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The WikiLeaks War – The End?

In December of 2010 and January of 2011, I had a series of posts with this title, so I’m using it again now, after the plea deal that led to Julian Assange’s release seems to end the saga, suddenly and with a whimper. Of course, it remains to be seen what will happen to him from now on, not because I’d think that taking him out is still something that’s formally taken into consideration at high levels, but to some extent because there may be some individuals who’d still be sufficiently determined to retaliate on their own and mainly because his health, both physical and mental, has been deteriorating and readjusting to a “normal” life, and to family life, will certainly prove difficult in itself.
On the other hand, the sad truth is that the deal has bad consequences for press freedom, since pleading guilty of espionage for acts of journalism, and doing so in the United States, sends a chilling message throughout the world. So it might be a typical compromise when it comes to the two parties involved, an outcome that neither is happy with but both find less revolting than the alternatives, but it can be seen as Assange betraying the cause that he was supposed to stand for. After many increasingly difficult years and at a point when not doing so would have likely meant actually risking his life, but nevertheless doing it for his own benefit in the end.
Then again, there always was every indication that Assange, as a person, was a problem, and after he got in real trouble, whether directly related to the releases or not, he tried to use every trick to obtain some relative safety for himself all along, which puts him closer to Edward Snowden, who didn’t just end up fleeing to Russia but by now went as far as to pledge allegiance and obtain Russian citizenship, which can easily be said to be a betrayal of everything he claimed to stand for. On the other hand, you have Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, who may be considered the most notable whistleblower, especially when it comes to this entire saga, and who owned up to it, did the time in terrible conditions that clearly amounted to torture, even attempted suicide, and after being released even ended up back in prison for refusing to testify against Assange, despite having a poor opinion of him, of his leadership and influence.
Since I got to Chelsea, I just have to say that, if anyone would have been awarded the position of being the public face, the flagbearer, of whistleblowing, of free access to information, of holding authorities to account on the basis of such information, it should have been her. She acted on the basis of her principles and stood by them, showed courage and determination… And also strikes me as a much better person in general, after reading something like an interview from The Guardian that went deeper. And the fact that she has now moved past all of that doesn’t change things, quite the contrary, those who deserve such positions generally being those who don’t want them…
But the fact remains that this is another situation where that position wasn’t awarded, but taken, so Julian Assange has it, which was once again proved by the amount of media attention that this development has received. So, even if pleading guilty is different from being found guilty in the sense that it doesn’t actually set a legal precedent, the consequences of his plea deal will have a far greater impact than the sentences received by Chelsea Manning or anyone else, and the same is likely to be true for what he’ll do and what will happen to him from now on. If he will somehow leave it all behind, maybe someone else, and most preferably someone more deserving, will eventually pick up that banner and a new set of consequences will emerge from that, but until and unless that happens, this may be the end of this particular saga, but the ripples left in its wake may well turn into dangerous waves.

Written by Cavalary on June 28, 2024 at 10:11 PM in Society | 0 Comments

The WikiLeaks War – VI

Since cables have once again started being published on the site, it’s certainly time for yet another WikiLeaks update. Admittedly, you can’t say that any shocking things have happened lately that are strictly related to WikiLeaks, but a lot of things did happen, though many flew under the traditional media’s radar. Still, even that media is starting to regain interest in the issue these days, due to the latest developments, some of them not even related to Cablegate anymore, which is one more reason to get this update out of the way now, before I’ll start being flooded with more and more news. Even so, there’s a huge number of issues I need to cover, so once again expect me to jump from one to the other very quickly. Click the links for further details.

While what’s happening on the ground in those countries is beyond the scope of this post, I would like to start by pointing out Anonymous‘ attacks against sites belonging to the governments of Zimbabwe and, more notably, Tunisia, where the campaign was sustained for quite some time.
The WikiLeaks releases were the spark that ignited these fires and some things still happen as a direct result of the cables, but what’s going on now is about so much more than that and, if I may use the term, it fills me with hope to see people from all over the world help each other and fight for such causes together, especially since even more help should be on the way towards those areas. As a result of the leaks, people know more. Or, more exactly, people have the evidence they need in support of theories they were probably already aware of, but couldn’t fully verify until now. That makes them more willing and better prepared to fight, as we can all see. And, while in Europe you usually only see a few minor effects here and there, the impact has obviously been massive in the Arab world and, most encouragingly, it has made some governments actually start working for their people for a change.
Sure, everyone knows that this war is still in its early stages and any who think they have already won are only turning their backs on their very cunning enemies and setting themselves up for a resounding defeat, but there are good signs. There are finally some good signs somewhere… And, perhaps oddly enough, although they have little direct influence in “real life” affairs and pretty much never start or finish anything, only reacting to what is already happening and then relying on others to escalate the situation to the point where things may actually change, the Anonymous legion can be seen as being “responsible” for a significant portion of what’s going on, in the best sense of the term. (As a side note, I wonder if them focusing their resources on these issues has anything to do with the recent drop in spam levels.)

But now it’s time to get back to matters that are strictly related to WikiLeaks. For that purpose, we move on to the United States and see that, while Miss America recently offered one more piece of evidence regarding the intelligence of such contestants by speaking out against WikiLeaks with phrases apparently taken straight out of a brainwashing manual, the White House is trying to come up with strategies to prevent further leaks. As expected, instead of making public as much as they possibly could and ensuring that what needs to stay secret deals with operations that people would be proud of, said strategies involve figuring out who may be unhappy enough with the situation and getting rid of them before they get a chance to act. And, of course, the Republicans prioritize the WikiLeaks investigation and one of them even wants to prohibit people and companies within the US from doing business with WikiLeaks, which spells even more trouble, considering the recent election results over there. Thankfully, there is no basis for that latter demand, but who knows what they’ll come up with next…
However, the most important new development on that front is the demand for personal details from Twitter regarding people connected to WikiLeaks, which has sparked a lot of controversy and has resulted in statements from ACLU, Icelandic politicians and, of course, Anonymous, among others. But this campaign certainly doesn’t stop there, instead being a concerted effort to subdue any such “undesirables” by whatever means are available, as Jacob Appelbaum points out when describing his experience upon returning to the US. Therefore, while it’s obvious that such statements are also carefully planned in order to gain the most support, I really do believe that Julian Assange fears being sentenced to death, and I assume that the flood of murder incitement domain names directed at him does nothing to alleviate such fears.

That should be enough bad news for the moment, so let me now mention that supporters of WikiLeaks and Assange have once again made their voices heard on the streets as well, some rallies taking place on January 8th and a significantly larger number, many of them organized by Anonymous, on January 15th. While some of these rallies were obviously small affairs, some were really successful, proving that the support truly exists down there on the streets as well, despite most of the noticeable activism usually taking place on-line. And this support is very much needed, so if you think you’d want to take part in such a rally, take a look at the list and see if there are any near you. If not, you could always try to organize one yourself, if you have any skills in this area or know someone who does.

Just to prove that this concept is still spreading like wildfire, an updated list of whistleblowing sites may be required, though you are advised to use your own judgment and exercise caution when dealing with them, as some may not be what they appear. On the other hand, for those who want to make the most out of the current releases, there’s also a potentially invaluable list of advanced Cablegate resources.
As for more traditional media, Die Welt has recently also obtained access to the cables through their own means and will likely publish what and how they see fit, as they are under no agreement with WikiLeaks. That will certainly help spread the word even more, but the end result may be either good or bad, depending on how they’ll handle a task of this magnitude and what their true goals actually are. Still, considering the traditional media’s obvious issues, I’m somewhat worried when I see such developments…

Last but not least, I can’t finish this without mentioning something about the man who, if truly the one who sent all these cables to WikiLeaks, is the real hero behind it all and should be regarded as such instead of left to rot in maximum security confinement! I am, of course, talking about Bradley Manning and the kind of treatment he’s being subjected to, which has recently resulted in an open letter from Psychologists for Social Responsibility, adding yet another set of voices to those demanding at the very least fair treatment for him while he’s being detained.
Thankfully, WikiLeaks was also able to partially fulfill the pledge made to support a part of his defense costs, probably quelling certain voices claiming that they just used him and will now let him rot in prison. Sure, $15100 isn’t much and I seem to remember, from other messages released by Cryptome in the past, that their original pledge was for at least $50000, but that was made when they could still easily receive donations and, also according to certain messages I seem to remember reading on that site, as soon as the account specifically opened for donations meant to cover defense costs was frozen, Bradley’s defenders said that they couldn’t blame them in any way for not fulfilling any part of said pledge, as it simply was no longer possible under those circumstances. As I seem to remember them saying at the time that said account contained “about $31000” when it was frozen, I would be inclined to say that it was a slight exaggeration and now Bradley’s defenders were sent exactly half of the $30200 that had actually accumulated in that account by the time it was frozen, which is their fair share, as that account was meant to cover both Bradley Manning’s and Julian Assange’s legal expenses. But that’s just my opinion…

Written by Cavalary on January 18, 2011 at 9:58 PM in Society | 0 Comments

The WikiLeaks War – V

It’s about time for another WikiLeaks update. You may not believe it, since even the WikiLeaks staff seems to have taken a break for the holidays, but quite a lot of things have happened since the last one. It’s not an open war anymore, but the combatants are gathering forces and making plans. And, of course, a lot of people and organizations weigh in, especially since a year just ended. As a result, I’ll really be hopping from one thing to another in this post, likely also grouping together some issues that should be presented separately, in an attempt to cover every new development, so you are strongly encouraged to read the articles I’ll link to in order to get more details.

To start with what’s happening on the Internet, WL Central has posted an updated list of whistleblowing sites and WikiLeaks-related games, though they point out that neither they nor WikiLeaks endorse any of them and at least a few may well be fakes, including attempts by intelligence agencies to recapture leaked material or persuade would-be whistleblowers to reveal themselves to them and therefore get caught. Yet they didn’t stop there, posting links to even more sites shortly afterwards, not to mention showcasing the Internet’s power to keep something interesting and in the public’s eye.
On the other hand, when it comes to what’s left of the front lines of the war, Bank of America did end up under attack, as expected, but so did Anonymous. Yet what’s more relevant is that the FBI is cracking down on Anonymous as a direct result of PayPal’s actions, which makes PayPal and its parent company eBay the top corporate “bad guys”. (You may notice that I didn’t even link to either of those sites.) Now there is a new weapon being developed to aid those who choose to lead the on-line battle against just such corporate “bad guys”, but its power and potential seem far too hard to control and I fear what may happen if it’ll end up being used on a large scale.

But let’s take a break and look back, as many have done at the end of the year, choosing to award various honors to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Actually, the honors were mainly awarded to Assange, since the focus tends to be on people instead of organizations, WikiLeaks as a whole only being named top newsmaker of 2010 by Al Jazeera, which I’m not even sure is exactly something to brag about…
Personally, I really can’t stand the way Julian Assange speaks. It’s not as much about what he says, though there are obvious problems there as well, but about the way in which he says it, which I find quite infuriating. And, based on all I’ve gathered about him as a person, he seems to be quite an asshole… But you don’t have to like someone as a person in any way in order to support what they’re doing, and this particular asshole is doing something that really needs to be done, so he deserves all the support he can get at the moment. And that I assume to be the rationale behind the latest bunch of honors awarded to him, such as Readers’ Person of the Year from The Nation, Readers’ Most Intriguing Person of 2010 from CNN.com, top newsmaker of the year according to Postmedia editors and canada.com and even the “Free Dacia” award from Romanian on-line publication Cotidianul, “for his struggle to defend the freedom of the press and democratic values“. Yet of course there are always some who decide to go the other way, perhaps the weirdest recent example being the fact that Peruvian shamans have sentenced Assange to “spiritual punishment”.
Under these circumstances, there’s no surprise that the deals he signed for his autobiography are expected to be worth over one million pounds. In fact, that amount could even appear rather low, considering how many people are likely to want to read that book. Then again, if I’m to assume that his writing is not significantly different from his speaking, many of those who would be interested in reading something about him may be far less keen on reading something actually written by him.

Moving on to what traditional media actually does together with and in support of the whistleblowing site, shortly after Russian weekly Novaya Gazeta announced its partnership with WikiLeaks, El País editor Javier Moreno explained at length why did he choose to publish the cables, making it very obvious that the major Spanish daily is fully committed to seeing this operation through despite the associated risks. I can only hope that the other publications are just as committed and that even more will join in as time passes.

On the other side of the pond, Amazon’s and Apple’s contracts with the government are being exposed and generally considered to be the reason why these companies have so swiftly distanced themselves from WikiLeaks. At the same time, things look unsurprisingly grim at the highest levels, as the federal government is demanding a firewall meant to block employees from accessing WikiLeaks documents regardless of their source and, in an obviously related story, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is reported to have been blocked anonymously, through the use of cowardly tactics. That is perhaps particularly relevant for Bradley Manning, who probably is the actual whistleblower in this case and whose health is declining as a result of the harsh conditions of his imprisonment.

Still, I’d much rather end this post with good news, and for that I need to get back to Europe, as the UK information commissioner thankfully points out the obvious in an interview, stating that “the best form of defense is transparency” and that “if all of us just accept that this is the people’s information and 99.9% should be out there in all its tedium, you wouldn’t have WikiLeaks“.
Now wouldn’t that be nice? But does anyone really think that the powers that be would ever willingly allow those they rule over to know about all their plans? Right, I didn’t think so… Which means we need to keep up the fight and force them. And, unlike a certain other individual who used this slogan only to prove he actually could not, yes we can!

Written by Cavalary on January 2, 2011 at 8:44 PM in Society | 0 Comments

The WikiLeaks War – IV

Though some find innovative ways to shine a light on what’s going on, mainstream media is starting to look away from WikiLeaks. That’s certainly no surprise, because they basically never focus on a single story for so long, but it’s still very troubling. That’s because this media attention kept people informed of what was going on, drawing some towards the cause and helping those who already were involved actually do something about it, while the lack of it causes many people to focus on other things, a good example of that being the Avaaz petition, which didn’t even gather 700000 signatures in two weeks since it was launched, despite gathering about half that number in the first day alone, when everyone was linking to it. That only serves the powers that be, who fear the public’s attention and will therefore see this as a sign that they finally can step up their efforts. But events are still unfolding and battles are still being fought in this war, so I’ll do my best to update you on what happened since I wrote the last post.

I’ll start with the negative developments, since these first need to be known by as many as possible in order to be efficiently countered. More specifically, I’ll start with Joe Biden calling Julian Assange a high-tech terrorist, which reveals just how the United States is seeing this situation and what they intend to do about it. Not that we didn’t already know what they think of it and what they plan to do about it, but it’s another little piece of the puzzle and it should be on the table.
But political pressure and scaremongering tactics keep having very visible effects on corporations, who continue to distance themselves from WikiLeaks. The latest example would be Bank of America no longer handling payments for WikiLeaks, joining a pretty long list of financial institutions that have already done the same thing despite the lack of any good explanation.
However, this retaliation is no longer just against WikiLeaks. Despite not being developed by WikiLeaks, Apple has removed the WikiLeaks application from iTunes. Sure, said application apparently wasn’t even useful in any way, but the reason given for the removal is what’s worrying, along with the fact that the developer claims that half of the earnings went to WikiLeaks, which means that yet another method of donating was taken away. In addition, a WikiLeaks mirror was taken down, the explanation given being absolutely ludicrous: The host had received a complaint from an upstream provider, which was apparently worried that such a site may, at some point in the future, be the target of attacks! Now I’d sure like to know which site couldn’t possibly be the target of an attack at some point in the future, especially in light of what’s been going on lately

Next come a couple of developments that may go either way. The first is that the CIA has launched a task force to assess the impact of WikiLeaks. Probably because they haven’t really been affected by the leaks, their approach seems to be somewhat different, a fact also outlined by the acronym for this task force: WTF. This is something to keep an eye on, so we wait and see how it’ll develop. And the same goes for the fact that, despite not being one of the publications that WikiLeaks works with, major Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has obtained the cables through their own means and will start publishing those they see fit, as they stress that they’re under no agreement with WikiLeaks. This may help if they’ll release more things that need to be released sooner, but could certainly also harm, mainly by reducing potential whistleblowers’ confidence in WikiLeaks’ handling of what they send them.

But enough about that… There have been good developments as well, and those will be the ones outlined in the next part of this post, starting with a list of new whistleblowing sites that have recently been or will soon be launched. Too many options may confuse whistleblowers and even mainstream media, but each of them, assuming they’re legitimate, acts as one more hand pulling at the veil of secrecy governments, corporations and perhaps even more obscure powers that be like to shroud themselves in. Yes, some of them may actually be attempts by just those powers that be to catch potential whistleblowers and others may be completely unwise in what they’ll eventually publish, even releasing those very few things that governments do need to keep secret in order to be able to undertake risky, but fully justifiable and desirable, operations, but I’m quite convinced that the overall result of these sites, assuming they’ll get off the ground and actually become more than so many promises, will be a positive one.
Moving on to a more, shall we say, diplomatic front, the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have released a joint statement in support of WikiLeaks, while human rights organizations worldwide also keep appealing for the attacks against freedom of expression in general and WikiLeaks in particular to stop. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also launched a campaign against on-line censorship in light of these attacks. You can see on the right side of the page that I obviously also joined this campaign and urge you to do the same.
And, as an interesting side note, Reporters Without Borders is now hosting a WikiLeaks mirror site, to show their support for investigative journalism in general and WikiLeaks’ actions up to this point in particular, though they mention that “this partnership will be constantly reassessed in the light of WikiLeaks’ activities and the content it offers in the future”.

As for Assange himself, he is now a member in good standing of the Australian journalists’ union and even his union fees have been waived, since his accounts have been frozen. He has also been picked as Person of the Year by the readers of Crikey, as well as Man of the Year by the readers of Le Monde.

Written by Cavalary on December 23, 2010 at 8:33 PM in Society | 0 Comments

The WikiLeaks War – III

It’s time for another update about WikiLeaks, who even got the original domain name back. This post’ll be quite crazy because a lot of things have happened since the last one. Excuse me if I’ll be jumping from topic to topic quite a lot. Not that I don’t usually do that, or that anyone reads these posts, but I had to mention it before starting.
I’ll be writing this in bits and pieces, so it’ll take even longer than such a post usually takes, which is way too long anyway. That said, there will likely be further developments while I’m writing it and I may or may not learn of them, since I won’t be actively looking for them. If I’ll learn of them, I’ll try to include them, but otherwise they’ll probably make it into the next post on this issue, which you’ll likely see in the first half of next week.

Obviously, the biggest story was that Julian Assange was finally granted bail, after the appeal to the original decision was also dismissed. It’s actually still unclear whether Swedish or British prosecutors appealed, but I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore. What matters is that the leader of this operation is once again able to take the helm, even if his freedom of movement is severely restricted. The judge warned him that he’s likely to be extradited to Sweden anyway, but for the moment this is one battle we won.
Speaking of battles, we should expect to lose one as well, as the United States is very likely to find a way to charge him of a serious crime, despite the fact that even Human Rights Watch released a statement asking them not to prosecute him. Under these circumstances, being extradited to Sweden could even be in his advantage, as Sweden could prove less willing than the United Kingdom to accept their extradition request. It would certainly be far better if both requests would be denied and he’d be cleared of all charges, but only those that will soon be pressed by the United States are actually relevant to the matter at hand, so what’s important to the cause is for him to be cleared of those. Or for the United States to never charge him of anything, of course, but that’s really a battle I don’t expect us to win.
Either way, all these legal battles are taking a toll on his finances, especially since his Swiss bank account has been blocked ever since the start of this scandal and, at least so far, he doesn’t seem to be using the donations made for WikiLeaks in order to cover these costs as well. His lawyers must be quite unhappy with that, though I imagine that they value the publicity at least as much as the money, since winning such a case would greatly increase their reputation and is therefore likely to make more important cases go their way in the future. But money are certain and winning the case is not, so they’ll probably find a way to allow people to donate to cover their fees.
And speaking of donations, the Wau Holland Foundation, which is likely the main WikiLeaks funding channel, reports that they’re still going strong, despite all attempts to stop them. As you can see from that interview, WikiLeaks shouldn’t have any problems covering its operating costs for quite some time, as they apparently received more than twice the amount they required so far. Yes, said operating costs are likely to increase significantly now, considering the efforts they are required to make, but donations are also on the rise thanks to all the publicity, so the only financial problem has to do with Assange’s legal fees.

Moving on to the front lines of the on-line war, Assange has called on the world to protect WikiLeaks, though I’m not sure how much such a call counts, considering the nature of the group that is behind most of these efforts. I actually can’t say that I heard of any new successful attacks on the sites of governments or companies that oppose WikiLeaks, so it’s possible that new strategies are being developed, and there do appear to be some really good ideas on that front. All that remains is to see how much of it will actually be put in practice, especially since these new strategies require people who were used to only act on-line to make the streets their new theater of operations.
But I started talking about the on-line war and ended up somewhere else, so let me get back to it by pointing out an interesting article published by The Economist. I generally agree with that view, namely that such actions should be legal if they’re meant as a protest and do not cause direct damage but that those behind them shouldn’t hide their identities, but there is one problem: As the article points out, such actions are not legal, regardless of circumstances, while their off-line equivalents are. I also very often berate people for hiding their identity and not taking full responsibility for their actions, but there are times when you have to do what you have to do in order to be able to continue the fight…

More good news are coming in from Australia, where it was finally determined that WikiLeaks did not break any law. This puts prime minister Julia Gillard in a very uncomfortable position, as she now has to figure out a way to make everyone else forget the fact that she pretty much demanded charges against Assange, despite knowing that even her own party was against such a course of action. What’s more, the Australian media rallied in support of WikiLeaks and foreign minister Kevin Rudd promised assistance to Assange even if he’ll have to go against the prime minister’s wishes, so it certainly looks as if Australia is on our side in this war, at least for the moment.

Now I’d like to point out a pretty good analysis of the potential consequences of this situation. I take it as a good sign that a source of such good repute basically says that, while this scandal could theoretically make things better for the world, the governments will do everything they can to use it to gain even more control and drastically worsen the situation. But they won’t be able to do that if we won’t allow them, so it’s basically what I keep saying: It will never be the same after this, so we either win and change some things for the better, at least for a while, or lose and have others change a whole lot of things for the worse. So we can’t afford to lose, no matter what!
Oh, in case you’re not convinced, here’s a little example of how this is being used to make things worse: The French government has granted itself the right to censor the Internet. Yes, just like that. Of course, this isn’t exactly a new development, as child pornography has been used as an excuse to do that for years, but it is rather interesting that such a law is being passed just when said government is struggling to block WikiLeaks and has so far been unable to do so, isn’t it?

Otherwise, even though Assange very comfortably won the readers’ vote, he was only selected as a runner-up, Mark Zuckerberg being the TIME Person of the Year 2010, despite quite frankly not doing anything this year to justify such an award in any way, unless you count the fact that someone released a movie about him in his favor. Obviously, even such a publication is afraid to do something that’d bother the powers that be, so they pushed back the one nominee who’d have created the worst problems for them and selected someone who was quite likely harmless from that point of view… But, if you want an odd piece of related news, at least Rolling Stone Italy has named Assange Rockstar of the Year.

Let me also point you to a profile for Julian Assange that I thought was pretty nicely put together, so it should prove interesting for those who want to know more about him. That doesn’t mean that I changed my mind: It’s still all about the cause, not particularly about WikiLeaks and certainly not at all about Assange himself. But knowledge always helps, and he is the leader after all, at least until the powers that be will find a way to silence him, at which point another will need to pick up from where he left off, and then another, and then another… But we’re not there yet.
Still on the topic of Assange, you may also learn something more about him from what appears to be his profile on OkCupid. Not used in four years, but certainly seems to be his, doesn’t it?

Written by Cavalary on December 17, 2010 at 5:29 PM in Society | 0 Comments