December 31, 2010

Wikileaks Update 2010-12-31: Wired Hung Out, Assange Dis-Implicated, Theories of System Collapse, & What Happens When You Steal a Hacker's Computer

During the last week, there's been a furious exchange of articles and tweets in/re- the Greenwald-Wired fight over the Manning-Lamo chat logs, which at present constitute the only evidence outside of the participants' heads that might either implicate or exonerate Assange of any accusations that he actively conspired to bring about Manning's alleged leaks. The issue is seen as critical because (1) Wired has published only about 25% of the logs, and (2) Manning's been incommunicado in solitary for over seven months, while (3) Lamo's been talking rather freely to the media, with the result that The NYT reported that he said Manning said Assange was actively involved in setting up special arrangements for Wikileaks' receipt of Manning's leaks, including a dedicated FTP server, which might or might not suffice as a basis for the US to charge Assange with conspiracy, although that's a whole 'nother issue.

The dust now seems to be settling, with Wired personnel confirming that the unpublished portions of the chat logs contain no reference to any such special facilities; which means there's no such reference in any of the logs except for one reference to an FTP in the portions of the logs that Wired's already published; and the consensus seems to be that that one reference cannot fairly be construed to prove anything amounting to conspiracy on Assange's part – i.e., Lamo's been misremembering or misreported. Sean Bonner and Rob Beschizza at boingboing have the best summary of the spat I've seen to date, plus additional info; and there's more background here (worth reading for its characterization of Assange as "international man of demystery," among other things.) UPDATE: The Guardian now has its own summary.

More great work at emptywheel by Marcy Wheeler, who originated much of the research/analysis relied on by Firedoglake and Glenn Greenwald re- inconsistencies re- the Manning-Lamo internet chats. In "Lamo's Two (?!) Laptops," she highlights additional, disturbing discrepancies in Lamo's statements (worth reading for yourself), and in "Assange Alerts His Hostages!" she spotlights the fact that his "insurance file" probably contains the names of top Arab officials alleged to have close ties to the CIA – info the US is probably just as interested to keep secret as are the Arab officials named.

Floyd Abrams, an attorney who represented The NYT in its battles over the Pentagon Papers, has, to the surprise and disappointment of many, put out a piece attacking Wikileaks. There have been a number of good rebuttals, but Marcy Wheeler may have shredded him best.

Lynn Parramore at HuffPo has an informative and eloquent essay decrying the lengthy detention of Manning under inhumane conditions, "Tortured Until Proven Guilty." And Kevin Carson has defended Manning as "One Soldier Who Really Did 'Defend Our Freedom.'"

Here's another list of "How Wikileaks Enlightened Us in 2010."

Apparently,
Western Union has joined the effort to execute Wikileaks through financial strangulation without due process of law. Lasers_pewpewpew responded, "[s]o they are only too happy for you to send money to an African prince who will give you a cut of his fictional $20 million (ala 419 scam), but not to Wikileaks? . . . f*cking Epic!"

There's a fascinating new piece, "The Transparency Paradox," at colayer, re- what I've called Assange's theory of "the cost of tightened secrecy to organizational I.Q.," or as Volatility puts it more succinctly (see below), Assange's "secrecy tax." The author at colayer makes the point that, while greater transparency maximizes efficiency and profits for a group as a whole, individuals within the group profit most when they're not transparent while others in the group are. Just like, when you're negotiating, you have an advantage if you know what cards the other parties are holding but they're ignorant of yours. And the internet and other technologies now available have greatly reduced the cost of transparency.

Re- the big, "systems" picture, there's a great article at Volatility on "racketeering":

According to Joseph Tainter’s theory of imperial collapse, as societies become more complex, they must expend an ever greater portion of the energy they have available simply on maintaining their complexity. Although social and technological advances may achieve profitable returns for awhile, once a certain level of complexity is reached, diminishing returns set in. Eventually, at the late imperial stage, the complexity of the power structure, the military infrastructure, the bureaucracies, all the rents involved in maintaining an ever more bloated parasite class, their luxuries, the police state required to extract these rents and keep the productive people down, and the growing losses due to the response of the oppressed producers, everything from poor quality work to strikes to emigration or secession to rebellion, reaches a point where the system can only cannibalize itself and eventually collapse.

Julian Assange’s theory of the secrecy tax he’s trying to impose through Wikileaks is one example of these diminishing returns on imperial complexity. All the indications are that Wikileaks has been successful in this.

* * * * *
This is a welter of parasites battening on the same host. They’re in a zero sum game, not only against the people, but among themselves. Each has an interest in just exploiting the host, not killing it. But together they are killing it and therefore themselves. It’s clear none is capable of organizing or regulating the others. The federal government isn’t capable of doing it. If one big bank tried to do it, it would be subverted by the others. Each racket, from highest to lowest, is going to maximize its bloodsucking until there’s no blood left.

Note that, theoretically, so long as the system as a whole remains mostly transparent, it's not a zero-sum game (or at least, its productivity growth would be subject only to such physical limits as peak oil or climate change), because problem-solving and efficiency are maximized by pervasive info-sharing, and everyone's equally incentivized. In contrast, where transparency has sufficiently deteriorated, workers become less productive, both because of reduced info-sharing and because they're disincentivized – i.e., those not sharing info are still incentivized to continue to exploit the others, but once those who are being exploited figure out what's going on, they're discouraged from sharing and working hard just to enrich the exploiters. At this point, the competition devolves from who can produce the most of the best, into who can loot the most the fastest.

To this analysis, Assange adds the dimension of time and the role of foresight, in his 2006 essay for counterpunch, "Of Potholes and Foresight." To put part of his point in other words, a stitch in time often saves nine, and transparency makes that kind of foresight possible, which otherwise tends to give way to political pressures to allocate resources in more near-sighted ways.

Here's an article on governments' moves to control the internets. Not the most precise writing I've seen, but pulls together a few items of interest.

Here's a list of cables published in the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten, and not elsewhere. It was not one of the original Wikileaks partners, and everyone's mystified as to how they got the full cable cache. One observer says there are impt. revelations in there that the original partners haven't yet published.

Here's a good discussion of the nature of the Anons and how they view the evolution of collective intelligence. Roughly speaking, they believe their non-authoritarian, open (transparent), emergent mode of collective info-processing and action should and eventually will supplant the authoritarian, top-down, constricted mode common among big corporations and governments.

The FBI has seized a server allegedly used in some of the Anons' DDoS attacks.

And here's a presentation about what happens when you steal a hacker's computer:



Happy New Year, everyone! And remember, "the truth shall make you free." – John 8:32, the Bible, King James Version.

December 30, 2010

Homeland Security – Psyops on US?

We now have two reported instances of trolling traced to Homeland Security IP addresses:

Homeland Security Trolling We Won’t Fly Blog (comments on a blog re- TSA's illegal scannings and gropings).

Racist Web Posts Traced to Homeland Security (comments on a local newspaper article re- detention of Mexican immigrants).

Operation Bling



By embedding this video, we do not necessarily endorse any activity suggested therein to the extent, if any, prohibited by applicable law.

December 29, 2010

Living in Post-Reality (Re- Wikileaks)


This post unpacks and explores a bit further some thoughts I first touched on here.

The Infowar

As I've long said, knowledge is power, and a balance of power requires a balance of information.

As I've also said, at present, there's a serious imbalance, in that governments and big businesses know everything about us, and we know nothing important about them.

In 2009, Assange gave one of his many good speeches. Below is a transcript of a portion of it (I'm probably including a bit more than necessary for purposes of this post, but I'm not aware that this much of the speech has been transcribed elsewhere, and it may be of interest):
Censorship is actually an opportunity. That censorship is some form of arbitrage, to keep information concealed in a limited market from a bigger market. But politically, what does censorship reveal? It reveals fear. So, China has a lot of fear of freedom of the press. Iran . . . China and Iran do actively censor us [Wikileaks]. Both these countries have a fear of freedom of the press. That means that they perceive that if information is released, it's going to have some kind of reform effect. Now, depending on your position, if you're in that authority or your outside it, you may say this effect is positive or negative. But it does show that their perception, and they probably know best because they are the author of these documents, is that those documents are politically powerful.

In the West we do have a bit more of a problem, in that the basic structural relationships in highly developed Western countries are fiscal, they are not political, and it's much harder to affect fiscal relationships through free speech than it is to affect political relationships. So, is freedom of speech free in the West because the West is so enlightened? Or, is freedom of speech free in the West because . . . relative to China . . . is it free in the West because perhaps it's hard to do much with freedom of speech, that the basic power structures that exist in the West are fiscalized and hidden from social opprobrium?

I think maybe speech is free like the birds and the bees when they have no chance of political impact. Now of course there's many counter-examples; but I think, you know, these fiscal relationships have been structurally engineered in such a way that they're complex and opaque, and so that when we, operating with
The Guardian, have revealed information about complex structural arrangements that Barclays Bank takes to push money through thirteen or fourteen different countries, to 'rob,' if you like, the United Kingdom and other countries of the money that they need to sustain their social system, but it's so complex, how can people become angry with information that's that complex? Well, it's hard; you have to work a lot harder as a journalist to turn that into an emotionally impactful story. So that's a kind of 'tax' on powerful revelation.

But anyway, when countries and organizations fight to suppress things, you know you have a foot in the door, you know you have a chance for reform. In other countries where information seems to be free, maybe actually the basic structures are so locked up that it’s going to be hard to make an effect. Anyway, I encourage everyone to try.

[Assange is warned his time's run out.] On these USB keys is 573,000 intercepted pager messages from September 11th, that haven't been released yet . . . . So, that's a lot of information . . . . We will release this tomorrow on the web, but I will give this to people here who want it now, and you can go and explore it and investigate it. Remember, it's 573,000 messages. We can't do it alone; the idea is that you do it. We spend our efforts getting it to you and allow you to publish it. But you've got to turn it into a story and make it moving to the population.
(Emphasis supplied; from a speech at the New Media Days 2009 conference, Denmark.)
Note that Assange speaks of information as a commodity for which there are manipulable markets; i.e., among other things, knowledge is a form of wealth. This makes sense; perhaps the very definition of real wealth is, after all, power.

We're now witnessing an infowar. It is a war not just using info as a weapon but also about who will control it. In Assange-ist terms, the powerful have been conspiring against the rest of us, in the sense that they've been keeping secret things that were being done to us or in our name and that they feared we'd object to if we knew about them. W.r.t. these things, the powerful have not been giving us all the material info, and/or they've actively fed us disinformation or distractions. The struggle currently led by Wikileaks is to give the rest of us access to the truths that those to whom we've entrusted power have hidden from us.

As Robin Bloor put it, "This is an info war and info wars take place between power structures not countries. It’s the US power structure, not the US itself, that currently has a side in this war. Info wars are, by their very nature, civil wars between groups of citizens that live under the aegis of a given information control structure. One side wishes to conserve it, while the other wishes to change it."

In other words, it's a class war, with "class" defined by wealth measured not in terms of money but in terms of information.

In my prior analysis, I suggested that part of Assange's strategy may actually be to provoke the powers that be to tighten their security. This suggestion was based on Assange's own writings, in which he describes organizations such as governments as computational systems and proposes that, when their secrecy is threatened, they tend to try to tighten their security, throttling down the flow of information internally as well as externally. In that event, as a result of this throttling down, the system becomes "dumber," since those within it become less able or willing to share all the info and ideas needed in order for the regime to act as effectively in its own behalf as it otherwise could. Provoking such regimes to tighten their security should therefore weaken them and hasten their downfall or reform. If this is in fact part of Assange's strategy, the "throttling down" seems to be proceeding like clockwork.

(One might infer that the more corrupt the organization, the more secrets it needs to keep, the more throttling down required, the dumber it becomes. If the corruption gets bad enough, the regime must either get so dumb, or its corruption become so open a secret, then the regime will no longer be able to rely solely on secrecy to maintain itself but must resort to brute force.)

The P.R. War

As I've also suggested, Assange's insight into the cost of tightened secrecy to organizational I.Q. sheds new light on why the inventor of "public relations," Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, was such a godsend to the the powerful – because p.r./propaganda help them manipulate populations through their basic instincts and emotions, rather than through secrecy.

To fully grasp the situation, one has to understand the kind of p.r. being used. We're not just talking about packaging, or looking at the bright side of bad news; and we're not just talking about any old lies. We're talking about techniques designed to reach deep into the most primitive parts of our psyches and stimulate our most basic, powerful instincts – fear, anger, greed, and lust – in ways such that our higher faculties are completely bypassed (see Adam Curtis's excellent Century of the Self, here or here).

When this kind of p.r. is deployed successfully, the truth simply no longer matters. Thus, e.g., revelations in recent years of US propaganda illegally directed at its own citizens (see here and here) have had little effect.

It's clear from Assange's speech above that he recognizes that it's not just info that counts; it's also the art. The initial, non-trivial challenges faced by Wikileaks are to get the information while ensuring the confidentiality of leakers, to verify it, redact it, and get it published. But the next, no-less-vital challenge is – to edit one of Assange's phrases into another – "turning it into an emotionally impactful story." Wikileaks needs not just potential leakers and fellow journalists and publishers, therefore, but also literary and other artists.

For some time, I've had a few quotations have been bouncing around in my head:

I am constantly haunted by a quote from Harry Overstreet, who wrote the following in his 1925 groundbreaking study, Influencing Human Behavior: "Giving people the facts as a strategy of influence" has been a failure, "an enterprise fraught with a surprising amount of disappointment."
– David DeGraw, "Wall Street's Pentagon Papers," Global Research [I haven't located the text referred to online]

Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity.
attributed to Marshall McLuhan
And this:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.". . . "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
The source of the term is a quotation in an October 17, 2004, The New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush (later attributed to Karl Rove) . . . .
From Wikipedia's entry on the phrase, "Reality-Based Community." (Emphasis in the foregoing quotations supplied.)
So part of the challenge for Wikileaks is that this is not just an infowar; it is also a p.r. war. Because, among other reasons, theoretically, within a sufficiently powerful and immersive p.r. environment, efforts such as Wikileaks' to publish truth might simply be rendered moot.

And not just in the sense that most people might no longer care about the truth. But it would also be the case that the regime in power, even if corrupt, would need no longer be so concerned with secrecy. It would have to invest some of its resources in creating and propagating p.r.; but it would not have to reduce the flow of information internally or externally – meaning that it wouldn't have to make itself dumber, and thus needn't hasten its own demise.

(Again, one might infer that if the corruption got bad enough, the regime might need to use brute force to maintain itself. But it would seem that the combination of a moderate level of secrecy with a lot of p.r. might enable a regime to maintain itself longer while engaging in a higher level of corruption than might be possible if it relied on either secrecy or p.r. alone, without relying too heavily on brute force. {Not to mention the fact that since the regime now knows everything about us, it's well-prepared to take out any troublemakers.})

Post-Reality

The onslaught of p.r. aimed at neutralizing the threats posed by Wikileaks and Assange has been extraordinary, even in our p.r.-saturated times.

It's interesting to speculate about what it is that prompted the oligarchs to bring out the big guns against Wikileaks and Assange. Was it the content of the US State Dept. cables? Was it that material leaked from within a major US bank is expected to be published next? Or was it the fact that the info is now being reported not just by a lone, rebel website but by the great newspapers of the world?

Because it was when Wikileaked stories covered half the front page of The NYT that citizens began to sit up and pay attention.

But The NYT isn't exactly independent from the powers that be. What if sufficient numbers of people won't listen to the truth unless it comes through outlets like The NYT? What if The NYT et al. refuse to continue to publish it (as it's done so often before)? Are we about to find out that we are, in fact, living in a post-reality world?

Wikileaks also faces financial and infrastructure challenges – a variety of brute force.

To those who predict the internet and hackers will save Wikileaks and us, I can only say, don't be so confident that you fail to do all you can to help.

December 28, 2010

Wikileaks Update 2010-12-18: Greenwald v. Wired, Infowar as Civil War, WL Copycats, & More

I've updated "The Case for Wikileaks" here. It lays out the arguments and includes lots of links to sources and resources; please use and share it.

Glenn Greenwald at Salon has been pounding on Wired. US Army PFC Bradley Manning is the accused leaker of the cables to WL, allegedly having outed himself to Adrian Lamo, who turned him in. Lamo is a convicted hacker and just two weeks earlier had been released from involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. "For more than six months, Wired's Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen has possessed – but refuses to publish – the key evidence [i.e., the complete internet chat logs between Manning and Lamo] in one of the year's most significant political stories." Meanwhile, Lamo has continued to talk, and his descriptions have contained certain inconsistencies, as shown in analyses by Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake. Poulsen's continued refusal to publish the complete chat logs, Greenwald writes, "has long ago left the realm of mere journalistic failure and stands as one of the most egregious examples of active truth-hiding by a 'journalist' I've ever seen." Most of FDL's analyses and other resources can be found here. (UPDATE: Poulsen and Wired's editor, Evan Hansen, respond here, both attacking Greenwald in return. In addition, Hansen suggests they've held back the full logs because they contain Manning's non-relevant, "sensitive personal information," and Poulsen says the stories published in Wired have already "either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking.")

(The Hired and Apocaleaks Now images are from the right hon. exiledsurfer, whose works all reward attention.)

At some point one has to wonder, is the US holding Manning in solitary just because they're trying to make him talk, or also because they need to keep him from talking while the US spreads its own disinfo?

There's a great piece by Robin Bloor on the big picture, "Wikileaks: This Is Just The Beginning," comparing the current situation to the conflict between Pope Leo X and Martin Luther, which she says arose from the invention of the Gutenberg press. I disagree on a few of her points but think she nails one important aspect of the situation: "it’s a mistake to see the US government as a specific side in this war. This is an info war and info wars take place between power structures not countries. It’s the US power structure, not the US itself, that currently has a side in this war. Info wars are, by their very nature, civil wars between groups of citizens that live under the aegis of a given information control structure. One side wishes to conserve it, while the other wishes to change it." The whole article's well worth reading, including her list of virtual infrastructure needs highlighted by developments in the current conflict.

Great essay by Robert Meerpol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg:

I view the Espionage Act of 1917 as a lifelong nemesis. My parents were charged, tried and ultimately executed after being indicted for Conspiracy to Commit Espionage under that act.

The 1917 Act has a notorious history. It originally served to squelch opposition to World War I. It criminalized criticism of the war effort, and sent hundreds of dissenters to jail just for voicing their opinions. It transformed dissent into treason.

Many who attacked the law noted that the framers of the Constitution had specifically limited what constituted treason by writing it into the Constituton: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort” (Article III, section 3). The framers felt this narrow definition was necessary to prevent treason from becoming what some called “the weapon of a political faction.” Furthermore, in their discussions at the Constitutional Convention they agreed that spoken opposition was protected by the First Amendment and could never be considered treason.

It appears obvious that the Espionage Act is unconstitutional because it does exactly what the Constitution prohibits. . . . To this day, with a few notable exceptions that include my parents’ case, it has been a dormant sword of Damocles, awaiting the right political moment and an authoritarian Supreme Court to spring to life and slash at dissenters.
More at the link.

Here's the script for a fascinating speech by Rop Gonggri at the 27th Chaos Communication Congress of hackers, referring to his contacts with Wikileaks: "WikiLeaks could well come out victorious in a new generational conflict, mentioned in the same line with the suffragettes and the Vietnam protesters. But as it stands today, my friend Julian is potentially facing prison time or even assassination for what essentially amounts to practicing journalism." He also notes, "[t]here’s a new American proposal to make all providers of any kind of online service provide the authorities with cleartext of everything that happens." Gonggri's main focus in recent years has been electronic voting machines around the world; specifically, demonstrating how easily they can be hacked. (As I've feared, easily-manipulated machines are already in use in many countries.)

In case you hadn't heard, the CIA has launched a "Wikileaks Task Force," a.k.a. W.T.F.; more here.

The NYT has published an op-ed, "Banks and Wikileaks," making a point similar to the one I raised eight days earlier under the heading, "Payment Process Usurps Due Process" – that the payment processing services performed by banks are in the nature of an essential public utility, and banks should not be allowed to financially strangle individuals or enterprises just because they're exposing embarrassing truths.

Indeed, it should be obvious by now that there are a number of essential services in the nature of public utilities that should not be entrusted entirely to private control. The trend, however, has been in the opposite direction; i.e., to privatize more and more. To the extent that trend prevails, there will be nothing to stop people like Dick Cheney from acquiring control of our financial system, prisons, roads, military, media, elections, schools, social networks, internet, etc., and running them like Halliburton for their own personal benefit and that of their buddies, at the expense and to the detriment of the rest of us.

The Anons targeted Bank of America yesterday (because of its refusal to process payments to WL), achieving intermittent outages; I haven't checked on that situation today.

A highly-plausible explanation for Amazon's decision to terminate service to WL: per Amazon, "the U.S. federal government continues to be one of our fastest growing customer segments," utilizing Amazon's web services for its Recovery Accountability and Transparency website. More here.

Here's an article about other, WL-like facilities now starting up. According to Robin Bloor (see above), at last count there were six such sites: BalkanLeaks in the Balkans, BrusselsLeaks in Belgium, Indoleaks in Indonesia, Rospil in Russia, Tunileaks in Tunisia, and OpenLeaks, in addition to WL itself. More info about OpenLeaks at techPresident. I.m.h.o., the more, the merrier. (UPDATE: Here's an updated list of copycat sites. Note, these sites vary widely w.r.t. what they do, including what kind of security they afford leakers, what they publish, how they publish, what language they publish in, etc.
  1. BalkanLeaks
  2. BrusselsLeaks (Belgium)
  3. Cryptome (existed before Wikilekas)
  4. Der Western Recherche (Germany)
  5. Indoleaks (Indonesia)
  6. Israelileaks
  7. PirateLeaks (Czech Republic)
  8. Rospil (Russia)
  9. Tunileaks (Tunisia; but this just looks like a site re- cables released by WL)
  10. Opennu.nl (Netherlands)
  11. OpenLeaks
  12. TradeLeaks
  13. ScienceLeaks
  14. Wikispooks)
UPDATE: A Croation version is also in the works.

Here's an article re- WL from Columbia Journalism Review:
[I]t’s quite difficult to see significant legal differences between what WikiLeaks has done and what newspaper, television, and magazine reporters do all the time. . . . The classification system has been established by our democratically elected officials to obscure the hand of the state. Sometimes it rightly keeps us safe, and sometimes it wrongly keeps us in the dark. . . . But the fundamental problem is that the government cannot be trusted to make these decisions for themselves. . . . [T]here’s nothing to say that every future iteration of something like WikiLeaks would [deal with leaked material as responsibly as WL has]. It’s a frightening prospect.

But the idea that the solution to this potential problem lies in uprooting freedom of speech, and the status quo that has allowed the press to be a persistent, comprehensive watchdog of the national security state is frightening, too.
"Wikidrips": per Greg Mitchell at The Nation, The NYT's publications re- the cables have dried to a trickle, and it's been even longer since the gray lady published anything not already published elsewhere. I note that WL did not bother including The NYT among the original, privileged recipients – it was The Guardian that shared; but it's coverage, too, has dwindled. Today Mitchell notes that, although The Guardian had a you-ask, we-search feature on their site, inviting readers to suggest terms for searching the trove of cables, it discontinued the feature six days ago.

Just learned that all the days of Mitchell's "Blogging the Wikileaks" can be found here.

December 27, 2010

Lightening X-Rayed

Scientists recently built a way to take photos fast enough to shoot lightening reliably, enabling them to capture it with x-ray photography for the first time.

"The pictures suggest a lightning bolt carries all its x-ray radiation in its tip." Re- the cool-looking, straight green flame: "[t]he lightning bolts were triggered by launching small rockets into the thunderstorms. . . . The rockets trailed wires behind them to direct the lightning through the camera's field of view."

More at National Geographic.


December 24, 2010

Wikileaks UPDATES 2010-12-24: Lynching the Messenger; Assange-Speak

Another great piece from Glenn Greenwald at Salon, observing,

As revealing as the disclosures themselves are, the reactions to them have been equally revealing. The vast bulk of the outrage has been devoted not to the crimes that have been exposed but rather to those who exposed them. . . . A consensus quickly emerged in the political and media class that they are Evil Villains who must be severely punished, while those responsible for the acts they revealed are guilty of nothing. That reaction has not been weakened at all even by the Pentagon's own admission that, in stark contrast to its own actions, there is no evidence -- zero -- that any of WikiLeaks' actions has caused even a single death. Meanwhile, the American establishment media -- even in the face of all these revelations -- continues to insist on the contradictory, Orwellian platitudes that (a) there is Nothing New™ in anything disclosed by WikiLeaks and (b) WikiLeaks has done Grave Harm to American National Security™ through its disclosures.

It's unsurprising that political leaders would want to convince people that the true criminals are those who expose acts of high-level political corruption and criminality, rather than those who perpetrate them. Every political leader would love for that self-serving piety to take hold. But what's startling is how many citizens and, especially, "journalists" now vehemently believe that as well.
[I.e., let's lynch the messenger.] Greenwald concludes with a partial list of crimes revealed by Wikileaks in 2010.

On a more hopeful note, here are a few quotes from speeches or interviews of Julian Assange:

Which country is suffering from too much freedom of speech? Name it. Is there one? (source)

“The aim of Wikileaks is to achieve just reform around the world and do it through the mechanism of transparency.
[O]rganizations that have material and want to conceal it are giving off a signal that they believe there will be reform if that material is released.
So we can do things very efficiently by selectively trying to get that material and stick that into the public intellectual record where it can be used by everyone to inform their decisions.” (source)

What does censorship reveal? It reveals fear. (source)

"[S]ecret planning is secret usually for a reason, because if it’s abusive it is opposed.
It is our task to find secret abuse plans and expose them where they can be opposed before they’re implemented. Because if they’re exposed by the implementation – by people suffering from that abuse – then the abuse has already occurred and it’s too late. (source)

It is impossible to correct abuses unless we know that they’re going on. (source)

“[W]e in the West have deluded ourselves into believing that we actually have a truly free press. We don’t. And we can see that in the difference between what Wikileaks does and what the rest of the press does. (source)

"And now we see that the function of censorship has also been privatized.
And what that means is that litigious billionaires and big companies are able to effectively prevent certain things [from] appearing in public.
Or reduce the number of those things appearing in public by using the legal system or by using patronage networks and economic flows to make it unprofitable to talk about certain things most of the time.” (source)

“We know for sure that one big media company in the US had the ‘Collateral Murder’ video for years and did not release it. (source)

"In the UK right now there are 300 secret gag orders. Those are gag orders that not only prevent the press from reporting corruption and abuse, they prevent the press from reporting [that] the press has been gagged. (source)

"[M]ost information that comes to you is targeted at you. It is designed in some small way to manipulate you, so it is a deviation from the truth.
But the internal documents of major corporations and intelligence agencies and governments are designed for their internal use. . . . They’re not designed to manipulate you. And because of that difference in perceived audience you can start to see how major organizations work, and it’s not how people think they work; it’s something different.
And if we are to produce a more civilized society, a more just society, it has to be based upon the truth. Because judgements which are not based upon the truth can only lead to outcomes which are themselves false. (source)

“[T]he basic structural relationships in highly developed Western countries are fiscal, they’re not political. (source)

"I think fiscal relationships have been engineered in such a way that they’re complex and opaque. . . . How can people become angry with information that’s that complex? It’s hard. You have to work a lot harder as a journalist to turn that into an emotionally impactful story. So that’s a kind of tax on powerful revelation.” (source)

If tribunals try to hide their sources of funding then at the very outset we have to be suspicious about their conclusions. (source)

“In this broader framework of what we do it is to try and build an historical record, an intellectual record, of how civilization actually works in practice. (source)
More at Beginning.

And one from Wikileaks: "Sarah Palin says Julian should be hunted down like Osama bin Laden--so he should be safe for at least a decade." (see www.twitter.com/wikileaks/statuses/11620256778821632 )

December 23, 2010

Wikileaks UPDATES (2010-12-23): More Re- Manning, Lamo, Moore, & More

A couple of good tweets from the last 24 hrs.:

@GregMitch: I'm live-blogging WikiLeaks news & views again, on day 25 of "Greg Mitchell Held Hostage."

and

@ggreenwald: Simultaneously advocating government transparency and individual privacy isn't hypocritical or inconsistent; it's a key for basic liberty.

For those who prefer their news re- what WL has brought us in cartoon form, The 12 Days of Wikileaks provides a partial list and is accompanied by a transcript with links to the stories mentioned.

The EFF has posted a frightening reminder that the drive to throttle WL continues and of the ease with which the powerful can silence dissidents: "Wikileaks Mirror Taken Down: Host Buckles Under Demands from Upstream Provider." SiteGround required removal of the WL files on the user's site as a condition to reinstatement of his account because, it said, "a future DDOS attack might violate its terms of use" (emphasis supplied). Of course, any such attack would most likely be mounted by the US government or others embarrassed by WL's publications. EFF notes, "your speech online is only as free as [your] weakest intermediary"; and "[i]f intermediaries are willing to use the potential for future DDOS attacks as a reason to cut off users, they can cut off anyone for anything."

Excellent investigation of the conditions under which the Army private suspected of leaking the cables to WL is being held, at Firedoglake. The United Nations' top anti-torture envoy is now looking into a complaint that Manning is being mistreated; more at AP. FDL also has a great Manning-Wikileaks timeline. UPDATE: As of 2010-12-28, inconsistencies in Adrian Lamo's story about his contacts with Manning, unearthed through some great analysis at FDL, have continued to multiply; meanwhile, Wired's Kevin Poulsen continues to refuse to release the full texts of Lamo's internet chats with Manning. FDL has now also added a compilation of key Manning-related articles, here.

From The Guardian re- revelations of State Dept. preoccupation with screenings of Michael Moore's films in other countries:

After a leaked cable from US diplomats in Havana falsely claimed Cuba had banned Moore's documentary Sicko – when in fact it was shown on state television – another cable reveals US officials flying into a panic after hearing a rumour that a New Zealand cabinet minister was hosting a screening of Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11. . . . the classified cable from the US embassy in Wellington in 2003 . . . breathlessly report[s] a series of calls to the New Zealand prime minister's office . . . .
More at the foregoing link and at MichaelMoore.com.

"According to Domain Name Wire, the [Bank of America] has been aggressively registering domain names including its board of directors' and senior executives' names followed by 'sucks' and 'blows.' For example, the company registered a number of domains for CEO Brian Moynihan: BrianMoynihanBlows.com, BrianMoynihanSucks.com, BrianTMoynihanBlows.com, and BrianTMoynihanSucks.com." Emphasis supplied; more here. Sounds like bank regulators should take a closer look, regardless of what WL may or may not be preparing to release.

WaPo reports that the CIA has launched a task force "to examine whether the latest release of [US Embassy Cables by WL] might affect the agency's foreign relationships or operations":
Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it's mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F.

* * * * *
To some agency veterans, WikiLeaks has vindicated the CIA's long-standing aversion to sharing secrets with other government agencies, a posture that came under sharp criticism after it was identified as a factor that contributed to the nation's failure to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Emphasis supplied; more at the link. Evidently, those intelligence agency veterans haven't actually bothered to read Assange's own writings.

Wikileaks plans to release a cache of documents concerning Israel within the next six months. More here.

Statement from the U.N. on WL here. It reiterates principles re- freedom of expression and access to info possessed by public officials vs. secrecy where there's a risk of substantial harm and journalistic responsibility, without making any factual findings or reaching any conclusions re- particular cases.

Excellent editorial at El Pais regarding its decision to publish info from the cables. Here are a few quotes; but the whole thing's well worthwhile:
We must not lose sight of the fact that the important thing about the WikiLeaks revelations are the revelations themselves . . . .

* * * * *
I believe that the global interest sparked by the WikiLeaks papers is mainly due to the simple but very powerful fact that they conclusively reveal the extent to which politicians in the advanced Western democracies have been lying to their citizens.

* * * * *
Tens of thousands of soldiers are fighting a war in Afghanistan that their respective leaders know is not winnable. Tens of thousands of soldiers are shoring up a government known around the world to be corrupt, but which is tolerated by those who sent the soldiers there in the first place. The WikiLeaks cables show that none of the Western powers believes that Afghanistan can become a credible nation in the medium term, and much less become a viable democracy . . . .

* * * * *
Even the least attentive observer cannot fail to be shocked by the maneuvers to shut down three investigations by the High Court that affected the United States . . . . It was equally aggressive in trying to derail Spanish judicial inquiries into torture at Guant√°namo, the CIA's kidnapping of suspected Islamic militants, and the killing by US troops in Iraq of a Spanish cameraman in 2003. . . . We have also seen how US diplomats in Berlin warned the German government of the serious consequences of bringing charges against CIA agents accused of kidnapping Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who was abducted and taken to Afghanistan where he was tortured. El-Masri was then dumped in Albania when it was realized they had the wrong man. Kidnapping and torture are serious crimes. For US diplomats to pressure an ally to prevent suspects from being investigated is unacceptable, and trashes the idea that those diplomats are just doing their job.

* * * * *
I am aware that publishing this information contrary to the wishes of my government has involved certain risks. But I am also aware that by publishing this detailed account of what our governments get up to in our name has made a contribution to the empowering of voters, and will hopefully strengthen their will to improve our democracy.

* * * * *
Our obligations definitely do not . . . include protecting governments and the powerful in general from embarrassing revelations.

Emphasis supplied; more at the link.

December 22, 2010

"Free" at the New Museum

Wish I could see it (through 2010-01-22):

“Free” explores how the internet has fundamentally changed our landscape of information and our notion of public space. Our shared space has expanded beyond streets and schools to more distributed forms of collectivity. What constitutes this expanded public is not only greater social connectedness but a highly visual, hybrid commons of information. As the artist Seth Price wrote in his essay “Dispersion,” which serves as a touchstone for this exhibition and is featured here within a large-scale sculptural Essay with Knots: “Collective experience is now based on simultaneous private experiences, distributed across the field of media culture, knit together by ongoing debate, publicity, promotion, and discussion. Publicness today has as much to do with sites of production and reproduction as it does with any supposed physical commons, so a popular album could be regarded as a more successful instance of public art than a monument tucked away in an urban plaza.”

“Free” takes its name from free culture, a social movement that acknowledges the revolution the internet has caused in industries like music and print publishing, and argues that it be dealt with as an opportunity for greater sharing and distribution of knowledge, rather than a threat. “Free” is based in this commitment to openness — but not directly about the movement itself. Rather, it explores how artists are engaging with the complex freedoms of a newly expanded public space; how they are examining the possibilities and dilemmas enabled by broader availability and circulation of digital material, rooting out information that is missing or hidden in an ostensibly more transparent society, and locating new contexts for art to take place.

Instead of exploring the internet’s formal properties — code and connectivity among them — “Free” explores its broader influence as a territory populated and fought over by individuals, government, and corporations, as a tool and as a cultural catalyst. The artists included here span various disciplines: photography, sculpture, video, and installation, among others. They emerge from different modes of artistic practice, and are connected through an expansive conversation around the show’s themes. The exhibition catalogue will take the form of an active website — newmuseum.org/free — including descriptions of each artwork in the exhibition, biographical details on the artists, as well as essays and a blog.

“Free” is curated by Lauren Cornell, Executive Director of Rhizome and Adjunct Curator of the New Museum.

December 20, 2010

Wikileaks UPDATES (2010-12-20): Roving Hands, Etc.

Not that kind . . . Karl Rove has been employed by the Swedish Prime Minister for the last two years and is believed to have influenced the country's handling of the allegations against Assange. More at HuffPo.

Apple has reportedly pulled a Wikileaks app from the iTunes store. The app gave users access to the cables and other docs on the WikiLeaks site and also provided a live feed from the wikileaks Twitter account. The app is still available for the Android.

Cablegate: the Game makes a game of searching the cables, awarding points for reading, tagging and summarizing finds.

Glenn Greenwald at Salon discusses The NYT's decision to publish an article today re- high-level planning for imminent, covert military action by the US in Pakistan – a kind of info that's usually top-secret and that Wikileaks has never published. (The info for the article was not obtained from Wikileaks but through the reporters' own investigation.) Greenwald argues The NYT was right to publish the info, since (among other reasons) "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, [the reporters] 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." He of course proceeds to call out for their hypocrisy those who call Wikileaks culpable while attempting to distinguish The NYT – including Visa, MasterCard, Paypal, the Times' web hosting company and the various banks who have cut off Wikileaks.

The BBC's published the transcript of a lengthy interview with Assange. At least 80% of the interview is spent hounding Assange for his alleged personal shortcomings; but if that's what you're interested in, it's the best Q & A I've seen.

Here's another interesting documentary on YouTube: Julian Assange – a Wanted Man, aired shortly before Wikileaks' publication of the Afghan War docments leak in July , 2010.

Alan Greenspan Confirms: Crisis Caused by Fraud by Counterparties

Note, he's not talking about fraud by the little guys; he's talking about fraud by "counterparties" – the people packaging and selling securitized mortgages and derivatives. This is from Nov. 9 of this year; too bad Greenspan didn't get clarity on this problem (or others) sooner.

Thanks to Karl Denninger's Market Ticker, one of few rational observers of economic news these days.


Speaking of the Media . . .


Pilger on Propaganda in the Media

John Pilger is a journalist and documentary maker who's twice won Britain's Journalist of the Year Award and whose docs have received academy awards in Britain and the US. This is the first of 7 segments, all currently available on YouTube.



Pilger was relatively early in identifying Obama as a "corporate marketing creation."

December 19, 2010

Fun; and Circuitous Mental Profit re- Wikileaks

When I was 14, my parents couldn't stand that my chores (making my bed, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, dusting, and vacuuming, taking out the trash, mowing and trimming our thick, 2/3-acre lawn using a heavy, non-self-propelled mower and hand shears, re-painting all the shutters on the house plus a picnic table, bench, etc.) did not completely take up all my free time; and I was too young to be legally, gainfully employed. So they enrolled me in a typing course, and for the duration, I rode my bike to class each week day.

The ride was 4 miles each way and included an extremely large hill. The area had been under a glacier, which might have scraped the land flat on its way in but left gigantic mounds when it melted. I never made it up this one without having to walk my bike up the last 10 - 20 yards.

I managed not to resist learning to type entirely; but engraved more deeply on my mind was an idea: that "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country."

We were told that typing those particular letters in that particular order involved the most difficult typing movements, so we practiced it, to improve our agility and speed. The sentiment was probably also thought helpful as an inspiration to young citizens.

Now, of course, we're just urged to shop.

Back then, my country certainly needed help, but I was too young and oblivious to feel personally called. But on some level, I understood that the time might come.

Re- the video below, there's a beyond-urgent need for Julian's stylist; but it's worth the visual torture for the info/ideas – it's jam-packed (pardon the pun) – and for the spoof on Alex Jones, plus lines such as "Obama must get firm grip on Wikitits."



If you appreciated the sentiment near the end, you may also like:

Let’s do something, while we have the chance! It’s not every day that we are needed. . . . Let us make the most of it before it is too late!
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1949; emphasis supplied)
Or as Hamlet said, "the readiness is all."

This evening when I went out with friends, I brought 100 copies of this flyer with me. I returned home with about 25% of them. About 80% of the people I'd offered them to seemed glad to have them.

Here's another idea. Let's slip the word, "Wikileaks" into our everyday conversation, for no reason, without explanation, and on a regular basis.

More fun: Assange on The Colbert Report last spring.

"After Hours with George Quartz"

At CentralTrak last night; loved it. Impossible to do it justice in few words, but call it the Twilight Zone of talk shows. I think they really were taping it, and hope to see the results. You should definitely try to catch it if/when it returns.

More visuals here.

UPDATE: Edited "tv" taped excerpts from this performance can now be viewed on "Quartz"'s vimeo channel.

December 18, 2010

"Unsilent Night" and "Operation Paperstorm"

There'll be what sounds like a cool event in downtown Dallas, TX TONIGHT, Unsilent Night.

It's basically a performance that you can participate in, conceived by artist Phil Kline. The event has been held annually in New York City since 1992. As many as 1,500 eager partakers gather for a contemplative procession armed with boomboxes playing nothing more than the beautiful, mysterious sounds of echoing bells. The crowd slowly strolls along a designated route, drifting peacefully through a cloud of holiday sound, as each person experiences the event from their own perspective. Beginning in 2009, Dallas has joined 24 other cities around the globe who invite their citizens to come together and create this intriguing and inspiring performance art experience.

Unsilent Night is free and will be held regardless of the weather. It's recommended to arrive at least 30 minutes before the departure time of 7PM for the route through downtown Dallas and/or the 8:30 PM departure time for the route through the Arts District.

Gather at DART Rail's Akard Station, where instructions will be given before each walk begins. People are encouraged to bring one or more boomboxes or similar devices with them to broaden the scope of the experience. However, with or without a boombox, all are invited to participate in the experience.

You can download the soundtracks and find more info at www.UnsilentNightDallas.com.

And there's something else going on today: Operation Paperstorm. It's a protest in which people are distributing printed, paper info to help raise awareness of the facts surrounding the unfolding Wikileaks story (see links in sidebar at left, or info here).

Unsilent Night might be an excellent time to show your support of Wikileaks' unsilence. If that doesn't work for you, just do it some time soon.

You can download a flyer here (to be printed on legal-size paper); or see here for additional options.

December 17, 2010

Wikileaks UPDATES (2010-12-17): The Gritty Nitty; Payment Process Usurps Due Process; Things You Can Do; Etc.

Wikilaugh: "Julian Assange to Launch Social Network for Diplomats, Twofacebook," from the excellent Borowitz Report. "Saying that he hopes to build the site into a 'portal of deceit,' Mr. Assange said, 'This will be a must-visit destination on the Internet for sworn enemies to friend each other.'"

Let's get it over with: The Guardian has a detailed account of new info re- the allegations against Assange of sexual misconduct.

The confusion as to who really chose to appeal Assange's release apparently flows from the fact that it was done in the Swedes' name, but decided upon by the Brits; see Head of Legal (a blog by a British barrister [trial lawyer] who worked for the UK for some years). The comments at the foregoing link are interesting and worrisome.

Concerns continue regarding the Wikileaks site now back up at its original URL: "the internet security firm Spamhaus yesterday warned that the site's new incarnation could be riddled with malware run by 'Russian cybercriminals.' WikiLeaks.org redirects users to a mirror site – mirror.wikileaks.info – which sits within an IP range hosted by the Russian firm Webalta." See The Guardian – although there are also concerns that these concerns could be part of a disinformation campaign. Best to go to a mirror site such as this one, instead.

Also today, Bank of America announced it will no longer process payments for Wikileaks, and I've seen a report indicating that one or more other banks may join it. (Fortunately, I moved my accounts to a credit union last year.)

Has due process become obsolete, since the oligarchs can execute you financially whenever they don't like what you're doing?

Devastating essay by Mark Weisbrot in The Guardian:

The polarisation of the debate around WikiLeaks is pretty simple, really. Of all the governments in the world, the United States government is the greatest threat to world peace and security today. This is obvious to anyone who looks at the facts with a modicum of objectivity. The Iraq war has claimed certainly hundreds of thousands, and, most likely, more than a million lives. It was completely unnecessary and unjustifiable, and based on lies. Now, Washington is moving toward a military confrontation with Iran.

As Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, pointed out in an interview recently, in the preparation for a war with Iran, we are at about the level of 1998 in the buildup to the Iraq war.

On this basis, even ignoring the tremendous harm that Washington causes to developing countries in such areas as economic development (through such institutions as the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation), or climate change, it is clear that any information which sheds light on US "diplomacy" is more than useful. It has the potential to help save millions of human lives.

You either get this or you don't. Brazil's president Lula da Silva, who earned Washington's displeasure last May when he tried to help defuse the confrontation with Iran, gets it. That's why he defended and declared his "solidarity" with embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, even though the leaked cables were not pleasant reading for his own government.
The rest of the piece just gets better.

There's more worthwhile news today than I have time to report, but Greg Mitchell is continuing to do a great job blogging it; today's entries are here.

If you'd like to show support for Wikileaks or Assange, here are some THINGS YOU CAN DO:
  • Discuss the events and issues with your friends. (See the left sidebar for links to more on the facts and issues, or click here.)
  • Organize a gathering to watch/discuss the Swedish documentary and other video (there's all kinds of stuff online, if you can hook your computer up to a tv or large screen).
  • Boycott Amazon, Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Bank of America and any other companies refusing to serve Wikileaks. Don't keep any money with them, buy anything from them, or use them to pay for anything. (Re- credit cards, most places accept Discover or American Express as alternatives; and Discover has the best cash-back program I'm aware of. Re- banking, you'll probably get much better service and rates from a credit union anyway. You can find ratings and other info re- local credit unions at Bankrate.com.)
  • Donate to Wikileaks or to Assange's defense fund (and don't use Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, or Bank of America to do it). You can also use Flattr.
  • Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper and other media outlets, your governmental representatives, Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Bank of America, and others.
  • Help search the cables for significant information (see the left side bar for online facilities such as cablefinder or dazzlepod that offer various ways to do this easily).
  • Organize or participate in one or more protests (again, see the left sidebar for info/resources).
  • Download and share this flyer with info in support of Wikileaks.