Balkanleaks.eu is a whistleblowing Web site modeled on WikiLeaks, and formed to "promote transparency and fight the nexus of organized crime and political corruption in the Balkan states." The site solicits "confidential documents related to political, criminal or financial topics, by offering a manner of collection that is secure and anonymous." Bivol.bg is a Web site devoted to investigative journalism.
In a climate where only three years ago, the editor in chief of a Bulgarian online news provider was severely beaten following several attacks on journalists the same year, both balkanleaks.eu and Bivol.bg have been instrumental in exposing corruption and the abuse of power by organized crime and politicians. You can read some of Bivol's coverage here at WL Central and also here in Bulgarian and Macedonian.
Closely following the character of Julian Assange, founder of the pro-transparency media organization WikiLeaks, the recently aired CNN documentary, “WikiWars,” provides a presentation of the story of the organization with a prime focus on Assange’s character. It is another opportunity, like PBS’ Frontline documentary “WikiSecrets,” for a wide audience in the United States to get a better grasp of the nature of the organization.
That, perhaps, is what makes discussing this documentary important. There is no new information in this documentary, but, packaged together, the documentary uses Assange as a vector for communicating the idiosyncrasies of WikiLeaks to an audience. Whether legitimately done or not, viewers are able to hear Assange in footage obtained by the producers and also hear a handful of people, who have worked with Assange, discuss what he is like.
The documentary can be broken into the following parts: an introduction into the behavior and motivations of Assange, the founding of WikiLeaks (which highlights the work that impacted Kenya and Iceland), the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, the release of the Afghan War Logs that involved collaborating with the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, the accusations of sexual assault that now find him under house arrest in the UK and the rise of a secret global force of cyber hacktivists known as Anonymous that have launched DDoS attacks in defense of WikiLeaks.
Larsen frames the story in the opening scene like this:
David Allen Green, legal correspondent for the New Statesman out of the UK, has spent the last few days calling attention to a leaked confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement (NDA), which he revealed in a blog post on May 11. Green has posted a second post on the agreement on his blog, Jack of Kent, and will be posting a summary to the New Statesman website on May 16, which last time I checked, he intends to glibly title, "NDAs for Dummies."
Green, who is the blogger who was the first to draw attention to the agreement, called it a “draconian and extraordinary legal gag that WikiLeaks imposes on its own staff” and, in particular, focused on Clause 5 of the agreement that “imposes a penalty of ‘£12,000,000 – twelve million pounds sterling’ on anyone who breaches this legal gag.”
In his follow-up post, which cites the analysis I wrote, he groups me with others who “sought to explain the document away: to normalize it and to contend that it is somehow unexceptional.” That is true. That is what I did.
It may be well that for WikiLeaks partisans (like "the Birthers" in the United States), nothing - not even a disclosed document- will shift their adherence to their cause.
Traditional media organizations, especially those in the United States, are afraid of WikiLeaks. It threatens their position in society.
The new "leaks portal" launched by the Wall Street Journal called "SafeHouse" is not just a shoddy excuse of a system for accepting leaks from "sources" but a sign that the WSJ is afraid of WikiLeaks and how the organization is transforming journalism.
In an up-and-coming documentary on the New York Times, "Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times," executive editor of the Times Bill Keller says on-camera, "The bottom line is, WikiLeaks doesn't need us. Daniel Ellsberg did.” That reality has likely fueled the tension between Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Bill Keller and the Times.
At the 2011 National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) in Boston about a month ago, Greg Mitchell, blogger for The Nation, who has been blogging all things WikiLeaks since the release of the US State Embassy cables began, was present for a panel on WikiLeaks. The panel, in addition to Mitchell, featured Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, Micah Sifry, Emily Bell, and Christopher Warren. [The full panel can be viewed here.]
I had the privilege of interviewing Mitchell the day after the panel for The Nation.
[Full disclosure: I currently serve as an intern for The Nation and I happen to assist Mitchell on a daily basis.]
Today, the United States hosts World Press Freedom Day. The day, which was proclaimed to be May 3 by the UN General Assembly in 1993, is supposed to be an occasion for informing citizens of violations of press freedom. The day is to serve as a reminder “in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”
When it was announced in December 2010 the US would be hosting World Press Freedom Day, WikiLeaks had just partnered with a few media organizations to release the US State Embassy Cables. The release known as “Cablegate” led to calls from elected politicians to prosecute members of the WikiLeaks media organization. While no specific newspapers were condemned or targeted (only the New York Times was publishing cables), the calls for prosecution were in effect attacks on press freedom from those in power.
The prosecution of WikiLeaks escalated last week as federal prosecutors stepped up its investigation into WikiLeaks by delivering a letter and a subpoena to an individual in Boston, someone whom a Grand Jury in Alexandria, Virginia, would like to press for details on WikiLeaks. The letter makes it clear the Grand Jury is interested in prosecuting WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act and would like to find out if individuals working for or with WikiLeaks conspired with the leaker of the information to get information.
Between January 11, 2002 and April 23, 2011 (one day before the latest Wikileaks release of the Guantanamo files) there were already about 15 million search entries, 5 million images, 25,000 videos, 6 thousand news items, 900 related books
and around 80 releated movies - including an American stoner styled 'comedy' pictured to your right - about the Guantanamo bay detention and torture camp.
While new information has been published in Wikileaks' latest release of the Guantanamo files, a plethora of evidence about Guantanamo's child detainees, its specious justification and illegality were already available in the public domain. That includes a Senate Armed Services Committee report that stated that detainees were murdered in US custody.
As Jason Leopold said in my interview with him last week, "Murdered. I am talking about murder. I mean, this report talks about how the torture program was based on the US military's resistance to interrogation survival training technique...So, yes, you are absolutely right there are a number of documents and a number of reports that are out there. The problem is that people, and that includes some journalists, frankly don't take the time to read it."
The image above of 'Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo' is not a comedy. It's a horror show. And, Guantanamo Bay is only the beginning of the entertainment superpower's 'theater of cruelty', coming to a town near you.
The institutions of society and of government - in other words, the organs of power, their structure, and their relationship to one another - the press, the legislature, the executive, and the judicial - no longer function in a manner that ensures their intended counter balance to tyranny. As a result our nation's civic, civil, and military power has been usurped by the highest bidder, some of them even foreign, and our democratic republic is drowning in a sea of Blackwater.
Andy Worthington is a journalist, blogger, and author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison. He is also co-director of a new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”.
Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi's testimony, which was obtained under torture and coercion, and later recanted, was cited by the George W. Bush Administration in the months preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq as evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
The head of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch stated al-Libi was "Exhibit A" in hearings on the relationship between pre-Iraq War false intelligence and torture. Confirmation of al-Libi's location came two weeks prior to his death.
Most recently, Worthington partnered with WikiLeaks on its latest release of thousands of pages of documents regarding the cases of 758 out of 779 Guantanamo detainees dating between 2002 and 2008. The documents consist of memoranda from JTF-GTMO, the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay, to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida.
I wanted to talk to you a little bit about a couple things that you had mentioned when you were talking with Amy Goodwin on Democracy Now. One of the things you talked about was that ‘guidelines’ needed to be set up for filtering or discriminating the content that was found in the documents. Could you tell me a little bit about what that would be like in terms of application?
Well, you know, to be honest...a certain amount of hard work is required and some of that has already been done… I am glad to know…by some of the journalists who’ve been writing about it already...who have worked out that a lot of this supposed ‘body of evidence’ consists of allegations that have been made by a small number of prisoners… who have made repeated allegations against large numbers of their fellow prisoners, which have been called into doubt.
Now, you know, the doubts about this information are not necessarily mentioned, in fact, they are rarely mentioned in these military documents.
As an investigative journalist he has written extensively on the Guantanamo Bay detention and torture camp, Enron, and the Military. The list goes on.
In February 2011, Leopold interview Australian David Hicks, a former Guantanamo detainee. It was Hicks' first interview about the torture and abuse he endured at Guantanamo, and his struggle with the injustice of US ex-judicial processes.
Leopold and his colleague, Jeffrey Kaye, have also investigated medical experiments at Guantanamo and psychological techniques used to design Bush's torture program.
His work has been published in The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, Salon, The Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Alternet, Z Magazine, Earth Island Journal, Homeland Security Today, and numerous other national and international publications.
Leopold was the recipient of the Project Censored award two times for his investigative work on Halliburton and Enron. He was awarded the Thomas Jefferson award by The Military Religious Freedom Foundation for a series of stories on the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. Military.
You can find him on twitter at @JasonLeopold.
What is particularly unique about the documents from the latest Wikileaks’ release?
The release of the files should draw attention to the reality that, despite US President Barack Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, the prison is still open. In fact, El Pais has posted analysis to complement coverage of the Guantanamo Files, which details how “legal and political setbacks” prevented Obama from closing the military prison:
Barack Obama criticized George W. Bush for orchestrating, executive order, a labyrinthine detention center that sent hundreds of terror suspects after the attacks of [September 11th] , condemning them to oblivion and without the right to a fair trial in civil court. Obama has perpetuated the shame of Guantánamo to the president's decision, also through an executive order to reinstate the military commissions created by Bush and formalize the system of indefinite detention, which offers the only solution to many of the 172 inmates who reside in the prison to rot within its walls.
There is no other solution. And there is none because the invention was conceived Guantanamo from violating the most basic principle of humanity and legality rules for governing the United States and the developed democracies for centuries. To send to whom the administration of George W. Bush considered suspected of violating U.S. and be soldiers of Al Qaeda, the legal architects of the "war on terror" was invented the concept of unlawful enemy combatants, thus bypassing the safeguards offered by the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war . Detainees in secret CIA prisons anywhere in the world began to land in Guantanamo in January 2002, hooded and shackled hand and foot.
It should draw attention to each of the individual reports and place them in the context of information that journalists have already reported. It should help us further understand what has been going on in the dark and murky military prison that has become so notorious and perhaps further color the world's understanding of documents the ACLU and other organizations have managed to obtain in the past years.
But, the New York Times has published coverage of the documents and did not obtain them from WikiLeaks. Also, according to Greg Mitchell, who has been covering WikiLeaks for TheNation.com with a daily blog since Cablegate began, “"WikiLeaks abruptly lifted the embargo Sunday night, after the organization became aware that the documents had been leaked to other news organizations, which were about to publish stories about them."
Citizens who are concerned with the state of media and democracy in the United States have gathered in Boston to talk about how to reform media. People are here to dig into some of the biggest developments in media, technology and democratic society to get closer to a truth, which can help citizens take action and improve and transform media in their communities.
One of the panels at the conference, "WikiLeaks, Journalism and Modern-Day Muckraking," offered attendees a chance to discuss how WikiLeaks has forced journalists to rethink their role in society and how, in an age of radical transparency, the need for muckraking journalism is greater than ever.
Participating panelists included Greg Mitchell of The Nation, Micah Sifry of the Personal Democracy Forum, Christopher Warren of Australian Media and the Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Emily Warren of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, and Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! moderated.
At the Left Forum in NYC, I spoke on a panel called "What Has WikiLeaks Revealed." I presented with Danny Schechter, founder of MediaChannel, and someone who is a broadcast/print journalist and an internationally recognized speaker and writer on media issues.
Schechter and I each gave a presentation. That audio will be posted at some point. But, for now, as I prepare for the National Conference for Media Reform 2011 that is being held in Boston from Friday, April 8th through Sunday, April 10th, I would like to share what Schechter had to say on US media, particularly US corporate media.
*Click play button below to hear Schechter talk about the media
Amidst the cacophony of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya perpetrated by forces loyal to Muammar Gadaffi - which this writer finds unbearable - (and for which the command principle at least holds him ultimately responsible) including murders, torture, bombing and artillery destruction of civilian infrastructure and the like, the case of Eman al Obaidi stands alone as one of particular importance as well as nauseating repugnance.
Firstly we must acknowledge the presumption of innocence within the particular context of Eman’s allegations. This was brought to my attention by a tweet from Bianca Jagger who said on 28th March:
I have the most enormous respect for Bianca Jagger and found her vehement statement on this matter appropriate on the face of the circumstances in the arena of probabilities but not necessarily in the arena of presumptive law. In one respect the presumption needed further explanation: the LA Times headlines clearly were missing some nuance in that their traditional headline using the word ‘alleged” implicitly acknowledged the presumption, but they erred in not commenting contextually – the probability arena.
An “open letter” from the ex-Bank of America employee was recently posted on the website Anonymous has been using to share the leaked emails. It appears to be in response to how he was characterized in coverage of the leak.
TechHerald.com has focused on this comment, which he wrote in response to a question from Anonymous on whether he had more emails: “I have to save the rest. I promised a WSJ [Wall Street Journal] reporter in Australia the story back in Jan when the Balboa sale was announced. I also need to keep a few aces for my inevitable years of litigation for what I’m doing.”
Today, Anonymous published a letter from him. It suggests he may not be so focused on profiting off his information after all.
He thumps his chest at Bank of America saying Bank of America continues “to underestimate me.”
“I’ve already read their plan of action against me. Anonymous leaked it for the world to see months ago,” he adds. “While “Anonymous” BofA executives huddle together and cower behind their corporate logo, hoping their corporate name can withstand a greater shitstorm than mine, we’ve both been reading the exact same battle plan. Don’t be fooled by press releases. The HB Gary plan cost a lot of the money from their piggy bank, and they’re not ones to let their own money go to waste.”
He suggests he is not afraid of Bank of America executives or employees who might be plotting against him:
Cables released by WikiLeaks on Syria show a State Department eager to repair relations with Syria, which were in extreme ruin when the Bush Administration left power. They show the US government was eager to double their efforts at targeting Syria’s interest in developing nuclear capabilities.
The cable 09DAMASCUS142 from February 19, 2009, shows US officials wanted to find a way to break through Syrian media, which is tightly controlled by the government, and get its own propaganda into the country so Syrians could hear what the US considered to be the truth on US-Syria relations.
Officials were concerned that “savvy journalists” had become “adept at self-censorship.” And, thus, the truth about Syria’s nuclear activities was not being reported:
Egyptian authorities have revoked Al Jazeera Network's licence to broadcast from Egypt.
The information minister [Anas al-Fikki] ordered ... suspension of operations of Al Jazeera, canceling of its licences and withdrawing accreditation to all its staff as of today," a statement on the official Mena news agency said on Sunday.
An Al Jazeera spokesman said that the company would continue its strong coverage regardless.
Prior to learning of the license revocation, Al Jazeera English correspondent Dan Nolan announced that there had been a series of threats from an unspecified source; eventually, the office received a visit from "plain clothes government security" officials ordering Al Jazeera out.
Al Jazeera regards this latest act of censorship
In an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau today, Guido Strack, EU lawyer and former official of the EU commission at Luxembourg, outlines some of the pitfalls of whistleblowing.
Responding to the question "Stehen Mitarbeiter, die Rechtsbrüche anprangern, am Ende oft alleine da?"(Current employees who stand up against violations of the law often stand alone; why is that?), Strack says:
Viele geben irgendwann auf. Es ist eine enorme Drucksituation. Man findet gravierende Verstöße und weiß, dass das dem Chef nicht passen wird. Was macht man damit? Entweder man geht in die innere Kündigung, geht weg oder man gibt einen Hinweis auf die Missstände. Oft werden diese Menschen dann als zu widerspenstig angesehen und von der Organisation ausgesiebt.
Some give up at some point. There is tremendous pressure in this situation. One finds serious failures and violations of the law and knows that the boss will not address the issues. What does one do in that situation? Either you resign and have nothing to do with the problem or you report the violation. However, the people who report the violations will be regarded as being insubordinate and blacklisted from other organizations.)
Strack expands on the plight of whistleblowers in reply to the question:"Warum sind die Sanktionen gegen Whistleblower oft so heftig?"(Why are the legal consequences / punishments enacted against whistleblowers often so draconian?)
Reuters reported today on possible EU legal action against Hungary for its new media law passed in 2010 (reported here by WL Central). Hungary has two weeks to show that the new law complies with EU rules regarding free speech and media freedom, and with EU regulations on broadcasting. The report goes on to state:
The commission, which serves as the EU executive body, is concerned whether the new rules limit freedom of expression in Hungary by requiring all broadcasters to provide balanced coverage of news and to register with a state authority.
The full article can be read here.
In response to today's correction from NPR of their Wikileaks coverage, Matthew L. Schafer at Lippmann Would Roll has compiled a list of other news outlets who should follow their example. While NPR's correction focused on the number of cables published, 1,942 instead of roughly 250,000, Schafer points out other errors that media outlets should avoid:
Moreover, many outlets used phrases similar to “document dump” to describe WikiLeaks’ publishing, which likely leads to the misconception that WikiLeaks did cavalierly publish all 250,000 cables. According to a LexisNexis search, on 397 separate occasions, newspapers around the world used the phrase “document dump.” ...
It’s worth mentioning that often the word “release” is not attributed. That is, the articles do not say to whom the release was made. A release by the website to the public? WikiLeaks’ release of the documents to the newspapers? Thus, a newspaper may say that it was referring to WikiLeaks release of all cables to its newspaper partners, but this is far from clear.
The wonderful database of research into the Manning-Wikileaks prosecution evidence is growing at FireDogLake. They have given us the basic timeline of events, they merged all of the published portions of the chat logs into one version, and then documented everything that Lamo and others had said about the contents of the logs that were not contained in previously released versions here, and they have collected the key Wikileaks-Manning articles here.
They are now working on compiling transcripts for each video/audio Adrian Lamo interview. Already complete and well worth reading are the June 17th, 2010 interview with Glenn Greenwald, parts one and two, and several other key interviews. Thanks once again to FireDogLake for exemplary journalism, because in their own words:
The transcribed data will be used by Marcy Wheeler, Glenn Greenwald and others to try and piece together what actually happened — and hold journalists to a higher standard of more responsible coverage. We’ll also use it to work up a more detailed and extensive timeline of events.
Because it doesn’t appear that the New York Times and other marquee media outlets are going to stop printing Adrian Lamo’s ever-evolving gibberish like it was gospel until they are all able to see, in painful obvious detail, how his story keeps morphing over time.
Coverage in January 2010: