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Julian Assange, defending our democracies (despite their owners' wishes)

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 should go to Julian Assange (if he lives long enough to receive it).

You don't need me to point you at the huge mass of US diplomatic cables disclosed by wikileaks this week. Nor do you need me to point to the outrage it has generated, including calls for his assassination and, ludicrously, trial and execution for treason by the US government (Planet Earth to Mick Huckabee: by definition it's not treason if he's not an American citizen and isn't acting within the USA).

But you might be wondering why he's doing it? If so, read this now.

Around the world, governments seem to be more interested in obeying the goals of industry lobbyists and the rich than in actually governing well; this isn't an accident, but the outcome of the capture of the machinery of governance by groups of individuals who are self-selecting for adherence to a narrow ideological outlook. In effect we are beset by accidental authoritarian conspiracies — not top-down conspiracies led by a white-cat-stroking Bond villain, but unintentional ad-hoc conspiracies by groups of individuals who work together to promote common interests. By coordinating, they can gain control of our institutions and impose an agenda that is agreeable to their interests (but not to the majority of the public). Familiar examples might include: the music and film industries and their catspaws among the lobbyists attending the WIPO intellectual property negotiations, the oil and coal industries, the religious right, and so on.

Assange has a model of how the abduction of governance by common interest groups — such as corporations and right wing political factions — works in the current age. His goal is to impair the ability of these groups to exert control over democratic institutions without the consent of the governed. By forcing these authoritarian institutions to apply ever-heavier burdens of secrecy to their internal communications, wikileaks aims to reduce their ability to coordinate and, thus, to exert control:

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.

Assange's analysis parallels Chomsky's — modulo having a somewhat different ideological outlook — but he's gone a significant step further, and is fighting back. His own explanation is here (warning: PDF).

Wikileaks is not attacking the US government; rather, it's acting to degrade the ability of pressure groups to manipulate the US government to their own ends. Those who benefit the most from their ability to manipulate the State Department are the most angry about this: autocratic middle eastern leaders, authoritarian right-wing politicians, royalty, corporate cartels. Those of us who are scratching our heads and going "huh?" about the significance of Muammar Ghadaffi's botox habit are missing the point: it's not about the content, but about the implication that the powerful can no longer count on their ability to lie to the public without being called on it.


In an ideal world, wikileaks wouldn't be necessary. But the US mass media has been neutered and coopted by the enemies of the public interest.

So we move to the backlash: disinformation, or black propaganda and smear campaigns.

It's no coincidence that within 48 hours of the latest batch of leaks, Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Assange on charges of alleged rape. (I'm only surprised that they didn't go the whole hog and accuse him of incest, blasphemy, child abuse, simony, and disrespectin' the money.)

Obviously I can't comment on whether there's any substance to the charges, but Counterpunch suggests otherwise, alleging:

Swedish bloggers uncovered the full story in a few hours. The complaint was lodged by a radical feminist Anna Ardin, 30, a one-time intern in the Swedish Foreign Service. She's spokeswoman for Broderskapsrörelsen, the liberation theology-like Christian organization affiliated with Sweden's Social Democratic Party. She had invited Julian Assange to a crayfish party, and they had enjoyed some quality time together. When Ardin discovered that Julian shared a similar experience with a 20-year-old woman a day or two later, she obtained the younger woman's cooperation in declaring before the police that changing partners in so rapid a manner constituted a sort of deceit. And deceit is a sort of rape. The prosecutor immediately issued an arrest warrant, and the press was duly notified. Once the facts were examined in the cold light of day, the charge of rape seemed ludicrous and was immediately dropped. In the meantime the younger woman, perhaps realizing how she had been used, withdrew her report, leaving the vengeful Anna Ardin standing alone.


Ardin has written and published on her blog a "revenge instruction", describing how to commit a complete character assassination to legally destroy a person who "should be punished for what he did". If the offence was of a sexual nature, the revenge also must also be sex-related, she wrote.

I think that the timing of the allegations (which first surfaced after the previous wikileaks disclosures) and the INTERPOL warrant is suggestive of a politically-motivated disinformation campaign rather than an actual serious criminal investigation. I also note with interest the way the charges were originally brought, then withdrawn, then brought again. Rape is an extremely serious charge, and generally treated as such in Sweden. So what's up with this?

Your guess is as good as mine, but my guess is this: Assange is stomping on the bunions of the rich and powerful. And while serious people aren't suggesting murder or prosecution for treason — either of which would make a martyr of him and underscore the seriousness of his project; I'll note that only un-serious politicians, whoring for newspaper column-inches, are coming out with this crap — I think his enemies are fighting back with that time-honoured tactic of the scoundrel, the carefully-aimed character assassination.

Which, if you think about it, suggests he's onto something important.

258 Comments

1:

Interesting that Sweden has fraud in the inducement as a grounds for rape. In common law countries generally, fraud in the factum is generally the only "deceit" grounds for rape.

2:

If what I'm reading is accurate, Assange's mistake was to have two one-night stands in the same week. One of them with a woman who has thought long and hard about revenge (assuming that blog entry really was written by her), and at a time when he's busy acquiring powerful enemies.

(NOTE: I've seen no allegations of forcible sex, or sex without consent before or during the act -- either of which would clearly make it sexual assault. Rather, the allegations seem to reflect retroactive withdrawl of consent, which is a very murky area indeed.)

3:

When you give examples of special interests manipulating government, why is it just corporations and right wing interests? The public employees unions have just as much, if not more, undue influence, and are just as at odds with the public interest. It's even more pernicious when you realize that they are influencing the people who literally set their pay rates and benefits, and the enormous liabilities from their pension systems are going to end up toppling entire countries' financial systems. On top of all the other mess we're dealing with, this shoe has yet to drop!

4:

You appear to have wandered in from the 1970s; I believe your time machine is thataway.

Shorter version: the Maggon neutered the public employee unions here in the UK back in the early 80s; I gather Ronald Reagan did similarly in the USA. There are some exceptions -- the screws prison officers in California spring to mind -- but for the most part, the spectre of powerful unions is a very tattered bloody shirt these days.

The tide has been running to the right ever since the Berlin Wall came down; is it any surprise that they're the side with the greatest opportunity to get down'n'dirty with the levers of power?

5:

I understand that, but in the criminal law of common law countries, deceit is not a basis for a rape charge unless you are lying about the actual fact of having sex, e.g. a gynecologist claiming he is doing an examination when he is actually performing a sexual act. If instead someone lies or misrepresents themselves to induce another consenting adult to have sex with them (offers of marriage, claims to be a Hollywood producer, claims to be of a particular race/religion, etc.), that is not a crime.

I realize this is off the main point and even in Sweden it appears to be a weak case. I just thought it was weird that a country like Sweden would have this sort of legal policy. Israel has recently taken a hit for convicting a Palestinian for rape for lying to a Jewish woman about being a Jew; so I had the impression that this was not an acceptable legal principle in the developed world anymore.

6:

To be fair, it looks like Huckabee's calling for Bradley Manning to be executed for treason. Which is still, you know, deranged, but not quite as crazy as calling for an Aussie to be tried for treason against the US.

Palin actually did call for Assange to be tried for treason. But we expect that from her.

7:

If the finance leak can happen before the destruction of wikileaks, it should be good in the long term, short term will get ugly from convulsions induced in the finance community. The best outcome would be a back to basics movement, focusing on economy as it happens to smaller entities than multinational banks.

8:

Small point of order - the right-wingers in the US appear to be calling for the execution of the actual leaker, currently thought to be Specialist Bradley Manning, rather than Assange, although Palin is equating Assange with Al-Quaeda later in the article. That said, when you've got Canadian political advisers 'chucklingly' suggesting assassination of foreign nationals because they're a bit embarrassed about some diplomatic cables, you're right, that's deeply symptomatic of a worse problem - the belief among those in government that exposure of government crimes is itself a crime.

9:

I fail to see how revealing diplomatic cables detailing such things as:

King Fahd wanting the US to attack Iran.

China stating that they could never accept Japan having a permanent seat on the UNSC.

The Shah of Iran asking for more F-4 Phantoms in 1972(!).

The South Koreans stating that North Korea would collapse in a few years.

The Chinese describing the North Koreans as 'children'.

The poor status of Japanese document security.

...can be seen as promoting democracy. Assange seems to be a man with an ego that needs to be boosted - and these releases do at least that.

10:

In specific, Huckabee said: "Whoever *in our government* leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty." [emphasis mine]

11:

Unfortunately there's an almost no chance of a Nobel Prize - that's just given out to whoever it is politically expedient to give it to - eg Obama - the man had done nothing for world peace and since then has just continued the war and murders of the Bush regime.

As for government obeying industry - they have done so since the rise of industry - from the Combination Acts and clamp downs on working class movements through the progressive agenda of regulation to create a stable oligopoly in business to today's rotating door of government and industry and the military-governmental-industrial complex.

12:

I thought the allegation against Assange is that he started consensual sex with the women using a condom, but then removed the condom unilaterally. If that's right, the case isn't as ridiculous as Counterpunch makes it sound - but then, They wouldn't choose a ridiculous allegation for a smear operation, would They? I agree that it is probably an attempt to discredit him.

Also, according to the linked story, Huckabee is saying that the *source* of the leak should be executed for treason, not Assange. Presumably the source is a US citizen, probably Bradley Manning.

13:

The actions of the NY Times and other supposedly moderate elements are more appalling than those of the right. The US right is as predictable in its response as a junk yard (or Pavlovian) dog.
However, it is (supposed) to be the ethical duty of the press to follow the facts of a story.

14:

I guess it is to the main point that such a weak case would be prioritized and given any kind of life. If you believe wikipedia, then some Swedish lawyers claim the warrant is procedurely immature at the very least and Assange's own lawyers claim that the substance of the charge is not consonant with an advanced society's conception of the crime even if you take the allegations as factually true.

15:

Eamon: it's all about giving due notice to the conspiratorially-inclined that their private communications are vulnerable to leakage. Which will force them to hold their cards closer to their chest. Which in turn will reduce their ability to coordinate with one another to exert control over our institutions.

Are you by any chance familiar with how Trotskyite entryists work?

16:

That is definitely more complicated. If he proceeded against her will afterwards, that would be straight up rape. If he deceived her about its continued use, that might fall into a grey area. From the perspective of the powerful (and less crazy), it is probably best if we all go "Ewww" at his behavior and shun him, than if he goes to prison under murky circumstances and becomes a cause celebre.

Issuing an invalid warrant to discomfort him would still be an abuse of power and an example pour les autres. As would prioritizing a specific criminal charge because of the political activities of the accused.

17:

Eamon, this blogger for the Economist does not think the cables published by Wikileaks are just trivial. Quote:

[T]he ACLU reports that the Bush administration "pressured Germany not to prosecute CIA officers responsible for the kidnapping, extraordinary rendition and torture of German national Khaled El-Masri", a terrorism suspect dumped in Albania once the CIA determined it had nabbed a nobody. I consider kidnapping and torture serious crimes, and I think it's interesting indeed if the United States government applied pressure to foreign governments to ensure complicity in the cover-up of it agents' abuses. In any case, I don't consider this gossip.

Revealing the abuses of governments definitely works in the favor of democracy. If nothing else, voters should be educated about circumstances, and hiding crimes of governments prevents them from getting educated.

18:

His goal is to impair the ability of these groups to exert control over democratic institutions without the consent of the governed.

But isn't it equally likely that the net result will be to destroy the ability of democratically-controllable institutions to place constraints on the power of those groups?

On the front page of today's newspaper, you will find the stuff about who said what about Iran. Somewhere buried in the middle, you will find the fact that several Iranian civilian scientists just got blown up. An act of terrorism that is unlikely to ever see the details posted online, because those involved, whoever they are, will be small in number and committed.

If you change things to favour the actions of small, dedicated groups above larger, looser ones, you change a _lot_ of underlying assumptions about politics.

You could well end up with a society where you are perfectly free to say 'so and so stole the money he used to bribe the judge to get off the charge for killing the witness'. It's just that individually, everyone will be too scared to do anything about it: he has shown he has the power to have people killed.

In short, one where everyone treats what in our society would be an accusation of successful criminality as if you lived in a medieval village and said 'he is the Baron'.

19:

No we are not overrun with unions here either (sadly).

This is a depressingly universal trope in the US, regardless of how bad the right gets, the left must somehow be more evil:
http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2010/11/beast-that-shouted-love-at-heart-of.html

Whereas the true threat is all these foreigners in other countries.


20:

What I heard was that he was having sex and the condom broke. Then he had sex again, and another condom broke. When the two ladies learned of each other, they got pissed off (for some reason) and filed charges against him, apparently in an effort to get him STD tested. Why they couldn't STD test themselves is not clear in this telling.

I later heard a revision of the story that says that after the condom broke on both occasions, the woman said stop and he refused to comply, which if true would be out and out rape. It doesn't explain why he's not actually being charged with rape, but rather is being called in for questioning that for some reason can't happen over Skype and why STD testing (which shows up in both versions of the story) is necessary on him when what the women should be concerned about is their own STD results.

Source: http://alturl.com/t25ry

I really, really hate to feel like a rape apologist, but the unique circumstances of this case leads me to agree with you that this is a full court press effort by various Shadowy Government Entities to get him taken into custody.

One curious anomaly in this story is that I heard he was last hiding somewhere outside of London. This wouldn't make any sense, since the US and UK intelligence operations normally work hand in glove, so you'd think the UK is the last place he'd want to go. It may be a baseless rumor, but if it were true would raise interesting questions.

21:

I really, really hate to feel like a rape apologist.

Me too.

But the whole business stinks -- especially the timing. See also: Anwar Ibrahim, sodomy charges, Malaysian political corruption.

22:

I do enjoy your posts Charlie!!

Interesting read on the articles of faith underlying Wikileaks and I would suggest not too far aware from the thought process that informs our coalition overlords when they publicise swathes of government spending.

It will be very interesting to see what is in the bank disclosures that he is talking up in the media at the moment.

23:

It would be ironic indeed if Assange is correct and that his small operation actually brought down an authoritarian government which superpower militaries failed to do.

However, I think his analysis fails in this respect. Governments only fear the populace if they have insufficient power over them. Western democracies frequently make the mistake of assuming that information alone is sufficient to curb power. It is the conceit that democracy is the natural progression of government systems, even though history indicates otherwise.

24:

But isn't it equally likely that the net result will be to destroy the ability of democratically-controllable institutions to place constraints on the power of those groups?

You've got it turned exactly 180 degrees round. Those groups already dominate our political structures; that's why this campaign is necessary.

Conspiracies breed under cover of secrecy. Enforced transparency makes it hard for them to thrive.

25:

“Can we have a CIA agent with a sniper rifle rattle a bullet around his skull the next time he appears in public as a warning? You bet we can -- and we should. If that's too garish for people, then the CIA can kill him and make it look like an accident. Either way, Julian Assange deserves to die.”

If anyone needs me, I'll be hiding under my bed.

26:

@ 18:

This is a depressingly universal trope in the US, regardless of how bad the right gets, the left must somehow be more evil: http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2010/11/beast-that-shouted-love-at-heart-of.html

I don't think that's quite accurate. It appears to be more the case that whatever gets defined as "leftist" must be unworkable, impractical, or yes, somehow evil.

That's the big problem with political dialogue in the U.S. today; wanting to impose restrictions on abortion in order to get a really bad health care bill passed is somehow "moderate", while wanting to include some sort of public option is "liberal" or "leftist" - even the majority of the American public was for it.

27:

What's also interesting is the adroit use of flak - by declaring that the leaks put 'lives at risk' the US authorities make that the story, rather than the contents of the leaks, and discourage mainstream media from joining in the disclosures - it also serves to poison the well, so that in any debate, that talking point can become the point of focus for the 101st Keyboard Division's shock troops.

As for Assange, I think a gentle silence is more helpful, the media would love to make him the story...

28:

Thank you, Charlie. I've been waiting to see what you'd say about the leaks, and this post doesn't disappoint.

This article was just linked by The Guardian's liveblogger, and I thought it had some interesting bits:

"New leaked cables are coming from weird sources, think tanks, the countries involved. There's a lot of stuff being quoted in local press from cables that haven't been released yet and I have no idea where they are coming from."

There's apparently even speculation that some of them are preemptively leaked by governments and do not come from Wikileaks. That sounds almost too interesting to be true...

29:

Enforced transparency makes it hard for them to thrive.

It might. But that's not what is happening, because the transparency only applies to those operations that are not secret. Literally, in the case of US government classifications, and figuratively everywhere. If anything, it would probably be better described as enforced secrecy.

Western democracies frequently make the mistake of assuming that information alone is sufficient to curb power

Precisely. In fact, the information that someone has the power to have your family killed is something that only reinforces that power. Once a regime that has publicly demonstrated the power to have unarmed civilians shot on the street, it is vanishingly rare for them to lose, or abandon, that power.

Mussolini's rule in Italy was insecure until the point not when he first had someone killed, but when it was openly acknowledged that he had done so: Giacomo Matteotti. Despite the fact that there isn't any consensus amongst historians as to whether he had prior involvement in the killing or not, he certainly used the fact everyone thought he did to his advantage.

30:

but for the most part, the spectre of powerful unions is a very tattered bloody shirt these days.

Two words: Ed Miliband. Ask his brother David about the unions being a busted flush...

she obtained the younger woman's cooperation in declaring before the police that changing partners in so rapid a manner constituted a sort of deceit. And deceit is a sort of rape.

What's the Swedish for 'perjury'? Odds that prosecution for such of this (politically useful) bunny-boiler be found to be 'not in the public interest'?

Julian Assange: speaking truth unto power, and getting the inevitable smearing for it.

31:

I draw your attention to the Twitter comment from David Brin, a man who's thought long and hard about transparency:
"Unfortunately, Wikileaks will lead, not to more Transparency -- but to tighter control over information". I don't agree with him, but I see why he raises the point.

32:

I don't know. I'm an American (very lefty) but I've got mixed feelings about the cable data dump. Revealing US war-crimes and torture (the Iraq and Afghanistan war document dumps) was an ethical imperative, and those kind of revelations absolutely must continue.

However, State department cables seem a poor choice of targets. Although on balance, I think Charlie's sorta right, I think there are important downsides that can't be ignored.

Government bureaucrats already work under a bunker mentality. I know, because I've participated in "open government" projects and realize how fearful they are of congressional investigations and media propaganda. They're all worried about the "gotcha game", having Fox News distort and warp their work, and watching the public interest get vaporized in the process. (I'm lucky in that I've worked with bureaucrats who genuinely care about the public interest, and this poor lot feels under constant assault.) In my experience, they like the abstract notion of transparency, but worry how context can get lost (see Lessig's notion of "naked transparency").

Although I absolutely agree with the general notion that government is being co-opted by authoritarian and corporate interests, I think this document dump will make the siege mentality far worse. I also think it plays directly into the hands of the right wing, who will want more security, more authoritarian controls on information, and probably international death squads to kill Wikileak-like operations (though I suspect the Russians will do that dirty work first).

The main problem I see is that corporate/authoritarian forces are diffuse. It's a lot easier to knock down a big visible edifice like the US government than a diffuse bunch of Christian fundamentalists, fascist media organizations, and corporate thugs. So Wikileaks disproportionately undermines the US government (which still has some democratic checks) without really damaging the diffuse corrupting forces behind rising authoritarianism.

I worry that further eroding the legitimacy of the US government, which still has some democratic checks, Wikileaks only encourages the rise of the authoritarian right. I hope we're not creating something as seemingly feckless and demoralized as the Weimar Republic, since that did not end well.

(Remember I'm an American, and the right is weirdly associated with anti-government rancor).

33:

Two points: firstly, read this now (if you haven't already). Seriously, your objections to the data leaks are anticipated and there's a reason for continuing with them.

Second point: Remember I'm an American, and the right is weirdly associated with anti-government rancor. I would hypothesize that the American right are only anti-government because they don't control it, and the rule of law represents an obstacle to their agenda.

34:

It would seem the main interest the US (and the sister governments) has in prosecuting Assange for "treason" would be to prevent the flood of leaks that will result once people realize:

a: they aren't likely to get caught if they leak, and

b: they actually have an outlet other than the mainstream media that will put their information out and not reveal them to the people in power. If the NYT goes to the gov to vet the cables that they publish, despite them being available on the net in their entirety to everyone, what independence do they possibly have?

This man and his team deserve the Nobel Peace Prize long before a "peacemaker" such as Obama (Guantanamo is still open and troops still kill civilians in Afghanistan).

35:

Sorry Charlie - the rape charge is based on two statements that Assange refused to stop when a condom was not used continuously. I read the Swedish press coverage when it all started five months ago and it was pretty clear the womens' accusations are unrelated to any government plot - though perhaps it could be motivated partly by their own personal politics. Whether the charge is accurate or not is essentially impossible to know at this point since the women, already both incensed that Assange didn't write or call, learned of each others' existence by accident, then met and shared their stories with each other before going to police together.

If the story is true, it may have been a result of a breakdown in communication as a result of cultural misunderstandings, not intent to rape. Still, I don't think the charge can be trivialized. That said, abruptly issuing a new arrest warrant at the same time as the new leak does seem to be politically motivated timing.

36:

I'm getting really tired with how the right is always fingered as the authoritarian, religious and unquestionably Evil side of politics. More's the joke that the person trying to character-assassinate Assange doesn't sound right in the slightest.

37:

Which unions are those then? Oh, you mean the millions of union *members* who exercised their right to have a say in the leadership of a political organisation that their dues help to fund.

I thought grassroots democracy was supposed to be a good thing. Did I miss a memo?

Regards
Luke

38:

Shiva,

You assume that government, intel agencies would not pay (coerce, bribe, etc.) women to get into such a situation with a target.

If I were a spook I would.

It is so easy to get men into compromising positions when women and sex are involved. That would be one of my first techniques to engage a male target in skulduggery missions.

On a side note, I am very suspsicious of the charge that they requested he get tested. WTF? If you htink you had sex with someone suspected of having an STD - you get yourself tested immediately.

39:

I am a Swedish law student, and I think you might have gotten some facts wrong.

This is the first I hear about a partner switch being the reason for the sex being of the rapey variety. While I don't have any particular knowledge about the case, so far the consensus seem to be that the rape prosecution is due to Assange being accused of removing or destroying a condom without consent.

https://www.flashback.org/sp25460511

I don't know any more than a layman about criminal law, but deceptive condom use feels a lot more like something that would be covered by a rape charge, than simply being an ass with regards to informing your partners that there are others. At any rate, this would be the first time I hear about anything remotely similiar.

FWIW the unions do have their hands on at least some levers of power in Sweden. They're pretty much an arm of the party that has closed to owned the country since WW2.

40:

Fascinating coincidence:

The Science Channel, one of the lesser channels of the Discovery Cable Network flock, started running a show called "Spy Wars" on Sunday.

Their topic? The assassination of Gerald Bull, the Canadian weapons designer who was formerly employed by the CIA, then had a massive falling out and went to for for Saddam Hussein building those big guns that never quite materialized. No one will say who pulled killed him or how, but he was warned repeatedly to stop working for Saddam before he was killed.

When I saw this, I started wondering about Wikileaks.

Considering Discovery Channel was able to come up with a one-hour show about the rescue of the Chilean Miners within two weeks of when they were rescued (and also had a two-week turnaround on the Iceland Volcano last year), I'm suspicious of the placement of this show. It easily could have been cooked up as a demonstration of what happens when one upsets the rich and powerful.

I think Mr. Assange does have a lot to legitimately fear right now. If we happen to think he's doing the right thing with Wikileaks, the question is whether there's anything we can do to prevent him from meeting a similar fate.

41:

cod3fr3ak,

Of course you are right, the women could have been paid to set him up. However, since one woman wanted revenge (as she wrote herself on her blog) the overall scenario is plausible enough that we don't need to introduce any conspiracy... Assange got in trouble all by himself, partly due to not understanding local culture or laws.

RasmusF,

You must have a perspective on how unusual is the way this case was handled. Do you think it can be credibly argued that the Swedish police might have 1) knowingly participated in a setup of Assange or 2) reinstated the dropped charge and/or issued the arrest warrant as a result of US pressure? I thought the whole point of his going to Sweden is that he thought the government wouldn't kowtow to the US. Was he naive?

42:

I think one other item that everyone should think about is that if the information leaked this readily, any organization that was genuinely interesting in it and willing to do even minor 'spying' will already have gotten everything that wikileaks is disseminating and more.

43:

Once again David Brin demonstrates that his name should be given as the dictionary entry for "missing the point".

44:

Mm. Charlie, do you really want an executive branch of the United States that is immune to pressure from interest groups? Let me point out that the chief executive most responsible for insulating the White House from corporate pressure on American foreign policy was Richard Milhous Nixon.

That should be enough to make anyone pause for a moment.

45:

@Kyle Wilson

Yep you are absolutely correct.

I for one think the whole thing is a smoke screen to cover up the fact that some guy was able to walk out of a comm center with a disk full of classified docs and no one in his chain of command knew about it. I bet they aren't even running AIDE or BART, or some sort of auditing so they could see the file and data transfers. And of course the cd burner wasn't secured, AND he got into a secure facility with media (you aren't supposed to bring media from outside locations).

In fact if he had just shotgunned the info out onto the net, he probably would have gotten away with it. Kinda makes you wonder just how compromised US IT security systems are. The fact that no heads have rolled in the chain'o'command and the private contractors that probably built the system (for far too much money probably) have not been hauled up in front of congress, speaks volumes to me.

In a bank if a teller steals some cash they know in about 8 hours, many times less. Why our classified IT systems aren't secured so that large data dumps by PFCs aren't identified and addressed in a timely manner is the real story. One our government is trying very hard to keep everyone from seeing.

46:

True, but I think a lot of times intel guys just kinda create the possiblity of the situation happening.

For example I know Prime Minister So-and-So like redheads. I'll just make sure to include a very cute innocent naieve redhead as a office assistant on his staff.

From there human nature will do the rest.

If he dodges that bullet well maybe he likes coke...

47:

I don't approve of these leaks, not as they are being conducted. This isn't him defending democracies against anything. It's too indiscriminate. This is the information equivalent of carpet bombing a jungle village. Sure you might get one rebel, but you've just gone and done worse than what you were trying to stop.

It would take a lot more work and effort to do, but they should go through, and find all the places where they think manipulation is being conducted, where secrets are being wrongly hidden, and release those and the immediately related documents. Heck categorize them by country and release them in batches, but at least try and aim your fire at those that deserve it.

48:

In the US the "Right" is a rather broad umbrella covering a lot of opposing philosophies, even more than "Left" is here.

For example, both libertarians who want to legalize drugs and abolish 90% of the military, and fundamentalist hawks who want to punish drug users harshly and put troops all over the world are considered "Rightwing".

49:

An accusation of rape is an excellent way to smear him and to discourage support from his natural allies. Child molestation would be better, but you work with what you have.

My problem with Assange is that he seems like a total prick.

50:

This isn't about interest groups, it's about making the networks of power porous enough to get the good information that will make everyone's lives easier and better.

Conspiracies may be efficient at achieving a few goals for a few people, but the rest of us are suffering from the stupidity and global inefficiency induced by these tight networks.

This isn't about turning the Presidency into a clone of the Nixon Whitehouse. It's the opposite.

In the current environment, we environmentalists could (and did) say, "Hey, President Obama, when the environmental community said they wanted solar power, they wanted to decentralize the grid by putting panels on people's roofs, not to trash a bunch of wilderness to make a few international solar investors rich." The environmentalist's ideal would have produced the same energy without the expensive, centralized infrastructure, environmental destruction, and legal turmoil. It would have employed more people too.

But we didn't get heard. Now we've got yet another mess with alternative energy. Everyone loses except those investors, too.

While there are problems with radical transparency, too much secrecy definitely makes for bad decision making, too.

51:

Arbutifolia, I'm going by what Charlie wrote on the top of the page, not your exegesis thereof. I don't have an interest in that. Sorry!

52:

Carlos, Heteromeles restates Assange's position better than I managed to. So he is in effect speaking for me here.

53:

I would hypothesize that the American right are only anti-government because they don't control it, and the rule of law represents an obstacle to their agenda.

So are you starting to get the point of why it is a bad idea yet?

That's the difference between wikileaks and pretty much everything previously called a 'leak' or 'gate'. All such cases, for example the Abu Ghraib torture photos, were a result of someone getting their hands on evidence of some specific thing they thought of as illegal or grossly wrong, examining their conscience, and deciding to publish.

Wikileaks is pretty much the opposite: calling it a leak is a misnomer. You can't have a leak if you throw away the whole hull. Nothing in it can really be called illegal: there are no assassinations, murders, massacres, cases of torture, embargo-breaking or bribes. I think the closest to illegality is something like a suggestion that diplomats should gather any information they come across that would be of use to real spooks.

Now maybe that means that in the status quo, no-one in the US government ever breaks the law (in a clearer way than anything released). Or, more realistically, anyone doing something illegal at least has to hide it from their colleagues, which presumably makes things more difficult. Post-wikileaks, anyone doing _anything_ will have to do the same: there will be no moral or legal filter in place, and no record of wrongdoings. Providing perfect cover and deniability for corruption, fanaticism, or anything else. If you can't be expected to report your conversation with the ambassador for the files, your freedom of action just went up massively.

Without an effective rule of law to constrain it, government becomes little but an arena of conflict between those who pay bribes, and those who just have people killed. Which, if strikes and revolutions are the defining tactics of the left, are the two defining tactics of the right.

So my prediction is that wikileaks will provide control of government to one or other wing of the right. At least, until and unless the liberal left can come up with some new and effective tactic to change the game again.

54:

Cliff notes:

I think the most likely scenario is that Ardin got miffed on her own, followed by the scenario where only she and/or the other woman are turned. The remaining possible conspiracies I'd rank in reverse order of required number of participants.

Shiva,

Yes, it is very unusual for a case being handled the way Assange's was. Eg, typically prosecutors do not contradict each other repeatedly.

I think part of the explanation for this is that the definition of rape in Swedish law have been expanded quite a bit in the last couple of years. It's possibly that the definition is so fuzzy that nobody, including the prosecutors, can know whether Assange's was rape or not.


I'd estimate it as below 1% that the regular Swedish police knowingly participated in a setup. Our police force isn't particularly competent wrt complex schemes, they're horrible at keeping secrets and are generally very difficult to outright corrupt.

I guess an individual officer might have been turned, and the security police occasionally get exposed doing shady stuff. Given a credible accuser I don't see much use for either in a conspiracy though.

I could certainly see the Swedish government folding to US pressure in general, but I don't find it very plausible in this case. Again, all you need to get the character assassination going are credible accusers. If the government actually did use pressure on the prosecutorial office they took a huge risk for relatively little gain.

55:

Alternatively: the leaks force a clamp-down on information flow. Which makes it harder for authoritarian individuals to find each other and create ad-hoc conspiracies to further the overlapping elements of their agenda(s). That seems to be Assange's goal.

Also note: it's not just about the US government, it's about the transnational conspiracies of interest that have evolved in the past twenty years (or longer). For example, the political campaign advisors who shared electoral techniques between the US Republican Party and the British Labour Party in the 2000s, or the anti-climate-change lobby funded by the oil corporations and the Koch brothers.

56:

Hi Charlie,

I re-read it (also got the link from various email lists).

It seems somehow utopian to me. The fight against these authoritarian conspiracies (using the appropriate language of the essay) is a Red-Queen's race, and I still worry about the collateral damage of Wikileaks.

The authoritarian conspiracies will adapt to a Wikileaks world and find effective was to counter the impact of Wikileaks. If you can't control the flow of information (and I don't think an open Web and Internet are really inevitable givens; we're already seeing those get increasingly co-opted), you can manipulate public attention and "spin". Sure the information may be available, but who will notice and organize effective responses?

Worse yet, I worry about how this development changes "selection pressures" (in a pseudo-Darwinian sense) for the kinds of organizations and governments that can survive in the contemporary world. Will hard-authoritarian regimes be better able to cope with efforts like Wikileaks than regimes that still retain some democratic accountability and legal constraints?

I guess only time will tell. I hope Assange is right but he strikes me as a little to sure of himself for my comfort level.

Lastly, regarding the Right's feelings about government in the US. You are absolutely correct. They are quite happy to use government powers to imprison, torture, and enforce Christian-ist morality (sic). They are less happy with using government to combat negative externalities or promote positive externalities. Anti-government rhetoric on the Right is really about denying the importance / existence of externalities.

57:

Alternatively: the leaks force a clamp-down on information flow.

That's not an alternative, that's what I am suggesting. One of the forms of information flow that will be clamped down on is the leak: individuals of conscience won't be coming across anything important any more.

Taking that into account, do you really believe that making government explicitly stupider, with worse information flow, is a net good? Are you assuming that as a consequence of becoming stupider, it will somehow gradually shrink in power (while still avoiding any true catastrophe)?

the anti-climate-change lobby funded by the oil corporations and the Koch brothers.

That example hasn't yet convinced you that information is rarely more than a marginal weapon in a political conflict?

Now we've got yet another mess with alternative energy.

Sorry, but that seems to me to be purest magical thinking. What is the actual mechanism by which you suggest that the publication of one set of information, and restriction of another, will serve to produce better government decisions on environmental policy?

Certainly, the idea that corporate lobbyists and politicians in need of campaign funding will find it difficult to 'find each other' doesn't pass the giggle test.

Are you forgetting the existence of Fox News? People pretty much already believe what they want to, additional raw facts can only decrease the information-dependency of public opinion (see Climategate).

Or is it just a cry of despair, a feeling that things couldn't possibly be worse?

That seems historically unwise.

58:

I hope that Wikileaks can function effectively without Assange, because it seems that he will be stopped with or without legal cause. Might Assange even effectively be a smoke screen for the rest of the organization, getting governments to chase him specifically while the people who do the day to day work of receiving, vetting, and publishing leaks are left alone? This could be true even if he genuinely enjoys the attention he gets as spokesman.

I agree with some other comments that most of the latest leak is not very shocking. But it's damned if you do, damned if you don't. Publish everything and people will complain that most is boring trivia with little to no public interest in its disclosure. Publish only the juiciest bits and people (perhaps different ones) will claim that Wikileaks is devoted to smearing some particular group* rather than full disclosure, or that the damning documents are much more innocent in a larger context.

Wikileaks seems to be getting progressively better at making an impact with its releases. It turns out that merely publishing former secrets on the internet does not bring a lot of attention. Getting major newspapers to write stories about those secrets, then seeing the rage of governments, writing stories about that rage, and so on... seems much more effective. A few years ago you had to be a pretty specialized nerd to know what Wikileaks is and how it works. Now dozens of government figures and thousands of news organizations have spread the word, implicitly or explicitly: Wikileaks is THE place to go for leakers who want to get the word out.

*People who don't know or don't care about how Wikileaks actually works already make this accusation: "sure, you'll embarrass the US government, but what about the evils of Russia/China/Iran, you cowards??" Wikileaks relies on insiders to give them information. They don't send their own ninja teams out to steal information. Also, Russian/Chinese/Farsi readers are rarer in the West than English readers, so even if they have such documents the vetting process will take longer to complete.

59:

Eric, I think we could do with some convincing utopias this decade. Otherwise, things are looking pretty bleak all over.

60:

I think the idea is to degrade the channels that have been tagged as “secret” and “classified” so as to raise the cost of secrecy and hence the cost of behind-the-scenes manipulation. Communication through non-secret channels remains viable, so those parts of government don’t get stupider.

What’s not clear is whether necessary information sharing will be sacrificed for greater secrecy (leading to greater government stupidity), or whether the government will actually roll back habits of unnecessarily classifying some things as secret.

61:

I think that, in general, what wikileaks does is a net bennefit for society, but in this case I'm not so sure. In the vast majority of these cables, while their release does show a disparity between public & prviate actions, they are of the sort that makes diplomacy possible rather than violent aggression. We of course already know that public diplomacy puts a much nicer face on things than what happens behind the scenes.

By releasing these, Assange has essentially become the diplomatic equivalent of someone who, hearing in the conversation between two other people "Does this dress make me look fat?" tells the person "Yes, he won't tell you this, but he does think that dress makes you look fat."

The result is embarrassment for both parties without, from what I can tell, a bennefit for anyone.

It will not help the world that Yemen will now be much more relcutant to allow outside assistance against terrorists. It will not help the world that Putin & Medvedev have lost quite a bit of face, or that North Korea will be even more paranoid. I hope that there are as yet unseen consequences of this release that result in positive outcomes, but for now all I see is this incrementing the liklihood of violence in the face of diplomatic breakdown.

62:


My understanding is that the rape charge is in fact that while consent was giving at the beginning of act, it was subsequently withdrawn and he continued regardless.

The version suggested in the Counterpunch article appears to have come from the comment section of the "revenge instruction" link, which is not a link to Ardin's blog, but to the blog "Progressive Alaska", which in turn links to another blog that is also not Ardin's blog, and the rumors about Ardin appear in a comment there.

On top of this, there doesn't appear to be any official statement that Ardin is one of Assange's accusers, just rumors, but I may well be behind on the data on that one. (It's also irrelevant to my larger point.)

On top of that, the language used in the Counterpunch article is the kind that's frequently used to diminish women's claims, essentially amounting to "she's an extremist feminist so of course she has a man hating agenda!" Of course these days, the "extreme" part is important, because simply dismissing her as a feminist tends to be seen through more quickly.

On top of that, there's nothing to say that some one can't simultaneously be a "good guy" and a "bad guy".

I don't know if he's guilty or not. I don't know if it's a clever dirty tricks campaign against him, or not.

But the Counterpunch article looks like a dirty tricks campaign against her.

(And not, by the way, terribly dissimilar to the ones defense lawyers routinely use against women in rape cases.)

63:

Charlie, I really hope that this is the eventual outcome, but in this case I am very worried that the short and mid-term effects will be more violence in the face of breakdowns in diplomatic relationships. For every item in the cables that speaks to the type of ad-hoc conspiracies you mention, there seems to be at least one or more that are simply dimplomatic embarassments that will make it difficult to work with other countries peaceully on any issue, including the ad-hoc conspiracy types you mention but also the actual issues tha are the proper domain of goverment that, when they fail, result in war and death.

If Assange's aim was to expose these ad-hoc conspiracies, I wish he would have curated the cables to that effect rather than perform a wholesale release.

64:

Really? Okay. Here's the thing: If the executive branch is distrustful of its bureaus because it believes them to be compromised, its reaction has very rarely been to become more pliable to democratic oversight. Rather, it creates new organizations with restricted information flow based on personal affiliation networks. This is how the role of the National Security Council evolved in the United States, beginning with Johnson and continuing through Nixon.

As a result, information and the control of information to the executive branch becomes more politicized as the gatekeepers to that information grow in political power. You see this throughout the 1980s during the Reagan administration.

At the same time, since the criteria for membership is not subject to legislative oversight in these new networks, they're more prone to pure cronyism, not less. (And now we see its fruits in the more recent Bush administration.)

By attacking an agency that still has some non-executive oversight -- amusing though Assange's revelations have been -- Assange has helped the growth of an even less accountable network of diplomacy within the executive branch.

I don't see this as a good thing, even with a decent chief executive. It makes conspiracies against the public easier, not more difficult.

65:

I think your idea about Assange's goal is interesting and one that I actually think has merit. Which surprised me because up until reading this and the article you linked to my assumption was more that Assange was little more than a publicity whore justifying through the vague claim of unmasking conspiracy an act somewhat equivalent to smashing the windows of a greenhouse.

However if you are right then I have to say that I think you may not have totally thought out the future because it seems to me that in the current world the worst conspiracies in the 'western'* world are the ones that are being pushed by the left and causes it supports such as the EU, the UN and the various international NGOs. If Wikileaks succeeds in the mission you describe then it will bugger up large over-reaching governments with unnaccountable bureaucracies far more than it will smaller more accountable ones. Which means that the people who will benefit are libertarians and other small government folks - a group which in the US includes the Koch brothers, the Tea Party movement and hence putatively S Palin. In the UK it would also include UKIP and tories in the mould of Douglas Carswell, Daniel Hannan and the like rather than the Cameroons and most of their Lib Dem pals.

If your hypothesis is accurate then I would expect to see leaks from the EU and the UN in the future which will be fascinating because I would expect that a rather different set of MSM outlets would welcome them.

*western to include at least Japan and Australia which aren't exactly on the west of the London/Euro/Atlantic centric globe

66:

I havn't read the rest of the thread, but the point is that unions have one main purpose which is the protection of their members, and various subsidiary ones, often to do with maintaining their staff perks and suchlike. Either way their aims are pretty damn obvious and clear to everyone involved.

Whereas what we are dealing with here is secrecy where the powerful tell you one thing whilst doing another. And if you start pointing out what they are doing you get smeared, ignored, called paranoid, whatever. Perhaps it is also another example of calling your enemy out for what you do, by blaming the unions for being secretive influence peddlers when at most, as in the case of Ireland, they are toeing the line of the rich and powerful.

67:

I have a time machine? Sweet! Is it built into a Delorean?

I don't know how things are in the UK, but in the US, you are kidding yourself if you think the union political influence is dominated by the corporate to the extent that it doesn't even merit a mention. Look here:

http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php

Many state governments are dominated by their public employee unions (California's problem is much larger than just the prison guys), and local governments by their teachers unions. Which are guilty of creating an entire generation of ignoramuses.

But that's a whole 'nother topic! Sorry to derail the thread: As a rabid right winger, I have no problem with wikileaks. It's kind of cool.

68:

"Now we've got yet another mess with alternative energy..."Sorry, but that seems to me to be purest magical thinking. What is the actual mechanism by which you suggest that the publication of one set of information, and restriction of another, will serve to produce better government decisions on environmental policy?

Typically I like magic, but if you haven't been following the solar industry, there are two models for making it work:

1. Put big solar plants out in the desert, build large powerlines to tie them into the grid, and

2. Invest in solar panel manufacturing, retrain construction workers to install them on homes, and rewire the grid to accommodate the distributed generation.

Considering the problems the US is having keeping its grid working, why did we go with #1?

The reason is politics and money, as far as we can tell (we is a bunch of environmentalists who have been working on this for about a year now. I'm a bit player in this farce). Here's what's going on.

First off, let's dispose of the physics. For the localities I'm talking about, I'll get about as much power from solar panels on my roof as I would from a solar plant in the desert several hundred klicks away. While my city isn't as sunny as the desert, it's pretty close, and the power losses in the line negate any energy advantage desert solar has.

However, solar plants have a lot of political advantages:
1. They provide huge tax bases.
2. The power companies already know how to work with power company operators (no learning curve to be frightened of).
3. There are international groups with a lot of money trying to build these monsters, and the real money is in building them, not in operating them.

The problems:
1. Big solar plants don't always last that long. Right now, the technology needs water to wash down solar arrays, and there's not much of that in the desert.
2. Due to land law going back to the US homestead act, the cheapest land available is BLM wilderness (if you "improve wilderness" it adds to the inherent value of that land by attaching rights to things like water and minerals. Bulldozing adds value).
3. The wilderness areas are far away from existing power lines, so lines and roads will have to be built to these sites.
4. There are other issues with massive historical sites, rare/endangered species, Indian holy sites, and so forth, because solar plants only work when they're flat, and so everything gets bulldozed flat on such a site. However, if you're not an environmentalist, you may care less about such things.

Now, as a consumer, is this new solar development good?

Not really. The payoff for the contractors is in building it, not in making sure it works for a long time. What will probably happen is:
1. The solar plants, if they are built, will be late and over budget,
2 If they are lying about the reliability of their water sources, they will only work for about five years.
3.The power lines traversing the back-country will probably spark some more wildfires (this in an area where the dominant plants are adapted to burning at most every century or so).
4. AND (drumroll please), I as a taxpayer and electricity consumer will pay both for the cost of the project and any interest on bonds issued to get it built. Oh, and my electricity rates will probably go up too.

THIS is the cost of having a tight network of people controlling how solar power gets implemented around here. In terms of public benefit and investment efficiency, it's a bad deal, and that's before you throw in the environmental degradation.

Magical thinking? Not really. And compared to other things like bank bailouts and debt-funded unnecessary wars, it's piddling. But it's what Assange is talking about. Conspiracies are inefficient and expensive, and if you're in massive debt, you simply can't afford them any more.

69:

Charlie, you seem to have a spammer who's slipped through. See the URL link on those "plr dating ebooks" content-free posts.

70:

Was there more than one?

71:

Kevin, I nuked it within 25 minutes of it being posted. (Fucking spammer is also clogging up my email inbox.)

72:

JohnW, I think you might find a google on "Thatcher Scargill Miner's Strike NUM" enlightening.

(Thatcher took a fire axe to the unions in the 1980s, with the result that it's rather difficult for them to call industrial action, or do much of anything.)

73:

So if they really, really want to take down Wikileaks, why haven't they served a DMCA takedown on Amazon Web Services? I presume the cables are the copyright of the US government. Or discreetly informed them that this hosting account is Not Helpful? Or threatened to sue? Or asked 7018 or 3356 or whoever to nullroute that block?

Obviously a DMCA letter to Octopuce (also Mediapart's hosting company) or some Swedish ISP wouldn't cut much ice, but AMZN is incorporated under the laws of the great state of California. I'm not convinced that the DDOS was very informative - if your Web site is a hit, a DDOS will happen to you, depend upon it, and the attacker has the prerogative of picking the worst moment from your point of view.


Perhaps they don't really want to destroy it.

74:

Charlie,

This is an interesting post, but it raises broad questions of privacy. E.g. How would you see the leak of the "Climategate" e-mails in this context? Was that a "bad leak" against Wikileaks "good leak"?

When should people be justified in wishing their communications to be kept private?

Dave.

75:

What I'm about to write may have been said already in the comments - they were just too many to read. If so, sorry!

I agree wholeheartedly about Assange and the Nobel price. It won't happen, but whatever.

I think, however, that you have been misinformed about what the "rape charges" are about. From what I have heard, there was at least in one case a broken condom involved. Assange wanted to continue anyway, and things didn't end well after that.

Also, the women's lawyer is a very well respected guy, for quite a while running the Swedish Ombudsman office for sexual discrimination. I've had a lot of respect for him, but when he goes after someone you admire, then my own judgement may have led me awry.

But, in the end, what some people are saying is, two persons went to bed, willingly, some details of what went on wasn't liked by both. Does that mean rape? Well, I wasn't there, but if it is, then we're pushing the limits quite a bit.

76:

Nothing produced by the US government is under copyright (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/105.html); it is all in the public domain, as far as copyright is concerned, as soon as it is produced. (It may not be automatically published at the time it is produced, though.) As it is not in copyright, the DMCA cannot apply!

77:

Alex, you appear to have missed the latest news. The US government has in fact done some or all of the above, and Amazon has removed the document archive they were hosting. Wikileaks' hosting is back in Sweden last I heard.

78:

THIS is the cost of having a tight network of people controlling how solar power gets implemented around here.

Take all that as being entirely true: whether it is or not, it's completely irrelevant to the discussion. The magical thinking I am talking about is 'transparent good, solar good, therefore one means the other'.

Furthermore, given the costs of development and infrastructure, assume the decision needs to be a collective one to use one model of technology or the other. Just as most people owning a car has consequences for the business model of trams and trains, assume consumer solar or grid solar is a meaningful one-time choice, not something that doesn't actually matter because both can profitably coexist like flavours of ice cream.

How exactly do you think the wikileaks model of government will lead to the correct collective decision? It is not as if any of the information involved (scientific facts, budgets, or bribes) even comes into the category of things wikileaks covers.

More likely some official will say 'this could cost twice what we have budgeted', and Fox News will run the sound-bite in a loop. Search the internet, and you will find 15 convincing-sounding reports from intitutes with professional names as to how consumer solar is insufficient, overpriced, environmentally unsustainable and carcinogenic.

The more money to be made, the more advertorial time that can be bought, the more institutes that can be funded. If you have more money than you know what to do with, you can even pay real scientists to discover some true facts that happen to help your case.

So you end up with oil or nuclear.

There is already massively more information on any single topic than any individual can digest: filters are a necessity, not a luxury. The net effect of the wikileaks model is to replace moral and legal filters with a financial one.

79:

The Dec 6th edition of Time had a relevant story on China's response to the SARS outbreak. China blocked reporting to maintain secrecy. The kicker is that China's response to new problems is not more openess but greater secrecy. China routinely arrests and jails people for trying to report issues.

I would argue that the freer world is like a leaked information source to the Chinese, that the government tries to suppress with firewalls and intimidation. So far there seems to be little sign of mass uprisings to topple local or national government.

According to Assange's analysis, this should be weakening the government's and influential people's ability to control outcomes, but is that the case?

80:

It's probably the academic in me, but I hate to leave a statement unreferenced. Here's where I found the version of the charges of sex that started, but did not finish, consenusually, versus the Counterpunch version (where sex was withdrawn retroactively):

"The accusations were first made against Mr. Assange after he traveled to Sweden in mid-August and had brief relationships with two Swedish women.

According to accounts they gave to the police and friends, each had consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Assange that became nonconsensual. One said that Mr. Assange ignored her appeals to stop after a condom broke. The other said that she and Mr. Assange had begun a sexual encounter using a condom, but that Mr. Assange did not comply with her appeals to stop when it was no longer in use. Mr. Assange has portrayed the relationships as consensual and questioned the veracity of the women’s accounts."
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/02/world/europe/02assange.html?_r=1

Also, something I found while retracing my steps -- the suggestion that the withdrawal of consent came only after sex was done with seems to come from Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/01/AR2010120101876.html

81:

Those of you who wonder why the women weren't tested for STDs probably don't know that you can only test for already-existing STDs immediately after the rape. Tests for new infections must occur over a length of time afterwards.

82:

Right
Charlie's original statement.
I suspect those in influence in USA right-wing circles don't care about the law, unless THEY can use it.
Huckabee-and-Palin would be automatically be disbarred from office, and lucky not to be jailed, for what they have said, were they here.
Incitement ot a serious crime is a serious offence in itself.
The US has a saying about "The truth will set you free" - but they don't seem to like it up 'em, do they?
(snark)
Nonehtelss, I think the ultras are going to make a serious mistake - if Assange is arrested under the patently sourious warrant, he will never emerge alive again (rather like one D. Kelly) but, can even the US stand against a concerted, world-wide DDOS and hacking attack which will surely follow?
Interesting times.

@ 32: "The rule of law is an impediment to their agenda"
Yes, let's just have some good ole boy christians in charge, and it'll be all right ....

83:

In response to:

If the finance leak can happen before the destruction of wikileaks

Wikileaks has taken steps to try and dissuade governments from getting too aggressive with them. Are you aware of the "insurance" file? Wikileaks posted a large (gig and a half) encrypted archive some time ago. The implication is that should "something happen" to Wikileaks or Assange, the keys would be released and the many thousands of people worldwide who have already torrented the archive, would be in a position to decode and release it themselves.

I think it's the case that Wikileaks learned from watching the UK expenses scandal unfold drip-by-drip in the press (for maximum ratings and effect) and are following that pattern in drip-feeding data, because if they released it all at once, it would a) lead to scandals getting lost in the deluge, and b) there's a strong tendency for the press to get bored and roll on to a z-list celebrity getting drunk or in/out of rehab when the news cycle rolls over. Instead they're choosing to keep it going, and give journalists time to digest the data and work up reports, before the next release.

84:

It is rather disturbing to hear a former senior adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister publicly calling for Assange's assassination:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCotRJICQmk

He later issued a weak apology, saying his comment should have been taken as a joke.

85:

I do not think powerful interests really even bother to hide much these days, or at least in the USA. They simply control government by purchasing representatives. Every two years people who supposedly represent us must pay huge amounts of money to retain the position, thus people with lots of money(corporations or other interests) simply buy what they want. They have it written up in lawyer speak or scientific jargon that leaves the average person with no idea what is even in a bill. And if somehow the public does get information in can understand, Elites understand the populous will inevitably be more concerned with gossip, sports, and celebrities. Powerful names may be tarnished by leaking information, but i find it hard to believe it will have any meaningful impact on the ability or resolve of powerful people in general to control the world when they really just do it through the time honored channels of finance, legislation and propaganda.

86:

Thanks, I'd forgotten about the insurance file, hope it's enough.

87:

For example, both libertarians who want to legalize drugs and abolish 90% of the military, and fundamentalist hawks who want to punish drug users harshly and put troops all over the world are considered "Rightwing".

That's because what American Libertarian's "want" is just a cover. They know none of those things will happen and so throw them out there as chaff. it's a tribal distinction to mark them as different event though the rest of their political agenda dovetails neatly with the theocratic warmongers and the oligarchs. In America, a Libertarian is just a Republican who likes to smoke pot.

88:

Two points:

1) I think you'll find that the rape allegation is just 'useful'. Once they've gotten their hands on him, and put him behind bars, other 'crimes' will be 'discovered' to get him extradited to the states and into their tender mercies. All in all it cuts off the head - which is the usual aim of governments when non-governmental actors are concerned (hello Scargill).

2) It's less likely to be wrapped up in corporate oligarchs maintaining shady influence, and more likely to concern 'keeping control'. The chief role of those at the 'top' is the maintenance of power and preventing anyone rocking the apple cart, for any reason. Wikileaks is outside their control, and is an annoying buzzy thing that they're immediate response is to swat. He could be jesus returned, and the actions would be the same.

89:

I think the current leaks are far less interesting than some of Wikileaks previous work (especially the "kill video" from Iraq). If you look at the majority of the current dump, it's more about embarrassing countries than anything else, though there is a "we prove you can keep no secrets" element to it -- which will just as likely bring on more government secrecy as anything else.

And while I don't think Assange will be up for any Nobels yet, I suspect he's a serious candidate for Time's Person of the Year (not particularly relevant, but still notable) -- as he's a singular individual that has had a massive effect on the world this year.

Also, noticing the comments on Assange's character or lack of... while not really having authority, the profiles I've read of him suggest fairly broad Aspergers/Autistic traits. Obsessive manner and routine, odd interpersonal interactions, basically just the whole way he conducts himself would suggest that. And given his background in computer security/hacking, he'd hardly be the first of that type.

So I think that like most hackers, he follows this goal obsessively, and may even be somewhat unaware of the heated feeling associated with this whole thing.

And while he's certainly exhibited a fair bit of paranoia about his position, it's looking more and more justified. Honestly, it's unlikely the Swedish charges are some kind of major conspiracy (maybe a conspiracy of one?), and it would be unlikely for the US to act against him, with the talk that he's going after Russian government secrets, we'd all have to admit that they've shown far less problems with harming dissenting figures there.

If Assange is going to piss off the Russians, he really had better be prepared to hide now...

90:

The only thing Assange has accomplised is to further empower the GOP. He doesn't know what authoritarianism is, he has no experience of actual conspiracy, he has only created in his mind a situation in which he can play hero. He is not a hero, he is a tool.

91:

I can't believe, speaking as an ex-historian, how little we seem to appreciate the potential of this wave of data for increasing our understanding of the way the world works. If we'd happened across a trove like this from the diplomatic files of the third Reich, or Phillip II, or anywhere else at all, we'd be hailing it as a miraculous aid to finding out what actually happened (by deduction, of course, from what people lied about having happened).
Knowledge is good. There are occasionally reasons why you might want less of it rather than more, but the onus of proof - a fairly heavy onus - is unquestionably on those seeking to suppress it.

92:

I find all of this extremely interesting. If unions dominate state governments, then why are workers (including teachers) getting a pay cut through 12 furlough days Oregon)? They're doing an extremely poor job of things, is all I can say (let's not even mention the insurance payment cap meeting the ever increasing cost of health insurance, all of which is blamed on President Obama, of course).

Digression aside, right now nobody on this list has been personally affected by these leaks so far. However, if this guy proceeds to post my bank account number, passwords, and so on, he is _definitely_ off my Christmas card list. A few years ago, I had to post a watch on various cards and accounts when some idiot lost a laptop with a lot of military veterans' personal data on it, and that didn't show up on the Internet, save perhaps when someone sold it to an enterprising person or two.

I do think these leaks will have a more chilling effect on information control. Oh! Paranoid fantasy! All these relatively harmless things were released into the field by this gentleman, working as a stalking horse, to allow Western governments to install harsher information control protocols.

Remember, you heard it here first!

93:

I think this is all a tempest in a teapot. First off, I haven't seen any revelations from this material that suggest anything shocking about the US Government's behavior (granted, I'm a US citizen, so I'm biased). At worst our State Department looks like a bunch of inveterate gossips (which is probably true of any diplomatic corps in the world). And I bet the world's diplomatic cable traffic just quadrupled, which the NSA is happily monitoring. "Diplomats being used as spies?! I'm shocked shocked! Now what was it you said about the Russian ambassador and his mistress?"

As for serious information, from the facts that have bobbed to the top, a lot of this was already known: e.g. the Saudis want the US to take out Iran's nuclear capabilities (they'd love for the US to fight to the last man in a effort to take out Iran); the Israelis, too (because they're perfectly willing to have the US act as their proxy); the North Koreans have been supplying missiles to Iran (we know that); Berlesconi is a lech (yes, and so?); the US is actively spying on the UN (the DNA collection is rather an interesting tidbit, though) -- and as for the UN spying, well, the joke in NYC is that there our 5 spies for every real diplomat at the UN -- and they're all tailing each other in circles making NYC taxi drivers wealthy.

Once the many individuals who spoke candidly to US State Department personnel get over the pique at their unedited comments being revealed, we'll see plenty of "this was planted by the US to embarrass me!" excuses. Moreover, foreign governments will be asking how much of this is actually genuine. After all it was a US soldier who supposedly leaked this to Wikileaks. The way intelligence agencies plant information is to give lots of tidbits of interesting but largely unimportant info and then burry a whopper of lie in the mix to make it look just as authentic. The big question everyone will be asking is "what's been planted in this stuff by the US for disinformation purposes" (queue Ahmadinejad...). Once the paranoids in each country's intelligence apparatus bite into this apple, everyone will be back in their state of suspended belief and disbelief again. Information wants to be free. But the corollary to that old chestnut, is that once it's free it isn't really worth anything.

Julian Assange and Wikileaks comes across as more than a little naive in his statements in the written part of this story. Sorry, I'm a progressive Liberal with a capital L, but I expect my government to spy on, negotiate with, and coerce when necessary, other nations. This is how nations behave, and it's naive to believe the nations must be saints. Hillary comes across rather well in her response. And Obama comes across in the cables as someone who seems very level-headed in his approach to Iran and his unwillingness to give into Saudi and Israeli pressure.

Finally, there's nothing inherent in SIPRNET which can't be fixed -- think PDF files with limited times to exist and which watermark the person who downloaded them. The little company I work for does this to keep it's info secret. Yes I could VNC to my PC remotely and take screen shots of the docs I've downloaded, but they'll have my watermark on them. I can transcribe them, but that's a lot of work. Big data dumps don't have to happen with electronic systems if they're designed properly. So all Assange will have done is to force the US to re-evaluate their procedures for implementing SIPRNET. These leaks won't cripple US foreign policy in the long term, and they'll be a blip on the radar in the short term. Just my two pence.

94:

Stephens [JA’s lawyer], moreover, says that the Swedish attempts to extradite Assange have no legal force. So far he has not been charged, Stephens says – an essential precondition for a valid European arrest warrant.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/nov/30/interpol-wanted-notice-julian-assange

Anna Ardin’s backstory is interesting. Her field work for her vacuous thesis on Cuba was interrupted after a few days on the island (she was asked to leave after violating her tourist visa), and she subsequently finished it in Miami.
http://annaardin.wordpress.com/thesis/

She has written, equally vacuously, a couple of articles for a website
http://www.miscelaneasdecuba.net/web/article.asp?artID=1315

whose director, Alexis Gainza, is on the executive committee of the Union Liberal Cubano, the stated mission of which is to bring Hayek to the huddled Cuban masses!
http://www.cubaliberal.org/aboutus.htm

And she’s been hobnobbing with the not-in-the-least-bit-Nazi Swedish royals on the Cuban front too,
http://baracuteycubano.blogspot.com/2007/05/por-la-democratizacin-de-cuba-en-el.html

Right now, Ms Ardin appears to be in the West Bank on some sort of ecumenical mission, although one apparently disjunct from that of our own Mr Blair.
http://annaardin.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/mitt-nya-hem-pa-vastbanken-yanoun/

Got to give it to her, she’s pressing all the right buttons (from a US perspective), it’s all been so carefully calibrated under the “lefty feminist” rubric as well. Excellent work!

Stieg Larsson is doing us all a huge favour, even from beyond the grave – suspect the fuck out of anything coming out of Swedish judiciary.

95:

Interesting conspiracy tidbits on the Swedish "rape" charges -

1. The original prosecutor in charge, Eva Finné, dropped the charges the same week they were made and stated they were groundless.

2. The two women who accused Assange know each other.

3. Eva Finné, was removed from the case by Claes Borgström and a new prosecutor, Marianne Ny, was appointed. Her first act was to reinstate the charges.

4. Claes Borgström's is a former politician. His law partner is Thomas Bodström. Thomas Bodström is Sweden's former Minister of Justice.

5. Thomas Bodström is currently in the USA. Let's assume he is communicating and coordinating things with his partner back in Sweden.

6. It is Swedish protocol not to release the names of people accused of rape until after a conviction. The Swedish prosecutors office claims they have "no idea" how Assange's name was leaked.

7. Normally Swedish media will not publish an accused's name until after a conviction. Swedish media is controlled by a single ruling class family named Bonnier who works closely with the local politicians to protect their media monopoly.

8. Claes Borgström's two sisters, Annette Kullenberg and Kerstin Vinterhed, both work for Bonnier family newspapers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bodstr%C3%B6m

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claes_Borgstr%C3%B6m

http://www.aklagare.se/Media/Nyheter/Assange-arendet-fragor-och-svar/

(In Swedish - the Swedish justice department says they did not release Assange's name and try to explain why Eva Finné was removed)

96:

I am curious to see if anyone can rebut Carlos's comments.

Charlie, for the first time, I can't say that I see your point. I clicked through the link. I'm having trouble understanding the advantage in making it impossible for the U.S. State Department to do its job.

We all have private opinions, assessments, and analyses of the actions of others. I don't see the value in making those public. Yes, I understand how these data dumps make it harder for organizations to function. I'm at a complete loss as to why that's a good thing, or how this sort of behavior will prevent actual criminal conspiracies or governmental malfeasance. (This is a broader statement of Carlos's argument.)

Sorry, man. I honestly do not understand the point.

97:

Yessir. Great points.

I really am lost as to why Charlie is so delighted. This is honest --- no aspersions cast or intended.

98:

As a working historian, I'd say that I agree ... it is nice to have troves like this from the past. In fact, we do! The are called "Foreign Relations of the United States."

But I can't say that I don't understand the reasons behind keeping FRUS closed for recent years. Fifty years is too distant as a cut-off, but it doesn't follow from that that last week isn't too close.

99:
For example, both libertarians who want to legalize drugs and abolish 90% of the military, and fundamentalist hawks who want to punish drug users harshly and put troops all over the world are considered "Rightwing".

That's because what American Libertarian's "want" is just a cover. They know none of those things will happen and so throw them out there as chaff. it's a tribal distinction to mark them as different event though the rest of their political agenda dovetails neatly with the theocratic warmongers and the oligarchs. In America, a Libertarian is just a Republican who likes to smoke pot.

Keith you are either extraordinarily uneducated or deliberately trolling with that comment. To the extent that US (and UK and elsewhere) libertarians agree with "theocratic warmongers" it is that both want to see a reduction in the nanny-state "liberal/progressive" government.

If you look at the surveys done of Tea Party members, for example, you will see that about 50% are what you would probably call "theocrats" and about 50% are limited government / libertarian types. The two groups have come together because they see that the incumbents in neither main party are listening to their belief that government spending has to be reined in and that corporate welfare (aka bailouts) is no better than any other sort.

I think it will be interesting to see whether the "Tea party" representatives elected last month manage to remain focused on cutting spending or whether they get co-opted. But I doubt the grass roots behind them will go away. And I think Wikileaks actually helps these groups more than anyone else because it helps to bolster their claims that government is intrinsically corrupt

100:

@ 22
Power as opposed to information.
Even the most brutal power has its limits ... as it *appears* even the guvmint in N. Korea is starting to learn.

@ 24 Can we kill him and make it look like an accident (or suicide)?
Already been done: Dr. David Kelly.
I'll beleive it was suicide (only ONE slit wrist in cold weather?) when they find fingerprints on the knif supposedly used by Dr K ....
Oops.

@ 34
From elsewhere ... it is ILLEGAL to release details of rape allegations in Sweden, before proper full investigations are made.
And what are the Swedish police doing?
Right.

Charlie @ 54
Yes.
He's released stuff on Putin, which Putin hasn't even TRIED to deny - just shrugged it off, whilst making a note to keep the information-lid ON - in Russia.
Presumably, the heirs-to-the-NKVD are now after Assage....

101:

The pathology reports on Dr David Kelly were released last summer. It was suicide. The government of the day bears utter moral opprobium for hounding him to suicide, but not for murder.

(Hesistation cuts were present, there were large amounts of blood inside his clothing, and the cause of death eventually certified was co-morbid with drug effects and with pre-existing heart disease. And there is no statue of limitations for murder, so any conspiracy is not just seeking the cover of the government of the day but of governments of all political colours for the next 50 years.

In the past century, has there *ever* been a covert assassination of a British citizen by the British government on British soil? Deaths in police custody, that's the way we do things round here. Or manipulation of rules of engagement to result in "shoot on sight".)

102:

Finally, there's nothing inherent in SIPRNET which can't be fixed -- think PDF files with limited times to exist and which watermark the person who downloaded them. The little company I work for does this to keep it's info secret.

Oh dearie me.

Who sold you that snake oil?

103:

Alex@72:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_status_of_work_by_the_U.S._government

The US federal government can't hold copyright, as the US State Department is a federal organisation it's employees can't copyright material. The US government can copyright material in other countries, but it seems quite unlikely that the US government could convince a court in another country that they should enforce copyright over Wikileaks data which can't be enforced in the US and deliver a substantial judgement.

Steve Turner@88:

You forgot to mention a great desire for social justice as an Aspie trait.

beowulf888@92:

There's no such thing as files which have a limited "time to exist". Once a file is on someone else's computer their software decides how long it lasts.

It is technically possible to tag data in ways that are difficult to extract. One possibility is to have random spelling and grammar errors that differ for each reader of the document. But that also degrades the usefulness of the data to the people who legitimately use it - and thus helps achieve Julian's stated goals.

It's also worth noting that there is a significant push towards DECREASING the IT costs of government agencies. If new features of tagging documents are added then it will INCREASE those costs and again Wikileaks will win.


Finally in terms of the value of releasing some of the mundane data about botox etc. If you want to compete with celebrity news then botox use by a head of state is a good way to do it. Maybe a good strategy for Wikileaks would be to alternately release small amounts of important political information and large quantities of tabloid stuff to keep the mainstream media interested.

104:

Personally, I think the claim that the rape accusation is a pro-US plot to nab Assange just doesn't make sense. Look at the components:

1. The rape charges first emerged after Manning's arrest, and so after the US probably suspected that Assange had the cables. The rape accusations appeared while Assange was in Sweden to look for swedish legal protection for wikileaks.
2. Assange was questioned by police but allowed to go. The Swedes then denied Assange residency. Assange leaves Sweden, heading to the UK. The leaking then happens.
3. Somewhere in this period, Assange offers, amongst other things, to report to a British police station to give an interview. The Swedes refuse.
4. The leaking then occurs, and the arrest warrant from Interpol comes immediately after the leaking is done.

None of the above make any sense if the Swedes wanted to *prevent* the leaks. If they wanted to prevent the leaks, it'd be absolutely important to arrest Assange before the leaks were done. It'd have been far easier to nab Assange in the US's closest ally (who also has a lot to lose from the publication of the cables). It'd have been absolutely trivial to accept Assange's offer to walk straight into an UK police station.

What the fact really look like is that if there was a conspiracy, then it would be a conspiracy by the Swedes (politically liberal, doctrine of nonalignment, not exactly America's best buddies) to protect Assange from the rape charges and ensure that he can leak whatever he wants before they start applying the force of law. And Assange's preference for *British* protection over the hands of Swedish justice looks awfully suspicious.

105:

I think the reasons why the rape case sounds a bit dodgy have been well worked through here. And it does sound to be one of those murky he-said she-said situations. And there are signs of some pretty obnoxious attitudes to women, coming from all directions.

But, looking at the usual right-wing in the USA, if it were not for Wikileaks spreading US Government secrets, wouldn't Assange be just the sort of guy they'd want to be: cocking a snook at government and getting laid by hot Swedish babes? Wouldn't it be easy for the US political talk to be defending him against those nasty socialists?

Is it too subtle, or are they trying to scare their own supporters into a meek acceptance of the power of the state?

106:

Has there been a covert assassination of a British citizen on British soil in the last 100 years? To the best of my knowledge, no. There have been some murders (though Blair Peach wasn't a British citizen, so that doesn't count), but no killings which I think come under the heading of assassination. Note that Britain =/ Ireland.

As for Assange, he seems to be trying to do to elite conspiracies what the FBI did to the BPP and the KKK with the COINTELPRO project: use security-related paranoia to make the organisation seize up. Provoke a massive immune response. Heh heh heh. I can see where Doug's coming from here, but sod it - for three reasons:

(a) These people have been lying to me for decades, about matters as serious as whether or not to start a war of aggression that has killed upwards of 300k people.

(b) Note that the revelations are doing a lot more to expose lies on the part of the rest of the world than on the part of the State Department. Let's take an example of one of them: this morning I learned that while the UK govt told Parliament (and, by extension, me) in 2008 it was implementing the ban on cluster bombs, in fact it was merely lying to us about it. Fuck 'em and the pigs they rode in on. We need to get back to the spirit of Critchel Down, toot sweeet.

(c) I'm a historian, and this just lovely.

107:

@ 99 @ 104
Re David Kelly.
Who said or even implied that it was the BRITISH guvmint that MAY have murdered him?
I didn't. I think it was the US agencies. No proof, mind you.

Generally, I can't believe that no-one appears to ahve mentioned the name and case of Gary Mackinnon ....
UK computer-nerd and hacker, Aspergers' sufferer, intereasted in UFOS (!) ... hacks into US files. Finds nothing, leaves message, effectively saying "Your security is lousy".
What the US SHOULD have done was hire him.
What they have actually done is hound him, bully the Brit guvmint, and threaten to lock him up for the rest of his life.
For uncovering a security potential leak.
Now put this up against Assange's publicly declared actions.
Yeah, rape charge - how convenient.

108:

Surely a whole crapload of geeks working in secure organisations are going to start their own leak sites so they can get laid.

Sheesh sex, TWICE in ONE week. With someone ELSE!

The US Govt don't know the force they've unleashed.

(In other related news, sales of lubricant is down).

109:

Sorry Greg T, I meant to say 'by the British Government' as well as in GB and of a British citizen. That doesn't change my opnion of the Kelly case, though: suicide.

110:

Assange's choice of the UK makes more sense when you recall that the Swedes let the Americans render someone for torture out of their jurisdiction way back in the beginning, with the explicit knowledge and cooperation of the SIPO (Swedish Security Police).

I'm not aware we ever went as far as arresting someone in the UK and delivering them to the no-titles Gulfstream.

Although, I wonder why not France?

111:

Chris, do you have a link/ title for that information? Thats quite a serious accusation, that they were lying to parliament, and it carries some penalties I believe...

112:

(In other related news, sales of lubricant is down).
Not really news, taking it rough is just a metaphor for life these days.

113:

I'm wondering, just how many of these data actually say something more embarrassing than "The US State Dept has kept a record of the fact that "$nation has expressed a wish that we would do $dirty_deed on their behalf.""?

114:

The cluster bomb story is here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/01/wikileaks-cables-cluster-bombs-britain?DCMP=EMC-thewrap08

"

When the bill to ratify the treaty was going through parliament this year, the then Labour foreign ministers Glenys Kinnock and Chris Bryant repeatedly proclaimed that US cluster munition arsenals would be removed from British territory by the declared deadline of 2013.

But a different picture emerges from a confidential account of a meeting between UK and US officials in May last year.

It shows that the two governments concocted the "concept" of allowing US forces to store their cluster weapons as "temporary exceptions" and on a "case-by-case" basis for specific military operations.

Foreign Office officials "confirmed that the concept was accepted at highest levels of the government, as that idea had been included in the draft letter from minister [David] Miliband to secretary [of state Hillary] Clinton".

"

115:

Very interesting.

How were they able to detect the condom had broken?

116:

There's a bit of conflict in your statement:

"Around the world, governments seem to be more interested in obeying the goals of industry lobbyists and the rich than in actually governing well; this isn't an accident, but the outcome of the capture of the machinery of governance by groups of individuals who are self-selecting for adherence to a narrow ideological outlook."

The bosses who supply the money, lobbyists, and often words for the laws aren't interested in a narrow ideological outlook. They aren't interested in ideology at all - all they want is money. Which is why corporate bail-outs are bi-partisan.

117:

Waitaminute - they have crayfish in Sweden?

118:

Here's the question I've been failing to get my head around for the last few weeks: Under what circumstances is the state justified in keeping information from its citizens?

119:

Well, yes!

Sweden is full of clean lakes and rivers, and the crayfish is pretty common. The crayfish party is a cultural institution - schnapps/vodka being the other ingredient.

Around here in southern England, many of the rivers have been invaded by a plague-ridden North American variety, so the native species have been hard hit. I went to a BBQ a few months back where one of the visitors turned up with a couple of buckets of the NA variety that she'd fished out of the local brooks - she was surveying the relative populations, and had been releasing only the natives.

120:

Charlie@15

Eamon: it's all about giving due notice to the conspiratorially-inclined that their private communications are vulnerable to leakage. Which will force them to hold their cards closer to their chest. Which in turn will reduce their ability to coordinate with one another to exert control over our institutions.

Up until this latest leak I would have been broadly supportive of Assange, but living in Japan I find his stirring of the pot in East Asia childish. His releases might not increase the risk of conflict in the area greatly, but they still could have an effect.

As for leakage, apparently the US is working on limiting access to secret documents (access which was opened up post 11/9 in order to facilitate inter-agency co-operation)

And now the latest leak I am aware of is one about a Spanish prosecutor describing Russia as a Mafia State. Now whilst I am inclined to agree with the prosecutor, I cannot for the life of me see what good is to be gained by that release save boosting the Wikileaks brand.

Are you by any chance familiar with how Trotskyite entryists work?

No, and I do not even know what a "Trotskyite entryist" is.

121:

That's not true at all. As a libertarian who knows plenty of other libertarians, I can tell you that their beliefs about these things are very sincere. Where there is controversy between libertarians is mainly abortion and immigration.

Now, there are some paleocons (old style conservatives) who look like libertarians to outsiders because they don't like taxes, but that's like confusing Socialists and Progressives because they both support worker's rights.

122:

Or the thousands of spools of State Department microfilm already available. It would be easy enough to convert them to PDF and run OCR on them automatically.

I am very surprised that the historians haven't taken a page from the bioinformatics people. Why don't we have a cross-referenced database of everyone in the Wikileaks dump, or the open diplomatic record -- or ultimately, any record? Only a hundred billion people have ever lived, which is about a thousand Amazons, so it'll happen in about fifteen years anyway.

If you really want open source foreign affairs, figuring out who what when where and with in the existing record might be a more important step than finding out American diplomats think of foreign leaders in terms of comic book characters. I am pretty sure the patterns will pop right out.

123:

"I am very surprised that the historians haven't taken a page from the bioinformatics people. "

I'm not - the reason is about three billion pounds. Give me them and I'll* do it.

*For some values of 'I'll'. But I'd know whom to commission to do it.

124:

No, and I do not even know what a "Trotskyite entryist" is.

Then I suggest you do some reading. Otherwise you're not equipped to understand the politics of the past two decades.

125:

@ 107 etc ...
Ok, we'll agree to differ.

Re: Blair Peach &/or J. de Menezes, etc ...
That is "JUST" a bunch of out-of-control hooligan thugs, who JUST HAPPEN to be wearing police uniforms.
Happens everywhere, but it's not aupposed to happen *here* - and the consistent way in which those in authority do their best to make sure said thug/corrupt police get away with it, undermines the populace's support for the police, which makes "authority" try to exercise said authority harder, which encourages the thugs ... oops.

126:

"I'm not - the reason is about three billion pounds. Give me them and I'll* do it."

Oh, less than that. A useful proof of concept, say, something able to extract biographical and legislative timelines from a volume of the Congressional Record -- which I know from experience is relentlessly tedious -- should be less than a million. A dozen people plus equipment for a year? Sounds about right. The CR is already PDF'ed.

It's the sort of thing the Media Lab or Columbia Journalism should be doing. Or politically active programmers. You know, the ones who aren't obsessing about copyright and what's the best head shaver on the market.

127:

Honestly, I don't know. It's never happened to me, and I don't know how easy it is to tell if it breaks while inside the body, for either partner. (Condoms aren't an area of study for me.)

But even assuming that it is difficult to tell if it breaks while inside (and it may not be), that doesn't mean it's impossible. It also doesn't mean the condom was inside the woman when it broke: maybe it broke as he was putting it on. Or while they were shifting position. It's probably not hard to think of other variations.

But, either way, neither my initial comment nor the follow up was meant as a statement that the charges against Assange are necessarily true, but rather that the Counterpunch article at best has it's facts wrong.

128:

Addendum: apparently (according to anecdotal reports on web boards), sometimes you can tell if the condom breaks while inside you -- feeling it pop or hearing it snap. So, probably not impossible.

129:

Update:
Typical crawling smear by right-wing Torygraph writer here .....

130:

Thanks Chris - tells you how much I read the mainstream media these days.

Anyone got any good sources on trotskyite entryists? Have they really had much influence over the last decade, I thought they'd clearly become capitalist footmen by the turn of the millenium.

Personally I'm getting worried about the coalitions desire to make every hospital a foundation trust, and the fact they've handed the running of a hospital over to a private company.

Greg #123- you'll recall the accusations of porn etc on the computer of one of the guys they arrested (and shot in the arm whilst arresting) on terrorism charges, all of which were I seem to recall dropped later. I vaguely recall other such things, but cannot remember where. Then going further back we have the Scargill - Libya smear, the generic accusations put out by the Mail and others, and so on, and on.

131:

The point is to *smear* him - different parts of the Swedish judiciary have had different responses to the fact a woman walked into a police station and "asked for advice".

She did not press charges, because to do so, knowing that they are false, would render her liable to prosecution herself. However, one prosecutor acted to kick the thing out, another acted differently. Turf war, perhaps? Prosecutors on different sides of the political spectrum, responding from political pressure from who knows where?

The point isn't whether the claim is true, the point is to link the word "rape" with "Assange" in every Google search from here to eternity = FUD = QED.

As it is, Geoffrey Robertson, one of our leading QCs on humanitarian and international law, is of the view that Assange has a case against the actions of the Swedish govt in Europe:
In due course I predict that the European Court of Human Rights would uphold Assange’s position and order the Swedish government to compensate him. His lawyers should already be preparing for that eventuality.”
http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/09/14/we-should-stand-up-for-assange-geoffrey-robertson/

Maybe Assange should drag the Swedish govt through the ECHR, then swan up to Stockholm to collect his Peace Prize, as Charlie suggests?

What I what to know is if Mudge & Julian are *working together*.
http://blogs.forbes.com/andygreenberg/2010/11/29/an-interview-with-wikileaks-julian-assange/6/

132:

Didn't our squirrels also take over?

To be fair though, a bunch of European birds invaded North America thanks to a Shakespeare fan. And our natives Elms and Chestnuts have suffered from the disease-ridden Eurasian varieties.

133:

Guthrie, that's my point: most of the old Trots have turned in their coats for neocon Armani, but they're still using the same tactics.

134:

Short version for people who refuse to read our gracious hosts links.

It's got nothing to do with gaining a specific benefit by releasing a given piece of information. That's playing the game by the rules the other guy wrote. It's all about releasing any information forces the secretive to be come MORE secretive and consequently LESS effective. Assange is trying to force a paradigm shift through known methods of change without predicting the end point.

The shortest version?

You can run the government or keep things secret but not both.

135:

The "antisecrecy" argument advanced here is more sophisticated than the phenomenon it describes. This is just a big blip that does not, alas, indicate a change in the inherent possibility of secrecy in the future. After Bradley Manning and Stuxnet, everyone realizes that putting a USB card in a classified PC is a good way to get fired.

136:

@134: The quote goes 'as simple as possible, but no simpler'. I am afraid your summary falls short of the second part.

Putin's Russia, the subject of today's leaks, shows that you can perfectly well run a government without secrecy, by simply committing crimes and making damn sure everyone knows you did them, _and that they can do nothing about it_. Human nature will soon have your approval rating in the stratosphere.

So I am afraid it is something more like 'transparency, government or the rule of law: pick any two'.

I guess all those calling for Assange's murder realise it too.

Talking of the rule of law, surely, even absent anyone acting on it, incitement to murder is illegal under UK law? As he is a current UK resident, why are we not demanding the extradition of, say, Tom Flanagan?

137:

"It's all about releasing any information forces the secretive to be come MORE secretive and consequently LESS effective."

There's an enormous leap of faith from "MORE secretive" to "LESS effective". In fact, I'd call it a classic non sequitur. I think Assange's analysis is not supported by historical evidence or current politics.

It's classic bongwater, frankly, of the information-wants-to-be-free variant.

Chris Williams has reasons to be for the release -- It's a boon to his profession! (and it is, oh yes.) It affects the rest of the world much more than the State Department! It's a stick in the eye of people who lied to us! -- but he's not phrasing it in terms of efficiency losses of the ruling class.

The argument from efficiency needs a lot more rigor than what most people who use it are willing to give. It's very easy to conspire efficiently through personal networks and signaling. Bureaucratization, in fact, developed as a method to get away from all that.

138:

More secrecy, which necessitates smaller groups and more compartmentalized information access, does mean impairing effectiveness. I am going by a couple of historical examples, one well-known and one obscure.

The well-known example is the post-9/11 criticism that intelligence and law enforcement information was not shared effectively across US government agencies, which meant there was no broad institutional awareness of the suicide hijacker threat until the strikes were already happening. I have already read news reports that the post-9/11 cross agency information sharing prompted by that criticism may be reduced to prevent the next Cablegate.

The obscure example is that of the-hive.ws, a Swedish hosted web site that operated from the late 1990s until 2004. It was the world's largest public forum and information repository dedicated to the manufacture of mind altering substances. It spawned a generation of MDMA chemists and regularly pushed the state of the art forward in the theory, characterization, and efficient synthesis of both common and obscure recreational drugs. After it went offline under strange circumstances in late 2004, the former members retreated to dozens of smaller, more private communities and their collective rate of research has since remained well below that of the Hive in its last year.

In both cases fragmentation of communities and barriers to information sharing essentially invoke Metcalfe's Law in reverse. The whole, once greater than the sum of its parts, is diminished by every partition.

139:

Carlos, I think that there will be an efficiency loss. Whether it will be significant is another matter.

140:

I'm sure you and your libertarian friends are very sincere in your beliefs. The problem though is the way in which Libertarians in the US translate those beliefs into political action: by voting Republican.*

The GOP is the great equalizer. All the various factions who don't like the "tax and spend" "nanny state" Democrats -- be they paleocons, neocons, libertarians, tea party patriots or dominionists -- are welcomed into the GOP's big tent. Which is promptly sealed up and gassed by the warmongering oligarchs who run the party.

So yes, I will concede that you have many sincere beliefs that separate you from those other Republicans. But you're still a Republican, so ultimately it doesn't matter.


_________
*Unless of course you vote 3rd party, which is like not voting at all because of how the system is gamed, then you're not even bothering to translate beliefs into actions at all, just hoping that the magic Libertarian pony will one day ride into town, privatizing the fire departments and paving the roads with his golden horseshoes.

141:

Are you seriously saying that the United States became more efficient under Homeland Security? Think about that briefly.

Most analysts would classify the formation of Homeland Security as an overreaction due to inept handling of intelligence through a previously functioning system by the incoming Bush administration, which is well-documented as treating al-Qaeda as a minor security threat to the domestic United States. Perhaps it was necessary, in that the United States sometimes elects people who think they can ignore information from its traditional bureaus for ideological reasons. But I don't think anyone thinks of it as an efficiency gain.

As for Swedish recreational drug synthesis, legal sanction is preventing its hobbyists from coming together privately to share knowledge. There is very little legal sanction in reorganizing the executive branch to become more opaque. Again, the growth of the National Security Council over the traditional role of the State Department is illustrative. Since very few people are familiar with the way the executive branch operates internally, it's unlikely that it would have electoral consequences.

As for Metcalfe's "law", that's part of the information-wants-to-be-free bongwater of circa 1999. The value of a network only grows slightly faster than linearly with the number of its members. (Is the hundred millionth addition to Facebook worth a hundred million of its first? No.) This means that synergistic effects can usually be neglected.

142:

I am still finding it hard to believe leaking the sort of info that is being leaked will really change anything is a meaningful way. The theory is more secretive equals less effective. But this is assuming conspiracies are happening just over the internet. I think most conspiracies happen at country clubs, exclusive restaurants, and at private villas, and wouldn't even be considered conspiracies by the people involved in them, but rather sound economic policy or smart decision making to increase stock prices, something they may also say is required of themselves by law. Secrecy in not necessary if you control media and finance. If the set-up of rape charge is true, then this is a simple way to exert control by means of media; no one wants to align themselves with a rapist no matter what their message is, or a child molester for that matter( which as someone noted earlier). Hoover already tried to do this to MLK, with his affairs, and the right obviously did this to Clinton. Powers that be understand people are very influenced by tribe mentality and the desire to actually "know" celebrities and their social indulgences. Watch a entertainment news show, they always refer to the celeb by their first name like we actually know them. Its why allegations don"t have to be true, it gives the public a sense of importance to let them think their privy to juicy gossip of the rich and famous. And as I stated earlier if this tactic fails simply reword the truth in hyperbole and complicated jargon, look what it has done for various powers when applied to translating the bible. I wish exposure had more influence in changing the behavior of governments and corporate power, but I think any meaningful change has to happen in a economic sense. As long as laws are made by money, those with it will always get what they wish.

143:

>> The point isn't whether the claim is true, the point is to link the word "rape" with "Assange" in every Google search from here to eternity = FUD = QED.

While I think there's some truth to that, I think the charge just as effectively plants the meme of "massive government conspiracy out to get him" at the top of Google as well... and it's hard to see who that serves except Assange, really.

144:

"Carlos, I think that there will be an efficiency loss. Whether it will be significant is another matter."

I think there will be an efficiency loss in promoting the general welfare etc. But if the goal is to conspire against the public? I see efficiency gains.

This is not the first time that the State Department has been made suspect for political purposes in postwar American history. It's about the fourth or fifth. The executive response has always been to empower departments like the CIA and the NSC, or even more obscure agencies like the Counter-Terrorism Executive Group -- nominally in the Department of Defense but reporting to the Office of the Vice-President. Every time, they've gotten better at conspiring against the public interest.

It's a known reaction. In no case has the United States responded the way Assange thinks it would.

145:

Then I suggest you do some reading. Otherwise you're not equipped to understand the politics of the past two decades.

See also "Steeplejacking."

146:

Maybe Assange should drag the Swedish govt through the ECHR, then swan up to Stockholm to collect his Peace Prize, as Charlie suggests?

Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, the Peace Prize is handed out in Oslo (Norway).

147:

If the set-up of rape charge is true, then this is a simple way to exert control by means of media; no one wants to align themselves with a rapist no matter what their message is, or a child molester for that matter( which as someone noted earlier).

People keeping saying that, and I think they really believe it, but the reality is pretty much the opposite. Oh, I mean, of course no one (pretty much) wants to be associated with a rapist, but you don't get the kind of instant-ick-drop-them that you'd think you would.

What media figure that was pro-Wikileaks prior to the rape charges are now anti-Wikileaks? I'm not aware of one. In fact, I've seen very little mention of the actual charges even when the fact that they exist is brought up, and most of what I'm reading flat out assumes that the charges must be a dirty trick.

Now, they may be, that's certainly possible, and I'm not the head of anybody's dirty tricks department, but if I was trumping up a dirty tricks arrest warrant, I'd avoid all sex crimes for the above reason. Nobody (for lots of very good reasons) ever wants it to be true that their father/brother/boyfriend (or mother/sister/girlfriend) is a sexual predator, and no one wants to believe it of their heroes either. Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, etc -- you can probably think of others -- all still successful post some fairly serious accusations (and in the case of Tyson, conviction).

Innocent until prove guilty? I'm right there with you. Could be a set up? Yes, it could. Has to be? No.

Because whatever one thinks of the work of Wikileaks as an organisation, and Assange as an individual, that does not either automatically make him a rapist or impossible for him to be one.

After all, Margaret Thatcher was part of the team that created soft-serve ice-cream. People surprise you.

148:

Obama has proposed that federal salaries stay where they are for two years. Some Republicans think they should all lose 10% for at least the two years. (I wonder if the Republicans consider themselves federal employees.)

149:

Did you know US Presidents have been very unhappy at not knowing all the secrets? The secrets are compartmented and even the President doesn't get to see all.

150:

And the other question: If he breaks condoms twice in a row, is he doing it on purpose? Surely he'd get bigger condoms if he wanted to be honest.

151:

minor correction: assange isn't wanted for rape, but not using a condom

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/12/02/no-wikileakss-julian-assange-isnt-accused-of-rape/

152:

On various military, geopolitical, and nonproliferation websites and discussion areas, the Wikileaks info has been discussed in depth in context of what experts knew, and suspected already, and was already in open discussion.

Consensus seems to be that there aren't any shockers. Some things rumored turn out to be false; some things rumored turn out to be true (such as Saudi Arabia's requests that the US bomb Iran's nukes... as if this was a surprise to anyone following SA's buying penetrator guided bombs for their Tornado and F-15 fleet, but...).

But by and large, the stuff in the cables released so far matches what was going on in public, except for embarrassing personal comments and gossip.

It's arguable that in say the case of the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam War, there was significant secret behavior that did not match the public knowledge or discussion, and in which deception was happening. In that case, the disclosure of secret documents did a public good, informing of deception, despite damage done.

In this case, there seems to be no underlying good. What Assange has done has directly undercut his own thesis that government secrecy breeds abuse - it seems to support the diametrically opposed thesis, that in fact the US government behaves largely for good, and that it's relatively open about anything of significance going on.

Neither of those is an absolute statement. But Wikileaks seems to not have shown us *anything* new about anything of note. And they do seem to have put a lot of people in the Middle East, who helped in the wars or who talked to us, at risk.

If this had been how we found out about the AT&T network tapping for the NSA, or the Extraordinary Rendition, or warrantless wiretapping, or any of the other recent government programs which are widely felt to be secret and abusive, that would be a point. But none of them have been revealed by Assange / Wikileaks. The New York Times seems to be the primary anti-evil-secret organization (and/or, whoever leaks to them about those programs).

I don't see any sign from Assange or any of his boosters that their own information is contradicting their own underlying philosophical thesis, or an awareness that reviewing whether it does or not is an important self-reflective function for their organization. This is somewhat disappointing. The whole organization is based on a rather absolutist information freedom anarchist manifesto, and it seems to be shooting itself in the doctrinal foot.

153:

"I think there will be an efficiency loss in promoting the general welfare etc. But if the goal is to conspire against the public? I see efficiency gains."

That implies an extraordinary anthropic principle at work. Is the Irish bailout closer to a conspiracy against public pensions or promotion of the general welfare? Test how related secrets propagate within the Compartmented Data Oracle and get a definitive answer from the universe itself!

154:

I don't think it had occurred to me before to ask how much of a Robert Anton Wilson fan you are.
His analysis of "conspiracy" was very much like yours, with some additional details. Despite the unrealisticly cartoonish parts, the realisticly cartoonnish floundering in the dark of the contending would-be world dominating conspiracies in Illuminatus!* seems very lifelike.
*props to Bob Shea, too, whose name is first on the book.

“Every authoritarian structure can be visualized as a pyramid with an eye on the top. This is the typical flow-chart of any government, any corporation, any Army, any bureaucracy, any mammalian pack. On each rung, participants bear a burden of nescience in relation to those above them. That is, they must be very, very careful that the natural sensory activities of being conscious organisms—the acts of seeing, hearing, smelling, drawing inferences from perception, etc.—are in accord with the reality-tunnel of those above them. This is absolutely vital; pack status (and "job security") depends on it. It is much less important—a luxury that can easily be discarded—that these perceptions be in accord with objective fact. . . . In such authoritarian situations, it is important to see what the Top Dogs (alpha males) see; it is inconvenient, and possibly dangerous to see what is objectively happening. But this leads to an equal and opposite burden of omniscience upon those at the top, in the eye of the pyramid. All that is forbidden to those at the bottom—the conscious activities of perception and evaluation—is demanded of the Power Elite, the master class. They must attempt to do the seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. and all the thinking and evaluating for the whole pyramid. But a man with a gun (the power to punish) is told only what the target thinks will not cause him to pull the trigger (write the pink slip, order the court-martial). The elite, with their burden of omniscience, face the underlings, with their burden of nescience, and receive only the feedback consistent with their own preconceived notions and reality-tunnels. The burden of omniscience becomes, over time, another and more complex burden of nescience. Nobody really knows anything anymore, or if they do, they are careful to hide the fact. The burden of nescience becomes omnipresent. More and more of sensory experience becomes unspeakable. As Paul Watzlawick notes, that which is objectively repressed (unspeakable) soon becomes subjectively repressed (unthinkable). Nobody likes to feel like a coward and a liar constantly. It is easier to cease to notice where the official tunnel-reality differs from existential fact. Thus SNAFU accelerates and rigiditus bureaucraticus sets in—the last stage before all brain activity ceases and the pyramid is clinically dead as an intellectual entity. We also propose that "national security" is another semantic spook, an Empedoclean knot; that the search for national security is the chief cause of national insecurity and a potent anti-intelligence mechanism.”
Prometheus Rising

155:

Interesting -- did you realise that the blog you linked to based its information on (and linked to) an article written by one of Assange's lawyers?

156:

Wikileaks revealed illegal spying plans directed against UN officials. It also revealed the pressure put on Germany to prevent CIA kidnappers from facing charges for their crimes. It showed that the USA is weakening the scope and moral force of middle eastern nuclear non-proliferation efforts by pressuring other nations to remain silent about Israel's nukes.

I suppose that's pretty small potatoes after the NSA was already caught illegally hoovering up internet traffic, the CIA tortured prisoners and destroyed video tape evidence to protect the guilty, and hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the chaos brought on by a war backed with flimsy pretexts... but it's still enough to justify what Wikileaks is doing.

157:

And the other question: If he breaks condoms twice in a row, is he doing it on purpose? Surely he'd get bigger condoms if he wanted to be honest.

I suppose if you didn't want to use a condom and were handed one you could try to break it while putting it on, while also trying to make it look like an accident. I don't think that would be easy to do though, to be honest.

The article I read only said that one of the condoms broke, while stating instead in the case of the other "The other said that she and Mr. Assange had begun a sexual encounter using a condom, but that Mr. Assange did not comply with her appeals to stop when it was no longer in use." That could cover a lot of different options. Sex isn't all intercourse, for a start.

158:

I forgot another useful one: Wikileaks has revealed that the US government knows that the US-backed government of Afghanistan is incompetent and steeped in corruption top to bottom. This is no surprise to anyone outside the US government either but maybe politicians will have to do something other than pretend problems are mere rumors and that everything can turn out OK if we just spend a few more years and hundreds of billions of dollars waiting for a miracle.

159:
Wikileaks revealed illegal spying plans directed against UN officials. It also revealed the pressure put on Germany to prevent CIA kidnappers from facing charges for their crimes. It showed that the USA is weakening the scope and moral force of middle eastern nuclear non-proliferation efforts by pressuring other nations to remain silent about Israel's nukes.
I suppose that's pretty small potatoes after the NSA was already caught illegally hoovering up internet traffic, the CIA tortured prisoners and destroyed video tape evidence to protect the guilty, and hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the chaos brought on by a war backed with flimsy pretexts... but it's still enough to justify what Wikileaks is doing.
(followup post)
I forgot another useful one: Wikileaks has revealed that the US government knows that the US-backed government of Afghanistan is incompetent and steeped in corruption top to bottom. This is no surprise to anyone outside the US government either but maybe politicians will have to do something other than pretend problems are mere rumors and that everything can turn out OK if we just spend a few more years and hundreds of billions of dollars waiting for a miracle.

None of what you've pointed out was new information.

None of it.

That's the point. Yes, now we know it's official and on the record. But it's not new.

This bucket of info appears a lot more interesting to a subset of people, who appear to generally be interested because they weren't previously paying attention to information sources such as a few key blogs, Jane's Intelligence Review, the New York Times, Foreign Policy magazine, Aviation Week, and a handful of others.

If you care about these topics and read these sources, you find no surprises in the cables dump.

If you care about these topics and don't read those sources, WTF????.

If you didn't really care about these topics enough to follow them, then that's fair. But it's a completely different thing than "they were secret". They weren't. They weren't even "open secrets" discussed obliquely (such as is done with nuclear weapons design details, for example). They were openly and clearly discussed in articles and public forums.

160:

I read the NYT, FAS's Secrecy News, and Arms Control Wonk among others. You're right that this information is not new, but having it confirmed from the horse's mouth (or rather the horse's written correspondence) seems like a positive development if only because removes the last fig leaf that makes public denials respectable. There's a weird phenomenon where public figures are seemingly held less accountable by the news media and voters for falsehoods or insanity than for inconsistency. Showing that someone acknowledges the sky's blueness in private, while publicly calling it green, is more effective a rebuke than simply publishing a photograph of the sky next to the public statement.

161:

The problem is, even exposing the cables (or series of internal policy memoranda, etc) doesn't change ambiguous official stances. Because official stances are official stances.

Even if a bunch of diplomats (or all of them) agree that the sky is Blue, if it will embarrass Foreign Leader X who we otherwise like/support/rely on to officially record such when they are on the record that it's Green over their capital, we are likely to maintain an official noncommital policy in public. Even if all the diplomats statements agreeing that it was Blue last time they looked out the window of the embassy are published.

There's sort of a naive viewpoint, shared by moral absolutists and anarchists and some radical freedom advocates, that underlying truth will overcome political reality. What we've seen here is that the US State Department underlying truth is pretty much the same underlying truth everyone else sees and has access to. That doesn't mean that our diplomats suddenly live in a world where politics doesn't matter. Political reality is always political reality. That's why we have a State Department, to finesse that stuff.

You can challenge the entire validity of the combined international geopolitical structure, all the nations and governments and power structures, as covering a host of sins. Misbehavior, lying, self-deceptions abound, yes. But it's there. We do it too, though we're apparently better at outing our own sins (as evidenced by the leaks not showing anything truly surprising, apparently, so far). Welcome to the real world.

This release has two negative effects:

It impairs the ability of our diplomats to get work done, by airing dirty laundry.

It impairs the safety and lives of sources around the world.

The tradeoff here - confirming some things already widely known to be true without official confirmation - is arguably not worth it. That conclusion is not foregone, but it's my conclusion.

Maybe something else is in yet unpublished cables that will change my mind. So far? Not so much. Assange's anarchist philosophy and the facts he uncovered just don't support each other. And he doesn't seem to understand why.

162:

"On a side note, I am very suspsicious of the charge that they requested he get tested. WTF? If you htink you had sex with someone suspected of having an STD - you get yourself tested immediately."

Nope - why get yourself tested immediately? You don't have a disease...yet. If you suspect exposure, particularly to HIV, your next actions are best focused on not getting the disease. One recommended course of action is to visit a doctor and get a course antiretroviral drugs within a few hours of exposure. Many people find the side effects too nauseating to keep on taking the full course, so they request testing of the contact. If the contact is HIV negative, then you have a good reason to give up using the drugs. If not...then nausea is better than seroconverting, generally speaking.

This is called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). ObDisclaimer: Not everyone thinks it's effective.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-exposure_prophylaxis

I have no idea what these women actually did or whether this was what they were thinking. But I do find it interesting that the Wikileaks man is being hounded over a condom leak.

163:

"Entryism" @ 130, 133 ...
These days it isn't the "trots" you have to worry about.
But there is another grouping, using identical tactics, and mainly targeting the Labour party (though not exclusively) ... those who believe in "Kalifah", and who are supported by or even members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
I've met these guys (back in 1994/5) and they really are not nice to know, let me tell you.

@ 135
Only if they catch you.
USB slugs are really easy to conceal.

@ 136
Maybe, but ... sooner or later, even the Putin-style bullying backfires, and you get a July plot - which came (literally) within half-a-metre of succeeding.
Incidentally, who Tom Flanagan?

@ 144
I have a horrible suspicion you may be right.
I think OUR HOST thinks so too ... as evidenced in the "Trade of Queens" etc.
Charlie?

@ 151
And for (excuse me) Not using a condom you get an Interpol Arrest Warrant?
WTF?

164:

George, note that not everything is about the USA. The State Department might come out of this looking OK, save only for having to drop quite a lot of plausible deniability, but that's a predictable result of the level that the leaks are derived from.

But the US is not the only government in the world. Did you check out the UK cluster bomb ban story? Can you explain where that story was available in public before the leaks?

Lots of it is not news to people like us who read armscontrolwonk (on which I always head for your comments, and those of other s.s.p.ers like Allen Thomson). But how many people do this? Keeping up with their bullshit in the world of deniability takes up a lot of time: by leaking this stuff, WL have removed some of the friction faced by the public who want to hold the government to account.

165:

Chris, could you sketch out your ideas about bioinformatics and crunching the cable dump in more detail? Could do it as a TYR guest post.

166:

If you were considering blaming someone for infecting you it would help your case if you could prove you weren't infected beforehand. Good idea to be tested regularly if you are given to drunken frolics.

167:

That does not appear to be correct. That appears to be coming only from Assange's lawyers (that's were the link in the link in 151 goes).

What is being reported elsewhere is that the charge is having sex without a condom with a women who withdrew consent when the condom wasn't in use. Which is to say: rape.

168:

I have no idea what these women actually did or whether this was what they were thinking. But I do find it interesting that the Wikileaks man is being hounded over a condom leak.

That's not what he's being sought for. What he's being sought for (and charged with) is having sex with someone who withdrew their consent because a condom wasn't being used.

169:

[RANDOM TRIPE DELETED BY MODERATOR]

170:

None of what you've pointed out was new information.

None of it.

That's the point. Yes, now we know it's official and on the record. But it's not new.

No THAT'S the point, up to this now it was opinion, "my friend says", "I have deduced that", "my confidential source reports". Until now anyone who didn't like what you were arguing just demanded sources then laughed at you. The source is now the official record so the boots on the other foot, now they actually have to defend the action rather than muddy the water demanding proof that it occurred.

Collateral murder being a case in point, people who pay attention to what happens to stringers in war zones "knew" what had happened to Namir Noor-Eldeen but couldn't get anyone to admit anything. Once the primary evidence was in the public domain rather than classified various spokespersons had to change their stories and get a little closer to the truth.

171:

I could, but I was thinking this one through on the platform of Ketting Station last night, and I started to worry about how much you could actually get from it. The problem is the same one as DNA evidence: you can prove the suspect was present, but that's not the same as proving he did it. So we know that Churchill met ROosevelt, but merely knowing that doesn't give us the details of the Atlantic CHarter, in which devils may or may not reside. And getting hold of location info of all the ministers and permanent secretaries may be possible - but what happens when the real deal-making contacts are being done a grade or two below them? So actually predicting from the data's going to be very hard.

Extracting the pattern from the noise is what's going to be hard. It's 20 years since I read Scot's _SOcial Network Analysis_ and I probaby need to see of anyone's improved on it yet.

172:

You can do somewhat more than Scott, because you can look for patterns in time and information flow as well, the equivalent of traffic analysis in cryptography.

173:

Carlos, do you think anyone will change their opinion from the facts discussed in this thread? Honest question.

Oh ... and congratulations!

174:

Yes to temporal patterns, not so sure about traffic analysis. We can tag indications of official communication, but how are we going to assign a value to traffic? How many brief chats at a cocktail party makes a weekend away with Silvio?

175:

Hey Noel! Congratulations back at you.

I think a few people will, eventually. A better model of how things work is an excellent mustard seed of doubt for thoughtful people. Not that I make great claims for my own, but Assange's model is very bad.

176:

It's possible to trace the transmission of a policy idea from meeting to meeting. You can say, "I know this idea was discussed in these people's joint presence at time X. That gives me a terminus. They may have both had the idea before that, but beyond this point, each had the information in question and knew the other party had it as well."

That sort of timetable when disentangling policy is amazingly helpful.

One example comes to mind. I have to be a little vague. A negotiator was working under a very sharp statutory deadline that the executive was trying to work around. The deadline fell shortly after Holy Week, and the executive had deliberately withheld a decision in the hopes the situation would resolve itself before then. It hadn't. I had dates and summaries of the negotiations, some analyses of the infighting, a juicy phone transcript. What clinched it, though, was discovering through the executive's daybook that the negotiator had flown several thousand miles to the executive's private home on Easter Sunday and talked with him -- about what? who knows -- that afternoon after services. The negotiator returned to the other country that night. The following day, the executive's work-around was announced in both capitols.

The summaries of that broader event talk about brinkmanship and pressure groups and so on. I know enough about what went on to know that those summaries are at best badly flawed.

177:

It occurs to me that the UK might not be the safest place to hide out, if, perchance, some of those released top secret cables happen to reveal information protected under the Official Secrets Act.

178:

And getting hold of location info of all the ministers and permanent secretaries may be possible - but what happens when the real deal-making contacts are being done a grade or two below them?

That's what's good about the Wikileaks cables. Diplomatic meetings are full of these people, especially US ones.

I was thinking of using something like the Yahoo! Term Extractor API to derive significant keywords from cables and then looking at the correlation between keywords - who tends to be with who, and which subjects are together. You'd need to correct for obvious results - the ambassador to Ankara is going to be in a lot of cables relating to Turkey - but there could be some interesting results there.

179:

Did some brief googling... so "Trotskyite Entryist" is, in plain English, an infiltrator?

180:

@Russel Coker: You're quite right when you write that: "Once a file is on someone else's computer their software decides how long it lasts." And there's nothing to stop someone from coding their own file reader to prevent that electronic file's destruction, once it's downloaded to the remote terminal.

But say that the "white-hat" reader client software has to do some sort of authentication back to the "white-hat" server, something as simple as a hash of the size of the "white-hat" client application files (encrypted, of course). Well, a "black-hat" reader coded to save the data retrieved would never be able to get by the authentication stage with "white-hat" server -- unless they knew the hash algorithm being used.

Of course, a man in the middle attack would be able to sniff out the data being transferred between a "white-hat" server and a "white-hat" client reader. But there are plenty of very secure ways to encrypt the channel.

Any crypto can broken given enough computing power (or poorly designed code), but it's far from the realm of impossibility to implement a secure file reading system that both watermarks the files and destroys them after a limited time on the PC. And keeps them "safely" encrypted while they're in existence on the client PC. Nothing is perfect, mind you. But I don't see that Assange is doing much to sabotage the world of intel. The human factor will always be the weak point of intel. Always has, always will. The technical side doesn't have to be the weak point though.

@Charlie: snake oil? Well, PDF is flawed, and I only used that as an example. You're the moderator, and you can be as disdainful as you like to your guests, but I'd be curious if you could offer something a little more substantial in your criticism? I long ago learned there were many smarter people than me in the world, and I always value to the opportunity to learn something new. Thanks for the interesting discussion, though!

181:

There's a bit more to it than that; think in terms of a group of coordinated entryists following an externally directed plan to gain control of an institution by electing/selecting each other to positions of executive power where, rather than controlling things through sheer force of numbers, they can control things by directing the efforts/inputs of the masses (who don't realize the folks running things are entryists).

The Labour Party here had a problem with entryists in the mid-80s (probably wildly over-stated, but it was a convenient excuse for a witch hunt ...). More recently, we've seen former Trots employing these tactics in service of their new right-wing ideology: in the USA it's the neoconservatives, while in the UK it's their opposite numbers in groups like The Institute of Ideas (a right-wing think-tank that evolved over a couple of decades out of the one-time Revolutionary Communist Party -- the British party of that name, established by Frank Furedi, not the US party of the same name who seem to have been a lot less effective). And I'm pretty sure I see the grubby fingerprints of that kind of manipulative technique all over chunks of the US political scene, thanks to the Koch brothers' choice of catspaws.

182:

A PDF file is just a storage container for data (okay, it's executable postscript with added resources -- postscript being a stack-based language a la Forth). The point is, if someone can get that PDF file onto a computing platform that they control, it can't do anything without their say-so. Suppose you've got a PDF with some magical hooks that the Secure PDF Reader knows about, which trigger its erasure if someone tries to open it after a set date. It's still just a file. All an attacker needs to do is to open it in a debugging environment, locate the triggers, and remove them. Or run it through a PDF reader that replaces whatever elaborate act of destruction those hooks are designed to trigger with a no-op.

Moreover, suppose you use a computing platform that has support for DRM and won't let attackers copy files off it. Are you safe then? I'd say the answer is "no". All an attacker needs is an image of the entire operating system and a machine of their own with a suitable hypervisor. Then they can feed the OS image bogus information about the machine it's running on and who's logging into it.

But suppose you encrypt your operating system's partition at the hardware level, so a bitwise copy is just a mass of noise -- are you safe then? Again, the answer is "no" ... if an attacker can lay their hands on the hardware for long enough to either obtain the hardware tokens used to encrypt the disk partition.

All you can do is make it harder for someone to read data their not authorized for. You can't make it impossible, short of deleting the file completely and scrubbing the disk it was stored on. And even then, a sufficiently good forensics lab will probably be able to find traces, unless you feed the disk to a shredder. Don't laugh: that's what large organization do these days.

As for the self-erasing PDF, I call it snake oil. Either it isn't a PDF, it's just something that looks like one to the users of what is actually a non-interchangable but securely encrypted document format, or it can be cracked trivially by transferring it to a computer running a PDF reader that doesn't understand the "erase me if I'm past my expiry date" code embedded in it.

183:


Carlos, do you think anyone will change their opinion from the facts discussed in this thread? Honest question.

I know this wasn't directed at my, but reading it yesterday gave me pause, and I've been thinking about it since.

Of course, this is an old problem, both online and off, in that there are lots of people more interested in pushing their pet theories on others than on really being interested in debate.

Thinking about it, I wonder how much the difference in attitude to Wikileaks is really about the tension in modern democratic republics between the "democratic" part and the "republican" part. (If it's not obvious, I am not talking about, in any way, the same-named political parties in the US.)

(Also, there's a ton of stuff that can be said (and has been written) about the degree to which our elections are actually democratic, but that's mostly superfluous to this comment.)

None of us actually live in democracies -- merely democratically (sortof) elected republics, and frankly, for quite a lot of us, our choice is actually between two almost equally unpalatable representatives, both of whose politics may vary wildly from our own. So there is a reasonable wish for our societies to become more democratic. If nothing else, we need to know what our representatives are doing, so we can decide if we want to stick with the devil we know or throw them overboard for the other guy. But while voting records that might have been enough to help make that decision, say, half a century ago, things are rather more complicated today (and on top the additional complexity, must of us know, in a way voters in the past probably didn't grasp, that voting records aren't anything like the full story. The less we know, the more, in effect, disenfranchised we are.

But by the same token, the issues our representatives deliberate on are also complex -- and how much do we really trust our fellow citizens, many of whom can't understand the 'talking points' let alone be bothered to actually look at the huge body of data beyond that, to make better choices than our (hopefully better informed) representatives?

I think, probably the more democratic you are and more liberal (in the International Relations sense of the word) you are, the more optimistic you're likely to be about something like Wikileaks, and the opportunities it presents for increasing the public's oversight of the powerful, the more democratic and ideally, less full of conflict, the world becomes. The less you trust your fellow citizens (and human beings generally), the more realist (again, in the IR sense of the word!) you are about international affairs, the more pessimistic you are going to likely be about Wikileaks, particularly from a state-security point of view.

To that extent, the whole Wikileaks thing (and particularly the most recent leak) is really an old debate on new ground, and not one that typically sees a lot of movement in terms of people's minds being changed in my experience.

184:

I think my point of view can be summarized without talking about small-d democracy or small-r republicanism. It's simply this: political attacks on the civil service foster the development of the security state.

In the United States, you see this repeatedly: in the McCarthy era, in the Nixon era, in the Reagan era, in the W era, the State Department was deliberately undercut to promote the growth of more covert agencies to handle international affairs. [*]

That Assange is nominally "left" makes no difference, though I think this is a source of confusion for many people. He's not doing anything that Oliver North wouldn't have used.

If Assange had leaked something more central to the American security state, as Ellsberg did, I'd have a different analysis. But it's almost as if he chose the foreign policy agency with the most oversight on purpose. (I don't think he did, but you know? I wouldn't be surprised to learn otherwise.)

[*] Because the State Department was filled with Commmunists and homosexuals and bleeding hearts and most recently, "Arabists", who presumably would enact some gay Commie Muslim peacenik master plan if it weren't for the patriotic spymasters and demagogues who held the line against them. This is one of the reasons I was taken aback by Charlie agreeing with Assange -- he's delved deep into this material for years.

185:

If it wasn't clear, I wasn't attempting to speak for you, but rather, to answer the question you were asked, for myself. I doubt very many people who are commenting on this have thought about the various issues involved, let alone any broader history, so they're simply running in the direction they already face.

As for the specifics of your thesis, I can't say I disagree.

186:

{tongue in cheek}
Didn't you just describe the tactics of Blair and Brown?

187:

Yes. (In deadly earnest.)

188:

It is pretty rare that public service unions subvert the public interest. Generally, public interest unions serve to democratize the work place and conditions of employment. It is the duty of elected officials to communicate in a mature and explanatory way with unionized workers to ensure that the economic facts are understood so that realistic compensation and work conditions are negotiated.

What is crazy is when right wing and selfish-driven politicians use their decision making role to help themselves to unrealistic gains while in office. This is much more destructive of the public interest. Also, it is very useful that the facts about the mantra on "lower taxes helps the economy" is being rapidly discredited by the historical record. It is becoming obvious by the last 100 years of data that high tax rates on corporations and the wealthy means that these people are motivated to generate a lot more economic activity to pocket the same amount of net income as they would if taxes were reduced to a token. This notion that small taxes is an economic engine is proving itself to be a total fallacy.

189:

I'm not sure the term "right wing" (or "left wing") is useful these days. "Authoritarian" and "Liberal" make some degree of sense as labels, but less than might be thought at first sight -- but even the popular two-dimensional grid with independent social and economic axes isn't that much use.

Also: "public interest". Who are the public, and what are they interested in?

190:

So true!

191:

Assange has wrapped himself in the robes of the pious and self righteous and appointed himself defender of Public good. What he does is manipulate and censor material before he releases it. Case in point is the video of the Reuters killing. (the beginning portions of the videotape can be found on the Jawa Report and other websites)Wikileaks purposely edited out the portion of that tape at the beginning which clearly showed the men carrying RPG's and AK47's, now he whines about calls for his assassination/execution??.he is nothing less than a criminal who richly deserves the backlash.

Let the silence that follows the neutralization of Julian Assange, his staff and his co-conspirators speak volumes to the enlightened socialist academia, liberal intelligencia and those sneering, malicious self appointed bringers of "clarity and truth" remaining who toy with the idea of dabbling in what is nothing more than a treasonous, seditious exercise in self gratification wrapped in the robes of the self righteous.

As a footnote, I find it remarkable that Assange, now righteously indignant that his death has been called for, falls back on the Canadian criminal code to silence opposition to his little program of murderous anarchy. How utterly predictable that a man who has toyed with the lives of millions for his own personal amusement now shrilly calls for the protections afforded by the democratic processes of the very nations and governments he has unceasingly assaulted and subverted.

192:

The United States Department of Defense does not agree with your argument.

193:

MNiM: good points, that I hadn't considered. I'm not sure the "democratic" versus "republican" rhetoric is useful, but the analysis itself was very sharp. My only caveat would be that when actual wrongdoing is involved --- or even gross hypocrisy (emphasis on "gross") --- there would be agreement on the need for transparency.

This stuff here, though, reveals neither.

So, Charlie? I am curious as to what sort of evidence you would accept as meriting a change of opinion.

194:

I've carefully examined the long form of the "collateral murder" video, and it does include the parts where the helicopter gunship pilots say that they see men with AK-47s and RPGs. The video (which was all the pilots themselves saw, being telescopic and the helicopters being too far away from the men for naked eyes to see anything clearly) does not show any AK-47s or RPGs, despite what the Cato Institute defense analyst asserts on the video. Whatever the men are carrying is not firmly identifiable, but is not consistent with AK-47s or RPGs. The supposed AK-47s are not long enough and do not have the right shape. they appear to most likely be cameras. One long object identified as an RPG is too thin and also has the wrong shape. It is most likely a camera tripod. US ground troops arrived within minutes while the helicopters were still taping (showing that no one else got there first and carried away any weapons) - the ground troops found no weapons. They did of course find the shattered van of good Samaritans (and their wounded children) who had tried to pick up the wounded photographer before being blasted with hundreds of 30mm cannon rounds. The children are clearly visible in the video in the passenger side of the van before the helicopter opens fire for the second time.

Further, no version of this video has been released other than by Wikileaks. If you saw it and you aren't one of a small number of cleared US DOD employees, it was released by Wikileaks. (BTW the "Jawa Report" where you say you saw it is an anti-Muslim hate site with a "war porn" section of mostly war crimes videos, apparently for their depraved readers' jollies.)

By putting out lies to defend this murder, you are more culpable than Assange, Mr. Laird.

195:

I should have said no versions with more helicopter footage have been released than the Wikileaks version. Obviously other versions with different commentary have been derived from the original release.

I have found the specific page on Jawa Report site Laird refers to. The animated gif of the alleged RPG is indeed taken from the Wikileaks footage release.

More interestingly, on the same page there is an FOIA release of the Army's report on the incident. Most names are redacted as well as all heads of living people and images of bodies. The report alleges that one RPG launcher and two RPG rounds were found at the scene. (Picture evidence redacted as being too close to a body.) One AK-47 was found (Picture evidence in the report). This contradicts the helicopter pilot's claim of "five to six men with AK-47s".

The report does not note that the children were visible before the second helicopter attack, although the gun-cam picture that would show them is included, with the portion of the picture showing the children specifically redacted. It refers to the good Samaritans only as "military-age males" and alleges that the timing of the van's arrival alone was enough to conclude that they were a valid target. The attack on a vehicle carrying visible children, with no occupant carrying any visible object (let alone weapons) while attempting to act as an ambulance is the reason Assange says he titled the video "Collateral Murder".

No mention or picture is provided in the report of the armored personnel carrier which is shown on the video running over a prone wounded photographer in the middle of the courtyard.

The report claims that the ground forces did not have time to check the men's bodies for ID, and that they could not be positively identified after the attack, only indirectly by the pictures on their cameras. There is no mention or other indication on the video at this point that the forces are receiving fire, but this is the reason given in the report for the ground forces lack of time to check for ID. Nevertheless, it notes that an explosive ordinance team destroyed the alleged RPG rounds. (When?)

On the video permission is denied to take the children to a military hospital, but the report says that the children were taken to a forward operating base and not to an Iraqi hospital until the next day.

Given the Army's propensity to whitewash incidents such as this as much as possible, I'm not satisfied that this report is the whole story or even wholly truthful.

196:

I came to this blog hoping that you'd have written on this, Charles. You didn't disappoint.

Considering both the main post and the comments, this is pretty much the most comprehensive description of what's going on that I've seen.

Sure, some of the comments are a bit crazy, but there's no real way to avoid that.

I disagree with some things that Wikileaks has done, but they've done nothing that should result in this bizarre, quasi-dystopian insanity. If my views were moderate at one point, such terrifying strong-arm tactics have definitely swayed me towards supporting the organization.

197:

I'm leaving Don Laird's posting intact as a demonstration of the kind of bile floating around here.

But I'd like to add a couple of footnotes.

1. This server is hosted in the UK, where public calls for extrajudicial killing -- otherwise known as "murder" -- are themselves a criminal offense called "incitement". No US First Amendment here, and Don would be well advised to be more careful about what he says on this blog if he plans to visit the UK in future.

2. Anyone else notice a certain similarity between Don's prose style and that of Julius Streicher? (For further insights into the exterminationist tendency in American right-wing political rhetoric, see Orcinus who's been tracking this sort of thing for years.)

198:

Noel: So, Charlie? I am curious as to what sort of evidence you would accept as meriting a change of opinion.

Some evidence that the US State Department (and, by extension, US foreign policy in general) was a Good Thing™?

From where I'm standing, the USA is the biggest and most violent rogue state on the planet. Its actions over the past decade have directly killed hundreds of thousands (Iraq, Afghanistan) and contributed to millions of deaths due to HIV (veto on family planning counseling in the AID budget for Africa -- now rescinded). Other actions -- sabotage/derailment/watering down of carbon emissions controls -- may result in uncounted tens or hundreds of millions of deaths over the next century (but are impossible to quantify at this time). Internally, the USA runs the biggest gulag on the planet, carries out executions and torture, and has pretty much neutered its internal protections for civil liberties in the name of security.

The only mitigating factor that I can see is that most of its opponents are rather stinky, too. But I'm enough of a residual utopian to believe that supporting the lesser of two evils is Not The Answer, and that the cult of Realism in international relations is itself a pernicious evil.

199:

EH: That would be the same Cato Institute that takes back-handers from the Koch brothers. I'd take anything they say with about a metric ton of salt.

200:

Charlie @ 189
Agreed - but a lot of people still can't ot won't see it.
I'm to the "right" of you, but I'm quite possibly even less "authoritarian" than you, for instance ...

201:

Charlie, I don't mean to tag-team you on this, but the State Department is the civil service of the United States which handles everyday international affairs. When you say it's not a "Good Thing (TM)", do you mean that you're inimical to the project of having a civil service which handles everyday international affairs? If so, what would you have replace it? I see you've just posted calls for a Utopia from your readers. But the extraordinary claim here is *yours*. It's more intellectually honest if you come up with the extraordinary replacement.

Or do you mean that you don't like the policies of the State Department? But the things you list didn't originate at the State Department -- rather, they originated with a rogue executive and his cronies -- and only one is implemented through the State Department (AID programs).

Specifics are important. Need I remind you that W was a radical utopian?

202:

You're probably right about that, given what those words first tend to bring to mind in quite a few minds, but I suspect it may very well be the core tension.

203:

Specifics are important. Need I remind you that W was a radical utopian?

Good point. Colour me in favour of conservative utopianism, then -- by all means look towards building a utopia, but try not to steer towards it over a pile of skulls.

The problem I've got is that US foreign policy -- going back a long way, since roughly when it diverged from slavish imitation of the European monarchical imperialists -- seems to have been to use diplomatic and military leverage to promote US economic hegemony without respect for the desires of the hegemonized. I find the export of the US intellectual property regime -- indeed, of the propertarianization of every human relationship that seems to be part of the US system -- deeply offensive at a gut level. Articulating just why, in a comprehensive explanatory framework, is somewhat harder, except: I don't think money is the only yardstick we should use for measuring value.

204:

May we think about a specific counterfactual? Here's something that wasn't in the Wikileaks files: contingency planning between the United States and China over the future of North Korea. Beijing, obviously, won't engage in such planning if its public, because that would imply a lack of faith in its ally. Now it would seem that such planning is impossible. Why is that a good thing?

(Carlos: Your argument is actually stronger, I think. USAID was effectively separate from State until 2006, when Condi Rice brought it under her ambit in the bureaucratic end-runs that characterized the final years of the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration, of course, had already created the MCC to skirt around the standard foreign aid process, although I will have to admit to finding that a not-entirely-bad thing.)

205:

Hi Noel - how you square 'no wrongdoing' with:

1) UK govt to Parliament and public: "We're banning cluster munitions and none of our allies will be able to base or store them on UK territory"

2) UK govt to US govt "Don't worry, we've worked out a way of interpreting the guidlines so you still can, for as long as you like."

?

Like I said, there's more than one government in the world.

206:

I just saw on the Swedish TV-news the Swedish lawyer of Mr. Assange. The lawyer said that Mr. Assange refused to appear for questioning in Sweden because he was afraid of being extradited to USA or Australia.
The prosecutor (Marianne Ny) was also interviewed. She said that as far as she knew there had been no requests from any country about extradition.
Regarding the allegations of sexual related crimes she said that she was not sure if there would be any charges since the prosecutor only had heard one side of the story and has not heard Mr Assange describe the events.

207:

Hang on, isn't Assange in the UK right now? Has nobody told him about our fast track extradition service to the USA, whereby no evidence is required to be presented, and as far as I can tell the USA basically says "We'd like him" and our gvt has to send the orders out to arrest whoever it is they want. Surely he'd be safer in Sweden?

208:

@ 207
Not quite.

I mentioned Gary MacKinnon, erlier - you would do well to look his case up

209:

I honestly don't understand the question. Yes, there is more than one government in the world. I'm not a citizen of the government that's trying to subvert its own policies.

But that's a cop-out. Why is revealing British malfeasance worth weakening the ability of the U.S. to work with foreign governments and receive honest analyses from its officials? You don't change U.S. policy one bit, and you weaken the American agency charged with professionally carrying out foreign policy. The upshot will be to make fantasy-based foreign policy even easier to carry out in Washington.

Since, as everyone on this blog seems to agree, Washington is the 800-pound bully on the world block, then there can't be an advantage here. No?

210:

I wasn't advocating the Cato guy's claim of seeing an RPG, but disputing it. (Specifically Ivan Eland, former Director of Defense Policy Studies at Cato, chosen by Al-Jazeera to comment on their broadcast of the Collateral Murder video, along with Julian Assange.)

Cato is libertarian, and like libertarians in general, is a mixed bag. They put out not only right-wing talking points but also anti-authoritarian positions. They are against taxes, especially on the wealthy, so they get support from the Kochs, but they are also against government policies such as surveillance and drug criminalization. Glen Greenwald has gotten funding from them to do research and the resulting papers and essays are published on their site.

211:

Oh dear. They really are determined to get him aren't they?

212:

Re entryists: we lost the Progressive Conservative party in
Canada to a hostile takeover from the Reform Party, in a very
public entryist initiative which even had a slogan, "Unite the Right".

The current Canadian PM is a Reformer, and under his leadership the party is now officially no longer "Progressive".

Any similarities to the UK and US experience are, however "purely coincidental"

--dave

213:

Doug, I think we're talking past each other here. Wait for a wikileaks from the German government, in which they record all the times that the State Department says "Yeah, we're telling the American voters one thing, but doing another." Then you might get the hang of how it feels to us.

I hope we can agree that this one is a non-story:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11933089
"The US and Nato have drawn up plans to defend Nato's Baltic members against Russia,"
What, a military alliance makes plans to defend members of the alliance? The fiends! How dare they?

214:

Noel, why do I keep calling you 'Doug'? Sorry about that. I blame the extreme cold.

215:

The actual allegations as presented in a UK court today are as follows:

Gemma Lindfield, representing the Swedish authorities, told the court he was wanted in connection with four allegations.

The first complainant, a Miss A, said she was the victim of "unlawful coercion" on the night of 14 August in Stockholm. The court heard Assange was alleged to have "forcefully" held her arms and used his bodyweight to hold her down. The second charge alleged he "sexually molested" her by having sex without using a condom, when it was her "express wish" that one should be used.

A third charge claimed Assange "deliberately molested" Miss A on 18 August.

A fourth charge, relating to a Miss W, alleged that on 17 August, he "improperly exploited" the fact she was asleep to have sex with her without a condom.

C&P from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/07/assange-bail-request-refused-wikileaks

216:

I don't think Mr Assange is going to live long enough for his deserved trip to Oslo.
MInd you the death will be plausibly deniable (to some), VERY much like that of Dr Kelly passim
Don't these idiots in guvmint EVER learn?
The hackers will take just about everything down that they can, when that happens.

Mind you, given that he voluntarily handed himself in, the refusal of bail id disgraceful, petty, spiteful, mean, and just like a guvmint with a grudge.

"Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear, but this means YOU, BUT NOT US"
Or something like that?
Grrrr.

217:

One thing that makes me puzzled is John Young's assertion that Wikileaks while presenting outwardly as a non-profit organisation is selling or going to sell information leaked to them for profit to interested parties.

He was originally involved in Wikileaks, but withdrew after a few weeks, due to spat over funding. (he was angry about a early $5 million funding target and said he'd prefer for the site to establish credibility on a lower budget first. Also said that such amounts of money can tarnish any kind of image and are not necessary for the operation)

http://cryptome.org/wikileaks/wikileaks-leak.htm

I'd really like to have it disproved or at least shown as .., as I'd like believing Wikileaks is just what it says on the tin, and not some sort of fraud or a very inspired attempt at a honey-pot.

Once one starts doubting...

218:

Charlie @203: Would it comfort you any to know that not everyone in the U.S. State Department shares that hegemony-driven outlook? I'm not there now, but I am going through the process to get there, despite my reservations about our foreign policy. It may be that I am too idealistic, and any hopes for effecting grassroots change in behavior will be met and resisted most poignantly, but who knows? On the ground, foreign policy lies partially in the accumulation of nuanced decisions by FSOs.

I'm only responding because I don't believe that the way things are is the way things have to be. Also, thanks for this analysis.

219:

Assange, like anyone else wanted for questioning in relation to a crime, must be held accountable for those crimes if he committed them and bringing him in for questioning is not out of the question.

BUT: the timing and escalation of charges seems rather suspicious, and the fact that so many countries are scrambling to break their own laws to bring him in and/or shut him up is deeply disconcerting, and this needs to be taken into account when determining how to address the legal issues regarding the rape case.

Assange is now in custody for the rape charge. Now that he is in custody, I very strongly doubt that he will ever see the light of day again. I don't trust my own country's motivations in this issue and do not doubt for a second that they will go outside of our laws to imprison Assange in Guantanamo-like seclusion, assuming of course that he doesn't die an "accidental" death while in custody.

With the pressure we are putting on other countries (some of whom have their own interests in gunning for Assange, that appear to be more about payback than prosecution) to violate their own laws in this fiasco, it's possible Assange won't live long enough to suffer the wrath of the US over having its dirty laundry shown to the world. I suppose that's a small mercy.

As for the leaks, I have a very easy solution for countries (including my own) seeking to avoid future embarrassments: quit behaving in ways that will appear reprehensible if the truth comes out. The big issue here is not that the records were leaked; it's that there was anything damning to release at all. We tell our children that it's not enough to be sorry they got caught; they should be sorry they broke trust and change their behavior such that it doesn't happen again. Perhaps we should hold our governments to the same standard.

220:

@ 219
Quite so.
One possibly interesting aside.

The on-line paper I usually read is the Daily Torygraph: I won't go near a Murdoch publication, the Indy is erratic, and I can't use the Guardian, since I accurately described islam as "cruel, barbaric and medieaval" - which true desription got me branded as a racist, wuth no appeal.
Now, the Troy graph is eccentric - it pushes an RC viewpoint a lot, which usually gets it flak from its' own readers, for instance.
In the past few days two (it may be three) "useful idiots" have popped up, trying to tell everyone how not-quite-evil Assange is, and how he desrves it.
The overwhelming howls of derision and ridicule from the on-line readership is amusing, to say the least.
Vitually no-one at all is buying the "official" explanations or line.

221:

No worries. Doug M., Carlos, me ... we know each other off-line, and while we have very different personalities, we do have a similar view of the world.

I suppose I have to say here that I find the "Consider it from the non-U.S.-POV" rather convincing, in terms of some of the leaks' importance. Call my opinion changed.

Whether the gain for those other countries (in terms of greater knowledge by their electorates) is worth the loss to the United States (in terms of greater secrecy going ahead and a great loss in the ability of the State Department to control foreign affairs) is a much harder dilemma. And then there are the countries in the Arabian peninsula and Levant, where the revelations won't improve domestic governance but will make it harder to work with the United States.

But if Charlie@203 can change his mind with new information --- and that certainly seems to be what he did, if not in so many words --- then I certainly should admit that I hadn't considered the import of the leaks from the other side.

222:

My only real question is, if his state goal is to expose corruption and encourage freedom, why is he only targetting the US? Why is he not targeting the UK (who is implementing some really ridiculous policies regarding the internet and personal freedom), Australia (who is being even worse), Spain, etc? The US, despite its bad actions, is still the freest industrial nation in the world.

223:

Wikileaks is not only targeting the US. The focus on the US is a result of the leaks being from the US. They have previously released leaks from all around the world, and will continue to as long as they are operational.

224:

** SPAMMER ALERT **

Total non-sequitur alert - it looks like you have a link spammer posting at #224 (Dagny Dees) and #225 (Ellan Grines).

226:

@224-7
Donald Trump is a professional shit, who uses hois money to bribe and bully - ask the inhabitants of Aberdeenshire!

And it probably is SPAM, anyway .....

227:

I do not know and did not study Swedish law, having been qualified in England and in the Caribbean, but let's use reasonable sense:-
The Swedish law reads: " He who lays hands on or by means of shooting from a firearm, throwing of stones, noise or in any other way harasses another person will be sentenced for harassment to fines or imprisonment for up to one year."
Q. Mr. Assange - you are accused of harassment – what do you have to say in response to the charge?
A. I had no weapon and did not harass anyone.
Q. I put it to you that you are being less than frank with this honourable court.
A. I reject your suggestion Sir.
Q. You did have a dangerous weapon in use at the material time Mr. Assange.
A. No Sir!
Q. But there is no dispute that you had sex with these two women – how could you in all honesty deny that there was an attack. Mr. Assange I urge you at this point to take responsibility for the misuse of your harassing rod – what do you say to that?
A. It was not a harassing one Sir – it was very friendly and fully accommodated one by both ladies Sir – and that is the truth! Actually, by reference to the law – I laid a hand on it, they both did too – I worked them both over without any harassment – and all in all relative to the charge – I did shoot my “firearm” at the end in the most pleasurable way Sir. BUT, IN ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES - NOT GUILTY AS CHARGED!
THE SYSTEM SHOULD BE TOLD TO GO FUCK ITSELF ON THIS ONE!
CB www.globaljusticeonline.com
P.S. Did the people elect the officials - or – are we all blindly subservient to them wot hold the power? You decide for yourself. You decide -many lie, steal trillions, fabricate reasons to start wars – and you think that the Wikileaks information is dangerous and that it is not your right to know? Consider yourself a freethinker? – maybe not.

228:

Spammer nuked. Thanks.

229:

The Russian guvernment also calls for a Nobel Prize for Assange, according to the Guardian. Putin or Medvedev must be reading this blog!

Also; posts 224, 225, calls for posts 224, 225 to be deleted because they're spam. You really should get your tech geek to change post numbers to a static id, instead of those weird count numbers. Especially now that great people like Russian presidents apparently come here... :-)

230:

Lars, I am the tech geek around here.

I don't generally mess with the content of comments here, unless to convert the odd < into &lt; for readability purposes, or to nuke someone who's being banned.

While there's a reply facility that preserves links to comments, the commenters notifying me of the spam used literal comment numbers.

231:

Julian Assange = Jesus

That's the only thing that i can say ;)

232:

And it's part of the amusement factor, too - that MJL and I are apparently calling ourselves spammers.

(I do usually link to the spam posts, but there's a slight problem replying to multiple posts simultaneously with on epost. What I can do is give poster names in that case.)

233:

@ 231
So, you are saying that Julian Assange is a deluded "prophet" with religious mania, preaching about a non-existent "god"?
Hardly a recommendation!

234:

Yes, exactly why I didnt' reply.

(My personal info was gone. Hmph.)

235:

SUPRISE!

The US is supposed to be trying to extradite Assange on "Espionage" charges.

If true - Bastards!

236:

The Justice Department is looking into espionage for Assange. We've recently made a trade with Russia -- 10 of theirs for four of ours -- but usually foreign spies go to jail. That's the question -- is he a foreign spy?

237:

Marilee, if you're asking that question you've already swallowed the propaganda hook, line and sinker.

Assange isn't a spy. He's a news media editor who, when in receipt of leaked documents from a foreign country to which he has no duty of alleigance, publishes them.

While some spying occured, it's down to whoever leaked the documents in the first place (I'm not going to say "PFC Bradley Manning" until he's had a chance to defend himself in court). The point is, if the US Justice Department proscutes Assange for espionage, they might as well prosecute the New York Times at the same time, because they've been doing pretty much the same as Assange -- indeed exactly the same, if you go back to the Pentagon Papers.

238:

No, Justice is asking if he's a foreign spy.

239:

If they prosecute Assange successfully for espionage, no journalist or editor the world over is going to sleep easy.

(Oh, and that whizzing noise you heard? Is your constitution's first amendment exploding in flames.)

Wikileaks were rather careful not to actually do any digging themselves; they're just a clearinghouse that accepts anonymous uploads. Which makes any accusation of espionage equally applicable to your average newspaper.

240:

Seems like the only thing he might be guilty of, under US law, is recieving and distributing 'stolen goods'.

I'm just wondering why a Private has access to those sort of documents.

241:

"Assange isn't a spy. He's a news media editor who, when in receipt of leaked documents from a foreign country to which he has no duty of alleigance, publishes them."

So? let's suppose an Australian news media editor is leaked documents from a foreign country to which he has no duty of alleigance.

Let's suppose it's 1917, and the documents are convoy schedules, classified as secret by the US government, and he publishes them as widely as possible.

And as a result, a U-boat attack kills a lot of US citizens, or people the US considers friendly.

So surely it matters what is published, and what the consequences are. The First Amendment gives strong protection to the press, but it doesn't protect everything they might do.

242:

The USA's Espionage Act of 1917 was used to lock up socialists for distributing pamphlets against the draft. Oliver Wendell Holmes famously compared the dangerous pamphleteers to men "crying fire in a crowded theater." I think it is ironic
that one of the earliest First Amendment restrictions rested upon such hysterical exaggeration, and that the "crying fire" retort to the First Amendment is still often trotted out uncritically today. Crying espionage is apparently a time-tested way to control inconvenient speech.

If the USA goes after wikileaks personnel, I hope that everyone will view the vendetta with the same contempt that Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean censorship and persecution of so-called spies deserve.

243:

Your straw man is leaking: these documents are not convoy schedules. They're diplomatic reports -- the equivalent of Alastair Cooke's "Letter from America" tapes with added cocktail party gossip, not infantry movement orders in Afghanistan. Where sensitive names come up -- informers, for example -- they're being redacted prior to publication. So: no convoys are being sunk, but politicians are being embarrassed.

244:

The PFC accused of giving the documents to wikileaks worked in intelligence, which is generally going to give you good access to documents. Also, the widespread estimate is that the number of people with access to those documents (at the time of the transfer; they've closed the system down a bit since) was over three million. This is information so secret that 1% of the US population had government authorisation to read it.

245:

so "US $ecret"

246:

But what sort of security vetting did the PFC have to go through?

A friend of mine is a civilian IT contractor for the US Air Force Space Command (afaik), for his current position he was pretty thoroughly vetted for clearance, friends and family interviewed and so forth.

When my mother was a Health Physics Officer in the Army she was denied clearance because, as the grandchild of Russian (Lithuanian Jewish, actually) immigrants, she may have had relatives back in the Old Country, presumably potential hostages or something--this was the early 80s, so I assume things were a bit stricter then. There was also the 'bridge club' that her mother went to that turned out to be a Communist Party meeting, which she didn't stick around for, don't know if they would actually have a record of that though.

247:

[ Deranged frothing bile deleted by moderator. -- CS. ]

248:

@ 247
Paid by the CIA to write that, were you?

Investigative journalism is evil, is it?
What happened to "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear"?
Or does that ONLY apply to the downtrodden populace, but not to governments?

Please explain, in a rational fashion, if it isn't too much of a strain.

249:

Greg, please do not feed the trolls.

250:

Charlie, with the note that you do have the right (and please remember that I'll be there acknowledging and defending the fact that you have the right when required) to not carry any content you don't want to, would you please think about whether or not an individual troll looks like they'll be fun to play with before moderating them?

In this case, I agree with you rather than Greg; it's just a general point that some trolls can make good chew toys for the regulars!

251:

I take your point.

However, I've got a couple of concerns. One is that my server is hosted in the UK and vile, spittle-flecked rants are potentially actionable as defamation. (Not that I expect the subject of that particular rant to come after me with a pointy stick -- there are far more lucrative targets who've libelled him far worse, and anyway, I suspect he'd view it as suppression of free speech -- but the point remains.)

Secondly, I'm paying for this server, and I do not want to provide a platform for that particular opinion. (Which was roughly 180 degrees opposed to the blog entry that this discussion is hanging off, with a nasty rabies infection on top.)

I'm not the US government. I'm under no obligation to refrain from abridging anyone's freedom of speech. If you want to discuss or argue about stuff with me, that's fine, and I'm open to contrarian opinions -- but I'm not going to provide a platform for stuff I find reprehensible. If someone wants a megaphone for broadcasting shit I strongly disagree with, they can borrow someone else's (or get their own).

Our friend at #247 was coming out with eliminationist hyper-patriotic rhetoric of a kind that Julius Streicher and Josef Goebbels would have approved of, and not actually showing any sign of engaging in discussion. Also, he's a drive-by -- never seen him in here before: probably won't ever see him again. (Regulars expressing such vitriol would warrant a challenge or a reference to the moderation policy; there's no point doing that with a drive-by.) Leaving the toilet unflushed and uncleaned encourages misuse by others: consequently I figured a little demonstration pour encourager les autres was in order.

252:

NB: #247 is not the only drive-by flame we've had to moderate this week. It's getting tiresome.

253:

Yes Charlie. All points noted.

As I said, I'm well aware that you pay the bills yourself. It was a general point, with a handy handle: In the specific case of the removed content, I didn't read it in case I caught something nasty, or killed some brain cells! ;-)

Possibly related to #247, did you read "Transition"? If so, what did you make of the bit where Banksie suggested that "American Republicanism" may be a sociopathic mental disorder? It did strike a chord with me, not least because I've had a conversation with one Republican who openly admitted that he was a high-functioning benign sociopath.

254:

Possibly related to #247, did you read "Transition"? If so, what did you make of the bit where Banksie suggested that "American Republicanism" may be a sociopathic mental disorder?

Short form: I disagree.

Longer form: To the extent that your choice of political party is a tribal identity, and people who start voting for one party in a duopoly tend to keep voting for them, there are plenty of republicans still voting left over from the days when the republican party wasn't batshit-insane ... before Nixon's Southern Strategy dragged it to the right and then handed it over to the racists who deserted the Democrats in the wake of LBJ and JFKs civil rights moves.

Even longer form: Even the racist right aren't necessarily pure racists in a European sense, insofar as racism in US culture is about class-based insecurity as much as it's about ethnicity. Rather, they're terrified authoritarians clinging to whatever ideology gives them some scrap of self-legitimization. The modern republican party message is tailored to appeal to frightened authoritarian followers, and the current global economic system generates them by the bucketload.

255:

I'm not sure I'd agree either, except that I'd met this guy before I read the book. In fact, I don't agree in full; I think it's an over-simplification at best, because whilst I've talked to one who admitted being sociopathic, and know of another whom I suspect to be bat-$hit crazy, I've talked to others whom I may disagree with, but who's politics are were thought through on rational grounds.

Most of what you say is very true in general; I used to be a party activist (which one isn't important here) and have met people who said "I vote for $party because my father did, and his father before him..."

256:

I think it's an over-simplification at best

Also note the tendency of the internet to act as an amplifier for Bad Craziness in public -- serious antisocial behaviour that the perps can indulge in without fear of the kind of physical sanctions they could expect to incur if they tried to pull that shit in meatspace. They make a disproportionate amount of noise and give a really bad name to whatever cause they embrace. (This goes for all sides.)

257:

The No Labels Movement plans to work to make Congress bipartisan.

(House votes to repeal "don't ask, don't tell". Let's hope the Senate votes that way, too.)

258:

Update:
Assange released - as I'm sure y'all know, but:
He states that he expects the USA to try to charge him with "espionage".
How?
As stated by Charlie, he is, effectively an Investigative Journalist, publishing what other people send him.
I would have thought that the 1st amendment to the US Constitution covered that?
Swedish officialdom seems to have got itself into the sort of pompous, can't/wont-back-down/admit-to-be-wrong tangle that I thought was an almost exclusively British style of cock-up. The now more publicly known tale of the allegations being withdrawn, then re-instituted by a politician certainly amkes the whole thing look very murky indeed.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 1, 2010 11:55 AM.

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