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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."

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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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2010-11-29 Julian Assange: The Forbes interview

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In a wide-ranging interview and cover story for Forbes magazine done earlier this month, Julian Assange discusses the work of WikiLeaks, the "ecosystem of corruption," whistleblowing versus secrecy, previous private sector disclosures, IMMI-style initiatives, and WikiLeaks' next target: an unnamed major US bank, with revelations to rival the infamous Enron emails.

“It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume,” he tells Andy Greenberg.

Photo credit: Forbes

2010-11-29 AFP Ecuador offers WikiLeaks founder residency

AFP reports that the government of Ecuador has offered Julian Assange residency:

"We are ready to give him residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions," Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas told the Internet site Ecuadorinmediato.

"We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just over the Internet but in a variety of public forums," he said.[...]

Lucas said even though Ecuador's policy was not to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, it was "concerned" by the information in the cables because it involved other countries "in particular Latin America."
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2010-11-29 ABC Julian Assange Says Document Dump Targets 'Lying, Corrupt and Murderous Leadership'

In an email interview with ABC News, Julian Assange spoke about upcoming embassy cable releases and responded to accusations from the US administration.

"He was undaunted by vows from the U.S. and Australia to prosecute him and said the forthcoming diplomatic cables are aimed at 'lying, corrupt and murderous leadership from Bahrain to Brazil.'

'We're only one thousandth of the way in and look at what has so far being revealed. There will be many more,' he wrote defiantly.

Assange also dismissed a warning today by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said the dump of secret documents 'puts peoples lives in danger,' particularly those sources who provided the U.S. with information about abuses in foreign countries.

'U.S. officials have for 50 years trotted out this line when they are afraid the public is going to see how they really behave," Assange said in his email. "The facts are that we wrote to the State Department asking for a list of any specific concerns that might have. They refused to assist, and said they demanded everything, including those documents that revealed abuses, be destroyed.'"
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2010-11-29 WikiLeaks in today's media, part 2: Cablegate coverage, continued [Update 2]

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CNN: WikiLeaks: Public has 'right to know' (video)

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson was interviewed earlier today on CNN's American Morning about the embassy cable release, WikiLeaks's harm minimization process and his opinion on the US establishment reactions to the release.

Watch the video

The New York Times: U.S. Haggled to Find Takers for Detainees From Guantánamo

"American diplomats went looking for countries that were not only willing to take in former prisoners but could be trusted to keep them under close watch. In a global bazaar of sorts, the officials sweet-talked and haggled with foreign counterparts in efforts to resettle detainees who were cleared for release but could not be repatriated for fear of mistreatment, the cables show."
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The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables reveal China 'ready to abandon North Korea'

"China has signalled its readiness to accept Korean reunification and is privately distancing itself from the North Korean regime, according to leaked US embassy cables that reveal senior Beijing figures regard their official ally as a 'spoiled child'," writes Simon Tisdall.
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Le Monde: WikiLeaks : comment Washington voit la lutte contre le terrorisme en France

"La guerre en Irak a provoqué un fort refroidissement des relations diplomatiques entre la France, qui y était opposée, et les Etats-Unis. Mais on sait moins que, pendant ce temps, la coopération policière et judicaire n'a fait que se renforcer. Une coopération "mature et étendue (…) largement hermétique aux bisbilles politiques et diplomatiques quotidiennes qui peuvent faire de la France un allié souvent difficile", souligne un télégramme envoyé de Paris le 7 avril 2005, obtenu par WikiLeaks et étudié par Le Monde."
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El Pais: Clinton indagó en la salud física y mental de la presidenta argentina

"Clinton doubted the physical and mental health of the Argentine president. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was just an instrument of her husband, Néstor Kirchner, according to telegrams from the US embassy in Buenos Aires. The cables also reveal that the South American government offered to collaborate with Washington against Evo Morales of Bolivia."
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The Guardian: Editorial: Open secrets

"The next question: what is a secret? It is worth remembering the words Max Frankel, a former editor of the New York Times, wrote to his paper's own lawyers as they were fighting off the litigation around the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers, a comparable leak to the present one. He wrote: 'Practically everything that our government does, plans, thinks, hears and contemplates in the realm of foreign policy is stamped and treated as secret – and then unravelled by that same government, by the Congress and by the press in one continuing round of professional and social contacts and co-operative exchanges of information.'[...]

Once the material fell into the hands of WikiLeaks, an organisation dedicated to publishing information of all kinds, there was no realistic chance of it being suppressed. While opposing publication, the US administration has acknowledged that the involvement of news organisations has not only given protection to many sources, but has also given a context to information which, had it been simply dumped, would have been both overwhelming and free of any such context. As Timothy Garton Ash puts it: it is both a historian's dream and a diplomat's nightmare."
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The Guardian: US embassy cables: A banquet of secrets

"A diplomat's nightmare is a historian's dream – a feast of data that deepens our understanding," writes Timothy Garton Ash. "The historian usually has to wait 20 or 30 years to find such treasures. Here, the most recent dispatches are little more than 30 weeks old. And what a trove this is. It contains more than 250,000 documents. Most of those I have seen, on my dives into a vast ocean, are well over 1,000 words long. If my sample is at all representative, there must be a total at least 250m words – and perhaps up to half a billion. As all archival researchers know, there is a special quality of understanding that comes from exposure to a large body of sources, be it a novelist's letters, a ministry's papers or diplomatic traffic – even though much of the material is routine. With prolonged immersion, you get a deep sense of priorities, character, thought patterns. [...]

There is a public interest in understanding how the world works and what is done in our name. There is a public interest in the confidential conduct of foreign policy. The two public interests conflict."
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CNET: Congressman wants WikiLeaks listed as terrorist group

Declan McCullagh reports on Rep. Peter King's request to the State Department to declare WikiLeaks a "foreign terrorist organization." King explains his motivations on MSNBC: "Let me tell you, first of all, the benefit of that is we would be able to seize their assets and we'd be able to stop anyone from helping them in any way, whether it's making contributions, giving free legal advice or whatever. It would also, I believe, strengthen the secretary of state's hand in dealing with foreign nations as far as trying to get them extradited, trying to get them to take action against them."
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BBC News: Clinton: WikiLeaks cable release 'attack on world'

"This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests," Secretary Clinton said. "It is an attack on the international community: the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity."
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Salon: WikiLeaks: U.S. bombs Yemen in secret

"One of the most interesting items in the trove of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks confirms that the Obama Administration has secretly launched missile attacks on suspected terrorists in Yemen, strikes that have reportedly killed dozens of civilians. The government of Yemen takes responsibility for the attacks.

The January 2010 cable describes a meeting between Gen. David Petraeus and President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, in which they discuss U.S. airstrikes."
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The Nation: WikiLeaks on the Arab Gulf States vs. Iran

Robert Dreyfuss writes: "Curious it is that Republicans, hardliners, and neoconservatives anxious to proclaim "American exceptionalism"—which, stripped down, means that America can and should do anything it wants around the world because it’s the greatest—are now trumpeting the fact that, according to WikiLeaks at least, various leaders of the Arab Gulf kleptocracies are calling for the United States to attack Iran."
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The New York Times: Answers to Readers’ Questions About State’s Secrets

NY Times ediror Bill Keller: "So, two basic questions. Why do we get to decide? And why did we decide to publish these articles and selected cables?

We get to decide because America is cursed with a free press. I’m the first to admit that news organizations, including this one, sometimes get things wrong. We can be overly credulous (as in some of the reporting about Iraq’s purported Weapons of Mass Destruction) or overly cynical about official claims and motives. We may err on the side of keeping secrets (President Kennedy wished, after the fact, that The Times had published what it knew about the planned Bay of Pigs invasion) or on the side of exposing them. We make the best judgments we can. When we get things wrong, we try to correct the record. A free press in a democracy can be messy.

But the alternative is to give the government a veto over what its citizens are allowed to know. Anyone who has worked in countries where the news diet is controlled by the government can sympathize with Thomas Jefferson’s oft-quoted remark that he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers. And Jefferson had plenty of quarrels with the press of his day."
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Der Spiegel: Diplomats or spooks? How US Diplomats Were Told to Spy on UN and Ban Ki-Moon

"The US State Department gave its diplomats instructions to spy on other countries' representatives at the United Nations, according to a directive signed by Hillary Clinton. Diplomats were told to collect information about e-mail accounts, passwords and encryption keys, credit cards, biometric information and a whole lot more.

Such methods violate all the rules laid down within the UN. In the "Convention on the Privileges and Immunity within the United Nations" as in the "Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," it is stated that no methods of espionage should be used. In addition, the US and the UN signed an agreement in 1947 ruling out undercover activities."
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Der Spiegel: Laughter in Rome, Denials in Berlin: The World Reacts to Massive Diplomatic Leak

"Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, depicted as a vain party animal in the US State Department cables disclosed by WikiLeaks on Sunday, "had a good laugh" upon learning of the revelations. Others aren't as sanguine. A US Representative wants to designate the Internet platform as a terrorist organization."
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Le Monde: Les révélations de WikiLeaks en quelques phrases-clés

Le Monde summarizes some of the key revelations disclosed so far in the WikiLeaks embassy cables, from the Arab leaders' concerns about Iran to the Putin-Berlusconi relationship, the Russian "mafia state," views on Sarkozy, Karzai, Erdogan, Kadhafi, diplomatic espionage and Chinese attack on Google.
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New Statesman: The curse of superpowers is to only see their own reflections

"WikiLeaks above all shows the difficulty the US has in understanding other cultures and societies," writes Catriona Luke. "For the present however it seems no country suffers from lack of understanding like the Americans. It was there in its ordinary people post 9/11 - how could anybody dislike the US - it was there in the US army's inability to believe that they would not be welcomed with open arms as liberators in Baghdad. It is clearly visible in the cable dispatches sent out to Washington - intelligence sent without context, understanding or grasp of subletly; tabloid tittle-tattle rattled off as if from a bunch of Yale fraternity kids 'oh he's not worth bothering about, he's a dork', 'she hasn't got a brain'. The cables show an entire corporate mindset at work on world populations who must surely be, in their psychological make up, just like Americans.

How do you tell a world superpower of 300 million citizens or 1.2 bn (China) or 250 million (Soviet Russia) that the world's other 4.5 billion don't think the American, Chinese or Soviet way? That societies and cultures are as complex, subtle and various as the millions of people who compose them. How do you prevent superpowers who, in trying to understand the rest of the world, take it to be their own reflections in a mirror coming back at them?"
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El Pais: Los internautas preguntan a Javier Moreno

Javier Moreno, director of El Pais, answers questions from readers about the WikiLeaks embassy cable release and the decision of his newspaper to publish it: "Let us say, as modestly as we can, that WikiLeaks has allowed us to do great journalism. Journalism that changes history is needed by the citizens more than ever in a world where states and politicians are increasingly trying to hide information from their societies."

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2010-11-29 Craig Murray: "Raise a glass to WikiLeaks"

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Former British ambassador and human rights activist Craig Murray wrote an opinion piece on WikiLeaks and the embassy cable revelations for The Guardian. The unabriged article is available on his website.

"The well paid securitocracy have been out in force in the media, attacking Wikileaks and repeating their well worn mantras. These leaks will claim innocent lives, and will damage national security. They will encourage Islamic terrorism. Government secrecy is essential to keep us all safe. In fact, this action by Wikileaks is so cataclysmic, I shall be astonished if we are not all killed in our beds tonight.

Except that we heard exactly the same things months ago when Wikileaks released the Iraq war documents and then the Afghan war documents, and nobody has been able to point to a concrete example of any of these bloodcurdling consequences.[...]

I have never understood why it is felt that behaviours which would be considered reprehensible in private or even commercial life – like lying, or saying one thing to one person and the opposite to another person – should be considered acceptable, or even praiseworthy, in diplomacy. [...]

Those who argue that Wikileaks are wrong, believe that we should entrust the government with sole control of what the people can and cannot know of what is done in their name. That attitude led to the “Dodgy dossier” of lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.[...]

The people discomfited by these leaks are people who deserve to be discomfited. Truth helps the people against rapacious elites – everywhere."
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Photo credit: Colin McPherson

2010-11-29 Democracy Now!: Daniel Ellsberg, Greg Mitchell, Carne Ross, As’ad AbuKhalil on WikiLeaks and Cablegate

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Democracy Now! hosted a roundtable discussion earlier today on the Cablegate revelations, with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Greg Mitchell of The Nation, Carne Ross, a British diplomat who resigned before the Iraq war, and As’ad AbuKhalil, a professor of political science at California State University. The discussion was hosted by Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman.

Daniel Ellsberg responded to Adm Mike Mullen's reiteration of the "WikiLeaks has blood on its hands" line: "First of all, we have Admiral Mullen there who is the interesting position of sending American troops- men and women- into harm’s way. So when it comes to blood on hands, he’s really has got a lot to answer for. From another point of view, he’s quite an expert on that.[...] You can believe that if their plumber’s operation- to the tune of more than 100 men working on this- had been able to find one mutilated body, that one would be on the cover of Newsweek by now. So we’ve had a pretty good test of how well the process of sanitizing these documents by the newspapers- and by WikiLeaks- has operated and the answer is, the proof is in the pudding: No harm has been done; Admiral Mullen’s fears are groundless."

Daniel Ellsberg: "For what it’s worth, we are finding that the big problem with our awful, miserable, incompetent foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not the fault of foolish, stupid or lying mid-level staffers down below. They are speaking fairly honestly, not with a lot of local knowledge often, but fairly shrewdly in many cases, doing their best job to their superiors. The lying- as in Vietnam- is being enforced by the upper levels. What we need to see, really, is someone following Bradley Manning, or whoever the source is, following his example. He gave what he could- at his twenty-two year old level, corporal’s level, or whatever was available to him- to inform the public. We need somebody with higher access, the kind that I had at that time, and unfortunately didn’t use then, I’m sorry to say, I apologize. But somebody should put out the higher level papers that reveal the high level dealing and stupid formulations, theories, 'mad man' theories and others that are informing our policy so that the American people can begin to get some grip on our incoherent policy and enforce a more humane and productive thrust to it."

Greg Mitchell on the US administration's threats to WikiLeaks: "Joe Lieberman just is the most recent one, quite a detailed call saying this is a national security threat. Peter King said it was the same thing as a military attack, liking it to an attack on the U.S. But so far that hasn’t gotten anywhere and there hasn’t been a serious move to prevent the further dissemination or to stop, as we saw with the Pentagon papers, the actual newspapers printing documents. So we haven’t seen that yet, but we have seen some elegant defenses of publishing the documents, particularly in The Guardian – Simon Jenkins there and in the New York Times note on why the published the documents and they emphasize that it is not the press’ role to keep the government from suffering embarrassment and they also, as he mentioned earlier, the importance of using the example of the false information that was spread about Iraqi WMD’s, that if material like this had come out at that time it would have had a tremendous impact on perhaps halting what became the invasion of Iraq."

The full video is available on the Democracy Now! website.

2010-12-01 Frontline event: First Wednesday: WikiLeaks - The US embassy cables

The Frontine Club has announced a panel discussion on WikiLeaks and the embassy cables as part of the "First Wednesday" event series. The panel will take place on Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 at the Frontline Club, London:

"Following the release this weekend of 251,287 confidential United States embassy cables, this month's First Wednesday debate will focus on the revelations of this latest leak from whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. We will be joined by:

* WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson;
* James Ball a data journalist who has been working with WikiLeaks;
* Nicky Hager, author and Investigative journalist;

Additional panelists to be confirmed."

The debate will be chaired by Paddy O'Connell of BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House.

Event website: http://frontlineclub.com/events/2010/12/first-wednesday-9.html

2010-11-29 Cablegate: Journalists in defence of WikiLeaks [Update 1]

John Kampfner, The Independent / Index on Censorship: Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority

"All governments have a legitimate right to protect national security. This should be a specific, and closely scrutinised, area of policy. Most of our secrecy rules are designed merely to protect politicians and officials from embarrassment. Documents are habitually over-classified for this purpose. The previous government made desperate attempts to stop legal evidence of its collusion in torture from reaching the public. Ministers argued, speciously, that this was to protect the "special intelligence relationship" with Washington. It will be intriguing to see how much information is allowed to be published when Sir Peter Gibson begins his official inquiry. Precedent suggests little grounds for optimism.

As with all free speech, as with Wikileaks, context is key. It is vital to know when governments collude in torture or other illegal acts. It is important to know when they say one thing in private (about a particular world leader) and do quite another in public. It is perturbing to know that aid agencies may have been used by the military, particularly in Afghanistan, to help Nato forces to "win hearts and minds".

These questions, and more, are vital for the democratic debate. The answers inevitably cause embarrassment. That too is essential for a healthy civil society. Good journalists and editors should be capable of separating the awkward from the damaging."
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Simon Jenkins, The Guardian: The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment

"The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport.[...]

Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public's interest, I fail to see what is.

Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment."
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Marc Cooper, The Nation: Why Not WikiLeaks?

"I don’t know about you… but I want to read more, not less, about this. Indeed, an editorial in Monday’s Guardian reads in part: “ Before US government officials point accusing fingers at others, they might first have the humility to reflect on their own role in scattering ‘secrets’ around a global intranet.”

If we had less government lying and secrecy during the run up to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, there might be a few more million living and breathing. I think that sort of benefit outweighs the quirks of Wikileaks."
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Nick Davies, The Guardian

Nick Davies posted the following messages on Twitter:

"US warned that today's Wikileaks stories would risk "countless lives". http://tinyurl.com/396oapm. That was a lie." (link)

"Wikileaks stories are all tales we would have published before - if official secrecy had not concealed them." (link)

Brad Friedman, independent journalist: In Wake of WikiLeaks Cable Release, JFK, Ellsberg's Remarks on 'Secrecy', 'Covert Ops' Worth Noting

"As this information becomes public, and as the U.S. Government continues to scramble to mitigate what the White House is calling today a "reckless and dangerous" leak, condemning it "in the strongest terms" as an alleged threat to national security, it's worth keeping in mind, for valuable perspective, what the 1970s legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg wrote in an op/ed for The BRAD BLOG in early 2008...

'Many, if not most, covert operations deserve to be disclosed by a free press. They are often covert not only because they are illegal but because they are wildly ill-conceived and reckless. "Sensitive" and "covert" are often synonyms for "half-assed," "idiotic," and "dangerous to national security," as well as "criminal."'[...]

It would seem this "democracy", at least, has, in fact, "matched" exactly that conspiracy described as abhorrent by JFK. And we have all, collectively, allowed it to happen --- whether we had ever hoped or wished to."
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Ian Dunt, Politics.co.uk: The hypocrisy of the media attack on Wikileaks

"The traditional media has become so toothless it is reduced to attacking Wikileaks for doing its job properly.[...]

In every case, the western media reacted by, yes, covering the story, but pushing the narrative of an irresponsible outlet beset by anti-Americanism to the fore. Of course, no-one was calling Assange irresponsible when Wikileaks released "Kenya: The Cry of Blood - Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances", which won the 2009 Amnesty International UK New Media Award.[...]

It's an indictment of the British media that its response to these leaks is one of condemnation rather than troubled inner scrutiny. Its general outlook is so conservative, its relationship with the establishment so cushy and its interests so scurrilous that it now condemns those who do their jobs properly. But perhaps there's something else. Wikileaks represents merely the birth-pangs of a new media, one that cuts out the middle man to reveal the documents in full. Perhaps the media feels things moving away from it, to a world of citizen journalists and information freedom.

That's an eventuality which would be far less likely if the traditional media did its constitutional duty and held the powerful to account."
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Javier Moreno, director of El País

"Let us say, as modestly as we can, that Wikileaks has allowed us to do great journalism. Journalism that changes history is needed by the citizens more than ever in a world where states and politicians are increasingly trying to hide information from their societies."

Read more

Cablegate coverage - The New York Times

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The New York Times: State's Secrets: Cables Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels

"A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.

Cablegate coverage - Le Monde

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Section front page: http://www.lemonde.fr/documents-wikileaks/

Le Monde: Les révélations de WikiLeaks sur les coulisses de la diplomatie américaine

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