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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.

2010-11-30 Cablegate: Noam Chomsky and David Leigh on Democracy Now!; Daniel Ellsberg on BBC

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Democracy Now! featured earlier today interviews with MIT Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky and The Guardian's Investigations Executive Editor David Leigh on WikiLeaks and the Cablegate revelations.

You can watch part one and part two of the interview with Noam Chomsky, and the full interview with David Leigh on the Democracy Now! website.

Commenting on requests that WikiLeaks should be declared a terrorist organization, Noam Chomsky, who helped Daniel Ellsberg make public the Pentagon Papers, said: "I think that is outlandish. We should understand- and the Pentagon Papers is another case in point- that one of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population. In the Pentagon Papers, for example, there was one volume- the negotiations volume- which might have had a bearing on ongoing activities and Daniel Ellsberg withheld that. That came out a little bit later. If you look at the papers themselves, there are things Americans should have known that others did not want them to know. And as far as I can tell, from what I’ve seen here, pretty much the same is true. In fact, the current leaks are- what I’ve seen, at least- primarily interesting because of what they tell us about how the diplomatic service works."

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"I think we should pay attention to what we learn from the leaks. What we learned, for example, is kinds of things I’ve said. Perhaps the most dramatic revelation, or mention, is the bitter hatred of democracy that is revealed both by the U.S. Government – Hillary Clinton, others – and also by the diplomatic service," he added.

David Leigh said that "These revelations aren’t over yet. In fact, they’ve barely started. We at the Guardian and the other international news organizations will be making revelations, disclosures from now, day-by-day, for probably the next week or more. So, we haven’t seen anything yet, really.[...] In the coming days, we are going to see some quite startling disclosures about Russia, the nature of the Russian state, and about bribery and corruption in other countries, particularly in Central Asia. We will see a wrath of disclosures about pretty terrible things going on around the world."

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Daniel Ellsberg, in an interview with the BBC News Service, disagreed with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statement that the latest leaks could endanger lives. "That's a script that they role out every time there's a leak of any sort," he said. It is not leaks, but "silences and lies" that put peoples' lives in danger, he believes.

Daniel Ellsberg Photo credit: AFP

2010-11-30 Updates in Sweden case

Julian Assange's lawyers have filed an appeal with the Sweden Supreme Court against the warrant issued for him by the Stockholm District Court earlier this month. Kerstin Norman, the case handler on the docket, confirmed to AFP that the Court had received the appeal:

"Norman said the country's highest court would first need to determine whether to hear the case at all. 'This is a so-called high-priority case, so that decision should go quickly,' she said, adding she expected the ruling to come 'tomorrow, the day after, but also perhaps next week.'

'If no trial permit is given, the appeals court verdict will stand, but if a permit is given, we will reconsider whether the detention order was correct,' she said. Such a hearing would also likely go quickly, Norman said, adding it would take anywhere from 'a few weeks to over a month, depending on the circumstances,'" reports The Local via AFP.

In the meantime, The Interpol has issued a "Red Notice" for Julian Assange. The notice is not an international arrest warrant, as the Interpol and the BBC clarify.

Mark Stephens, Julian Assange's London-based lawyer, told The Guardian that "the Swedish attempts to extradite Assange have no legal force. So far he has not been charged, Stephens says – an essential precondition for a valid European arrest warrant. Under the EAW scheme, which allows for fast-tracked extradition between EU member states, a warrant must indicate a formal charge in order to be validated, and must be served on the person accused."

"Julian Assange has never been charged by Swedish prosecutors. He is formally wanted as a witness," Stephens told the Guardian today.

In its report on the Interpol notice, The Independent notes: "Wherever Assange does decide to set up base, one thing is certain – the leaks will keep coming. For the past month, WikiLeaks' administrators have had to suspend the submissions wing of the website because they have been overwhelmed by the number of fresh whistle-blowers sending them information. Anyone who thinks the WikiLeaks founder will take a back seat over the coming months and wait for the heat to die down must be mistaken."

2010-11-30 Cablegate: Journalists in defence of WikiLeaks, part 3 [Update 1]

(Parts 1 and 2 of this coverage series are available here and here.)

Jack Shafer, Slate: Why I Love WikiLeaks

"The idea of WikiLeaks is scarier than anything the organization has leaked or anything Assange has done because it restores our distrust in the institutions that control our lives. It reminds people that at any given time, a criminal dossier worth exposing is squirreled away in a database someplace in the Pentagon or at Foggy Bottom.[...]

Assange and WikiLeaks, while not perfect, have punctured the prerogative of secrecy with their recent revelations. The untold story is that while doing the United States' allies, adversaries, and enemies a favor with his leaks, he's doing the United States the biggest favor by holding it accountable. As I.F. Stone put it, 'All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.'"
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Glenn Greenwald, Salon: WikiLeaks reveals more than just government secrets

"The WikiLeaks disclosure has revealed not only numerous government secrets, but also the driving mentality of major factions in our political and media class. Simply put, there are few countries in the world with citizenries and especially media outlets more devoted to serving, protecting and venerating government authorities than the U.S. Indeed, I don't quite recall any entity producing as much bipartisan contempt across the American political spectrum as WikiLeaks has: as usual, for authoritarian minds, those who expose secrets are far more hated than those in power who commit heinous acts using secrecy as their principal weapon.[...]

The central goal of WikiLeaks is to prevent the world's most powerful factions -- including the sprawling, imperial U.S. Government -- from continuing to operate in the dark and without restraints. Most of the institutions which are supposed to perform that function -- beginning with the U.S. Congress and the American media -- not only fail to do so, but are active participants in maintaining the veil of secrecy. WikiLeaks, whatever its flaws, is one of the very few entities shining a vitally needed light on all of this. It's hardly surprising, then, that those factions -- and their hordes of spokespeople, followers and enablers -- see WikiLeaks as a force for evil. That's evidence of how much good they are doing."
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Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive: Wikileaks and the Reactionary Impulse to Repress

"The single biggest Wikileaks revelation is not that the Saudis are still funding Al Qaeda, or that Hillary Clinton ordered the State Department to spy on foreign diplomats and the U.N., or that many Arab countries favor an attack on Iran.

No, the real eye-opener is the reactionary impulse of people in power to repress those who disseminate information.[...] Lieberman, Clinton, and King are trying to convict Wikileaks with guilt by hyperbole. King wants Wikileaks to be listed as a foreign terrorist organization. And everyone from Hillary Clinton to Liz Cheney wants the folks behind Wikileaks prosecuted.[...]

Fundamentally, in a democracy, we, as citizens, deserve to know what our government is up to. The State Department is not the preserve of the Mandarins, and we are not peasants to be kept in the dark."
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Digby: WikiLeaks fallout

"There's a lot of chatter, for obvious reasons, about the Wikileaks document dump and whether or not it's a dangerous and despicable act. My personal feeling is that any allegedly democratic government that is so hubristic that it will lie blatantly to the entire world in order to invade a country it has long wanted to invade probably needs a self-correcting mechanism. There are times when it's necessary that the powerful be shown that there are checks on its behavior, particularly when the systems normally designed to do that are breaking down. Now is one of those times."
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Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post: The WikiLeaks Cables: Small Revelations That May Cause a Big Idea to Take Hold

"Let's start with what the U.S. embassy cables released by WikiLeaks this weekend are not.

They are not, as Hillary Clinton claimed, "an attack on America's foreign policy interests" that have endangered "innocent people." And they are not, as Robert Gibbs put it, a "reckless and dangerous action" that puts at risk "the cause of human rights."

And they do not amount to what the Italian foreign minister, in one of the sorrier moments in the history of hyperbole (or is it hysteria?), deemed the "September 11 of world diplomacy."[...]

But here is what makes the leaked cables so important: they provide another opportunity to turn the spotlight on the war in Afghanistan, which, despite the fact that it's costing us $2.8 billion a week keeps getting pushed into the shadows -- even in this deficit-obsessed time. The cables are a powerful reminder of what this unwinnable war is costing us in terms of lives, in terms of money, and in terms of our long-term national security.[...]

If any of these revelations tip the scales, reminding people why bringing our troops home quickly needs to be more -- much more -- than "aspirational" (as the Pentagon recently termed the goal of being out by 2014), then this round of WikiLeaks will have been a very good thing, indeed."
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2010-11-30 Cablegate: Official reactions: Truth is terrorism, part 2 [Update 1]

(Part 1 of this coverage series is available here.)

US Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. said the Justice Department and the Pentagon have launched "an active, ongoing criminal investigation" into WikiLeaks. According to The Washington Post, "Others familiar with the probe said the FBI is examining everyone who came into possession of the documents, including those who gave the materials to WikiLeaks and also the organization itself.[...] Former prosecutors cautioned that prosecutions involving leaked classified information are difficult because the Espionage Act is a 1917 statute that preceded Supreme Court cases that expanded First Amendment protections.[...] But the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is rapidly unfolding, said charges could be filed under the act."

"It is not saber rattling," said Holder. "To the extent there are gaps in our laws, we will move to close those gaps, which is not to say that anybody at this point, because of their citizenship or their residence, is not a target or a subject of an investigation that's ongoing."

But, the Washinton Post notes, "All the experts agreed that it may be difficult for the United States to gain access to Assange, who apparently has avoided traveling to the country. Most nations' extradition treaties exempt crimes viewed as political. 'I can imagine a lot of Western allies would view this not as a criminal act, but as a political act,' said [former federal prosecutor Baruch] Weiss.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs yesterday said: "WikiLeaks and people that disseminate information to people like this are criminals, first and foremost. And I think that needs to be clear," according to CNET.

CNET also quotes State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley: "We're not going to let what WikiLeaks has done undermine the global cooperation that is vitally important to resolving regional and global security challenges." But Crowley did rule out more aggressive action against WikiLeaks. When asked "is any action going to be taken that could involve" an "extra-legal process such as renditions or a one-way trip for Assange to Guantanamo Bay," Crowley replied: "No."

Former Arkansas Gov. and possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said that, for anyone who provided information to WikiLeaks, "anything less than execution is too kind a penalty," according to The Florida Independent.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in the meantime urged the US administration to call for a manhunt on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that would be carried out with "the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders," reports The Huffington Post. She called Assange "an anti-American operative with blood on his hands."

Former Senator Rick Santorum, another possible GOP presidential candidate for 2012, said at a speech in New Hampshire that Julian Assange should be "prosecuted as a terrorist" for posting classified information, according to The Huffington Post.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that "We're at war. I hope Eric Holder, who's a good man, will start showing some leadership here and get our laws in line with being at war," reports CNET. Was he referring to Iraq or Afghanistan? No, the war against WikiLeaks.

In the meantime, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that "a taskforce of Australian soldiers, spies and officials has been formed to pore over 250,000 US files being published by WikiLeaks."

WikiLeaks replied on Twitter: "Australia deploys Taskforce against WikiLeaks http://is.gd/hXB2g help us deploy counter force: http://is.gd/hXGAf "

Let us stop to contemplate for a moment the fact that "terrorism" now includes telling citizens what their own government does, in that very government's words. Let us also note that more than half of the embassy cables concerned are not classified, and that only 6% of them are classified as secret. What the establishment's reactions show is not any actual national security concern, but simply, as Noam Chomsky put it earlier today on Democracy Now!, "a profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership."

Update: Joining the ranks of crazed assassination advocates is Tom Flanagan, advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has called for the assassination of Julian Assange, "by a drone or something," on public television: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqtIafdoH_g

Is incitement to murder not a punishable offence in Canada? These are the people running your governments, world. Take notice.

2010-11-30 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage, continued

The Independent: Now we know. America really doesn't care about injustice in the Middle East.

Robert Fisk writes: "I came to the latest uproarious US diplomatic history with the deepest cynicism. And yesterday, in the dust of post-election Cairo – the Egyptian parliamentary poll was as usual a mixture of farce and fraud, which is at least better than shock and awe – I ploughed through so many thousands of American diplomatic reports with something approaching utter hopelessness. After all, they do quote President Hosni Mubarak as saying that "you can forget about democracy," don't they?

It's not that US diplomats don't understand the Middle East; it's just that they've lost all sight of injustice."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cable reveals secret pledge to protect US at Iraq inquiry

"The British government promised to protect America's interests during the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, according to a secret cable sent from the US embassy in London.

Jon Day, the Ministry of Defence's director general for security policy, told US under-secretary of state Ellen Tauscher that the UK had "put measures in place to protect your interests during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq war".

The admission came in the cable sent on 22 September 2009, which recorded a series of high-level meetings between Tauscher and UK defence officials and diplomats, which involved the then foreign secretary, David Miliband."
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The Guardian: UN seeks answers from Washington

"[US ambassador to US Susan] Rice was questioned about a leaked US cable showing diplomats were asked to find personal financial details about the UN leadership, including credit card information, passwords for their communications systems and frequent-flier membership. Ban's office hit back at the US with a warning that any violation of UN "immunity" may breach international law.

Rice, speaking after a meeting of the security council today, three times declined to deal directly with questions about the spying."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Pakistan opposition 'tipped off' Mumbai terror group

"Pakistan's president alleged that the brother of Pakistan's opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, "tipped off" the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) about impending UN sanctions following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, allowing the outfit to empty its bank accounts before they could be raided."
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The Guardian: Cables expose Pakistan nuclear fears

David Leigh writes: "American and British diplomats fear Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India.

The latest cache of US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks contains warnings that Pakistan is rapidly building its nuclear stockpile despite the country's growing instability and "pending economic catastrophe".[...]

The leak of classified US diplomatic correspondence exposes in detail the deep tensions between Washington and Islamabad over a broad range of issues, including counter-terrorism, Afghanistan and finance, as well as the nuclear question. "
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Ha'aretz: WikiLeaks cables: Qatar okays use of airbase for U.S. attack on Iran

"Qatar agreed to allow the United States to use a base on Qatari soil to bomb Iran, according to a report in the newspaper Al-Arabiya based on secret diplomatic cables published by the website WikiLeaks.

Qatar also agreed to pay 60 percent of the upkeep costs for the Al-Udeid airbase, which has already been used by the U.S. military to launch air sorties over Iraq."
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The New York Times: Ahoy Washington, Need Advice: Blackwater Plans Pirate Hunt

"In late 2008, Blackwater Worldwide, already under fire because of accusations of abuses by its security guards in Iraq and Afghanistan, reconfigured a 183-foot oceanographic research vessel into a pirate-hunting ship for hire and then began looking for business from shipping companies seeking protection from Somali pirates. The company’s chief executive officer, Erik Prince, was planning a trip to Djibouti for a promotional event in March 2009, and Blackwater was hoping that the American Embassy there would help out, according to a secret State Department cable."
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The New York Times: Nuclear Fuel Memos Expose Wary Dance With Pakistan

"It may be the most unnerving evidence of the complex relationship — sometimes cooperative, often confrontational, always wary — between America and Pakistan nearly 10 years into the American-led war in Afghanistan. The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of news organizations, make it clear that underneath public reassurances lie deep clashes over strategic goals on issues like Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban and tolerance of Al Qaeda, and Washington’s warmer relations with India, Pakistan’s archenemy."
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Le Monde: WikiLeaks : le Pakistan, un allié inconfortable dans la "guerre contre la terreur"

""Méfiance", "Suspicion". Ces termes reviennent souvent sous la plume d'Anne Patterson, ambassadrice américaine à Islamabad entre 2007 et 2010, pour qualifier l'ambiguïté des relations entre les Etats-Unis et le Pakistan, alliés inconfortables de la "guerre contre la terreur". Les Américains n'en finissent pas de se plaindre de l'attitude sélective de l'armée pakistanaise à l'endroit des divers groupes talibans, selon qu'ils frappent au Pakistan ou en Afghanistan.

De leur côté, les Pakistanais – analysent les câbles américains – vivent toujours dans la crainte d'être abandonnés par les Etats-Unis une fois leurs objectifs stratégiques atteints, à l'instar du scénario qui avait suivi le départ des troupes soviétiques d'Afghanistan en 1989. En dépit de cette relation crispée, les Américains engrangent quelque acquis, en obtenant notamment d'Islamabad la présence de leurs forces spéciales dans les zones tribales où l'armée pakistanaise combat les foyers insurrectionnels talibans."
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Le Monde: Irak : les "ex" de Blackwater sont désormais employés par DynCorp

"Blackwater change de nom et devient "Xe" en 2009. Sa licence ne sera finalement pas renouvelée en Irak et elle prendra le chemin de l'Afghanistan. En revanche, l'ordre du premier ministre Maliki d'expulser "tous les agents et ex-agents" de la firme ne sera pas entièrement respecté. Un télégramme diplomatique du 5 janvier 2010 l'établit clairement : "Bonne nouvelle pour nos opérations aériennes", se félicite le diplomate qui le rédige : "Le ministère de l'intérieur irakien a approuvé la licence de la société DynCorp, bien qu'il sache qu'elle emploie beaucoup d'anciens de Blackwater."
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Le Monde: Cuba-Venezuela, "l'axe de la Malice", dit l'ambassade américaine à Caracas

"Après "l'axe du Mal" cher à George Bush (Irak-Iran-Corée du Nord), voici "l'axe de la Malice". C'est ainsi que l'ambassade américaine à Caracas qualifie l'alliance entre Cuba et le Venezuela dans un rapport secret de janvier 2006 obtenu par WikiLeaks et révélé par Le Monde. Les diplomates des Etats-Unis considèrent que les opposants au président vénézuélien, Hugo Chavez, ont fait fausse route en dénonçant "les ingérences et le communisme cubains". Cet argument ne porte pas auprès des "Vénézuéliens pauvres", car les programmes sociaux inspirés et soutenus par La Havane sont appréciés. Cependant, l'ambassade prend très au sérieux "la large coopération des Cubains avec les services de renseignement vénézuéliens"."
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Der Spiegel: Blackwater Subsidiary Flouted German Arms Export Laws

"A subsidiary of the US private security firm Blackwater flouted German arms export law, the US diplomatic cables have revealed. The company, Presidential Airways, didn't want to wait to get the proper export permit, so it simply transported the aircraft to Afghanistan via third countries."
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Der Spiegel: Unstable Pakistan Has US on Edge

"The US diplomatic cables provide deep insights into the true extent of Pakistan's true volatility. American Embassy dispatches show that the military and the Pakistani secret service are heavily involved in the atomic power's politics -- and often work against US interests."
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Der Spiegel: The 'Tribune of Anatolia': America's Dark View of Turkish Premier Erdogan

"The US is concerned about its NATO ally Turkey. Embassy dispatches portray Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a power-hungry Islamist surrounded by corrupt and incompetent ministers. Washington no longer believes that the country will ever join the European Union."
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El País: "Los ministros españoles trabajan para que no prosperen las órdenes de detención"

"EE UU contaba con el Gobierno y los fiscales para cerrar el 'caso Couso'.- Un cable de la Embajada de Estados Unidos afirma que Conde-Pumpido dijo a Aguirre que hacía lo que podía para el archivo de la causa por la muerte en Bagdad del cámara de Telecinco.- "Moratinos asegura que la vicepresidenta De la Vega se ha implicado en el asunto" "
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El País: Los espías cubanos actúan por libre en Venezuela y despachan con Chávez

"El despliegue de los servicios de inteligencia cubanos en Venezuela es tan profundo que disfrutan de "acceso directo" al presidente Hugo Chávez y, frecuentemente, le hacen llegar información no compartida con los servicios de inteligencia locales, según indican cables enviados al Departamento de Estado por su embajada en Caracas. "Delicados informes indican que los lazos de inteligencia entre Cuba y Venezuela son tan estrechos que sus agencias parecen rivalizar para conseguir la atención del gobierno bolivariano", indica el cable 51158, fechado el 30 de enero de 2006."
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El País: Pakistán presta apoyo encubierto a grupos terroristas

"Los papeles secretos de la diplomacia norteamericana sobre Pakistán descubren un escenario escalofriante. Los documentos revelan los temores de Washington con todo lo relacionado con la seguridad de las instalaciones atómicas paquistaníes, donde trabajan más 120.000 personas, su "frustración" por la creciente falta de cooperación de Islamabad en temas de no proliferación y su alarma por la utilización por parte de los militares y los servicios secretos paquistaníes de "los grupos terroristas como herramientas de la política exterior". Para colmo, debido a la rivalidad histórica con India, Pakistán sigue incrementado su arsenal nuclear."
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El País: "Zaragoza tiene una estrategia para torcer el brazo a Garzón en el 'caso Guantánamo"

"La Embajada de Estados Unidos trabajó a fondo en la primavera de 2009 para frenar una querella presentada en la Audiencia Nacional por crímenes de guerra y torturas en la prisión de Guantánamo (Cuba). El escrito, elaborado por un grupo de abogados afincados en España, iba dirigido contra los seis asesores jurídicos del Gobierno de George W. Bush que habían diseñado la arquitectura legal que sustentaba Guantánamo, entre ellos el ex fiscal general Alberto Gonzales o David Addington, ex jefe de gabinete del vicepresidente Dick Cheney."
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2010-11-30 Cablegate: Journalists in defence of WikiLeaks, part 2

(Part 1 of this coverage series is available here.)

The Economist: In defence of WikiLeaks

"If secrecy is necessary for national security and effective diplomacy, it is also inevitable that the prerogative of secrecy will be used to hide the misdeeds of the permanent state and its privileged agents. I suspect that there is no scheme of government oversight that will not eventually come under the indirect control of the generals, spies, and foreign-service officers it is meant to oversee. Organisations such as WikiLeaks, which are philosophically opposed to state secrecy and which operate as much as is possible outside the global nation-state system, may be the best we can hope for in the way of promoting the climate of transparency and accountability necessary for authentically liberal democracy. Some folks ask, "Who elected Julian Assange?" The answer is nobody did, which is, ironically, why WikiLeaks is able to improve the quality of our democracy. Of course, those jealously protective of the privileges of unaccountable state power will tell us that people will die if we can read their email, but so what? Different people, maybe more people, will die if we can't."
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John Nichols, The Nation: The White House Is Wrong to Claim WikiLeak Harms the Cause of Human Rights

"On Sunday, [White House Press Secretary] Gibbs achieved the rare combination of utter shamelessness and utter shamefulness when he claimed that by releasing classified diplomatic communications "WikiLeaks has put at risk…the cause of human rights."

Reasonable people may debate the way in which WikiLeaks obtains and releases classified documents. But for Gibbs to try and claim that transparency and openness pose broad threats to the cause of human rights—in the face of all of the compromises of US administrations over the past several decades—is intellectually and practically dishonest.[...]

This is the spin that Gibbs and his team have chosen to employ in their effort to attack the ideal of transparency in international affairs. But, let’s be clear, it is merely spin.

There can and should be honest debates about these WikiLeaks in particular, and in general about the approach of those who leak and circulate classified information. But Gibbs is not engaging in such a debate. Instead, he is feigning upset over human rights in order to deflect attention from revelations regarding the backdoor dealings of US administrations—including the current one—that have consciously and consistently diminished the ability of this country to advance the cause of human rights."
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Heather Brooke, The Guardian: WikiLeaks: the revolution has begun – and it will be digitised

"Much of the outrage about WikiLeaks is not over the content of the leaks but from the audacity of breaching previously inviable strongholds of authority. In the past, we deferred to authority and if an official told us something would damage national security we took that as true. Now the raw data behind these claims is increasingly getting into the public domain. What we have seen from disclosures like MPs' expenses or revelations about the complicity of government in torture is that when politicians speak of a threat to "national security", often what they mean is that the security of their own position is threatened.

We are at a pivotal moment where the visionaries at the vanguard of a global digital age are clashing with those who are desperate to control what we know. WikiLeaks is the guerrilla front in a global movement for greater transparency and participation.[...]

This is a revolution, and all revolutions create fear and uncertainty. Will we move to a New Information Enlightenment or will the backlash from those who seek to maintain control no matter the cost lead us to a new totalitarianism? What happens in the next five years will define the future of democracy for the next century, so it would be well if our leaders responded to the current challenge with an eye on the future."
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Israel Shamir, Counterpunch: On Board the Good Ship Cablegate: Assange in the Entrails of Empire

"Tensions run high when you dare oppose the awesome power of the Matrix. These bright, young cyber-warriors are willing to put their lives on the line for us. Will they survive the launch, or will some evil clones round them up and break them down? In any case, spirits are high and the weather is fit for such a daring enterprise: glorious high skies, a brilliant sun, and bright stars to guide us through the restless nights. Whatever happens I shall be forever grateful for these days, for the company of these charming young men and women, and for the inspiration of their charismatic leader. It is impossible not to admire Julian Assange. He is forever kind, quiet, gentle, and even meek; like the Tao, he leads without leading, directs without commanding. He never raises his voice; he hardly needs to speak and the way becomes clear. Our Neo is guided by the ideal of social transparency. Bright light is the best weapon against conspiracies.[...]

It appears that American power peaked in 1990s, and now it has begun to slowly decay. Megaleaks is not so much a cause as a symptom of decline. With any luck, people of good will around the world can work together to gracefully degrade the machinery of foreign domination. Americans have benefited least of all from the violent and intrusive politics of globalism. Heroic figures like Julian Assange lead us toward genuine local control and away from a Matrix-like network of conspiracies.
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Norman Solomon, Common Dreams: WikiLeaks: Demystifying “Diplomacy”

"Compared to the kind of secret cables that WikiLeaks has just shared with the world, everyday public statements from government officials are exercises in make-believe. In a democracy, people have a right to know what their government is actually doing. In a pseudo-democracy, a bunch of fairy tales from high places will do the trick.[...]

The recent mega-leaks are especially jarring because of the extreme contrasts between the U.S. government's public pretenses and real-life actions. But the standard official response is to blame the leaking messengers.[...]

But what kind of "national security" can be built on duplicity from a government that is discredited and refuted by its own documents?"
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Jeff Sparrow, ABC (Australia): Some junk needs to be touched

"If you’re a democrat, it’s a pretty basic principle: the public should know what the government does in its name.

Consider one of the new WikiLeaks revelations. Salon reports that one cable documents a US diplomat "warn[ing] German counterparts against issuing arrest warrants for CIA agents who were involved in the kidnapping of a German citizen, who was brought to Afghanistan and tortured before officials concluded that they had the wrong man".

It speaks volumes of where we’re now at that the newsworthy aspect of the sentence quoted above doesn’t relate to CIA involvement in kidnapping and torture. No, no, that’s old news – merely another tiny facet of the criminality and lawlessness fostered by the secrecy and unaccountability of the Bush administration.

By contrast, the exposure of attempts to bully German officials to abandon a torture investigation goes some tiny way to restoring the notion of a rule of law – you know, that old-fashioned notion that government officials shouldn’t be able to kidnap people with impunity.[...]

With the WikiLeaks cables, we’re not discussing personal modesty. We’re talking about decisions with real implications for a world we all have to live in. No-one wants to see Robert Gibbs naked. But, however embarrassing the US spokespeople might find it, WikiLeaks's enhanced pat-down is a good thing for democracy."
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