Wikileaks has been dominating the media over the past week - Crikey and the Sydney Morning Herald have good roundups of coverage, and I'll do a little link dump in this post as well.
I'll note Australian PM Julia Gillard and Attorney General Robert McClelland have covered themselves in shame during the week, inaccurately accusing Assange of having committed a crime and then pathetically pandering to the Americans instead of standing up for an Australian citizen.
The Brisbane Times reports on one interesting leak about the influence of Shell on the Nigerian government (or maybe Shell simply is the Nigerian government) - Shell's grip on Nigeria revealed: WikiLeaks.
The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.
The company's top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew "everything that was being done in those ministries". She boasted that the Nigerian government had "forgotten" about the extent of Shell's infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.
The cache of secret dispatches from Washington's embassies in Africa also revealed that the Anglo-Dutch oil firm swapped intelligence with the US, in one case providing US diplomats with the names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting militant activity, and requesting information from the US on whether the militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles.
Campaigners said the revelation about Shell in Nigeria demonstrated the tangled links between the oil firm and politicians in the country where, despite billions of dollars in oil revenue, 70 per cent of people live below the poverty line.
Cables from Nigeria show how Ann Pickard, then Shell's vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa and now chairwoman of Shell in Australia, sought to share intelligence with the US government on militant activity and business competition in the contested Niger Delta – and how, with some prescience, she seemed reluctant to open up because of a suspicion the US government was "leaky".
Crikey's Guy Rundle has a report on Assange's court appearance in London (veering off into some leftist analysis of the global implications of it all - "imperial feminism" ???) - Ringside for Assange’s court appearance, in all its gory detail.
The European arrest warrant was served on the basis of a Swedish warrant, which is now for prosecution, rather than merely as part of an investigation. There are four charges, combining allegations of r-pe, s-xual assault and “ofredande”, the distinctive Swedish charge of misconduct/annoyance.
Three charges are based on the allegations of “complainant A”, in whose apartment Assange was staying in mid-August. The first is one of r-pe — that Assange used his body weight to lie on her, pushed her legs open and forced s-x.
The second charge is that Assange “assaulted her s-xual integrity” by “having s-x without a condom despite complainant’s earlier expressed unwillingness to do so”. Another s-xual integrity assault is that Assange “pushed his erect p-nis into her back without permission, while sharing a bed”. The fourth charge is by the second complainant, “complainant W” which alleges “having s-x with the complainant while she was asleep, without a condom”.
Outside court, Assange’s solicitor Mark Stephens sounded a feisty note, telling 150 or so of the world’s journalists that “this is going to go viral … Many people believe Mr Assange to be innocent, myself included. Many people believe that this prosecution is politically motivated”. Pilger gave a rolling presser lasting about half an hour as TV crews followed him around, assailing the Swedish charges as “absurd” and suggesting that r-pe charges had been reinstated for political reasons.
The decision to remand Assange was greeted with little surprise by many — the Serious Crime detectives lingering in the court foyer dismissed any suggestions of a line-ball call, saying that “there was never any doubt” that bail would be denied, due to the possibility of absconding. However, Jennifer Robinson, part of Assange’s legal team, told an author covering the event that she was “shocked” at the result.
Assange’s legal team immediately announced that it may appeal the bail decision, and will certainly fight the extradition charge, possibly all the way to the British High Court. The case will certainly prove a test of the discretion that national courts have over the serving of a European arrest warrant.
WikiLeaks has confirmed that it will keep running, and will return to the business of cable release almost immediately.
The reading of the Swedish charges against Assange has been the first full airing of accusations that have been surrounded by rumour since they were first made in mid-August. Crikey readers got the full story a lot earlier than most, but even your correspondent decided to minimise the more explicit details because of simply, well, yurrrgghhh.
For better or worse, better and worse, Swedish s-x crime law has taken on the values and attitudes of Macquarie University c.1989, in which myriad acts between bodies are constructed as a series of legal permissions. That separates Sweden from the mass of other countries as behaviour that other cultures would see as private exchange becomes public law.
Even taking that into account, the situation has entered bizarre territory. Can anyone really say that the resources of two states and an international police force should be directed to investigating the provenance of a wayward morning glory?
A case to answer?
This charge, number three, is obviously farcical to 90% of the planet, male and female. What about the other charges? Charge two, unsafe s-x, does not allege non-consent. It alleges earlier notice of an unwillingness to engage in unsafe s-x, quite a different thing — and presumably the reason why it is being charged as an offence against “s-xual integrity”.
S-x while sleeping? What? Through the whole thing? Either this bends the truth, or Assange went to a Steiner school. How on earth do Swedish prosecutors propose to establish this to a standard of proof? That question is further complicated by documents suggesting collusion and false reports, and a blog by one of the complainants including a how to guide to “revenge on lovers”, which includes a section on “lying to get the law involved”.
That leaves the first charge, a charge of explicit and deliberate r-pe. It would be wise here to remember what is being objected to by Assange’s supporters — not the charge itself but the chaotic process by which it has been brought. Not everyone is observing this line. Bjorn Hurtig, Assange’s Swedish lawyer, has been on the media arguing that his client “isn’t the sort of person who could do these things”. Well, that’s no real argument. John Pilger has charged in foursquare, rejecting the r-pe arguments as “crap” and politically motivated — and also mangling the whole sequence in the telling, telling the world’s media that the “chief prosecutor” threw out an earlier r-pe charge, and that this was then reinstated by political pressure.
That’s completely arse backwards and fails to understand what is going on here. The initial charge was made by a junior duty prosecutor on a summer Friday in Stockholm, based on the “inquiries” by the two complainants to the police. This was rescinded a day later by the regular prosecutor, Eva Finne, who was so concerned by the events (which had been placed in Expressen newspaper by the police) that she had the documents couriered to her summer cottage, and promptly rescinded the order.
The next week, the two complainants hired as their lawyer Claes Bergstrom — former minister in the Social Democratic Party, big wheel. Whether they sought him out, or he volunteered remains to be seen, but he managed to convince Marianne Ny to take the case.
Ny is not the chief prosecutor either — she runs (or ran, until recently) a “crime development unit” out of Gothenburg, two hundred clicks from Stockholm. The unit lives effectively, by finding new types of crime — and especially s-x crime, which is Ny’s field. Like much of the Swedish state it has to be entrepreneurial within the framework of public funding, to maintain its existence.
Crayfishgate, and the crisis of feminism
This is crucial to understand, because simple stories of political interference won’t cut it — though they play a part. The core process that has Assange in trouble is the autonomous process of a (once) socialist, feminist state. This has been difficult for many people to interpret, because it is so rare. Sweden (and maybe one or two other Nordic countries) is the only state where feminism has achieved state power, actually won the long march through the institutions. As such it is now exposed to the full contradictions of that role, including running wars, armies and police forces.
This effectively brings to the surface contradictions inherent right at the start of second-wave feminism in the early ’70s — between the idea that existing power structures could be taken over (which ultimately became liberal feminism) and arguments that the very character of power — and the state — had to be transformed.
One of the truly bizarre things about this event is that Assange has made history even when he didn’t intend to — this moment is when the contradictions of second wave feminism are played out to endgame, because feminists will have to choose which side they cleave to — a state prosecuting possible s-x crimes (whose possibility I do not deny), laced into a global power structure, or a radical force holding states to account, and unleashing new forms of social energy and flow that challenge inherited patriarchal structures?
We’ve seen this before of course — in the period of imperial feminism of the mid 2000s, when numerous liberal feminist commentators took the next step, and committed themselves to imperial wars that they hoped would advance the cause of gender liberation in patriarchal societies.
In Sweden this is given institutional form, because a feminist state is laced into a military one — Sweden’s once-prized neutrality has long been forfeited to a de facto NATO alliance. Central to this is the Nordic battle group, the naval force run as a joint NATO/Swedish exercise, and a key part of the new more aggressive forward strategy of NATO in relation to Russia — as recently revealed by WikiLeaks. This is part and parcel of a gradual surrender of neutrality to US dominance — as recently revealed by WikiLeaks.
This circle closes with news tonight that Swedish and American authorities are already in discussion about co-operation to begin extradition proceedings against Assange once he is in Sweden. It comes as WikiLeaks releases a new series of cables that show that Scotland was effectively bribed by Libya to release Al-Megrahi, the man convicted (possibly wrongly) of the Lockerbie bombing.
In other words, the hits just keep on coming. And it is faintly possible that Assange decided, once s-x crime allegations were made against him, that his project would best be served by a series of trials that convulsed the world.
Rundle also reports on Assange's accuser seems to have bailed on the legal proceedings and headed off to Palestine - Assange accuser may have ceased co-operating.
nna Ardin, one of the two complainants in the rape and sexual assault case against WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, has left Sweden, and may have ceased actively co-operating with the Swedish prosecution service and her own lawyer, sources in Sweden told Crikey today.
The move comes amid a growing campaign by leading Western feminists to question the investigation, and renewed confusion as to whether Sweden has actually issued charges against Assange. Naomi Klein, Naomi Wolf, and the European group Women Against Rape, have all made statements questioning the nature and purpose of the prosecution.
Ardin, who also goes by the name Bernardin, has moved to the West Bank in the Palestinian Territories, as part of a Christian outreach group, aimed at bringing reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. She has moved to the small town of Yanoun, which sits close to Israel’s security/sequestration wall. Yanoun is constantly besieged by fundamentalist Jewish settlers, and international groups have frequently stationed themselves there.
Attempts by Crikey to contact Ardin by phone, fax, email and twitter were unsuccessful today.
Ardin’s blog has restarted after a fortnight hiatus, and her twitter feed has restarted after a two-month break. The twitter feed appears to be commenting on her ongoing profile in the media with the latest entry reading: “CIA agent, rabid feminist / Muslim lover, a Christian fundamentalist, frigid & fatally in love with a man, can you be all that at the same time …”
The previous tweet appears to extend support to WikiLeaks, after financial agencies withdrew their services, reading “Mastercard, Visa and Paypal — hit it, now!”*
One source from Ardin’s old university of Uppsala reported rumours that she had stopped co-operating with the prosecution service several weeks ago, and that this was part of the reason for the long delay in proceeding with charges — and what still appears to be an absence of charges.
News of Ardin/Bernardin’s departure comes as reports circulate of Ardin’s connection to the right-wing Cuban exile community in Miami, something that Crikey readers learnt of months ago. The reports have helped fuel wilder conspiracy theories about the nature of Ardin’s involvement with WikiLeaks and Assange.
A former politics student who had done internships at Sweden’s DC embassy, Ardin completed her thesis on Cuban political opposition groups, many of whom have involvement — and funding — from the US interests section, the only US diplomatic representation in Cuba. Ardin initially began her research in Havana and left after being advised that her position was no longer safe. She completed the research in Miami.
However, it seems more likely that the Cuban episode is part of the same political nomadism that led her to WikiLeaks. An office holder with the Social Democratic party’s Christian “brotherhood” faction, Ardin is active in a range of causes from Latin America to animal liberation.
Ardin’s move and confusion over her involvement and the real status of the charges against Assange come as the campaign questioning the charges against him has come to include a number of leading feminist activists. Naomi Klein tweeted that:“R-pe is being used in the #Assange prosecution in the same way that women’s freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up! #wikilieaks”
While in The Huffington Post, Naomi Wolf posted a (quite funny) article asking Interpol to apprehend every date she’s had who turned out to be a narcissistic jerk.
In The Guardian Karin Axelsson of Women Against R-pe questioned why Assange’s case was being pursued more assiduously than cases of r-pe judged more serious (Sweden has three degrees of severity for r-pe charges).
These moves are evidence of the situation your correspondent suggested in Crikey yesterday — that the Assange case is proving to be the final process by which the second-wave feminist coalition formed in the late 1960s splits substantially, with feminists with differing attitude to Western state power finding themselves on different sides of the debate.
Indeed, it puts one in the unusual position of saying that commentators such as Wolf are being too anti-complainant in their construction of the charges as nothing other than a couple of bad dates. It’s a strange world, and getting stranger.
The lawyer for Ardin and Wilen, the two complainants, has hit back at attacks and criticism of his clients, saying that they had been put on trial and effectively assaulted twice. He claimed to be in daily contact with the women, which suggests that he has a better reception to Yanoun than many of its inhabitants have to the outside world.
Even if the case comes to trial, the prospects of conviction look slim. Crikey asked Flinders University s-x crime law expert Dr Mary Heath to go over the charges (which may still be accusations at this stage) as they were relayed in Assange’s extradition bail hearing, and she made the following comments:
“Practically speaking, I would not like the chances of the prosecutor on charge 3 — pressing his erect p-nis into the complainant’s back … legally speaking I would have to suggest the chances of conviction would be slim for any Australian offence where both accused were adults. Proving non consent might be difficult but proving awareness of non consent would be even harder.
“Charges 1 and 2 (holding partner down, and unsafe s-x despite earlier expressed opposition to such) involve contexts where there would be room for defence argument about consent. On charge 1, when is one person ‘holding down’ another person lying beneath them, and when are they simply having consensual s-x in a position involving one person being on top of the other person? Is this force or just rough but consensual (compared to cases I’ve read, the allegation would hardly count as rough).
“On charge 2, prior unwillingness is not enough, the complainant must not be consenting and the accused must be aware of this ‘at the time of int-rcourse’. Did complainant one change her mind? Did Assange believe she changed her mind, and perhaps on reasonable grounds the charge does not disclose?
“On charge 4 (s-x while complainant was sleeping), recent experience in South Australia suggests this also could be difficult to prove if there was any kind of s-xual interaction prior to the complainant falling asleep, which might give the defence a plausible argument that belief in consent was present. I was deeply unimpressed by the level of protection the courts (let alone public attitudes) offered to people who are asleep or unconscious due to drugs/alcohol.
“… The one thing that is clearer, perhaps, is that the charges may turn on withdrawal of consent once a s-xual act had commenced. The law of almost every jurisdiction in Australia would recognise withdrawal of consent after a s-xual act commenced as rendering that s-xual act non consensual (and therefore r-pe). As for proving it … I reiterate what I said about proof previously.”
The Guardian reports that former Crown Prosecution Service extradition expert Raj Joshi said that extradition was unlikely:“On what we know so far, it is going to be very difficult to extradite. The judge has to be satisfied that the conduct equals an extraditable offence and that there are no legal bars to extradition.
“Assange’s team will argue, how can the conduct equal an extraditable offence if the [Swedish] prosecutor doesn’t think there is enough evidence to charge, and still has not charged.”
This has added to speculation that the Swedish moves, which have coincided with the release of the Cablegate stories, are politically motivated as stalling tactics, allowing Assange to be detained while the US “prepares an extradition/rendition request”, according to Assange’s UK lawyer Mark Stephens.
The SMH has a profile of Assange by a journalist who knew him in his hacker days - The geek who shook the world.
The world's most mysterious and famous publisher of verboten secrets is sitting in a jail cell in Britain awaiting extradition to a place with a very alien legal system, Sweden, to face questioning about criminal charges he does not understand. He has said publicly that he is at a loss to know how he could be accused of sexual offences against two women with whom he had sex when they have admitted it was consensual.
Assange has always been an avid reader of books. I know this because we worked together for almost three years to create Underground, a book published in Australia in 1997 and again in an electronic version in 2001. Underground is the true story of hackers in Australia and around the globe. Assange, the former hacker, contributed exceptional technical skills and analysis, and I brought years of experience as a journalist and writer. The book has become something of a classic among computer enthusiasts and has been translated into Czech, Chinese and Russian. Books were the basis of Assange's self-education. He attended school off and on during his childhood, but he was continually frustrated by teachers who were at a loss about what to do with him.
A geek friend of his once described Assange as having an IQ "in excess of 170". I suspect this could be true. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for a teacher in 1970s Australia to teach her class of normal children while also dealing with one small blond-haired boy who was off the charts.
So Assange largely gave up on school, finding it more efficient to educate himself by reading books. He learned to tune out if people didn't feed him information fast enough.
I've watched Assange do this many times. It's not meant to be rude, though it can make him seem aloof. It is, I suspect, a habit learned from these early years. It can give him the air of an absent-minded professor. He's not really absent; it's just that his brain is running several processors in parallel, like a high-powered desktop computer.
If some information is of more interest, more processing power will be diverted to that to optimise the running of the machine. Sometimes he thinks he has told you something when he hasn't. This is probably because his brain moves so much faster than his voice; by the time he opens his mouth to speak, his thoughts have zoomed a million light years down the next thought path.
The computer geek in him always gravitated towards optimisation of everything. Some people are born engineers and the desire to optimise is a good test of this.
Once, when Assange was packing boxes to move house, he complained at how long it took. Most people just throw things in boxes and tape them up. Not Assange. He approached putting his books in boxes as though he was solving a puzzle aimed at using all the space in the box most efficiently. If there was dead space in the box, the packing had not been optimal and was a failure. He would empty the box and restart the packing again.
This desire for optimisation might be dismissed as the quirky trait of a geek, but it is far more important. It is part of the larger puzzle of how WikiLeaks has come to exist today.
The need for optimisation and the deep desire for justice, reflected by his choice of books, came together with a few other convictions.
One of these can be found in another favourite piece of writing, this time by the World War II pilot and author of The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The quote, used by Assange to sign many of his emails, was this: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the seas."
The quote suggests that if you can show people why something is important, they will work to achieve that goal far more effectively than if you just tell them to tick off items on a banal to-do list. Large corporations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year trying to drum that message into their executives in high-end training courses. Assange knew it instinctively.
The final piece in the puzzle was curiosity. Like all good journalists, Assange has it in abundance. It is part of his clay. He understood that most people are curious and he spoke to me about the immense power of information to change the world for the better.
WikiLeaks is the picture that emerges when you lay the last puzzle piece in place.
If you want to improve the lot of the poorest, most oppressed people in the world, you can go to a destitute, corrupt African country and work in a community-aid program. It is a noble and self-sacrificing choice. But it only saves one village. Therefore, although it works towards greater justice (in this case economic justice) it is not optimal. A computer geek would consider it sub-optimal. To be optimal, it must be on a much larger scale. Larger than one village, larger than one country, even than one continent. The only way to do that is to use information which can be replicated endlessly – and cheaply – to promote change for the better. But it must be good information, not trashy information or PR spin. It must be the kind of information that plucks at those little threads of curiousity we all have in one measure or another.
It must be the kind of information news media organisations would publish for their readers.
Not everyone wants change, however. Tin-pot dictators like to steal money from their countries.
Average people may think they are happy in their ordinary lives: they don't want change. Yet imagine if there was a secret world these average people did not know about. What could be in that world? It could be a world of classified logs from the front line of a war. It could also be a world of secret diplomatic cables that tell the truth about what really happens behind the mahogany doors of power. The average people might actually want that information – if someone revealed it to them.
WikiLeaks has taught people to "long for the endless immensity of the seas". Who wants to go back to their cramped dog-box apartment now that they have tasted the salty air and seen the ocean's infinite horizon?
Yet Assange still sits in prison, waiting for answers and explanations, like Rubashov. It is more than likely the US will try to extradite him from Sweden if he is forced to leave Britain. Hints in the American media suggest that a secret grand jury investigation is under way or is even completed – without Assange even being in the country.
American politicians propose that Assange be assassinated. Forget a trial or jury. They are judge, jury and executioner, like the thuggish interrogator in Darkness at Noon.
The office of US senator Joseph Lieberman tried to gag WikiLeaks this week by making a phone call that forced Amazon to stop hosting the publisher. The New York Times has also released the diplomatic cables. Lieberman's office has called for an investigation but has not tried to order the paper to stop its presses. As if it could. There would be rioting in the streets of Manhattan.
In person, Assange is remarkably calm. He is sometimes dedicated to the cause of free speech in a pointed way that that affronts Americans, which is surprising, really, given their dedication to the right of free speech.
What matters is that WikiLeaks is changing the balance of power between average citizens and their governments like nothing else has this century. For the past decade the pendulum has swung towards government. WikiLeaks is pulling the pendulum back towards towards the citizens.
Crikey reports that one of the halfwit American politicians calling for Assange's assassination was a supporter of a terrorist organisation - Congressman who called for killing of Assange an IRA supporter. Maybe the British should be calling for his head if we are going to return to the law of the jungle, as per Republican party policy ?
Peter King, the Republican Congressman from New York, who recently called for the assassination of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange as a “terrorist”, is a long-time supporter of the Provisional IRA, and met members of the group in the 1980s.
An energetic fund-raiser with NORAID, the US group that channelled millions of dollars to the IRA* during the 30 years of conflict, paying for its supplies of guns and Semtex, King was defending the group British well after the Good Friday agreement, denying that there was any IRA involvement in the murder of Robert McCartney, and its cover-up in 2005.
King had broken with support for Sinn Fein and the IRA in 2004, not because of any events in Ireland, but because the party/group had come out against the Iraq War.
King will be the new chair of the Homeland Security Committee when the 112th Congress begins sitting in January. He has earlier remarked that Assange should be treated the way the US treats any enemy combatant with “drones and Gitmo” — i.e. piloted bombs and torture in Guantanamo prison camps.
He has modified his stance since, to using “legal” measures, suggesting that WikiLeaks be designated a terrorist outfit, saying that he wants to seize their funds and go after anyone who provides them with any help or contributions or assistance whatsoever.
That, of course, includes newspapers such as the New York Times and The Guardian. It also now includes News Ltd, after The Australian published — and will presumably pay for — an op-ed by Julian Assange. ...
So with a US hysterical about terrorism, how is it that King is permitted to be the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, while labelling Assange as a terrorist? Simple. The supine, epic fail of the US media means that those who alight on the point never stay on it for more than three minutes and the Right don’t bring it up at all.
And further out, in the more distant satraps, there is no concern. A US congressman once sponsored political murder on British soil. Now he’s at it again, this time with an Australian citizen in the sights. And the government, in the form of shambling owlish doofus Bob McClelland, offers itself up in service, as Senator Mark Arbib trots through the embassy gates every fortnight. God bless whoever the hell we are.
AntiWar.com has a post by Daniel Ellsberg suggesting customers boycott Amazon in response for Amazon turning off hosting for Wikileaks - Daniel Ellsberg Says Boycott Amazon.
I’m disgusted by Amazon’s cowardice and servility in abruptly terminating today its hosting of the Wikileaks website, in the face of threats from Senator Joe Lieberman and other Congressional right-wingers. I want no further association with any company that encourages legislative and executive officials to aspire to China’s control of information and deterrence of whistle-blowing.
For the last several years, I’ve been spending over $100 a month on new and used books from Amazon. That’s over. I ask Amazon to terminate immediately my membership in Amazon Prime and my Amazon credit card and account, to delete my contact and credit information from their files and to send me no more notices.
I understand that many other regular customers feel as I do and are responding the same way. Good: the broader and more immediate the boycott, the better. I hope that these others encourage their contact lists to do likewise and to let Amazon know exactly why they’re shifting their business. I’ve asked friends today to suggest alternatives, and I’ll be exploring service from Powell’s Books, Half-Price Books, Biblio and others.
So far Amazon has spared itself the further embarrassment of trying to explain its action openly. This would be a good time for Amazon insiders who know and perhaps can document the political pressures that were brought to bear–and the details of the hasty kowtowing by their bosses–to leak that information. They can send it to Wikileaks (now on servers outside the US), to mainstream journalists or bloggers, or perhaps to sites like antiwar.com that have now appropriately ended their book-purchasing association with Amazon.
The Age has an editorial mentioning Ellsberg and supporting Assange, saying "the federal government's response to WikiLeaks is deeply troubling" - Julian Assange and the public's right to know
DURING the Vietnam War, Daniel Ellsberg released government documents now known as the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. In response, the American government tried him for theft and conspiracy under the Espionage Act. The authorities also tried to steal Ellsberg's medical files in order to discredit him.
The Pentagon Papers exposed lies told by the US government to justify the war and their publication helped fuel opposition to the conflict. The charges against Ellsberg were eventually dismissed, the covert operations against him condemned. Ellsberg sees parallels between his case and the treatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. ''People … don't want to admit that they oppose any and all exposure of even the most misguided, secretive foreign policy,'' Ellsberg said recently. ''The truth is that every attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.''
Men such as Ellsberg and Assange, who are prepared to face the consequences of revealing information authorities would prefer to hide, help keep our system of government healthy and strong. Unfortunately, those in power tend to take a different view. The 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables are the latest documents published by WikiLeaks. Previous documents on WikiLeaks have exposed how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been fought. These leaks have been embarrassing to the governments involved - particularly the US government.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has condemned the actions of WikiLeaks as illegal - a short-sighted response. The Australian government is investigating whether Mr Assange has committed an offence, but has so far got nowhere. ..
WikiLeaks, acting with newspapers around the world including The Age and The Sunday Age, is publishing information that makes governments uncomfortable. This action affirms the role of the media, which have a duty to expose the secret machinations of those who wield power. In the US, the chairman of the Senate homeland security committee, Joe Lieberman, has suggested that because it published some of the leaked information The New York Times might be subject to criminal investigation. This would breach the First Amendment protecting freedom of the press.
The Australian government's condemnation of WikiLeaks is also deeply troubling. Attempts to silence Mr Assange and those who work with him threaten the free flow of information that makes democracy possible. Such attempts are dangerous and must be resisted.
Crikey's Bernard Keane has a look at the controversy swirling around Visa, Mastercard and Paypal as they complied with requests to block contributions to Wikileaks - Welcome to the internet wars.
Whoever christened the WikiLeaks saga the first major war over the internet was right. Quite apart from what you’re seeing in the mainstream media, the internet equivalent of a shooting war has broken out and shows no signs of dying down.
The online group Anonymous – usually, but somewhat erroneously christened “hacker activists” by the mainstream media – have launched a series of attacks on the websites of those associated with the campaign against Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Targets under “Operation Payback”, coordinated via an IRC channel and Twitter, have included Joe Lieberman’s website, Sarah Palin’s website and the website of the Swedish prosecution service responsible for handling the s-xual assault case against Assange.
In the last 24 hours, however, it’s stopped being quite so symbolic. Yesterday Anonymous coordinated a distributed denial of service attack on Mastercard’s corporate website, www.mastercard.com, and took it offline for several hours. More to the point, the attacks took Mastercard’s Securecode service offline as well, preventing transactions from being processed. The website has since got back online.
This morning it was Visa’s turn. Anonymous gave a full hour’s notice via its Twitter account @Anon-Operation that it was going to target Visa. At 8am, the tweet went out:
“TARGET: WWW.VISA.COM: FIRE FIRE FIRE!!! WEAPONS.”
They didn’t miss. The Visa site went down almost instantly, and stayed down for nearly three hours.
Twitter had by this stage woken up to the fact that its service was being used to coordinate DDOS attacks and suspended @anon_operation (Facebook had removed another Anonymous-related page earlier in the day). Anonymous was already using multiple accounts and immediately created another one, @anonops. Twitter’s action prompted participants to turn their attention to the service itself, and Twitter itself came under fire.
At that point, Anonymous appeared to secure a significant victory. Twitter was said to have advised that the deletion was “accidental” and restored the suspended account (minus previous tweets), although another ANonymous-related account remained suspended. The new account, @anonops, continued to operate. The attack on Twitter was then called off, and www.visa.com briefly went down again as the attack as redirected back at Visa.
A short while later the group declared via @anonops “IRC is not secure do not use unauthorized channels for operation #payback. We will announce next target here!! http://bit.ly/1hSngD #anonops”. Presumably law enforcement agencies had by this stage accessed the channel (it’s accessible if you know whom to ask and are happy to have the Federal Police start paying attention to you).
Meantime, in an unrelated development, PayPal had succumbed to criticism and released donations to Wikileaks.
Throughout, the mainstream media desperately tried to keep up. “Do you know more? email us” implored Fairfax, whose journalists took to haunting the birthplace of Anonymous, the 4chan site (warning – DEFINITELY NSFW) to find out what was going on. The coverage looked all a bit redundant, though, given much of what was going on was being played out under the Twitter hashtag #anonops.
This may look like a bunch of kids fooling around on the internet (one tweeter compared it to a “geek action movie”) but it’s altogether more serious than that. In the space of 24 hours two of the world’s key transactional sites have been taken offline. In the case of Visa, the company was actually given warning that it would be attacked, and yet it was still taken down for several hours. If we’re talking “critical infrastructure”, as per the WikiLeaks cables of earlier this week, we’ve had a clear demonstration of where it is on the internet.
This is the flipside of war against WikiLeaks being waged by the US Government and its proxies. Taking away its access to servers and taking away its financial conduits has undoubtedly harmed the organization – probably more so than arresting Julian Assange. It shows that, for all the decentralization of the internet, you can exploit the corporate control of key elements of the internet, particularly of financial transactions, to inconvenience or disrupt the operations of even an online entity. The further the balance tips toward private, corporate control of key online systems, the easier it becomes for governments - and other forces of centralised control, like large companies - to strike back at online opponents.
But it cuts both ways. The fragility of those transactional systems is suddenly on display with the successful attacks on Visa and Mastercard. Private control of key systems can be a vulnerability as well as a strength. And what’s been happening to key transactional systems in Australia in recent days? No one targeted NAB’s website – it managed to take itself offline without any help from “hacktivists”, causing massive financial disruption to its customers.
We’ve become dependent on online systems that are assumed to be both secure and resilient. Suddenly they look fragile, capable of disruption not just at the hands of Anonymous, but because of under-investment, or incompetence, or a single corrupted file.
There’ll doubtless be a lot of rubbish written about the Anonymous attacks, from both sides, in coming hours and days. There’ll be a strong sense of “the internet has fought back” from supporters, and law enforcement-flavoured outrage from opponents, governments and the mainstream media.
But at least one lesson is already clear – on the internet, the “critical infrastructure” may not be as resilient and stable as we all assume it is.
GOOD has a post on the increase in traffic for Wikileaks' partners in releasing the cables - Cablegate Is Great for Web Traffic at The Guardian.
I'm sure the editorial powers that be at The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, El Monde, and El Pais have a very well developed, public-interest-based justification for publishing the WikiLeaks material, but the business people in those institutions have to be happy too. It looks like Cablegate is responsible for a doubling of traffic at The Guardian.
And, as Visual Journalism notes, because the documents are being released gradually, the media outlets that are getting prior access are going to be leading on this story for quite a long time.
Crikey's Bernard Keane has an interesting comparison of the impact of technology on the music industry to the impact of technology on government transparency - Missing the point on WikiLeaks.
This rolling series of releases — and WikiLeaks has barely begun to release the amount of material it has — is raising fundamental issues not merely about statecraft and diplomacy but information, power and the role of the media. Guy Rundle spotted this immediately, and while I would say that, wouldn’t I, his analysis has been the best you’ll see in an Australian publication. This is about far more than a simple matter of leaking sensitive cables, or newspaper coverage of those leaks.
Instead we’re given an uncomprehending coverage by the Australian media, as if it simply can’t process what’s happening, and needs to keep trying different narratives to see if they fit what’s being observed, sticking with whatever seems to temporarily do the trick. Given personalities are always easier to discuss than even the simplest policy issues, most of this has focussed on what ambassadors said about political leaders, and Assange himself — Assange as Bond-style supervillain; Assange as alleged rapist-wanted man; Assange as net libertarian (“information yearns to be free!”). None of that comes remotely near explaining what Assange is trying to do, which — regardless of how you feel about it — you have to go beyond the mainstream media to start to understand.
It’s not entirely fair to blame the media, though, because the Australian government is doing exactly the same thing. The response of the federal government has been… I was going to say “instructive”, but it’s more accurately, and sadly, affirmative of what you suspected, that politicians and bureaucrats can’t see this through any other than a rather 20th century, Cold War-style lens.
Accordingly, the whole business is being treated like an espionage case: Robert McClelland has made vague threats about arresting Assange and providing “every assistance” to the United States on “law enforcement action” and a “taskforce” has been assembled to consider the implications of the material being released. More seriously, McClelland has spoken of criminal offences in relation to publishing WikiLeaks-related material and said that the media may be asked to refrain from publishing certain material on national security grounds.
It barely needs to be said that McClelland’s suggestion that media outlets might either be asked to not publish material, or might find themselves charged if they do, appears to entirely miss that this is no longer 1985 and media executives are no longer the information gatekeepers they once were, even if they were inclined to cooperate.
The Cold War analog doesn’t work because, even if they weren’t moral equivalents, the two Cold War players were mirrors in their goals and apparati and had a dense, mutually-agreed set of rules to play by. WikiLeaks, however, is actively subverting any rules, far more asymmetric and nebulous even than the Islamofascist terrorism threat used so successfully to maintain the national security state in the absence of our Cold War enemies.
Dorothy, we’re not in West Berlin anymore.
The prime minister has gone further than McClelland, declaring the release of cables by WikiLeaks “illegal”, the sort of issue that, thankfully, courts still decide rather than politicians, and which in any event is hardly as clear as Julia Gillard seems to suggest, given she didn’t even say where exactly WikiLeaks’ publication would be considered illegal.
More to the point, she appears to have forgotten that Assange is an Australian citizen, and as such is entitled to a basic level of concern for his treatment from the government of his country — a level of concern that is entirely absent from the remarks of either the Attorney-General or the prime minister. We’ve been down this road before with David Hicks, and that didn’t end well for the government concerned. And Assange is no David Hicks (although, some evidently regard him as far more dangerous).
I’ll finish on a complete digression: when the music industry first switched from vinyl to CD, one particularly prescient musician — can’t recall the name, too vague to Google — suggested that once songs were reduced to a series of 0s and 1s, they were implicitly devalued, and that eventually the music industry would come to rue undermining its basic product in this way.
It took another decade and filesharing software to do it, but he or she was exactly right. The digitisation of information implicitly devalues it, makes it vastly, world-changingly easier to share. And that process doesn’t just change relationships within existing systems, it changes the systems themselves, fundamentally. Relatively trivial industries like entertainment have spent a decade discovering that horrible fact.
You can’t help but wonder how long it will take governments to work out that they are now in exactly the same situation as the music and movie execs who’ve spent so long trying to prop up by force the old system even as it collapses around them.
Keane links to this (long) post from ZunguZungu, which defies quoting - best to go and read the whole thing - Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”.
“To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.”
Julian Assange, “State and Terrorist Conspiracies”
The piece of writing (via) which that quote introduces is intellectually substantial, but not all that difficult to read, so you might as well take a look at it yourself. Most of the news media seems to be losing their minds over Wikileaks without actually reading these essays, even though he describes the function and aims of an organization like Wikileaks in pretty straightforward terms. But, to summarize, he begins by describing a state like the US as essentially an authoritarian conspiracy, and then reasons that the practical strategy for combating that conspiracy is to degrade its ability to conspire, to hinder its ability to “think” as a conspiratorial mind. The metaphor of a computing network is mostly implicit, but utterly crucial: he seeks to oppose the power of the state by treating it like a computer and tossing sand in its diodes.
He begins by positing that conspiracy and authoritarianism go hand in hand, arguing that since authoritarianism produces resistance to itself — to the extent that its authoritarianism becomes generally known — it can only continue to exist and function by preventing its intentions (the authorship of its authority?) from being generally known. It inevitably becomes, he argues, a conspiracy:Authoritarian regimes give rise to forces which oppose them by pushing against the individual and collective will to freedom, truth and self realization. Plans which assist authoritarian rule, once discovered, induce resistance. Hence these plans are concealed by successful authoritarian powers. This is enough to define their behavior as conspiratorial.
The problem this creates for the government conspiracy then becomes the organizational problem it must solve: if the conspiracy must operate in secrecy, how is it to communicate, plan, make decisions, discipline itself, and transform itself to meet new challenges? The answer is: by controlling information flows. After all, if the organization has goals that can be articulated, articulating them openly exposes them to resistance. But at the same time, failing to articulate those goals to itself deprives the organization of its ability to process and advance them. Somewhere in the middle, for the authoritarian conspiracy, is the right balance of authority and conspiracy.
His model for imagining the conspiracy, then, is not at all the cliché that people mean when they sneer at someone for being a “conspiracy theorist.” After all, most the “conspiracies” we’re familiar with are pure fantasies, and because the “Elders of Zion” or James Bond’s SPECTRE have never existed, their nonexistence becomes a cudgel for beating on people that would ever use the term or the concept. For Assange, by contrast, a conspiracy is something fairly banal, simply any network of associates who act in concert by hiding their concerted association from outsiders, an authority that proceeds by preventing its activities from being visible enough to provoke counter-reaction. It might be something as dramatic as a loose coalition of conspirators working to start a war with Iraq, or it might simply be the banal, everyday deceptions and conspiracies of normal diplomatic procedure.
The SMH has an article on a demonstration in support of Assange in Melbourne - Legal fury at 'war on free speech' . Plus one in Australia as well - Hundreds rally in support of Assange.
A MELBOURNE lawyer and former boss of Prime Minister Julia Gillard has criticised her government for its handling of WikiLeaks and its Australian founder, Julian Assange.
Peter Gordon, whose legal firm made Ms Gillard the first female partner of Slater and Gordon, said her comment that Mr Assange had broken the law was baseless.
He said the fact that people such as Ms Gillard and Attorney-General Robert McClelland - both of whom he knew to be good lawyers and decent people - could be driven to behave in this way was a sobering reminder of ''the seductive and compulsive draw of power''.
Mr Gordon was speaking on Thursday night at a WikiLeaks forum attended by 250 lawyers and civil libertarians at the Law Institute of Victoria.
In today's Age opinion page, he writes: ''If the Wikileaks disclosures tell us anything, it is that no government, whatever its political colours, is going to hesitate for a nanosecond to conflate the notion of 'national security' with 'my own career security'.''
He calls for a challenge to the ''war on information … call it what it is - a growing and insidious attack on free speech''.
Mr Gordon's stance was backed by several top barristers, who said neither official secrets nor terror laws provided any offences under which Mr Assange could be charged in Australia.
Mr Assange also received support from more than 500 people who attended a rally outside the State Library in Melbourne. The rally was one of several held around the country, with backers calling for a ban on WikiLeaks censorship and for Mr Assange to be freed.
Julian Burnside, QC, said of the government: ''I think they are trying to defend the indefensible.''
He said the state had an obligation to protect citizens who got into trouble in a foreign country. ''They ignored that obligation and instead sided with the Americans. They even went so far as to threaten to cancel his passport. That's exactly the opposite of what any self-respecting country ought to do.''
The SMH has an article on worldwide demonstrations in support of Assange - Worldwide demos called in support Assange.
Spanish online supporters of Assange called on Saturday for worldwide demonstrations to press for his release from a London jail, where he is awaiting possible extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations.
The Spanish website Free Wikileaks urged rallies at 6pm on Sunday (0400 AEDT Monday) in eight Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona. Similar demonstrations were planned in Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogota and Lima.
In a manifesto entitled "For freedom, Say No to State Terrorism," it demanded Assange's release and "restoration of the WikiLeaks domain."
"Given that no one has proved that Assange is guilty of the offences he is accused of and that Wikileaks is not implicated in any of those," the website also urged that credit card giants Visa and Mastercard rescind their decisions to cut off payments from the website's supporters.
The Business Spectator has an article on worries by the US banking sector about the next round of Wikileaks revelations - Why banks are worried about WikiLeaks
An Australian assisting Julian Assange’s legal team has raised the possibility that WikiLeaks’ next document dump relates to the politics of bank bailouts and ill-gotten bonuses.
Scott Burchill, senior lecturer in international relations at Deakin University in Melbourne, is working alongside the lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC and the journalist and author John Pilger on Assange’s legal defence.
As speculation intensifies that the next phase of the WikiLeaks saga will involve the release of documents of significance to the global banking market, it has been reported Bank of America has set up a ‘war room’ to defend its reputation.
In recent days, WikiLeaks has increasingly drawn attention to corporate behaviour, with oil and gas giant Shell accused of infiltrating the Nigerian government and the market expecting a massive document-dump on troubled UK energy giant BP.
But the prime suspect of the expected bank leak is Bank of America; its share price fell 3 per cent in a recent trading session when it was pinpointed as a target for the document-leaking site led by Assange, who is currently under arrest.
In the US, Fox Business Network’s Charlie Gasparino detailed Bank of America's ‘war room’ after outlining concerns the bank’s mortgage creation and purchases of investment bank Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial Corporation during the global financial crisis would come under the spotlight.
Dr Burchill, a former political officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs, defines his role as holding the Gillard government to account. As part of his duties to date he has hunted down Swedish translators for Assange’s UK lawyers.
He says the information – to be released this month or in early 2011, and described by Assange as giving “a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level” – could be highly revealing.
He says: “Maybe there are a few people who’ve diverted funds to pay themselves a bonus they’re not entitled to, or there’s a link between politicians on various Senate committees and the way these banks have got a handout."
ABC News is speculating the US may be about to take legal action against Assange (but not against any of the other media publishing the material from Wikileaks it would seem, yet) - Is the U.S. About to Indict Julian Assange?.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the man behind the publication of more than a 250,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables, could soon be facing spying charges in the U.S. related to the Espionage Act, Assange’s lawyer said today.
“Our position of course is that we don’t believe it applies to Mr. Assange and that in any event he’s entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of Wikileaks and any prosecution under the Espionage Act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organizations in the U.S.,” Assange’s attorney Jennifer Robinson told ABC News.
Robinson said a U.S. indictment of Assange was expected soon. ...
Justice Department officials declined to comment on the possible coming charges, but earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the release of the documents had put the United States at risk and said he authorized a criminal investigation into Assange.
Salon has a column noting the chilling effect on press freedom in the US these moves could imply - Assange prosecution would be "extremely dangerous".
The Obama administration is exploring the possibility of prosecuting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the century-old Espionage Act, according to a front-page Washington Post story this morning. But legal experts tell Salon that such a prosecution would not only face myriad legal and practical hurdles, it would also set what one analyst calls "an extremely dangerous precedent."
"This is novel legal territory. Every step involves uncertainty and virgin territory, and ideally it will be left that way," says Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists. Aftergood, who has been a critic of WikiLeaks in the past, argues that "a prosecution of WikiLeaks would be a horrible precedent that in time would almost certainly be applied to other publishers of controversial information."
At issue here is the Espionage Act of 1917, which was passed by Congress during World War I and makes it a crime to, among other things, disclose national defense information to someone not authorized to receive it or retain national defense information after the government has demanded it back. While there have been many successful prosecutions of leakers under this law, there have been extremely few prosecutions of those on the receiving end of leaks.
Many have argued that the law is unconstitutional, and, if it was actually applied broadly, would lead to the prosecution of journalists and newspapers that routinely obtain and publish classified national defense information. ...
The Alexandria U.S. attorney's office a few years ago charged two civilian pro-Israel lobbyists under the Espionage Act for receiving and transmitting classified information, but the case was dropped after rulings that made it harder for prosecutors to obtain a conviction. The same U.S. attorney's office is looking at the WikiLeaks case, according to the Post.
Aftergood, the secrecy expert, tells Salon that another potential theory by the government would be that Assange and WikiLeaks conspired to violate the Espionage Act by actively soliciting the diplomatic cables from the leaker.
"If a case could be made that WikiLeaks did not simply publish the material as a passive recipient, but that they actually solicited the release of the information, then they would be vulnerable," he says. But it's not clear how solicitation would be defined, and it's also not at all clear if the facts of the case would bear this theory out. And, again, if this theory of the law were applied, it's hard to see how it wouldn't ensnare a journalist like Bob Woodward, who asks government officials about classified matters and then publishes the information.
Crikey's Bernard Keane also has some thoughts about the implications of recent events for the media - WikiLeaks and the price of partnership.
One of the more interesting battles opened up by the WikiLeaks cables has been over what WikiLeaks actually is. This is more than just a debate about what to call the site — witness the unsubtle campaign to remove its appellation “whistleblower site”. As Julian Assange notes in his rambling self-defence today, the famous mastheads running some of the cables have so far been relatively free from the kinds of attacks WikiLeaks has endured. No politician or columnist has called for the editor of the New York Times to be assassinated. Financial institutions or web hosts have not been pressured to block The Guardian. No one has demanded that Der Speigel journalists be prosecuted under the United States’s Espionage Act (which makes as much sense as prosecuting an Australian).
Nor is it likely that Julia Gillard would launched her clumsy, petulant charge of “illegality” if this material had emerged in an established publication.
Nonetheless, however little politicians, officials and some conservatives like it, WikiLeaks is a media organisation. It did not steal the cables. Assange is no Daniel Ellsberg. The leaker — allegedly — is in custody in the United States, unlikely to be taste freedom for decades. Regardless of his motivations, Assange merely does what journalists and editors have done for centuries, provide a public platform for material the powerful want to keep hidden, for reasons good or ill. Moreover, like traditional media, WikiLeaks releases material subject to assessment as to what impacts it will have on individuals and the public interest.
However, as Assange noted, it’s a new and small media outlet. It relies on the internet for its broadcast infrastructure, and social media for its self-promotion. It lacks the branding that traditional, high-profile mastheads still retain even in the face of precipitately declining revenues. It also lacks the analytical capacity to explain the material it provides. That’s why it has partnered up with traditional mastheads such as the Times or the Guardian. This partnership is an extremely close one, to the extent that the outlets themselves are essentially dictating what WikiLeaks releases.
That partnership — like most partnerships, really, has its problems. In order to obtain some commercially appealing exclusivity, the mastheads are drip-feeding new material before the relevant cables are available. This prevents us from doing exactly what Assange says is the benefit of WikiLeaks. “Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?” In most cases we can’t know, at least for a few hours or days.
That’s the main problem with Fairfax’s coverage of cables about Kevin Rudd, said to be among “hundreds of US State Department documents relevant to Australia released by the WikiLeaks website” to Fairfax. Not merely has Fairfax not linked to the cables, it hasn’t even linked to a working WikiLeaks site, instead offering the URL www.wikileaks.org, which was shut down under US government pressure days ago. We all know that Kevin Rudd was a control freak with a high opinion of himself. Did the cables say anything else? What was the context for the remarks? As of this point, we can make no judgement about that, we cannot, as Assange says, “judge for ourselves”, because Fairfax won’t let us. We’ll have to wait until this afternoon, or tomorrow, or next week, to verify the account and see the full context, by which time the media cycle will have long since moved on.
That’s another price to be paid by WikiLeaks for hooking up with mainstream media outlets — particularly ones such as Fairfax where heavy-duty analytical expertise has long since fallen victim to cost-cutting. Examining the cables containing comments about political leaders elsewhere, it quickly becomes clear that strident comments, or one-liners, taken out of context and put into headlines, form part of a more nuanced picture provided by State Department officials in the relevant documents.
Fairfax isn’t alone in skipping that nuance — an emphasis on the personal and the gossipy has been a prominent feature of the mainstream media coverage. Individuals are easier to focus on than issues, and none more so than Assange himself, whose skirmishing with the Swedish legal system have been elevated by one asinine NBC journalist into an “international manhunt” and garnered as much attention as the cables themselves. There’s a similar kind of partnership at work here, however, given Assange has assiduously and cleverly used the media and his own image to promote WikiLeaks (not to forget that Assange’s own ego benefits similarly).
This is all the price WikiLeaks is willingly paying to more effectively reach its audience, just like any media organisation.
As Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald has noted, the penny might now be starting to drop among journalists and editors that if WikiLeaks can be attacked, so too can the mainstream media. Self-appointed Witchfinder-General in the whole business, US Senator Joe Lieberman, has already gone in this direction by suggesting the New York Times may have committed a crime by publishing the material — comments that at least have the virtue of being targeted at an entity that is actually within the United States. Attorney-General Robert McClelland here has been talking about voluntary “arrangements” that might see mainstream media outlets — the only ones invited to participate in the development of the arrangements — self-censor national security-related material. Which gives rise to the obvious question — what happens if editors decline to participate, and ignore any such “arrangements”?
The mainstream media must eventually accept its interests are aligned with those of WikiLeaks. If WikiLeaks has to pay a price for its partnership with mainstream media, so does the media itself.
Cryptogon points out that if you have a US controlled domain name, you can be taken down at any time at the whims of people with no respect for free speech whatsoever, such as Senator Lieberman, so maybe it would be a good idea to either move elsewhere or have a backup - cryptogon.ch (noting file sharers are copping it too, not just Wikileaks).
I’ve registered cryptogon.ch with the Swiss registrar Switchplus.
I don’t know how well .ch will hold up going forward, but it seemed prudent to at least have an alternative if I should lose control of the cryptogon.com domain for any reason. At a minimum, .ch appears to be far, far more desirable than the U.S. controlled top level domains, where arbitrary takedowns and DNS hijackings are now occurring.
Cryptogon.ch currently points to a BlueHost box (inside the U.S.). If the shit hits the fan (the American fascist regime hijacks my domain name, for example, or the U.S. imposes some kind of Chinese-style firewall or something, who knows?), I can redirect cryptogon.ch to a host in a more free country.
I don’t anticipate any particular action against Cryptogon, but the fact is that it has already happened to some site operators. No due process. Arbitrary, fascist whims. That’s it. And if it can happen to _______ (fill in the blank) it can happen to me or you, or anyone who uses .com, .net or .org.
Anyway, this is just a quick announcement, cryptogon.ch, let’s hope we never have to use it.