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.”
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."
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."
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%."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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. "
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."
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.
"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.
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."
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.