2010-11-29 Cablegate: Journalists in defence of WikiLeaks [Update 1]

John Kampfner, The Independent / Index on Censorship: Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority

"All governments have a legitimate right to protect national security. This should be a specific, and closely scrutinised, area of policy. Most of our secrecy rules are designed merely to protect politicians and officials from embarrassment. Documents are habitually over-classified for this purpose. The previous government made desperate attempts to stop legal evidence of its collusion in torture from reaching the public. Ministers argued, speciously, that this was to protect the "special intelligence relationship" with Washington. It will be intriguing to see how much information is allowed to be published when Sir Peter Gibson begins his official inquiry. Precedent suggests little grounds for optimism.

As with all free speech, as with Wikileaks, context is key. It is vital to know when governments collude in torture or other illegal acts. It is important to know when they say one thing in private (about a particular world leader) and do quite another in public. It is perturbing to know that aid agencies may have been used by the military, particularly in Afghanistan, to help Nato forces to "win hearts and minds".

These questions, and more, are vital for the democratic debate. The answers inevitably cause embarrassment. That too is essential for a healthy civil society. Good journalists and editors should be capable of separating the awkward from the damaging."
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Simon Jenkins, The Guardian: The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment

"The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport.[...]

Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public's interest, I fail to see what is.

Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment."
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Marc Cooper, The Nation: Why Not WikiLeaks?

"I don’t know about you… but I want to read more, not less, about this. Indeed, an editorial in Monday’s Guardian reads in part: “ Before US government officials point accusing fingers at others, they might first have the humility to reflect on their own role in scattering ‘secrets’ around a global intranet.”

If we had less government lying and secrecy during the run up to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, there might be a few more million living and breathing. I think that sort of benefit outweighs the quirks of Wikileaks."
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Nick Davies, The Guardian

Nick Davies posted the following messages on Twitter:

"US warned that today's Wikileaks stories would risk "countless lives". That was a lie." (link)

"Wikileaks stories are all tales we would have published before - if official secrecy had not concealed them." (link)

Brad Friedman, independent journalist: In Wake of WikiLeaks Cable Release, JFK, Ellsberg's Remarks on 'Secrecy', 'Covert Ops' Worth Noting

"As this information becomes public, and as the U.S. Government continues to scramble to mitigate what the White House is calling today a "reckless and dangerous" leak, condemning it "in the strongest terms" as an alleged threat to national security, it's worth keeping in mind, for valuable perspective, what the 1970s legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg wrote in an op/ed for The BRAD BLOG in early 2008...

'Many, if not most, covert operations deserve to be disclosed by a free press. They are often covert not only because they are illegal but because they are wildly ill-conceived and reckless. "Sensitive" and "covert" are often synonyms for "half-assed," "idiotic," and "dangerous to national security," as well as "criminal."'[...]

It would seem this "democracy", at least, has, in fact, "matched" exactly that conspiracy described as abhorrent by JFK. And we have all, collectively, allowed it to happen --- whether we had ever hoped or wished to."
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Ian Dunt, The hypocrisy of the media attack on Wikileaks

"The traditional media has become so toothless it is reduced to attacking Wikileaks for doing its job properly.[...]

In every case, the western media reacted by, yes, covering the story, but pushing the narrative of an irresponsible outlet beset by anti-Americanism to the fore. Of course, no-one was calling Assange irresponsible when Wikileaks released "Kenya: The Cry of Blood - Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances", which won the 2009 Amnesty International UK New Media Award.[...]

It's an indictment of the British media that its response to these leaks is one of condemnation rather than troubled inner scrutiny. Its general outlook is so conservative, its relationship with the establishment so cushy and its interests so scurrilous that it now condemns those who do their jobs properly. But perhaps there's something else. Wikileaks represents merely the birth-pangs of a new media, one that cuts out the middle man to reveal the documents in full. Perhaps the media feels things moving away from it, to a world of citizen journalists and information freedom.

That's an eventuality which would be far less likely if the traditional media did its constitutional duty and held the powerful to account."
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Javier Moreno, director of El País

"Let us say, as modestly as we can, that Wikileaks has allowed us to do great journalism. Journalism that changes history is needed by the citizens more than ever in a world where states and politicians are increasingly trying to hide information from their societies."

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Cablegate coverage - The New York Times


The New York Times: State's Secrets: Cables Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels

"A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.

Cablegate coverage - Le Monde


Section front page:

Le Monde: Les révélations de WikiLeaks sur les coulisses de la diplomatie américaine

Cablegate coverage - Der Spiegel


Der Spiegel - English coverage

Cablegate coverage - El País


El País: Los secretos de la diplomacia de Estados Unidos, al descubierto

Cablegate coverage - The Guardian


The Guardian: US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomacy crisis

"The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.

2010-11-29 Cablegate: Official reactions: Truth is terrorism

Senator Joseph Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, urges the Obama administration to "shut down WikiLeaks," reports The National Review: "I also urge the Obama Administration — both on its own and in cooperation with other responsible governments around the world — to use all legal means necessary to shut down Wikileaks before it can do more damage by releasing additional cables. Wikileaks’ activities represent a shared threat to collective international security."

As a result of the Cablegate release, New York Republican Peter King, incoming chairman of the House Committee for Homeland Security, has called for WikiLeaks to be classified as a "terrorist organization," reports Sky News: "WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States," he said. "I strongly urge you (Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton) to work within the Administration to use every offensive capability of the US government to prevent further damaging releases by WikiLeaks."

The Australian government, in the meantime, has started an investigation into WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, reports AP / Washington Post: "Attorney-General Robert McClelland says police are investigating whether any Australian law has been broken by the latest leaking of confidential documents by online whistle-blower WikiLeaks.

McClelland told reporters on Monday he was not aware of a request from the United States to cancel WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s Australian passport. He says a range of options are under consideration by Australian government agencies in response to the latest disclosure of classified U.S. material. McClelland says there are “potentially a number of criminal laws” that could have been breached." [Update: the entire text of McClelland's statement is available here]

These statements echo threats made after the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs release by a number of current and former government officials, politicians and pundits. If telling the truth is now considered "terrorism," then the word has lost every meaning it ever had. Is this the world we want to live in? WL Central would like to ask you to support WikiLeaks and stand up for the truth, free speech, a free press, and the right of citizens worldwide to know what their governments are doing in their name. This is not terrorism. This is democracy, at its most basic.

2010-11-29 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage [Update 1]

Romania Insider: Messages sent from Romania, included in recent WikiLeaks documents

"Secret messages between the US Embassy in Romania and the US state were included in the 250,000 messages sent by American diplomats and recently revealed on WikiLeaks. The US Embassy in Bucharest sent 775 secret messages to US. One of the messages, analyzed by Romanian daily Gandul, includes information about the country’s energy, economic conditions, internal affairs, as well as the control of armaments. In December 2009, the month of presidential elections in Romania, the US Embassy in Bucharest sent 23 messages home, according to Gandul."
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The Nation: Blogging the WikiLeaks release

Greg Mitchell has been covering the media reactions to the "Cablegate" release: "Media coverage of the massive new WikiLeaks release began about 1:00 PM ET as an embargo ended. We'll be following this important story and controversy from now until the end of the night, and will add the latest at the top, with an ET stamp."
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The Guardian: US embassy leaks: 'The data deluge is coming ...'

The Guardian's Jonathan Powell, Alan Rusbridger, David Leigh, Timothy Garton-Ash and Heather Brooke discuss the leaked US embassy cables in this video interview.
Watch video

The Guardian: WikiLeaks US embassy cables: live updates

Matthew Weaver live-blogs reactions to Cablegate and upcoming release details: "The first batch of leaked US embassy cables reveal a desire by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to attack Iran, and US espionage against the UN. Follow all the reaction and diplomatic fallout"
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Foreign Policy: WikiLeaks and the Arab public sphere

Marc Lynch writes: "I expect to delve into the substance of the WikiLeaks cables over the next few days -- I've been flagging noteworthy ones on Twitter all afternoon, and will keep doing so as I go along, and I will blog at greater length about specific issues as they arise. But I wanted to just throw some quick thoughts out there now after reading through most of the first batch. My initial skepticism about the significance of this document leak, fueled by the lack of interesting revelations in the New York Times and Guardian reports, is changing as I see the first batch of cables posted on WikiLeaks itself."
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Crikey: Rundle: The world changed this week. And it’s only Monday

Guy Rundle writes that "as with earlier releases, it’s the accumulation of detail that’s devastating, as well as direct evidence of what was previously deniable."
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McClatchy Newspapers: No evidence that WikiLeaks releases have hurt anyone

Nancy A. Youssef writes: "American officials in recent days have warned repeatedly that the release of documents by WikiLeaks could put people's lives in danger. But despite similar warnings before the previous two releases of classified U.S. intelligence reports by the website, U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone's death."
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Al Jazeera: Secret US embassy cables revealed

"The cables, communications between diplomatic missions abroad and the US state department in Washington, were mostly sent between 2007 and last February and could embarrass both the US administration and foreign governments. Some of the diplomatic notes detailed how Arab leaders in the Gulf have been urging an attack on "evil" Iran, while others reveal serious fears in Washington over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.

They also detail advice given to US diplomats on how to gather intelligence and pass information of interest over to the country's spy agencies. According to documents, senior UN figures were the target of intelligence gathering by US diplomats."
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National Times/The Age: Leaks shine spotlight on culture of secrecy

"Governments do at times need to operate in secret - and policy deliberations in a fishbowl rarely produce better outcomes. Yet the public also benefits from a better understanding of the various contributions to policy. These are most often the observations of individuals or teams at posts around the world - not official policy or views. This can be tested against the well-worn spin from political leaders.

Government embarrassment over this disclosure should not be confused with damage to the good of the nation. The full detail of the leak remains to be explored, but the public has gained a rare insight into the workings of government," writes Daniel Flitton, diplomatic editor for The Age.
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CNET: WikiLeaks files detail U.S. electronic surveillance

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered clandestine surveillance of United Nations leadership, including obtaining "security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys, and types of VPN versions used" and biometric information, according to a secret directive made public today by," writes Declan McCullagh.
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Al Jazeera: Diplomatic cable leak upsets the US (video)

"The whistleblower website WikiLeaks has released scores of electronic cables sent between headquarters in Washington and embassies and consulates around the world. The leaked documents include confidential views about major allies and partners, including worries about security at a Pakistan nuclear facility and concerns about alleged links between the Russian government and the mafia.

The White House has condemned media's publication of the cables, saying it puts diplomats and intelligence professionals at risk. Al Jazeera's John Terrett reports from Washington."
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We will be updating this post throughout the day.

2010-11-28 Domestic Cablegate coverage: Ireland [Update 2]

Domestic coverage in Ireland minimal, despite significance of cablegate releases to Irish interests

As of 21:32 GMT, domestic coverage of WikiLeaks' latest release of US State Department cables has been minimal. The Irish Times, Ireland's foremost native broadsheet, has not yet reported on the leak, which went to press in The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais and the New York Times at around 18.20 GMT.

The Irish Times most recent coverage, published on its website, is an article drawn from Reuters, outlining the the basic stories in the lead up to the release of the cables. There appears to be no interest in whether there will be any releases pertaining to Ireland.

Irish Times: WikiLeaks 'attacked' ahead of leak

There has, as yet, been no information in the Irish press regarding the 910 cables contained in the release dispatched from the US embassy in Dublin city, nor of the 15 cables from Belfast, in Northern Ireland. These figures are drawn from the interactive infographic on the website of the German publication, Der Spiegel, and can be reviewed there.

Der Spiegel: The US Embassy Dispatches: Interactive Atlas

Update 1: 00:00 GMT: Irish newspaper sites have now broken the story. Coverage continues to duplicate primary stories of other news sites. Cursory article focus has been on the middle east. No mention has yet been made of the 910 Dublin embassy articles, which are yet to be released.

Independent: Arab rulers 'asked for Iran attack'

2010-11-28 WikiLeaks Cablegate database now online

The WikiLeaks "Cablegate" viewer is now online:

According to the site description, the cables will be released in stages over the next few months: "The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice."

OWNI's application is also live:

2010-11-28 WikiLeaks in today's media: "Cablegate" goes live [Update 3]

The Guardian: US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomacy crisis

"The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.

At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables - many of which are designated "secret" – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN's leadership.

These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistlebowers' website, also reveal Washington's evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues."
Read more

Further coverage from The Guardian:
Diplomats ordered to spy on UN leaders
Saudis repeatedly urge attack on Iran
How 250,000 US embassy cables were leaked
Siprnet: America's secret information database
Explore the US embassy cables database

The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment
The Guardian's Simon Jenkins writes: "Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public's interest, I fail to see what is.

Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment."

El País: Los secretos de la diplomacia de Estados Unidos, al descubierto

"EL PAÍS, en colaboración con otros diarios de Europa y Estados Unidos, revela a partir de hoy el contenido de la mayor filtración de documentos secretos a la que jamás se haya tenido acceso en toda la historia. Se trata de una colección de más de 250.000 mensajes del Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos, obtenidos por la página digital WikiLeaks, en los que se descubren episodios inéditos ocurridos en los puntos más conflictivos del mundo, así como otros muchos sucesos y datos de gran relevancia que desnudan por completo la política exterior norteamericana, sacan a la luz sus mecanismos y sus fuentes, dejan en evidencia sus debilidades y obsesiones, y en conjunto facilitan la comprensión por parte de los ciudadanos de las circunstancias en las que se desarrolla el lado oscuro de las relaciones internacionales."
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Further coverage from El País:
Washington ordena espiar en la ONU
Los árabes piden a EE UU frenar a Irán por cualquier medio
EE UU vigila de cerca la agenda islamista de Erdogan
WikiLeaks, información transparente contra el secretismo
"La seguridad de las fuentes, fundamental"
Directo: Las repercusiones de la filtración de papeles

Der Spiegel - English coverage

"Such surprises from the annals of US diplomacy will dominate the headlines in the coming days when the New York Times, London's Guardian, Paris' Le Monde, Madrid's El Pais and SPIEGEL begin shedding light on the treasure trove of secret documents from the State Department. Included are 243,270 diplomatic cables filed by US embassies to the State Department and 8,017 directives that the State Department sent to its diplomatic outposts around the world. In the coming days, the participating media will show in a series of investigative stories how America seeks to steer the world. The development is no less than a political meltdown for American foreign policy.

Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information -- data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built. Never before has the trust America's partners have in the country been as badly shaken. Now, their own personal views and policy recommendations have been made public -- as have America's true views of them."

Further English coverage from Der Spiegel:
Section front: WikiLeaks Diplomatic Cables
What Do the Diplomatic Cables Really Tell Us?
'Tribune of Anatolia': Diplomatic Cables Reveal US Doubts about Turkey's Government
The Germany Dispatches: Internal Source Kept US Informed of Merkel Coalition Negotiations
Foreign Policy Meltdown: Leaked Cables Reveal True US Worldview
Orders from Clinton: US Diplomats Told to Spy on Other Countries at United Nations
The US Diplomatic Leaks: A Superpower's View of the World

Der Spiegel: Geheimdepeschen enthüllen Weltsicht der USA

"Es ist ein Desaster für die US-Diplomatie. WikiLeaks hat mehr als 250.000 Dokumente aus dem Washingtoner Außenministerium zugespielt bekommen, interne Botschaftsberichte aus aller Welt. Sie enthüllen, wie die Supermacht die Welt wirklich sieht - und ihren globalen Einfluss wahren will.[...]

Solche Überraschungen aus den Annalen der US-Diplomatie werden in den nächsten Tagen die Schlagzeilen beherrschen, denn von diesem Montag an beginnen die "New York Times", der Londoner "Guardian", der Pariser "Monde", das Madrider "País" und DER SPIEGEL damit, den geheimen Datenschatz des Außenministeriums ans Licht zu holen. Aus einem Fundus von 243.270 diplomatischen Depeschen, die Amerikas Botschaften an die Zentrale sendeten, und 8017 Direktiven, welche das State Departement an seine Botschaften in aller Welt verschickte, versuchen die beteiligten Medien in einer Serie von Enthüllungsgeschichten nachzuzeichnen, wie Amerika die Welt lenken möchte."
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Further coverage from Der Spiegel:
US-Depeschen über Deutschland: Skepsis gegenüber Schwarz-Gelb
US-Depeschen über die Türkei: Furcht vor islamistischen Tendenzen unter Erdogan
US-Depeschen über Iran: USA paktieren mit Arabern
US-Depeschen über die Uno: Außenministerium lässt Diplomaten ausspähen
Themenseite: Alles zu den Botschaftsdepeschen

Le Monde: Les révélations de WikiLeaks sur les coulisses de la diplomatie américaine

"Les cinq journaux vont publier, à partir du 28 novembre, des dizaines d'articles sur les coulisses de la diplomatie américaine, ainsi que des pays avec lesquels les Etats-Unis sont en contact. Les thèmes sont avant tout diplomatiques et politiques. Les relations des Etats-Unis avec l'Europe, la Russie, la Chine et les pays du Moyen-Orient sont longuement évoquées. L'Afghanistan et l'Irak, les deux pays où l'Amérique est en guerre, sont très présents. Le terrorisme et la prolifération nucléaire sont des sujets permanents. Le Monde publiera des dossiers spéciaux sur la France.

De même que l'on ne découvrira pas le nom de l'assassin du président Kennedy dans les archives du département d'Etat, ce n'est pas en lisant ces télégrammes qu'on connaîtra les plus protégés des secrets d'Etat. Mais aucun sujet d'intérêt politique, du plus sérieux au plus futile, n'est absent de ces câbles qui, selon le degré d'information et le talent du diplomate, dresse un passionnant état des lieux de la planète, scrutée par des regards américains."
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Further coverage from Le Monde:
Pourquoi "Le Monde" publie les documents WikiLeaks
Observer le régime iranien et ses méthodes d'intimidation
Iran : comment les Israéliens ont poussé Washington à la fermeté
La peur des pays arabes face à l'Iran
Espionnage : les ordres de Washington aux diplomates américains
Manning, un militaire à l'origine des plus grandes " fuites " de l'histoire

The New York Times: State's Secrets: Cables Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels

"A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.

Some of the cables, made available to The New York Times and several other news organizations, were written as recently as late February, revealing the Obama administration’s exchanges over crises and conflicts. The material was originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents. WikiLeaks intends to make the archive public on its Web site in batches, beginning Sunday.

The anticipated disclosure of the cables is already sending shudders through the diplomatic establishment, and could conceivably strain relations with some countries, influencing international affairs in ways that are impossible to predict."
Read more

Further coverage from the New York Times:
Documents: selected dispatches
Around the world, distress over Iran
Mixing diplomacy with spying
Iran is fortified with North Korean aid
A note to readers: the decision to publish diplomatic documents

2010-11-28 WikiLeaks in today's media: "Cablegate" release imminent

Der Spiegel: The US Diplomatic Leaks: A Superpower's View of the World

"Such surprises from the annals of US diplomacy will dominate the headlines in the coming days when the New York Times, London's Guardian, Paris' Le Monde, Madrid's El Pais and SPIEGEL begin shedding light on the treasure trove of secret documents from the State Department. Included are 243,270 diplomatic cables filed by US embassies to the State Department and 8,017 directives that the State Department sent to its diplomatic outposts around the world. In the coming days, the participating media will show in a series of investigative stories how America seeks to steer the world. The development is no less than a political meltdown for American foreign policy."
Read more

El País: La inminente filtración de papeles por WikiLeaks acorrala a Washington

"The imminent publication of U.S. official documents obtained by WikiLeaks opens a new challenge to Washington's diplomacy. According to analysts, the new WikiLeaks release will provide a stark view of U.S. State Department communications with its 297 embassies, consulates and missions abroad, through what is commonly known as cables, telegrams used to convey official instructions and reports between Washington and its representative offices, and vice versa."
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The Guardian: Why do editors committed to press freedom attack WikiLeaks?

Roy Greenslade writes: "More dispiriting still were leader columns critical of the leaks. The great advocates of press freedom, for ever proclaiming the virtues of public disclosure, seem unable to stomach an outsider doing the job.[...]

The Mail on Sunday's leader, 'Grim irony of WikiLeaks', read like a memo from a government security consultant. It argued that modern states should take steps to protect their secrets by avoiding the storing of information on databases.

Aren't we in the job of ferreting out secrets so that our readers - the voters - can know what their elected governments are doing in their name? Isn't it therefore better that we can, at last, get at them?"
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2010-11-28 Resolved: WikiLeaks under DDoS attack [Update 3]

16:30GMT: WikiLeaks reported on Twitter: "We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack."

The Guardian's David Leigh noted that "The #guardian will publish US embassy #cables tonight, even if #wikileaks goes down"

16:48GMT: WikiLeaks update: "El Pais, Le Monde, Spiegel, Guardian & NYT will publish many US embassy cables tonight, even if WikiLeaks goes down"

17:07GMT: El País on Twitter: @wikileaks: pese al ataque a su web. El Pais, Le Monde, Speigel, Guardian & NYT publicarán los papeles que desnudan la diplomacia de EEUU

17:52GMT: appears to be back up.

2010-11-28 WikiLeaks v. United States: The Pentagon Papers redux? [Update 1]

Much of the media this morning has been reporting on the letter issued last night by State Department legal advisor Harold Koh to Julian Assange (previous coverage here). A PDF copy of the letter in its full extent was made available by The Washington Post here. [Update: The entire WikiLeaks / State Department correspondence is now available via Index on Censorship and The New York Times]

The Washington Post: WikiLeaks gets warning from State Department: Documents' release would have 'grave consequences'
BBC: US warns WikiLeaks' Assange on possible leak
Financial Times: White House says WikiLeaks putting ‘lives at risk’

A few points in Mr. Koh's letter warrant closer attention:

1. "As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing."

Mr. Koh does not clarify which law he might be referring to. If referring to the publication of classified information, US Supreme Court precedent argues against Mr. Koh's claim: New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), aka The Pentagon Papers case.

2. The publication would "place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals."

This is the same claim previously made by the Department of Defense in relation to the publication of the Afghan and Iraq war logs. It bears repeating that the claim was unsubstantiated both times, and that Defense Secretary Gates, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell and NATO officials have admitted as much: Debunked: "WikiLeaks has blood on its hands".

3. "You should: 1) ensure WikiLeaks ceases publishing any and all such materials; 2) ensure WikiLeaks returns any and all classified U.S. Government material in its possession; and 3) remove and destroy all records of this material from WikiLeaks’ databases."

This echoes the request made by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell with regards to the publication of the Afghan war logs. As Daniel Ellsberg observed, this was exactly the language used when the US government attempted to use the Espionage Act against him for the publication of the Pentagon Papers. The courts disagreed.

This is perhaps the right time to remember US Supreme Court Justice Black's words in the Pentagon Papers case:

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.[...]

To find that the President has "inherent power" to halt the publication of news by resort to the courts would wipe out the First Amendment and destroy the fundamental liberty and security of the very people the Government hopes to make "secure." No one can read the history of the adoption of the First Amendment without being convinced beyond any doubt that it was injunctions like those sought here that Madison and his collaborators intended to outlaw in this Nation for all time.

The word "security" is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment. The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic. The Framers of the First Amendment, fully aware of both the need to defend a new nation and the abuses of the English and Colonial governments, sought to give this new society strength and security by providing that freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly should not be abridged. This thought was eloquently expressed in 1937 by Mr. Chief Justice Hughes - great man and great Chief Justice that he was - when the Court held a man could not be punished for attending a meeting run by Communists.

"The greater the importance of safeguarding the community from incitements to the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve inviolate the constitutional rights of free speech, free press and free [403 U.S. 713, 720] assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion, to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people and that changes, if desired, may be obtained by peaceful means. Therein lies the security of the Republic, the very foundation of constitutional government."

2010-11-27 "The Embassy Files" ready for launch [Update 4]

Der Spiegel: Q & A: What the diplomatic cables actually reveal

Der Spiegel has posted a Q&A about the 'Embassy Files' release. Among the details:

  • Included are 251,287 cables and 8,000 diplomatic directives
  • One cable dates back to 1966, but most are newer than 2004
  • 9,005 documents date from the first two months of 2010
  • Der Spiegel, The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde and El País have had access to the files and reviewed them.

None of the documents are classified 'Top Secret', but only 'Secret' at the highest classification rating. This was also confirmed by Politico's White House correspondent Mike Allen on Twitter, quoting the US administration.

According to Der Spiegel, just over half of the cables are not subject to classification, 40.5 percent are classified as "confidential" and only six percent or 15,652 dispatches as "secret." 2.5 million U.S. employees have access to SIPRNET material, where these cables originated.

A graphical representation of the worldwide distribution of the cables appears on the Spiegel site.

Der Spiegel is expected to go live with the full edition at 22:30 Sunday, local time, according to a front page announcement.

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Update: Spiegel article may have been posted too early. It appears to have been taken down at the moment.

OWNI launches live-blog and document portal

OWNI has launched its own live-blog to cover the 'Embassy Files' release:
English version: [Live] Statelogs: A new world?
French version: [Live] Statelogs: Un nouveau monde?

"Together with Le Soir in Brussels and in Paris, we will provide the tools and context to explore the logs," said OWNI. The OWNI log-browsing application will go live in a few hours.

Le Soir is hosting its own "BEkileaks" blog to report on documents concerning Belgium:

Update 1: According to OWNI sources, only between 500-1000 documents concern France.

The Guardian gets ready

Update 2: The Guardian's investigative editor David Leigh noted on Twitter: "The truth about the #wikileaks cables is going to come out in the #guardian soon"

Update 3: Further update from David Leigh on Twitter: "UK Sunday papers have got it all wrong about #wikileaks #embassy cables. Not worth reading. Wait for the #guardian!"

The US State Department responds

Update 4: The State Department made available to the media late on Saturday a letter that legal counsel Harold Koh wrote to Julian Assange and his attorneys with regards to the upcoming release. The State Department said this was in reponse to a letter received from Julian Assange on Friday addressing concerns related to the release and asking for information on individuals who might be at risk of harm.

AFP: "We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained US government classified materials," State Department legal adviser Harold Koh wrote. "As you know, if any of the materials you intend to publish were provided by any government officials, or any intermediary without proper authorisation, they were provided in violation of US law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action," Koh continued. "As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing."

Further details on AFP and Politico.

The Washington Post has made available a PDF of the State Department letter: download.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas notes on Twitter: "Senior US official tells me Assange offered to negotiate limited redactions State Dept replied no negotiations, publication violates US law."

The US Ambassador to Berlin, Philip Murphy, has published an open letter in Bild am Sontag. One of our editors reports on the letter.

Further updates as we get them.

2010-11-27 WikiLeaks in today's media [Update 2]

The unprecedented US government effort to minimize fallout from an expected WikiLeaks release of diplomatic cables continues unabated. Countries to be warned now include India, Belgium and Colombia, in addition to the UK, France, Norway, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iceland, Russia, Sweden, Iraq, Israel and China.

The Independent: US envoys forced to apologise in advance as WikiLeaks release looms

"Frantic behind the scenes wrangling was under way last night as US officials tried to stem the fallout from the expected release of up to three million confidential diplomatic communiques by the WikiLeaks website.

Over the past 48 hours, American ambassadors have had the unenviable task of informing some of the country's strongest allies that a series of potentially embarrassing cables are likely to be released in the coming days."
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International Business Times: Will WikiLeaks unravel the American 'secret government'?

"Researchers have often pointed out the stark contrast between nation states' declared policies -- and the means to achieve them -- and what actually transpires on the ground. The inner workings, the dark secrets and shady deals never see the light of day until they may be declassified years later, severely undermining democratic values of truth and transparency.

Now WikiLeaks is out to run a knife through a mountain of classified documents revealing how the proverbial 'secret government' works its way through cluttered diplomatic channels. And that certainly could be embarrassing to lots of people in many capitals, more so in Washington."
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Frankfurter Rundschau: Wer hat Angst vor WikiLeaks?

"Who is afraid of WikiLeaks?" asks FR. "The U.S. is taking pains more than ever before to inform other interested governments. The world speculates about the upcoming revelations. The U.S. government wants to limit the possible diplomatic damage caused by the publication of secret documents from the State Department on the web. [...] Now half the world wonders who has to hide something."
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The Daily Mail: U.S. warns Britain over new WikiLeaks revelations that will 'expose corruption between allies'

"David Cameron was warned last night by America that damaging secrets of the ‘special relationship’ are about to be laid bare.

The U.S. ambassador to London made an unprecedented personal visit to Downing Street to warn that whistleblower website WikiLeaks is about to publish secret assessments of what Washington really thinks of Britain."
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Scotsman: WikiLeaks: The gathering storm - leaks leave US with few friends

"THE UK Government has been briefed by the American ambassador about the imminent release of highly embarrassing diplomatic files by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks with the potential to damage relations between the two countries.

Politicians and officials in the UK and US were last night on tenterhooks as they waited for the release of the documents, which are understood to contain American officials' candid assessments of governments that the US would rather keep secret including claims of alleged corruption in foreign administrations. [...] Last night there were claims that there could be a backlash from upset countries that would lead to the expulsion of US diplomats."
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NDTV: US warns India about possible WikiLeaks release

"The US has warned India and other key governments across the world about a new potentially embarrassing release of classified documents by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks which may harm the American interests and create tension in its ties with its 'friends'.

"We have reached out to India to warn them about a possible release of documents," State Department Spokesman P J Crowley said."
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SIPSE: EU 'se cura en salud' por filtraciones de WikiLeaks

"In Colombia, U.S. embassy spokeswoman Ana Duque-Higgins said the local government has been alerted.

'We have talked with government officials in Colombia about the release of some State Department documents that have been leaked and may appear in the press, and we are ensuring that they keep abreast of the situation as it develops,' she said."
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Le Soir: WikiLeaks publiera ses documents dimanche soir

"The U.S. diplomatic post in Brussels alerted the Belgian authorities about a possible distribution by WikiLeaks of diplomatic cables that could potentially expose unknown aspects of Washington politics. "Like all other embassies in the world," councillor in charge of public diplomacy Tania Chomiak-Salvi told, "we expressed our concern to our Belgian counterparts about a possible spread by WikiLeaks of U.S. government communications."

Le Soir also notes that the WikiLeaks documents are likely to be published Sunday evening.
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WikiLeaks 2.0: New Frequency for the Era of Everyday People

“When I grow up, I want to be a...” I wonder how many people remember their childhood dreams for the future and their youthful idealism. I remember how many adults tried to persuade me to give up my dreams, saying how I need to abandon them and get real. Teachers, counselors and professionals tended to ridicule my aspirations, telling me to grow up.

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2010-11-26 Defence Advisory Notices issued to UK press on WikiLeaks [Update 6]

WikiLeaks and Guido Fawkes report that two Defence Advisory Notices (DA-Notices) have been issued to the UK press with regards to the expected release of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks.

"The DA Notice system is a voluntary code that provides guidance to the British media on the publication or broadcasting of national security information," says the official DA-N website,

Two notices have been issued, DA-Notice 01 on military operations, plans and capabilities, and DA-Notice 05, on United Kingdom security, intelligence services and special services.

DA-Notices however are not binding. According to the official website, "The system is voluntary, it has no legal authority and the final responsibility for deciding whether or not to publish rests solely with the editor or publisher concerned."

Update 1: Andrew Vallance, Secretary of The Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee has confirmed the DA-Notice issuance to NRK.

Update 2: Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of The Guardian, posted his reaction on Twitter: "Puzzled by DA Notice re #wikileaks. Overwhelming majority of t stuff not covered. "Safety + security of Brits" nothing to do w DNotice"

Update 3: Index on Censorship reacts to the DA-Notice issuance: UK issues DA-notices as US briefs allies on fresh leak.

Update 4: Guido Fawkes has published the content of the DA-Notice here.

Update 5: The Guardian's political editor Patrick Wintour on the DA-Notice: Expected WikiLeaks disclosures prompt Downing Street warning for editors. The article also quotes Alan Rusbridger as saying, "I appreciate why the DA notice might make people anxious. But, from my reading of the WikiLeaks material, only a tiny part of it is covered or relevant."

Update 6: The international media is picking up on the DA-Notice story. Die Zeit titled its report British government asks media to self-censor. CBC noted that U.K. government wants WikiLeaks media briefing.

2010-11-26 WikiLeaks in today's media [Update 7]

Radio Free Europe: WikiLeaks And Its Brave New World

"The imminent new WikiLeaks expose promises to be especially revelatory because, simply put, the Americans have dirt on everyone. Assange and company's logic is as elegant as it's unsettling: by revealing the secrets of the world's leading superpower, the secrets of the world -- namely, the all-too-often dirty web of interconnections between governments, corporations, intelligence and media agencies, and key personalities -- are also revealed.

There are potential lessons here, some likely old, some hopefully new, and all doubtlessly very unhappy, about the nature of power and what it really means to be an "international community." So, it's noteworthy that WikiLeaks recently tweeted, "In the coming months we will see a new world, where global history is redefined." Perhaps this isn't just hyperbole after all."
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JTurn: Next Up: The “War on Journalism”?

Jonathan Lundqvist writes an analysis of war in the 21st century, the relationship between the media and the military, the internet as a new domain for warfare and the role of WikiLeaks and the free press:

"Pentagon, with its newly founded US Cyber Command, is going all-in against an undefined enemy, with fear-mongers on the sidelines crying for blood. The state of the world being as it is, the question is if WikiLeaks is going to be the first victim of this new offensive force.[...]

WikiLeaks crushed, with a few swift blows, the information monopoly of the military. “Truth”, says Julian Assange, the site’s founder and iconic spokesperson, “is the first casualty of war”, repeating a truism that is rarely backed up with hard evidence. Going through the material, the cliché was proven. Not only did the documents show many things that were never reported, but it also showed outright lies and distortions.

With a very broad definition of security, the free press will be at stake. It goes without saying that exposing certain truths about how we wage wars; on the justifications or actions of troops, is a security problem for the military – and the long run, also for society. But, wait, why if so, do democracies have a free press?"
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Bloomberg: Italy Says WikiLeaks Reports on U.S. May Harm Nation

"Italy’s government said “classified reports” on U.S. foreign relations expected to be published by the website may harm the country as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi fights for his political survival.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said during a Cabinet meeting in Rome today that the documents may have “negative repercussions” on Italy, according to an e-mailed statement from Berlusconi’s office."
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The Age: Tensions rise as WikiLeaks release nears

"Speculation last night that WikiLeaks may reveal clandestine US support for terrorism had US embassies across the globe scrambling to limit damage ahead of the latest threatened release of US government documents by the whistleblowing website.

According to the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat, several documents show that the US had in turn been providing assistance to Turkey's Kurdish separatist movement, the PKK."
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AFP: US slams WikiLeaks ahead of latest release

"Washington's envoy to Iraq condemned WikiLeaks as 'absolutely awful' Friday as world capitals braced for the looming release of some three million sensitive diplomatic cables by the whistleblower website.

The latest tranche of documents, the third since WikiLeaks published 77,000 classified US files on the Afghan conflict in July, have spurred Washington to warn both Turkey and Israel of the embarrassment they could cause, and American diplomats have also briefed officials in London, Oslo and Copenhagen."
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IOL: WikiLeaks docs may hurt US-Russia ties

"The documents include recordings of US diplomats' conversations with Russian politicians, assessments of Russia's most notable events, and analyses of what is happening in the country and in its domestic and foreign politics," according to Kommersant.
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Aftonbladet: Sverige varnat inför WikiLeaksavslöjanden

"The United States has warned Sweden to WikiLeaks future revelations. 'Yes, we can confirm that discussions have occurred,' said Henrik Knobe from the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

It remains unclear what the documents that WikiLeaks will release contain, but the U.S. is currently trying to minimize the damage by contacting countries around the world."
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De Volksrant: VS waarschuwt Nederland om inhoud WikiLeaks

"The United States has warned the Netherlands that new documents are to be published on the whistleblower website WikiLeaks in the coming days, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Uri Rosenthal (VVD) on Friday."
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Die Zeit: USA kontaktieren vorsorglich ihre Bündnispartner

"The German Foreign Ministry would not confirm or deny such contact on Friday. Andreas Peschke, spokesman at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, responded to journalists: 'I will not single out aspects of the wide-ranging discussions with our American partners.'"
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AFP: US contacts Turkey over WikiLeaks files: diplomat

"The United States has been in contact with Turkey over new files to be released on the Internet by WikiLeaks, Turkish officials said Friday, stressing Ankara's commitment to fighting terrorism."
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World Dawn: WikiLeaks plans to release 94 papers about Pakistan

"WikiLeaks is expected to put 94 documents about Pakistan on its website this weekend, diplomatic sources told Dawn. The documents mainly contain telegrams sent by the US Embassy in Islamabad to the State Department in Washington.

Some of these papers relate to US observations about Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan, the debate within Pakistan on the war against terror, Islamabad’s cooperation with Washington and other military and intelligence matters."
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The Telegraph: WikiLeaks: US diplomats predicted Coalition would fail

"Sources revealed that the documents include commentary on the likely fate of the Coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Transmitted in the early days of the Coalition, the messages are understood to predict that the Government was likely to prove ineffective and short-lived, ultimately doomed by tensions between Tories and Lib Dems.

Earlier messages about the previous Government could prove at least as embarrassing for Mr Brown."
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AP: Clinton talks to China about WikiLeaks release

"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday spoke with the Chinese government about the expected release of classified cables by the WikiLeaks website.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed Friday evening that Clinton spoke by phone with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. He did not provide details."
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Reuters: WikiLeaks must stop "dangerous" leaks: military

"I would hope that those who are responsible for this would, at some point in time, think about the responsibility that they have for lives that they're exposing and the potential that's there and stop leaking this information," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS due to air Sunday.
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This is not the first time Adm. Mullen has made this claim. The allegation that "WikiLeaks has blood on its hands" has been made both at the time of the Afghanistan war diaries release, and the Iraq war logs release. It has been disproven by facts both times, and the military top brass finally admitted it. Please see our article on the topic: Debunked: "WikiLeaks Has Blood on Its Hands".

2010-22-25 Danish coverage of WikiLeaks

Articles about WikiLeaks from three Danish newspapers: Information, Politiken and Berlingske. Information was the only Danish media to get early access to the Iraq war logs.

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