Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks.
The U.S. government doesn’t think so, of course. It is frantic about today’s “expected release of up to three million confidential diplomatic communiques by the Wikileaks website.”
(Scroll down for continuing updates.)
Update: “US embassy cables: browse the database” — via The Guardian
WASHINGTON — A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats. – NYT
Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center has “discussed ways to destroy WikiLeaks’s reputation and efficacy,” according to a classified report (previously released by Wikileaks).
The report said “successful identification, prosecution, termination of employment, and exposure of persons leaking the information by the governments and businesses affected by information posted to Wikileaks.org would damage and potentially destroy this center of gravity and deter others from taking similar actions.”
So Assange is a rapist, eh? He’s probably a serial killer, too. We just haven’t heard that accusation yet. Or maybe we have.
Postscript: A friend writes: “Guy must have nerves of steel. AND use the best drugs around. Regardless of which, his life expectancy probably has shrunk to near zero.”
PPS: Wikileaks says it has been under a massive denial-of-service attack that began a few hours before it released the leaked diplomatic cables. Smells like Big Brother at work.
Necessary background: The strange and consequential case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikiLeaks. A bit of a thicket to get through, but it’s stunning stuff. Nov. 29 — The Wikileaks manhunt is heating up. Even Facebook is doing the government’s dirty work. Even? That’s a laugh.
Furthermore: Dec. 1 — The character assassination of Mr. Wikileaks continues.
Dec. 2 — Amazon pulled the plug on Wikileaks, forcing it off its computers, after it was asked to explain its business relationship with WikiLeaks by the staff of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Sen. Joe Lieberman heads. Amazon’s decision — gutless in the extreme — “should set the standard for other companies,” Lieberman said in a statement on his Web site. “I call on any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them.” Which made it clearer than ever that Joe Lieberman shares more than a first name with Joe McCarthy.
Dec. 3 — Daniel Ellsberg: “I’m disgusted by Amazon’s cowardice.” Calls for a boycott. … Cops close in on Assange.
Dec. 4 — If you’ve had trouble getting to the Wikileaks Web site, click either http://188.8.131.52/ or http://wikileaks.nl/. They both work — instantly — at least so far. … Meanwhile, Greg Palast says the real hero of the leaks is Bradley Manning, not Assange. Point taken. … And now PayPal has caved, banning money transfers to Wikileaks, which hinders the flow of online donations to the site.
Dec. 5 — I’m playing catch-up here: WikiLeaks reveals more than just government secrets. Glenn Greenwald’s columns are essential reading. Here’s another: The moral standards of WikiLeaks critics. Hell, go straight to all his columns … and to his appearance in a debate about Wikileaks on Democracy Now.
Dec. 6 — Everybody wants him. How popular can a guy get? Here’s the perfect take on Assange’s “wanted” status: Captured by the dating police. Here’s why: Two one-night stands & a feminist plot. And here’s the capper: No bail. Now read Assange: Don’t Shoot the Messenger … But if you read nothing else, read this: Anti-WikiLeaks lies and propaganda … and pay special attention to the end of the column, about “the American justice system under Obama in a nutshell.”
To recap “Obama justice”: if you create an illegal worldwide torture regime, illegally spy on Americans without warrants, abduct people with no legal authority, or invade and destroy another country based on false claims, then you are fully protected [S/U’s link]. But if you expose any of the evils secretly perpetrated as part of those lawless actions — by publishing the truth about what was done — then you are an Evil Criminal who deserves the harshest possible prosecution.
Dec. 9 & 11 — See Re Wikileaks, Remember What Mario Savio Said.
Dec. 13 — See Riots in the Streets vs. Internet Attacks.
Dec. 14 — Assange was granted bail today but remains in solitary confinement in Wandsworth Prison, in London, while
Swedish authorities appeal the decision. [See update below.] He is being held on allegations of sexual assault filed in Sweden. Bail was set at £240,000 (about $380,000). Two backers, a restaurant designer and a friend of Assange’s, have put up £40,000 (about $63,000). Michael Moore is putting up $20,000. If the Swedish appeal fails, £200,000 (about $316,000) must be paid in cash before Assange can be released.
Update: Dec. 16 — British authorities opposed bail, not Sweden.
Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyer says a secret grand jury in Alexandria, Va., is meeting to consider criminal charges against Assange for publishing secret diplomatic cables.
He said it was his understanding that Swedish authorities have said that if Assange is extradited there, “they will defer their interest in him to the Americans. … It does seem to me that what we have here [in England] is nothing more than a holding charge.” The United States just wants Assange detained, he said, so “ultimately they can get their mitts on him.”
At the same time, the 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst Pvt. First Class Bradley Manning is being held in solitary confinement at Quantico, a military base in Virginia, awaiting a court martial in the Wikileaks case. He allegedly leaked the secret diplomatic cables to Assange. If convicted, Manning faces up to 52 years in prison. Bradley is reportedly
“under a suicide watch, a status … often used as an excuse to humiliate a prisoner….” Apparently, he is under “constant surveillance,” but it’s not a suicide watch. See the link below, or click the photo of Manning, for Greenwald’s column on Manning’s imprisonment “under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture.”
“So far,” The Guardian reports, “he does not have enough money to pay for his defence, the costs of which have been estimated at $130,000 [£84,000].” A Bradley support network says it has raised $90,000 from 1,200 contributors, $50,000 of which it has transferred toward defense costs it says will be $100,000. These figures have been updated by Courage to Resist, which explains how to donate to Manning’s defense fund and public outreach.
Dec. 15 — The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention:
Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch).
Dec. 16 — British judge upholds the decision to grant bail for Assange … liveblogged by The Guardian. Here’s the full story.
Dec. 17 — Manning’s health is deteriorating due to solitary confinement, The Guardian reports. Will Assange be prosecuted in the U.S. as a spy? A growing consensus of American constitutional lawyers believe he will be. As usual, The Guardian continues to be the most informative, least biased, mainstream newspaper on the subject of Wikileaks.
Dec. 23 — Greenwald continues to blast Manning’s treatment in the brig at Quantico. But deep in today’s column, he gets to “what’s been most striking” to him:
“how the debate over detainee abuse has ‘evolved’ — and not evolved — from the Bush years.”
Back then, Bush defenders were completely incapable of separating their opinions of the detainees from the question of whether the treatment was abusive and inhumane (these are Terrorists, so who cares what is done to them?). That has been the primary response to those defending the government’s treatment of Manning as well (he’s a Traitor!!) — except now, of course, it’s found among many progressives: note how identical is the response from [a] front page writer of the liberal blog Crooks & Liars (“the meme o the day seems to be on Manning’s so-called torture, to which I say ‘boo hoo'”) to that of The Weekly Standard (“Don’t Cry for Bradley Manning”) and RedState (“Give Bradley Manning His Pillow and Blankie Back”). This convergence is a perfect microcosm for how much our political discourse over such matters has transformed since January 20, 2009.
That date, of course, is the date of Barack Obama’s inauguration as president, when the phrase “a new birth of freedom,” from the Gettysburg Address, was used as the inaugural theme. Oh yeah.
Dec. 26 — Assange says he has agreed to write his autobiography for more than a million pounds. “I don’t want to write this book, but I have to,” he told The (London) Sunday Times. “I have already spent £200,000 for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat.” He reportedly “would receive $800,000 from Alfred A. Knopf, his American publisher,” and £325,000 (roughly $500,000) from the British publisher Canongate.
Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and, more recently, Bank of America have declared war on Wikileaks by refusing to process any payments intended for it, thus blocking contributions to the Web site. Assange is quoted as saying their actions have cost Wikileaks £425,000, which could finance operations for six months.
The financial blockade raises … um … “troubling questions,” the New York Times says today in an editorial that notes the “decisions to bar the organization” came after Assange’s whistle-blowing threat to “release data revealing corruption in the financial industry.”
Dec. 28 — Greenwald nails it … again: “The merger of journalists and government officials”:
What an astounding feat to train a nation’s journalist class to despise above all else those who shine a light on what the most powerful factions do in the dark and who expose their corruption and deceit, and to have journalists — of all people — lead the way in calling for the head of anyone who exposes the secrets of the powerful.
As the character assassination of Julian Assange continues, the sinister “journalism” deployed against Bradley Manning has yet to be unravelled. Greenwald points out that Firedoglake has put together a table of key Wikileaks-Manning articles. It’s linked to the articles, with abstracts of each one, and it’s indispensible for anyone trying to understand how the criminal charges against Manning developed. But first have a look at Firedoglake’s intro to the table.
Dec. 29 — Greenwald’s battle continues over “the way in which Wired, with no justification, continues to conceal … what really happened” in the Manning case. Here is Wired‘s reply. To which Greenwald says, “Every insult Wired spouts about me could be 100% true and none of it changes the core fact: Wired is hiding the key evidence about what took place here,” enabling “all sorts of serious claims without any check [to] drive much of the reporting about WikiLeaks.” And here’s his point-by-point rebuttal.
Meanwhile, Floyd Abrams, the free-speech lawyer who represented The New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case, takes a dim view of Wikileaks. Ascribing to Assange the motive of wanting to disrupt diplomacy, he writes that the release of “a torrent of State Department documents,” which “appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S., is difficult to defend on any basis other than WikiLeaks’ general disdain for any secrecy at all.”
Greenwald has already refuted that argument many times, pointing, for example, to “the release of the Iraq War documents showing all sorts of atrocities in which the U.S. was complicit.”
Jan. 7, 2011 — In hyperventilating magazine style, Vanity Fair looks “behind the headlines” at the collaboration between “the Web’s notorious information anarchist” and “some of the world’s most respected news organizations.” Sarah Ellison’s less-than-friendly takeout, The Man Who Spilled the Secrets, focusses on his relations with the British newspaper The Guardian, describing the collaboration as “a clash of civilizations — and ambitions…” in a struggle “to corral a whistle-blowing stampede amid growing distrust and anger.”
The article begins on an intimate note:
On the afternoon of November 1, 2010, Julian Assange, the Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks.org, marched with his lawyer into the London office of Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian. Assange was pallid and sweaty, his thin frame racked by a cough that had been plaguing him for weeks. He was also angry …
(Sources tell me he also pulled out his handkerchief and sneezed into it three times, which went unreported.)
The article is very friendly to The Guardian editor, quoting him at length, along with lots of other people involved in publishing the leaks. But there’s a gaping hole at its center. Assange himself is missing. Could be that’s why Ellison doesn’t seem to like him much. She is reduced to quoting people who know him, usually in a negative way. Like this:
“He is short of money and short of secrets,” someone who has worked extensively with Assange told me. “The whole thing has collapsed.”
We’ll see if it has.
In other news: Republicans set sights on WikiLeaks and Assange. There’s also this: WikiLeaks cables prompt U.S. to move diplomatic sources.
Jan. 8 — The Guardian reports: “A former WikiLeaks volunteer says the U.S. justice department has ordered Twitter to hand over her private messages.” She will fight the subpoena. “Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?” Hell, even if they did, would that matter?
“The justice department has gone completely over the top,” Birgitta Jonsdottir told the newspaper, adding that personal information from Twitter as well as her private messages had also been demanded. The story noted:
She is not the first WikiLeaks associate to be targeted by US officials. Last July Jacob Appelbaum, one of Assange’s closest colleagues, was interrogated for three hours and had his phones confiscated upon entering the country at Newark airport. Customs officials photocopied receipts and searched his laptop.
Greenwald gives the details of the witchhunt.
Jan. 10 — U.S. journalists back away from Wikileaks founder:
Not so long ago, [he] could count on American journalists to support his campaign to publish secret documents that banks and governments didn’t want the world to see. [But now] much of the U.S. journalistic community has shunned Assange […] With a few notable exceptions, it’s been left to foreign journalism organizations to offer the loudest calls for the U.S. to recognize WikiLeaks’ and Assange’s right to publish under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Tom Paine would be appalled: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
Jan. 11 — Assange appeared in a British court today for an extradition review hearing on Swedish allegations of rape and sexual assault. The Guardian reports that his lawyers outlined their argument that if he is extradited to Sweden he could face rendition to the U.S. and therefore could be detained in Guantánamo or, possibly, executed. They noted:
Indeed, if Mr Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty. It is well known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr Assange should be executed.
After the hearing he made a short statement, which The Guardian has posted in a video with its report.
Our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated. We are stepping up our publications for matters relating to Cablegate and other materials. These will shortly be available through our newspaper partners around the world — big and small newspapers and human rights organisations.
Assange is due back in court on Feb. 7, when the prosecution is scheduled to make its case for extradition.
Jan. 18 — A Swiss banker has leaked confidential tax data to Assange, claiming it will reveal offshore money-laundering and large-scale illegal tax evasion by 2,000 wealthy and prominent individuals.
“I was close to giving up,” the whistle-blower said in a press conference in London, “but then a friend of mine told me: ‘There’s WikiLeaks.’ I looked at it and thought: ‘That’s the only hope I have to [let] society know what’s going on.'” The Guardian reports:
Rudolf Elmer, formerly a senior executive at the Swiss bank Julius Baer, based in the Cayman islands, said he was handing the data to WikiLeaks as part of an attempt “to educate society.” […] Elmer said he was passing the information to WikiLeaks because he had previously approached universities with the information but it had not been followed up. He said his attempts to interest the Swiss media had resulted only in his being dismissed as “a paranoid person, a mentally ill person.”
Assange promised to release the information to the British government’s Serious Fraud Office. “Once we look at the data [to protect sources], there will be full disclosure,” he said, possibly within several weeks.
Jan. 20 — Read all about it:
To say that the Obama administration’s campaign against WikiLeaks has been based on wildly exaggerated and even false claims is to understate the case. But now, there is evidence that Obama officials have been knowingly lying in public about these matters.