Posts Tagged ‘Julian Assange’

Julian Assange: enemy of the state

April 26, 2017

Power corrupts, the saying goes, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  If a government has the power to commit crimes in secret, and to punish people for revealing its crimes, what limit is there on its absolute power.

That is why Julian Assange, the founder and leader of Wikileaks, is a hero.  He has sacrificed his freedom and risked his life to make known crimes and abuses by the U.S. and other governments.

Here’s what he said about his aims back in 2006—

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie.  This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.

Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are non-linearly hit relative to open, just systems.  Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.

Source: IQ.ORG

Of course this is inherently dangerous.  Making powerful immoral people paranoid about having their crimes revealed will reduce the effectiveness of those powerful immoral people, either by damaging their reputations or making them afraid to communicate with each other or both.   But it’s a given that if you keep it up, these powerful people will use their power against you.

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CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a recent speech that Assange’s Wikileaks should be suppressed because it is a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”  In other words, Wikileaks gathers information that governments don’t want it to know, and publishes it—just like any other muckraking news organization.

The difference is that Wikileaks, like other publishers, gathers intelligence on behalf of the public and not a foreign government.   If you say the distinction doesn’t matter, then freedom of the press does not include the right to tell the truth; it means nothing except the right to express mere opinion.

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Manning to be freed—in exchange for Assange?

January 17, 2017

Five days ago Julian Assange stated on Twitter that he would agree to be extradited to the United States if President Obama freed Chelsea Manning.   Today President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, effective May 17.

Manning is the former U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning who provided information to Wikileaks about military coverups.   He has served nearly seven years of a 35-year sentence, the longest term any American has served for leaking information to the public.

Among the information that he revealed were reports that civilian casualties in Iraq were higher than reported.  He also gave Wikileaks the video footage used below..

I don’t have any way of knowing whether President Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence was done out of humanitarian feeling, or whether it was result of negotiations with Assange.

If it was Obama’s unconditional decision, he deserves credit for doing the right thing.

If it is part of an agreement to trade Assange for Manning, then all I can say is that Assange is a brave and honorable man, and Obama is not.

We’ll see what happens in May.  If Assange does surrender, we’ll see what President Trump does.

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John Pilger interviews Julian Assange

November 6, 2016

Julian Assange, in addition to his great service in bringing secret facts to light, is an interesting thinker.  The video shows fellow Australian John Pilger, a noted investigative journalist, interviewing Assange on the coming U.S. election and his current status.

Here are some highlights of the interview:

Julian Assange: If you look at the history of the FBI, it has become effectively America’s political police.  The FBI demonstrated this by taking down the former head of the CIA [General David Petraeus] over classified information given to his mistress.  Almost no-one is untouchable.

The FBI is always trying to demonstrate that no-one can resist it.  But Hillary Clinton very conspicuously resisted the FBI’s investigation, so there’s anger within the FBI because it made the FBI look weak.

We’ve published about 33,000 of Clinton’s emails when she was Secretary of State.  [snip]

Then there are the Podesta emails we’ve been publishing.  [John] Podesta is Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign manager, so there’s a thread that runs through all these emails; there are quite a lot of pay-for-play, as they call it, giving access in exchange for money to states, individuals and corporations.

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Julian Assange: There’s an early 2014 email from Hillary Clinton, not so long after she left the State Department, to her campaign manager John Podesta that states ISIL is funded by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar

Now this is the most significant email in the whole collection, and perhaps because Saudi and Qatari money is spread all over the Clinton Foundation.   Even the U.S. government agrees that some Saudi figures have been supporting ISIL, or ISIS.   But the dodge has always been that, well it’s just some rogue Princes, using their cut of the oil money to do whatever they like, but actually the government disapproves.

But that email says that no, it is the governments of Saudi and Qatar that have been funding ISIS.

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Russia accused of war by using weaponized truth

October 18, 2016

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Russian intelligence services are accused of waging cyber-warfare by releasing embarrassing Hillary Clinton e-mails through Wikileaks.

There is no direct evidence of where Wikileaks got the Clinton e-mails, but the Russians have the capability and the motive to hack her system.

Would this be an act of war?  I for one would welcome war by means of weaponized truth.

If revealing accurate information about your geopolitical enemy is a form of warfare, I think escalation of this kind of warfare would be a good thing and not a bad thing.

I think the NSA and the CIA should retaliate by arranging the release of damaging secret information about Vladimir Putin—maybe through Wikileaks as a form of poetic justice.

In fact, there are those who think they already have done so, through the Panama Papers leak

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Spies, Wikileaks and the DNC hacks.

August 1, 2016

I haven’t seen anything in the news accounts of the Democratic National Committee e-mails that is either new or shocking.

We the public knew before the DNC hacks that the committee members and staff were supporters of Hillary Clinton.  That’s what smart and successful politicians do—put their supporters in positions of influence.

The e-mails reveal how much the DNC people disliked Sanders and favored Clinton, but I haven’t seen anything that shows the e-mails showed they actually did—as distinguished from talking about—anything unethical.

What wrongdoing I do know about comes from publicly available information, not e-mail hacks.  The Hillary Victory Fund, for example, raised money ostensibly for state Democratic Party organizations, but then funneled the money back to Clinton.  That’s dishonest and probably illegal, but those facts had already been revealed.

As to the source of the information, intelligence agencies of various governments have a long history of revealing information that is embarrassing to their adversaries.

What’s new about the publishing of confidential Democratic National Committee e-mails is that it was done through Wikileaks, which provides a platform by which whistle-blowers and hackers of any affiliation can reveal secret documents without being traced.  is not affiliated with any government and for that very reason provides a perfect cover.  This is ideal cover for secret intelligence agencies.

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, says his only responsibility is to verify the authenticity of the information, not to judge the motives of those providing it.   The problem is that the CIA, FSB and their counterparts in other countries are probably much more expert in faking the source of information than Assange and his friends are in detecting forgeries.

There’s a moral here.  The moral is that secret information is not necessarily more significant than public information that has been overlooked.

LINKS

On the Need for Official Attribution of Russia’s DNC Hack by Matt Tait for the Brookinsgs Institution’s Lawfare blog.

Yet More Thoughts on the DNC Hack: Attribution and Precedent by Jack Goldsmith for Lawfare.

The passing scene – August 31, 2015

August 31, 2015

Here are some links to article I found interesting, and perhaps you will, too.

How Close Was Donald Trump to the Mob? by David Marcus for The Federalist.

Maybe there are innocent explanations tof Donald Trump’s business connections with known Mafia bosses in New York City and Atlantic City.  If such exist, we the voting public deserve to hear them.

Katrina Washed Away New Orleans Black Middle Class by Ben Casselman for FiveThirtyEight.

Black homeowners and business owners lost the most in Hurricane Katrina.  Black professionals such as physicians and lawyers have moved on.  And black school teachers are losing their jobs to supposed school “reform.”

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Hat tip for the following to Bill Harvey—

The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor? by Alan Nasser for Counterpunch.

The United States was the first country in which a majority of the people were taught to think of themselves as middle class.  In Victorian English novels, the middle class are the doctors, lawyers and other professionals who aren’t working class, but not truly upper class.

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Statues in Berlin honor famous whistle-blowers

August 23, 2015

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Life-size heroic bronze statues of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning were unveiled in May in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz Square.

“They have lost their freedom for the truth, said Italian sculptor Davide Domino, creator of the artwork.  “They mind us how important it is to know the truth.’

Domino depicted the three whistle-blowers standing on chairs and he added an empty fourth chair for anybody who wants to take a stand and speak (as shown above).

We Americans like to see the world as a battle between the good guys and the bad guys.  It is hard to accept that so much of the world sees us as the bad guys.

LINK

New Statue in Germany Illustrates Just How Much the Rest of the World Opposes the U.S. Police State by Jay Syrmopoulos for The Free Thought Project.  Hat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow.

Julian Assange’s epic struggle for justice

July 31, 2015

jul650Julian Assange is a great hero of our time.

Subject to a 24-hour police siege, confined to a single windowless room, he continues to fight, and fight effectively, for truth and justice.

WikiLeaks continues to provide a means by which whistle-blowers can reveal how governments, corporations and other organizations conspire against the public.  Most of what the American public knows about the toxic Trans Pacific Partnership, for example, has been made known by WikiLeaks.

John Pilger wrote an excellent article, updated on Counterpunch, about the how the U.S. government, abetted by the governments of the United Kingdom and Sweden, are bending international law and their own laws to deprive Assange of his freedom.

He is wanted for extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual misconduct case.  He has not been charged with any crime, and the alleged victims in the case do not accuse him of any crime.  He has offered to testify in London, or to go to Sweden to testify if he can be assured that he won’t be extradited to the United States.

A grand jury has been meeting in secret in Alexandria, Va., for five years trying to figure out ways to define Assange’s truth-telling as a crime.   The details of the ongoing investigation of Assange have been defined themselves as a state secret.  One of the crimes the grand jury is pondering is violation of the U.S. Espionage Act, which carries a maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment.

Assange might be in a U.S. prison today, or worse, if not for the courage of the Ecuadorian government, which despite all pressure and threats offered him refuge in its London embassy.

The U.S. government treats Assange as it might treat a terrorist.  And in fact, to a government whose policies are based on secrecy and lies, truth-tellers and whistle-blowers are more terrifying than killers or suicide bombers.

I think a good litmus test for whether an individual believes in freedom and democracy is the person’s attitude toward Julian Assange.   President Obama most certainly fails that test.   I think Assange will be remembered when Obama is forgotten.

LINK

Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice by John Pilger for Counterpunch.

The passing scene: Links & comments 11/18/14

November 18, 2014

Why US fracking companies are licking their lips over Ukraine by Naomi Klein for The Guardian (hat tip to Bill Harvey)

American oil and gas companies are using the Ukraine crisis to press for an increase on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and construction of LNG (liquified natural gas) terminals at U.S. seaports.

Supposedly this will enable the United States to export gas to Europe as a substitute for Russian gas cut off by sanctions.  The problem with this, as Naomi Klein pointed out, is that the Ukraine crisis probably will be long over by the time the LNG terminals are constructed.

This is an example of what Klein calls the “shock doctrine”—use of crises by special interests to manipulate people into agreeing to do things they don’t want to do.

The siege of Julian Assange is a farce by Australian journalist John Pilger.

Julian Assange has been living in a room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for two years to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer questioning in a sexual misconduct case because he fears re-extradition to the United States for prosecution on his Wikileaks disclosures.

Pilger showed the case against Assange is bogus and his fears are well-founded.  Assange’s alleged victims haven’t accused him of any crime nor did the original investigators.  There is ample precedent for Swedish investigators to come to London to question Assange if they wish.  And the U.S. and Swedish governments have discussed his re-extradition.

Afghan Opium Production Hits All-Time High by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.

The CIA would rather see Afghanistan dominated by drug lords than by the Taliban.

Putinization in Russia and the USA

November 11, 2014

Putinization is a word I first came across when I read an interview of Julian Assange in 2011. It means a society that is in the process of having a market economy and a democratic government taken over by patronage networks—people in positions of power doing favors for the less powerful, the less powerful being loyal to the powerful patrons.

I think Vladimir Putin is a statesman Machiavelli or Bismarck would have respected—a realist, not a moralist.   I think what he said about international law in his Valdai speech is true and important, and, as an American, I find it humiliating that a former KGB official is in a position to lecture my country’s leders on international norms of conduct.

But I don’t think Putin is a good person, I don’t think Putin’s Russia is a good place.  My great fear for my country is Putinization, as characterized by Julian Assange below.

When I was in Russia in the 1990s, I used to watch NTV in Moscow. NTV was the freest TV I have ever seen. … At that time, Russia had something like 10 independent points of power.  It had the army.  It had the remnants of the KGB and the external KGB, which ended up becoming the SVR.  It had Yeltsin and his daughter, and the mob.  It had some broader mish-mash of bureaucracy left over from the Soviet Union.  It had seven oligarchs.

2014-03-07-PUTINIn terms of media control, that meant the state plus the oligarchs with their own independent media.  The result was, you could actually put out almost anything you wanted under the patronage or protection of one of these groups.…

[Then] Putin came in.  He tamed the oligarchs.  Some were arrested, some had their assets seized, and some were exiled. The result was, they fell in under Putin’s centralized patronage pyramid.  The ownership of the TV stations also reined [in] popular democracy under Putin’s pyramid.  Now, in order to get anything of scale done in Russia, you have to have a sponsor in the pyramid somewhere.

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The passing scene: Links & comments 6/19/14

June 19, 2014

How Inequality Shapes the American Family by Lynn Stuart Parramore for AlterNet.

We are always free to choose, no matter what our circumstances.   But we are not free to choose the options we have to choose from.

Lynn Stuart Parramore wrote that our choices as to when to get married, whom to marry and whether to stay married are limited by our life circumstances.  And those life circumstances are shaped by how much money we have.

There’s an old saying: Half the world doesn’t know how the other half lives.  And another old saying: Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes (at least in imagination).  These are things to keep in mind when judging the life choices of people in circumstances other than our own.

Making Schools Poor by Diane Ravitch for the New York Review of Books.

A judge in California ruled that teacher tenure is a violation of the state constitution.  His reasoning is that tenure protects ineffective teachers, that poor and minority children have a disproportionate number of ineffective teachers and that tenure is therefore a violation of their rights.

Ravitch wrote that the problem with this is that financially-strapped school districts will tend to lay off the more experienced teachers, whether effective or not, because they are the ones that are paid the most.

Not covered by the decision: Overcrowded classes, the elimination of arts programs, or the lack of resources for basic needs, including libraries, librarians, counselors, after-school programs, and nurses, all of which disproportionately affect poor and minority children.

Julian Assange Hopes New Information Filed in Swedish Court Will Remove Arrest Warrant by Kevin Gosztla for The Dissenter.

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past two years rather than be extradited to Sweden to be questioned in a sexual misconduct case.

He is afraid of being re-extradited to the United States on espionage charges because of all the secret information he has published.  He offered to go to Sweden if he was assured he won’t be re-extradited, and also offered to be questioned where he is.  Sweden has refused both conditions.

Kevin Gosztla noted that Sweden has meanwile passed a law that you can be extradited unless there is an actual criminal charge against you.  Assange has not been charged with a crime, but the law isn’t retroactive to him.   Gosztla also noted that Swedish prosecutors have traveled to foreign countries to question suspects in other cases, including murder cases.

Assange’s lawyers are working on a new appeal to Sweden to set aside the arrest warrant, and also are appealing to the United Nations Human Rights Commission on the grounds that Sweden violates international human rights treaties..

The Pig Punisher: Building drones to fight devious crop-devouring hogs by Yasha Levine for PandoDaily.

The real enemy within.

The security state: Links & comments 8/26/13

August 26, 2013

Over the weekend my friend Daniel Brandt e-mailed me a link to an article by Julian Assange wrote for The Stringer, an on-line Australian newspaper, about how Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, works hand in glove with Hillary Clinton’s State Department, and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, performed covert missions for State Department.

Google and the NSA: Who’s holding the ‘shit-bag’ now? by Julian Assange for The Stringer.

Assange wrote that once, when Wikileaks tried to communicate with Hillary Clinton at the U.S. State Department, the caller was transferred to people at successively higher levels of the State Deparment until someone promised a call-back.

The call was returned, however, not by a State Department employee, but by Lisa Shields, who was Eric Schmidt’s girl friend.  The fact that she was Hillary Clinton’s chosen back channel of communication shows how tight are the top people in Google and the government.

Jared Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton, was recently in Azerbaijan performing secret missions for the State Department.  According to a leaked e-mail from Stratfor, an important U.S. intelligence contractor, Cohen was doing things that the CIA could not do and that he was likely to get caught.  The e-mail said exposing the operation might not be a bad thing because the U.S. government could disavow it and Google would be left “holding the shit-bag.”   There’s more in the article, but these are the high points.

julian-assange-credit-300x178Assange is amazing.  Here he is, a fugitive from the U.S. legal system, unable to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and he still is leading Wikileaks (with the help of others), revealing new information, helping Edward Snowden in Moscow and running for the Australian Senate as the candidate of a Wikileaks Party.

Julian Assange interviewed on what the Wikileaks Party will mean to the Aboriginal peoples by Gerry Georgatos for The Stringer.

Assange seems well-informed about Aborigines and their current plight, considering how long he’s been away from his native Australia and considering how many other things he has to think about.

StratforLeaks: Google Ideas Director Involved in ‘Regime Change’ by Yazan al-Saadi for Al Akhbar English, in 2012.  [Added 8/28/13]

NSA Domestic Spying: Mathematicians Should Speak Out by Charles Siefe for Slate.  Hat tip to Jack Clontz.

Charles Siefe, a mathematician who worked for the National Security Agency briefly in the 1990s, wrote that in those days the nation’s top mathematicians flocked to the NSA out of patriotism and the desire to do challenging and important work.  In those days, he wrote, the NSA in those days respected the legal limits of its mission and also was untroubled by leaks.

It’s possible that both the excesses and the leaks in those days were more than Siefe was aware.   Still, I  do think there is a connection between a government agency respecting the law and its employees being loyal to the agency.

Is the NSA Actually Aware of All Internet Traditions? Some Thoughts on Incompetency by Mike the Mad Biologist.  The U.S. tradeoff of freedom for security hasn’t produced much security.

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Julian Assange on the Bradley Manning show trial

June 25, 2013

Julian Assange said in an interview Monday that the Bradley Manning court-martial is a show trial.   Just like the show trials in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, the verdict has been pre-determined, and the purpose of the trial is to convince the public of the defendant’s guilt.

The judge has ruled out the Manning’s lawyers main line of defense, which is that the information he released was wrongly over-classified, and allowed only one of 33 witnesses the defense wanted to call.  The prosecution will call 141 witnesses, some of whom will present their testimony in secret.  Access by the press is controlled, and less than a quarter of those who applied were granted press credentials.

Assange pointed out that many American newspapers published articles using the information Manning revealed, but not one of them contributed to Manning’s defense fund.  Some reporters may have done so individually, however.

Links for your weekend browsing 6/7/13

June 7, 2013

Here are links to articles that I found interesting, and I think you might find interesting, too.

The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ by Julian Assange.

The founder of Wikileaks reviewed The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt, executive chair of Google, and Jared Cohen, former aide to Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton and now head of Google Ideas.   He said Google epitomizes the death of personal privacy and the shift toward authoritarianism.

The section on “repressive autocracies” describes, disapprovingly, various repressive surveillance measures: legislation to insert back doors into software to enable spying on citizens, monitoring of social networks and the collection of intelligence on entire populations.  All of these are already in widespread use in the United States.  In fact, some of those measures — like the push to require every social-network profile to be linked to a real name — were spearheaded by Google itself.

Student Loans as Medieval Indentures

types of debt[1]

Click to enlarge.

Dave Dayen writing for Salon points out that U.S. student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion.  It has exceeded credit card debt for some time.  Unlike ordinary debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, and are virtually impossible to refinance.  Dayen said people now collecting Social Security are still paying on their student loans.  It is a terrible drag on the economy.   Indebtedness keeps young people from buying homes, buying automobiles, starting businesses or getting jobs based on what they love to do.  But the problem is not just the student loan system.  It is the lack of affordable education and the lack of decent jobs for people with high school educations.

Scam Alert! Press Sleeps Through Great Post Office Fire Sale.

The Postmaster General is selling off Postal Service property, much of it prime downtown real estate, at bargain prices.   It is a great deal for the buyers and a bad deal for the public.   Maybe this is why Congress has imposed unusual financial burdens on the Postal Service, such as funding retirement 75 years in advance, and refuses to allow the Postal Service to take normal business steps to stem its losses.

Why Does Eastman Chemical Fear for Its Reputation?

The Washington Spectator reports on how Eastman Chemical, a Kodak spinoff, paid scientists to write journal articles saying its baby-bottle plastic is safe.   There was a time, 30 or so years ago, when I would have presumed Kodak executives were above such conduct.  Maybe they were, then.

This Is Your Brain on Coffee.

Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times says academic research says that moderate amounts of coffee—four or five ordinary cups a day, or one Starbucks drink—are good for you.  I’m glad to think that, because I’ve never weaned myself from my coffee addiction.  I hope and presume that none of these studies was paid for by the coffee industry.

Julian Assange: a profile in courage

May 15, 2013

The United States and British governments treat Julian Assange like the ultimate terrorist threat.

police. ecuadorian-embassyMembers of the London Metropolitan Police, wearing Kevlar vests, surround the Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange has taken refuge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They occupy the front steps and entrances, they occupy street corners nearby, one police officer occupies a room in a building adjoining Assange’s room.  Chris Hedges, a journalist and former war correspondent, said the Metropolitan Police spent the equivalent of $4.5 million in surveillance of Julian Assange just through January 31.

Behind the United Kingdom government is the power of the U.S. government.  A dozen government agencies are working on the Julian Assange case.  They have waged economic warfare and cyberwarfare to try to shut down Assange’s WikiLeaks operation.  They interrogate and try to recruit WikiLeaks supporters every time they pass through a U.S.-controlled airport.  Assange’s lawyers believe that Bradley Manning, who leaked confidential government information to WikiLeaks, could plea bargain for a reduced sentence by testifying that Assange solicited the information.

A secret grand jury in Arlington, Va., reportedly has handed down a sealed indictment of Assange.  Hedges reported that the Department of Justice is mounting a major effort on this.  It spent $2 million this year alone for a computer system to handle Assange prosecution documents.  The U.S. Congress in 1989 authorized the federal government to seize anyone, anywhere in the world, who is accused of a crime under U.S. law, even if this is done in violation of international law or the law of the country concerned.

I read a lot about the partisan divisions in the U.S. government, but Democrats and Republicans, the so-called liberals and the so-called conservatives, are united in their desire for the U.S. government to capture Julian Assange.   If this happens, Julian Assange can look forward to spending the rest of his life in the equivalent of the Soviet Gulag.

jul650What is Julian Assange’s crime?  What makes him such a threat?  What he has done is to break the wall of secrecy which makes possible the “disposition matrix,” “signature strikes,” “extraordinary renditions,” “enhanced interrogation” and all the other secret Orwellian activities of government.  If he is guilty of revealing secret information to the enemy under the Espionage Act, it is only if the U.S. government regards the American people as its enemy.

The remarkable thing is that, with all this power arrayed against him, Julian Assange is not afraid.   The powers-that-be are afraid of him.  He is not afraid of them.  Trapped in a corner, he continues his work, to make known what the world’s governments want to hide.  To the extent that freedom and democracy survive the next few decades, he will be regarded as one of our era’s greatest heroes.

Click on The Death of Truth: Chris Hedges Interviews Julian Assange for Hedges’ full report and links to the interview.

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Could Obama order a hit on Julian Assange?

March 6, 2013

The Obama administration has refused to give a clear answer on whether the President claims authority to order the killing of an American citizen on American soil, based on the President’s sole determination that the person is a threat.

black_and_white_usa_censorship_julian_assange_desktop_1680x1050_wallpaper-1000432I have a different question.   Does President Obama believe he has the authority to order the killing of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks?  Assange has never participated in an act of violence against Americans, and never has advocated violence against Americans.  Yet Assange is accused of being a threat to American national security because he has provided a means of publishing secret information that is damaging to the U.S. government’s reputation.

I do think Julian Assange is safer in the Ecuadorian embassy in London than he would be anywhere else.   It isn’t paranoid to think that, if he were free to move about, he might be found dead some morning in a hotel room or along a lonely country road.   My guess is that he will be in the Ecuadorian embassy for a longl— just like Cardinal Mindszenty, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on trumped-up charges by the Communist government of Hungary during the Cold War era, and found asylum for 15 years in the U.S. embassy in Budapest.

But my question is not about President Obama’s intentions.  My question is what limits, if any, exist in his eyes to his power to issue death warrants.

Julian Assange on the surveillance state

December 1, 2012

Julian Assange gave an an interview yesterday to Democracy Now! about Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and his new book Cypherpunks.  Here’s part of what he said.

There’s not a barrier anymore between corporate surveillance, on the one hand, and government surveillance, on the other.  You know, Facebook is based—has its servers based in the United States.  Gmail, as General Petraeus found out, has its servers based in the United States.  And the interplay between U.S. intelligence agencies and other Western intelligence agencies and any intelligence agencies that can hack this is fluid.

So, we’re in a—if we look back to what’s a earlier example of the worst penetration by an intelligence apparatus of a society, which is perhaps East Germany, where up to 10 percent of people over their lifetime had been an informer at one stage or another, in Iceland we have 88 percent penetration of Iceland by Facebook.  Eighty-eight percent of people are there on Facebook informing on their friends andtheir movements and the nature of their relationships—and for free.  They’re not even being paid money.  They’re not even being directly coerced to do it.  They’re doing it for social credits to avoid the feeling of exclusion.

But people should understand what is really going on.  I don’t believe people are doing this or would do it if they truly understood what was going on, that they are doing hundreds of billions of hours of free work for the Central Intelligence Agency, for the FBI, and for all allied agencies and all countries that can ask for favors to get hold of that information.

William Binney, the former chief of research, the National Security Agency’s signals intelligence division, describes this situation that we are in now as “turnkey totalitarianism,” that the whole system of totalitarianism has been built—the car, the engine has been built—and it’s just a matter of turning the key. And actually, when we look to see some of the crackdowns on WikiLeaks and the grand jury process and targeted assassinations and so on, actually it’s arguable that key has already been partly turned. The assassinations that occur extra-judicially, the renditions that occur, they don’t occur in isolation. They occur as a result of the information that has been sucked in through this giant signals interception machinery.

That’s a strong statement, but I don’t think it is an exaggeration.   Watch the interview and decide for yourself.  The key parts are between the 10th and 20th minute and after the 32nd minute.   Or click on Julian Assange on Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and the Emerging Surveillance State and read the transcript.

Creating “un-people” at Guantanamo

October 29, 2012

George Orwell in his novel 1984 coined the word un-person.  When the regime of Big Brother turns you into an un-person, you not only cease to exist, but all record and memory of your existence cease to exist.  This was inspired by the old Soviet Union, where, when the regime turned against a prominent person, they not only disappeared, but all reference to them in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia was eliminated.  Winston Smith, the central character of 1984, has a job of “rectifying” the records.

Now Wikileaks has uncovered records that indicates the authorities at the Guantanamo Bay detention center had a policy of turning inmates into un-people.  Julian Assange said in an interview last week with CNN that a 2005 Guantanamo Bay manual, recently revealed by Wikileaks, show that military authorities had a policy of not identifying the inmates as individuals, not even by a number.  That meant a person could be made to disappear, and there would be no record that the person was even present at Guantanamo.

Now perhaps there is a logical explanation for this policy other than the one Assange gives.  Perhaps the present policy is different from what it was in 2005.  But U.S. government spokesmen refuse to explain, confirm or deny.  They say it is a matter of security.   The only way that I can see it would be a matter of security is that the truth really is Orwellian.

Click on Embassy life like a ‘space station,’ Assange says for the interview and a summary on the CNN home page.

Click on The Detainee Policies for Wikileaks’ press release on the Guantanamo documents.

 

Some things we learned from Wikileaks

September 18, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

Click on Wikileaks novo for the original Portuguese version of the infographic.  Hat tip to This Day in Wikileaks.

US doesn’t believe in ‘diplomatic asylum’

August 17, 2012

WASHINGTON — The United States said Friday that it did not believe in “diplomatic asylum” after Ecuador offered to let WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stay indefinitely in its embassy in London.

Ecuador has turned to the Organization of American States, which met Thursday and Friday in Washington, after deciding to offer asylum to the Internet activist who is wanted in Sweden on sexual assault allegations.

Under a 1954 agreement, the Organization of American States agreed to allow asylum in diplomatic missions for “persons being sought for political reasons,” although not individuals indicted for “common offenses.”

“The United States is not a party to the 1954 OAS Convention on Diplomatic Asylum and does not recognize the concept of diplomatic asylum as a matter of international law,” the State Department said in a statement.

via AFP.

In 1956, following the Soviet Union’s crushing of the Hungarian freedom fighters, Cardinal Josef Mindszenty sought diplomatic asylum in the U.S. embassy in Budapest, and he remained in the embassy for 15 years.  Just last April, the blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng sought asylum in the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and later was granted passage to the United States.

Is the U.S. government now repudiating its historic policy?  Is it saying that the United States had to right to grant protection to Cardinal Mindszenty or Chen Guangcheng?

And, if it is not involved in the Sweden’s extradition of Julian Assange or the dispute between the British and Ecuadorian governments, why issue a statement at all?

Ecuador grants political asylum to Assange

August 16, 2012

Julian Assange

Ecuador has decided to grant political asylum to Julian Assange.  But he is not home free.  The British government served notice beforehand that it will not allow Assange free passage out of Britain, and that it has a legal right to storm the Ecuadorian embassy if Assange is not handed over.

This is from the Government of Ecuador’s announcement.

…the Government of Ecuador, true to its tradition of protecting those who seek refuge in its territory or on the premises of diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to citizen’s Assange, based on the application submitted to the President of the Republic, by written communication, dated London, June 19, 2012, and supplemented by letter dated at London on June 25, 2012, for which the Government of Ecuador, after a fair and objective assessment of the situation described by Mr. Assange, according to their own words and arguments, endorsed the fears of the appellant, and assumes that there are indications that it may be presumed that there may be political persecution, or could occur such persecution if measures are not taken timely and necessary to avoid it…

via Firedoglake.

This is from a translation of a letter by the British government to the Ecuadorian government prior to the granting of asylum.

As we have previously set out, we must meet our legal obligations under the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision and the Extradition Act 2003, to arrest Mr. Assange and extradite him to Sweden.  We remain committed to working with you amicably to resolve this matter.  But we must be absolutely clear this means that should we receive a request for safe passage for Mr. Assange, after granting asylum, this would be refused, in line with our legal obligations. … …

We have to reiterate that we consider continued use of diplomatic premises in this way, to be incompatible with the VCDR (Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations) and not sustainable, and that we have already made clear to you the serious implications for our diplomatic relations.

You should be aware that there is a legal basis in the U.K. – the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act – which would allow us to take action to arrest Mr. Assange in the current premises of the Embassy.

We very much hope not to get this point … …

via MiamiHerald.com.

Click on Ecuador Endorses Assange’s Fears, Grants Asylum for a report on Firedoglake of Ecuador’s statement of its factual and legal basis for granting Assange asylum.

Click on Britain Says Assange Ecuador Asylum Won’t Change a Thing for Reuters’ report on the British government’s response to Ecuador’s decision.

Click on Ecuador is right to stand up to the US for comment by Mark Weisbrot in The Guardian newspaper.

Click on Ecuador Grants Asylum to Julian Assange for a live blog from Firedoglake.

Click on Declaration by the Government of Ecuador on Julian Assange’s asylum application for a full English translation of the Ecuadorian government’s statement.

Click on Foreign Secretary statement on Ecuadorian Government decision to offer political asylum to Julian Assange for the text of British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s statement.

Click on Ayatollah Cameron Threatens to Invade for Middle East historian Juan Cole’s comparison of the British threat to invade the Ecuadorian embassy with British complaints about Iranian failure to protect the British embassy and respect diplomatic immunity.

Click on Asylum for Assange: What are his options? for analysis by Asad Hasim of Al Jazeera English.

Cypherpunks uncut

August 1, 2012

I think the Internet is potentially one of the greatest tools to promote human freedom and access to ideas and knowledge.  I think it also is potentially one of the greatest tools of Big Brother for surveillance and censorship.  For this reason I was particularly interested in the two-part series on the Cypherpunks on Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow program.  The RT network recently released an uncut version of Assange’s Cypherpunk interviews, which I also viewed with great interest.

The first part is more than an hour long and the second part is two hours long, and my guess is that most people who view this post won’t have the time or the interest to watch them in their entirety.  But I am posting them anyhow, for whoever might be interested, and also am linking to them in my Documentaries menu on the right.

The Cypherpunks are a loose movement whose goal is to promote individual privacy by providing encryption that would allow people to prevent unauthorized people, including government agents, from reading their private communication.  Assange interviewed three notable Cypherpunks—Andy Muller-Maguhn of Germany, a member of the Chaos Computer Club, a hacker organization; Jeremie Zimmerman of France, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net, which advocates for free circulation of knowledge on the Internet; and Jacob Appelbaum of the USA, an independent computer security researcher and a participant in the Tor project to create on-line anonymity systems.

They drew a frightening, but (I think) true, picture of the ability of governments to collect and record every electronic transaction by every individual—e-mails, credit card purchases, Google searches, bank deposits and withdrawals, telephone calls—while themselves operating behind a veil of secrecy.

Applebaum gave an example of a man indicted for posting information on the Internet in violation of a secret law whose text he was not allowed to see.  The judge was allowed to see the law, and the man was acquitted, but presumably the loophole in the law was tightened up.  I have to write “presumably” because there is no way to know.

Muller-Maguhn said that just as the invention of the printing press made everyone a potential reader, the creation of the Internet has made everyone a potential writer.  Anyone, not just professional writers who are able to please professional editors, has the means of writing out what they think and know, and communicating it to the world.  This is valuable and important, and it doesn’t matter that only a little of the writing is of high quality.

These three, and Assange himself, are more libertarian than socialist.  Assange said the three basic freedoms, from which all other freedoms flow, are (1) freedom to communicate, (2) freedom of movement and (3) freedom to engage in economic transactions, and the third may be the most fundamental.  He may have been playing devil’s advocate when he said the latter, but I don’t think so.

I came across these videos on This Day in Wikileaks, a daily blog with daily news and commentary about Wikileaks, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.  I have put a link to it on my Links menu on the right.

I have put a link to Assange ‘The World Tomorrow’ —Cypherpunks uncut version, the Digital Journal version of the interviews, on my Documentaries menu on the right.

Click on Digital Journal: Cypherpunks Part 1 and Part 2 for the original 25-minute broadcasts.

Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow was broadcast by the RT (Russia Today) network.  It was started by the Russian government for its own purposes, and for that reason should be regarded with skepticism, but it also provides information and ideas not available through the established U.S. TV networks.  In the same way, the Voice of America is an agent of the U.S. government, but provides information to Russians they might not get from their domestic broadcasters.  When I was younger, I never thought I would ever make this comparison, but times have changed.

Retracing Julian Assange’s trail in Sweden

July 30, 2012

The Four Corners investigative team of Australia’s ABC broadcasting network tried to retrace Julian Assange’s steps during the time he is accused of having abused two women in Sweden.  They showed that there are many questionable things about the charges, and that there are good reasons why he fears being extradited to Sweden, although exactly what happened remains a mystery.

Click on Sex, Lies and Julian Assange for the video, a transcript and links to additional information.  If you viewed the video above, I recommend you click on this link and then the link to the sidebar showing an interview with Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer for Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen, the two alleged victims.

Click on Wikileaks: the Forgotten Man for the Four Corners report on the Bradley Manning case.

Click on The Wikileaks Interviews for Four Corners’ in-depth interviews with eight key figures in the Bradley Manning Case.

These Four Corners links have further links to further information and updates in the Julian Assange and Bradley Manning cases.

Julian Assange’s last World Tomorrow broadcast

July 3, 2012

Julian Assange, when under house arrest in Britain, did a weekly TV show for the RT (Russia Today) network, called the World Tomorrow.  He had some programs pre-recorded when he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy two weeks ago.  I thought the one broadcast a week ago was the last one, but he had one more ready—this interview with Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia and leader of the opposition, which was broadcast today.

Anwar Ibrahim has been imprisoned on politically-motivated charges by the government of Prime Minister Mahathir bin Muhamad, and faces new charges of illegal assembly, which could disqualify him as a candidate in the current Malaysian elections.  Otherwise he is favored to win.  He is running on a program of a crackdown on corruption, freedom of the press, an independent judiciary and “an economic policy that can promote growth and a market economy.”

Click on Digital Journal for background on the program and links to previous episodes of The World Tomorrow.

Click on Anwar Ibrahim – The Voice of Democracy in Malaysia for Anwar Ibrahim’s home page.

Click on Anwar Ibrahim wiki for his Wikipedia article.

The World Tomorrow showed interesting people I never would have got to see watching U.S. network television.  I was impressed by Julian Assange’s wide range of friends and his high spirits despite what is hanging over him.

New links: Wikileaks, meritocracy, etc.

July 1, 2012

If you find my posts interesting, you should find the articles, blogs and web sites in my links menus even more interesting.

Here are the latest additions to my links menus.

Articles

What exactly is Obamacare and what did it change?   The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is an extremely complicated law.  This is an objective, detailed and understandable rundown of what is in the law.  I intend to leave this article in the Articles menu for as long as I need it as a reference.

Sergey Brin’s Search for a Parkinson’s Cure.  I’ve posted about dangers of abuse of data mining, but this article from Wired tells how data mining can be used to speed up life-saving medical research.  Hat tip to Bill Hickok.

Dear America: You Should Be Mad As Hell About This.  Working for Gannett newspapers taught me how charts and graphics could be used to present facts and figures.   This post from Business Insider is a great use of charts and graphics to illuminate the U.S. economic plight.

The Age of Illusion: an Interview with Chris Hayes The author of Twilight of the Elites (which I haven’t read) told how the illusion of meritocracy blinds the wealthy elite to the consequences of their actions.   Hat tip to SB.

Articles of lasting interest

George Orwell: Politics and the English Language.  George Orwell in this classic essay described how obfuscation in language leads to political hypocrisy and deception.

Dimitry Orlov: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the USDimitry Orlov is a Russian-born American who witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union.  In this slide show, he compared the present-day United States with the old USSR.

Documentaries.

WikiLeaks: the Forgotten ManThis documentary, aired on Australian television June 14, gives good background on the Bradley Manning case and how it ties in with the U.S. government’s fight against WikiLeaks.  It is 45 minutes long, but worth watching.

Notable posts

End game for Julian AssangeThe saga of WikiLeaks shows what happens to individuals when they interfere with the reign of secrecy and arbitrary power.   Julian Assange’s fate matters, and I’m going to update this post for as long as it is in the links menu.

How white people can stay in the majority U.S. Census reports say that non-Hispanic whites will cease to be the majority of the American population within the next few decades.  I hope this will lead to a decline in racial / ethnic prejudice, but I think what probably will happen is that the definition of the majority group, which once was limited to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs), will broaden out even more.