-trial confinement last month, shortly before the New York Times reported that the Justice Department strategy regarding Wikileaks was to “persuade” Manning to testify against Julain Assange.

Hamsher related that Manning was released from suicide watch following the filing of the Article 138 Complaint by David Coombs, but that no adequate justification for the decision had been forthcoming.

She mentioned that a petition for the humane treatment of Bradley Manning had been signed by 40,000 people, and that the next visit to Quantico, upon David House's return froma fund raising trip, would be the occasion on which the petition was delivered to Quantico.

Over 40,000 people have now signed the petition to the Brig Commander, requesting that he heed the advice of the three psychiatrists and lift Manning’s POI/suicide watch... I’ll be driving down to Quantico tomorrow with Bradley’s friend David House, who will deliver the petition to the brig.

I know that it has been extremely meaningful to Bradley to know that he has the support of so many people.

Harassment of House and Hamsher

On arrival at the Quantico military facility, Hamsher and House were subject to highly irregular delay tactics by military police at Quantico. They were made answer to apparently frivolous demands for documentation, and detained at the gates of the the facility until it was no longer possible for House to visit Manning. The spectacle unfolded live for Twitter followers of either individual, since both provided the public with regular updates on the development of the situation. This had not been the first time the U.S. authorities had harassed David House.

The following is an extract. Please click here to see the full archive oftweets from Hamsher and House.

Jane Hamsher

At Quantico w @ to deliver 42,000 sigs 4 Bradley Maning to brig. Holding us at gate, never happened before:

Jane Hamsher

Called Lt Brian Villiard of Quantico on Friday and again today as courtesy to say we were coming re: Bradley Manning, never called me back.

Jane Hamsher

Demanding my social security number before they'll let me on Quantico base, but won't say why. Never happened before.

Jane Hamsher

Guess Lt Villiard better at reading FDL than returning phone calls. For first time, made us sign letter saying we won't deliver any pkgs.

Jane Hamsher

Quantico guards say I'll be arrested if I go to McDonalds while @ visits Manning. "That privilege has been withdrawn."

Jane Hamsher

Now been here at Quantico gate for 30 min. Will not let us leave base, holding us.

Jane Hamsher

Gunny Foster Military Police #1715 writing me ticket for not hving latest insurance card. Sorry to 42,000 people who signed Manning petition

Jane Hamsher

Can't leave base, can't go 2 brig, can't get my driver's license, Gunt Foster threatening 2 arrest us. Haven't done a thing.

Jane Hamsher

Now Quantico guards want @ driver's license back for 2nd time.

Michael Whitney wrote up the incident hereon FDL, and posted a video of Hamsher's appearance on the Dylan Ratigan show, where she summarized the events.

Official Malcontents

On Monday evening, NBC reported that "US military officials" had divulged to NBC that Brig Commander James Averhart had overstepped the bounds of his authority when he gave the order to put Manning on suicide watch.


The officials told NBC News, however, that a U.S. Marine commander did violate procedure when he placed Manning on "suicide watch" last week.

Military officials said Brig Commander James Averhart did not have the authority to place Manning on suicide watch for two days last week, and that only medical personnel are allowed to make that call. The official said that after Manning had allegedly failed to follow orders from his Marine guards. Averhart declared Manning a "suicide risk." Manning was then placed on suicide watch, which meant he was confined to his cell, stripped of most of his clothing and deprived of his reading glasses — anything that Manning could use to harm himself.

At the urging of U.S. Army lawyers, Averhart lifted the suicide watch.

The same unnamed "officials" were reported to have disclosed that the investigatory attempt to build a case against Julian Assange by substantiating an alleged link between him and Bradley Manning had not been successful. This investigation had been suspected since early November, and gradually confirmed by the disclosure of the Twitter subpoena in early January. The same investigation would aim to incriminate Manning by association with Assange. According to NBC's "officials," there was apparently no evidence supporting the government's case.

U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

Marcy Wheeler provided some commentary on her emptywheelblog.

Wired and Zerofilling

Kim Zetter, at Wired, responded to the NBC news item with some speculation, based on the Wired Manning-Lamo chat logs, as to why no evidence linking Assange and Manning was forthcoming.


If it’s true that investigators have found no evidence linking Manning and Assange, it may be because Manning allegedly erased it from his system. He discussed doing so in his chats with Lamo. Manning noted in the chats that any incriminating evidence of his activities had been “zerofilled”, or erased, from his computers:

It ought to be pointed out that it is necessary to assume that there is a substantiating link between Manning and Assange in order to speculate as to why there is no evidence of such. Marcy Wheeler also posted a response to Zetter's article, with a broader interpretation of the chatlogs thus far released by Wired.


Manning suggests that every time computers were moved, they were zerofilled. And whatever happened to his computer while he still had access to him, it might be safe to assume that the downloaded files got zerofilled routinely when the computers were reassigned (remember, as far as we know, he lost access not because of the alleged leak, but because of an altercation with a colleague).

Mind you, I’m skeptical that Manning zerofilled anything himself. That’s because his charging sheet includes multiple references to things he downloaded onto his personal, non-secure computer. Which suggests the most solid evidence they have against Manning comes from that (though they do appear to have evidence he accessed things he did not download onto his computer).

But all that really just ignores the larger point: that none of that evidence – at least given reports – directly connects Manning to Julian Assange.

Investigation into Averhart?

On Tuesday evening, CNN ran a story which was retracted soon afterwards, which reported that an investigation had been opened into the misconduct of James Averhart alleged in Monday's NBC article.

A screencap, and commentary, were archived by Marcy Wheeler, here.

The original CNN story read:

The U.S. military isinvestigating why the commander of the military jail put Pfc. Bradley Manning, suspected of leaking documents to WikiLeaks, on suicide watch for a few days last week, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan... An investigation has been launched into whether Brig Commander James Averhart had the authority to place Manning on suicide watch, which is usually ordered by the medical staff.

Geoff Morrell and official misinformation

At a Defense Department press conference yesterday, Defense Department Press Secretary Geoff Morrell (notorious for his demand that Wikileaks "give back" digital documents already released widely on the internet) answered questions generated from the previous week of news about Manning and Wikileaks. Morrell was evasive on the issue of whether the attempt to link Assange to Manning was faltering, and also, cryptically, cautioned that the timbre of reporting on the issue might damage the investigation.


Q: Geoff, is it true that prosecutors have not been able to tie Private [Bradley] Manning to Julian Assange and essentially make a link between the two in the case?

MR. MORRELL: Well, what I would say on this is, as much as I'd like to weigh into this, this is, as you know, an ongoing criminal investigation. So it would be inappropriate for me to speak to any -- with any specificity to these issues. But I would avail myself of this opportunity to admonish or warn you all to be extraordinarily careful about how you report on this story, because one thing I can -- I do feel comfortable in telling you is that this case is being taken extremely seriously by the investigators both here in the Defense Department and, of course, at the Department of Justice. They are hard at work at on building a case here. So any pronouncements about a connection or lack of connection, those that have been found or are yet to be found, are just premature at this point. So I'd urge everybody to proceed with caution on this, and probably most stories, for that matter. So I'm not in a position, unfortunately, to tackle that as directly as I'd like to. But that's my admonition to you all, including Mr. [Jim “Mik”] Miklaszewskiin the front row.

Questioned on the conditions of Manning's detainment, Morrell unequivocally denied that Manning was being detained in inhumane or unique conditions.

He's not being held in solitary confinement. That's a misnomer, among many in the reporting of this case... So assertions by liberal bloggers, or network reporters or others that he is being mistreated, or somehow treated differently than others, in isolation, are just not accurate. And I'm glad you asked the question, so I had the opportunity, hopefully, to clear that matter up once and for all... Just as though he is not being treated any worse than any other detainee, he is not being treated any better than any other detainee. He is not going to receive special privileges, which is essentially what you are asking him to receive. He is being treated exactly like everyone else in the brig is being treated. That's what's appropriate. We treat them all equally. And I don't understand why there would be a need for an exception to those rules to be made for Private Manning -- or anyone else, for that matter.

Pressed for details on this arrangement, however, Morrell avoided questions, claiming ignorance,and referring them on to Quantico. He dismissed claims that Averhart had acted in usurpation of his authority in putting Manning on suicide watch, and yet claimed not to know whether that authority lay with Averhart, concluding that he guessed it would.

David Coombs rebuts Morrell: Manning is treated differently

Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, respondedwithin hours to Morrell's statements, roundly refuting them with reference to the specific military penal guidelines under the Secretary of Navy Instruction 1649.9C, citing clearly defined protocols for different levels of detainment.


Despite the assertion of Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, PFC Bradley Manning is not being treated like every other detainee at the Quantico brig. Morrell stated during today’s Pentagon briefing that PFC Manning’s “confinement is not in the least different from the manner in which anyone else at the brig is being held.”

This statement is patently false. PFC Manning is being treated differently. He is the only detainee being held in Maximum (MAX) custody and under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch. Every other detainee is being held in Medium Detention In (MDI) and without POI watch restrictions. What is the difference?

Coombs goes on to enumerate the differences in minute detail between the different custodial regimes, appearing to be entirely more appraised of the facts than the prevaricating Morrell.

Averhart Replaced

In a report from yesterday evening, CNN revealed that James Averhart had been replaced as Quantico Brig Commander. The official line, as related by the article, is that the replacement has nothing to do with the Manning controversy.


Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart, who had been in charge of the detention facility at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, was replaced by Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes, Quantico spokesman Lt. Brian Villiard said.

The change in command was ordered back in October and is not related to the concerns raised by Manning's lawyer, said Villiard. But Manning's lawyer is holding out hope that the new commander will move his client to a less restrictive incarceration status.

"We are hopeful that she will do a complete review of Pfc. Manning's custody situation," attorney David Coombs, told CNN. Manning's current situation "is unwarranted and unnecessary while he awaits trial," Coombs added.

Situation Develops

This is the situation as of the time of publication. WL Central will add new developments as they happen. Again, for the full context of the Bradley Manning story, please consult FDL's excellent timeline of events.

2011-01-27: Quantico Tweets from Jane Hamsher and David House from 2011-01-23

The following is a list of tweets published on the evening of Sunday 23rd of January 2011, relating an episode during which Jane Hamsher and David House, visitors to Quantico military facility, were harassed by military police.

David House's Tweets

david house

Detained for 40 minutes now upon entering base. Advised that cannot leave.

david house

Meanwhile visiting hours are expiring... Hopeful that I get to see Brad today. These visits are his only reprieve from solitary.

david house

My, that's a big shotgun.

david house

One of the many MPs around the car says his orders to stop us come from on high.

david house

I am on approved visitation list; have been visiting since September. Was planning on asking Brad about his conditions today.

david house

Vehicle being searched and impounded.

david house

I am not being allowed to move on-base to see Bradley. The petition is in my lap in a tow-truck surrounded by MPs. Welcome to Quantico.

david house

MPs looking for a reason to arrest us; brass arrives. The US government is like any animal: scare it and it will try to tear your face off.

david house

If you want to help change the state of affairs, e-mail me: I'll parse and contact you with plans later this week.

david house

MPs still not letting us leave. To clarify I am authorized to be on base; have been on approved visitation list + visiting for 5 months.

david house

RT @ Quantico Marine brass don't want Manning 2 have sole visitor now. Isolation & enforcement of solitary confinement complete.

david house


@ I'll be standing right beside them.

david house

Finally released, right as visiting hours conclude. What's going on in the brig?

Trevor FitzGibbon
by davidmhouse

Statement: Bradley Manning Primary Visitor Detained and released at Quantico -was on Official Visitation List -

david house

US officials have intimidated & harassed the good people of Boston through this hamfisted wikileaks investgtn; John Kerry, enough is enough.

ôl ə twit′ər
by davidmhouse

@ MA resident, MIT researcher and friend of Bradley Manning @ detained at Quantico

david house

Safely back on a train to Boston. Six hours of coding, then sleep.

david house

I'm visiting Bradley next weekend to carry your messages of support & observe what an increasingly frenzied USGOV is attempting at Quantico.

david house

Curious why the people of Britain aren't raising hell about one of their citizens being tortured by US authorities.

by davidmhouse

US must end inhumane treatment of soldier Bradley Manning

david house

Detained at the brig two days ago; juvenile smear campaign hitting the e-mail addy's of my friends now. Must be doing something right..

Jane Hamsher's Tweets

Jane Hamsher

At Quantico w @ to deliver 42,000 sigs 4 Bradley Maning to brig. Holding us at gate, never happened before:

Jane Hamsher

Called Lt Brian Villiard of Quantico on Friday and again today as courtesy to say we were coming re: Bradley Manning, never called me back.

Jane Hamsher

Demanding my social security number before they'll let me on Quantico base, but won't say why. Never happened before.

Jane Hamsher

Guess Lt Villiard better at reading FDL than returning phone calls. For first time, made us sign letter saying we won't deliver any pkgs.

Jane Hamsher

Quantico guards say I'll be arrested if I go to McDonalds while @ visits Manning. "That privilege has been withdrawn."

Jane Hamsher

Now been here at Quantico gate for 30 min. Will not let us leave base, holding us.

Jane Hamsher

Gunny Foster Military Police #1715 writing me ticket for not hving latest insurance card. Sorry to 42,000 people who signed Manning petition

Jane Hamsher

Can't leave base, can't go 2 brig, can't get my driver's license, Gunt Foster threatening 2 arrest us. Haven't done a thing.

Jane Hamsher

Now Quantico guards want @ driver's license back for 2nd time.

Jane Hamsher


I go 2 McDonalds every time we come 2 Quantico while @ visits Manning @ bc guards told me 2. Now "tresspassing."

Jane Hamsher


The guards absolutely knew we were coming @ & told to harass us. "This was what I was told to do" said Gunny Foster.

Jane Hamsher


McDonalds wasn't trespassing any other time, but now it will get me arrested @. Won't let us off OR on base. 40 min

Jane Hamsher


@ @ You want fries with that?

Jane Hamsher

We're literally being detained without any explanation at Quantico 40 min now. Won't let us leave.

Jane Hamsher

When Gunny Foster asked 4 my SS# I said "what if I refuse?" He said he's Military Police & he can arrest me. Is that true?

Deon Grein
by janehamsher

@ Call the real cops... Tell them you are being held against your will...

Jane Hamsher

Now Military Police asking @ 4 his SS# AGAIN.

Jane Hamsher


We've been coming 2 Quantico 4 months @, @ has official permission 2 visit Bradley Manning,

Jane Hamsher


We're at the guard gate @, but question is whether they can arrest us 4 refusing to provide SS# rather than let us leave.

Jane Hamsher


Question not whether we can get on base @, that is their discretion. They won't let us OFF & won't say why.

Tom Watson
by janehamsher

@ @ I believe the technical military term for this is 'chickenshit'

Jane Hamsher


We gave SS# @ . They still won't let us leave OR allow @ 2 go 2 brig even though he is on visitor list 4 Bradley Manning

Jane Hamsher

Gunny Foster towing my car bc they won't accept my electronic proof of insurance, demanding paper.

Jane Hamsher

Escorting us off base, hooking my car up to tow truck now.

Jane Hamsher

Me "you won't accept electronic proof of insurance." SGT: "has to be printed." Me: "it was printed off that." "Unless u have a printer."

Jane Hamsher

Forcing @ 2 go 2 court. Wouldn't give ticket, gave him a summons 2 appear in court.

Jane Hamsher

Quantico guards didn't give registration back 2 me, but demanding it again.

Jane Hamsher

Now guards going 2 inventory vehicle.

Jane Hamsher

Military police searching & impounding my car. Won't let @ on 2 see Bradley Manning, won't say why.

Jane Hamsher

It's 28 degrees, forcing us 2 stand outside.

Jane Hamsher

Quantico Guard: "are u leaving anything in your car" Me: "I can't check when they're driving it on to tow truck."

Jane Hamsher

I called Lt Villard on Friday 2 say we were coming 2 Quantico, give courtesy head's up we were coming. I guess I know he got the message.

Jane Hamsher

Me: "Can I go 2 store I can see fm here & print out insurance if u won't accept electronic?" Foster: "No." 15 min ago, could've had by now.

Jane Hamsher

In tow truck, waiting 2 b escorted off Quantico base. No idea how @ & I get back to DC.

Jane Hamsher

Still holding us, my car on tow truck but Quantico guards still won't let us leave.

Jane Hamsher

Even though @ on approved list 2 see Bradley Manning, Quantico guards refusing 2 let him do so w no explanation. Still detained.

Jane Hamsher

Some offers have now entered guard house.

Jane Hamsher

Some officers have now entered the guard house & are talking 2 military police. @ & I detained w no explanation for 1 hr 20 min.

Jane Hamsher


We tried to leave & they wouldn't let us @.

david house
by janehamsher

MPs looking for a reason to arrest us; brass arrives. The US government is like any animal: scare it and it will try to tear your face off.

Jane Hamsher

For whatever reason, Quantico Marine brass don't want Manning 2 have visitor now. Isolation & enforcement of solitary confinement complete.

Jane Hamsher

BREAKING: Military Harassing David House, Jane Hamsher for Visiting Bradley Manning

Jane Hamsher

On phone w Trevor Fitzgibbon @ who is working w Bradley Manning supporters. @ calling Manning attorney.

Jane Hamsher


U r right @, @ has true courage, 1 of only ppl willing 2 put himself at risk 2 support Manning. That's why I help him.

Jane Hamsher

I blame @. ;)

Jane Hamsher

Talking with my attorney, wants 2 know what why being detained: "Either u have clearance 2 b on base or you don't & they turn u away."

Jane Hamsher

For those just catching up, here's FDL's Bradley Manning Wikileaks Timeline:

by janehamsher

Amazing that the USMC are so threatened by DANGEROUS BLOGGERS @ & @ that they detain them & impound JH's car

Jane Hamsher

Nobody knows why Marines are holding Bradley Manning who is in the Army anyway. Manning attorney unable to get an answer.

Jane Hamsher

Marines now say House can't walk to see House but can go off base, get a cab & come back on. But visitation over at 3pm.

Jane Hamsher

Tow truck driver says we also have to pay 4 time he had 2 wait for Quantico marines 2 release us: $300.

Jane Hamsher

Quantico Marine brass showed up PERSONALLY 2 make sure @ never got 2 see Manning. Next visiting period: next week.

Gregg Levine
by janehamsher

@ to quote elvis costello song: stand to be insulted and pay for the privilege.

Jane Hamsher


CRYSTAL clear @: Marine top brass showed up personally 2 make sure Bradley Manning got no visitor this week.

Jane Hamsher

Quantico top brass made sure we were held until visiting hours were over & impossible 4 @ 2 see Manning. Message clear.

Jane Hamsher

Here's the petition w 42,000 signatures re: Bradley Manning we wanted 2 deliver 2 Quantico Commander:

Jane Hamsher

Copy of Article 138 Complaint filed by David Coombs, Manning's Iraq vet atty vs Quantico CW04 James Averhart, abusing discretion re Manning

Jane Hamsher

Article 138 Complaint:

Jane Hamsher

Last wk Averhart put Manning under harsh conditions against advice of 3 psychiatrists, now harassing visitor 2 deny Manning cleared visitors

Jane Hamsher

This is 1st time @ visited Manning since he spoke out w @ on @ re Manning's conditions

Jane Hamsher


They have let me on Quantico base every time @, & I went where they told me to & complied w all requests. Never been a problem.

Mary Geddry
by janehamsher

@ @ @ retaliation maybe for the Article 138 Complaint forcing the removal of a suicide watch perhaps

Jane Hamsher

I hope people realize Bradley Manning has not had trial yet, hasn't confessed 2 anything & in America is still innocent until proven guilty

Jane Hamsher

Amnesty International protests treatment of Manning by Quantico Marine brass: Can add "denying approved visitors"

Jane Hamsher

After tow truck arrived, MPs demanded our driver's licenses, SS# & registration a 2nd time 2 stall & assure Manning could not have visitor

Jane Hamsher


RT @ Even if guilty we r not supposed 2 torture in this country. Even those who "hate" the guy shld be outraged about treatment/Amen

Jane Hamsher


@ Thanks so much, will keep u posted

ôl ə twit′ər
by janehamsher

RT@ @ Quantico now created a defining incident. Their deeds will reverberate more than..the petition & visit

Jane Hamsher

Right now @ working w Trevor @ on statement abt what happened & he will have soon

Jane Hamsher

Statement of Events: Bradley Manning’s Primary Visitor Detained at Quantico

Jane Hamsher

Goal of Quantico Incident Was To Abuse Bradley Manning and Intimidating David House

Jane Hamsher

Jane on MSNBC: Bradley Manning’s Abuse Will Only Stop When People Ask Questions

2011-01-27 Israel and ethnic cleansing

Earlier this week, Israel was accused of ethnic cleansing of Israeli Arabs based on material in the Palestine Papers (summarized here and here). In the Palestine Papers, documents show Israeli negotiators wanting to cut out Arab occupied parts of Israel and give them to Palestine as they were considered "Palestinian" parts of Israel. Other documents discuss the Palestinian diaspora and Israel's refusal and Palestine's inability to accept them as citizens. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice suggested they should be transported to Chile and Argentina.

Yesterday, Nurit Kedar aired a report on Channel 4 News telling of a different kind of ethnic cleansing.

In a report first aired on Channel 4 News on Wednesday, 24-year-old tank commander Ohad remembers being told the night before the operation that the entry into Gaza was to be "disproportionate".

Once into Gaza, he says his orders were unambiguous: "We needed to cleanse the neighbourhoods, the buildings, the area. It sounds really terrible to say "cleanse", but those were the orders....I don't want to make a mistake with the words."

The IDF [Israel Defence Forces] has said its operational orders during the war emphasised "proportionality" and "humanity".

The importance of minimising harm to civilians was made clear to soldiers, the IDF said at the time. By the end of the 22 day long operation some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed and large areas of Gaza razed. Ten Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians also died.

Since airing the report, the film maker has received death threats.

"I have had phone calls saying 'you should be hanged' and calling me a traitor.

"People have sent me messages calling for me to be expelled from Israel, saying I am a traitor to my mother and father."

2011-01-27 Libya is in revolt as Gaddafi worries

Libya's Moamer Gaddafi may have hailed WikiLeaks for exposing US 'hypocrisy' back in December but since the cablegate exposures helped rally the people to throw out Ben Ali in January, he has been singing a different tune. Yesterday Gaddafi "said he feared that the Tunisian revolution which overthrew president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was being exploited by 'foreign interests'" according to France24. In an interview, he told the private Tunisian Nessma TV station “I fear for the Tunisian revolution."

Because Libya has 5.9 million cell phone users but less than 400,000 Internet users, Anonymous OpLibya is adopting strategies that focus more on spreading information via SMS.

Anonymous produced this video to explain the housing crisis in Libya:

Indymedia has this on Libya:

There are reports from Libya that YouTube has been blocked, largely because the videos of protests are being uploaded there. One twitter comment has said "Citizens of Bani Walid in #Libya said they will continue to take the streets until their demands are met". (Videos: Three clips of protest in Libya in Beida, the third-largest city in Libya. Reports of unrest in Zuwara, Zawiya, Tajoorah, Bayda, and Benghazi.

The Guardian printed this Friday:

We Libyans are just as hungry for a just and accountable government as our Tunisian brothers and sisters. The lack of resilient institutions will make our task more difficult. However, a worried Gaddafi was the first Arab leader to give an address on television about the events in Tunisia. He obviously disapproves, but also hopes to quell the protests that have started in some Libyan towns and cities.

This article is from last Sunday and so a little dated but it still has important and rare information about what has been happening in Libya recently:

Protests in several cities in Libya continued for a third day over the late completion of government subsided housing.

Last night hundreds of people broke into vacant houses and took over about 800 vacant units in Bani Walid city (180 kilometres south east from the capital, Tripoli).

We also have this report on the struggle in Libya from an Anonymous source:

2011-01-27 Mubarak blinks as Egyptian protests continue for third day

The latest at 6:00pm pst: As protests build and El Baradei returns, Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party [NDP] says it is open to dialogue but continues the brutal suppression of demonstrators. More protests are expected on Friday and the Internet is all a twitter with the news.

As the Egyptian revolt entered it's third day the number of protester continued to grow into the tens of thousands, numbers completely unprecedented for a country in which such mass demonstrations have been illegal for more than 30 years. The activists who began by calling for economic relief and an end to this State of Emergency first established in 1981 are now demanding a complete change in government and the ouster of president for 30 years Hosni Mubarak.

The police have been attempting to brutality suppress and scatter the protesters, some of which stayed in the streets for a second night. At least six people have been killed since the protests began. In the eastern city of Suez, which was cut off by road, Internet and cell phone access for a period yesterday, protesters torched an Egyptian police post. Al Jazeera writes:

Angry demonstrators in Egypt have torched a police post in the eastern city of Suez, where violence between police and protesters has ratcheted up amid a security crackdown.

Police fled the post before protesters used petrol bombs to set it on fire Thursday morning, witnesses told the Reuters news agency. Police in Suez responded to other demonstrators by firing rubber-coated bullets, water cannons and teargas.

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of a second police post later in the morning, demanding the release of relatives who were detained during a wave of unprecedented protests that authorities have failed to quell since they began on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, activists calling for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, who has served as Egypt's president for 30 years, clashed with police in the capital, Cairo, in the early hours of Thursday.

Mohamed El Baradei, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning former head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog who has announced his support for the revolt and says he is willing to become president, is expected to arrive in Cairo today.

North Africa News from France24

2011-01-27 Palestine Papers reaction

In a statement to the press, Saeb Erekat, chief PLO negotiator, spoke out against the reports based on the Palestine Papers in Al Jazeera and the Guardian. "In the past few hours, a number of reports have surfaced regarding our positions in our negotiations with Israel, many of which have misrepresented our positions, taking statements and facts out of context. Other allegations circulated in the media have been patently false."

While Al Jazeera suffered from about 50 protesters smashing the windows and security cameras of their TV studios, there may have been long term implications for the Palestinian leadership.

Speaking to journalists in Cairo, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said the public had been misled by the reports. "We say very clearly, we do not have secrets."

The citizens of Gaza remained unconvinced.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials said after a meeting of several groups that all were agreed that deals made with Israel by president Mahmud Abbas's western-backed Palestinian Authority and his Fatah movement were invalid.

"The participants declared ... that the Fatah authority was not entitled to speak in the name of the Palestinian people and that no agreement it makes with the occupier is binding upon our people," senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan told AFP.

In Wednesday's Gaza gathering, Islamic militants agreed "on the need to restructure the Palestine Liberation Organisation in a way that makes it relevant to the Palestinian people and to stop negotiations (with Israel)," Khaled al-Batsh, a local Islamic Jihad leader told AFP.

In London, Palestinian students have staged a sit-in protest at the Palestinian diplomatic mission in London.

Akiva Eldar of the Ha'aretz Daily told CNN that "People in Israel were not very interested by those reports." He said that many people in Israel had lost faith in the process after watching their government "dragging its feet" for the last two years.

According to an article in Ha'aretz Daily, a US State Department official said the leak is making an already difficult situation more difficult and that Washington was in no position to verify the papers' veracity.

2011-01-27 Pirate Party statement concerning Anonymous arrests

On 27th of January 2011 at 15:00, the Pirate Party UK issued a press release in regards to the recent five arrests of Anonymous members. Amongst other points made in the Press releasethis underlining point was made:

While the Party will never condone any illegal actions, it can understand the frustration felt by many who feel powerless in the face of multinational corporations and Governments unwilling to step in.

That normal, everyday people choose to take these sorts of actions shows the extent to which many people feel disenfranchised by mainstream politics and the Pirate Party aims to give such people a voice and a means to engage in these issues through lawful and political methods rather than resorting to 'hacktivism' and other actions that could be illegal.

Further, the Piratenpartei has filed a petition with the Deutscher Bundestag which, in part states:
Protection of whistle blowers. (Translated in Part)

Whistle blowers are an important corrective force in any free and democratic society. This is one reason for the need to find a general legal system of protection of whistle blowers. Additionally, society must be informed that whistle blowers have a social value, and function as has already been established for press informants.

Further, the division between good and bad Whistle blowers should not be made. The assessment of whistle blowing can not and must not depend on one's own interests.

It is therefore requested that the Bundesverfassungsgericht |Federal Constitutional Court| and Bundesarbeitsgericht |Federal Labour Court| set case law relating to whistle blowing in such a fashion as to clarify the responsibilities and rectify all uncertainties in regards to whistle blowing protection both criminal and civil legal.

This requires that the legislature establishes a general and comprehensive protection for whistle blowers with necessary exceptions.

The full text of the Pirate Party UK Press release

The full text of the Piratenpartei petition

2011-01-28: FBI Executes 40 Search Warrants for DDoS Attacks, UK Arrests 5

2011-01-27 Tens of thousands rally in Yemen, demand change

There were massive anti-government rallies in Yemen today. Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, tens of thousands took to the streets of the country's capital, Sanna to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh's resignation.

According to Al Jazeera:

Opposition members and youth activists are rallying at four different locations in Sanaa on Thursday, chanting for Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, to step down.

"Enough being in power for [over] 30 years," protesters shouted during the demonstrations.

They also referred to the ouster of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, saying he was "gone in just [over] 20 years".

"No to extending [presidential tenure]. No to bequeathing [the presidency]," they chanted.

An opposition activist said that the staging of the demonstration in four separate parts of the capital was aimed at distracting the security forces.

Saleh's ruling General People's Congress held counter marches that were much smaller but also numbered into the thousands. Yemen is the most impoverished country in the Arabian Peninsula.

North Africa News from France24 27-01-11

2011-01-27 Tunisia protests continue as a warrant is issued for Ben Ali

In Tunisia, foreign minister Kamel Morjane resigns as demonstrations continued there. Although they forced President Ben Ali to flee on January 14th, the activists are demanding a complete break with the corruption of the past and the removal all officials associated with the ruling RCD party of the ousted president. Political sources say that the interior and defense ministers are also expected to be replaced in the widely expected cabinet shuttle. The industry and international co-operation ministers are expected to remain from the old government but neither was a member of the RCD. Still, it is not clear if even this complete purge of the RCD will satisfy the people's demand for change especially now that it is being reported that Mohammed Ghannouchi will remain prime minister. Protesters, who earlier today stormed police barricades in Tunis, the Tunisian capital are demanding a clean sweep.

Tunisia's powerful labor union did call off the general strike planned for Stax, Tunisia's second largest city, on Friday in a move to ease tensions, but it will not join the new government. However, teachers and doctors have already gone out on strike in the town that started it all, Sidi Bouzid.

France24 reported on Tunisia:

Some Tunisians demanded steady rather than abrupt change.

“RCD members need to get out little by little, but now this is a dictatorship of the people where there is anarchy. We must little by little trust each other, we must listen to each other,” said a doctor who gave his name as Labib.
Hundreds rallied in the capital Tunis on Tuesday in support of the interim government formed after Ben Ali’s fall, later clashing with protesters who complain that it is dominated by former members of his RCD party.

In the deprived central city of Gefsa, Tunisian soldiers fired in the air to disperse hundreds of demonstrators, the first time the army has intervened since Ben Ali’s departure on Jan. 14, and witnesses said a young man set himself alight.

2011-01-27 WikiLeaks barrister Geoffrey Robertson receives NY Bar Association award, warns US

While accepting an award for distinction in international law and affairs from the NY Bar Association, Geoffrey Robertson, who will defend Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at his extradition hearings in London in February, warned that the United States "risked irrevocable damage to its reputation if it pursued Assange" by "aiming the blunderbuss of its 1917 Espionage Act, death penalty and all, at a publisher who is a citizen of a friendly nation," according to the The Age: US told to drop Assange pursuit.

The Sydney Morning Herald writes:

Mr Robertson, who was invited to deliver a 45-minute lecture on international law after the presentation, said civil servants had sole responsibility for protecting properly classified information and outsiders who received or communicated it should not be prosecuted unless they had used fraud or bribery.

2011-01-27 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

El País: La presión de Chávez fuerza a la prensa venezolana a suavizar las críticas (Chavez pressure forces the Venezuelan press to soften the criticism.)

"Los directivos de medios opuestos al presidente admiten amenazas oficiales. (The board members from the media opposed to the president admit official threats.)"

Read more (Spanish)

2011-01-27 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

New York Times: Cables Show How U.S. Privately Pressured Egypt

"It was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first meeting as secretary of state with President Hosni Mubarak, in March 2009, and the Egyptians had an odd request: Mrs. Clinton should not thank Mr. Mubarak for releasing an opposition leader from prison because he was ill.

In fact, a confidential diplomatic cable signed by the American ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, advised Mrs. Clinton to avoid even mentioning the name of the man, Ayman Nour, even though his imprisonment in 2005 had been condemned worldwide, not least by the Bush administration."

Read more

El País: EE UU pone en duda la capacidad de Repsol para desarrollar su mayor proyecto petrolero en Venezuela (The United States doubts the abilities of Repsol to develop its major oil project in Venezuela)

"Washington se esfuerza por intensificar la relación entre la estadounidense Chevron y Caracas. Las multinacionales abogan por un boicot general para arrancar mejores condiciones a Chávez. (Washington makes an effort in order to intensify the relation between the American company Chevron and Caracas. The multinational oil companies request a general boycott to gain better conditions from Chavez.)"

Read more (Spanish)

El País: Estados Unidos considera que Chile afrontó la muerte de Pinochet mejor que España la de Franco (The United States believes that Chile faced Pinochet's death in a better way than Spain the death of Franco)

"Washington celebró la forma en que Chile afrontó la muerte del dictador, en oposición al caso de España. (Washington celebrated the way chile faced the dictator's death, in opposition to the case of Spain.)"

Read more (Spanish)

Aftenposten: Does Hamas have a cash flow problem in Gaza?

"Hamas was more than a week late in paying January salaries and, according to Post´s Gaza contacts, has not yet paid those salaries in full. While most contacts report that Hamas faces a liquidity crisis, they disagree on the cause. Hamas reportedly relies heavily on foreign assistance to support its budget, and the current cash flow problem is most likely a result of Egyptian anti-smuggling efforts. Gaza-based contacts report that Hamas is cutting costs and increasing its internal revenue collection, through taxes and fees. The amount of extra revenue that these efforts can generate is limited, however. Gazans speculate that recent real estate investments may also have tied up some of Hamas´s available cash."

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Aftenposten: Rail Projects Underway, But a Uniform Network Remains Elusive

"While two rail construction projects in Afghanistan are underway and several more are under discussion, the dream of a nationwide rail network remains remote. Small-scale projects sponsored by neighboring countries require different rail gauges, matching those of the countries these projects border; while the security situation is delaying two projects and likely deterring proposals for more. The enforcement of a single rail gauge is not practical since it would fail to make connections with at least half of Afghanistan´s neighbors. The Afghan Government must obtain funding f´ and build gauge changing stations if it is serious about connecting Afghanistan´s major population centers and industrial areas by train."

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2011-01-28 Cable: Assessing support for Mohammed El Baradei

US State cable 2010-02-23 10CAIRO237 describes the return of Nobel Prize winner and former IAEA Chairman Mohammed El Baradei to Cairo.

El Baradei is seen as an "independent" and viable alternative to a corrupt regime and an ineffectual opposition. However, the mainstream opposition appears reluctant to claim him as their own "consensus candidate." Despite his reluctance to declare himself a candidate, he appears, for now, to have captured the imagination of some section of the secular elite that wants democracy but is wary of the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Popular Support

Civil society activist and Director of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession Nasser Amin said El Baradei represents a clean slate candidate, someone both untainted by possible collusion with the regime -- like other members of the opposition -- and untouched by accusations of wrong doing -- like 2005 presidential candidate Ayman Nour. Commenting in the independent press, novelist and now frequent political commentator Alaa Al Aswani called enthusiasm about El Baradei evidence of an Egyptian desire for change, but warned that he should not be seen as a "savior."

"Thousands" of supporters and activists greeted El Baradei warmly at the airport. El Baradei's return was also marked by a boost in the number of his Facebook fans -- now more than seventy thousand -- and a flurry of reporting on his return in the independent media.On the opinion pages, journalists suggested that while El Baradei's welcome represented a hunger for political life previously repressed, they questioned the value of vague promises of change and El Baradei's real commitment to the process. Government newspapers largely downplayed the importance of El Baradei's return, noting President Mubarak had extended to El Baradei the use of the airport's VIP lounge and confirmation that security services would be present to keep the peace. Opinion pieces in the government owned or affiliated newspapers noted his "European style" of "brief and to the point answers," suggesting that El Baradei remained out of touch with Egyptians and unprepared for politics in Egypt. Noting that he has rejected alignment with any of Egypt's political parties they also suggest El Baradei arrived without a real "political program."

"April 6" leader Ahmed Salah, who was at the airport, told us he was "proud" his movement succeeded in helping to organize the group of supporters, which he estimated at around 3,000. Salah said that "April 6" leader Ahmed Maher and activist XXXXXXXXXXXX, who were detained by police February 17-18 (ref A), also participated in the greeting. Despite suggestions in the press that GOE security would maintain tight order and make arrests if necessary, Salah confirmed press reports of a limited security presence at the airport, saying the police "withdrew completely" from the airport. Salah acknowledged that the lack of police made the arrival somewhat chaotic, with supporters and journalists jostling each other to draw close to El Baradei. El Baradei himself later confirmed in a media interview that he had decided not to stop and speak to the crowd because of the limited security presence, fearing people would be hurt.

Kifaya leader George Is'haq, himself over 60, told us he had been pleasantly surprised that those on hand to greet El Baradei belonged to the "younger generation," but said others of his generation were present. Taking credit for efforts to get people to come to the airport, he noted that El Baradei's welcome marked a return to the kind of activism Kifaya had not been able to muster since 2006. This he said was the first time they were able to mobilize people without the help or presence of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). (Note: Individual members of the MB had been cooperating with Kifaya, "April 6" and others in several campaigns focused on drawing support before the 2010 parliamentary and 2011 presidential elections, such as the Campaign for Free Elections and the Campaign Against Succession. The MB also participated in Kifaya's pro-judge rallies during the 2005 elections. End Note.) Is'haq suggested El Baradei's return fueled an optimism that had "revived" people's spirits. Political commentator, Cairo University professor and head of the Ayman Nour-founded Coalition Against Succession Hassan Nafaa told Al Jazeera English urged public pressure on the GOE to enact the constitutional reforms outlined by El Baradei and said that Egypt is now "witnessing a new wave of political mobilization."

Political Support

Mainstream opposition parties which regularly meet as what is known in Egypt as the "opposition coalition" (Al Wafd, the Democratic Front Party (DFP), Taggamou and the Nasserist Party) have not been able to reach consensus on El Baradei as a democratic activist or candidate. Only DFP leader Osama Al Ghazali Harb has publically expressed enthusiasm about the impact of El Baradei's return to Cairo. Harb told us the turnout at the airport was a sign of a "new political momentum" that would take "competition with the government to a new level." Harb called El Baradei the right man at the right time, but underscored that his core message was the same as the long-standing demands from the opposition. He called El Baradei an "international heavyweight" untouchable by government smear campaigns. Press reports indicate that Harb is the only member of the four party coalition that supports El Baradei as a candidate. However, there appears to be some internal debate within the Wafd party. Wafd party members from Gharbiyya part of the group Wafdists Against Succession (not sanctioned by the party) were present at the airport to receive El Baradei. That group's leader told the Egyptian daily El Shorouk that he and Wafd leaders Honorary President Mostafa El Taweel and VP Fouad Badrawy intend to seek their own meeting with El Baradei.

Al Ghad Party Vice President Wael Nawara told PolOff that he and others in the party welcomed El Baradei's political activism in Egypt. Nawara added he would have liked to greet El Baradei at the airport, but was busy working to resolve internal party conflict after Ayman Nour's announcement on February 15 that he had been selected by Al Ghad as its presidential candidate. Some in the party, including its president Ehab El Khouly, publically criticized this move as pre-empting Al Ghad's ability to support an opposition "consensus candidate" like El Baradei. Nour's own comments about El Baradei have vacillated between statements of support and suggestions that he is only a "virtual candidate." Fellow Ghad party VP Gameela Ismail, Nour's estranged wife, was on hand to greet El Baradei and told the media she saw no contradiction in her support for El Baradei. Ismail said she would stand behind coordinated opposition support for one presidential candidate whether EL Baradei or Nour.

El Baradei will meet on February 23 with Harb, XXXXXXXXXXXX, and XXXXXXXXXXX (former head of the Alexandria Judges club and leader of the Coalition for Free Elections) and other political activists. Press reports indicate that Dr. Yehia El Gamal, well-known constitutional scholar and co-founder of the Democratic Front Party (DFP), will also ask El Baradei to join a group of scholars who seek to draft an alternative constitution for Egypt. (Note: El Gamal left the DFP after a clash with current President and co-founder Osama Al Ghazali Harb. End Note.)

Public Statements

In his first public appearance since his return, Sunday, February 21, El Baradei took part in a three hour interview on Egyptian Satellite Channel Dream TV's program ten o'clock hosted by Mona El Shazli. Taking questions from callers El Baradei reiterated his previous statements that he never intended to run in the 2011 presidential elections but said he would run against President Mubarak if needed constitutional changes were made and it were in Egypt's interest to do so. El Baradei reiterated his call for constitutional reforms, particularly reform of Article 76 which governs the selection of presidential candidates and which many believe was tailor made for presidential son Gamal Mubarak, and Article 88 which does not proscribe term limits. (Note: El Baradei has said he will not join a party; one of the criteria for candidacy is senior membership in a party with at least one representative in parliament, but he has not ruled out running as an independent which would require the endorsement of 250 members of parliament and the local councils, likely impossible because both institutions are dominated by members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). End Note) El Baradei also criticized widespread election fraud in 2005 and criticized as "conspiracy theory" that any other country (i.e., the U.S.) is capable of selecting the president of another. El Baradei criticized the current regime, specifically President Mubarak, for leadership that has led to a corrupt state characterized by a climate of fear that was imposed by the security services. He cited widespread corruption, the failure to enact reforms to address the country's high poverty and illiteracy rates, inability to address sectarian tensions, and limited space for practice of political rights as the current regime's legacy.

In his first public meeting following his arrival, El Baradei met with Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa whom he called "personal friend." The meeting was reported by the independent media as having focused on the "future of Egypt." El Baradei gave no formal comment to the media after the meeting but Amre Moussa reportedly said that all Egyptians were "aspiring for change," calling it their right to do so.

2011-01-28 Cable: Egypt action against poet, bloggers, novelist and journalists

US State cable 2009-07-28 09CAIRO1447 describes action taken by the Egyptian government against an amateur poet, bloggers, a novelist and journalists.

An amateur poet

A local government clerk arrested, convicted and jailed for writing unpublished poetry allegedly insulting to President Mubarak, illustrates how proactive security forces and courts can successfully move against a civilian defended by incompetent lawyers. In late June, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) issued a statement that police arrested XXXXXXXXXXXXXX in April for defaming Mubarak in a poem, and a local court subsequently sentenced him to three years in prison. According to the statement, the court set bail at LE 100,000 (15,000 USD) pending appeal, and since XXXXXXXXXXXX could not afford that sum, he remained in jail. Skilled Cairo-based lawyers from ANHRI appealed the case, and a Minya appeals court acquitted XXXXXXXXXXX July 8; he was released July 20. XXXXXXXXXXXX might still be in jail if his original defense lawyers had not sought help.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX told us he was not aware of the case until June when lawyers from Minya contacted him to help with the appeal. XXXXXXXXXXXXX attributed the conviction in part to the poor skills of the defense lawyers. The case remained virtually unknown until the days leading up to the July 18 appeal verdict when the local and international press began reporting on it. Until mid-July, even our contacts specializing in freedom of expression were unaware of the case. Following XXXXXXXXXXXX's release from prison, XXXXXXXXX appeared on Egyptian satellite television and said XXXXXXXXXXXX would not write any more poetry critical of the government. XXXXXXXXXXX also criticized lawyers from Minya for not defending him aggressively out of fear of the GOE's response.


In a blogging environment often critical of the government, the GOE has selectively moved against certain bloggers. Most recently, the GOE arrested three young, Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-affiliated bloggers. XXXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed for us July 27 that State Security Investigative Services (SSIS) arrested bloggers XXXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXXXX at Cairo International Airport following their return from a conference in XXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX also confirmed that SSIS arrested a third blogger, XXXXXXXXXXXXXX, at his home on XXXXXXXXXXX, and that all three bloggers remained in detention. The MB website reported XXXXXXXXXXX that the GOE released XXXXXXXXXXXXX that day. The three bloggers have criticized trials of MB members in military courts and have voiced support for MB detainees. Our contacts have asserted that the GOE fears young, tech-savvy MB-affiliated bloggers because of their ability to generate mass support for the Brotherhood and organize rallies and other events via the internet. Contacts attributed the arrest and torture of young MB-blogger XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX in XXXXXXXXXXXX(refs D, E) to these factors. Police released XXXXXXXXXXXXX in XXXXXXXXXXXX (ref D).

Prominent blogger XXXXXXXXXXXX ran afoul of the GOE by publicly criticizing the regime in late June at a conference in XXXXXXXXXXXXX (ref B). XXXXXXXXXXXXXX, who was held at XXXXXXXXXXXX International Airport XXXXXXXXXX for 13 hours upon his return, told us XXXXXXXXXXXXX that police have still not returned his laptop. Hafez Abu Seada, Secretary-General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights which is representing XXXXXXXXXXXX, told us July 22 that the police have not responded to his organization's inquiries beyond saying that they are holding the laptop to search for "intellectual property violations." XXXXXXXXXXXXX had told us that NDP members attending the same conference in XXXXXXXXXXXXX reported his critical comments to the GOE.

The GOE is using the Emergency Law to reject court orders for the release of blogger XXXXXXXXXXXXXX whom SSIS has kept in jail since XXXXXXXXXXXXXX for allegedly insulting both Islam and Christianity (ref C). XXXXXXXXXXXXX's lawyer XXXXXXXXXXX told us that the Interior Ministry rejected a XXXXXXXXXXXXX court order to release XXXXXXXXXXXXX, and since SSIS made the arrest under the Emergency Law, neither the courts nor attorneys have any recourse. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX commented that this is the fifth time the MOI has refused to follow court decisions ordering XXXXXXXXXXXXX's release.

A novelist and Journalists

The GOE and NDP operatives have stepped up their efforts to file lawsuits against political opponents. Human Rights attorney XXXXXXXXXXXXX told us in late June that he is defending the leading independent newspaper "Al-Masry Al-Youm" against more than 70 defamation suits, most of which have been filed by NDP loyalists. XXXXXXXXXXXXX is also defending XXXXXXXXXXXXX author of XXXXXXXXXXXXX against a government suit alleging that the work is profane. XXXXXXXXXXXXX said the MOI filed the profanity suit as a pretext to punish the author for the novel's criticism of the NDP and of MOI heavy-handed police tactics against demonstrators. The profanity suit focuses on one relatively explicit sex scene and the use of expletives. XXXXXXXXXXXXX said such content is common in books and magazines, and almost never incurs suits. The trial is currently adjourned until the fall.

EOHR Secretary-General Hafez Abu Seada told us in early July that he is defending XXXXXXXXXXXXX, a journalist from the weekly newspaper XXXXXXXXXXXXX whom he said the Interior Ministry has targeted for writing a series of articles critical of the minister and other senior MOI officials. Abu Seada said an Interior Ministry general confronted XXXXXXXXXXXXX on the street as a pretext for filing charges against him for allegedly "assaulting" an officer. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information issued a statement July 13 criticizing the police for breaking into XXXXXXXXXXXXX's home six times between July 10 and 11.

In mid-July, police arrested Yasser Barakat, editor-in-chief of the independent paper "Al-Moagaz," to implement a June 24 court decision convicting him of defaming independent MP and SSIS confidante Mustafa Bakry. In the first instance in recent memory of a journalist jailed for defamation, Barakat spent 5 days in jail before his July 11 release pending appeal, following lobbying by the Press Syndicate (ref A). Contacts have told us that SSIS was able to provide political cover to support Bakry in his long-running personal feud against Barakat.

2011-01-28 Cable: Egypt displeased with number and tone of U.S. human rights recommendations

US State cable 2010-02-25 10CAIRO253 records that Government of Egypt officials, on February 24, expressed concern over the U.S. recommendations at the February 17 UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Egypt's human rights record.

Presidential advisor Soliman Awad said the U.S. should focus on principles regarding religious freedom, not conversions and proselytizing which "makes Egyptians suspicious". MFA Deputy Director for Human Rights Omar Shalaby said the GOE was displeased with both the number and the tone of U.S. recommendations, "especially in light of recent bilateral cooperation in the UN Human Rights Council." He said that on instruction from the MFA, Ambassador Shoukry had conveyed this message to Vice President Biden's staff during a meeting to discuss the Vice President's planned upcoming visit to Cairo, and the Egyptian Permanent Representative in Geneva had made these points to the U.S. Mission. Shalaby explained that although European countries made many of the same recommendations, the GOE was "less bothered" because it does not enjoy "the same level of cooperation with the Europeans."

Shalaby disputed the U.S. recommendation to eliminate legal and bureaucratic restrictions on an individual's choice of religion, claiming that the obstacles are practical, not legal. We pushed back, noting court rulings against converts from Islam to Christianity. "The number of recommendations in itself is an issue," Shalaby noted, and he said the high number led to GOE speculation over U.S. motives. According to Shalaby, some in the GOE wondered whether the U.S. was under "external pressure" to be more "hawkish" on human rights in Egypt, or whether the U.S. intervention was "retribution" for U.S.-Egyptian differences over procedure during the 2009 Israel UPR. We told Shalaby that the recommendations reflect U.S. concern over a broad range of human rights issues in Egypt. (Note: The MFA's February 18 public statement did not mention U.S. recommendations. The statement welcomed the UPR process as an opportunity to demonstrate "Egypt's human rights progress," and rejected recommendations "by a few western countries" on "issues related to homosexuals," and marriage and divorce. End note.)

Shalaby said the GOE believed it had accepted some important recommendations, such as those by the U.S. to replace the State of Emergency with a counterterrorism law guaranteeing civil liberties, and to ensure the legal definition of torture conforms with its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture. He also noted the GOE accepted recommendations to combat religious discrimination. Shalaby was pleased with GOE interactions with Egyptian civil society during the UPR, saying that Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mufeed Shehab met twice with NGOs in Geneva.

Reaction from Human Rights Groups

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Director Hossam Bahgat who attended the UPR assessed that the GOE delegation was "very weak on substance." According to Bahgat, the GOE was "wrong" in rejecting as inaccurate U.S. recommendations on arrests of activists under the Emergency Law, and restrictions on choosing religion. Bahgat wished the U.S. had explicitly noted GOE arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Director Moataz El-Feigery criticized the GOE for "denying facts," and demonstrating a lack of political will. He was pessimistic that the GOE would implement recommendations. El-Feigery believed Egyptian NGOs were able to successfully influence western countries' recommendations. He welcomed western countries' recommendations, but would have liked more discussion of GOE legal restrictions on presidential candidates (ref B details these restrictions).

Human Rights lawyer Nasser Amin who attended the UPR called Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference support for Egypt "absurd." He believed these interventions were coordinated, due to their similarity in heaping praise on superficial GOE efforts. Amin said Minister Shehab told NGOs privately that he wanted to "open a new page with civil society," but Amin criticized Shehab for not "seriously addressing" the issues during the UPR session. President of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights Hafez Abu Seada said he will press the GOE to implement the recommendations it accepted, especially on amending the legal definition of torture. Abu Seada, who is also a member of the quasi-governmental National Council for Human Rights, told us he asked Minister Shehab to involve civil society in implementing the recommendations.

Egyptian Media Coverage

The Egyptian media covered the UPR session and its aftermath in news stories, but provided little analytical commentary. The independent print press focused its reporting on western countries' recommendations, while the pro-government media covered the GOE's responses to the recommendations. A popular satellite television talk show aired comments from activists and opposition politicians criticizing the GOE for not engaging more with civil society in advance of the UPR, and for violating Egyptians' human rights. Pro-government paper "Rose El-Youssef," which is close to the Interior Ministry, reported Minister Shehab saying Egypt would not accept recommendations conflicting with its "social and cultural context." "Rose El-Youssef" also reported that the MFA's February 18 statement rejected recommendations on "issues related to homosexuals."

2011-01-28 Cable: Egypt's Emergency Law

US State cable 2010-01-12 10CAIRO64 from one year ago, discusses the use of the State of Emergency, in effect in Egypt almost continuously since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The Emergency Law

Article 3 of the Emergency Law allows the president to order "placing restrictions on personal freedom of assembly, movement, residence, traffic in specific areas at specific times," and "the arrest of suspects or individuals threatening public security and order," and arrests and searches without implementation of the law of criminal procedures..." In practice, the Interior Ministry carries out "the order" of the President either orally or in writing.

Article 3 also authorizes surveillance of personal messages and confiscation of publications.

Article 3 of the law stipulates that detainees can appeal an arrest order after six months in a state security court, and that the court's decision is subject to approval by the president. In practice, after 30 days in prison,detainees can demand court hearings to challenge detention orders. Detainees can re-submit demands for hearings every 30 days; however, a judge can uphold a detention order indefinitely. The Emergency Law does not mandate a maximum detention period, and therefore allows the government, subject to the approval of a State Security court and the president, to detain individuals indefinitely without charge.

Article 7 of the law creates state security courts. Three civilian judges preside over the courts, two of whom may be replaced by military judges appointed by the president. The law also establishes state security prosecutors who review cases and refer them to the state security courts. Per article 7, judges' verdicts in state security courts are final; there is no appeal process. Article 6 also stipulates that all state security court verdicts are subject to the review of the president, and Article 14 allows the president to modify sentences handed down by state security court judges.

The Emergency Law gives the president power to place "restrictions on personal freedom of assembly." Separately, in the penal code, law 10 of 1914 criminalizes the "assembly of five or more people in a gathering that could threaten public order or security." The law of meetings and demonstrations, law 14 of 1923 requires citizens to notify police prior to holding a gathering, and allows police to prevent a gathering from taking place and to dissolve a gathering once it is convened.

Use of the Emergency Law

During the 1990's when Islamist terror organizations such as The Islamic Group and Al-Jihad carried out a series of attacks, the government arrested and detained thousands of Islamists under the Emergency Law. Contacts estimate that about 4,000 to 5,000 of these detainees remain in prison. Under the Emergency Law, security forces detained groups of Bedouin in the Sinai in connection with investigations into terror attacks there in 2004, 2005 and in April 2006.

In late 2008, the government used the Emergency Law to arrest 26 members of a Hizballah cell, 18 of whom are Egyptian. The cell was allegedly working to target U.S. and Israeli ships transiting the Suez Canal. The case is now before a state security court. In July 2009, the government used the Emergency Law to arrest and detain a group of 25 Egyptians and one Palestinian. The group allegedly aided Hamas, assisted in the February 2009 bombing at the Khan Al-Khalili market in Cairo, and robbed a Cairo jewelry store owned by Copts. According to press reports, on January 4 a state security prosecutor transferred the case to a state security emergency court.

The government has also used the Emergency Law in cases not related to terrorism. The GOE jailed blogger Hany Nazir under the Emergency Law in October 2008 following posts deemed offensive to Christianity and Islam. The GOE has also imprisoned activist and blogger Musad Abu Fagr since December 2007 under the Emergency Law following posts about difficulties faced by Sinai Bedouin. In 2008, the government arrested a blogger from the heterodox Islamic Quranic sect under the Emergency Law, and detained him for approximately 90 days.

In recent years, the government has used the Emergency Law to arrest large numbers of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members without charge in the run-up to the 2005 parliamentary elections, the 2008 local council elections and the 2010 parliamentary elections. The government released most of the detainees after holding them from periods ranging from a few days to several months.

The government used the Emergency Law to arrest and prosecute 49 individuals in connection to clashes that broke out between workers and police during an April 2008 labor strike in the Delta town of Mahalla. In December 2008, a state security court convicted 22 people on charges of assaulting police officers, robbery, and possession of unlicensed weapons. In 2004, a state security court convicted 26 men linked to the banned Islamic Liberation Party for belonging to a banned organization. Several defendants alleged the government tortured them to obtain confessions.

2011-01-28 Cable: Mubarak discusses Iran and a "split" within Arab ranks

US State cable 2009-02-23: 09CAIRO326 describes a February 17, 2009 meeting between US Senator Joseph Lieberman and Egyptian President Gamal Mubarak.

Gamal criticizes the Israeli government's decision not to move forward on the Gaza ceasefire without the release of Corporal Shalit. "The various Palestinian factions are due to begin reconciliation talks in Cairo "in about 10 days" and this development will make those discussions more difficult. It makes Egypt look bad, and strengthens Hamas."

Gamal discusses a split within Arab ranks between "moderates" (Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and "radicals" (Syria and Qatar). He is of the opinion that Iran has skillfully exploited the lack of movement towards peace. The best way to thwart Iranian ambitions in the region, according to Gamal, is to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and create a unified
Palestinian government. "The Palestinians need elections, both residential and parliamentary."

Lieberman asks if Gamal thought the US should re-engage with Iran. "As long as Ahmedinejad is there, I am skeptical," Gamal responded. The one thing that is clear, Gamal stressed, is that by removing Saddam, the U.S. opened the door for Iran to flex its muscles and spread its influence throughout the region. "Like it or not, Saddam was a stumbling block to Iranian aspirations. His fall led directly to an increase in Iranian influence on the region." Now, it is all the more important not to send a message of weakness to the Iranians, Gamal said, "neither from the U.S., nor from the moderates in the region." We cannot "concede to their policy of aggression."

There are many in the region, Gamal explained, who believe that the U.S. was weakened by its actions in Iraq, and that Iran was strengthened. Furthermore, there is a perception that the U.S. has been hurt by the economic crisis ...(and) will deal with problems in the region in a "less confrontational" fashion ... Lieberman said that the U.S. will nonetheless engage in an even more aggressive Middle East foreign policy than previously, as evidenced by President Obama's choice of Secretary Clinton and Special Envoy Mitchell.

Senator Lieberman then asked Gamal for his assessment of Qatari behavior. They are coordinating closely with Syria and Iran, Gamal said, "in an orchestrated attack on Egypt and other moderate Arab states." Qatar has enabled Hamas to hamper every effort we have made to cement a ceasefire in Gaza. For some reason, Qatar seems to want to play the role of spoiler.

Gamal said that while Egypt has so far escaped the worst effects of the crisis, "we are bound to feel the brunt of it eventually." and advised that the US economy needed "a shock". "You need to inject even more money into the system than you have, and you need to get as much of the bad debt as possible out of it; "you must remove the toxic assets from the books".

2011-01-28 Cable: Police brutality and poor prison conditions in Egypt

US State cable 2010-01-31 10CAIRO147 from one year ago, outlines Egyptian police brutality and prison conditions as discussed in meetings between A/S Posner and "senior GOE officials".

Credible human rights lawyers believe police brutality continues to be a pervasive, daily occurrence in GOE detention centers, and that SSIS has adapted to increased media and blogger focus on police brutality by hiding the abuse and pressuring victims not to bring cases. NGOs assess prison conditions to be poor, due to overcrowding and lack of medical care, food, clean water, and proper ventilation. Per ref E, following a landmark 2007 sentencing of police officers for assaulting and sodomizing a bus driver, courts have continued to sentence officers to prison terms for brutality.

In a January 12 meeting with Interior Ministry State Security Director Rahman, A/S Posner asked what measures the GOE takes to address police brutality and difficult prison conditions, and what the U.S. could do to help. Rahman said "in the past ten years" there has been "no abuse of prisoners at all." He acknowledged there may have been "some violations" against "terrorists" in prison in the 1970's and 1980's. Posner raised the case of XXXXXXXXXXXXX who was abused by police in XXXXXXXXXXX according to multiple NGO reports (refs C, D). (Note: The Ambassador raised this case with the Interior Minister in XXXXXXXX, per ref D. End note.) Rahman responded that when citizens do not "get what they want from the police, they become angry." He asserted that XXXXXXXXXXXXhusband is a "criminal," and beat her in the midst of a family dispute. Rahman said the MOI punishes any officer who commits violations. Rahman also said the Interior Ministry treats all prisoners well. More than 1,500 prisoners pursue university studies, he claimed, and he noted that the government is focused on prisoners' health and their rehabilitation.

A/S Posner also raised police brutality with MFA Deputy Assistant Minister for Human Rights Wael Aboulmagd who responded that the GOE takes the issue seriously. Aboulmagd said that since 2005, the Interior Ministry stopped paying fines for police officers found to have abused detainees. He noted increased prosecutions against police officers for torture and abuse. Aboulmagd said the Interior Ministry is participating in human rights training through the UN Development Program, and internal courses. He opined that it would take a "generation of training" before the police accepted the concept of human rights.

Rahman asserted that the U.S. funds NGOs and human rights organizations dominated by "communists and extremists." He claimed these "communists" do not care about democracy, and want to weaken the GOE in response to Egypt's movement away from the Soviet Union and toward the U.S. in the 1970's. The Ambassador pushed back, saying that the U.S. does not fund NGOs connected to the Muslim Brotherhood or extremists. She noted the U.S. funds NGOs to promote civic education, human rights training and election monitoring. She urged SSIS to allow increased registration of NGOs. A/S Posner urged Rahman to allow NGOs to register even if they are critical of the GOE.

2011-01-28 Cable: Police torture in Egypt

US State cable 2010-02-17 10CAIRO213 documents a communication from a human rights activist (name redacted) to the US government discussing torture in Egypt and how best to address it.

On February 10, XXXXXXXXXXXX urged the U.S. to focus on quiet diplomatic approaches to the GOE on combating torture as our top human rights priority. XXXXXXXXXXXX believed such diplomacy would be more successful than efforts on other human rights issues. XXXXXXXXXXXXX advised that a series of discreet diplomatic approaches, as opposed to public statements, would be most effective in securing GOE agreement to combat torture. He said he has been in contact with diplomats from EU countries to encourage them to make similar approaches to the GOE.

XXXXXXXXXXX was pessimistic that the GOE would pass significant political legislation, other than the human trafficking law, before the 2011 residential elections. GOE discussions about lifting the State of emergency and passing a counterterrorism law "are just a distraction," he maintained. XXXXXXXXXXX asserted that MFA and NDP fficials, as well as some journalists in the pro-government press, are embarrassed over the extensive use of torture, and want to see improvements. He believed that a discreet order from the Interior Ministry to stop torture would have a powerful effect, and would be more effective than the passage of legislation expanding the definition of torture and increasing penalties, which the quasi-government National Council for Human Rights and independent NGOs have urged. (Note: A contact confirmed that on February 15 a parliamentary committee rejected legislation proposed by a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated MP to increase prison terms for torture from the current 3-10 years to 25 years, and extend the definition to cover senior officers who order torture. End note.)

According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the worst police torture takes place during urder investigations. He said that his brother-in-law who is a police officer in the Delta Governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh described "unrelenting pressure" from superiors to solve murder cases by any means necessary. XXXXXXXXXXX said human rights lawyers and XXXXXXXXXXX have told him that to conduct murder investigations, police will round up 40 to 50 suspects from a neighborhood and hang them by their arms from the ceiling for weeks until someone confesses.

XXXXXXXXXXXX believed that a GOE political decision to stop pressuring police officers to solve crimes quickly by using torture if necessary would have far-reaching effects. XXXXXXXXXXXX speculated that such a policy change could have a broad positive impact on the rule of law, the police's role in society and even political participation. If the public's fear of the police waned, he noted, citizens would not be as afraid to enter police stations to report crimes, tell the police about their neighborhoods, or procure voter registration cards for the coming elections. He said the current pervasive nature of torture began in the 1990's when the security forces were fighting Islamic extremists, and would be possible to reverse. XXXXXXXXXXX recalled that the public respected the police in the 980's, and he expected that with a policy change the GOE could restore a positive relationship between the public and the police.

2011-01-28 Cable: Political arrests of Muslim Brotherhood

US State cable 2010-02-11 10CAIRO197 from one year ago, discusses the arrest on the morning of February 8, of three high-ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau (the group's 16-member administrative body) along with twelve other lower ranking members

The group includes newly-named Deputy Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat, MB spokesman (one of three recently-named spokesmen for the group) Essam El Eryan, and MB "Mufti" (or religious leader) Abdel Rahman El Barr. A fourth member of the Guidance Bureau, Mohie Hamed, avoided arrest. According to Ikhwanweb, the MB's English-language website, Hamed has been ordered to appear before the Supreme State Security Prosecutor. One of the twelve other MB detainees arrested along with them has reportedly been transferred to a hospital for heart surgery following a heart attack during his arrest. MB sources have reported to the media that those detained have declined to give any statements to investigators. These latest high-profile arrests come amid continued reports of arrests of dozens of rank and file MB members outside of Cairo reportedly as they gather in preparation for elections of the MB's 100-man Shura Council (the group's legislative body) scheduled for April 2010.

No formal charges have been announced by the Public Prosecutor. MB Parliamentary Bloc leader and Spokesman Saad Katatni told PolOff on February 10 that the group was originally detained, and their homes searched, under the Emergency Law (Ref A), but said he expected any "investigation" or "prosecution" would be conducted according to the criminal code. Katatni said lawyers for the detained have been told they will be given access by the Prosecutor to the "investigative file" against the group next Tuesday February 16. According to media reports the group remains in detention "under investigation" for the next 15 days (this can be renewed several times for a period of up to six months by the Prosecutor himself). Charges under investigation include belonging to a "banned" organization that threatens the "peace and security of the state," a charge commonly made against detained members of the MB. For the first time members of the group have been charged with participation in a faction of the MB that adheres to the "takfiri" or "un-Islamic" doctrine of Sayed Qutb, which deems those who do not follow it "infidels" and thus, according to the Public Prosecutor, supports the formation of a military wing that would carry out armed resistance against the regime. (Note: Qutb was executed by former President Nasser in 1966 for having led an attempt to violently overthrow the regime. Both current Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and now arrested Deputy Guide Ezzat were detained in 1965 along with Qutb. They were later released by President Anwar Sadat. End Note.)

Previous Muslim Brotherhood Arrests

There is a precedent for long detentions of MB leaders while "under investigation." Three other high-ranking members of the MB's Guidance Bureau, including Dr. Abdel Meneim Al Fotouh, were detained for several months in 2009 while "under investigation." (Ref B) While all three have been released on bail, the cases against them are still pending (Ref C). (Note: Fotouh was released in November 2009 and subsequently lost his seat on the MB's Guidance Bureau in December elections (Ref D). End Note).

Reports of the arrests first surfaced the morning of February 8 on the MB's English-language website Ikhwanweb. The following day (February 9) Ikhwanweb published an MB statement condemning the arrests. In the statement the group said it believed the arrests were linked to MB support for "the resistance of the besieged people of Gaza" and are intended to "undermine participation by the group ahead of the legislative elections later this year." The MB also affirmed that despite the arrests it will continue on its "missionary course" and the "path (it has) chosen for attaining the country's welfare" through "peaceful reformist methods despite ... restrictions paced to liberties." MB members were reportedly present in large numbers outside the offices of the Public Prosecutor on Tuesday February 9. The group also staged a small protest in Suez against the ongoing detention of other MB members despite the end of their court-ordered detention period.

A Pre-emptive Strike

MB lawyer Abdel Menem Abdel Maqsoud told the independent daily El Shorouk that he believed the GOE targeted MB "organizational leaders" like former MB Secretary General and now Deputy Guide Mahmoud Ezzat to hamper preparations for the Shura Council elections in June 2010 and the People's Assembly elections in November 2010. He added that the level of the arrests sent the message that no one was immune. Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies analyst Amr El Choubaki called the arrests a "pre-emptive strike to foil" MB election preparations.

According to political commentator, University Professor, and head of the "Coalition Against Succession" Hassan Nafaa, the arrests also were part of an effort to stop any potential coordination between the MB and other opposition political groups in the lead-up to the elections. Before the arrests, Democratic Front Party XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed to PolOff press reports that he and others were working with various political movements, including the MB, to form a unified national coalition under the banner of a "Conference for All Egyptians." XXXXXXXXXXXX was surprised the intended conference had surfaced in the media after he and fellow organizer, XXXXXXXXXXXX, had taken pains to "quietly plan" for months. XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed the MB would be part of the effort. reporting on plans for an "All Egyptians" conference was included in press articles covering a February 3 event held by the Press Syndicate's Freedom Committee (headed by known MB member Mohamed Abdel Quddous) entitled the "Future of Egypt." At the conference, which included among others an NDP MP and Harb, the now arrested Essam El Eryan reportedly told the group that the MB was willing to "make compromises for the sake of having a national coalition" to pursue "comprehensive reform."

2011-01-28 Cable: President Mubarak in Washington

US State cable 2009-05-19 09CAIRO874 contains a complimentary profile of 81 year old Egyptian president Mubarak where he is praised for weathering, during his 28 year tenure, at least three assassination attempts, and a "manageable but chronic internal terrorist threat".

He is a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative, and has little time for idealistic goals. Mubarak viewed President Bush (43) as naive, controlled by subordinates, and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran,s regional influence.

Mubarak continues to state that in his view Iraq needs a "tough, strong military officer who is fair" as leader. This telling observation, we believe, describes Mubarak's own view of himself as someone who is tough but fair, who ensures the basic needs of his people.

We have heard him lament the results of earlier U.S. efforts to encourage reform in the Islamic world. He can harken back to the Shah of Iran: the U.S. encouraged him to accept reforms, only to watch the country fall into the hands of revolutionary religious extremists. Wherever he has seen these U.S. efforts, he can point to the chaos and loss of stability that ensued. In addition to Iraq, he also reminds us that he warned against Palestinian elections in 2006 that brought Hamas (Iran) to his doorstep. Now we understand he fears that Pakistan is on the brink of falling into the hands of the Taliban, and he puts some of the blame on U.S. insistence on steps that ultimately weakened Musharraf. While he knows that Bashir in Sudan has made multiple major mistakes, he cannot work to support his removal from power.

EGIS Chief Omar Soliman and Interior Minister al-Adly keep the domestic beasts at bay, and Mubarak is not one to lose sleep over their tactics.

Mubarak, seeks to avoid conflict and spare his people from the violence he predicts would emerge from unleashed personal and civil liberties. In Mubarak,s mind, it is far better to let a few individuals suffer than risk chaos for society as a whole.

2011-01-28 Cable: Qatar on the Israeli-Palestine talks, Egypt and Iran

US state cable 2010-02-24: 10DOHA71 outlines Senator Kerry's meeting with Qatar's Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani (HBJ) on February 13, 2010. In the meeting, HBJ stresses that it is a mistake to exclude Hamas from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, equates Egypt to a physician with one patient, and accuses Egypt of having a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible. He also warned against a US military action against Iran.

HBJ told Senator John Kerry February 13 that "everyone in the region" seems to have a separate plan for moving ahead on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute when only one plan was needed; a plan that both the Israelis and Palestinians would accept and finalize. HBJ underscored that it is a mistake to ignore Hamas in seeking a lasting agreement. Saying this does not mean that Qatar expresses a preference for Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot sign off on an agreement on behalf of the Palestinians where open divisions exist.

Senator Kerry responded that we "are where we are." He assessed that the Goldstone Report and dissatisfaction in Fatah's ranks in the West Bank made it difficult for Abu Mazen to "give something to Israel" that would allow direct negotiations to begin between the parties. Add in Abu Mazen's previous statements on the need for a full settlement freeze, and the ingredients for the Palestinian people to accept direct talks simply are not there.

Abu Mazen is out on a limb, responded HBJ. "He climbed a tree (drawing a line in the sand on settlements) and can't get down." HBJ noted that in conversations Qatar has held with Hamas' leadership, it is clear that Hamas is ready to accept Israel's right to exist. But the acceptance must come about gradually, not in one day. Senator Kerry said he had heard this elsewhere, but in his own conversations, he did not get the sense that Hamas was ready to accept Israel's existence.

Qatar's PM observed that the biggest obstacle on the Palestinian side to an eventual agreement with Israel is the reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah. HBJ maintained that it would have happened during the previous U.S. administration, but President Bush told Abu Mazen not to sign off on it. Reconciliation can happen, HBJ asserted, but only "if bigger countries in the region allow it." The leaderships in Syria and Gaza consult each other, and no one leader in Hamas can take a decision alone, reported HBJ.

Chairman Kerry asked HBJ if Hamas is feeling political pressure from Gazans over their current living conditions. HBJ responded that anytime people do not have housing, schools or public utilities, their political leaders feel pressure.

According to HBJ, Egypt -- the broker -- has a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible. Egypt "has no end game; serving as broker of the talks is Egypt's only business interest with the U.S." HBJ likened the situation to a physician who has only one patient to treat in the hospital. If that is your only business, "the physician is going to keep the patient alive but in the hospital for as long as possible." HBJ emphasized that Qatar, on the other hand, is interested only in bringing about peace in the region -- and as quickly as possible.

HBJ noted that since its inception the Quartet has been anti-Hamas and aligned with the interests of Abu Mazen, Egypt and Jordan. These partners of the Quartet, observed HBJ, are the very partners who have not delivered a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.

Returning to his theme that "peace brokers" act in their own self-interest, HBJ observed that President Mubarak of Egypt is thinking about how his son can take his place and how to stave off the growing strength of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government, said HBJ, has jailed 10,000 Muslim Brotherhood members without bringing court cases against them. The Egyptian "people blame America" now for their plight. The shift in mood on the ground is "mostly because of Mubarak and his close ties" to the United States. His only utility to the U.S. is brokering peace between Palestinians and Israelis, so he has no interest in taking himself out of the one game he has, underscored HBJ. "Tell your friends (in Egypt) they must help themselves."

As for Qatar, "We want to help Abu Mazen and the Palestinians," declared HBJ. The short-term needs of Palestinians in Gaza are acute, said HBJ. We need to broker a quick reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and move forward quickly on rebuilding Gaza. Senator Kerry asserted that HBJ was preaching to the converted and told the PM he was "shocked by what I saw in Gaza."

Continuing to illustrate how Egypt had not delivered for the U.S. on Palestinian issues, HBJ said Qatar was told in late 2008 that Israel and the U.S. needed the Egyptians to deal with the crisis in Gaza. Yet former Israeli PM Olmert later complained to Qatar that Egypt is a big country and not nimble; it could not move fast enough. Senator Kerry pointed out he was in Cairo at the time Qatar was calling for an Arab League Summit in December 2008/January 2009 and asked HBJ for his perspective on the rift between Qatar and Egypt at that time.

HBJ told Senator Kerry that Mubarak refused to come to Doha for a meeting of Arab leaders, preferring that the meeting take place in Riyadh. The request to move the meeting was relayed to Qatar by the Saudis, not the Egyptians. Saudi Arabia, as a big country like Egypt, has a vested interest in keeping Egypt afloat, said HBJ. The Saudis agreed to host the meeting in Riyadh not because they objected to traveling to Doha, but because the Egyptians did. "So we argued over the meeting location" while the Palestinians suffered, and we in Qatar "called a meeting and said whoever comes, comes."

Qatar is worried, said HBJ, about Egypt and its people, who are increasingly impatient. Mubarak, continued HBJ, says Al Jazeera is the source of Egypt's problems. This is an excuse. HBJ had told Mubarak "we would stop Al Jazeera for a year" if he agreed in that span of time to deliver a lasting settlement for the Palestinians. Mubarak said nothing in response, according to HBJ.

Asked his advice on bringing about an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, HBJ said President Clinton recognized before leaving office that Egypt was a problem. When President Clinton sought help at the end of his term in reaching a final deal, the Saudis and Egyptians did not encourage him, said HBJ. "They told him to do what he thinks right." Culturally, said HBJ, that is the way Arabs say "you are on your own." And President Clinton was, said HBJ.

Now we are at a stage, said HBJ, where Egypt does not want Arab League involvement in brokering a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinians unless the talks bog down. HBJ said he had told Abbas that climbing down from his tree on no settlement activity so that talks can go forward will require Arab support. But the Egyptians won't allow it.

Senator Kerry noted that Special Envoy Mitchell had made a lot of requests of Arabs but with little success. Leaving Qatar aside, the Chairman asked HBJ for proposed next steps. HBJ said he trusts the Saudis, but because they talk openly to Egypt and do not want to create more problems for Egypt than the Egyptian government already has, it is essential to bring in the small countries and start there.

HBJ suggested one or two GCC members, Morocco (although the King there is hesitant) and Syria as the core membership of an Arab League committee to address Palestinian-Israeli concerns. HBJ told Senator Kerry the inclusion of Syria might surprise him, but having Syria play a role would create jealousy among the Arabs. Some jealously and rivalry is just what the U.S. needs, opined HBJ, to get the process moving.

Iran, Lebanon and Iraq

HBJ said Iran's president views the U.S. as a country that is overstretched and in difficulty as a result of too many commitments. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. economy are the three main problems President Ahmadinejad sees. HBJ observed that a Western attack against Iran for Ahmadinejad would be good politics, because it would allow him to take out his opposition using the war as a pretext. Senator Kerry asked clarification of whether Ahmadinejad had said these things, or if HBJ inferred them from conversation.

Qatar's PM said Ahmadinejad had told him, "We beat the Americans in Iraq; the final battle will be in Iran."

HBJ said putting economic pressure on Iran is the best way to get the leadership to rethink its quest for nuclear weapons. To be successful, he told Senator Kerry, Russia would definitely have to be on board, as would the Central Asian countries bordering Iran that provide food and supplies.

Asked his perception of the state of play with the opposition, HBJ said the U.S. had done a good job of standing back and not becoming the symbol of the opposition. Cracks in the regime are appearing. It is highly significant that many demonstrators ignored Khamenei when he called on them to stop their protests. The four key pillars of Iranian power -- the court, oil sector, imams, and Revolutionary Guards --- all must stick with him, stressed HBJ. There are cracks in the system, but the downfall of the regime may not be in the cards.

Asked what the sanctions should target, HBJ said the money that Iran derives from oil. Depriving Tehran of this revenue would force the regime to negotiate.

Senator Kerry observed that Ahmadinejad was making it easier by his actions. There is wide consensus in the Executive and Legislative branches of Washington to press ahead. Senator Kerry warned that Ahmadinejad "should not equate Afghanistan and Iraq with what he faces."

HBJ encouraged Chairman Kerry to bear in mind that Iran is clever and makes its opponents dizzy in the quest for deals. They will keep you working on a deal and then start from scratch with a new interlocutor. HBJ stressed that Iran will make no deal. Iran wants nuclear weapons, and HBJ said he would not be surprised to see Iran test one to demonstrate to the world its achievement.

On Lebanon, Senator Kerry asked if Iran and Hizballah are ratcheting up their weapons stockpiles as part of Iran's war against Israel. HBJ affirmed that is the case.

On Iraq, HBJ told Senator Kerry that Prime Minister Al-Maliki wants a Shia state, even though the Sunnis (when you count Kurds and non-Kurds) have the majority.

2011-01-28 Cable: The Amir of Qatar discusses Syria, Egypt, and Iran

US State cable 2010-02-23 10DOHA70 details a February 14, 2010 meeting between Senator John Kerry and the Amir of Qatar. In the meeting, the Amir stresses the importance of Israel's return of the Golan Heights to Syria. Hamas "for sure," he said, will accept the 1967 border but will not say it publicly so as to lose popular Palestinian support. The Amir accuses Egypt of delaying an agreement between Israel and Palestine to extend their own role. "According to the Amir, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a memorandum of understanding, but the Egyptians wanted it changed." The Amir offers to deliver a message from the US to Iran.


Chairman Kerry pointed out that Syria's facilitation of arms to Hizballah and its turning a blind eye to missile upgrades in Lebanon do not represent risk-taking in the promotion of peace. The Amir implied that it would take U.S. intervention on the Syrian-Israeli track to address these issues and asked Senator Kerry what he would have Damascus do. The Amir said Syria is ready for peace, but asked if the Israelis are ready. Would Israel accept to resume Turkey's mediation between Syria and Israel? Would the U.S. play a role in advancing the Syria track? The Amir encouraged the U.S. to work the Golan Heights issue first. He stressed that Syrians are very different from Iranians in "mentality," and said the Syrians turned to Iran for support only because they had nowhere else to go. Now is the time, the Amir told Senator Kerry, to reach out to Damascus.

Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. is prepared to play a strong role in bringing about peace in the region. President Obama, said the Chairman, understands that he personally must engage and do so strongly. Chairman Kerry told the Amir he is convinced that we can see great progress in the coming year by moving swiftly from proximity talks, to direct talks between the parties and ending with final status discussions. Senator Kerry noted that one of the biggest problems for Israel is the potential return of 5-6 million Palestinian refugees. The parties broached the return issue in discussions at Taba and agreed that the right of Palestinian return would be subject to later negotiation, pointed out the Chairman. If we can proceed from that point on the right of return, the Senator believes there is an "artful way" to frame the negotiations on borders, land swaps, and Jerusalem as a shared capital.

Any negotiation has its limits, added Senator Kerry, and we know for the Palestinians that control of Al-Aqsa mosque and the establishment of some kind of capital for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not negotiable. For the Israelis, the Senator continued, Israel's character as a Jewish state is not open for negotiation. The non-militarization of an eventual Palestinian state and its borders can nonetheless be resolved through negotiation.

The Amir underscored that Abu Mazen needs Arab support to make the above happen. Hamas "for sure," he said, will accept the 1967 border but will not say it publicly so as to lose popular Palestinian support.

Senator Kerry told the Amir he knew Qatar could help the U.S. but asked how we deal with those who advocate violence. The Amir said the short answer is to work the Syrian track, which means pushing for Israel's return of the Golan Heights to Syria. The Amir said return of the Golan is important not just to Syria but also to Hizballah and Iran. The U.S. must bear in mind that Misha'al, a leader of Hamas based in Damascus, has drawn the conclusion that the Oslo accords were bad for Arafat. He lost the support of his own people and died living under Israeli siege. The Syrians can help Misha'al and others make tough choices, but only if the U.S. demonstrates to Syria early on a willingness to address the Golan. Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. would accept a legitimate discussion of the Golan Heights.

What is more, said the Amir, the U.S. needs to support Turkey's mediation between Israel and Syria. It is important that the U.S. encourage Israel to understand that that resolving the status of the Golan Heights is very important to the United States.

Senator Kerry asked the Amir if Hamas is under pressure given the circumstances in Gaza. The Amir answered by saying that Hamas needs Iranian support. He added that the biggest misconception in the region is that the Syrians, who host Hamas leaders in Damascus, go to Iran because they like the Iranians. This is wrong. Syria goes to those who will not shun them.


The Egyptians have not delivered, said Senator Kerry. The Amir said the Egyptians' goal is to stay in the game and maintain their relationship with the U.S., which is built around brokering Middle East peace, for as long as possible. According to the Amir, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a memorandum of understanding, but the Egyptians wanted it changed. The Amir remarked that he has a feeling he knows which capital (Cairo) is the source of reports that Gaza is under pressure. He said the economic pressure in Gaza on families is not what it was. He offered as an example that Qatar Charity recently offered a family in Gaza 500 USD, but the family declined the gift saying its members had enough to get by and suggested another family that was in more dire need of assistance. The Amir said the notion that a family would turn down money is new.

The Amir told Senator Kerry that everyone knows "Egypt has a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood. Okay, we understand. But Egypt should not expect the world to take external actions that would help it internally."

Asked his advice for President Obama, the Amir recommended the establishment of a small U.S.-Qatar committee to discuss how to proceed. Qatar is close to Hamas, emphasized the Amir, because "we don't play in their internal politics." That does not mean we share their ideology or do not disagree with them. "I can remember many arguments with them (Hamas) on the 1967 border with Israel." The Amir noted that he had mediated with Hamas previously at the U.S. request, namely when he urged Hamas at the previous Administration's request to participate in Palestinian elections.

Returning to the leadership of Hamas, Senator Kerry asked the Amir for his insights into how the leadership, with leaders sitting in both Gaza and Syria, makes decisions. The Amir said the impression that Misha'al sits in Damascus and others take orders from him is wrong. Several key players within Hamas are involved in decisions. They have differences over policy, but "the bottom line is that they all want the Palestinians to take their rights from Israel."


Senator Kerry observed that the international community is moving toward imposing additional economic sanctions on Iran and asked the Amir for his perspective. The Amir answered that his first obligation is to defend the interests of Qatar. Due to the natural gas field Iran shares with Qatar, Qatar will not "provoke a fight" with Iran. He added that in the history of the two countries, "Iran has not bothered us." That said, the Amir noted that Iran is an important country in the Middle East. He faulted the U.S. for "making the mistake of speaking up for protesters" after the disputed Iranian presidential elections.

The Iranian regime is strong, continued the Amir, because President Ahmadinejad is uncorrupted. "That is the secret to his success." Khatami is also not corrupted, but as a reformer he is in a weak position. Rafsanjani, on the other hand, is corrupt.

Senator Kerry lamented that every communication the current Administration has attempted to the Government of Iran has gone back channel and been met with no response. The U.S. needs to talk directly with senior Iranian officials replied the Amir. The Amir then asked, "What if I talk to the Iranian President. What would you have me say?"

Senator Kerry responded, "The U.S. seeks serious discussion and sought to create a new foundation for a relationship based on Iran's non-confrontational compliance with IAEA requirements and other mutual interests." Those interests include dealing with drug-running, the Taliban, and illicit trade. The Chairman told the Amir he feared that Iran still thinks it is dealing with the 1953 America that tried to overthrow the Iranian government.

The Amir responded that you cannot blame them for having that attitude, and Senator Kerry agreed, adding that the U.S. has a very different posture in the post-Cold War world of today. Iran has ambitions; I know this from other regional leaders, said the Senator. These are the first words that come out of their mouths.

Iran wants to be a "big power," agreed the Amir, but what sort? He reminded Senator Kerry the U.S. should not forget that Iranians are Persian and the U.S. needs to approach them in that framework.

Senator Kerry stressed that the U.S. "would love to have that dialogue." The U.S. respects Iranian civilization -- talent, art, culture, etc. It is crazy to continue on this collision course. The region needs schools and jobs, emphasized the Chairman, not another war. The Amir agreed that "demographics are a big worry." Not just for the countries in the region but for the U.S. too.

Many scientific and technological transformations are underway, noted the Senator, "but Iran misinterprets the road to being a great power and the degree to which the international community is concerned about Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons." We are at a "fork in the road," and Iran must choose between confrontation or building partnerships. If the latter, we can open up new opportunities for cooperation in the sciences, technology, education, robotics, energy and other ongoing transformations.

Senator Kerry reported that leaders of regional Arab countries tell me they want nuclear weapons if the Iranians have them. The Amir responded that he did not believe they were serious, but are saying this to put additional pressure on Iran.

The Chairman noted that the disputed Iranian presidential elections may have derailed U.S. efforts to have serious dialogue with Tehran. The Amir agreed, offering that the Israelis are also using Iran's quest for nuclear weapons as a diversion from settling matters with the Palestinians. The historical backdrop of Arab-Persian relations does not help, the Amir added.

Final Thoughts

The Amir advised the U.S. to continue trying to open a dialogue with the Iranian leadership. He also told Senator Kerry the U.S. needs to tell the Israelis they are causing the U.S. to lose the hearts and minds of Muslims. There was a time, such as during the Suez Canal crisis, when the Arabs loved the Americans and disliked the British and French, he said.

Senator Kerry asked the Amir how the U.S. goes about changing its reputation. The Amir said first and foremost the U.S. must do everything in its power to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the best way to begin is by moving first on the Syrian track.

The Chairman of the SFRC said he expects a genuine effort by the President this year on an agreement and expressed his hope that Iranian issues would not complicate matters. The Amir agreed, adding that China likes the distraction for the U.S. as its forces fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator Kerry concurred, noting that China is lending the U.S. money and expanding its influence at U.S. expense. He added that he ran against President George W. Bush saying the war with Iraq was the wrong war in the wrong place and time.

The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100.

2011-01-28 Cable: Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread

US State cable 2009-01-15: 09CAIRO79 is titled SUBJECT: GOE STRUGGLING TO ADDRESS POLICE BRUTALITY. The title is directly contradicted by the cable which concludes The GOE has not begun serious work on trying to transform the police and security services from instruments of power that serve and protect the regime into institutions operating in the public interest.

Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders. ... NGO contacts estimate there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone. Egyptians are bombarded with consistent news reports of police brutality, ranging from high profile incidents such as accidental but lethal police shootings in Salamut and Aswan this past fall (refs B and C) that sparked riots, to reports of police officers shooting civilians following disputes over traffic tickets. In November 2008 alone, there were two incidents of off-duty police officers shooting and killing civilians over petty disputes.

... the police proceeded to beat a female suspect into confessing about others involved in the theft and the whereabouts of the stolen valuables. A contact from an international NGO described witnessing police beat the doorman of an upscale Cairo apartment building into disclosing the apartment number of a suspect. Another contact at a human rights NGO told us that her friends do not report thefts from their apartments because they do not want to subject "all the doormen" in the vicinity to police beatings.

"Police officers feel they are above the law and protected by the public prosecutor." Human rights lawyer XXXXXXXXXXXX attributed police brutality against common criminals, including the use of electric shocks, to the problem of demoralized officers facing long hours and their own economic problems. He asserted that the police will even beat lawyers who enter police stations to defend their clients.

... when MB members mobilize people against the government in a way the regime deems threatening, such as the April 6 Facebook strike (ref D). According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the MB-affiliated blogger and "April 6 Movement" member XXXXXXXXXXXX whom police arrested November 20 (ref A) falls into this category, and the GOE is probably torturing him to scare other "April 6" members into abandoning their political activities. XXXXXXXXXXXX's assessment tracks with "April 6" member XXXXXXXXXXXX's accounts of his own torture and the alleged police sexual molestation of a female "April 6" activist this past November (ref A). Bloggers close to XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that following his arrest he was tortured severely with electric shocks and needed to be hospitalized, but that security forces stopped the torture when he began cooperating.

... alleged standing orders from the Interior Ministry between 2000 and 2006 for the police to shoot, beat and humiliate judges in order to undermine judicial independence ...

For example, in October 2008, a court sentenced a policeman to three years in prison for beating and drowning a fisherman. In November 2008, a court sentenced two policemen to three years in prison for hooking a man to their car and dragging him to his death. XXXXXXXXXXXXX characterized the sentences as "light," in proportion to the crimes, but commented that any prison sentences are an important development toward holding the police responsible for crimes.

2011-01-28 Egypt is on fire

It is 8:00pm in Cairo and protesters are still out in the streets defying the curfew that went into effect two hours ago; it bans anyone from the streets until 7 a.m. In Cairo the ruling party headquarters is on fire. Internet, SMS, and cellphone connections are now being interfered with, but earlier we had this from the Guardian's running blog:

4:45pm A downtown police station in Cairo, police cars and gas tanks outside the police station are on fire, which could account for the number of loud explosions being heard, al-Jazeera reports.

It is the fourth day of unprecedented protests by tens of thousands demanding an end to President Mubarak's rule. Mubarak has imposed this curfew in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez, where all day police and demonstrators have been fighting running battles. Security forces fire rubber bullets, teargas, and water cannon at protesters. That won't be enough because by now the struggle has grown from the major cities to towns and villages. Protesters appealed to the police to join them and at the same time worked to outlast and tire the overwhelmed police.

Now Mubarak has put the Army in charge of security because the police have given up and joined the protesters! By 3:00pm Cairo time OllieGarkey, a blogger at the DailyKos was reporting:

Breaking: Police Siding with Protesters in Egypt. Mubarak regime falling.

At 1:33pm Peter Bouckaert from Human Rights Watch Alexandria reported:

The police have now given up fighting the protesters. The police and protesters are now talking, with protesters bringing water and vinegar (for teargas) to the police. Afternoon prayer has just been called and hundreds are praying in front of the mosque in east Alexandria.

Similar scenes have reportedly been playing out through out Egypt as the beleaguered police accepted water and vinegar from the protesters because because while it was the police that brought the tear gas, they neglected to bring any gas masks.

So now the army is being sent in as the last support for a crumbling regime. Hundreds have been arrested, dozens have been killed and El Baradei is reported to be under house arrest. As night closes in on this forth and most eventful day of the Egyptian Revolution people are preparing to put an end to Mubarak's rule.

This mornings France24 report on events in Egypt and Tunisia

France24 Interview with Amy Hamzawy of Carnegie Middle East Center

2011-01-28 FBI executes 40 search warrants for DDoS attacks, UK arrests 5

The FBI announced on Thursday that it has executed over 40 search warrants in the United States today against individuals who are thought to have participated in cyber attacks against "major companies and organizations" who cut off sources of funding to WikiLeaks. The FBI states in its press release:

A group calling itself “Anonymous” has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they conducted them in protest of the companies’ and organizations’ actions. The attacks were facilitated by the software tools the group makes available for free download on the Internet. The victims included major U.S. companies across several industries.

The press release coincides with events also unfolding in France and UK.

Paris police also announced on Thursday that a French teenager suspected of involvement in the DDoS attacks in the United States was taken into custody for a few hours last December.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Scotland Yard arrested five young men, aged 15, 16, 19, 20 and 26. They are also suspected of having carried out DDoS attacks and are said to face a maximum of ten years in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 pounds.

In an open letter to the UK, Anonymous pointed out that

the maximum sentence these 5 anons could be given under the Computer Misuse Act is 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to £5000. We want you to realize just how ridiculous these sentences are, especially given the exact nature of a DDoS attack and its lack of permanent damage to the target website...

The fact that thousands of people from all over the world felt the need to participate in these attacks on organisations targeting Wikileaks and treating it as a public threat, rather than a common good, should be something that sets you thinking. You can easily arrest individuals, but you cannot arrest an ideology.

This is the third reported set of arrests related to the pro-WikiLeaks DDoS attacks; a Dutch teenager and Anonymous IRC operator was arrested on December 8, 2010. That same week, a second Dutch teenager was also arrested and accused of the DDoS attacks.

Other individuals arrested for similar attacks on the Church of Scientology have in fact been sentenced to serve time in prison. Last year, an Anonymous teenager in New Jersey received a $37,500 fine, was sentenced to one year in prison and 2 years probation.

2011-01-27: Pirate Party statement concerning Anonymous arrests

2011-01-28 In Jordan Thousands Demand New Government

Thousands of people took to the streets today in Jordan demanding that Samir Rifa, the Prime Minister step down. They also demanded the government curb food prices, inflation and unemployment.

For the third consecutive Friday over three thousand activists from the trade unions, the main Islamist opposition group and leftists rallied in the capital.

Al Jazeera reported they were

waving colourful banners reading: "Send the corrupt guys to court".

The crowd denounced Samir Rifai's, the prime minister, and his unpopular policies.

Many shouted: "Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians.''

Another 2,500 people also took to the streets in six other cities across the country after the noon prayers. Those protests also called for Rifai's ouster.

Members of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan's largest opposition party, swelled the ranks of the demonstrators, massing outside the al-Husseini mosque in Amman and filling the downtown streets with their prayer lines.

The government has already made some concessions to the people as a result of these protests. In the past two weeks Rifai has promised a $550 million package of new subsides for food and fuel. It also includes a pay raise for civil servants and security personnel.

King Adgullah has also promised some reforms, particularly on the controversial election law but he is unlikely to give up his right to choose the prime minister and the cabinet. It would appear that the time when that would be acceptable to people in the Jordan has passed so we can expect this struggle to continue.

2011-01-28 Mubarak refuses to step down

Everything changed forever in Egypt today.

In Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez hundreds of thousands of Egyptians defied a government-imposed curfew to continue their protests, which have grown to involve every section of the country. Many of the police have come over to the side of the people, and the military had to be sent in. The army was welcomed by the protesters.

The headquarters of the ruling NDP party was burnt down in Cairo. The government headquarters was burnt down. Around Egypt more than twenty police stations were set afire. In some places police stations were seized by the people and armories were looted.

Five people have been killed in Cairo; eleven were killed in Suez; 170 have been wounded in Suez and 1,030 in Cairo.

Just after midnight Al Jazeera blogged:

12:07 am - We're seeing a lot of rumors right now. Some reports have indicated that Egyptian government officials and top business have been taking private planes out of the country, but the Cairo airport has denied this. We've even seen rumors about President Mubarak's whereabouts, that he is in the Sinai Peninsula resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, or possibly that he has left the country. In the absence of a statement from Mubarak himself, nobody knows.

Minutes later Mubarak appeared on TV. Al Jazeera described his speech this way:

Mubarak promised to press ahead with social, economic and political reforms.

He appealed directly to the people and said he understood they wanted him to address poverty, employment and democratic reform and pledged progress.

Mubarak urged calm, adding that only because of his own reforms over the years, were people able to protest.

He announced that he was sacking his cabinet but not that he is leaving himself.

The people have a vote in that. Initial reaction on the street to Mubarak's speech is to step up the protests.

2011-01-28 Tunisian forces gas demonstrators

Reuters reports that hundreds of Tunisian protesters set up tents and distributed food for their 24-hour sit-in outside government offices Friday. Security forces chased protesters through central Tunis, firing tear gas and dispersing the demonstrators, many of whom have been participating in a round-the-clock five day sit-in "demanding the resignation of the interim government."

Banners hang from the windows of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi's office. The Ottoman-era building is covered in graffiti, some demanding the government go, some just hailing their own home town.

SBZ," is tagged along the walls, referring to Sidi Bouzid, the marginalised central province where Tunisia's revolt began.

Many are not satisfied with Thursday's cabinet reshuffle, which purged the government of 12 members of the old guard, and said they would stay until Ghannouchi himself resigns.

2011-01-28 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables show close US relationship with Egyptian president

"US embassy cable predicted Hosni Mubarak, if still alive in 2011, would run again for presidency 'and, inevitably, win'.

Secret US embassy cables sent from Cairo in the past two years reveal that the Obama administration wanted to maintain a close political and military relationship with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, who is now facing a popular uprising."

Read more

The Guardian: US reported 'routine' police brutality in Egypt, WikiLeaks cables show

"Torture widely used against criminals, Islamist detainees, opposition activists and bloggers, embassy cables suggest.

Police brutality in Egypt is "routine and pervasive" and the use of torture so widespread that the Egyptian government has stopped denying it exists, according to leaked cables released today by WikiLeaks."

Read more

The Guardian: US embassy cables: Egypt's bloggers take on key role as political activists

"Egypt's bloggers are playing an increasingly important role in broadening the scope of acceptable political and social discourse, and self-expression. Bloggers' discussions of sensitive issues, such as sexual harassment, sectarian tension and the military, represent a significant change from five years ago, and have influenced society and the media."

Read cable

The Guardian: US embassy cables: Mubarak: Egypt's president-for-life

"President Mubarak last visited Washington in April 2004, breaking a twenty year tradition of annual visits to the White House. Egyptians view President Mubara