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Update on Bradley Manning from His Lawyer

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(photo: Abode of Chaos)

A couple days ago I did a post on the support contingents for Bradley Manning, the accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks, which participated in the LGBT pride parades that took place in the United States during the weekend. I was asked how Manning was doing but had no update. Now, Manning’s lawyer David Coombs has posted an update on Manning.

From his blog:

It has been a little over two months since PFC Manning was moved from Quantico to the Joint Regional Corrections Facility (JRCF) at Fort Leavenworth.  Since being moved to the JRCF, PFC Manning’s overall mood and demeanor has greatly improved.  PFC Manning is able to maintain regular contact with his defense team.  He receives weekly written updates, phone calls and visits from defense counsel.  In addition, he receives regular visits from family.  Finally, PFC Manning also receives hundreds of letters from supporters every week.  He wishes to extend his sincere appreciation to those who have taken the time to send along their thoughts and well-wishes.

The Bradley Manning Support Network adds, “Let’s keep Bradley’s mood up as he approaches a pre-trial hearing this summer by continuing to send him letters of support. Mr. Coombs’ blog has more information regarding the rules around mail and Bradley’s address.”

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Additionally, here are a few items worth noting:

-London Pride on July 2nd – Bradley Manning supporters will be out marching.

-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks on Manning from a recent Vanity Fair feature story: Logan Price draws attention to her remarks in a post here at myFDL. (His post is also published on the Bradley Manning Support Network website.)

Clinton said:

“Hillary told staff that she could not fathom how an army private, Bradley Manning, with psychological problems and a drag-queen boyfriend could single-handedly cause the United States unprecedented embarrassment just by labeling massive downloads as Lady Gaga songs.”

Crabby Go Lightly takes down this idea that Manning has “psychological problems.”

For the most part, the American LGBT community has been silent on Manning’s case while LGBT communities throughout the world have taken an interest in his case. It’d be great if these inflammatory comments led more LGBT people to take interest and come to his defense. That’s not because they have an obligation since Manning is gay but because Manning has kind of become this example for the military that can be used to argue gay people shouldn’t be allowed in the military. Plus…

-Lt. Choi Continues to Speak Out for ManningHowever, as this collection of tweets shows, he has been taking flack for it.

Supporters of Bradley Manning have really appreciated the fact that Choi is now an outspoken ally of Manning, who is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with him.

In recent days, he’s said things like, “Bradley Manning is not a hero because he is gay. He is a hero because he rejected war crimes” and “If treason is the exposure of truth to end an unjust war, I could only hope to be such a ‘traitor.’” He’s also debunked the myth that “WikiLeaks did not endanger our troops; cultural illiteracy, false pretenses and war crimes did. They still do.”

Choi has done what people should do on and offline: challenge people on Manning.

There are numerous misconceptions. For example, @ThatGirlRuns tweets, “You might have noticed that nothing has been achieved by his dumb actions. We already knew the war was unjust,” and, “There is no way Manning knew every detail of what was in the documents he leaked.”

First of all, he is alleged to have released information to WikiLeaks. He has not been convicted yet (except in the court of public opinion by Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama).

If Manning did release the information, he helped contribute to the toppling of a dictatorship in Tunisia. Tweeting one’s penis is a “dumb action.” Releasing information that can liberate a country? Is that really dumb?

And, it wasn’t Manning’s duty as a whistleblower to filter the information and decide what to release. That was the job of the media organizations and possibly WikiLeaks. Contrary to the widespread myth, a document dump did not occur. The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel all collaborated and released stories on cables they wanted to cover. Since the beginning of “Cablegate,” WikiLeaks has been using media organizations as filters to provide context and get the maximum impact out of the information contained in the US State Embassy cables. (Plus, if you believe what Manning allegedly said in his now infamous chat with hacker Adrian Lamo, who ultimately turned him into authorities, he likely read more cables than many think he did if he leaked the information to WikiLeaks.

Why make such a fuss about all this? The cumulation of all this misunderstanding and nonsense on Manning has an effect. We who are interested and care should read up on what really happened. We should confront people in public and online who don’t really know what happened. And, we should put into context the war on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning and show Americans what the cost of not standing up for Manning or WikiLeaks might be.

A number of people may have made up their mind that he is a traitor. However, many Americans don’t know the case of Manning all that well and reflexively parrot what they’ve heard on the news or in a PBS or CNN special. We can connect with them and perhaps shift their understanding.

Review: PBS FRONTLINE’s ‘WikiSecrets’ Wants to Be Objective and Fair and That’s Why It’s Weak

6:27 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

ImageAnyone familiar with the stories of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, the organization’s founder and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks, would be forgiven for wondering whether PBS Frontline’s documentary “WikiSecrets” presents anything new or not. The documentary attempts to make a sensational connection between Manning and Assange and suggest that Assange might know Manning is the source of the information.

The Story

PBS FRONTLINE documentaries are typically straightforward. Thus, the opening montage provides a good idea of what the main points of the documentary will be: it’s hard to tell if Manning approached Assange or whether Assange approached Manning, WikiLeaks had feared one of its “sources” would be exposed, the chat logs suggest Manning knows Assange (but Assange denies that) and WikiLeaks is an anti-secrecy organization that doesn’t believe in secrets, which is why over half a million documents were leaked.

In the first act, FRONTLINE attempts to psychoanalyze Manning and make a determination on his mental health. Sordid details are presented leading one to understand that Manning found himself to be smarter than most of the other soldiers in the military. He was gay and had no respect for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He was using Facebook in a way that put him at risk. He was incapable of keeping a steady job. He was a vocal person and had little respect for his commanding officers. And, an army supervisor did not find him to be fit to go to Iraq.

Adrian Lamo enters the story. The personal dilemma he experienced when deciding whether to turn Manning into the authorities is presented in terms of the fact that he is a hacker, who typically would not be an informant for the government. He consulted Tim Webster, Army Counterintelligence 2002-07, and recognized the value of classified information.

“There was no correct option…only the least incorrect one,” Lamo says. Ultimately, the viewers are to believe he wanted to do the right thing.

Following Manning’s arrest the story moves into a next act, which focuses on Assange, how he worked to build a coalition to release the war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and then subsequently the US State Embassy cables.

The documentary hammers away at the idea that Julian Assange had an utter disregard for collaborators and informants—innocent people—and thought if the release of logs endangered them they should die. News organizations are presented as players who fought to convince Assange that his “purist ideology that all information should be accessible to everybody” could cost lives.

Assange rebuts this presented criticism but the rebuttal is nothing more than a simplistic denial. On its face, there is no explanation of why this “rhetorical trick” is wrong. (And that’s because the footage, which features him explaining himself did not make the final cut.)

In the next act, Assange and WikiLeaks are scrutinized for releasing the cables and making it difficult for US diplomacy. Former State Department spokesperson, who was forced out of his position as spokesperson when he spoke out about Manning’s treatment at Quantico, says, “Mr. Assange has disclosed this material without regard to the risk that it does generate to real people,” and, “The unauthorized release of 251,000 cables that covers every relationship the United States has with countries around the world has done damage to the national interests of the United States.”

John D. Negroponte, former Ambassador to the United Nations and Deputy Secretary of State for the Bush Administration who helped push America into a war in Iraq, explains the disclosure of cables has been a “pretty serious irritant.” He stops just short of equating the damage the cables has done to a nuclear bomb saying, “It’s serious.”

In the final act, FRONTLINE gives viewers the first glimpse into some of the deeper elements of the story of WikiLeaks, Manning and Assange. Viewers see supporters standing in solidarity with Manning at Quantico. Viewers are informed that the cables released so far have “exposed widespread corruption” in Tunisia and “helped fuel a revolution and, arguably, had a domino effect.”

Now consider that detail: FRONTLINE, at the very least, implicitly credits WikiLeaks with much of what has happened in the Arab Spring, which means much of President Barack Obama’s recent Middle East speech given at the State Department would have been different if WikiLeaks had not been releasing cables.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former member of WikiLeaks, mentions how, at the core of debate on WikiLeaks, there is this tension between transparency and secrecy. What needs to be figured out is what should be secret and what shouldn’t be kept secret.

After noting Lamo now lives in an undisclosed location and fears for his life, the documentary closes with this line, “I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life. It’s important that it gets out. I feel for some bizarre reason it might actually change something.”

Beyond the discussion of mental health, this may be the first and only time that the audience gets a sense that Manning may have chosen to leak classified information not because he is a troubled young kid but because he had a moral compulsion to release such information.

FRONTLINE Glosses Over Possibility Manning Allegedly Leaked Because of Moral Values

Had FRONTLINE wanted, it could have found a way to include this nugget on Manning, which comes from Micah Sifry’s book WikiLeaks & the Age of Transparency on page 33-34:

Why did Manning allegedly do it? According to his dialogue with Lamo, he had been instructed to watch fifteen detainees held by the Iraqi federal police for printing “anti-Iraqi literature.” Manning says he found out “they had printed a scholarly critique” against Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, “a benign political critique titled, ‘Where did the money go?’… following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet.” But, when Manning “*ran* with this information to a senior officer to explain, “he didn’t want to hear any of it…he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs [federal police] in finding *MORE* detainees.

After that, he said, “I saw things differently. I had always questioned the [way] things worked, and investigated to find the truth… but that was the point where I was a *part* of something… i was actively involved in something that i was completely against…” Manning, it appears, knew he might be on a quixotic mission, but despite his military oath, he felt an allegiance to something higher. “Its important that it gets out… I feel, for some bizarre reason it might actually change something,” he wrote Lamo. “God knows what happens now….

This anecdote, however, is conveniently omitted. One can speculate that FRONTLINE is just like any other media organization, deferential to state power. The faults that can be found in this documentary are the faults that can be found in the traditional media’s coverage for the past months. Not only is traditional media appalled by WikiLeaks and afraid this organization is doing great damage to the journalism profession but traditional media adheres to the official line coming from government so closely that its coverage of WikiLeaks inevitably distorts facts and misrepresents key aspects of the organization’s operations, which are adversarial to state power.

A more appropriate critique is that Frontline suffers from a belief in the tradition of objectivity. Thus, the organization fashions a “fair” and “objective” documentary that balances out two sides. Those who have worked for the press, the military or the government detail their views on WikiLeaks. In the case of Executive Editor of the New York Times Bill Keller, and The Guardian’s David Leigh, they actually worked with Assange and WikiLeaks.

The other side is Assange, Bradley Manning’s friend, Jordan Davis, David House, the only person other than Bradley Manning’s immediate family that was allowed to visit Manning at Quantico, and Daniel Ellsberg. (Perhaps, Bradley Manning’s father, Brian Manning, who gives viewers some reason to empathize with Manning.)

Quest for “Balance” is the Documentary’s Chief Weakness

FRONTLINE lays out its “Journalistic Styles and Practices” stating, “publication of truthful, accurate information is the prime mission of our nonfiction national programs.” The guidelines make clear, “Truth is an elusive combination of fact and opinion, of reason and experience. We ask for the viewer’s trust. In turn, we promise that the subject matter and the people in the program will be treated fairly.”

Producers are to: approach stories with an open and skeptical mind and a determination, through extensive research, to acquaint themselves with a wide range of viewpoints; keep personal bias and opinion from influencing their pursuit of a story; examine contrary information; exercise care in checking the accuracy and credibility of all information they receive, especially as it may relate to accusations of wrongdoing; give individuals or entities who are the subject of attack the opportunity to respond to those attacks; represent fairly the words and actions of the people portrayed; inform individuals who are the subject of an investigative interview of the general areas of questioning in advance and, if important for accuracy, will give those individuals an opportunity to check their records; try to present the significant facts a viewer would need to understand what he or she is seeing, including appropriate information to frame the program; and be prepared to assist in correcting errors.

Such guidelines for objectivity invariably mean programs FRONTLINE produces may be far more conventional than say a documentary produced by a director like Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock or Alex Gibney (who is producing a WikiLeaks documentary). They may not seek to provide deeper insights into issues because the fairness and objectivity of the documentaries they produce could be called into question.

Michael Rabiger, who founded the Documentary Center at Columbia College Chicago, writes in the Directing the Documentary textbook he authored the following on objectivity, fairness and clarification:

Objectivity: People frequently assume documentaries are objective because factual television likes to balance out opposing points of view. This is supposed to ensure a fair, unbiased view of the events and personalities in question. Such balance is a tactic inherited from journalism, which sometimes must preserve the identity of sources that gave information on condition of anonymity. Political balance lowers the dangers to, and responsibilities of, the newspaper. Papers fear accusations of political bias or of being proved wrong, because this brings discredit and lawsuits. So part of a journalist’s professionalism has always been to keep things looking objective. A newspaper will further this appearance by prescribing a uniform and faceless “house” writing style, and by camouflaging staff attitudes as the opinion or the conflicts of others.

In the 1930s this fixation with equipoise led reputable British newspapers to depict the trouble brewing in Germany as a petty squabble between Communism and Blackshirts whipped up by Red troublemakers. We see in hindsight that no responsible commentator could sit on the fence and report in this hands-off way. It was neither fair nor responsible when the Nazis had already begun acting on their genocidal intentions.

Reporters and documentary makers, then and now, must interpret events. This means that for each specific issue your film must imply where the cause of justice and humanity probably lies. To guide us there, you will often have to lead us through a maze of contradictory evidence and let us make our own determinations—just as you made yours. Interestingly, this is how a court presents evidence to the ultimate authority in a democracy—a jury.

Fairness:>In a world of ambiguities the documentarian’s responsibility is to be fair. If, for example, you are telling the story of a malpractice accusation against a surgeon, it would be prudent not only to cover the allegations from both sides but to cross check everything that can be independently verified. In this you follow the same practices as the good journalist and the successful detective. Because matters are seldom as they first seem, the accused is not always guilty, and the accuser is not always innocent. Being fair to countervailing points of view also guards your own interests: your film will have its enemies no matter whose part you take, and you will probably have to defend them, possibly in court. If your enemies can demonstrate a single error of detail they will try to use it to damn the whole work. This is how opponents tried to shoot down Michael Moore’s first film, Roger and Me (1989).

Clarification, not simplification: What interests the documentarian is seldom clear-cut, but there is an ever-present temptation to render it so. Nettie Wild’s A Rustling of Leaves (1990) is a courageous and sympathetic account of the populist guerrilla movement in the Philippines, but the partisan nature of her beliefs makes one feel guiltily skeptical throughout. She makes heroes of the left-wing peasants in their struggle against right-wing thugs, and though her sympathy is clearly justified, we know that armed resistance cannot long remain honorable. Soon both sides commit atrocities and the waters become too muddy for the story to remain one of moral rectitude. To be fair means not only relaying the protagonists’ declared principles but also exposing the ugly and paradoxical aspects of liberation through violence. Wild does this, for instance, by showing the trial and execution by guerrillas of a youthful informant. But one doubts if there is much of a trial when the camera is not around.

A film may be accurate and truthful, but it may fail unless it is perceived as such. Handling your audience well means anticipating the film’s impact on a first-time viewer every step of the way and knowing when justifiable skepticism requires something more built into the film’s argument. The more intricate the issues, the more difficult it will be to strike a balance between clarity and simplicity on the one hand and fidelity to the ambiguities of actual human life on the other.

An Unusual Opportunity to Check the “Fairness” of the Producers

ImageBecause WikiLeaks posted the full interview correspondent Martin Smith did with Assange, it is possible to draw conclusions on the nature of objectivity and fairness imposed upon this project.

What Assange says in the final cut of the documentary is the following: we do not know whether Mr. Manning is our source or not; journalists can be identified by their camera bags in the “Collateral Murder” video; WikiLeaks could have better structured various deals and attached economic incentives; source identities are not collected, WikiLeaks is dedicated to protecting sources; WikiLeaks does not know if Manning is the source or not; chats with sources are always anonymous; “Collateral Murder”-type videos can potentially stop wars; WikiLeaks reached out to Lamo because of the difficult position he put them in by turning in Manning, never heard of Bradley Manning or Bradass87; did not receive cables Manning is discussing in logs, WikiLeaks discussed whether it was good to release logs and cables since a young man could potentially be harmed; insisted on working with New York Times so First Amendment protections could provide operation cover; WikiLeaks has harm minimization process to protect lives from being endangered; diplomats deserve to face consequences for engaging in embarrassing behavior; history is on WikiLeaks’ side and when you challenge powerful organizations you will be attacked and WikiLeaks continues to step up publishing speed.

What doesn’t make the final cut is talk about the US military and the national security establishment—what Assange calls a “patronage system”—and how Assange contends it was inevitable that WikiLeaks would face counterattacks; the various traditional media versus new media issues that are raised by WikiLeaks; the importance of not letting the New York Times characterize WikiLeaks as a “source” and not a collaborative partner; the threat to national security journalism from the US national security establishment that this period in history has revealed; exactly why Assange suggested people needed to be named in the Afghan War Logs and how WikiLeaks is one of the most accountable organizations in the world.

Somewhere in that material, a more sympathetic presentation of WikiLeaks could have been pieced together. But, Smith had a concern: in the post-9/11 world, shouldn’t we be worried that someone like Manning would just choose to leak classified information? (You can hear him note this in the full interview video WikiLeaks posted.) That concern appears to have trumped giving WikiLeaks more sympathy.

An Array of People Missing from the Film

Go down the list of people in the documentary. Why wasn’t Glenn Greenwald featured? Why wasn’t Amy Goodman invited to appear? Why wasn’t Micah Sifry included?

Why doesn’t Carne Ross appear to talk about WikiLeaks’ impact on diplomacy?

Why wasn’t Rep. Dennis Kucinich or Rep. John Conyers asked to speak? Conyers held a hearing on Capitol Hill in December of last year. Kucinich has been fighting to get a meeting with Manning.

Why doesn’t Daniel Ellsberg appear in more of the documentary?

Why was the one person who has been blogging WikiLeaks for nearly two hundred days now, Greg Mitchell, not interviewed?

Most appearing in the documentary have a history of animosity toward WikiLeaks. There is one person who appears in the documentary as an unapologetic supporter of WikiLeaks. And, who is that person? Julian Assange.

David House’s Reaction to the Documentary

On Twitter, House tweeted the following messages: “This year I’ve been calm despite being stalked, surveilled, bribed, detained, & having my computer seized, car towed, and friends punished….  The first substantive anger I felt throughout these months arose tonight after watching the stridently propagandized @ frontlinepbs special….Indignation is the only orienting sense after gawking through the twisted pro-Washington hallucination called WikiSecrets.” And, also, he tweeted, “The obvious government bias in @frontlinepbs‘s “WikiSecrets” documentary mirrors a disturbing trend among US media outlets,” and, “Students in Boston are subject to documented harassment by gov officials and @frontlinepbs focuses on unsubstantiated threats to Lamo.”

Martin Smith Just Doesn’t Get It

Watch the full interview posted and one can hear Smith during a break in the interview say to Assange that he is sorry he has to bring all these criticisms of WikiLeaks but he feels it is his “responsibility” to give Assange a chance to respond to the criticism. Assange disagrees and asks why critics should get to set the frame.

The answer is critics get to set the frame because PBS FRONTLINE is committed to producing objective and fair documentaries.

It’s much easier to get Assange to address criticisms. It’s far harder to put power on the defensive and force them to address some of Assange’s concerns with the national security establishment in the United States, which is now trying to prosecute him and those linked to WikiLeaks.

Smith also says, “I’m not trying to get you in trouble on that. I just have to ask you these questions cause they’re out there. Anybody who looks at the chat [logs] says what the hell is this? And I understand you are in a position where you can say only so much.”

This remark comes after a line of questions aimed at unearthing a connection between Assange and Manning. Someone interviewing a person only talks like this if he or she feels he has to justify what he or she was asking in the interview to regain trust.

It’s quite clear that Smith came to the interview with the intention of getting Assange to incriminate himself on camera so FRONTLINE could present a sensational “conspiracy” for viewers.

Those who watched the documentary can appreciate the visual representation of a timeline of events that occurred between Manning’s arrest and now. The documentary, like most FRONTLINE documentaries, is well-produced and, nonetheless, informative. However, it presents itself as a production that has sensational new information to impart to viewers, which it does not. It also seeks to help viewers understand the nature of the WikiLeaks organization and it fails.

That’s because it never intended to help viewers have a better understanding. As far as one can tell, nobody is supposed to walk away willing to trust WikiLeaks or support the stated mission and objectives of the organization.

New US International Cybersecurity Strategy: Using the Language of Open Internet Advocates to Expand Power

12:15 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

WikiLeaks Omitted from the US International Cybersecurity Strategy

The United States officially launched its international cybersecurity strategy in a White House event on Monday, May 16. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined by the following administration officials: John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser; Howard Schmidt, White House cybersecurity coordinator; Attorney General Eric Holder; Secretaries Janet Napolitano of Homeland Security and Gary Locke of Commerce; and Defense Deputy Secretary William Lynn.

The presentation of the cyber security presented several principles, outlined the approach the US intends to take in the further development of cyber security protections, and indicated how the US might use the Internet to preserve its status as a superpower in the world.

Featured during the presentation were seven principles, which appear in the framework: economic engagement, protecting networks, law enforcement, military cooperation, multi-stakeholder Internet governance, international development and Internet freedom. Within the presentation, Clinton sought to explain that cyber crime, Internet freedom and network security could no longer be “disparate stovepipe discussions.”

At no time during the launch of the strategy was WikiLeaks mentioned. Not even Clinton bothered to mention it, despite the fact that she heads a State Department that had their department’s classified information leaked and published by media organizations and continue to have new information published each day.

Yochai Benkler, faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has detailed the following:
Read the rest of this entry →

The Guantanamo Files: What Can Be Found in a File

10:55 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

McClatchy Newspapers writes “the US military set up a human intelligence laboratory at Guantanamo,” the Washington Post details new classified military documents obtained by the “anti-secrecy organization” present “new details” of detainees whereabouts on Sept 11, 2001 and afterward and the Daily Telegraph reports that it has exposed “America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists.”

Months after news organizations reported the Guantanamo Files might be WikiLeaks’ next release, the files are now posted on the WikiLeaks website. Nearly 800 documents, memoranda from Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), the combined force in charge of the Guantanamo Bay prison to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida.

The memoranda do not detail torture or how detainees were interrogated. The reports from between 2002 and 2008 show how JTF-GTMO justified when to keep detainees and also when it chose to release detainees. In cases of detainees “released,” that detainee’s “transfer” is detailed to “the custody of his own government or that of some othergovernment.”

The reports represent not just JTF-GTMO but, according to WikiLeaks, they also represent the Criminal Investigation Task Force created by the Department of Defense to conduct interrogations and the Behavioral Science Teams (BSCTs) consisting of psychologists who had “a major say in “exploitation” of [detainees] in interrogations.”

The Washington Post, the McClatchy Company, El Pais, the Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, Aftonbladet,La Repubblica, L’Espresso, and Andy Worthington are each listed as partners. (The New York Times has coverage of the documents but is not listed as a partner and neither is NPR.)

What is a Guantanamo file?

First, the detainee’s personal information is listed. That information includes what the US considers to be the detainee’s name, aliases, place and date of birth, citizenship. The information also includes an Internment Serial Number (ISN).

The second section describes detainees’ mental health or physical health issues.

The third section is a “JTF-GTMO Assessment.” This section is where recommendations on whether a detainee should be held or released can be found. “Executive Summaries” in this section provide explanation for why a detainee should continue to be detained or released. The section denotes whether the detainee is a low, medium or high-risk detainee. And, under “Summary of Changes,” whether there have been changes in the information provided since the last report on the detainee is listed.

The fourth section is the detainee’s own testimony detailing the detainee’s background and how the detainee was seized and captured.

The fifth section is “capture information.” This section may be one of the more interesting sections in the released reports. Here one can see “Reasons for Transfer.” These are alleged reasons for the detainee’s transfer. WikiLeaks, however, notes there is reason to be skeptical:

The reason that [these reasons are] unconvincing is because, as former interrogator Chris Mackey (a pseudonym) explained in his book The Interrogators, the US high command, based in Camp Doha, Kuwait, stipulated that every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be transferred to Guantánamo — and that there were no exceptions; in other words, the “Reasons for transfer” were grafted on afterwards, as an attempt to justify the largely random rounding-up of prisoners.

A sixth section contains an analysis from the Task Force explaining whether the Force finds the detainee’s testimony to be convincing.

The seventh section presents an assessment detailing how much of a threat the detainee happens to be. This is another one of the more interesting sections of the reports because the “Reasons for Continued Detention” often come from statements from fellow detainees in Guantanamo or secret prisons run by the CIA where torture or other forms of coercion have been used to get detainees to talk. In some cases, detainees were offered rewards such as better treatment if they made statements on detainees in US military custody.

This section also looks at the “detainee’s conduct” and how a detainee has behaved citing “disciplinary infractions.”

The eighth section contains a “Detainee Intelligence Value Assessment.” This information suggests areas of intelligence that could be further “exploited.”

Finally, the “EC Status,” yet another interesting section, details whether the detainee is to still be considered an “enemy combatant” or not. Based on findings from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, just 38 out of 558 detainees that came before tribunals held in 2004-05 were determined to no longer be enemy combatants.

Now, as of 12:15 AM ET on April 25, sixty-seven detainee reports have been posted on the WikiLeaks website.

This is WikiLeaks first new leak since Cablegate. Presumably, WikiLeaks will continue to post US State Embassy Cables to its website as it releases these files.

*I will have coverage all week of the Guantanamo Files. Check back regularly for updates.

WikiLeaks Demonstrates Where Citizens Need to Apply Pressure for Media Reform & Justice

9:31 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) put on by Free Press took place over the weekend. Thousands of attendees gathered to discuss the state of media and democracy in the US and how best to fight for better media. While the discussions tended to be general conversations on policy and politics, social justice and movement building, journalism and public media, the role of culture and art in media making, or technology and innovation, one subject was continuously mentioned in panel sessions: WikiLeaks.

It would be a stretch to suggest this if it weren’t for the fact that at the “Media and Corporate Power: Beating Back the K Street Juggernaut” panel The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel mentioned an individual in Russia, who has drawn inspiration from WikiLeaks, and now plans to publish corporate documents from Russia to his own “leak portal” website. Vanden Heuvel wondered why media reformers don’t get their own “leak portal” website established for the sole purpose of giving whistleblowers a place to turn and having a central location for Americans to see the truth about corporate power in the US. Following her remark, Bob Edgar of Common Cause thought it important to add the US should stop torturing or abusing the soldier alleged to have leaked information to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning.

The panel had nothing to do with WikiLeaks except for the fact that the issue of corporate power and transparency is critical to the story of WikiLeaks. The organization’s commitment to exposing secrets makes the organization an enemy of corporations, especially any corporation that has a well-established relationship with the political class in Washington and has records to prove just how they mutually work together to subvert democracy.

An organization like Free Press may prefer to not elevate WikiLeaks or any stateless news organization like it too much by making it a component of their agenda. That is understandable given the fact that the Knight Foundation, prior to the release of the Iraq War Logs and the beginning of Cablegate, awarded twelve groups with a “News Challenge” grant but did not award WikiLeaks a grant despite the organization’s request to spend about a half a million dollars “over two years to bring its anonymous method of leaking documents to local newspapers.” But, no organization in the world has exposed the fault lines in media and democracy like WikiLeaks has in the past year.

Part of the new news ecosystem that has arisen from what Yochai Benkler calls the “networked public sphere,” Benkler describes in piece of writing found in a book titled, “Will the Last Reporter Turn Out the Lights: The Collapse of Journalism and What Can Be Done to Fix It,” which was handed out to attendees at the conference:

On April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released a leaked video from a US military helicopter that appeared to show US pilots callously killing combatants and civilians alike, including two Reuters news staff. Reuters had been seeking release of the video unsuccessfully, under FOIA, for over two years. The video became front-page news in all the leading papers the next day. WikiLeaks is a very-low-budget nonprofit hosted in Sweden. The site originally described its origins as having been “founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.” Its $600,000 annual budget is raised from contributions from around the world. Its resources are documents or videos uploaded by anyone, anywhere, securely and anonymously. It is a Wikipedia for leaks, produced by anyone who happens to be in the right place at the right time.

//

Attendees at the NCMR in Boston appeared to be keenly aware of the dangerous precedents, which would be set for media and democracy in the US, if the government were allowed to continue to suppress WikiLeaks and make an example of the organization as it has done. Keep in mind, already US-based companies like Visa and MasterCard have refused to process donations to WikiLeaks or Assange. PayPal has refused to allow WikiLeaks to use the service for donations. Amazon has censored the Wikileaks website, forcing it to go offline temporarily. Tableau opted to prohibit WikiLeaks from using its graphics service for data visualizations. The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University warned students to refrain from commenting on the leaked diplomatic cables on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter–to not post links to the documents if they hoped to ever work for the State Department (while at the same time pledging to host World Press Freedom Day in 2011). The Obama Administration and the Department of Defense ordered hundreds of thousands of federal workers to not view the once secret cables or else. And, HBGary, a cybersecurity services firm, developed a plan to sabotage WikiLeaks on behalf of Bank of America (it now will likely face a Congressional probe).

WikiLeaks has demonstrated where media reform activists need to apply pressure to expand freedom and justice in American society.

On policy and politics, the issue of net neutrality is made clear. As Timothy Karr of Free Press said on an edition of Democracy Now!, “Should companies or the government be allowed to censor and block content that’s on the web at will, or do they need to follow constitutional law?” The US government’s current answer to that question is why WikiLeaks has asked individuals or organization to set up mirror sites to host the leaked information it has released.

Additionally, the organization has seen individuals sympathetic to it targeted. Jacob Appelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp, each with links to WikiLeaks, face an order from the Department of Justice to allow government to look at their Twitter account data to help with the government’s investigation of WikiLeaks. The case touches on issues of privacy, as the judge hearing the three’s legal arguments against disclosing information has argued the order is “a routine compelled disclosure of non-content information which petitioners voluntarily provided to Twitter pursuant to Twitter’s Privacy Policy.”

WikiLeaks has shown how movements can benefit from making a commitment to government openness and transparency a component of their struggle. US State Embassy cables were faxed into Egypt during the Egyptian uprising. Information activists believed the cables had the power to move Egyptians to join the revolution.

When it comes to journalism and public media, WikiLeaks shows how professional journalists in the corporate or Beltway media find themselves to be part of an elite class. They think citizens need them to understand and process current events and the political issues of the day. They find they should be deciding what to cover and what to leak and should cooperate with government when making decisions on coverage and leaks. Their worst fear is an organization like WikiLeaks that levels the playing field and challenges their “gatekeeper” role in society by publishing previously secret information for the public to read and cover on their own blog. They do not want citizen journalists to become as credible as they have historically been because then they might have to confront their allegiance and fealty to power. They do not want to be held accountable for failing to engage in the investigative journalism Americans should expect from the press.

WikiLeaks does not have a base of operations in the United States. Its founder Julian Assange is not a US citizen. Yet, the government has opened up a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia to investigate WikiLeaks and politicians like Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein would like to go after Assange and prosecute him under the Espionage Act. Bradley Manning, alleged to have leaked the information, continues to face inhumane treatment at Quantico Marine brig in Virginia. And, the political class remains committed to ensuring whistleblower protections for federal employees are further curtailed.

Media reform activists should learn from the government’s response to WikiLeaks. Organizations within the movement for media reform and justice should note how the limits of freedom in American democracy have been exposed.

The press’ indifference to WikiLeaks means media reform activists must increase their investment and reliance on independent media willing to openly admit, as the great muckraker I.F. Stone said, governments lie. It means singling out Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others that promote Internet freedom abroad but overtly or covertly subvert it within the US. And, it means working to make it harder for the US government to criminalize and discredit those who use technology and innovation to its full potential.

Whether US citizens accept the limits power seeks to prescribe or impose will greatly determine the future of media and democracy, especially as media work to tell the stories of workers and the poor–that are being forced to bear the brunt of revitalizing an economy the financial sector helped collapse–and fight to expose the work of corporations that have hijacked American democracy.

100 Revelations to Mark the 100th Day of Cablegate

11:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

*Special thanks to C-Cyte for recording my tweets and posting them online in a post for people to view if they do not normally use Twitter.

One hundred days ago, WikiLeaks began to release the US State Embassy cables. The release event, which continues, became known as Cablegate.

A future post will include a look at Cablegate and what its impact on journalism, international diplomacy, and human rights has been and what its role has been in world events like the uprisings and revolutions the world that are currently unfolding. For now, it is worth recounting what has actually been revealed because of the release.

One common denominator can be found in a majority of the cables: corruption. For all the talk of this country and that country being corrupt and that country being so corrupt it’s gone, the plain fact is that between all the countries of the world, perhaps as a result of American coercion and/or threat of force, the world is one corrupt planet.

Point blank, the fallacy that these cables revealed nothing new is utter bullshit. And anyone who says they have revealed nothing we didn’t already know deserves to hear you say or tweet that to their face.

WikiLeaks has managed to partner with 50 media outlets over the course of the past months. 5,287 of 251,287 cables have been released so far. This not only means there will likely be a 200th, 300th and 400th Day of Cablegate but also means there will be many more revelations to come in the next year.

The following are 100 revelations, which this author tweeted this morning consecutively to mark the 100th Day. The one hundred tweeted revelations are dedicated to alleged whistleblower and hero Bradley Manning, who is currently being abused and humiliated in a military brig in Quantico, Virginia. He has been denied a right to a speedy trial. He has been issued charges but yet the military and government has taken its time with his case. And so, he has been detained and imprisoned since June and, most recently, the military started to force him to sleep naked at night.

If Manning released the material (and he is charged by the military with releasing the cables), it he who has given us the privilege of reading about what the US government and foreign leaders have been up to for the past years. Manning, if he is the whistleblower, has helped usher in an era of openness and transparency that has shaken the world of diplomacy, international relations and journalism.

Here are the one hundred, which were tweeted this morning:

100. Murdered Ugandan gay rights activist was mocked by Uganda politicians at UN-backed debate http://bit.ly/fEiSh8 #cablegate

99. US’ secret list of Allied countries it thinks should contribute more to Afghan war http://bit.ly/fLqsHI #cablegate

98. Panama president wanted US to wiretap his political rivals http://bit.ly/hS2M23 #cablegate http://bit.ly/fLqsHI

97. New Zealand did about-face on troops to Iraq, feared missing out on lucrative Oil for Food contracts http://bit.ly/i4rZES #cablegate

96. Obama pushed Spain to implement law to crack down on illegal Internet downloads http://bit.ly/iflhWB #cablegate

95. US pressured Spain to investigate Islamic centers http://bit.ly/fgzLZz #cablegate

94. Libya bought infected blood then accused Bulgarian nurses of infecting AIDS patients http://bit.ly/fVbB7i #cablegate

93. US thinks Sweden will play critical role in cyber warfare in future http://bit.ly/f4vhFm #cablegate

92. Sec. of Defense Robert Gates thinks Russia is oligarchy run by security services http://bit.ly/fEyqaJ #cablegate

91. US lobbied Russia to amend draft law so it would not disadvantage Visa, Mastercard http://bit.ly/gAtUbf #cablegate

90. Russian Orthdox Church pervades all aspects of Russian society and politics http://bit.ly/ighsI7 #cablegate

89. Saudi Arabia asked US to halt lawsuit against state company being sued for oil price fixing http://reut.rs/f6cCxq #cablegate

88. Libya placed billions of dollars in US banks http://reut.rs/i3rR1Y #cablegate

87. Revelation on Ivory Coast election that divided the country and has created civil war http://bit.ly/g0aE3M #cablegate

86. Deposed president of Madagascar “recruited mercenaries’ http://bit.ly/hzpDNC #cablegate

85. Egypt military had a ‘Plan B’ in the event of regime change http://bit.ly/dU4iWc #cablegate

84. Chamber of Commerce head in Nicaragua used his position to undermine President Daniel Ortega http://bit.ly/gNSHoU #cablegate

83. Rice wanted US diplomats to gather intelligence on Israeli communications tech & Palestinian leaders http://reut.rs/fSV4R1 #cablegate

82. Japan launching first post-war foreign spy agency http://yhoo.it/fJHISP #cablegate

81. China used US debt to pressure US on Taiwan http://bit.ly/gorONi #cablegate

80. Uribe authorized clandestine ops against leftist FARC in Venezuela http://bit.ly/dSWI6L #cablegate

79. US, UK & France considered delaying Internat’l Criminal Court investigation into Bashir http://bit.ly/gIjJbJ #cablegate

78. Karzai warned it would be near impossible to hold credible elections in Afghanistan http://bit.ly/e0PVwp #cablegate

77. A Baghdad zoo with booze-swilling bears and laser-enhanced fish http://bit.ly/ePGi3G #cablegate

76. Mubarak warned Cheney not to go to war in Iraq http://bit.ly/gwb4LI #cablegate

75. How Coca-Cola got embroiled in a feud between Gaddafi sons http://reut.rs/gsenWH #cablegate

74. Fighters in Eastern Libya willing to ‘die hard’ in Iraq War, fueled by Gaddafi-US link http://wlcentral.org/node/1369 #cablegate

73. Paraguayan president is a US agent http://bit.ly/fwz3It #cablegate h/t @MatrixWikiLeak

72. US concerned with Berlusconi-Putin tie http://reut.rs/id24oy #cablegate

71. Berlusconi entertains escorts at ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties http://bit.ly/hpHelx #cablegate

70. Russia a mafia state http://bit.ly/dJBhNP #cablegate

69. Impossible to prevent cartels from financing candidates in Mexico elections http://bit.ly/gAbjrl #cablegate

68. US cheered on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza http://bit.ly/dFwv1C #cablegate

67. Obama tried to persuade Saudi Arabia to sign Copenhagen accord http://bit.ly/ewaPHt #cablegate

66. Canadian officials were afraid Obama was too gung-ho on renewable energy http://bit.ly/dMQAr7 #cablegate

65. U.S. and China conspired to block reform on climate change at Copenhagen talks http://bit.ly/eu6l9o #cablegate

64. Dalai Lama thinks climate change should take priority over politics in Tibet http://bit.ly/fTuINF #cablegate

63. Late president of Gabon Omar Bongo embezzled funds, channeled $ to French political parties http://bit.ly/he008Y #cablegate

62. US played a role in a coup in Honduras that was illegal http://lat.ms/gnFJV5 #cablegate

61. US resentment toward unions uncovered in Mexico cable http://wlcentral.org/node/1351 #cablegate

60. Tunisia cables uncovered rampant corruption on Ben Ali or ‘The Family’ http://to.pbs.org/er6pSn #cablegate

59. US lied in cable about Michael Moore’s film ‘Sicko’ being banned in Cuba http://bit.ly/hSrdgZ #cablegate

58. Revelations on 9/11 gang that fled to London http://bit.ly/e50Om4 #cablegate

57. European feudalism in Azerbaijan no problem for US, oil makes risk of embarrassment worth it http://bit.ly/gQUscn #cablegate

56. UK secretly advised Libya on how to secure release of Lockerbie bomber http://bit.ly/iccGIa #cablegate

55. The Libyan frogman that couldn’t swim (truly, a cautionary tale) http://bit.ly/eHpFoK #cablegate

54. Bangladeshi death squad trained by UK officers http://bit.ly/gDlCUO #cablegate

53. Baby Doc Duvalier’s return to Haiti was a ‘concern’ for US http://bit.ly/eRj4hF

52. Saudi Arabia can’t pump enough oil to keep prices down, reserves 40% overstated http://bit.ly/e9774n #cablegate

51. US maneuvered to ensure Spanish High Court wouldn’t investigate Couso, Guantanamo & CIA flights http://bit.ly/igUQZ0 #cablegate

50. Gordon Brown was concerned about use of bases for US spy planes http://bit.ly/dSOdtQ #cablegate

49. BP had a blast similar to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in Azerbaijan http://bit.ly/fabXL8 #cablegate

48. Pfizer used “dirty tricks’ to force Nigeria gov’t to drop legal action against controversial drug trial http://bit.ly/hDWjeI #cablegate

47. US, Nato & Red Cross colluded, downplayed number of Afghani civilian deaths in Bala Baluk massacre http://bit.ly/fM1TD2 #cablegate

46. US threatened military action against China during secret “star wars” arms race http://bit.ly/fRIzOT #cablegate

45. Libya pressed oil firms to reimburse terror costs http://reut.rs/gOVobd #cablegate

44. US wanted derogatory information on Bahraini royals http://bit.ly/i0VWVD #cablegate

43. Coca Cola revealed corrupt Israeli tax collectors http://bit.ly/iiDEfu #cablegate

42. Egyptian torturers trained by the FBI http://bit.ly/fY8eHO #cablegate

41. David Letterman does more to dissuade Saudi youth from militancy than US propaganda http://bit.ly/dLzfqJ #cablegate

40. US suggested India send Bollywood stars to Afghanistan to help stabilize country http://bit.ly/gvq3bg #cablegate

39. McDonald’s tried to delay US legislation to aid lawsuit in El Salvador http://bit.ly/eNr0tQ #cablegate

38. Shell Oil in main ministries in Nigerian gov’t, knows everything http://bit.ly/fJlnpq #cablegate

37. Foreign contractors hired to train Afghan police paid for young “dancing boys” http://bit.ly/gu4b32 #cablegate

36. US, UK conspired to get around British cluster bomb ban http://bit.ly/hJb9sj #cablegate

35. US maneuvered to ensure Spanish High Court wouldn’t investigate Couso, Guantanamo & CIA flights http://bit.ly/igUQZ0 #cablegate

34. Millions in US military aid for fighting Pakistani insurgents diverted to gov’t coffers instead http://bit.ly/gZe2HB #cablegate

33. US diplomats ordered to spy on UN, obtain iris scans, fingerprints & DNA http://bit.ly/dE1mTt #cablegate

32. US pressured Germany to not pursue 13 CIA agents that abducted Khaled el-Masri http://bit.ly/i9qAmC #cablegate

31. Somali pirates blew cover off weapons deal between Kenya and Sudan http://bit.ly/i7LRsJ #cablegate

30. Iraq War provided few advantages for US oil but plenty advantage for Halliburton http://bit.ly/fbfxiB #cablegate

29. Chinese leaders ordered cyber attack on Google http://bit.ly/g1uBb0 #cablegate

28. Yemen President Saleh fights proxy war for US against Houthi rebels http://bit.ly/eD8Zvz #cablegate

27. Yemen covered up US drone strikes, claimed bombs against al Qaeda were own http://bit.ly/ifjG17 #cablegate

26. Blackwater flouted German arms export laws, transported aircraft to Afghanistan http://bit.ly/guBdwJ #cablegate

25. Omar Suleiman considered halting elections in Gaza to prevent Hamas victory http://bit.ly/gHrtCv #cablegate

24. US mole in NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s office uncovered http://bit.ly/gXNoVh #cablegate

23. Germany and US cover up Siemens shipment to Iran, 111 containers left at Dubai port http://bit.ly/ekzD8T #cablegate

22. Turkey’s role in CIA rendition flights to Guantanamo http://bit.ly/dL6oSO #cablegate

21. German communities fear loss of millions as US reduces troop presence http://bit.ly/ifHOZF #cablegate

20. President Kibaki of Kenya probably didn’t brazenly steal election http://bit.ly/gbyo9j #cablegate

19. Francis Mathaura described as being “shadow president’ of Kenya http://bit.ly/ea9mst #cablegate

18. US officials surprised at how easy it was to get Russia-Germany gas pipeline grant from Finland http://bit.ly/eDBZ8r #cablegate

17. Finland traded votes with Israel to get spot on UN Security Council http://bit.ly/hjlueQ #cablegate

16. GPS & detailed map feature made Nokia smartphones favorite for Iraqi rebels http://bit.ly/eQWsPf #cablegate

15. Sudan president Omar al-Bashir stashed $9 billion from Sudan in British banks http://bit.ly/hsYaCK #cablegate

14. Qatar adapts Al Jazeera coverage to suit foreign leaders http://bit.ly/hy96Sw #cablegate

13. Gaza wall, valued at $40 million USD, was to be completed December 2010 http://bit.ly/gL2hEu #cablegate

12. Egypt considered nuclear arms if Iran managed to acquire atomic weapons http://bit.ly/ifwKvq #cablegate

11. Uruguay linked to trafficking of arms to Venezuela to former guerrillas for possible coup http://bit.ly/dZlFco #cablegate

10. Danish gov’t played double game when pressured to investigate CIA rendition flights http://bit.ly/eomwJg #cablegate

9. US forced Denmark to have armed guards on airplanes http://bit.ly/dHGoMb #cablegate

8. Secret collusion between Swedish and US military and civilian intelligence http://bit.ly/dVFxX2 #cablegate

7. US Embassy in Costa Rica trained, funded security forces used at anti-FTA protests http://bit.ly/fGcN9Z #cablegate

6. Vertical Aviation disqualified from supporting Colombia forces in Afghanistan by State Dept http://bit.ly/hgIvj9 #cablegate

5. US suspected Brazil pres. Dilma Rousseff would “outlaw’ antiterrorism bill for “ideological’ reasons http://t.co/39bEb9E #cablegate

4. Peruvian Armed Forces still greatly influenced by drugs http://bit.ly/dLWHEo #cablegate

3. US pushed foreign govts to buy aircrafts from Boeing rather than European rival Airbus http://bit.ly/h6rmZi #cablegate

2. Israel’s plans for a big war in Middle East against Hamas or Hezbollah exposed http://bit.ly/eZN0Bu #cablegate

1. Monsanto fought off environmentalists/farmers in Argentina, got USG to represent interests http://bit.ly/hqKYrS #cablegate

If you would like to continue to mark the day, see Greg Mitchell’s blog on The Nation . He has been live blogging WikiLeaks and covering Cablegate revelations for the past 100 days. So, today, he marks his 100th day live blogging WikiLeaks (and writes about the day that Cablegate swung open).

The Nation has put together this slide show to also mark the day.

And, if that’s not enough, there’s WL Central, where you can get more of the latest news and updates on Cablegate, protests/uprisings, and more.

Follow me on Twitter @kgosztola to stay up to date on Cablegate revelations and WikiLeaks.

US Businesses in Libya Made Certain They Could Operate in the Rogue State

8:06 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The only people more terrified of the foreign mercenaries or anti-aircraft missiles or the fighter jets deployed to shell protesters than Libyans are the businessmen working for oil and gas companies in Libya. In fact, this whole democracy thing is a nightmare for companies in Libya that fought just over two years ago to ensure the market in Libya would not be restricted by an amendment that aimed to prevent companies from doing business with rogue states designated as state sponsors of terrorism.

Financial Times reports escalating violence in Libya has kept oil prices at two and a half year highs. Many of the oil ports and refineries are now shut down. International oil companies are evacuating their staff from the “world’s 12th largest oil exporter.”

All the violence, protest and political tension in Libya and the wider Middle East and North Africa seems to have led the US-Libya Business Association to make a cold calculated decision to disappear from the Internet for the time being until calm returns to Libya. RAW STORY reported on February 21 that the website of the US-Libya Business Association (USLBA) went down.

The group, which incorporated in 2005, describes itself as “the only US trade association” focused on the US and Libya.

Most recently, US-Libya Business Association Honorary Chairman Ambassador David Mack and Executive Director Charles Dittrich participated in a Middle East Institute-sponsored discussion in Washington, DC, titled, “US-Libya Relations: Surviving the WikiLeaks Controversy?” The two, who visited Libya for five days and met Libyan government officials in mid-December were scheduled to discuss their “impressions regarding the political and economic climate in Libya and the implications for both overall US-Libyan relations and the prospects for American business interests.”

A cache of the USLBA website reveals the companies affiliated with the association. Founding members include Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Hess Corporation, Marathon Oil Corporation, and Occidental Petroleum. General members include Dow Chemical, Fluor, Halliburton, Midrex Technologies, Motorola, Raytheon, Shell, United Gulf Construction, Valmont, and White & Case LLP.

Cables released by WikiLeaks on Libya so far do not explicitly name the USLBA. The cables do specifically deal with some of the member companies. They reveal that one of the chief objectives of diplomats in Libya over the past years have been to improve and ensure that the energy sector is able to have maximum commercial opportunities. This led the USLBA, the National Foreign Trade Council, the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce to urge Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to “pursue waiver authority for Section 1083 for countries that have been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism” on February 28, 2008.

Section 1083 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (also known as the “Lautenberg Amendment”) made it easier for “plaintiffs in terrorism-related lawsuits to seize foreign government-owned assets to satisfy US court judgments.” It caused concern among US firms, especially those in the oil & gas sector, because the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) informed American oil companies that this was “their problem” to be solved.

Big Oil Companies Face Possibility of Seized Assets

Libya, which had terror claims lawsuits pending, worried this could impact business. The NOC wanted to cut business altogether to avoid any problems.

A little over two weeks before the USLBA and other organizations launched their pursuit of a waiver in February, a cable was filed explicitly dealing with Section 1083 on behalf of US businesses that were to be impacted. The author of 08TRIPOLI113 explicitly addresses the risks to oil & energy companies as a result of Section 1083:

OIL PRODUCING & OIL SERVICES COMPANIES AT GREATEST RISK

-2. (SBU) U.S. companies participating in joint venture partnerships with Libyan national oil companies assess themselves as being at greatest risk under section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act. This list includes Occidental, ConocoPhillips, Marathon and Amerada Hess. These companies are involved in jointly developing Libyan oilfields and in extracting and lifting crude oil. The three U.S. partners in the Oasis Group (Marathon, ConocoPhillips and Amerada Hess, who are partnered with Libyan state firm Waha) pay $2 million/month to the GOL in operating fees, and $100 million/month in taxes and royalties. Company reps assess that these payments — as well as jointly-held facilities and equipment — would be exposed to court-ordered attachment and seizure under section 1083. U.S. oil service companies, such as Halliburton, may also be exposed, according to local company reps, and most service companies have frozen further expansion until the risks are clarified. Company reps have expressed concern to us that their GOL partner companies would view any U.S. court-ordered attachments of payments or equipment as a breach of contract, potentially leading to termination of their work in Libya.

3.(SBU) U.S. companies engaged exclusively in the exploration (as distinct from production), such as Chevron and ExxonMobil, assess themselves to be subject to less risk for the moment, since they make no regular payments to the GOL that would be subject to attachment (the signing bonuses agreed in connection with winning their Exploration and Production Sharing (EPSA) agreements have already been paid to the GOL, and day-to-day exploration work is contracted out to largely non-GOL entities). Nevertheless, company reps say that they are concerned about the longer-term impact of this legislation on their future plans in Libya.

Shukri Ghanem, Libya’s NOC Chairman, reacts swiftly to the recent legislation and instructs “all international partner companies to cease conducting transactions in U.S. dollars.” Through contacts with US oil companies, US officials find out that NOC would like to “reduce its exposure to U.S. courts, since dollar transactions are routed through the U.S. financial system.” Furthermore, the cable shows that US companies believe the legislation could “find” the companies “in breach of their contractual obligations if US courts disrupt their montly payment of operational fees to the NOC.”

Leader and Guide of the Revolution Threatens Retaliation

08TRIPOLI214 , a cable filed on March 12, 2008, features Leader Gaddafi giving oil companies a “browbeating” for the fact that the passage of Section 1083 is coinciding with litigation over a settlement to compensate victims of the UTA Flight 772 bombing.

U.S. OIL COMPANIES TREATED TO BROWBEATING 2.(C) ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva was summoned to Sirte for a half-hour “browbeating” by Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi during his visit to Libya on/about February 24. Country manager Page Maxson told P/E Chief that the entire conversation focused on al-Qadhafi’s “personal ire” about the so-called “Lautenberg Amendment” (section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008) and the USD 6 billion award against Libya in the UTA bombing case, and al-Qadhafi’s view that Libya had not been sufficiently compensated for its decision to give up WMD and renounce terrorism. Al-Qadhafi passed a copy of his recent letter to the President on the subject (ref B) to Mulva. Telling Mulva that he and his fellow U.S. oil company CEOs needed to engage members of the U.S. Congress and the Administration on the matter, al-Qadhafi threatened to dramatically reduce Libya’s oil production and/or expel out U.S. oil and gas companies. Al-Qadhafi claimed Libya would rather “keep its oil in the ground” and wait for a more favorable overseas investment climate than continue high levels of production in an environment in which sizeable portions of its oil-related assets could be seized.

3.(C) In a related development, Exxon-Mobil Country Manager Phil Goss told P/E Chief that Shukri Ghanem, Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, had chastised him during a meeting on February 25 for nearly an hour on the “dire political signal” represented by the Lautenberg Amendment and the UTA judgment. Ghanem told Goss that U.S. oil and gas companies should “tell Washington” that Libya was serious in its threat to “significantly curtail” its oil production as a means to “penalize the U.S.” for Lautenberg and UTA. According to Goss, Ghanem — a U.S.-educated former Prime Minister — was emotional in insisting that Libya “would not tolerate” Lautenberg and UTA without taking some retaliatory measures. Privately, Goss questioned whether the GOL could really afford to significantly curb oil output at a time when it is making massive investments in infrastructure as part of the run-up to the 40th anniversary of the military coup that brought al-Qadhafi to power on September 1, 2009. Stressing the erratic nature of decisionmaking in the GOL, Goss was careful not to rule out the possibility that Libya could choose “to do something stupid”.

Days later, a discussion to focus on three major outstanding claims cases in US venues: Pan Am 103, LaBelle, and UTA is urged. Plans to settle and use the high-profile case to “find a mechanism to mitigate the effects of Section 1083″ are made by Libya and US officials. This indicates that the US was likely seeking to use the power of Section 1083 to force a pay out from the Libya government before finding a loophole for US-Libya business relations to return to normal.

New Freedom to Establish Position in a Lucrative Market

By August, the two countries managed to come to an agreement over Section 1083 and the outstanding claims cases in US courts. The reaction to the agreement was favorable. 08TRIPOLI666 summarizes:

Reaction among ordinary Libyans and well-informed contacts to news that the U.S. and Libya finalized a comprehensive claims settlement agreement has been enthusiastic. Coverage in state-owned media has been positive but limited, in part to minimize questions about the parameters of the compensation package and potential criticism from old guard elements. Some informed contacts have characterized the agreement as a “grand opening” in U.S.-Libyan bilateral relations, as compared to the “soft opening” between the re-establishment of diplomatic ties in 2004 and the signing of the claims agreement in 2008. There are high expectations in some quarters that the U.S. will seek to capitalize on the new tenor of the relationship to press Muammar al-Qadhafi to open further political space – particularly with respect to respect for human rights, freedom of the press and an expanded role for civil society – in what remains a tightly-controlled society.

Additionally, the diplomat who authored this cable comments, “There is also the belief that expanded political and economic engagement with the U.S. and the West, which is expected to accelerate with the lifting of the Lautenberg Amendment and potential asset seizure, will help solidify internal Libyan reforms undertaken in recent years. Many Libyans hope that expanded engagement with the U.S. will include U.S. advocacy for political reform and greater respect for human rights. A key challenge for al-Qadhafi will be to temper expectations that fully normalized relations with the U.S. will prompt an immediate shift in the nature of the regime and its reluctance to move quickly on political reform.”

Sec. of State Rice Travels to Libya to Seal the Deal

On September 5, 2008, Secretary of State Rice traveled to Libya. One of her key objectives was to help come up with a solution to this Lautenberg Amendment kerfuffle. A “scenesetter” was prepared for Rice so she could be prepared to help mediate this conflict over US company operations in Libya. It reads:

10. (C) Libya’s economy is almost entirely dependent on oil and gas. Libya has the largest proven oil reserves (43.6 billion barrels) and the third largest proven natural gas reserves (1.5 billion cubic meters) on the African continent. Libya currently produces about 1.7 million barrels/day of oil; only Angola and Nigeria produce more in Africa. Oil and gas infrastructure suffered during the sanctions period. The lifting of sanctions has opened the way for new exploration and improved production. New technology and refined management techniques introduced by international oil companies (IOC’s) are a key part of Libya’s plan to increase oil production to 3.0 million barrels/day by 2013. Most of Libya’s oil and natural gas are exported to Europe – Italy, Germany, Spain and France are key customers. Major U.S. energy companies active in Libya include Amerada Hess, ConocoPhillips, Marathon, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Occidental. Joint ventures involving U.S. companies currently account for about 510,000 barrels/day of Libya’s 1.7 million barrels/day production. A large number of small to mid-sized U.S. oil and gas services companies are also working in Libya.

11. (C) After years of isolation under sanctions and limited spending by the GOL, Libya is currently in the midst of an economic boom, partly driven by a desire to complete large-scale infrastructure projects as tangible symbols of the regime’s achievements in advance of the 40th anniversary of al-Qadhafi’s revolution on September 1, 2009. High oil prices have helped fuel the outlays. Western companies, eager to establish a position in what is expected to be a lucrative market, are arriving in sizeable numbers. A temporary pause prompted by adoption of the Lautenberg Amendment in January 2008 and concern about asset seizure is coming to an end on news of the comprehensive claims agreement. XXXXXXXXXXXX Despite great promise, Libya remains a challenging business and investment environment. Contradictory regulations, inefficient government bureaucracy, limited human capacity and rampant corruption (in 2007, Transparency International ranked Libya 133rd out of 180 countries in terms of being most corrupt) are significant challenges that could hamper greater investment.

The Washington Consensus think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, notes Libya was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in the early 1970s after “Gaddafi established terrorist training camps on Libyan soil, provided terrorist groups with arms, and offered safe haven to terrorists” from groups like the Irish Republican Army, Spain’s ETA, Italy’s Red Brigades, and Palestinian groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in 1988, the bombing of a French passenger jet over Niger in 1989, and the Libya-sponsored bombing of a Berlin disco that killed two US soldiers all helped keep Libya on the list. The Libya government was also believed to be in pursuit of WMDs.

In the late 1990s, the Gaddafi regime began to take steps that led the US to alter the designation. It began to offer to surrender its WMD programs and cut ties to terror groups. It finally agreed to compensate victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing and also sent a letter to the UN Security Council taking responsibility for the attack.

Most importantly, the past ten years have seen the world close in on peak oil (if that point has not been passed already). Libya, in the past few years, has begun to privatize and open up its resources to development and exploitation by foreign companies. US companies that are a part of USLBA have greatly benefited from measures, which US diplomats have been keen to advocate for in meetings with Libyan government officials.

The last thing USLBA companies want right now is to see revolutionary change that leads Libya to no longer be opened for business .

Photo from the NY Daily News

Saif Speaks to Libyans: What WikiLeaks Cables Say About His Address

10:20 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

An address from Muammar al-Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, was aired on television in Libya early on February 21. Saif al-Islam told Libyans he had come without a prepared speech and was going to speak from his heart and mind.

The address (which can be read here) was given as Tripoli was turning into more of a battlefield. Snipers were firing in Saha Al Khadra. His father’s “thugs” were allegedly going into hospitals and killing Libyans who had been out in the streets and been wounded.

Rumors are circulating that Saif al-Islam was shot. Some of the unconfirmed reports say Saif al-Islam is dead and his father and some from the Gaddafi family has fled. Muammar has gone to Venezuela, some reports allege.

The death of Saif al-Islam is possible, but until there are reports which go beyond unconfirmed, this is largely a distracting story. What Saif al-Islam said in the recorded address that aired on February 20 is much more important.

Saif’s Address to Libya

In his rambling address, Saif al-Islam manages to outline what he thinks are key aspects of what is happening in Libya. First, there are political activists whom Libya should work with, who likely have valid grievances and demands worth considering. Two, in Bayda, where he is from and where his mother lives, “Islamic elements” have stolen weapons, killed soldiers, and would like to establish “an Islamic Emirate in Bayda.” And, third, “children” out protesting managed to take drugs and then were “used.” (The last part is interesting given the fact that since Libyans’ “Day of Rage” on February 17 there have been little reports, if any, on Libyans finding people are getting doped up and causing problems.)

If one looks through the entire address and then sifts through the many cables from Libya that have been released by WikiLeaks and leaked to newspapers by WikiLeaks, it is possible to pull out threads to illuminate what might happen from this point forward.

Saif al-Islam emphasizes oil in Libyan society at one point saying, “American Oil Companies played a big part in unifying Libya.” He indicates his fear of an Islamic Emirate being established in Bayda saying, “The British FM called me. Be ready for a new colonial period from American and Britain. ou think they will accept an Islamic Emirate here, 30 minutes from Crete? The West will come and occupy you. Europe & the West will not agree to chaos in Libya, to export chaos and drugs so they will occupy us.”

In a call for Libyans to lay down arms and not become enmeshed in conflict, he says, “Before we let weapons come between us, from tomorrow, in 48 hours, we will call or a new conference for new laws. We will call for new media laws, civil rights, lift the stupid punishments, we will have a constitution.” He says even his father, “Leader Gaddafi,” wants a constitution.

Saif’s Quixotic Bid for a Libyan Constiution

Saif has been one of the few leaders in Libya to push for Libya to develop a constitution. He is often regarded as a leader who owes his popularity to backers who are “reformists.” In a cable from November 19, 2009, on who which Qadhafi son will succeed Muammar, Mutassim is seen as a brother who stands with “conservatives” in Libya. The cable mentions in March 2009 he drafted a constitution but it was dropped from the General People’s Congress agenda.

In August 2008, Saif spoke at a youth forum, where he said he would be withdrawing from politics entirely to work with civil society organizations in Libya. He pushed for reforms and spoke explicitly about passing a constitution because, to him, the Jamahiriya system had failed. 08TRIPOLI679 details”:

Turning to governance, Saif al-Islam resurrected his call for a constitution, something he explicitly advocated in his 2006 Youth Forum speech in Sirte, which drew harsh criticism at the time from the Revolutionary Committees and other conservative regime elements. Reacting to that, Saif al-Islam had softened his language in his 2007 speech in Benghazi (ref B), using the term “social contract”. In Sabha this year, he adopted slightly more forward leaning language, saying Libya “needs something, which is perhaps called a constitution – let’s say a popular pact similar to the social pact or a pact of the mass of the people”. Such a contract should stem from the popular authority of the people, he said, but stressed that a formal document of some kind was needed to enshrine and protect the will of the people against unconstitutional attempts to usurp power as in the recent coup in Mauritania.

Criticizing the inchoate nature of the decentralized Jamahiriya system, he said Libyans are frustrated with the the existing system’s failure to deliver basic services such as trash collection, pest control, water and electricity, and now want a clearly articulated system of rules that govern personal conduct, economic affairs and governance. Describing the bedrock of good governance as effective local government, he stressed that despite the rhetoric about popular local committees, the Jamahiriya system of his father had not delivered on that front. Describing the decision to dismantle formal decisionmaking structures and to effectively decouple the local and central governments as “a mistake”, he called for a “new administrative structure” that would better integrate local municipalities and districts with the central government.

Referring to Muammar al-Qadhafi’s March 2 address to the General People’s Congress, in which he called for government restructuring and radical privatization (ref C), Saif al-Islam conceded that he had been personally involved in the work of the committees tasked with implementing his father’s vision. He emphasized that plans for restructuring the government are underway, and will involve reshaped local institutions and greater privatization. Arguing for aggressive privatization, he said “the state will not own anything” and “everything should be done by the private sector”. (Note: As reported ref C, five committees were established to formulate plans for implementing Muammar al-Qadhafi’s March 2 vision. Contacts have told us Saif al-Islam established shadow committees staffed by personnel from the Economic Development Board (EDB) and National Planning Council (NPC); the final recommendations for implementing al-Qadhafi’s vision reflected heavy input from the shadow committees. End note.) Referring obliquely to reports of fierce infighting over recommendations about restructuring and privatization, Saif al-Islam noted that “many things that were not nice” had happened in the course of recent intra-government debates, but stressed that those issues had been resolved.

Muammar initiated a process for adopting a constitution quietly in mid-November of 2008. 08TRIPOLI936 shows Muammar allegedly kept it quiet so his son, Saif, could be involved in the process.

The cable notes, however that the “secretive nature of the project has prompted concern among constitution committee members,” who fear Muammar could change his mind. A small circle of Libyans involved in the process are also keenly aware that “secretly developing a constitution reflects the failure of al-Qadhafi t orealize the importance of robust processes (a key weakness of the Jamahiriya system) as a precursor of durable political results.” Muammar is described as “taking the politically expedient route” instead of “investing in a more transparent and slower (but more credible) process.”

Is Saif Afraid Army of “John McClanes” Will Bring Libya to Utter Ruin?

Given the role of Islamic extremists in the continued global war on terrorism, it is no surprise that US diplomats have kept tabs on Islamists in Libya, especially ones believed to be engaged in terrorism. The fear Saif expresses in his address to Libyans appears to reflect a knowledge of how fixated US and European officials have been on what has been happening in Egypt and whether democracy will lead to an Islamist state run by the Muslim Brotherhood or some other group that the US might consider to be similar.

The city of Derna, which is ninety-three and a half kilometers east of Bayda, is described in one cable as a wellspring for foreign fighters who are heading off to fight coalition forces in Iraq. Gaddafi’s link to the US is alleged to be fueling the radicalization of young Libyans in the area. The cable quotes a Libyan “interlocutor,” who likens the young men in Derna to “Bruce Willis’ character in the action picture “Die Hard’” because, for them, “resistance against coalition forces in Iraq is an important act of ‘jihad’ and a last act of defiance against the Qadhafi regime.” The interlocutor suggests many of them refuse to die quietly.

Derna is compared to Bayda and other cities like Benghazi:

Benghazi and other parts of eastern Libya had benefited in the last several years from increased government patronage, Derna continued to “suffer from neglect”. Citing an indeterminate grudge between Libya’s former monarch, King Idriss al-Sanussi, and leading citizens of Derna, xxxxxxxxxxxx claimed that Derna had long been the victim of a deliberate government campaign to keep it poor. He compared Derna’s plight to the fortunes of another conservative eastern Libyan town, Bayda. While Bayda had been the summer retreat for King Idriss and was initially shunned in the early years of Qadhafi’s rule, its fortunes changed after Qadhafi married Sadia Farkhis, daughter of a prominent citizen of the town. The government subsequently established the Omar al-Mukhtar University in what had been the royal palace and sited a number of government-owned enterprises there. By contrast, Derna had not benefited from any such measures.

The neighborhood of Baab al-Shiha, a “district from which a large number of the Libyan foreign fighters identified in documents captured during September’s Objective Massey operation in Iraq had hailed,” is described. Of interest in the “lower-middle class neighborhood” is the “number of small, discrete mosques tucked away in side alleys,” which are part of a “profusion of “popular mosques’” that has “complicated effective monitoring by security forces.”

Just how closely Libya likes to monitor cities comes through in this section of the cable:

4. (C) A number of residents were on the streets; however, they were visibly more wary and less friendly than in other Libyan towns. xxxxxxxxxxxx later noted that some residents were closely questioned by security officials after speaking with a visiting Newsweek reporter in April. Told P/E Chief was an American, xxxxxxxxxxxx jokingly swore and said “there goes my evening”. Clarifying, he said he had plans that night, but would likely be detained and questioned by security officials about his interactions with an Emboff. While P/E Chief had not obviously been followed, word would doubtless reach security officials’ ears that foreigners had visited and inquiries would be made. He dismissed the idea of parting company to avoid creating problems for him, saying it was important that he, as a son of Derna, not bow down to the central government’s authority. “They may have their boot on our throat, but it’s important that they know that we are still breathing and kicking”, he said.

In 08TRIPOLI120, which appears to be a cable that immensely influenced the aforementioned cable, US diplomat Chris Stevens comments, “[The] ability of radical imams to propagate messages urging support for and participation in jihad despite GOL security organizations’ efforts suggests that claims by senior GOL officials that the east is under control may be overstated.”

It describes the frequent references to “martyrdom” in the mosques in Benghazi and Derna:

(S/NF) xxxxxxxxxxxx partly attributed the fierce mindset in Benghazi and Derna to the message preached by imams in eastern Libyan mosques, which he said is markedly more radical than that heard in other parts of the country. xxxxxxxxxxxx makes a point of frequenting mosques whenever he visits Libya as a means to connect with neighbors and relatives and take the political pulse. Sermons in eastern mosques, particularly the Friday ‘khutba’, are laced with “coded phrases” urging worshippers to support jihad in Iraq and elsewhere through direct participation or financial contributions. The language is often ambiguous enough to be plausibly denied, he said, but for devout Muslims it is clear, incendiary and unambiguously supportive of jihad. Direct and indirect references to “martyrdom operations” were not uncommon. By contrast with mosques in Tripoli and elsewhere in the country, where references to jihad are extremely rare, in Benghazi and Derna they are fairly frequent subjects.

The contents of the mentioned cables suggest that in Libya violent revolution is much more possible than it was in Egypt. The area of eastern Libya is filled with Libyans who may seize this moment as opportunity to finally throw off the chains of tyranny that have bound them for over four decades. That they have been repressed for so many years by Gaddafi’s regime will likely fuel desires to wage guerrilla warfare for freedom.

Libya’s Privatization of State Enterprises Increasing U.S. Oil’s Influence?

Saif’s nod to “American oil companies” either signals the growing instability worries Saif because it might have a negative impact on his ability to accumulate more wealth from oil operations in Libya or it points to how successful US oil companies have been at convincing the Gaddafi regime to open up its doors in the past few years.

Prospects for U.S. oil companies appear to be relatively good on February 11, 2010. 10TRIPOLI116 features Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) Shokri Ghanem expressing “support for improved Libya-U.S. relations.” He explains near-term goals for the NOC that include “plans for increasing oil and gas exploration and production” and “developing a cadre of Libyan experts to replace the expatriate workforce.”

Ghanem tells Ambassador Gene Cretz “76 percent of the positions in the oil and gas industry in Libya were occupied by “foreigners.” Many of the positions are jobs he thinks Libyans could be doing (although jobs requiring “experience with new technologies” would still require “expatriates”).

A Libyan privatization board was set up recently and welcomed US companies” in February 2010. And, in a cable titled, “U.S. Foreign Commercial Service Opens For Business in Libya,” suggests that over the course of the past years Libya has become more and more open to US corporations, particularly energy, telecommunications and construction companies. The cable describes Libya’s efforts “to diversify its economy and to privatize government enterprises.” Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Israel Hernandez, who has just opened up a “new Foreign Commercial Service office at the Embassy and discussed commercial opportunities with U.S. and Libyan business leaders and cooperation with senior Libyan government officials,” talks about Libya as “one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. trade.”

However, months ago, in June 2008, a cable is sent out lamenting how soaring oil prices are making it possible for Libya to push for “more stringent long-term contracts with foreign oil and gas producers.” The cable describes a Libyan national oil company ratifying a twenty-five year extension for a contract with Italian firm Eni North Africa BV. The outcome is seen as something that may lead international oil companies (IOCs) to abandon “production efforts” in Libya (this in spite of the fact that Libya is “widely perceived to be one of the relatively few places in the world with significant unproven reserves of sweet, light crude and natural gas”).

Several other major extensions are anticipated in the coming months, including those involving U.S. firm Occidental Petroleum (along with Austrian partner OMV) and Petro-Canada. Those agreements were signed with the NOC in late 2007, but still require GPC [General People's Congress] ratification. It is possible the NOC will seek further concessions in light of its deal with Eni. Spain’s Repsol and the NOC are renegotiating along the EPSA IV contractual model. The initial deal between Repsol YPF and NOC stipulated a 50-50 split of production; however, the NOC is now seeking a minimum production share of 72 percent.

“The NOC has approached numerous other IOCs about extensions, raising the possibility that it will reopen deals that were only concluded a few years ago. Even the U.S. Oasis Group (comprising Amerada-Hess, Marathon and ConocoPhillips), which paid $1.8 billion in December 2005 to return to acreage in Libya’s Sirte Basin that it held before the suspension of U.S.-Libyan diplomatic ties and the imposition of U.S. and UN sanctions, may be affected. Libya’s relatively modest 59.2 percent production share in that deal has generated preliminary probing by the NOC as to whether the Oasis Group would consider renegotiating, which it has so far successfully opposed” [emphasis added]

The diplomat authoring the cable comments:

Libya and the IOC’s have been here before: a spate of renegotiations and extensions occurred in the late-1960s and early 1970s, driven in part by the then-new al-Qadhafi regime to demonstrate to its people that it was a better steward of Libya’s hydrocarbon resources than the Sanussi monarchy had been. As during that period, the current penchant for shifting the goalposts has not been well-received by the IOCs. Despite Libya’s relatively unique position in terms of unproven reserves, high quality oil and low recovery costs, observers here expect that some IOCs facing potentially long renegotiation periods (and associated costs of idle personnel and materiel) and diminished production returns may choose to abandon altogether their production efforts in Libya.

How Saif benefits from Libyan oil business is detailed in the cable, “Qadhafi Incorporated,” from May 10, 2006, which details how Muammar al-Gaddafi’s children supposedly have “income streams from the National Oil Company and oil service subsidiaries.” Saif is believed to be “involved in oil services through One-Nine Petroleum and other Qadhafi family members and associates are believed to have large financial stakes in the Libyan Tamoil oil marketing company based in Europe and Oil Invest.” And notes, it is “believed that millions of dollars are distributed to politically connected Libyans and Libyan expatriates.”

Several cables mention Muammar’s plan to redistribute the country’s oil wealth to Libyans through a privatization scheme. That aspect of Libya’s recent history is worth exploring further as it seems like it is much more likely to have been a ploy to open up Libya to more foreign investment. US cables show the Libyan government has typically not wanted to up the standard of living for Libyans because it might lead to political instability. (Of course, they didn’t expect neighboring countries to inspire Libyans to revolt so the fear of raising Libyans to a better standard economically is no longer likely a chief concern for leaders at this moment.)

For the latest on Libya, follow WLCentral’s live blog.

WikiLeaks: US Lied About Bala Baluk Massacre, Red Cross Concealed Truth

7:55 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Wounded Afghani from Bala BalukThe Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has published an article on NATO, US, and the Red Cross and the Bala Baluk massacre on May 4, 2009. The article features a cable that shows the Red Cross put together a report that raised significant doubt about military reports on the number of civilians killed. The cable reveals how a PR campaign kicked into gear to sell the idea that the deaths were not intentional and to skew coverage of the event to fit the interests of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan.

The June 13, 2009 cable describes a remarkable meeting that took place at the US Embassy in Kabul. Leader of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, Reto Stocker, has compiled a report with exact figures on the deaths of civilians in an attack that just took place in the village of Bala Baluk Grenari region. US and NATO forces, which contend they were attacking Taliban, dropped bombs leaving a mosque in ruins. They turned the village into “an inferno of screaming, mangled and bloody people.”

In the aftermath, the Taliban and Afghan officials claimed “over 140 civilians had been killed.” Karl W. Eikenbarry, US ambassador in Kabul, said at a news conference, “We will never know the exact number” of those killed. Red Cross commander Reto Stocker said, “‘Dozens’ of people were killed.”A commission investigated the incident and concluded, “26 civilians and 78 Taliban fighters were killed.”

The claims by the US and other military forces were blatant lies, according to the cable. On top of that, the Red Cross did not challenge the lies.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Cables from Yemen Illuminate Why Yemenis Engaged in “Day of Rage”

1:15 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Originally posted at WL Central.

While Egyptians continue to maintain their uprising against President Hosni Mubarak with a “Day of Departure” today, it is worth looking at what happened in Yemen yesterday. An opposition coalition of Yemenis mobilized in defiance of a plea from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to not protest, rally or engage in any sit-ins, and held their own “Day of Rage.”

The protests were considered to be the largest anti-government demonstration that Saleh has “faced in his 32-year rule.” The Guardian reported protesters chanted, “Together we fight against poverty, corruption and injustice.” Given what has been happening in Egypt, the protesters hoped to mobilize in their Tahrir Square, but the government “beat them” to the Square and sent “hundreds of tribesmen to camp out there overnight.”

Protesters called for Saleh to “form a new government” and “let the Yemeni people decide who will rule them in clean, fair elections.”

WikiLeaks cables released on February 3 reveal why Yemenis might be mounting a revolution. In cable 05SANAA1790 from June 28, 2005, called “Priorities for Washington Visit: Saleh Needs to Be Part of the Solution.” A section on “Democratic Elections” is particularly illuminating:

Saleh touts Yemen as a leader in regional reform and has committed to democratization. Domestically, however, he has run-out of reforms he can implement at no political cost to himself. Increasingly anxious about upcoming Presidential elections, and already preoccupied with succession, it is unlikely Saleh will allow a viable opposition candidate to challenge him in 2006. The visit is an opportunity to pressure Saleh not to amend the constitution so he may run again in 2013 by praising him for bringing Yemen to the point where he can rely on the system in place to produce a legitimate successor. The inducement here might be a public show of support via a greater role in public fora such as the G-8.

The cable points to “significant progress” in the U.S. relationship with Yemen. The progress referred to seems solely contingent on Yemen’s ability to counter “terrorism” or al Qaeda elements in the country:

Significant progress has been made in our relationship with Yemen in the past four years. The ROYG has arrested and tried perpetrators of the USS Cole and VM Limburg attacks, shared GWOT-related information, collaborated in the capture of AQ suspects and helped uncover plots against U.S. and other western interests in Yemen. On the economic and political reform front, Yemen has conducted reasonably free and fair Parliamentary and local council elections, taken an active role in regional and international democratic reform efforts, including BMENA and the Community of Democracies; backed IMF/WB sponsored economic reforms, and committed to seeking MCC membership.

However, it appears the US overlooked the magnitude of poverty and state repression in the country, as there is no prediction on whether the people might rise up in opposition to Saleh.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) membership cited is “a U.S. Government agency that works with developing countries for the promotion of good governance, economic freedom and investment, in this instance, through its Millennium Challenge Threshold Program.” The program has tried for the past five years to award $20 million in grant funding to Yemen but has postponed the award at least twice because Yemen was found to not be meeting a number of “thresholds.”

According to the Center for Global Development, in Fiscal Year 2009, it failed to meet the “threshold” for five of the six “Ruling Justly” categories. It passed the “threshold” for control of corruption but failed the “thresholds” for political rights, civil liberties, government effectiveness, rule of law and voice and accountability.

It failed all six of the “Investing in People” categories: immunization rates, health expenditures, primary education expenditures, girls’ primary education completion, and natural resources management. It passed three “thresholds” in three of the “Economic Freedom” categories—land rights and access, trade policy and inflation—but failed to meet the regulatory quality, business start-up and fiscal policy “thresholds.”

The Center notes, “On November 28, 2005, Yemen became the first country suspended by the MCC for a deterioration in performance, as measured by the indicators.” More than half of a decade later, Yemen is still doing an abysmal job of ruling justly and investing in its people and that is why Yemenis (like other countries in North Africa and the Middle East) are revolting against their government.

For more on cables from Yemen, here is part 2, which looks at US military aid and the Yemen government.