(Part one of this series is available here. Please also see WikiLeaks v. United States: The Pentagon Papers redux?)
Today, Jennifer Robinson, one of the lawyers for Julian Assange, told The Guardian that the US government may be about to press charges against Julian Assange under the Espionage Act. She said that the legal team had heard from "several different US lawyers rumours that an indictment was on its way or had happened already, but we don't know". Ms Robinson told ABC News that "Our position of course is that we don't believe it (the Espionage Act) applies to Mr. Assange and that in any event he's entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of Wikileaks and any prosecution under the Espionage Act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organizations in the U.S."
Rumours about the possibility of Julian Assange having been indicted by a grand jury, whose proceedings are secret, have been circulating for a while. The Christian Science Monitor had a few days ago quoted Stephen Vladeck, an expert in national security law at American University, who said that an empaneled grand jury could have already been considering the case. "We wouldn’t know what they’re doing until the whole thing is concluded," he said. The Monitor also quoted CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin, who said "I would not be at all surprised if there was a sealed arrest warrant currently in existence."
Hundreds rally for WikiLeaks founder, reported the Sydney Morning Herald today. "We're here to defend WikiLeaks, to defend our right to freedom of information, to defend our right to know what our elected representatives are up to," Jessica Payne, the event organizer, said. "We are all Assange, and if they want to take down Assange, they have to take down all of us."
Speakers at the event included former Australian Democrats senator and now Greens member Andrew Bartlett, and Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope. "It's entirely inappropriate that people be extradited simply to be questioned as appears to be happening in this case," Mr Cope said. He added that government attempted to restrict freedom of speech "to protect themselves from being exposed to their dishonesty, their corruption and their mistakes," reported the Herald.
A statement from prominent investigative journalist John Pilger was also read at the rally. "The defence of Julian Assange is one of the most important issues of my lifetime," Mr Pilger's letter said. "There are now two superpowers in the world — the military power of Washington and the power of public opinion and justice, which Wikileaks represents."
The Brisbane Times quotes one of the rally participants, John Jiggens, a veteran of independent media in Brisbane:
John Pilger: Statement in support of Sydney rally
"The defence of Julian Assange and Wikileaks is one of the most important issues of my lifetime. There are now two superpowers in the world — the military power of Washington and the power of public opinion and justice, which Wikileaks represents.
If the Australian prime minister doesn’t understand this, we Australians need to remind her that she may head a mercenary government but we are not a mercenary people.
Those of us in London who are working to free Julian, knowing that the Swedish prosecution is a political stunt that would never produce a fair trial, will be at his side, and we call on the support of every decent Australian."
Robert Scheer, TruthDig: From Jefferson to Assange
"All you need to know about Julian Assange’s value as a crusading journalist is that The New York Times and most of the world’s other leading newspapers have led daily with important news stories based on his WikiLeaks releases. All you need to know about the collapse of traditional support for the constitutional protection of a free press is that Dianne Feinstein, the centrist Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has called for Assange “to be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.”[...]
Get Up! is hosting a petition in support of WikiLeaks. The campaign organizers also plan to take out ads in The New York Times and Washington Times. The petition reads:
"Dear President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder:
We, as Australians, condemn calls for violence, including assassination, against Australian citizen and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, or for him to be labeled a terrorist, enemy combatant or be treated outside the ordinary course of justice in any way.
As Thomas Jefferson said, "information is the currency of democracy." Publishing leaked information in collaboration with major news outlets, as Wikileaks and Mr. Assange have done, is not a terrorist act.
Australia and the United States are the strongest of allies. Our soldiers serve side by side and we’ve experienced, and condemned, the consequences of terrorism together. To label Wikileaks a terrorist organisation is an insult to those Australians and Americans who have lost their lives to acts of terrorism and to terrorist forces.
If Wikileaks or their staff have broken international or national laws, let that case be heard in a just and fair court of law. At the moment, no such charges have been brought.
We are writing as Australians to say what our Government should have: all Australian citizens deserve to be free from persecution, threats of violence and detention without charge, especially from our friend and ally, the United States.
We call upon you to stand up for our shared democratic principles of the presumption of innocence and freedom of information."
Please join us in signing the petition here.
Personal Democracy Forum presents:
A Symposium on Wikileaks and Internet Freedom
Saturday, December 11, from 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM (ET), New York City
Join us to explore these questions with:
Emily Bell, Director of Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School
Esther Dyson, EDventure
Allison Fine, Co-author, The Networked Nonprofit
Charles Ferguson, Director, Inside Job and No End in Sight
Arianna Huffington, Co-founder and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post
Jeff Jarvis, Professor, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
Andrew Keen, Author of the forthcoming book, Digital Vertigo: An Anti-Social Manifesto
Gideon Lichfield, Deputy digital editor, The Economist
Rebecca MacKinnon, Senior fellow, New America Foundation and author of the forthcoming book, Consent of the Networked
Mark Pesce, Author and futurist
Andrew Rasiej, Co-founder, Personal Democracy Forum
Jay Rosen, NYU Journalism School and PressThink.org
Jack Rosenthal, Senior fellow, Atlantic Philanthropies
Carne Ross, Director, Independent Diplomat and former UK Diplomat
Douglas Rushkoff, Author, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age
Micah L. Sifry, Co-founder, Personal Democracy Forum
Katrin Verclas, Principal, New Rights Group
Tom Watson, Author, CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World
Dave Winer, Editor, Scripting News and Visiting Scholar, NYU
We would like to remind you that a few events are taking place today, Thursday, December 9:
Melbourne: A meeting to discuss Wikileaks' Julian Assange's legal and political position
Speakers: Julian Burnside AO QC, Peter Gordon, John Faine and Professor Spencer Zifcak
Date: Thursday 9 December 2010
Venue: the Law Institute of Victoria, 470 Bourke St, Melbourne
Brisbane: Rally in support of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks
Date and time: Thursday, December 9, 5.30pm
Location: Brisbane Square CBD
Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=153885131325141
New York, NY: Thursday, December 9, 6:30pm - 0:30am
Location: New York Times Bldg, New York, NY 10018
Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=155203287858724
New York, NY: Thursday, December 9, 5:00pm
Location: Federal Building, Broadway between Worth and Duane St, NY, NY
(A, C, E, R, 4, 5, 6 Trains to Chamber and/or Brooklyn Bridge stops)
Event page: http://www.iacenter.org/nyc_actions/
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=182681678414096
Organized by: International Action Center, 212-633-6646
Please spread the word and attend if you can! For details on other upcoming global WikiLeaks support events, please click here.
New events in support of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been announced as below. Our current list of events is available here. Note to event organizers: please email us at email@example.com with updated event information, such as event pages.
Perth: Friday, December 10, 6:00pm
Location: Wesley Church, corner of William & Hay Streets, Perth City
Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=152006861514227
Canberra: Thursday, December 16, 5:30pm
Location: Garema Place, Civic
Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=109503732454066
New York City, NY: Saturday, December 11 at 12:00 noon
Location: British Consulate-General at 845 Third Ave.
Minneapolis, MN: Monday, December 13, 4:30pm - 5:30pm
Location: Senator Klobuchar's Minneapolis Office, 1200 Washington Ave S., Minneapolis, MN
Event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=109641875774406
Amsterdam: Saturday, December 11, 2:00pm
Location: De Dam
Event page: http://www.dejimachan.org/jihad/
London: Tuesday, December 14, 11:00am - 6:00pm
Location: City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, 70 Horseferry Rd, Westminster, London SW1P
Directions: Google maps
Nearby stations: St. James Park, Victoria and Pimlico
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Consult us before using intelligence to commit war crimes, US tells Uganda
"The US told Uganda to let it know when the army was going to commit war crimes using American intelligence – but did not try to dissuade it from doing so, the US embassy cables suggest.
America was supporting the Ugandan government in its fight against rebel movement the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), providing information and $4.4m (£2.8m) worth of military hardware a year.[...]
[US Ambassador Jerry] Lanier continued: "Uganda understands the need to consult with the US in advance if the [Ugandan army] intends to use US-supplied intelligence to engage in operations not government [sic] by the law of armed conflict. Uganda understands and acknowledges that misuse of this intelligence could cause the US to end this intelligence sharing relationship."
Nowhere, though, does it appear that the ambassador directly told the Ugandans to observe the rules of war."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Shell's grip on Nigerian state revealed
"The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.
The company's top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew "everything that was being done in those ministries". She boasted that the Nigerian government had "forgotten" about the extent of Shell's infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations."
Global activist organization Avaaz has launched a petition titled Wikileaks: Stop the crackdown. The text reads:
"Whatever we think of WikiLeaks, the massive campaign of intimidation against it is sending a chill through free speech and media advocates everywhere. Top US politicians has even gone as far as calling WikiLeaks a terrorist organization and suggested assassination of its staff, and the organization has come under massive corporate attack to shut it down.
Right now, dozens of governments and corporations are being heavily pressured to join the crackdown -- we urgently need the public to take a stand and make sure our governments protect our democracies and rule of law.
Sign the petition to stop the crackdown below and forward this email to everyone -- let's get 1 million voices against the crackdown this week!"
"To the U.S. government and corporations linked to Wikileaks:
We call on you to stop the crackdown on Wikileaks and its partners immediately. We urge you to respect the democratic principles and laws of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. If Wikileaks and the journalists it works with have violated any laws they should be pursued in the courts with due process. They should not be subjected to an extra-judicial campaign of intimidation."
Please join us in signing the petition here.
The Bolivian government is now hosting WikiLeaks Cablegate documents on its official servers: http://wikileaks.vicepresidencia.gob.bo/, under the banner of the Vice President's office and the office of the President of the Legislative Assembly. The statement reads:
"The Vice President of the State of Bolivia and the President of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, seeking to democratize access to information available to the public, are making available the documents of the Department of State of the United States, published by Wikileaks, which refer to Bolivia. All of them are available in their original language (English) and those that contain information relevant to the country, beyond simple references are translated into Castilian or being in the process of being translated, a situation in which we ask for your patience.
The search engine offers search alternatives according to the relevance of the document, its creation date, language of the source institution, etc. We firmly believe that this site will expand access to this vital information and facilitate the work of many citizens."
In a reversal from the Australian government's previous pronouncements on Julian Assange, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said today in a declaration to Reuters that "Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network. The Americans are responsible for that." He added that the leaks raised questions about the "adequacy" of US data security, and that "Maybe 2 million or so people having access to this stuff is a bit of a problem," referring to the number of personnel who had access to the SIPRNET network.
Join EFF in Standing up Against Internet Censorship
December 7, 2010
Call to Action by Shari Steele
"Over the past few weeks, we here at EFF have watched as whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has fueled an emotionally charged debate about the secrecy of government information and the people's right to know. We have welcomed this debate, and the fact that there have been myriad views is the embodiment of the freedom of expression upon which this country was founded.
However, we've been greatly troubled by a recent shift in focus. The debate about the wisdom of releasing secret government documents has turned into a massive attack on the right of intermediaries to publish truthful information. Suddenly, WikiLeaks has become the Internet's scapegoat, with a Who's Who of American and foreign companies choosing to shun the site.
Let's be clear — in the United States, at least, WikiLeaks has a fundamental right to publish truthful political information. And equally important, Internet users have a fundamental right to read that information and voice their opinions about it. We live in a society that values freedom of expression and shuns censorship. Unfortunately, those values are only as strong as the will to support them — a will that seems to be dwindling now in an alarming way.
STATEMENT: "We will not be gagged"
Following the detention of Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assangem, Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said:
“Today, Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange was refused bail by a UK court. While we are troubled by this bizarre decision, we know Julian is grateful for the support of both his legal team and prominent figures such as Ken Loach, Jemima Khan and John Pilger.
“However, this will not stifle Wikileaks. The release of the US Embassy Cables – the biggest leak in history – will still continue. This evening, the latest batch of cables were released, and our media partners released their next batch of stories.
“We will not be gagged, either by judicial action or corporate censorship. Today Visa joined Mastercard, Paypal, Amazon, EveryDNS and others in cutting off their links.
“Wikileaks is still online. The full site is duplicated in more than 500 locations. Every day, the cables are loaded more than 50 million times.
“US Senator Joe Lieberman today attacked the New York Times for its decision to publish the cables, just days after calling for companies to boycott Wikileaks.
“Just minutes later, the State Department announced the US will host next year’s UNESCO Press Freedom day. The irony is not lost on us. We hope in future, UNESCO celebrates press freedom somewhere where it exists.”
Visit the Cablegate site at http://www.wikileaks.ch/cablegate
The Australian has posted today an op-ed written by Julian Assange. In it, he talks about the ideas that inspired WikiLeaks, the concept of scientific journalism, the role of the media in a democratic society, the threats that he and WikiLeaks have been receiving and the Australian government's failure to respond to them. Also addressed are the contradictory and false accusations that on the one hand WikiLeaks disclosures are very dangerous but on the other hand that they are "nothing new," some of the most significant revelations in the Cablegate documents, and the reasons why the media's right to report the truth must be defended.
A few excerpts are reproduced below:
"Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.
People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.
If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.
WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain ‘s The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.
Visa became today the fifth financial institution to suspend payments to WikiLeaks, after Moneybookers, PayPal, Mastercard, and PostFinance. A spokesman said: "Visa Europe has taken action to suspend Visa payment acceptance on WikiLeaks' website pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules," reports the Press Association.
The Guardian wrote: "Charles Arthur, the Guardian's technology editor, points out that while MasterCard and Visa have cut WikiLeaks off you can still use those cards to donate to overtly racist organisations such as the Knights Party, which is supported by the Ku Klux Klan.
The Ku Klux Klan website directs users to a site called Christian Concepts. It takes Visa and MasterCard donations for users willing to state that they are 'white and not of racially mixed descent. I am not married to a non-white. I do not date non-whites nor do I have non-white dependents. I believe in the ideals of western Christian civilisation and profess my belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God.'"
Probably no further comment is needed. (You can still donate to WikiLeaks via other methods.)
CLA released an official statement today:
Civil Liberties Australia unreservedly supports Julian Assange's right to operate as a journalist/blogger, and to post leaked material online. By doing so, he commits no legitimate offence we're aware of in the USA or Australia*.
In fact, he is following in a proud US tradition, along the lines of Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with leaker 'Deep Throat' in the Nixon era, and the now-revered leaker Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers at the time of the Vietnam war.
If the person who leaked the material to Assange has broken a US law, it would be the same law that leaker Ellsberg would have broken in the case of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 during Vietnam...and Ellsberg is now a US hero.
If Assange himself has broken a US law, it would be the same law that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke in the Watergate – Deep Throat case which led to the impeachment and departure in disgrace of President Richard Nixon. Both journalists are American heroes, with at least one movie and many books about them and their leaking/reporting ways.
What was the problem in both the Pentagon Papers and Watergate cases? US military and Administration officials were caught lying.
Plus ca change...
As regards Assange and the Australian Government, CLA is alarmed that a government can so readily abandon an Australian citizen as Prime Minister Gillard and Attorney-General McClelland appeared to do at the outset of this matter.
CLA recalls how even extremely conservative Australians eventually rebelled and forced the Howard Liberal Government to do something to help David Hicks, whom that government had abandoned to fabricated American laws and prison-without-reason at the Guantanamo Bay hellhole in Cuba.
Support WikiLeaks rally called
Supporters of the website Wikileaks will mobilise on Friday (10/12/10) to protest against the backlash it has faced for its release of more than 250,000 US government cables.
The protest will hear from independent journalist Antony Loewenstein, award-winning author of My Israel Question. Pirate Party spokesperson Simon Frew will also speak. Other speakers will be announced soon.
The rally date coincides with International Human Rights Day. Rally organisers say the Australian government has failed to uphold the human rights of Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.
“The Australian government should be ashamed for its attacks on Wikileaks, which has been charged with no crime”, spokesperson Simon Butler said.
“Australia should not join the campaign to censor Wikileaks. Wikileaks has released evidence of government lies and duplicity — information that, as citizens, we have a right to know.
“We want the Gillard government to make sure Julian Assange has the same basic rights as every other Australian citizen. Threats have been made against Assange’s life, the Australian government has a duty to protect him, not threaten him.”
Butler said community support for Wikileaks was very high. “We expect a good turnout to the rally. There is a great deal of anger at what’s happening. The bid to silence Wikileaks threatens the rights of everyone.”
The rally will take place at Sydney Town Hall @ 1pm, Friday December 10.
Rally information: [contact details redacted on request]
Media contact: Simon Butler 0421 231 011
A number of prominent Australian and international personalities have drafted an open letter to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in protest of the government's treatment of Julian Assange. We are taking the liberty of reproducing the letter below. Please visit the ABC site to see all the signatories and add your support:
"Dear Prime Minister,
We note with concern the increasingly violent rhetoric directed towards Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.
“We should treat Mr Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him,” writes conservative columnist Jeffrey T Kuhner in the Washington Times.
William Kristol, former chief of staff to vice president Dan Quayle, asks, “Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are?”
“Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?” writes the prominent US pundit Jonah Goldberg.
“The CIA should have already killed Julian Assange,” says John Hawkins on the Right Wing News site.
Sarah Palin, a likely presidential candidate, compares Assange to an Al Qaeda leader; Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator and potential presidential contender, accuses Assange of “terrorism”.
And so on and so forth.
Such calls cannot be dismissed as bluster. Over the last decade, we have seen the normalisation of extrajudicial measures once unthinkable, from ‘extraordinary rendition’ (kidnapping) to ‘enhanced interrogation’ (torture).
In that context, we now have grave concerns for Mr Assange’s wellbeing.
Irrespective of the political controversies surrounding WikiLeaks, Mr Assange remains entitled to conduct his affairs in safety, and to receive procedural fairness in any legal proceedings against him.
As is well known, Mr Assange is an Australian citizen.
(If you missed the previous installments in this series, please click here.)
New Zealand Herald: Editorial: Red alert over WikiLeaks unnecessary
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has suggested the disclosure "puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems". Such language does not bode well for a cogent and calculated response. In fact, the intelligence information released so far contains nothing to substantiate Mrs Clinton's claims.[...]
Obviously, Washington is embarrassed. But, so far, that is all. There has, contrary to the Secretary of State's view, been no irresponsible naming and endangering of individual lives or national security.
Much of the credit for this must go to WikiLeaks' decision, as with military documents released this year, to rely on three major newspapers - the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel - for a reasoned analysis of the cables. This has been no anarchic exercise, based on a naive view that it is right and proper for all information to be in the public domain.[...]
The cork is out of the bottle. If WikiLeaks is silenced, others will pick up its ideas."
Paul Craig Roberts, CounterPunch: What the Wiki-Saga Teaches Us
"The reaction to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange tells us all we need to know about the total corruption of our “modern” world, which in fact is a throwback to the Dark Ages.
Some member of the United States government released to WikiLeaks the documents that are now controversial. The documents are controversial, because they are official US documents and show all too clearly that the US government is a duplicitous entity whose raison d’etre is to control every other government.
(This article originally appeared in Libération)
"So why so much ado about these leaks? For one thing, they say what any savvy observer already knows: that the embassies, at least since the end of World War II, and since heads of state can call each other up or fly over to meet for dinner, have lost their diplomatic function and, but for the occasional ceremonial function, have morphed into espionage centres. Anyone who watches investigative documentaries knows that full well, and it is only out of hypocrisy that we feign ignorance. Still, repeating that in public constitutes a breach of the duty of hypocrisy, and puts American diplomacy in a lousy light.[...]
But let’s turn to the more profound significance of what has occurred. Formerly, back in the days of Orwell, every power could be conceived of as a Big Brother watching over its subjects’ every move. The Orwellian prophecy came completely true once the powers that be could monitor every phone call made by the citizen, every hotel he stayed in, every toll road he took and so on and so forth. The citizen became the total victim of the watchful eye of the state. But when it transpires, as it has now, that even the crypts of state secrets are not beyond the hacker’s grasp, the surveillance ceases to work only one-way and becomes circular. The state has its eye on every citizen, but every citizen, or at least every hacker – the citizens’ self-appointed avenger – can pry into the state’s every secret.[...]
One last observation: In days of yore, the press would try to figure out what was hatching sub rosa inside the embassies. Nowadays, it’s the embassies that are asking the press for the inside story."
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists
"Saudi Arabia is the world's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.
"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," she said. Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates."
The Guardian: Brazil denied existence of Islamist militants, WikiLeaks cables show
"Brazil's government covered up the existence of Islamist terrorist suspects in São Paulo and border areas in an apparent bid to protect the country's image, according to secret US documents released by WikiLeaks.
The administration of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva publicly denied that militant Islamists were active in Brazil, even while its law enforcement agencies co-operated closely with the US in monitoring suspects.
"Despite publicly expressed sentiments of high-level officials denying the existence of proven terrorist activity on Brazilian soil, Brazil's intelligence and law enforcement services are rightly concerned that terrorists could exploit Brazilian territory to support and facilitate terrorist attacks, whether domestically or abroad," said a US embassy cable."