Israel Shamir's recent article on CounterPunch, Redacting Corruption: The Guardian's Political Censorship of Wikileaks, follows on from his previous piece, Paradigm in Belarus: The Minsk Election in a Wikileaks Mirror, in levelling some serious allegations against The Guardian newspaper and its journalistic practices.
The earlier piece was an odd amalgam of politically questionable apologism for the regime in Belarus and invective against The Guardian and the mainstream Western press, part of which provided valuable insight into the selection biases of newspapers (as I documented here) and part of which invoked conspiratorial motives that are unnecessary to explain those same selection biases.
Charges against The Guardian
The newest piece, published on January 11th, presents evidence that The Guardian has been engaging in strange redaction procedures on some of the cables it has been releasing, and infers from this that there is some foul play involved in The Guardian's editorial decisions. Because of Shamir's peculiar status, it is necessary to suject his claims to some scrutiny. As I will outline here, Shamir is mostly correct that The Guardian has been redacting the cables aggressively, and that the result of the redactions is, effectively, to conceal the correspondences of American diplomats writing candidly of a culture of corruption involving British corporations and high ranking officials in the former Soviet bloc. However, odious though this situation is, Shamir's inference to conspiracy or foul play in order to explain these redactions is, I believe, probably too quick.
Observations about the cables referred to in Israel's Shamir's recent CounterPunch article, Redacting Corruption: The Guardian's Political Censorship of Wikileaks raised some controversies about Shamir's legitimacy as a publisher of Wikileaks' cables. Shamir criticized The Guardian for redacting cables for political reasons, and published unredacted versions of those cables to support his case. The unredacted cables he published appeared to have slight disparities, raising the possibility, for some, that Shamir may have "gone rogue" - publishing unredacted versions of cables without prior authorization by Wikileaks, or even doctoring cables.
A close examination of the cables in question reveals most of these claims as idle speculation. It is highly unlikely that his recent article betrays journalistic foulplay of the sort alleged.
Shamir's article deals with three cables, 10ASTANA72, 06TASHKENT465 and 06TASHKENT902. The article provides links (here and here) to self-published and unredacted versions of the Tashkent cables, and reveals the passages that were redacted in the Astana cable. At the time of the publication of Shamir's article (11th, January, 2011) neither Tashkent cable had been yet released on Wikileaks site. Furthermore, the version of the 10ASTANA72 cable on Wikileaks' site was the redacted version released by The Guardian.
The conditions of Private Manning's confinement have been widely reported. Not surprisingly, on January 24, Amnesty International called on US authorities "to alleviate the harsh pre-trial detention conditions of Bradley Manning."
As we also reported here, Psychologists for Social Responsibility have joined the call for Manning's humane treatment in an open letter to Robert Gates, which calls upon him "to rectify the inhumane, harmful, and counterproductive treatment of PFC Bradley Manning immediately."
Amnesty International is now calling on British authorities to intervene on behalf of Private Manning on the basis that Manning may be a British citizen.
In a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press, Amnesty International's U.K. Director Kate Allen said Manning's background meant that British officials "should be demanding that the conditions of his detention are in line with international standards."
Manning is very likely, in fact, eligible for dual citizenship by law. Manning's status as a potential UK national was first reported here, where it is pointed out that his mother, Susan Manning, is a UK citizen, having been born in the UK. As was pointed out here, however, things are not so simple in terms of international law.
US State Department cables released on Monday by the Telegraph (London) and WikiLeaks reveal that, in September 2009, in response to a perceived insult to President Muammar al-Qadhafi from the Canadian government, the Libyan National Oil Company threatened to nationalize the local assets of Petro-Canada, then a Canadian Crown corporation. The cables tie the diplomatic row to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon's threat to give al-Qadhafi a "public tongue-lashing" over his reception of Abdel Bassett al-Megrahi, whose conviction in the case of the Pan Am 103/Lockerbie bombing and recent release from prison had both been controversial.
The US ambassador notes the general concerns that Libya's successive threats to Petro-Can had raised in the international community:
The Telegraph this evening ran a story on tomorrow's Wikileaks book by the Guardian editors David Leigh and Luke Harding - just one of several books in a publishing run by Wikileaks' media partners. Among the revelations forthcoming in that volume, we are told, is the rather stale information that Bradley Manning is alleged to be Wikileaks' anonymous source for Cablegate and the War Log releases.
The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, of The Guardian, name Specialist Bradley Manning, the soldier being held in a US military jail, as the alleged source of the information which was passed on to The Guardian by WikiLeaks.
While Rayner attempts to present this information as if some new information was being disclosed in the book, it appears, in fact, that we will learn nothing new from it. As the facts stand, Bradley Manning is still the "alleged" source of the information. He has not been convicted of the acts with which he is charged, and all of the evidence in favour of those charges yet available to the public is highly speculative.
The distinction between reportage which mentions Manning as "Wikileaks' source" and that which mentions him as "Wikileaks' alleged source" is of some importance, since to the extent that newspapers - for whatever reason - elide this difference, public opinion might be swayed in such a way as to incriminate Manning, and to prejudice his trial. It is therefore important that media organizations treat the distinction with care.
Amidst the on going protests / revolution, several leaders across the world have spoken out in regards to the turmoil which has over taken Egypt. The following are excerpts from the various governments' press release.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for an end to violence in Egypt. Further, calling on all parties, especially the Egyptian government to authorize peaceful demonstrations, and to allow freedom of expression.
"We expect the authorities and relevant public bodies to respect public liberties, notably freedom of expression." (Foreign Ministry)
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.
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)
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:
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
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.
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."
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.)"
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
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."
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."
Hispanically Speaking News: Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom Said Rigoberta Menchu is “A Fabrication”
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.
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.
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.
UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham is interviewed by the Guardian:
We are strongly of the view that things should be published. Where you're open things will not be WikiLeaked. Whatever view you take about WikiLeaks – right or wrong – it means that things will now get out. It has changed things. I'm saying government and authorities need to factor it in. Be more proactive, [by] publishing more stuff, because quite a lot of this is only exciting because we didn't know it. You can't un-invent WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen ... these are facts that aren't going to go away. Government and authorities need to wise up to that. ...
One response is that they will clam up and not write anything down, which is nonsense, you can't run any organisation that way. The other is to be even more open. The best form of defence is transparency — much more proactive publication of what organisations do. It's an attitude of 'OK. You want to know? Here it is'.
The following Pirate Parties of Europe have issued a joint statement condemning all attacks on the infrastructure of Wikileaks and employees of Wikileaks.
- Pirate Party of Germany
- Pirate Party of France
- Pirate Party of Italy
- Pirate Party of Austria
- Pirate Party of Russia
- Pirate Party of Switzerland
- Pirate Party of Luxembourg
- Pirate Party of the United Kingdom
There is no doubt that Wikileaks is under continuous attack: threats from the Pentagon; calls by the old Republican right and the recently empowered Tea Party for a direct attack on what they have called a “terrorist threat”; the renowned boycotts by Paypal, Moneybookers, Amazon and now even Apple; the Australian government’s reticence to defend its citizen (Julian Assange); the rejection of Mr. Assange’s residence in Sweden for unexplained causes, and the list grows.
Now even though many voices have hinted, or even openly declared, that the rape charges against him are just another part of this campaign, because of its sensitive nature it is wiser not to hurry in our conclusions. What is clear though is that the constant irregularities at the heart of the case can make it questionable, which is why many of those voices are worried about the real motivation behind the accusations. Last August, in the middle of the political storm unleashed by the leak in July related to the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Assange was casually dating the liberal politologist and Swedish activist, Anna Ardin. According to her version of the story, he would have forced her sexually on the night of the 14th of that month, pressing charges around a week later.