Sunday last week it started snowing again. It seemed like it would never stop as it was snowing the whole day. Yet another thick layer of snow. A layer that will sound-proof our streets. Snow has a funny effect like that, the ability to make you feel like you are in room that muffles sound -- while being outside. So you might say that snow adds a layer of silence in the streets. A barrier of silence, preventing sound to travel far, almost stopping sound from being heard -- and not to mention words.
So many people have said so many things in the last days against and in favor of secrets of state that it is really hard not to get lost between the words and the feelings that those words expose. And this is maybe one of the most frustrating realities of the debate: feelings are, instead of ideas, what determine the discussion, which could not be any worse. People from the spheres of political power—plus the military, the media and the most determinant group of the corporations—have reacted with embarrassment, which is understandable due to the nature of the secrets disclosed but unacceptable coming from institutions that carry such authority and therefore such responsibility. The embarrassment has turned into rage, a completely misguided idea of nationalism, abuse of power, and a sense of pride that in not so important circumstances would move us to spontaneous laughter.
As many wags have noted, the disclosures of Wikileaks have subjected the US Empire and its operatives to a full-body scan. Turnaround is fair play, because, until now, in the US, the powerless masses are subject to arbitrary pat downs and body scans, while the powerful and connected are massaged by privilege and ensconced in immunity.
Dan Gillmor, Salon: Defend WikiLeaks or lose free speech
"Journalists cover wars by not taking sides. But when the war is on free speech itself, neutrality is no longer an option.
The WikiLeaks releases are a pivotal moment in the future of journalism. They raise any number of ethical and legal issues for journalists, but one is becoming paramount.
As I said last week, and feel obliged to say again today, our government -- and its allies, willing or coerced, in foreign governments and corporations -- are waging a powerful war against freedom of speech.
WikiLeaks may well make us uncomfortable in some of what it does, though in general I believe it's done far more good than harm so far. We need to recognize, however, as Mathew Ingram wrote over the weekend, that "Like It or Not, WikiLeaks is a Media Entity." What our government is trying to do to WikiLeaks now is lawless in stunning ways, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald forcefully argued today.[...]
Media organizations with even half a clue need to recognize what is at stake at this point. It's more than immediate self-interest, namely their own ability to do their jobs. It's about the much more important result if they can't. If journalism can routinely be shut down the way the government wants to do this time, we'll have thrown out free speech in this lawless frenzy."
The Hindu: Editorial: Digital McCarthyism
I have tried, I have really tried, to explain the internet to the US DoD. I have said it was a flock of birds, some starfish, even a samizdat movement (ok that was Wikileaks twitter). Let’s try again. Remember when people used to “surf the net”? Well, that’s because it’s kind of like an ocean.
(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."
Ryan Gallagher, Open Democracy: Wikileaks: the truth is not treason
"As international reaction testifies, the repercussions of Cablegate are massive. Wikileaks is changing the world without invitation, and the political establishment does not approve.[...]
“You can kill a man but you can't kill an idea,” as the civil rights activist Medgar Evers once said. And an idea is precisely what Wikileaks has become. It is no longer simply a website – it is a pure expression of democratic ideals, a philosophy realised by the force of technology. The powerful may condemn and attempt to repress Wikileaks and all it represents, but the situation has long since spun far from their control. Facilitated by the internet, a new battleground has been established. All traditions now hang in the balance and all bets are off."
Matthew Down, National Journal: To Tell the Truth
"Everyone in Washington claims to support transparency and government openness during campaign season and when it’s popular to do so. They castigate the other side when it does things in secret and suggest that its intentions must be nefarious if it is unwilling to make its deliberations public. But when an organization discloses how our foreign policy is conducted, some of these same people claim that the release will endanger lives or threaten national security, or that the founder of WikiLeaks is a criminal.
When did we decide that we trust the government more than its citizens? And that revealing the truth about the government is wrong? And why is the media complicit in this? Did we not learn anything from the run-up to the Iraq war when no one asked hard questions about the justifications for the war and when we accepted statements from government officials without proper pushback?[...]
If we want to restore trust in our government, maybe we can start by telling the truth, keeping fewer secrets, and respecting the privacy of average citizens a little more. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please; you can never have both.”"
Guy Rundle, Crikey: WikiLeaks -- time for a register
"The first four stories on the UK news tonight were all either created by, or transformed by, the WikiLeaks Cablegate releases.
The governor of the Bank of England has been revealed as no benign public servant, but a player, trying to push the incoming government towards a harsher, more purely Thatcherite economic policy, and worried that they lacked the guts to do it; the Sri Lankan President was greeted with a huge demonstration supercharged with revelations of government involvement in massacres of Tamils; the "special relationship" is being battered by revelations of non-reciprocity on extradition, spy flyovers and the like; and even the separate news of Russia's winning the 2018 World Cup was set in the context of its utter corruption -- something that many people now felt they knew as much about as the elite, dictating the policy we should take towards them.
How long this will go on no-one knows. But while it does, power relations are being subtly transformed in ways that may have effects for some time to come. Once WikiLeaks manage to secure service, and eventually place the Cablegate logs online, there will be three huge volumes -- the Iraq logs, the Afghan logs and Cablegate -- which effectively constitute an alternative history of the present."
Jim Naureckas, FAIR: WikiLeaks Hasn't 'Leaked' Anything
"Actually, Julian Assange didn't leak anything--he can't, because he didn't have access to classified documents. Someone (or someones) who did have such access leaked those documents to Assange's WikiLeaks, which, as a journalistic organization, made them available to the world, both directly and through other media partners.
This distinction, which is widely ignored in commentary on WikiLeaks, is actually quite important, because the ethical obligations of a government official with a security clearance are quite different from those of a media outlet.[...]
To treat Assange as a leaker when he is, in fact, a journalist is not only morally confusing, it's quite dangerous to journalists in general. If the government can declare Assange to be spy or a terrorist because he's published classified documents he's received, every investigative journalist who does the same thing is in deep trouble."
John Naughton: What the attacks on WikiLeaks tell us
"Like most people, I’ve only read a fraction of what’s been published by WikiLeaks, but one thing that might explain the official hysteria about the revelations is the way they comprehensively expose the way political elites in Western democracies have been lying to their electorates. The leaks make it abundantly clear not just that the US-Anglo-European adventure in Afghanistan is doomed (because even the dogs in the street know that, as we say in Ireland), but more importantly that the US and UK governments privately admit that too.
The problem is that they cannot face their electorates — who also happen to be the taxpayers who are funding this folly — and tell them this.[...]
What WikiLeaks is exposing is the way our democratic system has been hollowed out. Governments and Western political elites have been shown to be incompetent (New Labour and Bush Jnr in not regulating the financial sector; all governments in the area of climate change), corrupt (Fianna Fail in Ireland, Berlusconi in Italy; all governments in relation to the arms trade) or recklessly militaristic (Bush Jnr and Tony Blair in Iraq) and yet nowhere have they been called to account in any effective way. Instead they have obfuscated, lied or blustered their way through. And when, finally, the veil of secrecy is lifted in a really effective way, their reaction is to try to silence the messenger — as Noam Chomsky pointed out."
Bernard Keane, Crikey: Missing the point on WikiLeaks
"This rolling series of releases — and WikiLeaks has barely begun to release the amount of material it has — is raising fundamental issues not merely about statecraft and diplomacy but information, power and the role of the media. Guy Rundle spotted this immediately, and while I would say that, wouldn’t I, his analysis has been the best you’ll see in an Australian publication. This is about far more than a simple matter of leaking sensitive cables, or newspaper coverage of those leaks.
Instead we’re given an uncomprehending coverage by the Australian media, as if it simply can’t process what’s happening, and needs to keep trying different narratives to see if they fit what’s being observed, sticking with whatever seems to temporarily do the trick.[...]
It’s not entirely fair to blame the media, though, because the Australian government is doing exactly the same thing. The response of the federal government has been… I was going to say “instructive”, but it’s more accurately, and sadly, affirmative of what you suspected, that politicians and bureaucrats can’t see this through any other than a rather 20th century, Cold War-style lens."
James Moore, The Huffington Post: WikiLeaks and the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity
"There is a very simple reason WikiLeaks has sent a furious storm of outrage across the globe and it has very little to do with diplomatic impropriety. It is this: The public is uninformed because of inadequate journalism. Consumers of information have little more to digest than Kim Kardashian's latest paramour or the size of Mark Zuckerberg's jet. Very few publishers or broadcasters post reporters to foreign datelines and give them time to develop relationships that lead to information. Consequently, journalism is atrophying from the extremities inward and the small heart it has will soon become even more endangered.
So, long live WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And if Pfc. Bradley Manning is the leaker, he deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Good government, if such a thing exists, is the product of transparency. Americans have very little idea of the back-stories that lead to the events they see on the nightly news or read about on the net. How did such messes end up being such messes? If journalism were functioning at appropriate levels, there would have been stories that reported some of the information contained in the cables now published around the globe."
Nils Molina, The Tech: WikiLeaks serves the global community by keeping governments in check
"WikiLeaks helped expose the looting of Kenya, the corruption of a banking system and sloppy killings committed by the U.S. military. WikiLeaks should be lauded for using truth to pressure these institutions to re-evaluate themselves. Thinking that the U.S. military does not need outside scrutiny to effectively serve the public is as foolish as thinking that the MIT administration can by itself design a good undergraduate dining plan. The entrenched bureaucracy that generates military decisions can fail spectacularly, with history providing examples ranging from the Vietnam War to the often irrational Soviet military build-up. Leaking information that changes how one evaluates a war is free press doing its job. Transparency matters.[...]
Just like a business, the government should respond to the leaks by becoming more open and honest, better hiding the little information that must remain secret and re-evaluating its bureaucratic activities. WikiLeaks is a resilient and powerful organization of journalists. Designating it as a terrorist group, as the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has suggested, or engaging in an expensive international chase, as Keith Yost recommends, would be a public relations nightmare."
TIME magazine's December 13 edition features Julian Assange on the cover and a number of WikiLeaks-related articles, including Massimo Calabresi's cover story, WikiLeaks' War on Secrecy: Truth's Consequences, and an additional feature by Fareed Zakaria: WikiLeaks Shows the Skills of U.S. Diplomats.
Further TIME WikiLeaks coverage includes an interview with Julian Assange, features on the US relationship with Germany and Pakistan, and deception in Mideast diplomacy. TIME also spoke with Julian Assange's lawyer Björn Hurtig about the Sweden case.
We would like to remind you that you can still vote for Julian Assange in TIME's Person of the Year reader poll.
Martin Kettle, The Guardian: WikiLeaks: Openness against secrecy has a rich history of struggle
"Why WikiLeaks? Or, why these leaked documents and not other ones, and why these documents now? The answers may seem obvious. Because we can. Because they're there. Because we want to. Because it is in the public interest, or at least of interest to the public, even though that's not the same thing. All these are parts of the larger answer. But they aren't the full explanation.[...]
The broad parallels with today are very strong. A war that was widely opposed; a traumatic generational experience; a collective belief that the people were deceived; a conviction that public inquiries and the opening up of documents would reveal the incriminating evidence, and a desire to change the rules, above all by making them more democratically accountable, to avoid the same thing happening again. All these were present in the generation that lived through the first world war. All are present today in the generation that has lived through the Iraq and Afghan conflicts.[...]
Why WikiLeaks? Partly because we can. But, now as in the past, it is about a needless war and the governments that chose to fight it."
David Samuels, The Atlantic: The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange
"It is dispiriting and upsetting for anyone who cares about the American tradition of a free press to see Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gibbs turn into H.R. Haldeman, John Erlichman and John Dean. We can only pray that we won't soon be hit with secret White House tapes of Obama drinking scotch and slurring his words while calling Assange bad names.[...]
But the truly scandalous and shocking response to the Wikileaks documents has been that of other journalists, who make the Obama Administration sound like the ACLU.[...] It is a fact of the current media landscape that the chilling effect of threatened legal action routinely stops reporters and editors from pursuing stories that might serve the public interest - and anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or lying. Every honest reporter and editor in America knows that the fact that most news organizations are broke, combined with the increasing threat of aggressive legal action by deep-pocketed entities, private and public, has made it much harder for good reporters to do their jobs, and ripped a hole in the delicate fabric that holds our democracy together.
In a memorandum entitled "Transparency and Open Government" addressed to the heads of Federal departments and agencies and posted on WhiteHouse.gov, President Obama instructed that "Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing." The Administration would be wise to heed his words -- and to remember how badly the vindictive prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg ended for the Nixon Administration. And American reporters, Pulitzer Prizes and all, should be ashamed for joining in the outraged chorus that defends a burgeoning secret world whose existence is a threat to democracy."
Editorial, The Guardian: US embassy cables: Wiki witch-hunt
"There have been various suggestions as to what to do to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, after a week in which his revelations have severely embarrassed US diplomacy. Tom Flanagan, a former aide to the Canadian prime minister, called for his assassination, and then regretted his glib remark. Mike Huckabee said that those found guilty of leaking the cables should be executed for putting national security at risk. You would expect a future Republican presidential candidate to say that. But a Democrat administration is close behind. A team from the justice department and the Pentagon are exploring whether to charge Mr Assange under the Espionage Act. The US attorney general, Eric Holder, has said this is not sabre-rattling. Are they all about to turn into minions of which Richard Nixon would have been proud?
More insidious than that was the complacent yawn emanating from from sections of the liberal commentariat for which freedom of information is a given. So what's new about the Gulf Arab Sunnis wanting America or Israel to bomb Iran, or Colonel Gaddafi's taste for blonde Ukrainian nurses, or Nicolas Sarkozy being described as mercurial and authoritarian, they sneer. Maybe for them, nothing is new. Would that we all could be so wise. But for large areas of the world which do not have the luxury of being able to criticise their governments, the revelations about the private thoughts of their own leaders are important."
Jay Rosen on Pressthink (video)
"While we have what purports to be a "watchdog press" we also have, laid out in front of us, the clear record of the watchdog press's failure to do what is says it can do, which is to provide a check on power when it tries to conceal its deeds and its purpose. So I think it is a mistake to reckon with Wikileaks without including in the frame the spectacular failures of the watchdog press over the last 10, 20, 40 years, but especially recently. And so, without this legitimacy crisis in mainstream American journalism, the leakers might not be so inclined to trust Julian Assange and a shadowy organization like Wikileaks. When the United States is able to go to war behind a phony case, when something like that happens and the Congress is fooled and a fake case is presented to the United Nations and war follows and 100,000s of people die and the stated rationale turns out to be false, the legitimacy crisis extends from the Bush government itself to the American state as a whole and the American press and the international system because all of them failed at one of the most important things that government by consent can do: which is reason giving. I think these kind of huge cataclysmic events within the legitimacy regime lie in the background of the Wikileaks case, because if wasn't for those things Wikileaks wouldn't have the supporters it has, the leakers wouldn't collaborate the way that they do and the moral force behind exposing what this government is doing just wouldn't be there."
Watch the video
Simon Jenkins, The Guardian: In this World Cup sewer, we reptiles of British journalism hold our heads high
"Yet journalism's stock-in-trade is disclosure. As we have seen this week with WikiLeaks, power loathes truth revealed. Disclosure is messy and tests moral and legal boundaries. It is often irresponsible and usually embarrassing. But it is all that is left when regulation does nothing, politicians are cowed, lawyers fall silent and audit is polluted. Accountability can only default to disclosure. As Jefferson remarked, the press is the last best hope when democratic oversight fails, as it does in the case of most international bodies.
I found myself chastised this week for my defence of WikiLeaks, on the ground that thieves should not revel in their crime by demanding that victims be more careful with their property. But in matters of public policy who is thieving what from whom? The WikiLeaks material was left by a public body, the US state department, like a wallet open on a park bench, except that in this case the wallet was full of home truths about the mendacity of public policy.[...]
What is intriguing is the hysteria of power at seeing its inner beliefs and processes revealed. The denunciation of WikiLeaks as an "attack on America" from the political right is similar to the attitude of Britain's football authorities towards the Sunday Times and the BBC. Someone had broken wind in church. Truth briefly swept aside the deceptions of public form and left reality exposed. The players in a once subtle game that had fallen to lying and cat-calling were suddenly told to stop, pull themselves together and look each other in the eye. As the great Donald Rumsfeld said, stuff happens. The air is cleared.[...]
So thank goodness for disclosure. Thank goodness for journalism."
World Socialist Web Site: The persecution of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange
Joseph Kishore writes on behalf of WSWS: "The American state, its spokesmen in the mass media, and its allies around the world are engaged in an international campaign of vilification and persecution against WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.
This campaign has nothing to do with any supposed crime he has committed, since he has committed none. He is the target of an international manhunt for his role in lifting the lid on the lies and criminal operations of imperialist powers the world over—above all, in the United States.[...]
The persecution of Assange in an effort to silence this exposure is not simply a threat to one individual. The methods employed against WikiLeaks will be used against all opposition to the policies of the corporate and financial aristocracy.[...]
In the final analysis, the hysterical witch-hunt against Assange and WikiLeaks is not any sign of strength on the part of the American ruling elite and its state, but rather of fear and weakness. Intensely conscious of the crisis and instability of the political and economic system, they fear that revelations of state crimes will only fuel the inevitable eruption of mass working class opposition to their reactionary policies in the US and around the world. It is this emerging movement of social struggles on a global scale that must undertake an implacable defense of Assange, WikiLeaks and all those who seek to drag the crimes and conspiracies of imperialism into the light of day."
Robert Niles, Online Journalism Review: Wikileaks challenges journalists: Whose side are you on?
"I hope that Wikileaks, at the very least, encourages reporters to be more aggressive in challenging authority and working with sources to get information that officials, in government or industry, would prefer to keep from the public's eyes.
Sources with government and industry want the truth to get to the public. If journalists do not provide the means to make that happen, alternate media such as Wikileaks will do it instead. Personally, as a citizen, I'm thankful for that.[...]
Reporters' reaction to Wikileaks divides us into two camps: Those who want to see information get to the public, by whatever means, and those who want to control the means by which information flows. While it's fine to want to be the reporter who always gets the scoop, I can't support journalists who imply that the public's better served by having stories go unreported than going through "Journalism-approved" channels.
If you're upset with the way that Wikileaks is getting information to the public, then you'd better try harder to gather and publish that information yourself. (As Rosen suggested yesterday, we wouldn't have Wikileaks if we had a functioning watchdog press.) And if you think that the public shouldn't have information that the government wishes to withhold, might I suggest that you are in the wrong line of work?"
Nikki Usher, Nieman Journalism Lab: Why WikiLeaks’ latest document dump makes everyone in journalism — and the public — a winner
"Imagine this: Look at what happens when mainstream news and whatever we want to call WikiLeaks work together. The forces are not in opposition but are united with a common goal — again, informing the public — and the result is that mainstream news can do what it does best thanks to the help of the information WikiLeaks provides. (But, of course, it couldn’t do it without WikiLeaks.) This is a moment of glory for all those who talk about crowdsourcing, user-generated content, and the like. Perhaps this is the ultimate form of users helping to create and shape the news. And the result is a better-informed public.
The takeaway here: Everyone in journalism — from its practitioners to its recipients — emerges from this data drop as a winner."
Dominique Cardon, Le Monde: En finir avec le culte du secret et de la raison d'Etat (End the cult of secrecy and reasons of state)
"Under the pretext of a tyranny of transparency, the affair WikiLeaks has reanimated in some the cult of secrecy and of reasons of state. One more revelation, and it will be the virtues of Machiavellian politics that will be rehabilitated, and, with them, this habit of protecting any and all acts on behalf of the discretionary "secret defence" power.[...]
It is however less the risk of transparency than that of opacity that threatens the communication of the economic and political powers today. The demand for inside information appears thus as a countereffect to the hypertrophy of communication strategies that clothe the discourse of power in a language increasingly artificial.
Whatever its origin, the abundance of data does not constitute a "conter-democracy" without the mobilization of communities of interpreters who can give it context, sense, narrative and visibility. Societal conversation demands greater and easier access to data, but it demands above all that the politics create a desire for conversation."
Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN: WikiLeaks, Amazon and the new threat to internet speech
"While Amazon was within its legal rights, the company has nonetheless sent a clear signal to its users: If you engage in controversial speech that some individual members of the U.S. government don't like -- even if there is a strong case to be made that your speech is constitutionally protected -- Amazon is going to dump you at the first sign of trouble.
Let's hope that there will always be other companies willing to stand up for our rights as enshrined both in the U.S. Constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- and by extension their right to do business with us.
The future of freedom in the internet age may well depend on whether we the people can succeed in holding companies that now act as arbiters of the public discourse accountable to the public interest."
Sofia Mirjamsdotter, Metro: Bara en diktatur kan förbjuda Wikileaks (Only a dictatorship would ban WikiLeaks)
"Either you believe in democracy and freedom of speech, or you do not. There is no middle position.
The internet allows for the collection and dissemination not only of innocent status updates from private individuals, but also, as in the case of WikiLeaks, of document addressing issues directly linked to world peace and war.
Every friend of democracy must appreciate this. Any person who believes in and advocates freedom of speech should encourage and cheer for this kind of use of the internet.
Democracy is back. And one of its tenets is that we must abide by the majority, even when the majority are wrong. Another is that we must allow all kinds of opinions, even those we disagree with. The alternative is that a few should be placed above all others, and that they should decide what is acceptable to say. Another word for that is dictatorship."
Richard Ackland, Sydney Morning Herald: WikiLeaks opens the door to a new enlightenment
"The carefully concocted versions of events that we used to swallow are now no longer swallowable.[...]
What is of lasting significance is that politicians and captains of industry and even the courts have lost the power to control the way information is drip-fed in their self-interest. That was the way it was done in the old world. Journalists grasped at snippets and morsels to assist the insider in some undeclared agenda. This new world represents as big a change for journalism as it does for the rest of the established order.[...]
What precisely is so damaging if citizens know some of the truth? If they know that there was a secret arrangement between US and British officials to subvert the plan to ban cluster bombs. If they know that the British government restricted the investigation of the Chilcott inquiry into the Iraq war to minimise embarrassment for the US. To know that China might be willing to accept the reunification of North and South Korea. To know if the governor of the Bank of England had doubts about the economic credentials of Prime Minister David Cameron. To know that their governments undermine international treaties.
No lasting damage to the US or anyone else's national interest will flow from that, just as there was no damage to the US national interest from the Pentagon Papers. Embarrassment, certainly, accompanied by a lot of posturing, but life in a more informed way went on. The New Enlightenment has arrived and there's nothing anyone can do about it - thank god."
Guy Rundle, Crikey: The GFC, Wikileaks collide - and the world just shifted
"You can feel the change in the air, read it in every report. The more that the fused political-media-administrative elite try to write it off as 'entertaining anecdote' while at the same time mobilising state power to destroy the organisation, the more they reveal that something has happened. The old process of leaks - a document here and there - only served to reinforce the idea that the state had an unquestionable right to control information, and that there could be no other way to organise society or create law.
That legitimacy has had a fatal crack put it in. The whole question of who should know what has been put into play. There will be reversals, but we're used to those. As I may have mentioned, something is happening."
Tom Hayden, The Nation: WikiLeaks vs. The Empire
"Why is this drama important? Not because of "life-threatening" leaks, as claimed by the establishment, but because the closed doors of power need to be open to public review. We live increasingly in an Age of Secrecy, as described by Garry Wills in Bomb Power, among recent books. It has become the American Way of War, and increasingly draws the curtains over American democracy itself. The wars in Pakistan and Yemen are secret wars. The war in Afghanistan is dominated by secret US Special Operations raids and killings. The CIA has its own secret army in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's entire record in Iraq was classified. And so on, ad nauseam.
And what is the purpose of all the secrecy? As Howard Zinn always emphasized, the official fear was that the American people might revolt if we knew the secrets being kept from us. In Rolling Stone's expose of McChrystal's war this year, one top military adviser said that "if Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular." McChrystal himself joked about sending out Special Forces units to kill at night then having to "scold" them in the morning.
And revolt we should, against those who would keep the affairs of empire shrouded. We should not be distracted by the juicy tidbits that may or may not be better left unreported. The focus of Congressional hearings and journalistic investigation should be on matters of public policy in which the American people are being lied to."
Alexander Cockburn, The First Post/Counterpunch: Julian Assange: wanted by the Empire, dead or alive
"The American airwaves quiver with the screams of parlour assassins howling for Julian Assange's head. Jonah Goldberg, contributor to the National Review, asks in his syndicated column, "Why wasn't Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?" Sarah Palin wants him hunted down and brought to justice, saying: "He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands."
Assange can survive these theatrical blusters. A tougher question is how he will fare at the hands of the US government, which is hopping mad. The US attorney general, Eric Holder, announced on Monday that the Justice Department and Pentagon are conducting "an active, ongoing criminal investigation" into the latest Assange-facilitated leak under Washington's Espionage Act. Asked how the US could prosecute Assange, a non-US citizen, Holder said, "Let me be clear. This is not sabre-rattling," and vowed "to swiftly close the gaps in current US legislation…"
In other words the espionage statute is being rewritten to target Assange, and in short order, if not already, President Obama – who as a candidate pledged "transparency" in government - will sign an order okaying the seizing of Assange and his transport into the US jurisdiction. Render first, fight the habeas corpus lawsuits later.[...]
It's certainly not conspiracism to suspect that the CIA has been at work in fomenting these Swedish accusations. As Shamir reports, "The moment Julian sought the protection of Swedish media law, the CIA immediately threatened to discontinue intelligence sharing with SEPO, the Swedish Secret Service."
The CIA has no doubt also pondered the possibility of pushing Assange off a bridge or through a high window (a mode of assassination favoured by the Agency from the earliest days*) and has sadly concluded that it's too late for this sort of executive solution."
Jonathan Weiler, Huffington Post: Let Us Now Praise Wikileaks
"We love to tout the liberating powers of technology and the information age, and yet the knee-jerk reaction from many of our news arbiters has been to heap scorn on the entity that is, at the present moment, doing the most to ensure that citizens actually have the tools -- information -- to realize the potential of the information age for human freedom. WikiLeaks, whatever its flaws might be, is filling a dangerous vacuum in our information environment, one created by the dereliction of duty by those entities whose constitutional prerogatives were designed to ensure that they would challenge, not protect, government secrecy and abuse. For that, WikiLeaks deserves our thanks."
Thomas Knapp, Antiwar: If This Be Treason...
"Forced to choose between truth and power, the Bolsheviks chose power. Their regime and its spinoffs became (pardon the pun) the gold standard for secretive government.
The strength of Wikileaks is that it faces no similar choice. It’s not a state, nor do its principals evince any intention of making it one. Truth is its entire portfolio, and this drives the Hillary Clintons of the world insane. It threatens their aspirations to unquestioned power. It forces them to explain themselves to the rest of us: To the serfs who, as the politicians see things, exist for the sole purpose of footing the bill — in money and in blood — for those aspirations.
Which is exactly how it should be. "Treason" to and "betrayal" of the state is service to humanity. Wikileaks is your friend. Hillary Clinton is your enemy. Never forget that."
Sunny Hundal, Liberal Conspiracy: The assault on WikiLeaks threatens free speech and democracy itself
"Let’s be clear about one simple fact: WikiLeaks is a media organisation.[...] This leads me to one simple conclusion: the attack on WikiLeaks now is not only an attack on free speech itself, but shows how craven and self-serving the traditional media has become.[...]
The traditional media has been cravenly quick to swallow the line that WikiLeaks threatens national security interests and therefor n offensive on Julian Assange is somehow OK. Perhaps they are miffed that WikiLeaks published information they would rather have leaked themselves. It’s a new form of competition and they don’t seem to like it one bit.
WikiLeaks isn’t democratically accountable but neither is the Daily Mail. It isn’t transparent but neither do we know how The Sun gets it’s scoops. These are fatuous arguments to make against the website unless one is also going to argue that most of the media industry be shut down.
You’re either for the right of websites to publish information that national authorities might not like – or you are not. It really is that straightforward.
And with the very existence of WikiLeaks now under serious threat, it is time to unambiguously stand up for its right to publish and be damned."
"WikiLeaks is the first global Samizdat movement. The truth will surface even in the face of total annihilation."
Thus spake the Wikileaks twitter, causing a bit of shock in readers who just got here when Julian Assange started wearing a suit and stopped talking about pissing in the corner of dragon caves.
And start contributing to your own governance. If you want a democratic society, that is. I try not to get too preachy here, but the western population has been programmed towards a certain end, and if we are going to change the world, we need to at least be aware of this. The things we have been taught and fed for decades were part of a system meant to create an uneducated, ignorant, distracted populace. The military industrial complex has been with us for a long time and they have thought about these things. In order to fight them, we have to stop playing their games.
It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
- Albert Einstein
It's time to review the mother of all arguments raised against WikiLeaks and come to a simple conclusion based on fact.
The argument against WikiLeaks concludes that WikiLeaks must be condemned for its actions. Here's the coup de force:
Real people die when sources and methods are leaked.
Click to Watch this Inspirational Interview with Daniel Ellsberg on Bradley Manning. This interview took place shortly after Bradley Manning was identified as the alleged source of the first batch of massive leaks. Ellsberg discusses with authority the oath one takes when sworn into a position to defend America.
Seumas Milne, The Guardian: WikiLeaks is holding US global power to account
"Official America's reaction to the largest leak of confidential government files in history is tipping over towards derangement. What the White House initially denounced as a life-threatening "criminal" act and Hillary Clinton branded an "attack on the international community" has been taken a menacing stage further by the newly emboldened Republican right.
WikiLeaks' release of 250,000 United States embassy cables – shared with the Guardian and other international newspapers – was an act of terrorism, Senator Peter King declared. Sarah Palin called for its founder Julian Assange to be hunted down as an "anti-American operative with blood on his hands", while former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has demanded that whoever leaked the files should be executed for treason.
Not much truck with freedom of information, then, in the land of the free.[...]
But in any case the United States is the centre of a global empire, a state with a military presence in most countries which arrogates to itself the role of world leader and policeman. When genuine checks on how it exercises that entirely undemocratic power are so weak at home, let alone in the rest of the world it still dominates, it's both inevitable and right that people everywhere will try to find ways to challenge and hold it to account.[...]
By making available Washington's own account of its international dealings WikiLeaks has opened some of the institutions of global power to scrutiny and performed a democratic service in the process. Its next target is said to be the leviathan of the banks – bring it on."
Glenn Greenwald, Salon: The moral standards of WikiLeaks critics
"I'm not singling out Klein here; his commentary is merely illustrative of what I'm finding truly stunning about the increasingly bloodthirsty two-minute hate session aimed at Julian Assange, also known as the new Osama bin Laden. The ringleaders of this hate ritual are advocates of -- and in some cases directly responsible for -- the world's deadliest and most lawless actions of the last decade. And they're demanding Assange's imprisonment, or his blood, in service of a Government that has perpetrated all of these abuses and, more so, to preserve a Wall of Secrecy which has enabled them. To accomplish that, they're actually advocating -- somehow with a straight face -- the theory that if a single innocent person is harmed by these disclosures, then it proves that Assange and WikiLeaks are evil monsters who deserve the worst fates one can conjure, all while they devote themselves to protecting and defending a secrecy regime that spawns at least as much human suffering and disaster as any single other force in the world. That is what the secrecy regime of the permanent National Security State has spawned.[...]
That abuse of secrecy powers is vast, deliberate, pervasive, dangerous and destructive. That's the abuse that WikiLeaks is devoted to destroying, and which its harshest critics -- whether intended or not -- are helping to preserve. There are people who eagerly want that secrecy regime to continue: namely, (a) Washington politicians, Permanent State functionaries, and media figures whose status, power and sense of self-importance are established by their access and devotion to that world of secrecy, and (b) those who actually believe that -- despite (or because of) all the above acts -- the U.S. Government somehow uses this extreme secrecy for the Good. Having surveyed the vast suffering and violence they have wreaked behind that wall, those are exactly the people whom WikiLeaks is devoted to undermining."
Amy Davidson, The New Yorker: Banishing WikiLeaks?
"Lieberman may be exaggerating his own role, and Amazon can make choices about what business to be in. Still, is Amazon reporting to a senator now? Is the company going to tell him about “the extent of its relationship” with WikiLeaks—with any customer? He’s free to ask, of course, but in terms of an obligation to answer: Does somebody have a warrant or a subpoena for that? One wonders if Lieberman feels that he, or any Senator, can call in the company running The New Yorker’s printing presses when we are preparing a story that includes leaked classified material, and tell them to stop it. The circumstances are different, but not so different as to be really reassuring.
There are worse things one can do than cut off a server; for example, cut off a head. That seems to be where other WikiLeaks critics are headed. Sarah Palin said that Assange should be hunted down like Osama bin Laden; Newt Gingrich said that he should be treated as an enemy combatant; and Bill Kristol wants the Obama Administration to think about kidnapping or killing Assange “and his collaborators.” (Kristol doesn’t use the word “kill,” but rather “whack” and “neutralize,” as if some combination of slang and clinical talk made everything all right.) Is that where we are? (This isn’t to dismiss Assange’s other, Swedish legal troubles; the characters here are neither supervillains nor superheroes.) One question that came up in the debate about Obama putting Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, on an assassination list without even making a pretense of going through the courts was who else you could kill on the same grounds. It is striking to see how unabashedly that line of reasoning has been pursued. If we can shoot down Julian Assange, how about any investigative reporter who might learn something that embarrasses our government? We seem to have hopelessly confused national security with the ability of a particular Administration to pursue its policies."
Roy Greenslade, The London Evening Standard: WikiLeaks empowers us all… whatever the critics say
"It might be trite to observe that knowledge is power and that a lack of knowledge means a lack of power. But, trite or not, it remains a valid statement of reality. Journalism was founded precisely to redress the knowledge/power imbalance. It was born from a need among the don't-knows to know. That is why the knowledgeable stifled journalistic inquiry from its inception in Britain and why, in states where democracy is non-existent or very fragile, their authorities continue to harass a nascent journalism.
It is not far fetched to say that the history of democracy is the history of journalism. Freedom of the press does not exist outside of democratic societies. There is no democracy without press freedom.[...]
In the short term, the consequences might be embarrassing, though I doubt if they will ever be as catastrophic as so many government and military spokesmen have contended this week. What we are witnessing is a democratic leap forward, an opportunity for the people of several countries to get a glimpse of what is being said and done in their name.
At the same time, it is changing journalism too. I detect that some journalists are none too pleased about the WikiLeaks phenomenon, questioning the motives of its shadowy movers and shakers. But the critics ought to take note of the essential job done by traditional newspaper journalists to turn the leaked cables into sensible, readable editorial copy.
In essence, journalists in the 21st century are still doing what their forebears did in the 17th century, making sense of scraps of knowledge for the wider public good."
The Economist: Missing the point of WikiLeaks
"The basic question is not whether we think Julian Assange is a terrorist or a hero. The basic question certainly is not whether we think exposing the chatter of the diplomatic corps helps or hinders their efforts, and whether this is a good or bad thing. To continue to focus on these questions is to miss the forest for the texture of the bark on a single elm. If we take the inevitability of future large leaks for granted, then I think the debate must eventually centre on the things that will determine the supply of leakers and leaks. Some of us wish to encourage in individuals the sense of justice which would embolden them to challenge the institutions that control our fate by bringing their secrets to light. Some of us wish to encourage in individuals ever greater fealty and submission to corporations and the state in order to protect the privileges and prerogatives of the powerful, lest their erosion threaten what David Brooks calls "the fragile community"—our current, comfortable dispensation."
Charlie Stross: Julian Assange, defending our democracies (despite their owners' wishes)
"Assange has a model of how the abduction of governance by common interest groups — such as corporations and right wing political factions — works in the current age. His goal is to impair the ability of these groups to exert control over democratic institutions without the consent of the governed. By forcing these authoritarian institutions to apply ever-heavier burdens of secrecy to their internal communications, wikileaks aims to reduce their ability to coordinate and, thus, to exert control.[...]
Wikileaks is not attacking the US government; rather, it's acting to degrade the ability of pressure groups to manipulate the US government to their own ends. Those who benefit the most from their ability to manipulate the State Department are the most angry about this: autocratic middle eastern leaders, authoritarian right-wing politicians, royalty, corporate cartels. Those of us who are scratching our heads and going "huh?" about the significance of Muammar Ghadaffi's botox habit are missing the point: it's not about the content, but about the implication that the powerful can no longer count on their ability to lie to the public without being called on it.
In an ideal world, wikileaks wouldn't be necessary. But the US mass media has been neutered and coopted by the enemies of the public interest."
Okay, I was writing something called the Anonymous Revolution, but Wikileaks twitter just renamed it samizdat. I can live with the slightly more highbrow name, it is more accurate.
The point in either case is this. Wikileaks is not a lone vandal hacker. It is an idea. We all have the idea. And you can’t bomb an idea, or send drones after it, or put it in jail.
Speaking with Slate magazine's War Room correspondent Justin Elliott, Aftergood said that the DoJ's legal theory for pursuing WikiLeaks and Julian Assange would set "an extremely dangerous precedent."
"This is novel legal territory. Every step involves uncertainty and virgin territory, and ideally it will be left that way," says Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists. Aftergood, who has been a critic of WikiLeaks in the past, argues that "a prosecution of WikiLeaks would be a horrible precedent that in time would almost certainly be applied to other publishers of controversial information."
Elliott writes that "Many have argued that the law (Espionage Act of 1917) is unconstitutional, and, if it was actually applied broadly, would lead to the prosecution of journalists and newspapers that routinely obtain and publish classified national defense information.
'If a case could be made that WikiLeaks did not simply publish the material as a passive recipient, but that they actually solicited the release of the information, then they would be vulnerable,' Aftergood says. But it's not clear how solicitation would be defined, and it's also not at all clear if the facts of the case would bear this theory out. And, again, if this theory of the law were applied, it's hard to see how it wouldn't ensnare a journalist like Bob Woodward, who asks government officials about classified matters and then publishes the information."
Photo credit: FAS
Carne Ross, Huffington Post: The End of Diplomacy As We Know It
Former UK ambassador to the UN Carne Ross writes: "The presumption that governments can conduct their business in secret with one another, out of sight of the populations they represent, died this week. Diplomats and officials around the world are slowly realizing that anything they say may now be one day published on the Internet. Governments are now frantically rushing to secure their data and hold it more tightly than ever, but the horse has bolted. If a government as technically sophisticated and well protected as the US can suffer a breach of this magnitude, no government is safe. Politicians can demand the prosecution of Julian Assange or -- absurdly -- that WikiLeaks be designated as a terrorist organization, but the bellows of anger are tacit admission that government's monopoly on its own information is now a thing of the past.[...]
There is in fact only one enduring solution to the WikiLeaks problem and this is perhaps the goal of WikiLeaks, though this is sometimes hard to discern. That is that governments must close the divide between what they say, and what they do. It is this divide that provokes WikiLeaks; it is this divide that will provide ample embarrassment for future leakers to exploit. The only way for governments to save their credibility is to end that divide and at last to do what they say, and vice versa, with the assumption that nothing they may do will remain secret for long. The implications of this shift are profound, and indeed historic."
Max Frankel, The Guardian: WikiLeaks: Secrets shared with millions are not secret
Former New York Times editor Max Frankel writes: "Take it from a Pentagon papers hawk: it's OK to regret the WikiLeaks dump, and to deplore the dumpsters even as you defend, indeed admire, our democratic press and its freedom. It's been 40 years since the New York Times had to defend itself against government censors and threats of prosecution under the espionage acts for publishing a top-secret cache of Pentagon documents tracking the duplicitous path to an unwinnable war in Vietnam.[...]
As Justice Stewart shrewdly observed, the checks and balances governing domestic politics are sadly absent in the realm of foreign affairs. Congress is easily browbeaten into patriotic silence when the war drums roll. Even our courts are thoughtlessly deferential to presidential prerogative when the national interest is invoked. That is why Stewart held that "the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry – in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government".
A wise government would therefore decide – for moral, political and practical reasons – to insist on avoiding secrecy for its own sake. "For when everything is classified, then nothing is classified, and the system becomes one to be disregarded by the cynical or the careless, and to be manipulated by those intent on self-protection or self-promotion ... Secrecy can best be preserved only when credibility is truly maintained."
And here we are at his predicted destination. Lead us secretly into one war too many, and see how we wallow in one or another disclosure too many."
Robert Scheer, Truthdig: Hillary Gets Wiki-Served
Robert Scheer writes: "Hillary Clinton should cut out the whining about what the Obama administration derides as “stolen cables” and confront the unpleasant truths they reveal about the contradictions of U.S. foreign policy and her own troubling performance. As with the earlier batch of WikiLeaks, in this latest release the corruption of our partners in Iraq and Afghanistan stands in full relief, and the net effect of nearly a decade of warfare is recognized as a strengthening of Iran’s influence throughout the region.[...]
This material refutes the stated anti-terrorist purposes of the two wars we are fighting, and that is the prime reason it is classified. If any of the information was so sensitive, why was none of it labeled “top secret” as is the practice with content that would risk our nation’s security? And why was this vast trove placed in computer systems to which low-ranking personnel had access? The real problem with the release of the dispatches, particularly the kind labeled “noforn,” meaning it shouldn’t be shared with foreign governments, is that it is politically embarrassing — which is why we, the public, have a right to view it. That is certainly the case with the revelation that Secretary Clinton destroyed the once-sacred line between the legitimate diplomat deserving of universal protection and the spies that governments could be justified in arresting.
Instead of disparaging the motives of the leakers, Hillary Clinton should offer a forthright explanation of why she continued the practice of Condoleezza Rice, her predecessor as secretary of state, of using American diplomats to spy on their colleagues working at the United Nations. Why did she issue a specific directive ordering U.S. diplomats to collect biometric information on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and many of his colleagues?"
Amy Goodman, Truthdig: WikiLeaks and the End of U.S. ‘Diplomacy’
Amy Goodman writes: "Critics argue, as they did with earlier leaks of secret documents regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, that lives will be lost as a result. Rather, lives might actually be saved, since the way that the U.S. conducts diplomacy is now getting more exposure than ever—as is the apparent ease with which the U.S. government lives up (or down) to the adage used by pioneering journalist I.F. Stone: “Governments lie.”[...]
A renowned political analyst and linguist, MIT professor Noam Chomsky helped Daniel Ellsberg, America’s premier whistle-blower, release the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago. I asked Chomsky about the latest cables released by WikiLeaks. “What this reveals,” he reflected, “is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership.”"
Greg Barns, director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, writes for ABC News on the Australian government's decision to look into criminal charges against Julian Assange:
"Mr. McClelland’s decision amounts to little more than posturing. This is because Mr. Assange would appear to have committed no crime under Australia’s suite of laws on disclosure of sensitive state information.
The reality is that the Australian Federal Police can do nothing about an Australian citizen who is running a website out of Sweden which is the repository for American diplomatic cables. And Australia, unlike the UK, does not have an official secrets law. It has scattered throughout the Commonwealth statute books provisions relating to the unauthorised disclosure of information that relates to national security by employees, contractors and the like.
In any event, the current legal thinking in the UK and other common law countries is that leaking sensitive information per se is not necessarily an offence. The law respects the right to freedom of expression and simply because the leaked material embarrasses a government does not mean that a criminal offence has been committed.[...] The Gillard government and the Coalition also need to tread carefully in wanting to strip Mr Assange of his passport simply because they do not like the fact that he is embarrassing an ally.[...]
Julian Assange is an Australian citizen who does not deserve to be harassed by the Australian government, he has done nothing wrong."