Posts Tagged ‘Wikileaks’

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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The people’s victory over the TPP

November 18, 2016

The defeat of the odious Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement shows that the people can win against entrenched corporate and political power.  The way the TPP was defeated shows how the people can win against entrenched power.

A couple of years ago, the passage of the odious Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement seemed inevitable.

163050_600Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Republican leaders in Congress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and most big newspapers and broadcasters were in favor of it.  The public knew little about it because it was literally classified as secret.   Congress passed fast-track authority, so that it could be pushed through without time for discussion.

Today it is a dead letter.  President Obama has given up his plan to join with Republicans and push it through a lame-duck session of Congress.   Leaders of both parties say there is no chance of getting it through the new Congress.

If you don’t know what the TPP is or why a lot of people think it is odious, don’t feel bad.  If you depend for your information on the largest-circulation daily newspapers or the largest broadcasting networks, you have no way of knowing.

It is in theory a free-trade agreement among the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan and seven other countries.   It is actually a corporate wish list in the form of international law, giving corporations new privileges in the form of patent and copyright protection and new powers to challenge environmental, health and labor laws and regulations.

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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

wireap_8cf7592f8cbc452287d88d28e2e8d9ec_16x9_1600

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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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.

Services trade pact locks out democracy

June 20, 2014

tisa-parties

The Obama administration is engaged in secret negotiations of new trade agreements that would limit the power of national governments to control international corporations.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP) is one; the proposed Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) is another.   Less well-known is the proposed Trade In Services Agreement (TISA), which is being negotiated among 50 countries, including the United States.

If the President were trying to negotiate agreements for control of global climate change, or nuclear disarmament, or standards for protecting labor and the environment, I would support him.  Even in these cases, though, I would not favor “fast track” procedures which force an up or down vote without full debate.

But, thanks to disclosures by Wikileaks of the financial services portion of the proposed agreement, we know that TISA would limit the powers of government concerning:

  • limits on the size of financial institutions too big to fail;
  • restrictions on activities, e.g., deposit taking banks that also trade on their own account;
  • requiring foreign investment through subsidiaries regulated by the host rather than branches regulated from their parent state;
  • requiring that financial data is held onshore;
  • limits on funds transfers for cross-border transactions e-finance; authorisation of cross-border providers;
  • state monopolies on pension funds or disaster insurance;
  • disclosure requirements on offshore operations in tax havens;
  • certain transactions must be conducted through public exchanges, rather than invisible over-the counter operations;
  • approval for sale of ‘innovative’ potentially toxic financial products;
  • regulation of credit rating agencies or financial advisers;
  • controls on hot money inflows and outflows of capital;
  • requirements that a majority of directors are locally domiciled;
  • authorization and regulation of hedge funds; etc.

via Jane Kelsey, University of Auckland.

In other words, TISA would handcuff governments in doing precisely those things that are needed to prevent the next financial crash.

And that’s just the financial services part.  Among the other topics of negotiation are telecommunications and e-commerce, domestic regulation and transparency, professional services, maritime services and international movement of people, and this may not be a complete list.

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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.

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.

What Bradley Manning is accused of

June 7, 2013
Bradley Manning on trial.  Source: Slate

Bradley Manning at Fort Meade.   Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Here are some things the U.S. government has done that Bradley Manning has made known through Wikileaks.

  • During the Iraq War, U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to thousands of field reports.
  • There were 109,032 “violent deaths” recorded in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, including 66,081 civilians. Leaked records from the Afghan War separately revealed coalition troops’ alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country that opposed genetically modified crops, with U.S. diplomats effectively working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto.
  • British and American officials colluded in a plan to mislead the British Parliament over a proposed ban on cluster bombs.
  • In Baghdad in 2007, a U.S. Army helicopter gunned down a group of civilians, including two Reuters news staff.
  • U.S. special operations forces were conducting offensive operations inside Pakistan despite sustained public denials and statements to the contrary by U.S. officials.
  • A leaked diplomatic cable provided evidence that during an incident in 2006, U.S. troops in Iraq executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. The disclosure of this cable was later a significant factor in the Iraqi government’s refusal to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution beyond 2011, which led to U.S. troops withdrawing from the country.
  • A NATO coalition in Afghanistan was using an undisclosed “black” unit of special operations forces to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. The unit was revealed to have had a kill-or-capture list featuring details of more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaida, but it had in some cases mistakenly killed men, women, children, and Afghan police officers.
  • The U.S. threatened the Italian government in an attempt to influence a court case involving the indictment of CIA agents over the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric. Separately, U.S. officials were revealed to have pressured Spanish prosecutors to dissuade them from investigating U.S. torture allegations, secret “extraordinary rendition” flights, and the killing of a Spanish journalist by U.S. troops in Iraq.
  • In apparent violation of a 1946 U.N. convention, Washington initiated a spying campaign in 2009 that targeted the leadership of the U.N. by seeking to gather top officials’ private encryption keys, credit card details, and biometric data.

Via Slate

If we the people have a right to know these things, then Bradley Manning should be exonerated.

If there is a duty to report war crimes, then Bradley Manning is a hero.

Bradley Manning is a criminal only if it is wrong for you and me to know that the U.S. government is committing crimes.

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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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Bradley Manning is a hero, not a traitor

March 1, 2013

We live in a time when the government has more and more power to power to collect information about the citizens, the citizens have less and less power to find out what the government is doing, and the executive claims powers to operate outside the law.

Under such circumstances, the only way that we the people have to know what the government is doing is for courageous individuals to defy the government and reveal the secret crimes.

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Private Bradley Manning is a hero.  He faces court-martial for massive disclosure of secret information to WikiLeaks, including the “collateral murder” video, which showed the crew of an Apache helicopter shooting unarmed civilians and then the passers-by to attempted to help the wounded.  He also made public war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, a vast number of diplomatic cables and information about mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

Yesterday he pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including unauthorized disclosure of secret information, but not guilty to 12 other charges, including knowingly giving help to al Qaeda, causing secret information to be published with the intent of making it available to the enemy, and knowingly disclosing information that would be used to injure the United States or helping a foreign nation.

He said he made the information public because he thought the American people ought to know what their government was doing.  “We were obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and ignoring goals and missions,” he told the court.  “I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general [that] might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter-terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day.”

I don’t think anybody who was followed his case would doubt that this was his motive.

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Double click to enlarge.

Manning said that he first offered his information to the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Politico news service, and was turned down.  Only then, he said, did he turn to WikiLeaks.  This will undermine government attempts to claim that WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange conspired with Manning to obtain the tapes.   I personally think the reason that the government waited so long to bring Manning to trial was the hope that he could be induced to implicate Assange.   If so, they were disappointed.

The New York Times and Washington Post editors, in rejecting the information, behaved differently from the editors of an earlier era who published the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret history of the Vietnam War.  As with the WikiLeaks disclosures, the Pentagon Papers revealed little that enemy leaders didn’t already know, but much that was highly embarrassing to the government.

Manning’s trial judge, Colonel Denise Lind, said that you can’t have a functioning military if everyone is free to disregard orders because of conscience.   That’s a good point.   But it’s not as if Bradley Manning has gotten off scot-free.   He has been in prison for two and a half years (1,012 days), including months stripped naked in solitary confinement.  He could be sentenced to 20 years in prison on the charges to which he has pleaded guilty (voluntarily, without a plea bargain), and he could be sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted on the other charges.  If it were up to me, I would find him guilty and sentence him to time served, plus a bad conduct discharge.

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U.S. secretly negotiating NAFTA-like TPP treaty

December 6, 2012

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Representatives of 11 Pacific nations are currently meeting in secret in Auckland, New Zealand, from Dec. 3 through Dec. 12 to negotiate a new “free trade” treaty called the Transpacific Partnership.

hulk-tppLeaked information, including documents obtained through Wikileaks (thank you, Julian Assange), indicate that the TPP would set up an international organization with power to override national governments in environmental, health and labor regulation, and in copyright and patent law.  If private businesses don’t like the laws and regulations of the countries in which they operate, they would be able to file suits claiming these laws violate the TPP.  If they win, they could collect damages from taxpayers of those countries.

Congress has been denied information as to what is being proposed or the U.S. negotiating position, but roughly 600 business representatives have been allowed in as so-called consultants.   The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other public interest organizations sent representatives to the meeting, but they were barred, except to deliver brief statements of their views.

One nation that is not invited to participate is China.  This may backfire.  Forced to choose, Japan and other Pacific nations might prefer to join a Chinese-supported trade grouping called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

For background, click on Will the RCEP Kill the TPP? And Why You Never Heart of Either One and  Will China Kill the TPP (the secret fair trade treaty you never heard of)? for a two-part series on the Corrente web log,

Click on Digital Rights Groups Shut Out of Secret TPP Negotiations for a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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.

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.

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.

Bradley Manning, an American hero

June 22, 2012

This documentary, aired on Australian television last week, gives good background on the Bradley Manning case and its connection with the campaign against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.  It is 45 minutes long, but well worth watching.

To me Bradley Manning is an American hero.  He is risking his life to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Under any constitutional government, nobody is below the protection of the law and nobody is above the obligation to obey the law.  There is no obligation to cover up crimes simply because the criminal actions were committed by somebody above you in the chain of command.

I have heard people say that Bradley Manning has no right to reveal “our” secrets.  They aren’t my secrets.  They are secrets being kept from me.  It is not a question of revealing U.S. military secrets to the nation’s enemies.  It is a question of revealing the truth about the U.S. government’s actions to the American people, and the people of the world.

Should Julian Assange face the music?

June 22, 2012

A writer on the DailyKos web log takes defenders of Julian Assange to task for disregarding the serious charges made against him in Sweden.   I admit I haven’t taken these charges as seriously as I should have.

Normally when there are charges of rape, people on DailyKos side strongly with the victims – but not this time.  The talk here generally ignores the victims and is based on the theory that the whole thing is a setup by the prosecutor to get him illegally extradited to the US, where he’ll then face Bradley Manning-type conditions.  I could go into everything that’s wrong with this notion, but just to debunk some of the key arguments that keep coming up:

“There’s no charges against him. If they really wanted him, they’d charge him.”: Swedish law prohibits raising charges not on Swedish soil against a subject who hasn’t been given the opportunity to defend himself against the charges to be filed.

“They should just accept his offer to chat via Skype.”:  Suspects cannot dictate the terms of their questioning, a “Skype interview” isn’t at all like an actual police questioning, and as above, he can’t be charged remotely.

“The real reason they’re not charging him is because they know the charges are baseless.”:  Not only does Sweden believe the charges are not baseless, but the British court reviewing his extradition request found that there would be just cause to try him even in the UK.

“He’s just being charged with a minor crime, and the only penalty is a fine.”:  No form of rape is a “minor crime”, and while there are different categories of rape in Sweden and he’s being charged with the least severe of them, he’s still facing a sentence of up to four years.

“He’s just being charged for having sex without a condom and the girls waited days before filing charges and didn’t decide right away that it was rape.” … … The accusations are not “sex without a condom”. They’re four counts, ranging from violating the terms of consent (only consenting to sex with a condom), molestation, pinning down a subject in a sexual manner and trying to force sex, and having sex with a sleeping subject (again without a condom which the subject had made clear in their last encounter was a condition of consent – not that a sleeping individual can consent anyway).

via Daily Kos.

My reaction:

  • Just because somebody has done good things doesn’t mean they’re not capable of doing awful things.
  • Just because somebody has done good things doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished if they commit a crime.
  • Julian Assange, like everyone else, should stand trial if there is sufficient evidence to justify criminal charges.
  • Julian Assange, like everyone else, is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until he is convicted of a crime.
  • If there were no reason to fear being handed over to U.S. authorities, Julian Assange would be obligated to go to Sweden to face the charges.
  • There is in fact good reason for Julian Assange to fear being handed over, and winding up like Bradly Manning and others who’ve run afoul of the U.S. national security apparatus.
  • Julian Assange, as a target of political persecution, is fully justified in claiming political asylum in Ecuador or any other country.

Click on On Standing With the Victim, Unless the Alleged Perpetrator is Julian Assange for the full DailyKos article.

Click on 10 days in Sweden: the full allegations against Julian Assange for The Guardian’s account of the charges.

[Added Later]  To make myself clear, I have no knowledge and no opinion as to what Julian Assange did or didn’t do in Sweden.  Overall I admire Assange’s intelligence and courage, and I think he did the world a service in creating WikiLeaks.

[Added 6/25/12, updated 6/29/12]  Click on Assange, Ecuador, Rape and Sweden Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 for the view of Swedish writer Oscar Swartz, author of  A Brief History of Swedish Sex.