December 11, 2010

A Summary of the Case for Wikileaks; Plus, Who Let the Logs Out?! and Wikileaks UPDATES (2010-12-11)

In general, my fave institutional sources at present are Greg Mitchell's blog at The Nation, The UK Guardian, and Foreign Policy's Wikileaked blog. Below are some highlights (for highlights from previous days, click here).


At right, demonstrators in Brisbane, Australia. Protests are ongoing worldwide and more are planned (see the Guardian). Here's a FB page that may have some info re- planned protests.

The BBC has a good written summary about Anonymous here (but re- the video, I'm not sure all Anons would agree with all the one speaking says).

While Anons' DDoS attacks continue, they've decided to shift their efforts to publicizing content from the leaks themselves, since that's what the powers that be fear most; see, e.g., Operation Leakspin.

Question: What exactly are the Anons' demands? TorrentFreak refers to an Operation Payback page stating them, but apparently that site's been taken down.

A recent Anon tweet: "Join us. First for the good news! You get 72 virgins! Now for the bad news . . . ain't no girls here."

One small business reports that Paypal has locked its account because it donated to Wikileaks. Moneybookers is not an alternative because, even though it's based in Europe, it too has cut off payments to Wikileaks and has been taken down by Anon's DDoS attacks.

Not exactly new, but urgent in the light of current developments, is this story (as reported by the BBC) about the President's "killswitch" power – the power to kill the internet in the event of a national "emergency." UPDATE: "The Senate Committee on Homeland Security . . . has approved a cybersecurity bill . . . that would give the president far-reaching authority over the Internet in the case of emergency."

THOUGHTS: The Case for Wikileaks

We are living in times of extraordinary incursions against the rightful liberties and powers of ordinary citizens. The U.S. Congress has acquiesced in, among other things:

  • Routine secret service and police violations of First Amendment rights, including preemptive round-ups and detentions of protesters in connection with RNC's and other events (see various posts here and sources cited therein, esp. here and here);
  • Wholesale NSA/AT&T violations of Fourth Amendment and privacy rights, including wire-tapping and mining of e-mails of U.S. citizens (see various posts here and sources cited therein);
  • Gross TSA and other governmental or quasi-governmental violations of Fourth Amendment and privacy rights, including unreasonable, invasive searches without the least pretext of probable cause (see posts here {may include some repeats from previous link} and sources cited therein);
  • The institution of policies of kidnapping, torture, and assassination of U.S. citizens and others (see, e.g., here, here, and here);
  • The invasion of Iraq based on lies; etc.

These violations are are massive, and they're becoming the new norm. And apart from a few bit-part scapegoats, no one has been held to account for them; indeed, for the most part, they have not even been investigated. Talk about the terrorists winning. And similar violations are taking place in other so-called democracies.

There have been periods in the past when the traditional media did a better job of fulfilling their proper function as the "watchdog of democracy." But they haven't been doing that for some while (see, e.g., "leaked reports back up what Iraq vets have been telling journalists for years, only to be ignored").

I do not fault individual journalists, most of whom are over-extended and underpaid. But, leaving the internet aside for the moment, the vast majority of traditional media worldwide are directly or indirectly controlled by a handful of large corporations (see Wikipedia and the sources cited there). Resources for real reporting have been hollowed out, and most "liberal" journalists were driven out years ago. As a result, wittingly or not, much if not most of the traditional media functions mainly to "catapult the propaganda," controlling the national agenda by echoing talking points originated by conservatively-funded think tanks and disseminated by Faux News et al.

As for the internet, big business is already well on their way to controlling most of that, too; among other things, witness the latest proposed FCC regulations and this article about proposed legislation to give the U.S. President the legal power to "kill" the Internet; see also Lawrence Lessig re- the "iPatriot Act."

With respect to the U.S. Embassy cables, Wikileaks is working with the major newspapers of the world to carefully vet and redact everything it publishes, and it has published nothing that has not been published by one or more of those newspapers.

Wikileaks was founded in 2006; since then, not a single person is known to have been physically harmed as a result of any Wikileaks disclosure, ever (I'm pretty sure if the U.S. government could name one, it would have been leaked by now. {UPDATE: Per Assange in an interview with Frost Over the World, the Pentagon has confirmed that it knows of no one that has been physically harmed because of any Wikileaks publication}).

In contrast, as of this writing, the number of Coalition soldiers who have died because of the lies used to justify invading Iraq, conservatively counted, are nearing 5,000, Iraqi deaths are nearing 1.5 million, and the U.S. has spent over $1 trillion {see info in the left sidebar of this blog}.

Some have argued that Wikileaks' publication of State secrets is as bad as our governments' and big businesses' invasions of the privacy of U.S. citizens; but this is a false equivalency. I don't have the power to act on behalf of or make decisions affecting the welfare of millions of other people; and if I did, again, I should not also have the power to unilaterally decide what they get to know about it.

Some argue that Wikileaks' work is not REAL journalism and so should not be afforded the same First Amendment protection as other news media.

Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the traditional media in the U.S. utterly FAILED to report the fact that the aluminum tubes claimed by the Bush admin to have been purchased for use in a nuclear weapons program were in fact ill-adapted for such use and were more likely purchased for other reasons (I heard that fact mentioned only on the BBC). Indeed, rather than verifying the Bush admin's claim, The NYT chose to publish Judith Miller's completely uncritical – if not complicit – story, "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts" – a story substantially based on the deliberate leaking of classified information by Scooter Libby, chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney. If what Wikileaks' work isn't journalism, I only wish The NYT and other corporate media did more non-journalism.

The corporate media are also the "journalists" who failed to analyze Bush admin claims far enough to realize that a half-dozen specious reasons to invade Iraq did not add up to one good one – something obvious to the millions who demonstrated against the invasion in "the biggest global peace protests before a war actually started."

There simply is no principled basis for distinguishing Wikileaks' publications from those of The NYT and other newspapers.

Some argue the information published by Wikileaks isn't important enough to justify the breach of secrecy. So, who gets to decide what's important, and on what basis? The U.S. agents who warned of the possibility of 9/11 but were ignored have speculated that that tragedy might have been prevented if someone had leaked to Wikileaks.

How about the needless gunning down by U.S. military forces of a Reuters cameraman and Iraqi innocents shown here? Or, from the U.S. Embassy cables, what about the revelations that the British government secretly promised to protect U.S. interests during the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, or that, in response to U.S. pressure, the German government assured the U.S. that it would not follow through on its investigation of the CIA's abduction of a German citizen mistakenly identified as a terrorist, or that the U.S. dismissed British objections about secret U.S. spy flights taking place from the UK, amid British officials' concerns that the UK would be deemed an accomplice to rendition and torture, or that the U.S. sought assurances from the Ugandan government that it would consult the U.S. before using American intelligence to commit war crimes, or that as of 2009, Shell Oil had infiltrated all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, or that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer paid investigators to unearth corruption links to Nigeria's attorney general in an attempt to stop his legal action against a controversial drug trial involving children, or that Saudi Arabia is the world's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups, or that the Obama administration and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, are determined to reject talks with the Taliban, or that government corruption in Afghanistan is rampant (viz. an incident last year when then vice-president Ahmad Zia Massoud was stopped in Dubai while carrying $52m in cash), or that the U.S. seeks to manipulate nations opposed to its approach to global warming, or that the U.S. and China worked together to prevent European nations from reaching an agreement at last year's climate summit, etc.? I look forward eagerly to the expected publications re- the Guantanamo detainees and a major US bank.

The U.S. and other governments have struggled for months to find some legal violation to charge Wikileaks with, without success. To date, the only U.S. law seriously proposed as a possible basis for charges is the Espionage Act, which was used to try to prosecute Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers – and in that case, the charges were dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Wikileaks' case, the argument for a violation of the Espionage Act is even weaker, since (1) Wikileaks has neither stolen nor leaked any information but merely published information others leaked to it, and (2) Wikileaks is not a U.S. citizen or resident.

The lack of any basis for legal action against Wikileaks has not stopped governments and big businesses from using all their might to try to crush it. They've tried to strangle Wikileaks' presence on the internet through their own DDoS attacks (yes, someone did it to Wikileaks before “Anonymous” did it to any of them) and by pressuring Wikileaks' website hosts and domain name registrars to drop Wikileaks; they're trying to strangle the organization financially (MC, Visa, Bank of America and other banks have stopped processing donations to Wikileaks, although you can still donate to the KKK); and much of the traditional media, particularly in the U.S., are working to bury revelations that Wikileaks has published or to make it and/or Assange look bad enough to make you forget about the governmental and corporate crimes that Wikileaks' publications are revealing. This could happen to you, even if you'd broken no laws, just like it happened to Wikileaks, if the powers that be didn't like what you were saying.

Some conservative leaders in the U.S. have even called for the assassination of Wikileaks' staff. One has to wonder what might have happened to Assange by now if he hadn't had his insurance file.

What governments and big businesses fear most is not terrorism, but us – and what we might do if we learn the truth.

Knowledge is power, and a balance of power requires a balance of knowledge. The way things are now, corporations and governments know everything about us and we know almost nothing important about them.

I believe that too much information is better than too little. I have more faith in our ability as a species to collectively sort through the info and interpret it helpfully, than I have in the likelihood that any smaller group of individuals entrusted with the power to pick and choose what we should know, without meaningful oversight, will fail to abuse that power.

In truth, we must ALL be journalists, which means we must ALL have access to the facts.

If Wikileaks can be crushed by the powers that be, we can ALL be crushed. There's only one thing that can stop them: us.

If just ten percent of the people travelling by air over Thanksgiving had refused to submit to the unreasonable searches by TSA, it would have been the end of those searches. If enough of us stand up for Wikileaks, it will be the end – at least for a time – of our governments' and big businesses' efforts to crush those who insist on the right to know what the powerful are doing to us or in our name.

This blog supports Wikileaks. If you agree that free speech is essential to democracy, I hope that you too will stand up against those who seek to stifle it.

You can sign a petition to stop the crackdown on Wikileaks here.

At right, a bit of off-the-cuff Anon art.

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