Obama officials caught deceiving about WikiLeaks by Glenn Greenwald (1/19/11)
Whenever the U.S. Government wants to demonize a person or group in order to justify attacks on them, it follows the same playbook: it manufactures falsehoods about them, baselessly warns that they pose Grave Dangers and are severely harming our National Security, peppers all that with personality smears to render the targeted individuals repellent on a personal level, and feeds it all to the establishment American media, which then dutifully amplifies and mindlessly disseminates it all.
When WikiLeaks in mid-2010 published documents detailing the brutality and corruption at the heart of the war in Afghanistan, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, held a Press Conference and said of WikiLeaks (and then re-affirmed it on his Twitter account) that they “might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.” This denunciation predictably caused the phrase “blood on their hands” to be attached to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, in thousands of media accounts around the world. But two weeks later, the Pentagon’s spokesman, when pressed, was forced to admit that there was no evidence whatsoever for that accusation: “we have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the WikiLeaks documents,” he admitted.
Since then, it has become clear how scrupulously careful WikiLeaks has been in releasing these cables in order to avoid unnecessary harm to innocent people, as the Associated Press reported how closely WikiLeaks was collaborating with its newspaper partners in deciding which cables to release and what redactions were necessary. Indeed, one of the very few documents which anyone has been able to claim has produced any harm — one revealing that the leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition privately urged U.S. officials to continue imposing sanctions on his country — was actually released by The Guardian, not by WikiLeaks.
How propaganda poisons the mind – and our discourse by Glenn Greenwald (1/12/11)
In The Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick — the long-time assistant of The New Republic’s Marty Peretz — wrote under this headline: “Julian Assange’s reckless behavior could cost Zimbabwe’s leading democrat his life.” Kirchick explained that “the crusading ‘anti-secrecy’ website released a diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Harare” which exposed Tsvangirai’s support for sanctions. As “a result of the WikiLeaks revelations,” Kirchick wrote, the reform leader would likely be charged with treason, and “Mr. Tsvangirai will have someone additional to blame: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.” The Atlantic’s Chris Albon, in his piece entitled “How WikiLeaks Just Set Back Democracy in Zimbabwe,” echoed the same accusation, claiming “WikiLeaks released [this cable] to the world” and that Assange has thus “provided a tyrant with the ammunition to wound, and perhaps kill, any chance for multiparty democracy.” Numerous other outlets predictably mimicked these claims.
There was just one small problem with all of this: it was totally false. It wasn’t WikiLeaks which chose that cable to be placed into the public domain, nor was it WikiLeaks which first published it. It was The Guardian that did that. In early December, that newspaper — not WikiLeaks — selected and then published the cable in question.
6:15 FInally. In one of the most shameful journalistic episodes in recent days of WikiLeaks action, The Guardian published a piece by James Richardson that charged WL with “collateral murder” in Zimbadwe and earning “the ignominy of Robert Mugabe’s gratitude.” Even though many bloggers, including yours truly, quickly pointed out that, in fact, it was The Guardian itself that first published the fateful cable, the paper did nothing to revise or amend or correct the article — for eight days. Finally, today, it happened with a rewritten photo caption, a slight edit, and this at the end of the piece: “This article was amended on 11 January 2011 to clarify the fact that the 2009 cable referred to in this article was placed in the public domain by the Guardian, and not as originally implied by WikiLeaks. The photo caption was also amended to reflect this fact.”
WikiLeaks, Morgan Tsvangirai and the Guardian – an explanation by Ian Katz (1/13/11)
They had a point. On Tuesday, the piece was amended to reflect the Guardian’s role in putting the document into the public domain, and an explanatory note added. We should have done that quicker but the readers’ editor, our usual channel for corrections, had not received any complaint. Some critics saw malice in the publication of the Richardson piece in the first place: why would the Guardian point the finger at WikiLeaks knowing it had published the cable? In fact, neither Richardson, a first-time contributor to our comment website, nor the US-based editor who handled it, were aware of the somewhat complicated process through which (most) cables were published. The piece was posted on the bank holiday after Christmas. The Guardian’s WikiLeaks editing team was not around. They were taking a well-earned break after months of working on the documents.
Officials may be overstating the danger from WikiLeaks by Nancy Youseff (11/28/10)
American officials in recent days have warned repeatedly that the release of documents by WikiLeaks could put people’s lives in danger.
But despite similar warnings ahead of the previous two massive releases of classified U.S. intelligence reports by the website, U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone’s death.
Before Sunday’s release, news organizations given access to the documents and WikiLeaks took the greatest care to date to ensure no one would be put in danger. In statements accompanying stories about the documents, several newspapers said they voluntarily withheld information and that they cooperated with the State Department and the Obama administration to ensure nothing released could endanger lives or national security.
The newspapers “established lists in common of people to protect, notably in countries ruled by dictators, controlled by criminals or at war,” according to an account by Le Monde, a French newspaper that was among the five news organizations that were given access to the documents. “All the identities of people the journalists believed would be threatened were redacted,” the newspaper said in what would be an unprecedented act of self censorship by journalists toward government documents.
The newspapers also communicated U.S. government concerns to WikiLeaks to ensure sensitive data didn’t appear on the organization’s website.
Nobody sums it up better than David Mizner in Top 5 Lies About Wikileaks (12/9/10)
Lie 1. Wikileaks is “indiscriminately” posting material.
Fact: It’s published less than one percent of the State Department cables it possesses, 1203 out of 251,287. What’s more, it makes an effort to redact info that could harm innocent people, an effort appears to be growing more comprehensive. And it’s asked the U.S. government to help redact information from each collection of documents. The U.S. government refuses to help.
Lie 2. People have been killed as a result of Wikileaks’ actions.
Fact: There’s no evidence that anyone’s been killed. (If there were, we’d never stop hearing about it.) In fact, there’s no evidence that anyone’s received so much as a wedgie as a result of these releases.
Lie 3. The information released by Wikileaks is “nothing new.”
Fact: The documents contain dozens of major scoops — not just support for things we already knew but brand new, important stories that could be and should be front page news. For example, we’ve learned that the U.S. military had an explicit policy of ignoring torture by Iraqi troops and that Hillary Clinton ordered diplomats to spy on U.N. officials, a blatant violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention, and that the United States supported the coup in Honduras.
Lie 4. Wikileaks aren’t journalists.
Fact: First, the charge — made by people attempting to distinguish Wikileaks from “reputable” outlets — is irrelevant. You don’t need credentials to be a journalist, and you don’t have to be considered “reputable” by “reputable” people to be entitled to First Amendment protections. Second, the notion that all Wikileaks does is post documents is simply false; it posts news stories and analysis based on the documents. In terms of function, there’s no meaningful difference between Wikileaks and conventional news outlets.
Lie 5. Julian Assange is threatening to release info to protect himself from a rape prosecution.
Fact: the “poison pill” he’s threatening to release has nothing to do with the rape charge. He’s using it to protect himself from the U.S. government and other governments, which could arrest him, or worse, in retaliation for releasing the documents. This isn’t a far-fetched possibility, what with Ameri can politicians calling for his arrest and with the frontunner for the GOP nomination (and possible future president) saying he should be “pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.”
The crux of the WikiLeaks debate by Glenn Greenwald (12/8/10)
Worse, the Time article then refers to “a distinction between WikiLeaks’ indiscriminate posting of the cables — which [Nicholas] Burns called ‘nihilistic’ — and the more careful vetting evidenced by The New York Times.” This is a “distinction” that exists only in the minds of establishment-serving, falsehood-spewing “journalists.”
Obviously, releasing 1/2 of 1% of the documents one possesses is not “indiscriminate” under any recognized meaning of that word. More to the point, the overwhelming majority of cables posted thus far by WikiLeaks were first published by one of its partner newspapers, and contains the redactions applied by those papers.
The WikiLeaks Revolution Will be Twittered by Brad Friedman (12/10/10)
For the record, to date, WikiLeaks has released just 1,295 out of the 251,287 leaked diplomatic cables they purportedly have so far. That’s about “0.5% down, 99.5% to go” as they tweeted today. That, despite the inaccuracies you’ll continue to hear and read in the media about the organization “causing havoc” and being “anarchists” by “indiscriminately dumping 250,000 classified documents!” It should be noted that almost all of the cable documents released to date have been published first by WikiLeaks’ media partners such as the UK’s Guardian, Germany’s Der Spiegel, Spain’s El Pais and the New York Times.
Never mind the very serious substance of the cables themselves — it’s not simply “embarrassing gossip” and “nothing new” as many in the media are shamefully downplaying it, perhaps because they didn’t report it first!
NPR Apologizes for WikiLeaks Mistake (1/3/11):
Thanks to one persistent listener, NPR published a correction admitting that it has mistakenly – and more than once – inflated the number of State Department diplomatic cables released recently by WikiLeaks.
“Do you guys just make stuff up and present it as fact?” Norr asked in an email. “You begin your ‘review’ of this story by saying ‘First, the website released thousands of confidential U.S. documents.’ That’s simply not true. All you have to do is go to the website in question and you’ll see that it has thus far released precisely 1,344 of the documents in question – less than one percent of the 251,287 apparently in their possession. 1,344 is not ‘thousands’!”
I admit it. I let it go. But that didn’t stop Norr, and for that I thank him. A week later, he emailed: “So… my message from last Tuesday didn’t convince you there’s been a problem with NPR’s reporting?”
Woodward and Wikileaks by Digby (12/24/10)
People have varying beliefs about Wikileaks, obviously, and it’s fair that your mileage may vary. But it’s unacceptable that we still have people out there spreading falsehoods about it as Jeffrey Toobin did on last night’s Spitzer Parker (with Naomi Wolf and Clay Shirky.)
TOOBIN: If you intend to simply blow out 250,000 documents that are at tremendous — putting individuals at risk, the United States government employees at risk, people who cooperate with the United States government at risk, that is not up to Julian Assange. That is up to the United States government.
WOLF: Scooter Libby did that.
SHIRKY: But Assange went with — went with “Guardian,” went through “Spiegel.” In this case, the “Times” by proxy and they redacted some of the documents and held some of the documents back.
TOOBIN: Some of it. They redacted some of it.
I don’t know why people persist in saying this, but it reveals either bad faith or just sheer journalistic malpractice at this point. And I think it’s at the heart of much of the dispute because it seems to have been believed quite widely at the time the diplomatic cables were first released, and it has colored the reaction to it.
One obvious concern about the prevalence of this mistaken number is that it could cloud the way people view WikiLeaks. If you’re under the impression that WikiLeaks indiscriminately dumped 250,000 diplomatic cables online without any kind of control or vetting on its part or that of its media partners, then you’ll probably have a different view than if you’re aware that it has publicly released roughly 2,000 cables, many of which have been vetted (and had parts redacted) by established media partners.
The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange by David Samuels (12/13/10)
Coll’s invective is hardly unique, In fact, it was only a pale echo of the language used earlier this year by a columnist at his former employer, The Washington Post. In a column titled “WikiLeaks Must Be Stopped,” Mark Thiessen wrote that “WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise,” and urged that the site should be shut down “and its leadership brought to justice.” The dean of American foreign correspondents, John Burns of The New York Times, with two Pulitzer Prizes to his credit, contributed a profile of Assange which used terms like “nearly delusional grandeur” to describe Wikileaks’ founder. The Times’ normally mild-mannered David Brooks asserted in his column this week that “Assange seems to be an old-fashioned anarchist” and worried that Wikileaks will “damage the global conversation.”
The State Dept’s Bizarre Logic Regarding Wikileaks by ukit (12/13/10):
Reporters questioned Mr. Crowley on a number of issues regarding the organization. Interestingly, he gave something of a non-denial denial as to whether anyone in the U.S. government had pressured Amazon to kick the organization off their servers. The most troubling comments, however, came in response to questions over Wikileaks’ status, and whether or not what they were doing qualified as journalism.
QUESTION: Some of the governments that have been mentioned in these cables are heavily censoring press in terms of releasing some of this information. How do you feel about that? (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: The official position of the United States Government and the State Department has not changed. We value a vibrant, active, aggressive media. It is important to the development of civil society in this country and around the world. Our views have not changed, even if occasionally there are activities which we think are unhelpful and potentially harmful.
QUESTION: Do you know if the State Department regards WikiLeaks as a media organization?
MR. CROWLEY: No. We do not.
QUESTION: And why not?
MR. CROWLEY: WikiLeaks is not a media organization. That is our view.
To their credit, the reporters at the briefing didn’t accept this “because we say so” explanation, and continued pressing Crowley on this issue.
QUESTION: From your perspective, what is WikiLeaks? How do you define them, if it is not a media organization, then?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as the Secretary said earlier this week, it is – one might infer it has many characteristics of some internet sites. Not every internet site you would call a media organization or a news organization.
Beneath Crowley’s jumbled logic (if we take Wikileaks to mean the Wikileaks website, after all, it IS an internet site, but this is like saying it has “many characteristics of a newspaper”) is a more sinister implication.
If Wikileaks publishing relevant news information via the web does not qualify it as a media organization, what does that say about anyone who starts a blog or political news site? Is some sort of nonexistent “certificate of respectability,” the sort that presumably shields the New York Times, Guardian, Le Monde and Der Spiegel from being charged by the U.S., the only differentiating factor here?
Government-created climate of fear by Glenn Greenwald (1/10/11)
One of the more eye-opening events for me of 2010 occurred in March, when I first wrote about WikiLeaks and the war the Pentagon was waging on it (as evidenced by its classified 2008 report branding the website an enemy and planning how to destroy it). At the time, few had heard of the group — it was before it had released the video of the Apache helicopter attack — but I nonetheless believed it could perform vitally important functions and thus encouraged readers to donate to it and otherwise support it. In response, there were numerous people — via email, comments, and other means — who expressed a serious fear of doing so: they were worried that donating money to a group so disliked by the government would cause them to be placed on various lists or, worse, incur criminal liability for materially supporting a Terrorist organization.
At the time, I dismissed those concerns as both ill-founded and even slightly paranoid. From a strictly legal standpoint, those concerns were and are ill-founded: WikiLeaks has never even been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime, nor does it do anything different than what major newspapers around the world routinely do, nor has it been formally designated a Terrorist organization, nor — I believed at the time — could it ever be so designated. There is not — and cannot remotely be — anything illegal about donating to it. Any efforts to retroactively criminalize such donations would be a classic case of an “ex post facto” law unquestionably barred by the Constitution. But from a political perspective, the crux of the fear was probably more prescient than paranoid: within a matter of months, leading right-wing figures were equating WikiLeaks to Al Qaeda, while the Vice President of the U.S. went on Meet the Press and disgustingly called Julian Assange a “terrorist.”
To Tell the Truth by Matthew Dowd (12/2/10)
Judging by the press accounts, Washington is still buzzing over WikiLeaks’ release of classified U.S. government information, with both Republicans and Democrats expressing outrage over the disclosures. Meanwhile, many media outlets seem to be practically mute on the subject, avoiding comment on whether WikiLeaks provided a public service or disservice.
Let me offer one man’s perspective on the controversy, from an apartment in Austin, Texas.
As I was sitting with my three grown sons over the post-Thanksgiving weekend watching football at their place (where they have lived together for nearly a year without a major fight, the place burning down, or the police showing up), my oldest son, who served in the Army for five years and was deployed in Iraq for nearly a year and half, turned to me and asked, “When as a country did we become a place where the government gets upset when its secrets are evealed but has no problem knowing all our secrets and invading our privacy?”
WikiLeaks and Democracy by Vincent Warren (1/6/11)
It is disappointing to see the same president who ran on his constitutional law professor bona fides devote so much time and effort to discrediting WikiLeaks and working up charges against its founder, Julian Assange. WikiLeaks, like the New York Times before it with the publication of the Pentagon Papers, has committed no crime. If the law of the land holds true, the administration will get nowhere with the foolish notion that Assange can be tried for conspiracy under the Espionage Act for doing what major media outlets do every day: publishing classified information about the government. The claim that somehow WikiLeaks is different because it allegedly encouraged sources to come forward is a red herring: even if the charge proves true, this is what journalists at every major media outlet in the country do every day.
Still, we wonder at those who assert that the cables “demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S.” (Floyd Abrams) or “provide very little evidence of double-dealing or bad faith in U.S. foreign policy” (Gideon Rachman). In fact, the U.S. Embassy cables, like the Pentagon Papers, show our government involved in systemic wrongdoing and wide scale deception. They present irrefutable evidence that this administration and its predecessor have been tampering with other countries’ legal systems to prevent prosecutions against government employees for committing human rights abuses and transgressing international law under often-secret post 9/11 policies.
WikiLeaks And The Double Edge Of “Internet Freedom” by Andy Greenberg (1/21/11)
One year ago today, Hillary Clinton gave a landmark speech at the Newseum journalism museum in Washington D.C., extolling the power of unfettered digital information to change the world. “Information has never been so free,” the Secretary of State gushed. “There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. And even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.”
Those new facts and accountability, as driven home by WikiLeaks’ information bombshells from the Afghan War Diaries to Cablegate over the past year, cut both ways. And no one has felt those cuts more strongly than the State Department itself.
That paradox of U.S. Internet freedom policy has long been on the radar of Evgeny Morozov, the visiting scholar in the Liberation Technology Program at Stanford University. His new book The Net Delusion, published this month, takes on the State Department’s simplistic rhetoric on the Internet and authoritarianism, arguing that dismantling dictatorships around the world is a far more complex affair than piping in uncensored bandwidth.
In one sense, WikiLeaks seems to prove the State Department’s argument that the Internet can empower the individuals over governments and corporations. But Morozov argues that the effects of that freedom of information have mostly played out where the State Department least expected it, in the democratic world.
Bipartisanship pop quiz by Glenn Greenwald (1/26/11)
One of the most striking aspects of the WikiLeaks debate from the start has been the identical mindset of political and media figures and the full consensus among them in condemning that group; in almost every debate I did on television, radio and everywhere else, it was impossible to distinguish between the views on these leaks from politicians and journalists, as they read from the same anti-WikiLeaks script. With a few exceptions, exactly the same has been true of Democrats and Republicans: there has been full-scale bipartisan consensus such that it’s impossible to distinguish between the “two sides” on this issue.
Mukasey: Prosecute Assange because it’s ‘easier’ than prosecuting New York Times by David Edwards and Daniel Tencer (12/12/10)
But for Michael Mukasey, President George W. Bush’s last attorney general, the matter is clear cut: The US should prosecute Assange because it’s “easier” than prosecuting a major news outlet.
Pressed by the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot to explain how the US could prosecute Assange and not the Times — the first US news source to publish the State Department cables — Mukasey said, “The distinction I’m drawing is that it is easier, from a policy standpoint, to prosecute Assange. There’s a clearer case with respect to Assange. With regard to the Times, I think, just as a matter of discretion, I would hold back.”
The argument that only prosecutorial “discretion” stands in the way of journalists being arrested for publishing the WikiLeaks documents will surely add fuel to the fire of critics who say that an Assange prosecution would be an attack on freedom of the press.
Issa: Why haven’t we prosecuted WikiLeaks under our nonexistent laws? by Joshua Keating (1/3/11)
he topic of whether the U.S. can prosecute WikiLeaks has been up for debate since the Afghan war logs came out in July, and no action has been taken despite numerous reports that the Justice Department was investigating the matter. Since the Espionage Act is rarely applied to outlets who receive classified information (evidently, there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove that Julian Assange actively abetted the leaks) and laws against trafficking in stolen government property were never set up to deal with computer files that are still in the government’s possession, it’s an awfully hard case to prosecute.
1. Rep. Candice Miller
2. Jonah Goldberg, Journalist
3. Christian Whiton, Journalist
4. Bill O’Reilly, Fox News Journalist
5. Sarah Palin, Member of the Republican Party, former VP candidate
6. Mike Huckabee, Politician
8. Prof. Tom Flanagan
9. Rep. Peter King
10. Tony Shaffer
11. Rick Santorum
12. Rep. Dan Lugren
13. Jeffrey T. Kuhner, Journalist The Washington Times
14. Rep. Virginia Foxx
15. Sen. Kit Bond, Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee
16. Sen. Joe Liberman
17. Sen. Charles Schumer
18. Marc Thiessen, Columnist
WikiLeaks cables: Julian Assange says his life is ‘under threat’ by David Batty (12/18/10)
Julian Assange said today his life and the lives of his colleagues at the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks are under threat.
Speaking to reporters outside Ellingham Hall, the Norfolk house at which he is staying following his release on bail from prison, Assange said: “There is a threat to my life. There is a threat to my staff. There are significant risks facing us.”
According to vivantleakers.org — a new site created to track “cyber-bullying domain names of wikileaks associates” — multiple death-threat domain names have been registered going after Wikileaks director Julian Assange. Killjulianassange.com and julianassangemustdie.com are recently registered examples, although they have no content on them at this time.
Go Daddy, the site which registered both killjulianassange.com and julianassangemustdie.com said there is nothing that can be done about either site while they are contentless. Go Daddy registers a domain name every .8 seconds — any domain name can be registered and there is no human intervention.
“Unless and until there is content associated with killjulianassange.com there is no way for us to know what that means,” said Christine Jones, Go Daddy’s General Counsel. “There’s no way to judge whether there’s going to be something done with that domain name or if it is going to be violating any rule.”
Palin to be prosecuted for inciting violence if she visits Australia, attorney says by Stephen Webster (1/21/11)
Under Australian law, inciting violence is a serious crime: an offense which could even trigger the prosecution of members of the US political class and mainstream media who called for the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to his attorney.
“Our main concern is really the possible extradition to the US,” he said. “We’ve been troubled by the sort of rhetoric that has come out of various commentators and principally Republican politicians — Sarah Palin and the like — saying Mr. Assange should be executed, assassinated.”
The letter notes that numerous conservatives in the US have dubbed Assange a terrorist and have even called for his death.
“We should treat Mr. Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him,” conservative columnist Jeffrey T. Kuhner wrote in the Washington Times.
When asked about Congressman Peter King’s (R-NY) recommendation that WikiLeaks be designated a foreign terrorist organization, Chomsky responded that King’s suggestion was “outlandish.”
“The materials—we should understand—and the Pentagon Papers is another case in point—that one of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population,” Chomsky said in an interview with the Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. “In the Pentagon Papers, for example, there was one volume, the negotiations volume, which might have had bearing on ongoing activities, and Dan Ellsberg withheld that. That came out a little bit later.”
Daniel Ellsberg: “I Am WikiLeaks!” by Robert Naiman (12/13/10)
A striking example was noted by Sam Husseini on December 5, citing an appearance by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin on CBS’ “Face the Nation”:
Bob Schieffer: Do you think [Assange has] damaged national security?
Senator Richard Durbin: I do.
Bob Schieffer: You do?
Senator Richard Durbin: I do. And I’ll tell you I come from an era where I think [the] Daniel Ellsberg situation with the Pentagon papers was a clear contrast. Here was the disclosure of classified information in the midst of a war that brought out some things that were not well known, not public and might have changed I think the course of history.
But Durbin overlooked a key consideration best kept in mind by those who wish to re-write history when the history is fairly recent: Daniel Ellsberg must have eaten his vegetables, because he is still alive and breathing fire, and isn’t having any of Durbin’s good leaker/bad leaker dichotomy. As Husseini noted on December 5:
Julian Assange like a hi-tech terrorist, says Joe Biden by Ewen MacAskill (12/19/10)
The US vice-president, Joe Biden, today likened the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to a “hi-tech terrorist”, the strongest criticism yet from the Obama administration.
Biden claimed that by leaking diplomatic cables Assange had put lives at risk and made it more difficult for the US to conduct its business around the world.
His description of Assange shows a level of irritation that contrasts with more sanguine comments from other senior figures in the White House, who said the leak had not done serious damage.
Joe Biden v. Joe Biden on WikiLeaks by Glenn Greenwald (12/18/10)
It’s really not an overstatement to say that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are the new Iraqi WMDs because the government and establishment media are jointly manufacturing and disseminating an endless stream of fear-mongering falsehoods designed to depict them as scary villains threatening the security of The American People and who must therefore be stopped at any cost
But this new example from Joe Biden is extraordinary, and reveals how government officials are willing to say absolutely anything — even things they know are false — to demonize WikiLeaks.
The government’s one-way mirror by Glenn Greenwald (12/20/10)
It’s crystal clear that the Justice Department is engaged in an all-out crusade to figure out how to shut down WikiLeaks and imprison Julian Assange. It is subjecting Bradley Manning to unbelievably inhumane conditions in order to manipulate him into providing needed testimony to prosecute Assange. Recall that in 2008 — long before anyone even knew what WikiLeaks was — the Pentagon secretly plotted on how to destroy the organization. On Meet the Press yesterday, Joe Biden was asked whether he agreed more with Mitch McConnell’s statement that Assange is a “high-tech terrorist” than with those comparing WikiLeaks to Daniel Ellsberg, and the Vice President replied: “I would argue that it’s closer to being a high tech terrorist. . . .” “A high-tech terrorist.” And consider this pernicious little essay from Eric Fiterman — a former FBI special agent and founder of Methodvue, “a consultancy that provides cybersecurity and computer forensics services to the federal government and private businesses” — that clearly reflects the Government’s view of WikiLeaks:
In the WikiLeaks case, a fringe group led primarily by foreign nationals operating abroad is illegally obtaining, reviewing and disseminating American intelligence information with the stated intent of hurting the United States (WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange himself made this declaration). That not only meets the definition of aggressive, hostile and war-like activity, but squarely targets America’s diplomatic positions and intelligence interests while inflicting collateral damage against our financial institutions and service providers who cut-off their relationship with WikiLeaks. This, folks, is war.
High-Tech Terrorism or Low-Tech Fear Mongering by Gabor Rona (12/21/10)
We may already have gone beyond a point of no return by irrationally equating all terrorism with war and describing all terrorists as enemy combatants — a clearly foolish thing to do since terrorists crave nothing more than to be seen as warriors rather than war criminals, or what is more typically the case, just plain old mass murderers.
By calling a guy who publishes classified documents a terrorist Biden dilutes the meaning of the term. By the same token, absent evidence that Assange somehow participated in the initial leak of classified documents, every news organization, web site and dinner conversationalist who publishes or cites these materials is also now a terrorist.
What’s worse, this dilution diverts our attention from the task of fighting the true phenomenon that is terrorism.
Finally A Line Obama Won’t Cross by Robert Weller (1/14/11)
It seemed there was nothing the Obama administration wouldn’t do to shut down WikiLeaks and shut up Julian Assange.
Today we found out there is. In a somewhat curious move, the Treasury Department declined a right-wing congressman’s request to blacklist WikiLeaks.
There already is a grand jury investigating Assange and the government has put pressure on financial institutions and Internet providers not to do business with the whistleblowers. A U.S. Army private has been held in solitary for seven months in a bid critics say is to force him to implicate Assange in the leak of military documents alleged to show war crimes.
WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange: ‘Anarchist,’ ‘agitator,’ ‘arrogant’ and a journalist by Adam Peneberg (1/28/11)
Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, wrote in a new Times Magazine article that, in working with Assange to publish revelations from WikiLeaks’ cache of documents, he always considered him a source, not a collaborator – or a journalist. But there is no clear definition of the terms “journalist” or “journalism.” The best we have comes from laws and proposed legislation which protect reporters from being forced to divulge confidential sources in court. In crafting those shield laws, legislators have had to grapple with the nebulousness of the profession to determine who and what must be protected, and why.
Based on the wording of many of these statutes, Assange fits the definition of a journalist, and what WikiLeaks does qualifies as journalism. This presents a significant challenge for Holder, who has launched a criminal probe and “personally authorized” a number of steps “to hold people accountable” for the document leaks.
WaPo denies allegation it sat on WikiLeaks video by Clint Hendler (6/7/10)
But the WikiLeaks Twitter account (and by the way, mark me down as saying it’s a safe bet that Julian Assange is its primary scribe) also let loose this officious-looking tweet earlier today:
Statement: Washington Post had Collateral murder video for over a year but DID NOT RELEASE IT it to the public.
Curious. I asked Kris Coratti, the Washington Post’s communications director, what was up. She emailed me this flat denial:
The Washington Post did not have the video, nor did we sit on anything.
There is a wrinkle to this tale. David Finkel, a Washington Post reporter, did elaborately describe the events of the day partially captured by the video in “Good Soldiers,” his book published in September 2009, based on his time embedded with an infantry battalion on the ground near the shootings. (WikiLeaks published its version of the video in April 2010.)
Finkel’s book describes the existence of an audio and video record of the day. The book directly quotes the pilots’ cockpit dialogue, and accurately describes their view from above in exquisite and at times nearly moment by moment detail. But in a brief interview with CJR, Finkel declined to say whether he saw the video before WikiLeaks’s release, or whether he ever possessed a copy.
The Coming Media Convergence by Rory O’Connor (2/11/11)
Following Bill Keller’s catty account in the New York Times, in which Assange was judged to be “alert but disheveled, like a bag lady walking in off the street,” Katz found Assange “ferociously intelligent, with a control freak’s mastery of detail and an infectious enthusiasm.” This despite the fact that the Guardian’s “pioneering WikiLeaks collaboration,” ended like that of the New York Times before it, “in distrust and legal threats,” as the headline on Katz’s article explained.
Biting the source that feeds you by Edward Wasserman (2/14/11)
But what really happens when you’re a major league whistleblower? Say you’ve acquired sensitive documents of huge public importance, very hush-hush. Although it’s bound to annoy powerful people and may expose you to reprisal, you deliver them to the world’s mightiest news media, including The New York Times, which use them in sensational articles that have worldwide impact.
And know this: That every conversation you have with the reporters you’re working with, every snarky comment they make about you, every detail of your collaboration, may be used in a high-profile account of the whole affair that will portray you as a peevish, contemptuous, slouching, disheveled, foul-smelling, paranoid, self-serving, manipulative, volatile ideologue.
Julian Assange: Readers’ Choice for TIME’s Person of the Year 2010 by Megan Friedman (12/13/10)
The man behind WikiLeaks has won the most votes in this year’s Person of the Year poll.
Readers voted a total of 1,249,425 times, and the favorite was clear. Julian Assange raked in 382,020 votes, giving him an easy first place. He was 148,383 votes over the silver medalist, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey.
TIME Editor: “I think Assange Will Be a Footnote Five Years from Now” by Robert Quigley (12/16/10)
When TIME Magazine named Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg its 2010 Person of the Year, the reaction among many (including myself) was one of puzzlement: Yes, Facebook is a huge phenomenon and has arguably had a bigger impact on the day-to-day lives of many people than many a more ’serious’ technology or political movement, but why now? As John Hodgman bitingly put it, “Time Magazine just named its Person of the Year 2007.”
NYTimes Editor: Reporters Covering WikiLeaks Had Email Hacked by Andy Greenberg (1/26/11)
More substantive is that Keller joins the recent string of accusers who claim (or at least, imply) that WikiLeaks staffers are active hackers:
When I left New York for two weeks to visit bureaus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where we assume that communications may be monitored, I was not to be copied on message traffic about the project. I never imagined that any of this would defeat a curious snoop from the National Security Agency or Pakistani intelligence. And I was never entirely sure whether that prospect made me more nervous than the cyberwiles of WikiLeaks itself. At a point when relations between the news organizations and WikiLeaks were rocky, at least three people associated with this project had inexplicable activity in their e-mail that suggested someone was hacking into their accounts.
Keller offers no further information on the suspected hack. And though he suggests that WikiLeaks was intruding on the email accounts of its “media partners,” it’s just as likely that the Times’ hackers were U.S. or foreign government agents, who saw the Times as an easier entry point into the Cablegate data than the more security-savvy WikiLeaks staffers.
Greg Mitchell Explains Why The Mainstream Press Is So Threatened By WikiLeaks by Ujala Sehgal (2/8/11)
In an excerpt from your book you discuss the feud between the New York Times and Julian Assange. Where do you stand with regards to Bill Keller’s recent controversial piece for the Times Magazine?
What you have to keep in mind with the Times is that Keller says over and over again that the Times was not partners with Assange, and kept its distance, and he rejects Assange’s saying that he could play these newspapers like puppets and that he was a puppet master. Keller can swear up and down that that is not true, but in reality, the Times was collaborating with Assange for massive coverage, from the war logs to cablegate. He can say they weren’t partners but in reality the Times was very happy to take the lead on covering and publishing Wikileaks stuff all year.
For Keller to turn around and completely dump on Assange, in the language he used, I think, has drawn him scorn from a lot of quarters — not so much for the facts in the piece, or in his opinion, which he has a right to obviously, but in the way he expressed it. It has really brought criticism from so many people.
Then, in addition, he revealed — beyond what anyone knew — the extent to which the Times showed the cables to the State department, and then managed to kill some of them [on account of that.] Guardian said they didn’t show anything to the State department, so it showed maybe a little too much New York Times cooperation with the State department to not run certain things.
NYT’s Keller Disparages Assange by Coleen Rowley (2/7/11)
Removing all the irrelevant belittlement, Keller apparently views Assange as little more than a difficult “source,” not someone engaged in “real” journalism. Keller’s long-winded article reads like a sadly typical maneuver common among Establishment journalists who try to place themselves under the safe umbrella of the First Amendment while leaving “whistleblowers” out in the stinging rain.
In doing so, Keller reveals how dismissive he is about factual correctness (truth), which depends on such “sources,” knowledgeable insiders or others with access to sensitive information who have the courage to share it with the press and the public. (I get a little sensitive about this after having my own “whistleblowing” once lumped in with FBI spy Robert Hanssen’s selling secrets to the Soviet Union.)
8 Smears and Misconceptions About WikiLeaks Spread By the Media at Alternet (12/31/10)
1. Fearmongering that WikiLeaks revelations will result in deaths. So far there’s no evidence that WikiLeaks’ revelations have cost lives. In fact, right before the cables were released, Pentagon officials admitted there were no documented instances of people being killed because of information exposed by WikiLeaks’ previous document releases (and unlike the diplomatic cables, the Afghanistan files were unredacted).
That’s not to say that the exposure of secret government files can’t somehow lead to someone, somewhere, someday, being hurt. But that’s a pretty high bar to set, especially by a government engaged in multiple military operations — many of them secret — that lead to untold civilian casualties.
WikiLeaks locked in war of words by Peter Wilson (1/20/11)
It was The Guardian that convinced Assange to join forces in an old media-new media collaboration to publish its enormous caches of leaked US government cables, and even though the partnership grew to include The New York Times and three other European publications – Der Spiegel, El Pais and Le Monde – the British newspaper has remained its driving force.
The partnership between one of old media’s grandest names and the world’s leading “information libertarian” website is important, not just because it was the first such collaboration but because new versions of WikiLeaks are springing up and it is not yet clear whether the old and new media models will co-operate or compete, and strengthen or undermine each other.
The merger of journalists and government officials by Glenn Greenwald (12/28/10)
What an astounding feat to train a nation’s journalist class to despise above all else those who shine a light on what the most powerful factions do in the dark and who expose their corruption and deceit, and to have journalists — of all people — lead the way in calling for the head of anyone who exposes the secrets of the powerful. Most ruling classes — from all eras and all cultures — could only fantasize about having a journalist class that thinks that way, but most political leaders would have to dismiss that fantasy as too extreme, too implausible, to pursue. After all, how could you ever get journalists — of all people — to loathe those who bring about transparency and disclosure of secrets? But, with a few noble exceptions, that’s exactly the journalist class we have.
(3) It’s extraordinary how — even a full month into the uproar over the diplomatic cable release — extreme misinformation still pervades these discussions, usually without challenge. It’s understandable that on the first day or in the first week of a controversy, there would be some confusion; but a full month into it, the most basic facts are still being wildly distorted. Thus, there was Fran Townsend spouting the cannot-be-killed lie that WikiLeaks indiscriminately dumped all the cables. And I’m absolutely certain that had I not objected, that absolute falsehood would have been unchallenged by Yellin and allowed to be transmitted to CNN viewers as Truth. The same is true for the casual assertion — as though it’s the clearest, most obvious fact in the world — that Assange “committed crimes” by publishing classified information or that what he’s doing is so obviously different than what investigative journalists routinely do. These are the unchallenged falsehoods transmitted over and over, day after day, to the American viewing audience.
A collection of varying opinion on Wikileaks can be found in How to Think About WikiLeaks by Alexis Madrigal (12/8/10) including this doosey:
I don’t deny for a moment that many of the “wikicables” are intensely embarrassing, but the sum total of the output I have read is actually quite reassuring about the way Washington — or at least the State Department — works. First, there is little deception. These leaks have been compared to the Pentagon papers. Which they are not. The Pentagon papers revealed that the U.S. engaged in a systematic campaign to deceive the world and the American people and that its private actions were often the opposite of its stated public policy. The WikiLeaks documents, by contrast, show Washington pursuing privately pretty much the policies it has articulated publicly. Whether on Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or North Korea, the cables confirm what we know to be U.S. foreign policy. And often this foreign policy is concerned with broader regional security, not narrow American interests. Ambassadors are not caught pushing other countries in order to make deals secretly to strengthen the U.S., but rather to solve festering problems. (Added 12/13/2010, 10:18am)
Wow is that really the conclusion anyone who wasn’t a puppet would come to?
WikiLeaks’ Most Terrifying Revelation: Just How Much Our Government Lies to Us by Fred Branfman (1/3/11)
Do you believe that it is in Americans’ interest to allow a small group of U.S. leaders to unilaterally murder, maim, imprison and/or torture anyone they choose anywhere in the world, without the knowledge let alone oversight of their citizens or the international community? And, despite their proven record of failure to protect America — from Indochina to Iran to Iraq — do you believe they should be permitted to clandestinely expand their war-making without informed public debate? If so, you are betraying the principles upon which America was founded, endangering your nation, and displaying a distinctly “unamerican” subservience to unaccountable authority. But if you oppose autocratic power, you are called to support Wikileaks and others trying to limit U.S. Executive Branch mass murder abroad and failure to protect Americans at home.
These two issues became officially linked for the first time when former U.S. Afghan commander General Stanley McChrystal explicitly stated that the murder of civilians increases rather than decreases the numbers of those committed to killing Americans, and actually implemented policies — since reversed by General Petraeus — to reduce U.S. murder of civilians. McChrystal said that “for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.” By so doing he made it clear that killing civilians is not only a moral and war crimes issue, but — in today’s interdependent world — also threatens U.S. national security.
As important as is the issue of free speech, it is the question of whether the U.S. Executive is in fact protecting the American people through its mass murder abroad that really lies at the heart of the Wikileaks controversy. Executive Branch officials justify persecuting and threatening to murder Assange on the grounds that he has damaged U.S. “national security.” If McChrystal is right, however, it is the past decade of U.S. Executive mass murder in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, now revealed beyond any doubt by Wikileaks, that is the real threat to U.S. national security.
Manning And Assange Did Not Commit A Crime by Masoninblue (12/31/10)
Although Daniel Ellsberg was indicted and prosecuted for theft, conspiracy, and violating the Espionage Act of 1917, for releasing the Pentagon Papers to 18 newspapers, including the New York Times, the trial judge dismissed the case against him in mid-trial on May 11, 1973, for governmental misconduct after the government claimed it had “lost” records of unauthorized and unlawful FBI wiretapping of Ellsberg’s conversations with a colleague named Morton Halperin. According to Wikipedia, the trial judge also revealed that he met twice during the trial with John Ehrlichman, who offered him the directorship of the FBI. Ehrlichman was Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs.
Prior to Ellsberg’s trial, the SCOTUS upheld the right of the New York Times to publish the Pentagon Papers that Ellsberg had given them. New York Times vs. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971). By a 6-3 majority, the Court rejected the Government’s argument that it had met its “heavy burden” of proving that the publication of the Pentagon Papers would likely cause a “grave and irreparable” danger to the United States and the American public such that it was entitled to an order prohibiting the New York Times from publishing the documents, notwithstanding that such an order would ordinarily be prohibited by the First Amendment as a prior restraint on the freedom of the press to publish information that the public had a right to know.
New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), was a United States Supreme Court per curiam decision. The ruling made it possible for the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers to publish the then-classified Pentagon Papers without risk of government censure.
President Richard Nixon had claimed executive authority to force the Times to suspend publication of classified information in its possession. The question before the court was whether the constitutional freedom of the press under the First Amendment was subordinate to a claimed Executive need to maintain the secrecy of information. The Supreme Court ruled that First Amendment did protect the New York Times’ right to print said materials.
Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931), was a United States Supreme Court decision that recognized the freedom of the press by roundly rejecting prior restraints on publication, a principle that was applied to free speech generally in subsequent jurisprudence. The Court ruled that a Minnesota law that targeted publishers of “malicious” or “scandalous” newspapers violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (as applied through the Fourteenth Amendment). Legal scholar and columnist Anthony Lewis called Near the Court’s “first great press case.”
It was later a key precedent in New York Times Co. v. United States (1971), in which the Court ruled against the Nixon administration’s attempt to enjoin publication of the Pentagon Papers.
A threat to press and academic freedom by Mark Prendergast (2/16/11)
In December, as part of a White House effort to tighten data security after the WikiLeaks disclosures, federal agencies and the military issued advisories on the handling of classified information. The Pentagon entity that incorporates Stars and Stripes, Defense Media Activity, did so on Dec. 10.
But after this column pointed out conflicts with the guarantees of editorial independence and press freedoms in Stars and Stripes’ charter, Department of Defense Directive 5122.11, the DMA withdrew it.
Now, the Pentagon has issued new restrictions more troubling in some respects than those they replaced.
The DoD should have tailored a policy to Stars and Stripes’ unique standing as a government-owned news organization that is nonetheless guaranteed the right to operate free of official influence or interference. Instead, the Pentagon took a one-size-fits-all approach and applied department-wide guidelines to the newspaper.
And those go beyond the concerns raised by WikiLeaks, effectively threatening punitive action against anyone who is in or aspires to federal service and lacks clearance to “access classified information” in the public domain in any form.
Editor expounds on WikiLeaks access (1/4/11)
David Leigh, another editor at The Guardian, told Journalisten on Tuesday that his paper has all the cables as do the other newspapers in the original agreement with WikiLeaks. Leigh told Journalisten that the papers themselves have decided what they will publish, and when. After writing their stories, he said, edited copies of the relevant cables are sent to WikiLeaks (with some identities deleted, for example, for security reasons) so that WikiLeaks can publish the documents at the same time.
Leigh said the other papers in the so-called “consortium” follow the same practice but they all had their own diverse interests in the documents. The practice was followed from November 29, but the papers otherwise operated as completely independent editorial staffs. He said they always had full and independent control over their own publication decisions.
Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow newspaper controlled by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and billionaire Alexander Lebedev, said it agreed to join forces with WikiLeaks to expose corruption in Russia.
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, which publishes secret government and corporate documents online, has materials specifically about Russia that haven’t been published yet and Novaya Gazeta will help make them public, the newspaper said on its website today.
“Assange said that Russians will soon find out a lot about their country and he wasn’t bluffing,” Novaya Gazeta said. “Our collaboration will expose corruption at the top tiers of political power. No one is protected from the truth.”
Wikileaks and the Classification Follies by Julian Hattern (12/22/10)
Tangible and intangible costs, including loss of confidence in the system, can add up if valuable messages are released, said William Bosanko, the oversight office’s director.
“Over-classification is not in the interest of the government,” said Bosanko. “Finite resources are best deployed when they are focused on the information that truly requires protection.”
The cables published by WikiLeaks span multiple presidential administrations. Typical is one sent in March 2008, reporting on a meeting the previous month between a top U.S. military official, William Fallon, and the Sultan of Oman at one of the Arabian leader’s castles.
The admiral, then head of U.S Central Command, found Qaboos bin Said al Said “in good health.” Qaboos was “cheerful,” reported a diligent diplomatic correspondent in an official State Department cable to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The sultan was too busy “to do all the things he wanted to do, such as reading more books” – though he always found some time to “watch the news.” The cable was marked “secret.”
Had such documents not been disclosed on WikiLeaks in November, the world would have had to wait decades. Under classification rules for the cable on Fallon’s meeting with the sultan, it would remain secret until 2018.
Let’s hope the WikiLeaks cables move us closer to open diplomacy by Peter Singer (12/18/10)
At Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson, who was president of the university before he became president of the United States, is never far away. His larger-than-life image looks out across the dining hall at Wilson College, where I am a fellow, and Prospect House, the dining facility for academic staff, was his family home when he led the university.
So when the furore erupted over WikiLeaks’ recent release of a quarter-million diplomatic cables, I was reminded of Wilson’s 1918 speech in which he put forward “Fourteen Points” for a just peace to end the first world war. The first of those 14 points reads: “Open covenants of peace must be arrived at, after which there will surely be no private international action or rulings of any kind, but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”
Cover-ups, coups, and drones – A Holiday Sampler of What Wikileaks Reveals about US by Bill Quigley (12/19/10)
When it comes to revealing evidence of illegal acts by the US government it seeks the most severe sanctions against any transparency.
The most glaring example of the twisted logic is on display within the US Department of Justice. DOJ is searching for creative ways to criminally sanction Wikileaks for publishing US secrets. But the same Department of Justice solemnly decided it should not prosecute the government officials who brazenly destroyed dozens of tapes of water-boarding and torture by US officials. So, DOJ, destruction of evidence of crimes is OK and revealing the evidence of crimes is bad?
What WikiLeaks revealed to the world in 2010 by Glenn Greenwald (12/24/10)
As revealing as the disclosures themselves are, the reactions to them have been equally revealing. The vast bulk of the outrage has been devoted not to the crimes that have been exposed but rather to those who exposed them: WikiLeaks and (allegedly) Bradley Manning. A consensus quickly emerged in the political and media class that they are Evil Villains who must be severely punished, while those responsible for the acts they revealed are guilty of nothing. That reaction has not been weakened at all even by the Pentagon’s own admission that, in stark contrast to its own actions, there is no evidence — zero — that any of WikiLeaks’ actions has caused even a single death. Meanwhile, the American establishment media — even in the face of all these revelations — continues to insist on the contradictory, Orwellian platitudes that (a) there is Nothing New™ in anything disclosed by WikiLeaks and (b) WikiLeaks has done Grave Harm to American National Security™ through its disclosures.
The release of thousands of US diplomatic cables by the secrets outlet WikiLeaks has unintentionally led to the proliferation of anti-Israel conspiracy theories, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The ADL said that conspiracy theories linking Israel to WikiLeaks have circulated through online publications, where it has been suggested that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange struck a secret deal with Israeli officials over the leak of diplomatic cables; or that Assange actually works for Israel.
However, there’s no evidence to support such an extraordinary claim.
Julian Assange has been caught up in an anti-Semitism row after allegedly accusing a group of journalists of a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ against his website WikiLeaks.
In the current edition of satirical magazine Private Eye, editor Ian Hislop wrote that Assange called him to complain about a previous piece on WikiLeaks contributor Israel Shamir.
In response to article in the latest Private Eye magazine, Assange called the accusations ‘serious and upsetting’ and released a denial which read: ‘Hislop has distorted, invented or misremembered almost every significant claim and phrase.
‘In particular, “Jewish conspiracy” is completely false, in spirit and in word.
‘We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff, just as we treasure the support from pan-Arab democracy activists and others who share our hope for a just world.’