2011-02-08 Cable: Israel pressures Suleiman to close Gaza's 'feeding tube' tunnels

Today, Wikileaks released two more cables detailing Israeli pressure on the residents of Gaza Strip. As reported by WL Central here, the closure of tunnels bringing basic supplies into the Gaza Strip from Egypt have caused an urgent humanitarian crises for the people of Gaza. But US state cables show Israel pressuring the US to link aid to Egypt with the complete closure of those tunnels and the prevention of any supplies reaching Gaza through Egypt. Egypt's new vice president's involvement is also discussed.

In November of 2007, Israel Security Agency (ISA) Director Yuval Diskin met with US officials to discuss the 'problem' of supplies moving from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. In 07TELAVIV3258 Diskin outlines "a growing crisis in Israeli-Egyptian relations over smuggling across the Gaza border". Diskin told the US representatives that the ISA had, on several occasions, provided Omar Suleiman, Chief of Egyptian Intelligence Services, with detailed intelligence on the names of smugglers. In 2005, Diskin said he met personally with Suleiman in Egypt, at which time Suleiman promised personally to take responsibility for "cleansing the Sinai." Despite these promises, and Israeli offers to initiate joint operations, Diskin said Egypt has not acted to eliminate the smuggling networks. In Diskin's view, there is a core policy problem, in that the Egyptians view themselves as the primary mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians, and are careful not to alienate either side. "This is not possible with Hamas in Gaza," insisted Diskin.

2011-02-07 UPDATE Google Executive Wael Ghonim in Tahrir Square & the Mubarak Regime's Repression of Bloggers

Google Executive Wael Ghonim
For many in Tahrir Square, his presence was why they had come out February 8. Ghonim, who was released on February 7 by authorities, played a key role in organization demonstrations against the regime before being arrested in late January.

He was seized in the Egyptian capital when he was with tens of thousands of protesters in the Square. Al Jazeera reported Ghonim was "picked up by three plainclothes men on the street, pushed into a car and taken off for interrogation by state security members."

Ghonim has tried to minimize his role in the revolution. He said after his release, "Please don't make me a hero. I'm not a hero. I have been asleep for 12 days." 

2011-02-07 Egypt’s new VP Omar Suleiman: willing to serve Israel

Egyptian VP Omar SuleimanThe Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has published a set of cables that shed light on Omar Suleiman’s willingness to serve the interests of Israel. The man recently appointed as vice-president of Egypt, according to a cable from 2005, was willing to help former head of security in the Israeli Defense Ministry Amos Gilad by guaranteeing there would be no democratic elections in Gaza in 2006. He was also willing to help Israel better manage the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Cables released also reveal that a key motive for opposing Hamas was a fear that the Muslim Brotherhood would be emboldened. 05TELAVIV5864 details a meeting that Gilad wanted kept secret. Gilad talked about his fear of the Palestinian uprising movement Hamas, which was expected to get a large amount of the vote in the democratic elections in January 2006. Gilad was afraid that Hamas would win the election and that a Hamas win would "destroy everything."

2011-02-04 Georgia Tech, Z.J. Chen and 'Anonymous membership'

Zhiwei (Jack) Chen's belongings were seized at a Georgia Institute of Technology dorm on Thursday Jan 27 on the basis of an FBI search warrant also issued to dozens of other individuals who remain unnamed. The FBI stated that these warrants were issued in connection with an ongoing investigation into cyber-attacks on "major companies and organizations." Wikileaks was not named but the elusive 'Anonymous group' was. The FBI writes in its press release:

A group calling itself “Anonymous” has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they conducted them in protest of the companies’ and organizations’ actions.

Chen is likely thought to be associated in some way with this 'group' of activists because he operated a chat room in which "Payback" topics were discussed. Tragically, however, the legal relevance of holding an online chat with an individual who claims to be "a member of" Anonymous has yet to be articulated. Here are some crucial considerations that must be addressed in any context in which "membership" in the "group" is alleged, for purposes of legal action.

2011-02-04 UPDATE on Bloomberg reports about FBI contractor and WikiLeaks

On January 20, WL Central reported "Bloomberg discloses FBI Contractor admits to Spying on Swedish".

Yesterday, Bloomberg reporter Michael Riley 're-drafts' his flawed article as a magazine story in Bloomberg Business Week.

On the day the original Bloomberg article appeared, Andy Greenberg of Forbes reported that he interviewed Robert Boback of Tiversa about the original Bloomberg article claims:

2011-02-04 Yemen government thinks US owes the country military aid

Poverty and repression under President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government in Yemen has moved Yemenis to mount an uprising. The “Day of Rage” yesterday was another demonstration intended to force Saleh to resign.

News organizations like NPR have reported since the revolt in Tunisia that Saleh has “ordered income taxes slashed in half and instructed his government to control prices” and “deployed anti-riot police and soldiers to several key areas in the capital and its surroundings to prevent riots.” But those moves have not stopped protests from taking place.

As highlighted in a previous post, Saleh has brutally neglected the needs of his people. According to NPR, “Nearly half of Yemen's population live below the poverty line of $2 a day and doesn't have access to proper sanitation. Less then a tenth of the roads are paved. Tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes by conflict, flooding the cities.”

2011-02-04 Cable illuminates why Yemenis engaged in "Day of Rage" [UPDATE]

While Egyptians continue to maintain their uprising against President Hosni Mubarak with a “Day of Departure" today, it is worth looking at what happened in Yemen yesterday. An opposition coalition of Yemenis mobilized in defiance of a plea from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to not protest, rally or engage in any sit-ins, and held their own "Day of Rage."

The protests were considered to be the largest anti-government demonstration that Saleh has “faced in his 32-year rule.” The Guardian reported protesters chanted, “Together we fight against poverty, corruption and injustice.” Given what has been happening in Egypt, the protesters hoped to mobilize in their Tahrir Square, but the government “beat them” to the Square and sent “hundreds of tribesmen to camp out there overnight.”

Protesters called for Saleh to “form a new government” and “let the Yemeni people decide who will rule them in clean, fair elections.”

2011-02-03 Greg Mitchell on being held hostage by WikiLeaks—and revisiting 'Collateral Murder'

Greg Mitchell will be doing a book salon chat at Firedoglake at 3:30 PM ET this afternoon.

A little more than two months ago, as in some previous cases, Greg Mitchell started live-blogging when a major story broke. But a funny thing happened with WikiLeaks’ “Cablegate” release: The story, and the reader interest, did not go away after a couple of days—as the cables kept coming out, the controversies spread, and Julian Assange became a household name in America.

One week passed, then another. He started labeling it The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog and giving it a number, e.g. “Day 20.” Then “30.” Echoing the early days of Nightline during the Iran crisis in the late-1970s, He wrote that like America then he was being held “hostage.” When he hit day 50, he joked about topping Joe DiMaggio’s consecutive ‘hit” streak—and on day 57, passed it. Now it’s at Day 68 and counting.

2011-02-03 Shamir & The Guardian, Part 2: Censorship?

Israel Shamir's recent article on CounterPunch, Redacting Corruption: The Guardian's Political Censorship of Wikileaks, follows on from his previous piece, Paradigm in Belarus: The Minsk Election in a Wikileaks Mirror, in levelling some serious allegations against The Guardian newspaper and its journalistic practices.

The earlier piece was an odd amalgam of politically questionable apologism for the regime in Belarus and invective against The Guardian and the mainstream Western press, part of which provided valuable insight into the selection biases of newspapers (as I documented here) and part of which invoked conspiratorial motives that are unnecessary to explain those same selection biases.

Charges against The Guardian

The newest piece, published on January 11th, presents evidence that The Guardian has been engaging in strange redaction procedures on some of the cables it has been releasing, and infers from this that there is some foul play involved in The Guardian's editorial decisions. Because of Shamir's peculiar status, it is necessary to suject his claims to some scrutiny. As I will outline here, Shamir is mostly correct that The Guardian has been redacting the cables aggressively, and that the result of the redactions is, effectively, to conceal the correspondences of American diplomats writing candidly of a culture of corruption involving British corporations and high ranking officials in the former Soviet bloc. However, odious though this situation is, Shamir's inference to conspiracy or foul play in order to explain these redactions is, I believe, probably too quick.

2011-02-03 Shamir & The Guardian, Part 1: Astana & Tashkent Cables

Observations about the cables referred to in Israel's Shamir's recent CounterPunch article, Redacting Corruption: The Guardian's Political Censorship of Wikileaks raised some controversies about Shamir's legitimacy as a publisher of Wikileaks' cables. Shamir criticized The Guardian for redacting cables for political reasons, and published unredacted versions of those cables to support his case. The unredacted cables he published appeared to have slight disparities, raising the possibility, for some, that Shamir may have "gone rogue" - publishing unredacted versions of cables without prior authorization by Wikileaks, or even doctoring cables.

A close examination of the cables in question reveals most of these claims as idle speculation. It is highly unlikely that his recent article betrays journalistic foulplay of the sort alleged.

Shamir's article deals with three cables, 10ASTANA72, 06TASHKENT465 and 06TASHKENT902. The article provides links (here and here) to self-published and unredacted versions of the Tashkent cables, and reveals the passages that were redacted in the Astana cable. At the time of the publication of Shamir's article (11th, January, 2011) neither Tashkent cable had been yet released on Wikileaks site. Furthermore, the version of the 10ASTANA72 cable on Wikileaks' site was the redacted version released by The Guardian.

2011-02-03 Israel Shamir's Relationship with WikiLeaks?

Updated: See end of article.

The exact character of the relationship between Israel Shamir and WikiLeaks has been of much interest in recent weeks, given that Shamir himself is a person who has been associated with much controversy in the media. It has been assumed that, to the extent that WikiLeaks and Shamir are associated, controversy that applies to Shamir applies also to WikiLeaks. But this is not necessarily the case.

Certain accounts have alleged that Shamir is an "employee" of WikiLeaks - a claim that is almost certainly false (Edit: although, see the update, below). In fact, Shamir appears to have been on the payroll of the the various Russian and former Soviet publications for which he wrote, and on whose behalf he served as an "accredited journalist" - an individual whose job it was to access a specific set of cables, and to distribute them among newspapers of the former Soviet bloc.

While this relationship is official in character, it does not appear to have been unique, in that it is apparent that many individuals, all over the world, were given access to specific sets of cables, to convey those cables to media organizations in a particular geographic area.

Furthermore, given this relationship, it is doubtful whether the controversies purportedly associated with Israel Shamir thereby taint WikiLeaks in turn, no more than they would if a journalist working for The Guardian turned out to be mired in controversy. An association of this type does not constitute an endorsement of every belief or activity of that associate. And even assuming some negligence on the part of WikiLeaks in the accreditation of, for instance, a malpracticing journalist, that mistake does not constitute a wholesale indictment of WikiLeaks' project, but a regrettable indication that WikiLeaks had not been careful enough, and ought to improve in future.

What is Shamir's relationship with WikiLeaks?

2011-02-03 Who is Israel Shamir?

Who is Israel Shamir?

The principal claims about Israel Shamir are drawn from an article by Professor Emeritus of Russian Literature at the University of Gothenburg, Magnus Ljunggren, in the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen.

From: 2010-12-10: Expressen: "Daddy's Boy" by Magnus Ljunggren

[Shamir] is in fact one of the world's most notorious anti-Semites. He has gone by at least six different names. Growing up in Soviet Novosibirsk he was Izrail Schmerler. As a Jew, he took in 1969 to Israel. 1984 he came to Sweden as Israel Shamir. He became a Swedish citizen in 1992. During the years 2001-2005, he called himself Joran Jermer, and since then he transformed himself, in the population register, into Adam Ermash. Internationally, he is still Israel Shamir. He has held a variety of addresses around the world, mostly in Israel and Russia. In the early 2000s he adopted the Orthodox faith.

As Israel Shamir, this chameleon was regularly involved in the Russian "maroon" weekly bulletin Zavtra, at once nationalist, Stalinist, and militantly anti-Jewish. He uses this to an old Soviet-left jargon as he has declared - and proved - that he is prepared to cooperate with the far right at any time, for the good anti-Jewish cause.

He appeared at Förintelseförnekarkonferensen in Tehran in 2006. There also spoke of a former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who once wrote a preface to his article on "Jewish ritual murder."

2011-02-03 The Case of Israel Shamir

A volley of blog posts over the last two months has brought to the attention of the public a connection between Wikileaks and Israel Shamir. The connection was the source of much controversy. Among the charges against Shamir brought by the blogosphere are that of "notorious antisemitism," "holocaust denial," "Neo-Nazism," collaboration with dictatorships in the former Soviet area and the falsification of unreleased Wikileaks cables for nefarious ends.

Assuming the truth of these numerous allegations, bloggers have (rather shrilly) assumed that responsibility for all of these alleged misdeeds devolves upon Wikileaks, because of the nature of their relationship. That relationship itself has been shrouded in uncertainty. Shamir has been variously called a "Wikileaks employee," a "Wikileaks activist," "Wikileaks' spokesperson and conduit in Russia," "Wikileaks affiliate" and "Wikileaks accredited journalist." For substantiation of these characterizations of the relationship, bloggers have looked to the offhand remarks of newspaper articles in machine-translated Russian and Swedish.

These allegations have seen marginal takeup in the mainstream press. Israel Shamir has himself gotten involved in the controversy. In a sequence of articles on CounterPunch, and his personal website, he has defended himself against these allegations, distanced himself from Wikileaks, and mounted a counterattack on the mainstream press, alleging that the controversy is part of a smear campaign against Wikileaks by its commercial competitors. He has made reference to a forthcoming episode of BBC's Panorama, which appears likely to subject Shamir's relationship with Wikileaks to the closest scrutiny it has yet seen in the mainstream press, and which, claims Shamir, is unlikely to do so in a balanced way.

2011-02-01 Cable: Spanish Politician Used for Bin Laden Photo Was Source of Tension Between U.S., Spain

Gaspar Llamazares, a Spanish politician and member of the Communist Party of Spain, is the focus of part of a recent cable released by WikiLeaks.

The cable from Madrid covers a meeting between Ambassador Solomont and Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba that touched on several topics including Haiti, Al Qaeda, training of security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and Guantanamo detainees. It also featured a conversation on Llamazares, whose photo had days ago been reported to have been used by an FBI forensic artist “to create an age-processed image of Osama bin Laden" for a "Rewards for Justice" website featuring photos of most wanted terrorists.

From 10MADRID49 on January 18, 2010:

2011-02-01 WikiLeaks Cables Show Mubarak Not Very Open to Reforms or Freedoms for Egyptians [UPDATE: 4]

At 2:30 PM Egypt time, there are well over a million Egyptians in and around Tahrir Square. The atmosphere is being described by Al Jazeera as a festival atmosphere. CNN has Anderson Cooper reporting from the protests. And, reports are circulating on Twitter indicating Egyptian State TV is running images of Cairo looking serene, void of protesters, and flashing a “Protect Egypt” banner on screen during music videos.

The millions are deliberating over whether to march to the presidential palace or not. Having a foothold in Tahrir Square gives Egyptians control over Cairo, the power to keep the city’s business halted, and that gives them tremendous leverage as the opposition continues to push for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

2011-01-31 Egypt's Military jockeys to maintain Longstanding Grip on Power

Since 1981, President Hosni Mubarak had legally affected a 30 year-old state of emergency to avoid appointing a vice president. His unwillingness and distrust of sharing power, may be due in part to his experience as vice president during Sadat’s assassination.

Egyptian Succession Rumors

Like an Egyptian version of an Elizabethan engagement, rumors of vice presidential appointments, were evident as far back as 2005. U.S. State Department Cable 05CAIRO04534 cites Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief and recently appointed vice president, as the most likely heir apparent. (See WL Central's coverage of Oman Suleiman.)

2011-01-31 Cable: Egyptian April 6 activist's democracy goals "highly unrealistic"

US state cable 08CAIRO2572 from December, 2008 details the experiences of an April 6 activist who attended the December 3-5 "Alliance of Youth Movements Summit, and met with US government officials, on Capitol Hill, and with think tanks. "He alleged that several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten plan for democratic transition by 2011; we are doubtful of this claim. ... April 6's stated goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections is highly unrealistic, and is not supported by the mainstream opposition."

2011-01-31 US State cables used in Liberian president war crimes defense

Reuters reports that the defense for former Liberian President Charles Taylor, on trial for war crimes, have won the right to use U.S. state cables leaked by Wikileaks in his defense. Taylor is facing charges of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery and conscription of child soldiers during wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone which killed a quarter of a million people. He has denied all charges. The court ruled in favor of a defense motion seeking to re-open its case for the "limited purpose" of admitting into evidence two U.S. cables.

Cable 09MONROVIA188 from 2009-03-10 warns "Should Taylor be acquitted in The Hague or given a light sentence, his return to Liberia could tip the balance in a fragile peace. The international community must consider steps should Taylor not be sent to prison for a long time. We should look at the possibility of trying Taylor in the United States. ... All legal options should be studied to ensure that Taylor cannot return to destabilize Liberia. Building a case in the United States against Taylor for financial crimes such as wire fraud would probably be the best route. There may be other options, such as applying the new law criminalizing the use of child soldiers or terrorism statutes.

Cable 09THEHAGUE247 from 2009-04-15 indicates "Court employees have intimated that the Trial Chamber could work more expeditiously. ... Moreover, contacts in Prosecution and Registry speculate that Justice Sebutinde may have a timing agenda. They think she, as the only African judge, wants to hold the gavel as presiding judge when the Trial Chamber announces the Taylor judgment. Reportedly, her next stint as presiding judge begins in January."

2011-01-29 Bill Keller and WikiLeaks

Bill Keller, the New York Times' executive editor, published an enormous article on the 26th of January about the New York Times' dealings with WikiLeaks. The article develops further the running story of WikiLeaks' relationship with its media partners, the subject of a Vanity Fair piece earlier in the month.

Much has been made of the negative light in which Julian Assange appears in the article. Wired's Kim Zetter published a digest piece, in which the more absurd claims of the piece are given particular attention but little critical treatment. The more colourful parts of the article were, predictably, grist to the celebrity gossip mill.

Perhaps the most important thing about the article, though, is that it is the first authoritative indication that the Times is willing to take a stand for media freedoms in the United States. During the height of official outrage over Cablegate late last year, when the use of the Espionage Act was being widely touted as a convenient way to perform an end run around First Amendment protections, it fell to the Washington Post's editorial section to issue a strong defense of freedom of speech. The Times, with its history of media partnership with WikiLeaks, remained conspicuously silent.

No longer. Keller now issues a strong (albeit heavily qualified) defense of those freedoms:

2011-01-28 Cable: Egypt displeased with number and tone of U.S. human rights recommendations

US State cable 2010-02-25 10CAIRO253 records that Government of Egypt officials, on February 24, expressed concern over the U.S. recommendations at the February 17 UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Egypt's human rights record.

Presidential advisor Soliman Awad said the U.S. should focus on principles regarding religious freedom, not conversions and proselytizing which "makes Egyptians suspicious". MFA Deputy Director for Human Rights Omar Shalaby said the GOE was displeased with both the number and the tone of U.S. recommendations, "especially in light of recent bilateral cooperation in the UN Human Rights Council." He said that on instruction from the MFA, Ambassador Shoukry had conveyed this message to Vice President Biden's staff during a meeting to discuss the Vice President's planned upcoming visit to Cairo, and the Egyptian Permanent Representative in Geneva had made these points to the U.S. Mission. Shalaby explained that although European countries made many of the same recommendations, the GOE was "less bothered" because it does not enjoy "the same level of cooperation with the Europeans."

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