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2011-05-24 Thoughts for President Obama's visit to Europe

In the light of President Obama's visit to Europe this week, I would like to take the opportunity to suggest some reading. It is an extraordinary document, a report compiled by Swiss politician Dick Marty for the Council of Europe: "Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states".


The full text, which has been available online for years, details CIA rendition flights within Europe. According to this report, several European countries facilitated the transfer of detainees to torture camps.

The report also lists a military facility in Stare Kiejkuty, Poland, and nearby Szymany airport as detainee drop off points (see page 17 f.). In the light of a current Polish criminal investigation into alleged CIA rendition flights to and from Szymany, a recent complaint against Poland at the European Court of Human Rights, and President Obama's visit to this country I urge everybody to have a look at this document. It clearly lists information on flights and dates of arrivals.

Many news outlets around the world reported about these rendition flights. On Stare Kiejkuty, these articles might be of interest:




It seems that it was very easy for journalists and Dick Marty to get hold of evidence; one is left wondering why the investigation in Poland is proceeding at a snail's pace.

The Polish press has been keeping the topic in the public's perception over the past years. For some more information on the topic see:


Assange seeking support for bail, in court tomorrow [Update 1]

According to the Guardian, Julian Assange is to appear in court tomorrow. He is seeking support for bail and surety.

Today, a Swiss bank closed a bank account holding funds for his defense and his savings.

He has stated that he believes the case was initially motivated by personal issues. He now sees it influenced by US interests. He also stated that he refused to return to Sweden because he would not receive a fair trial, and because he would be kept incommunicado and in solitary confinement.

Full text:

To see how the case unfolded today, please have a look at my previous blog entries.

Lawyers: Assange is arranging to meet with police [Update 1]

Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson, the UK lawyers of Julian Assange were notified by Scotland Yard that a European Arrest Warrant has been received. The lawyers are arranging for Assange to meet with British police by consent. Insofar, Assange has not been charged.

BBC interview with Mark Stephens:

See the Guardian live blog for more details:

Wikileaks says cablegate release will continue

According to the BBC, Scotland Yard today received a European Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange, and Wikileaks announced that it will continue with the release of documents even if Assange is arrested.

This video also has interviews with Mark Stephens and Kristinn Hrafnsson, who confirm that Assange's whereabouts are known to the Swedish and British authorities but not divulged because of recent death threats.


Reuters: US Attorney General talks about "other statutes, other tools"

Eric Holder, the US Attorney General today stated that he was looking into how Wikileaks can be held accountable beyond the Espionage Act. He mentioned "other statutes, other tools" and "a number of things" he authorized last week, but declined to specify further.

Full article:

Hrafnsson defends latest controversial release

In an interview with the BBC, Kristinn Hrafnsson today defended Wikileaks' decision to publish a diplomatic cable about critical infrastructure and key resources.

It details which foreign infrastructure and resources are essential to the wellbeing of the United States.

The BBC covered this release:

A quick glance at the Guardian website did not yield any report on this cable.

Link to interview:

BBC: UK receives arrest warrant for Julian Assange

According to the BBC, the United Kingdom received a European Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange on Monday evening.

Full article:

AP: Swiss account closed, money will be refunded

According to AP, Julian Assange's bank account was closed because he is not a resident of Switzerland, which would have been a requirement to open such an account.

The money will be refunded. There will be no further consequences for Assange.

Full article:

US Ambassador to Germany says he is not leaving

The Hamburger Abendblatt published an article about Philip Murphy, the US ambassador to Germany. Over the past week, he met criticism because of his descriptions of German politicians, in particular of the FDP (Liberal Democrats).

On the day the first documents of Cablegate were released, he gave an interview in a tabloid. A summary can be found here:

Murphy received internal information from the coalition talks via a mole who worked for Guido Westerwelle, FDP. Some basic information:

A week after the Cablegate story broke, Murphy told the Abendblatt "I am not going anywhere", in response to members of the FDP who demanded he step down. He wrote to the MPs in question offering to talk to them in private once the situation had calmed down. Murphy said he had apologized to various people. He also stated "I don't blame them for being angry, I am angry as well." describing the past week as dreadful and very hard. He did, however, insist that the relations between the US and Germany had not been harmed in a significant way.

Both the CDU (Conservative) and the Green Party supported Murphy. A leading Green MP said "You can't ask the ambassador to step down just because the FDP isn't on top of things."

Full article:

See also the AFP coverage:

They do notice us

On Saturday the 4th of December Wikileaks released a cable from the Secretary of State created on the 3rd of November 2008. It is classified as secret/noforn.

Most of the cable focuses on serious topics - al Qua'ida, the execution of the Bali bombers, a suicide attack on a Pakistani official and so on.

It also contains reports on attempted "cyber attacks". These range from the trivial (such as a virus infected e mail claiming to come from a US embassy but being sent from a yahoo account) to serious attempts to hack into the US DoD. The cable also summarizes a conference held by the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which is the official name of the domestic secret service.

The passage I found most interesting, however, was a report on a peaceful, yet improvised demonstration at the Stockholm embassy. Twelve to fifteen protesters carrying banners demanding the fair treatment of Guantanamo detainees appeared in front of the embassy, took photographs of the building and disappeared soon after.

This rather banal event made it into a diplomatic cable sent out by the Secretary of State (not the Stockholm embassy!), and it was classified as secret. It is listed under the heading "significant events", not under "suspicious activity". The latter category contains reports of persons taking photos of embassies or suspicious cars.

Thus, the photographs were not the only reason why this event was described in a classified cable. Rather, it seems that the banners were perceived as a threat.

They do notice us, and they don't like things such as demonstrations on sensitive topics.

CIA flights with permission of the Spanish government [Update 2]

How to transfer detainees from Afghanistan or other countries to Guantanamo? A cable written at the US embassy on the 4th of December 2008 describes how the US ambassador negotiated a permission from the Spanish ministry of foreign affairs to use "discreet" Spanish airports as mid way stops for long haul flights:

The cable then goes on to discuss how documents on these negotiations were leaked to the press. The author complains that CIA flights and military flights were often mixed up in press reports.

The cable also describes private communication between the embassy and the Spanish ministry of foreign affairs.

Update 1: Al Jazeera on the role of European countries in CIA flights (predates Cablegate by a few days): http://is.gd/idtvt

Update 2: SVD on how Sweden discovered about CIA flights via their territory (features secret service agents disguised as airport workers): http://is.gd/ieYnJ

The Spanish connection in the al Masri case [Update 2]

Previous coverage of the Khaled al Masri case can be found here:

On the 2nd of December, Wikileaks released a second cable about the al Masri case. It was written at the US embassy in Madrid on the 28th of December 2006.

It describes an investigation into flights departing from Spanish soil. Al Masri was said to have been on one of these flights. The cable also names the thirteen people who were accused of participating in the abduction.

At around the same time, there was an active investigation in Germany into the role of thirteen CIA officers in the same matter (please see previous post for details).

This new cable confirms that it was a CIA flight.

The cable quotes press reports indicating that five of the thirteen people on board held diplomatic passports.

The comments by the author of the cable are thus: the Spanish government stated that no crimes were committed on Spanish territory. The judge emphasized that he had indeed jurisdiction over cases of torture that were committed on foreign soil. The prosecutor is well known at the US embassy and he is expected to respect the wishes of the Spanish government. The judge might get territorial about his jurisdiction.

Update 1: In the meantime, Wikileaks published another cable relevant to the al-Masri case. It was written at the 1st of February 2007 in Madrid. It can be found here:

The author voices concern about the cooperation of the German and Spanish prosecution, which "will complicate our efforts to manage this case at a discreet government-to-government level."

The flights under scrutiny were:
- Algiers to Palma to Skopje on January 22, 2004
- Guantanamo to Tenerife to Constanza, Romania on April 12,2004, and
- Madrid to Luxor, Egypt on December 16, 2003.

Who is the German citizen abducted by the CIA? [Update 5]

According to the New York Times, the US warned Germany not to enforce an arrest warrant against CIA agents who had kidnapped an innocent German citizen and abducted him to Afghanistan.

The article does not name this person, but it is very likely indeed that it is Khaled al Masri, who claims to have been abducted at the Macedonian border on new year's eve 2003. He says he was then brought to Afghanistan, where he was interrogated and tortured, and subsequently brought to Albania, where he was released. Even though his story seemed very unlikely at first sight, it was corroborated by a number of facts. Some links to previous press reports:

A German court issued arrest warrants for thirteen members of the CIA in January 2007.

There were suspicions that it was a case of mistaken identity.

Al Masri translates to “the Egyptian” and is a very common Arabic surname.

The exact details on who was informed about his abduction at which point and who could have intervened or provided diplomatic assistance are still not entirely clear.

Since his release, al Masri had stated that he was suffering from the effects of his abduction. In May 2007, al Masri set a supermarket on fire following a trivial argument with a sales assistant. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Update 1: The case discussed in the NYT is indeed the abduction of Khaled al Masri. The document the NYT refers to is 07BERLIN242 which can be found here: http://is.gd/hVFNI

Update 2: ACLU writes about futile attempts to hold US accountable for the abduction http://is.gd/hZoYo

Update 3: Video via boing boing http://is.gd/i4cME

Update 4: Spanish airfields used in the abduction http://harpers.org/archive/2010/12/hbc-90007836

Leaked Spiegel Report – English Summary

Today, two scanned pages of the next Spiegel issue appeared on the Internet. Here is a summary of the first page (the second does not contain any surprising revelations):

The person in charge of taking minutes for the FDP (the liberal democrat party) at the German coalition talks collaborates with the US. He is being described as young and ambitious. He has showed up repeatedly at the US embassy, typically carrying a stash of documents.

According to his statement (see cable 229153 from 09th of October 2009), the FDP is very much opposed to Wolfgang Schäuble, CDU (conservative party), describing him as a neurotic grumpy old man who is trying to control his party.

In a discussion about US nuclear weapons on German territory, Guido Westerwelle, FDP, stated that the US should withdraw their nuclear weapons, Schäuble maintained that they would be needed to deter Iran, to which Westerwelle replied that Iran was out of reach of these weapons. Merkel, CDU, put an end to the discussion stating that it would be useless for Germany to engage in such an initiative on its own.

Finally, the informant handed over a file with the complete transcripts of the coalition talks. Ambassador Murphy concluded that he intended to conduct further talks with the source.

See also: Murphy reaches out to German public in tabloid http://wlcentral.org/node/363

Update: The leak was apparently caused by a newspaper vendor at Basel train station, who sold the embargoed Spiegel issues by accident. http://is.gd/hVtLK

US Ambassador Comments on New Wikileaks Release

Today, Philip Murphy, the US ambassador to Germany, published an open letter in the most widely read newspaper of the country. http://www.bild.de/BILD/politik/2010/11/28/wikileaks/hg/es-wird-auch-fue...

A few extracts from the text in English translation:

“We all need trust, at the work place and in our private lives. Loyalty – towards an employer, a friend or a partner – is the most precious good we have. Nowhere is this more the case than in the field of diplomacy: we facilitate the communication between governments to further common interests, to improve mutual understanding and to solve problems.


Wikileaks now recklessly distributes documents alleged to be highly sensitive communication classified as secret – a grave breach of trust which has put people's life in danger.

[...] The consequences are difficult to predict. It will at least be unpleasant – for my government, for those who are mentioned in the reports, and for me personally as the American ambassador to Germany.

I am sure that the friendship between the United States and Germany is going to survive this challenge.


This open letter appeared in Bild, the German equivalent of the Sun.

Wikileaks has in the past worked together with der Spiegel, a center-left weekly magazine which has a proud history of high quality investigative journalism and source protection.

How were the Iraq War Logs edited?

Other than most previous Wikileaks documents, the Iraq War Logs appeared in a redacted form. All proper names had been removed. At a press conference on the 23rd of October 2010 Julian Assange gave a glimpse on how this work was carried out. In the following, I am going to describe the process in my own words.

Rather than reviewing every single document one by one and deleting all proper names, Wikileaks decided to go for an intelligent approach to the matter. All content was assumed to be out, until it was whitelisted. This process is far more complex than it might appear at first sight, as a number of words could have very different meanings, depending on the context.

“Osama bin Laden” would, for instance, be difficult to pick up in a simple word by word search, as both the word “bin” and “Laden” are also part of the English vocabulary. Thus, Wikileaks approached the matter by conducting a context search, identifying common phrases and patterns in the text, and then decided whether these would be in or out. This was then supplemented by a word for word concordance search. Once the editing process was completed, a number of randomly chosen sample documents were reviewed to double check whether all names had indeed been replaced with blanks.

Even though this approach cut the work load down considerably, the editing process was still a lot of (hard) work. Broken down, the documents would have filled approximately 200,000 pages in a standard layout.

Caveat: I have no inside knowledge of the project. The above description is solely based on publicly available information.

Minimum Requirements for a Fair Trial

Both the British and the Swedish legal representation of Julian Assange have stated that the Swedish prosecution violated the European Convention by not informing Assange of the the charges against him. Their statements:

This is the passage they are referring to:

"Article 6 – Right to a fair trial
3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
(b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court."

The full text of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms can be found here:

The right to be informed promptly about the accusations is listed as the first entry on a list of minimum requirements for a fair trial.

Julian Assange and Monasticism

A recent post by the Julian Assange Fanciers Guild depicts Assange thinking about a possible exile in one of the Meteora monasteries. http://julian-assange-fanciers-guild.tumblr.com/post/1634285760/the-witc... This prompted me to dig out an old article by the Guardian, which I had meant to review for some time. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/aug/01/julian-assange-wikileaks-afg... When I first read its heading, I was startled. It says:

“Julian Assange, monk of the online age who thrives on intellectual battle”

Why would one want to describe Assange as a monk? This seemed rather obscure. I began to read. Halfway through the article I came across the following passage:

“David Leigh describes Assange as "a mendicant friar of the electronic age". Like his organization, he is global and rootless.”

This, on the other hand did make sense. Like a mendicant friar, Assange does not own many worldly possessions, he leads an itinerant life and he is funded by donations from the public. He also advocates a radical change to existing structures, which is one of the most prominent characteristics of mendicant friars.

Was the enigmatic heading of the article based on a misunderstanding of this quote? If this was the case, then two very different groups of people got mixed up. Mendicant friars understand themselves as an opposition to monks. Maybe the best known depiction of this divide can be found in Umberto Eco's novel “The Name of the Rose”, where one of the lead characters, William of Baskerville (a Franciscan friar) visits a wealthy Benedictine monastery (inhabited by monks) that exploits the poor indigenous population.

How big is Wikileaks' Next Release? [Update]

Yesterday, Wikileaks announced that the next release of documents is going to be seven times the size of the previous publication. Some news outlets have therefore come to the conclusion that this referred to the number of documents, stating that the next release would comprise three million documents. See for instance this AFP article:
This does not necessarily have to be the case as Wikileaks' statement could as well refer to the total word count rather than to the number of documents.

See also: http://wlcentral.org/node/295

Update: According to this statement on the Wikileaks homepage

"The full set consists of 251,287 documents, comprising 261,276,536 words (seven times the size of "The Iraq War Logs", the world's previously largest classified information release)."

Assange was indeed referring to the total word count of the release.

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