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2009-02: Tweets in Feb 09

2010-12-02 ACLU: Prosecuting WikiLeaks For Publishing Documents Would Raise Serious Constitutional Concerns

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The ACLU has released a statement by Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

“We’re deeply skeptical that prosecuting WikiLeaks would be constitutional, or a good idea. The courts have made clear that the First Amendment protects independent third parties who publish classified information. Prosecuting WikiLeaks would be no different from prosecuting the media outlets that also published classified documents. If newspapers could be held criminally liable for publishing leaked information about government practices, we might never have found out about the CIA’s secret prisons or the government spying on innocent Americans. Prosecuting publishers of classified information threatens investigative journalism that is necessary to an informed public debate about government conduct, and that is an unthinkable outcome.

“The broader lesson of the WikiLeaks phenomenon is that President Obama should recommit to the ideals of transparency he invoked at the beginning of his presidency. The American public should not have to depend on leaks to the news media and on whistleblowers to know what the government is up to.”
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2010-12-02 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage [Update 5]

Romanian Insider: New WikiLeaks document: former EU commissioner Patten says Romania, a “feral nation”

"A recently published WikiLeaks document quotes former EU commissioner Chris Patten saying in 2004 that Romania was a “feral nation.” Patten’s comments were recorded and send to US by the US Embassy in Brussels. “Croatia, Patten said, is probably far more prepared for EU membership than either Bulgaria or Romania, who will likely enter the Union earlier”. Chris Patten is a British Conservative politician who wasEuropean Commissioner for External Relations between 1999 and 2004."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: CIA drew up UN spying wishlist for diplomats

"The US state department's wishlist of information about the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and other senior members of his organisation was drawn up by the CIA, the Guardian has learned.[...]

US state department spokesman PJ Crowley, in interviews since the release, has tried to deflect criticism by repeatedly hinting that although the cables were signed by secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, they originated with another agency. But he refused to identify it.

The Guardian has learned that the intelligence shopping list is drawn up annually by the manager of Humint (human intelligence), a post created by the Bush administration in 2005 in a push to better co-ordinate intelligence after 9/11.

The manager of Humint sets out priorities for the coming year and sends them to the state department. The actual form of words used in the diplomatic cables is written by the state department, based on the CIA's list of priorities."
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The Guardian: Germany accuses US over 'missing' Afghan funds, WikiLeaks cables show

"According to a protest to the US from Germany's ambassador to Nato this year, Berlin raised questions about the fate of €50m (£42m) it dispensed last year as the biggest contribution to a "trust fund" for the Afghan national army.

In protests in Berlin, Brussels, and Washington last February the German government demanded to know what was happening to the money, why earmarked projects were not going ahead and why the US military was taking 15%."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks: Afghan vice-president 'landed in Dubai with $52m in cash'

"Rampant government corruption in Afghanistan – and the apparent powerlessness of the US do to anything about it – is laid bare by several classified diplomatic cables implicating members of the country's elite.

In one astonishing incident in October 2009 the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped and questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $52m in cash, according to one diplomatic report. Massoud, the younger brother of the legendary anti-Soviet resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, was detained by officials from the US and the United Arab Emirates trying to stop money laundering, it says. However, the vice-president was allowed to go on his way without explaining where the money came from."
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Der Spiegel: WikiLeaks Cables Fallout: Mole in Germany's FDP Party Comes Forward

"Germany's business-friendly Free Democratic Party has identified the top-level national party employee responsible for passing secret information on to US diplomats during the negotiations to form the current German government in 2009. A worker at the party's headquarters who was chief of staff to the party's chairman and also the head of international relations for the national party came forward and admitted to being the source, an FDP party spokesperson said. The news came after party officials had questioned workers about the issue.

A report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper stated that the person in question is the chief of staff to party boss Guido Westerwell, who is also Germany's foreign minister. Helmut M., a 42-year-old has been released of his current duties, but not fired."
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Der Spiegel: Paranoia and Conspiracy: Dispatches Lay Bare Rocky US Relationship with Karzai

"The US dispatches unveiled by WikiLeaks show just how deep the mistrust is between the US and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Saudi Arabia's mediator role between NATO and the Taliban, it also becomes clear, faces several hurdles.[...]

In the southern province of Kandahar, home province of the president and also the region where the Taliban movement was founded, the Popalzai clan, with tribal leader Hamid Karzai at the helm, oversees a "semi-modern aristocracy," according to the cable. Ahmed Wali Karzai, formerly the owner of a restaurant in Chicago, acts as the spider at the center of the web, trying to "increase Karzai political dominance."[...]

These deals concern enormous budgets in the security, construction and transport industries, but also lucrative -- and naturally illegal -- control of the all-important ring road and the development of Ayno Maina, an exclusive housing community on the eastern edge of Kandahar City. "The Popalzai occupy the leadership pinnacle," reads a US Embassy dispatch."
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Harper's: The Madrid Cables

Scott Horton writes: "In Spain, the WikiLeaks disclosures have dominated the news for three days now. The reporting has been led by the level-headed El País, with its nationwide competitor, Público, lagging only a bit behind. Attention has focused on three separate matters, each pending in the Spanish national security court, the Audiencia Nacional: the investigation into the 2003 death of a Spanish cameraman, José Cuoso, as a result of the mistaken shelling of Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel by a U.S. tank; an investigation into the torture of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo; and a probe into the use of Spanish bases and airfields for extraordinary renditions flights, including the one which took Khaled El-Masri to Baghdad and then on to Afghanistan in 2003.

These cables reveal a large-scale, closely coordinated effort by the State Department to obstruct these criminal investigations. High-ranking U.S. visitors such as former Republican Party Chair Mel Martinez, Senator Greg Judd, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were corralled into this effort, warning Spanish political leaders that the criminal investigations would “be misunderstood” and would harm bilateral relations. The U.S. diplomats also sought out and communicated directly with judges and prosecutors, attempting to steer the cases into the hands of judges of their choosing. The cables also reflect an absolutely extraordinary rapport between the Madrid embassy and Spanish prosecutors, who repeatedly appear to be doing the embassy’s bidding."
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El País: How US worked to get three soldiers off the hook for cameraman's death

"One of the biggest objectives at the US Embassy in Madrid over the past seven years has been trying to get the criminal case dropped against three US soldiers accused of the killing of a Spanish television cameraman.[...]

The High Court has charged three soldiers - Sgt. Thomas Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Col. Philip de Camp, all of the Third Infantry Division of the US Army - for the killing of Telecinco cameraman José Couso on April 8, 2003 during a tank shelling of the Hotel Palestine where he and other journalists were staying while they were covering the war in Baghdad. Also killed was a Reuters cameraman, Taras Protsyuk of Ukraine.

On May 25, 2007, US Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre, who served in Madrid between 2005-2008, wrote to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice days before her visit to Spain to tell her that the Zapatero government "has been helpful behind the scenes in getting the case appealed by the Spanish prosecutor." Aguirre recommended that Rice should express "continued US government concern" about the case when she met with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Foreign Minister Moratinos. "We want continued vigilance and cooperation by the government of Spain until the case is dropped," Aguirre wrote."
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The Guardian: UK overruled on Lebanon spy flights from Cyprus, WikiLeaks cables reveal

"Americans dismissed 'bureaucratic' Foreign Office concern that Lebanese Hezbollah suspects might be tortured," write David Leigh and Richard Norton-Taylor.

"Labour ministers said they feared making the UK an unwitting accomplice to torture, and were upset about rendition flights going on behind their backs.

The use of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus for American U2 spy plane missions over Hezbollah locations in Lebanon – missions that have never been disclosed until now – prompted an acrimonious series of exchanges between British officials and the US embassy in London, according to the cables released by WikiLeaks. The then foreign secretary David Miliband is quoted as saying, unavailingly, "policymakers needed to get control of the military".[...]

At this point Richard LeBaron, charges d'affaires at the London embassy, cabled Washington that human rights concerns could not be allowed to get in the way of counter-terrorism operations. Britain's demands were "not only burdensome but unrealistic", he said, proposing "high-level approaches" to call the British to heel."
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Foreign Policy: Did a U.S. ambassador accuse Sri Lanka's president of war crimes?

"Are we surprised to learn, via WikiLeaks, that American diplomats in Colombo blame Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his top officials for the massacre of tens of thousands (by most estimates) of Tamil civilians during the final months of Sri Lanka's bloody civil war? The goods are in a Jan. 15 cable sent by U.S. Amb. Patricia A. Butenis on the eve of Sri Lanka's presidential elections (which Rajapaksa won handily). Butenis was assessing the country's ability to come to terms with the atrocities committed in the protracted conflict between the government and the Tamil Tigers rebel group, which was defeated in May 2009 after nearly three decades of fighting."
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Foreign Policy has also started a website dedicated to analysing the Cablegate revelations: http://wikileaks.foreignpolicy.com/

The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Berlusconi 'profited from secret deals' with Putin

"US diplomats have reported startling suspicions that Silvio Berlusconi could be "profiting personally and handsomely" from secret deals with the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, according to cables released by WikiLeaks.

Exasperated by Berlusconi's pro-Russian behaviour, American embassy staff detail allegations circulating in Rome that the Italian leader has been promised a cut of huge energy contracts. The two men are known to be personally close, but this is the first time allegations of a financial link have surfaced."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables link Russian mafia boss to EU gas supplies

"Gas supplies to Ukraine and EU states are linked to the Russian mafia, according to the US ambassador in Kiev.

His cable, released by WikiLeaks, followed statements by the then prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, to the BBC that she had "documented proof that some powerful criminal structures are behind the RosUkrEnergo (RUE) company".

Allegations have long swirled that the Russian crime don Semyon Mogilevich had covert interests in Swiss-registered RUE, which distributes gas from central Asia."
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Der Spiegel: In Russian Hands: US Forced to Change Course in Relations with Ukraine

"When seeking a productive working relationship with an undesired newcomer, it is best to have a plan. On Feb. 23 of this year John Tefft, the American ambassador in Kiev, was preparing a plan for the arrival of US National Security Advisor James Jones. On the occasion of the inauguration of the new Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Jones was to convey a generous offer of friendship: The administration of US President Barack Obama "looks forward to working with you across the full range of issues," Tefft's brief suggested Jones tell the new Ukrainian leader.

Jones, who had fought against Moscow's allies in the Vietnam War, was seeking to strike a diplomatic blow against the Kremlin, by making Yanukovych into a US partner."
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Der Spiegel: Cables Track US Diplomatic Efforts to Avert Russian-Georgian Conflict

"The leaked embassy cables show how the US, after spending years helping to build up Georgia's military capabilities, made last-ditch diplomatic attempts to avert the August 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia.[...]

The Georgians were close allies with the US, while the Abkhazians and South Ossetians were supported by Russia. Neither the Russians nor the Americans wanted a major escalation in the regions -- but they weren't averse to fanning tensions. It was a dangerous approach that eventually backfired."
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Der Spiegel: 'Virtual Mafia States': Russian Mafia an International Concern for US Diplomats

"The secret embassy reports read like descriptions of a small banana republic. The mayor of the capital city allegedly has "connections to the criminal world," a few of his friends, including members of parliament, are said to be little more than "bandits," with city officials supposedly "requiring bribes from businesses attempting to operate in the city." The mayor, US diplomats allege, "oversees a system in which it appears that almost everyone at every level is involved in some form of corruption or criminal behavior."

The US cable, dated Feb. 12, 2010, originated from one of the world's largest capitals, Moscow. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov at the end of September because he is no longer trusted by the government. Nevertheless, the memos documented by the American diplomats show how the mafia appears to be deeply anchored in Russian society and to have ties with the government. US diplomats believe that some criminal masterminds have the blessing of people in the Kremlin and security services."
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The Local: US embassy: 'Sweden no longer neutral'

"Among the wealth of documents that the whistleblower website Wikileaks has exposed include several hundred from the US embassy in Stockholm, showing a close security arrangement with the US, according to the Svenska Dagbladet daily.

In a classified telegram from May 4th 2007, prior to prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's visit to the USA, the then US ambassador to Sweden, Michael Wood wrote that Sweden was a "pragmatic and strong" partner. Wood added that even though the official line is non-alignment, Swedish participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace and role as leader of the EU's Nordic Battle Group show that the position is an untruth.

Then US president George W Bush is advised to discuss with Reinfeldt in private, if he wants to praise Sweden's role in the cooperation against terrorism, a formulation which is taken to meant that the ambassador did not believe that the extent of the cooperation is known across the government offices. Wood furthermore wrote that information from Sweden's military and civil security services is an important source of information for the USA for Russian military conditions and for knowledge of Iran's nuclear programme."
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The New York Times: Cables Depict Heavy Afghan Graft, Starting at the Top

"From hundreds of diplomatic cables, Afghanistan emerges as a looking-glass land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest man is a distinct outlier.

Describing the likely lineup of Afghanistan’s new cabinet last January, the American Embassy noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.”

One Afghan official helpfully explained to diplomats the “four stages” at which his colleagues skimmed money from American development projects: “When contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits, during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.” In a seeming victory against corruption, Abdul Ahad Sahibi, the mayor of Kabul, received a four-year prison sentence last year for “massive embezzlement.” But a cable from the embassy told a very different story: Mr. Sahibi was a victim of “kangaroo court justice,” it said, in what appeared to be retribution for his attempt to halt a corrupt land-distribution scheme. "
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The New York Times: Embracing Georgia, U.S. Misread Signs of Rifts

"Throughout the cold war and often in the years since, Western diplomats covering the Kremlin routinely relied on indirect and secondhand or thirdhand sources. Their cables were frequently laden with skepticism, reflecting the authors’ understanding of the limits of their knowledge and suspicion of official Russian statements.

A 2008 batch of American cables from another country once in the cold war’s grip — Georgia — showed a much different sort of access. In Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, American officials had all but constant contact and an open door to President Mikheil Saakashvili and his young and militarily inexperienced advisers, who hoped the United States would help Georgia shake off its Soviet past and stand up to Russia’s regional influence.

The Tbilisi cables, part of more than a quarter-million cables made available to news organizations by WikiLeaks, display some of the perils of a close relationship."
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2010-12-02 Sweden case update: Supreme Court will not consider appeal [Update 2]

The Sweden Supreme Court has declined today to consider the appeal request filed on behalf of Julian Assange against the arrest warrant previously issued, reports Dagens Nyheter, quoting case handler Kerstin Norman.

This would leave the current warrant standing.

Update 1: The Court's statement says that a review would only be granted if it is essential to the interpretation of the law, or in exceptional circumstances, when there is a "serious reason" for Supreme Court involvement. The Court has not found this to be the case, according to Aftonbladet.

We are to understand that evidence of false charges and prosecutorial misconduct does not constitute a sufficiently serious reason for the Supreme Court to grant a review. The Swedish justice system has failed, again.

WL Central would like to reiterate our support for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and we ask you to do the same. Here are some ways to help.

Update 2: Jennifer Robinson, a UK-based lawyer for Julian Assange, gave a live interview on Democracy Now! earlier today. She said that Assange had not been formally charged and that he was not evading arrest, as some had suggested, but that he kept his location confidential because of genuine concerns over his safety. Robinson said that calls for his assassination (see some examples) are outrageous and illegal, and that those making such statements should be prosecuted for inciting violence. She also noted that there were serious due process problems related to the conduct of the Swedish prosecutors, and that in view of statements like those of Sarah Palin, there are real concerns over whether Assange would get a fair trial in the US, should he be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Robinson mentioned that US lawyers were involved in consultations over the Espionage Act, but that in her opinion the WikiLeaks disclosures fall under the protection of the First Amendment.

2010-12-02 WikiLeaks and the US Espionage Act: legal opinions

"Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has confirmed that the Justice Department is examining whether Mr. Assange could be charged with a crime, but legal scholars say that such an effort would encounter steep legal and policy difficulties," writes Charlie Savage in the New York Times.

“The government has never brought an Espionage Act prosecution that would look remotely like this one,” law professor Stephen I. Vladeck told Savage. “I suspect that has a lot to do with why nothing has happened yet.”

"A relic of World War I, the Espionage Act was written before a series of Supreme Court rulings expanded the First Amendment’s protection of speech and press freedoms. The court has not reviewed the law’s constitutionality in light of those decisions," continues Savage. He points to a 2005 case which "ended in embarrassment" for the government because it could not prove that the accused "specifically intended to harm the United States or benefit a foreign country."

“If you could show that [Assange] specifically conspired with a government person to leak the material, that puts him in a different position than if he is the recipient of an anonymous contribution. If he’s just providing a portal for information that shows up, he’s very much like a journalist,” said Jack M. Balkin, a Yale professor of constitutional law.
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Reuters' Mark Hosenball writes that "U.S. authorities could face insurmountable legal hurdles if they try to bring criminal charges against" Assange. "Three specialists in espionage law said prosecuting someone like Assange on those charges would require evidence the defendant was not only in contact with representatives of a foreign power but also intended to provide them with secrets. No such evidence has surfaced, or has even been alleged, in the case of WikiLeaks or Assange."

Reuters quotes Mark Zaid, a defense lawyer who specializes in intelligence cases, saying it would be "very difficult for the U.S. government to prosecute (Assange) in the U.S. for what he is doing."

"Joseph DiGenova, a former U.S. Attorney in Washington who prosecuted high-profile espionage cases, said that federal authorities would face "pretty tough" legal obstacles if they tried to bring a prosecution against Assange. But he said officials like Holder had to make threats of prosecution, even if they lack legal substance, to "send a signal" to other would-be leakers."
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Trevor Timm of the New York Law School has already made the case last month that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have committed no crime in publishing such information.

2010-12-02 Sweden case: The lawyers speak up II

London-based lawyer Mark Stephens spoke with The Guardian:

"Comparing the Swedish prosecutor to Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, Stalin's notorious security chief, Mark Stephens said "neither Mr Assange nor his lawyers have been provided any further information beyond that reported in the press."

He continued: "This appears to be a persecution and a prosecution. It is highly irregular and unusual for the Swedish authorities to issue a red notice in the teeth of the undisputed fact that Mr Assange has agreed to meet voluntarily to answer the prosecutor's questions. Mr Assange has repeatedly sought meetings with the prosecutrix – both in Sweden and subsequently – in order to answer her questions and clear his name. It is relevant that Mr Assange sought permission from the prosecutrix to leave Sweden and she gave him her permission. Since leaving Sweden Mr Assange has continued to seek meetings with the prosecutrix, but his requests have either been ignored or met with a refusal."

He added: "At this point in time, we have no evidence pointing to a link between these allegations from August and the issue of the Interpol alert just two days after the WikiLeaks first release of US diplomatic cables. However, it is highly unusual for a red notice warrant to be issued in relation to the allegations reported as having been made, since Swedish law does not require custodial orders in relation to the allegation – indeed to our knowledge this is a unique action by the Swedish prosecuting authorities in applying for a red notice on the basis of these allegations.

2010-12-02 Sweden case: The lawyers speak up

London-based lawyer Mark Stephens spoke with The Guardian:

"Comparing the Swedish prosecutor to Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, Stalin's notorious security chief, Mark Stephens said "neither Mr Assange nor his lawyers have been provided any further information beyond that reported in the press."

He continued: "This appears to be a persecution and a prosecution. It is highly irregular and unusual for the Swedish authorities to issue a red notice in the teeth of the undisputed fact that Mr Assange has agreed to meet voluntarily to answer the prosecutor's questions. Mr Assange has repeatedly sought meetings with the prosecutrix – both in Sweden and subsequently – in order to answer her questions and clear his name. It is relevant that Mr Assange sought permission from the prosecutrix to leave Sweden and she gave him her permission. Since leaving Sweden Mr Assange has continued to seek meetings with the prosecutrix, but his requests have either been ignored or met with a refusal."

He added: "At this point in time, we have no evidence pointing to a link between these allegations from August and the issue of the Interpol alert just two days after the WikiLeaks first release of US diplomatic cables. However, it is highly unusual for a red notice warrant to be issued in relation to the allegations reported as having been made, since Swedish law does not require custodial orders in relation to the allegation – indeed to our knowledge this is a unique action by the Swedish prosecuting authorities in applying for a red notice on the basis of these allegations.

"We are also investigating whether the prosecutor's application to have Mr Assange held incommunicado without access to lawyers, visitors or other prisoners – again a unique request – is in any way linked to this matter and the recent, rather bellicose US statements of an intention to prosecute Mr Assange."

The Guardian also refers to Stephens's statements to The Times arguing that the arrest warrant issued was invalid:

"The arrest warrant has been issued in circumstances where Assange has an outstanding appeal in Sweden," Stephens said in the Times, while a police source was quoted as saying Assange's warrant was "not a properly certified warrant so we can't act on it."

Stephens argued that although Assange was originally wanted on a charge of rape, this had been thrown out after a partially successful appeal and which meant that Swedish law did not allow for another arrest warrant for current allegations.

He said British police had probably not taken any action against Assange because the warrant was issued incorrectly rather than because they didn't know where he was.

"The sole ground for the warrant is the prosecutor's blatantly false allegation that he is on the run from justice: he left Sweden lawfully and has offered himself for questioning. An appeal against this decision was filed on Monday and is pending," Stephens said.

Separately, Melbourne barrister James D. Catlin wrote in Crikey:

"Apparently having consensual s-x in Sweden without a condom is punishable by a term of imprisonment of a minimum of two years for r-pe. That is the basis for a reinstitution of r-pe charges against WikiLeaks figurehead Julian Assange that is destined to make Sweden and its justice system the laughing stock of the world and dramatically damage its reputation as a model of modernity.[...]

That further evidence hasn’t been confected to make the charges less absurd does Sweden no credit because it has no choice in the matter. The phenomena of social networking through the internet and mobile phones constrains Swedish authorities from augmenting the evidence against Assange because it would look even less credible in the face of tweets by Anna Ardin and SMS texts by Sofia Wilén boasting of their respective conquests after the “crimes”.

In the case of Ardin it is clear that she has thrown a party in Assange’s honour at her flat after the “crime” and tweeted to her followers that she is with the “the world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing!”. Go on the internet and see for yourself. That Ardin has sought unsuccessfully to delete these exculpatory tweets from the public record should be a matter of grave concern. That she has published on the internet a guide on how to get revenge on cheating boyfriends ever graver. The exact content of Wilén’s mobile phone texts is not yet known but their bragging and exculpatory character has been confirmed by Swedish prosecutors. Niether Wilén’s nor Ardin’s texts complain of r-pe.

But then neither Arden nor Wilén complained to the police but rather “sought advice”, a technique in Sweden enabling citizens to avoid just punishment for making false complaints. They sought advice together, having collaborated and irrevocably tainted each other’s evidence beforehand. Their SMS texts to each other show a plan to contact the Swedish newspaper Expressen beforehand in order to maximise the damage to Assange. They belong to the same political group and attended a public lecture given by Assange and organised by them. You can see Wilén on the YouTube video of the event even now.[...]

A great deal more damning evidence is yet to be revealed about what passes for legal process in Sweden, such as Assange’s lawyers having not received a single official document until November 18, 2010 (and then in Swedish language contrary to European Law) and having to learn about the status of investigations through prosecution media announcements but make no mistake: it is not Julian Assange that is on trial here but Sweden and its reputation as a modern and model country with rules of law."

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An appeal against the arrest warrant was filed on Tuesday on behalf of Julian Assange with the Sweden Supreme Court, covered here. Our full Sweden case coverage section can be found here.

2010-12-01 Cablegate: Journalists in defence of WikiLeaks, part 4

(Parts 1-3 of this coverage series are available here, here, and here.)

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."
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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."
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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."
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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."
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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."
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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."
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2010-12-01 Censorship in the US

Amazon has pulled WikiLeaks off its cloud hosting infrastructure, bowing to political pressure from Sen. Joe Lieberman and the Department of Homeland Security.

The Guardian quotes Lieberman's statement: "[Amazon's] decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material. I call on any other company or organisation that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them."

The department of homeland security confirmed Amazon's move, referring journalists to Lieberman's statement, notes The Guardian.

"I will be asking Amazon about the extent of its relationship with Wikileaks and what it and other web service providers will do in the future to ensure that their services are not used to distribute stolen, classified information," Lieberman said, according to Reuters.

Ryan Calo, a lecturer at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society told Reuters that "It would set a dangerous precedent were companies like Amazon to take down things merely because the senator or another government entity started to ask question about them."

The New Yorker's Amy Davidson writes: "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."

"This certainly implicates First Amendment rights to the extent that web hosts may, based on direct or informal pressure, limit the materials the American public has a First Amendment right to access," EFF senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston told Talking Points Memo.

TPM reports that "Committee staff had seen news reports yesterday that Wikileaks was being hosted on Amazon's servers. The service, we should note, is self-serve; as with services like YouTube, the company does not screen or pre-approve the content posted on its servers. Staffers then, according to the spokeswoman, Leslie Phillips, called Amazon to ask about it, and left questions with a press secretary including, 'Are there plans to take the site down?' Amazon called them back this morning to say they had kicked Wikileaks off, Phillips said."

It does not appear that Amazon was served with a legal order to take WikiLeaks down, but rather that the decision was based on verbal criticism from Lieberman and other establishment members. The fact that a website can be taken down without any due process in a country which once had a vaunted tradition of free speech should be an alarm call to anyone who understands the importance of a free media.

2010-12-01 WikiLeaks in today's media: Further Cablegate coverage [Update 3]

Romanian Insider: WikiLeaks runs first confidential cable wire from Romania on adoption cases

"WikiLeaks has published the first confidential document sent from the US Embassy in Bucharest to the US. The document, sent in 2006 by the then US Ambassador to Bucharest Nicholas Taubman refers to adoption cases. “On April 5, Embassy received by mail a letter from Theodora Bertzi, Secretary of State for the Government of Romania,s (GOR) Romanian Office for Adoptions (ROA), dated March 29 and including the final report of the GOR Working Group established in June 2005 to audit pending petitions by foreign families to adopt Romanian orphans and abandoned children,” writes the document. “‘The report shows that none of the 1,092 children identified in the pending petitions will be available for inter-country adoption, ostensibly for the following reasons,” the document goes on, further mentioning the reasons."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables claim Russia armed Georgian separatists

"Russia provided Grad missiles and other arms to separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and carried out a wave of "covert actions" to undermine Georgia in the runup to the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, US diplomatic cables say.

The Kremlin's hostile measures against Georgia included missile attacks, murder plots and "a host of smaller-scale actions", the leaked cables said. Russian secret services also ran a disinformation campaign against Georgia's pro-American, pro-Nato president, Mikheil Saakashvili, claiming he suffered from "paranoid dysfunction"."
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The Globe and Mail: France pressed U.S. on Khadr as Ottawa stood silent: WikiLeaks

"France’s foreign minister asked the United States to consider releasing Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay even though the Harper government adamantly refused to intervene, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.

The memo, released by WikiLeaks, shows that Bernard Kouchner, who was French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s foreign minister until three weeks ago, personally asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to review the case in a meeting in February of 2009."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Alexander Litvinenko murder 'probably had Putin's OK'

"Vladimir Putin was likely to have known about the operation in London to murder the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, Washington's top diplomat in Europe alleged in secret conversations in Paris.

Daniel Fried, the assistant secretary of state, questioned whether "rogue elements" in Russia's security services could have carried out the hit without Putin's direct approval."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables condemn Russia as 'mafia state'

"Russia is a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a "virtual mafia state", according to leaked secret diplomatic cables that provide a damning American assessment of its erstwhile rival superpower.

Arms trafficking, money laundering, personal enrichment, protection for gangsters, extortion and kickbacks, suitcases full of money and secret offshore bank accounts in Cyprus: the cables paint a bleak picture of a political system in which bribery alone totals an estimated $300bn a year, and in which it is often hard to distinguish between the activities of the government and organised crime."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables allege Russia bribed Viktor Bout witnesses

"Russia tried to block the extradition of the suspected international arms trafficker Viktor Bout from Thailand to America by bribing key witnesses, the US claims.

Diplomats in Bangkok alleged in cables released by WikiLeaks that Bout's "Russian supporters" had paid witnesses to give false testimony during his extradition hearing."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Moscow mayor presided over 'pyramid of corruption'

"The US ambassador to Russia claimed that Moscow's veteran mayor Yuri Luzhkov sat on top of a "pyramid of corruption" involving the Kremlin, Russia's police force, its security service, political parties and crime groups."
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Channel 4: Wikileaks: US memo accuses Sri Lanka President of war crimes

"Channel 4 News uncovers a WikiLeaks cable which appears to show the United States believes responsibility for alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka rests with its leaders, including President Rajapakse.

The cable, released today by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, and unearthed by Channel 4 News, was sent from the US Embassy in Colombo on 15 January this year and is headed: 'Sri Lanka war crimes accountability: the Tamil perspective'."
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The Nation: The (Not So) Secret (Anymore) US War in Pakistan

Jeremy Scahill writes: "Despite sustained denials by US officials spanning more than a year, US military Special Operations Forces have been conducting offensive operations inside Pakistan, helping direct US drone strikes and conducting joint operations with Pakistani forces against Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in north and south Waziristan and elsewhere in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, according to secret cables released as part of the Wikileaks document dump."
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Newsweek: Never Mind Democracy

"WikiLeaks documents reveal how closely U.S. worked with Mideast autocracies despite lofty rhetoric about freedom.

Julian Assange’s data dump has helped confirm that America’s democracy agenda is over. The project of liberating the Middle East from tyrannical regimes and installing free governments was once a centerpiece of the United States’ post-9/11 strategy, but the latest cables released by WikiLeaks reveal a far different reality."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Secret deal let Americans sidestep cluster bomb ban

"British and American officials colluded in a plan to hoodwink parliament over a proposed ban on cluster bombs, the Guardian can disclose.

According to leaked US embassy dispatches, David Miliband, who was Britain's foreign secretary under Labour, approved the use of a loophole to manoeuvre around the ban and allow the US to keep the munitions on British territory."
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The Guardian: Wikileaks: US pressured Spain over CIA rendition and Guantánamo torture

"US officials tried to influence Spanish prosecutors and government officials to head off court investigations into Guantánamo Bay torture allegations, secret CIA "extraordinary rendition" flights and the killing of a Spanish journalist by US troops in Iraq, according to secret US diplomatic cables.

Among their biggest worries were investigations pursued by the magistrate Baltasar Garzón, who US officials described as having "an anti-American streak".

"We are certainly under no illusions about the individual with whom we are dealing," they said after he opened an investigation into torture at Guantánamo Bay prison camp. "Judge Garzon has been a storied and controversial figure in recent Spanish history, whose ambition and pursuit of the spotlight may be without rival."
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El País: "Tendremos que ser conscientes de lo que está en juego cuando uno se sienta delante de un funcionario de EE UU"

"Ex diplomáticos españoles celebran que salgan a la luz 250.000 documentos secretos de la mayor potencia del mundo. (Former Spanish diplomats celebrate the coming to lights of 250,000 secret documents belonging to the world's biggest power.)[...]

Máximo Cajal, diplomático retirado que ejerció durante 35 años su oficio, cree que la Casa Blanca, sólo trata de "eludir las muchas responsabilidades que en este tema tiene la Administración Obama, aunque algunas de ellas sean sobrevenidas". "Además, con esas críticas sólo se pretende matar al mensajero". En cuanto a lo que concierne a España, Cajal opina que se deberían extraer algunas lecciones. "Estos documentos ponen al desnudo las presiones confesables y algunas inconfesables a los que están sometidos los llamados países aliados. Los llamados países aliados tendremos que ser más cautos. El jefe de Estado, los ministros, la Magistratura, los fiscales... En el futuro tendremos que ser conscientes de lo que está en juego cuando uno se sienta delante de un funcionario de EE UU. No se trata sólo de que puedan aparecer sus manifestaciones publicadas, como ha ocurrido, sino que uno puede verse sometido a presiones. Hay que ser cauteloso con lo que se dice y con lo que se escucha, porque muchas veces compromete más lo que se escucha que lo que se dice"."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: US special forces working inside Pakistan

"Small teams of US special forces soldiers have been secretly embedded with Pakistani military forces in the tribal belt, helping to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaida fighters and co-ordinate drone strikes, the embassy cables reveal.

The numbers involved are small – just 16 soldiers in October 2009 – but the deployment is of immense political significance, described in a cable that provides an unprecedented glimpse into covert American operations in the world's most violent al-Qaida hotbed."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Pakistani army chief considered plan to oust president

"Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, considered pushing President Asif Ali Zardari from office and forcing him into exile to resolve a political dispute, the US embassy cables reveal.

Kayani aired the idea during a frantic round of meetings with the US ambassador Anne Patterson in March 2009 as opposition leader Nawaz Sharif rallied thousands of supporters in a street movement that threatened to topple the government."
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Amnesty International: Wikileaks cable corroborates evidence of US airstrikes in Yemen

"A leaked diplomatic cable has corroborated images released earlier this year by Amnesty International showing that the US military carried out a missile strike in south Yemen in December 2009 that killed 41 local residents.

In the secret cable from January 2010 published by the organisation Wikileaks, Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh is reported as having assured US General David Petraeus that his government would 'continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours'.[...]

Amnesty International provided the media with photographs of the aftermath of the Abyan strike in June this year, including remnants of the US-sourced cluster munitions and the Tomahawk cruise missiles used to deliver them. The organization also requested information from the Pentagon about the involvement of US forces in the al-Ma'jalah attack, and what precautions may have been taken to minimize deaths and injuries, but has yet to receive a response.

However, a press report a day after the images were released stated that the USA declined to comment on the strike, saying questions on operations against al-Qa'ida should be posed to the Yemeni government. The US government did not respond to the evidence or comment on the airstrike at the time. In the 4 January cable, General Petraeus is recorded as stating that the attack had only caused two civilian casualties but a subsequent inquiry by Yemeni parliamentarians found that 41 civilians had been killed in the attack."
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2010-12-01 Steven Aftergood: Assange prosecution would be "extremely dangerous"

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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."
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Photo credit: FAS

2010-12-01 Opinions on Cablegate: Carne Ross, Max Frankel, Robert Scheer, Amy Goodman

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."
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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."
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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?"
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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.”"
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2010-12-01 Mark Stephens on BBC

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WikiLeaks lawyer and Index on Censorship trustee Mark Stephens was interviewed on BBC about the Cablegate release:

Q: "What do you make of this accusation that it's irresponsible and that it's possibly putting people's lives at risk?"

A: "I think it's fanciful, and the reason I say I think it's fanciful is that the redactions that have been undertaken on this have been done very carefully. A lot of man-hours have been done, they have been cross-checked by the news organizations and the US did also get the opportunity to indicate where they thought that there were problems or lives or operational issues would be put at risk. And indeed, that's the same process that was put in place last time, when the Afghanistan documents were put into the public domain, and the Pentagon spokesman Mr. Lapan, Secretary of State for Defence Gates and NATO officials in Afghanistan all said that they could find not a single example of a person's life being put at risk as a result of that. So I think that the allegations clearly were there, I think, to distract attention from the major issues of huge public importance, which I think ultimately, in the long run, that's what the Americans are concerned about, and that's what many other states who are criticized in these cables [are concerned about], because it would be wrong to say this is anti-American. There are many other state actors, particularly the Russians, who don't come out of this very well at all."

Watch the video

2010-12-01 Censorship in the (not so free) press

After the British government had issued two Defence Advisory Notices to the UK press last week, which were largely ignored or rebutted by UK media, the Australian attorney general issued his own request for a "voluntary agreement to censor" WikiLeaks information, while China dropped the "voluntary" part altogether.

News.com.au: Should we censor WikiLeaks cables on national security grounds?

"Every major news outlet in Australia has received a letter this week from Attorney-General Robert McClelland asking editors to consider a voluntary agreement to censor 'sensitive national security and law enforcement information,'" writes News.com.au Editor in Chief David Penberthy.

The full letter from Robert McClelland is available here (PDF).

News.com.au is asking its readers to vote on whether the site should censor WikiLeaks information. You can vote here. At the time of this writing, 78.1% of readers had voted "No."
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IDG: China blocks access to WikiLeaks

Michael Kan reports for IDG: "China has blocked Internet access to WikiLeaks' release of more than 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables, with its Foreign Ministry saying that it does not wish to see any disturbance in China-U.S. relations.

"China takes note of the government reports. We hope the U.S. side will handle the relevant issues," Hong Lei, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, said at a Beijing news conference on Tuesday. "As for the content of the documents, we will not comment on that."

Access to WikiLeaks' Cablegate page, as well as certain Chinese language news articles covering the topic, have been blocked in the country since Monday. Other articles from the Chinese press that are accessible on the web appear to only concern the U.S. response."
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News Archive - 2010-12 (December 2010)

2010-12-01 Greg Barns: Australian complicity in stifling Assange

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."
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2010-11-30 Cablegate: Glenn Greenwald on CBC

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Glenn Greenwald was interviewed earlier today on CBC's Connect with Mark Kelley about WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, the US government and media reactions to Cablegate, and calls to prosecute Assange:

"His whole life has basically been sacrificed on the altar of trying to bring some accountability and some transparency to these powerful people - that's supposed to be the job of journalists, and yet they seem to be quite hostile to someone like him, who's actually doing it.[...]

What ends up happening in American political culture is that most citizens, and especially the established media are essentially identifying with and getting too close to political power - they're supposed to be adversarial to political power, they're supposed to be on the outside, watching over them, prevent them from engaging in wrong-doing, and instead they come to rely upon them for access, for their sources, for their exclusives, and they come to identify with the very people and political office that they're supposed to be monitoring. And so when somebody [who] is truly adverse to political power, which is what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are, emerges, [what happens] is that these media figures, instead of identifying with the values of disclosure and journalistic exposure and bringing about checks and accountability, instead they identify with the political class into which they've essentially been merged, and the reactions between political figures and media figures are basically the same: everybody is angry and offended at the fact that somebody would inform the American citizenry about what the United States government is doing. It's really extremely bizarre, it's not surprising that the government wants to keep secrets, but to watch the media volunteer to be the leaders, the crusaders on behalf of government secrecy is really quite warped, and reflective of something that's gone very wrong in the American media.[...]

He (Assange) is absolutely a hero, and what's particularly bizarre about it is you hear certain members of the press calling for him to be prosecuted, but the only theories that would allow him to be prosecuted would be the same theories that could easily imprison large numbers of journalists. I mean, the Bush administration actively considered imprisoning or prosecuting the New York Times reporters who revealed that President Bush was illegally spying on Americans in violation of the law. Those are the same theories that they're now calling on to be invoked in order to prosecute Julian Assange for publishing secrets that he got his hands on. They seem to not know or not care that if that actually happens, the ones that would be most jeopardized would be them, at least the few of them who are actually doing investigative reporting."

Watch the video

2010-11-30 ACLU issues statement on WikiLeaks, Cablegate

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The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a statement on WikiLeaks and the Cablegate disclosures:

"The WikiLeaks phenomenon — the existence of an organization devoted to obtaining and publicly releasing large troves of information the U.S. government would prefer to keep secret — illustrates just how broken our secrecy classification system is. While the Obama administration has made some modest improvements to the rules governing classification of government information, both it and the Bush administration have overclassified and kept secret information that should be subject to public scrutiny and debate. As a result, the American public has had to depend on leaks to the news media and whistleblowers to know what the government is up to.

Without whistleblowers such as WikiLeaks who disclosed illegal activity, we wouldn’t know, among other things, about:

* the CIA’s secret overseas prisons
* the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program
* that civilian casualties from the war in Iraq are much higher than was thought
* that U.S. troops were going into battle without adequate body armor

There is certainly a narrow category of information that the government should be able to keep secret in order to protect national security and for other purposes. But the reality is that much more information has been classified by the U.S. government than should be, and information is often classified not for legitimate security reasons, but for political reasons — to protect the government from embarrassment, to manipulate public opinion or even to conceal evidence of criminal activity. When too much information is classified, it becomes more and more difficult to separate the information that should be made public from the information that is legitimately classified.

What the WikiLeaks phenomenon means in the longer term — and how the government will respond — is still open to question. But two things are already clear. First, to reduce incentives for leaks, the government should provide safe avenues for government employees to report abuse, fraud and waste to the appropriate authorities and to Congress. Second, the Obama administration should recommit to the ideals the president invoked when he first came to office: “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”

Democracy, after all, depends on transparency. The American public has a right to know what the government is doing in its name."

2010-11-30 TIME interviews Julian Assange [Update 1]

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In an interview with TIME, the full recording of which will be made available later according to the magazine, Julian Assange said that "[Hillary Clinton] should resign if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up. Yes, she should resign over that."

He mentioned that the documents "are all reviewed, and they're all redacted either by us or by the newspapers concerned," adding that WikiLeaks "formally asked the State Department for assistance with that. That request was formally rejected."

He added that "This organization practices civil obedience, that is, we are an organization that tries to make the world more civil and act against abusive organizations that are pushing it in the opposite direction," and that ""It's very important to remember the law is not what, not simply what, powerful people would want others to believe it is. The law is not what a general says it is. The law is not what Hillary Clinton says it is."
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Update: The full interview transcript and audio are now availabe on the TIME website.

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