2010-12-08 Cablegate: News from the infowar front, part 3 [Update 3]

The Bolivian government is now hosting WikiLeaks Cablegate documents on its official servers: http://wikileaks.vicepresidencia.gob.bo/, under the banner of the Vice President's office and the office of the President of the Legislative Assembly. The statement reads:

"The Vice President of the State of Bolivia and the President of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, seeking to democratize access to information available to the public, are making available the documents of the Department of State of the United States, published by Wikileaks, which refer to Bolivia. All of them are available in their original language (English) and those that contain information relevant to the country, beyond simple references are translated into Castilian or being in the process of being translated, a situation in which we ask for your patience.

The search engine offers search alternatives according to the relevance of the document, its creation date, language of the source institution, etc. We firmly believe that this site will expand access to this vital information and facilitate the work of many citizens."

In a reversal from the Australian government's previous pronouncements on Julian Assange, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said today in a declaration to Reuters that "Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network. The Americans are responsible for that." He added that the leaks raised questions about the "adequacy" of US data security, and that "Maybe 2 million or so people having access to this stuff is a bit of a problem," referring to the number of personnel who had access to the SIPRNET network.

The Independent reports that "Informal discussions have already taken place between US and Swedish officials over the possibility of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being delivered into American custody, according to diplomatic sources." Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has denied the report to AFP.

In the United States, Senator Joe Lieberman raised the prospect of prosecuting media organizations such as The New York Times for publishing WikiLeaks information, in a interview with Fox News. The New York Times reports: “I certainly believe that WikiLeaks has violated the Espionage Act, but then what about the news organizations — including The Times — that accepted it and distributed it?” Mr. Lieberman said, adding: “To me, The New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, and whether they have committed a crime, I think that bears a very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department.”

Much of the media reported with ironic amusement on the State Department's announcement of World Press Freedom Day: "Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, in jail; World Press Freedom Day announced," is the title of a Washington Post report. Marissa Bell writes: "The same day that Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said the New York Times and WikiLeaks may be investigated for espionage, the State Department announced it would be hosting the World Press Freedom Day in 2011."

In the meantime, various media outlets are reporting on the Swedish case allegations against Julian Assange and the background on the case, including a special report from Reuters, The Guardian and The Daily Mail. Their conclusions are the same ones that we came to months ago: "The more one learns about the case, the more one feels that, unlike the bell in Enkoping, the allegations simply don’t ring true," writes The Daily Mail.

Anonymous group's Operation Payback has in the meantime taken down the websites of PostFinance, Senator Joe Lieberman's office, the Swedish prosecution office, and Mastercard. The group has vowed to "fire at anyone or anything that tries to censor WikiLeaks, including multi-billion dollar companies." Panda Labs has a good running update of the attacks so far.

In TIME's Person of the Year poll, Julian Assange is in first place, with a 92% rating and 315,403 votes as of the time of this writing, eleven percentage points and nearly 100,000 votes above the second-place holder, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

TIME also carries an article by Massimo Calabresi, titled Why WikiLeaks Is Winning Its Info War: "There was a time when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's voluntary surrender to the British authorities might have put an end to the crisis created by the Internet provocateur's dissemination of tens of thousands of state secrets. But in the upside-down world of transnational crowdsourcing unleashed by WikiLeaks, in which thousands of activists around the globe can be rallied to defend and extend its work, Assange's arrest is a win, not a loss, for his organization."

"The asymmetrical info war initiated by the WikiLeaks dump of diplomatic cables is all about spectacle — the more Assange is set up by world powers, the more powerful his own movement becomes. "The field of battle is WikiLeaks," wrote John Perry Barlow, a former Grateful Dead lyricist and founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the First Amendment advocacy group, in a message to his followers. "You are the troops." WikiLeaks admiringly forwarded the post to 300,000 of its own followers. As the U.S. and other governments attempted to close down WikiLeaks over the past week, those "troops" have fought back. And so far, it doesn't look like much of a contest."

Update 1: At the Le Web conference in Paris today, PayPal vice president Osama Bedier was asked why PayPal closed the WikiLeaks account. Bedier answered "State Dept told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward." "The answer was met with boos from the mostly European audience," reports TechCrunch.

Update 2: The Wau Holland Foundation has filed a legal action against PayPal for blocking its account used for WikiLeaks payments and for libel due to PayPal's allegations of "illegal activity." The Foundation's official statement can be found here.

Update 3: Datacell, the company handling WikiLeaks's credit card donations, has said that it will take legal action against Visa Europe and Mastercard. The BBC reports: "IT firm Datacell said it would move immediately to try to force the two companies to resume allowing payments to the whistle-blowing website. Iceland-based Datacell had earlier said the move by Visa and Mastercard could harm its own business."

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