News Archive - 2013-09 (September 2013)

2013-09-01 Detached Reflections on Resignations from the Party of Transparency

Daniel Matthews offers a furtive thought in the context of his resignation
on behalf of pure democracy:

[Julian] really ought not to have set up a party with internal democracy. As his own political self, he has many innovative ideas, influence, eloquence, knowledge, and skills. Despite recent events, his election as a senator is still probably the most potent possible outcome of the upcoming election.

The nub of the problem as outlined in Daniel's lengthy post appeared summarised elsewhere by Leslie Cannold:

At one point, there was a direct challenge to the council's democratic right to decide and implement decisions about preference and instead proposed that it become a rubber stamp. This was rejected by council.

One of the paradoxical things about democracy is that it is perfectly capable of compromising itself, and conceivably for its own good in certain circumstances.

For instance, if the internally non-democratic party Daniel thinks Julian should have set up had won the vote, then this would have been a good thing according to Daniel's view quoted above. So democracy would have triumphed through such a vote, despite it being a less than ideally democratic party that was voted for.

Thus it seems a party with a platform of democratic transparency and accountability does not have to be democratic, transparent and accountable in all conceivable respects. At least, not according to the most articulate advocate of those ideals in the recent affair.

Nonetheless, the resignees clearly think that the "rubber stamping" Julian wanted was too much of a debasement of democracy to vote for, in their now ended role in the WikiLeaks Party National Council.

We've had various statements and opinions from insiders to this affair, yet a complementary analysis of the relevant principles seem available to any detached observer:

The council might have pragmatically noted that its unique experiment of internal party democracy had an option of surviving instead of imploding under Julian's will or exploding against it. Nothing I've read has clarified why this internal democracy should have preferred martyrdom in operatic style to retreating and digging in for a workable evolution, somewhere between its purest ideal and the internally non-democratic party that Daniel depicted as worthy.

It might then have voted in more strategic accordance with the realisation that there would be no present or ongoing WikiLeaks party without Julian's patronage, and that if he thought the preference issue was make-or-break for the election then he might leverage that capital to the full against any resistance, even if it came to half the council resigning.

But things aren't always so clear in a contest of wills where the outcome is uncertain, and if the shared ideal of internal party democracy might crash through, why flinch in such a bracing game of chicken?

Reasons why were just outlined, yet no band of activists is distinguished by compromise, and considering grey-area grievances, bruised egos and similar trappings of intra and inter-party politics, it's not hard to understand how profanities hit the Twitter fan.

But in what ways are the ideals of democracy, transparency and accountability most importantly at stake?

Transparency and accountability are exclusively valuable to keep power duly beholden to the genuine interests of citizens, and are otherwise just instruments of oppression, most prolific in surveillance and police states.

Their ideality broadly concerns the direction of empowerment from governed to governing and not vice versa. But that gets easily obfuscated, which is why we need the consciences of whistleblowers and radical publishers.

Both will likely have things to duly hide from establishment, and perhaps even from close associates. So might any activist collective or sub-collective. Privacy, confidentiality or secrecy are not always less pertinent than transparency, exceptionally even at the heart of an evil empire.

The main criteria for deciding the relative importance of a specific instance or institution of transparency or accountability is overall impact on subjects to a system.

Voters don't need to know if Bill lied to Hillary about Monica, or Julian's detailed reply to every evidence-free speculation about his amorous misadventures. Nor do they need or likely wish to know everything about how preferences were settled in the WikiLeaks party.

And if a regrettable portion of the WikiLeaks party were demoralised or even defected in disgust at a perceived affront to the excellent senator Ludlam, should voters give half a percent about that either?

Players need to vie among themselves with evidence-based ammunition, and this may or may not explain the council resolution for independent review of the preferences issue before the election. But there's no absolute justification of such review from any general and ideal conception of the importance of transparency and accountability in a democracy. Everyone learns in the playground that broad principles are readily shoe-horned into power plays, yet have little validity outside a due sense of perspective.

The current perspective suggests a direction less tragic than any terminating in echoes of indignant idealism. The WikiLeaks party has had noisy teething trouble, some have left and probably everyone could have done better. So what? The election is not blown by it, and the vision of internal party democracy and transparency will mature even without its most recently ardent voices.

The emotional dynamics of political activity are typically fraught and fleeting, while all that ever matters is the world.

2013-09-03 WikiLeaks to launch criminal investigations in four jurisdictions

Assange lawyer Per E Samuelson has confirmed that a criminal complaint has been filed at 09:44 on Tuesday 3 September 2013 with Swedish police authorities. The complaint concerns the likely unlawful seizure of WikiLeaks property on 27 September 2010, following publication of the Afghan War Diaries. Additional affidavits and articles of evidence used in the complaint have been ready for a year, but the filing was held off until now for various reasons.

A similar complaint has been filed in Germany and complaints in two additional jurisdictions are to follow.

The complaints coincide with the visit of US president Barack Obama to Sweden 4-5 September and come at a crucial time before German national elections.

The complaints detail the seizure of property on 27 September 2010 from the Stockholm Arlanda airport and follow the discovery of unlawful FBI and US intelligence activities against WikiLeaks in Europe. These activities were forced onto the public record through a parliamentary inquiry in Iceland and through the recently concluded Manning trial.

The complaints include a 186-page affidavit which details ongoing attempts by US authorities to interfere with WikiLeaks. These attempts have grown in number. The recent abuse of the UK Terrorism Act to seize materials belonging to those working on the Edward Snowden surveillance revelations is but one example.

Julian Assange said of the complaints:

Now is the time for everyone to take a stand to put an end to Obama's war against national security journalism - at home and abroad. This filing, recent court victories, and our successful intervention in the case of Edward Snowden represent the continuing reorientation of WikiLeaks from legal defence to legal attack.

Full details of the complaints can be found at the links below.

2013-09-05 Barrett Brown to lose his free speech

In the US, we've increasingly seen attacks on the free press. Now, in the case of Barrett Brown, a journalist who's been jailed for the past year stands to lose his free speech.

As if indicting him three times on a century worth of charges related to his work was not enough, the government has engaged in draconian, vindictive, and frivolous measures, including the intimidation of family members with legal threats, a failed motion to seize funds intended for private legal representation, and a subpoena served for a research/news-gathering website.

Last month the prosecution requested for the court to restrict Brown and his attorneys' use of the media, and instruct them not to make statements to the press. Tomorrow, on September 4th in Dallas, the Honorable Court of District Judge Sam A. Lindsay will hold a hearing on this matter.

The government alleged that Brown intended to use the pretrial phase to "try the case in the media" and that the defense was coordinating, approving, soliciting or encouraging the services of the media. The publicity about Brown thus far, they pleaded, contains "gross fabrications and substantially false recitations of facts". Ironically, the request for a media gag order has brought more publicity upon the case, with coverage from VICE, Huffington Post, Salon and CPJ.

In response, Brown's lawyers noted that "Mr Brown has made no statements to the media since... [they] appeared on the case" and demonstrated that the government's request for a gag order is without merit. The government had cited a number of activities by the Free Barrett Brown organization, which retained but works independently of Brown and his attorneys, as support. The defense contended that "Brown has a First Amendment right to speak and publish on matters unrelated to his case" while arguing "activities by Mr Brown's supporters, and other members of the public, are irrelevant and should have no bearing on the issue."

"This case is of tremendous public interest which grows every day, and the prosecution is obviously unhappy with scrutiny of their actions and, apparently, our support efforts. It's truly unprecedented. A gag on Barrett and/or his attorneys would amount to prior restraint and will only impede the public's right to know whether he is receiving due process and impose de facto secrecy on the proceedings. The fact that the defendant is an established journalist has profound implications for freedom of the press and the state of our justice system", said Kevin Gallagher, founder of the Barrett Brown Legal Defense Fund.

The hearing is Wednesday at 10 AM in the federal courthouse at 1100 Commerce St in Dallas TX. The ruling can be found here.

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