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Posts Tagged ‘wikileaks

Two posts that fascinated me re: Wikileaks

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Both I found quite interesting:

Wired‘s refusal to release or comment on the Manning chat logs

Response to Wired’s accusations

I think what happens is that people who think of themselves as managers and corporate employees get put into positions where their responsibilities includes those of a journalist, and the unfortunate dupe has no idea of the history, ethics, or principles of professional journalism. As a result, their immediate response is to hide the story and attack messengers. Wired’s editor seems to be one of these unfortunates and is mainly interested in hanging onto his job with no concerns at all for any journalistic responsibilities that have come his way.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 December 2010 at 11:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law, Media

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Will the Obama Administration attack now the NY Times?

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Greenwald:

In The New York Times today, Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins expose very sensitive classified government secrets — and not just routine secrets, but high-level, imminent planning for American covert military action in a foreign country:

Senior American military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing for an expanded campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border into Pakistan’s tribal areas, a risky strategy reflecting the growing frustration with Pakistan’s efforts to root out militants there.

The proposal, described by American officials in Washington and Afghanistan, would escalate military activities inside Pakistan, where the movement of American forces has been largely prohibited because of fears of provoking a backlash.

The plan has not yet been approved, but military and political leaders say a renewed sense of urgency has taken hold, as the deadline approaches for the Obama administration to begin withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan.

America’s clandestine war in Pakistan has for the most part been carried out by armed drones operated by the C.I.A. . . . But interviews in recent weeks revealed that on at least one occasion, the Afghans went on the offensive and destroyed a militant weapons cache.

The decision to expand American military activity in Pakistan, which would almost certainly have to be approved by President Obama himself, would amount to the opening of a new front in the nine-year-old war, which has grown increasingly unpopular among Americans. . . . [O]ne senior American officer said, “We’ve never been as close as we are now to getting the go-ahead to go across.”

The officials who described the proposal and the intelligence operations declined to be identified by name discussing classified information.

Often in debates over the legitimacy of publishing classified information, the one example typically cited as the classic case of where publication of secrets is wrong is "imminent troop movements."  Even many defenders of leaks will concede it is wrong for newspapers to divulge such information.  That "troop-movement" example serves the same role as the "screaming-fire-in-a-crowded-theater" example does in free speech debates:  it’s the example everyone is supposed to concede illustrates the limits on the liberty in question.   While the ground operations in Pakistan revealed by the NYT today don’t quite reach that level — since there is not yet final presidential authorization for it — these revelations by the NYT come quite close to that:  "an expanded campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border into Pakistan’s tribal areas."

Indeed, the NYT reporters several times acknowledge that public awareness of these operations could trigger serious harm ("inside Pakistan, [] the movement of American forces has been largely prohibited because of fears of provoking a backlash").  Note, too, that Mazzetti and Filkins did not acquire these government secrets by just passively sitting around and having them delivered out of the blue.  To the contrary:  they interviewed multiple officials both in Washington and in Afghanistan, offered several of them anonymity to induce them to reveal secrets, and even provoked officials to provide detailed accounts of past secret actions in Pakistan, including CIA-directed attacks by Afghans inside that country.  Indeed, Mazzetti told me this morning:  "We’ve been working on this for a little while. . . . It’s been slow going.  The release of the AfPak review gave a timeliness to the story, but this has been in the works for several weeks."

In my view, the NYT article represents exactly the kind of secret information journalists ought to be revealing; it’s a pure expression of why the First Amendment guarantees a free press.  There are few things more damaging to basic democratic values than having the government conduct or escalate a secret war beyond public debate or even awareness.  By exposing these classified plans, Mazzetti and Filkins did exactly what good journalists ought to do:  inform the public about important actions taken or being considered by their government which the government is attempting to conceal.

Moreover, the Obama administration has a history of deceiving the public about secret wars.  Recently revealed WikiLeaks cables demonstrated that it was the U.S. — not Yemen — which launched a December, 2009 air strike in that country which killed dozens of civilians; that was a covert war action about which the U.S. State Department actively misled the public, and was exposed only by WikiLeaks cables.  Worse, it was The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill who first reported back in 2009 that the CIA was directing ground operations in Pakistan using both Special Forces and Blackwater operatives:  only to be smeared by the Obama State Department which deceitfully dismissed his report as "entirely false," only for recently released WikiLeaks cables to confirm that what Scahill reported was exactly true.  These kinds of leaks are the only way for the public to learn about the secret wars the Obama administration is conducting and actively hiding from the public.

The question that emerges from all of this is obvious, but also critical for those who believe Wikileaks and Julian Assange should be prosecuted for the classified information they have published:  should the NYT editors and reporters who just spilled America’s secrets to the world be criminally prosecuted as well?  After all, WikiLeaks has only exposed past conduct, and never — like the NYT just did — published imminent covert military plans.  Moreover, WikiLeaks has never published "top secret" material, unlike what the NYT has done many times in the past (the NSA program, the SWIFT banking program) and what they quite possibly did here as well.  Mazzetti this morning said in response to my question about that:  "not sure on the classification, although I think all of the special operations activity is usually given Top Secret designation."

Does Dianne Feinstein believe that Mazzetti, Filkins and their editors should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act?  Do Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell believe these two reporters are "high-tech terrorists?"  Is Eric Holder going to boast about the aggressive actions his DOJ is taking to criminally investigate the NYT for these disclosures? 

After all, which WikiLeaks disclosure has ever helped the Taliban and Al Qaeda as much as announcing that the U.S. intends escalated ground operations in Pakistan?  How can the acts of WikiLeaks and the NYT possibly be distinguished?  Last week, Rachel Maddow was on David Letterman’s show, laughed when Letterman denounced Assange as "creepy," and — while expressing concerns both that the U.S. Government over-classifies and doesn’t safeguard its secrets with sufficient care — disparaged WikiLeaks this way:  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2010 at 12:17 pm

Secret Cable Discusses Pfizer’s Actions in Nigeria Case

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Wikileaks continues to provide useful information—though perhaps some will believe the denials reported below. (I don’t.) Thanks to TYD for pointing out this NY Times article by Duff Wilson:

Pfizer was accused of hiring investigators “to uncover corruption links” to Nigeria’s former attorney general and apply pressure to drop lawsuits against the company over a controversial 1996 test of antibiotics on children with meningitis, according to a secret State Department cable that related a company official’s account.

Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, denied the cable’s allegation, which was contained in documents released by WikiLeaks. The cable indicated that the information alleging corruption on the part of the attorney general was spread through the media to publicly pressure him to drop the lawsuits.

“Any notion that the company hired investigators in connection to the former attorney general is simply preposterous,” Christopher Loder, a spokesman at Pfizer’s New York headquarters, said on Friday.

The former attorney general, Michael K. Aondoakaa, told The Associated Press that he knew nothing of any Pfizer attempt to investigate him. “If they were doing it behind my back, it’s very unfortunate,” he was quoted as saying.

Last fall, Mr. Aondoakaa dismissed a $6 billion lawsuit and criminal charges as part of a settlement agreement with Pfizer, after allegations that the drug maker’s experiment with antibiotics resulted in the deaths of Nigerian children. Pfizer contested the cause of the children’s deaths, but ultimately settled with the country for $75 million in one case, according to a Pfizer filing in November. Mr. Loder said the money was to pay Nigeria’s lawyers in the case.

Last year, the Nigerian state of Kano, where the experiments occurred, also accepted a $75 million settlement to drop criminal charges and a civil suit seeking more than $2 billion. Mr. Aondoakaa was not involved in the Kano settlement.

In the cable, dated April 20, 2009, United States officials described an April 9 meeting in Lagos with Enrico Liggeri, Pfizer’s company manager in Nigeria.

“According to Liggeri,” the cable says, “Pfizer had hired investigators to uncover corruption links to federal attorney general Michael Aondoakaa to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases. He said Pfizer’s investigators were passing this information to local media.”

The cable continued: “A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa’s ‘alleged’ corruption ties were published in February and March. Liggeri contended that Pfizer had much more damaging information on Aondoakaa and that Aondoakaa’s cronies were pressuring him to drop the suit for fear of further negative articles.”

In seeking comment, Pfizer would say only that Mr. Liggeri was still employed as a manager in Nigeria, but it would not say whether the company had talked with him since the cable became public. Mr. Aondoakaa was not charged with any offenses.

Another part of the cable covers . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2010 at 7:46 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government, Law, Medical

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More Wikileaks thoughts

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Check out these “ten theses” about Wikileaks. The first three:

These 0.
“What do I think of Wikileaks? I think it would be a good idea!” (after Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quip on ‘Western Civilisation’)

These 1.
Disclosures and leaks have been of all times, but never before has a non state- or non- corporate affiliated group done this at the scale Wikileaks managed to with the ‘Afghan War Logs’. But nonetheless we believe that this is more something of a quantitative leap than of a qualitative one. In a certain sense, these ‘colossal’ Wikileaks disclosures can simply be explained as a consequence of the dramatic spread of IT usage, together with a dramatic drop in its costs, including those for the storage of millions of documents. Another contributing factor is the fact that safekeeping state and corporate secrets – never mind private ones – has become rather difficult in an age of instant reproducibility and dissemination. Wikileaks here becomes symbolic for a transformation in the ‘information society’ at large, and holds up a mirror of future things to come. So while one can look at Wikileaks as a (political) project, and criticize it for its modus operandi, or for other reasons, it can also be seen as a ‘pilot’ phase in an evolution towards a far more generalized culture of anarchic exposure, beyond the traditional politics of openness and transparency.

These 2.
For better or for worse, Wikileaks has skyrocketed itself into the realm of high-level international politics. Out of the blue, Wikileaks has briefly become a full-blown player both on the world scene, as well as in the national sphere of some countries. By virtue of its disclosures, Wikileaks, small as it is, appears to carry the same weight as government or big corporations – in the domain of information gathering and publicizing at least. But at same time it is unclear whether this is a permanent feature or a hype-induced temporary phenomenon – Wikileaks appears to believe the former, but only time will tell. Nonetheless Wikileaks, by word of its best known representative Julian Assange, think that, as a puny non-state and non-corporate actor, it is boxing in the same weight-class as the Pentagon – and starts to behave accordingly. One could call this the ‘Talibanization’ stage of postmodern – “Flat World” – theory where scales, times, and places have been declared largely irrelevant. What counts is the celebrity momentum and the amount of media attention. Wikileaks manages to capture that attention by way of spectacular information hacks where other parties, especially civil society groups and human rights organizations, are desperately struggling to get their message across. Wikileaks genially puts to use the ‘escape velocity’ of IT – using IT to leave IT behind and irrupt into the realm of real-world politics.

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2010 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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Excellent collection of reactions to Wikileaks

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This is regularly updated and is worth bookmarking. Here’s how it begins:

tment officials, many people have tried to think through the event’s implications for politics, media, and national security.

Writers pulling at the knot of press freedom, liberty, nationalism, secrecy and security that sits at the center of the debate have produced dozens of fantastic pieces. We’re collecting the very best here. This page will be updated often. New links will be floated near the top of this list.

Send suggestions to amadrigal[at]theatlantic.com.

For clarity’s sake, I’m sorting this archive into four sections. On the main page, you’ll find the links from the last day or so. Next, you’ll find the main stash of links on WikiLeaks. Third, you’ll find thinking about Julian Assange. The last section will contain links pertaining specifically to WikiLeaks and journalism.
Go straight there:

 

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2010 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Daily life

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Why the government is angry at Julian Assange

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Governments in general lie to the people they govern. In authoritarian and totalitarian countries, they lie with impunity and everyone knows that they’re lying. But in a democracy, in which the government theoretically represents the will of the people ("government of the people, by the people, and for the people"), lying is highly inappropriate: the government is supposed to be doing what the public wants and what will benefit the public, so any lie is likely to involve actions that are NOT what the public wants and do NOT benefit the public.

And that’s why the US government is so very, very angry at Assange: the US government has been lying to the public, and it is angry that the lies are exposed.

Here’s one, for example, from Obama’s State Department: the US supported attacks in Yemen with matériel shipped to Saudi Arabia,

a revelation that is directly at odds with a public statement at the time by the top State Department spokesman, who flatly insisted that the U.S. had no military role in the conflict.

The American people, who pony up the money to run the government, in general (I think) do not want the government lying to them. So the government, rather than being angry at the liars in its midst, is angry at the person who exposed the lies: familiar if depressing psychology.

But perhaps this is the government that the American people now deserve.

Read Justin Elliott’s full article from which that quote is taken. It begins:

The Obama administration supplied emergency arms shipments to Saudi Arabia to aid the Saudis’ attacks on a Northern Yemeni rebel group late last year, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks — a revelation that is directly at odds with a public statement at the time by the top State Department spokesman, who flatly insisted that the U.S. had no military role in the conflict.

The December 2009 cable, released this week and flagged by Spencer Ackerman, describes fighting between the governments of Yemen and Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebel group in northern Yemen, along the Saudi border. The Houthis are a Shia group who have been fighting with the central Yemeni government for years, with devastating effects for the civilian population. Beginning in October 2009, Saudi Arabia became engaged in several months’ fighting against the Houthis on both sides of the border.

The Dec. 30 State Department cable from Riyadh described the Saudi assault as the use of "massively disproportionate force in [the Saudis'] effort to repel and clear the lightly armed Houthi guerillas from the border area." The cable then describes the secret American role in the conflict over the previous two months (emphasis ours):

During the campaign, the Saudi military turned to the U.S. for emergency provision of munitions, imagery and intelligence to assist them to operate with greater precision. The U.S. military responded with alacrity to the extent possible, primarily by flying in stocks of ammunition for small weapons and artillery.However, the great majority of Saudi requests remain bogged down in the FMS contacting process or in interagency reviews.

Now, what was the State Department saying publicly at the time about the Houthi conflict? Here is a Dec. 15 exchange on the topic between a reporter and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley:

QUESTION: On the conflict in Yemen, Houthis say that U.S. warplanes have launched airstrikes in northern Yemen. Is the U.S. involved in any military operations in Yemen?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: No?

MR. CROWLEY: But we – those kinds of reports keep cropping up.We do not have a military role in this conflict.

Most reasonable people would take emergency shipments of arms from the United States to the Saudis specifically for use in this conflict as constituting "a military role." We’ve asked Crowley for comment and we will update this post if we hear back. (We took issue with the same statement yesterday because the U.S. launched cruise missile strikes at suspected terrorists in southern Yemen a couple days after Crowley’s blanket denial of any military operations in the country.)

Here’s what Crowley said a few days later, on Dec. 22, 2009: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2010 at 9:23 am

Posted in Daily life, Obama administration

Tagged with

More on the strange, lynch-mob reaction to Assange and Wikileaks

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Greenwald points out how the responses to Wikileaks have relied heavily on distortion, propaganda, and outright lies, with examples. Interesting column, which begins:

(1) In The New Republic today, Todd Gitlin writes an entire anti-WikiLeaks column that is based on an absolute factual falsehood.  Anyone listening to most media accounts would believe that WikiLeaks has indiscriminately published all 250,000 of the diplomatic cables it possesses, and Gitlin — in the course of denouncing Julian Assange — bolsters this falsehood:  "Wikileaks’s huge data dump, including the names of agents and recent diplomatic cables, is indiscriminate" and Assange is "fighting for a world of total transparency."

The reality is the exact opposite — literally — of what Gitlin told TNR readers.  WikiLeaks has posted to its website only 960 of the 251,297diplomatic cables it has.  Almost every one of these cables was first published by one of its newspaper partners which are disclosing them (The Guardian, the NYT, El Pais, Le Monde, Der Speigel, etc.).  Moreover, the cables posted by WikiLeaks were not only first published by these newspapers, but contain the redactions applied by those papers to protect innocent people and otherwise minimize harm.  Here is an AP article from yesterday detailing this process:

[T]he group is releasing only a trickle of documents at a time from a trove of a quarter-million, and only after considering advice from five news organizations with which it chose to share all of the material.

"They are releasing the documents we selected," Le Monde’s managing editor, Sylvie Kauffmann, said in an interview at the newspaper’s Paris headquarters. . . .

"The cables we have release correspond to stories released by our main stream media partners and ourselves. They have been redacted by the journalists working on the stories, as these people must know the material well in order to write about it," WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a question-and-answer session on The Guardian’s website Friday.

Just as they did prior to releasing the Afghanistan war documents, WikiLeaks — according to AP — "appealed to the U.S. ambassador in London, asking the U.S. government to confidentially help him determine what needed to be redacted from the cables before they were publicly released."  Although the U.S. — again — refused to give such guidance, WikiLeaks worked closely with these media outlets to ensure that any material which has no valid public interest value and could harm innocent people was withheld.  And Assange’s frequent commitments to engage in "harm minimization" when releasing documents gives the lie to Gitlin’s assertion that he is "fighting for a world of total transparency."

I understand that the media has repeated over and over the false claim that WikiLeaks "dumped" all 250,000 diplomatic cables on the Internet — which is presumably how this falsehood made its way into Gitlin’s brain and then into his column — but that’s no excuse for him and TNR editors failing to undertake the most minimal due diligence (such as, say, checking WikiLeaks’ website) before publishing this claim.  I’ve emailed Gitlin and TNR Editor-in-Chief Franklin Foer early this morning and advised them of the need for a correction, but have heard nothing.  I will post any reply I get.  They’re entitled to condemn WikiLeaks all they want, but not to propagate this factual falsehood.

(2) According to The New York Times‘ Brian Stelter, Matt Lauer — when announcing Assange’s arrest in London this morning — proclaimed:  "The international manhunt for Julian Assange is over" — as though Assange is Osama bin Laden or something.  I don’t know if it’s sheer empty-headedness or excessive servile-to-power syndrome — probably both, as is usually the case — but that claim is both painfully dumb and misleading.  There was no valid arrest warrant in England for Assange until yesterday; he then immediately turned himself into British law enforcement.  There was no "international manhunt."  How long before Matt Lauer and his friends start featuring playing cards with all the WikiLeaks Villains on the them ("and here we have Julian Assange, the Terrorist Mastermind, who is the Ace of Spades!")?  Answer:  as soon as the Government produces them and hands them to the media with instructions to use them.

(3) Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein ran today to The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page to call for the prosecution of Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917.  Legal experts overwhelmingly believe that any such prosecution under that law would be extremely difficult and"extremely dangerous," but that’s of no concern to the Surveillance-State-protecting, Iraq-War-supporting, defense-contractor-plutocrat:  the "liberal" Democratic Senator from California.  To argue this, she invokes the most tired and simple-minded platitude beloved by all those who want to curtail basic press and speech freedoms:  "Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security."

Every line of pro-prosecution rationale cited by Feinstein applies equally to journalists — including especially the newspapers from around the world which are publishing all of the same diplomatic cables as WikiLeaks is, and which are publishing them before WikiLeaks even does.   How can it possibly be that WikiLeaks should be prosecuted for espionage, but not The New York Times, or The Guardian, or any other newspaper that publishes these cables?

In 2006, Alberto Gonzales threatened to prosecute The New York Times for revealing Bush’s illegal NSA program, and The Weekly Standard ran numerous articles calling for the prosecution of NYT journalists and editors under the Espionage Act for having done so.  Bill Bennett demanded the prosecution of The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest for revealing the CIA black sites.  How can all the Good Democrats who condemned that mentality possibly not condemn Dianne Feinstein and those who think like her?  What’s the difference?

(4) Here is the American justice system under Obama in a nutshell: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 December 2010 at 10:03 am

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