News Archive - 2011-05 (May 2011)

2011-05-01 IrishLeaks Launches Submission Platform

Please note: Reportage on IrishLeaks and other leaking platforms should not be read as an endorsement by WL Central - prospective leakers are urged to satisfy themselves of the trustworthiness of their intended recipients and to take precautions to ensure their own anonymity.

ImageToday marks the launch of IrishLeaks, an implementation of the Wikileaks model for anonymous leaking platforms in the Republic of Ireland. The platform has received some coverage in domestic Irish news in recent days. IrishLeaks is apparently unaffiliated with Wikileaks in any way. The site now claims to be operational, and open to submissions.

IrishLeaks is the latest in a string of regional Wikileaks-style anonymous whistleblower platforms that have been set up since Wikileaks began to garner international attention, the most active of which has been Balkanleaks. WL Central listed some of these organizations here.

The "About" section of the site reads:

[T]he IrishLeaks project will provide a system that will help whistleblowers who want to shed light on abuses of power within the Republic of Ireland remain anonymous. IrishLeaks is a platform for the Irish people, making it easier to share and discover information about the abuses of power affecting the people in the Republic of Ireland. We are creating a secure and anonymous service that accepts information from wherever there is an abuse, whether it be in government, private industry, not for profit organisations, or even organised crime. That information will be published right here on this website. By doing this we hope to encourage a fairer, more honest society in which openness and transparency become something to be valued, making it easier to stop a misuse of power by creating a place where it can be published, read and spread by others.

The site claims to implement a secure submission platform, which removes all data from submitted documents. The organization commits to verifying documents and scrubbing them of personal data:

Our process is in line with those of similar leaking platforms. Once a document is submitted through our submission system, we will start by verifying its authenticity. Once this is completed we will remove any personal private data which might put innocent individuals at risk. Finally, we will publish the document on our website, making it available for everyone to read.

IrishLeaks arrives at a time of a significant lapse in public trust within Irish society. Since 2008, Ireland has been beset by crisis in the banking sector and faltering government, leading to an EU/IMF bailout in late 2010. A general election in March saw the electorate replacing the dominant Fianna Fáil party, and replacing it with a coalition between Fine Gael and Labour, normally the dominant opposition parties.

A recent Millward Browne Landsdowne poll indicated that, out of a list of different professions, politicians and corporate officials enjoy the least trust from the Irish public. This is borne out in another poll carried out as part of the Edelman Global Trust Barometer, where figures suggest that trust in public and private institutions in Ireland is lower than anywhere else in Europe.

A similar situation in Iceland - accompanied by a banking scandal caused by a leak to Wikileaks - led to a strong programme of law reform, and a heightened awareness of the importance of a free press. An NGO, Transparency International Ireland, in a 2010 report, recommended a similar programme for Ireland to strengthen institutional mechanisms for whistleblowing as a means of dealing with corruption in the public and private sectors. While the new government has pledged to pass a Whistleblower Bill, across-the-board reform along the Icelandic model has yet to materialize as a discernable political programme. IrishLeaks is the first indication that the global transparency movement represented by Wikileaks might be taking hold in the Republic of Ireland.

The test of the site - if it is successful in receiving material of significant public interest in Ireland - will be whether it is successful in protecting the anonymity of its sources, while also fighting off legal challenges.

The site is accessible here. A twitter account is accessible here.

Please note: Reportage on IrishLeaks and other leaking platforms should not be read as an endorsement by WL Central - prospective leakers are urged to satisfy themselves of the trustworthiness of their intended recipients and to take precautions to ensure their own anonymity.

2011-05-01 Julian Assange: "I believe in the right to communicate and the inviolability of history"

An interview with Julian Assange for the Bulgarian site for investigative journalism - Wikileaks media partner.


On Cablegate

Bivol: WL started Cablegate with the partnership of five top international media outlets. Are you happy with this model? What are the limitations of this approach?

Julian Assange: When I founded WikiLeaks my intention was that as we published documents the public and journalists could access these, analyze them, research around them and then write blogs or articles about them. Unfortunately this did not happen organically as I had expected. Rather, many of our documents were essentially ignored. I believe this was due to that fact that an investment of time was needed to be able to make sense of these documents. For media organisations this produced economical issues: what if another organisation was also working on them but with more people and so would produce the story first? Then the time and effort your organisation had invested would be a waste. For bloggers there is another issue as well as time and effort spent: most bloggers spend their time commenting on the issues already being raised in their social groups. Investing their time working on our documents when their social group has not already decided their stance on the issues raised in them would potentially mean they comment unwittingly against how the rest of their group eventually views the information. They do not want to waste the limited time they have outside of their other work spending time on a piece in which they don't know what opinion to portray. I realised that we would therefore need to work with institutions to ensure the documents we posted received the attention and effect they deserved. By entering collaborations where the media were promised elements of exclusivity: for a period of time, a certain market etc. we ensured exposure of the documents. This model is working well for us, particularly as we roll it out to more and more media organisations around the world. We are now working with over 63 media organisations who are ensuring the cables effect changes in their countries. Unfortunately it means that the public and other organisaitons who would like access to the documents are limited by the media organisations' scheduling, however, we will publish everything once media organisations in each country have picked out the most interesting cables, analysed them and written about them. We always publish the underlying source material at the moment our partners publish so readers can verify that the stories reflect the true nature of the cables.

B: How about the “cooking” of the cables? We have evidence of a cable about Bulgarian organized crime severely edited by the editors of The Guardian to avoid libel case, as they say.

JA: WikiLeaks have a strict redaction policy that all our media partners agree to. This is that the only names that will be redacted are of individuals at risk of persecution or unfair prosecution and are unable to protect themselves through financial or political power. Our agreement with each of our media partners for Cablegate is that they feed us back the cables as they wish to publish stories about them so that they can be published on our site at the same time as the cable and the story appear on the partners' site. The format that they return the cables to us is strictly meant to adhere to our redaction policy. They are of course able to publish the cables on their own site in whatever form they wish, although of course we would prefer they not redact for reasons such as libel, but we do not manage them in this way. However, there have been a number of occasions, such as the Guardian's publications you refer to here, where the version of the cable they have fed back to us has been wrongfully redacted outside of our redaction policy. Where we have seen or been alerted to these we change them, but this has not been possible to catch before original publication every time.

B: Do you plan to review the published material by the big media outlets for such a "cooking"? Will there be a Cablegate 2.0?

JA: At the end of this process, which is still months away, we will be reviewing each cable for this 'cooking' and any other issues. Once we have been through this process and have each cable in a form that is only redacted according to our redaction policy then we will release each and every cable.

B: Is there a "second market" for the cables? Aftenposten announced they got access to the cables independently of WL and then they gave access to media in Denmark, Netherlands, Greece... all of them publishing edited versions of the cables. Is this proliferation under control?

JA: Aftenposten have been giving access to various European media organisations who have been doing good work with these. Many have fed back their cables to us. In addition, we are checking across the board for any cables anywhere that have been published by media around the world, such as some from the New York Times, for cables that have not been fed back to us and are inputting these into our system. This does take some time though and with our limited resources the process is not as quick as we would like, but it is progressing.

B: How long it will take to publish all the cables? Months, years?

JA: We are not yet sure exactly how long it will take to publish all the cables. Our system is to contact at least one media organisation in each country the cables originate from and give them cables that are of interest to their market. They then read, analyse and write on these, feeding us the redacted version of the cable. When we have worked with media in each country and various NGOs from around the world and they have all found as many stories of interest as they can, and have the resources to, then we shall do the work to publish each and every cable. This could be six months away, or over a year. We do not know as it depends on how many stories the media are discovering. Currently we are creating headlines around the world on a daily basis, so it certainly will not be any time soon.

B: Why did you decide to trust "Bivol"?

JA: We were approached by Bivol through a mutual contact. We looked carefully at the work they had done. This seemed to be good work that was aligned with our mission. We then arranged to meet people from Bivol and some of our people took time to get to know them and their work better. After this we felt that they could be trusted to have a relevant set of cables to work on. We very much hope that they do good work and their security remains tight so that we can work with them on other relevant projects in the future.

The "character"

B: You said in an interview that your bedside book is "Cancer Ward" of Solzhenitzin. His character is a dissident, a survivor, exiled for life, but a moral winner. Tell us about your "character".

JA: “Cancer Ward” it is one of my favorite books. I mentioned it in the interview as I read it again whilst I was in prison: it was the only book in the prison library (a shelf containing under forty books) that I was interested in. I do relate to the book's protagonist. I am seen as a dissident by many, though I would generally see myself as a fighter for my ideals. Often these are ideals that governments (such as the US) preach but do not adhere to. At times I have been in self exile due to attacks on us by the Australian government. I doubt I shall ever be able to travel to the US again. The people of Australia are now very supportive, but the government is still oppositional and last year publicly set both the intelligence agencies, the military, the attorney general and the federal police against me in what was called a “whole of government task force”. The government moved to cancel my passport, then changed their mind saying they found it useful to track me with. And I am currently trapped in the UK, a different sort of exile, but an exile nonetheless.

B: Do you have an ideal you can outline in one sentence?

JA: I believe in the right to communicate and the inviolability of history, privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful.

B: You are a demonized and mythologized person. What do you want to achieve in life regardless of the price? The thing you are thinking about when you're alone with yourself?

JA: I want to achieve many things. WikiLeaks is just one of the projects I hope to achieve in my life. Most of my projects though do center around information and the accessing and preserving of it. I hope that each of these projects will make a difference to the public and allow them to preserve their history forever. I like to spend most of my time alone, which is not much as I am always working, thinking about how to improve and expand WikiLeaks, how to better protect my staff and about future projects.

B: What is it that you want to do, but can't because of the bail conditions?

JA: Work is more difficult due to the bail conditions. It is extremely difficult to get to London due to the time I must sign on at the police station and then be back at the house in the evening. Usually I would do many meetings in one day by running around and seeing many people for a short time. This is currently not possible so I am not able to meet the people I need to as often/as soon as I would like. In addition I often use anonymity as a protection, this is no longer possible as my location is known: the internet or even rooms themselves could be bugged, so I must spend more time and effort to preserve a certain level of security.

On freedom of speech

B: Is there an "Empire of Evil" in the contemporary world?

JA: The US and other Western states are constantly calling Middle Eastern countries the 'axis of evil' as part of their propaganda for the so called 'war on terror'. There are of course people with incorrect methods to showing their views, but these exist everywhere, it is not a concept particular to one nation, religion or ethnicity anywhere. However, there are 'Empires of Evil' in many places. Governments that censor, as they all do, create their own empires of evil, governing their people with lies and propaganda.

B: Some analysts predict harder times for transparency after the Cablegate. They believe governments will tighten security and limit further the citizen's rights to access information. Is this a real danger or blown up fears? Or are these opinions an attempt to blame WL?

JA: We are used to attempts by governments and others to smear us and this reaction to Cablegate is one of these. Cablegate was not born from the citizen's rights to access information: if this was the case Cablegate would have come from FOIA requests. Rather it was born from people who presumably worked for the US government feeling the information they saw showed wrongdoing that the public should know about. Creating more secrecy will not stop this. Rather it will increase the amount of information we receive as people working in governments and large corporations will see more that the public should know, but are not able to, causing an increase in these sorts of leaks.

B: What do you think about the WL copycats: Balkanleaks, Brusselsleaks... are they useful or just redundant?

JA: We very much support any organisation or people that copy but do not misrepresent WikiLeaks' work. For two reasons: one, we believe first and foremost in the ideals we stand for, so the more people that believe in them and promote them the better. Secondly, we are currently getting more submissions than we have the resources to work with. Therefore we are excited about smaller, localised organisations that can assist us in this work, whilst we, as an organisation with global interests can deal with the megaleaks of international interest that have become our speciality.

B: Post-communist countries have generally a poor transparency and freedom of speech record. Do you think the crowd-journalism model WL promotes can improve those parameters and how?

JA: We believe that it will. Although our concept of crowd-journalism did not work at the beginning we were less well known then. As we are getting more popular the wider community, outside of journalists, are beginning to proactively work on our material. Sites such as Cablegatesearch and WL Central are being built and growing in popularity. The public are taking the source material and working with it in various ways. This is exciting and heartening to see. It also begins to remove the issue that we have seen in come cases, including post-communist ones, that the mainstream media is so censored and controlled that a government spin is used in the stories from our publications, rather than reveal the truth in what the documents show. However, we can see in some such places that bloggers and citizen journalists are able to resist this censorship (often through anonymity) in ways corporate media cannot. We have seen such cases in the Middle East, where bloggers analysing documents and situations have helped to contribute to the revolutions there. And I think it is the same in post-communist countries; the traditional media are mainly government owned or controlled, so it is often proactive, citizen led (rather than corporate media led) organisations such as Bivol that are writing the most daring, analytical, and therefore helpful to the public, pieces.

First published on WL Central by Bivol

2011-05-01 The Entertainment Superpower and the American Theater of Cruelty #Guantanamo

ImageBetween 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 - Image 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.

The Press

Public discourse in the United States of America has devolved into three rhetorical devices: satire, frothy emotional appeals to false hope, and demagogy. The political blackout to Guantanamo is partly a reaction to the intoxicating polemics of the previous generations' culture war that eclipse most public discourse about the shifting boundaries of our social geography and economic life.

Fundamentally, the prevalence of political feeding frenzies and demagogy in our political discourse is a natural outgrown of a corporate news media compelled by an economic imperative.

Traditional media industries operate in what economists refer to as a 'dual product market'. They produce two commodities: content and audiences. Audiences are attracted to content, and those audiences are then sold to advertisers.

Media firms fall under the traditional research and development business model - with its characteristic high production and low replication costs. Since creativity and intellectual property are both expensive and time consuming - what economists refer to as Baumol's effect, media firms have an economic imperative to control the entire supply chain and their downstream access to audiences.

What that means is that while most industries today are under pressure to flatten their business models, media firms, are compelled to grow both horizontally and vertically. A natural by-product of this growth is that they have the ability to exploit their vertical and horizontal economies of scale by repurposing their content across multiple platforms.

The power of the press lies not merely in its capacity to express ideas. Media firms have the capacity to actually set the agenda for 'what' and 'how' the public in the United States discusses anything at all - simply by virtue of the fact that these firms can replicate, and thereby amplify, their messages across a multitude of communication platforms, which they control.

The print media landscape in the United States, for example, is dominated by 14 corporations, which own a myriad of vertically and horizontally integrated communication organs for print, TV, and film. (Source: Considering this reality, it would appear, that Comedy Central's Daily Show and The Colbert Report are examples of the alternative press in the United States.

But are they really?

We seem to be going the way of our former cold war enemies. The playwright, Heiner Mueller, once remarked that the potency of theater in his native East Germany was based on the absence of other ways of getting messages across to people. "As a result," Mueller says, "Theater here has taken over the function of other media in the West."

While the never ending surface chatter of talking points and double speak on both the left and right continue to erode the value of words, they also inflate the space between the lines. But it's a kind of emasculated public discourse, a parody, literally theater.

Simon Cowell, former host of American Idol once remarked to Larry King when asked about the prohibition of "American Idol" like shows in China. Says Cowell: "Well, because it's a democracy, isn't it? You know, I mean, it's the public voting."

The Entertainment Superpower: Information as a Weapon in a Theater of War

In the information economy the means of production are inside your head. The question is, who owns yours?

America is the entertainment superpower, and by entertainment I mean media, and I mean information. US broadcasters benefit from their economies of scale. According to economists Deidre McClosky and Arjo Klamer, persuasion, advertising, counseling, and consulting account for twenty-five percent of US gross domestic product. (Source: McCloskey, Deidre, and Arjo Klamer. "One quarter of GDP is persuasion." American Economic Review) In fact, the US media and entertainment sectors are the only American sectors that boast a surplus balance of trade with nearly every nation in the world. (Source: International Intellectual Property Alliance)

In Learning to Leverage New Media: The Israeli Defense Forces in Recent Conflicts US Army Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV; Dennis M. Murphy, professor of information operations and information in warfare at the U.S. Army War College; and Anton Mennin, media strategist at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, write that media and information are now a 'warfighting function' - a euphemism for weapon - in a theater of war:

Surrendering the information environment to the adversary is not a practical option. [T]he military must seriously consider where information and the new media lie in relationship to conventional warfighting functions. One thing seems sure: we must elevate information in doctrinal importance, and adequately fund and staff organizations dealing with information...

...During conflict, the same dynamism plays havoc with traditional notions of the media’s role in informing, shaping, and swaying public opinion. In 2003, Frank Webster argued in War and the Media that 'the public are no longer mobilized to fight wars as combatants, they are mobilized as spectators - and the character of this mobilization is of the utmost consequence...the familiar industrial model of warfare was giving way to an informational model. The struggle for public opinion retained central importance, but the sheer pervasiveness and responsiveness of new media recast the terms and content of the struggle. There were at least two clear implications. The first was that the military has a commensurately more complex task in winning the information war. The second was that there remains little choice but to engage new media as part of the larger media explosion. Failure to do so would leave a vacuum - the adversary’s version of reality would become the dominant perception. (Source: Learning to Leverage New Media: The Israeli Defense Forces in Recent Conflicts)

US Central Command has purchased software that creates false online profiles from the California-based Ntrepid for $2.76 million. Centcom spokesperson, Commander Bill Speaks, said “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US." (Source: Guardian). According to the Washington times, the software could be used for countering disinformation campaigns, military deception, computer network operations or hacking. (Source: Mashable). See also Operation Metal Gear.

Technological Cross Fertilization between Military, Entertainment, and Defense

US military surveillance, targeting, and weapons systems, use technology developed primarily for motion pictures and entertainment software - or the consumer electronics market.

The US government employs Panavision's 300x compound zoom lens for military surveillance. According to an interview that I conducted with the senior vice president of worldwide sales at Panavision in 2006, federal contracts with the US government are the fastest growing segment of Panavision's business.

More provocative is how Hollywood and video games drive the development of high-speed, high-resolution digital image capture, management, transmission, and display that have implications for fields where these advanced technological applications would be economically unviable to develop on their own.

Entertainment software has led to faster introduction and deployment of processors, broadband networks, and high definition disks like HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. But, "IBM places value on chips made for entertainment software that goes beyond revenue and profits," says Dr. John Kelly, senior vice president and group executive for IBM Technology Group: "These chips help drive technology in other areas."

The Mercury Computer's CELL based blade server, for example, can handle the requirements of sonar and radar computation for military or scientific applications, because of its ability to process real time data streams. "The Cell BE processor was originally designed for the volume home entertainment market," says Craig Lund, chief technology officer of Mercury Computer Systems, "but its architecture of nine heterogeneous on-chip cores is well-suited to the type of distributed, real-time processing that will power tomorrow's digital battlefield."

The US military hegemony is based on the ability of the US Navy to dominate the world's oceans - due partially to the superior numbers and technology of US naval vessels, which are augmented significantly by US dominance in space-based reconnaissance technology, and made possible by entertainment software consumers and movie goers world-wide.

Transfer of Human Capital

The overlap between digital technology - which by its nature erodes market boundaries - and defense is driven by myriad forces: the economics of the global marketplace; the instinct for self-preservation and for power by business, bureaucrat, and tyrant alike; and even by the social instincts and amusements of consumers. In like manner to, the former Executive President of Egypt's National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, Dr. Amr Badawi, spent nine years at GTE & General Dynamics before he became a Senior Advisor to the Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology. He held this position when the Internet went down during the Egyptian revolution. And, he represents a common transfer of human and intellectual capital across sectors of the US military industrial and entertainment complex.

Misdiagnosing the Problem

In his book, Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents, political scientist and founder of the Kennedy School of Government, Richard Neustadt describes the erosion of the executive branch that began when Woodrow Wilson made a direct appeal to the populace in his quest to ratify the Fourteen Points after World War I. Prior to that event, American presidents had delivered their 'State of the Unions' in written letters to Congress. Neustadt considered this act a usurpation of legislative power by executive power, and the beginning of a mutation of the executive branch that has weakened the American presidency.

The former official in the United States Department of Justice during the Bush administration, John Yoo, who became known as the author of the Torture Memos, on which unhallowed ground the CIA based the 'legality' of enhanced interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Bay and CIA black sites, can find the roots of his advocacy for strengthening executive power in a battle between executive and congressional power that dates to the Nixon White House and the War Powers Act. Not surprisingly, many of the officials in the Bush administration were former aids to President Nixon.

But there is no use in strengthening executive power, when legislative power is incapacitated and corrupted by the same corporate interests that own the former. The problem has been misdiagnosed. As Dr. Lawrence Lessig said in a presentation I attended for Fix Congress First this past Friday in New York City, "There will be nothing for the right and nothing for the left until we fix our broken government."

And the beginning of a solution to the host of ills and the abuses of a corrupt and illegitimate government which preys on the resources and spirits of citizens, and which has established systems like Guantanamo Bay, is re-establishing government's right dependence on 'the people' in free and fair elections devoid of corporate influence.

Tyranny is not 'going' to happen in the USA, it is happening now.

Institutional Corruption and the Post-Totalitarian State

Neither technology, nor the instincts towards self-preservation, power, or social amusement are good or evil in themselves. They arise naturally in every man and every nation. The causes of faction cannot be removed, writes Madison in Federalist 10. The only relief "sought is in the means of controlling its effects."

The Federalists control effect through structuring institutions that are capable of decentralizing the concentration of power in the hands of dominant factions or interests. The authors of Federalist 52 write:

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

The 'independence' of government, according to the Federalists, as Dr. Lawrence Lessig points out, is government's 'dependence' on 'the people':

The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government. It was incumbent on the convention, therefore, to define and establish this right in the Constitution. To have left it open for the occasional regulation of the Congress, would have been improper for the reason just mentioned. To have submitted it to the legislative discretion of the States, would have been improper for the same reason; and for the additional reason that it would have rendered too dependent on the State governments that branch of the federal government which ought to be dependent on the people alone.(Source: Federalist 52)

Further regarding government in general and the House of Representatives:

As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. (Source: Federalist 52)

Legitimate government does not spring from a tyranny of corporate or royal patronage. Nor, does it arise from an ideology or a system that runs counter to the aims of life. Real self interest arises from the individual. But, today, in the United States of 'Amerika', corporations have more human rights than the humans at Guantanamo do.

In January 2010, the US Supreme Court abolished limits on corporate funding of candidate elections, citing the First Amendment. The decision overturned a century of precedent dating back to the Tillman Act of 1907.

More to the point, in an age where people and nations are increasingly interdependent on one another for survival, Tocqueville's notion of 'self-interest rightly understood or an 'enlightened self-interest' become increasingly important as regards governing the commons: the air, water, food, patents on our genes, ideas, the very foundation of life itself.

Today disloyal, incompetent, special interests have usurped civic, civil and military power, spawning a host of threats to our liberty and to national security. Americans pay a hundred times more for the insecurity, we could have had for free. And Guantanamo, and its totalitarian witch hunts outside the bounds of law, are simply a manifestation of a system more similar to those of our former cold war enemies, than to the government our founders intended.

The only difference between the United States and China, it seems, is a question of scope or visibility of tyranny, and the ideology used to prop up and justify the system. What difference is there really between the economy of influence in Washington DC and a communist bureaucracy? Both are corrupt and inefficient institutions that spell tyranny. And, both create systems and societies that runs counter to the aims of life or the principles of our democratic republic.

Our Theater of Cruelty

Baudrillard maintains that the symbiotic relationship between the media and consumerism has generated a non-linear system or language of spectacles - micro-models or narratives - in which the discourse of society is conducted. The discourse of society in this language of spectacles or simulation has nothing to do with "a logic of facts and an order of reasons."

In this scenario, facts or events do not have meaning in themselves, since they only have meaning in the context of an interlocutor's narrative or model. Baudrillard maintains that "a single fact may even be engendered by all [interlocutor's] models [or narratives] at once" (Source: Simulacra and Simulation).

Therefore, all interpretations of facts or events are possible, even those which are most contradictory. As Baudrillard writes, "all [spectacles] are true, in the sense that their truth is exchangeable" within the context of society's discourse (Source: SS). Societal discourse, therefore, does not take the shape of a dialectical polarity between two interlocutors, instead societal discourse takes the shape of a non-linear system of models or narratives that intersect each other around particular facts or events.

This non-linear system or language of models or narratives, each surrounding, particular facts or events, lends itself to the theatricality of the spectacle, since the boundary between facts or events and the models or narratives which appropriate them is no longer clear. Equally less clear is the boundary between a real or imagined spectacles or simulations. For this reason Baudrillard maintains that the terrorist act is a spectacle unleashed within a realm he identifies as a 'Theater of Cruelty.'

Moreover, since "all [spectacles] are true, in the sense that their truth is exchangeable" (Source: SS), no determinate position is possible in this non-linear system of intersecting facts and narratives. For this reason, the arbitrary and insoluble nature of the spectacle unleashed by the terrorist event is what Baudrillard identifies as the "purest symbolic form of challenge" to the hegemony of the US political and historical model (Green Issue 109), which asserts a "conventional, restricted perspective field, where the premises and consequences of any act or event are calculable" and by which the regime's political credibility is maintained (Source; SS).

Everything in the terrorist event is "ambivalent and reversible: death, the media, violence and victory" (Source: Green Issue). As Baudrillard writes:

Death itself is undefinable: the death of the terrorists is equivalent to that of the hostages; they are substitutable. In spite of all efforts to set them into radical opposition, fascination allows no distinction to be made, and rightly so, for power finally does not make any either, but settles its accounts with everyone, and buries Baader and Schleyer, together at Stuttgart [or in the case of our War on Terror, I would add Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi in a Libyan prison] in its incapacity to unravel the deaths and rediscover the fine dividing line, the distinctive and valid oppositions which are the secret to law and order. Nor is it possible to reclaim a positive role for the media, or a transference of repression: the repressive act traverses the same unforeseeable spiral as the terrorist act; no one knows where it will stop, nor all the setbacks and reversals that will ensue. There is no distinction possible between the "crime" and the "repression." (Source: GI)

Since no distinction can be made and no interpretation of the terrorist event be named definitive, the US regime's claim to "principle of meaning as principle of truth" is ultimately subverted (Source: GI).

By participating in the 'simulation game' the US regime not only cancels out its claim to a privileged perspective on truth, since all determination evaporates in this "field unhinged by simulation" (Source: SS), but also cancels out its political credibility as a liberal democracy, since the regime is as fascist as it claims the terrorists are. In the final analysis, the ideology of democratic liberalism acts as a mask of the US regime in its own 'Theater of Cruelty,' a mask that covers up the general automatism of its hegemony on truth and the "general mobilization, dissuasion, pacification, and mental socialization" of its population by means of this automatism (Source: GI).

Post Script: Pres. Eisenhower's Warning About 'The Military Industrial Complex'

2011-05-01 This Week in WikiLeaks Podcast - @WLLegal Talks #Guantanamo Files & Grand Jury Investigation of WikiLeaks

Update: Edited podcast is posted.

The long-awaited release of the Guantanamo Files. More than 10,000 cables in the Cablegate release now posted—2000 of them from Canada and just out before the country's election. The Grand Jury beginning to issue subpoenas in its investigation of WikiLeaks. The media getting an out-of-the-ordinary tour of Ft. Leavenworth with the consent of the Department of Defense.

There was much to talk about this week.

ImageWith so much to discuss, Trevor Timm, the person behind the Twitter account @WLLegal, joined the program to talk about the latest news on WikiLeaks. Timm helped to make possible a great Personal Democracy Forum event called, “WikiLeaks & the Law" just over a month ago. [Go here for video of the full panel.] He also appeared on the show just over a month ago.

To listen to the recorded "This Week in WikiLeaks" podcast, click on the widget below:

Or, download the podcast from here. You can also find it on iTunes by searching for "CMN News" and then looking for the "This Week in WikiLeaks" podcast, which should appear.

Any ideas for future guests? Shoot me a message on Twitter or to my email, which is

2011-05-01 WikiLeaks: Russian Blackmail and Energy Mafia Surround Russian Energy Projects in Bulgaria

Boyko Borisov complained about Putin to the Americans; RWE had been “sabotaged” to give up on Belene NPP project.


Bulgarians "risk being cold" this winter if the government did not move forward with the Russian energy projects. This is what Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin said, off-the-record, to his Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Borisov, during the summit in Gdansk in September, 2009. The tone of the sentence in question is not clear, we cannot judge if it was threatening enough, but obviously it seriously impressed Borisov in order for him to report it in a timely manner and for Putin’s words to find their place in the classified documents of the American diplomacy.

Borisov’s complaint about Putin’s attitude is described in a US diplomatic cable, dated October 5, 2009, released by Wikileaks [09SOFIA561]. The text does not elucidate if this has been a joke or a threat. On September 29, 2009, Borisov had asked the US government for assistance in the diversification of energy sources for Bulgaria.

“The cash-strapped new administration seeks not only to rid itself of projects of questionable commercial viability but also to increase its energy security through diversification,” the American diplomats believe.

The cable talks about the meeting between the Prime Minister and three large US energy companies, held on that same date. As a result, the government had made the commitment to engage in negotiations to use US technology to diversify its nuclear fuel supply and create a spent nuclear fuel storage facility.

The cable reveals the Americans had hoped that Borisov will fulfill its officially announced intentions, before taking office, to re-examine all Russian-linked major energy deals made by the last government of the Three Way Coalition. As time has now shown, exactly the opposite happened, and the PM’s role in the beginning of his term ended up being a fake one.

From other diplomatic cables, focused on Bulgarian energy issues, we learn with certainty that the risk for millions of Bulgarians to be left in the cold over Russian energy blackmail has been examined very seriously by Bulgarian politicians who negotiated the energy projects with Russia. This blackmail became the formula used by Russia to dictate political decisions to a seemingly independent county – member of the EU.

The Great Energy Fivesome

Contrary to public statements, the cables expose the close intertwining between the three large Russian projects: the Belene Nuclear Power Plant, the South Stream gas line, and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil line, which President Parvanov named the “Grand Slam,” while the Russian daily Komersant ironically called them the “Grand Dick.”

The Americans think that the Russian energy giant Gazprom is behind all these projects, directly or indirectly, through phantom companies or financing. Their definitive analyses show how the construction of Belene with Russian money and technology goes hand in hand with the future construction of Burgas-Alexandroupolis and South Stream. When questioned if this was so, former Energy Minister, Rumen Ovcharov, had made an attempt to deny it, but the current development of events demonstrates these analyses have been the very truth.

However, the three projects in the Grand Slam are not all the aces in the Russian energy deck of cards and in the game played against Bulgaria. In a conversation, held on October 19, 2006, with US Ambassador, John Beyrle, Bulgarian Energy Minister, Rumen Ovcharov, had acknowledged a link between the decision on Belene and the ongoing discussions with Gazprom to renegotiate the Russian gas supply contract with Bulgaria. [06SOFIA1481].
It becomes clear, from the same conversation, that Beyrle wanted Westinghouse to be selected as a subcontractor for the Belene project. These hopes, however, were dimmed by Ovcharov, who claimed he was a “big fan” of Westinghouse, but the inclusion of the European consortium Framatom/Areva was a mandatory prerequisite for the future EU membership of Bulgaria, and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had personally exerted pressure in the matter.

Gazprom is also eyeing ownership of the Bulgarian energy distribution grid, Ovcharov confides. This way, the negotiations led by the cabinet Stanishev look like 5 in 1: Belene NPP, South Stream, Burgas-Alexandroupolis, gas supplies and ownership on the distribution grid. The issue of 100% dependence from the import of Russian nuclear fuel for the Kozloduy NPP and its utilization is a separate one [06SOFIA1162].

The strongest Russian trump-card in the future projects is the nearly total dependence of Bulgaria from energy supplies, inherited from Communist times, hanging over Bulgaria as Sword of Damocles, and forcing Bulgarians to compromise, which, on its part, pushes the country into an even bigger dependency, the Americans note with concern. They further do not miss to point out the need of diversification by participation in other projects (Nabucco), development of interconnectors with neighboring countries, and the use of their nuclear fuel and utilization solutions in Kozloduy.

Dirty Energy, Energy Mafia and Dogan’s Ring of Companies

Bulgaria’s energy sector is non-transparent, corrupt and connected to individuals with ties to organized crime, American diplomats believe [06SOFIA1691]. In this scandalous cable, three names are mentioned as key players in Bulgaria's so-called "energy mafia" - Bogomil Manchev from Risk Engineering, Krassimir Georgiev from Frontier and Hristo Kovachki.

“The resources in Belene are so huge that all of the competing energy and political lobbies will be able to get a piece of the pie.” Firms close to the mainly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms and its leader Ahmed Dogan, which controls the Environmental Ministry responsible for issuing permits, also have the green light to participate, the cable’s author, Alexander Karagiannis writes.

The Belene Lemon – A Time Clock Bomb

The British daily Guardian published in December two cables from Ambassador McEldowney [09SOFIA69] [09SOFIA363], stressing on the staggering problems with the Belene project - delays, financing woes, non-transparent horse-trading and side deals, Russian influence, middle-man rent seeking, and the interests of well-connected politicians and energy oligarchs.

The Guardian editing, however, had eliminated an important part of the text, explaining how the management of the National Electric Company (NEC) and its on-site construction manager, ignored environmental, safety, and quality assurance concerns and illegally canceled several "stop work orders" issued at the site because of safety violations. It did not prepare a Quality Assurance (QA) Program Plan for the temporary structures, and instead asked the Bulgarian Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works (RDPW) to issue the approvals - which they subsequently did without oversight or proper technical documentation.

But these issues have not been missed by the RWE investor. “The Germans worry about Belene's lack of transparency and working with Atomstroyexport and Bulgarian subcontractors. Belene experts said that RWE remains "in the dark" on most on-site day-to-day and technical issues, and have not seen any of the on-site safety and environmental reports. On more than one occasion NEC prevented their contractors and subcontractors from speaking directly with RWE experts, often reminding them of their confidentiality agreements when they tried to answer RWE's questions,” the Ambassador writes.

Parallel with all this, NEC was trying to mislead the public and the investor, pretending the project is progressing ahead without any problems by calling, in the media, "Site Preparation" activities "Construction," to make it appear that the project is moving forward.

The results of these policies are now well-known – in October, 2009, RWE pulled out of the project, which was temporarily frozen.

New Government – New Chance?

The coming into power of Boyko Borisov gave new hope for diminishing Russian influence in the energy sector. The Americans note with satisfaction intentions of the GERB cabinet to re-examine participation in energy projects and the pro-western orientation of key ministers such as Djankov, Mladenov, and Traikov.

The initial decisiveness of the government is demonstrated by a letter from Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to President Obama, dated September 24, 2009, where the PM asks for advice on strategic decisions in the energy sector to achieve his goals of rooting out corruption, enhancing transparency and reducing reliance on Russia [09SOFIA538].

In October, 2009, PM Borisov met with representatives of three US energy corporations to discuss diversification alternatives, particularly American nuclear fuel for the Kozloduy NPP and solutions for the utilization of the spent fuel [09SOFIA561].

Currently, Bulgaria buys 100 percent of its nuclear fuel from Russia, and exports the spent fuel back there for a significant cost. It is the only European country, which is continuing this practice, and it makes it vulnerable to Russian fancy to increase the price or to refuse to store the spent fuel in the future, the American diplomat, who organized the meeting, analyses.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister had been seemingly convinced by the presentation because he had asked for the preparation of a draft contract for the proposed solutions. Borisov, had, once again, requested US assistance on diversification options, and support in the upcoming months, which would be crucial for the decisions for the energy future of the country, Deputy Chief of Mission Sutton notes.

Two months later, American assistance begins to materialize in Sofia, where a regional office of the US Department of Energy opens doors. Bulgaria is further visited by the Special Envoy of the United States Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy, Richard Morningstar, who meets with key figures from the cabinet. On December 9, 2009, Boyko Borisov, had railed against EU disunity in the face of Russian energy dominance, particularly in the Balkan region. He had complained before Morningstar that the EU was holding up funding for proposed interconnectors with Greece and Romania and that small, energy dependent EU member states were held hostage to the energy ambitions of Italy, France and Germany, meaning these countries’ support (mainly Italy’s) for the Russian gas line South Stream [09SOFIA696].

“The government wants to be rid of Belene, but believes it will be too costly -- either in contractual kill costs or fall-out with Russia -- to let the project die at this time,” Deputy Chief of Mission Sutton writes, when commenting on the meeting. At that time the project was already frozen, after the German strategic investor RWE withdrew in October.

“Knowing they will be dependent on Russian gas for years to come (and being in the middle of long-term gas supply contract negotiations), the Bulgarians can't afford to kill all of the Russian-dominated projects agreed to by the last government. Nor do they want to,” Sutton further comments, urging the American government for stronger commitment in order to help the “clearly frustrated” Bulgarian Prime Minister.

A day later, on December 10, a Russian delegation led by Energy Minister, Sergey Schmatko, arrives in Bulgaria to negotiate the energy projects.

The Belene Project Retreat – Drama in the Cable

“The real drama” of the December talks is the Bulgarians’ retreat regarding the Belene Nuclear Power Plant project, Susan Sutton writes in a cable, dated December 21, 2009, and titled: BULGARIA: WAIVERING ON BELENE NPP [09SOFIA711]

According to Minister Traikov, Bulgaria may consider offering Russia a majority stake in the project "initially" but the latter failed to explain to the Americans exactly what that would entail. Deputy Energy Minister Maya Hristova told them the talk of offering a majority stake to Russia was a Bulgarian strategy to buy time while Sofia searches for other strategic investors and the Bulgarian Energy Holding CEO, Galina Tosheva, said she saw any offer of an ownership stake to Russia as a national security concern, but she worried she was increasingly being over-ruled by the Ministry of Economy and Energy on Belene matters. Tosheva had explained BEH would issue a tender for an independent adviser to help Bulgaria think through the financial aspects of Belene and explore its options.
“Russia has put it on life support, with both sweeteners and new forms of pressure. If Bulgaria agrees to Russian ownership in Belene, energy security will take a dramatic step backward in Bulgaria and a huge opportunity to correct the mis-steps of the previous government will have been lost,” Sutton stresses in her comments about negotiations with Russians.

This is one of the last American cables from Bulgaria, dedicated to the energy subject, leaked by Wikileaks. In the next year, the cabinet Borisov will continue its policy of delays and foot-dragging through meetings with Putin and the inclusion of the “hairy diplomat,” the Karakachan puppy Yorgo, to end with the dramatic events from the beginning of 2011 and the exposure of top lobbyists such as Valentin Zlatev, consultant for Rosatom, and known to be particularly close to the Prime Minister.

The American position, most likely, had not changed during this time. Borisov’s position, however, did change, significantly, compared to what we read in the diplomatic cables written in the first months after him taking office. The public can only guess the proportions of Putin’s threats for “being cold,” “the new forms of pressure,” and the “sweeteners,” mixed in the Russian cocktail, served to the Bulgarian Prime Minister during the negotiations.
Cables used:

2011-05-02 Amnesty investigates Osama Bin Laden's assassination #OBL

Amnesty International has released a statement on the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. They have announced they will be looking into the killing of Bin Laden and others in Pakistan.

Osama Bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida, has been killed by US forces during an operation in Pakistan, US President Barack Obama has said.

"Osama Bin Laden took credit for and supported acts around the world which amounted to crimes aganist humanity. He also inspired others to commit grave human rights abuses," said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.

"His death will put an end to his role in organizing or inspiring such criminal acts. We do not know the full circumstances of his killing and the others with him and we are looking into that."

2011-05-02 Canada vote results via #TweetTheResults

ImageThe second largest country in the world has an interesting law under Section 329 of Canada's Elections Act:

No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.

Polls close at different times across Canada's six time zones, and media are prevented from broadcasting results from the east to provinces in the west that are still voting, under threat of a $25,000 fine. This probably seemed like a good idea in 1938. While CBC has gone so far as to close their comments, Twitter hashtag #TweetTheResults has been threatening for weeks to do just that. Many very interesting questions would apply in that case, such as, what if people from outside the country tweet the results? Is it against the law to tweet results to people in your time zone? Is it against the law to tweet codenamed results? And many more that we will probably discover in the next few hours.

The object of the ban is ostensibly to prevent people from being unduly influenced by the earlier vote which raises the question of whose business it is what information people use to inform their vote. It is more likely however, that Elections Canada do not wish people west of Ontario to be reminded just how little their vote matters. Of 308 seats in the House of Commons, 106 are in Ontario and 75 are in Quebec. The territories get one each, Manitoba and Saskatchewan 14 each, Alberta 28, and possibly Elections Canada feels that by the time British Columbia gets to their 36 they will just head for the pub instead.

In any event, the #TweetTheResults stream is below the crease, so if you feel you may be unduly influenced by anything true or false which someone may or may not post on Twitter, do not continue reading.

Update: Website just posted the following after removing their tweetstream:

a few minutes ago, this site was home to a conversation about the role of social media in Canadian elections. It was set up to aggregate the tweets (messages posted to Twitter) that include the hashtag #tweettheresults. That's how people across Canada and around the world have been tagging their reflections on Section 329 of Canada's Elections Act, which severely restricts the transmission of voting results until all polling stations have closed. We hoped that this site would provoke a conversation about Section 329, and raise the profile of the issue across Canada. We think it's done that, both on the social web and in the mainstream media.

But that conversation became illegal at 7 pm EST this evening. Rather than face a potential fine or protracted legal battle, we have taken this site offline for 3 hours. When free speech returns to Canada at 10 pm EST, the site will be back online and you will be able to read all the tweets that have accumulated in the interim.

If you tweet about this situation, please use the hashtag #tweettheresults so it will appear here.

To follow the conversation while this Canadian site is offline, you can still view all the latest tweets by searching for #tweettheresults on Twitter.

We never imagined a day when Canadians would have to use a foreign website to participate in a conversation about our own country. We never imagined that we, Canadian citizens, would potentially face legal penalties for our role in supporting an online conversation. We hope that all Canadians who have exercised their voice at the polls today will reclaim those voices online by asking the next government to bring our Elections Act into the 21st century.

Update 2: Elections Canada has some bigger problems to deal with this year. Voters have been getting phone calls telling them to go to the wrong polling stations. Current Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been campaigning on election day in defiance of Elections Canada regulations. And Elections Canada themselves have suffered poor organization that has cost voters their opportunity to vote. When they have finished shutting down websites we would suggest they direct their attention to curtailing the Prime Minister.

Update 3: At 6 PM PST, #tweettheresults was trending third worldwide.

Update 4: At 6:30 PM PST, #tweettheresults was trending first worldwide and Atlantic Canada is fourth.

2011-05-02 More Questions on Killing of bin Laden as WikiLeaks Notes Gitmo File Contained Details on His Whereabouts

Hours ago, WikiLeaks sent out a tweet noting the US had suspected or known since 2008 that Osama bin Laden might have been living in Abottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed by a US black ops team, JSOC, in a pre-dawn raid on Sunday. The note begs a few questions.

Why was this detail missed when the New York Times, McClatchy Newspapers, Washington Post, and NPR put together coverage? How did this detail not become a headline on The Guardian’s or the Telegraph’s website?

Does it have anything to do with the way the media organizations searched the files? Or, was this small detail in one of the files not covered because of the fear that it might jeopardize efforts to track down bin Laden? Is it possible the New York Times met with the Pentagon and was urged to omit this detail?

The section that is getting attention comes from Abu al-Libi’s leaked detainee assessment report:

In October 2002, Nashwan Abd al-Razzaq Abd al-Baqi, aka (Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi),ISN US9IZ-010026DP (IZ-10026), contacted and asked detainee to work with him in Peshawar. Detainee accepted the offer and spent the next five to six months working underIZ-10026 organizing the purchase of supplies for fighters including medicine, lights,batteries, food, and clothing. In July 2003, detainee received a letter from UBL’s designated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, requesting detainee take on the responsibility ofcollecting donations, organizing travel, and distributing funds to families in Pakistan. UBLstated detainee would be the official messenger between UBL and others in Pakistan. In mid-2003, detainee moved his family to Abbottabad, PK and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.

Between August 2003 and February 2004, detainee traveled to Shkai, PK on three occasions. While at Shkai, detainee met with al-Qaida’s Shari’a Council, delivered funds to fighters, met with Hamza Rabia, and visited IZ-10026. In mid 2004, detainee moved his family from Abbottabad to Bajaur, PK. During October 2004, detainee received a letter from UBL asking about the [financial] situations in Pakistan and Waziristan. In addition to the letter, there was a video tape of UBL speeches. In December 2004, detainee met with Shawqi Marzuq Abd al-Alam Dabbas, aka (Khalid Habib), in Bajaur. They discussed possible future operations against US interests in Poland. In mid-March 2005, Abu Ubaydah al-Masri instructed detainee to meet with Abd al-Khaliq Jan in Mardan, PK. The meeting did not take place.

This shows the Department of Defense knew these details as early as September 10, 2008. Indeed, what took so long? Perhaps, a dig through details on bin Laden, which can be found in the US State Embassy cables released so far, is called for. Here’s one cable Spanish newspaper El Pais covered showing how Saudi Arabia intended to coordinate the forces of six countries to capture bin Laden. The force was to consist of Russians, Chinese, Pakistanis, and Afghanis.

El Pais concluded from their coverage of the cable:

The international community seems suspicious enough of the unwillingness of the Pakistani secret services (ISI) in the hunt for bin Laden, because everything indicates that the Saudi terrorist and al-Zawahiri are hiding in front of their noses in the tribal region of North Waziristan , border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a mountainous territory of 11,585 meters square whose villages attack the Predator unmanned aircraft the U.S. military.

What led the US to decide to halt its attempts to put together a multilateral force to get bin Laden?

In President Obama’s speech to the nation, he said, “Shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network,” begging the question: Was bin Laden’s killing or capture not a top priority for the Bush Administration?

These are just questions. This post does not aim to make any assertions that the New York Times was part of a cover-up. But, given the coverage of the Guantanamo Files and how the Times coverage was skewed towards focusing on the most dangerous in the prison, it is difficult to believe that details on bin Laden would not have been specifically researched. Thus, one must ask especially now why this detail was overlooked.

That there was a detail on the whereabouts of bin Laden in a leaked Guantanamo File raises the possibility that for at least a period of twenty-four hours the tenor of news coverage of WikiLeaks will shift. This nugget adds a nice context to the killing of bin Laden. On the other hand, the media could suggest WikiLeaks almost blew the operation because, in the compound he was hiding in (that had no Internet or phones), he could have read the detainee’s assessment report that was leaked.

Additionally, WikiLeaks tweeted, “With the death of Osama it is time to bring the war in Afghanistan to a close.” That talking point has not caught on. But, “rot in Hell” and “we finally got the miserable son of a bitch” seem to be sentiments that have gained traction among the wider American public.

Former Bush Administration officials like Donald Rumsfeld are using the fact that a courier might have given intelligence during an interrogation at Guantanamo Bay as vindication for opening up Guantanamo Bay in the first place, as justification for all the torture, abuse and denial of legal rights to detainees over past ten years.

This insensitive reaction to recent news surrounding bin Laden's killing unfortunately will get a fair hearing in the United States at this hour. It fits the "might equals right" way of thinking that permeates through American society. It fits the frat boy spirit and hyper-masculine nationalism and patriotism that pumped through the veins and arteries of many Americans last night as they cheered at Ground Zero or outside the White House. blogger Glenn Greenwald suggested in response to the killing:

I'd have strongly preferred that Osama bin Laden be captured rather than killed so that he could be tried for his crimes and punished in accordance with due process (and to obtain presumably ample intelligence). But if he in fact used force to resist capture, then the U.S. military was entitled to use force against him, the way American police routinely do against suspects who use violence to resist capture. But those are legalities and they will be ignored even more so than usual. The 9/11 attack was a heinous and wanton slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians, and it's understandable that people are reacting with glee over the death of the person responsible for it. I personally don't derive joy or an impulse to chant boastfully at the news that someone just got two bullets put in their skull -- no matter who that someone is -- but that reaction is inevitable: it's the classic case of raucously cheering in a movie theater when the dastardly villain finally gets his due.

Greenwald's opinion is the minority report at this point in American history.

Team America got bin Laden. Without regard for national sovereignty or the rule of law, Team America will commit to brutally slaying the next terrorist leader that cares to fill the void that bin Laden's death created.

The following is a video of The Nation's Jeremy Scahill talking about the killing of bin Laden on the independent American news program, Democracy Now!

2011-05-02 Spring break atmosphere as crowds assemble at ground zero in NYC to celebrate the assassination of Osama Bin Laden #OBL

For WL coverage and analysis of US Targeted Operation Kills Bin Laden: US Celebrates Victory in Fight Against Extremism please see this article. For WL analysis of news, media, and American politics as regards the War on Terror, please see The Entertainment Superpower and the American Theater of Cruelty

Crowds assembled last night on the eastern side of the site where the World Trade Center once stood, at the perimeter of what is referred to since the 9/11 terrorist attack as "Ground Zero".

The site has become a kind of tourists destination with vendors selling wares: from postcards, to flags, to T-shirts, and, finally, photos of the twin towers on fire. The trinket shops are repugnant to New Yorkers - who had been adults during 9/11 and who had witnessed people falling from the sky or the towers falling. They are a kind of creepy simulation of a genuine horror and tragedy.

I was told by several people, that crowds last night totaled several thousand. They assembled along the entire Eastern side of the site earlier in the evening.

By the time I arrived the crowd was at one intersection and made up mostly of young twenty-somethings.

One of the most interesting aspects last night was that there seemed to be two groups of people. One group was cheering and chanting, breaking out into songs, and the others were bystanders, quietly taking photographs. There were media cameras and journalist of all types.

There was not a large presence of FDNY (firemen) or NYPD (police) except those appointed to cordon off the streets from traffic. Those that were down there, were reserved. Many of them over by the gate to the site, saying prayers, standing quietly, or leaving flowers.

People shouted obscenities, "USA," "We are the Champions," and "Yes we did," wrapped themselves in flags, and one man was even seen smoking a cigar. The environment had the feel of a sporting event or a carnival.


What I took away from the experience more than anything else, and perhaps what shocked me most, was how young the people there were. So young, that they could scarcely have been pre-teens when 9/11 happened.

I think I should also note, that the images give the appearance that there were even more people than actually were assembled. They all congregated on one intersection, with blocks empty of people outside of that intersection.

Please forgive me for using the word "protest" in the first video. I think having covered MENA protests since January, and a general state of exhaustion, words were just coming out of my mouth. Also my inability to pronounce the word bystanders, again, general tiredness.

Here are some videos.

More videos available here

2011-05-02 Targeted Operation Kills Bin Laden: US Celebrates Victory in Fight Against Extremism #OBL

ImageNearly a decade after the Bush Administration announced a “war on terrorism” after the attacks on US soil on September 11, 2001, the US mounted a covert military operation that killed Al Qaeda figurehead and leader Osama Bin Laden. The operation was an extrajudicial assassination exercise that involved a firefight, which killed at least twenty people in Abbotabad, Pakistan.

This was how President Barack Obama described the operation in a late-night announcement on a “national security issue” on Sunday, May 1, 2011. After putting the launching of this operation in the context of 9/11 and how the US has “tirelessly” and “heroically” fought al Qaeda and other terrorists over the past ten years, Obama delivered the news:

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.[emphasis added]

What’s remarkable about the operation is not that Bin Laden is dead but rather the fact that he was killed by a targeted military operation. Intelligence the US had was used. With cooperation from Pakistan state security—the ISI, the CIA, the US military and the Obama Administration worked together for months to plan out a mission that could lead to Bin Laden’s assassination (so, as US leaders and pundit are saying, he could be brought to justice).

That special forces were able to bring down what many Americans likely considered to be the chief target in the “war on terrorism” signals how flawed it is and was for the US to argue in the aftermath of 9/11 that it needed to launch a war and occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan or any other country in order to keep America safe from another attack. The killing operation that occurred demonstrates any "bad guys" that pose threats can be killed without sacrificing or spending massive amounts of blood and treasure, without killing tens of thousands if not millions of civilians in a country.

It also showed that the US does not need to use drones to kill people that it deems to be a threat. The technology was not used to kill Bin Laden. A team of human beings was sent to the compound where Bin Laden was hiding and the robotic machine, which the United Nations has suggested is possibly illegal, was not needed at all.

The killing also showed where the Obama Administration is at when it comes to dealing with terrorists. Bin Laden was not arrested, detained, and sent to a secret prison. Had he, one might imagine quite a bit of intelligence could have been gleaned. Would he have talked? It’s tough to answer that question with anything beyond speculation, but, if other individuals were worth sending to Bagram or Guantanamo, certainly Bin Laden would have been worth sending somewhere so that the US could work to glean information necessary for keeping America safe.

Bin Laden died from a “targeted killing” operation, an operation that, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is part of a regimen for “killing terror suspects—including US citizens—located far away from zones of actual armed conflict.” In this case, Bin Laden happened to be in Pakistan, a country where ongoing US military operations have been taking place without proper Congressional authorization and notification.

President Obama used the killing operation to justify the war in Pakistan:

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The ISI, Pakistan’s state security agency, allegedly worked with the US to find Osama Bin Laden and mount the operation. That’s significant given the fact that in the past months there has been much tension over what happened with Raymond Davis, the ex-Blackwater contractor who was working for the CIA and shot and killed two Pakistani men. Pakistani authorities arrested Davis. The Obama Administration falsely asserted he was a US diplomat. He was eventually turned over to the US but the Pakistani government wound up issuing calls to the CIA to cease its operations.

President Barack Obama used the death of Bin Laden as a moment for celebration:

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

What must be said is that there is a risk to celebrating the death of Bin Laden patriotically and proudly. There is nothing wrong with privately enjoying the fact that somebody responsible for the deaths of many people is no longer alive, however, if one really wants to keep the country safe and not do things that might provoke terrorism, bragging about an operation that killed someone who may now be regarded as a martyr is probably not the best reaction.

That argument would be foolish if US citizens did not buy the notion that WikiLeaks endangers lives when it releases previously classified information that terrorists could use against America. That argument would be stupid if it weren’t for the fact that the Obama Administration refused to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request and release torture photos for fear of endangering US troops. And, that argument would be irrational if not for the Obama Administration’s outrage toward Pastor Terry Jones after he burned a Koran that made people in Afghanistan angry, which subsequently led to the deaths of people connected to the United Nations.

The celebration foreshadows a continuation, reaffirming and, perhaps, expansion of US operations in a “war on terror” that President Obama has worked to rebrand. The speech tonight suggests that, in a country that may be losing interest in waging wars abroad, America will not waver in its commitment to keep hunting terrorists down.

President Obama’s announcement built on his May 2009 speech on national security, where he did not discard the premise for national security that the Bush Administration had used to formulate domestic and international policy but rather embraced that premise. Just like President Bush said while in office, “We’re fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” Obama said during that 2009 speech, “For the first time since 2002, we're providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We're investing in the 21st century military and intelligence capabilities that will allow us to stay one step ahead of a nimble enemy.”

The tactic of “taking the fight to the extremists" sets up theaters for war and ensures entire regions of the world are devastated. For what does this devastation occur and why do Americans allow this tactic born out of fear to be the way the US works to “secure” the world from extremism?

Over nearly ten years, the fight against extremism has produced a “new normal” for Americans. A climate now exists where there is beefed-up airport security that violates rights to privacy, individuals are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or “kangaroo courts” force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

The trampling of civil liberties has been permitted by America largely because many have bought into the idea that there are networks of fanatical enemies out there tirelessly plotting the death and destruction of America, who hate America for its freedom. Americans have allowed terrorism to be personified and now increasingly associate terrorism with Muslims even though all humans could potentially pose a terrorist threat to mankind. The arousal of primal fear from conjured perception and the fact that those who have been imprisoned, abused, tortured, and denied rights don’t look like “real Americans” has pushed America closer and closer to the world one reads about on the pages of George Orwell’s 1984.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden will renew this psyche in Americans’ minds. And, President Barack Obama will be able to re-brand US wars that each and every day more and more Americans reject.

2011-05-02 The Canadian election: What just happened? [Updated 2]

ImagePhoto credit CBC.

As Stephen Harper thanked his constituents for electing him for the fifth time in nine years, and started the second half of what will now be at least a nine year term in office, onlookers could be forgiven for wondering where was all the upheaval in Canadian politics the media had been talking about.

Well, it was there. Everything changed, except the result. There are 308 seats in the House of Commons, and this is where they went.

  • The Conservative Party of Canada, formerly 37.65% of the vote and 143 seats, gained to 39.6% and 167 seats. Yes, that is correct, 2% change and 24 seats.
  • The Liberal Party of Canada, formerly 26.26% of the vote and 77 seats, crashed to 18.9% of the vote and 34 seats. The Liberal Party, frequently referred to as 'Canada's natural ruling party' has never before been out of the top two since confederation.
  • The New Democratic Party, formerly 18.18% of the vote and 37 seats, rose to 30.7% and 102 seats. So the 50 year old NDP party is now more popular than the Liberals were even in the last election.
  • The Bloc Québécois, formerly holding 9.98% of the vote and 47 seats, all in Quebec, dropped to 6.1% and lost 43 seats, now down to 4. After 20 years, the separatist party is almost non-existent.
  • The Greens went from 6.78% support to 4.8% but finally won a seat in the House for Green leader Elizabeth May, the first seat in the House for the Green Party.
  • Party leaders of the former second and third biggest parties lost their own seats.
  • Voting results were the biggest shock of the night. After record high turnouts at the advance polls, Canadians decided to break their previous election record of low voter turnout (58.8% in 2008). This year's turnout is currently being reported as 58%. So 22.968% of eligible Canadians actually voted for the man who will be prime minister with a huge majority until fall/winter of 2015. (The Stanley Cup playoffs are on.) (See update.)

As to the actual Prime Minister, this vote is reminiscent of the 1988 election when the seemingly deeply unpopular Brian Mulroney won a second majority with 43% of the vote, also because of vote splitting between the Liberal and NDP parties. Indicative of emotions online was the appearance at number four on worldwide Twitter trending topics, just under Osama, of Justin Trudeau. The former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's oldest son managed to hold on to his own Liberal MP seat and is possibly the only thing that could resurrect the Liberals at this point, without a merger with the NDP. The more experienced other likely candidate, Bob Rae, did not rule out a merger between the Liberal and NDP parties. But with Justin Trudeau not outright denying that he would consider the job tonight, he may be seen as the only alternative exciting enough for the Liberals now. One of the two sons of the legendary Prime Minister Trudeau who were 'born on the same day as Jesus Christ', Justin Trudeau has long been seen as a future prime minister without having anything close to his father's resume. He is however, a very charismatic campaigner and far less polarizing than his father.

Failing a new leader that can attract voters back to the Liberals, a merger between the Liberals and NDP seems inevitable. Unlike Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, who stepped down tonight, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is waiting to see what his party asks him to do. Until late 2015, it won't matter.

Update: Elections Canada has posted a final voter turnout number of 61.4%.

Here are some more statistics that point to the need for electoral reform in Canada:

  • Quebec voters contributed 36% of the total votes cast for the NDP across Canada, but Quebec MPs will comprise 57% of the NDP's national caucus.
  • The Bloc Quebecois seats were reduced by almost 92%. While almost 1 in 4 Quebecois voted BQ, only 1 in 20 of Quebec's MPs are BQ. (Previously the Bloc always won far more seats than their vote percentage would indicate.)
  • In Ontario, the Conservatives increased their share of the vote by 5% but saw their share of the seats grow by 20%.
  • The NDP increased their share of the vote in Manitoba, but their number of seats was cut in half.
  • The NDP won almost a third of the votes in Saskatchewan without winning a single seat.

Update 2: According to Fair Vote Canada, Canada's House of Commons would look like this today if seats were won in proportion to votes cast: Conservatives 122, NDP 95, Liberals 59, Bloc 19, Green 13.

2011-05-03 Next American century? Demonstration planned for Sat's homeland security crackdown against student block party #USA

Around 6pm on Saturday, a week before finals, the annual Wheeler Block Party at Western Illinois University, turned into a "G-20 style" crackdown by a multi-jurisdictional force from the Illinois police agency with the department of Homeland Security, Macomb police officers, McDonough County sheriff department, and state police.

Riot police used mace, dogs, tear gas, and LRAD sound canons.

According to Julio Raussaeo, student of journalism at the school, he was threatened by police for filming the crackdown, because it was "infringing on their jobs."

Over 100 citations were issued by Macomb Police.

Raussaeo claims that the use of crowd supression by riot police was planned in advance. He says that Alfred Goldfarb, the president of the University sent out a mass email and took up a a full page in the student newspaper a week prior to the event warning of an increase in police security. (Source:

Goldfarb wrote in yesterday edition of the student newspaper:

Law enforcement personnel were present in the vicinity throughout the day. It was only after emergency medical personnel began treating dangerous levels of alcohol intoxication and when participants began engaging in dangerous activities, including vandalizing property and throwing bottles and other objects at local law enforcement officers who were not in protective gear, that the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System Mobile Field Force, comprised of officers from throughout the state, was called in for crowd control to ensure the safety of all present. The University supports the law enforcement agencies in their attempt to ensure the safety of our students and our community. (Source: Western Courier)

Demonstration planned for today for 12:15 at the University Union against the abuse to their 4th amendment rights.

According to Rausseao, Western Courier also says that the mainstream and student press have tried to spin the demonstrators as anarchists.

Update from earlier today.

2011-05-03 US Hosts World Press Freedom Day in the Midst of Prosecuting Media Publisher WikiLeaks

ImageToday, 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.

Without evidence of conspiracy, there can be no prosecution of WikiLeaks that would not effectively be an attack on the press freedom of well-established newspapers like the New York Times or any other news organization in the United States.

Additionally, there exists two other significant dangers to press freedom: (1) the intimidation of those individuals and organizations in the press who are not deferential to power and (2) the placement of restraints on arenas in the private and public sphere so that the reading of what used to be classified information in newspapers or on news websites is discouraged if not strictly prohibited under threat of penalty.

At a fundraiser in San Francisco for President Barack Obama, a group of supporters upset with Obama’s handling of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the individual alleged to have leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, interrupted the fundraiser and sang a song in support of Manning. Following the interruption, a few directly questioned President Obama on the arrest and detention of Manning. President Obama, allegedly not realizing a camera phone was recording, said the following:

I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source. That’s not how…the world works. If you’re in the military, and — I have to abide by certain classified information. If I was to release stuff that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law…We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate… He broke the law.”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci was there to cover the protest. She shot video of protesters interrupting the fundraiser with her own camera phone. There as a part of a “print pool,” Marinucci and the Chronicle were informed after she posted video online that she had been banished from covering presidential visits to the Bay Area because she used something more than a pen and a pad to cover the fundraiser.

A strong editorial by Editor at Large Phil Bronstein was published by the Chronicle condemning the White House’s censorship and attempt at banishment. Bronstein writes:

…more than a few journalists familiar with this story are aware of some implied threats from the White House of additional and wider punishment if Carla's spanking became public. Really? That's a heavy hand usually reserved for places other than the land of the free.

But bravery is a challenge, in particular for White House correspondents, most of whom are seasoned and capable journalists. They live a little bit in a gilded cage where they have access to the most powerful man in the world but must obey the rules whether they make sense or not.

Bronstein acknowledges the reality that “powerful people and institutions want to control their image and their message. That's part of their job, to create a mythology that allows them to continue being powerful.” But, he adds, “Part of the press' job is to do the opposite, to strip away the cloaks and veneers.” Banning Marinucci, he concludes, does not just put a reporter “in a cage” but into something “more like one of those stifling pens reserved for calves on their way to being veal.”

White House spokesperson Jay Carney denied after the Chronicle published the aforementioned editorial that Marinucci had been banned, which led Chronicle editor Ward Bushee to react: “Sadly, we expected the White House to respond in this manner based on our experiences yesterday. It is not a truthful response. It follows a day of off-the-record exchanges with key people in the White House communications office who told us they would remove our reporter, then threatened retaliation to Chronicle and Hearst reporters if we reported on the ban, and then recanted to say our reporter might not be removed after all.”

Juxtapose that with what happened last week just days after Manning was flown from Quantico Marine Brig to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Department of Defense unusually chose to give a group of approved reporters a tour of Leavenworth. Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman, said of the tour, “We don't anticipate doing this again. It is highly unusual that we allow media into a correctional facility run by the Department of Defense…Then again, we think it's important that the public understand the conditions of confinement here.”

KCUR reported, “The Army wanted reporters to see the physical layout of the prison to which he was moved earlier this month from the U.S. Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Virginia.” No cell phones or video was allowed (and nobody would violate that rule as they feared being singled out like Marinucci).

The government’s management and control of the press in the US was on display. The message was clear: If you want to cover Manning’s detention, the US government will effectively manage how you cover it. Like with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008, if you wish to cover, you will embed with power. You won’t cover power but be given quotes that make it impossible for you to not cover for power.

Former and estranged WikiLeaks media partner New York Times has helped reinforce the US government’s desire to have a lapdog press by consulting with the Pentagon on its coverage of the Guantanamo Files and the State Department on its coverage of the US State Embassy Cables. It has further cemented the subservient relationship between press and government by choosing to regard WikiLeaks as a “source” and not a publishing media organization. In seeking to cast WikiLeaks as a “source” to possibly insulate itself from prosecution, the Times may not simply be protecting itself but also promoting a climate that threatens less established members of what Yochai Benkler calls “the networked fourth estate.” Denying membership to “the club” effectively puts other journalists at “greater risks than fringe journalists have been in the United States for almost a century.”

On the placement of prohibitions to access to the published material, the Justice Department informed Guantanamo defense lawyers last week that they would not be allowed to read the released files and use them in detainees’ cases. They are to treat the material as information that is still classified.

Scott Shane of the New York Times put this into context noting:

In December, Columbia University warned international relations students that commenting on the documents disclosed by WikiLeaks online or linking to them might endanger their chances of getting a government job. The same month, the United States Agency for International Development told workers that viewing the documents on an unclassified computer at work or home could violate security rules that govern their employment. In February, an Air Force unit cautioned that employees and even their family members could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for looking at the WikiLeaks documents at home.

Some of those warnings were quickly modified or withdrawn after attracting public ridicule. But the general principle that the leaked files remain classified remains in effect, with varying consequences.

Some foreigners applying for asylum in the United States have attached diplomatic cables printed from the Internet that describe repression in their native countries — requiring the Department of Homeland Security to store their applications in special safes and to apply cumbersome security rules.

State Department employees have confided that they read leaked cables on newspaper Web sites at home rather than risk trouble by viewing them at work. A Times reporter who appeared with a State Department official on a recent panel was advised not to show leaked cables as slides — the official was prohibited from looking at them.

Seeking to prevent access to the material indirectly impacts press freedom. If organizations and agencies are not allowed to use the reports or news, those who can most benefit from the information will begin to not seek out such information. They will become conditioned to a press that does not provide material that can be useful to their jobs or careers. As more and more arenas are controlled, more and more in the citizenry will prefer to read less controversial stories just so their livelihood is not threatened. And, if people do not wish to consume journalism that checks power, what business sense does it make to publish investigative reporting? Why invest in watchdog journalism?

Trevor Timm, who operates the Twitter account @WLLegal, explains the prosecution and isolation of WikiLeaks does not mean “nobody is going to report on national security anymore or that nobody is going to leak.” It does mean the press “will increasingly give the government discretion to go after the papers that report critically on them and not go after the papers that report favorably to them.” Because, “if somebody leaked information that made [the government] look bad, [the government] could essentially go after a paper and essentially put it out of business.”

Given the collapse in journalism and the rise of “new media,” Timm further notes, “The government can bring charges and cause a news organization to spend millions and millions of dollars they don’t have on legal defenses.” He adds, “Back when Nixon Administration started subpoenaing reporters, they fought them tooth and nail,” but suggests that if the Obama Administration went after reporters today like Nixon did they would not be able to afford taking a stand for press freedom.

WikiLeaks is a publisher. It should be afforded the same protections and rights as any blogger, journalist or media professional. Yet, the US continues its prosecution of WikiLeaks. The State Department could at least pay lip service to arguments that the targeting of WikiLeaks and those associated is unwarranted. It could make an honest assessment of the way government has chilled whistleblowing through threats of prosecution to whistleblowers. It should go beyond discussing press freedom in the context of simply ensuring bloggers and journalists should be allowed to report on tyrannical regimes in the Middle East like Iran.

There exists an opportunity for the US to not make a mockery of press freedom. A wider conversation could be had. Unfortunately, there is little indication that anyone with the ability to influence power will be moved to address the hypocrisy of the US hosting a World Press Freedom Day when those running the US are largely incapable and unwilling of upholding the universal principle of freedom of the press.

2011-05-04 Amnesty continues to investigate the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and four others

Amnesty International is today requesting more information from US and Pakistani authorities regarding the killing of Osama Bin Laden and four others by US forces. “We are seeking information from the US and Pakistani authorities about how many people were in the compound at the time of the operation, what happened to them and specifically what is the status and current whereabouts of the survivors,” said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International. The survivors are said to include at least six children. Of the eighteen people reportedly at the compound, five were reported killed and two injured.

The US authorities maintain that they had full authority to kill Bin Laden, and that he was unarmed but had "resisted capture". “Given that he was not armed, it is not clear how he resisted arrest and whether an attempt was made to capture him rather than kill him,” said Claudio Cordone. “Amnesty International believes that US forces should have attempted to capture Osama bin Laden alive in order to bring him to trial if he was unarmed and posing no immediate threat.”

Amnesty has stated, Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for acts of terrorism amounting to crimes against humanity and has inspired others to commit similar acts. Perpetrators of such acts must be brought to justice in a manner consistent with international law.

2011-05-04 Bulgarian Media: Lacking Money and Morals

May 3, Global Press Freedom Day

Bulgaria’s ranking in freedom of press, published by Freedom House on the eve of May 3, the global press freedom day, is slipping down once again. Even though the country went down by just one spot, compared to last year, the trend that began in 2005 is continuing. A trend which can be noticed in the rankings of another large human rights organization “Reporters without Borders.”

The reasons for this trend are complex and have been analyzed in detail in the report on Bulgaria of Reporters without Borders, published in February 2009. It stresses on “power reflexes,” inherited by the totalitarian pass; economic pressure on journalists; murky ownership of large media and the role of the shady groups, striking terror of physical retribution with the non-conformists.

Several months later, in the eve of the general elections, American Ambassador Nancy McEldowney sends a classified report to the State Department, focused on Bulgarian media [09SOFIA304], where the diagnosis is harsh and the language far away from diplomatic: venality, corruption, political servitude, paid for with dirty money from the gray economy.

Political parties, paying journalists, publishers and TV producers under the table for interviews and news stories, are the main corrupting factors, journalists have shared with the Ambassador. The champions here are the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS, followed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, and the party of former King and Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg – National Movement for Stability and Prosperity, NDSV, who have a well-established history of paying for press coverage, McEldowney believes. According to the Ambassador, the center-right parties (Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, DSB, and Union of Democratic Forces, UDF) previously paid only for advertisements. Also in the past, the now-ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, relied mainly on the charisma of the party's informal leader Boiko Borissov for coverage, who often called or texted journalists directly. The cable does not say more about the actual relations between GERB and the press.

Popular TV journalist Svetla Petrova, who recently left Bulgaria’s largest private TV channel bTV, where she hosted the political show Seismograph, commented for Bivol on McEldowney’s cable on Bulgarian media the following way:

“I can say that it is a deeply moving read and a surgically precise analysis of the state of Bulgarian media in general and of Bulgarian journalism in particular... "

According to Petrova in popular TV emissions where politicians are interviewed "everything is arranged, even the critical questions.”

What Ambassador McEldowney had missed is the official purchase of media by those in power, through the so-called contracts for “media information services.” A report of the Bulgarian National Audit Office, cited by Deutsche Welle, shows that during the 2008-2009 period just the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy gave 16 media outlets 603 272 leva from taxpayers’ money. With scores of ministries and agencies, feeding from the State budget and with local municipalities added – we have a multimillion gray information market.

When we have such financial dependency from politicians and institutions, media wash away, beyond recognition, the boundaries between paid PR and authentic information and journalism.

Another factor for dependence, missed by Nancy McEldowney, is the strong presence of former collaborators of the Communist Political Police – State Security, DS, among owners and editors from the country’s largest electronic and print media.

The result from all this is the decline of investigative journalism and of media pluralism, pressured by gray economy interests and media owners, tangled in political and business deals among each other and the State, and with those shady circles of power, created by DS employees during the Transition Period.

Analysis of information from diplomatic cables in Bulgaria, Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia, which have been made available to Bivol, shows the level of press freedom is a more specific problem for Bulgaria than for neighboring “less European countries.” For example the word censorship can be found several times, but just once in the context of self-censorship in the already quoted cable from Sofia [09SOFIA304].

Other grounds for regional comparison are reactions of the civil society to attempts of those in power to restrict media freedom. While in Bulgaria the last legal amendment, imposing strict penalties for vaguely defined “discriminating” publications did not generate firm and loud public opposition, in Serbia a similar Act almost toppled the ruling coalition, a cable, sent from Belgrade and dated April, 2010, reveals [09BELGRADE791].

However, intertwining of business, politics and media is observed in neighboring Greece, a long-time member of the European family. In a cable from 2006, released by Wikileaks’ partner, the daily Kathimerini, former U.S. Ambassador to Athens, Charles Rhys, offers a colorful comparison for the ties between owners of Greek media, politicians and the government: “relationships more complicated and incestuous than those among the gods, the demigods, and the human beings of Greek myth.”

Without knowing in details relationships at Mount Olympus, Bulgarian readers obviously recognize the “incestuous” events, preceding publications in “serious” press, because they defect to tabloids more and more - a fact, which, as a whole, lowers the quality of journalism.

2011-05-04 Doctors and Nurses on Trial in #Bahrain

WEDNESDAY, May 4, 2011

In an attempt to exterminate any form of opposition, Bahrain's two-century-old monarchy has targeting every segment of the population that showed or may have shown sympathy to the pro-democracy movement that hit the small gulf island in February.

From protesters, lawyers, teachers, and human right workers, to opposition leaders, bloggers, journalists, and medical staff. No one has escaped the regime's crackdown.

The regime has tortured, killed, and pronounced death sentences for four detainees. The four detainees had apparently 'confessed' the murder of 2 policemen under torture - torture that led to the death of one of them during custody.

During the protests in Manama, people were shot at with pellets, tear gas, nerve gas, and live ammunitions. Many of them sough medical care at Salmaniya Medical Center (SMC).

Hearing that wounded protesters were seeking medical assistance at SMC, security forces sieged the hospital, thus preventing anyone or anything from coming in or out, including ambulances.


Army tank surrounding the center 15/03/2011


Army tank surrounding the center 15/03/2011


Riot police surrounding the center 16/03/2011


Police surrounding the SMC 16/03/2011

Preventing patients to enter the hospital

For 3 days nurses and doctors were not allowed to leave the hospital.

However Al Jazeera correspondent, present at the time, managed to obtain these testimonies:

Ghassan Daif and Ali Al Akri, the doctors providing the testimonies, were arrested shortly after.

Events in the SMC provoked shock within a country that was already divided, but even supporters of the regime started to question what was happening at the hospital.

The regime then decided to spin events at the hospital, by producing reports of its own showing that everything was proceeding normally.

Despite their efforts to stifle the truth, it was clear not only that the hospital was under siege, preventing the wounded to get treatment, but also that the situation was hectic.

The Army was in control of the center and people started to warn each other to look after their cars as security forces were gathering around the trunks, presumably to hide weapons.



Hospitals were no longer safe. People, therefore, started to treat themselves at home, fearing arrest. Free medical advices was offered through Skype.


Yesterday, we learned the monarchy will place 23 doctors and 24 nurses on trial.

Bahrain's Ministry of Justice is charging them with the following:

  1. The inexcusable refrain from aiding people.
  2. The embezzlement of public funds.
  3. Physical assault on civilians.
  4. Assault leading to death.
  5. The possession of unlicensed weapons and ammunition.
  6. Refraining from carrying out their employment duties, in aims of hindering medical work, consequently endangering people’s health and lives.
  7. The attempt of forcefully occupying a public building.
  8. Promotion to bring down and change the regime by illegal means.
  9. Inciting hatred against the governing regime.
  10. Promoting sectarian hate.
  11. Spreading false news and rumors that harm public interest.
  12. Participating in unlicensed protests and rallies.

TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2011


As the world is celebrating Press Freedom Day, Al Wasat newspaper which was seen as the country's only opposition publication before it was forced to reshuffle its board, decided to close next week, following major revenue losses.

In the meantime king Hamad stressed yesterday that press freedom will always be at the center of royal reforms project.

Al Wasat is the second opposition paper to end its activities after the closure last year of Al Waqt.

This year Bahrain is ranked 119 out of 178 in the worldwide index of press freedom.

In its statement reporters without borders underlines the media blackout but also the regime propaganda that led to smear campaigns.

Read reporters without borders statement about media blackout in Bahrain

Karim Fakhrawi, founder and board member of Al-Wasat, died in custody the 15th of April 2011.

[Shia villages raided, authorities arrest 2 former members of Parliament]

As the International Automobile Federation gave a one month extension to Bahrain to decide if the Formula One Race could be rescheduled this year, the kingdom of Bahrain intensified its crackdown on its people.

Saturday a police raid on Sitra led to the death of a 6 year old boy in the village of Sitra.

Since the beginning of pro-democratic protests, violent police raids on villages have been part of the king Hamad policy to prevent sectarian conflict and economic crisis as the king put it on a televised speech shortly after the protests, back in February.

Karzakan, Sitra and Sanabis are among the last villages raided by riot police, all of them being Shiite villages.

Destroying cars, hovering the villages with helicopters (see #chopperguy on twitter), firing tear gas and what seems to be nerve gas to homes, arresting opposition leaders as well as human right workers, doctors, lawyers and teachers (see here for the full list of people detained), Bahrain’s government will to suppress any form of criticism led Saturday to the death of Mohammad Abdul-Hussain Farhan, 6, after being exposed to tear gas, following the police raid on Sitra an almost all Shiite island.

Mohammad is said to be the cousin of Ahmed Farhan [EXTREMELY GRAPHIC], which head was blown up during a demo by a helicopter fire.

SUNDAY, MAY 1, 2011
  • Numerous reports of Shia mosques and matams (places of worship) being destroyed or vandalized.

    Since the beginning of April, reports have surfaced of Shia mosques and matams being destroyed or vandalized.

    This Facebook album contains pictures of what is said to be destroyed Shia holy places in Manama, Bahrain.

    Videos have also been posted on YouTube to document the destruction, but are often taken down as soon as they are published, abusively reported as spam. Here is one such example of a video that has been removed.

    Shia have, therefore, gone about documenting the destruction using other means. Chan’ad (@chanadbh), who blogs about Bahrain, has started to gather information about this growing phenomenon on a Google Map.

    View Demolished mosques in Bahrain in a larger map

    So far, this non-exhaustive map lists 25 destroyed or vandalized mosques.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights launched a campaign via Maryam Alkhawaja, to ask people to send them as much info as they could.


    The government has not tried to deny the allegations. Instead it has responded to the issue by stating that these places had no building authorizations.

    The licensing law in Bahrain was created in 1977 and mosques or matams built prior to this law can't be considered illegal due to the principle of irretroactivity.

    Furthermore, some official documents started to leak through the web, showing clear evidences that at least nine destroyed mosques were registered and authorized.

    Some of these documents were publicly available on the Jaffary Waqf Directorate website, in charge of registering such buildings. The website has been blocked by bahraini authorities since then.

Other Resources:

See April, March 1 through 21, March 22 through 31, and February for previous WL Central coverage.

2011-05-04 The Hunger Strikers of Guantanamo As Detailed in Files Released by WikiLeaks

Hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo Bay are known to have engaged in hunger strikes at the prison in protest of conditions and their prolonged confinement without trial. A recent report from Jason Leopold of details how, as of March, detainees continue to participate in hunger strikes with the hope that the conditions of their detention will improve or so they will no longer have their basic due process rights violated.

Detainees first began to engage in hunger strikes in 2002. The hunger strikes had a definite impact. The strikes from 2002 to 2005 effectively changed the dynamics in the prison. Former detainee Binyam Mohamed said there was no law and a colonel was saying, “’I do what I like’ but after the hunger strike – the big hunger strike of 2005 – they actually started implementing some kind of law that we knew about.” But, come 2006, the prison began to force feed detainees that were striking and would force tubes down detainees’ throats in a manner that successfully convinced many of the detainees to end their resistance.

There are a number of detainees that are known to have engaged in hunger striking (thanks to the great investigative journalism of Andy Worthington). Some known to have engaged in strikes are: Binyam Mohamed, Sami al-Hajj, Mohammed al-Amin, Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, Yasser Talal Zahrani, Saber Lahmer, Omar Khadr, Abdul Rahman Shalabi, Tarek Baada, Ahmed Zuhair, Abdul Rahman al-Amri, Ali Al-Salami, Mani al-Utaybi, and Shaker Aamer. With the release of the Guantanamo Files by WikiLeaks, more details on hunger striking in the military prison can be gleaned.

In order to further understand the details in the “Guantanamo Files,” it is important to consider the Standard Operating Procedure for handling hunger strikes was outlined in a document titled, “Voluntary and Voluntary Total Fasting and Re-Feeding.”

As of August 11, 2005, this was JTF GTMO’s policy on hunger strikes:

Joint Task Force (JTF)-GTMO policy is to avert death from hunger strikes and from failure to drink as well as to monitor the health status of detainees who are fasting voluntarily. Every attempt will be made to allow detainees to remain autonomous up to the point where failure to eat or drink might threaten their life or health. The Detention Hospital (DH) is responsible for providing health care monitoring and medical assistance as clinically indicated for detainees who are voluntarily fasting or on a hunger strike. The Officer in Charge (OIC) of the DH will ensure that the appropriate standards of care for the medical and administrative management of fasting detainees are adhered to. The DH OIC will do everything within his/her mean to monitor and protect the health and welfare of hunger striking detainees including involuntary intravenous hydration and/or enteral tube feeding if necessary. DH medical personnel will make every effort to obtain consent from a voluntary faster for treatment

What’s the distinction between a voluntary faster and a hunger striker?

Voluntary fasting (VF) “occurs when a detainee communicates his intent to JTF-GTMO personnel to undergo a period of fasting for a specific purpose, has had no solid food intake for a period of 72 hours (9 consecutive meals), but is taking adequate liquids/fluids by mouth.” And, hunger striking involves a “detainee who communicates his intent to JTF-GTMO personnel to undergo a period of voluntary or total voluntary fasting as a form of protest or to demand attention from authorities.”

A further distinction appears in the released reports. For example, Tarek Baada, who is one of the few detainees known to have engaged in a long-term hunger strike, is not regarded as hunger striker by JTF GTMO. The euphemism appropriated to Baada is voluntary total faster. Under “Detainee’s Conduct” in his assessment report, it reads, “He is currently in voluntary total fast status since 07 January 2007, refusing 1,065 consecutive meals. In 2006, he had a total of nine Reports of Disciplinary Infraction and fourteen in 2007.”

Voluntary total fasting (VTF) “occurs when a detainee communicates his intent to JTF-GTMO personnel to undergo a period of fasting for a specific purpose and has not taken any solids or liquids for a period of more than 48 hours.

The JTF GTMO Surgeon, along with the DH medical staff the Commander Joint Detention Group (JDG), and the Commander, Joint Intelligence Group (JIG), in order to make a “hunger striker” designation, must prove intent, purpose and behavior, according to JTF GTMO. Religious fasting, severe depression with suicidal intent manifested by not eating or drinking are two examples where a detainee would not be designated a hunger striker but rather a voluntary faster or voluntary total faster.

The designations, which appear in some of the released Guantanamo Files, all appear designed to lower the number of people who can be considered as people who are resisting authority. It appears to be a divide-and-conquer strategy. By deciding from the top that which detainees were part of a hunger strike, it gives them the ability to lower the detainees’ fortitude and courage in keeping a strike going in the prison.

The JTF-GTMO Surgeon is only to remove “a detainee from the Hunger Striker list. Detainees are not to be removed from the list until a “DH medical officer has evaluated him and has determined that he is no longer on a VF, VTF or hunger strike.” This clearly demonstrates the prison staff has aimed to assert top-down authority by deciding who is and who is not striking. Detainees who claim to be striking will have to be approved for a list in order to strike. Thus, it appears some detainees could be refused the “right” to engage in a hunger strike.

In July 2007, then-outgoing commanding officer of the Naval Station Guantanamo Hospital and head of the JTF JMG, Navy Captain Ronald L. Sollock, addressed the care of his team of medical professionals, which the prison had typically provided to the striking population. He said, “Involuntary feeding is not used to break the hunger strike…we are using sound medical indicators when necessary to preserve the life and health of detainees. We do not let the detainees get to the point of losing consciousness or becoming comatose to intervene. We will intervene to preserve their health and life before that time.”

But, as noted in the cited release, military commanders consider hunger striking to be a tactic that “al Qaeda recruits” are encouraged to use to “attract media attention to their detention.” So, should one actually believe commanders who assert force-feeding or involuntary feeding of detainees has not been the military prison’s way of stifling resistance from detainees, who seek to assert themselves and gain rights in the prison along with greater access to legal counsel?

It appears in some instances detainees were questioned about hunger strikes during their interrogation. Shakir Abd Al Rahim Muhammad Aamer [ISN:239] allegedly stated “the death of a detainee at JTF-GTMO would ‘open the eyes of the world and result in the closure of the base.’” With regards to him, Humud Dakhil Humud Sa'id Al-jad'an allegedly stated “the primary reason the JTF-GTMO detainees went on the hunger strike was because detainee’s lawyer told them exactly what they needed to do.” Abd al-Rahim Abdul Raza Janko allegedly said of Aamer he would pass information to other detainees who came to Camp Echo for Habeas visits.”

All of the above details on Aamer’s hunger striking can be found under the line, “Detainee has continued to participate in activities against the US,” indicating hunger strikes are a kind of militant tactic to the staff.

Abd Al Khaliq Ahmed Salih Al Baydani [ISN:553] allegedly wrote in a letter to Bader Al Bakri Al Samiri [ISN:274] that Al Samiri’s “hunger striking and violent fights with the guards” were “wonderful.” An analyst notes the detainee addressed the letter to Al Samiri’s “Paternal Uncle,” which means the letter likely went to Al Samiri’s relatives in Saudi Arabia. Whether it came back to the prison from a relative for Al Samiri to read is unclear.

Hani Saiid Mohammad Al Khalif [ISN:438] allegedly helped to train other detainees at JTF-GTMO and served in a “leadership role” among detainees. The assessment suggests Al Khalif taught Adel Zanel Abd al-Mahsenal-Zanrel [ISN:568] “military tactics” like “how to use RPGs.” Al-Mahsenel-Zanrel and Adel Fattough Ali Algazzar alleged Al Khalif was an “emir.” He also suggested Al Khalif had encouraged others to participate in hunger strikes. (But, an “analyst” notes no other evidence Al Khalif is “serving in a leadership role” in the prison. Interestingly, Algazzar is one of a number of detainees whom JTF GTMO and the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) could not agree on when assessing whether Algazzar posed a risk.)

Mahmoud Omar Muhammad Bin Atef [ISN:202] In a report filed on December 28, 2007, Atef is alleged to be a “key leader for 2007 detainee unrest in his cell block through the attempted organization for “2007 detainee unrest in his cell block through attempted organization of a hunger strike and surveillance against the guard force.” He reportedly stated, in a demonstration of support for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s attacks on US forces, “All Americans shall die because these were the rules of Allah,” and claimed upon release he would “research guard force personnel’s names and faces on the internet and sneak into their homes to cut their throats like sheep.”

Looking at the reports, it appears many of the detainees that engaged in hunger strikes have one thing in common: they were labeled a “HIGH threat from a detention perspective” in their reports.

It is also worth noting that sometimes the detainee reports mention hunger striking under the “Health” section. Sometimes it is mentioned under the “Detainee’s Conduct” section, indicating that hunger striking has been considered a disciplinary problem. And, in some cases, detainees that were known to have engaged in hunger striking had no details on their prison resistance recorded in their report at all.

For example, Abdul Rahman Shalabi, who the Associated Press reported in 2010 was now Guantanamo’s longest-term hunger striker, had been engaging in hunger striking in the months before the date of his detainee assessment report. By then, he was being strapped down into a padded restraint chair and then force-fed with a flexible feeding tube that was inserted through his nose and throat. Yet, while he is listed as a “HIGH” threat from a detention perspective, there are no details on his engagement in hunger striking and in the “Health” section there is nothing on his hunger striking or his force-feeding.

Reprieve, an organizations based in the United Kingdom that “uses the law to enforce human rights of prisoners from death row to Guantanamo Bay” tracked Shalabi. In a news story published on their website on November 11, 2009, Andrew Wander reported independent doctors who had evaluated Shalabi said “the insertion of the [feeding] tube has done permanent damage to his nose and throat, making inserting new feeding tubes difficult and stopping him from receiving the calories he needs.”

In March 2009, his weight had dropped to “107 pounds, 30 percent below his ideal body weight and at the threshold of major organ failure.” Dr. Emily Keram, a psychiatrist, concluded Shalabi exhibited symptoms and disorders that likely were a result of coercive interrogations and other mistreatment. And, she said records indicated he had been “subjected to Forced Cell Extraction in connection with his feeding multiple times per day through the months of January and February “ in 2009.

As Shalabi wrote in a letter, “I am a human who is being treated like an animal.”

The following is a list of detainees whose hunger strikes are mentioned in the released files:

-Zaid Muhammad Sa’ad Al Husayn [ISN:50]: In his report filed on December 5, 2005, Al Husayn is described to be in good health and noted to have gone on hunger strike in August 2005.

-Yasser T Al Zahrani [ISN:93]: In his report filed on March 20, 2006, Al Zahrani is said in the “Health” section to have a “history of rheumatoid arthritis.” He is said to have “a history of dehydration due to hunger strike treated with intravenous fluids.” It is noted in the “Detainee’s Conduct” section, “On 11 July 2005, detainee told a guard that he would use a knife to cut his stomach open, cut his face off, and then drink his blood, smiling and laughing as he said it. The detainee was a major participant in the voluntary total fast of 2005-2006.” [Note: Al Zahrani is one of the detainees known to have died in the Guantanamo prison.]

-Mubarak Hussain Bin Abul Hashem [ISN:151]:In his report filed on March 25, 2005, under the “Health” section, it is mentioned that Hashem went on a hunger strike on time.

-Fayiz Ahmad Yahia [ISN:153]: In his report filed on April 14, 2008, Yahia is noted to be “on a list of high-risk detainees from a health perspective.” He has significant health problems, “a history of a Hunger Strike,” along with a G6PD deficiency. [Interestingly, the file indicates JTF-GTMO does not know why he was transferred to Guantanamo.]

-Majid Abdallah Husayn Muhammad Al Samluli Al Harbi [ISN:158]: In his report filed on July 7, 2006, it is noted under “Detainee’s Conduct” that on December 15, 2003, Al Harbi “spat in the face of the medical officer who was inserting a feeding tube into him.”

Abdullah Kamel Abudallah Kamel [ISN-228]: In his report filed on December 27, 2005, Kamel is said to have a BMI on February 11, 2002, of 20%. It is noted he went on hunger strike in October 2002 and September 2005.

-Mohammed Abd Al Al Qadir [ISN:284]: In his report filed on July 212, 2004, under the “Health” section, Al Qadir is said to have “a history of unidentified left- side weakness, hunger striking, and acid reflux disease.”

-Ahmed Bin Saleh Belbacha [ISN:290]: In his report filed on January 15, 2006, under “Health” it is noted that Belbacha has “latent TB and is noncompliant with treatment.” He reportedly went on hunger striked in November 2002 and August 2005. Under “Detainee’s Conduct,” it is noted that Belbacha was a “major participant in the voluntary total fast, missing over a hundred meals.” Apparently, on November 24, 2005, he “declared a voluntary total fast. However, his fast lasted less than two hours as [he] later claimed that guards had helped him so he would eat.” [Unclear what is meant by “helped him.”]

-Wasim [ISN:338]: In his report filed on February 17, 2006, it is noted he “has a history of bilateral pterygium” and “went on a hunger strike in September 2002.”

-Sami Mohy El Din Muhammed Al Hajj [ISN:345]: In his report filed on April 4, 2008, the cameraman for al Jazeera that was detained is noted in the “Detainee’s Conduct” section to be overall “compliant and rarely hostile to the guard force and staff, although he still carries on with a long-term hunger strike.”

-Muhammad Ali Abdallah Muhammad Bwazir [ISN:440]: In his report, which was filed on October 27, 2008, Bwazir’s hunger striking is mentioned in the “Executive summary, worth reading in full:

If released without rehabilitation, close supervision, and means to successfully reintegrate into his society as a law-abiding citizen, it is assessed detainee would probably seek out prior associates and reengage in hostilities and extremist support activities at home and abroad. Since transfer to JTF-GTMO, detainee continues to demonstrate his commitment to extremist activities within the camp. Detainee volunteered to be a suicide operative and actively participates in the hunger strikes. Detainee has been mostly non-compliant with guard force personnel. He has responded cooperatively during debriefs in the past, but currently withholds information of intelligence value.

-Abdul Rahman Mohammed Hussein Khowlan [ISN:513]: In his report filed on March 31, 2006, Khowlan is said to be a "former hunger striker."

-Mamdouh Ahmed Habib [ISN:661]: In his report filed on August 6, 2004, it is noted that Habib has "a history of depression and behavioral disorders, benign prostatic hypertrophy, hunger striking, and had a knee surgery performed."

-Emad Abdallah Hassan [ISN:680]: In his report filed on October 31, 2008, it is described in the “Health” section that he is a "high-risk detainee" from a health perspective. He is "a repeated hunger striker with subsequent complications and has a history of chronic pancreatitis for which he is receiving medication."

-Muhammad Abdallah Taha Moaten [ISN:684]: In his report filed on April 16, 2008, Moaten is described in the “Health” section as a “high-risk detainee” from a health perspective. He has “major depression.” He has a “history of a Hunger Strike.” It is noted that “behavioral health” is following him.

-Allah Muhammed Saleem [ISN:716]: In his report filed on July 2, 2004, under he is noted to have been a hunger striker in the “Health” section.

-Abdul Al Zaher [ISN:753]: In his report filed on November 19, 2008, he is said to have “a history of malaria prior to detainment, chronic lower back pain, sciatica, and hunger striking not requiring enteral feeding. Additionally, he has a history of Major Depressive Episode currently in full remission that is followed by the Behavior Health Unit routinely.”

-Bisher al-Rawi [ISN:906]: In his report filed on October 19, 2005, under “Health,” the reports indicate no “ongoing medical conditions” and that “he went on a hunger strike in August and September 2005.”.

Mohabet Khan [ISN:909]: In his report filed on June 7, 2005, Khan is noted to have over the past six months failed to return to the bay when asked, saluted another detainee, engaged in a short-lived hunger strike (one day on March 2, 2005), and said to have been found “unresponsive breathing with his eyes open.” He also is noted to have asked to be moved because he was not getting along with other detainees.

Husayn Salim Muhammad Al Matari Yafai [ISN:1015]: In his report filed on January 14, 2009, he is said to be “uncooperative indicating continuing support to extremism.” His report alleges he “uses counter-interrogation techniques, expressed he posed a threat to his debriefer, and threatened to kill US personnel at JTF-GTMO.” And, he prayed, “God help us overcome those infidels, God help the ones [hunger] striking God may curse those oppressors,” on December 25, 2008. [Yafai is a “probable recidivist candidate.”]

For the latest on the hunger strikes at Guantanamo, follow the reporting of Jason Leopold at Truthout or the work of Andy Worthington.

Photo by onlyforward.

2011-05-04 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:,1518,621450,00.html

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.

Please also take a moment to look up the coordinates 53.631111, 21.078889 on a satellite map of your choice. Various accounts speak about an isolated building in the woods near a military facility which is surrounded by a wall. Can you spot it?

For other WL Central coverage on the topic please see here.

2011-05-05 Human Rights Watch consultant, Joshua Colangelo, barred entry into #Bahrain (AUDIO)

ImageOn May 4, Mr. Colangelo, a Senior attorney at US-based Dorsey and Whitney LLP, and a consultant with Human Rights Watch was bared entry into Bahrain. Authorities cited his need for a visa, because of the "kind of work" he does, although Colangelo has frequently travelled to the country on various business matters with no prior incident.

In February, Mr. Colangelo spoke at a press conference at Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) in Manama. Mr. Colangelo has also represented Bahraini who were Guantanamo detainees.

HRW has released an 89-page report stating that Bahrain needs to take "urgent steps to end torture and ill-treatment of security suspects during interrogation. The report also called on the government to promptly investigate all torture allegations and prosecute security officials suspected of abusing detainees" (Source; Saudi News Today).

Bahrain's ongoing crackdown has escalated since February, targeting every level of society with fewer and fewer outside observers allowed into the country. See WL Central's ongoing coverage of Bahrain: May, April, March 1 through 21, March 22 through 31, and February.

I spoke last night EST with Mr. Colangelo, while he was on a stop over in Paris, en route back to the Unites States from Bahrain.



Why were you going to Bahrain?

I have been involved with issues concerning Bahrain for a number of years. It began with representing the Bahraini who were detained at Guantanamo, and more recently I have worked as a consultant with Human Rights Watch on domestic Bahrain issues.

This trip was largely in conjunction with that latter area of work. In particular, I was hoping to meet with defense counsel who appear to recently become subject of the government's crackdown.

I was hoping to perhaps observe proceedings in these newly established military court that were enacted under the...what in essence is martial law. And, also to just get a general sense of events on the ground these days.

Do you see a similarity between the military tribunals that are in Bahrain right now and the ones that are currently in place for handling Guantanamo detainees?

It is almost impossible to make a comparison because to date, as far as I am aware, no truly independent observer have been allowed to watch any of the proceedings at all in the Bahraini courts. We know, of course, that they were set up very recently, yet are already handing down death sentences.

That certainly raises a whole host of questions with anyone concerned with due process issues. But at the end of the day there is really no way to make a comparison, since nobody has seen the workings of these proceedings, except for handpicked members of the government, or pro-government groups.

Do you feel comfortable telling me the name of who you were representing there, or who you were going to give counsel to specifically?

No. I wasn't there to serve as defense counsel. I was going to be meeting with local Bahraini defense counsel, people who have represented clients in supposedly national security related cases over the years. But, I was not going to be providing any direct legal service to anyone.

Okay. And the individuals that who currently have Bahraini counsel that you were going to consult with can you tell me what their names were...mainly who is being charged, specifically? Am I misunderstanding?

Perhaps. There is a group of defense lawyers who for the past few years, and in fact longer, have represented defendants in national security cases have pretty long standing relationships with a number of those lawyers. They are , obviously, people I talk to, to get a better sense of what is happening in the criminal justice system.

I did want to see also to what extent they have been allowed to participate in the military tribunals. None of that has happened, but, you know, that is the nature of the conversation I was looking to have with them.

Can you tell me what happened to you when you arrived in Bahrain yesterday?

I was told that for the quote "sort of work" quote that I do, I would have to apply for a visa before arriving in Bahrain. When I said that I had made over six trips to Bahrain to do quote "that kind of work" close-quotes without ever needing to get a visa before arriving, I was told by government officials that things have changed in Bahrain over the last few months.

I said I thought that Bahrain was supposedly still open for business, and they said well that is true but still things are very different, so we won't be letting you in.

It was certainly a surprise, given the number of times that I have visited. Given the fact that I have never had any immigration problems on any of those prior visits.

Do you have an impression of why you were turned away specifically?

Well we know that the Bahraini have specifically denied visas to other NGO staff recently.

They have raised issues about certain people from Human Rights Watch coming to the country. I think it's just another step in the very obvious crackdown on defense that we have seen which has included everything from mass arrests to shooting peaceful protesters. I think this underscores that the Bahraini really don't wish to have their actions be subject to any more scrutiny than is absolutely necessary.

How would you define national security cases in Bahrain? What kinds of people fall under that?

Well, we have seen a number of cases in the last few years in which opposition political figures, human rights activists, clerics, and the like have been accused of plotting coup.

In fact some of these people have been accused of that kind of activity in a number of different criminal proceedings, none of which has ever gotten to the stage where any evidence at all has been presented. Typically, the cases are dropped.

However, periodically, the same group of people gets arrested and accused of to overthrow the government, usually with an implication that they are being aided by Iranian agents.

Yet, no proof is ever offered. But, even as we speak now, a number of these individuals are back in custody, although this time there are apparently no charges at all. At least none that have been publicized.

People outside of Bahrain...what can they do to help Bahraini?

You know, we have seen the US and NATO allies take very strong action in support of democracy movements in the Middle East and North Africa recently. Obviously, Libya is an example. Egypt, ultimately, was another example.

Those same countries have been almost entirely mute when it comes to Bahrain, despite the fact that international media was present when peaceful protesters were being killed for example.

So, I think people who live in the US, or the UK, or France, or other Western countries should urge their governments to get more involved, to make clear to the Bahraini that the rule of law needs to be respected, that human rights need to be respected, and that martial law is clearly not the answer to these problems.

I thank you very much for calling me en route to the US. I hope that you have safe travels and thank you so much.

You bet.

2011-05-05 In defense of Canadian voters

ImageThe recent Canadian election has been the topic of much foreign news coverage, with pundits trying to explain why liberal-minded Canada has given a majority to the most right leaning party in its history, what exactly the New Democratic Party is, and why on earth Canada turned its back so firmly on its 'traditional ruling party', headed by a man described in the Guardian as "known to the British as a fine writer, historian and BBC talking head, who had returned to Canada to lead the Liberals". Embassy Magazine wrote an astoundingly condescending piece about Canada's lack of interest in foreign policy which contained the following:

Given Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's background, many had expected him to campaign on foreign policy. And at the start of the campaign he did try to frame the election around the question of ethics, especially the tenor of Conservative foreign policy. ... But ... Mr. Ignatieff failed to inspire with this foreign policy-tinged message. In fact, the more he talked about it, the less traction he seemed to be getting with centrist or progressive voters. ... At one point, the Liberal leader's frustration became quite evident, with Mr. Ignatieff wondering why Canadians were not latching onto the many controversies that had dogged the Conservatives before the election. Mr. Ignatieff's plea that Canada should regain its international standing was a version of this idea that the country should be undergoing some soul-searching prior to voting. But with his historic low, it appears Canadians weren't up for that sort of deep think.

So according to this report (and many others, since Ignatieff started campaigning) a public that did not vote for Michael Ignatieff is anti-intellectual, anti-US, and even a nation full of uncaring or stupid people. While it would be excessive to imply that all of the Liberal Party's current woes can be set at the feet of Michael Ignatieff, or that Canadians feel a great deal of interest in foreign policy, the election result does not prove the writer's point but rather the opposite.

It is an uncontested fact that public support for the Liberal Party under Michael Ignatieff plummeted, even compared to the disastrous prior leadership of Stéphane Dion. Contrary to much foreign opinion, the Liberal and Conservative parties of Canada are both strong corporatist parties, neither is socialist leaning like the NDP. And labour issues were not a big topic during the election and could not be said to have been a strong influence in turning Liberal voters to NDP. There are, historically, two things that matter very much to Canadian Liberals: a liberal philosophy towards laws and citizen rights, including a dislike of military involvement outside of strict peacekeeping missions and a strong support of human rights, and Canadian federalist sovereignty.

Michael Ignatieff was hilariously brought in by the Liberal Party of Canada, to be the 'next Pierre Trudeau', referring to a strong federalist former prime minister who suffered his biggest backlash from his own Liberal party when he invoked the War Measures Act, which allowed the police to arrest and detain without trial, during the October Crisis of 1970. He also received some of his biggest support for standing up to the US. Michael Ignatieff, has advocated torture (which he does not call torture, but others do, more anon), 'pre-emptive wars', and indefinite detention without trial. He was a supporter of the Iraq war for far too long. He has openly preached the manifest destiny of the United States for years and self identified as nothing but an American, also for many years. In 2003 he wrote Empire Lite: Nation-Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, which argued that the US had a responsibility to create a "humanitarian empire" through nation-building and, if necessary, military force, and when he talks of Canada's "leadership in the world" it is always in reference to an expanded military.

He campaigned on an insult to the Canadian system of multi-party governance, decreeing from day one that Canadians had but two choices. I am saying as clearly as I can to the Canadian people, looking them straight in the eye”—here he focused his gaze into the TV camera directly in front of him, so it would seem to a television viewer that Ignatieff really was looking him in the eye—“if you want to replace the Harper government, you’ve got to vote Liberal.” Which, if believed, left the Canadian people with two options for prime minister, both strongly disapproving of everything Canada is.

Ignatieff in the past

Here are a few things from Michael Ignatieff's background that Canadians may have been subjecting to that "deep think" they supposedly were not having about foreign policy. His writings and interviews are many and diverse, but the parts that mattered the most to Canadians were neatly summed up in a New Humanist article by Laurie Taylor at the point where he resigned from the advisory board of the Index on Censorship and requested that all syndication of an article referencing him be withheld. Everything in this article is easily verifiable from Ignatieff's own writings, but whenever the Conservative party used these facts in their ads, the Canadian people were told that the Conservatives were bad people and were trying to destroy Ignatieff's reputation. Maclean's magazine quotes a Conservative staff member as saying, "Michael Ignatieff, in our narrative, is a political opportunist who is calculating, who will do and say anything to get elected." In Maclean's narrative, and in that of much of the Canadian media, this constitutes a political attack on Ignatieff. Of course it is. But that does not make the facts any less true or mean that Canadians should not be listening to them. It means Canadians should have been asking why they had to hear this material primarily from Conservative attack ads instead of their own media.

So what are these facts? Given the volume of his writing, it is perhaps most helpful to look at comments from his peers.

Conor Gearty, Professor of Human Rights Law at the LSE, wrote in the February 2005 edition of the Index on Censorship that Ignatieff was "probably the most important figure to fall into this category of hand-wringing, apologetic apologists for human rights abuses." for his support of the Iraq invasion and more. "The trick… is to take the 'human' out of 'human rights'. This is done by stressing the unprecedented nature of the threat that is currently posed by Islamic terrorism, by insisting that it is 'a kind of violence that not only kills but would destroy our human rights culture as well if it had a chance'. In these extraordinary circumstances, 'who can blame even the human rights advocate for taking his or her eye off each individual's puny plight, for allowing just a little brutality, a beating-up perhaps, or a touch of sensory deprivation?'. But once intellectuals do open this door then scores of Rumsfeldians pour past shouting 'me too' and (to the intellectual's plaintive cries of protest) 'what do you know about national security - go back to your class work and the New York Review of Books'." ... Ignatieff is the best exemplar of this type of intellectual because of his apparently total commitment to the idea that we are now faced with 'evil' people and that unless we fight evil with evil we will succumb. It is precisely because we are democratic and special that, in Ignatieff's words "necessity may require us to take actions in defence of democracy which will stray from democracy's own foundational commitments to dignity." ... If Abu Ghraib was wrong then that wrongness consisted not in stepping across the line into evil behaviour but rather allowing a 'necessary evil' (as framed by the squeamish intellectuals) to stray into 'unnecessary evil' (as practised by the not-so-squeamish Rumsfeldians)."

Michael Neumann, Professor of Philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, called Ignatieff's Empire Lite (2003) "a web of foolishness, error and confusion" and described Ignatieff's argument as: "The US should, having first consulted its own interest, occupy 'failed states' and suppress disorder. Then, over what Ignatieff repeatedly emphasises is a long period of time, Americans are to teach these little folks abut judicial procedure, democracy and human rights. Then Americans will help their apt pupils to create sustainably democratic institutions."

Mariano Aguirre, in a 2005 article called 'Exporting Democracy, Revising Torture: The Complex Missions of Michael Ignatieff' calls Ignatieff's arguments 'and yet and yet'. "Ignatieff considers himself a liberal, so sometimes he criticizes the Bush administration. And he is an intellectual, so he has doubts about almost everything and airs them with the liberal readers of the New York Times. But in the end he shares the US government's vision of the violent and compulsory promotion of democracy, the war against terrorism and the use of instruments, for example torture, which are apparently in need of revisionist treatment. ... he has established a sort of rational framework for democratisation by force and also for the revision of our understanding of human rights. ... His proposal (quoting Alan Dershowitz to cover his back) is that “the issue then becomes not whether torture can be prevented, but whether it can be regulated”. He goes even further, and seems to like the idea that when the police need to torture a suspect they could apply to a judge for a “torture warrant” that would specify the individual being tortured and set limits to the type and duration of pain allowed ... In this book he plainly says that “actions which violate foundational commitments to justice and dignity ... should be beyond the pale”. But next he indicates: “The problem is to protect them in practice, to maintain the limits, case by case, where reasonable people may disagree as to what constitutes torture, what detentions are illegal, which killings depart from lawful norms, or which pre-emptive actions constitute aggression.” According to Aguirre, Ignatieff also feels George W Bush could be recognized in the future as “a plain-speaker visionary”. When the WMD did not appear in Iraq, he wrote: “I never thought that the key question was what weapons Hussein actually possessed, but rather what intentions he had.”

International relations professor, Ronald Steel, wrote in the New York Times in July 2004: "Michael Ignatieff tells us how to do terrible things for a righteous cause and come away feeling good about it ... but is it really true that an evil act becomes lesser simply because it is problematic? Does suffering a twinge of bad conscience justify what we do in a righteous cause? It is comforting to think so, but saying 'this hurts me as much as it does you' is neither true nor considered an excuse."

In 2004, Ignatieff wrote several articles in New York Times Magazine defending both the Iraq war and Bush. On 2 May 2004 he wrote: "Permissible duress might include forms of sleep deprivation that do not result in lasting harm to mental health or physical health, together with disinformation and disorientation (like keeping prisoners in hoods) that would produce stress." (The Abu Ghraib photos of hooded prisoners were released on April 28.) Michael Ignattieff was also interviewed by Charlie Rose on April 28, 2004, the day the Abu Ghraib photos were released. In the interview he is still clearly in support of the Iraq war. In late 2004, Ignattieff was interviewed on CNN about the US role in the war on terror, where he spoke of its duty to "support the right regimes", etc. And in 2004 the Liberal Party of Canada began talks with Ignatieff asking him to come back and enter the leadership race for the Liberal Party.

Ignatieff in opposition

From the US state cables, a few points about Ignatieff's time as the leader of the opposition in Canada:

In cable 09OTTAWA341 the Liberals were the first party Canadians tried to turn to as their 'Not Harper' party of choice: "some noted specifically that Ignatieff's leadership and/or anger over Prime Minister Harper's performance had motivated them to join the party." The pro-US stance was apparent from the beginning. "A number of delegates cited in private conversations "synergy" between the new U.S. administration and a future Liberal government. An enthusiastic crowd cheered five images of Ignatieff with President Obama during his visit to Ottawa in February as part of a video backdrop to Ignatieff's keynote speech to the Convention." Traditionally, free trade and one-America type policy has been the realm of the Conservative Party, not the Liberals.

Differentiating between the parties was difficult in many cases. In 09OTTAWA377 "The efforts nonetheless put greater ideological light between the Conservatives and the Liberals under Michael Ignatieff, who has as of yet publicly identified few clear policy differences with the Conservatives." Cable 09OTTAWA954 tells of "the New Democratic Party - which previously had boasted of voting against the government on more than 70 consecutive votes and ridiculed the Liberals for failing to act like a genuine opposition party".

Opponents of torture and tough on crime legislation had no voice in parliament. Cable 09OTTAWA452 writes: "Under new leader Michael Ignatieff, the Liberals have been careful quietly to support the robust Conservative anti-crime agenda in order to deprive the Conservatives of a wedge issue in the next election. Similarly, they are unlikely in principle to oppose, or substantially modify, the anti-terrorism bills." Cable 10OTTAWA84 describes: "The Truth in Sentencing bill spent just over two months in the House of Commons and passed without amendment on June 8. ... Reportedly, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff insisted privately that the party not be seen as "soft on crime," prompting some Liberal Senators to absent themselves from the vote." Cable 09OTTAWA198 "noted that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was "flexible" and has a record in his life before politics of supporting robust anti-terrorism measures," regarding the government's reintroduced bill to amend the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act.

On the issue of Afghan detainees being handed over by Canadian forces without ensuring their safety from torture, 09OTTAWA906 states: "The opposition parties, together with Amnesty International Canada, insist that the only way to clear up the contradictions in the two versions of the story is for the government to call a public inquiry. ... The detainee issue has consumed the daily parliamentary Question Period, but both PM Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff have largely absented themselves from the debate." [Bolding added.] When Harper prorogued parliament, outlined in cable 09OTTAWA909, "Opposition Members of Parliament quickly howled in protest, with Liberal house leader Ralph Goodale calling the move "beyond arrogant, almost despotic" and a "shocking insult to democracy." (Liberal leader Ignatieff has yet to make a public comment.) [Bolding added.] New Democratic Party house leader Libby Davies called prorogation a "political scam." There has been widespread speculation in the media and among MPs that the Conservatives' key goal was to block additional committee hearings on allegations of the abuse of Afghan prisoners whom the Canadian Forces had transferred to Afghan authorities."

Cable 09OTTAWA944 opines "As in the case of post-2011 Canadian plans for Afghanistan (reftels), public interest is extremely limited, and confidence levels in the PM and the Conservatives remain relatively high." The cable may feel that public interest was low, but Liberal voters were taking note. As is apparent.

On extending Canada's involvement in the Afghanistan war, cable 08OTTAWA124 writes "Currently all Liberal MPs are publicly onside to end the combat mission in 2009, but doubts remain over the position of deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and other Liberals who supported a continued combat role in 2006, and probably still do today."

05OTTAWA696 reminds us: "Ignatieff is best known for his recent writings on political ethics in an age of terror, which lays out a middle course between the requirement for aggressive actions to protect liberal societies against sub-national mega-threats, and the need for Western Civilization to retain its ethical soul in the process. ...

"Ignatieff opened by paying tribute to the four RCMP officers killed in the line of duty earlier in the day, reminding the audience that this brutal killing of members of a force that is the very symbol of Canada ought to invoke not only sorrow but anger among Canadians. Ignatieff's belief in the measured and prepared use of force while also consistently trumpeting the social roots of Canadian liberalism, was a common theme. ...

"... Ignatieff suggested, but need our own military, our own intelligence service, and we need to be real players in the global war on terror. He reminded the audience that Canada is next door to the main target of terrorism and must ensure it is not used as a staging ground for terrorists. He then spoke of the larger war on terror, suggesting that the central problem in failed states is security, and if Canada is going to be active working in the failed states that are the breeding ground for terrorism, its military & must be able to fire back. ...With regards to missile defense Ignatieff sounded a note of caution over the party's rejection of the BMD program. He said he understood that the government had listened to the party and the party had listened to the country. But he suggested that it was necessary to balance fear of weapons in space, with the protection of Canada's own sovereignty."

While Ignatieff was loudly or quietly refusing to stand up for anything Liberal voters traditionally expect their candidates to stand up for, the NDP's Jack Layton was hard at work. Cable 10OTTAWA12 tells us "The Liberals' muted response to PM Harper's late December prorogation of Parliament (ref b) suggests a lack of energy and hands-on leadership (Michael Ignatieff reportedly remains on vacation in France) ... Ignatieff personally trailed PM Harper on indices of trust, competence, vision and leadership, even ranking behind New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton on overall leadership and trust." From cable 09OTTAWA766 "Despite its pledge to work with the government on EI, the NDP is increasingly positioning itself as the party trying to get results for Canada's unemployed, while the other parties only fight each other for partisan advantage and seek another expensive federal election. New NDP ads feature Layton with rolled-up sleeves, ready to "get to work.""

While the "leadership role in the world" espoused by Ignatieff consistently revolved around a greatly expanded military, Layton was, in cable 06OTTAWA3423 providing leadership of a different kind. "Jack Layton leveraged a meeting with Prime Minister Harper by threatening to bring down the Conservative minority government on a confidence vote unless Harper agreed to meet with him to discuss the Clean Air Act. ... the government surprised many observers by agreeing to Layton's proposal to send its draft legislation (C-30) directly to a "legislative committee". ... Front runner Michael Ignatieff is no Kyoto fan, whereas second-place Bob Rae is more supportive. ... Federal Liberal MP John Godfrey, Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras, Quebec's Environment Minister Claude Bechard, and Canadian environmentalists openly mocked Ambrose and derided the government's climate change stance as "scandalous," "idiotic," and "ridiculous." Bechard, whose comments were less vitriolic, said he hoped Ambrose would acknowledge Quebec's Kyoto plan at the Conference this week. "We can't say that Kyoto is impossible in Canada when one of the provinces, Quebec, has a plan to meet Kyoto with minimum participation from the federal government".

The future in Canada.

Yes, Stephen Harper is a Bad Man, found in contempt of parliament and many other things, who was elected by 23% of the eligible voters, including many who were "holding their noses" and voting Anyone But NDP. Yes, he will enact policies that very few Canadians agree with, disrespect all parliamentary and legal restrictions, and, as he has promised so many times, make Canada unrecognizable in four years. But Canada is a democracy, and in four years there will be another election. If 1993 is anything to base guesses on, the Conservative party will be wiped off the political map at that point, after 4 years of unfettered, unpopular policy making. In four years the NDP will be a strong, experienced socialist leaning opposition party. In four years, some form of proportional representation may be implemented which will guarantee at least some seats for the Green, Pirate, Marijuana, etc. parties. And in four years, the Liberal Party of Canada will hopefully have woken up to the fact that Canada is a multi party democracy, the people have choice, and if they are not given a leader they can stomach they will not vote Liberal. The new leader will probably be this guy or this guy. Neither are internationally acclaimed (or reviled) intellectuals. But neither would dream of suggesting torture and pre-emptive wars to the Canadian public as Liberal ideas.

Canadians have not destroyed their home, they are just spring cleaning. This is the point where they have emptied all the closets into the middle of the room and it looks awful. But in four years, it should be much better than ever, and all credit will be to the bravery of the voters who refused to be told by any media or politicians, national or international, that they did not have a choice.

2011-05-05 Release the Dead Bin Laden Photos


Celebration Photos Just as Likely to Inflame ‘Terrorists’ as Bin Laden Death Photos

 The decision to not release photos of a dead and fatally wounded Osama bin Laden rests on at tenuous set of reasons that rest purely on Beltway conventional wisdom.

The argument that the release of photos could inflame the Middle East has been made before (recall the Obama Administration blocked the release of “torture photos” in May 2009 that the ACLU was seeking to obtain through a Freedom of Information Act request). Greg Mitchell with The Nation reminds Americans of the debate that surrounded the decision to release photos of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after his death.

Jon Stewart made a good point last night on “The Daily Show":

We've been fighting this war for nearly ten years. Thousands of US deaths, tens of thousands of Iraqis have died and we’ve seen nearly zero photographic evidence of it. Member how long the media had to fight to show military coffins returning from overseas? Maybe not because you saw pictures of it the day they won the case and not since. Maybe we should always show pictures. Bin Laden, pictures of our wounded service people, pictures of maimed innocent civilians. We can only make decisions about war if we see what war actually is and not as a video game where bodies quickly disappear leaving behind a shiny gold coin.

Essentially, the key argument should not be that the photos should be released to debunk conspiracy theories (which the White House has helped fuel by not really getting all the details straight on the bin Laden killing). It shouldn’t be don’t release the photos because it will hand Republicans a victory and they won’t be satisfied and will just ask for more details like Donald Trump wants to know more on President Obama's personal history even though he got the president to release his long-form birth certificate.

The argument should be that Americans see the photo so they can see what they have been celebrating. They should see the image of brutality, which so many vehemently believe is justified.

What makes anyone think photos of celebration at Ground Zero or the White House on the day bin Laden was killed won’t inflame the Middle East or haven’t already provoked some cell of terrorists to plan a new scheme for attacking the US?

This guy with “Rest In Hell Osama” scrawled on his body could be on a recruiting poster for al Qaeda (if they use recruiting posters).

This guy could be on a recruiting poster too. Not because he looks like he lusts for blood but because he looks like a dopey Westerner whose ideals those in al Qaeda likely despise vehemently.


Even this seemingly benign photo could inflame those who would support al Qaeda’s mission against the West. The flag-waving in celebration of the execution of a human being on their side is enough to move them to organize an attack.

The front pages of the editions of The Daily News and the New York Post that ran the day after bin Laden was killed are enough to inflame those sympathetic to al Qaeda’s cause too. The Daily News’ front page said, “Rot in Hell!” The Post’s front page cried, “Vengeance at last! US nails the bastard!” The first sentence in the Post read, “We finally got the miserable son of a bitch.”

This irresponsible tabloid journalism was being gobbled up by New Yorkers as a reasonable characterization of what went down. People hung the front pages up nearby Ground Zero and took photos of the front pages posted on a wall.

This photo of university students should have the US national security establishment frightened not because students shouldn’t be allowed to go to spontaneous and patriotic Spring Break-type events, where they act like they are at a pep rally for an upcoming football game. The photo should have those in government worried because that girl with the cigar in her mouth could easily remind the terrorists of this girl with the cigar(ette) in her mouth.

The point is not that people shouldn’t be able to go out and celebrate and mark the deaths of America’s with American flags and signs that express satisfaction. The point is, if the photos of a dead bin Laden could be a potential threat to the US if released, what about the photos of people celebrating his death?

Jeremy Scahill of The Nation appeared on “The Tavis Smiley Show” to discuss how he really thinks the death of bin Laden is a “somber occasion.” He thinks Americans should reflect on the destruction that has taken place since 9/11 and those who have died in wars instead of simply treating the killing like a “sporting event.” And, he finds the celebrations give off an image of a “culture that celebrates execution.”

Additionally, Donna Marsh O’Connor, who lost her pregnant daughter on 9/11 writes:

As a family member of a young woman killed in the attacks, I want the response to the death of bin Laden to be one of somber reflection, one that marks how far we have come from the days of that attack and accounts for all we have lost—our civil rights, our trust in our government to act ethically. I want our civil liberties back, our reliance on the Constitution and the rule of law. I want, again, for my children to feel free.

Let’s take that energy and reclaim our land as the land of the free, the civilized and the just. There are dire costs to shirking this duty. We’ve just seen it in our streets.

O’Connor also states, “We should recognize the energy that came from the elimination of this criminal at the hands of the U.S. government and we should try to craft, instead, the end of the terror years.”

Back to the photos themselves, Michael Shaw at HuffingtonPost has this to say:

What the powers-that-be never get is that an erasure is not without it's own moral baggage and trace. Disappearing the photo, given the reality that an image represents (especially these days, when in Egypt, in Libya and in Syria, we see citizens dying by the day just for the cause of pushing pictures to twitpics), the willful act of suppressing the photo, in our every more visually-mediated and documented society, equates to the intention of keeping the killing in the dark. It's this signal, by way, this act of omission reinforced by the President's dismissive and defensive tone, that not just insults the intelligence of the American people but actually reinforces the suspicions of the Muslim street.

By not releasing the photos, we are letting the terrorists win—just as we have been letting them win since 9/11. We are adapting our behavior and applying more restraints to freedom and transparency. Doing this likely empowers terrorists.

Release the photos. They will do the US no harm. Now, continuing the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and continuing to support dictatorial regimes in the Middle East will.

2011-05-06 Abdullah Khadr wins extradition appeal

ImageIn December 2005, Abdullah Khadr, older brother of Omar, Abdurahman and Abdul Karim Khadr and younger brother of Zaynab, returned to his home in Toronto, Canada after fourteen months of being held in a Pakistan prison without charges. One week later he was arrested in Canada and held without bail, pending extradition to the US. The US had earlier obtained information from the Taliban which suggested to them Abdullah may have been the suicide bomber who killed a Canadian soldier in Kabul in January 2004. In an interview with CBC News on Feb. 25, 2004, Abdullah Khadr said, "If I was the suicide bomber, I wouldn't be doing this interview with you right now."

This time he was indicted in the US on charges of supplying weapons to Al Qaeda in Pakistan. In August 2006, Khadr's lawyer Dennis Edney filed an application to stay the extradition proceedings, arguing that the US government's evidence against Khadr was inadmissible because it relied on information gathered under torture in Pakistan. Khadr was held in a detention centre for the next five years until his release last August when the stay was granted and the presiding judge called his treatment "both shocking and unjustifiable."

The Attorney General of Canada brought the case to the Court of Appeal in April, arguing that the lower court judge did not properly balance the benefits of Khadr's release with the seriousness of the charges. Today, Ontario's Court of Appeal (the highest court in Ontario) agreed unanimously with the lower court's decision and answered the appeal with a 33 page decision. The decision stated that to allow the extradition would amount to the Canadian courts being complacent with the torture.

"We must adhere to our democratic and legal values, even if that adherence serves in the short term to benefit those who oppose and seek to destroy those values, for if we do not, in the longer term, the enemies of democracy and the rule of law will have succeeded. They will have demonstrated that our faith in our legal order is unable to withstand their threats. ... It surely can come as no surprise that in a country like Pakistan with a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms, it is illegal to accept a bounty or bribe from a foreign government, to abduct a foreign national from the street, to beat that individual until he agrees to co-operate, to deny him consular access, to hold him in a secret detention centre for eight months while his utility as an intelligence source is exhausted, and then to continue to hold him in secret detention for six more months at the request of a foreign power," said the decision. They also pointed out that refusing the extradition does not prevent the Attorney General from bringing the case before Canadian courts.

Khadr's father, a Canadian named Ahmed Said Khadr who ran orphanages and other charities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was a friend of Osama Bin Laden and his family has been under constant threat from the US government. His brother Omar was tortured by the US military and kept in prison as a possible source of intelligence since he was 15 years old. He remains in Guantanamo today, now 24 years old.

Abdullah was abducted by Pakistani intelligence, who were paid a $500,000 bounty by the US government for him. (The Globe and Mail had to take the Canadian government to court in 2008 to be able to publish information about the bounty. The Canadian government held that publication would "threaten national security.") He was beaten and denied access to Canadian consular services, and held for fourteen months without charges while being interrogated by Pakistani, Canadian and US authorities. US authorities requested that Canadian intelligence not push for consular access. Pakistani authorities told Canadian authorities in June 2005 that Khadr would be released without charges, but US intelligence persuaded Pakistan to continue to hold him until December while the FBI interrogated him and arranged for his extradition to the US from Canada.

Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney, said his newly married client is looking forward to getting on with his life, and the decision shows the US, "When they come to the court, they are supposed to come with clean hands, meaning that the evidence they are relying on to extradite that person is legal, it's not evidence that has been relied on through torture and abuse."

The federal government has 60 days to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. In an earlier interview with Dennis Edney, he told WL Central that he was very tired after eight years of fighting the Canadian government, but he had no choice but to continue. The US State cable #09OTTAWA629 discussing the case of Abdullah's brother Omar shows that he was fighting more than the Canadian government:

"In a discussion with CDA on the eve of the decision, a senior official of the Prime Minister's Office predicted that the government would appeal to the Supreme Court if it lost at the appellate level. According to an official of the Privy Council Office on August 14, the government was still trying to "digest" the decision, but he took note our informal request for the government to consult privately with us before making public any possible request for repatriation. [bolding added] .... Comment: The vigorous dissent opinion should give the government some hope that an appeal to the Supreme Court could be successful, and could -- not incidentally -- also at least delay action until the next steps become clearer in the legal procedures against Mr. Khadr by the U.S. military authorities. Mr. Khadr's family remains deeply unpopular in Canada, although there is some sympathy for him since he was only 15 years old at the time of his capture. There would be virtually no political blowback domestically for the Conservative Party if the government chooses to pursue an appeal, making this a strong likelihood.

2011-05-06 Decision to Not Release bin Laden Death Photos Rests on Same Dubious Logic Used Against WikiLeaks

I recently wrote a diary that I posted on DailyKos, which led to the banning of a DailyKos user and provoked suggestions that I might be a Republican. It had people calling me “asshole” and many were grading my post on a high school grading scale. The diary called for the release of bin Laden's death photos. (I posted it here at WL Central.)

It really doesn’t matter to me if you call me names or if you grade my post. If it promotes debate, fine. Do as you please. But, given the comments and suggestions that I now have no career unless I go work for Fox News, I feel obligated to further explain my position on releasing the bin Laden death photos. I also feel compelled to respond to many of the smartly argued and not so smartly argued comments that were posted in response.

Uploaded with

I view everything surrounding the killing of bin Laden to be necessary to deciding whether to release the photos or not. In that sense, President Obama’s good decision to not give a speech at Ground Zero in New York yesterday should help inform the debate. What he did by not giving a speech was what someone like former President George W. Bush would not have had the courage to do: he chose, in that moment, to not exploit 9/11 and use it to further advance the national security agenda of America.

At the core of this discussion are central questions, questions I have considered frequently in my blogging and coverage of the events and stories surrounding WikiLeaks over the past year. The issue of releasing the photos, went stripped down to an objective question stripped of emotion is the following: When does government get to decide to keep something classified? And when does the public get to know information that government may want to keep classified? Does the public get to influence such a debate over information or should citizens simply heed the decisions of the Executive Branch or any other agency that chooses to prevent the release of information?

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the release of photos (and video of bin Laden's burial at sea) has been filed by the Associated Press. Contrary to what Daily Kos user doc2 wrote, I do not think “only the president can make the call” and that “he did it and it is now behind us” so I should not debate this moment when many are debating an issue of secrecy and transparency. I am a citizen, first and foremost, someone with an opinion and right to express it. DailyKos graciously gives users like myself a platform to openly discuss in a community the most pressing issues of the day and I am not just going to defer to the president. Deference gets us torture, wars, banker bailouts, a renewal of the PATRIOT Act, the continued operation of Guantnamo Bay, a health reform bill without a public option that is far from single payer healthcare, etc.

I intend to robustly debate issues with other people and have no problem with our debate becoming a dull roar that maybe is heard by the powers that be. It is my hope that the powers that be hear our debate and it has some influence over them and perhaps is more influential than the K Street lobbyists, the bankers on Wall Street, the executives of Boeing or Lockheed Martin or the head of Massey Energy. It is my hope that our debate can combine with the human rights and public interest groups that are advocating for causes. This is how Americans can shift the debate in a direction that is less right wing, less corporate and much more supportive of democratic society.

Comments appeared to specifically take issue with this note: “By not releasing the photos, we are letting the terrorists win--just as we have been letting them win since 9/11. We are adapting our behavior and applying more restraints to freedom and transparency. Doing this likely empowers terrorists.”

The thrust of this comment could be understood by clicking on a link to a post on the libertarian magazine Reason’s website. It listed out the ways this nation has adapted itself since 9/11, all adaptations that I think many users likely opposed when Bush was president.

* We’ve sent terrorist suspects to “black sites” to be detained without trial and tortured.
* We’ve turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they’d be tortured.
* In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
* We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
* The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are implicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.
* The government illegally spied and eavesdropped on thousands of American citizens.
* Presidents from both of the two major political parties have claimed the power to detain suspected terrorists and hold them indefinitely without trial, based solely on the president’s designation of them as an “enemy combatant,” essentially making the president prosecutor, judge, and jury. (I’d also argue that the treatment of someone like Bradley Manning wouldn’t have been tolerated before September 11.)
* The current president has also claimed the power to execute U.S. citizens, off the battlefield, without a trial, and to prevent anyone from knowing about it after the fact.
* The Congress approved, the president signed, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a broadly written law making it a crime to advocate for any organization the government deems sympathetic to terrorism. This includes challenging the “terrorist” designation in the first place.
* Flying in America now means enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual that does little if anything to actually make flying any safer. Every time the government fails to catch an attempt at terrorism, it punishes the public for its failure by adding to the ritual.
* American Muslims, a heartening story of success and assimilation, are now harassed and denigrated for merely trying to build houses of worship.
* Without a warrant, the government can search and seize indefinitely the laptops and other personal electronic devices of anyone entering the country.
* The Department of Homeland Security now gives terrorism-fighting grants for local police departments across the country to purchase military equipment, such as armored personnel carriers, which is then used against U.S. citizens, mostly to serve drug warrants.

I call upon people with comments to address what I am arguing based on those listed bullet points.

Comments also indicated, rightfully, that not all in the Middle East are terrorists. That is not at all what I meant to say although I can see how the post I wrote could lead one to think I was painting Middle Eastern people with a broad brush. Since the core of the argument against releasing photos relates to inflaming the Middle East, I put it like that. But, really, the concern is that terror cells in any population in the world could be moved to organize an attack because of the photos. (At least, that’s a part of the core of the Obama administration’s argument against a release).

What sense does it make to suggest the “terrorists” are going to attack us because photos of bin Laden are released? I go back to the fear of releasing torture photos and the fear of WikiLeaks “dumping” classified information and conclude: Releasing information detailing atrocities does not threaten people. Atrocities committed by the US threaten people.

That’s not saying that Osama bin Laden’s killing was an atrocity (although there are European leaders debating the nature of our targeted execution of the terrorist leader). But, certainly those in al Qaeda look at what was done as an atrocity.

Finally, I’d like to address this comment from DailyKos user G2geek:

No. Because our form of government.... (10+ / 0-) a representative democracy, and our elected representatives from both parties have viewed the pictures on our behalf and reported that the pictures do indeed show a dead Bin Laden.

You don't get to stand on the floor of the House or Senate and speak for yourself. Our Representative and Senators are elected to do that.

You don't get to read the daily intel briefing. Our President and his national security staff do that.

You don't get to view any classified document you might take a fancy to see. Our elected officials in the House and Senate can view such documents and report to us if they determine that something needs to be released or acted upon.

And you especially don't get to view these things based on mere idle curiosity or lust for death-porn or some other emotionalism plus or minus its rationalizations.

I find the willingness to trust in our elected officials to view classified information for us to be very naïve. These are the same people who viewed such information and led us into a war in Iraq that was based on false pretenses. These are the same people who cover up the corruption in Afghanistan and Pakistan and do not tell citizens what is exactly going on with US soldiers and US taxpayer money. These are the same people who do not appear to bat an eye when reading details on abuse and torture of detainees at Bagram, Guantanamo and CIA-operated secret prisons.

I don’t want to read daily intelligence briefings. That is not necessary. But, I do think, as Amy Goodman said at a panel on WikiLeaks at the 2011 National Conference for Media Reform, “I really do think of information as power. Information that we get to make decisions about how our country should act can determine whether people live or die.” Having access to that information gives us the ability to hold power accountable and responsible for its action or, in some cases, inaction.

But, more importantly, as Roger Boyes of the Australian writes:

The President took the decision to use hard power against a declared enemy of the US. To withhold bin Laden's image now for essentially aesthetic reasons would be to diminish the operation and create the impression that the US is somehow afraid of the consequences of its actions.

I have no lust for grisly images. If I want to see something grisly, I will grab some popcorn and have a Saw movie marathon. Now, what I would like to see is one morsel of the truth of what happened during the targeted operation. And, I would like to see US citizens abandon bankrupt logic against transparency, which allows power to get away with murder (although in this case the murder is much more justifiable).

2011-05-06 WSJ Launches WikiLeaks-Imitation Website to Further Solidify Role as a Gatekeeper

ImageSeveral reports on the web security and privacy of the Wall Street Journal’s new site, SafeHouse, which is inspired by WikiLeaks, have been published. Reactions centered around the “terms and conditions” on the website, which include a disclaimer that SafeHouse “cannot ensure complete anonymity." It also states the leak portal “reserve[s] the right to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities or to a requesting third party, without notice, in order to comply with any applicable laws and/or requests under legal process.”

Web security and privacy experts will continue to scrutinize this new venture. Those like Jacob Appelbaum, a security researcher and senior developer on the Tor online anonymity network will continue to let others know the Journal is being negligent and that this is not a project to be beta-tested on an open Internet. In addition to the security questions, there is the larger question of the Journal’s role in the press and why anyone would ever consider leaking to a newspaper like the Journal.

For establishing a basic understanding of this news organization, this is how SourceWatch, run by the Center for Media and Democracy, characterizes the publication: “The Wall Street Journal, an influential international daily newspaper published in New York City, is owned by News Corporation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It does an abysmal job of informing its readers about climate change.”

External links on their page on the Journal lead to an article by David Carr that highlights the newspaper’s rightward turn under Murdoch. It covers two men, Robert Thomson, a top editor, and Gerard Baker, now the newspaper’s deputy managing editor. The article notes the two have adopted “a more conservative tone” and the paper has been “editing and headlining articles to reflect a chronic skepticism of the current [Obama] administration” with the support of the newspaper’s readers.

The issue of the newspaper being right wing is not all that bad if one considers working to maintain objectivity to be a foolish and often dangerous game for professional journalists to continue to play. But, there is the potential that leakers’ information submitted to the Journal would just be used to score points against the other side and against the vast “liberal media,” which the paper’s staff likely finds itself to be in a never-ending struggle against.

A post by the Columbia Journalism Review indicates the Journal may not be all that interested in real journalism after the “greased exit” of Marcus Brauchli. The story covered how the “exit” indicated a new direction for the newspaper, a likely retreat from a focus on business and sophisticated in-depth reporting. It highlighted how the new owners wanted “newsier stories and more general news,” “shorter and more alluring” stories with a “heavy emphasis on scoops.” CJR suggested the newspaper was adopting an “Anglo-Australian newspaper model—straight, wire-service-type business news coupled with extensive and often smart analysis inside.”

No media organization in the past year has had more scoops than WikiLeaks. If the Journal indeed doesn’t have the manpower for investigative reporting, would it be looking to cut corners and just mine troves of information it hopes “sources” will feed this new portal? And would they hastily and shoddily go through all the material in the way the New York Times, meaning months down the road domestic or international events happen that could have been influenced if they had properly researched the information?

Forget whether it would seek to genuinely check power or not, does the Journal have the capacity to do the investigative reporting necessary to properly cover fraud, abuse, pollution, insider trading and other harms? And would this be anything more than an intelligence operation for Big Business in America?

With the creation of this new “leaks portal,” it appears the Wall Street Journal, like other traditional media, is setting this up because it believes it needs a digital platform for accepting news tips from sources instead of having sources go through a traditional system that may mostly exist offline. As the managing editor of, Kevin Delaney, quoted by Michael Calderone on Huffington Post, acknowledges, “We all agree that WikiLeaks has had a huge impact on the journalism landscape over the last year or so.” And adds, “There’s been a discussion among editors that it made sense to create a system to receive information from sources digitally.”

The Journal like the New York Times and the Washington Post, which are both considering setting up their own WikiLeaks-imitation sites, is seeking to solidify its role as a gatekeeper. It is hoping to get out ahead and ensure that WikiLeaks and new media does not make it wholly irrelevant and, in effect, impact profits. This, just like the decision to set up a paywall, is about surviving the current transformation that is rocking the world of journalism in the United States.

Greg Mitchell, who has been blogging WikiLeaks for The Nation for one hundred and sixty days, said at a panel on WikiLeaks at the 2011 National Conference for Media Reform in Boston, “The traditional role of the press in America and elsewhere in the world has been to want to be the gatekeepers. They release the information. They decide what to cover. They decide how to cover it. And, in relation to leaks, very importantly, for every leak that made big news, there are dozens or hundreds or however many that went nowhere.”

What about the possibility that someone risks his or her life or livelihood by releasing information to the Journal and the Journal does nothing with the information but the newspaper decides to act on the information it received and forward it to law enforcement?

Julian Assange said this of direct-to-newspaper leak sites weeks ago:

[Newspaper] organizations could create such a site if they cared about it. But it’s our experience that at least the Guardian and New York Times don’t care so much to protect sources. In fact, for Cablegate the Guardian and the New York Times communicated over phones. They swapped cables over email. The New York Times approached the White House with its list of stories it was going to publish on the cables one week before publication, and campaigned against the alleged source of the cables, Bradley Manning. We also cannot be sure that they would even publisht the stories they receive. The New York Times sat on the story about the National Security Agency mass-tapping Americans for over a year. CBS sat on the story of the torture at Abu Ghraib for months.

Finally, why leak to the Journal if it is going to be up behind a paywall and not be as easy to share as stories posted on other news sites? Why blow the whistle and put your self at risk for a story that people will only get to read a teaser for weeks or months down the line if not days after the story is published?

2011-05-07 Gitmo Guards' Rewards System for Detainees Backfires

This article was originally posted on Foreign Policy in Focus.

By Michael Busch

ImageThe story of Yasser Talal Al Zahrani offers one of the most mysterious, and ultimately tragic, narratives in the “Gitmo Files” published by WikiLeaks this past week. The son of “a senior official in the Saudi Interior Ministry, reportedly holding the rank of abid, or brigadier,” the seventeen-year-old al Zahrani reportedly left home, having just completed the eleventh grade, “after hearing that sheiks from neighboring [sic throughout] towns were saying jihad in Afghanistan (AF) was a religious duty.”

He first travelled to Karachi, Pakistan, financing “the trip himself with saving he had earned selling perfumes to hajj pilgrims.” In Karachi, al Zahrani hooked up with a man named Saria al Makki, who travelled with him to Konduz, Afghanistan.

In Konduz, detainee was taken to a place called the Taliban Center. He spent one month training under an individual named Khair Allah on the use of the Kalishnikov rifle, the Makarov pistol, hand grenades, and in field training. The detainee was then assigned a guard position at a second line post between Konduz and Taloqan.

The American Taliban fighter, John Walker Lindh, remembered Abu Ammar distinctly, in part because he was little more than a kid when they fought together in Afghanistan.

Lindh identified detainee as Abu Ammar from Saudi Arabia. He further stated that detainee was one of the youngest, which is why he stood out. Lindh stated detainee was approximately seventeen years old and was always joking and talking. Detainee…was involved in foo services. Detainee was always at front line base camps…

When the front line crumbled under the pressure of American fire power, “the group retreated to Konduz where coalition forces surrounded them.” Lindh reported that while there, al Zahrani “helped in a kitchen of an Arab guesthouse (as a cook) in Konduz after fleeing from the front lines.” Just over a week later, Konduz fell, and al Zahrani’s group cut a deal with the Northern Alliance, “Allowing fighters to leave with their weapons and travel to Mazar-E-Sharif, AF, where they would surrender.” What happened then is a bit confused, but the report notes that

On the eleventh day of Ramadan, the fighters traveled to Mazar-E-Sharid where they turned in their weapons and were taken to the Qala-I-Jangi prison. The day after they arrived at the prison, detainee and others were taken to a square in the prison yard. Detainee heard gunfire and explosions coming from the prison and then a firefight ensued injuring detainee in the leg and foot. He fell to the ground and remained in the same position until nightfall, when other prisoners retrieved him and carried him back to the underground prison. They remained there for seven days before they were forced to surrender.

A month later, he was turned over to the American forces, and processed to Guantanamo Boy shortly thereafter.

From what can be gathered in al Zahrani’s assessment, he was quite a handful. In the five years he spent in Guantanamo, Abu Ammar racked up over one hundred disciplinary infraction reports detailing all manner of disruptive incidents including

assault, failure to follow instructions/camp rules, using provoking words and gestures with the guards, threatening the life of a guard, damage to property, inciting a disturbance, exposing himself to guards, possession of both weapon and non-weapon type contraband, and cross block talking. The detainee had twelve reports of disciplinary infraction for assault in 2005. The detainee’s most recent assault was committed on 13 November 2005 when he punched a guard in the jaw upon being returned to his cell. The detainee has numerous cases of verbal harassment and threats towards guards…The detainee was a major participant in the voluntary total fast of 2005-2006. The detainee has notes of conducting PT, to include combative type training, and at least twice has taunted guards claiming to want to fight. On 11 July 2005, detainee told a guard that he would use a knife to cut his stomach open, cut his face off, and then drink his blood, smiling and laughing as he said it.

Major General Jay Hood, who authored the report, determined that al Zahrani’s antics were enough to keep him held indefinitely in Gitmo detention, despite the fact that the Saudi was basically of no use to al Qaeda or the Taliban, much less the United States Government.

No reporting indicates detainee served in a leadership or operational planning capacity….detainee’s exposure to the jihadist element in Afghanistan is unremarkable and less than many other detainees. The information detainee is assessed to know about the Taliban and events in Qala-I-Jangi is limited beyond what he has already provided. It is assessed the intelligence to be exploited from detainee is limited, and it would probably be dated and not tactically or strategically critical…most reporting indicates detainee was probably the average mujahid…

As it turns out, while al Zahrani may have been the average mujahid, he made a name for himself at Guantanamo for being one of four inmates to successfully commit suicide. Three months after the assessment was conducted by Hood, al Zahrani and two other detainees simultaneously killed themselves in their cells.

According to the Washington Post

Zahrani, in Cell A-8, was the first detainee to raise concern among guards. One guard passed his cell and thought the silhouette under his sheets looked too small. When guards inspected further, they found the sheet concealing random items and Zahrani hanging from a noose in the darkness…

Some of the guards were "very emotional," according to the report [on the suicides]. "I feel that the guards and myself on Alpha block did an inadequate job monitoring the detainees that night to make sure that they were following the rules as to show some kind of skin while sleeping," said one guard, who name was redacted from the documents.

Inadequacy was only the tip of the iceberg. An investigation later demonstrated that

guards had become lax on certain rules because commanders wanted to reward the more compliant detainees, giving them extra T-shirts, blankets and towels. Detainees were allowed to hang such items to dry, or to provide privacy while using the toilet, but were not supposed to be able to obscure their cells while sleeping.

Guards told officials that it was not unusual to see blankets hanging in the cells and that they did not think twice when they passed several cells on the night of June 9, 2006, with blankets strung through the wire mesh. Authorities believe the men probably hanged themselves around 10 p.m., but they were not discovered until shortly after midnight on June 10.

How al Zahrani was able to get his hands on all this good-behavior swag given his extensive list of misdemeanors was never explained. What is clear, however, is that al Zahrani was slated for release at the very moment he decided to take his own life. “Zahrani, according to Guantanamo records, was next on the ‘Saudi DMO’ list, which meant he was imminently going to be part of a “Detainee Movement Operation” that would have transferred him to Saudi Arabia's reintegration program and ultimately to freedom.” He was twenty-one years old.

Michael Busch is a guest on this week's episode of "This Week in WikiLeaks." To listen, click here.

2011-05-07 This Week in WikiLeaks - @MichaelKBusch on the Pakistan Cables, bin Laden & the Gitmo Files [Update:1]

ImageEdited podcast now posted.

This week's podcast features Michael K. Busch, who teaches international relations at the City College of New York, where he is also program coordinator at the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies. He has been covering the Gitmo Files in detail. He has also covered released cables on his site WikiBlogged, and he is listed as a resource in the back of Greg Mitchell's published book, "Age of WikiLeaks," which you can purchase in print on or in e-book form off of Amazon. [Follow him on Twitter @michaelkbusch]

On the program, we discuss the killing of Osama bin Laden in the context of the Pakistan Cables that one media organization, The Hindu (in India), covered extensively. We also talk about the files Busch has covered extensively and what his thoughts are on the release in general. And, the show discusses the Journal's newly launched SafeHouse, a WikiLeaks-imitation website it hopes "sources" will "leak" to like "sources" have leaked to WikiLeaks. [For more on this, WL Central coverage can be found here.]

Finally, Busch has been following the Kushner Crisis closely, which the Advocate blog explains is "a recent sit­u­a­tion of polit­i­cal purg­ing at CUNY involv­ing Pulitzer Prize-winning play­wright Tony Kush­ner, who was denied an hon­orary degree from John Jay Col­lege by the CUNY Board of Trustees." Why does this denial merit discussion and a crisis blog? Kushner supposedly does not have politically correct views on Israel and is being punished. Busch takes a few minutes to discuss this scandal. And while this has little to do with WikiLeaks, it is an issue of free speech that definitely merits discussion.

To hear the show, click play on this embedded widget:

You can also listen to the show by going to this page. Click on the download button next to the latest episode, which is titled, "This Week in WikiLeaks - Bin Laden, Gitmo & the Pakistan Cables." You'll be able to listen to the entire show. (You can also download this off iTunes by searching for "CMN News" and then the latest WikiLeaks show will appear.)

All previous episodes (there have been more than ten now) can be downloaded as well off of iTunes or from the link provided above.

Any ideas for future guests? Shoot me a message on Twitter [@kgosztola] or to my email, which is

2011-05-08 15 Universities nationwide to join the May student protests #Iran

ImageWL Central will be updating news on Iran, with new items added at the top. All times are ET in USA.

You can contact me on twitter @carwinb or by email at Don't send media when links available. Most email is not encrypted and not anonymous. I cannot guarantee anyone's safety in transmission.

Current time and date in Tehran:

SUNDAY, May 8, 2011

  • 15 universities nationwide to join the May 15 student protests (Source:

WEDNESDAY, May 4, 2011

  • Ahmadinejad asked to leave by the intelligence minister from cabinet meeting today. (Source: Iran Green Voice)
  • Tehran University, Amir Kabir (Tehran Polytechnic), Bouali University of Hamadan announced their participation in more strikes and protests scheduled for May 15.(Source:

For WL Coverage of Iran see April, March and February.

Other Related Sources and Live Blogs:

2011-05-08 Greg Mitchell on WikiLeaks & the Questions It Raises About Media

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.]

Mitchell explains, "WikiLeaks raises so many questions. Even apart from the content, what it shows about Iraq or Afghanistan or Egypt or Israel or anything, is the issues it has posed for America for free speech, the traditional media versus new forms of communication, transparency versus secrecy, and major issues about who’s going to be the gatekeepers of the future, of the secrets, of the information that the public gets.”

He describes how WikiLeaks has a way of compelling many to consider who gets to decide what stories come out, who gets to decide what secrets remain suppressed and what should get a full airing, what kind of airing do they get, what’s the spin on it and whether alternative media and average citizens have access to it and can they get at information and put their own spin on it.

Mitchell goes on to talk about how WikiLeaks’ release of cables has had a profound impact in various countries around the world. He also mentions how WikiLeaks has gone beyond just working with the New York Times and The Guardian. And, he highlights the hypocrisy of the New York Times

"Hardly a day passes and the Times doesn’t have a story that cites WikiLeaks. Some document that has just come out, often on the front page," says Mitchell. Even though they have been given dozens and dozens of days of coverage, access to numerous scoops, the Times especially Keller will slam Assange and WikiLeaks.

The Atlantic Wire did the counting and found the Times had cited WikiLeaks in nearly half of its issues in 2011 so far: "By our count, on 54 days so far this year* the paper's reporters have relied on WikiLeaks documents as sources for their stories."

2011-05-09 Activist's Assets Unfrozen But Bank Shuts Down Accounts, Denies Access to Services #StopFBI [Update:2]


Update 2 - May 11 - 1:50 PM New York Time

This statement was posted by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression yesterday night. It is the latest on Hatem Abudayyeh, a Palestinian solidarity activist, who is one of twenty-three activists that has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Chicago.

From the statement:

On Friday, May 6th, the bank accounts of Hatem and Naima Abudayyeh of Chicago were frozen. The bank manager at the TCF (Twin Cities Federal) branch could not explain what had happened but stated that the Bank Security Act prevented him from releasing any assets.

In a strange turn of events, the bank admitted announced today (May 10) that they shut down the accounts, stating they no longer want to provide banking services to the Abudayyeh family. Simultaneously, TCF management informed the Abudayyehs today that they were issuing them a check for the value of their accounts.

Calls from across the United States ha an impact. A Code Pink activist from Washington, DC called US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office and was told, "We've received hundreds of calls." The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) received numerous calls as well and "journalists from a National Public Radio affiliate, Al Jazeera and other agencies contacted them for an explanation."

The family's attorney, Michael Deutsch, says, "In my opinion, the bank did not act out of the blue. I suspect that the FBI and U.S Attorney investigation caused the bank to overreact and illegally freeze the Abudayyehs’ banking accounts that had been there for over a decade."

This to the Committee is a victory but they recognize that the bank's decision to deny the Abudayyeh family access to banking services may clearly be an act of discrimination. The statement explains:

TCF is well known for having links to the right wing think tank the Center for the American Experiment.

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression and the Coalition to Protect People’s Rights see the return of the money to the Abudayyeh family and the admission by the bank of their action as a victory for their efforts and an affirmation of the constitutional right of Americans not to be deprived of property without due process of law. However, they are concerned that the actions of TCF management may violate state and federal public accommodations laws by denying the Abudayyehs banking services on a discriminatory basis.

Not allowed to use PayPal for donations. Not allowed to use Visa. Not allowed to use Moneybookers or use the services of Amazon for servers. People following all things related to WikiLeaks understand how corporations or private entities can arbitrarily deny services and get away with having a flippant and troublesome policy toward key principles and values of freedom and democracy.

Update - May 9 - 3:10 PM New York Time

Here is the press release just out. It indicates that this is actually much more sinister than was thought initially. The Department of Treasury is actually behind the freezing of funds.

On Friday, May 6, the U.S. government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife, Naima. It appears that this is being done by the Department of Treasury (Office of Foreign Assets Control).

Hatem Abudayyeh is one of 23 activists from Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Chicago, and his home was raided by the FBI in September of last year. Neither Hatem Abudayyeh nor Naima Abudayyeh have been charged with any crime. One of the bank accounts frozen was exclusively in Naima Abudayyeh’s name.

Joe Iosbaker of the National Committee to Stop FBI Repression said, “We are appalled at the government’s attempt to restrict the family’s access to its finances. Not only does the government’s action seriously disrupt the lives of the Abudayyehs and their five-year-old daughter, but it represents an attack on Chicago’s Arab community and activist community and the fundamental rights of Americans to freedom of speech.”

Joe added, “Apparently OFAC can block your assets pending an investigation on charges of “material support for a foreign terrorist organization” without a hearing. It’s a bit like a chapter out of George Orwell, they don’t need any evidence to freeze your assets and thus far they won’t even acknowledge that they are the source of the freeze. In the case of these activists, assets means money for food and rent.”

Bill Chambers, of the Chicago Committee Against Political Repression said “The persecution of the Abudayyeh family is another example of the criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement for justice and liberation. The government’s attempt to conflate the anti-war and human rights movements with terrorism is a cynical attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in order to silence Palestinians and other people of conscience who exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner which does not conform to the administration’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.”

The National Committee to Stop FBI repression is urging activists around the country to take action by calling, The Office of Foreign Assets Control a division of the U.S. Dept of Treasury, Phone numbers 202-622-1649 or 202-622-2420. Demand that they unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family and stop repression against Palestinian, anti-war and international solidarity activists.”

***Original Story with audio interview with Joe Iosbaker is below.***

Right before Mother’s Day weekend, the US government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh, a long-time Palestinian solidarity activist and organizer, and his wife, Naima. Abudayyeh is one of twenty-three activists from the Midwest in the US, who has been the subject of an FBI Grand Jury investigation since September of last year.

Hatem and Naima Abudayyeh have both been charged with no crimes. Naima Abudayyeh has not even been subpoenaed and is not the subject of an investigation.

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression in a statement on this development declare:

The persecution of the Abudayyeh family is another example of the criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement for justice and liberation. There has been widespread criticism of the FBI and local law enforcement for their racial profiling and scapegoating of Arab and Muslim Americans. These repressive tactics include infiltration of community centers and mosques, entrapment of young men, and the prominent case of 11 students from the University of California campuses at Irvine and Riverside who have been subpoenaed to a grand jury and persecuted for disrupting a speech by Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the US. The government’s attempt to conflate the anti-war and human rights movements with terrorism is a cynical attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in order to silence Palestinians and other people of conscience who exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner which does not conform to the administration’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.

ImageI spoke with Joe Iosbaker, another one of the twenty-three who have been subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury. Iosbaker is a twenty year civil service employee at the University of Illionis at Chicago (UIC) and chief steward for the 1300 clerical workes in the Service Employees International Union Local 73.

To hear the interview, click on the play button on the widget below or click here. You will see an “episode” titled “Bank Accounts Frozen, Activists Targeted for Political Action.” Either click “listen” or “download.” You can also download this off of iTunes by searching for “CMN News.” The file with the above mentioned title should appear.

For those who do not want to or cannot listen, here’s a transcript covering the ongoing criminalization and suppression of activists by the US government.


KEVIN: Hello, my name is Kevin Gosztola and I’m a writer for I’m a writer for I also am serving as an intern for The Nation magazine right now. And, I’d like to present to you an interview that I have done with Joe Iosbaker. He is a lead organizer in Chicago. He is one of twenty-three who have been targeted by the FBI, targeted because he is engaging in political action. And, I’ve been tracking this story since October when it began. You’ll hear from Joe background on what he and twenty-two other people have been facing at the hands of a Grand Jury investigation, a fishing expedition. This might remind you of McCarthyism or maybe if you know your history the Palmer Raids. Joe, will remind you of that. But, really, I am bringing you this interview because over the weekend the activists were hit with another attack, an escalation on one of their own. Hatem Abudayyeh, a Palestinian solidarity activist, he had his bank accounts frozen. Frozen. No charges. No real apparent legal reason to have his bank accounts frozen. But they were frozen. And so, listen to this interview here. This is Joe Iosbaker from Chicago discussing cases of FBI repression in Chicago, Minneapolis and the greater Midwest right now.

JOE: I think the last time I talked with you we had of the original 23 people who had been subpoenaed to the grand jury—I think the last time I talked to you three of them had been approached by the US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald or by his office telling them that they were going to be called back to the Grand Jury. You know, all twenty-three of us have refused to testify, refused to cooperate with the Grand Jury. And then, those three were re-approached. And, while they were never given dates, there were meetings between our lawyers – each one of them had a separate lawyer that each met with the US Attorney’s office. And in those, the assistant US attorneys made it abundantly clear that they intended to go forward with this case. They had multiple indictments they were preparing to issue and that they intended to bring it to trial and that they are after convictions.

I think the last of those meetings was in early February. There were a few other visits to other activists that were related by the FBI, related to our case, in February and we figured we had no contact through the month of March. But, starting in February, our legal team said to us that they anticipated that the US Attorney’s office would move on us April or shortly after.

Because we were anticipating an attack from them, we launch our “Pledge of Resistance” campaign. And if you go to there are over a thousand public signatures on the “Pledge of Resistance” statement. And the “Pledge of Resistance” simply states that in the event of one or some of us are indicted or there’s the possibility too of being jailed for refusing to cooperate with the Grand Jury that there would be emergency protests and the person who pledges pledges to show up at the emergency protest. We have more signatures than are on the website. We’ve been gathering them on paper and data entry is slow. We have several thousand people who’ve signed that pledge.

What happened last Friday, Hatem Abudayyeh is one of the 23, Hatem Abudayyeh, whose home was raided. He’s one of the main community leaders among Palestinians in Chicago. His bank accounts were frozen. So, apparently Hatem had gone to the bank on Friday and the ATM didn’t work. He went to the bank on Saturday morning and he learned that not only is his joint account with his wife, their checking account and saving account, not only had they been frozen but his wife has a bank account that is separate from his and her bank account has been frozen by them. I have to tell you I don’t know under what law they could be doing that because she is not a target of this investigation.

KEVIN: Now, have you been able to talk to anyone like a lawyer who can say why this might be happening and explain if there is any legal justification for what is happening to Hatem and Naima right now?

JOE: I have not spoken with a lawyer. And, I’m not a lawyer. For me, it just seems like there’s no charges against Hatem or anyone. There’s not even an investigation of Nema. For them to freeze her bank account, an account that doesn’t even bear his name, I just – I can’t believe that there’s a legal statute that allows them to do this. And to me it just sounds like more of the racist treatment that the Palestinians, that the Arab and Muslim communities receive at the hands of the FBI.

KEVIN: When Hatem goes out and speaks in public, what is it that he tells people the FBI or this Grand Jury alleges he is guilty of doing?

JOE: It’s the same thing that is alleged of all of us. That we have “conspired to provide material support for foreign terrorist organizations.” And what we have said is when this is over there will be no evidence of any funds having gone to any foreign terrorist organization. What the US Attorney’s office has said to our lawyers in those discussions back in January and February is that delegations of human rights activists and Palestine solidarity activists traveled to the West Bank, made small contributions to the women’s committee of Palestine — I think their name is the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committee.

My wife is a member of a group called the Palestine Solidarity Group. Every year for a decade or more they have sponsored human rights delegations to the West Bank (earlier, they had also gone to Gaza but not in recent years) to meet with the organizations of victims – Human rights organizations, political prisoners, support groups, student organizations, unions, women’s organizations, people who could describe living under occupation. And, the women’s committee had served as the host. They provide the transportation. They provide falafels. They provide interpretation. They provide schedule of events and meetings. They are an NGO registered with the Palestinian Authority. They are not on the State Department’s foreign terrorist organization list. They are not illegal in Israel. US Attorney is really fixated on small amounts of money paid to that committee to host these delegations.

KEVIN: I suspect that a number of people might be hearing about this story for the first time. I’m wondering if you could give some people some background. What should people know about your case, about the FBI repression activists have been going on. This goes on and there’s not a lot of media attention. So, what should people know?

JOE: Alright, there’s three things that we have to tell you.

The first one is that on September 24th, seven homes in Chicago and Minneapolis and one office of an antiwar committee in Minneapolis were raided by the FBI. The warrants and the subpoenas all indicated that they were looking for evidence of “material support for foreign terrorist organizations.” The fourteen people that were subpoenaed in that group really has one thing in common: all fourteen of them, including my wife and I (our home was raided by the FBI), all fourteen of them had been key organizers in the protest at the Republican National Convention September 1, 2008. The Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, what it was called. Marches that were held were permitted marches.

We didn’t know this on the morning of the raid and it took some time to learn this fact. In fact, we learned it from the office in Chicago, the office of the US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, that the antiwar committee in the Twin Cities had been infiltrated by a law enforcement agent, had been infiltrated the FBI starting in April 2008 in the months organizing for the protest for the RNC. That protest was the largest antiwar protest in the history of the Midwest of the United States. Thirty thousand marched on the RNC on September 1st.

Apparently, that police agent and professional liar didn’t find anything that was indictable. But then, she stuck around for two more years as an undercover cop spying on the antiwar movement. And we believe that it is her lies about us that were the basis for the raids in September and the subpoenas for a Grand Jury.

The second thing to tell you is that the Grand Jury – all twenty-three of us, there were fourteen subpoenaed in September – All fourteen of us refused to appear at the Grand Jury. The US Attorney then subpoenaed nine more people, mostly Palestinian Americans, in December. And those nine all refused to appear at a Grand Jury because we learned that the Grand Jury can indict a ham sandwich. It is not an unbiased process. It is a prosecutor’s dream. You have no right to have your lawyer present. You have no right to see the evidence being presented against you. You have no right to cross-examination of the witnesses. In fact, you have no right to see the witnesses.

We all realized it was just a witch-hunt and refused to participate in it. And there are consequences for that. All twenty-three of us for refusing could actually be imprisoned on contempt of court for refusing to participate in that grand jury. So that’s the second part of this.

The third part is to say that the FBI has a long history of suppressing people’s movements in this country. From the Palmer Raids in the 1920s to the McCarthyite period, COINTELPRO in the 1970s, the repression of the animal rights movement, the repression of the environmentalist movement, the repression of Puerto Rican independence movement up til today -- actually just before we were raided – the Department of Justice released a report about the department’s spying on peace organizations in the United States over the years 2001-2006. We are the latest chapter in that.

The new element is the Department of Justice has a new tool, a weapon, that was given to them in June 2010. The Supreme Court in a decision called Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project determined that some speech is no longer protected by the Constitution. Any speech that is, and this is the trickiest language, “coordinated with, directed to or directed from an organization that is on the State Department’s foreign terrorist organization list can be construed to be material support for a foreign terrorist organization.” As if someone who is doing solidarity for an organization, struggling against a brutal dictatorship, as if they provided guns or money to that organization or expert training on combat, something that sounds like material support for an organization.

Those are the elements for the case. We understand that is what is being used to charge us with material support.

KEVIN: What do you have to say about Hatem’s case in particular? I can’t get past the fact that I wouldn’t know what to do if my bank account was frozen and that this is happening to Americans in this country. I think people should really find this to be a gross injustice. What can you say to bring in the human element? To let people know what the impact will be for Hatem?

JOE: The case of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife Naima they have a five-year old daughter. This is Mother’s Day weekend. Hatem’s not a doctor or a businessman. He’s a community activist. If I was him, I would be panicking about the loss of not being able to write checks. You know, I have all of my bills, all of them, plugged in to automatic bill pay. All of my bills will no longer be paid if I was in his situation. And, it’s Mother’s Day for goodness sake. It’s supposed to be a weekend where families –

I just want to tell you, my wife and I, Stephanie Weiner, have known Hatem since he was a college student. We’ve known his family for twenty years. Hatem and his parents were founding activists in the Palestinian community organizations forty years ago. Hatem is a family man. In fact, a lot of people don’t know this: Hatem and his wife, Nema, are the subject of a documentary called The New Americans” It was made by Kartemquin Films, the people who made Hoop Dreams. And it’s the property of

Hatem was born and raised in the US. He went back home to his village ten or twelve years ago to take a bride and met Nema and they came back here and were married here and they’ve living here all these years and they hav a six year old daughter. Hatem is an upstanding leader in this community. This can happen to a public activist, a public Palestinian activist. There’s nowhere to hide for any Arab American. This is such a terrible chilling acting by our government. It is the new McCarthyism. This is what the “war on terrorism,” this is what it means. It means any Arab American or Muslim in the United States, you are viewed by the FBI as the enemy within.

KEVIN: Just in the past two days, we’ve seen two Muslim scholars actually removed from a plane. No good reason at all. It just made people uncomfortable. It seems like what you are having to face here, your entire group, is people who are uncomfortable with people. Or not even that. It’s the use of the security apparatus against people because they can, basically. They don’t even have to justify using the apparatus against you.

JOE: I think it goes a step further than that because all twenty-three of us are activists. In fact, the first fourteen whose homes were raided, we’re lifelong activists. I’m fifty-two years old. I’ve been extremely active since I was eighteen years old, since I got to the university in 1977. That’s how I met my wife. We were movement college students. In fact, this is one of the most ironic elements of this. This Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project decision –

Every decade there has been an antiwar movement and within the antiwar movement there have been organizations of people who have stood in solidarity with the people who are suffering under that war or under that occupation. The first movement that I was involved in that was a solidarity movement and my wife too was the movement against apartheid in South Africa. Well, in the mid-1980s, Ronald Reagan’s administration put the African National Congress on the State Dept’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. Do you know what year the organization came off that list?

KEVIN: It was recently.

JOE: 2008. They were on the list fifteen years after there was a government in South Africa. And think about this. In 2009, Barack Obama wrote the foreword for Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. In the foreword, Obama said he was as a college in the early ‘80s was motivated to political activity by the example of Nelson Mandela’s resistance to apartheid. If this Supreme Court decision was in place just two years earlier, he could have been accused of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. This is nothing more than an attempt by the US government, by the FBI and the Department of Justice, to suppress antiwar and international solidarity. And no wonder they’re doing it. We now have not one, not two but three wars, unpopular wars, they are fighting against Muslim countries. Anybody who is in this country working against those wars and especially if you’re working to put a human face on the Muslims and the Arab peoples that are being targeted by the United States and its closest ally, Israel, then we are subject to being criminalized and in fact now they have taken it to it’s logical conclusion. People who are activists can actually be imprisoned for political action.


You just heard an interview with Joe Iosbaker, who is one of the twenty-three activists subpoenaed, called upon to appear before a Grand Jury. Today is demand US Attorney Fitzgerald unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family. So, for your information, if any of this story would compel you to be of assistance to fellow Americans who are being targeted for exercising their rights, rights that I happen to think are protected under a Constitution or rights that I think culturally and in this society we all think people should be able to use and engage in protest, activism. This is the number if you would like to call and demand the unfreezing of these bank accounts call US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald at - here’s the phone number:


Dial 0 (zero) for the operator and ask to leave a message with the Duty Clerk. Demand Fitzgerald unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family and stop repression against Palestinian, anti-war and international solidarity activists.

You can find more details on this case at


2011-05-09 Julian Burnside - Refugees: Now we have the Malaysian solution, but what's the problem?

Barrister and well known Australian refugee advocate Julian Burnside has kindly allowed Wikileaks Central to reprint his latest article on the refugee situation in Australia pertaining to the "Malaysian Solution" announced on 7th May 2011.

If Julia Gillard’s “Malaysian solution” tells us anything, it’s that Tony Abbott’s stop-the-boats mantra has redefined the debate on refugees.

The Prime Minister has previously committed to not doing any deals with countries that were not signatories of the United Nations refugee convention, such as Malaysia. So why has she done so now? Because Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has frightened her.

He has revived the bogeyman that former prime minister John Howard so skilfully exploited at the time of the Tampa incident and after it. He made sections of the public think that refugees are evil people who must be kept off our shores at all costs. They are actually deeply traumatised people who turn out, in most cases, to be ordinary, hardworking people fleeing persecution, but calling them “illegals” proved to be very effective at demonising them.

When Kevin Rudd became prime minister, the government’s stance on boat people changed significantly. Six months later, the government made sweeping changes to the use of detention and delivered 90% of what people like me were asking for. All of those advances were lost within weeks of Abbott taking over as opposition leader, because he started beating the drum about the evils of boat people coming here.

This new plan is crazy. We know Malaysia is not a signatory to the UNHCR convention. We know Malaysia has a bad track record in its treatment of asylum seekers. We do not know what protections are built into the MOU and we don’t know what it will cost Australia. We don’t know what it will cost us parking 800 refugees there or receiving the 4000 Burmese here.

Why on Earth are they doing this? The arrival rate of boat people from January this year to the end of April is less than half the arrival rate for the corresponding period last year. What is the cause of alarm?

It seems to me that this reflects political unwillingness to stand up and say plainly, “We have obligations to refugees.”

Three streams of refugees arrive on our shores: those chosen by us in UN refugee camps, those who arrive by plane and boat people. Boat people are the smallest group. They are also the only people that we lock up for an indefinite time.

If we were getting 100,000 per year, then I could understand sharp measures might be needed. In our offshore resettlement programme, we receive 13,500 refugees a year. We receive about 300,000 new migrants here each year. The boat people arrival rate averages about 900 people a year. Last year there was a spike (about 6000). On any view, these are tiny numbers. So what is the “problem” for which Malaysia is the solution?

The riots at Villawood detention centre are bad PR because the government can exploit them to say that here is a group that must be kept away from us. But what happened at Villawood was completely predictable. If you take a bunch of innocent people and throw them into gaol indefinitely, they will eventually break. They will harm themselves or their prison. When they break, we punish them.

It is not only insanely harmful to lock up innocent people indefinitely, it is also insanely expensive. It costs about $1600 per person per day to hold people on Christmas island.

Christmas Island is used because it’s out of sight, out of mind. It is hard to get to places like Christmas Island so it’s almost as if they are not here at all. Given the spike in arrivals last year, it became unworkable to hold them all on Christmas Island, which is why this Malaysia plan came about. We wouldn’t need the Malaysian solution if we noticed that it is not necessary to lock up boat people indefinitely.

There is an alternative. Detain boat people initially, but cap it at one month for health and security checks. That initial detention could be extended if a court was persuaded that it was necessary in a particular case. After initial detention, release them into the community, on conditions designed to make sure they remain available for processing (and removal if necessary). One condition might be that, pending a decision, they should live in regional Australia. There are plenty of regional areas in Australia that would be happy to see their populations boosted.

If the Government adopted a scheme like that, it would be vastly less expensive, even if the refugees stayed on Centrelink benefits the whole time they were here. It would cost about 20 percent of the Christmas Island solution, even if they stayed on benefits. (In fact, most adult male boat people are keen to get to work). Just think: we could save money, help the regions and treat boat people decently all at one go. It just takes a bit of imagination, and a bit of political will.

Talk about the evil of people smugglers is simply a proxy for beating up on refugees. It’s dishonest. Everyone seems to have overlooked the fact that that Oskar Schindler was a people smuggler. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a people smuggler. The captain of the St Louis, Gustav Schroeder, was a people smuggler. They may be a rum lot overall but they do help save lives and they are performing a service that these people are desperate to have.

All this hostility to boat people is puzzling for another reason: we condemn these people for doing exactly what we would do in the same circumstances.

You have to accept that many of these boat people are Hazaras fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan. NGOs in Afghanistan say the Taliban have been particularly active in the last 18 months and in places like Quetta (just over the border in Pakistan), Hazaras are shot on sight. I have a Hazara friend who was there recently to see his parents and he was too scared to go outside. Even in Kabul, Hazaras are blown up while doing the shopping. Who wouldn’t want to flee?

They flee; they get to Malaysia or Indonesia. They can apply to the UNHCR for refugee status but when they get it, they have to wait as long as 15 years for a country to agree to resettle them. In the meantime, they live in the shadows. They can’t send their kids to school. They can’t work. They are thrown in gaol if they are found. I can understand why they decide to take a risk, get on a leaky boat, and come to Australia.

Imagine being in that situation with your children. What would you do?

We should not punish them for doing exactly what we would do in the same situation. They have the courage and initiative to get here: we should welcome them.

Do you agree that Tony Abbott has changed the character of the debate? Is there are real problem here that needs to be addressed? Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.

This article was first published on The Conversation.

2011-05-10 WikiLeaks Notes: Guardian Could Not Have Published Documents Without NY Times, Assange Gets a Medal

ImageJulian Assange Says Whistleblowers “Heroes,” WikiLeaks Played “Significant Role” in Recent Arab Uprisings As He Accepts Sydney Peace Prize

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was awarded the Sydney Peace Model at the Frontline Club in London. The award was given to recognize his work for “greater transparency and accountability of governments.” @Asher_Wolf covered the event on Twitter.

Assange said, “WikiLeaks is the most scrutinized organization per capita in the world,” and that he was in “the absurd situation of receiving the Sydney Peace Prize in London whilst wearing a surveillance device” around his ankle. He noted that the submission site for WikiLeaks is being re-engineered as a result of “sabotage and website attacks.” Also, Assange acknowledged that coverage of releases from WikiLeaks could devolve into newspapers attacking each other.

Below is video of Assange accepting the medal:

Video streaming by Ustream

Cables: China Made East Timor an Offer to Build a Surveillance Radar Facility Which the Country Rejected

US State Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks and given to Fairfax media indicate a Chinese made an offer at the end of 2007. East Timorese officials consulted with US and Australian officials.

East Timor Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres was interviewed and he denied an offer was ever made to Timor to build a radar system. In the interview, Liam Cochrane asks:

COCHRANE: Mr Guterres the article in The Age newspaper and Sydney Morning Herald this morning actually mentions you specifically, saying that you were the one who went to the US Embassy to discuss the issue and to discuss your concerns that the radar could be used for spying essentially. Is that the case?

GUTERRES: No first if this comes from WikiLeaks I only can say that first I cannot comment on the content of any cables that are coming from diplomatic mission of any embassy in any country. The second one is that our policy in terms of defence cooperation with any country is open, it's not secret. And I want to mention to you that when I was at Boao forum in China just last year, I had stated clearly to everybody, foreign dignitaries there including Chinese, that if Timor was willing to cooperate with China and any country at a military or economic level, we don't hide any cooperation of any country, including the United States of America, with Australia, Indonesia or other country.

Times of India Covers Guantanamo Files with Revelations on Terrorism in India and Pakistan

-Detainee assessment reports show the US shied away from designating Pakistan a state sponsor of terror. Zia Shah of Karachi’s file features a not that he is connected to “Tier 1 Terrorist Groups” in Pakistan, groups with “state support that have demonstrated their intention and capability to attack US persons or interests.”

-Details for 69 detainees show an intermingling between al-Qaida and Kashmir militants. Some “terror suspects” ended up in Afghanistan because they could not get to Kashmir. One in particular went to Afghanistan to fight “Hindus.”

-Taliban fighters bribed ISI officials to release them. One Pakistani citizen told interrogators about how the ISI would let members of the Taliban off for a payment. He learned he could by his release by paying “100,000 rupees (about $1,670) to Pakistani intelligence service officials.

Editor of The Guardian Admits It ‘Could Not Go It Alone’ with WikiLeaks

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has revealed that he teamed up with the New York Times to publish information released to the organization by WikiLeaks because he “feared it would be prevented from publishing by the British courts if it attempted to do so alone.”

“… We suspected that, if we went it alone under the framework of laws governing newspapers in this country, we simply wouldn't be allowed to get away with it. We would be sued, or injuncted," he said.

"It seemed a good idea to harness the whole exercise to a country with extremely robust media laws rather than risk it all on the quicksands of the British legal system."

2011-05-11 Corporate Whistleblowers Likened to Bounty Hunters at Hearing on #DoddFrank Whistleblower Provisions

GOP Leads Hearing on 'Improving' Whistleblower Provisions in Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill

A hearing titled, “Legislative Proposals to Address the Negative Consequences of the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Provisions,” was held today. Focused on proposed legislation from Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), the hearing looked at how to “improve” the Dodd-Frank Act by “preserving” the internal reporting mechanisms or processes that companies have setup for whistleblowers (e.g. hotlines).

Rep. Grimm essentially argued that the changes in Dodd-Frank make it highly likely the “floodgate” will open. Frivolous claims and costly penalties will arise from the fact that whistleblowers are now allowed to go to the SEC before reporting fraud or corruption through a company’s internal reporting system.

Marcia Narine, a witness appearing before the committee on behalf of the US Chamber of Commerce, suggested Dodd-Frank provisions aim to treat all companies like criminals and assume if employees bring a tip documents will begin to be shredded to cover up corruption or fraud. She found this to be unfair and argued that companies are being penalized for not doing their job, for not paying attention to a whistleblower that had information on Bernie Madoff and was ignored.

Kenneth Daly of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) asserted that the provisions in Dodd-Frank change the “emphasis from problem solving to getting paid for problem identification.” What developed later in the hearing was this conventional wisdom that whistleblowers could now be rewarded for malfeasance.

Professor Geoffrey Rapp, author of Beyond Protection: Invigorating Incentives for Sarbanes-Oxley Corporate and Securities Fraud Whistleblowers, indicated tha whistleblowers are only able to collect a “bounty” if information they provide to the SEC leads to enforcement action, which reach a certain dollar amount threshold. He also indicated that in cases where securities fraud and tax fraud has been reported whistleblowers have been given very low amounts of money so there is little reason to suggest they will now run to the SEC to collect in what GOP representatives seem to think is some kind of newly established lottery.

Two representatives rightfully addressed the concerns this hearing’s organization raised. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) defended whistleblowers saying, “I don’t think we should reduce whistleblowers to the status of bounty hunters,” and asking, “Who are we trying to protect: corporate interests or are we trying to protect the system and innocent people?”

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) appeared to be visibly pissed at the premise of the hearing. She stated, “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle seem to think now that Dodd-Frank is law employees will be racing to the SEC to collect bounties.”

Throughout, one would have been forgiven for thinking the GOP leaders and three of the four witnesses thought corporate employees might as a result of Dodd-Frank transform into people who took after Boba Fett. Representatives on the committee even suggested the employees might try to see if they could get company executives to pay them more money than the SEC so they would stay quiet. Essentially, a suggestion that they might engage in extortion.

Right in the last moments of the hearing, Rep. Waters exposed the hypocrisy and absurdity underlining the hearing. She asked Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) why there was language on the Financial Services Committee site urging whistleblowers to submit information on waste, fraud and abuse.

Silence and a look of bewilderment washed over Rep. Garrett’s face. One might have thought the audio feed to the hearing cut out. He stammered a bit and then used the question to make it clear that this demonstrated the Committee does not oppose whistleblowers. It, in fact, supports and encourages whistleblowing.

But, here’s the problem: This is a form that exists outside of businesses and companies. Those on this committee had just finished suggesting the chief problem with Dodd-Frank is that it encourages employees to not use internal reporting mechanisms in a business or company. So, why is there a form on this Committee’s website encouraging employees to supply the committee with information?

How about, more importantly, do they have the right resources and proper understanding to properly handle any information that might be submitted? Or, is this form here as a service to companies from Wall Street to Silicon Valley? Could those serving notify company executives that somebody is “snitching”?

Only at the end did it seem “whistleblower” was not a pejorative term. Listen to the majority of the hearing and it is clear that most on the Committee believe if you blow the whistle you want to make profits and not if you prevent whistleblowers you work for or head a company most interested in profits.

WL Central live-tweeted the hearing on adjusting whistleblower provisions in the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. To see the tweets and more on the witnesses that testified at the hearing, click here.

2011-05-11 Overseeing Government Oversight: Financial Services Committee to "Improve" #DoddFrank Whistleblower Provisions #FinReg

The Financial Services Committee will be holding a hearing on corporate whistleblowing in the next hour. I will be live tweeting the hearing as defending the rights of citizens to engage in whistleblowing is critical to the future of the United States and the world.

The hearing called today is not being called to expand protections for whistleblowers. Rather, it is being called to roll back what little provisions were included in the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform legislation passed last year.

The National Whistleblowers Center describe the proposed improvements in their call to action:

Best described as the Madoff-Enabling Act, the proposed House Republican Amendments to the Securities Exchange Act will --

* Punish employees who disclose violations of the Acts directly to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It forces whistleblowers to inform corporate wrongdoers that they are violating the law before contacting law enforcement, giving the wrongdoers the opportunity to hide their misconduct from investors.
* Strip the Act of the current mandatory rewards provisions designed to encourage employees to risk their careers and expose large multi-million dollar, corporate fraud against shareholders.
* Allow corporations to use corporations to use limitless shareholder funds to oppose whistleblowers, while imposing burdensome restrictions on the rights of corporate whistleblower employee to hire their own attorneys.
* Explicitly authorize corporations to establish "employment agreements" and "codes of conduct," restricting the right of employees to notify investors or the SEC about potential fraud. Firing whistleblowers under these newly established corporate codes "shall not constitute retaliation."
* Require the SEC to notify the company that it is being investigated, tipping off the wrongdoers.

From the Financial Services Committee website, here are links to bios of all the witnesses testifying on why there needs to be changes to whistleblower provisions. Also, there's a link to a draft of the Grimm Bill, which would make these "improvements."


Mr. Robert J. Kueppers, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Regulatory and Public Policy and Vice Chairman, Deloitte LLP

Ms. Marcia Narine, on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Mr. Kenneth Daly, President and CEO, National Association of Corporate Directors

Professor Geoffrey Rapp, Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law


Grimm Legislative Proposal (discussion draft)

Garrett Announces Subcommittee Hearing To Improve Whistleblower Provisions In Dodd-Frank

Submit a Question for YourWitness

2011-05-11 What to Expect in the WikiLeaks Grand Jury Investigation

ImageA federal grand jury is meeting at 11 am EST in Alexandria, Virginia. The grand jury is being employed to “build” a case against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who just won a gold medal for peace and justice from the Sydney Peace Foundation.

“The WikiLeaks case is part of a much broader campaign by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers,” writes Carrie Johnson of NPR. Johnson is one of a few reporters in the US press who has published a report today on this stirring development in the United States. She finds “national security experts” cannot “remember a time when the Justice Department has pursued so many criminal cases based on leaks of government secrets.”

The number of people subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury is unclear (and not in any of the few news articles published on the grand jury so far). What is known is that at least one individual from Cambridge was issued a subpoena seeking to compel him to testify before a Grand Jury. Glenn Greenwald of reported the individual served had a public link to the WikiLeaks case and it was “highly likely” the subpoena was connected to the WikiLeaks Grand Jury investigation.

There are two other federal Grand Juries that are ongoing in the country. In San Jose, California, a Grand Jury has been empanelled to investigate the “hacktivist” group, Anonymous. Another Grand Jury in Chicago has been empanelled to target antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists for their political action.

The last news reports on the Grand Jury investigating Anonymous came in the beginning of February. Then the Grand Jury began to review “evidence” in multistate raids that took place on January 27. The “evidence” includes “computers and mobile phones seized from suspected leaders” and was to be used to investigate the “denial-of-service attacks” the group launched in December against MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and the UK-based

There are not many details known. What is evident is those who are serving on the Grand Jury are working to piece together all the information that they have on Anonymous so the government might have a case, which could then lead to indictments.

Much further along in the grand jury process is the Grand Jury in Chicago. In fact, just days ago one of the activists, Hatem Abudayyeh, had his and his wife’s bank accounts frozen by the US Treasury Department. He and twenty-three activists from Chicago, Minneapolis and the greater Midwest have been subpoenaed to testify before a Grand Jury on suspicions of providing material support to foreign terrorist groups, Abudayyeh and thirteen other activists had their homes raided by the FBI back in September of last year. The activists were called to appear before a Grand Jury in October. More activists were raided and subpoenaed, bringing the total number of activists facing investigation to twenty-three by the end of the year. The activists were called to appear before the Grand Jury in Chicago on January 25 of this year. They all refused to testify.

The activists subpoenaed consider the Grand Jury investigation to be a “fishing expedition.” That, in fact, may be how Julian Assange and staff members of Wikileaks view the WikiLeaks Grand Jury investigation.

A statement on “Grand Juries” posted on the Coalition to Stop FBI Repression website explains the nature and processes of a federal grand jury.

A grand jury is a panel of jurors who hear evidence from a prosecutor and decide whether or not to charge someone with a crime. The grand jury can subpoena pretty much anyone they want and ask about anything, and people can be jailed for contempt if they do not answer questions. The jurors are hand-picked by prosecutors with no screen for bias. All evidence is presented by a prosecutor in a cloak of secrecy. The prosecutor has no responsibility to present evidence that favors those being investigated. Grand jury witnesses have no right to have a lawyer in the room to object to how the prosecutor is conducting the proceedings.

The grand jury process “dates back to the Nixon administration’s attack on the social movements of the 1970s.” One can surmise from the statement that Anonymous, WikiLeaks and antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists have become ensnared in a grand jury process that is "neither fair nor even handed, no matter who is in charge.”

A more detailed explanation of the grand jury process can be found in the archives of User Masoninblue explains typically 17 to 23 citizens serve on the grand jury and meet once per week for about 18 months to hear witness testimony, review evidence and vote on the issuing of indictments. The Fifth Amendment requires all federal felony prosecutions to be by grand jury indictment “unless a defendant waives his right to be prosecuted by indictment and agrees to be prosecuted by information.”

A grand jury’s chief task is to vote on whether the government has “presented sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that the defendant(s) have committed crime(s) charged. Twelve members vote to approve the indictment. A “foreperson” of the grand jury hands down the indictment to a District Court Clerk’s Office.

Grand juries do not typically decline to issue indictments. All twenty-three of the subpoenaed activists are currently bracing themselves for indictments and have launched a "Pledge of Resistance" campaign to organize support for when they are indicted.

It is likely those subpoenaed in investigations of WikiLeaks and Anonymous will in the end be indicted too.

In case the process does not yet sound unfair or unjust, like something that can be used as “a tool for political repression,” consider the following:

Grand juries meet in secret and its members take an oath never to discuss what happens inside the grand jury room. The only other people present in the room when the grand jury is in session are a court reporter who transcribes the proceedings, a federal prosecutor who presents the government’s case, the case agent who is the law enforcement officer in charge of the investigation, and the witness who is testifying. Witnesses may appear with counsel, but their attorney must wait outside the grand jury room while the witness is testifying. The witness must answer all questions truthfully under penalty of perjury. The witness can request a recess in response to a question in order to consult with counsel outside the grand jury room. The witness may refuse to answer any question on the ground that a truthful answer might tend to incriminate the witness, or lead to the discovery of evidence that might tend to incriminate the witness. Since the Fifth Amendment protects this privilege to refuse to answer, no witness can be punished for refusing to answer a question on the basis of asserting the Fifth Amendment. Properly subpoenaed witnesses who refuse to appear before the grand jury, or who appear but refuse to answer questions without asserting the Fifth Amendment, may be held in contempt of the grand jury and jailed until such time as they agree to answer the question, or the grand jury term expires, whichever happens first.

These details can all be confirmed by Tom Burke, one of the twenty-three activists subpoenaed to appear before the Grand Jury in Chicago:

As an activist or any citizen, you’re called to face a grand jury where there’s no judge in the proceedings. There’s only the US prosecutor. It’s like a preemptive trial. So the US prosecutor gets to pick the 23 jurors. There’s no one from your side in the room. The US prosecutor guides the 23 through the process. They tend to want to help and identify with the prosecutor. They just hear one side of the story. When you enter the room, your lawyer is not allowed to be with you. You have to excuse yourself and go to the hallway to talk. Media is not allowed to watch it and you can’t have your family or friends support you in the room either.

The shady nature of the grand jury process has led all twenty-three activists being investigated to refuse to testify. They stand in solidarity and may face jail time. They know there may be consequences for not providing testimony, but they are convinced the Grand Jury they are being called to appear before is part of a new McCarthyism in America.

This is a choice those subpoenaed to testify in Alexandria can make. Those asked to speak on WikiLeaks' operations can refuse to give testimony. If individuals subponeaed know the others who are being called before the grand jury, they can stand together united against a “fishing expedition” that seeks to conjure up a case.

It is not obvious or clear that any crime has been committed, but the government feels a burden, perhaps because of the political climate soured by Republican politicians, to prosecute and hold responsible at least someone they can claim was involved in recent WikiLeaks releases.

The government is likely to use information obtained through an order for Twitter user data from the accounts of three individuals linked to WikiLeaks: member of Icelandic Parliament, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Rop Gonggrijp, founder of Internet service provider XS4ALL, and Jacob Appelbaum, a computer programmer. Legal questions surrounding the obtaining of this data for investigating WikiLeaks may be all the more reason for those subpoenaed to testify to refuse to appear before the grand jury.

WikiLeaks has urged those seeking protection to contact the Center for Constitutional Rights.

2011-05-12 Harper brings the drug war to Canada #cdnpoli

On May 7, an estimated 30,000 - 50,000 people marched in downtown Toronto to call for decriminalization of marijuana in Canada. This cause in Canada is not just for marijuana users (despite being an obvious proponent of legalization, or at least decriminalization, this writer is not a smoker). The importance of Canada's drug laws is not just the perceived object, but all that gets swept up under the umbrella of the 'drug war'. Exactly as the 'war on terror' allowed a complete disregard of national and international law, 'pre-emptive wars' and excusable torture, and the new wars on copyright infringement and child pornography are being used to justify governments seizing control of the internet and denying citizens their right to privacy, so has the much older drug war allowed the US to override the sovereignty of American countries and impose their own laws on them.

The provincial courts have been calling Canada's marijuana laws unconstitutional since 2000 and Canada was the first country to adopt a system regulating the medicinal use of marijuana. In 2002, Prime Minister Jean Chretien promised decriminalization, while his government also looked at amnesty for the 600,000 Canadians convicted of possessing marijuana. Both amnesty and legalization were recommended by a senate committee, and decriminalization was seen as a safe 'middle ground'. Not middle enough for the Bush administration however, and their threatened reprisals caused the slow death of the plan. As reported earlier on WL Central, political activist Marc Emery was not only extradited to the US for something that is not a serious crime in Canada, contrary to even the one-sided Canada-US extradition agreement, but he was denied a transfer back to Canada after one year, contrary to the sentencing judge's recommendations, because of "law enforcement concerns." In other words, he would not be in jail in Canada for something he did in Canada, which is not a crime in Canada, so they kept him.

In his quest to make Canada unrecognizable, newly powerful Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping to change all that. He is not attempting to assert Canada's authority to create and enforce its own laws, but he is trying to bring Canada's drug laws and enforcement in line with that of the US. Ten days into his new majority, the Supreme Court of Canada is hearing a case Harper's federal government is bringing against Vancouver supervised injection site Insite. Insite is North America’s first legal supervised injection site. The BC Ministry of Health Services provides operational funding for Insite through Vancouver Coastal Health, which operates the facility in conjunction with PHS Community Services Society. Insite operates on a harm-reduction model, which means it strives to decrease the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence from drug use.

Vancouver has a drug problem. Anyone who has been to the emergency ward in any of the hospitals in Vancouver has seen how that drug problem affects Vancouver's health services. The Ministry of Health is a provincial responsibility and the costs associated with running Insite are borne by the province, as are the costs of not running Insite. Some say that Insite is none of the federal government's business. Those would be the people who supported its founding in 2003 and its exemption from Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act ever since. Those people would not include Stephen Harper. In his quest to bring the drug war to Canada, to impose mandatory minimum sentencing and build huge new prisons to 'keep our streets safe', Harper does not have any sympathy with people preventing drug addicts from dying, no matter how much taxpayer money they save. He is, in fact, willing to spend tax dollars arguing his case all the way up to the Supreme Court.

These people would fill a lot of new prisons. Soon.

2011-05-12 Leaked WikiLeaks Confidentiality Agreement: Neither 'Draconian' Nor 'Extraordinary'

ImageA leaked confidentiality agreement that those doing “business” with WikiLeaks are expected to sign was obtained and published by the New Statesman. The New Statesman and other news organizations believe they have uncovered another aspect of the WikiLeaks organization that indicates it is unfit to be trusted by whistleblowers. But, for anyone who understands confidentiality agreements there may be nothing extraordinary or even draconian about the agreement.

A confidentiality agreement is essentially a non-disclosure agreement. Included are details noting the “owner of the information,” the “receiver of the information,” a definition of what it considers to be “information,” why the agreement is necessary, what information is covered by the agreement, a definition of the permitted use of the information, any exceptions to the agreement, and penalties that could be imposed if the agreement is breached.

What news organizations seem to be taking issue with, rather ridiculously, is the word “owner" and the idea that WikiLeaks might be marketing this information to media organizations.

The New Statesman and others consider the use of the word "owner" to be proof that the organization finds it has “commercial ownership over the information that has been leaked to it.” But, the word “owner” is the term that is used in these agreements. It is standard and may not be proof the organization sees itself as literally owning the information.

Clause by clause:

“A” stipulates the information that it finds to be covered by the agreement is defined.

“B” notes that it is in possession of documents that are “newsworthy.” It also notes that details on the workings of WikiLeaks are “newsworthy” as well. And, it defines “information” as the documents in the organization’s possession and “emails, written communications, meeting records, information exchanged in meetings or discussions and other newsworthy facts.”

“C” notes that news providers, publishers and broadcasters commercial and non-commercial may seek access to the information and WikiLeaks might make agreements—perhaps separate agreements from this non-disclosure agreement.

“D” delineates that if there is a breach the party in the agreement may lose exclusivity. (This suggests a form of this confidentiality agreement may be what it tried to get individuals or media organizations it sought to partner with to sign.)

“E” is why WikiLeaks wants others it works with to sign the agreement. A breach of this agreement, the agreement stipulates, could result in: loss of opportunity to sell the information to other news broadcasters and publishers, loss of reputation, loss of opportunity to execute future agreements with regard to the information, loss of value of the information, loss of opportunity to execute future agreements in relation to other information by reason of loss of reputation and possible legal proceedings against WikiLeaks for loss of value to parties to other agreements.

Fear of such losses is not unfounded. Recall that Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former WikiLeaks member, as Reuters reported, crippled "WikiLeaks's ability to receive new leaks" when he "unplugged a component which guaranteed anonymity to would-be leakers" before leaving the organization. Or, recall that he took a "backlog" of leaks that his new organization OpenLeaks could publish. (Clearly, he breached the terms of this agreement if he signed a confidentiality agreement.)

The New Statesman will fixate on the notion that WikiLeaks seeks to “sell” information to broadcasters and publishers. The organizations overlook the fact that the organization may deserve compensation for setting up the system, which allowed for a whistleblower or leaker to submit the information in such a way that would protect the source from damages or harm. They ignore the fact that the “selling” could be compensation for the operational expenses WikiLeaks incurs from staffing, etc. The organization may not be putting a monetary value on the documents themselves but may be seeking to charge broadcasters and publishers for the services it can provide through any partnership.

The organization goes on to note what parties agree to, which should be found to be fairly standard. It makes clear that that “nothing contained in this agreement shall be construed as giving you any license or other rights in the information.” The information will remain the “property of WikiLeaks and or its sources.”

Again, news organizations fixate on this term “property.” But, that is how it must be characterized in order for WikiLeaks to protect itself and ensure it can be safe in the event of breaching or sabotage. The agreement must treat the documents as “property,” whether it is something WikiLeaks truly owns or not.

Now, here’s what most peeves those covering this leaked agreement: WikiLeaks puts a value on how much a “significant breach” could cost the organization. The “typical open market valuation” is placed at twelve million pounds sterling or twenty million US dollars.

It is unclear how WikiLeaks came up with the number but referring to what the organization thinks could result from a breach of the agreement might lead one to better understand how WikiLeaks came up with the amount.

One should note, courts are not likely to ever award that much money. The valuation may be a starting point for coming up with an amount the organization could be awarded in the event of a breach. Courts typically would not find all those losses to be “consequential” of a breach of the agreement. So, the organization may still have to pay what it might consider a substantial amount of money for the breach.

If WikiLeaks truly considers itself to be a business out to make profit instead of an organization with a founder who is a true fighter for peace and justice, it certainly has failed to take many opportunities to make huge gains.

Why is the information free on its website? It could set up a paywall like the Wall Street Journal.

Why hasn’t it published the documents it has obtained in book form for people to purchase in bookstores or online?

Or, why hasn’t it sold the information to other governments so that they can have better intelligence on other governments? That could net them quite a bit of money.

The answer is because WikiLeaks is not an organization out to make profit. It is an organization that believes in a cause that, as Julian Assange says, is no more radical a notion than the idea that citizens have a right, indeed a duty, to scrutinize the state.

Coverage of this agreement is just the latest in a long line of attempts to delegitimize and further isolate the organization. They have been accused of endangering lives yet nobody has quantified or provided exact evidence that any persons have been endangered. In many cases, they have been told what they are doing is not journalism. The organization, instead, has had its staff members categorized by the media as a group of "sources," which means Assange is "a source" and Assange and all those linked to WikiLeaks are much more vulnerable to prosecution from governments especially the US government.

When WikiLeaks reveals information on despots, they are characterized as an organization that should be held accountable for a tyrannical government's decision to clampdown on its citizens. And, in this case, they are once again asked to have the secrecy and transparency standards they think government has or else publicly answer to the fact that they are an organization of hypocrites. The problem with that is WikiLeaks is not a government. People do not vote or elect individuals to run this organization.

New Statesman and others' coverage of this agreement affirms Assange's assertion that "WikiLeaks is the most scrutinized organization per capita in the world." It further indicates that most news organizations in the world still do not get WikiLeaks (and, perhaps, would rather scrutinize the organization than publish documents the organization has released).

WikiLeaks is an organization that makes a promise to whistleblowers that if they have the courage to act as a “hero” WikiLeaks will have the courage to be “merely decent human beings.” For WikiLeaks, this agreement is part of being a decent human being. It is about going to the nth degree to protect the “sources” it fights to keep anonymous and unknown to governments that could strike at them for providing the organization information.

2011-05-13 A decentralized Big Brother

Authored by Juan Gabriel Gomez Albarello, Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia. This article is available in Spanish in El Espectador.

The so-called “Lleras Act”, a proposal concerning intellectual property rights and access to internet in Colombia, prompts a discussion that has taken place in other places and which has led to various responses. I would not like to take the Colombian Constitutional Court's place and claim that, if Congress approves the current proposal, that tribunal would declare the Act inconstitutional. However, I would like to refer to the way in which the problem of granting adequate protection of basic rights such as the presumption of innocence and the freedom of expression was approached by the French Constitutional Council.

The proposal submitted to Congress by the Interior Minister, German Vargas Lleras (grandson of a former Colombian president, Carlos Lleras), proposes to protect intellectual property rights by means of restricting access to internet to those accused of infringing upon those rights. From the cultural industry's point of view, the most interested part in the profits that those rights generate, the protection mechanism included in the proposal is very ingenious: the individual or firm who feels affected by a violation of their intellectual property rights can complain before the user's internet provider and request a suspension of that user. If the provider refuses to do so, then such a provider would share the responsibility related to any violation of their rights.

The efficacy of the act is thus based on the providers' fear to become defendants in a case over intellectual property rights. A mechanism of this sort infringes upon the right to be presumed innocent. Those who support the proposal claim that internet users can go before a judge to ask for a protection of their rights. Yet, they would go to prove their innocence, something that contravenes basic principles of our legal order.

Not only that. The current proposal leaves open many avenues to restrict people's freedom of expression. Any internet user would be exposed to be suspended and even to see her access to internet cancelled on the count of questionable accusations, without having an immediate judicial protection. There shouldn't be any doubts about the fundamental nature of a right such as the freedom of expression, particularly at times in which many wrongdoings have been exposed thanks to the tenacity and resolution of people who publish many things on the web.

Precisely, these were the arguments on which the French Constitutional Council decided to withdraw constitutional validity to the Hadopi Act which created an administrative agency with the power that would be granted to internet providers in Colombia. The proposal's advocates claim that, unlike in the French case, the Act wouldn't create a mighty agency that would violate people's rights. I don't think so. I think that the proposal's scheme is of a decentralized Big Brother. Although this Big Brother would not be located in any building, it would not be less effective to restrict the way in which people exercise their rights. The proposal gives an incentive to internet providers to solve all doubts against users in order to avoid further responsibility. Here is where the snake's egg is incubated. Here is where Big Brother lurks against our rights.

Alarmist, paranoic, victim of his own conspiratorial outlook. I'm ready to endure all these epithets. I just want to be heard. Internet providers and account providers on the net are not the same thing, but the analogy is useful to estimate the potential negative effects that the Lleras Act would have on our rights if it is approved by the Colombian Congress. Facebook's policy of cancelling accounts of those who use a pseudonym has already taken a victim. Micheal Anti was the pseudonym of the Chinese journalist and activist Jing Zhao. Zhao lost his Facebook account and, with it, all the numerous contacts he accumulated over the years. Unfortunately, Zhao couldn't go before any authority to prevent that such a thing would take place. Now, let's consider the case of internet providers. Neither did WikiLeaks find any authority that could protect its rights when its provider, Amazon, decided to unplugged it from the net.

None of these cases are trivial. Without an opportune judicial protection, i.e. with an Act such as the one proposed by the Colombian government, our rights would be endangered. I hope the Colombian Congress will fulfill its function as a democratic forum and citizen bastion finding a proper balance between the presumption of innocence, the freedom of expression, and the intellectual property rights. If it fails, I hope the Constitutional Court, like its French equivalent, would accomplish this task.

2011-05-13 The Whitewashing of Detainee Abuse Investigations After the Abu Ghraib Scandal @TheNation

ImageIn 2010, WikiLeaks revealed through its release of the Iraq War Logs and its partnership with organizations like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism “303 allegations of [detainee] abuse by coalition forces were reported in the military files after 2004.” Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who just published an op-ed in the Washington Post condemning WikiLeaks while at the same time using the information they have released to prop up his own views on US policy in the “war on terror,” pledged to “make changes as needed” to ensure that Abu Ghraib didn’t happen again.

The Iraq War Logs proved changes had not been made. And now, with this new report out from The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and PBS’s Need to Know there is further confirmation that perpetrators of atrocities continue to go unpunished, those who allow for systemic abuse to continue have not been held accountable, and nothing has really changed since the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Joshua E.S. Phillips, a writer, journalist and author of None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture, details in the current issue of The Nation, a Detainee Abuse Task Force, created after the Abu Ghraib scandal, had six full-time agents that were “charged with investigating abuse cases that occurred in and around Victory Base Complex—a huge area of responsibility that included the heaviest concentration of detainees.” According to Jon Renaud, “a retired Army Warrant Officer who headed the task force as the Special Agent in Charge for the first half of 2005, now says of the DATF: ‘It didn’t accomplish anything—it was a whitewash.”

Add to that the revelation that, “US soldiers witnessed, or were told of, more than 1,300 cases of detainee abuse by Iraqi authorities. But following the Abu Ghraib scandal of 2004, they were given explicit orders not to investigate unless coalition personnel were involved.”

This great investigative journalism report shows another aspect of the Iraq War that was largely unknown to the world. It is yet another opportunity to confront the reality of a US military occupation that continues in the form of a permanent presence in Iraq. It is a chance, once again, for people, who think those responsible for looking the other way and allowing torture should be held accountable and prosecuted, to raise their voice.

One might recall that after the revelations human rights organizations like Amnesty International called for the US to further investigate abuse and torture. The United Nations also called for the US and Iraq to investigate revelations revealed by WikiLeaks.

As with the Iraq War Logs, this is yet another opportunity for the US to recognize the abuse and torture that has occurred and acknowledge that detainees who have been abused deserve justice.

Read the entire investigation in The Nation here.

View PBS’ video on the story below orhere .

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

2011-05-13 WikiLeaks: Bulgarian Prosecution Office - Apocalypse Now

Image (partial translation)

Bulgarian Chief Prosecutor, Boris Velchev, has painted an apocalyptic picture of the state of the prosecution services in the country at a meeting with American Ambassador, John Beyrle, held soon after Velchev’s election to the post. This has been revealed in a cable written by Beyrle, dated February 7, 2006, and leaked by Wikileaks [06SOFIA198].

The prosecutor’s office under the leadership of Velchev’s predecessor, Nikola Vilchev, was described by the new Chief Prosecutor as "some kind of terrorist organization" used to settle political and business scores, but totally incapable of fighting crime.

Empty files and hostile deputies, who did not even want to talk to him, is what Velchev stumbled upon at the prosecution services. He had described his priority of cleansing the institution from corrupt prosecutors as "some kind of a war".

Velchev’s “war,” however, has implications beyond the borders of Bulgaria – it must lead to effective guilty verdicts of organized crime bosses, one of the top requirements of the EU, monitoring Bulgaria before its accession to the Union.

Facing the outrageous failure of Bulgarian prosecutors and law enforcement to collect sound evidence against the leaders of organized crime, the Chief Prosecutor declares, according to Bayrle, his equally outrageous plan to seek “a contract with the Courts.” Ambassador Beyrle explains this means appealing to judges to sentence criminal bosses “based on evidence that otherwise might not pass muster“.

Bayrly adds, that according to the Chief Prosecutor (head of the institution supposed to monitor the rule of law), such an arrangement “would be justified against the country's 20-30 highest-ranking criminals, in whose cases adherence to "strict legal principles will be counterproductive."

Velchev had also shared that Interior Minister Petkov had already enlisted his support in deploying this strategy in the high-profile prosecution of the Marinov Brothers (The Marguins) for attempted murders linked to organized crime.

Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev told Bivol that he did not remember the conversation with Beyrle and cannot comment on something reported by others, but, most likely, the Ambassador misunderstood what he meant to say. The Chief Prosecutor pointed out it was impossible for him to have said such thing, because it contradicts his principles and there is no judge in Bulgaria who would agree to issue such verdicts.

From another cable, preceding Velchev’s visit to Washington DC [06SOFIA926] we learn that behind the apparent good relations between Velchev and Petkov, there was also completion. In private conversations with Beyrle, they pointed the finger at each other regarding the failure in the fight against organized crime and its extension – political corruption. Velchev even hinted about ties between Petkov and organized crime figures, complained about corruption at the Interior Ministry, and the lack of will on the part of the Ministry to share information.

Rumen Petkov also applied the “contract strategy,” not with judges but rather directly with “operationally interesting individuals.” According to one version, during the notorious meeting with the Galevi Brothers at the Spartak swimming complex, a temporary armistice with the underworld had been discussed, in order to not pose obstacles to the process of Bulgaria’s EU accession. In essence, these activities of the Minister, over which he was forced to resign, are also bending of the "strict legal principles,” which mandate the authorities to collect sound evidence for criminal activities and give them to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Velchev was one of the good guys.

The Chief Prosecutor was obviously favored by the US in the beginning of his term. In addition to the already quoted cable about Velchev’s visit to the US in July, 2006, this is further evident from a report, sent in 2007, [07SOFIA364], where Beyrle praises him and gives an account for his success in the internal “war”: 12 fired and 10 probed prosecutors from Filchev’s army.

On the external front, however, these successes are more modest. Only one case against a politician has entered the Court (against Kuzov on charges of pedophilia). “The files are empty,” Velchev lamented once again to Beyrle, who notes that his predecessor Filchev, most likely, had emptied them.

One year later, it is the Ambassador McEldowney’s turn to head the complaints office at the Embassy. In a conversation held on September 12, 2008 [08SOFIA620] Velchev blames the Interior Ministry, now led by Michail Mikov, for the poor results in the fight against organized crime. Velchev defines the Ministry as “broken, corrupted and incapable of progress" and tells the Ambassador he learned with bitterness that the Interior cannot provide him with any data about the criminal activities of the 14 top criminal figures. This forced him to turn to the State Agency for National Security (DANS) and in the future to seek evidence from FBI and European partners on whose grounds to press charges against the criminal lords.

Nancy McEldowney, however, does not seem to be such an enthusiastic supporter of the brave, in his statements, Chief Prosecutor. She notes that "he appears to be an honest man struggling under very difficult circumstances" but also shares that many European Embassies have already given up on Velchev and complain that he says what they want to hear, but is incapable of turning his words into actions.

Thierry Cretin, Director of Directorate A (Operations and Investigations I) in OLAF, the anti-fraud office of the European Commission, is under the same impression. In a conversation with the Ambassador [08SOFIA631] he voices doubts about Velchev’s capacity to do the job of investigating abuse of EU funds, and criticizes the judicial system, which is built so that the prosecutors are able to conceal the guilt of the defendants by breaking the cases into smaller ones, and hiding the evidence connections among them. This formal method is used “only by those wishing to escape responsibility.”

Businessman Vasil Bozhkov, aka The Skull, is noted as the main OLAF target – “extremely wealthy and influential businessman, with known OC ties and links to many high-level politicians.” Cretin believes that if ”Bulgaria brings down Bozhkov, that would be progress”.

To bring Bozhkov down, however, there is a need of, at least, a probe and charges pressed by the Prosecutor’s Office. A legal case against the businessman, close to President Parvanov and politicians from the National Movement for Stability and Prosperity party, is yet to materialize.

Cretin criticizes Velchev for the appointment of “an extremely unhelpful” prosecutor as liaison with OLAF. Prosecutor, Stefka Krastanova, had been so uncooperative that Cretin’s subordinates called her “the snake.”

Bivol's comment:

Prosecutor’s Office under Velchev: from “terrorist organization” to “terrarium”?

The successful cleansing of the “terrorist organization” at the central level under Velchev is confirmed by Embassy reports. But for the Bulgarian public the numerous prosecutors’ scandals and dependencies that came to the forefront in the last several years still blame the prosecutor office.

Helas, the prosecution’s “sneaks” do not bite so venomously the OC leaders and this is demonstrated by the large number of high-profile legal cases which go down the drain, not so much over the lack of evidence but over inept prosecutors.

Velchev’s term is already nearing its end, but the Bulgarian prosecution services remain an ineffective, set in stone, hierarchical structure with a Soviet style. The statistics speak volumes – while in Bulgaria (a population of 7,5 million) 1 600 prosecutors press charges in about 52 000 cases a year, in the Netherlands with a population of 16 million and 750 prosecutors, the cases entering court are 400 000.

The results, actually, cannot be different if the Bayrle report is true and if the initial intentions of the Chief Prosecutor aimed not at radical reforms to make the system faster, more effective and independent from political and economic pressure, but at pulling wool over the public’s eyes through agreements with the court and opportunistic violations of the rule of law.

Today, the full failure of Velchev’s strategy is evident. The emblematic case against the Marinov Brothers (Marguins) ended with a not-guilty verdict at two instances. The Galevi Brothers were also exonerated of the charges. From all 20-30 criminal bosses, pedantically put in a “herbarium” by Ambassador Pardew in his notorious cable about organized crime from 2005, today only Petar Petrov aka “Amigos” stands sentenced on charges of money laundering.

And if, luckily for the state of law, guilty verdicts not based on sound evidence are not that numerous, the Bulgarian society became a witness of outrageous not-guilty verdicts against high-ranking politicians and their protégés when there was sound evidence. For this reason, even current US Ambassador James Warlick, defined Bulgarian justice as double-faced – one for common people and making others “untouchable.”

But Warlick and his predecessors, Beyrle and McEldowney alike, certainly understand that to bend "strict legal principles” could not lead to anything better.

2011-05-14 Profiles of the Targeted: FBI Wanted to Talk to Me About My Trip to Israel and Palestine #StopFBI


In the final week of January, twelve anti-war, labor and international solidarity activists were expected to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. They refused to go before the grand jury.

These activists from Chicago, the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and other areas have been subpoenaed over the past months. Several of the activists had their homes raided. Documents, cell phones, storage disks, computers, and children's artwork were seized from their home. The subpoenas indicated the FBI was looking for evidence that the activists had provided "material support for terrorism." And, it was discovered that the FBI had an informant, who went by the name of "Karen Sullivan," infiltrate an anti-war group in the Twin Cities.

This "witch-hunt" began on September 24th and, since then, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has been working to get activists to testify before a grand jury in Chicago. So far, all the activists have refused to participate in this "fishing expedition."

WL Central recently began posting coverage of this story. And, as the grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks and those who might be linked to WikiLeaks advances, it seems appropriate to provide context and shine a light on other stories of suppression of freedom and civil liberties in the United States.
Here is a profile of one of the activists (which I wrote and originally posted at in January):

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith, a Jewish American woman and avid traveler who lives in Chicago, received a call from the FBI on December 3, 2010. The agent said his name was Robert Parker. He wanted to know if Smith had thirty minutes to sit down and answer some questions.

Smith asked what questions the agent had and the agent said he was not at liberty to discuss the questions. This made Smith think she needed a lawyer. The agent told Smith that it was not necessary to have a lawyer because she was not in trouble. He claimed he had some routine questions.

She asked again what the questions were and, when he refused to tell her again, she said she would have to call him back. The agent then told Smith what this was about. He had some questions on a trip Smith had taken. He said, "I think you know which trip I'm talking about."

Smith realized the agent wanted to talk to her about the trip she took to Israel and Palestine in August, just months ago. She reached out to a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild, who said he would contact the FBI agent directly. She then contacted her two Palestinian American friends that went on the trip with her and informed them the FBI had contacted her. She suggested they both get in touch with a lawyer. Just as the two were on the phone with a lawyer, the same agent from the FBI pounded on their door and served them with subpoenas.

According to her profile on the Coalition to Stop FBI Repression website, Smith has been traveling ever since she was a teenager. She "spent her summer studying Spanish at the University of Havana in Cuba," when she was only 15. She went to Venezuela for the 16th World Youth Festival the summer after her freshman year at Grinnell College.

Also, her profile says, "By her senior year in high school, [Smith] was the President of the National Honor Society, the Student Representative to the Local School Council, and a volunteer at a low-income elementary school." This and more is what led Crain's Chicago Business to designate her as "one of the six most influential female students in Chicago."

Since being ensnared in the FBI's investigation of anti-war, labor, and international solidarity activists, Smith has been speaking publicly on her trip and what the FBI is doing to activists. She thinks this investigation is an attempt to "criminalize Palestinians and Jewish Americans from traveling to Israel and Palestine together. "

"We went on an educational trip in which we met with NGOs, teachers, nonviolent protesters," explains Smith. "We didn't meet with anyone who is on any terrorist list. We didn't give money to anyone that is on a terrorist list. We wanted to see what it was like for ourselves, to live in Israel and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank."

She says on the trip they "met with NGOs, teachers, nonviolent protesters" and others and got involved with some of the groups throughout Israel and Palestine working to bring legal rights, women's rights, farming rights, housing rights, etc to all people.

Suppressing the right of American groups to travel is not new to U.S. government policy. In 1992, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) mounted a case on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Geo-Vista Global Experiences and Veterans for Peace asserting regulations on group travel to Vietnam and Cambodia were "making it impossible to organize academic study groups, to travel with study groups, to travel with colleagues to assess humanitarian aid and to engage in group fact-finding trips." Secretary of State James Baker eventually lifted the regulations, making it permissible for groups to travel to the two countries.

Presumably, the restrictions had been in place to prevent Americans from seeing the truth of what happened with U.S. military operations in Vietnam or Cambodia decades ago. If the government was willing to restrict access to history then, it is probably not surprising that they are closely monitoring travel to countries like Israel or Palestine, where the U.S. has been helping Israel preserve a situation where Israel maintains dominance over Palestinians.

Smith discusses the reality that the FBI and the Grand Jury is expecting the subpoenaed activists to go in and testify on everyone they know who is involved in nonviolent resistance in Palestine. They want names. The activists don't know what will happen if they share that information. And, those who have relationships with activists in Colombia who are being targeted for their solidarity work don't know what will happen if they give up the names of individuals there.

The most frightening aspect is that the FBI has not been able to build a case. Months into targeting the activists, there is no evidence that any of these activists provided "material support for terrorism," as the subpoenas suggest they are suspected of doing. The FBI is going after Americans, wrecking people's lives, intimidating those who believe in their right to dissent and working to further develop justification for the investigation as it is carried out. And, the FBI intends to continue the investigation even if there is no evidence.

Smith's father, who took her to antiwar actions when she was a child, has provided her with much support. Other family and friends, however, have been frightened. Some wondered initially if some of the activists being investigated actually had provided "material support" to terrorists.

She thinks that the way the U.S. government uses fear as a way to get things done and get citizens to support wars is part of why her friends and family have been afraid. However, she adds many friends and family have begun to express how ludicrous it is that a Jewish woman and her two Palestinian American friends are being criminalized for taking a trip.

The outpouring of support for the activists from unions, colleges, religious groups, etc has been encouraging to Smith. She thinks the wide range of support has taken shape because this investigation demonstrates "anybody that has dissented" against "US political policies here or internationally" can be targeted. She never thought it imaginable that something like this could happen, but unfortunately, the U.S. government is giving a security apparatus, revitalized after 9/11, carte blanche to keep Americans "safe" by trampling over civil liberties.

For more, listen to Jim Fennerty, an attorney who is defending the targeted activists. He will be on "This Week in WikiLeaks" talking about the grand jury process in the United States -- how it works, providing some background history and helping those interested understand why the US government uses grand juries.

2011-05-14 This Week in WikiLeaks - Atty. Jim Fennerty on Grand Juries as a Tool for Political Repression #StopFBI

ImageEdited podcast now posted.

There are three high profile federal grand jury investigations. For each one, the argument could be made that the grand jury is chilling political action or seeking to criminalize people for associating with certain groups that are not charged with committing any crimes but instead are unsavory and illegitimate to the government.

The investigations being referred to are the investigation into Anonymous that is based in San Jose, California, the investigation into antiwar and international solidarity activists that is based in Chicago, Illinois, and the investigation into WikiLeaks that is based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Joining the "This Week in WikiLeaks" show this week is Jim Fennerty, who is a Chicago-based attorney defending the activists who were raided by the FBI in September of last year and now face a grand jury investigation. He is with the National Lawyers Guild and will be here to talk about his work defending the activists and will talk about the grand jury process and what those following the WikiLeaks might see happen in Alexandria as the investigation moves forward.

To listen to the show, click play on the widget below:

You can also listen to the show by going to this page. The podcast will appear in the list of "CMN News" episodes. Click the latest "This Week in WikiLeaks" episode and download. (The podcast can also be downloaded off of iTunes by searching for "CMN News" and then downloading the latest podcast.)

For WLCentral's coverage of the grand jury investigations, click here.

For more on the repression of activists in Chicago, Minneapolis and the greater midwestern United States, visit the Committee to Stop FBI Repression website.

Following Fennerty's interview, you will hear a bit of commentary and short discussion of this WikiLeaks confidentiality agreement that is being used to further isolate and delegitimize the organization. There will be a few updates on top stories from the week as well.

The podcast is a shorter podcast this week because a special podcast debate on the leaked WikiLeaks confidentiality agreement will be posted in the next few days.

As always, if you have any ideas for future guests, shoot me a message on Twitter [@kgosztola] or to my email, which is

2011-05-15 Behind the Blogger Who Made the WikiLeaks Confidentiality Agreement a Top Story

ImageDavid 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."

I published an initial analysis of the leaked agreement on WL Central. The analysis was featured as a “Best Opinion” in an “Irony Alert” blog post on the agreement on The Week’s website.

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.

He adds:

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.

If so, that would present rather a paradox, as one claim for the WikiLeaks enterprise is that publishing original documents can undermine artificial and self-serving narratives.

So for WikiLeaks and its partisans, and for anyone else who is interested, what follows is a technical legal analysis of this extraordinary document.

This is the pejorative framing for Green’s legal analysis: others and myself are so fervently supportive of WikiLeaks that we are blind to the contents of this agreement. In fact, we are so biased that we are like the racist faction of people in the United States, who fought to get President Barack Obama to produce his birth certificate to prove he was American—a campaign that made some recall the days when the US government required African-Americans to take literacy tests in order to vote.

What about Green’s opinions on WikiLeaks? If one looks at each of his posts on WikiLeaks, it becomes apparent that Green is an iconoclast when it comes to WikiLeaks. He is a denouncer or skeptic, who only ever has something critical to say of WikiLeaks, and, while he will say something good about WikiLeaks here and there, he only does it to buffer the tartness of his posts on WikiLeaks.

Green has written at least eight posts that mention or cover WikiLeaks. He wrote a few on the Julian Assange sex case and has put forth a legal analysis on why Assange lost the extradition decision saying he lost because a valid “European Arrest warrant was issued and served for serious alleged offenses.” He’s written about what he calls the “bizarre legal world of WikiLeaks,” scrutinizing a tweet sent out by WikiLeaks that read, “The Guardian book serialization contains malicious libels. We will be taking action.” But, to understand Green’s attitude toward WikiLeaks, the best post to read is what he wrote just as WikiLeaks began to release the US State Embassy Cables: "WikiLeaks and the liberal mind."

After writing, “the release by WikiLeaks of US government cables is a sheer triumph for transparency,” Green at the end of his post concludes this transparency triumph may not be worth celebrating because WikiLeaks is a “powerful but undemocratic and unaccountable entity that shows a general disregard for both the rule of law and the practical need for certain communications and data to be confidential.”

Green, who writes liberal and critical posts, uses liberal values (perhaps, values he shares) to critique WikiLeaks. He writes legitimacy is a liberal value and suggests WikiLeaks has no “democratic mandate” or “accountability” for its release of documents. He notes that legality is a liberal value, as if WikiLeaks transparency work is illegal. Finally, he adds privacy is a liberal value and assurances “of confidentiality can be crucial.”

Oddly, Green doesn’t detail what illegal acts WikiLeaks might have committed. He insinuates and fabricates this idea that what they do has an illicit component. WikiLeaks, to this author’s knowledge, has broken no laws. They have published previously classified information that whistleblowers have submitted to them. Whistleblowers submit the information to them through a system that prevents WikiLeaks from knowing who leaked the information. Since they do not leak the material or solicit individuals for information to leak, it seems to me that it would be difficult to indict or convict members of WikiLeaks in a court of law.

I don’t fully know the scale of the legal issues that WikiLeaks raises in the United Kingdom. I mostly know, from an American perspective, that, for example, what is disconcerting is the attempt to prosecute Assange and others that can be connected to WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act. I know how the investigation could lead to an increased chill of freedom of the press in America and I also know how WikiLeaks directly breaks secrecy barriers the US government has erected, which prevent US citizens from fully knowing the extent of its dealings with private corporations or what crimes it is committing in wars or at places like the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

One person that does know about the legal issues WikiLeaks could raise in the UK is Lilian Edwards, Professor of e-Governance, University of Strathclyde. She notes in "Wikileaks, DDOS and UK criminal law: the key issues," “the legality of WikiLeaks itself may be mainly an issue for US law, but key questions may soon also arise for UK lawyers.” She provides background on how WikiLeaks brought to the “public’s attention the phenomenon of denial-of-service attacks(DOS) and raises questions about whether DOS attacks are a crime in the UK and whether UK Internet service providers could be forced to block access to WikiLeaks sites in foreign jurisdictions.

Why hasn’t Green written on either of these legal issues?

Why hasn’t Green gotten into the Official Secrets Act in the UK and discussed what WikiLeaks’ impact might be on the classification of information in the UK might be? Why hasn’t he looked at protections for whistleblowers under UK law (or the lack thereof)? Why hasn’t he assessed the implication of the US investigation into WikiLeaks and what the effect could be on the United Kingdom, which is a close ally of the US?

The problem with Green’s postings on WikiLeaks is that they seem to be nothing more than casual and indifferent observations. He does not really grapple with the issues of transparency, secrecy, legitimacy, legality or privacy raised by WikiLeaks. He doesn’t consider the domestic or international implications WikiLeaks could have on the UK. Instead, each of his posts are a caution to readers to not fully buy into what Assange has said about the extradition or what the WikiLeaks staff says about the Guardian and libel or what WikiLeaks staff say its mission is because they violate liberal values and have this agreement that he thinks subverts the cause they support.

I have thought about what I wrote about the agreement a few days ago. I provided a layman’s analysis and must admit that Green’s analysis of the documents far surpasses any analysis that I might provide. It's especially good that Green includes a section on what WikiLeaks could have done to draft a better agreement.

I must note I was confused and argued that the documents could gain an extra layer of protection because of this agreement. I now realize protecting documents obtained from whistleblowers is a whole different issue than keeping what goes on within the WikiLeaks organization confidential. I realize that it is not really a good thing to "gag" staff on everything that might have happened during their work with WikiLeaks. And, in that respect, if the organization as a whole thought legitimate adjustments could be made, it would be appropriate to make such adjustments.

That said, Green fails to consider the larger issue, which is that when this non-disclosure agreement was drafted Assange and others likely thought it could face attacks or possible infiltration and sabotage attempts from adversaries.

I would like to know whether Green can understand, given the war on WikiLeaks, why the organization might have a non-disclosure agreement like the document he has scrutinized. I would like to know whether Green thinks it is understandable that WikiLeaks drew up such a “draconian” document given the allegation that Daniel Domscheit-Berg crippled and sabotaged “WikiLeaks’ ability to receive new leaks” and also took a “backlog” of leaks that his new organization OpenLeaks could publish. I would also like to know whether Green truly thinks WikiLeaks has commercial intentions or if he is just setting that strawman up to further delegitimize the organization.

In the end, Green's coverage of this agreement is at its core a run-of-the-mill attempt to capitalize off the fact that most of the public, especially in the United States, doesn't understand the issues surrounding WikiLeaks.

Green should consider whether he thinks WikiLeaks has helped to make the world a better place by helping "to 'catalyze' a series of uprisings against repressive regimes, notably the overthrow of Tunisia's long-serving president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali." He should further confront the idea that WikiLeaks has brought about a "watershed in journalism and in freedom of information" and politics.

Perhaps, when he finally stops to think about what WikiLeaks has accomplished, he will no longer simply suggest all WikiLeaks supporters are simply a cult of conspiracy theorists but rather a growing demographic of people who see themselves as citizens of a world society who are not willing to remain passive in the face of injustice and so they act to build a more just world, one where people have access to the information which has the power to give people justice.

2011-05-16 #Bahrain one little step forward two big steps back

The Bahrain regime is playing a rather odd game of promising dialog and reform to international observers, while it continues its repression.

Small signs of goodwill

The trial of 20 political detainees, which was meant to take place on the 8th of May was postponed the 12th of May to allow all the detainees time to review the charges and to prepare.

It is even said that some lawyers were allowed to be present at some interrogation.

However the special military court set for the occasion fails to meet the minimum standards for a fair trial and has led to the following sentences :

Trial observers were refused entry to the military court.

Some of the healthcare professionals that were detained for obscure reasons were also released.
View the updated list here.

The king also announced on the 9th of May the lift of emergency state for the 1st of June, the ministry however said no date was definite on when the Saudi forces will go.

According to Bahrain News Agency the interior ministry also arrested five prison guards on 11th of May for violating human rights.

According to Al Jazeera, the king also pleaded for dialogue with Iran, which was so far suspected of orchestrating the opposition.

The government of Bahrain is now saying that “young people were given pills which affected their minds and made them do unusual things”. Read also

On the 3rd of May the Information Affairs Authority held a special session on Twitter of Questions and Answers with Fawaz Al Khalifa, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
On this occasion they recognized that foreign journalists were not allowed to enter the country anymore, but Simeon Kerr, from the Financial Times was said he would get his visa even though “not everyone agreed on his coverage”. He should be in Bahrain in a week.

So is Bahrain government really ready to end its crackdown on pro-democracy supporters? Is Bahrain government ready for dialogue? Are those small encouraging steps marking the end of a blind deadly repression?

The regime of Bahrain continues its repression

Shia community has been the privileged target of the ruling family since the beginning of the protests. Making it a sectarian issue allowed dividing the country. With shia religious sites still being destroyed, Shia are still the target of the government.

Ruins of what is believed to be AlWatya mosque in Maqaba.

Karanah village has been reported as being stormed by tear gas on the 11th of May, Karanah, a mainly shia village, were tanks and police cars have been spotted on the 6th of May.

Repression of a funeral procession in AlDaih village on the 16th of May.

Repression of a funeral procession in Duraz.

Security forces deliberately throwing tear gas
on the roofs of Civilian houses, Sitra, 11th of May.

This video which has been taken down already and downloaded again in supposedly showing a shia shop being vandalized.

According to UOBleaks, which twitter account has been reported as blocked in Bahrain, the number of seats for each college in the university has been manipulated on sectarian grounds.
Students are also now asked to sign a loyalty pledge to the king. You can read the translation here.

According to Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights students are forced to sign the document, security guards are stationed in each colleges, new surveillance cameras have also been installed and fences are used around colleges.

It has also been reported that students were fired from university following comments they made on facebook or pages they’ve faved.

Read Wednesday April 13 update on WL Central to see how Facebook is being used to crowd source threats and to target Bahraini demonstrators and bloggers. Read also.

Pro democracy citizens are also targeted using twitter.
Whether harassed, threatened or arrested, many Bahraini voices went silent on twitter.

For their tranquility I decided not to name them but it concerns at least seven important bloggers.

More than 2000 people were also sacked on the ground that they participated or may have participated to the protests back in February and March.
Bapco for instance fired 300 employees. Loyalty and allegiance to the king is now a pre-requisite for employement.

According to Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General for the FIDH, Chairman of CARAM Asia and MENA Advisory member of Human Rights Watch, "Bahraini regime practiced Sectarian cleansing against Shia in all state institutions and companies owned ", as a large majority of the sacked employees are shia.

Human Rights activists are still targeted too.
Nabeel Rajab has been detained, beaten and then released. He is also the victim of a widespread smear campaign, along with Maryam AlKhawaja, and he has been banned from travelling.

Saeed Ayyad, a citizen concerned with human rights, which house was burned got arrested the day after.

New testimonies of beating and torture under custody were reported.

Activist describes electroshock, torture by government forces

A 16-year old tells how she was severely beaten as Gulf kingdom cracked down on protests.

On the 8th of May credible sources were reporting that Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, a prominent human rights activist, was seen at the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital with several fractures.
The 9th of May the government tried to deny such allegations, stating that they were fabricated for political intents.
Mohammed AlMuharraqi, describing himself as a Consultant Surgeon at the BDF, admitted the same day that Abdulhadi did indeed have a one hour surgery for a “minor” facial fracture. He deleted the tweet afterward, but a screenshot has been made.

Abdulhadi was also threatened with gang rape on the 16th of May for refusing to apologize.

The government of Bahrain is also trying to reinforce its military and political power

PR campaigns are an old tool of the regime.
The last campaign, “we are all Hamad” is a national campaign to renew loyalty and allegiance to the king.
A facebook page has been set up on that purpose and people are encouraged to like it, promote it and use the different pictures on their websites and social media accounts.

Politically, shortly after Malaysia and Saudi Arabia signed a security pact, the prime minister of Malaysia announced he’d fully back all decisions made by the GCC states and was ready to send “peace keepers” to Bahrain.

Pro democracy citizens are now asked to boycott malaysian products.

The GCC invited Morocco to join, and Jordan, which faced protests earlier this year, made a request.
None of them being a part of the gulf, this strange perspective was mocked on twitter with the #funnyGCC hashtag.

Human Rights defenders and pro democracy citizens still mobilized

Because of this ongoing repression, mobilization of Human Rights defenders and pro democracy citizens is still very strong.

People keep on demonstrating and holding candlelight vigil, even though the perspective of being arrested, wounded or killed is still important.

Candlelight march in Duraz 14th of May.

Protest in AlDeer village 13th of May.

Protest in Sitra 12th of May.

On the 10th of May Maryam Alkhawaja, Head of the Foreign Relations Office at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was present at The Oslo Freedom Forum.

On the 13th of May, The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a special hearing for Bahrain.

You can read the testimony of Joe Stork
Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa Division on Human Rights Watch here.

The US state department failed to appear at the commission.

The same day, representatives of human rights groups sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly urging the United States to support efforts at the United Nations Human Rights Council to convene a special session on Bahrain in order to condemn the harsh violations of human rights by government forces.

On the 14th of May Maryam was present at the Columbia journalism School to speak about Bahrain.

Watch live streaming video from columbiajournalism at

On the 15th of May, Nabeel Rajab spoke to Al Jazeera.



2011-05-16 #Bahrain repression, intimidation and torture continue

While the arrest and future trial of doctors and nurses has been quite well covered by mainstream media, it is only one measure among many that were taken to repress the pro-democratic movement in Bahrain.

Following the violent and deadly crackdown in February and March that led to at least 31 casualties, 18 members of the main opposition party Al Wefaq, resigned from the parliament.

Monday, we learned that Jawad Ferooz and Mattar Mattar were detained.

The arrest of Mattar came a day after he spoke to Al Jazeera.

Despite the claim by Press TV, that he died in custody, there has been no such confirmation. There have, however, been several reports of him leaving to hospital due to brutal torture.

The General Federation for Bahrain Trade Unions announced Wednesday that at least 1115 people lost their jobs in the past two months for taking part in strikes or protests.

Among them is Abdulhadi Alkhawaja’s wife, who was fired from her work after 10 years at Kanoo School. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is a prominent human right defender whose daughter went on hunger strike after his brutal abduction by the Bahraini regime on the 8th of April. Abdulhadi was held incommunicado for weeks, no lawyer or relative was allowed to see him.

Credible sources reported today he had been subject to severe torture and was seen at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital with several fractures.

Fareeda al-Dallal testimony of beating under custody:

Zainab Alkhawaja's aunt testimony of her husband arrest and her sexual assault.

Raids on villages are still reported. Security forces are using teargas to put fire on homes.

This last video shows the burning house of Saeed Ayyad, an activist who has been taking international visitors in the past to document human rights violations.

Shia mosques still descrated:

This video uploaded today shows how secure Bahrain is since the arrival of GCC troops.

Live ammunitions fired upon students in the day light. No casualty was reported.

Josh Colangelo, from Human Rights Watch arrived in Bahrain on the 4th of May but was denied entry and asked to leave Read Alexa O’Brien’s interview here.

You can contact Josh Colangelo here

Despite blatant violation of human rights, US and Europe failed to firmly condemn Bahrain regime, thus pushing a group of Bahraini abroad to present a 500 pages report to the International Criminal Court prosecutor at the Hague.

The ICC acknowledged the receipt and agreed on looking into the case immediately.

Follow the issue here.

We learned today that the Bahraini regime is trying to use Interpol to arrest 21 Bahraini (Translation) abroad for terrorist activities.

It is not the first time. In October 2010 the Interior Ministry tried to make Interpol issue a red notice for Said al-Shihabi and Hussein Mashaimaa.

Ibrahim Sharif, General Secretary of the National Democratic Action Society(Wa’ad), arrested the 17th of March, will attend its trial tomorrow along with Hassan Mushaaima, Abdulwahab Hussain and 17 other political detainees.

They were not allowed to see their family or speak to their lawyer.

BAHRAIN: Medical staff face prosecution, alleged torture after aiding anti-government protesters

Medical Professionals to be Tried in Bahrain

Bahrain doctors, nurses to be tried

Bahrain charges 50 medical staff with anti-state conspiracy

Bahrain to Put Medical Staff on Trial

Bahrain doctors to be tried for helping protesters


See also :

Updated Names Of Detained Health care professionals

2011-05-16 Cables Push Greenpeace to Urge Arctic Council to Place Moratorium on Industrial Exploitation

ImageBBC’s report on US State Embassy cables from WikiLeaks detailing the “hidden agenda” of northern Arctic states has led Greenpeace to call “on the Arctic Council to place an immediate moratorium on industrial exploitation within the area that has historically been covered by sea ice.”

Truls Gulowsen, Arctic campaign leader for Greenpeace Nordic, writes, “What the Arctic needs in this time of extreme external pressure is a protection against additional threats from dangerous shipping, oil exploitation, bottom-trawling, over-fishing and other destructive industrial practices.” Gulowsen also points out the “more immediate and more dangerous safety issue” is that moves into the “fragile Arctic to drill for oil” will create a threat of oil spills and likely impact the marine environment.

The Financial Times post on the cables highlights some of the noteworthy revelations in the cables:

  • In 2009, the US was told that the 2007 mission by the Russian explorer Chilingarov to place a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole was ordered by Putin’s party.
  • Russian Ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, told a Russian TV station: “The 21st century will see a fight for resources, and Russia should not be defeated in this fight… Nato has sensed where the wind comes from. It comes from the North.”
  • A US diplomat introduced Greenland politicians to Wall Street financiers to “help the Greenlanders secure the investments needed for such an exploitation”.
  • Canada bristled at both Nato and Russian attempts to assert themselves in the Arctic, although also commented that there was no likelihood of war.
  • Russian military posturing in the Arctic encouraged the Norwegians to build up its arms. The Norwegian foreign minister joked that Russia was helping him refute those who questioned the country’s need for fighter aircraft.
  • Danish foreign minister Moeller told the Americans that if they stayed out, “The rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic.”
  • In 2008, the head of the Russian navy, Vladimir Vysotsky said, “While in the Arctic there is peace and stability, however, one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention.”
  • Russia was looking for “potential benefits from global warming”: the opening up of an ice-free shipping route from Europe to Asia and of the oil and gas hidden beneath the sea floor.
  • For many in the northern parts of the world, the revelations about an Arctic race for oil between northern powers may not be news. Still, the reality that global warming is making it much easier for countries to exploit the Arctic region is important. Also, the reality that peak oil is making the rush to claim resources even more critical is significant as well.

    There is clear evidence that winning this brewing resource war takes a much higher priority over working in cooperation with countries to halt and even reverse the impacts of climate change. A cable titled, “Shaping Greenland’s Future,” sent out November 7, 2007, declares:

    With the planet's fastest moving glaciers, Greenland is an iconic adventure destination for hardy Congressional delegations and down-encased journalists looking for visual proof of climate change. Its gleaming icebergs will be the backdrop for a May 2008 ministerial hosted by Denmark on Arctic issues (reftel B). But Greenland holds strategic value for the United States beyond its starring role in the global narrative of climate change. The world's largest island, this remote and sparsely-populated territory of Denmark is three times the size of Texas but home to just 56,000 inhabitants. A U.S. Air Force base at Thule, 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, hosts important radar that alerts us to incoming missiles over the Pole. American investors are poised to commit $5 billion this year to develop hydropower and smelting facilities there. Exploration and development of Greenland's energy resources are just now beginning in earnest, with enormous potential for American industry.

    The cable goes on to cite a then-recent study of “hydrocarbon potential, led by the US Geological Survey, which concluded the continental shelf off northeast Greenland alone could harbor oil and gas reserves to rival Alaska’s North Slope.” It notes, “After a thousand-year interval of cooling, average temperatures in Greenland have in this century climbed to the level they were during the first Viking settlements of 986 AD. Whether because of man-made climate change or a massive cyclical shift in weather patterns, Greenland’s carbon riches are more easily accessible now than ever.” And, the cable makes clear the resource possibilities are “not limited to oil and gas.”

    This focus on expanding US capitalism into the Arctic Circle to better sustain American superpower suggests a potentially disastrous future for the environment. The possibility of disaster is only amplified by the convoluted notion that challenges the US faces are not limited to climate change. They include how best to expand business in the region.

    At the recently held annual meeting of the Arctic Council, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, highlighted recent studies indicating the Arctic ice is melting far more rapidly than scientists expected. She also, according to the Washington Post suggested, “The challenges in the region are not just environmental…The melting of sea ice, for example, will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves. We seek to pursue these opportunities in a smart, sustainable way that preserves the Arctic environment and ecosystem.”

    Greenpeace is justified to doubt whether the US has a plan for working with northern powers to “pursue” “opportunities” in a “smart, sustainable way.” There is little indication that proper safety precautions would be taken to prevent disasters like the one BP created in the Gulf of Mexico.

    As previously mentioned, much of what is detailed is not news. If it's news to Americans, that is probably because journalists and media have focused on US wars, the Middle East and the struggle to control resources in that region never bothering to examine the Arctic race to claim resources.

    Der Spiegel, a media organization that has been a WikiLeaks partner, has covered the “Race for the Arctic” every few months for the past two years. What they reported on in the past two years does not conflict with the contents of the cables. For example, in September 2010, they reported the “decline in the amount of ice floating on the Arctic Ocean” was clearing the way for new shipping routes. They reported on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s “environmental action plan” to cleanup the Arctic Circle while at the same time increasing the exploitation of resources.

    Der Spiegel did a story in March 2010 on how indigenous groups in the Arctic Circle were furious that diplomats were making decisions about the future of the region without them involved. Indigenous groups are noticeably left out of the conversation on expanding industrial production in the region and do not appear in the cables from the past two years on this issue at all.

    Interestingly, Der Spiegel suggested the US would “remain on the sidelines” and the “Arctic Game of Monopoly” would be mostly played by Greenland, Norway and Canada. The cables show this isn’t quite the case. If not overtly, the US has all along been covertly positioning itself to greatly benefit from what Greenland reaps from this 21st century cold war.

    Greenpeace published a report in the late 1990s calling attention to what was happening with oil and climate change. It detailed the opening of two Arctic oil frontiers Then, oil companies were working to find ways to use pipelines laid in permafrost beneath shifting pack ice off of areas like Alaska and the Russian Far East off Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Okhotsk.Oil companies were just beginning to go after "non-conventional sources" of oil such as the tar sands in Canada.

    Greenpeace asserted in the report that, as a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the US would have a responsibility to be a leader in protecting the climate and making a shift toward clean energy solutions.

    The environmental organization noted then that the “real oil company agenda” was “where companies put their money” and could be used to judge commitments on climate change. Record spending indicated there was “little sign of change from business as usual.”

    Unfortunately, as the cables show, business as usual—global capitalism—is alive and well. While it may imperil the future of the planet, the northern powers in the Arctic Council have little concern for that. They are caught up in a cold war and are focused on achieving victory in these burgeoning oil frontiers.

    Watch Greenpeace UK occupy Cairn Energy's Arctic drilling rig.

    2011-05-16 Former Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumen Petkov Busted for Peeing in a City Fountain


    Former Interior Minister of Bulgaria (2005-2008), Rumen Petkov is presented as a "hard working, hard drinking", controversial figure, related to political corruption and russian intelligence in a WikiLeaks diplomatic cable released by the Wikileaks partner also published on

    Before his appointment as a Minister, Petkov was the mayor of the central Bulgarian city of Pleven where he was "dogged by scandals, some serious and some -- like his late night arrest for urinating in a public fountain --simply illustrative of his unpolished style" - wrote the American ambassador in Sofia.

    Rumen Petkov became one of the most influential personalities in the Bulgarian government under PM Stanishev (2005-2009).

    His past associations with controversial figures may make it difficult for him to move against certain Organized Crime interests - the Ambassador John Bayrle reported. He also believes Petkov has "long been publicly associated with Russians who are either directly or indirectly affiliated with Russian intelligence,"

    While Petkov was a Minister "The five largest organized crime groups in Bulgaria (TIM, VIS, SIC, Nove Holding, and Multigroup) ... generally operated with impunity," Bayrle stated.

    Petkov resigned in April 2008 after a huge political scandal following the revelation that he met with The Galevi Brothers, alleged drug lords. Despite the strong evidence that Petkov protected alleged criminals and shady alcool business from justice, Petkov was never investigated by the prosecutor office.

    In November 2008 Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has expressed dismay at former Bulgarian interior minister Rumen Petkov's public insult of journalist Jurgen Roth and call for violence against him. Petkov said of Roth: “The liar, the slanderer, the spineless swindler must be hit in the mouth, the hands and all parts of his body.” The tirade by Petkov, was prompted by Roth’s book, "The new Bulgarian demon"s, that has just been published in Sofia.

    In the past months, Petkov and current US Ambassador James Warlick have engaged in a furious war of words that flared after the US envoy alleged the Socialist's visa was withdrawn on grounds of an investigation carried out against him, but refused to specify the details. - Bulgarian news site wrote.

    "In an interview for the private TV channel bTV, Petkov, who is currently a Member of the Parliament from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), called the Ambassador "trash, liar, and drug addict," fueling further the long-running battle between the two."

    2011-05-16 This Week in WikiLeaks Special Segment - Debating Whether the Organization is Hypocritical or Not

    ImageFor the past four or five days, a copy of a leaked confidentiality agreement from WikiLeaks has been a hot topic among those who follow news and politics. Those that have regularly scrutinized WikiLeaks, who have typically gone along with any meme in the media that shines a light on the organization’s imperfections, took the posting of this agreement as an opportunity to focus on how this showed complete hypocrisy. Those sympathetic and supportive, on the other hand, saw this as a moment when they needed to get out in front and defend the organization.

    I was one of those people who found the renewed push to further de-legitimize WikiLeaks concerning. I posted an analysis of the confidentiality agreement and later posted a comprehensive and thought-out critique of David Allen Green's work on WikiLeaks. (Green is the blogger for the New Statesman, who helped make the agreement a big story.)

    As the story was breaking, I received a Twitter message, “WikiLeaks Threatens Its Own Leakers With $20 Million Penalty" What says @kgosztola?” The message came from Roni Weiss, a personality on a podcast show called “Don’t Worry About the Government.” I told him he should have me on his program to share my opinion.

    On Facebook, we went back and forth on the “Don’t Worry About the Government” show page as I tried to get him to do a segment with me. He stated his position, “My biggest concern is that I just don't have much to say about it…My stance is basically: This looks bad for them, publicity-wise, and beyond that, I don't really care, because they do a lot of things that look bad.

    I continued to push him and offered to have him come on the “This Week in WikiLeaks” podcast to tell me I was wrong. He agreed to make an appearance and ended up bringing another personality from the show, Joe Geni, with him.

    In addition to hearing why I was wrong, I also hoped that during this show we could get into a deeper discussion on the organization itself.

    We recorded this debate last night over the agreement and whether this makes WikiLeaks an entirely hypocritical organization or not. You’ll hear me try to make this debate about more than just the agreement. I wanted to expand the discussion because I think what’s more significant about the agreement is the fact that the organization believes it has to draw up something like this in order to preserve itself. And, when you consider that and ask why, when you think about how they are under attack from governments and how some of the major media outlets regularly publish smears against WikiLeaks, it is more understandable that staff is asked to sign this agreement.

    You can listen to the segment by clicking on the widget below or you can click here and download or listen to it from this page. The segment can also be found on iTunes by searching for "CMN News." (Much thanks to CMN News host Chris Novembrino for making this possible.)

    Now, two items worth noting:

    Becky Hogge (@barefoot_techie) has posted a response to Green, "Why I signed the WikiLeaks NDA."

    And, has posted a video reminding us what Bradley Manning has done for the world if he is indeed the leaker. As we get into these contentious discussions over secrecy, transparency, law, media and government, it's always good to return to the fact that there is a young man in jail for releasing this information to the world: information that is helping to make the world a better place.

    2011-05-16 “Anti-Americanism” in the US state cables

    Authored by Mike Soron.

    Discussing a draft declaration from South American and Arab State leaders, a United States government operative lists a series of “anti-American digs” against the US and Israel that were later excluded from the text.

    What is considered anti-American is stunning and revealing. This quiet, unassuming cable shows a bizarre and expansive US foreign policy agenda in 2005.

    Among statements considered to be anti-American:

    • Reaffirming the necessity of resolving all conflicts non-violently;
    • Emphasizing the importance of respecting the unity, sovereignty, and independence of Iraq, and not interfering in its internal processes;
    • Committing to implementing all UN resolutions non-selectively;
    • Recognizing the need for protection of intellectual property, but not when it affects national development, especially in terms of national health policies;
    • Emphasizing the need to eliminate distortions (subsidies) in agriculture, which impede developed nations from exploiting comparative advantages;
    • Welcoming the recent entry into force of the Kyoto Agreement, and calling on the international community to better protect the global climate.

    The cable also described aspirations for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East as “anti-Israeli sentiment”.

    An unusually clear window into a USG operatives’s worldview at the time.

    Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa is covering the Wikileaks cables as they relate to Canadian intellectual property and internet law. Do follow.

    2011-05-17 WikiLeaks Omitted from the US International Cybersecurity Strategy

    ImageNew US International Cybersecurity Strategy Aims to Institute 'Rule of Law' on the Internet

    The United States officially launched its international cyber security strategy in a White House event on Monday, May 16. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined by the following administration officials: John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism and homeland security adviser; Howard Schmidt, White House cybersecurity coordinator; Attorney General Eric Holder; Secretaries Janet Napolitano of Homeland Security and Gary Locke of Commerce; and Defense Deputy Secretary William Lynn.

    The presentation of the cyber security presented several principles, outlined the approach the US intends to take in the further development of cyber security protections, and indicated how the US might use the Internet to preserve its status as a superpower in the world.

    Featured during the presentation were seven principles, which appear in the framework: economic engagement, protecting networks, law enforcement, military cooperation, multi-stakeholder Internet governance, international development and Internet freedom. Within the presentation, Clinton sought to explain that cyber crime, Internet freedom and network security could no longer be “disparate stovepipe discussions.”

    At no time during the launch of the strategy was WikiLeaks mentioned. Not even Clinton bothered to mention it, despite the fact that she heads a State Department that had their department’s classified information leaked and published by media organizations and continue to have new information published each day.

    Yochai Benkler, faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has detailed the following:

    Four years after its first document release, in 2010, Wikileaks became the center of an international storm surrounding the role of the individual in the networked public sphere. It forces us to ask us how comfortable we are with the actual shape of democratization created by the Internet. The freedom that the Internet provides to networked individuals and cooperative associations to speak their minds and organize around their causes has been deployed over the past decade to develop new networked models of the fourth estate. These models circumvent the social and organizational frameworks of traditional media, which played a large role in framing the balance between freedom and responsibility of the press. At the same time, the Wikileaks episode forces us to confront the fact that the members of the networked fourth estate turn out to be both more susceptible to new forms of attack than those of the old, and to possess different sources of resilience in the face of these attacks. In particular, commercial owners of the critical infrastructures of the networked environment can deny service to controversial speakers, and some appear to be willing to do so at a mere whiff of public controversy. The United States government, in turn, can use this vulnerability to bring to bear new kinds of pressure on undesired disclosures in extralegal partnership with these private infrastructure providers.

    This development in the world of the Internet was apparently something US officials, who developed the strategy, felt they did not need to explicitly address. (And that might have something to do with the answer to the question, "Who benefits from this strategy?")

    A document outlining the strategy can be read in its entirety.

    The strategy makes it clear: the US wishes for the world to know it intends to work in cooperation with other countries all over the world so that nations can realize their “potential for greater prosperity and security.” It frames cyber security as an “obligation” that government and societies “must take on willingly, to ensure that innovation continues to flourish, drive markets and improve lives.” And, the strategy pledges to confront issues of cyber security in ways “consistent with the principles” the US holds dear: “free speech and association, privacy and the free flow of information.”

    Through this strategy, the US intends to work toward the achievement of the following goal:

    The United States will work internationally to promote an open, interoperable, secure and reliable information and communications infrastructure in which norms of responsible behavior guide states’ actions, sustain partnerships, and support the rule of law in cyberspace.

    What might this international cooperation on cyber security and the Internet look like? Released US State Embassy cables likely provide a preview.

    The US developed a concern over Internet piracy in Spain in 2008. 08MADRID843 reveals the US identified seven sites by downloads and complained that Spain needed to stop waiting for other countries. The US applied pressure to Spain on behalf of American commerce that wanted the country to strengthen their defense of intellectual property. This led Spain to announce an Inter-Ministerial Commission that would lay the groundwork for legislation against illegal Internet downloads, the Law of Sustainable Economy.

    Cables from the US embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, revealed the US also pressured New Zealand to pass an Internet file sharing law, the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill. One cable indicates the US bankrolled local lobbying efforts led by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). At least $533,000 was paid for “enforcement operations and seizures, with percentages or numerical targets reset annually” and for reports submitted by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) detailing “contributions to IP protection and enforcement methodology.”

    Secret government cables from Sweden show how negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an agreement that aimed “to set a ‘gold standard’ for intellectual property rights enforcement among a small number of like-minded countries,” was thought to be negotiated with too much secrecy. The cables feature “a top intellectual property official in Italy” explaining to the US “"the level of confidentiality in these ACTA negotiations has been set at a higher level than is customary for non-security agreements” and adding that it was "impossible for member states to conduct necessary consultations with IPR stakeholders and legislatures under this level of confidentiality."

    In the cables from Sweden is the assertion from a European Union top negotiator on ACTA, who tells the US embassy, “The secrecy issue has been very damaging to the negotiating climate in Sweden… The secrecy around the negotiations has led to the legitimacy of the whole process being questioned." Critics wanted the process of developing the agreement to happen before a place for transparency like the WIPO, which could involve public interest groups. Cables from Japan show the US pushed back against the approach because of the fear that other nations wouldn’t support the restrictions it wanted included in the agreement.

    Furthermore, US Trade Representative official wanted this to be a “a freestanding agreement, not related to any international grouping such as the G8 or OECD, which might make it more difficult to construct a high-standards agreement.” As described at Ars Technica, they wanted a “‘coalition of the willing’ bent on creating tough new enforcement rules that they would slowly seek to impose on other countries.”

    “We should move as fast as possible and keep in mind that the intent of the agreement is to address the intellectual property rights problems of third-nations such as China, Russia and Brazil, not to negotiate the different interests of like-minded countries,” one Japanese Trade official notes.

    Sweden is expected to play a central role in cyber warfare. The US has used Sweden, along with other countries, to map out the world’s digital infrastructure. Details on this mapping in the cables demonstrates what the US believes to be its “security zone” is the entire world.

    Upon considering revelations in the cables, it is likely the implementation of any international cybersecurity strategy will not be open, fair or transparent. It will be cutthroat and conducted on behalf of US industry. And, diplomats will engage in squalid conduct and negotiations in order to make certain a specific agenda is implemented.

    Sprinkled throughout the strategy are references to arenas in which the US might work to develop cyber security policy. Mentioned are the Organization of American States (OAS), Asian-Pacfic Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN), the G8 and the United Nations. The Tunis Commitment of the World Summit on the Information Society and the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime both are mentioned as initiatives that might help inform how the US secures cyberspace in cooperation with other countries.

    The Convention on Cybercrime is a treaty that was ratified in 2006 and is considered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to be one of the “worst Internet laws.” EFF wrote then the treaty would not just put “one bad Internet law into America’s lawbooks, but invite the enforcement of all the world’s worst Internet laws.”

    The treaty requires that the U.S. government help enforce other countries' "cybercrime" laws - even if the act being prosecuted is not illegal in the United States. That means that countries that have laws limiting free speech on the Net could oblige the F.B.I. to uncover the identities of anonymous U.S. critics, or monitor their communications on behalf of foreign governments. American ISPs would be obliged to obey other jurisdiction's requests to log their users' behavior without due process, or compensation.

    In conclusion, the strategy portends a future where the language of open Internet advocates and freedom of speech activists is used and re-branded as an ideological weapon to advance purposes that have little to do with preserving the Internet and more to do with expanding America as a world power. If you read James Peck’s Ideal Illusions, this is what happened to the language of human rights.

    The strategy will build the United States' “soft power” in the world. It will seek to achieve desired outcomes through attraction rather than coercion in the same way Obama’s speech to the Muslim world aimed to repair the damage done between the US and Muslims during the Bush Administration era.

    Also, this strategy asserts that there will be “rule of law” in cyberspace. It calls for the “rule of law” to be put in place “to prevent the risks of logging on from outweighing the benefits.” This is defined in the strategy as, “civil order in which fidelity to laws safeguards people and interests; brings stability to global markets; and holds malevolent actors to account internationally—both supports our national security and advances our common values.”

    The strategy affords countries (presumably ones that support the strategy) the "right to self-defense." This "right to self-defense" is the same right that nations like the US has exploited to justify wars like the pre-emptive war in Iraq. Will the world see this clause pushed into binding agreements and later used to justify cyber war on countries' communications infrastructure?

    The world has seen the US purport to advance the “rule of law” offline. They have seen the US in the past decade create a “new normal” where individuals are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or “kangaroo courts” force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

    If this is what the “rule of law” looks like offline, what will any “rule of law” the US works to promote look like online?

    2011-05-18 WikiLeaks Notes: Diplomatic Sexual Abuse a la Strauss-Kahn, Spy Powers to Expand for Australian Security Agency


    Dominique Strauss-Kahn may be just one of many diplomats or international officials alleged to have abused maids or nannies in the United States:

    In April 2007, a Tanzanian maid filed a lawsuit against Alan Mzengi, a minister-counselor at the Tanzanian Embassy. She alleged the Mzengis kept her as “a virtual prisoner in their residence, stripping her of her passport, refusing to permit her to leave the house unaccompanied.” The lawsuit states she was not paid for her four years of work.

    On this case, Reuters reports a US State Embassy cable from December 2009 shows the US government asked the Tanzanian government to investigate saying, “While payment of the lost wages to Ms. Mazengo is our first priority, we also hope that any diplomat who has treated his domestic staff in such an abusive manner would face appropriate sanction upon his return home," the cable said.

    The State Department continues to monitor a possible Tanzania investigation and claims it will be getting “tough on alleged abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats.”

    Cables deal with Canadian electricity:

    One story out from CBC reports that Prince Edward Island utility Maritime Electric was part of Hydro-Québec's plans for purchase of NB Power. In October 2009, as the New Brunswick government was considering a $4.8 billion deal that was politically unpopular, the possibility of a sale was denied. The cables show it was seriously considered.

    An Alberta electricity critic, according to The Canadian Press is highly critical of multi-billion dollar electricity upgrades that have been going on in Alberta. The critic, Keith Wilson, addressed revelations that “Alberta was pitching the idea of sending more power to the United States if only it could get more transmission lines built as far back as 2003,” saying he hopes schemes will be “scuttled before skyrocketing bills drive businesses away.”

    For more on this story, click here.

    Ottawa Embassy is sharing information on “terrorist Canadians:

    According to Radio Canada, details on a US program called “Viper” indicate that eighteen people arrested in Toronto in 2006, who were alleged to be part of a terror cell, were transferred to the United States. In this group, three minors and person received “stay of proceedings against them.”

    Those alleged to have links to the eighteen and three other men charged in Ottawa last summer also faced this regime. Radio Canada quotes Roch Tasse, coordinator of the Coalition for Civil Liberties who says, “You appoint people and they already put the label of terrorists and we share the information in this case with the United States, while it has not necessarily been proven that these people have been terrorists ... or even being associated with terrorists. These are allegations.”

    There’s a fear that if the US is not allowed to handle Canadian terror suspects in this manner an attack could happen and, if they were not cooperating, Canada would face huge political and economic consequences.

    For more on this story, here’s CBC’s coverage.

    Jason Leopold at Truthout asks why US medical personnel removed high-value detainee Abu Zubaydeh’s eye:

    Leopold notes in the released Gitmo Files Zubaydeh’s detainee assessment report has him wearing an eye patch. Zubaydah “never consented to the medical procedure and to this day has no idea why it was done.”

    Brent Mickum, who represents Zubaydah, says, “I can tell you that Abu Zubaydah has no explanation for the loss of his eye.”

    US has rejected over 40% of claims submitted by Islamabad as expenses for fighting al Qaeda:

    The Wall Street Journal (which has launched its own WikiLeaks-imitation site) reviewed internal Pentagon documents and found that the US is increasingly suspicious of “Islamabad’s mixed record against militants.” South Asia adviser for the US Institute of Peace Moeed Yusuf says, “This is about how much money Pakistan can extract.”

    Released US State Embassy cables show just how US officials have for years been “taken aback” by claims. For example, in 2006, there was a $26 million charge for barbed wire and pickets and a $70 million charge for radar maintenance. But, “there is no enemy air threat related to the war on terror.” (Unless they are afraid of the US drones or other military aircraft which occasionally fly overhead.)


    ASIO spy powers expand under new laws:

    The Australian Security Intelligence Organization will be able to spy more on WikiLeaks and other groups thanks to new laws. The bill expands the organization’sability to work on behalf of “overseas agencies” to collect “foreign intelligence.” Amendments broaden the definition of whatit means to defend the Commonwealth so that ASIO can have more freedom to authorize the gathering of information on people’s activities, communications and relationships. So, in other words, anyone looking to take after Julian Assange: beware.

    UK coalition plans to introduce new protections for whistleblowers in the public sector:

    Under government transparency, the coalition plans to not only improve protections but also open government by publishing ICT contracts online, creating level playing field for open source software, requiring full online disclosure of all central government spending and contracts over twenty five thousand pounds, and by creating a “right to data” so that government-held datasets can be requested and used by the public and then published on a regular basis.

    German business executives fear cybercrime danger:

    Four hundred business executives surveyed believe that economic espionage and data theft will escalate in future “especially in countries and regions such as Asia, China, eastern Europe, Russia and the US.”

    Former US envoy to Bulgaria John Beyrle slams by former Interior Minister Rumen Petkov:

    Petkov, referring to recently published WikiLeaks cable, calls it “absurd” that Beyrle alleged he struck a deal aimed at imprisoning 20-30 crime bosses without necessary evidence. Petkov, according to, says, “I am dismayed by how the any Ambassador can write lies and slanders, on the basis of which the US forms its official position.”

    Also, he addresses allegations that he had urinated in a public fountain.

    Bin Laden raid leakers can talk and no need to worry about being prosecuted under the Espionage Act.:

    While worrisome to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the fact that operations similar to the raid may not be able to be carried out in the future is nothing worth prosecuting anyone over. Those involved have detailed how the SEALs were forced to leave behind a helicopter that malfunctioned and also discussed openly the use of drones to survey the compound.

    Whistleblower in Kentucky is fired and alleges discrimination:

    Charles Scott Howard, a miner who had lodged several safety complaints against his employer, Arch Coal, and shot video of dangerous conditions at the mine, has filed a discrimination complaint. In a May 4th hearing, he asked the Mine Safety and Health Administration to adopt a “voluntary” safety compliance program for mining companies.

    2011-05-19 FBI Documents Show US Citizens Targeted for Interest in US Foreign Policy #StopFBI

    ImageAntiwar and international solidarity activists, subjects of a federal grand jury investigation that alleges they may have provided “material support for terrorism,” uncovered documents on FBI guidelines and investigation practices left behind in an activist’s home that was raided in September of last year. The documents illuminate how the FBI has conducted surveillance of the activists being targeted in the investigation and further prove the grand jury is being used as a tool to go after political groups.

    On September 24 of last year, the home of Lindon Gawboy and Mick Kelly, an activist who helped to organize a mass demonstration outside the Republican National Convention in 2008, was raided and subpoenaed. Gawboy was awoken by FBI pounding on her door. She came to the door and asked for a search warrant. The FBI ignored her request for a warrant and proceeded to use a battering ram, which took the door off its hinges and shattered a nearby fish tank.

    The agents raiding Gawboy and Kelly’s home emptied file cabinets and desks and stacked files around the apartments. They set up and went through individual documents taking files away that were of interest to them. At some point during this process, an agent’s papers on the investigation became mixed in with Kelly’s files. And, presumably by chance, Gawboy found the revealed documents just weeks ago.

    The documents show the investigation was “predicated on the activities of Meredith Aby and Jessica Rae Sundin in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), to include their travel to FARC controlled territory.” Bruce Nestor, an attorney advising individuals that have been issued subpoenas in this investigation, explains “predicate” is a word that typically connotes “what’s necessary to begin an investigation into protected First Amendment activity.”

    Current FBI guidelines, according to Nestor, actually do not require a predicate to begin a preliminary question. This means the FBI can send agents and law enforcement officers into public meetings undercover to gather publicly available information and store that information about activists in perpetuity.

    Sundin, a founding member of the Twin Cities-based Anti-War Committee, says she traveled to Colombia to witness peace talks between the FARC and the Colombia government. She flew into Colombia on an airplane owned by the Colombia military. Sundin was interested in what it would take to end a decades-long conflict in a country that is the biggest recipient of US military aid in Latin America.

    “What I find disturbing about the line of questions is its attempt to stir up a kind of 1950s Red Scare within the antiwar movement,” declares Sundin. In particular, the questions indicate the FBI was interested in information on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

    “It’s true some of us are socialists, but that’s not against the law. A lot of us have grievances with capitalism,” explains Sundin. “The government has no right to dictate to the antiwar movement who can and cannot be in our movement.”

    Nestor notes the document containing “Interrogation Questions” include the question, “Have you ever met Lilia Obando?” Obando, according to Nestor, is “a union organizer in Colombia who Colombian military intelligence alleges is a member of the FARC, a guerrilla revolutionary in Colombia.”

    Obando lived in Canada for years, has participated in speaking events in the United States and traveled to the United States “with a visa granted under laws that state people suspected of membership in terrorist organizations cannot be granted visas.”

    Joe Iosbaker, one of the targeted activists, explains the investigation has been using a “weapon” given to them in June of last year, a Supreme Court decision called Holder v. Humanitarian Law. The decision determined that “some speech is no longer protected by the Constitution. Speech that is “coordinated with, directed to or directed from an organization that is on the State Department's foreign terrorist organization list can be construed to be material support for a foreign terrorist organization."

    Nestor illuminates how the decision is being used against citizens like Aby and Sundin:

    Now, years after she visited, people’s homes are being raided and the FBI intends to interrogate people about their contact with Miss Obando. These laws, the material support laws, actually specify that providing lodging is a form of material support. Not providing weapons or money or you don’t need the intent to further any kind of activity but merely providing lodging. So years after coming to the Twin Cities people can be questioned. Did they know her? Did they meet with her? Who else did they meet? What did they know when they met with her? Because [people] can be accused of providing lodging for someone who a foreign intelligence service that receives billions of dollars in US aid now claims is part of an organization that the US State Dept claims to be a terrorist organization. That can become a criminal predicate for a much larger investigation.

    The “reach of the material support law is so broad that people who want to travel internationally, that want to speak to people, that want to talk to union organizers are at threat of the types of activities and raids we are seeing here,” concludes Nestor.

    Nestor asks, “What is the ability of citizens to gather information on their own and to come to their own views on US foreign policy?” and, “Are we supposed to accept on blind faith that aid to Colombia that’s allied with right wing paramilitaries and has the highest rate of killing of trade unionists” is justified?

    This question gets to what presumably could be the key motivation for the investigation: it seems the investigation and the material support laws aim to deter citizens from challenging the national security establishment.

    The focus of the investigation is not just limited to Colombia. The “Interrogation Questions” show the FBI is also interested in what the activists’ connections to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The FBI wanted to know, specifically, what Kelly knew about Maha Nassar, chair of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.

    The investigation has grown into a “giant monster,” says Sundin. It includes 6 FBI Division offices, seven homes that have been raided and twenty-three activists that have been subpoenaed.

    Additionally, Aby, who has been engaged in antiwar and international solidarity activism since 1994, read the "Operations Order" and concludes the raid on the Gawboy-Kelly home was a direct affront to a US citizen’s right to bear arms, which is protected under the Second Amendment.

    The order notes Kelly is “believed to be the owner of an unknown number of firearms that may be in his home.” She explains the Second Amendment and Minnesotat state law protects a person’s right to own arms and adds “gun ownership should not be considered legitimate grounds for this level of risk that was posed to both Mick and Lindon’s safety.”

    Written in the order is the word “DANGEROUS” in all caps next to Kelly’s name. The document indicates that FBI agents were instructed to bring machine guns, assaulted rifles and two extra clips of ammo for each of their side arms. It shows that two paramedics were to be present in case of casualties. The document cast him as an “action movie villain” claiming he had offered weapons training to people.

    Aby’s home was raided the same day the Gawboy/Kelly home was raided. She says she was threatened by the fact that close to ten agents and officers took over her home where I was alone with her eighteen-month old daughter. Her daughter was traumatized but she’s not the only child who is now afraid. Other families’ homes have been raided and children in those homes have seen armed men break down doors all because they are executing an investigation into political groups being targeted for their activities and their ideas.

    Kelly concludes from the documents, “There is a complete disregard for the rights of international solidarity and antiwar activists to express our views, our freedom of speech and our right to association. Documents make it clear that legal activitiy in solidarity with the people of Colombia and Palestine is what’s being targeted.”

    A full press conference on this news can be viewed at

    Below are copies of the documents that were left behind. For more on this story, go to

    CSFR Statement


  • Operation Order

  • Interrogation Questions

  • Surveillance Photos

  • Seizure and Subpoena

  • Blank Forms

  • Single PDF file that includes all six of the above documents

  • 2011-05-19 Henry Rollins on WikiLeaks and government reform

    ImageHenry Rollins interview by Maximus D. Estevez and Jonathan "Toth" Getzschman: full text available here. Submitted by Jonathan "Toth" Getzschman.

    "I don’t go to CNN for news like I don’t go to a Burger King for a meal."

    Max: In America's search for transparency, new organizations have been formed, such as Wikileaks. America is torn on that specific issue. Some view it as treason. Others view it as patriotism. What is your take on the subject?

    Henry: If WikiLeaks is treason, then so was the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame [VP Dick Cheney called her and her husband "Fair Game" after they proved and announced to the media that Bush was lying about Saddam Hussein's WMD's] and let’s get everyone into court and get it going. If America has so many things that we are not supposed to know about, perhaps it’s time to change the way we do things. The way America conducts itself at this point only seems to lead to new conflicts. If America didn’t go to Iraq, there would be no deficit. Since the American media has been bought and paid for, some people need alternate sources to get their information.

    I don’t go to CNN for news like I don’t go to a Burger King for a meal.

    Max: In a time when many American's are wanting more transparency in government and to get their voices heard, what do you see as the most honorable and expedient way to get the government to listen to the will of the people?

    Henry: Campaign finance reform would help. Thanks to the Citizens United case, politicians can be wholly own by corporations and really don’t have to listen to the people. If the government really listened to the people, do you think we would be in Iraq now? Do you think we would have the healthcare system we do? I think for at least the last three decades, politicians have been distancing themselves from the citizens they serve. I don’t know if that will change in our life time. I think both the left and right are part of the problem.

    Toth: Aside from Campaign finance reform, how can the US public get our government to realize the importance of transparency?

    Henry: I don't think it can. I think that big business, multi-national corps. have had every administration's ear from at least post-FDR to now. At the end of the day, your vote is somewhat meaningless, rioting is useless, destruction is pointless. When the SCOTUS gave corporations First Amendment rights, the writing that has been on the wall for years was set in neon. I think what needs to happen is more things like wikileaks. The curtain that protects the wizard has to be assaulted. You might not like what you get but in the end, I think we will all be the better for it.

    Toth: In your opinion, what is the best means of networking for like-minded people who want change?

    Henry: Internet, twitter, things like that. They are cheap, hard to stop and easy to start.

    Toth: Do you boycott certain businesses, if so which ones?

    Henry: I don't eat at fast food places. I don't base any opinion I have on things I learned on any network news outlets, even if it turns out to be true. I have to cross reference the information. Past that, I rely on myself to make the right decision at the time. I don't have kind of list though.

    Toth: For all the rumors about "secret societies" do you believe that most of the major decisions are made by "shadow governments" and if so, how do the People out them?

    Henry: I think business runs the world. Always follow the money. From all that hearts and minds crap in any country the America is "spreading Democracy" in to anywhere else. Dig down into the ground. If there's oil there, chances are, that country needs some Democracy and we're the country to drone strike them into freedom.

    Toth: Do you think WikiLeaks as a whistle blower outlet and activist for "free press" is a good idea? Why?

    Henry: Ultimately, yes. The America has to change its policy. It won't unless it's outed. Why should it? Corps in the America loved Mubarak, he bought their shit with your tax dollars. Great deal. Transparency means transparency. Ripples in the water upset those who are used to navigating in placidity. That is to say, there will be some lawyers involved.

    2011-05-19 Obama's Middle East Speech | State Dept Tries to Reset Diplomacy in Wake of WikiLeaks

    ImageUS President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the State Department that described in detail the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. He focused on the unfolding transformation in the region and how it was a “moment of opportunity.” And, he called the State Department a “fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy.”

    He called out Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and the rulers of Bahrain in a roll call of ongoing state repression. He illuminated what he thinks a peace deal between Israel and Palestine should look like at this point in world history and put forth an economic of foreign investment plan. And, he drew attention to the use of technology to fuel the Arab Spring but, despite the fact that Amnesty International hailed WikiLeaks as a catalyst in the Arab Spring, he did not mention WikiLeaks and the organization’s release of previously classified US State Embassy cables.

    The core of the speech aims to highlight the value of ordinary citizens sparking movements for change. He says these movements “speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years.” He explicitly highlights how America came from a history of nonviolence, protest and rebellion against empire.

    This focus is deceitful on many levels because individuals who engage in nonviolence and fight against repressive domestic and foreign policies here in the United States (some that have to do with what Obama raised in his speech) can easily be harassed, intimidated and even criminalized for engaging in political activity. US citizens who take too much interest in US foreign policy in countries like Colombia or Palestine risk having their homes raided by the FBI/SWAT and subsequently being subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

    A “giant monster” that began in September of last year and involves six FBI division offices, seven raided homes and twenty-three activists subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury continues. Carlos Montes, long time Chicano activist and an individual who had been actively participating in the struggle against FBI repression of antiwar and international solidarity activists, had his home raided by the FBI and a SWAT Team of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on May 17 early in the morning.

    The Team smashed the front door, rushed in with automatic weapons while Montes was sleeping and proceeded to “ransack the house, taking his computer, cell phones and hundreds of documents, photos, diskettes and mementos of his current political activities in the pro-immigrant rights and Chicano civil rights movement.”

    Along with that, the FBI engages in a practice of “sending paid, untrained informants into mosques and Muslim communities,” a procedure for fighting terrorism that more and more find constitutes entrapment. A report released by the New York University Center for Human Rights and Global Justice details US government “informants held themselves out as Muslims and looked in particular to incite other Muslims to commit acts of violence.” They pushed violent jihad and encouraged defendants, who were targets, into believing “it was their duty to take action against the United States.”

    In three cases, the US government proposed locations the defendants would be accused of targeting and provided “material evidence, such as weaponry or violent videos, which would later be used to convict them.”

    How can President Obama speak to a region of the world that is challenging state repression as a burgeoning security state in the US escalates its attacks on democratic activism? How can he expect those in the Middle East especially Muslims in the region to take him seriously when he is the leader of a government that is targeting US citizens?

    Obama claims the US has shifted its foreign policy since he took office. This is surreptitious attempt to cover up the fact that all that has happened is a re-branding of Bush administration policies. While there has been a withdrawal in Iraq, the US plans to leave behind a permanent presence of troops.

    In his first year in office, Obama committed the US to a surge in Afghanistan. He expanded the war into Pakistan.

    NATO and US forces have employed drone strikes and night raids that have terrorized the civilian population of Afghanistan.

    Torture and abuse continue in black site prisons. The abomination that has caused revulsion among many populations in the Middle East known as Guantanamo Bay remains open. Detainee abuse in places like Iraq post-Abu Ghraib scandal has been whitewashed with little to no accountability for the crimes against humanity committed.

    Military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Colombia and Iraq continue to be waged and supported by the US. The Libyan invasion, while presumed to be a humanitarian intervention, was launched illegitimately without a declaration of war from Congress. And, while Obama may be proud to have been involved in Pakistan now, prior to bin Laden’s killing the war was going on under a veil of secrecy.

    All this week, Jeremy Scahill of The Nation has been reporting on news that Blackwater founder Erik Prince is offering his mercenary services to the United Arab Emirates. The forces would be used to quell any uprising that might happen in the UAE as a result of citizens being inspired by the Arab Spring. The Obama Administration supports this development as one official said, “The Gulf countries, and the UAE in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help.”

    Nick Turse at notes in a recent article, while Obama plans to “reset” American policy with an address on the Arab Spring, “all signs indicate that the Pentagon will quietly maintain antithetical policies, just as it has throughout the Obama years.”

    For months now, the world has watched as protesters have taken to the streets across the Middle East to demand a greater say in their lives. In Tunisia and Egypt, they toppled decades-old dictatorships. In Bahrain and Yemen, they were shot down in the streets as they demanded democracy. In the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they called for reforms, free speech, and basic rights, and ended up bloodied and often in jail cells. In Iraq, they protested a lack of food and jobs, and in response got bullets and beatings.

    As the world watched, trained eyes couldn’t help noticing something startling about the tools of repression in those countries. The armored personnel carriers, tanks, and helicopters used to intimidate or even kill peaceful protesters were often American models.

    For decades, the U.S. has provided military aid, facilitated the sale of weaponry, and transferred vast quantities of arms to a host of Middle Eastern despots. Arming Arab autocrats, however, isn’t only the work of presidents past. A TomDispatch analysis of Pentagon documents finds that the Obama administration has sought to send billions of dollars in weapons systems -- from advanced helicopters to fighter jets -- to the very regimes that have beaten, jailed, and killed pro-democracy demonstrators, journalists, and reform activists throughout the Arab Spring.

    WikiLeaks has unveiled the reality of US diplomacy and foreign policy. President Obama can thank Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but that is simply disingenuous. Many of the revelations that have come out especially those detailing spying at the UN deserve much more attention. The forced resignation of PJ Crowley also deserves more scrutiny, as he was forced out because he was raising concerns about inhumane treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks.

    The State Department did nothing in the immediate days after Mohammed Bouazizi doused himself in fuel and lit himself on fire. On January 4, 2011, it was still of no concern to the Department, as evidenced by this exchange at a State Dept briefing:

    QUESTION: On Tunisia, there’s continued, sort of, civil unrest there, and I was just wondering –

    MR. CROWLEY: What country?

    QUESTION: Tunisia. Tunisia. And I was wondering what you made of the situation there.

    MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I didn’t get updated on Tunisia today. So we’ll save that question –

    QUESTION: When was the last time you did get updated on Tunisia? (Laughter.)

    The reality is the Obama Administration should not be giving speeches to those who are transforming the Middle East but rather it should be inviting leaders of the revolutions in the Middle East to come give Middle East speeches on nonviolence, resistance, freedom and democracy to the Obama Administration (and perhaps the people of the United States).

    *Photo credit AP

    2011-05-19 Omar Khadr Part 1 of 4: “Omar Khadr is a lovely young man”

    ImageOmar Khadr (centre in the picture at left) was born in Toronto, Canada on September 19, 1986. His father was an Egyptian born Canadian who ran charities to provide food and education for orphans, and was an old friend of Osama Bin Laden. His mother was a Canadian of Palestinian descent. Omar spoke four languages fluently. When he was 15, his family sent him to accompany a group as a translator. The US military identified that group as Al Qaeda.

    In July 2002, US Special Forces attacked the camp where he was staying. When US military entered the site, Omar was buried face down under rubble, blinded by shrapnel and crippled. Another man was beside him. US military documents say a US militant stood on top of Omar's body before realizing that someone was buried beneath. The first US fighter to arrive on the scene shot the man beside Omar dead and then shot Omar twice in the back, leaving two large exit wounds in his chest and chunks of his chest and shoulder ... blown out. He was somehow identified as being the son of his father, either before or after a second US militant prevented the first from shooting him again. He was consequently captured instead.

    During the attack on the camp, a US special forces soldier was wounded and later died. There is evidence from forensic analysis of his wounds that he was killed by a US grenade, which the camp did not have, and US military was throwing grenades into the compound at the time of his injury. The US military rewrote the initial report of Omar's capture to make it look as though he had thrown the grenade, possibly to defend their actions in shooting a shrapnel wounded and buried fifteen year old in the back.

    From Lawyers Rights Watch Canada: February also saw the accidental release of a five-page "OC-1" witness report to reporters, which revealed that Omar had not been the only survivor in the compound, as previously claimed, and that nobody had seen him throw the grenade. Officials insisted that the reporters all had to return their copies of the document or face expulsion from the hearings, but after a 90-minute standoff between reporters and military officials, it was agreed that they could retain their copies of the report, but had to redact three names from the report. In March, Kuebler insisted that "Lt. Col. W." had initially written in his report the day after the firefight that "the person who threw a grenade that killed Sgt. 1st Class Christopher J. Speer also died in the firefight", implying that the grenade had indeed been thrown by the surviving Mujahideen, and not by Omar. The report was rewritten months later to say that the grenade thrower had been "engaged", rather than "killed", changing the wording that exonerated Omar.

    Omar Khadr was found buried under the rubble in photograph one. His body was highlighted in photograph two with the rubble cleared off. Photograph one is the position from which he is being accused of throwing the grenade.


    He was taken to Bagram torture camp where he was unconscious for about one week. “Interrogations” began as soon as he regained consciousness, and while he was on on a stretcher for the first two weeks to a month. According to his affidavit statement, of February 22, 2008, he was “not right and was out of my wits for about three days. I was in extreme pain and my pain was all I could focus on. ... During the first three days, they would shackle my feet and hands out to my sides with handcuffs when they did not like the answers I was giving to the questions. Due to my injuries, this caused me great pain. At least two of the interrogations during these first three days occurred when I was shackled by my hands and feet and in pain. I was unable to even stand at this time, so I was not a threat, and I could tell that this treatment was for punishment and to make me answer questions and give them the answers they wanted. ... During the interrogations, the pain was taking my thoughts away. After I regained consciousness after being unconscious for a week, the first soldier told me that I had killed an American with a hand grenade. They would only give me pain medication at nighttime but the interrogations occurred during the daytime.”

    A torturer present at all of his Bagram ‘interrogations’ was a man named Joshua Klaus, who was convicted of his role in killing two other prisoners at Bagram, Dilawar and Mullah Habibullah in December of 2002. Omar wrote that Klaus “would often scream at me if I did not give him the answers he wanted. Several times, he forced me to sit up on my stretcher, which caused me great pain due to my injuries. He did this several times to get me to answer his questions and give him the answers he wanted. It was clear that he was making me sit up because he knew that it hurt and he wanted me to answer questions. I cried several times during the interrogation as a result of this treatment and pain. During this interrogation, the more I answered the questions and the more I gave him the answers he wanted, the less pain was inflicted on me. I figured out right away that I would simply tell them whatever I thought they wanted to hear in order to keep them from causing me such pain.”

    Also from his affidavit:

    • Bandage changes were used as an excuse for more abuse.
    • His "interrogations" included barking dogs, bagging his head so tightly he choked, cold water thrown on him, hands pulled above his head and chained to the ceiling (with bullet wounds in his chest) for hours at a time, and making him sit up when he was on a stretcher to create pain.
    • Guards made him scrub floors all night, lift and stack heavy crates and carry five gallon buckets of water to cause pain from his chest wounds. (His lawyers have documents that state his “wounds were wet” at the time.)
    • Extremely bright LED lights were shone in his shrapnel wounded eyes to cause discomfort and destroy his vision (he is now blind in one eye and has poor vision in the other due to being denied medical treatment for shrapnel wounds).
    • Torturers repeatedly threatened to have him raped or send him to other countries where he would be raped.
    • During questioning he was frequently not allowed to use the bathroom, but forced to urinate on himself instead.
    • He was told he could go free if he told them something that would help them capture someone important.
    • Guards and torturers made him pick up garbage, then emptied it and made him pick it up again repeatedly, farted in his face, spit in his face and interrogated him approximately 42 times in 90 days.
    • Before being transferred to Guantanamo in October 2002, the prisoners were given no food for two nights and one day, had their heads and beards shaved, and were put in mouth and nose masks, goggles and earphones and shackled to the floor for the entire trip.
    • They were dragged off the plane, stripped naked and cavity searched.
    • After an initial two days in hospital where he was interrogated for six hours each day, Omar was put into isolation.
    • The torture continued as before, including forcing him to urinate on himself then using him as a human mop to scrub urine and pine oil off the floor and leaving him in those clothes for days.

    The picture below shows the condition Omar was in when he arrived at Bagram.


    Not only was Omar given no consideration for his age, he was “treated worse than anyone else” according to cellmate Moazzem Begg. Australian prisoner David Hicks wrote, “On one occasion, I saw US soldiers dragging Omar from his cage to a room used for interrogation just opposite from mine. For at least an hour, I heard him scream and yell in pain as they abused him. Omar was yelling, ‘Why are you doing this? ... Please stop. ... Somebody help me!’ There seemed to be no point to this brutality except to hurt him and break his will.” He was also reportedly drugged, subjected to extreme temperatures for long periods, and refused basic medical treatment including the removal of shrapnel from his wounds.

    Besides being in contravention of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which both Canada and the United States have signed and ratified, Omar’s treatment is completely contrary to the US government’s own recommendations for the treatment of minors at Guantanamo, on every single point.

    Here is Omar’s story as explained by Dennis Edney of his Canadian defense team. He explains not just the circumstances of Omar’s abduction and imprisonment, but also who Omar is today. Although the quote in the title of this article is from the video below, it is echoed by similar statements from almost everyone who has spoken to Omar throughout his confinement, defense attorneys (both currently employed and fired), psychiatrists, cellmates, and guards.

    Part 2
    Part 3
    Part 4

    Resources for information on Omar Khadr

    • Previous WL Central coverage of Omar Khadr here.
    • If you only have a few minutes to click on one link, this is it. Defense attorney Dennis Edney.
    • Orwellian Circus Khadr's trial.
    • Michelle Shephard is a Canadian journalist who has covered Omar extensively and wrote a book, Guantanamo’s Child about his detention.
    • Videos from Michelle Shephard’s website.
    • Documentary from CBC, The U.S. vs Omar Khadr.
    • Khadr timeline from CBC.
    • Khadr in the US state cables
    • Documentary You Don’t Like The Truth
    • Moazzam Begg: Who Cares For This Boy?
    • University of Toronto Faculty of Law archive on Khadr's case
    • Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler and Rebecca S. Snyder, U.S. Department of Defence attorneys report on Khadr's case on March 26, 2008
    • Defense attorney Dennis Edney at the human rights film festival
    • Amnesty Canada Omar Khadr Sentencing Concludes: One Last Injustice

    Omar Khadr Part 2 of 4: Canada, the entire world is still watching
    Omar Khadr Part 3 of 4: “The world doesn't get it”
    Omar Khadr Part 4 of 4: “Punitive post-conviction confinement”

    2011-05-19 Omar Khadr Part 2 of 4: Canada, the entire world is still watching

    Image "There would be virtually no political blowback domestically for the Conservative Party if the government chooses to pursue an appeal, making this a strong likelihood.”

    The above statement from US State cable #09OTTAWA629 sums up the last decade of Omar Khadr’s life. The Canadian government, under the last three prime ministers, two Liberal and one Conservative, have done nothing about the plight of a tortured fifteen year old Canadian boy imprisoned with no trial in the world’s most notorious torture camps. They have contributed nothing to his education, nor to his emotional or psychological welfare. They have expressed no concern for his well being. They have not requested his repatriation, nor have they requested that the illegal and amoral conditions of his confinement be improved. (Read a summary of the conditions here.) US State cable 09STATE11937 describes a February 5, 2009 meeting between French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and US Secretary of State Clinton, where the French Foreign Minister requested that the US review his case, but there is no similar suggestion from the country with a legal obligation to defend him.

    In Omar’s affidavit statement, of February 22, 2008 he wrote of visits "on numerous occasions" from people claiming to be from the Canadian government who came to interview him in a special "more comfortable" room than the usual interrogation room. These people, however, did not ask how he was or offer him assistance or offer to deliver a message to his family. Instead they asked him about people, such as his father and Maher Arar, or asked him to identify people in photographs they presented.

    I was very hopeful that they would help me. I showed them my injuries and told them that what I had told the Americans was not right and not true. I said that I told the Americans whatever they wanted me to say because they would torture me. The Canadians called me a liar and I began to sob. They screamed at me and told me that they could not do anything for me. I tried to cooperate so that they would take me back to Canada. I told them that I was scared and that I had been tortured. ...

    After the Canadians left and I told the Americans that my previous statements were untrue, life got much worse for me. They took away all of my things except for a mattress. I had no Koran and no blanket. They would shackle me during interrogations and leave me in harsh and painful positions for hours at a time. One navy interrogator would pull my hair and spit in my face.

    Approximately one month before Ramadan in 2003, two different men came to visit me. They told me that they were Canadian. One of the men was in his 20s and the other in his 30s. These two men yelled at me and accused me of not telling the truth. One of the Canadian men stated, “The U.S. and Canada are like an elephant and an ant sleeping in the same bed,” and that there was nothing the Canadian government could do against the power of the U.S.

    One of the men returned alone approximately one month after the Eid al-Adha holiday. The visitor showed me his Canadian passport, the outside of which was red in color. The Canadian visitor stated, “I’m not here to help you. I’m not here to do anything for you. I’m just here to get information.” The man then asked me questions about my brother, Abdullah.

    Within a day of my last visit from the Canadians, my security level was changed from Level 1 to Level 4 minus, with isolation. Everything was taken away from me, and I spent a month in isolation. The room in which I was confined was kept very cold. It was “like a refrigerator”.

    Complicity, lies and endless lawsuits

    The Canadian government has not just been remiss in its duty towards Omar. On June 25, 2008, Justice Richard Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada ruled that a report from a visit to Khadr in March 2004 by Jim Gould of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, which mentioned how Khadr had been subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation for three weeks before his visit, “in an effort to make him more amenable and willing to talk,” constituted a breach of the UN Convention against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. The Federal Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada have all ruled in 2008, and again in 2010, that the participation of Canadian officials in Khadr's interrogations at Guantanamo clearly violated his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    The Canadian government (with taxpayer money) has fought in court to avoid giving him access to his own file to use as his defense. In 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the government had again acted illegally, contravening Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and ordered that the videotapes of the interrogation be released.

    The Canadian government has lied to the Canadian people and said they had every reason to believe he was being treated well, when they were both told and shown evidence of the torture and abuse by Omar.

    Contempt for Canadian opinion and laws

    Besides freely spending tax dollars to fight every aspect of the case up to the Supreme Court, and ignoring all of the rulings that told the government to request Omar's repatriation, US state cable 08OTTAWA918 shows CSIS Director Judd's complete contempt of Canadians and their courts who he described as having an "Alice in Wonderland" worldview. He jeered at any potential Canadian concern for Omar as "paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty." Canadian government concern for public opinion in the US was much higher, with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asking in 08OTTAWA440 for clarification from the Attorney General on how the US government views the terrorist threat emanating from Canada. Periodically, he said, there is a media reaction in the United States to something like the Khadr case that leads to the image of large numbers of terrorists "prancing around" in Canada uncontrolled.

    A special committee formed by the The House of Commons recommended Khadr's repatriation in 2008, but was ignored by the government. Cable 08OTTAWA828 explains that Conservative members opposed Khadr's repatriation on the grounds “that it was unlikely he would ever be convicted in Canada.” So, because Canadian law did not suit their worldview, they sent Canadian Omar to US justice instead. Cable 08OTTAWA878, says of Justice Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada “He also revealed that U.S. authorities had inquired whether Khadr might be tried in Canada and had provided details about the U.S. evidence against Khadr to Canadian officials for that purpose.”

    The US state cables show the concern in the US over Canadian public opinion. Cable 08OTTAWA990 is happy to announce “eight in ten Canadians who saw the interrogation footage did not subsequently change their views on Khadr. ... The apparent hope of Khadr's Canadian and U.S. lawyers that dramatic footage of Khadr's tears and complaints about sleep deprivation in his meeting with CSIS officials would create a groundswell of more favorable public opinion and impel the government to reverse course seems to have failed. ... competing joys of the all-too-brief Canadian summer essentially have kept any genuine pressure off the government.” The same concern is shown in 09OTTAWA298 In addition, students constantly criticized the U.S. for its treatment of Omar Khadr, a Canadian detainee at Guantanamo, arguing that the U.S. should return him immediately to Canada and claiming he faced no possibility of a fair trial or humane treatment in the U.S. (The Canadian government has never requested his repatriation, indicating instead that it will await the outcome of ongoing judicial processes.)

    The US concern for the opinions of Canadian people seems greater than that of the Canadian government. From 08OTTAWA960 “The Conservatives are likely gauging public reaction to the images carefully, but no change in current official policy appears likely.”

    While the details of all of the Harper government's court cases against Omar Khadr are meticulously recorded, the US government has no illusions that Harper will obey the court orders. Cable 09OTTAWA313 states: The Conservatives have little if any political capital to lose from sticking to their position of allowing the U.S. military's legal process against Khadr to take its course. The government is unlikely to rush to Washington with a formal repatriation request, despite the court ruling.

    Cable 09OTTAWA629, states that the Crown had conceded in oral arguments that making such request would not damage Canada's relations with the U.S., nor "pose a threat to Canada's security." The Court highlighted that, contrary to the Crown's oral argument that there was "only a remote possibility that the United States would comply" with such a request, "the fact (is) that the United States has complied with requests from all other western countries for the return of their nationals from detention in the prison at Guantanamo Bay." ...

    According to an official of the Privy Council Office on August 14, the government was still trying to "digest" the decision, but he took note our informal request for the government to consult privately with us before making public any possible request for repatriation. The vigorous dissent opinion should give the government some hope that an appeal to the Supreme Court could be successful, and could -- not incidentally -- also at least delay action until the next steps become clearer in the legal procedures against Mr. Khadr by the U.S. military authorities. Mr. Khadr's family remains deeply unpopular in Canada, although there is some sympathy for him since he was only 15 years old at the time of his capture. There would be virtually no political blowback domestically for the Conservative Party if the government chooses to pursue an appeal, making this a strong likelihood.

    Harper's policy of exhausting his opponents in court with taxpayer money is reaffirmed in 09OTTAWA423: The court labeled Abdelrazik "as much a victim of international terrorism as the innocent persons whose lives have been taken by recent barbaric acts of terrorists." As in a similar ruling on the government's responsibility to seek the repatriation of Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay Omar Khadr, the government is likely to appeal this unfavorable ruling.

    Two things come up repeatedly in the cables for Khadr and all other cases related to the US "War on Terror". One, the Canadian government's complete contempt for the Canadian people and courts, and two, the idea that the Canadian government can do as it pleases because the Canadian people will not care.

    From the Documentary You Don't Like the Truth

    The following two videos are the excerpts from the documentation that Khadr's lawyers fought to the Supreme Court to obtain access to, of which the state cables said "The apparent hope of Khadr's Canadian and U.S. lawyers that dramatic footage of Khadr's tears and complaints about sleep deprivation in his meeting with CSIS officials would create a groundswell of more favorable public opinion and impel the government to reverse course seems to have failed. ... competing joys of the all-too-brief Canadian summer essentially have kept any genuine pressure off the government."

    Omar Khadr Part 1 of 4: “Omar Khadr is a lovely young man”
    Omar Khadr Part 3 of 4: “The world doesn't get it”
    Omar Khadr Part 4 of 4: “Punitive post-conviction confinement”

    2011-05-19 The #Spanishrevolution starts in Madrid as an experiment in participatory democracy #acampadasol #yeswecamp #democraciarealya

    WLCentral will be providing coverage from Spain on the ongoing #spanishrevolution, happening now in over eighty cities, inside and outside Spain, with thousands of people camped out claiming the streets. Contact us at @wikileaks_world or to help us with footage, information and provides information in English about the 15M movement. An updated agenda of protests around the world can be found here.

    What started out as a programmed march on the the 15th of May, held in major and minor cities around Spain with regional elections happening on the 22nd, has grown massively: well over ten thousand people have taken the Puerta del Sol, a large square in the center of Madrid ( for live streaming). The initial demonstration was planned by the apolitical platform, Democracia Real Ya (Real Democracy Now!) with a manifesto claiming an end to corrupt politicians, harsh election laws for smaller parties, financial regulation, transparency and free media. The demonstration was very successful and thousands of people, of different age groups and nationalities, showed up. Afterwards however, there was a great feeling of unrest, caused by the impotence of not knowing what to do next or how to catalyze the social movement gathered there. This led many young people to vandalism and some of them even tried to block main streets in a wild attempt to make themselves heard, resulting in rough police intervention (below) and several detained protesters.

    In the aftermath of the 15M movement, and benefiting from this sense of indignation and helplessness, a different platform announced that they would camp in Sol until their demands were met. The first night an estimated 300 people showed up, making it small enough to allow the police to force them to leave. These actions, along with the video posted above, sparked interest in what was happening in Sol, and the anger felt by citizens in Spain caused thousands of people to show up on Tuesday for the demonstration, with many staying there for the night.

    Others organized similar camps in over twenty cities around the countries, chanting the same slogans such as: “they call it democracy but it’s not”, “they don't represent us” or, literally, “PSOE and PP (the two major parties) are the same shit”. In Sol, the organizers, overwhelmed by the volume of the crowd, quickly started organizing a community by dividing the workload into different commissions (all made up of volunteers): cleaning, security, legal advice, infrastructure, food, external and internal communications. This last one set up a speaker in the middle of the square, so as to communicate between each other and to deliver important messages to the community. The infrastructure commission built large tents, made for shelter and to house each group’s “office”, food and blankets were provided, people brought mattresses and sofas from their homes, as well as sleeping bags, tents and cardboard boxes to coat the floor. The legal team held a brief meeting and afterwards communicated basic advice just in case the police were to crackdown on the campers. Meanwhile, external communications organized workshops to prepare volunteers for talking to the media, arranged teams of translators who would start working on social media sites and went about promoting the event on the web. The result was that in a few hours a totally self-governed mass of people, without any visible leaders, was fully functional and able to sustain the main reason behind the whole movement: the formation of public assemblies that were to enunciate the feelings and ideas of everyone present and turn them into proper policies.

    Slowly, the crowd spontaneously organized itself in open and democratic debate groups that merged throughout the night into a big general assembly that started around 4AM. These assemblies served many purposes and the participants talked about many things: they used them to vote on details regarding the internal workings of the new system; they used them to express their feelings of anger without any coherence (not that it was necessary) making them the direct way of participation in the growing movement. In this sense they worked very well, knitting the community tightly around ideals and ideas that grew out of popular debate. The general assembly, however, failed, mainly because the lack of leadership made it difficult for them to concentrate on the real issue, that is, reaching a consensus large enough for a real manifesto or proposals for reform. Instead, in this first large assembly, the internal workings were discussed, maps were planned and an order of the day was voted and approved, it was intensely democratic in the sense that whenever one of the speakers said something they deemed was unacceptable, he/she was immediately removed and someone else was given the microphone. Acceptance, on the other hand, was greeted with a shaking of open palms, no applause. The meeting ended at 6AM with some serious doubts. First of all no real proposals emerged and it seemed that they would be hard to achieve without real leadership, after all, in most cases protests are held with a manifesto already prepared. How would one emerge from a crowd that was so individualistic and resentful towards anything that sounds like authority?

    It is now Thursday and the camp has lasted for almost five days without police intervention. Today more than ten thousand people showed up. The square has been entirely occupied, the external communications commission has encouraged people to make their own signs and proposals and hang them around the walls, metro stations and ads. The tents have grown everyday and the facilities are better (for example, private companies have donated portable bathrooms for the camp) and well organized, with maps explaining the location of each commission. The flow of people has gotten progressively bigger, and because the media has finally paid attention, older people are appearing and are very curious about what the younger generations have to say. To their surprise they seem to agree with most of it and are willing to participate actively. Best of all, what seemed to be the problem (the lack of concrete political solutions) is turning out to be the strongest point: the assemblies have started producing, out of popular debate and participatory democracy, solutions for different aspects of life in society. Some of these were already floating about several webpages affiliated with the movement (the Proposals section of Democracia Real Ya, for example) but now they have been generated by autonomous popular will and voted for consensus by the general assembly, giving them the power of legitimate ideas. They will be posted here as soon as they are made official.

    This same process is happening in every camp around Spain, and it is a fascinating one to watch. People from many nationalities, immigrants from Ecuador, Colombia and many other European and non-European nations such as Romania or Morocco are participating, something impossible (or contradictory) in a regular “democratic” election. This is partly because the problems being referred to are global issues, made transparent by Wikileaks’ revelations and felt by every person living in a major city. The old meanings of democracy and freedom have changed, politicians and corporate managers (specially in the press and media, one of the biggest foes of this movement) are now naked and are being shown in a new light. What will come out of all this is still to be seen, particularly towards the regional elections that will be held on Sunday. The people in Sol have vowed to stay until they make themselves heard, that is, even after election day. Meanwhile protests with the slogan Real Democracy Now are popping up around Europe (#italianrevolution #frenchrevolution #germanrevolution #ukrevolution) and demonstrations have been called for in Mexico and Argentina.



    2011-05-19 WikiLeaks: Bulgarian Nationalist under US Diplomatic Fire

    The leader of the Bulgarian far-right, nationalist Ataka party, Volen Siderov. Photo by BGNES

    The leader of the Bulgarian far-right, nationalist Ataka party, Volen Siderov. Photo by BGNES

    Diplomatic cables of the US embassy in Sofia have been revealed on WikiLeaks and provided to the project for investigative journalism, bringing out new details about the way Bulgaria's far-right, nationalist Ataka party and its leader, Volen Siderov, are viewed by American diplomats.

    The text in English has also been published at the Balkanleaks site, an analogue of the notorious whistle-blowing WikiLeaks.

    The first available cable on the subject has been sent on July 12, 2005, by then US Ambassador to Sofia, James Pardew, after it became known Ataka had secured seats in the Parliament as result of the general elections. In the cable, titled BULGARIA: EXTREME NATIONALIST PARTY ENTERS PARLIAMENT, the diplomat writes about the policies of Ataka and Siderov, seen by him as xenophobic and anti-semitic, points out Ataka's parliamentary group includes a significant number of former military and police officials, gives a summary of Siderov's biography and work as journalist, talks about other key figures in the party and and notes undisclosed sources have informed him the nationalists might have received funding from Overgaz Chief Sasho Donchev and Nove Holding owner Vassil Bozhkov aka The Scull.

    In a cable, dated October 17, 2005, titled PROGRESS ON U.S. MILITARY ACCESS, BUT TOUGH ISSUES REMAIN, the then Charge d'Affaires of the US Embassy Jeffrey D. Levine points out the nationalists lead an anti-American campaign regarding US military bases.

    "The leader of the extreme nationalist Ataka party, Volen Siderov, took the opportunity to grandstand, saying that the U.S. military presence would expose Bulgaria to attack and calling for a referendum on the proposed agreements."

    "Some of our Bulgarian contacts have suggested that the Russian Embassy in Sofia may be encouraging Ataka and influencing press coverage of the issue. The ground for such measures is undeniably fertile; a tracking poll commissioned by the Embassy in September showed that 61 percent of Bulgarians oppose "U.S. bases" on their territory," Levine writes.

    The next diplomat to talk in most detail about Ataka is former Ambassador, John Beyrle. In a cable, sent on December 9, 2005, titled BULGARIA'S "ATAKA" PARTY BECOMING INCREASINGLY ANTI- AMERICAN, the diplomat writes that "the rhetoric of the extreme nationalist party Ataka has become increasingly anti-American, with much of the party's wrath focused on proposed joint military facilities and Bulgaria's participation in the Iraq coalition."

    The Ambassador notes the recently-launched "Ataka" daily with its slick format, professional editing and provocative anti- American headlines provides a larger platform for its extremist views and that the nationalists anti-American stance puts pressure on the Socialists, whose core electorate often shares similar views on foreign policy.

    After giving an overview of Ataka's arrival on the Bulgarian political horizon, the elections and the following defections and splits inside the party, and calling Siderov's rhetoric laud and "much a do about nothing," Beyrle concludes that despite all this the party remains stable.

    A special paragraph is dedicated to Siderov's ties with the Russian Embassy in Sofia:

    "Russian diplomats reportedly noted the fact that "Ataka is the only party in Bulgaria's parliament that envisaged new policies with regard to relations with Russia," the diplomat points out.

    "The Embassy maintains a no-contact policy with Siderov and other Ataka representatives, and have encouraged Bulgarian leaders to speak out against the party's xenophobic message. Believing that direct Embassy confrontation with Ataka will amplify their message, we have concentrated on correcting their misinformation and encouraging others to question their financial backers," Beyrle concludes.

    The original text read Here and Here

    In cable, dated December 30, 2005, Levine once again focuses on the issue with the US military bases in Bulgaria and the influence of Ataka.

    "The extreme nationalist Ataka party, with suspected Russian advice and assistance, has negatively influenced press coverage of the negotiations, but its calls for a referendum have failed to gain traction. Given the relative dearth of anti-American sentiment in Bulgaria, we believe the best antidote to public skepticism is the rapid conclusion of an agreement," the diplomat notes.

    2011-05-20 #Spanishrevolution continues, spokesperson says "we are creating a different way of participating democratically in our economic, political and social life" #acampadasol #democraciarealya

    WLCentral will be providing coverage from Spain on the ongoing #spanishrevolution, happening now in over eighty cities, inside and outside Spain, with thousands of people camped out claiming the streets. Contact us at @wikileaks_world or to help us with footage, information and provides information in English about the 15M movement. An updated agenda of protests around the world can be found here.

    In the Puerta del Sol, Madrid, the 15May movement is getting stronger every day. And more organized too. On Friday the police estimated that 25 thousand people were there at the same time, at around 8:00 PM, at the beginning of the daily protest. Some neighbours argued that the square at full capacity can hold more than 30 thousand people, and not only was the square full, but the streets around it were also crowded. Adding up, it is fair to say that well over 60 thousand people have passed through the camp throughout the whole day, where they could participate in debates, paint signs, volunteer for work, ask for information on the movement, sign petitions of various kinds or just relax in the rest area. There is a free restaurant, a nursery and even a library where visitors are encouraged to pass the day in the independent city in the middle of Madrid.


    The tents now cover a very large area, giving shade from the sun and allowing thousands of signs, made by everyone who wants to leave a message of indignation, support or plain humour, to be hung from the threads supporting the plastic sheets. The fact is that because this movement is so heterogenous everyone has their own voice and can express it however they feel like. The whole square, buildings included, and the streets around it have been reclaimed by the people staying or just passing by. All ads and political propaganda have been covered by thousands of signs reading different messages and slogans written by anonymous people. Even though the messages are lost in their own abundance, they form a strange whole that leaves visitors awestruck. Through their messages it is clear that the citizens of the camp and their supporters all have a common set of enemies, they know what they don’t want. Some messages are repeated, for example, “this is not a party, respect the revolution” can be read dozens of times, in small handwriting on pieces of paper and in a huge banner hung on the balcony of a collaborative neighbour. There are drawings, digital designs, collages or just plain messages: “I’m not so young but I’m still here” or “behind each corrupt politician lie six talk-show hosts”. However, when a sign is hung that does not represent the masses, they boo it off until it is taken down.

    During the early hours of the morning, when the camp comes to life, breakfast is served for the campers: milk, hot chocolate, cookies and “porras” (a typical Spanish breakfast) are distributed for free. The only thing that is not scarce is the food, all of it donated by neighbors (mostly old grannies). Announcements are made and the order of the day is read out through the intricate set of speakers placed around the camp. The first assemblies start and, while most young people are still asleep, the older citizens and participants of the collective share the microphone to speak. “My name is Pedro and I am eighty years old”, said a man, visibly moved during his turn in the 10:00 am meeting, “I have been doing this since the 1960s, and seeing all of you here makes me proud and willing to keep on fighting for what I think is fair”. His speech was answered by a unanimous round of applause. Another old man took his place in the middle and read his own manifesto nervously, claiming for reform and a new idea of democracy, and then the microphone was handed over sistematically to other hands.

    Meanwhile, bordering the circle, hundreds of people walked by, listening, some staying, others moving on to other parts of the camp, all of them fascinated and awake in a new way. The whole atmosphere is politically charged in a sense that is completely new to most of the people present, this is because they really feel as if they are participating in building a new future for themselves, something that cannot be achieved through the present system. At this point, even if the whole movement collapses, the seed of active citizenship has been planted in the heads of thousands of people passing through Sol, as well as in those that are camping in other cities of Spain or abroad.

    At 6:00 pm the General Assembly starts, where matters of general interest are voted on by consensus. On Friday, for example, the Assembly decided that a sociology team would start analyzing and collecting data, so as to present a view of the movement from the inside (they may need it later to contrast with other independent or biased analysis). It also approved a movement of decentralization from the square: the smaller assemblies, dedicated to pragmatic issues such as policy making, would meet in surrounding squares and the camp would extend it’s borders. It also decided that on Saturday, the eve of election day, the major protest would be held, and because of the risk of police intervention the security measures were reminded and ratified by consensus. These included the pacifist motto of non-aggression that is vital to the movement, where the people are supposed to hold hands in chains and if attacked will proceed to sit on the floor and act passively. “Our biggest strength lies in our voices and our peaceful hands”, reminded the moderator. When the assembly dissolves everybody gets back to work in their different commissions, sometimes smaller groups remain and debate about whatever subject is raised.

    At 8:00 pm the daily protest begins and thousands of people stream into Sol. Here is when the fun starts and people bearing their banners chant the now common hymns: “they call it democracy but it’s not” (lo llaman democracia y no lo es). There are hundreds of people playing drums, trumpets and other instruments, singing and dancing in celebration, doing something actively and with joy. During this ceremony I interviewed one of the official spokespeople of the movement, who was trained in special courses that took place during the first days of the camp, for people willing to attend to the media:

    [This interview is a transcript from a recording I made, some parts could not be deciphered because of the background noise]

    Please, tell us your name and how you came to be here.

    My name is Leopoldo Camacho, I've lived in Madrid for many years and I think I got here in the same way as most of us, after a public protest was called for because of a growing feeling of social discontent.

    I’ve been following the development of this movement from the beginning and I’ve noticed that the people here are very individualistic and therefore sensible to anything that resembles normal political practice, for example, flags or visible leadership. Because of this, and the way it has come to be organized, many believe it is already a success, however, in your opinion, what would be more of a pragmatic sucess, such as in direct reforms?

    There is a long series of proposals for direct reform, it is not an empty movement nor is it made up of a purely rethoric discourse. In every assembly these claims are discussed and ratified when a consensus is reached. This process is ongoing. Some of them are already official, for example, we ask for the repeal of the Ley Sinde [a law recently passed to tighten government control on the Internet, Wikileaks cables reveal pressure from the U.S. on behalf of it’s corporations, to have this law passed, as they saw Spain as a piracy hotspot]; the rejection of the new pensions law, that has delayed the age of retirement yet again; we also ask for effective financial regulation; a necessary reform of the electoral law, that benefits the current two party system; a change in immigration laws under the principle that no person is ilegal. If you ask what would be a practical achievement, well, if we could get any of these proposals heard and accepted we would consider our campaign a success.

    Taking into account that there will be general elections in Spain in eight months, do you think that there is a chance that a legitimated political platform could emerge from this movement?
    Evidently, the only way that could happen is if a political party would be formed, but this won’t happen here because there is no intention for it to happen.

    Well, that is my point completely, because it seems logical to think that the only way to get these claims turned into real reforms is to participate politically... In other words, wow do you intend to achieve these goals?

    This is precisely what is being discussed in the assemblies right now, the course of action is being decided democratically. We need to make another way, because the way of doing things in our current society needs to change radically, and we are showing our fellow citizens that a different course of action is needed. It really is all about creating a different way of participating democratically in our economic, political and social life. We do not aspire to be a political party because we reject political clasification, just like the EZLN in Mexico[Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional] has rejected being called a political party, even though they practice politics. The outcome of this will be outside that logic and therefore cannot be understood in terms of elections.

    Given that this is a Spanish movement, happening in many cities inside and outside the country, not only in Sol, do you think these movements can merge together into one form of popular will? What role is the Internet playing?

    Right now the tools are being created for a popular forum on the Net. Our web page [] is fully operational and we and other parts of the movement are present in many social networking sites that are promoting dialogue and consensus. There is a new space being created that needs a new idea of citizenship. Now we have all those tools and we are using them in the best way we can.

    Could you give us details on how the camp organized itself?

    Let’s see, everything we have done is out of plain common sense, something we feel is influencing everything we are doing. If, for example, you need to build tents because it’s raining, then you create an infrastrcutre commission that will be in charge of building them, as well as setting up basic things such as sound systems, tables etc. Because the press neeeded to talk with us, an external communications commission was created and spokespeople like myself were prepared for the task. When all these commissions are created and located in different tents, then you make a map, it’s all common sense.

    So it is something that is being generated spontaneously...

    No, I don’t think that is a good word to describe it. Spontaneous means that there is nothing behind it, that it just happens, and in this case it’s just plain common sense that meets needs we encounter: if it gets dirty we need a cleaning team, for example, and after it is ratified by the General Assembly then the team is made.

    So, finally, how does the General Assembly work? What is it’s relationship with the other, smaller assemblies?

    Well, the smaller ones have internal coordination rules that make them different. They have a more pragmatic focus, for example, creating policies for a given area, such as Health or Environmental policies. In the General Assembly internal affairs are organized, things such as the creation of new commissions or security protocols. It serves the puropse of reaching a larger consensus for problems concerning self-government.

    [End of transcript]

    Leopoldo is not Spanish, and I didn’t ask him where he comes from because here, it is not that important. As the night slowly went by, the citizens of the square began falling into sleep. Tents and mattresses were given out to groups, as well as cardboard boxes to put on the floor. The celebration went on well into the morning, the drums played on until 8:00 am and the cleaning team started work, making sure the area was left clean and well kept, they dont wan’t to give the politicians they are fighting any excuse, besides, Saturday is a big day.

    2011-05-20 Assembly decides #spanishrevolution will continue as Spain chooses the conservatives in elections

    Election day has ended in Spain after last night the protest that started at 8:00 pm, planned as the most important yet, managed to occupy most of the squares and streets in around Sol. Many of them went with there families and many others came in from neighbouring towns and cities. The result of the elections, however, is a very pronounced swing to the right. Partido Popular (PP) has claimed victory in most of Spain’s autonomous communities and provinces, with 37.54% of votes, over the 27.80% obtained by PSOE (leading center-left party and currently in Government). Esperanza Aguirre, winning PP candidate in Madrid for the third time in a row, made her majority even bigger, and shortly after claimed that the Government should call for anticipated elections so that they would not “prolongue the agony of the country”. These results were expected by most analyists, who concurred that on top of the effects of the economic recession, the 15M movement had divided the mass of left wing voters.

    The thousands of people in Sol, however, remain intentionally oblivious to the results, because, in their own words “they don’t represent us”. his means that their intentions lie not only ahead, in the future, but also outside the current electoral system. Because the movement, so heterogenous, is finding solutions from inside itself, nobody has been told what to do with there vote. In fact, without any central organization, people printed out small leaflets explaining the possible ways to vote. In them was an unbiased dissection of the aspects of abstention or voting for a minor party. The movement continues to refuse participating because they feel they would lose their idendity in the process, so over the day acts of silence have been carried out to demonstrate, according to one spokesperson, “the unity of the movement in times of adversity”. Therefore, they plan to continue, providing the space for the birth of a true participatory democracy until a point where politicians will be forced to listen. It is important to take this into account because the movement is highly uncentralized. Even though the camp in Sol is the biggest and most organized, there are hundreds of them around the world, made up of Spanish and non-Spanish citizens, and in them the same process of debate is going on. These will be merging very slowly on the web over the following months, as new sites and more volunteers are showing up.

    This plan (already approved- see interview in took another step forward during today’s General Assembly: a consensus was reached and the camp will go on for another week with the explicit objective of exporting the model growing there to the neighborhoods of Madrid and to the local councils of smaller towns in the area. They also recorded a set of official political proposals, that they insisted should be broadcasted worldwide in an effort to communicate the results of the process. There has been no official reaction to these assertions from the authorities and the possible retaliation by the police is yet to be known.

    Example of an assembly held at Puerta Sol:

    2011-05-20 Moazzam Begg refused board on Air Canada #cdnpoli

    ImageMoazzam Begg, a British citizen who was held at Guantanamo Bay for three years with no charge, was barred from boarding an Air Canada flight to Toronto today. Omar Khadr's defense attorney, Dennis Edney, had invited Begg to speak at a conference on fear and justice in Toronto on Saturday as well as other events in Quebec and Edmonton later this week.

    The Canadian Press reports that the Canadian High Commission refused permission on the basis the plane could be re-routed to the U.S. Edney contacted the high commission and was told to contact the US embassy. Edney told the Toronto Star that a Canadian foreign affairs official informed him that Begg was denied entry due to a “U.S. policy.”

    Begg was released from Guantanamo Bay in 2005 and is one of the most high profile advocates for the people currently imprisoned there. He wrote a book, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey To Guantanamo and Back (ISBN 0-7432-8567-0), is a director of Cageprisoners, and has given many interviews and lectures, written articles, and appeared as a commentator on BBC's Panorama, BBC's Newsnight, PBS's The Prisoner, Al-Jazeera's Prisoner, Taking Liberties, Torturing Democracy, and National Geographic's Guantanamo's Secrets, traveling throughout the world to do so. He has never been charged with anything. He was released by the US.

    “I’m being invited to a conference with lawyers, and it’s about community relations, so it would seem odd not to allow me in,” Begg told the Toronto Star. “But I guess it’s North America and North America is different from the rest of the world when it comes to these issues.”

    2011-05-20 Pakistan Papers: US Drones Violate Sovereignty, Fuel Anti-American Sentiment

    ImageA new batch of US State Embassy cables released specifically dealing with the US relationship with Pakistan draw attention to a number of Pakistani political issues, the military aid the US has been giving Pakistan, the deployment of US troops in Pakistan and the growing conflict between India and Pakistan, which the US appears to be gaming to advance its own foreign policy.

    The release is the product of a partnership between the Dawn Media Group and WikiLeaks that began in the last week of April of this year. Around 4,000 cables are to be released over the next few weeks.

    There are numerous ways to begin to examine the cables. This post covers the use of drone technology in Pakistan.

    Kayani Asks US to Loan Pakistan Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs)

    The cable getting attention is 08ISLAMABAD609 sent out by Anne W. Patterson on February 11, 2008. It details a meeting between Pakistan General Ashfaq Kayani, Chief of Army Staff, and US CENTCOM Commander and Admiral William J. Fallon on January 22. During the meeting, the two discuss expanding military assistance and training along with improving cooperation in Afghanistan.

    Kayani asks Fallon to assist in providing “continuous Predator coverage of the conflict area.” Fallon is unable to offer the “assets to support his request” but offers Joint Tactical Aircraft Controller (JTAC) support for Pakistani aircraft. Kayani does not find this offer politically acceptable.

    Fallon offers JTAC training for Pakistani troops. A brief discussion on the complexities of “building a night-capable, air-to-ground capability in the Pakistan army” ends with Kayani conceding such a “big project” could not be undertaken. But, during the meeting, Kayani does emphasize the need for tactical SIGINT capability for Pakistan’s military aircraft. Though not interested in Predator drones, he would like to procure Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and asks if the US could “grant or loan them to Pakistan.”

    In December 2009, just as US President Barack Obama delivered a speech on sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, US officials also began to commit to more use of drones in Pakistan. The New York Times’s Scott Shane covered this development reporting officials were “talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time—a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas.”

    (Note, the controversy was not that covert military operations were being considered in a country where war powers had not been authorized with congressional approval. The issue was that an area outside of areas where strikes had been much more acceptable was being considered. The Timesalso uses the CIA as a cover for military actions like drone strikes. See the headline for this quote, "CIA to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan." But this isn't covert. The US is committing military personnel to the country. This is obvious in the cables.)

    Zardari Welcomes "Acquisition of Modern Technology"

    A cable on a congressional delegation led by US Senator Patrick Leahy (09ISLAMABAD1123) reveals President Asif Ali Zardari in May of 2009 requested the US use drone technology so his forces could take out the militants. He “welcome the acquisition of modern technology” believing having drones would make it more difficult for media or anyone else to criticize the actions the Army might take to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty.

    Another cable (08ISLAMABAD3677) focuses on the reaction in Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of what was believed to be the first such attack in the settled areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, outside of the tribal areas. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani sharply condemned the strike within “Pakistan proper,” which US diplomat Anne Patterson describes as a “watershed event.”

    The strikes were “intolerable” to Gilani. In Pakistani Parliament. Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan criticized the Pakistan government’s “inability to stop alleged U.S. incursion and asked that the matter be taken to the United Nations.”

    PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal cited the Bannu attack as evidence that the GOP must have a secret agreement with the US. Other parliamentarians claimed that they have seen drones hovering over Swat, and warned that future attacks could spread to Peshawar and Islamabad.

    Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman also made an impassioned speech during the Assembly session against alleged U.S. action in Bannu calling it "U.S. aggression and violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity." Rehman's party will hold a secret meeting to discuss their future actions in response to the continued drone strikes, according to contacts within the party. The Bannu attack is particularly significant for Fazlur because he represents the Bannu district.

    Interestingly, “vehemently secular” Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Deputy Parliamentary Leader Haider Rizvi claimed he would not be able to handle the growing popular and political pressure from these attacks and declared the Pakistan people “had not made their peace with drone attacks in the tribal areas and a shift into mainland Pakistan was even more inflammatory.”

    “Friendly countries are being asked to help Pakistan in convincing the US to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said Chairman of the Joint Committee Raza Rabbani. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was “concerned” about the US attacks but didn’t intervene because he found it to be a “bilateral issue.”

    Pakistani Prime Minister: "We Will Hit Targets Ourselves"

    Gilani denies there is a secret government agreement between the US and Pakistan, which may be mostly true. Right after the election of Obama, one of the released cables (08ISLAMABAD3586) shows Gilani pressed the US government to “share all credible, actionable threat information.” He declared, "We will hit the targets ourselves,"

    …Gilani added that drone strikes not only violated Pakistani sovereignty, but also fed anti-U.S. sentiment, making harder his own public case that the struggle against extremists was "Pakistan's war." Instead, there was popular pressure on elected officials like himself to forcefully respond to alleged U.S. border incursions, which were "an embarrassment" for the GOP. The "trust gap" should be filled with joint actions, he argued, and, while he might be criticized for such bilateral cooperation, he believed he could effectively convince the public that those targeted were responsible for Benazir Bhutto's assassination and the killing of innocents at schools.

    Months later, in June 2009 cable09ISLAMABAD1438, Gilani again expressed his frustration while meeting with National Security Advisor James Jones:

    [Gilani] thanked the U.S. for its assistance while stating he needed "a battalion of helicopters" to fight the extremists now, and in the future. He also made repeated pleas for drones to be "put in Pakistan's hands" so that Pakistan would own the issue and drone attacks (including collateral damage) would not provoke anti-americanism. Zardari said the technology behind them was not cutting-edge and said he has raised the issue with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Inter Services Public Relations spokesman in Pakistan said right in the immediate aftermath of the cable release, “There has only been sharing of technical intelligence in some areas” and “no armed drone attack support has ever been asked for operations which have been conducted using own resources.”

    "American Image" Reaching a New Low

    Consistent with current US operations in Pakistan, a US drone strike destroyed a vehicle in Pakistan in the North Waziristan district on the Afghan border, an area believed to be occupied by Taliban. Local officials said “six suspected militants” were killed.

    A Washington Pew Research Center survey conducted recently shows that 11 percent of Pakistanis view the US and President Obama favorably. The survey, taken a week prior to the killing of Osama bin Laden, is likely a bit higher than the country’s current approval rating especially since that and multiple drone strikes have taken place in Pakistan since the assassination.

    Dawn Media Group concludes the “American image” is reaching new lows but that has never bothered Washington. The media organization notes US congressman would like a review of the US commitment to providing aid in the “war on terror” before more aid is given to the country, which has received at least $20 billion so far.

    Shyema Sajjad for Dawn writes, “What’s the most stirring thing about the revelations WikiLeaks has brought to us today? Nothing? Or everything? For starters, quite a few people reading the cables right now must be gloating and inwardly thinking or outwardly bragging. ‘Hah! I knew it all along!’ Of course you did. Didn’t we all?”

    Sajjad finds the key travesty revealed in the cables to be the fact that Pakistani leaders and the military have “more faith in the American government than they do in themselves.” He adds, “Talk of sovereignty today is a farce. Sovereignty is not sacred and whether it’s Kayani who pretends to uphold it or whether it is Gilani, fact remains that we are secretly (well, not so much anymore) selling it every single day.”

    A United Nations report in June 2010 on “Extrajudicial Executions” suggested the drones targeting militants “violate straightforward legal rules.”

    The refusal by States who conduct targeted killings to provide transparency about their policy violates the international framework that limits the unlawful use of legal force against individuals. A lack of disclosure gives States a virtual and impermissible licence to kill.

    At the time of the release, 134 drone attacks had been conducted.

    A study published in February 2010 by Peter Bergen and Katherin Tiedemann on behalf of the New America Foundation detailed US drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004-2010. The study found “114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to the present have killed between 830 and 1,210 individuals, of whom around 550 to 850 were described as militants in reliable press accounts.” This means the “true civilian fatality rate since 2004” was 32 percent.

    The study concluded “US drone strikes don’t seem to have had any great effect on the Taliban’s ability to mount operations in Pakistan or Afghanistan or to deter potential Western recruits, and they no longer have the element of surprise.” And, “their unpopularity with the Pakistani public and their value as a recruiting tool for extremist groups may have ultimately increased the appeal of the Taliban and al Qaeda, undermining the Pakistani state. This is more disturbing than almost anything that could happen in Afghanistan, given that Pakistan has dozens of nuclear weapons and about six times the population.

    2011-05-20 Star witness for the crown against Toronto 18 on US suspect list

    ImagePhoto credit: CBC

    In the post 9/11 frenzy there was immense pressure brought by the US government on the Canadian government to ensure that terrorists were not crossing the world's longest border to attack the US. That pressure is clear in the US state cables, and it led to many highly questionable activities by the Canadian government, such as submitting names of their own citizens to the infamous US suspect lists, lists that Maher Arar is still on, even after being cleared of all wrongdoing and apologized to by Canada, as well as awarded 10.5 million dollars and one million in legal costs.

    Canada was also under urgent pressure to seek out and prosecute any terrorists at home, which led to the tracking and capture of the Toronto 18 in 2006. Much about this case has been widely criticized over the years. The decision by the federal government to cancel the preliminary inquiry and proceed directly to trial, denying the defense the opportunity to hear the Crown's case, and, more importantly, the chance to cross examine the crown's star witnesses is one controversial element. A preliminary hearing is not a necessary component of a trial, but it is unusual to schedule one and cancel abruptly halfway through. Defense attorneys said they had made concessions to have the right to cross examine these witnesses and they were incensed at the change. And of course, the question rose, never to be put to rest, of what the federal government was afraid of in not allowing the preliminary cross examination.

    Along with the preliminary hearing, the publication ban was highly controversial. All evidence was secret, as were trial proceedings, but one of the crown's star witnesses decided to go public. In the words of the Toronto Star in September 2007, Now you can't shut him up. He's been interviewed by the Star, the National Post, the Los Angeles Times, the CBC and most recently the BBC. While the star witness was covering the world with extraordinary allegations about the suspects, there was a ban on anything that may have been said in their defense.

    The case against the Toronto 18 was built primarily on both the testimony and actions (which many have called entrapment) of two of the crown's witnesses, Mubin Shaikh, who was paid almost $300,000 by the RCMP for his services, and Shaher Elsohemy, who was given a package worth $4 million. The case is huge, with years of evidence on all aspects, but to get a brief picture of the importance of the crown witnesses, and their credibility, read points 171 - 183 of the reasons for judgement in one case where Justice Sproat applies "The Carter Test" for allowing hearsay evidence of co-conspirators and assesses the credibility of the crown's witness, Mubin Shaikh. The justice's opinion of Shaikh's integrity and credibility was not shared by all. Defense lawyer Dennis Edney suggested that Shaikh — who was 30 years old at the time — was egging on the younger and gullible men. (Four of the suspects were juveniles.)

    And what does all of that have to do with us now, in 2011? Well, according to a recently released US state cable* from Wikileaks, Mubin Shaikh was included on a list of names provided to the US as being associated with terrorism. "It was his evidence that took them all down," Edney told CBC. "Most of the warrants for wiretaps that were obtained were obtained as a result of conversations he had with the suspects."

    "We aren't commenting on your story," CSIS public relations person Isabelle Scott wrote to CBC. But the story will not go away that easily. At this point, CSIS and the Canadian federal government get to pick their poison. They can state that, once again, their policy of handing over names of the Canadian citizens they are supposed to protect has resulted in a devastating mistake, and attempt to compensate Shaikh while dealing with further loss of credibility. Or, they can state that they were correct in treating Shaikh as a terrorism suspect, leaving them open to liability in the cases of every suspect they prosecuted using Shaikh's testimony.

    Defense attorneys Chernovsky and Edney have both said they would probably make formal demands to the Crown, asking why they were not told of whatever information led CSIS to denounce Shaikh to the Americans. Defence counsel are legally entitled to disclosure of all such information, in order to prepare their cases.

    In either case, the ongoing policy of handing the names of Canadian citizens over to the US government as "terrorism suspects", without trial or public accountability, has got to stop.

    *CBC has elected to redact the names of all people on these lists (except those convicted) to "protect their privacy." It is the opinion of this writer that their privacy was lost the day they were added to a list given to a country famous for abduction and torture of people on this list, and both the people named and the rest of the Canadian public have an overwhelming right to see these names and hear why they were added. If ever there was information that we require in order to make informed decisions in a democracy, this is it.

    2011-05-21 Omar Khadr Part 3 of 4: “The world doesn't get it”

    ImageDennis you always say that I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here and it seems that we've done every thing but the world doesn't get it, so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison, it might show the world how unfair and sham this process is, and if the world doesn't see all this, to what world am I being released to? A world of hate, unjust and discrimination! I really don't want to live in a life like this. - Omar Khadr in a letter to defense attorney Dennis Edney.

    Omar Khadr was the first child soldier to be charged with a war crime since world war two. The non-existent crime that he was charged with, “murder in violation of the law of war” can be summed up as: It is legal for US soldiers to kill children. It is a war crime for children to kill US soldiers.

    After eight years of delays while the US government searched for a possible crime and changed courts and judge, Omar found himself in front of a military tribunal with seven military officers who decided his fate ought to be another forty years of imprisonment. (For a sentence of ten years or more, six of the seven jurors had to agree.) Human Rights Watch said of the fifteen officers selected as potential jurors, All of the 15 indicated that Khadr's age held no significance for the case. ... An Air Force Captain said that in his opinion, a child would need to be as young as five or six to avoid adult courts if accused of a homicide.

    The plea deal

    The entire trial process was filled with irregularities. The killed US Special Forces fighter became a "medic" for the duration of the trial. Jurors attended church and Sunday brunch with prosecution witnesses and the widow of the Special Forces fighter. The plea deal revealed a completely rigged trial with some horrific implications for post trial:

    • The defense was not allowed to test physical evidence (including DNA) brought by the prosecution, or bring any physical evidence of their own, and the prosecution was granted permission to destroy such evidence upon sentencing
    • He is never allowed to "initiate or support" any action against the United States or any official with regards to his "capture, detention, prosecution to include discovery practice, post conviction confinement and/or detainee combatant status," and he must dismiss all presently pending action.
    • While in custody he must submit to "interviews" "whenever and wherever requested by United States law enforcement officials, intelligence authorities, and prosecutors", without legal counsel present, and "appear, cooperate, and testify truly, before any grand jury, any court, military court or hearing, military commission or any other proceeding requested by the United States Government."
    • He agrees that if he is not "truthful" in his testimony, he "may be prosecuted for perjury, false statement or other similar offense before any court or Military Commission having jurisdiction over me."
    • His own defense was determined by the prosecution:

      • I will not seek to offer any testimony, in any form, from any detainee presently held at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay:
      • I will not seek to obtain any depositions to be offered at the presentencing hearing, nor will I offer any depositions at the presentencing hearing;
      • I will not seek to offer the testimony, either in court or via VTC of any witness, other than: (I) Dr. Katherine Porterfield: (2) Dr. Steven Xenakis. (3) Captain McCarthy; and (4) Dr. Arlette Zinck, all of whom the Government has agreed to produce at U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for sentencing. (understand that sentencing proceedings will not be delayed to if these witnesses are unavailable.)

      His transfer to Canada is "contingent upon the consent of the Government of Canada," which is still open to refusal, diplomatic notes notwithstanding.

      The petition for clemency

      Earlier on WL Central we reported that Khadr's defense was petitioning for clemency and asking that his sentence be reduced from eight years to four (he had already served eight by the time of his trial). His US defense counsel have written that a few days before trial, they first learned that the prosecutors' witness, Dr. Welner, proposed to testify that Omar was at high risk to recidivate as a violent extremist. The defense obtained expert testimony from Dr. Marc Sageman, a far more qualified expert, which completely refuted Dr. Welner's credentials and testimony.

      The prosecutors informed the defense that they had consulted with the Convening Authority and, if the defense filed to have Welner's testimony withdrawn, the prosecutors had the Convening Authority's permission to withdraw from the pretrial agreement. The defense then agreed to only object orally. The prosecutors countered that if they objected orally, they would still withdraw. The defense attempted to negotiate further, the prosecutors refused. "Faced with the immediate prospect of the Government withdrawing from the pretrial agreement and with no time to make any further record" the defense agreed to it all. The defense now maintains that the government relied on witness Dr. Welner's testimony to "intimidate the sentencing panel" and "wrongly shielded Dr. Welner's testimony from the standards of admissibility clearly defined by the Supreme Court and the Military Commission Rules of Evidence."

      In an initial phone call, Dr. Sageman told Omar's defense, "Dr. Welner's proposed testimony and conclusions are not valid; Dr. Welner does not have a baseline to make anything more than a guess; and Dr. Welner's sample size is Omar Khadr." In a following letter, provided pro bono, Sageman writes, "... as an internationally recognized expert in terrorism and counter-terrorism, I know of no published study that addresses the issue of dangerousness in terrorists. This piqued my curiousity about the basis of Dr. Welner's "professional" opinion at testimony. ... His c.v. mentioned that he took a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in 1991-1992. I was at the University of Pennsylvania at the time and the university did not have a forensic psychiatry fellowship at the time. ... he did not do a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania as he testified under oath ... Indeed, his c.v. shows that at the time, 1991-1992, he engaged in a full time residency in psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City.

      Regarding Welner's testimony, Sageman writes, "the interview lacks the usual ethical warning to a defendant that the defendant has the right to not answer questions and that there is no confidentiality between the expert for the prosecution and the defendant. The interview did not ask for any past psychiatric history and did not review potential psychiatric symptoms to assess the mental health of the defendant that could have a bearing in the assessment. Later, Dr. Welner claims that religiosity is correlated to dangerousness - a claim that is in fact without foundation - but he never probed the defendant's level of religious understanding, beliefs and piety."

      Dr. Sageman then goes on for pages, devastating the credibility of the background sources Dr. Welner relied upon for his authorities. In Dr. Sageman's opinion, Dr. Welner is very articulate and quite persuasive on the stand, mostly because he conveys very positive and forceful opinions to a jury. He concluded that Dr. Welner displayed this trait in this case. If the jury was indeed swayed by Dr. Welner, which seems unavoidable since he was the star witness, Dr. Sageman's testimony should have made a very significant difference. It is hopefully unlikely that a judge would have allowed testimony from a witness who falsified their background and relied on completely unscientific methods and misunderstood or unreliable authorities. If he had, surely the jury would have agreed, given the proper rebuttal from the defense, with judge Colonel Parrish who the defense quote as stating, "Dr. Welner would have been as likely to be accurate if he used a Ouija board."

      Omar Khadr's Lawyer Dennis Edney Speech at FNC from Ezra Winton on Vimeo.

      Omar Khadr Part 1 of 4: “Omar Khadr is a lovely young man”
      Omar Khadr Part 2 of 4: Canada, the entire world is still watching
      Omar Khadr Part 4 of 4: “Punitive post-conviction confinement”

    2011-05-21 Updates from defense attorney Dennis Edney regarding Moazzam Begg flight refusal, Abdullah Khadr and the Toronto 18 trials

    Canadian defense attorney Dennis Edney is involved in four of the cases we are currently covering. WL Central has received updates from him on three of them.

    Moazzam Begg, a high profile advocate for Guantanamo inmates and international lecturer and author, was denied board on a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto on the grounds that the plane could possibly be diverted to the US where Begg is on a no-fly list. Begg, a British citizen, was imprisoned in Guantanamo for three years and released in 2005 with no charge. Edney had invited him to Canada to speak.

    You were attempting to get him a flight over the north pole to avoid the excuse of a possible diversion into US air space - has there been any response from the Canadian authorities on that?

    We have attempted to get clarification from Canadian authorities to state whether they would challenge his entry if he took a flight over Greenland so no fear of being close to U.S. airspace - with no clarification.

    Who exactly have you spoken to in the Canadian government or Air Canada regarding this policy?

    We have spoken to people at the Canadian High Commission and I have asked Moazzam to go to the London office to get an official response why he was not allowed to fly.

    He was to attend 3 conferences in Toronto/ Montreal and Edmonton.

    Abdullah Khadr, older brother of Omar, won against the Canadian government's appeal on May 6. The Canadian government was arguing in support of the US government who are trying to extradite Abdullah based on testimony obtained under torture. Edney represents both Khadrs.

    Has there been any word on whether the federal government will be taking this case to the Supreme Court? Has the Canadian government brought charges against Abdullah on their own or indicated whether they have plans to?

    No. They have 60 days to appeal.

    Mubin Shaikh, Crown star witness who testified in the Toronto 18 trials, was included on a list of names provided to the US as being associated with terrorism according to a recently released US state cable from Wikileaks. "It was his evidence that took them all down," Edney told CBC. "Most of the warrants for wiretaps that were obtained were obtained as a result of conversations he had with the suspects." Edney represents Fahim Ahmad, one of the Toronto 18 currently serving a prison sentence.

    What are the legal implications of his submission as a terrorism suspect to the US? Does this damage his credibility as a key Crown witness, and if so, what are the possible consequences for the verdicts relying on his testimony? Will you be filing a complaint for the defense in this case?

    There are many questions arises from a CSIS agent who was provided to the RCMP as a central witness against the Toronto 18 when they viewed him as so undeniable to warn the U.S. about him.

    The prosecution had the obligation to provide the defense of this concern. I will be asking for the information provided to the US to determine to what extent if at all it would impact on any appeal.

    2011-05-22 WikiLeaks: Bulgarian 2009 elections - Garbage In, Garbage Out


    Bulgaria held European elections in June 2009, followed by the national parliament elections in July. The main political players are analysed by the american ambassador in Sofia Nancy McEldowney in two cables sent to Washington DC and reported by the investigative journalism site Bivol, a local partner of Wikileaks. [09SOFIA301] [09SOFIA264]

    The cables give a rough picture of a political landscape plagued by corruption, shady businessmen, vote buying and accused criminals running for MP.

    Bulgarian media stressed the direct translation of the title "Garbage in, Garbage out", adding that not all of the Bulgarian MPs deserve to be named "garbage", but many of them are looking after their private interests first, through heavy lobbying. "Now, it's up to them to reject this qualification. With a radical change" - popular daily "Troud" wrote in an OpEd.

    English language site Novinite stressed the comparison of Ataka (Attack) party and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms. They are each other's "best enemies", according to the cable.

    "Local analysts say Ataka and MRF need each other to frighten their constituents into voting." the cable says.

    Currently, Ataka is the ruling centrist-right GERB's only parliamentary ally.

    "With a roughly 10-percent lead over BSP, GERB will win the largest share of votes but not a majority and will have to find partners to form a government. Though it calls itself center-right and uses pro-Western rhetoric, the party is really the one-man show of its founder and leader Boyko Borisov, former Interior Ministry Chief Secretary and bodyguard to Todor Zhivkov," McEldowny also says in the cable, pointing out the current Prime Minister has "alleged ties with underworld figures".

    On Friday, Ataka and his leader Siderov produced what may be described as Siderov's biggest scandal up to date. far-right extremists from the Ataka party assaulted praying Muslims in downtown Sofia. The outburst occurred while the nationalists led by their leader Volen Siderov staged a rally near the Banya Bashi mosque in Sofia protesting against the use of loudspeakers by the mosque, reminded.

    2011-05-23 Iran launches Human Rights News Agency to report violations by the west, not to be confused with Human Rights Activists News Agency which reports violations by Iran

    Mohammad Karim Abedi, a member of the Iranian Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, announced last week that Iran will launch an English news group, The Human Rights News Agency, to publicize human rights violations in the west. Today, Chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament (Majlis) Zohreh Elahian told Fars News Agency, that human rights violations from countries such as the United States and Britain are grave. She called on Iranian NGO's to increase publicity around these violations.

    On May 13 Amnesty International published a report on the United States, which summarized:"Forty-six people were executed during the year, and reports of excessive use of force and cruel prison conditions continued. Scores of men remained in indefinite military detention in Guantánamo as President Obama's one-year deadline for closure of the facility there came and went. Military commission proceedings were conducted in a handful of cases, and the only Guantánamo detainee so far transferred to the US mainland for prosecution in a federal court was tried and convicted. Hundreds of people remained held in US military custody in the US detention facility on the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. The US authorities blocked efforts to secure accountability and remedy for crimes under international law committed against detainees previously subjected to the USA's secret detention and rendition programme."

    Amnesty expressed concern at the "Impunity" granted criminals in the US, pointing out "There continued to be an absence of accountability and remedy for the human rights violations, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance, committed as part of the USA's programme of secret detention and rendition."

    The report on the United Kingdom is summarized: "An inquiry into allegations of UK involvement in torture and other human rights violations of people held overseas was announced. Key counter-terrorism powers were under review. The government continued to rely on diplomatic assurances in its attempts to return individuals to countries where torture is practised. Allegations of human rights abuses by UK soldiers in Iraq continued to emerge. The Bloody Sunday Inquiry concluded that the deaths and injuries caused by British soldiers that day were unjustified. Forced returns to Baghdad continued."

    While the Amnesty reports on every country deserve close scrutiny, it is quickly obvious that the reports on the United States and the United Kingdom justify the need for one or many news organizations devoted to detailing their human rights abuses. Presumably, the Human Rights News Agency is not to be confused with the Human Rights Activists News Agency, established in 2009 to "report and disseminate daily news of human rights violations in Iran."

    Iran's own Amnesty report is summarized: "The authorities maintained severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly. Sweeping controls on domestic and international media aimed at reducing Iranians' contact with the outside world were imposed. Individuals and groups risked arrest, torture and imprisonment if perceived as co-operating with human rights and foreign-based Persian-language media organizations. Political dissidents, women's and minority rights activists and other human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and students were rounded up in mass and other arrests and hundreds were imprisoned. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were routine and committed with impunity. Women continued to face discrimination under the law and in practice. The authorities acknowledged 252 executions, but there were credible reports of more than 300 other executions. The true total could be even higher. At least one juvenile offender was executed. Sentences of death by stoning continued to be passed, but no stonings were known to have been carried out. Floggings and an increased number of amputations were carried out."

    US news site Mother Jones commented, "Thanks to its focus on the West, the news agency can conveniently ignore the situation back home." This is true. And vice versa.

    2011-05-23 Raza Rumi on the Pakistan Papers: 'On the issue of the US, Pakistan's playing with fire.' [podcast]

    ImageThe Dawn Media Group in partnership with WikiLeaks has been releasing the "Pakistan Papers." Thus far, some of the revelations include the following: Pakistan's military asked for continued drone coverage, the US has had troops deployed on Pakistan soil, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been financing jihadist groups in Pakistan and the US did not provide Benazir Bhutto with proper security.

    For this episode of "This Week in WikiLeaks," Raza Rumi, a writer based in Lahore, Pakistan, joins us. He regularly writes for the Pakistani weekly The Friday Times, The News and Daily DAWN on myriad topics such as history, arts, literature and society. Rumi has worked in Pakistan and abroad in various organizations including multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. His day job comprises working as a policy adviser and development practitioner. As a policy expert, Raza works with international development institutions, government agencies and leading Pakistani NGOs. He is also an adviser to an Asia Pacific governance network and serves on the editorial board of Journal of Administration and Governance and contributes to various publications in Pakistan and abroad.

    Rumi's writing can be read here.

    To hear the show, click play on this embedded player.

    You can also click here and select it from the list of episodes (it's called "Raza Rumi on the Pakistan Papers"). And, also, it can be found by searching iTunes for "CMN News."

    Below is a partial transcript of part 1 of this episode. The full transcript will be up soon.


    KEVIN GOSZTOLA: What do you think these documents are telling Pakistanis or the world about how the Pakistan military has been deceiving the Pakistani people?

    How have they not been forthright and not letting Pakistani people know the truth?

    RAZA RUMI: I think, Kevin, it’s not just the Pakistani military. I would say Pakistan’s civilian and military elites have never trusted their people and they have been posturing on the one hand on an anti-Americanism platform and on the other they have been negotiating and bargaining with the West and in particular the Americans. And so I think this is an absolute shame because the more you do such things in a country, which is armed with nuclear weapons and where you have very strong public opinion on the particular issue of the US, you’re playing with fire. It’s an irresponsible behavior by the elites.

    GOSZTOLA: The relationship, along with these cables, is compounded by the fact that US President Obama is now asserting this right to be able to come into Pakistan whenever and kill potential terror suspects or to kill who the United States considers to be militants. Any of these US leaders just being just wanting to be able to take out these people any time. Can you talk about the tension this creates for Pakistan, that the US asserts this authority?

    RUMI: I think this is going to be a really difficult phase for US-Pak relations because we have a stated position now through the parliamentary resolution of early May, which basically says Pakistan’s Parliament is seriously worried about the breach of sovereignty that the US operations such as the OBL operation caused. And, therefore this puts Pakistani state into a very tough position of selling their partnership with the US at home.

    I think President Obama’s statement has not really helped. But then we are also cognizant of the fact that Obama is also addressing his domestic political imperatives and he has to demonstrate to the American people that he is a tough president and that, because of Pakistan’s discovering – That OBL’s discovery mean’s the United States should be tough with Pakistan. So, there are all these complications that are taking place. I would say that this recent statement in this interview by Obama is not going to help the US-Pak relations. Maybe, he could have been a little more diplomatic.

    GOSZTOLA: What about all this conversation because one of the things in the cables that are being posted is revealing the nature of the US presence, the revelations on the US having troops in Pakistan. And, that’s quite a bombshell especially for Americans because the official policy is to say there aren’t US troops in Pakistan. Can you talk about how that further complicates the relationship?

    RUMI: I think in terms of public opinion again that is going to be very adversely viewed by the Pakistanis because while our official position and our state’s official position has also been that we are not letting the US use our soil to station or maintain any military operations. That myth has also been busted.

    Essentially, the problem with Pakistan – I mean, the US has its own set of problems and there are huge issues with its policy regarding the war on terror, which obviously has not been that much of a success notwithstanding this little strike against OBL, but overall it’s a policy which has not really done well in Afghanistan particularly and to some degree in Iraq as well. But, let’s forget about that.

    In Pakistan, there is a crisis of governance and it is not a new one. It has been there for ages, which is to say Pakistani state is not a democratically aligned or structured state. It is not transparent. It is not accountable to the people.

    So, it had failed to inform the public about the kind of compacts it was entering with the United States after war on terror, which means there are agreements on drone strikes. There are agreements on picking up high value al Qaeda targets. And, these are all reported alleged from the media reports we find out that there have been understandings to this effect.

    So, the Pakistani state and the government should have taken the public into confidence. It has been ten years now. And they should have actually prepared the people of Pakistan to understand what this partnership entails. Because it is a joint problem and it is a joint issue now. It’s no longer the US’s war.

    It’s also the Pakistan’s war given that 35,000 Pakistanis have died in the recent years as victims of terrorism. So, obviously the Pakistani state has not been doing the job. And similarly, the US has not made enough efforts to engage with the Pakistani population, which has also been a failure.

    GOSZTOLA: Now, throughout these cables you’ll see leaders suggest to United States officials that if only you give us control over the technology, if only you let us do the bombings, do the attack of the militants – They’re pretty open to letting the United States be in the country to carry out the operations. I guess, in your analysis of the situation, why do you the US isn’t letting Pakistani leaders take over and have more control?

    RUMI: Again, all of this is pretty complicated because of the history. This is not a new partnership or a new relationship. It is a decades-old relationship. It has seen its ups and downs. And, it has been there since the mid-50s, when the US was forging alliances to contain Soviet Union during the Cold War. And Pakistani state’s policy and especially its military policy has been to collaborate with the policy in lieu for US support, financial and technical. And that policy continues very much even to this date. And it is in that context that these cables reveal that relationship is pretty much in tact, the historical relationship.

    The problem that has emerged is the time period when after the removal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan a large number of Pakistani people think and believe the US abandoned Pakistan at that particular juncture and Pakistan was left and high and dry and faced all sorts of sanctions from the late 80s, during the 90s, most of 90s. So, that major letdown has led to this whole political public opinion against the US and I think the army is very conscious of that and that is why it has been arguing for acquisition of the technology for drone strikes, etc.

    And, the second imperative that the army as an institution feels that—It is very much an India-centric army. It’s entire military machine, it’s might, it’s strategy, is directed towards India. And it feels that in that particular real and imagined combat with India it needs the support of the two big powers i.e. the US and China. And the Chinese have been helping Pakistan due to the regional complexities. But the US has always kept its national interests above all such consideration. And, therefore --- This is what the Pakistani mindset is and I have trying to lay that out for you to have a better handle—and in that context these discussions on allowing the US troops and bargain for acquisition of technology make sense because it’s sort of creates some sort of an equality between the two sides. Otherwise, Pakistan’s army feels that it is, as a very effective institution and plays a very important position in the region, able to leverage its position and get a bargain from the US.

    2011-05-23 UPDATE: Omar Khadr Supreme Court review denied, request for clemency still to be heard #cdnpoli

    Updated information from Khadr's legal counsel states that the Supreme Court dismissal this morning related to a years old appeal from Khadr that was actually disallowed last fall by the terms of his plea deal, which ordered "he must dismiss all presently pending action."

    “As part of his pre-trial agreement, he had to dismiss his claim against the government,” said his US military defense attorney Lt.-Col. Jackson. “Once the claim was dismissed, and the government accepted the dismissal, they still keep the caption (or heading) of the case as Khadr vs. Obama (as a way to keep the process) consistent, but he’s no longer a plaintiff on that.” Khadr's request for review was bundled with several other requests from other Guantanamo prisoners.

    The request for clemency still stands and may be heard this week.

    The US Supreme Court denied Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr's request for clemency today. While a majority voted against granting the petition, Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor "indicated that they wanted to review the case." Courthouse News opines "Monday's contribution affirms the appearance that the court will defer to the mostly conservative D.C. Circuit on Guantanamo detention matters. The justices have not decided a detainee case in nearly three years."

    Omar is currently serving the first year of eight further years he was sentenced to, in Guantanamo Bay, in what the pentagon terms “punitive post-conviction confinement.” He had already served eight years, including solitary confinement and torture, in two of the world's most notorious torture camps at the time of his trial. He was captured at fifteen, and he is now 24 years old. He agreed to a plea deal last fall which sentenced him to eight years for killing a US Special Forces soldier, after one of the most highly controversial and dubious trials in recent history.

    His defense attorney Dennis Edney told WL Central, "Omar is doing his post sentencing time back in Camp 5 which, as the Pentagon states, is 'designed for enhanced interrogation techniques'. He is back in solitary confinement where he has spent so much of his life. Prior to trial, we were able to have him removed to the cages where he was able to socialize with others which made him happy. He is not happy and has been subject to interrogations by the FBI. He is never allowed mail from other than family which rarely arrives."

    “Punitive post-conviction confinement” is described by Carol Rosenberg in the Miami Herald. Bahlul and Qosi, Khadr and Noor are segregated because they are “serving punitive sentences,” says Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, a Guantánamo spokeswoman. Under the 1949 Third Geneva Conventions, she said, the other captives are “detained under the Law of War only as a security measure” and “should not be subjected to a penal environment or comingled with prisoners punitively incarcerated as a consequence of a criminal conviction.” Once their sentences are over, under Pentagon doctrine, they become ordinary detainees again — put back with the others in a penitentiary away called Camp 6, the closest thing at Guantánamo today to POW-style barracks housing."

    According to the rationale above, what Omar has endured since he was fifteen years old was not punitive, and now that he is sentenced, he needs to be punished. Thanks to endless court appeals by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, all levels of court in Canada have now agreed, in 2008 and again in 2010, that the Canadian government has violated Omar’s rights under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They further found that his treatment was "not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice." His sentencing has been condemned by the United Nations Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, by Amnesty, UNICEF, and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada as well as numerous other NGO's and countries, but not by Canada, the country he was born in and is a citizen of.

    2011-05-24 "WikiSecrets" Julian Assange full interview footage

    Wikileaks has just released the full video of their interview with PBS which will be used as source material in a documentary airing tonight.

    From Wikileaks:

    On 24 May, 2011, 9pm EST, PBS-Frontline will air a documentary "WikiSecrets". WikiLeaks has had intelligence for some time that the program is hostile and misrepresents WikiLeaks’ views and tries to build an "espionage" case against its founder, Julian Assange, and also the young soldier, Bradley Manning.

    In accordance with our tradition of "scientific journalism" (full primary sources) we release here our, behind the scenes, interview tape between Julian Assange & PBS Frontline’s Martin Smith which was recorded on 4/4/2011. In the tape, Assange scolds Martin Smith for his previous coverage of Bradley Manning and addresses a number of issues surrounding the 1917 Espionage Act investigation into WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning.

    The Frontline documentary will include footage of a number of individuals who have a collective, and very dirty personal vendetta, against the organization. These include David Leigh, Adrian Lamo, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Eric Schmitt and Kim Zetter. While the program filmed other sources, such as Vaughan Smith who provided a counter-narrative, these more credible voices have been excluded from the program presented to the US public.

    "WikiSecrects" Julian Assange Full Interview Footage 04/04/2011 from Winston Burrows on Vimeo.

    PBS has themselves released the contents of Bradley Manning's Facebook page as part of their advertising campaign for the documentary.

    2011-05-24 Dennis Edney, Lawyer For Omar Khadr speaks on Fear, Injustice and his Guantanamo visits

    "The only crime in my view, equal to willful inhumanity is the crime of indifference, silence and forgetting."

    Dennis Edney, Lawyer For Omar Khadr speaks on Fear, Injustice and his Guantanamo visits in a Conference on Islamophobia and The Politics of Fear at Islamic Society of York Region, Toronto Canada, May 21, 2011. This is the conference that Moazzam Begg was denied permission to board a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto to speak at "because of US policy" and the extremely unlikely possibility that the flight may be diverted into US air space.

    The following are transcribed excerpts from Dennis Edney's speech.

    What we are witnessing is the constant drip of sanity slipping from our grasp as our apathy has allowed whispers of anti-Muslim sentiment to become part of the mainstream on conversation.

    On Guantanamo protecting us: We want to protect ourselves from the voice of people like Moazzam Begg.

    And we’re just simply to accept that the government knows what’s best for us. And should be left to get on with the job. That’s the same language we use here in Canada. It’s the same language I meet every day when I fight my way up to get disclosure. I’m not entitled to get disclosure because I and the Canadian public, you know, we just can’t be trusted with secret information. So I have to go in a secret court, and fight in a secret court. And then what do I find. I find that the information isn’t that secret after all. It covers up egregious misconduct by our government.

    And you are not allowed, when you are in Guantanamo Bay, to mention Camp 7 or ask any questions. Because the prisoners in Camp 7, they’re just nobody. They were brought over last year, from some of the prisons in Europe and other countries. And I remember saying to a lieutenant colonel, who is the head of all the lawyers and military lawyers for the eastern seaboard. I said “How do you get lawyers for these guys in Camp 7?” He said “Forget it, Mr. Edney. They’re toast.” And all the rest of these well educated, Harvard educated lawyers all nodded their heads in approval. So one can only imagine what goes on in Camp 7.

    On visiting Unit C in Camp 5: Unit C is 32 single cells. And each one of those detainees who had been chosen to be a hunger striker was moved into these solitary cells. And that was over five years ago. And no one ever asked these detainees, as rotations changed, as military personnel moved on, knocked on the door of these cells and said to any one of the detainees “Do you still wish to be a hunger striker?” Assuming they ever were in the first place. No one asked that question. And in the review of the documents there was nothing to determine what criteria was being used to determine whether someone was a hunger striker or whether he was simply on a fast.

    But outside of each cell is a restraining chair, or what I call a feeding chair. So those individuals are now into their sixth year in Guantanamo in these solitary cells because they were deemed to be on a hunger strike. But the story gets better. Because outside each cell is a feeding chair, and three times a day they are force fed, they are strapped into those chairs by the feet, by the waist, by the neck, put into these chairs with tubes inserted into their nose, and force fed. Three times a day. And after that they are left sitting in the chair for hours. And amongst those is my friend Mohammed.

    He describes a Yemeni prisoner who was fed with an extra large feeding tube (causing permanent damage to his nose and throat) and deliberately left in his chair until he urinated and defecated on himself. Mohammed was down to 100 pounds and less. The federal court judge’s response to Edney regarding this treatment was that the court could not touch that, it was up to the correctional facility.

    Omar Khadr has problems with arthritis in his knees. So they sit him on a stool so he has to bend his knees. “Anything that makes you uncomfortable, Guantanamo Bay will come up with it. … They keep the place freezing.” Omar Khadr “reminded me of a broken little bird. ... When I see Omar on July 3, he will be on a chair. Things have become much more humanitarian at Guantanamo, he gets a chair. And he is always, always chained from the waist to the floor. I have never seen him walk other than the few occasions that we’ve been in court. In all those years, I have never seen him walk.” He has fought for close to eight years to get a pair of protective glasses to preserve the amount of sight remaining in Omar’s one eye with vision. He received them in November of last year. That is the extent of the help Omar has received from the Canadian government, they can’t even get him a pair of glasses.

    I have never met anyone like Omar. Who I believe can give so much to the world, but has been so abandoned by so many that should know better. And all the times I’ve been with him I have never heard him say an angry word about anyone. … What he is, is he is a good man.

    2011-05-24 PBS Chat Raises More Questions About Production of 'WikiSecrets'

    ImageProducer Marcela Gaviria and producer/correspondent Martin Smith, who both worked on the FRONTLINE "WikiSecrets" documentary that aired last night, and Brian Manning, Bradley Manning’s father, participated in an online PBS chat that offered people an opportunity to ask questions and make comments about the film.

    Gaviria/Smith suggest the prosecution in the Manning case is “quite strong” and investigators have “matched Manning’s computer to [computer hacker Adrian] Lamo’s, verifying the authenticity of the chats.” Gaviria/Smith add, “To be acquitted Manning’s lawyer would somehow have to prove that Manning had been framed and his computer had been tampered with.”

    This focus on Lamo overlooks a key legal dilemma that has risen as a result of President Barack Obama declaring at a fundraiser that Manning “broke the law.” That's the issue of “unlawful command influence."

    Whether Manning could have a fair trial now that the Commander-in-Chief has told his subordinates he thinks Manning is guilty is doubtful. A military officer would be risking his career if he or she handed down a decision that did not meet the approval of the Obama Administration. Gaviria/Smith are seemingly oblivious to this when they type their answer.

    Asked why the documentary overplayed Manning’s homosexuality, Gaviria/Smith explain, “Manning’s homosexuality is not relevant. What is relevant was his struggle with the Army’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy. It eroded his respect for Army authority and led to disillusionment with Army life. It’s not that he was gay, it was that he was discriminated for being gay.”

    A clarification is necessary. Two points are raised here: one is that he lost respect for authority. That is a point that could very well incriminate Manning during his trial. The other point that he was discriminated is much more benign. It implies his frustration with the military was justified because he was being treated unequally.

    Particularly interesting is how Gaviria/Smith address Eric Schmitt’s speculation that there was an “intermediary between Manning and Assange.” Here’s how they addressed this conclusion when asked if they had evidence to support such a claim:

    We included a quote from Eric Schmitt of The New York Times who speculated that there was a possible intermediary. We also know that members of the Boston community have been subpoenaed by the Grand Jury that is investigating the case. It will be up to the Grand Jury to consider all the evidence and come to a conclusion.

    What was the team on this project doing? What did the crew that produced this find when they did the research? If there was no conclusive information to support the existence of an intermediary or an outright connection between Manning and Assange, the answer to this question should not be open-ended. It should not be that the producers trust the Grand Jury will investigate, consider all the evidence and make a conclusion. The rational conclusion is there is no link.

    Gaviria/Smith address why there is no mention that no people have been killed as a result of the release of US State Embassy cables. Their response is the following:

    We don’t know that to be true. We know that is Assange’s claim, but at least two State Department officials that we spoke to, counter that. Since we were unable to verify either Assange’s or the State Department’s claims, we decided not to include either. What we did include were statements from Bill Keller and Dean Baquet of The New York Times, and from Julian Assange, stating that the release of the leaked cables have done good in their view.

    Either the producers were careless or they made a shrewd decision to not make it clear that no one has died. The producers seem to have decided if Assange could not be verified and the State Department (a chief target in the release of cables) could not be verified then it was too much trouble to cover this detail. But, this fact did not have to come from sources at odds with each other. It could have come from a media organization that has partnered with WikiLeaks. And, if there was then no conclusive evidence that deaths occurred, the producers would have an obligation to debunk the myths being propagated by the State Department and other officials that hundreds of people have been endangered, as former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley has stated.

    Julian Assange stopped by the chat to ask the producers a question:

    Why did Frontline not do basic fact checking on the false and libelous statement "Julian said 'Informants deserve to die'"? This has had substantial re-reportage based on its airing by Frontline. Its speaker, David Leigh is well known to be locked into tawdry personal vendetta against WikiLeaks (as any check of his twitter feed davidleigh3 would show). The statement has been repeatedly denied by me, is the subject of pre-litigation legal action and two Spiegel reporters who were at the table, John Goertz and Marcel Rosenbach (the only independent witnesses) deny it. Is this Frontline's standards for journalism? Similarly, Why did Frontline present Daniel Domschiet Berg's claims about WikiLeaks content sales as credible, when two thee prior accusations (in relation to Aftonposten, Aftonbladet and Al Jazeera) have been demonstrated to be wholesale inventions?

    The producers responded:

    We did talk with others about David Leigh’s allegation. Several people confirmed that you had initially wanted to publish all the Afghan War Logs without redacting names. We also allowed you to deny the charge. As for content sales, you mentioned in your interview that you had explored financial incentives to improve the reception of the Collateral Murder video. There is more about this in the transcript of your interview that is published on Frontline's website.

    True, the full transcript allows one to get a complete sense of the person that is Julian Assange. But, the problem for Assange is not that he didn’t get ample time to speak. The problem is that every time he was asked a question it was about a criticism, which forced him to be on the defensive. For the most part, he never was able to just explain WikiLeaks as if he were speaking to an audience that knew very little about WikiLeaks.

    On Bradley Manning, Brian Manning’s father hopes this documentary humanizes Manning. One certainly hopes that this helps people better understand why Manning might have blown the whistle and released classified information. But, the key problem here is that the idea that he was compelled to reveal war crimes and social injustice does not factor into the story FRONTLINE presents.

    This is addressed in the chat:

    In the chat logs attributed to Bradley by the FBI, he says that he became disillusioned with the military when he was asked to help arrest professors who were publishing a "Where did the money go?" critique of the Iraqi government. Why is this not mentioned in a speculative analysis of what motivated Bradley's actions?

    We considered it. There were many things that clearly motivated Manning. The incident you mention was among them. We stuck with those things that more generally summarized his struggle with what he was witnessing.

    Generally summarized his struggle with what he was witnessing? Witnessing what? Are the producers suggesting that he saw what was happening in the Iraq War and could not handle it and it made him become more passionate in his advocacy for gay rights, which would mean he was showing a total disrespect for authority?

    There is no discussion whatsoever about what Manning might have experienced while in Baghdad. There’s also nothing on whether the two classified networks that were compromised are now being secured so a breach does not happen again.

    I asked the producers what they were hoping their audience would understand after viewing the documentary.

    "We hope they get a better understanding of the people at the center of this controversy. We welcome debate and discussion," the producers responded.

    For more debate and discussion, here’s my appearance on RT’s “The Alyona Show.” I discuss the “WikiSecrets” documentary and whether it fairly and objectively presents the stories of Manning, Assange & WikiLeaks.

    2011-05-24 Peaceful #Yemen Revolution Fears Talk of Civil War Might Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

    ImagePresident Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen was to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council-sponsored agreement to indicate his commitment to stepping down from the presidency in 30 days on Sunday. However, he broke his word and in the past few days violence and tensions in Yemen have escalated significantly.

    Battles have broken out over the country’s Interior Ministry. Gregory Johnsen (and others who have been reporting on Yemen) reported the Ministry was shelled by tribal forces and on fire.

    Mareb Press reported renewed clashes between security forces and Hashid tribesmen. Heavy artillery was used.

    Tom Finn, a reporter in Yemen writing for The Guardian, reported in Hasaba the Saba office was hit twice by missiles. The area turned into a war zone with the street deserted and machine gun and mortar fire going off.

    Finn also writes, in his latest article, explains “fierce gun battles” broke out when security forces were met with “guards from the country’s most powerful tribal federation whose leader is backing protesters’ demands for an end” Saleh’s 33-year rule.

    Missiles attacked the al-Ahmar house and the mediation committee. This is likely because the Ministry of Defense in Yemen contends the “al-Ahmar sons and their gang” no longer are constructively participating in mediation efforts and are now participating in violence against “government installations and citizens’ homes.”

    Fears of civil war are escalating. Concern about what the impact on the protest movement will be if war breaks out is growing too.

    Yemenis tweeting report electricity being shut down in areas of Yemen and then hours later report it coming back on. But, electricity is lost again hours later.

    Atiaf Alwazir, a Yemeni activist and researcher who became a citizen journalist when the Yemeni Revolution began (@WomanfromYemen on Twitter), shares the emotions she is experiencing right now:

    Sitting here waiting for things to get worse is causing me excruciating pain. I don't know if I should write, tweet, pray or just sit here silently watching the screen while tears fall down my face.

    I am not being dramatic, but i'm also not naive. The political/realistic part of me has been assessing the situation for quite sometime. Friends have warned of this, and analysts as well. I concluded that violent clashes are highly likely (view previous posts, specifically the one on 100 days after the Revolution). But the dreamer part of me hoped that the peaceful revolution would prevail. Political scientists never predicted and could have never believed that a peaceful movement could happen in Yemen, but it did. It did because we dared to dream, and we dared to hope and believe that something positive could happen.

    Citizens of Yemen especially those in the protest movement are concerned that talk of civil war might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Sheikh al-Shaif has apparently helped to broker a “ceasefire” after mediation.

    Al-Shaif is the leader of the Bakil tribal confederation, who appears in a January 2010 cable released by WikiLeaks, which cites him as someone who has been a “constant contact between members of Parliament acting as intermediaries on the Houthis' behalf and the president.” Saleh’s regime has been at war with Houthis for some time now and Saleh has tried to use US military aid for the “war on terror” to fuel his sectarian war against the Houthis.

    The tribal leader also appears in a May 2009 cable telling then-Ambassador Stephen A. Seche, “Who caused the southern call for independence? Saleh.” He placed the blame for unrest in south Yemen “squarely on the doorstep” of Saleh.

    Recent developments have forced the US, which has had ongoing counterterrorism operations in the country, to recalibrate its support for Yemen. While in recent days Obama celebrated the Yemeni protest movement in his Middle East speech, which touched on the Arab Spring, the State Department still has a fairly irresolute position on Yemen.

    From the latest press briefing:

    QUESTION: Anything new (inaudible) in Yemen? Have you decided --

    MR. TONER: Well, obviously we continue to watch the situation closely, Michel. The Secretary was quite clear in her remarks in London yesterday and in her statement issued on Sunday, May 22nd, that really, there’s an opportunity in front of President Saleh and he needs to seize that opportunity. And we continue to support the efforts led by the GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and we call on President Saleh to – again, to step-up to do what he’s committed to do and sign the agreement.

    QUESTION: The Washington Post reported this morning that the U.S. and other countries were considering withdrawing some aid to Yemen as a result of President Saleh’s refusal to step down, or to sign the deal, at least. Can you say anything about that? Is that under consideration and --

    MR. TONER: Well, Kirit --

    QUESTION: -- how much are we talking about?

    MR. TONER: Sure. I mean, I don’t want to get into specifics yet, but I think I said yesterday that there’s a number of options in front of us as the situation continues to fester, and we’re looking at all options. But what’s important, really, now is that President Saleh has an agreement in front of him. He needs to sign it and put Yemen on a positive path so that they can resolve the current situation.

    QUESTION: The GCC, it says they were walking away from that deal, it’s no longer on the table. Is it your understanding that it is still on the table?

    MR. TONER: Our understanding is that it remains on the table. That he just needs to sign it.

    But, President Saleh has refused to sign. The US knows the situation is deteriorating fast. That is why reporters in Yemen noted US officials including the ambassador are now fleeing the country.

    Quite simply, the US, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council have failed to convince the autocratic despot Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

    Western powers already intervened for "humanitarian" reasons in Libya. What will happen next? Will there be reason to fear Saleh could massacre thousands of people? He has already been killing people with his security forces.

    Will there be a building of support for humanitarian intervention? And will this be another development, like civil war, that the protest movement hopes does not happen?

    *To stay up to date on the latest from Yemen, check out these resources, which include journalists tweeting from Yemen.

    2011-05-24 Review: PBS FRONTLINE's 'WikiSecrets' Wants to Be Objective and Fair & That's Why It's Weak

    ImageAnyone familiar with the stories of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, the organization’s founder and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks, would be forgiven for wondering whether PBS Frontline’s documentary “WikiSecrets” presents anything new or not. The documentary attempts to make a sensational connection between Manning and Assange and suggest that Assange might know Manning is the source of the information.

    The Story

    PBS FRONTLINE documentaries are typically straightforward. Thus, the opening montage provides a good idea of what the main points of the documentary will be: it’s hard to tell if Manning approached Assange or whether Assange approached Manning, WikiLeaks had feared one of its “sources” would be exposed, the chat logs suggest Manning knows Assange (but Assange denies that) and WikiLeaks is an anti-secrecy organization that doesn’t believe in secrets, which is why over half a million documents were leaked.

    In the first act, FRONTLINE attempts to psychoanalyze Manning and make a determination on his mental health. Sordid details are presented leading one to understand that Manning found himself to be smarter than most of the other soldiers in the military. He was gay and had no respect for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He was using Facebook in a way that put him at risk. He was incapable of keeping a steady job. He was a vocal person and had little respect for his commanding officers. And, an army supervisor did not find him to be fit to go to Iraq.

    Adrian Lamo enters the story. The personal dilemma he experienced when deciding whether to turn Manning into the authorities is presented in terms of the fact that he is a hacker, who typically would not be an informant for the government. He consulted Tim Webster, Army Counterintelligence 2002-07, and recognized the value of classified information.

    “There was no correct option…only the least incorrect one,” Lamo says. Ultimately, the viewers are to believe he wanted to do the right thing.

    Following Manning’s arrest the story moves into a next act, which focuses on Assange, how he worked to build a coalition to release the war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and then subsequently the US State Embassy cables.

    The documentary hammers away at the idea that Julian Assange had an utter disregard for collaborators and informants—innocent people—and thought if the release of logs endangered them they should die. News organizations are presented as players who fought to convince Assange that his “purist ideology that all information should be accessible to everybody” could cost lives.

    Assange rebuts this presented criticism but the rebuttal is nothing more than a simplistic denial. On its face, there is no explanation of why this “rhetorical trick” is wrong. (And that's because the footage, which features him explaining himself did not make the final cut.)

    In the next act, Assange and WikiLeaks are scrutinized for releasing the cables and making it difficult for US diplomacy. Former State Department spokesperson, who was forced out of his position as spokesperson when he spoke out about Manning’s treatment at Quantico, says, “Mr. Assange has disclosed this material without regard to the risk that it does generate to real people,” and, “The unauthorized release of 251,000 cables that covers every relationship the United States has with countries around the world has done damage to the national interests of the United States.”

    John D. Negroponte, former Ambassador to the United Nations and Deputy Secretary of State for the Bush Administration who helped push America into a war in Iraq, explains the disclosure of cables has been a “pretty serious irritant.” He stops just short of equating the damage the cables has done to a nuclear bomb saying, “It’s serious.”

    In the final act, FRONTLINE gives viewers the first glimpse into some of the deeper elements of the story of WikiLeaks, Manning and Assange. Viewers see supporters standing in solidarity with Manning at Quantico. Viewers are informed that the cables released so far have “exposed widespread corruption” in Tunisia and “helped fuel a revolution and, arguably, had a domino effect.”

    Now consider that detail: FRONTLINE is at the very least implicitly credits WikiLeaks with much of what has happened in the Arab Spring, which means much of President Barack Obama’s recent Middle East speech given at the State Department would have been different if WikiLeaks had not been releasing cables.

    Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former member of WikiLeaks, mentions how, at the core of debate on WikiLeaks, there is this tension between transparency and secrecy. What needs to be figured out is what should be secret and what shouldn’t be kept secret.

    After noting Lamo now lives in an undisclosed location and fears for his life, the documentary closes with this line, “I wouldn't mind going to prison for the rest of my life. It's important that it gets out. I feel for some bizarre reason it might actually change something."

    Beyond the discussion of mental health, this may be the first and only time that the audience gets a sense that Manning may have chosen to leak classified information not because he is a troubled young kid but because he had a moral compulsion to release such information.

    ImageFRONTLINE Glosses Over Possibility Manning Allegedly Leaked Because of Moral Values

    Had FRONTLINE wanted, it could have found a way to include this nugget on Manning, which comes from Micah Sifry’s book WikiLeaks & the Age of Transparency on page 33-34:

    Why did Manning allegedly do it? According to his dialogue with Lamo, he had been instructed to watch fifteen detainees held by the Iraqi federal police for printing "anti-Iraqi literature." Manning says he found out "they had printed a scholarly critique" against Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, "a benign political critique titled, 'Where did the money go?'... following the corruption trail within the PM's cabinet." But, when Manning "*ran* with this information to a senior officer to explain, "he didn't want to hear any of it...he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs [federal police] in finding *MORE* detainees.

    After that, he said, "I saw things differently. I had always questioned the [way] things worked, and investigated to find the truth... but that was the point where I was a *part* of something... i was actively involved in something that i was completely against..." Manning, it appears, knew he might be on a quixotic mission, but despite his military oath, he felt an allegiance to something higher. "Its important that it gets out... I feel, for some bizarre reason it might actually change something," he wrote Lamo. "God knows what happens now....

    This anecdote, however, is conveniently omitted. One can speculate that FRONTLINE is just like any other media organization, deferential to state power. The faults that can be found in this documentary are the faults that can be found in the traditional media’s coverage for the past months. Not only is traditional media appalled by WikiLeaks and afraid this organization is doing great damage to the journalism profession but traditional media adheres to the official line coming from government so closely that its coverage of WikiLeaks inevitably distorts facts and misrepresents key aspects of the organization’s operations, which are adversarial to state power.

    A more appropriate critique is that Frontline suffers from a belief in the tradition of objectivity. Thus, the organization fashions a “fair” and “objective” documentary that balances out two sides. Those who have worked for the press, the military or the government detail their views on WikiLeaks. In the case of Executive Editor of the New York Times Bill Keller, and The Guardian’s David Leigh, they actually worked with Assange and WikiLeaks.

    The other side is Assange, Bradley Manning’s friend, Jordan Davis, David House, the only person other than Bradley Manning’s immediate family that was allowed to visit Manning at Quantico, and Daniel Ellsberg. (Perhaps, Bradley Manning’s father, Brian Manning, who gives viewers some reason to empathize with Manning.)

    Quest for "Balance" is the Documentary's Chief Weakness

    FRONTLINE lays out its “Journalistic Styles and Practices” stating, “publication of truthful, accurate information is the prime mission of our nonfiction national programs.” The guidelines make clear, “Truth is an elusive combination of fact and opinion, of reason and experience. We ask for the viewer's trust. In turn, we promise that the subject matter and the people in the program will be treated fairly.”

    Producers are to: approach stories with an open and skeptical mind and a determination, through extensive research, to acquaint themselves with a wide range of viewpoints; keep personal bias and opinion from influencing their pursuit of a story; examine contrary information; exercise care in checking the accuracy and credibility of all information they receive, especially as it may relate to accusations of wrongdoing; give individuals or entities who are the subject of attack the opportunity to respond to those attacks; represent fairly the words and actions of the people portrayed; inform individuals who are the subject of an investigative interview of the general areas of questioning in advance and, if important for accuracy, will give those individuals an opportunity to check their records; try to present the significant facts a viewer would need to understand what he or she is seeing, including appropriate information to frame the program; and be prepared to assist in correcting errors.

    Such guidelines for objectivity invariably mean programs FRONTLINE produces may be far more conventional than say a documentary produced by a director like Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock or Alex Gibney (who is producing a WikiLeaks documentary). They may not seek to provide deeper insights into issues because the fairness and objectivity of the documentaries they produce could be called into question.

    Michael Rabiger, who founded the Documentary Center at Columbia College Chicago, writes in the Directing the Documentary textbook he authored, the following on objectivity, fairness and clarification:

    Objectivity: People frequently assume documentaries are objective because factual television likes to balance out opposing points of view. This is supposed to ensure a fair, unbiased view of the events and personalities in question. Such balance is a tactic inherited from journalism, which sometimes must preserve the identity of sources that gave information on condition of anonymity. Political balance lowers the dangers to, and responsibilities of, the newspaper. Papers fear accusations of political bias or of being proved wrong, because this brings discredit and lawsuits. So part of a journalist’s professionalism has always been to keep things looking objective. A newspaper will further this appearance by prescribing a uniform and faceless “house” writing style, and by camouflaging staff attitudes as the opinion or the conflicts of others.

    In the 1930s this fixation with equipoise led reputable British newspapers to depict the trouble brewing in Germany as a petty squabble between Communism and Blackshirts whipped up by Red troublemakers. We see in hindsight that no responsible commentator could sit on the fence and report in this hands-off way. It was neither fair nor responsible when the Nazis had already begun acting on their genocidal intentions.

    Reporters and documentary makers, then and now, must interpret events. This means that for each specific issue your film must imply where the cause of justice and humanity probably lies. To guide us there, you will often have to lead us through a maze of contradictory evidence and let us make our own determinations—just as you made yours. Interestingly, this is how a court presents evidence to the ultimate authority in a democracy—a jury.

    Fairness:>In a world of ambiguities the documentarian’s responsibility is to be fair. If, for example, you are telling the story of a malpractice accusation against a surgeon, it would be prudent not only to cover the allegations from both sides but to cross check everything that can be independently verified. In this you follow the same practices as the good journalist and the successful detective. Because matters are seldom as they first seem, the accused is not always guilty, and the accuser is not always innocent. Being fair to countervailing points of view also guards your own interests: your film will have its enemies no matter whose part you take, and you will probably have to defend them, possibly in court. If your enemies can demonstrate a single error of detail they will try to use it to damn the whole work. This is how opponents tried to shoot down Michael Moore’s first film, Roger and Me (1989).

    Clarification, not simplification: What interests the documentarian is seldom clear-cut, but there is an ever-present temptation to render it so. Nettie Wild’s A Rustling of Leaves (1990) is a courageous and sympathetic account of the populist guerrilla movement in the Philippines, but the partisan nature of her beliefs makes one feel guiltily skeptical throughout. She makes heroes of the left-wing peasants in their struggle against right-wing thugs, and though her sympathy is clearly justified, we know that armed resistance cannot long remain honorable. Soon both sides commit atrocities and the waters become too muddy for the story to remain one of moral rectitude. To be fair means not only relaying the protagonists’ declared principles but also exposing the ugly and paradoxical aspects of liberation through violence. Wild does this, for instance, by showing the trial and execution by guerrillas of a youthful informant. But one doubts if there is much of a trial when the camera is not around.

    A film may be accurate and truthful, but it may fail unless it is perceived as such. Handling your audience well means anticipating the film’s impact on a first-time viewer every step of the way and knowing when justifiable skepticism requires something more built into the film’s argument. The more intricate the issues, the more difficult it will be to strike a balance between clarity and simplicity on the one hand and fidelity to the ambiguities of actual human life on the other.

    ImageAn Unusual Opportunity to Check the "Fairness" of the Producers

    Because WikiLeaks posted the full interview correspondent Martin Smith did with Assange, it is possible to draw conclusions on the nature of objectivity and fairness imposed upon this project.

    What Assange says in the final cut of the documentary is the following: we do not know whether Mr. Manning is our source or not; journalists can be identified by their camera bags in the “Collateral Murder” video; WikiLeaks could have better structured various deals and attached economic incentives; source identities are not collected, WikiLeaks is dedicated to protecting sources; WikiLeaks does not know if Manning is the source or not; chats with sources are always anonymous; “Collateral Murder”-type videos can potentially stop wars; WikiLeaks reached out to Lamo because of the difficult position he put them in by turning in Manning, never heard of Bradley Manning or Bradass87; did not receive cables Manning is discussing in logs, WikiLeaks discussed whether it was good to release logs and cables since a young man could potentially be harmed; insisted on working with New York Times so First Amendment protections could provide operation cover; WikiLeaks has harm minimization process to protect lives from being endangered; diplomats deserve to face consequences for engaging in embarrassing behavior; history is on WikiLeaks’ side and when you challenge powerful organizations you will be attacked and WikiLeaks continues to step up publishing speed.

    What doesn’t make the final cut is talk about the US military and the national security establishment—what Assange calls a “patronage system”—and how Assange contends it was inevitable that WikiLeaks would face counterattacks; the various traditional media versus new media issues that are raised by WikiLeaks; the importance of not letting the New York Times characterize WikiLeaks as a “source” and not a collaborative partner; the threat to national security journalism from the US national security establishment that this period in history has revealed; exactly why Assange suggested people needed to be named in the Afghan War Logs and how WikiLeaks is one of the most accountable organizations in the world.

    Somewhere in that material, a more sympathetic presentation of WikiLeaks could have been pieced together. But, Smith had a concern: in the post-9/11 world, shouldn’t we be worried that someone like Manning would just choose to leak classified information? (You can hear him note this in the full interview video WikiLeaks posted.) That concern appears to have trumped giving WikiLeaks more sympathy.

    An Array of People Missing from the FilmImage

    Go down the list of people in the documentary. Why wasn’t Glenn Greenwald featured? Why wasn’t Amy Goodman invited to appear? Why wasn't Micah Sifry included?

    Why doesn't Carne Ross appear to talk about WikiLeaks' impact on diplomacy?

    Why wasn’t Rep. Dennis Kucinich or Rep. John Conyers asked to speak? Conyers held a hearing on Capitol Hill in December of last year. Kucinich has been fighting to get a meeting with Manning.

    Why doesn't Daniel Ellsberg appear in more of the documentary?

    Why was the one person who has been blogging WikiLeaks for nearly two hundred days now, Greg Mitchell, not interviewed?

    Most appearing in the documentary have a history of animosity toward WikiLeaks. There is one person who appears in the documentary as an unapologetic supporter of WikiLeaks. And, who is that person? Julian Assange.

    David House's Reaction to the Documentary

    On Twitter, House tweeted the following messages: "This year I've been calm despite being stalked, surveilled, bribed, detained, & having my computer seized, car towed, and friends punished.... The first substantive anger I felt throughout these months arose tonight after watching the stridently propagandized @ frontlinepbs special....Indignation is the only orienting sense after gawking through the twisted pro-Washington hallucination called WikiSecrets." And, also, he tweeted, "The obvious government bias in @frontlinepbs's "WikiSecrets" documentary mirrors a disturbing trend among US media outlets," and, "Students in Boston are subject to documented harassment by gov officials and @frontlinepbs focuses on unsubstantiated threats to Lamo."

    Martin Smith Just Doesn't Get It

    Watch the full interview posted and one can hear Smith during a break in the interview say to Assange that he is sorry he has to bring all these criticisms of WikiLeaks but he feels it is his “responsibility” to give Assange a chance to respond to the criticism. Assange disagrees and asks why critics should get to set the frame.

    The answer is critics get to set the frame because PBS FRONTLINE is committed to producing objective and fair documentaries.

    It’s much easier to get Assange to address criticisms. It’s far harder to put power on the defensive and force them to address some of Assange’s concerns with the national security establishment in the United States, which is now trying to prosecute him and those linked to WikiLeaks.

    Smith also says, “I’m not trying to get you in trouble on that. I just have to ask you these questions cause they’re out there. Anybody who looks at the chat [logs] says what the hell is this? And I understand you are in a position where you can say only so much.”

    This remark comes after a line of questions aimed at unearthing a connection between Assange and Manning. Someone interviewing a person only talks like this if he or she feels he has to justify what he or she was asking in the interview to regain trust.

    It’s quite clear that Smith came to the interview with the intention of getting Assange to incriminate himself on camera so FRONTLINE could present a sensational “conspiracy" for viewers.

    Those who watched the documentary can appreciate the visual representation of a timeline of events that occurred between Manning’s arrest and now. The documentary, like most FRONTLINE documentaries, is well-produced and, nonetheless, informative. However, it presents itself as a production that has sensational new information to impart to viewers, which it does not. It also seeks to help viewers understand the nature of the WikiLeaks organization and it fails.

    That's because it never intended to help viewers have a better understanding. As far as one can tell, nobody is supposed to walk away willing to trust WikiLeaks or support the stated mission and objectives of the organization.

    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:,1518,621450,00.html

    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:

    Please also take a moment to look up the coordinates 53.631111, 21.078889 on a satellite map of your choice. Various accounts speak about an isolated building in the woods near a military facility which is surrounded by a wall. Can you spot it?

    2011-05-25 #Europeanrevolution ignites after #spanishrevolution leads the way: massive protests happening now in France, Italy, Greece and Portugal

    As the main camps in Puerta del Sol (Madrid) and Plaza Catalunya (Barcelona) prepare to pack their tents and leave on Sunday, organizers have started to spread their message to the rest of Europe. From the beginning the Internet was abuzz with proposals of a European revolution or a #globalcamp, and for that purpose thousands of blogs and independent websites have been opening, planting the roots of the protests happening now in over twenty major cities in France, Italy (full agenda and aditional information in English here) and Portugal. Greece has also taken the streets and an estimated 30 thousand people are protesting outside of Athen's Parliament as we can see from this live feed. Here you can find a live streaming of the General Assembly in Paris.


    • Wednesday, 25th of May :
  • LILLE : 12h, Place de la République,
  • LYON : 19h Place Bellecour
  • BAYONNE : 18h, Place de la Mairie + camp
  • BORDEAUX : 19h, Place de la Victoire
  • BREST : 18h, Place de la Libération
  • CLERMONT-FERRAND : 14h, Place de Jaude
  • GRENOBLE : 20h, Place Victor Hugo
  • MARSEILLE: 18h Place Thiers cours Estienne D'orves
  • MONTLUçON : 14h, Place Piquand
  • MONTPELLIER : 18h à l'esplanade
  • NANCY : 19h30, Place Maginot, contact 0659827367
  • NANTES : 18h, Place Royale (devenue place du peuple)
  • NICE : 20h, Place Garibaldi
  • PARIS : 19h à la Bastille
  • PAU : 20h Place Clémenceau
  • PERPIGNAN : AG 19h Place République
  • RENNES : 19h, Place de la Mairie
  • ROUEN : 19h, Théatre des Arts
  • STRASBOURG : 19h, Place de la République
  • TOULOUSE : 19h Place du Capitole
  • TOURS : 19h, Place Jean Jaurès
    • Thursday, 26th of May:
    LILLE : 12h, Place de la République
  • LYON : Campement permanent Place Bellecour
  • BAYONNE : 18h, Place de la Mairie
  • BORDEAUX : 19h, Place de la Victoire
  • DIJON : 19h, Place de la Libération
  • GRENOBLE : 20h, Place Victor Hugo
  • MONTPELLIER : 18h à l'esplanade
  • NANTES : 18h, Place Royale (devenue place du peuple)
  • NIMES : 19h, Maison Carrée
  • PARIS : 19h à la Bastille
  • PAU : 20h Place Clémenceau
  • PERPIGNAN : AG 19h Place République
  • STRASBOURG : 19h, Place de la République
  • TOULOUSE: 19h Place du Capitole
    • Friday 27th of May:
    GRENOBLE : 20h, Place Victor Hugo
  • NIMES : 19h, Maison Carrée
  • PERPIGNAN : AG 19h Place République
  • POITIER: 19h, Place du Marché
    • Saturday 28th of May:
    AMIENS : 15h, Campement devant le rectorat
  • BORDEAUX : 19h, Place de la Victoire
  • GRENOBLE : 20h, Place Victor Hugo
  • LE HAVRE : 15h, Préfecture
  • LILLE : 12h, Place de la République
  • NIMES : 19h, Maison Carrée
  • PAU : Place de Verdun : 9h ou 11h (à confirmer)
  • PERPIGNAN : AG 19h Place République
  • REIMS : 15h30, Parking Herlon
  • STRASBOURG : Manifestation Place Kléber (horaire à venir)
  • TOULON 17H place de la liberté
    • Sunday 29th of May:
    MARSEILLE : 14h, Place Thiars - (devant le journal la Marseillaise)
  • PARIS : 14h, Place de la Bastille
  • PERPIGNAN: AG 19h Place République
    • ITALY
    • Wednesday, 25th of May:
    REGGIO EMILIA: 17.00 Piazza Prampolini
  • TRIESTE: 20.00 Piazza Unità,
  • ROMA: Ore 19.00 - Arco di Costantino (Metro B Colosseo) (,
  • PADOVA: 19.00 Prato Della Valle
  • PAVIA: 20.00 Piazza della Vittoria
  • PISA: 18.30 in Piazza Garibaldi
  • GENOVA: (From Wednesday onward), ore 21.00 Piazza De Ferrari
  • FERRARA: Piazza Duomo, 23.30
    • Thursday, 26th of May
    TRENTO: 20.00 - Piazza Duomo,
  • CAGLIARI: 19.00 - Piazza del Carmine
  • CASERTA: 21.00 Laboratorio Sociale Millepiani
    • Friday, 27th of May:
    TORINO: Place yet to be designated,
  • MILANO: 20:00 Piazza del Duomo,
  • BOLOGNA: 20.00 Piazza del Nettuno.,
  • NAPOLI: 19.00 Piazza Dante,
  • ANCONA: da Venerdí 27, ore 21.00 Piazza Pertini,
  • TERAMO: from 21:00 to 24:00 in Piazza Martiri,
  • TARANTO: 20.00 - Piazza della Vittoria,
  • VENEZIA: 18:00 Campo San Giacomo Da L'orio,
  • GORIZIA:18:00 - 18:30 Piazza Transalpina,
  • TREVISO: 20.00 - Piazza Indipendenza,
  • FIRENZE: 20:00, Piazza Signoria
    • Sunday, 28th of May:
    CAGLIARI: 19.00 - Piazza del Carmine.
    • Thursday, June 2nd
    PERUGIA: 20:00, Piazza IV Novembre
    • Friday, June 3rd
    BRESCIA: 20.00, Piazza Loggia
    • London. (March) Victoria embankment - 26th May at 11.00.
    • Berlin. Solidarity-Demonstrations aganist G8 Summit Deauville. Rosenthaler Platz Sunday 26th May.18:00
    • Barcelona. Catalunya Square occupation continues at least until 29th May.
    • Madrid. Sol Square occupation continues at least until 29th May.
    • Paris. Giant Parade at Bastille Square 29th May 14h.
    If you want to follow the movement on Twitter here are some active hashtags:

    2011-05-25 WikiLeaks: Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov – Major Methamphetamines Traffic and Dependency on Lukoil

    Borissov described himself as "Bulgaria's biggest asset"


    "We must continue to walk a fine line between being used by Borisov's publicity machine and alienating an exceptionally popular and seemingly pro-American politician who may emerge as Bulgaria's next leader. In other words, we should continue to push him in the right direction, but never forget who we're dealing with."

    This is the conclusion of a diplomatic report dedicated to now Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, sent by former US Ambassador to Sofia, Jonh Beyrle on May 9, 2006. The report’s confidentiality level is listed as SECRET/NOT FOR FOREIGNERS, only one level below the highest TOP SECRET – cables classified as TOP SECRET are not available to Wikileaks.

    The reasons for classifying the report are coded as 1.5 (b,d), meaning confidential sources have been used in its preparation.

    The cable has another characteristic – from a total of 978 reports sent from Sofia, there are just a few that have been checked and approved simultaneously by the Embassy’s political, military and security advisors, not just Ambassador Beyrle.

    "The Dirt"

    This is how Beyrle titled the section focusing on Boyko Borisov’s criminal past. Incidentally, the paragraph has the "lucky" number 13, while in the brackets, after 13, the level of confidentiality is purposely listed as SECRET/NOFOR, which corresponds to the highest level of classified information for this cable.


    "13. (S/NF) Accusations in years past have linked Borisov to oil-siphoning scandals, illegal deals involving LUKoil and major traffic in methamphetamines. Information from SIMO tends to substantiate these allegations. Borisov is alleged to have used his former position as head of Bulgarian law enforcement to arrange cover for criminal deals, and his common-law wife, Tsvetelina Borislavova, manages a large Bulgarian bank that has been accused of laundering money for organized criminal groups, as well as for Borisov's own illegal transactions. Borisov is said to have close social and business ties to influential Mafia figures, including Mladen Mihalev (AKA "Madzho"), and is a former business partner of OC figure Roumen Nikolov (AKA "the Pasha")."

    In their desire to downplay the American diplomats’ reports, those affected point out these are simply rumors, pedantically registered by diligent clerks at the Embassy. But in this case, we have something far more serious: the collective work of nearly the entire diplomatic team, citing the mysterious SIMO, confirming information about Borisov’s participation in serious criminal activities.

    A check of the Wikileaks site where about 13000 cables have been published so far, found only 4 mention of SIMO. According to the context, SIMO appears to be an agency related to the security and information domains, participating in the Legal Enforcement Commettee of the Ambassador, together with other known US agencies such as DEA.

    The second paragraph in the "Dirt" section focuses on ties between Borisov and Valentin Zlatev, CEO of Lukoil, Bulgaria.

    "14. (S/NF) Borisov has close financial and political ties to LUKoil Bulgaria Director Valentin Zlatev, a vastly influential kingmaker and behind-the-scenes power broker. Borisov's loyalty (and vulnerability) to Zlatev play a major role in his political decision making. The Mayor has engaged LUKoil in a number of public-private partnerships since taking office: LUKoil has agreed to donate asphalt for the repair of city streets, take on the upkeep of a Soviet Army monument, and finance construction of low-income housing. In a reciprocal gesture, Borisov has advocated using municipal land to develop new LUKoil stations. Though this may seem a significant quid-pro-quo, Borisov's public agreements with LUKoil are only side deals in his much deeper and broader business relationship with Zlatev, which has been reported in other channels."

    Valentin Zlatev is also mentioned in the notorious cable, dedicated to organized crime in Bulgaria, sent by former US Ambassador, James Pardew: "LUKOIL’s representative in Bulgaria is VALENTIN ZLATEV... Lukoil's Bulgarian operations, through Zlatev, are suspected of strong ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime."

    The cable further reveals that Borisov makes discrete visits to the Russian Embassy, all while seeking recognition and public support from the US for his political ambitions.

    "16 (S/NF) Borisov's ego may provide our greatest leverage over him -- he craves international attention and particularly covets U.S. approval," the analyses from the report points out. The informal leader of GERB had been directly and openly bargaining with the Americans for their political support in the general elections as pay back for his pro-American positions. "I will bring down the government after the basing agreement is completed", was the directly proposed barter, which had impressed the Americans.

    The cable notes as example of controversy the fact that Borisov, on one hand side, had been promising the US full support for military bases and Bulgaria’s participation in international military missions, and on the other had dared to demagogically criticize in public the pro-American policies of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, in the following way: "On Iraq (the government) said that they would withdraw our troops immediately. They didn't withdraw them; they sent another brigade there. They gave the Americans bases without getting anything in return."

    Also of interest is the paragraph where Beyrle reports how after a written warning from the American side, Borisov immediately halted his anti-American rhetoric. To pretend he was loyal, he had promised to destroy the nationalist Ataka party. Nevertheless, the new Bulgarian political star remains a « street smart », « politically naïve » individual « His high energy level and short attention span sometimes lead him to pace like a caged tiger. ». The Ambassador does not spare Borisov the assessment of the latter’s extreme sensitivity and intolerance to any type of private or public criticism.

    One of the top egocentric weaknesses of the Prime Minister is self-promotion. The analyses in the cable even hints for a negative assessment: "Borisov promoted himself shamelessly as Chief Secretary, skillfully combining influential connections with media owners and Hollywood-perfect press instincts to ensure the favorable coverage that his image is built on". The cable notes the PM personally created a sound PR machine to polish his public image. Bulgarian journalists, however, in private conversations with Embassy employees, had not spared the truth of being subject to the “carrot and stick” method. Borisov paid cash to be glorified by the media or directly threatened the disobedient.

    As a whole, Borisov is assessed as the political leader, who may be capable of making good on his threat to bring down the ruling Three-Way Coalition. But, according to the same report, he remains "an unpredictable individual with unbridled political ambition."

    There is no doubt the Americans followed Beyrle’s advice to not forget who they are dealing with. And certainly, Borisov wishes that some details from his biography could remain buried in the diplomatic files forever.

    Batman on a leash?

    In one of the first cables, published by Wikileaks, Russian PM Putin was compared to Batman and President Medvedev to Robin.

    Boyko Borissov is also known by the nickname Batman, as the Americans reported. What is less known to Western media is his admiration for Putin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao, admiration he announced himself in a 2008 interview for the Bulgarian weekly Max

    The cable makes it clear that the Bulgarian Prime Minister is not as independent as the dictators he admires. He is in fact double-dependent.

    On one hand side, the US obviously dispose with compromising information about his past criminal activity and skillfully exploit the ego of the former firefighter. It looks like the Americans applied the good old principle : "they are all bastards, but he is our bastard", so they "push" Borissov, expecting him to remain loyal.

    On the other hand side, he is kept on a leash by "Regent" Zlatev, representative of Russian puppeteers, who whisper threats in Borisov’s ear. He admitted before the Americans the Russian threat of turning off the gas tap, but was it the only one? Or is there something personal? Because if Zlatev has "strong ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime", as reported in another cable from Sofia, one can deduct that what SIMO knows about Borisov was planned and directed to some extend by the Russian secret services.

    The conflict between Borisov’s dependencies is well on its way to be resolved in the following months. Borisov demonstrated a dramatic U-turn in his attitude towards Russian energy projects in Bulgaria, and particularly the “Belene” NPP project where, surprisingly, Valentin Zlatev became involved as a consultant from the Russian side. The positions of pro-American Ministers in the Borisov's cabinet such as Minister of Economics Traycho Traikov and Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov appear weakened lately, but Americans are yet to have the final say.

    2011-05-27 Bulgarian PM: "I don't read WikiLeaks... I don't read tabloids"


    Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov refuted yesterday the Wikileaks revelations about his past ties to organized crime, metamphetamines traffic and his dependence from a shady businessman from Lukoil.

    "I don't read Wikileaks" - he said before the media in The Hague, Netherlands, on 26th of May, where he opened the 7-th international meeting of Bulgarian media, organized by the Bulgarian news agency BTA.

    Asked by journalists about his comment on the cable content, published by the Bulgarian web site, the local Wikileaks partner, Borisov acknowledged he phoned the US Ambassador James Warlick, who said that the Wikileaks publications are "based on unconfirmed sources and it was futile to comment on them".

    "As far as I know, they have not published anything positive about anybody yet. They also cite tabloids publications and comments of various political parties," Borisov said. "I don't read tabloids" - he concluded.

    Later the same day, the US Embassy published a statement saying that "It is important to keep in mind that diplomatic cables are often preliminary and incomplete analyses of international affairs, and should not be seen as official representations of U.S. foreign policy"

    US Ambassador to Sofia, Jonh Beyrle wrote the said cable on Borissov on May 9, 2006. The report’s confidentiality level is listed as SECRET/NOTFOR (NOT FOR FOREIGNERS), only one level below the highest TOP SECRET level, not available to Wikileaks.

    The cable is one of the few from a total of 978 reports sent from Sofia, that have been checked and approved simultaneously by the Embassy’s political, military and security advisors, not just Ambassador Beyrle.

    Bayrle wrote Borisov is linked in the past to "oil-siphoning scandals, illegal deals involving LUKoil and major traffic in methamphetamines. Information from SIMO tends to substantiate these allegations."

    SIMO remains so far a mysterious source. A check of the Wikileaks site where about 13000 cables have been published so far, found only 4 mention of SIMO. It appears to be an agency related to the security and information domains, participating in the Legal Enforcement Committee of the Ambassador, together with other known US agencies such as DEA.

    According to the cable "Borisov is alleged to have used his former position as head of Bulgarian law enforcement to arrange cover for criminal deals, and his common-law wife, Tsvetelina Borislavova, manages a large Bulgarian bank that has been accused of laundering money for organized criminal groups, as well as for Borisov's own illegal transactions. Borisov is said to have close social and business ties to influential Mafia figures, including Mladen Mihalev (AKA "Madzho"), and is a former business partner of OC figure Roumen Nikolov (AKA "the Pasha")."

    The cable further reveals that Borisov makes discrete visits to the Russian Embassy, all while seeking recognition and public support from the US for his political ambitions.

    2011-05-27 Mission Accomplished: Obama Visit Quashes Cancellation of Military Stopover in Ireland

    In the wake of Obama's visit, the Irish government has abandoned its plans to discontinue U.S military stopovers in Shannon airport.

    The accepted narrative about President Obama's "historic" visit to Ireland on Monday was that it was entirely symbolic, and more to do with seeking the Irish American vote in Obama's reelection bid than with any substantive diplomatic goals. Among other ceremonial activities, the president and the first lady made a flying visit to the village of his Irish ancestors in County Offaly, and were photographed drinking Guinness in a local pub.

    The visit was universally judged a success by an ecstatic Irish broadcast media, which ran all day an assortment of panegyrics from the national punditry, while scrutinizing with interest every frame of fresh footage. The president was greeted by a deferent Irish political elite, no doubt desparate to leverage the event to avert some of Ireland's fraught economic prospects.

    In a speech to well over 100,000 assembled Irish people in College Green, Dublin, Obama spoke rousingly - and with an eloquence to which, in a political speaker, Irish ears are unaccustomed - of the ties of blood and destiny between Ireland and America, of hope, and of dreams, and of other vague exotica.

    That is the story of America and Ireland. That’s the tale of our brawn and our blood, side by side, in making and remaking a nation, pulling it westward, pulling it skyward, moving it forward again and again and again. And that is our task again today...For all you’ve contributed to the character of the United States of America and the spirit of the world, thank you. And may God bless the eternal friendship between our two great nations.

    His oratory brought forth - as no doubt intended - a wave of uncritical approval and praise. In the wake of the visit, Irish public goodwill towards the United States is very likely enjoying a significant spike.

    It is at times like this that it is very easy for politicians to quietly bury conscientious and inconvenient policies which rely on a critical appraisal of America's foreign policy. This is no coincidence: occasions like this are choreographed specifically for these reasons, with explicit goals in mind. A leaked March 2010 CIA Red Cell document published by Wikileaks outlines propaganda and perception management operations conducted on European populations to ensure European government support for the American war effort. It notes:

    Public Apathy Enables Leaders To Ignore Voters. . . (C//NF)
    The Afghanistan mission’s low public salience has allowed French and German leaders to disregard popular opposition and steadily increase their troop contributions to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Berlin and Paris currently maintain the third and fourth highest ISAF troop levels, despite the opposition of 80 percent of German and French respondents to increased ISAF deployments, according to INR polling in fall 2009.

    After noting that this apathy is endangered for a variety of reasons, when populations become more engaged and critical, the paper begins to consider methods for pacifying European populations so as to avert pressure on European governments over support for the ISAF war effort. One method considered central is the use of President Obama's celebrity in Europe. In particular, poll data are cited that demonstrate that voters could be easily swayed in their support of a particular policy by the mere suggestion of Obama's approval or disapproval.

    Appeals by President Obama and Afghan Women Might Gain Traction (C//NF)
    The confidence of the French and German publics in President Obama’s ability to handle foreign affairs in general and Afghanistan in particular suggest that they would be receptive to his direct affirmation of their importance to the ISAF mission—and sensitive to direct expressions of disappointment in allies who do not help... [A] poll also found that, when respondents were reminded that President Obama himself had asked for increased deployments to Afghanistan, their support for granting this request increased dramatically, from 4 to 15 percent among French respondents and from 7 to 13 percent among Germans. The total percentages may be small but they suggest significant sensitivity to disappointing a president seen as broadly in sync with European concerns. (C//NF)

    The suggestion is that Obama's celebrity profile in Europe is such that his praise - or lack thereof - of a particular European public might influence support for American foreign policy interests in Central Asia, thereby freeing complicit European governments from any pressures which might 'lead them astray.'

    When the father of our country, George Washington, needed an army, it was the fierce fighting of your sons that caused the British official to lament, “We have lost America through the Irish.” (Applause.) And as George Washington said himself, “When our friendless standards were first unfurled, who were the strangers who first mustered around our staff? And when it reeled in the light, who more brilliantly sustained it than Erin’s generous sons?” (Obama's Speech)

    An under-reported piece of information came to light in a Monday article in The Irish Examiner, entitled "Obama praises 'extraordinary Irish'." The article details a short meeting between Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny and U.S. President Barack Obama during the visit.

    Mr Kenny said the discussions focused on the economic situation in Ireland including the banking crisis and the efforts to bring country’s budget under control and also US immigration policy. The Taoiseach also assured the President that Shannon Airport – a stopover point for US military aircraft moving to Afghanistan – would remain open. Mr Kenny described it as a “no-change” policy.

    This announcement remains hitherto unreported elsewhere in any of the country's establishment press, such was the noise generated by the visit. The announcement heralds an apparent reversal on a joint pledge by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government, which formed after an election in February. The coalition's Joint Programme for Government paper, which was voted upon in early March by the membership of both parties, contains on page 57 a pledge to the following effect:

    We will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law.

    When questioned at a conference on the Joint Programme by a delegate from the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, the Labour head and new Deputy Prime Minister, Eamonn Gilmore, clarified that the pledge was a commitment to end U.S. military stopovers in Shannon Airport, a policy goal which had been consistently (and as recently as January this year) advocated by the Labour party whilst in opposition. The exchange was reported in a Press Statement circulated to the PANA mailing list:

    PANA Chair, Roger Cole, a delegate to the Conference, asked for clarification of this statement in the Programme for Government. He pointed out that a key part of international law governing the behaviour of Neutral States is the Hague Convention of 1907 which prohibits the use of a neutral state's territory to prosecute a war. Switzerland quotes the Hague Convention to explain why no US planes land at Zurich Airport on their way to and from their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Cole asked: "Does this mean the termination of the use of Shannon Airport by US troops in these permanent ongoing wars?" citing Afghanistan and Iraq. Eamon Gilmore in his closing speech to the Conference, replied to Roger Cole's call for clarification. The Labour Party Leader stated that: "Yes, Roger Cole has pointed out an area where there is a difference" and "that it may be hard to believe" but that the statement in the Programme for the Government "does mean what is says".

    The announcement Monday by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that Shannon is a "no-change" policy is therefore a stark reversal of a joint commitment of the new Irish government, and a complete alignment with the "no-change policy" of the previous Fianna Fáil government.

    Irish people swept away by the sententious prose of Obama's speechwriter will find it difficult to impute such explicitly malign objectives to his visit, but a survey of the history of secret diplomatic dealings between the Irish and American governments makes the suspicion far more difficult to avoid.

    The use of Shannon airport as a stopover site for U.S. military flights to and from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was granted by the Fianna Fáil government in 2003. (Please see here for a short summary of the issue.) The move was widely opposed among the Irish public as it was seen to violate a tradition of Irish neutrality in international conflicts. Irish neutrality in the last decade, however, thanks to the efforts of the Fianna Fáil government, has never been much more than a polite fiction.

    In response to a number of parliamentary questions in 2003, Tom Kitt, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, stated rather ambiguously to the Dáil that Ireland remained "non-aligned" or neutral, and uninvolved in any military alliances. However, a recently published State Department cable in Aftenposten reveals that as recently as 2009 the Obama administration considered Ireland to be an "Allied or Partner" state in the ongoing NATO conflict in Afghanistan. In the runup to the announcement of Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan, Ireland was named as one of the states that could afford to "do more" to aid with that conflict. A campaign to elicit demanded levels of support was suggested:

    13. (S/NF) Other Allies and partners, who have the physical and financial capability to do more now, possibly as much as a third more (albeit with a smaller total contribution than those listed above), include Bulgaria (troops), Czech Republic (troops), Greece (troops), Lithuania (troops), Luxembourg (civil experts and/or money), Portugal (troops and/or money), Slovakia (troops), Slovenia (money), European Union (police and/or rule of law trainers), Austria (troops and/or money), Brazil (money), Egypt (civil assistance), India (civil assistance), Ireland (troops and/or money).
    14. (S/NF) The Presidents upcoming announcement is an opportunity to extract the maximum momentum for our mission in ISAF, and we should begin coordinated high-level engagement to ensure there are a number of nations ready to announce their increases at the same time.

    The subversion of the Irish government's popular mandate has been a consistent diplomatic goal of the United States over the last decade. A further State department cable notes with approval the Irish government's defiance of popular opinion to maintain support for America's war effort.

    U.S. military access to Shannon Airport in western Ireland is among the most tangible benefits of traditionally strong U.S.-Irish relations. For the United States, geography makes Shannon a key transit point for military flights and military contract flights carrying personnel and materiel to Iraq and the Middle East/Gulf theater in the global war on terror, as well as to Europe and Africa.... For Ireland, U.S. military transits not only demonstrate bilateral cooperation in support of U.S. objectives in the Gulf/Middle East, but also generate
    significant revenue for Shannon Airport and the regional economy.... The Irish Government consistently has acted to ensure continued U.S. military transits at Shannon in the face of public criticism.

    It has at times seemed agreeable to the U.S. State Department to induce the Irish government to lie to its public in defence of American interests. Fears that extraordinary rendition flights were occurring through Shannon airport were categorically denied in a 2006 speech to the Dáil by then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, who cited strong assurances to the contrary from the American diplomatic mission in Ireland. A 2007 State Department cable, however, reveals otherwise. He had on this occasion no such assurances from the diplomatic post, and in fact appeared certain that planes involved in rendition flights had landed in Shannon, whether they were carrying prisoners or not. He further suggested token measures that might offer him political cover should knowledge of rendition flights surface in the future. The cable ends by noting with approval how the Irish press's failure to report on a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing had effectively put this matter to bed.

    Ahern noted that he had "put his neck on the chopping block" and would pay a severe political price if it ever turned out that rendition flights had entered Ireland or if one was discovered in the future. He stated that he "could use a little more information" about the flights, musing that it might not be a bad idea to allow the random inspection of a few planes to proceed, which would provide cover if a rendition flight ever surfaced. He seemed quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refueled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions elsewhere.
    (C) Comment: While Ahern's public stance on extraordinary renditions is rock-solid, his musings during the meeting seemed less assured. This was the only issue during the meeting that agitated him; he spent considerable time dwelling on it. Ahern seemed to be fishing for renewed assurances from the Ambassador that no rendition flights have transited Ireland, or would transit in the future. Highlighting the recent attention drawn to renditions by the IHRC report, later the same day the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the matter. The hearing, attended by POLOFFs, generally confirmed the Government's view that there is no evidence that rendition flights have transited Ireland. The hearing, which was barely reported by the press, failed to achieve any traction for critics of American policy.

    Lest it be assumed that the Fianna Fáil government was the exclusive focus of these efforts, here is a suggestion from Ahern that the Ambassador meet with Fine Gael leadership to "explain the U.S. position." "Fine Gael leadership," in 2007, meant Enda Kenny. Enda Kenny is now the Taoiseach of Ireland.

    Ahern declared that the IHRC report contained no new information, but warned that opposition parties Fine Gael and Labour could be expected to continue to raise the issue from time to time in efforts to politically embarrass the Fianna Fail-run Government... Ahern said that a public response by the Embassy would not be useful, but suggested that the Ambassador personally engage Fine Gael leadership to explain the U.S. position.

    The reversal of the Irish government's policy on the Shannon military stopover is unlikely to receive much opposition from the Irish public, such now will be the intensity of the collective desire to live up to the president's praise of Ireland and its "special relationship" with the United States. But it is very difficult to suppress the suspicion that President Obama's 'merely symbolic' visit on Monday was an expertly managed PR strategy designed to kill several birds with the one stone. In a matter of a few hours, a promise from the newly elected government of Ireland to its people, hard won over a decade of tireless campaigning by the anti-war movement, sank without a trace beneath the Sargasso Sea of American foreign policy. Mission accomplished.

    2011-05-27 Obama Administration Doesn't Want Lawmakers to Debate National Security

    Three provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire were extended yesterday as Senate leaders effectively shut off debate and worked to block attempts to amend the Patriot Act to include privacy protections. The reauthorized provisions went to the House for approval and, after passing through Congress, the legislation was flown to US President Barack Obama in France so he could sign the reauthorization.

    The continued granting of overly broad powers, which directly threaten Americans’ right to privacy without unreasonable search or seizure, was accompanied by passage in the House of a National Defense programs bill that included language granting the Executive Branch the authority to wage worldwide war.

    A handful of lawmakers in the House and Senate attempted to make amendments or block the passage of measures that would allow powers granted to the state to greatly expand. A trans-partisan group of House representatives introduced an amendment that would have struck down the worldwide war provision. Senator Rand Paul, Senator Mark Udall and Senator Ron Wyden each made valiant attempts to have a comprehensive debate on the provisions before granting reauthorization but the Obama Administration discouraged debate.

    Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake and Mike Riggs of reported Sen. Harry Reid and others in Congress were using Obama Administration fearmongering and talking points to prevent provisions from expiration. Debate (and in effect democracy) was being obstructed because the White House was asserting, “The FBI would be able to continue using orders it had already obtained, but it would not be able to apply for new ones if further tips and leads came in about a possible terrorist operation…no one could predict what the consequences of a temporary lapse might be.”

    The fearmongering induced the following reaction from Sen. Paul:

    …There have been people who [have] implied in print that if I hold the PATRIOT Act up and they attack us tonight, that I'm responsible for the attack.

    There [have] been people who have implied that if some terrorist gets a gun, that I'm somehow responsible. It's -- it's sort of the analogy of saying that because I believe that you should get a warrant before you go into a potential or alleged murderer's house that somehow I'm in favor of murder.

    The diligent work of bloggers closely following national security issues in the United States unearthed the fraudulence of such bullying. Had the provisions not been extended, a “grandfather clause” would have permitted their continued use in investigations that were already taking place.

    Paul was eventually allowed by Reid to fully engage in the legislative process and bring two of his amendments to a vote. In his statement on why he thought it important to amend the Patriot Act, he deconstructed myths surrounding the Act, calling into question whether the government should have a right to sift through millions of gun records without asking if you are suspect; whether the government should be able to monitor what books citizens read; whether the government should have access to banking records without a warrant; whether it is good security to treat everyone as a potential terror suspect; whether the Patriot Act has truly given the government tools that have led to the capture of terrorists; whether violating the Fourth Amendment should be permissible; whether we as Americans believe in the rule of law; and whether these issues should be open to debate.

    Udall, in his statement on the extension, stated, “Many Americans have been demanding reforms to these provisions for years. We've known for months - years, in fact - that this was on our to-do list this Congress. We've been passing short-term extensions in order to give us time to consider a comprehensive overhaul…Yet we're now being pushed to approve a four-year straight reauthorization in just a few days. Trust me, we have time and should take that time for a full debate."

    While the extension of provisions merits scrutiny, the squelching of democratic debate demands just as much scrutiny if not more. As Paul said in his statement on the floor, it is incredibly important to have debates on the floor, and “that's why there is a certain amount of disappointment to having arrived in Washington and to see the fear of debate of the constitution and that we really need to be debating these things.”

    Not allowing debate was determined prior to the votes. As bloggers like’s Glenn Greenwald highlighted, the idea was “to pass the extension with as little debate as possible to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government.”

    Congress should not be a body that inhibits debate. Authorizing power to government that so clearly threatens civil liberties such as rights to privacy (and in many cases First Amendment rights) should not be scrutinized, despite the fact that there exists clear evidence of government abuses of power under the Patriot Act.

    Paul sharply noted that chilling debate is something those in the Legislative Branch of government have done multiple times. On the issue of war in Libya, there was no debate. An invasion was launched without asking Congress for permission (a move, that over sixty days later, now clearly violates the War Powers Act).

    We now have a war in which there has been no congressional debate and no congressional vote. But you know what they argue? They say it is just a little war. But you know what? It is a big principle.

    It is the principle that we as a country elect people. It is a principle that we are restrained by the Constitution, that you are protected by the constitution, and if I ask the young men and women here today to go to war and say we're going to go to war, that there darn well should be a debate in this body.

    The worldwide war authorization to grant the president additional war powers that would further expand the imperial presidency also received little to no debate in the House. Read the text of Section 1034 (the "forever war" provision) and decide whether not debating this provision should be acceptable:

    Congress affirms that--
    (1) the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad;
    (2) the President has the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note);
    (3) the current armed conflict includes nations, organization, and persons who--
    (A) are part of, or are substantially supporting, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or
    (B) have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person described in subparagraph (A); and
    (4) the President's authority pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority to detain belligerents, including persons described in paragraph (3), until the termination of hostilities.

    The Obama Administration indicated, prior to the vote, that it objected to this provision that would expand war powers:

    The Administration strongly objects to section 1034 [the worldwide war provision] which, in purporting to affirm the conflict, would effectively recharacterize its scope and would risk creating confusion regarding applicable standards. At a minimum, this is an issue that merits more extensive consideration before possible inclusion...”

    Nonetheless, there was only about twenty minutes of debate on the section of the defense bill.

    In the midst of obstruction of debate by Senate leaders like Reid, four senators earned the "promise" of a hearing on the "secret and expansive Justice Department interpretation of the information collection the Patriot Act allows."

    Note what is allowed and not allowed: Scrutiny during the time when scrutiny could influence the nature of provisions or legislation is inconvenient and a nuisance. Such scrutiny must be limited by preventing amendments and restricting the time allowed for floor discussion. But, in the aftermath, if senators would like to provide oversight and share with agencies or departments criticism or ideas for improvement, that is allowable. As long as there is no binding legislation to force the agencies or departments to respond to criticism and adjust operations, lawmakers may have a dialogue. (However, as this deals with national security, the public will not be privy to what goes on in such hearings. They will have to trust unquestioning lawmakers who are typically averse to scrutinizing the national security establishment.)

    The collusion between the White House and Congress to curb debate becomes further troubling as one considers how it allows for the militarization and securitization of society without any accountability for the players involved in the expansion.

    Thirty-five articles of impeachment for former President George W. Bush by Rep. Dennis Kucinich were introduced in Congress in June 2008. When Attorney General Eric Holder took over the Department of Justice, concerned citizens, advocacy organizations and a few lawmakers urged accountability for crimes and misdemeanors committed by former Bush Administration officials. But, Americans were told that they needed to look forward and not backward.

    Thus, there has been no expenditure of government resources to address and investigate: the creation of propaganda to manufacture a false case for war in Iraq; the misleading of the American people to make them believe Iraq was an imminent threat and possessed weapons of mass destruction; invading Iraq absent a declaration of war; providing immunity from prosecution for criminal contractors in Iraq; detaining indefinitely and without charge US citizens and foreign captives; secretly authorizing and encouraging torture; kidnapping people and taking them to ‘black’ prison sites in nations known to practice torture; directing telecommunications companies to create illegal and unconstitutional databases of private telephone data from citizens and spying on Americans without a court-ordered warrant in violation of the law and Fourth Amendment.

    Thus, a crisis of impunity gives way to widespread lawless conduct by power.

    Impunity allows security to employ tools of repression that typically society had found to be off-limits because of certain rights society presumed should be preserved and protected. This new brand of security becomes normalized. As those keeping citizens “more safer” have more freedom, the people become less and less free.

    2011-05-27 Police forces crack down brutally on camp in Barcelona: protesters return in thousands and take back the square #spanishrevolution #acampadabcn #bcnsinmiedo

    WLCentral will be providing news coverage from Spain on the ongoing #spanishrevolution through this liveblog. Contact us at @wikileaks_world or to help us with footage, information and provides information in English about the 15M movement. An updated agenda of related protests around the world can be found here.

    May, 27th 2011

    After surrounding the camp in early morning, the local police forces in Barcelona evicted the people staying in Plaza Catalunya at around 11:00 AM with the excuse of cleaning up. The reason, they say, is that because Football Club Barcelona plays the Champions League Final (an important football match) the area might be flooded by a massive celebration if they win. They stated that if this happens, then the tents and objects placed there could be used during the celebration for violent purposes, which they say is a “security risk”, making it necessary to evict so as to let cleaning brigades in the square. They also said they want to make clear it is not an eviction and that the protesters will be allowed to return after the operation is ended. While the police violence was taking place on the outskirts of the square, 300 people were surrounded in the center and sitting down peacefully they called for non-violence and asked the police to explain themselves. Official government channels have stated that 15 people suffered minor injuries during the operation, although this number could be much larger, as much as 45 or 65 according to El Pais and other independent media. Ironically, the spokesperson for the Catalan police said, on national television that the operation had been non-violent. On Twitter the #acampadabcn and #bcnsinmiedo hashtags have been very active and many videos as the ones below have been posted to show the un-called-for brutality with which the police evicted the peaceful protesters. In response to these actions, social media sites have been buzzing with anger, with many people around the world sending their support and others swearing they will return.

    A few minutes ago, at around 14:00 pm thousands of protesters broke the police line around the square and have reclaimed what is left of their camp. Most of it, including computers with valuable data and donated furniture, was taken away in trucks that were part of the cleaning operation. The different sections of the 15M movement (@acampadasol, @acampadavalencia etc.) have called for a unified protest around Spain at 19:00h to support people in Plaza Catalunya. The hashtag for the protest is #confloresalas7 (which means with flowers at 7).

    This is what the square looked like after it was taken again:


    May,22nd 2011


    Election day has ended in Spain after last night the protest that started at 8:00 pm, planned as the most important yet, managed to occupy most of the squares and streets around Sol. Many of them went with there families and many others came in from neighbouring towns and cities. The result of the elections, however, is a very pronounced swing to the right. Partido Popular (PP) has claimed victory in most of Spain’s autonomous communities and provinces, with 37.54% of votes, over the 27.80% obtained by PSOE (leading center-left party and currently in Government). Esperanza Aguirre, winning PP candidate in Madrid for the third time in a row, made her majority even bigger, and shortly after claimed that the Government should call for anticipated elections so that they would not “prolongue the agony of the country”. These results were expected by most analyists, who concurred that on top of the effects of the economic recession, the 15M movement had divided the mass of left wing voters.

    The thousands of people in Sol, however, remain intentionally oblivious to the results, because, in their own words “they don’t represent us”. his means that their intentions lie not only ahead, in the future, but also outside the current electoral system. Because the movement, so heterogenous, is finding solutions from inside itself, nobody has been told what to do with there vote. In fact, without any central organization, people printed out small leaflets explaining the possible ways to vote. In them was an unbiased dissection of the aspects of abstention or voting for a minor party. The movement continues to refuse participating because they feel they would lose their idendity in the process, so over the day acts of silence have been carried out to demonstrate, according to one spokesperson, “the unity of the movement in times of adversity”. Therefore, they plan to continue, providing the space for the birth of a true participatory democracy until a point where politicians will be forced to listen. It is important to take this into account because the movement is highly uncentralized. Even though the camp in Sol is the biggest and most organized, there are hundreds of them around the world, made up of Spanish and non-Spanish citizens, and in them the same process of debate is going on. These will be merging very slowly on the web over the following months, as new sites and more volunteers are showing up.

    This plan (already approved- see interview in took another step forward during today’s General Assembly: a consensus was reached and the camp will go on for another week with the explicit objective of exporting the model growing there to the neighborhoods of Madrid and to the local councils of smaller towns in the area. They also recorded a set of official political proposals, that they insisted should be broadcasted worldwide in an effort to communicate the results of the process. There has been no official reaction to these assertions from the authorities and the possible retaliation by the police is yet to be known.

    Example of an assembly held at Puerta Sol:

    2011-05-27 WikiLeaks: India’s tribes ‘exploited and abused’

    Submitted by Survival International, a human rights organization that has helped tribal people defend their rights since 1969.


    Bhil girls. India's tribal people are 'exploited and victimized', according to the leaked cable. Photo © Sunil Janah/Survival

    American diplomats consider the Indian government ‘unwilling and unable’ to ‘end the exploitation and victimisation’ of the country’s 84 million tribal people according to secret cables released by The Hindu newspaper.

    The cables reveal that the American government feared this neglect ‘plays into the hands of Naxalites’ – the Maoist extremists who are currently engaged in an armed insurgency in India.

    While the Indian government is concentrating on economic growth, the cables warn that ‘India’s rapidly expanding population and growing economy have worsened the tribals’ plight by increasing pressure on shrinking forest areas and their resources.’

    The government has responded to the tribal peoples’ plight by passing the Forest Rights Act – a law which aims finally to recognise the rights of tribal communities to the forests on which they depend. But the cables point out that there are ‘entrenched and corrupt interests exploiting the forests’.

    Tribal people are viewed as ‘an obstacle to development who must be removed from forest lands'. As the cables state, ‘the issue is pressing, as non-tribals, aided and abetted by government officials, use corruption and coercion to remove tribals illegally from the forests and gain access to resources.’ This is a major problem for tribal communities all over the country.

    In a damning indictment, the cables concluded that ‘India's poorly motivated and often corrupt bureaucracy cannot be counted on to administer a bill aimed at protecting the environment and tribals, which the vast majority of Indians care little or nothing about.’

    ImagePhoto © Survival

    The WikiLeaks cables claim there is a prevailing opinion in India that tribal peoples are ‘an obstacle to development who must be removed from forest lands and ‘integrated’ into the mainstream’. As shown in Survival’s publication, Progress Can Kill, forced integration has devastating impacts on tribal peoples, especially on their mental and physical health.

    Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International said today ‘As the cables say – ‘integration’ of India’s tribal peoples has really meant becoming ‘landless laborers at the bottom of the social ladder.’ It is high time that India really addressed the historic injustice suffered by its tribal peoples and abandoned this grossly wrong and outmoded notion of ‘integrating’ tribal peoples. Until these attitudes change, the ‘exploitation and abuse’ noted in the WikiLeaks cables will continue.’

    2011-05-28 Kenyan cables provide critical material for 'evidence war' on extrajudicial killings

    Cables released from WikiLeaks provide important material in the ‘evidence war’ between ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and Kenyan politician William Ruto.


    The cables support Moreno-Ocampo’s arguments that exposing information about critical witnesses would be a severe threat to them and that allegations on Ruto’s involvement in the extrajudicial killings in 2007-2008 post-election violence are recognized by the U.S. embassy, which is far from ‘rubbish rumors picked up by rag blogs’ as Ruto criticized the evidences the allegation is based on.

    William Ruto, the Waki Commission, and the tragedy of extrajudicial killings during 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya

    Extrajudicial killings during 2007-2008 post-election period in Kenya has been condemned internationally, mainly by the UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, Alston. WikiLeaks received the Amnesty 2009 New Media Award due to its notable work on leaking and reporting about the hundreds of extrajudicial killings tacitly approved by the Kibaki government and widely conducted by Kenyan Police force working with armed militias.

    Among the leaked material is a report titled The Cry of Blood: Report on Extra-Judicial Killings and Disappearances, which is written by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR). The UN acknowledged the report’s credibility after confirming that the information found in the report is backed by investigation results of other civil society organizations and that of the preliminary research done by UN Special Rapporteur team in 2009.

    Below are photographs taken as evidences of extrajudicial killings in the report:

    Blood-stained clothes of abandoned corpse of a victim killed by police squad (p.19).


    Kenyan police force set up death squads, of which the notorious Kwekwe Squad is one, originally to 'crackdown on the organized crime gang Mungiki'. Regardless of the original goal, however, a huge amount of witness testimony in the report suggest that the police arrested arbitrarily without any attempt to prove whether the suspect was Mungiki or an innocent victim. Police threatened the 'suspect' to bring ransom money to avoid being shot. In all cases, the police were extremely reluctant to record the arrested person on the OB(Occurrence Book), which is the sole evidence that the person was ever arrested. This allowed the killings to be safely 'extrajudicial' - killings without any public record.


    Clothes of another abandoned corpse torn by wild animals which devoured the corpse(p.72).

    Witnesses confessed to KNCHR that they feared to let their children go to school because when wild animals have 'tasted human flesh', they easily attack children(p.70). Witnesses also said that during the period, hearing gunshots and people screaming were common in the village(p.71).

    Bones of killed victims.


    Despite the fact that the KNCHR report, The Cry of Blood, contained vivid photographs as a direct evidence of extrajudicial killings, Ruto and other politicians castigated them as not credible.

    William Ruto is the Eldoret MP who is one of the ‘Ocampo-Six’, which refers to six high-level Kenyan politicians who are nominated by the CIPEV (Commission to Investigate Post-Election Violence), as a major mastermind behind the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya. CIPEV, previously named the Waki Commission whose chief was Justice Phillip Waki, is an official commission set up by the Kibaki Government in an effort to conduct an investigation on the 2007-2008 post-election violence, mostly extrajudicial killings.

    According to cable 08NAIROBI2551, in order to force trials of the alleged suspects behind the post-election violence, Justice Waki asserted in 2008 that he was planning to pass the list of 10 major organizers of the post-election violence to Kofi Annan, 'for referral to the ICC (International Criminal Court) if Kenya fails to establish the special tribunal'. He feared that the ‘culture of impunity’ palpable in Kenya would block the process of justice. Recently, Philip Waki reported, to ‘break the silence’ which was maintained since 2008, that the special local tribunal for trying the alleged criminals should be established. He 'described the ICC process as an ‘insurance policy’ that came into being after Kenya failed to form a local tribunal.'

    Kenyan cables provide evidence showing why Moreno-Ocampo had to protect his witnesses as source of evidence

    Pre-trial chamber II judge Ekaterina Trendafilova ruled that the prosecutor has to furnish all the evidence he plans to use at the confirmation of charges hearing in September, 2011.

    Apart from the decision being a usual one in the point of previous similar judgments, Moreno-Ocampo argued, that the decision didn’t take Kenya’s special political environment into account; namely Kenya’s long history of exploitation of witnesses, intimidation as a weapon for damaging legal efforts to seek justice by trying powerful figures’ corruption or crimes against humanity. Moreno-Ocampo argued that the decision ‘leaves him in the unfair position where he may have to sacrifice the probative force of his case in order to avert harm to his witnesses and their families.’

    Witness evidence possesses critical power in determining the result of the suits regarding the post-election violence, and a recent report from the Standard suggests that Ruto tried hard for a long time to dismiss any credential witness evidence against him:

    the CID(Criminal Investigations Department) boss confesses the reason the investigation into Ruto’s case No 10/2008 in Nakuru has dragged on for the last three years was because of "unreliable and uncooperative witnesses".

    And the prosecutor is not alone. Leaked Kenyan cables published from WikiLeaks provide rich evidence that his concern is of importance. U.S. ambassador Ranneberger provides specific cases which detail intimidation against witnesses, not from ‘trash cans of rumor and gossip sites, rags and blogs’ as Ruto said through his advocate, but from his first-hand experiences(10NAIROBI11):

    After the Oscar Foundation murders, post helped four witnesses to relocate to Uganda after they were allegedly threatened by the police. Members of Parliament and their staff who have sought to advance legislation to establish a local tribunal to try suspects implicated in post-election violence have received death threats. One parliamentarian's aide received a text message stating "u better stop associating with you want we start counting your days also" two days before three suspects attempted to kidnap the aide.

    And he particularly points out William Ruto, along with Uhuru Kenyatta – the Deputy Prime Minister – as a main political figure who is ‘directing a campaign of intimidation against witnesses’:

    As the ICC prepares for potential prosecution of key organizers of the violence, multiple sources indicate that implicated political leaders, notably cabinet ministers William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, are directing a campaign of intimidation against potential witnesses. … Some NGOs have noted a clear connection between visits by Chief Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo and other ICC officials and subsequent intensifying pressure on witnesses.

    Ruto’s participation in post-election violence is also recognized by Assistant Secretary Frazer in cable 08ADDISABABA286, in which she discussed the issue with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles. Under the category ‘Kenya is in a dangerous position’(paragraph 2 – 11), she flatly told Meles that “William Ruto presents one face to the international community, but then turns and uses the radio to incite violence.” And Prime Minister Meles doesn’t express any surprise to that.

    Cable 10NAIROBI11 further articulates the specific gravity of ‘threats’ posed to potential witnesses; the very Kenyan government. The ambassador details how one notable joint effort of NGOs to establish a ‘witness protection network’ failed because excessive monitoring of Kenyan intelligence service turned the witness away from seeking protection in the network:

    In November 2007, Kenya human rights NGOs established a national human rights' defenders network, supported by and in partnership with post and other like-minded missions. … Organizations active with the HRD network report that they have been monitored and/or threatened by agents of the Kenyan intelligence service. As a result, member organizations often reject applicants whose bona fides are unknown to them and do not widely publicize the existence of the network. Extensive use of cell phones by the HRD network and individuals under protection further compromises their safety as calls can be monitored by the GOK.

    Insiders’ explanation: how the mass-murder conducted by the Kenyan Police force actually worked, from the high-end

    Cables open the doors to critical explanations from government insiders which help in understanding how the notorious post-election extrajudicial killings had been conducted by Kenyan Police force, from the very high end.

    In cable 09NAIROBI1077, Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology Sally Kosgei told a lot about the incident in confidence, mainly how Kibaki allowed the then Police Commissioner Mohamed Hussein Ali such violence. According to her, Kibaki let Ali ‘utilize extrajudicial killings’ to ‘control’ Mungiki, a branch of ethnic Kikuyu movement, which ‘threatens Kikuyu politics’. She also states that the president wanted to take control of the police force in general through controlling Ali, until the 2012 election:

    A/S Carson raised our concerns regarding extrajudicial killings, in particular the Oscar Foundation murders. Kosgei responded by noting that all security organs remain under the control of Kibaki,s PNU party. Because PNU leaders believe that Police Commissioner Ali did them a favor during the past election by cordoning ODM strongholds, Kosgei expects that the PNU will block any substantial police reforms and will retain close control of the police, GSU (paramilitary), and military in advance of the 2012 elections. In this context, Ali is permitted to utilize extrajudicial killings to control organized gangs such as the Mungiki, which threaten to disrupt Kikuyu politics by operating in the heart of Central province. The police freelance in extorting money from the gangs and execute legitimate critics such as the Oscar Foundation principles. Noting that Ali does not take calls from ODM ministers, Kosgei wondered aloud why ODM has not forced the issue of his continued tenure during cabinet meetings.

    Cable 08NAIROBI574 provides a rather specific view on how the orders of extrajudicial killings originate from high to low end:

    … news last week from police sources that the Provincial Police Officer (PPO) issued a stunning directive to his Station Commanders telling them that during any future political protests in the region, deadly force is immediately authorized. He further assured the officers that any query as to the nature of the death or injury resulting from this order should be directed to him personally and that he would support the "victimized" officers.

    Ocampo-Six’s effort to prevent any tribunal that would try post-election violence: domestic and international

    Among the Ocampo-Six, the most vehement denial and also the most aggressive counteraction came from William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta. Both are leading potential candidates for 2012 presidential election.

    Cable 09NAIROBI1296 states two important points in terms of Uhuru Kenyatta’s strong move toward hindering the ICC effort of trying him in special tribunal regarding the post-election violence; one is on the high tendency of formation of Ruto-Kenyatta alliance in defense of KNCHR and ICC effort to try them in court in post-election violence issues:

    Ruto has made a number of private visits to State House in recent months, and he and Kenyatta are in close contact. They worked together behind the scenes to ensure defeat of the special tribunal bill.

    The other one is on how he exploits his political position as a Finance Minister and ‘bought the parliament’ by pouring taxpayers money to parliamentarians in the form of the considerably expanded CDF (Constituency Development Fund), while the national economy suffers from global economic crisis and chaos triggered by post-election violence. These tactics helped him effectively in deterring the parliament from approving independent tribunals trying post-election violence:

    The budget which he recently submitted to Parliament (septel) has virtually bought many parliamentarians as a result of vast expansion of the funds designated for the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). The CDF is used to fund projects in parliamentary constituencies. While use of CDF funds has become more transparent and accountable over the past couple of years, parliamentarians still wield enormous influence over use of the funds, and employ them to enhance their political standing and support. No budget presentation has ever been greeted with such enthusiasm by parliamentarians. It is important to note that expansion of the CDF, if used transparently (and therein lies the rub) can serve a legitimate purpose of helping stimulate the economy through infrastructure projects; the economy is suffering greatly due to the aftermath of the post-election violence and the world financial crisis. Through this tactic, Kenyatta also increases the support he is likely to receive in working behind the scenes to ensure that parliamentarians never approve an independent special tribunal to hold accountable those involved in post-election violence.

    Ocampo-Six's effort to hinder any attempt to sue them 'locally' inside Kenya's judicial system doesn't stop there. The effort has widened to hinder international efforts, mainly that of the ICC. Ruto and Joshua Arap Sang, who is also one of the Ocampo-Six, jointly filed suit requesting the court to sanction Moreno-Ocampo, saying his suit filed against them is ‘defamatory’ and lacks proper evidence. They called mountains of evidence, comprised of testimonies from victims, witnesses and government officials full of graphic photos supporting the testimonies, ‘rubbish’.

    *** Special thanks to, which is always the most powerful tool in finding connections between otherwise seemingly remote cables ***

    2011-05-28 This Week in WikiLeaks - One Year Since Bradley Manning's Arrest

    This week the program marks the one year anniversary of Bradley Manning's arrest. Joining the weekly podcast is Kevin Zeese, who is a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network Steering Committee.

    In the past week, there were two documentaries (or films) that went public, which portrayed Bradley Manning. One was the PBS FRONTLINE documentary (which I had much to say about and even went on RT's "The Alyona Show" to discuss). Another was an investigative short film put together by The Guardian. Zeese addresses both of those.

    We also discuss how the Bradley Manning case fits into the general war on whistleblowing that the Obama Administration appears to be waging.

    This is Part 1. A Part 2 will be posted soon and features more discussion from Pakistan blogger Raza Rumi on the Pakistan Papers.

    To listen to the show, click play on the embedded player below. Or, go to CMN News and click "download" or "listen." It will appear at the top of the page or in the list.


    KEVIN GOSZTOLA, host: We’ve had this WikiSecrets documentary that PBS FRONTLINE put together and it opens with Bradley Manning. It portrays Bradley Manning. It presents these mental health issues that he was experiencing. And, I just would like your reaction to how they were presenting his story in this documentary and perhaps even what it says about his connection to WikiLeaks.

    KEVIN ZEESE, Manning Support Network Steering Committee member: I’m not sure what it says about his connection to WikiLeaks. I think that’s a big unknown that the government is trying to figure out. I think that’s what a lot of the solitary confinement was about to try to pressure Manning into implicating Julian Assange but we’ll see how that plays out.

    My reaction to the various documentaries, the FRONTLINE one and the Guardian one—the Guardian one was actually better but the FRONTLINE in particular—was that this was the work of the government. This was essentially character assassination in preparation for trial. They almost never use the word alleged or accused but just assumed he was guilty. So, throughout the show, there’s only I think one person near the end who says alleged and that’s David House. So I think there’s a real effort on behalf of the government—and PBS is totally funded by the government and corporate interests. That’s there they get their money from. Small donations don’t make it works. So I think there’s an effort by the government and corporations to convict Manning in the media and make him out to be a nut.

    What I find interesting, and this starts to come out in the Guardian version, is that some of his colleagues who allegedly bullied him to the point of break down almost. But, a lot of these guys that were in the military just sat around and watched videos of Americans killing civilians. And they’re the ones making him out to be crazy. To me, there is something seriously wrong with the American military if you have people who are holding up mutilated bodies, showing trophies from mutilated bodies and you have people taking pleasure on Abu Ghraib, torturing other humans. There’s something seriously sick in the military that is being shown by these kinds of actions and Manning’s colleagues just sitting around and watching videos of death and destruction, US military killing civilians, very weird. And, they point to Manning being the sick one.

    The accuser in this case—the people who are doing the accusing of Manning—of course are in an environment where Manning is hated by the military because he’s accused of exposing war crimes, misbehavior, other kinds of criminal behavior by military officials and State Department officials. So, he’s hated where he is. So, there’s no retribution for speaking negatively about Bradley Manning. I’m sure there would be retribution for speaking positively about him. If anyone said, thanks to him now the country knows what we’re doing and maybe something will change. If someone said that, there would be problems in the military.

    And on the other hand Manning can’t speak for himself and so it’s really shameful for the media to be beating up on Manning the way they are doing, sometimes with anonymous military people, making accusation he can’t respond to. And the real sad thing is they’re not focusing on what the documents show. The documents really show not just a few bad apples but a totally bad crate of apples. The whol thing is a mess. That’s what’s good about WikiLeaks publishing so many of the documents, to give a full context so people can see the good, the bad, the ugly and the illegal. So we have the full context.

    How widespread is the problem in the US military? And frankly as we see more of these stories coming out about Manning and hear what his colleagues are doing, it’s even more widespread than what the documents show. It’d be great if the media get beyond their desire to figure out why Manning did what he did. And I think there’s an understandable desire there. People are curious as to why someone would do this. But, I think if you look at the documents themselves, look at the videos themselves, the reason why someone would do this is pretty evident.

    GOSZTOLA: In the documentary they pretty much omit any examination of whether he would have been motivated by like social justice or moral values. They don’t really talk about what he would have seen in Iraq even though I note that Micah Sifry—he wrote this whole book called “The Age of Transparency”—and he was writing about how Bradley Manning saw detainees being mistreated and there was something he was being asked to do and I was just wondering if you could speak to how this plays into the whole case and the story, how they are just ignoring that there would have been any chance that he would have been compelled by social justice.

    ZEESE: That’s exactly right. The social justice aspect of this is the dominant aspect. And even the way he was treated as a gay man in the military is part of that social justice question to me. That makes some sensible connection to me. But, the war crimes that were going on in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of this release and prior to this release were really widespread. We only got the tip of the iceberg with Abu Ghraib. There were multiple black prison sites. There were kill teams going out assassinating and targeting people. The Afghanistan—Thousands of pictures. Der Spiegel has 4,000 photos of Americans posing with dead bodies. So, we’re dealing with a widespread situation of war crimes that’s not being reported.

    I thought it was interesting in the FRONTLINE story how near the end they did a nice job of talking about Egypt and the Arab Spring and the role that the WikiLeaks documents played in that and even had a New York Times reporter saying on balance it’s probably a good thing that the documents were released just for the change it’s creating. But, they never discuss US behavior. Okay, talk about Mubarak and Tunisia. But how about US behavior? How about Hillary Clinton ordering all US diplomats to spy illegally on UN officials when they are in New York City? How about the civilian deaths that have been unreported and the various massacres of civilians where the locals said one thing and the US said another thing and now the documents show that the US knew they were lying? I mean, so many examples of misbehavior and war crimes that were ignored.

    And I think that’s the real story out of these documents. I think that will be the real story in history. I think when people look back on this 50 years from now they will look back with a historian’s perspective. Books will be written that will go through these documents and show the types of war crimes that were being committed by the United States. And in history, Bradley Manning will be probably more heroic than Daniel Ellsberg because he’s facing a much more serious situation in a military court that already has the commander-in-chief labeling him guilty. And Obama will look very bad in history because of this.

    2011-05-29 In #Yemen: #Zanjibar falls to al Qaeda, brigade of Republican Guards join the revolution

    The situation continues to get worse in Yemen. The US, which has been playing what The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill calls a “ dangerous game,” just days ago urged US citizens to depart Yemen “while commercial transportation is still available.” State Department diplomats have fled the country in the past few days as well.

    The acknowledgment of US reaction to the increased violence is not to diminish the struggle of the peaceful revolution in Yemen but to note that the US has used this country as a laboratory for its military experiments in the war on terror and now this is what their "ally" or puppet Ali Abdullah Saleh is doing to the people of Yemen. The lack of US pressure on Saleh to resign has allowed the conflict to escalate.

    WL Central is featuring the amazing work of the Yemen Rights Monitor blog that has been tracking the revolution and violence in Yemen since February. We hope you will support their effort to bring the world the truth of what is happening in Yemen and share this widely, especially if you are interested in what is unfolding in Yemen.

    Republished with permission from @al_masani and @Ronaldo_Yemen, here’s the latest update.

    May 29th - Taiz under attack (graphic photos)

    French News Agency: Zanjibar in Abyan falls in the hands of Al-Qaeda.

    Witness: Armed thugs are gathering in Baghdad St near Dr. Abdulqader Al-Mutawakil Hospital.The humanitairan situation is very bad in Hasaba region, the bombings that took place have made many families suffer. There will be some fundraising events to help them in Yemen, donations are accepted as well.

    Armed men in civilian clothes are extensively gathering in Omar Al-Mokhtar School in Sheraton near the U.S Embassy

    Renewed bombing now on Al-Ahmar's house after mediation failed; thugs concentration in Sa'awan getting ready for a new round of bombing.

    Youth are bearing Saleh the responsibility for kidnapping the French NGOs and demanding discolosure of their destiny and quick release.

    Mass march in Dhamar now supporting the Brigade of Republican Guards who joined the revolution.

    Heavy clashes between army and gunmen in Zanjibar south of Yemen and exodus of the families there.

    After the denial of joining, sources confirm that Brigade 9th Mika from Republican Gaurds joined the revolution in Dhamar.

    Brigade Commander 9th Mika Ibrahim Al-Jayafi announces officially joining the revolution in Dhamar.

    JMP and opposition accuse Saleh's regime of masterminding giving Abyan city, South of Yemen to armed groups in order to intimidate the International Community by "Al-Qaeda"

    Ali Saleh's regime is bombing Zanjibar and sieging it, cutting water and electricty. The humanitarian living condition in Zanjibar is exteremely difficult and critical.

    Mareb Press: Saudi TV: Zayani will return to Yemen either today or tomorrow.

    Mass march through the streets of Taiz confirming the peaceful revolution and condemning Ali Saleh's massacres.

    Marib Press | Abyan: deaths and injuries due to the indiscriminate shelling with heavy weapons and artillery bombardment on the city of Zanjibar

    Abyan : leading member of Marib militants dominant in Zanjibar killed today by striking the building of taxes where he positioned with number of militants

    Former Minister of Defense | Elewah : We call branches, units and brigades to maintain the unity and cohesion of the military and security as one national institution

    Military Advisor of Saleh and former Minister of Defense Eliwah confirms that Saleh is after the AQAP taking over the city of Zunjbar.

    Statement number "1 " of the armed forces supporting peaceful revolution of youth today Sunday, 29/05/2011 was issued by :

    - Maj. Gen. Abdullah Ali Elewa former Defense Minister, Counsellor of the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces
    - Major-General Ali Mohsen Saleh, commander of the North-West
    - Major General Aldaheri Al-Shaddadi head of oclass="text_exposed_show">perations north-western region
    - Major General Hussein Arab, former interior minister
    - Maj. Gen. Mohamed Mohsen Ali, commander of the Eastern Military
    - Major General Abdul Malik Al-Sayani, former Defense Minister
    - Maj. Gen. Saleh Ali Aldanin, adviser of Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces
    - Major General Mohammad Ali Almakdashi, Commander of Middle Military Region
    - Major General Saleh Aldhalie , commander of the Central Military region

    Yemen Armed Forces issued statement No. 1: The statement supported the revolution and accused Saleh's extradition of Abyan province to terrorist groups.

    The leadership of the armed forces in support of peaceful popular revolution in Yemen Statement No. 1, was read by Major General Abdullah Ali Elewa, former Secretary of Defense.

    The statement called on all armed forces to join the peaceful people's revolution, the statement accused Saleh's actions in Abyan province and his handing over the province to armed terrorist groups, and the statement called on people to resist the terrorists in Abyan.

    He also charged Saleh for trying to disrupt the Military Establishment and his plans to evacuate camps and deliver them to his thugs.

    The leadership of the Armed Forces in support of the youth peaceful revolution thanked and appreciated the efforts of the Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff and other individuals who have refused orders to put the army to fight each other.

    Statement of the Yemeni armed forces supporting the revolution convey thanks and appreciation to the Minister of Defence and Chief of Staff and other individuals who have refused orders to put the army to fight each other.

    Surrender of members of the Police Department of Zanjibar to armed men

    Anees Mansour to AJA : Armed groups in Abyan went to jail for two weeks and then released. What is happening now is a farce, a political struggle for survival
    Yemen's defecting army units consolidate and announce their Statement # 1: "Saleh must go," they said

    Former Interior Minister Hussein Arab: Al-Qaeda has not launched any attack on Zanjibar and what happened was that the security authorities handed over the city to the armed groups.

    Eyewitness, Civilians in Zanjibar, Abyan resort to mosques to avoid random shellingAJA : Armed groups take control of Zanjibar

    AFP: Handing over government buildings dominated by supporters of Sheikh Sadeq Ahmar in Sana'a to the Mediation Committee.

    Now |Taiz : Heavy fire on protesters of taiz near Alqahera directorate

    Heavy explosion shakes the city of Taiz and sounds of gunfire- unknown location.

    Abdulkareem Al-Awadi one of the photographers of the media center in Taiz was shot by security forces when they fired indiscriminately on the youth protesters in front of Administration Building.

    Taiz : Dozens of casualties taken now to Alsafwa hospital while shooting is still continued on protesters near Alqaherah directoratein an attempts to break into the square

    Eight injured by live bullets of security of Cario when they fired live ammunition on the protesters, in addition to seven detainees in custody in Cairo Administration since last night.

    Appeal from Taiz: Everyone has to go the Freedom Square to support the protesters who are getting attacked

    Video during the attack on Zanjibar by armed men

    Arrival of reinforcements from Republican Guards and Central Security close to Freedom Square while continuous heavy firing on the protesters using heavey equipment.The youth protested in front of Cairo Directorate to demand the release of the detained and kidnapped or they will go towards Security Directorate to sit-in there, but they were suprised by shooting randomly at them as well as grenade bombs were thrown at them.

    Ali Saleh is planning massacres in Taiz, Ibb and Hodeidah against the protesters after he failed to ignite war in Sana'a

    Injured are up to 10 cases, 2 of them in critical condition when live bullets were fired at them by Republican Guards near Freedom Square in Taiz.

    Martyr and dozens injured in Field hospital of Taiz now, most of the injures are by live bullets by Saleh's thugs and security on a peaceful march.

    Sheikh Tareq al-Fadhli said that he refused an offer from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to appoint him as governor of Abyan province after the collapse of the security situation, he said in a statement to the BBC "President Saleh then ordered his forces to bomb my house in Zanjibar"

    Suhail: Call of distress: The field hospital in Freedom Square in Taiz appeals to doctors, surgeons and orthopedics to go to the hospital and save lives.

    Witnesses: Security forces tying to break into Freedom Square from Agriculture Bank side and heavy gunfire is used as well as tear gas bombs.Ahmad Abdu Said, Cario Dir. Secuirty Manager is the one that leads the thugs, there were gunmen located above the directorate building and reports of smokes.

    Two martyrs and 12 wounded by live bullets so far due to attacks by security forces and gunmen in cilivian clothes on protesters near Freedom Square.

    Two martyrs and over 50 injured by live bullets due to attacks by Republican Guards with live ammunition on the protesters in Freedom Square in TaizAl-Safwa hospital is drowning in blood- SOS!

    Marib Press |AbdulKawi Al-Qaisi, director of the office of Sheikh Sadeq Alahmar to Marib Press: The evacuation of the Ministry of Local Administration only as a goodwill gesture, for the evacuation of the buildings where the other party positioned snipers and militia of Saleh

    Heavy clashes taking place now in Martyrs Square in Zanjibar using all kinds of weapons

    Snipers are spreading widely on the roofs of building near Freedome Square of Taiz

    Sayun : For the first time, an airplane landed Saturday evening at the airport of Sayun at 2 AM, knowing that its not an international airport and closes at 5 PM

    Power cut in Taiz now to coincide with the attack of security forces and thugs on peaceful protesters in Freedom Square of Taiz.Marytrs name is: Foad AbduGhanim, 33 years old, shot in the neck.

    Abyan: Crimes against humanity are committed in Abyan and the situation is very bad that it cannot be described, bodies are in the streets and shelling is very random

    News for crowds preparing to take control of the Western camp which is shelling the area of Radfan continuously. Its is worth mentioning here that this camp belongs to the Republican Guards and citizens of Radfan want to control it like what happened in Yafe'e and Nihm

    Tareq Al-Fadli to AJA: 5 martyrs outcome of indiscriminate shelling of Zinjabar this afternoon.

    Renewed and sporadic gunfire near Freedom Square in Taiz.

    Taiz: People are praying in Freedom Square while security forces attemp to break into the Square from Agriculture Bank side with heavy gunfire and tear gas bombs

    Taiz: Military experts confirm to media center that the ammunition used against the peaceful march of youth in Taiz now is the "explosive bullet" type of ammunition which is internationally banned. These types of ammunition make a fission explosion in the body which causes blowing the body into pieces

    Taiz: Gunmen in civilian clothing assist the security forces during the thrust operation, and presence of sniper in the rooftops near the square

    Arabia: Saleh is holding a meeting with the Defence Council, the rest of them of course at the Presidential Palace.

    Field Hospital of Freedom Square: Three martyrs and 90 injured due to attacks by security forces by live ammunition on the peaceful protesters.

    Snipers on rooftops

    Masdar : Tribes of Abyan gather now in the stadium of Zanjibar to fight and expel the militants who seized control of the city and to protect people and properties of Zanjibar

    Youth in Ibb are calling for a mass march tomorrow in solidarity and support of martyrs and wounded in Taiz

    Attacks in Taiz today in Freedom Square- it has been said that thugs burnt the car in order to start shooting and blame protesters for doing so.

    Two marytrs and over 100 wounded by live ammunition many of them are in critical condition; security reinforcements from the eastern entrance to Freedom Square and gas bombs are thrown inside the Square. Latest statistics from Al-Safwa Hospital:
    - Martyr Foad AbduGahnim, 33 years old from Sho'oba Al-Nashma
    - Unknown
    - Clinical death Mohammed Abdulrakeb AbdulRazaq from Al-Debab

    Yemen International Hospital:
    - Seventy very critical condition cases

    Increase number of martyrs to four, one of them is in clinical death and injures increase to 150 by live ammunition and gas bombs.

    The gunmen who contorlled Zanjibar today include Khalid Abdul Nabi and Sami Zayan. These two are known al-Qaeda activists and they take orders from Saleh, orders of looting and destruction of the govt institutions

    Dead body arrives to Field Hospital in Sana'a - rotted, four days from hasaba victims

    Individuals of Somalian and Arab nationalities seen participating in Zanjibar clashes and supporting gunmen. Indiscriminate shelling has exposed the city affecting residential buildings of civilians

    Abyan | Zanjibar : The number of the forces who seized control of the city are over 3000 gunman!

    Political Analyst Sadeq Abdulrazaq: Saleh committed a new massacre in Taiz today for coverage of failing in Abyan.

    Number of marytrs rises to 5, 2 of them in clinical death and more than 150 injured by live ammunition and gas when security forces attacked a march demanding the release of detainees.Fire, smoke and snipers on rooftops in Taiz today.

    Heavy gunfire and gas bombs on the peaceful protesters of Taiz today

    Injured in Taiz today

    Mass march in Hodeidah right now to support their brothers in Taiz and condemn the attack on them.Sources confirm that Saleh is using Jordanian pilots to bomb the tribes and cities that are out of his control after Yemeni pilots refused to carry out this task.

    Renewed violent clashes in Freedom Square, many tear gas bombs are thrown to the center of the Square; reports of many injured.

    Witnesses: gunfire shooting in Hasaba near Mareb round in Sana'aField hospital in Taiz is drawing a call of distress to the doctors of all specialties to go the hospital to help the injured and save a life.

    Renewed attacks on Freedom Square of Taiz, 5 martyrs 2 in clinical death,150 injured by live bullets and 400 injured by gas bombs.Taiz youth are arriving from neighborhoods to Freedom Square

    Video of two martyrs in Taiz today

    Sana'a chanting, "with our souls and blood we sacrifice ourselves for taiz" and "oh Ali you coward, Taiz does not get hurt"

    GRAPHIC: injured in Taiz on the floor of the hospital

    Yemen International Hospital in Taiz:
    - Farouq Al-Sabri, shot in the neck- clinical death
    - Six other critical cases.Injured and martyrs in Taiz today

    Renewed heavy gunfire on Freedom Square of Taiz now

    The Organizing Committee of the Youth Revolution: A delay in discussing Saleh's crimes in Security Council gives Saleh more time to commit more massacres against the Yemeni people.

    Dr. Hamoud Aqlan coordinator of Feild Hospital in Taiz to AJA: 4 martyrs and more than 100 injured by live bullets, 25 of them are critical cases. Most of the injures are in the head, chest and neck. 400 cases of gas suffocation and the attack is still continuous on the Square by heavy weapons and gas in a hysterical way by security forces and thugs

    .An appeal to all youth in the city of Taiz and its suburbs, You must hurry to help protesters who are now being killed and exposed to heavy fire from the Republican Guards, security forces, military police and thugs of the regime who are trying for the second time to break into the square of freedom now.

    Taiz : Riot police and armed civilians are still attacking the eastern side of freedom square using toxic gas, live bullets and water cannons

    Names of martyrs today in Taiz:
    1. Foad AbduGhanim
    2. Amran Qassim Al-Idressi
    3. Mohammed AbdulRaqeeb AbdulRazaq
    4. UnknownA side from that attack today in Taiz

    Almasdar Online : Brigadier General Qairan met with gangs at the headquarters of General People's Congress and distributed arms to be used to attack the protesters in Freedom Square in Taiz

    Taiz: Thousands flocked to the field of freedom after the attacks on peaceful protestors by the militia of Ali Saleh

    United Nations: The situation in Yemen could deteriorate and become a major humanitarian disaster. Taiz at night-during attack

    Thug leaders in Salah area that are distributing weapons to thugs to attack the demonstrations that are pro-democracy in Taiz are:
    - Abdullah Al-Barwe, Leader in the GCP
    - Sheikh Ahmad Ali Basheer
    - Ahmad Hazza Al-Odaini
    - Ali Abdu Saif, neighborhood leader
    - Abdullah Ali Basheer
    - Mohammed Ali Basheer  Saleh in his meeting today with the rest of his military forces said "Those who withdrew from the military and turned against us are terrorists, corrupts, bandits. They are land looters, oil looters and even looters of state funds"Ali Saleh admits that supporters of Alahmar took contorl of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Local Administration, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Tourism, Rescue Police Camp, Saba News Agency and some other state institutions. He described it as "Brutal assault and parasitic"

    Looting is being performed by thugs in different districts of Sana'a.

    Abdu Al-Jendi to Arabia: President is busy protecting the sit-ins and Al-Qaeda exploited the situation.

    Renewed firing with heavy and light weapons on Freedom Square in Taiz now

    Almasdar Online : clashes between units of Brigade 39 positioned in Aden and gunmen on the outskirts of Abyan and reports of dead including a colonel

    Saleh's militias are now firing heavily on Freedom Square protesters from the eastern sideVery violent attacks on protesters in Freedom Square of Taiz and attemps to break into the square- the youth are bravely dealing with it.

    Large flee to a mass number of families in Abyan as a result of the indiscriminate shelling of the houses. They appeal to people of Yemen and the international community to intervene to stop this situation.

    Taiz is being shelled indiscriminately with gas bombs all over the Square- people in media center are suffocating from how bad it is. The square is semi-taken over from the eastern side near CAC bank.

    Explosions shake Hasaba area right nowRenewed random shelling in villages in Arhab, Sana'a by Republican Guards by artillery and tanks

    Attacks on freedom square of Taiz- gas bombs at Square


    Live Stream from Freedom Square

    Video streaming by Ustream

    2011-05-29 Prism Magazine: Livestream discussion on the Canadian and American “No-Fly Lists”


    Prism Magazine, founded by Maher Arar, will be broadcasting a livestream discussion on Sunday May 29 at 10:00am EST. Jeff Sallot, an instructor of Journalism at Carleton University and former Globe and Mail Bureau Chief, will host a discussion on the Canadian and American “No-Fly Lists” and their impact on civil liberties. Confirmed guests are Roch Tassé, Ben Wizner and Moazzam Begg.

    Moazzam Begg was refused board on a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto last week, preventing him from speaking at a Conference on Islamophobia and The Politics of Fear at the Islamic Society of York Region, Toronto Canada, on May 21, as well as two other speaking engagements in Canada.

    The livestream will be available at both the following sites:


    Infographic credit: JESS3.

    2011-05-30 Democracy Now - What Amy didn't say on Friday

    On Friday's Democracy Now, Amy Goodman spent a long segment with Eli Pariser of talking about threats to the Internet. The timing was particularly appropriate because an extremely serious threat to our Internet freedoms made important advances last week and an alarm needs to be sounded. Unfortunately that's not what Amy talked about. Instead of enlightenment, Amy and Eli offered diversion and confusion. I was very disappointed.

    Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Protect IP Act. This legislation, if it becomes law, will make the Internet in the US like the Internet in China; both will be filtered by their governments. Like the Internet Blacklist bill [COICA] that they couldn't get passed last year, this new bill authorizes the Attorney General to create a list of websites that are to be blocked. COICA would have made legal the Federal government practice of seizing domain names without a notice or a hearing. This is a power that the AG started exercising on his own authority last year, after they failed to get their eggs hatched in the Senate. But as I pointed out last December, they have figured out that seizing domain names is pretty impotent if the search engines continue to do their job of indexing the web for us as they find it. So now they have come out with an "improved version" that forces even more draconian controls on the Internet.

    Governments all over the world are much more concerned with controlling the Internet after seeing the role it played in the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. So this Internet Blacklist bill Version 2.0 [Protect IP Act] now also makes it illegal for any web services, including search engines, to refer to the banned websites or their content. In China, the government was forcing Google to filter out certain search results for say "Tiananmen Square", that's why they left China. I don't know who in the Chinese government determines what search engines are allowed to find on the Internet but if this act becomes law, it will be the Justice Department in the US.

    This bill was voted out of committee about three weeks after it was introduced. It has been on a very fast track and as such has gone unnoticed by a lot of people, for example Amy has never mentioned it, not on Friday nor on any earlier show. But it hasn't gone unnoticed by Google because it's their business to know what's happening with regards to the Internet. This dairy has already reported on how Google's CEO Eric Schmidt likened Protect IP to the censorship they ultimately refused in China and he said that if it was passed into law, Google would still oppose it. He told The Guardian at a London conference on 19 May 2011:

    "If there is a law that requires DNSs to do X and it's passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it."

    This is the bill that was passed by the Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Other government threats to the free Internet have also emerged in recent weeks. They include Obama's new "Cybersecurity Initiative" announced on 15 May and government proposals at last week's eG8 conference. At that conference, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the Internet organizations "You can't be exempt from minimum rules" [which help] "your companies to contribute fairly to national ecosystems." The headline The Telegraph ran about that conference was "Google's Eric Schmidt clashes with Nicolas Sarkozy at eG8."

    A major fight between freedom of speech and government censorship on the Internet is brewing and Google is at the center of it, but none of this was spoken of on Democracy Now on Friday. That surprised me because the topic was "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You." Instead of informing her viewers and listeners about the real and present danger that these government moves pose to our Internet freedoms, Amy and her guest choose to misrepresent certain Internet realities so that they could engage in a bit of fear mongering and misdirection.

    Amy's co-host, Juan Gonzalez began the segment:

    When you follow your friends on Facebook or run a search on Google, what information comes up, and what gets left out? That’s the subject of a new book by Eli Pariser called The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. According to Pariser, the internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber in which websites tailor information according to the preferences they detect in each viewer.

    Amy continues:

    The top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit and then custom-designs their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. While these websites profit from tailoring their advertisements to specific visitors, users pay a big price for living in an information bubble outside of their control.

    Actually virtually all websites, not just the top 50, collect more that 64 bits of "personal information" when you visit them. I will explain to you why this is ordinary and necessary and really no big deal. And far from being outside of your control, I will show you how you can block this gathering of personal information absolutely but I will also tell you why you probably won't want to. Amy could have done a great service if she had used her show to tell you this, or point you to links on how to block access to your personal information rather than telling people this information gathering is "outside of their control" but this segment was all about misdirection, making mountains out of mole hills and creating a climate of fear, not teaching knowledge and spreading solutions.

    Eli Pariser is the leader of Last summer they organized the "Google Don't Be Evil" campaign. Today he was on Democracy Now to talk about his new book. After introductions, he describes what he sees as the problem:

    That’s right. I was surprised. I didn’t know that that was, you know, how it was working, until I stumbled across a little blog post on Google’s blog that said "personalized search for everyone." And as it turns out, for the last several years, there is no standard Google. There’s no sort of "this is the link that is the best link." It’s the best link for you. And the definition of what the best link for you is, is the thing that you’re the most likely to click. So, it’s not necessarily what you need to know; it’s what you want to know, what you’re most likely to click.

    He is wrong. There is still a "standard Google." That's the Google you will get if they know nothing about you because they don't know who you are. There are easy ways to be anonymous on the web but Eli doesn't mention them. He is into fear mongering and solutions take away your fears.

    Personally, I like the fact that Google searches keep getting better at finding "what you want to know" and not their idea or somebody else's idea of "what you need to know." But in case you are worried about this sort of thing please allow me to digress and take away your fears now by explaining a little about the technology and how you can avoid the use of personal information to tailor your web experience.

    When you visit most modern websites, they will write a little data file to your hard drive that they can retrieve on subsequent visits. This is a well known Internet practice and there is nothing sinister about it. These little data files are known as "cookies." These cookies can store any information that the website has about you. Most typically cookies will store or point to any preferences you set for that website and other information such as login name and last page visited but it can be anything the website knows about you including information you have entered into forms on that website. Size limitations aside, the cookie will store whatever information the web server, say Google, has access to and tells it to store. Just about everything a website knows about you before you have positively identified yourself by logging-in is information it is stored via a cookie on your hard drive.

    Nobody on Democracy Now mentions cookies, but this is how it works. Perhaps neither Democracy Now nor understand these things. In that case they should consult an expert before they start talking about things they don't understand. No login and no cookie and you are pretty much anonymous to Google or any other website.

    And the good news is that you can control cookies through your Internet browser, typically you can delete all or selected cookies and you can block cookies from all or selected websites. Like many things, exactly how you do this varies from browser to browser and is different in Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. Here's a link with some specific instructions.

    So if you are concerned that Google is shaping search results just for you, as Amy and Eli are, there's no reason to fret about it. Just become empowered and learn how to turn off that behavior in your setup. However, once you have banned cookies from your system you may find that there are a great many advantages to using them and having the website that you are communicating with know who it is communicating with but the choice will be yours. Democracy Now could have performed a great service by pointing to this easy solution to the Internet threat that most concerned them this week but they didn't.

    Apart from cookies, there is another, even more basic way websites collect your "personal information." They read your ENVIRONMENTAL VARIABLES. ENVIRONMENTAL VARIABLES are standard pieces of info that your computer makes public in order to facilitate communication. For example REMOTE_ADDR is a variable that contains your Internet address and HTTP_USER_AGENT tells everyone what type of browser you are using and often by deduction, what type of computer you are using. Eli and Amy warn about this too, although again, they never refer to the proper terminology. Eli tells Amy:

    Well, it’s really striking. I mean, even if you’re not—if you’re logged in to Google, then Google obviously has access to all of your email, all of your documents that you’ve uploaded, a lot of information. But even if you’re logged out, an engineer told me that there are 57 signals that Google tracks—"signals" is sort of their word for variables that they look at—everything from your computer’s IP address—that’s basically its address on the Internet—what kind of laptop you’re using or computer you’re using, what kind of software you’re using, even things like the font size or how long you’re hovering over a particular link. And they use that to develop a profile of you, a sense of what kind of person is this. And then they use that to tailor the information that they show you.

    And this is happening in a whole bunch of places, you know, not just sort of the main Google search, but also on Google News.

    And I would add that this happens not only with Google News but with absolutely every website on the planet. Internet Explorer responds differently from Firefox, Macs are different from PCs, Android different from iPhone. If you don't want your screens to dissolve into madness, you had better be willing to let the website know what kind of system it is talking to. If you know what you are doing you can delete HTTP_USER_AGENT from you computer but the results won't be pretty.

    Likewise, a website, even one as smart as Google, has to know what font size you are using before they can know how many characters to send you on a single line. And if they don't have your Internet address, well, they won't even know were to send them. They measure how long you hover over a link so they can pop up an information window if you linger, or maybe they just take you to the link after so many seconds. That can be a very helpful behavior for those operating with certain handicaps. So I say to Eli, get a grip, take your meds! All communications requires that you surrender a little "personal information." If you want someone to call you on the phone, you will have to give them your phone number. If you want them to mail you something, they will want an address.

    I hope I have gotten across to you just how ordinary and essential these variables are and just how ridiculous these complaints against them are.They are part of the Internet Protocol, they are as old as the web, all websites and browsers without exception use them and it is disingenuous to imply that especially Google reads your computer's Internet address or what size font you are using. They all do, even

    This is what I call fear mongering. This is what I call making a mountain out of a mole hill. Google has my IP address, oh my! Meanwhile the goverment is fixing to tell Google it can no longer find when you search for it. On that subject Amy and Eli are silent.

    Juan Gonzalez asks a good question:

    And what are the options, the opt-out options, if there are any, for those who use, whether it’s Google or Yahoo! or Facebook? Their ability to control and keep their personal information?

    Eli doesn't have a really good answer:

    Well, you know, there aren’t perfect opt-out options, because even if you take a new laptop out of the box, already it says something about you, that you bought a Mac and not a PC. I mean, it’s very hard to get entirely out of this. There’s no way to turn it off entirely at Google. But certainly, you can open a private browsing window. That helps.

    Here he could have mentioned proxy servers but he didn't. Proxy servers empower you because they give you a way to be completely anonymous to Google or any other website. An anonymous proxy server acts as an intermediary between you and the website you are ultimately talking to, so for example, you talk to Google through a proxy; Google sends the results to the proxy and the proxy send the results to you. In that case Google doesn't even know your IP address or anything about you.

    Proxy servers have played a big role in providing access and insuring the anonymity of Internet activists involved in the ongoing uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. In fact Google has been one of the players hosting proxy servers for these activists. These activists found themselves involved in a life or death struggle to hide their Internet identities from governments not large Internet companies. Since Democracy Now choose to raise concerns about Google and other websites collecting your personal information; they really should have told you where to find proxy servers and how to use them. They should have empowered you rather than imply there was really nothing you could do. Here's a link that will help you stay anonymous on the web.

    Now that I have explained to you how you can protect your privacy on-line, let's get back to the thrust of the Democracy Now segment because if the truth is to be told, Google's use of our IP addresses and font sizes really didn't go to the core of their concerns. They are most concerned that Google isn't giving you the search results they think you should have.

    ELI PARISER: Yeah. You know, if you look at how they talked about the original Google algorithm, they actually talked about it in these explicitly democratic terms, that the web was kind of voting—each page was voting on each other page in how credible it was. And this is really a departure from that. This is moving more toward, you know, something where each person can get very different results based on what they click on. [my note: that is not true but the message being promoted here is that Google is turning bad.]

    And when I did this recently with Egypt—I had two friends google "Egypt"—one person gets search results that are full of information about the protests there, about what’s going on politically; the other person, literally nothing about the protests, only sort of travel to see the Pyramids websites.

    AMY GOODMAN: Now, wait, explain that again. I mean, that is astounding. So you go in. The uprising is happening in Egypt.

    ELI PARISER: Right.

    AMY GOODMAN: In fact, today there’s a mass protest in Tahrir Square. They’re protesting the military council and other issues. So, if I look, and someone who likes to travel look, they may not even see a reference to the uprising?

    ELI PARISER: That’s right. I mean, there was nothing in the top 10 links. And, you know, actually, the way that people use Google, most people use just those top three links. So, if Google isn’t showing you sort of the information that you need to know pretty quickly, you can really miss it.

    Of course if you only give Google that one word clue as to what you are looking for, it will be pretty much of a crap shoot what you get back. Ask Google to run a search on the word "Egypt" and it will bring back over 400 million results. If you just search on the one word you really aren't being helpful. It's almost like you are asking Google to read your mind. Still it will try it's damnedest to discern just what about Egypt you are interested in and put those in the first few pages of results. If it has access to your past search requests or other information, it will use them in trying to determine what you want to know about Egypt.

    I would suggest that if Eli wants to have more control over what search results Google gives him them he needs to give it more information not less. Try Googling on "Egypt travel" or "Egypt uprising" and he will get more explicit results. I guarantee it. He should tell the search engine what he is looking for rather than asking it to pick the top ten of 400 million for him.

    Clearly, Amy thinks that the uprisings in Egypt should be in the top ten of any search on the word Egypt no matter what they are really looking for. That's because the uprisings in Egypt are now all the rage at Democracy Now. It doesn't matter that Google was showing references to the uprisings in Egypt for weeks before it found any on the Democracy Now website. Now that Amy has become aware of how important it is, she seems to think that Google has a moral responsibility to make sure everybody knows.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, what about the responses of those who run these search engines, that they’re merely responding to the interests and needs of the people who use the system?

    ELI PARISER: Well, you know, I think—they say, "We’re just giving people what we want." And I say, "Well, what do you mean by 'what we want'?" Because I think, actually, all of us want a lot of different things. And there’s a short-term sort of compulsive self that clicks on the celebrity gossip and the more trivial articles, and there’s a longer-term self that wants to be informed about the world and be a good citizen. And those things are in contention all the time. You know, we have those two forces inside us. And the best media helps us sort of—helps the long-term self get an edge a little bit. It gives us some sort of information vegetables and some information dessert, and you get a balanced information diet. This is like you’re just surrounded by empty calories, by information junk food.

    So the gist of their complaint is that these "search engines" just give people what they want whereas Eli and Amy want them to take on some parental responsibilities, to force us to eat our "information vegetables" as it were, look out for our "longer-term self" and help us "be a good citizen."

    So what do they propose as the solution to all these nasty fears they have raised with us? Of the problem, Eli says,

    It’s a natural byproduct of consolidating so much of what we do online in a few big companies that really don’t have a whole lot of accountability, you know, that aren’t being pushed very hard by governments to do this right or do it responsibly.

    So maybe we should be giving the government more authority to control just what search results Google and the other search engines give us? Say, doesn't the Protect IP bill just pasted by the Judiciary Committee yesterday do something like that? Oh that, we're not talking about that, not on Democracy Now!

    UPDATE 31-01-11: While this bill has been voted out of committee as I said in the beginning, the good news is that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has blocked the legislation for now. IT MUST BE DEFEATED! Opposition to the bill is growing rapidly. Yahoo, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, Consumer Electronics Association, and Net Coalition have joined Google in publicly opposing the Protect IP Act.

    The main group that seems to be organizing against it now is Demand Progress. Please visit their site, add your name to the petition, check for updates and other ways to contribute to it's defeat.

    2011-05-30 Memorial Day in America: What the US Government Wants Americans to Remember vs. What WikiLeaks Thinks Should Be Remembered

    Citizens of the United States today join in celebration of Memorial Day and honor those who have died in American wars from now all the way back to the American Civil War. It is the ninth consecutive Memorial Day during the “war on terrorism,” which was the Bush Administration’s response to the September 11 attacks. The “war on terror,” as the world knows, led to the Afghanistan and Iraq War and countless other covert military operations all aimed at rooting out terrorism.

    The memories of war shared with veterans in communities are, of course, sanitized. Communities do not really tell the stories of war. Members of squads like the “Kill Teams” of Afghanistan do not share photos or cell phone videos they captured when they shot innocent civilians and posed with them. They do not talk about the glory of employing “enhanced interrogation techniques” or torture to gain, often, false information from detainees at Guantanamo or “black” prison sites to better prosecute the war against global terrorism. And probably few could be said to be telling real war stories, like the ones that can be found in the pages of the American literary classic by Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried.

    WikiLeaks has released military reports from both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. What those sets of documents reveal along with the contents of the few thousand US State Embassy cables released indicates there is a reality that society and government would like to suppress. The contents may be useful to the US government, as decisions are made in future wars, but much of the contents might lead a society to hesitate to engage in future wars of choice especially wars that appear to be authorized illegally (e.g. the Libya war, etc).

    When US President Barack Obama finally began to withdraw some troops from Iraq, this is how he reflected on the past years of war:

    The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.  They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people.  Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.  They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people, trained Iraqi Security Forces, and took out terrorist leaders.  Because of our troops and civilians -- and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people -- Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.

    This is how people wish to remember war. This is what they hope veterans accomplished. This story and not the truth of war is what they prefer to think about if they think of the “reality” of war on Memorial Day at all.

    Unfortunately, for a population insulated from daily reports of the horrors of war, WikiLeaks came along and released the Iraq war logs and a “Collateral Murder” video and threatened to pierce the bubble the press and government has let form around the American population.

    Unlawful killings of civilians, indiscriminate attacks or the unjustified use of lethal force against civilians, horrendous abuse and torture of Iraqis by the Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service, and torture of Iraqis whilst in UK custody (presumably, whilst in the custody of US and other coalition forces custody as well) were each revealed in detail.

    The “Collateral Murder” video shows soldiers targeting and killing civilians in Baghdad. It reveals a Reuters journalist and his driver being shot and killed by US soldiers in a helicopter. It includes a “Good Samaritan,” Saleh Mutashar, driving up in a van and being killed as he tries to save the wounded. It features US soldiers shouting profanity and callous remarks as if they were just buddies having a few beers while playing a video game.

    This is the allegory President Obama has told when speaking about the Afghanistan War:

    Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy -- and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden -- we sent our troops into Afghanistan.  Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed.  The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels.  A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope.  At a conference convened by the U.N., a provisional government was established under President Hamid Karzai.  And an International Security Assistance Force was established to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country.

    The American population would like to believe their country’s intervention has erased fear and given a people hope to justify the sacrifices US troops have made. The Afghan war logs, however, muddy this mendacious yarn.

    What do they reveal exactly? That a US-assassination squad in Afghanistan operates with a "kill-and-capture list." That drones used by the US are prone to system failures, computer glitches and human error. That Pakistan actively arms the Taliban even as the US works to keep the country an ally. That the CIA has expanded its paramilitary operations. That intelligence agents are awash in data they don't know what to do with. That killings of civilians by forces are going unreported. That the US has covered up certain Taliban activity. That Iran is likely aiding the Taliban

    US State Embassy cables reveal cables like the one on the Bala Baluk massacre—an incident where US and NATO forces attacked “Taliban,” dropped bombs leaving a mosque in ruins, and turned the village into “an inferno of screaming, mangled and bloody people.” The cable demonstrates the US and assistance forces, working with NATO, have actively conspired to inaccurately report the number of dead civilians in attacks or strikes.

    WikiLeaks puts forth the minority report on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, aspects of the wars that will likely not make it into the history books children learn from in school but nonetheless a history that allows Americans to understand, if they choose, the shallowness of day after day accepting the official government story of war and supporting the troops when accepting that story endangers soldiers, civilians and breeds lawlessness and brutality.

    In the midst of this Memorial Day, Congress is considering, along with a worldwide authorization for war that will ensure future Memorial Days are starkly painful for families, a holiday to honor those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. US lawmakers want the “national day of honor” so the country can “recognize the enormous sacrifice and invaluable service that those phenomenal men and women have undertaken to protect [American] freedom and share the gift of democracy in other parts of the world.”

    Piercing through this cavalier mindset is WikiLeaks (and, for that matter, all those who have fueled the Arab Spring).

    American society does not remember the stories that soldiers like Ethan McCord (in the above video) will live with for the rest of their lives. Society does not share the burden of memory that a soldier deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq experiences. It adorns yellow ribbons to the vehicles it drive around, awards medals to soldiers, offers minimal health care and ways to reincorporate into society upon return from deployment but little is done to give soldiers a public forum for expressing the anxiety, anguish, fear, pain or stress that a soldier brings back with him or her from a war zone.

    Much has been said about WikiLeaks being dangerous; for example, the propagated notion that an organization exists that is intent to “steal” documents from governments all over the world has inaccurately led many Americans to consider WikiLeaks an “info-terrorist” organization. But, this is not the real risk to the US.

    The true risk is that more and more in the American public start to challenge the idea that the U.S. troops must stay in Afghanistan and do battle with the Taliban, begin to dispute the arguments against withdrawal of US/coalition forces from Afghanistan, and eventually doubt the motives and intentions of American superpower in Afghanistan more openly.

    The danger is that WikiLeaks erodes a sense of shared purpose in the country—disrupt the unity that is imposed upon American citizens from the top-down to accept any and all wars or face marginalization in their communities.

    As author, columnist and war correspondent Chris Hedges has written, war “gives [Americans] purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of our lives become apparent.”

    Mourning the loss of loved ones, honoring those who are deployed in an unending global war, and convincing one’s self of the glory and sacrifice of those loved ones’ involvement in conflict is part of a war culture that appears in advertising, movies, and television, at sporting events and in the mecca of war memorials, Washington, DC.

    Support rituals ensure a faction of people does not grow in its ability to oppose and obstruct US government war policies.

    If WikiLeaks is allowed to succeed in its mission (in fact, even exist without being defamed and opposed by the government), it is able to directly challenge war culture. That's not to say the organization is anti-war but rather that the information released directly forces a person to ask about the moral conscience of waging war, hence putting at risk the rubberstamping of war that traditionally has come from Americans (with perhaps the exception of the Vietnam War).

    A people no longer inculcated with war culture will not be as open to global wars on real or conjured up enemies. That is why, this Memorial Day, the US government is in the middle of a war on WikiLeaks and that is why it hopes Americans consider alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, to be mentally “unfit” to stand trial and someone who never should have served in the military in the first place.

    Follow me on Twitter @kgosztola.

    2011-05-30 Why the new ASIO bill must be stopped


    A new development in global law harmonization against the perpetual War on Everything is a new amended bill being passed through Australian Parliament, which will further fatten up ASIO’s capabilities to spy on Australians and anyone else abroad. Crikey reports on the bill’s proposed changes:

    “Foreign intelligence” is redefined to relate to “intelligence about the capabilities, intentions or activities of people or organisations outside Australia”.
    Under current legislation, it is limited to “intelligence relating to the capabilities, intentions or activities of a foreign power”. Similarly, the concept of a “foreign power” has been redefined — currently it applies to “a foreign government, an entity that is directed or controlled by a foreign government or governments, or a foreign political organisation”. Under the bill, it will become “people, organisations and governments outside Australia”.

    That’s pretty damn broad.

    Bascially, anyone who organises in groups to campaign about political and social issues, such as antiwar activists, environmental activists, refugee advocates, anti-censorship activists – anyone who communicates with others overseas to campaign against Australian government policy – will be able to be targeted by ASIO under these new laws.

    Crikey suggests that groups without a specific political agenda, such as Wikileaks and online lulz masters Anonymous, may also be targets. By this logic, so could the Australian Pirate Party, which pits itself against hawkish and well-funded copyright lobby groups, and whose sister parties in Europe have been subject to civil lawsuits and police investigation.

    Presently there are 10 suggestions regarding this bill tabled in the Senate. Only half of these submissions are critical of the amendment.

    The Law Council of Australia and the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University have responded with the voice of common sense, but this overall dismal response, reflects amongst other things, the need for a truly cohesive and energetic civil liberties movement in Australia. (An Australian Bill of Rights is also wanting, but that’s a whole other depressing story in itself).

    This is the latest chapter in the widening scope of ASIO’s activities and jurisdiction since 2001. As Daniel Baldino, who has written an excellent paper (.pdf) on the growing intelligence behemoth in Australia has pointed out: “Under Australia’s National Counter-Terrorist Plan (2003) …ASIO has been drawn into the arena of domestic policing. Previously, the agency had no powers to detain and interrogate members of the community…For the first time in its history, ASIO could detain people without charge, trial or conviction and conduct compulsory questioning for information gathering.”

    The Castan Centre’s submission to the Senate points out that the most obvious motivation behind this new ASIO bill is the ongoing effort to silence Wikileaks. This makes perfect sense: Wikileaks is a unique mix of principles and structures that aims to trigger reform in both the political and media milieu – two spheres which are dovetailed together by association and funding. Most importantly, Wikileaks is stateless – claiming no allegiance to any sovereign nation or territory – as it exists solely online and is mirrored by thousands around the world who have devoted web server space to the cause. Of most relevance to ASIO however, is that Wikileaks’ chief Julian Assange is an Australian national - and that his organization has immense support amongst his fellow citizens, many of whom have formed alliance networks online.

    What is perhaps underestimated by certain quarters is the power of political embarrassment (although there is no doubt that this would not be underestimated by those who have followed the Wikileaks story closely). The seeds of this new ASIO bill had been sown from late 2010, when Wikileaks began publishing its ‘mega-leak’ of secretly classified U.S diplomatic cables – including dispatches from the U.S Embassy in Canberra. The Australian government, in the classic trait characteristic of Commonwealth nations, sees its relationship with the U.S as unshakeable and forever ideologically intertwined. So intertwined in fact, that when it was revealed via Wikileaks that a currently serving Labour minister was/is a mole for the Americans, a small blip appeared in the Australian news media cycle - but that minister still has a job. In private, the Gillard government was in damage control. As The Age later reported, frenetic intelligence reporting on Wikileaks was already taking place. Assange, already aware of Australian intelligence keeping tabs on his team and it support base, confronted Julia Gillard with this on a particularly riveting episode of Q and A. It’s easy to figure that this new legislation is a move by ASIO to cover its hide retroactively for surveillance activity it is already conducting.

    Under Item 7 - Paragraph 27A(1)(b), the wording of the bill is as follows:

    “This item will amend the conditions for the issue of foreign intelligence warrants under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 […]This item will amend this condition so that the issuing Minister may issue a warrant for foreign intelligence collection if satisfied, on the basis of advice received from the Defence Minister or the Foreign Affairs Minister, that the collection of foreign intelligence relating to that matter is in the interests of Australia’s national security, Australia’s foreign relations or Australia’s national economic well-being. The new conditions recognise the broader nature of the contemporary threat environment.“

    This excerpt highlights how the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 is reactionary law-making at worst – criminalizing the exposure of political embarrassments, hastily drafted with no adequate consideration of public debate, the knee-jerk response of a state apparatus that is on the defensive about its reputation and efficacy.

    Such bills that have passed through Australian parliament into law, each more draconian than the last, defy the understanding of ordinary citizens and legal professionals alike. With each successive wave of legislation, due process is further abrogated into meaninglessness: accountability mechanisms are dismantled with the endless extension of sunset clauses and delay of review procedures (witness similar recent developments in the U.S with the Patriot Act), the reversal of the burden of proof principle, and the conflation of intelligence with evidence. The arbitrary grip of unanswerable law enforcement and intelligence power is tightening further while we watch with buckets of popcorn in our laps.

    There has been a quiet, defeatist acceptance of these newly imposed realities on the Australian public for various reasons. The hackneyed and anti-logical “I’ve got nothing to hide” argument is frequently cited with a shrug of the shoulders by people who have not been adequately informed of new developments in the law and who have been blindsided by spin. Then there is an acquiescent leadership and opposition in parliament, which routinely disregards its citizens’ civil liberties due to its mortal fear of appearing soft on preordained geopolitical agendas. Tying all these factors together is a flaccid, stenographic culture of journalistic practice that merely parrots such legislation instead of methodically tearing it apart.

    With each new ‘dragnet’ style law that is enacted, only the public suffers, for those who administer such laws are blithely unaccountable. Severe political pressure has been applied to Wikileaks for some time – and less controversial but equally legitimate community groups are now under threat.

    This article also appears on the author's blog, No Meritocracy

    2011-05-31 More from Raza Rumi on the Pakistan Papers - US Operations Constrained by India-Pakistan Relations

    ImageThe Dawn Media Group in partnership with WikiLeaks has been releasing the "Pakistan Papers." Thus far, some of the revelations include the following: US was concerned that Pakistan would oppose its policies at the United Nations; US was worried Pakistan would purchase oil from Iran, allowing them to get a foothold in Pakistan; Pakistan's government was upset with US funding for the Pakistan military, which led to increased civil-military tensions; Pakistan's military asked for continued drone coverage; the US has had troops deployed on Pakistan soil; Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been financing jihadist groups in Pakistan and the US did not provide Benazir Bhutto with proper security.

    For this episode of "This Week in WikiLeaks," the show has part two of an interview that was done with Raza Rumi, a writer based in Lahore, Pakistan. Rumi regularly writes for the Pakistani weekly The Friday Times, The News and Daily DAWN on myriad topics such as history, arts, literature and society. Rumi has worked in Pakistan and abroad in various organizations including multilateral institutions such as the United Nations.

    Rumi's writing can be read here.

    [*Note: This is the second part of "This Week in WikiLeaks" for the week. You'll find part one, an interview with Kevin Zeese of the Bradley Manning Support Network on the one year anniversary of Manning's arrest here.]

    To hear the show, click play on this embedded player.

    You can also click here and select it from the list of episodes (it's called "Raza Rumi on the Pakistan Papers"). And, also, it can be found by searching iTunes for "CMN News."

    Below is a partial transcript of the second part of Raza Rumi's interview. (If you have not heard the beginning, here is the first part of the interview.)


    KEVIN GOSZTOLA, host: Throughout the cables you’ll see Pakistani leaders suggesting to the United States officials give Pakistan control over the technology and bombing of the militants and they’re pretty open to letting the United States be in the country to carry out the operations. In your analysis of the situation, why do you think the US isn’t letting Pakistani leaders take over and have more control?

    RAZA RUMI, Pakistan-based editor/blogger: Again, all of this is pretty complicated because of the history. This is not a new partnership but a decades old relationship that has seen its ups and downs. The relationship has been there since the mid 1950s, when the US was forging alliances to contain Soviet Union during the Cold War.

    Pakistani state’s policy, especially its military policy, has been to collaborate in lieu for US support - financial and technical. This policy continues to date. These cables reveal that this historical relationship is pretty much intact.

    The problem is that many Pakistanis believe that after the removal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan the US abandoned Pakistan, leaving us high and dry, facing all sorts of sanctions in the late 80s and during most of the 90s. That major letdown has led to political public opinion against the US and I think the army is very conscious of that; and that is why it has been arguing for acquisition of the technology for drone strikes, etc.

    And, the second issue is that the army is very much an India-centric army. The entire military machine, its might, its strategy, is all directed towards India. In this particular real and imagined combat with India it needs the support of the two big powers i.e. the US and China. The Chinese have been helping Pakistan due to the regional complexities but the US has always kept its national interests above all such considerations. And in this context these discussions on allowing the US troops and bargaining for acquisition of technology make sense because it sort of creates some semblance of equality between the two countries.

    GOSZTOLA: What would you have to say about how India is part of the complications the United States has with Pakistan? Is the US manipulating the conflict between India and Pakistan, to get better bargains in the War on Terror?

    RUMI: I would say that one of the key constraints that the US has faced is Pakistan’s reluctance to allow Indian influence in Pakistan. Because the way Pakistani army thinks is that we face a very formidable enemy on the eastern border (India), and on the western border, Afghanistan. The army has this questionable policy of strategic depth where they think that by having effective control of its western borders it can fortify the country’s defense. This is very conventional military thinking and that’s how the institution thinks.

    The efforts of the Americans in fighting the Taliban have not been helped by this constraint. The reason that the Afghan Taliban are now in a strong bargaining position and Pakistan is basically behind them and willing to find a solution for the US exit, provides that Pakistan gets seat at the policy table and gets something in return for it’s security against India. This now in turn conflicts with the Indian expansionism that has also been ongoing for the last decade or so. Because traditionally, India thinks that Afghanistan has been a historical part of the Indian sub-continent—not formally but through all the trade, culture and commerce ties—and it feels that it needs to have influence there. And, also, don’t forget that Afghanistan is at the gateway of the energy rich Central Asian republics, which can serve the growing needs of India as a regional power like China.

    Therefore, I think that the issue is rather complicated and unfortunately, though the US has tried to mediate, it does not have the same leverage with India that it does with Pakistan. India has basically not paid much heed to US advice and hence the stalemated imbroglio continues on this issue.

    RUMI: Are you familiar with Christine Fair’s paper on India’s Afghanistan policy? She argues that basically the Indian policy is now in trouble as regards to Afghanistan because there can be no peace in Afghanistan without Pakistani involvement and which would mean that the regional and global power shift will move towards getting a settlement in which Pakistan has a stake and which directly influences the Indian ambitions in Afghanistan.

    Perhaps the West and NATO now need to really focus on some sort of agreement between India and Pakistan not just on Afghanistan but also for regional and global peace. Because, if there is a settlement on the thorny issue of Kashmir and other at least half a dozen serious issues and if they start to trade, there are higher chances of achieving a sustainable durable peace in Afghanistan, which does not involve pandering or bowing before the terrorist networks.

    Now, this is a tough job. Ultimately, in the end Pakistan (and India) have to act like mature neighbours, but the international community can play a role in facilitating linkages and convincing the leaderships on both sides that they have to give and take.

    I would really underscore that this issue is so deep and so huge that it is often ignored in the global policy debates on the War on Terror and most assessments either bypass or underplay this issue. The Afghanistan situation cannot be viewed in isolation of the existing tensions within South Asia, especially between Pakistan and India. It has turned into a subset of the regional conflict because there is a proxy war of sorts going on between Indian and Pakistani military machines in Afghanistan.

    GOSZTOLA: What about the revelation that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been funding jihadist groups in Pakistan?

    RUMI: Now that is deeply, deeply worrying. That’s another aspect, which underscores the hypocrisy of Pakistan’s policymakers because they are very quick to condemn the US intervention and US policies, however, they are very easy on Saudi Arabia and UAE when they finance a particular brand of Islamism in Pakistan and help flourish terrorist networks within Pakistan. It is a cause of concern chiefly for Pakistanis because their soil and their country is being used for a most heinous sectarian warfare between the Wahhabi Islam financed by the petro-dollars of the Gulf states versus the Shiite part of the Islamic world led by Iran. And because Iran is in the immediate neighborhood, it is also a player and a stakeholder in the final settlement of Afghanistan - because it would not like a very strong American influence in Afghanistan since that affects its long-term security. I don’t agree with Iran’s concerns, but that’s how they think.

    The Saudis since the late 70s have used jihad in Afghanistan as an opportunity for the proliferation of the Wahhabi-Salafi versions of Islam. It’s a particular and a peculiar ideology which focuses on ‘purity’ and does not accept pluralism within the Islamic fold. Now that may work in the Arab world or in some other parts of the world but that comes into direct conflict with the way south Asian Islam is organized and exists.

    South Asian Islam is a hybrid of the ancient traditions that existed in India before the arrival of Islam including Buddhism, Mysticism, Hinduism… And when Islam arrived, it sort of accepted some of those broad streams and a hybrid, tolerant, plural version of Islam was generated during the last one millennia. Wahabi Islam actually wants to undo that. That is why you have so many attacks on Sufi shrines and other places of worship which belong to sects of Islam which Wahhabi Islam thinks are infidels, like how Wahhabis view the Shiites as infidel. So, I think one aspect is sectarian warfare.

    2011-05-31 WikiLeaks: The Ireland Cables | Daily Roundup of Coverage in the Irish Independent | Day One


    After months during which the Irish media appeared to display little interest in the content of the State Department cables held by Wikileaks, The Irish Independent has finally initiated publication as part of a Wikileaks partnership. This is the first and hitherto only Wikileaks partnership in the Irish media. Today was Day One, and the coverage is projected to run for at least a week, although the Independent may choose to use its access to the cables for longer than this. Tomorrow's cables are to be on "What the US really thinks of [Irish] politicians." Investigative correspondent for the Independent, Shane Phelan, announced tonight on Vincent Browne Tonight that Thursday's reports will be on what the cables reveal about Ireland's banking crisis and recent economic troubles.

    According to one of the introductory articles online, The Independent, along with the Belfast Telegraph, sought and obtained access to the Irish cables in March of this year. The cables from the Dublin embassy and the Belfast consulate were given to the newspapers, along with cables from other US sources in the collection which were of direct relevance to Ireland or Irish affairs. This brings the total of cables given to the Irish newspaper to 1903. This includes 16 Belfast cables, and some 897 cables from the Dublin embassy. Curiously, the original total for the Dublin embassy cables, as revealed by the Guardian's spreadsheet in November, was 910. (see all previously released cables listed against this spreadsheet here) It remains to be seen whether the Independent has chosen to subtract the cables that had already been published when it received the cables, or if their total for the Dublin cables is different to the Guardian's.

    Criticism of the Independent's Approach

    Although there has been a diversity of approaches to the publication of Wikileaks cables by the various media partners, The Independent has not chosen to follow best practice in their reportage. Papers like the Guardian and the Telegraph, El País (and even Aftenposten, which wasn't an official media partner) chose to publish both reports on the cables and the original text of the cables themselves. They also chose to use the reference ID of each cable, so as to enable speedy citation and referencing for readers and researchers. The Independent has chosen not to do this: reports in the Independent do not refer to cables directly, and prefer to report on what reporters have decided is the interesting part of the cable. The result is that readers are completely at the mercy of the journalists at the Independent, and will remain so until Wikileaks publishes the original cables on its website, which it has not yet done. For the leading edge of Wikileaks' global transparency drive in Ireland, this is not a transparent approach to journalism.

    Furthermore, while other newspapers have chosen to flagship their Wikileaks releases with an expansive online feature, which is open not only to the citizens of their own countries, but to the wider community of journalists and readers following the Wikileaks stories, the Independent has chosen to publish only a teaser of its coverage on its website. The rest, we are assured, will be available if we purchase each day's copy of the paper. This has already been a source of criticism for the Independent's coverage, and somebody has taken the trouble to upload scans of today's reports. The problem is also alleviated somewhat by the fact that the Belfast Telegraph has published some of the articles from the Independent. But while it might make more sense in terms of the Irish paper's business model, the decision not to publish all reports online is suboptimal for a number of reasons.

    The publication of the collection of Wikileaks cables must be approached by different media organizations working together, but it is no less integral a collection of documents for this reason. Some of the best reportage on the cables - reportage which gives an insight into the full significance of this collection of documents and to the wider Wikileaks phenomenon - has partaken of a cross-border interest, observing patterns in U.S. diplomatic efforts in different countries, or following a certain theme in various jurisdictions. This is rendered far more difficult if the ethos of one of the national publishing partners is to hoard its coverage jealously in order to ensure wider print circulation. A consciousness of the transnational implications of this story is very important, and has general application in today's world, and it would have been greatly aided by a greater openness to the internet than we have seen thus far from the Independent.

    It is also of importance that good reportage on these documents survives the years. Reports published on the internet survive and are archived for many years, and are available indefinitely for new discovery and reference. To keep most of the reports on the Irish cables off the internet invites the risk of public forgetfulness, and mutes the public impact of journalism on issues that may require the breach of a threshhold of public attention before valuable changes are seen.

    Quality of Reportage

    The coverage, which is mostly under three by-lines, is of a generally high level of professionalism. While standard citation guidelines have not been followed, as noted, a good awareness of the background to Cablegate is in evidence, as is an understanding of the technicalities of the cable relay system and the metadata in each cable. In various cases, this has been used to provide illuminating angles on the content of the cables, and it is to be commended.

    The depth of the journalism involved is thus far about equal to that of the first wave of Cablegate coverage in other forums. Today, the focus was on introductory articles to help orient an average Irish reader (who has, to be fair, not been exposed to much news of Wikileaks in the national press), and on various not-so-scandalous pieces of gossip from the Dublin embassy cables. There have been some interesting, but not earth-shattering, revelations about the Northern Ireland peace process, which by and large confirm already widespread suspicions. As with most commercial media outlets, the journalists here have gone for the most obvious stories represented by the cables. This superficiality has been exacerbated by the fact that the original texts are not available - it is thus far not possible to discover a story of more significance that has been overlooked by the journalists, as was done earlier in the year with the Guardian's coverage of Morgan Tsvangirai and Zimbabwe. Hitherto, there has been no further information on the military stopover at Shannon airport and extraordinary rendition, as written about on WL Central here.

    Some of the best work that has been done with Cablegate has descried systemic patterns rather than searching for scandalous events. It is possible with careful and expansive reading to discern the unofficial policies and apportionments of power, allowing one to paint a broader and truer picture and identify systemic problems with the state of international relations. There is some promise that this work has been done in the Independent's coverage, most notably in articles on the Irish diplomats meeting with the U.S. embassy staff and on the patterns of information-sharing between the Dublin embassy and American intelligence agencies (outlined below). The lack, again, of source material for these stories leaves the reader with a slight feeling of myopia, especially for a reader who has become accustomed to the level of source material-access that Wikileaks has normalized in its leaks in the past.

    The Articles

    There are a few scene-setting articles on the general trends of information. The front page story, continued on page 23, details at a very general level findings within the cables of "How the US taps our secrets." The article is one of the few articles from today which was hosted online. It generalizes well on the bulk of the cables surveyed, and gives summaries of general trends of information sharing with the diplomatic post in Dublin, but fails to furnish the sorts of specifics which cash out the observations, and therefore fails to be very informative.

    Pages 22-23 contain the main introduction to the Wikileaks coverage for the Independent. A double page article outlines the background behind the Wikileaks story, the narrative behind the Independent's media partnership, and some of the editorial commitments the Independent has adopted in its coverage. This article is available online, in an edited form, here.

    A comment piece on page 32 attempts some analysis of the nature of Irish-American relations revealed in the cables, but is rather too brief to do more than make promises. The same goes for the remarks here about transparency and internet freedoms in an Irish context. The article is reproduced online, here.

    There are two feature pieces offering perspective and analysis. The first, on page 29, is a context-piece on diplomacy by an Irish ex-diplomat, Eamon Delaney. We learn, at a safe level of generality, of his experiences of Irish diplomacy, and of the likely import of globalization on the profession, as reflected in the cables. The second piece, by James Downey on page 33, is a reflection on the possibility revealed by the cables - which ought to have been obvious enough - that various world superpowers are employing both diplomatic and other means to scrutinize Irish politics for its effects on their own interests. The premise is that one assumes that Ireland is so unimportant as to merit no attention in diplomatic circles. One would have been ill-advised to assume that.

    Two articles, one on Bradley Manning, page 30, the other on Julian Assange, page 31, (published here with the Belfast Telegraph) will offer very little new to followers of Wikileaks news at the international level. Both run over the basic developments in the story since this time last year. This information, however, has seen very little coverage in the mainstream press in Ireland, and will be the first point of contact with these stories for certain sectors of the Irish public. The articles are refreshingly articulate about the political dimensions of Wikileaks and whistleblowing, and constitute positive Irish exposure for the aims and goals of Wikileaks. The full interview, from which the Assange piece is drawn, is available online here.

    The headlines the Independent touted the most today were mostly light rumour pieces. A headline, on page 22, declaiming "Greens are only interested in hares, stags and badgers, Hanafin told US envoy," confirms what everyone in Ireland probably imagined a senior Fianna Fail party government member thought about their new Green party coalition partners in 2007. The report is reproduced on the Belfast Telegraph's site. The cable is of marginal interest in that it demosntrates the sort of confidences into which American diplomats are allowed. But one is inclined to think it was an easy headline. The same can be said for the page 25 story (again, online on the Belfast Telegraph, but not on the Irish Independent's) on Maire Geoghegan-Quinn's appointment as Ireland's EU commissioner. We are here given insight into the criteria which influenced her selection, but apart from the news that then Taoiseach Brian Cowen took seriously instructions from Commission President Barroso to employ a rationale of positive gender discrimination, the news is unexceptional.

    Pages 26-27 contain an array of stories on the Northern Ireland peace process, but succeed for the most part in adding colour to news that is already well-trodden. These stories are all published on the Belfast Telegraph's website. Perhaps the most interesting news is the level of detail to American interest in the peace process. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reported to have demanded intimate details of policing and counter-terrorism practices of the various police forces operative on the island. Other stories cover the conferral of the Arms Commission with US diplomats, and talks between Irish President McAleese's husband Martin and Ulster loyalists. We learn about the PR strategy the IRA used when announcing its renunciation of violence. Another story details how Sinn Fein and the DUP were in talks years before they officially were in talks, and still years before they will admit to having so been.

    A story on page 28 amusingly displays the biases of the Independent journalists. The one significant scenario in the cables in which Ireland chose prostration to European pressures over prostration to US pressures is portrayed as a triumph of valiant resolve on behalf of the diplomats of the smaller state. It details how the US was unable to induce the Irish government to veto a European trend towards the relaxation of arms sanctions on China in 2005.

    One of the more interesting articles on pages 24-25 is a survey of the various Irish diplomats who have dealt with the diplomatic mission in Dublin. The article offers plenty of asides that would encourage further reading of the cables in question, if they had been available. However, perhaps the most interesting part of the article is a small passage:

    An Irish ambassador who provided briefings to US officials from an international troublespot throughout 2008. This diplomat's name is being withheld as exposing their activities could put them at risk of harm.

    While the concern for harm minimization is to be commended here, one has to wonder if too much was censored. Given the history of the use of terms like "destablizing influence" and "troublemaker" in American foreign policy parlance, there should exist questions over how trustworthy are the political sympathies at work here. If it should turn out that Irish diplomats were acting as proxy spies for the United States in a questionable way, it would be unfortunate if this fact were covered up by a newspaper.

    Further articles detail other aspects of American diplomacy where the lines blur with more clandestine intelligence-gathering activities. A page 28 article entitled "Americans got their hands on key EU Iraq file" outlines how leaky are the diplomatic circles through which European diplomatic agreements are reached, that news cannot be kept from falling into American hands. The suggestion is that American diplomatic influence is so ubiquitous that multilaterial talks can have multiple points of leakback to Washington. If one country doesn't leak, the others will.

    Finally, an article on page 28 details how the information flow into which deposits are made from Ireland and Europe's leaky diplomatic and political spheres eventually winds up with various American intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and the DIA. The article has some interesting observations about the types of information copied to different agencies, which provides some insights into the information priorities instituted by the State Department and other bodies. This is a sort of analysis that hasn't been done before, and while it could be more extensive here, it would be interesting to see this form of analysis applied by other media organizations with access to the cables.

    It has been an interesting, albeit slightly equivocal first day for Ireland's Week of Wikileaks. It remains to be seen how the Independent's coverage continues during the week and beyond. If, as promised, tomorrow's leaks really do focus on "What the US really thinks of [Irish] politicians," we may be in for yet more gossip. WL Central will continue coverage as it happens.