quote:Wikileaks Pairs with Anonymous to Publish Intelligence Firm’s Dirty Laundry
In an unprecedented collaboration between Anonymous and WikiLeaks, the secret spilling site began leaking Sunday night portions of a massive trove of e-mails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor that Anonymous obtained by hacking the company in December.
WikiLeaks did not mention the source of the reported five gigabytes of e-mails in its press release, but did say it has been working for months with 25 media outlets from around the world to analyze the documents.
The first batch of leaked e-mails purport to show that Stratfor monitored the political prankster group known as The Yes Men on behalf of Dow Chemical, which has been targeted by The Yes Men over the company’s handling of the Bhopal disaster. The e-mails also purport to show Stratfor’s attempt to set up an investment fund with a Goldman Sachs director to trade on the intelligence Stratfor collects, as well as give insight into how the private intelligence firm acquires, and sometimes pays for, information.
Stratfor, which bills itself as a private intelligence organization, sells its analyses of global politics to major corporations and government agencies.
Members of Anonymous with direct knowledge of the hack and transfer of data to WikiLeaks told Wired that the group decided to turn the information over to WikiLeaks because the site was more capable of analyzing and spreading the leaked information than Anonymous would be.
“WikiLeaks has great means to publish and disclose,” the anon told Wired. “Also, they work together with media in a way we don’t.”
“Basically, WL is the ideal partner for such stuff,” the anon continued. “Antisec acquires the shit, WL gets it released in a proper manner.” Antisec is the arm of Anonymous that is known for hacking into servers.
According to Antisec participants, Stratfor was targeted not just for its poor security, but also because of its client list, which includes major companies and government entities.
“We believe police and employees who work for the most significant fortune 500 companies are the most responsible for perpetuating the machinery of capitalism and the state,” said one Antisec participant in December, “That there will be repercussions for when you choose to betray the people and side with the rich ruling classes.”
Anons also told Wired that future collaborations with WikiLeaks could involve a series of hacks that will be announced, one after another, every Friday for the foreseeable future. If that happens, the Stratfor e-mail release could be the first sign of a new, powerful alliance between the two groups, each of which has vexed and angered the world’s most powerful governments and corporations.
When WikiLeaks received the documents on a server it controlled, it acknowledged the successful transfer with a coded, public Tweet, according to an anon with direct knowledge of the collaboration.
A document provided to Wired that could not be authenticated indicated that the media partners of WikiLeaks agreed to parcel out stories on the leaks over the coming week and a half. Those media partners do not include previous partners such as the Guardian and U.S. partners The New York Times and the Washington Post.
According to the document, e-mails about WikiLeaks and Anonymous will be disclosed Wednesday, followed by separate disclosures on Italy, the Middle East and then Asian countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, among others. The project, code-named Rock Guitar, is officially named “The Global Intelligence Files.”
Stratfor had been aware that the e-mails would likely be published in some form by Anonymous, but said in January that the e-mails should not embarrass the company.
The collaboration between WikiLeaks and Anonymous is an odd couple pairing. WikiLeaks has largely crumbled over the last 18 months, due to internal disagreements over the management style and legal problems of its outspoken leader Julian Assange. By contrast, Anonymous is an amorphous group with no leadership structure.
If Anonymous continues feeding WikiLeaks with documents, the secret spilling site could return to a prominence that seemed lost due to technical difficulties, legal troubles, in-fighting and public fallings out with media partners in the wake of the site’s publication of a massive trove of U.S. documents in 2010 and 2011.
WikiLeaks’s alleged source for those documents, Pfc. Bradley Manning, is facing a U.S. army court martial and a possible sentence of life imprisonment.
As for how the collaboration between the two groups went, an anon with direct knowledge of it indicated that the new relationship had some tough moments.
“There were some natural tensions as usually can happen inside partnership,” the anon said. ”I hope this was only the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
quote:prosecutors have drawn up secret charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, according to a confidential email obtained from the private US intelligence company Stratfor.
In an internal email to Stratfor analysts on January 26 last year, the vice-president of intelligence, Fred Burton, responded to a media report concerning US investigations targeting WikiLeaks with the comment: ''We have a sealed indictment on Assange.''
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He underlined the sensitivity of the information - apparently obtained from a US government source - with warnings to ''Pls [please] protect'' and ''Not for pub[lication]''.
Mr Burton is well known as an expert on security and counterterrorism with close ties to the US intelligence and law enforcement agencies. He is the former deputy chief of the counter-terrorism division of the US State Department's diplomatic security service.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/tec(...)o.html#ixzz1ngL6LvCN
quote:Sweden will grant extradition of Assange to US if not stopped by international political pressure
UNITED States prosecutors have drawn up secret charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to a confidential internal email obtained from a private US intelligence company, Stratfor.
The perils posed by these revelations on a prospective indictment, makes urgent to re-consider political issues of the situation Julian Assange would face now in Sweden, in case been extradited there. In spite of Sweden’s official silence, and the denial by the mainstream media articles, the extradition of political prisoners in Sweden is ultimately decided at a political level. Ergo, the risks for an extradition of the Wikileaks founder to USA - in case it will be requested - cannot be assessed solely attending to juridical arguments.
According to a recent interview with Julian Assange and lawyers Jennifer Robinson and Geoffrey Robertson , the USA shall most certain seek the extradition of the Wikileaks founder. The reason - as mentioned in the interview - being that a US Grand Jury investigation has been on-going in Washington since last year - preparing aggravating charges on espionage. Such charges, most likely in connection with the Wikileaks Pentagon-disclosures, would entail for Julian Assange "up to ten-years in a maximum security prison", according to the legal experts. Meanwhile, a recurrent misconception - or deliberately misinformation - published in the international media, is to consider the deportation of Julian Assange from Sweden to the USA as, statistically speaking, "highly unlikely".
But facts reveal the contrary: Regarding the open extradition requests from the USA since 2000, Sweden has granted such extradition in the TOTAL OF CASES in which the prisoner was in Swedish territory. This is based in statistics according to Sweden's Justice Ministry (see below section "The myth on that Assange's extradition from Sweden to US is not likely").
I put forward the above also in a brief interview conducted at the Royal Court's premises in London on December 5th, after the verdict on the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's appeal to the Supreme Court [Click on this Youtube link for this brief "interview"]:
It is exactly this risk of extradition/rendition to the USA from the part of Swedish officials that made Julian Assange reluctant to come to Sweden (after the Swedish extradition request and the smear campaign that ensued in Sweden). I also refer the reader to the post This is Why, in which the reasons for this apparently Swedish revenge are summarized. This analysis was previously treated in the Professors blogg's article "Sweden will grant extradition of Julian Assange to US if not stopped by international political pressure NOW"
quote:Senator Scott Ludlam asks the Prime Minister what the Government knew about the US sealed Grand Duty indictment against Julian Assange
Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (14:19): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. I refer to reports in the Fairfax press this morning that Stratfor, a Texas based private intelligence firm, has known for more than a year of the existence of a sealed indictment from a secret grand jury against Australian citizen and journalist Julian Assange. Did our ally the United States give the Prime Minister the courtesy of a disclosure and, if so, when? Or did she read it in the papers along with the rest of us? Minister, for how long has the Prime Minister known of the existence of this sealed indictment?
Assange: 'They want to destroy us'quote:Financial power is also a power that controls the world. You announced the release of documents about a major bank, but those files never materialised. Where did they end up?
"One you are probably referring to is documents about the Bank of America".
So you confirm it was Bank of America.
Were those documents relevant?
"We had done only a preliminary review, they included all the things that were being discussed in the executive level within the Bank of America. Material was from an executive member of the Bank of America. A former WikiLeaks volunteer, Daniel Domscheit Berg, was entrusted to look after the Bank of America material and he appears to have destroyed that material. We engaged in a year long legal negotiation to attempt to get it back with the intermediaries and unfortunately we were not successul, we can only hope now that the original source do has some material and release it".
Laatste alinea, wat een inteelt bendequote:WikiLeaks: More Evidence of Monsanto's Bullying and Influence-Buying
The latest revelations from WikiLeaks confirm Monsanto’s continuing efforts to influence governments worldwide to rule in its favor and punish those who won’t.
A cable written in 2007 and released recently by WikiLeaks confirmed the company’s important influence at the very highest levels of the U.S. government. Authored by Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of then-president George Bush, the cable outlined a response to resistance from various members of the European Union to adopting GM (genetically modified) crops. At issue specifically was France’s move to ban Monsanto’s GM corn variety:
. Country team Paris [Stapleton’s code name] recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this [resistance] is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. [Emphasis added.]
The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path [of resistance to the adoption of GM crops] has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech [pro-GM] voices.
Other leaked cables documented attempts to influence the Pope himself, who was resistant to supporting GM crops. From the U.S. State Department came this effort to influence the Pope: “…[name blacked out] met with U.S. monsignor Fr. Michael Osborn of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, offering a chance to push the Vatican on biotech issues…” Another cable said: “Opportunities exist to press the issue with the Vatican and in turn to influence a wide segment of the population in Europe and the developing world.”
These illustrated obvious attempts to work around many Catholic priests who oppose GM crops as being potentially dangerous not only to the health of human beings but to the environment as well. For instance, a prominent member of the Vatican, Cardinal Peter Turkson, said that genetically-modified crops are a “new form of slavery,” referring to the “suicide belt of India” where thousands of farmers are committing suicide in desperation over being unable to repay debts incurred to purchase GM seeds.
Anthony Gucciardi, writing for NaturalSociety.com, stated,
. Monsanto has undoubtedly infiltrated the United States government in order to push their health-endangering agenda, and this has been known long before the release of these WikiLeaks cables. The U.S. is the only place where Monsanto’s synthetic hormone Posilac is still used in roughly 1/3 of all cows, with 27 nations banning the substance over legitimate health concerns.
Monsanto’s bullying tactics in protecting its patents on its GM seeds are legendary, but are only the tip of the iceberg of the company's attempts to influence policy worldwide. The government of India has filed several lawsuits against Monsanto, while Canada has had its own difficulties with the corporation. The company paid contractors to dump thousands of tons of highly toxic waste in UK landfill sites, knowing both that it was illegal to do so and that these chemicals were “liable to contaminate wildlife and people.”
In January, 2005, Monsanto paid a fine for bribing an Indonesian official to avoid an environmental impact assessment on its GM cotton. In 2007 the company was fined in France for misleading advertising about its product Roundup. In Germany Monsanto’s attempt to breed GM pigs failed due to overwhelming public outcries. In the United States Monsanto continues its attempt to prohibit dairies from advertising that their cows are not injected with the company’s artificial bovine growth hormone.
And so on. What Monsanto has discovered, and has refined over the years, is that it is more profitable to influence legislation in its favor than to compete in a free market. With friends in high places — including Craig Stapleton, Justice Clarence Thomas (who worked for Monsanto in the ‘70s), Michael Taylor (who worked for the Food and Drug Administration, then moved to a law firm that had Monsanto as a client, and then was appointed to the FDA by President Obama in 2009), Michael Friedman (who worked at the FDA and now is a VP at Monsanto), Linda Fisher (who was initially employed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the moved to Monsanto as a VP, and then returned to the EPA in 2001), and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (who served as chairman and CEO of G.D. Searle which Monsanto purchased in 1985, putting at least $12 million into his pocket in the process) — Monsanto has developed crony-capitalism into a high art form. WikiLeaks just confirmed it.
quote:Top 5 Stratfor Revelations
Wikileaks is publishing internal memos of the Stratfor security analysis firm. A few tidbits have emerged in these very early days, to wit:
En de Russen durfden nog stellig te beweren dat ze achter Iran stonden in de strijd tegen het westen + Israel?quote:4. Russia sold weapons to Iran but turned around and gave their security codes to Israel.
quote:Wikileaks: The IMF’s Fault for Balkan Wars
The International Monetary Fund is partly to blame for wars in former Yugoslavia, according to Stratfor document published by Wikileaks.
Wikileaks made public on Thursday the internal guidelines that the global intelligence company Stratfor issues to its analysts in the field.
In the document from 2009, titled Europe Analytical Guidance, Stratfor alerts its analysts to watch out for any possible riots occurring due to economic crises, since the current situation in Balkans is complex and multifaceted.
“Do not forget, the IMF austerity measures imposed on Yugoslavia were in part to blame for the start of the war there. We need to be aware of any economically motivated social discontent,” document states.
Analysts should pay attention to any possible protest and union activity since, according to Stratfor, the protests by Albanian unions inflamed further conflicts.
“Remember, it was the strikes by the Albanian miners in Kosovo back in the 1980s that in a way moved the region towards conflagration,” states the document.
When it comes to possible conflicts and security issues, the report finds Bosnia and Herzegovina most critical. “Any split developing in the Croatian-Muslim federation is key,” it states.
According to the e-mails from Stratfor revealed by Wikileaks, several journalists from the Balkan media have been working for this intelligence agency, including Veran Matic, head of the Belgrade based media B92, and Bosko Jaksic of Politika newspaper.
Stratfor’s computers were apparently invaded last year by the hacker group Anonymous, which revealed personal information of Stratfor’s customers.
It seems likely that the files and e-mails released by WikiLeaks came from that intrusion, though WikiLeaks is not disclosing its sources.
quote:Uniforms and WikiLeaks in the Discussion of the Anwar al-Awlaki Killing
This panel discussion between former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley, former Gitmo Chief Prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis, and ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer is one of the more nuanced, interesting discussions on the Anwar al-Awlaki killing. Not surprisingly, it was shown on Al Jazeera English, not, say, NBC.
One highlight, for me, came when Davis pointed out that the CIA, not JSOC, had targeted Awlaki. That’s significant because it effectively made whoever pulled the trigger an unlawful enemy combatant, just as Omar Khadr was (the government argued in his military commission) for engaging in hostilities without wearing a uniform. Of course, Davis ended the discussion by noting that we’re the big kid on the block, so we’ll never be held accountable for the things we prosecute others for.
More interesting still came when PJ Crowley cited this WikiLeaks cable, reporting on a January 2, 2010 meeting between Ali Abdullah Saleh and David Petraeus back in his CentCom days, to show that Yemen was secretly supporting us on drone strikes, including the one that targeted Awlaki on December 24, 2009 (well before, it should be noted, the OLC had authorized his killing).
. AQAP STRIKES: CONCERN FOR CIVILIAN CASUALTIES ———————————————
Â4.(S/NF) Saleh praised the December 17 and 24 strikes against AQAP but said that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in Abyan. The General responded that the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site, prompting Saleh to plunge into a lengthy and confusing aside with Deputy Prime Minister Alimi and Minister of Defense Ali regarding the number of terrorists versus civilians killed in the strike. (Comment: Saleh’s conversation on the civilian casualties suggests he has not been well briefed by his advisors on the strike in Abyan, a site that the ROYG has been unable to access to determine with any certainty the level of collateral damage. End Comment.) AQAP leader Nassr al-Wahishi and extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may still be alive, Saleh said, but the December strikes had already caused al-Qaeda operatives to turn themselves in to authorities and residents in affected areas to deny refuge to al-Qaeda. Saleh raised the issue of the Saudi Government and Jawf governorate tribal sheikh Amin al-Okimi, a subject that is being reported through other channels.
SHIFTING AIRSTRIKE STRATEGIES
Â5.(S/NF) President Obama has approved providing U.S. intelligence in support of ROYG ground operations against AQAP targets, General Petraeus informed Saleh. Saleh reacted coolly, however, to the General’s proposal to place USG personnel inside the area of operations armed with real-time, direct feed intelligence from U.S. ISR platforms overhead. “You cannot enter the operations area and you must stay in the joint operations center,” Saleh responded. Any U.S. casualties in strikes against AQAP would harm future efforts, Saleh asserted. Saleh did not have any objection, however, to General Petraeus’ proposal to move away from the use of cruise missiles and instead have U.S. fixed-wing bombers circle outside Yemeni territory, “out of sight,” and engage AQAP targets when actionable intelligence became available. Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are “not very accurate” and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just “lied” by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.
I find Crowley’s citation of it notable because, while as State Department spokesperson, he strongly argued for the humane treatment of Bradley Manning (and got fired for it), he also routinely criticized the WikiLeaks leaks of State Department cables.
Yet even he now finds himself relying on them to try to understand what the government did when it targeted an American citizen. And Crowley does so while calling for more transparency from the Administration.
Details about Yemen’s role is, of course, one of the things the Administration invoked state secrets to hide back in 2010. But it is also now widely known and crucial to discussions of whether the attack on Awlaki was legal or not.
I can think of few better examples of how the Administration’s own secrecy encourages not just the leaking of classified information, but the validation of those leaks. In a democracy, the Administration has an obligation to share a reasonable explanation about its claims that it can kill American citizens with no court review. In the absence of fulfilling that obligation, citizens will get that information one way or another.
The Administration’s stonewalling on the Awlaki killing only serves to make leaks more necessary and justified. No matter how many whistleblowers it tries to prosecute to deny that fact.
quote:US denies Stratfor bin Laden body claim
A senior US State Department official has denied that Osama bin Laden's body was flown to the United States and not buried at sea, as the official account said.
The Pentagon considers "false and fairly ridiculous" the information contained in a leaked email from private intelligence firm Stratfor, Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Mike Hammer said on Thursday in the department's first press briefing in Spanish.
The email was among the 5 million Stratfor documents obtained by WikiLeaks and disseminated late last month.
Washington insists the body was buried at sea following traditional Islamic procedures after he was killed during a May 2, 2011, US special forces raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
One of the emails sent by Stratfor Vice-President Fred Burton described bin Laden's body as "bound for Dover, DE on CIA plane", while a subsequent message said the remains went "onward to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda (Maryland)".
Burton was formerly a special agent with the US Diplomatic Security Service.
WikiLeaks has begun to release 5 million Stratfor emails from the period between July 2004 and the end of December 2011 to denounce the espionage operations for which the Texas intelligence firm was contracted by companies and governments.
quote:UK in temporary truce with WikiLeaks after 2010 condemnation
The British government is ironically using WikiLeaks where it serves London’s interests and condemning the website where it threatens to expose the Downing Street.
WikiLeaks said on its Twitter webpage on Thursday that an official inquiry, tasked by British Prime Minister David Cameron with looking into the culture and ethics of the British media with a focus on the News of the World phone hacking fiasco, has asked the website for related information.
“Leveson Inquiry has asked WikiLeaks for a submission on corruption in the UK press. We have submitted over 100 pages,” a WikiLeaks Tweet read.
This comes as Cameron’s office condemned WikiLeaks back in November 2010 for publishing the huge collection of military records that led to the US diplomatic cables leak, named the biggest leak in intelligence history.
“Clearly, we condemn the unauthorised release of classified information. The leaks and their publication are damaging to national security in the United States and in Britain and elsewhere. It’s important governments are able to operate on the basis of confidentiality of information,” a Downing Street spokesman said at the time.
Following the disclosure, the government also asked media outlets to inform the government before publishing any material exposed by WikiLeaks that may be damaging to the government.
WikiLeaks said on its Twitter page on Friday November 26, 2010 that the Downing Street has issued D-notices to British media to watch what they publish.
quote:Stratfor CEO: WikiLeaks ‘makes war more likely’
AUSTIN, TEXAS — Speaking to an audience on Tuesday at this year’s South by Southwest convention, Strategic Forecasting CEO George Friedman suggested that by publishing archives of U.S. diplomatic cables, the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks actually “makes war more likely.”
And in a surprising claim, Friedman added that his company tended to engage in an “orgy of speculation” following major world events — such as the killing of Osama bin Laden and the possibility of a sealed grand jury indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — which is why Stratfor never published that information: because, he said, those claims are simply not true.
Friedman’s speech Tuesday marked the first time he has spoken in public about a devastating hack his company suffered at the end of 2011, which resulted in their entire email archives landing in the possession of WikiLeaks.
Opening his talk, Friedman was almost immediately interrupted by two activists with Occupy Austin, who “mic checked” him and offered the crowd a message about how Stratfor worked as a private spy agency on behalf of wealthy corporations. The crowd reacted negatively to the protesters, booing them loudly. Friedman quickly fell silent, waiting for security to usher them outside.
Continuing, he said that the hack on Stratfor was so completely thorough that their servers were “completely destroyed,” and that even he does not have a copy of the company’s emails anymore.
“I plan to ask the FBI to give me [a copy],” Friedman quipped.
He went on to suggest that hackers who attacked Stratfor had simply done it “for the lulz,” which Friedman called a “nihilistic” concept that he worried may be gaining traction on today’s Internet.
That led him to WikiLeaks, which he claimed to be inflating Stratfor’s profile tremendously by selectively publishing their emails. Reminiscing about the complexity of human conversation, and how that has been lost in the age of the Internet, he added that by elevating a single email from Stratfor, or diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks, as the subject of legitimate reporting, members of the press offer “complete falsification” due to a lack of human context.
“If you’re going to have diplomacy, you must have secrecy,” he said before suggesting that WikiLeaks had only served to “destroy life long relationships” between diplomats continents apart.
Again touching upon the need for more human context in online communications, he added that WikiLeaks, along with the rise of hacker groups like “Anonymous” and “LulzSec,” ultimately advances the Internet’s death march toward repression, instead of broader transparency.
Friedman transitioned into the constantly changing world of Internet security, saying that the “global commons” has evolved to become utterly crucial to business, yet the Internet is still “built with bubblegum and paper clips.”
“We’ve never had a system that so rapidly became so fundamental to what we do, which at the same time is so immature,” he said. “What is it, 20 [years old]? When the automobile was 20 years old, the Model T’s were out. [The Internet] is a Model T.”
He went on to warn that corporations and governments are much more powerful than Anonymous and WikiLeaks, meaning “they will win” in the ongoing power struggle simply by changing the rules of the conflict — I.E., changing the Internet itself.
“It’s not going to go on anymore because large corporations are getting hacked and it’s costing them large amounts of money, and these guys are powerful enough to make changes,” he warned.
“It may be, in the end, that repression is inevitable… I don’t know that Internet 1.0 — and we are still in beta — that this Internet will survive the way it is… [because] every justification for repression is being created by those who claim to oppose it.”
“Those who don’t want that to happen have to find a way to secure the Internet, because Joe McCarthy’s ghost is sitting out there waiting,” Friedman concluded.
quote:Julian Assange to run for Australian senate
WikiLeaks founder hopes to enter politics in home country after discovering his ongoing extradition battle would be no bar
The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plans to run for a seat in Australia's senate next year despite being under virtual house arrest in the UK and facing sex crime allegations in Sweden.
The 40-year-old Australian citizen has taken his legal battle against extradition all the way to Britain's supreme court, which is expected to rule on his case soon.
"We have discovered that it is possible for Julian Assange to run for the Australian senate while detained. Julian has decided to run," WikiLeaks announced on Twitter.
Assange has criticised Australian prime minister Julia Gillard's centre-left government for not standing up for him in the wake of WikiLeaks' release of hundreds of thousands of classified US embassy cables in 2010.
Australian police have concluded that WikiLeaks and Assange did not break any Australian laws by publishing the cables, although Gillard has condemned the action as "grossly irresponsible".
John Wanna, a policical scientist at Australian National University, said it was possible for Assange to run for a senate seat if he remained on the Australian electoral roll, despite living overseas for several years.
"If he gets on the roll, then he can stand as long as he's solvent and not in jail and not insane," Wanna said.
Being convicted of a crime punishable under Australian law by 12 months or more in prison can disqualify a person from running for the Australian parliament for the duration of the sentence, even if it is suspended.
Constitutional lawyer George Williams of the University of New South Wales said that provision of the constitution has never been tested in the courts in the 111-year history of the Australian federation and probably would not apply to a criminal conviction in a foreign country such as Sweden.
"I'm not aware of an impediment to him standing, even if he was convicted," Williams said.
Any adult Australian citizen can run for parliament, but few succeed without the backing of a major political party. Only one of Australia's 76 current senators does not represent a party.
Every Australian election attracts candidates who have little hope of winning and use their campaigns to seek publicity for various political or commercial causes.
Wanna said the odds are against Assange winning a seat, but that he could receive more than 4% of the votes in his nominated state because of his high profile. At that threshold, candidates can claim more than AUS$2 per vote from the government to offset their campaign expenses. Assange's bill to the taxpayer could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The next senate election cannot be called before July 2013 and is due around August. Candidates cannot officially register as candidates until the election is called at least a month before the poll date.
Assange's mother, Christine Assange, a professional puppeteer from rural Queensland, said on Saturday she had yet to discuss her son's political bid with him. But she criticised what she believed was the government's willingness to put its defence treaty with the US ahead of the rights of an Australian citizen.
"The number one issue at the next election regardless of who you vote for is democracy in this country – whether or not we're just a state of the US and whether or not our citizens are going to be just handed over as a sacrifice to the US alliance," she said.
On at least two occasions, hackers took over U.S. satellites and
targeted their command-and-control systems, a report by the U.S.-China
Economic and Security Review Commission revealed November 16. The
incidents involved two Earth observation satellites. While it may be
difficult to trace who hacked the satellites, U.S. officials
acknowledged the incidents had to come from a nation power. U.S.
officials cannot clearly trace the incidents to China, but the report
released by the Congressionally mandated commission noted Chinese
military writings made reference to attacks on ground-based space
quote:Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a source to Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton since at least May of 2007, according to internal Stratfor emails leaked by WikiLeaks.
In an email dated May 1, 2007, Burton says that "BiBi [i.e. Netanyahu] believes he can unseat Olmert and there is a movement underway to do so."
Read more: http://www.businessinside(...)litics#ixzz1qLzdKltT
quote:‘Reckless’ WikiLeaks faces fresh fire from Canberra
THE Australian government has renewed its attacks on WikiLeaks, condemning the group for “reckless” disclosures of secret information.
The Foreign Affairs Department has also delayed release, under freedom of information, of sensitive Australian diplomatic cables relating to Julian Assange until after a legal challenge to the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to Sweden has been decided.
The delay follows expressions of concern by United States authorities about disclosure of US-Australian discussions about WikiLeaks.
Last week an Attorney-General’s Department executive responsible for international crime and extradition matters renewed the government’s condemnation of WikiLeaks’ release of leaked US diplomatic cables as “reckless, irresponsible and potentially dangerous”.
Writing on behalf of Attorney-General Nicola Roxon to a constituent of a federal Labor MP, international crime co-operation branch head Anna Harmer insisted that “debate about the WikiLeaks matter is not about censoring free speech or preventing the media from reporting news” and confirmed the government’s focus on the “reckless … unauthorised disclosure of classified material”.
Mr Assange, who plans to run for a Senate seat in the next election, is awaiting a British Supreme Court decision on his appeal against extradition to Sweden to be questioned about sexual assault allegations.
He fears extradition to Stockholm will lead to extradition to the US on espionage or conspiracy charges. This week he also expressed concern that a successful appeal against extradition to Sweden would only be followed by the US seeking his extradition direct from Britain.
Last December The Saturday Age obtained Foreign Affairs Department cables that revealed WikiLeaks was the target of an ”unprecedented” US criminal investigation and that the Australian government wanted to be warned about moves to extradite Mr Assange to the US.
The cables showed that as early as December 2010, the Australian embassy in Washington confirmed the US Justice Department was examining whether Mr Assange could be charged under US law, most likely the 1917 Espionage Act.
The Saturday Age has now learnt from Australian government sources that senior US officials subsequently expressed concern about the disclosure of information and asked to be “more closely consulted” on further FOI releases.
Foreign Affairs this week delayed release under freedom of information of more Washington embassy cables about WikiLeaks until at least late May, nearly six months after The Saturday Age lodged an FOI application.
Foreign Affairs’ FOI director David Yardley said in an email to the office of the Australian Information Commissioner: “Some cables in this case are highly classified, some are not … Working out precisely where the sensitivities lie within cables, particularly in light of the potential ‘mosaic effect’ of releases of this type of information, is usually, including in this case, an involved, complex task.”
Mr Yardley revealed that Foreign Affairs was yet to finalise consultation with Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s department and had not begun consultation with the US on the possible release of material, a process expected to take at least four to six weeks.
quote:‘I was the fall guy’: Julian Assange in his own words
The Wikileaks founder talks to Jamie Kelsey-Fry about state surveillance, media scrutiny and the Cablegate affair.
quote:De Verenigde Staten hebben het horen van een infiltrant van de Amerikaanse drugspolitie DEA als getuige in een internationaal drugsonderzoek geblokkeerd. Dat heeft een woordvoerster van het Openbaar Ministerie (OM) in Haarlem maandag gezegd. De zaak tegen meerdere verdachten van drugssmokkel dient bij de rechtbank in Haarlem.
De rechtbank bepaalde maart vorig jaar dat de infiltrant van de DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) als getuige moest worden gehoord. Volgens advocaten heeft deze infiltrant de smokkel van een partij van 1000 kilo coca´ne van Colombia naar Polen uitgelokt.
Volgens de woordvoerster van het OM willen de Amerikanen echter onder geen beding dat de infiltrant wordt gehoord in de drugszaak.
De inhoudelijke behandeling van de strafzaak begint morgen in Haarlem. Er staan over een periode van een paar maanden in totaal 24 verdachten terecht voor de handel in xtc-pillen, de invoer van coca´ne en amfetamine en het witwassen van crimineel geld. De belangrijkste verdachten staan vermoedelijk pas eind juni voor de rechter. De uitspraken worden in augustus verwacht.
Volgens ÚÚn van de advocaten in de megazaak, Sjoerd van Berge Henegouwen, kan de DEA-infiltrant niet worden gehoord als getuige, omdat Nederland daarover in 2006 geheime afspraken heeft gemaakt met de VS. Een en ander is volgens hem gebleken uit documenten die door Wikileaks zijn geopenbaard.
De DEA-infiltrant heeft in Polen echter wel verklaringen afgelegd. Volgens Van Berge Henegouwen blijkt daaruit dat de Amerikanen de drugssmokkel van Zuid-Amerika naar Europa van begin tot eind hebben geregisseerd. Hij wil dat deze week samen met zijn collega's Inez Weski en Jan-Hein Kuijpers proberen aan te tonen tijdens een extra regiezitting bij de rechtbank.
quote:WikiLeaks-oprichter zoekt asiel in Ecuador
Julian Assange, de oprichter van de klokkenluiderssite WikiLeaks, heeft politiek asiel aangevraagd bij de ambassade van Ecuador in Londen. De Ecuadoriaanse minister van Buitenlandse Zaken, Ricardo Pati˝o, heeft dat vandaag bekendgemaakt.
Ecuador heeft het verzoek van Assange in behandeling genomen, aldus Pati˝o tegenover persbureau Reuters. Assange verblijft momenteel in Groot-BrittanniŰ, en hoopt met zijn asielaanvraag te kunnen voorkomen dat het land hem aan Zweden uitlevert. Dat land wil hem berechten wegens verkrachting en aanranding.
De kans bestaat dat hij dan uiteindelijk in de Verenigde Staten terecht komt, waar hem een nog veel zwaardere straf te wachten staat, zo vreest Assange. De Amerikanen zijn namelijk niet blij met de honderdduizenden vertrouwelijke diplomatieke documenten die zijn website heeft onthuld.
Het Britse Hooggerechtshof besloot vorige week om het verzoek van Assange om opnieuw naar zijn zaak te kijken niet in te willigen. Een uitlevering aan Zweden is daarmee een stap dichterbij gekomen.
quote:Ecuador offers Wikileaks founder Assange residency
Ecuador has offered Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, residency in the country.
Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas said his country's government wanted to invite Mr Assange to Ecuador to give him the opportunity to speak publicly.
He said Ecuador was concerned about some of the alleged American activities revealed by Wikileaks.
Earlier this year Sweden refused an application from Mr Assange, who is Australian, for residency there.
"We are open to giving him residency in Ecuador, without any problem and without any conditions," Mr Lucas said.
"We are going to try and invite him to Ecuador to freely present, not only via the internet, but also through different public forums, the information and documentation that he has," he said.
Mr Lucas added: "We think it would be important not only to converse with him but also to listen to him."
Wikileaks says it has more than 1,600 cables that originated from the US embassy in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, the contents of which have not yet been disclosed.
Mr Lucas said Ecuador was "very concerned" by information revealed by Wikileaks linking US diplomats with spying on friendly governments.
He said the offer to Mr Assange would not affect relations between Ecuador's left-leaning government and the US.
On Monday, the authorities in Australia said they were looking into whether Mr Assange had broken any laws there.
The Spanish paper El Pais says that, according to a secret cable released by Wikileaks, US intelligence operatives wanted to know whether the Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was taking medication to deal with her "nerves and stress".
The message asked: "How do Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's emotions affect her decision-making and how does she calm down when distressed?"
The state department cable, dated some 10 months ahead of the death in October of her husband - the former president, Nestor Kirchner - also asked whether she shared his "adversarial view" of politics.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez praised Wikileaks and called on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to resign following the latest Wikileaks revelations.
"Somebody should study Mrs Clinton's mental stability", he said and added: "It's the least you can do: resign, along with those other delinquents working in the state department."
Another document published by Wikileaks, dated January 2008, detailed Brazil's co-operation with the US on counter-terrorism.
In it, the then US ambassador to Brazil, Clifford Sobel, informed Washington that the police often arrested individuals with links to terrorism but charged them with drugs or customs offences so as not attract media attention.
Brazil has a sizeable Arab population and has publicly denied taking part in counter-terrorism operations.
quote:He walked into the embassy in Knightsbridge, London on Tuesday afternoon and asked for asylum under the United Nations human rights declaration.
A statement issued on behalf of the embassy said: "This afternoon Mr Julian Assange arrived at the Ecuadorian embassy seeking political asylum from the Ecuadorian government.
"As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito.
"While the department assesses Mr Assange's application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government.
Met bombardementen, ja. Maar de vraag is of de US een dergelijk schandaal riskeert, zeker gezien ze niet erkennen dat ze naar hem op jacht zijn.quote:
quote:Assange asks Ecuador for asylum
Julian Assange was scheduled within days to turn himself over to British authorities for extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with a sexual assault case in which he has never been charged. Instead, Assange earlier today went to the Embassy of Ecuador in London and sought asylum from that country under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, issued a statement indicating that his government is “evaluating the request” and that Assange will remain under protection at the Embassy pending a decision.
Ecuador may seem like a random choice but it’s actually quite rational. In 2010, a top official from that country offered Assange residency (though the Ecuadorian President backtracked after controversy ensued). Earlier this month, Assange interviewed that nation’s left-wing President, Rafael Correa, for his television program on RT. Among other things, Correa praised the transparency brought about by WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables as being beneficial for Ecuador (“We have nothing to hide. If anything, the WikiLeaks [releases] have made us stronger”). President Correa also was quite critical of the U.S., explaining the reason he closed the American base in his country this way: “Would you accept a foreign military base in your country? It’s so simple, as I said that at the time, there is no problem in having a U.S. military base in Ecuador but ok, perfect - we can give permission for the intelligence base only if they allow us to install an Ecuadorian base in the United States, a military base. That’s it, no more problem.”
Assange has been fighting extradition to Sweden for a year-and-a-half now, during which time he has been under house arrest. He has never been charged with any crime in Sweden, but a prosecutor from that country is seeking his extradition to question him. After the British High Court ruled against him by a 5-2 vote earlier this month, and then refused to re-hear the case last week, his appeals in Britain contesting the extradition are exhausted.
Assange’s resolve to avoid extradition to Sweden has nothing to do with a reluctance to face possible sex assault charges there. His concern all along has been that once he’s in Swedish custody, he will far more easily be extradited to the U.S.
In general, small countries are more easily coerced and bullied by the U.S., and Sweden in particular has a demonstrated history of aceeding to U.S. demands when it comes to individuals accused of harming American national security. In December, 2001, Sweden handed over two asylum-seekers to the CIA, which then rendered them to be tortured in Egypt. A ruling from the U.N. Human Rights Committee found Sweden in violation of the global ban on torture for its role in that rendition (the two individuals later received a substantial settlement from the Swedish government). The fact that Sweden has unusually oppressive pre-trial procedures — allowing for extreme levels of secrecy in its judicial proceedings — only heightens Assange’s concern about what will happen to him vis-a-vis the U.S. if he ends up in Swedish custody.
Can anyone claim that Assange’s fear of ending up in American custody is anything other than supremely reasonable and rational? Just look at what has happened to people — especially foreign nationals — over the last decade who have been accused of harming the national security of the United States.
They’re imprisoned — still — without a whiff of due process, and President Obama just last year signed a new indefinite detention bill into law. Moreover, Assange need merely look at what the U.S. has done to Bradley Manning, accused of leaking documents and other materials to WikiLeaks: the Army Private was held for almost a year in solitary confinement conditions which a formal U.N. investigation found were “cruel, inhuman and degrading,” and he now faces life in prison, charged with a capital offense of aiding Al Qaeda.
Beyond that, the Obama administration has been uniquely obsessed with punishing whistleblowers and stopping leaks. Worse still, the American federal judiciary has been staggeringly subservient to the U.S. Government when it comes to national security cases, rendering defendants accused of harming national security with almost no chance for acquittal. Would you have any confidence in obtaining justice if you were accused of harming U.S. national security and came into the clutches of the American justice system?
Over the past two years, I’ve spoken with numerous individuals who were once associated with WikiLeaks or who still are. Of those who no longer are, many have said that they stopped even though they believe as much as ever in WikiLeaks’ transparency cause, and did so out of fear: not fear that they would be charged with a crime by their own government (they trust the judicial system of their government and are confident they would not be convicted), but out of fear that they would be turned over to the United States. That’s the fear people have: ending up in the warped travesty known as the judicial system of the Land of the Free. That is what has motivated Assange to resist extradition to Sweden, and it’s what has undoubtedly motivated him to seek asylum from Ecuador.
quote:Bradley Manning Support Network Under Army Investigation
The Bradley Manning Support Network is under investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, as revealed by a copy of a Freedom of Information Act request response. In this case, the request for records pertaining to the activist umbrella group was denied, but the reason for the denial - that "an active investigation is in progress with an undetermined completion date" - is obviously news in and of itself, which is presumably why none of the infotainment outlets posing as news organizations have reported on the development thus far.
As of 1:30 PM CST, the FOIA response indicating that a network of activists who advocate on behalf of a celebrated accused whistleblower are being pursued by a branch of the U.S. military has not been mentioned by a single news organization with a web presence. Searching Google News brings up nothing; searching Google itself brings up two blogs with what we may presume to be very little reach (building up an audience has less to do with quality than it does with packaging, which is why Thomas Friedman is so popular). Quite possibly there will be mentions of all this by tomorrow in at least a few more places - but having spent years working in the media, analyzing the media, and sometimes being covered by the media, it wouldn't surprise me if coverage were relegated to a handful of specialist sites and perhaps Wired (which itself does some of the best and most crucial reporting on such issues as the NSA Utah Data Center only to have its revelations ignored by general outlets in favor of Secret Service prostitution scandals).
Complaints of this sort are often brushed off by journalists with the more "respectable" outlets with the response that everyone has their pet issue that they believe deserves special attention. In this case, such an excuse wouldn't hold water, nor does today being Sunday serve to explain away the complete absence of coverage thus far. Back in early 2010, when the Wikileaks Twitter account put forth a series of messages to the effect that one of its volunteers had been stopped and questioned and that others were being aggressively pursued by agents of the State Department, there was zero coverage of the incident at all. And the claims of state interference weren't exactly dubious; just a few days prior, Wikileaks had released Pentagon documents that proved the U.S. military was already considering how best to disrupt the organization. Back then, Wikileaks just wasn't on the radar of the U.S. media on the whole. Only later in the year would editors collectively agree that Wikileaks was indeed maybe some sort of big deal - soon after which it collectively decided that it was easier and more fun to ask probing questions about whether or not Julian Assange thinks highly of himself than it was to look through the actual documents that were providing to the world. And of course it became not only clear, but abundantly and repeatedly clear, that a number of covert operations were in the works against Wikileaks and individuals close to it. At any rate, they would eventually agree that this strange new transparency group was shaping up to be a major story, but only long after it had become obvious. Its notability having been eventually established even by the American media reckoning, there's no viable excuse on "Sorry, We Don't Agree That's Notable" grounds for that incident to have been entirely ignored. It's just hard to look back at that day and make the case that it didn't represent a massive failure on the part of the media to see a story coming, even when plenty of other observers saw it quite clearly.
There's probably more at play here than simply groupthink. In both the Wikileaks/State Department incident and the incident I'm bitching about this time, the story was only apparent to the extent that one kept an eye on certain Twitter feeds, particular reddit sections, and other relatively newfangled venues of the sort that didn't exist ten years ago and which still have attached to them certain vaguely disreputable, quasi-comical connotations in the minds of countless producers and editors. Meanwhile, more and more stories of the sort that clearly merit coverage can be expected to emanate from these allegedly unconventional nooks and crannies, the info itself having been placed on Scribd or pastebin or some other such thing instead of delivered in a press release or spoken at a podium by some well-paid liar. At some point, those whose profession calls upon them to be aware of what's happening are going to have to learn to contend with how much of those happenings are now happening on online thingamajigs with silly names.
To be fair, some professionals of that sort have indeed learned how much data can be gleaned from well-executed examinations of social networking platforms. Unfortunately, most of them work in the surveillance and intelligence sectors of government agencies and for private contractors, rather than newsrooms, and are engaged in keeping tabs on such parties as the Bradley Manning Support Network.
quote:Twitter-WikiLeaks case a test of press and privacy rights online
Two weeks ago Birgitta Jonsdottir, the self-styled activist Member of Parliament from Iceland and central figure in the important and ongoing Twitter-WikiLeaks cases, was in Ottawa. We sent her a tweet, got a quick reply, then met to talk about whistle-blowers, privacy and the role of the free press in the age of the Internet.
Ms. Jonsdottir is one of the co-producers of Collateral Murder, a selectively edited video that documents a U.S. military helicopter gunning down two Reuters staff and several others in the streets of Baghdad. The distribution of the video over the Internet in April 2010 shed light on events that the U.S. military had not disclosed and marked the beginning of WikiLeaks’ campaign to release what would be the largest cache of U.S. classified material the world has ever seen.
Over the course of the next year, WikiLeaks joined together with five of the world’s most respected news organizations – The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Speigel, Le Monde and El Pais – to publish material that wreaked havoc with the routine conventions of journalism, diplomacy and war. The near simultaneous publication of the material also set the global news agenda three more times in 2010: (1) during the release of the Afghan and (2) Iraq war logs in July and October, respectively, and (3) a cache of diplomatic cables starting in late November.
The modern day whistle-blowing campaign garnered a number of prestigious awards for journalistic excellence, including Readers’ Choice in Time magazine’s Person of the Year (Julian Assange) (2010), International Piero Passetti Journalism Prize of the National Union of Italian Journalists, Italy (2011) and the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism, Australia (2011), among many others.
It also unleashed the wrath of the U.S. government and a wave of recrimination and reprisals against WikiLeaks, and its key figures. Some literally called for its enigmatic frontman, Julian Assange, to be assassinated. In December 2010, Senator Joe Lieberman, Chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, pressured Amazon, Paypal, Mastercard, Visa and everyDNS to cut-off resources essential to WikiLeaks’ survival: including servers, data storage, domain names and online payments. Apple removed a WikiLeaks app from the iTunes store shortly thereafter.
The actions did not kill WikiLeaks, but they did cause its donor funding to plummet by an estimated 90 per cent.
The publication of classified material by WikiLeaks triggered an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the source of the leaks. That quickly led to the arrest of U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, in May 2010. It also issued a series of “secret orders” to popular U.S. search and social media sites in a more or less successful bid to access information about people of interest to its WikiLeaks investigation.
Birgitta Jonsdottir is one of those people. So, too, are Mr. Assange, WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Applebaum and Dutch hacktivist Ron Gongrijp. Their struggle to know which Internet companies received the DOJ’s “secret orders,” and to prevent the disclosure of information about them, raise fundamental questions about state secrets, transparency and privacy rights. They also cut to the heart of journalism in light of how social media like Twitter and Facebook are now routinely used by journalists to access sources, share information, and generally to create and circulate the news.
The Guardian recognized the significance of the Twitter-WikiLeaks cases last month by including Ms. Jonsdottir, Mr. Assange, Mr. Applebaum and Twitter’s chief legal counsel, Alex MacGillvray, on its list of 20 “champions of the open Internet.” The latter was on the list because Twitter was the only Internet company to challenge the DOJ’s “secret orders” (not “court authorized warrants”), while others appear to have rolled-over and shut-up.
Twitter won a small victory in January 2011 when it obtained a court order allowing it to tell Jonsdottir and the rest of the parties involved that Justice wanted information about their accounts. Whatever hope was raised by that ruling, however, was dashed by a blunt district court ruling in the second case 10 months later. It ruled users of commercial social media platforms have no privacy rights because these companies’ business models are based entirely on maximizing the collection and sale of subscriber information. As such, Jonsdottir and the others involved in the case “relinquished any reasonable expectation of privacy” the moment they clicked on Twitter’s terms of service.
At the end of the legal line, Twitter reluctantly handed over a slew of information about their Internet service device numbers, registration pages, connection records, length of service and so on.
The final round of the Twitter-WikiLeaks cases is expected by the end of June when the ACLU and EFF’s last ditch appeal to reveal what other Internet companies received the Justice Department’s “secret orders” will be decided on. Unless the decision rules in their favour, we may never know for sure who these companies are, although Ms. Jonsdottir notes that all eyes are on Facebook, Google and Skype (Microsoft).
Ms. Jonsdottir isn’t holding her breath. Pausing to reflect on the personal effects of these cases, she remains surprisingly upbeat.
“You have to completely alter your lifestyle,” she says. “It’s not pleasant, but I don’t really care. It’s just insults my sense of justice. I would not put anything on social media sites that I don’t want on the front pages of the press.”
She no longer travels to the U.S. on advice of her lawyers and the State Department of Iceland out of fear that she may be arrested. Yet, more than dwelling on the personal costs, Ms. Jonsdottir wants to prick the fantasy of Barack Obama as a great liberal president and the illusion that the U.S. turned a corner when he replaced George W. Bush. Of course, Mr. Obama has taken a liberal stance on some social issues – his endorsement of gay marriage being the most recent – but the national security imperatives that took root in the U.S. after 9/11 have just gotten further entrenched. The Obama administration has charged more whistle-blowers (six) than all past presidents combined (three), she notes. The Twitter – WikiLeaks cases have also all occurred on Mr. Obama’s watch, she reminds us. More examples wait in the wings.
She is not alone in such views. Harvard University law professor Yochai Benkler argues that the decisions by Amazon, Visa, Paypal and Mastercard to withdraw resources essential to WikiLeaks’ survival under pressure from government official is tantamount to the state using compliant commercial actors to do an end-run around the First Amendment. The latest version of the Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index also shows the U.S. dropping from 20th place in 2009 and 2010 to 47th place in 2011, in contrast to the brief, but substantial, improvement during Mr. Obama’s first year in office.
Ms. Jonsdottir is probably fighting a losing legal battle in the U.S., but back in Iceland she is busy building a model of the free press fit for the digital media age. To do so, she and a few others are spearheading the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), a project launched by Iceland’s Parliament in 2010. It’s aim? To give whistle-blowers, privacy and free speech the highest standard of legal protection in the world, and make net neutrality a cornerstone of Iceland’s new Constitution.
Idealistic? For sure, but realistic too. The new constitution – mostly written online as an experiment in “crowd-sourcing” – is finished and awaits ratification. Reporters Without Borders calls IMMI “exemplary,” and evidence of progress in a country that already ranks at the very top of its press freedom index. Even Google is funding one small element of the effort: the development of a “democracy index.”
Ms. Jonsdottir is undoubtedly pushing the radical edges of what is possible, but she is acutely aware that while we may never know for certain if companies such as Google were served with the Justice Department’s “secret orders,” not all of them are happy to be used as tools of the state, wittingly or not. Venture capitalists have also told her that the Twitter-WikiLeaks saga is casting a pall over all U.S. Internet companies. IMMI’s commitment to creating a free digital media zone – not to mention pitching Iceland’s cool climate, which is good for data centres – is also about attracting investment in Internet businesses in the country.
So, dreaming big is not unbridled idealism, but pushing the envelope of what is possible. That’s what democracy is about, Ms. Jonsdottir says. “Voting every four years is absolutely not democracy,” she exclaims as our conversation draws to a close, “it is just a transfer of power.” And while she thinks that the Internet is fantastic, experience teachers her that it will never be able to create a free press and better democracy unless people fight like hell for what they believe in, and press equally hard to build the political and legal frameworks that allow such goals to be achieved.
quote:Wikileaked: Lobbying firm tried to help Syrian regime polish image as violence raged
The lobbying firm that brought you a Vogue story featuring the Syrian first lady was still trying to help the Syrian regime improve its image abroad two months after the notoriously ill-timed article was published and then scrubbed, as the country descended into violence, according to a document revealed by Wikileaks.
The international firm Brown Lloyd James (BLJ) was officially employed by the Office of the First Lady of the Syrian Arab Republic Asma al-Assad in Nov. 2010 for $5,000 per month to help arrange and execute the article, which appeared in the March 2011 edition of Vogue. The fawning piece, entitled, "Rose of the Desert," was actually scrubbed from the Vogue website out of embarrassment when Assad began a brutal crackdown on non-violent protests that month. But you can still read it here.
BLJ's contract with the Assad regime, signed by BLJ partner Mike Holtzman and Syrian government official Fares Kallas, expired in March of last year, according to documents posted on the Foreign Agents Registration Act website. The firm had claimed its work on behalf of the Assads ended in Dec. 2010.
But in May 2011, BLJ sent another memo to Kallas and the Syrian government, giving them advice on how to improve their image and institute a more effective public relations strategy amid the exploding violence in Syria. The memo was published by the Wikileaks website in their dump of 2.4 million Syrian documents this week.
"It is clear from US government pronouncements since the beginning of the public demonstrations in Syria that the Obama Administration wants the leadership in Syria to survive," begins the May 19, 2011, memo. "Unlike its response to demonstrations in some other countries in the region, there have been no US demands for regime change in Syria nor any calls for military intervention, criticism has been relatively muted and punitive sanctions -- by not being aimed directly at President Assad -- have been intended more as a caution than as an instrument to hurt the leadership."
The memo was sent only days after Syrian military forces stormed the town of Baniyas and moved into the cities of Hama and Homs, where civilian massacres soon followed. Three days before the memo was sent, 20 bodies of murdered civilians were discovered in a shallow grave in the city of Daraa. President Barack Obama called for Assad to step down that August.
The memo goes on to warn the Assad regime that the mood in Washington is turning against the regime, as evidenced by tougher statements coming from Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and increasingly critical stories in the U.S. media. BLJ warns the Assads that if they don't get smart about public relations quick, the U.S. system might just turn against them.
"[Increasing bad PR] not only reinforces the Administration's change of tone, it is emboldening critics -- who maintain that Syria's reform efforts are not sincere--and building up pressure on the US government to take further, more drastic steps against the country," the memo states.
BLJ then goes into an extensive set of recommendations for how the Assad regime can put a better spin on the largely government-led violence.
"[S]oft power is needed to reassure the Syrian people and outside audiences that reform is proceeding apace, legitimate grievances are being addressed and taken seriously, and that Syria's actions are ultimately aimed at creating an environment in which change and progress can take place," BLJ explains.
The Assad regime should appoint one figure to "own" the reform agenda to convince Syrians and the outside world the reform effort is "sincere," BLJ advised.
"Refocusing the perception of outsiders and Syrians on reform will provide political cover to the generally sympathetic US Government, and will delegitimize critics at home and abroad," the memo reads.
BLJ even recommends that First Lady Asma al-Assad should "get in the game," do a "listening tour" with the president, and start doing press interviews to create an "echo chamber" in the media that reinforces the idea that Assad is reform-minded.
"The absence of a public figure as popular, capable, and attuned to the hopes of the people as Her Excellency at such a critical moment is conspicuous. The key is to show strength and sympathy at once," BLJ writes.
BLJ also recommends that the Assad regime get more serious about containing negative media stories and the voices of the Syrian opposition around the world, which the memo calls "the daily torrent of criticism and lies." BJR told the Assads they should institute 24-hour media monitoring in the United States and challenge and then remove any websites that are "false."
Overall, the memo recommends that the Assad regime get smart on messaging and start trying to convince the world that the Syrian government is benevolent, that all killings by the military were not officially sanctioned, and that the crisis is not as bad as the international community believes.
"Efforts should be made to convey ‘normalcy' and a contrast to current news depicting Syria as being on the verge of chaos," the memo reads.
Contacted for comment by The Cable Friday, Holtzman said that their official work with the Syrian government came at a time when many, including the U.S. government, had high hopes for progress in opening up Syria. He also said that the May 2012 memo was a "last-ditch" effort "to encourage a peaceful outcome rather than violence."
Holtzman said that BLJ was not paid for writing the memo and that the firm hasn't done any work for the regime since. He framed the memo as an attempt to get the Assad regime to behave better.
"We noted that if the regime was serious about dramatic reform that ‘reform-oriented outreach must be dramatically improved', and recommended that Syria begin to directly ‘engage families and young people' in these reforms," Holtzman said. "Unfortunately, our advice was ignored and our professional involvement in the country ended, just prior to new U.S. sanctions being put into effect."
quote:Iceland Warned of WikiLeaks Vendetta
The government of Iceland warned one of its MPs not to travel to the United States because the country was about to engage on some wholesale arrests of people involved with WikiLeaks.
Indeed, Icelandic MP Birgitta Jˇnsdˇttir confirmed that her attorneys have seen papers showing that a grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks’ whistleblowing is currently underway in the United States. Birgitta Jˇnsdˇttir was a co-producer of a video released by WikiLeaks to show US soldiers shooting civilians in Baghdad from a helicopter. The MP admitted that already the American Department of Justice tried to hack by legal means into her social media accounts. Unfortunately, the legal team of Twitter unsealed the US secret document and provided a chance to defend personal data in court from being used in a dragnet, for the first serious attacks on the whistleblower’s supporters and volunteers.
Meanwhile, the speaker of the Icelandic Parliament even raised this issue at the International Parliamentarian Union in 2011, but was backed. It said the outfit was concerned that the legal framework over the use of electronic media wasn’t enough to provide sufficient guarantees to ensure respect for freedom of expression, access to data and the right to privacy.
Birgitta Jˇnsdˇttir has parliamentary immunity under its home country’s law when she carries out political activity, but the United States clearly ignored that fact. She believes that it’s proof that WikiLeaks’ founder is clearly not overreacting to his fear of possible extradition to the United States. Jˇnsdˇttir added that the fact her Twitter data sought was clearly content to establishing key facts about an ongoing investigation.
However, during a meeting at the Icelandic State Department, Jˇnsdˇttir received a message from the newly appointed US Ambassador, who was instructed by his country to announce that if Jˇnsdˇttir ever popped over to the US, the border agents wouldn’t get out their rubber hoses, and promised she wouldn’t have to face an involuntary interrogation.
Nevertheless, the Icelandic State Department strongly advised Birgitta against visiting the United States. In a while, her attorneys saw at least a couple of sealed grand jury papers relating to her when requesting access to the papers pertaining to her case. Of course, the United States wants to get even with the service, and its founder has every reason to worry about being extradited to the country, no matter from Britain or Sweden.
quote:Whistleblower says WikiLeaks founder is in danger
A former National Security Agency (NSA) employee says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in danger from certain clandestine elements within the US government.
"They are extremely angry [at Assange]. According to press reports, there has been a secret Grand Jury and maybe a secret indictment," Thomas Andrews Drake, a known NSA whistleblower, told Russia Today.
"They want to get him and put him away. There are those at high levels in this country - they have called for a death warrant."
According to Drake, the US government will do everything it can to put Assange away for as long as they can - or worse.
"Speaking truth to power is very dangerous. The power elites, those in charge don't like dirty linen being aired. They don't like skeletons in the closet being seen.... Not only do they object to it, they decide to turn it into criminal activity. Remember, my whistle blowing was criminalized by my own government," he added.
Julian Assange is currently holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he is seeking political asylum. The WikiLeaks founder entered the embassy on June 19 after all attempts to fight extradition to Sweden - where Assange faces charges of sexual assault - failed. Assange, who denies the accusations, is concerned that extradition to Sweden could ultimately lead to his eventual transfer to the United States.
Indeed, author-activist David Swanson recently told Russia Today that Assange will ultimately be handed over to the United States - where he is likely to be tried for espionage. According to Swanson, the American government "has issued a secret closed indictment and pressured other governments in Britain and Sweden to ship Julian Assange to the US."
Swanson also claimed the WikiLeaks founder could face conditions amounting to torture or even murder, as the the US has "very much blurred the line between law enforcement and war."
Swanson's concerns were recently echoed by a US lobbying group known as "Just Foreign Policy," which sent a formal letter to Ecuador asking the country's prime minister to grant Assange asylum. Its signatories included a number of prominent filmmakers, writers, lawyers and civil rights campaigners - such as Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and Noam Chomsky.
"There is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned and likely extradited to the United States," they wrote. "Were he charged and found guilty under the Espionage Act, Assange could face the death penalty."
quote:WikiLeaks claims court victory against Visa
Icelandic court rules that payment processor broke contract laws by blocking credit card donations to whistleblowing site
WikiLeaks has claimed a "significant victory" in its struggle with the US government to allow people to make donations to it through the Visa payment scheme, after an Icelandic court ruled that a payment processor there had broken contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Julian Assange's whistleblowing site.
But Visa International said that the ruling, against a Reykjavik-based company called Valitor – formerly Visa Iceland – might not have any broader application and may not change the current position, in which payments cannot be made to WikiLeaks using Visa cards and other US-owned credit cards. That has choked off the vast majority of donations to WikiLeaks, which said it had lost about $20m in funding as a result.
US financial institutions including Visa, Bank of America, Mastercard, PayPal and Western Union, stopped accepting or handling payments intended for WikiLeaks in December 2010, after the site began leaking US diplomatic cables from a cache of nearly 250,000 it had acquired.
MasterCard and Visa both said at the time that they were cutting the links because WikiLeaks was "engaging in or facilititating" illegal activity. A PayPal vice-president said that he had come under pressure from the US state department to cut payment links with the site. Until Visa cut its links, the only way to pay a donation was via a web page hosted by Iceland-based Datacell, which acted as WikiLeaks's payment processor.
Attorney Sveinn Andri Sveinsson told Reuters that an Icelandic court has ordered Valitor to resume processing donations to WikiLeaks within two weeks or face Kr800,000 (about ú3,000) in daily fines.
Assange said in a statement: "This is a significant victory against Washington's attempt to silence WikiLeaks. We will not be silenced. Economic censorship is censorship. It is wrong. When it's done outside of the rule of law its doubly wrong. One by one those involved in the attempted censorship of WikiLeaks will find themselves on the wrong side of history."
Sveinsson claims that Thursday's judgment means credit card donations could soon be flowing to DataCell. The court ruled that Valitor had broken its contract by refusing to pass donations to WikiLeaks.
But even if Valitor does resume passing payments to WikiLeaks accounts in Iceland, it is not clear that it would have any to process. The Visa and Mastercard system works in a "four-party" model, where the customer holding a credit card effectively has a contract with an "issuing bank". At the receiving end is the "accepting bank" – in this case Valitor – and its "merchant" (here, WikiLeaks).
Visa and Mastercard effect the transfer of funds between the issuing bank and the accepting bank. While the court may have restored the tie between Valitor and WikiLeaks, it is unclear whether that means that Visa is obliged to pass on money transferred to an issuing bank from a cardholder.
WikiLeaks says that the European Commission is conducting an investigation into what it calls the "banking blockade" imposed by the US financial organisations. It filed a complaint in July 2011 with the competition arm of the EC, saying that Visa and MasterCard had breached antitrust provisions.
In October 2011, Assange said that the site needed $3.5m over the next year in order to continue operating because of the restrictions on funding, and that he expected the EC to decide on whether to carry out a full antitrust investigation into Visa and MasterCard by mid-November.
On Thursday, he said he expected an EC decision on whether to carry out the investigation "before the end of August".
Het artikel gaat verder.quote:WikiLeaks Reopens Channel For Credit Card Donations, Dares Visa And MasterCard To Block Them Again
After 18 months of having its funding nearly completely cut off by a payment industry blockade, WikiLeaks says it’s finally found a new workaround that allows it to receive credit card donations. And after a legal victory against Visa in Iceland, the group is literally daring the card companies to shut down payments to his site again.
In a statement to press Wednesday morning, WikiLeaks writes that the Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality (FDNN) has agreed to accept donations on behalf of WikiLeaks, and that the group can receive payments through the French payment card system Carte Bleue. WikiLeaks claims that Visa and MasterCard and from blocking payments to the site as they’ve done in the past.
Contractual obligations haven’t necessarily stopped the card companies from cutting off WikiLeaks before. Following its release of classified State Department cables in late 2010, PayPal, Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard and Western Union all blocked payments to the site, some claiming that it had violating their terms of service by engaging in illegal activities despite the fact that no WikiLeaks staffer had been charged with a publishing-related crime. In July of last year, the Icelandic firm Valitor, then Visa Iceland, briefly opened payments to WikiLeaks through its partner firm DataCell. Visa blocked that payment channel again within less than 24 hours.
Then last week, an Icelandic court ruled that Visa Iceland had violated its contract with DataCell by unilaterally blocking payments to the firm, and ordered Valitor to re-open payment before July 26 or pay fines of more than $6,000 per day.
Valitor plans to appeal. But Assange, emboldened by the initial win, hopes to press his advantage and open WikiLeaks’ faucet of donations again–or at least draw more attention to Visa and MasterCard’s legally questionable embargo.
“We beat them in Iceland and, by God, we’ll beat them in France as well,” reads a quote from Assange in the group’s statement. “Let them shut it down. Let them demonstrate to the world once again their corrupt pandering to Washington. We’re waiting. Our lawyers are waiting. The whole world is waiting. Do it.”
I’ve reached out to Visa and MasterCard and will update the story when I hear back from them.
Assange’s public game of brinksmanship also aims to draw attention to WikiLeaks’ dire financial situation. Its statement includes a plea for credit card donations while they’re still possible: “WikiLeaks advises all global supporters to make use of this avenue immediately before VISA/MasterCard attempts to shut it down,” it reads.
WikiLeaks move may be one of desperation: Timed to that emergency pledge drive, WikiLeaks is also releasing financial reports for 2011 and the first half of 2012 from the Wau Holland Foundation, a German non-profit that manages its finances. The documents, predictably, show a steady drop-off in WikiLeaks’ funding since the payment embargo began last year, with almost all of the group’s savings now gone. WikiLeaks says it raised only $171,000 in donations last year, compared with $812,000 in expenses the same year.
quote:Late-night visit helped spark Assange asylum bid
A late-night visit by the security contractor who maintained the electronic bracelet around Julian Assange's ankle was one reason why he decided to seek political asylum in the Ecuador embassy in London.
For the first time, Mr Assange has revealed full details of the sequence of events that led to him moving into the embassy last month.
Mr Assange told Four Corners he only took the decision because after a number of "dramatic events" he feared his bail was about to be cut short.
For more than 500 days the WikiLeaks founder had been fighting extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes, including rape.
Speaking from the embassy by phone, Mr Assange said he became suspicious when the Swedish government publicly announced it would detain him "without charge in prison under severe conditions".
What happened next made him believe he may soon be taken into custody.
"On the same evening, the UK government security contractors that maintained the electronic manacle around my leg turned up unannounced at 10.30pm and insisted on fitting another manacle to my leg, saying that this was part of routine maintenance, which did not sound to be credible," he said.
Mr Assange said the following day the security contractor "filed a section nine bail breach against me" in that "my bail would be revoked and they did so under the basis that we refused to let them in at 10.30pm unannounced".
Later that day Mr Assange said he feared his last avenue of appeal was about to be terminated by the British crown prosecution service.
"Acting, we believe, on behalf of the Swedish government, (they) requested that the 14 days that I had to apply to the European court of human rights be reduced to zero."
Sex, Lies and Julian Assange can be seen on the Four Corners website
quote:Judge orders cross-examination of officials over WikiLeaks documents
Unprecedented step in Chagos Islands case is first time one of the WikiLeaks cables has featured in a UK court case
A top judge has taken the unprecedented step of ordering two senior government officials to face cross-examination in court over a classified US document leaked by WikiLeaks. It is thought to be the first time that one of the WikiLeaks cables has featured in a UK court case.
Despite strong objections from lawyers acting for the foreign secretary, William Hague, the high court judge ruled that the move was necessary to resolve "fairly and justly" a claim launched against the government by exiled residents of the Chagos Islands.
The judge declared the leaked US cable - alleged to relate to a private US-UK diplomatic meeting - could be investigated in court even though it must have been obtained unlawfully by "the notorious internet organisation".
The groundbreaking ruling will come as a blow to Whitehall, which argued the courts should not entertain any applications for cross-examination in relation to documents unlawfully obtained by WikiLeaks.
The British expelled the Chagos Islanders between 1965 and 1973 in order to allow the US to establish an airbase on Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos archipelago in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).
The expulsion has been described by critics as one of the most shameful episodes of modern colonial history.
The islanders have been fighting a long campaign, which has included a string of court cases, for the right to return to at least some of the islands.
Wednesday's hearing relates to a new high court application by the Chagos Refugees Group for judicial review of the government's decision to create a Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the islands.
Commercial fishing is banned within the MPA. The islanders say the MPA was created for the "improper purpose" of preventing resettlement of the islands.
The UK government denies anything improper and maintains the MPA was created for environmental reasons.
But the islanders say their case is supported by the cable obtained by WikiLeaks. It was sent by the US embassy in London to the US State Department in Washington in May 2009.
The MPA was established in 2010 by a proclamation made by Colin Roberts, commissioner for the BIOT, acting upon the directions of the British government.
The court heard that, in the leaked cable, Roberts asserted at the May 2009 diplomatic meeting with the Americans that creating the MPA would not adversely affect US defence interests - but it would the islanders.
Roberts is reported in the cable to have asserted "establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the (Chagos) archipelago's former residents."
Nigel Pleming QC applied on behalf of the Chagos Islanders earlier this month for permission to cross-examine Roberts when the Chagossian judicial review application comes on for hearing in the near future.
He also applied for permission to cross-examine Joanne Yeadon, a civil servant at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the talks with the Americans.
Pleming said it was not suggested that the WikiLeaks cable was not a genuine document, but the government was hiding behind a "neither confirm nor deny" policy.
Pleming said he wished to question Roberts in the witness box about his discussions with his US counterparts and to test the denial that an improper motive drove the creation of an MPA.
Steven Kovats QC, appearing for the government, said the high court was in a novel situation with regard to WikiLeaks disclosures.
Kovats said: "My clients are not opposing cross-examination because they have anything to hide.
"We are opposing it because, as a matter of principle, it does not seem right in relation to an improperly leaked document.
"We, as a matter of principle, do not accept that WikiLeaks can effectively compel the government to defend something which - absent WikiLeaks - there would be no question of it coming before the court at all."
Today Mr Justice Stanley Burnton rejected the government's objections and ordered that cross-examination should go ahead.
The judge said he acknowledged that the US document "must have been obtained unlawfully, and in all probability by the commission of a criminal offence or offences under the law of the United States of America."
He added: "I understand why it is the policy of HM government neither to confirm nor deny the genuineness of leaked documents, save in exceptional circumstances, particularly where, as here, the documents in question are not those produced or received by the UK government.
"However, the documents have been leaked and indeed widely published."
No application had been made for a public interest immunity certificate to prevent the courts openly investigating the genuineness of the cable.
He ruled: "I do not see how the present claim can be fairly or justly determined without resolving the allegation made by the claimant, based on the WikiLeaks documents, as to what transpired at the meeting of 12 May 2009, and more widely whether at least one of the motives for the creation of the MPA was the desire to prevent resettlement.
"Given the conflicting evidence, in my judgment, in order to resolve the dispute, oral evidence will be necessary, including cross-examination of Mr Roberts and Ms Yeadon."
quote:Swedish Prosecutor Raises Possible Extradition of WikiLeaks Founder to U.S.
A Swedish prosecutor raised the possibility that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, could eventually be extradited to the United States in a statement posted online on Tuesday.
Marianne Ny, the Swedish prosecutor who asked British authorities to detain Mr. Assange and send him to Sweden for questioning about possible sex crimes, discussed the possibility of sending him to the United States in a statement posted on the Swedish Prosecution Authority’s Web site on Tuesday.
Perhaps prompted by speculation that Mr. Assange might be indicted by a grand jury meeting in secret in the United States to consider charges against him related to the publication of leaked American military and diplomatic documents, one section of the Swedish prosecutor’s statement, under the heading, “Facts About Extradition of a Person Who Has Been Surrendered,” reads:
. Due to general agreements in the European Arrest Warrant Act, Sweden cannot extradite a person who has been surrendered to Sweden from another country without certain considerations. Concerning surrender to another country within the European Union, the Act states that the executing country under certain circumstances must approve a further surrender.
. On the other hand, if the extradition concerns a country outside the European Union the authorities in the executing country (the country that surrendered the person) must consent such extradition. Sweden cannot, without such consent extradite a person, for example to the U.S.A.
In other words, the prosecutor said that Britain would have to agree to allow Sweden to send Mr. Assange to the United States even if he ends up in Swedish custody.
In an interview with Al Jazeera in London on Saturday (embedded above), one of Mr. Assange’s lawyers, Mark Stephens, told David Frost that he feared his client was being set up for extradition from Sweden to the United States.
. We have heard from Swedish authorities that there has been a secretly-empaneled grand jury in Alexandria — which some people, you’ll certainly know, is just over the river from Washington, D.C., next to the Pentagon — and they are currently investigating this. And indeed the Swedes, we understand, have said that if he comes to Sweden, they will defer their interest in him to to the Americans. Now, that shows some level of collusion, and embarrassment. So it does seem to me that what we have here is nothing more than a holding charge, with the Americans. It won’t really matter to them whether he’s held in Sweden or here, so that ultimately they can get their mitts on him.
On Tuesday, another lawyer from Mr. Stepehens’ law firm, Jennifer Robinson, told Justin Elliott of Salon that the existence of a grand jury was still “purely speculation.” She added, We do not have any concrete information about that.”
If such a grand jury does exist, American federal prosecutors might prefer to try to extradite Mr. Assange from Sweden to face arcane charges related to computer crimes because they have already spent years fighting to get British authorities to surrender another such person — a Scottish computer hacker named Gary McKinnon.
As my colleague John Burns explained last year, Mr. McKinnon acknowledged hacking into 97 computers belonging to the United States Defense Department, Navy, Army and Air Force, and NASA, in 2002, searching, he said, for information about U.F.O.s. But, even though a grand jury in Virginia indicted him in 2002, the long legal battle to extradite Mr. McKinnon is still going on, eight years later.
While Mr. Assange is not British, as is Mr. McKinnon — and he has not been implicated in hacking into American government computers — he is, as an Australian, a citizen of a Commonwealth country with close cultural ties to Britain. For that reason, if American officials are hoping to extradite Mr. Assange in less than eight years, they might just be rooting for him to end up in Swedish custody.
quote:Stratfor emails reveal secret, widespread TrapWire surveillance system
Former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system more accurate than modern facial recognition technology — and have installed it across the US under the radar of most Americans, according to emails hacked by Anonymous.
Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence. It’s part of a program called TrapWire and it's the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America’s intelligence community. The employee roster at Arbaxas reads like a who’s who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities according to their public LinkedIn profiles, and the corporation's ties are assumed to go deeper than even documented.
The details on Abraxas and, to an even greater extent TrapWire, are scarce, however, and not without reason. For a program touted as a tool to thwart terrorism and monitor activity meant to be under wraps, its understandable that Abraxas would want the program’s public presence to be relatively limited. But thanks to last year’s hack of the Strategic Forecasting intelligence agency, or Stratfor, all of that is quickly changing.
Hacktivists aligned with the loose-knit Anonymous collective took credit for hacking Stratfor on Christmas Eve, 2011, in turn collecting what they claimed to be more than five million emails from within the company. WikiLeaks began releasing those emails as the Global Intelligence Files (GIF) earlier this year and, of those, several discussing the implementing of TrapWire in public spaces across the country were circulated on the Web this week after security researcher Justin Ferguson brought attention to the matter. At the same time, however, WikiLeaks was relentlessly assaulted by a barrage of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, crippling the whistleblower site and its mirrors, significantly cutting short the number of people who would otherwise have unfettered access to the emails.
On Wednesday, an administrator for the WikiLeaks Twitter account wrote that the site suspected that the motivation for the attacks could be that particularly sensitive Stratfor emails were about to be exposed. A hacker group called AntiLeaks soon after took credit for the assaults on WikiLeaks and mirrors of their content, equating the offensive as a protest against editor Julian Assange, “the head of a new breed of terrorist.” As those Stratfor files on TrapWire make their rounds online, though, talk of terrorism is only just beginning.
Mr. Ferguson and others have mirrored what are believed to be most recently-released Global Intelligence Files on external sites, but the original documents uploaded to WikiLeaks have been at times unavailable this week due to the continuing DDoS attacks. Late Thursday and early Friday this week, the GIF mirrors continues to go offline due to what is presumably more DDoS assaults. Australian activist Asher Wolf wrote on Twitter that the DDoS attacks flooding the WikiLeaks server were reported to be dropping upwards of 40 gigabytes of traffic per second on the site.
According to a press release (pdf) dated June 6, 2012, TrapWire is “designed to provide a simple yet powerful means of collecting and recording suspicious activity reports.” A system of interconnected nodes spot anything considered suspect and then input it into the system to be "analyzed and compared with data entered from other areas within a network for the purpose of identifying patterns of behavior that are indicative of pre-attack planning.”
In a 2009 email included in the Anonymous leak, Stratfor Vice President for Intelligence Fred Burton is alleged to write, “TrapWire is a technology solution predicated upon behavior patterns in red zones to identify surveillance. It helps you connect the dots over time and distance.” Burton formerly served with the US Diplomatic Security Service, and Abraxas’ staff includes other security experts with experience in and out of the Armed Forces.
What is believed to be a partnering agreement included in the Stratfor files from August 13, 2009 indicates that they signed a contract with Abraxas to provide them with analysis and reports of their TrapWire system (pdf).
“Suspicious activity reports from all facilities on the TrapWire network are aggregated in a central database and run through a rules engine that searches for patterns indicative of terrorist surveillance operations and other attack preparations,” Crime and Justice International magazine explains in a 2006 article on the program, one of the few publically circulated on the Abraxas product (pdf). “Any patterns detected – links among individuals, vehicles or activities – will be reported back to each affected facility. This information can also be shared with law enforcement organizations, enabling them to begin investigations into the suspected surveillance cell.”
In a 2005 interview with The Entrepreneur Center, Abraxas founder Richard “Hollis” Helms said his signature product “can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists.” He calls it “a proprietary technology designed to protect critical national infrastructure from a terrorist attack by detecting the pre-attack activities of the terrorist and enabling law enforcement to investigate and engage the terrorist long before an attack is executed,” and that, “The beauty of it is that we can protect an infinite number of facilities just as efficiently as we can one and we push information out to local law authorities automatically.”
An internal email from early 2011 included in the Global Intelligence Files has Stratfor’s Burton allegedly saying the program can be used to “[walk] back and track the suspects from the get go facial recognition software.”
Since its inception, TrapWire has been implemented in most major American cities at selected high value targets (HVTs) and has appeared abroad as well. The iWatch monitoring system adopted by the Los Angeles Police Department (pdf) works in conjunction with TrapWire, as does the District of Columbia and the "See Something, Say Something" program conducted by law enforcement in New York City, which had 500 surveillance cameras linked to the system in 2010. Private properties including Las Vegas, Nevada casinos have subscribed to the system. The State of Texas reportedly spent half a million dollars with an additional annual licensing fee of $150,000 to employ TrapWire, and the Pentagon and other military facilities have allegedly signed on as well.
In one email from 2010 leaked by Anonymous, Stratfor’s Fred Burton allegedly writes, “God Bless America. Now they have EVERY major HVT in CONUS, the UK, Canada, Vegas, Los Angeles, NYC as clients.” Files on USASpending.gov reveal that the US Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense together awarded Abraxas and TrapWire more than one million dollars in only the past eleven months.
News of the widespread and largely secretive installation of TrapWire comes amidst a federal witch-hunt to crack down on leaks escaping Washington and at attempt to prosecute whistleblowers. Thomas Drake, a former agent with the NSA, has recently spoken openly about the government’s Trailblazer Project that was used to monitor private communication, and was charged under the Espionage Act for coming forth. Separately, former NSA tech director William Binney and others once with the agency have made claims in recent weeks that the feds have dossiers on every American, an allegation NSA Chief Keith Alexander dismissed during a speech at Def-Con last month in Vegas.
quote:Anonymous Operation TrapWire – Press Release
Sunday – August 12, 2012 11:00 AM ET USA
Greetings Citizens of the United States of America –
This weekend, it was disclosed by Wikileaks the details about a system known as “TrapWire” that uses facial recognition and other techniques including high-end artificial intelligence to track and monitor individuals using countless different closed-circuit cameras operated by cities and other institutions, including private businesses. This program also monitors all social media on the internet. The software is billed as a method by which to prevent terrorism, but can of course also be used to provide unprecedented surveillance and data-mining capabilities to governments and corporations – including many with a history of using new technologies to violate the rights of citizens. TrapWire is already used in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Texas, DC, London, and other locales around the USA.
The ex-CIA agents who help run the firm are old friends of Stratfor vice president Fred Burton, whom they’ve briefed on their own capabilities in e-mails obtained by Anonymous hackers and provided to WikiLeaks. Stratfor has engaged in several surveillance operations against activists, such as those advocating for victims of the Bhopal disaster – on behalf of large U.S. corporatons; Burton himelf was revealed to have advocated “bankrupting” and “ruining the life” of activists like Julian Assange in e-mails to other friends. TrapWire is extremely expensive to maintain, and is usually done so at taxpayer expense; Los Angeles county alone has spent over $1.4 million dollars on the software’s use in a single three-month period of 2007.
Although most of the regions in which TrapWire operates don’t share information with each other, all of this is set to change; as Abraxas Applications president Dan Botsch told Burton via e-mail, “I think over time the different networks will begin to unite,” noting that several networks had already begun discussions on merging their information. Abraxas itself has always had the ability to “cross-network matches” from every region at their own office. By June 2011, Washington D.C. police were engaged in a pilot project under the Departent of Homeland Security that’s likely to lead to more cities using TrapWire on a more integrated basis.
Abraxas, the firm whose spin-off Abraxas Applications developed TrapWire in 2007, has long been involved in a lesser-known practice known as persona management, which involves the use of fake online “people” to gather intelligence and/or disseminate disinformation. The firm Ntrepid, created by Abraxas owner Cubic Corporation, won a 2010 CENTCOM contract to provide such capabilities for use in foreign countries; several board members of Ntrepid also sit on Abraxas.
The more we learn about TrapWire and similar systems, it becomes absolutely clear that we must at all costs shut this system down and render it useless. A giant AI electronic brain able to monitor us through a combination of access to all the CCTV cameras as well as all the online social media feeds is monstrous and Orwellian in it’s implications and possibilities. The Peoples Liberation Front and Anonymous will now put forth a call to arms, and initiate the doom of this evil and misbegotten program. We will use the following tactics to accomplish this goal:
1) The PLF and Anonymous will work closely with WikiLeaks and Project PM to gather, collate, disclose and disseminate as much information as possible about TrapWire and it’s related technologies and programs. This was begun this weekend, and already much has been learned. And they are scared of this, already many sites and repositories of data on TrapWire are disappearing – being taken down by those who do not want you to know the truth about what they are doing. And WikiLeaks is at this writing enduring a massive and historic DdoS attack in an attempt to conceal this information from the public. We will do this not only to educate the general public regarding TrapWire, but to move them to pressure their representatives to shut down funding for this and similar programs of massive surveillance, and to pass laws outlawing the creation of future projects of this type.
2) ACTION ALERT – “Smash A Cam Saturday”: TrapWire has access to virtually all CCTV’s that have IP/internet connectivity. We have prepared an initial map/database of these cameras across the USA, and we will continue to expand this knowledge base.
While this database is a good guide to high priority camera targets, we encourage everyone to target any camera with IP/internet connectivity. We are asking everyone to sabotage at least one CCTV per week on what we are calling “Smash A Cam Saturday”. We have provided this excellent manual of different tactics and strategies for disabling or destroying these “eyes of the beast”.
3) As stated above, this “monster” doesn’t just have eyes that need gouging out – it also has “ears”. TrapWire constantly monitors social media. In a strange twist of fate, the company that developed TrapWire also works on something called “sock-puppet” programs. These are projects designed to create thousands of fake personas on social media. We will turn this idea and software against them, creating thousands of phony accounts and use them to produce a deluge of false triggers for the TrapWire program – essentially drowning it in “white noise”.
4) Finally, the Peoples Liberation Front and Anonymous will do what we do best. We will find, hack – and destroy the servers where the AI “electronic brain” of this program is housed.
Operation TrapWire is a direct action of the over-arching Anonymous Operation USA. TrapWire is but one instance of how the government of the USA has turned against it’s own citizens, designating them as suspects and enemies. Now those citizens rise, and take back their country and their freedom. Welcome to the Second American Revolution.
We Are Anonymous
We Are Legion
We Never Forgive
We Never Forget
Government of the USA, it’s to late to EXPECT US.