Media says government's reaction to WikiLeaks 'troubling'  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The SMh reports the media has finally woken up and realised Wikileaks is just a media outlet, and that they need to protect it to protect themselves - Media says government's reaction to WikiLeaks 'troubling' .

Australia's main media players say the federal government's reaction to the release of diplomatic correspondence by the WikiLeaks website is "deeply troubling".

The country's newspaper editors, along with television and radio directors, have written an open letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard in support of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. The letter is supported by the editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald and Sun Herald, Peter Fray, whose newspapers have reported on the secret US embassy cables provided exclusively to Fairfax newspapers.

"The volume of the leaks is unprecedented, yet the leaking and publication of diplomatic correspondence is not new," the letter, initiated by the Walkley Foundation, states. "We ... believe the reaction of the US and Australian governments to date has been deeply troubling. We will strongly resist any attempts to make the publication of these or similar documents illegal."

The editors and directors say any attempt to shut down WikiLeaks, prosecute those who publish official leaks, or pressure companies to cease working with the whistle-blower website "is a serious threat to democracy which relies on a free and fearless press".

Ms Gillard has declared the actions of WikiLeaks and Mr Assange "illegal".

Attorney-General Robert McClelland has said the initial leaking of classified documents and their subsequent distribution by WikiLeaks are likely to be illegal.

But the media's open letter notes that so far the government "has been able to point to no Australian law that has been breached".

The editors and directors state that WikiLeaks is simply doing what the media has always done - expose official secrets that governments would prefer to keep in the dark. "WikiLeaks, just four years old, is part of the media and deserves our support."

Almost 600,000 people have signed a separate online petition in support of WikiLeaks ahead of a second appearance in court in London by Mr Assange.

The petition on campaigning website Avaaz calls on the US and other nations to "stop the crackdown on WikiLeaks and its partners immediately" and to respect "the laws of freedom of expression and freedom of the press".

Crikey's Guy Rundle has another meandering, but interesting, update on the Julian Assange case - Assange’s defence team losing the PR war by winning it. If you read between the lines this is the left wing intellectual version of right wing NWO conspiracy theory (and much easier to make sense of as a result - are beureacratic superstates with no democratic oversight a good idea ?).
With the appeal hearing against the bailing of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange scheduled for 11.30 tomorrow morning, his ever-expanding legal team are no doubt hard at it, trying to anticipate what the Swedes will come up with. Not much, appears the likely answer. The Swedish Prosecutor’s Office has declined the opportunity to present evidence supporting the case in court twice now, leaving the Crown Prosecution Service hung out to dry.

They are not required to produce any evidence in an extradition hearing, but as Assange’s lawyer Geoffrey Robertson pointed out, the question of bail depends in part on the seriousness of the evidence against you. If there is no case you may be far less likely to abscond.

The appeal case will turn on questions of law of course — in effect it will be a taster of what this extradition will become, less a trial of Assange than of the European Arrest warrant, and the weird mix of bureaucratic-Hegelian logic driving the European Union project, in which every innovation is judged not on its merits, but on whether it furthers the cause of a united post-democratic Europe.

The Swedes are either convinced Assange will abscond, or vindictive, depending on whom you believe, but it’s fair to say their relentlessness surprised everyone on this score — including the CPS, who sources close to Assange’s legal team say advised the Swedish prosecutors not to appeal.

There are some very strange things going on here. In the case yesterday, the prosecutor apologised for the Swedish prosecutor’s failure to make a response to certain written defence arguments, saying that the person handling them “doesn’t have very good English.” Really? In Sweden in 2010? Where English has been a compulsory school subject since the late 1950s? Half the subjects in a law course are taught in English. It’s odd and very unconvincing — a small detail that suggest a larger pattern.

So Assange’s team are winning the war for public sentiment, with a great degree of incredulity across the world as to what he’s been charged with, and a greater willingness to call the thing an outright stitch-up, designed to secure him for American extradition.

But that victory may well set them up for a later loss, if the Swedish prosecutors do eventually produce some evidence, for the actual official public campaign coming from the Assange camp is non-existent, and in the vacuum where it should be, a huge amount of counter-productive misinformation is breeding. For a cause that can command a great number of dedicated followers and supporters, the team has shown no interest in the sort of thing any such campaign would usually do — have a supporter website, pump out briefing documents and explainers, get their line straight, and get the line out to their high-profile supporters.

This particularly turns on the difficult question of how you talk about these domestic criminal charges as possibly forming part of a stitch-up — either as a honeytrap, with a little vinegar in the mix (a very unlikely scenario), or a series of events being used opportunistically. Had Assange been charged with financial fraud, everyone would be happily dissecting the evidence left right and centre. Now that he’s charged with r-pe, a portcullis falls in the gap, and there is a sudden great reluctance to discuss the strength of the case.

To some degree that comes from the good intention of not drawing in questions of character or behaviour. But some appear to have taken that further and suggested that any notion of examining the evidence, the handling of such and the overall process of the prosecution is out of bounds, which is ridiculous. Assange has been through months of accusation, suspicion and finally remand, far from a process without life cost. If there are serious holes in the process and evidence they deserve to be examined.

I don’t propose to go over the arguments again in detail; they’re elsewhere. The brief version is that potential evidence has unquestionably been tampered with, that there is evidence that undermines the motive of making the complaint, that the most serious charge of r-pe — the only one likely to warrant extradition of itself — has swapped from one complainant to the other, that this occurred after the Stockholm prosecutor declined to prosecute the initial charge as r-pe, that the complainant initially presented as the lead one is now alleging only one charge of a sexual assault (s-x while sleeping) that may well not attract a custodial sentence, and that a “pro-complainant” version of events that nevertheless contradicts the new array of charges was removed from a feminist collective blog run by one of the complainants around the time the charges shifted. Oh yes, nothing to see here.

The key outrage here is process and evidence, not some off-the-cuff assessment of what happened. It’s inevitable that there would be a lot of that stuff around the fringes. What’s troubling is that Assange’s defenders are repeating the same shopworn stories about the case, and getting it wrong. Thus Michael Moore, appearing on Newsnight last night, said that “the charge was only that some condom had broken or something”; various grandees giving vox-pops at Tuesday’s hearing asserted that what he was charged with “wasn’t even a crime”; Naomi Wolf wrote a satirical article asking Interpol to arrest every narcissistic jerk she’d been on a date with.

None of these interventions seemed to credit that there was no mention of withdrawn or cancelled consent, no broken condom and that one of the charges was one of rape with physical force. The problem is not that a charge of that nature is absent; it is that its process has been shoddy and contradictory, and it has the strong suggestion of being retroactively engineered from various parts, holus-bolus. Should that prove not to be the case, and the Swedish prosecutors have other evidence, the shoddiness and possible political complicity would stand, but there may well be some nasty evidence coming out of the woodshed, and those prejudging the prosecution case as being total stitch up will be left looking silly indeed.

Two weeks ago I noted that this case was proving to be the crucial point for the final dissolution and recomposition of second-wave feminism. So it has proved. People have judged Assange’s life and works so significant, so powerful that they have thrown over the usual niceties to simply denounce the trial as hysteria if not honeytrap. That this has been women as well as men — Pilger and Naomi Klein, Human Rights Watch and Women Against R-pe – shows that, for all its crudity, this is not a restaging of old ideas of nothing other than jealous females. Klein and others are talking about the way in which the social process has been plugged into the domestic state, which has then been plugged into the (inter)national security and military apparatus. Thus the EAW and the US-UK extradition fast-track combine to create the extension of rendition across the spectrum, from bag-over-the-head abduction to the intersection of domestic criminal charges, with far greater movements.

Significant in that respect are the cables revealed in recent WikiLeaks releases as coming out of Stockholm, and talking of the desire to continue informal arrangements of information sharing between SAPO (the Swedish domestic secret service) and US agencies, lest the actual scrutiny of a working parliament make further progress difficult.

In particular, the cable cites the huge social protest over the recent “surveillance” law, an unnecessary wiretapping act that generated a vast protest movement — and helped kick off the Swedish pirate party, the libertarian group that would eventually offer to host WikiLeaks in Sweden. There is a persistent rumour — from multiple directions but not yet sourced — that the US threatened to withdraw security co-operation from SAPO if Assange was granted residency and WikiLeaks based itself there. Assange’s residency was later rejected because of course he was accused of r-pe.

These matters have come to a head, just as another political storm has developed, about the US conducting extensive spying missions in Sweden – not on other spies, but on everyday Swedes. According to a former employee at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm: “there have been a so-called SDU-group, whose task was to monitor and record people on behalf of U.S. authorities.

“They were interested in all sorts of information. Everything that could be of value. There was everything from color, to clothing, to hair color, hair length, hair type and age. What language they spoke, everything…

Among other things, [Swedes] worked with the group to monitor demonstrations in Stockholm in order to report potential threats to the embassy, said the source.”

There would of course be nothing to the fact that Sweden got its first domestic terrorist act for quite a while three days ago when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the city streets. I can’t imagine that security services let a known crazy slip through the net to blow himself and no-one else up, to focus the mind a little.

Just as I can’t of course believe that a process of domestic private criminal law could become a part of surveillance and control, if it increasingly divides up every smaller level of fluid human behaviour, until it becomes in some way, very difficult for a living breathing human being not to break the law — at which point the very interface between the state, the law and the public is itself a trap. Not insignificant is the outfit you’re trying to nobble is trying to transform that relationship altogether.

Assange’s defenders will need to talk about that more and better — about a process of control, exception and rendition that is using not abnormal state processes, but normal ones to achieve their ends, turning the world into one huge airport security scanner.

And yes, we will need to talk about r-pe, and how we think about the accusations of it, and whether we can talk about character, deceit, jealousy and much more, in the open, rather than as we now all do, in a manner of sealed evidence.

The American Conservative has always had a soft spot in my heart since their indignant denunciation of George Bush and all he stood for before the 2004 presidential election in the US. They've now come up with an article outlining why right thinking people should be supporting Wikileaks as well (admittedly it contains some climate skeptic lunacy, but that's par for the course in the bizarre alternate universe of conservative ideology nowadays) - The Conservative Case for WikiLeaks.
Lovers necessarily keep or share secrets. Being in a healthy relationship means achieving a certain level of intimacy, where shared knowledge of each others’ weaknesses and insecurities is protected by a bond of mutual trust. Sometimes lovers might do devilish things that outsiders wouldn’t understand, or shouldn’t be privy to, and this is fine. But by and large, what they do is simply no one else’s business.

But imagine that the man in the relationship kept it a secret that he had other women on the side, kids, a criminal record, venereal disease, and basically betrayed his lover in every way imaginable, unbeknownst to her?

Now imagine a third party felt it was their moral duty to reveal it?

No one questions that governments must maintain a certain level of secrecy, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who told Time that “Secrecy is important for many things … [but it] shouldn’t be used to cover up abuses.” The entire premise of Assange’s whistleblower organization is this: To what degree is government secrecy justified? And when particular secrets could be damaging to the other partner in the United States government’s relationship — the American people — should these secrets be revealed in the name of protecting the public?

How often does our government use “national security” simply as an excuse to cover up questionable dealings? Reports Time: “in the past few years, governments have designated so much information secret that you wonder whether they intend the time of day to be classified. The number of new secrets designated as such by the U.S. government has risen 75% … . At the same time, the number of documents and other communications created using those secrets has skyrocketed nearly 10 times…” ...

Decentralizing government power, limiting it, and challenging it was the Founders’ intent and these have always been core conservative principles. Conservatives should prefer an explosion of whistleblower groups like WikiLeaks to a federal government powerful enough to take them down. Government officials who now attack WikLleaks don’t fear national endangerment, they fear personal embarrassment. And while scores of conservatives have long promised to undermine or challenge the current monstrosity in Washington, D.C., it is now an organization not recognizably conservative that best undermines the political establishment and challenges its very foundations.


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