Yeah, this will help

30 years of peace


Israel National News:

Documents revealed by Wikileaks show that Egypt continues to see Israel as its primary military threat despite a decades-old peace treaty. Egypt and Israel fought against each other in four wars before signing the treaty in 1979.

United States diplomats have been frustrated as Egyptian leaders focus on being prepared for war with Israel while ignoring threats such as terrorism and weapons smuggling.

“The United States has sought to interest the Egyptian military into expanding their mission in ways that reflect new regional and transnational security threats, such as piracy, border security, and counterterrorism,” said one leaked file.

“But the aging leadership, however, has resisted our efforts and remained satisfied with continuing to do what they have done for years: train for force-on-force warfare with a premium on grounds forces and armor.”

A leaked memo addressed to U.S. General David Petraeus ahead of a 2008 visit to Egypt warns that Egyptian Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi in particular is the “chief impediment” to U.S. efforts to involve the Egyptian military in fighting modern threats. “During his tenure, the tactical and operational readiness of the Egyptian Armed forces has decayed,” the memo stated.

This is why I am skeptical of WikiLeaks. I cannot see how publishing this information can possibly contribute to lasting peace in the Middle East.

What do we gain by having this knowledge made public? How has WikiLeaks made Hillary Clinton’s job easier?

Now some fans of WikiLeaks have been defending the secretive organization by pointing out they have only leaked a small portion of the State Department cables. But that begs the question – what do they still have and why haven’t they released it yet?

Someone once said that the best way to lie is to use the truth selectively.


The Empire Strikes Back

Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do when they come for you?


Nobody saw this coming:

FBI Raids Texas Company in Hunt for Anonymous

The FBI has raided a Texan hosting company and seized equipment believed to have been used in the distributed denial of service attacks that targeted supposed “enemies” of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, which included the likes of PayPal and MasterCard.

It was actually PayPal that set the wheels in motion, as investigators working for the company supplied the FBI with eight IP addresses that had hosted an IRC chat of Anonymous members. Agents operating out of the Bureau’s San Francisco office then began to trace at least two of the IPs, with help from law enforcement organizations in Europe.

The first IP was traced back to a company called Host Europe, which is based in Germany. The German Federal Criminal Police investigated further and discovered that the server in question belonged to a man in France, but that it had been compromised by a third party. The IP of this third party put the ball back in the FBI’s court, as it originated from a dedicated server hosting company based in Dallas, Texas. Agents copied the contents of two hard drives from inside the server on December 16th, but the Bureau not revealed what – if anything – it has discovered.

The second IP that PayPal handed over was traced to a server held by a Californian hosting company. It’s not known at this time if the FBI has also seized data from this second site, but it seems a reasonably safe assumption that it did.

It was inevitable that the government would do something like this. There is no such thing as “anonymous” on the Internet anymore (if there ever was.) Anything you do online can be monitored, traced and/or tracked. The feds have the resources and the will to do it.

I said before that those 15 year old hackers from 20 years ago are now 35 year old cyber-security experts. Some of them work for the government.

Before the usual suspects start calling me an authoritarian again, this isn’t about what I think should happen. This is about what I think WILL happen.

The feds are gonna catch some of these wannabe revolutionaries. Not all, but some. Then they are gonna make an example out of the ones they catch.


You can read the warrant affidavit here.



WikiLeaks vs. The Pentagon Papers


Floyd Abrams:

In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg decided to make available to the New York Times (and then to other newspapers) 43 volumes of the Pentagon Papers, the top- secret study prepared for the Department of Defense examining how and why the United States had become embroiled in the Vietnam conflict. But he made another critical decision as well. That was to keep confidential the remaining four volumes of the study describing the diplomatic efforts of the United States to resolve the war.

Not at all coincidentally, those were the volumes that the government most feared would be disclosed. In a secret brief filed with the Supreme Court, the U.S. government described the diplomatic volumes as including information about negotiations secretly conducted on its behalf by foreign nations including Canada, Poland, Italy and Norway. Included as well, according to the government, were “derogatory comments about the perfidiousness of specific persons involved, and statements which might be offensive to nations or governments.”

The diplomatic volumes were not published, even in part, for another dozen years. Mr. Ellsberg later explained his decision to keep them secret, according to Sanford Ungar’s 1972 book “The Papers & The Papers,” by saying, “I didn’t want to get in the way of the diplomacy.”

Julian Assange sure does. Can anyone doubt that he would have made those four volumes public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity? Or that he would have paid not even the slightest heed to the possibility that they might seriously compromise efforts to bring a speedier end to the war?

Mr. Ellsberg himself has recently denounced the “myth” of the “good” Pentagon Papers as opposed to the “bad” WikiLeaks. But the real myth is that the two disclosures are the same.

The Pentagon Papers revelations dealt with a discrete topic, the ever-increasing level of duplicity of our leaders over a score of years in increasing the nation’s involvement in Vietnam while denying it. It revealed official wrongdoing or, at the least, a pervasive lack of candor by the government to its people.

WikiLeaks is different. It revels in the revelation of “secrets” simply because they are secret. It assaults the very notion of diplomacy that is not presented live on C-Span. It has sometimes served the public by its revelations but it also offers, at considerable potential price, a vast amount of material that discloses no abuses of power at all.

Mr. Abrams should know what he’s talking about. He represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case.

So Abrams says that WikiLeaks is not the Pentagon Papers. I’ll go even farther and say that the Pentagon Papers is not the Pentagon Papers.

Some people think the Pentagon Papers were key to ending the war in Vietnam. But they were released in 1971, three years after the Tet Offensive which was the major turning point in public opinion. People today forget that Nixon ran for President in 1968 on a promise to end the war. By 1971 the Paris Peace Talks were well under way.

The Pentagon Papers were officially titled “United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense.” They were commissioned in June 1967 by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara:

McNamara claimed that he wanted to leave a written record for historians, but kept the study secret from the rest of the Johnson administration. Neither President Lyndon Johnson nor Secretary of State Dean Rusk knew about the study until its publication; they believed McNamara might have planned to give the work to his friend Robert F. Kennedy, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968.

Instead of using existing Defense Department historians, McNamara assigned his close aide and Assistant Secretary of Defense John T. McNaughton, McNaughton’s aide Morton H. Halperin, and Defense Department official Leslie H. Gelb to lead the task force. Thirty-six analysts—half of them active-duty military officers, the rest academics and civilian federal employees—worked on the study. The analysts largely used existing files in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and did no interviews or consultations with the armed forces, the White House, or other federal agencies to keep the study secret from others, including National Security Advisor Walt W. Rostow.

The Pentagon Papers were the military’s version of history. They were prepared for political purposes and many of the “secrets” they revealed weren’t really secrets.

The Papers revealed that the U.S. had deliberately expanded its war with bombing of Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, none of which had been reported by media in the US.

The Cambodians and the Laotians knew we were bombing targets in their country. So did thousands of pilots and other military personnel. The North Vietnamese knew about the bombings and the raids on their coast. The Chinese and Soviets knew all these things too.

These things were being reported in the media outside the United States. Just like in 2002 and 2003 when the international media were telling a different tale about Iraq.

So once again we have our media “revealing” things that would have been revealed long before if they were doing their jobs.

BTW – Ellsberg didn’t go straight to the New York Times:

Now opposing the war, Ellsberg and his friend Anthony Russo photocopied the study in October 1969 intending to disclose it. He approached Nixon National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Senators William Fulbright and George McGovern, and others, but nobody was interested.


WikiLeaks vs. The Law of Unintended Consequences


(Oh no he didn’t) (Oh yes he did)
The Atlantic:

How WikiLeaks Just Set Back Democracy in Zimbabwe

Last year, early on Christmas Eve morning, representatives from the U.S., United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the European Union arrived for a meeting with Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Appointed prime minister earlier that year as part of a power-sharing agreement after the fraud- and violence-ridden 2008 presidential election, Tsvangirai and his political party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are considered Zimbabwe’s greatest hopes for unseating the country’s long-time de facto dictator Robert Mugabe and bringing democratic reforms to the country.

The topic of the meeting was the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by a collection of western countries, including the U.S. and E.U. Tsvangirai told the western officials that, while there had been some progress in the last year, Mugabe and his supporters were dragging their feet on delivering political reforms. To overcome this, he said that the sanctions on Zimbabwe “must be kept in place” to induce Mugabe into giving up some political power. The prime minister openly admitted the incongruity between his private support for the sanctions and his public statements in opposition. If his political adversaries knew Tsvangirai secretly supported the sanctions, deeply unpopular with Zimbabweans, they would have a powerful weapon to attack and discredit the democratic reformer.

Later that day, the U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe dutifully reported the details of the meeting to Washington in a confidential U.S. State Department diplomatic cable. And slightly less than one year later, WikiLeaks released it to the world.

The reaction in Zimbabwe was swift. Zimbabwe’s Mugabe-appointed attorney general announced he was investigating the Prime Minister on treason charges based exclusively on the contents of the leaked cable. While it’s unlikely Tsvangirai could be convicted on the contents of the cable alone, the political damage has already been done. The cable provides Mugabe the opportunity to portray Tsvangirai as an agent of foreign governments working against the people of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, it could provide Mugabe with the pretense to abandon the coalition government that allowed Tsvangirai to become prime minister in 2009.

The Guardian:

Assange defended one of WikiLeaks’ collaborators, Israel Shamir, following claims Shamir passed sensitive cables to Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko has arrested 600 opposition supporters and journalists since Sunday’s presidential election. The whereabouts and fate of several of the president’s high-profile opponents are unknown.

Of Shamir, Assange said: “WikiLeaks works with hundreds of journalists from different regions of the world. All are required to sign non-disclosure agreements and are generally only given limited review access to material relating to their region. We have no reason to believe these rumours in relation to Belarus are true.”


If people die as a result of WikiLeaks’ disclosure of classified information, do we just write them off as collateral damage? What liability, if any, should WikiLeaks and the original leakers (if they can be identified) have for those deaths?

Back to The Atlantic for this piece by Jaron Lanier:

The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks

[...]

Openness in itself, as the prime driver of events, doesn’t lead to achievement or creativity.

One problem is that information in oceanic magnitudes can confuse and confound as easily as it can clarify and empower, even when the information is correct. There is vastly more financial data set down in the world’s computers than there ever has been before, including publically accessible data, and yet the economy is a mess. How can this be, if information is the solution?

A sufficiently copious flood of data creates an illusion of omniscience, and that illusion can make you stupid. Another way to put this is that a lot of information made available over the internet encourages players to think as if they had a God’s eye view, looking down on the whole system.

A financier, for instance, might not be able to resist the temptations of access to seemingly endless data. If you can really look down on the whole market from on high, then you ought to be able to just pluck money out of it without risk, which leads to the notion of a highly computerized, data intensive, brobdingnagian hedge fund. This is fine, for a while, until other people start similar funds and the whole market becomes distorted.

The interesting similarity between Mr. Assange and a typical financier who overdid it is that both attempted to align themselves with a perceived God-like perspective and method made possible by the flow of vast information on the Internet, while both actually got crazy and absurd. Wikileaks and similar efforts could do for politics approximately what access to a lot of data did for finance in the run up to the recession.


There is an old legal trick that is sometimes called “the needle in a haystack.” In response to discovery requests or subpoenas you give them everything including the kitchen sink. You bury the other side in paperwork and hope they won’t find the one or two key documents. (You also run up their legal fees because somebody has to go through all that stuff.)


(h/t Lambert for the Lanier piece)


Trying Times


Banks and WikiLeaks

The whistle-blowing Web site WikiLeaks has not been convicted of a crime. The Justice Department has not even pressed charges over its disclosure of confidential State Department communications. Nonetheless, the financial industry is trying to shut it down.

[...]

The Federal Reserve, the banking regulator, allows this. Like other companies, banks can choose whom they do business with. Refusing to open an account for some undesirable entity is seen as reasonable risk management. The government even requires banks to keep an eye out for some shady businesses — like drug dealing and money laundering — and refuse to do business with those who engage in them.

But a bank’s ability to block payments to a legal entity raises a troubling prospect. A handful of big banks could potentially bar any organization they disliked from the payments system, essentially cutting them off from the world economy.

[...]

Still, there are troubling questions. The decisions to bar the organization came after its founder, Julian Assange, said that next year it will release data revealing corruption in the financial industry. In 2009, Mr. Assange said that WikiLeaks had the hard drive of a Bank of America executive.

What would happen if a clutch of big banks decided that a particularly irksome blogger or other organization was “too risky”? What if they decided — one by one — to shut down financial access to a newspaper that was about to reveal irksome truths about their operations? This decision should not be left solely up to business-as-usual among the banks.

I’m no fan of banks, and I think anything that is “too big too fail” is too damn big. But this situation is problematic because WikiLeaks is threatening to leak damaging information about the banks that don’t want to do business with them.

If I wanted to run an ad criticizing the NY Times should they be forced to accept my advertising?

If we require banks to do business with everybody we’ll have to indemnify them from criminal and civil liability. There’s some real potential for abuse there too. Perhaps a better solution is to break up the big banks. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

It should be noted that the NYT is hardly a disinterested player here. They have been publishing the leaked documents and were getting them direct from WikiLeaks until they published an unfavorable profile of Julian Assange.

Here’s an example:

Cables Portray Expanded Reach of Drug Agency

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables.

In far greater detail than previously seen, the cables, from the cache obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to some news organizations, offer glimpses of drug agents balancing diplomacy and law enforcement in places where it can be hard to tell the politicians from the traffickers, and where drug rings are themselves mini-states whose wealth and violence permit them to run roughshod over struggling governments.

This is also an example of what I mean when I say the information coming from WikiLeaks isn’t exactly earth-shattering. Anyone who has been paying attention to the war on drugs knows that the DEA has been engaged in some dubious activities in foreign countries.

Missionary plane shot down in Peru: collateral damage in US “drug war”

How Much Did the DEA Spend on its Africa Vacation?

What have the leaked cables told us that the NYT didn’t already know or couldn’t have easily found out on their own?

The New York Times threw away it’s credibility in the run-up to the war in Iraq and the outing of Valerie Plame. The past couple of years they have been Obamafluffers.

I hope you’ll understand if I’m somewhat less than hopeful that they have suddenly seen the light.


Ask questions, get answers, remain skeptical

Julian Assange's temporary jail


Yesterday I asked some questions about WikiLeaks. Today I got a few answers.

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Now Making $86k/year

WikiLeaks’ main financial arm, the Germany-based Wau Holland Foundation says it has collected about 1 million Euro ($1.3 million) in donations in 2010, the year in which WikiLeaks exploded into public prominence thanks to its release of thousands of classified U.S. documents, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

Wau Holland is the primary but not sole financial provider for WikiLeaks, the Journal reports.

From those donations, Wau Holland has established a Greenpeace-like system of salary payments, as WikiLeaks attempts to legitimize its organization by moving away from purely volunteer-based work, the Journal reports. The move to make salaried employees allegedly comes after a year-long intense internal debate about whether to do so.

The main beneficiary has been founder Julian Assange, who has drawn 66,000 Euros (about $86,000) in salary thus far this year, the Journal reports. Wau Holland has paid a total of 100,000 Euros in salaries to the entire WikiLeaks staff, which means Assange is getting the lion’s share.

WikiLeaks will pay key personnel based on a salary structure developed by the environmental activist organization Greenpeace, the Journal reports. Under the structure, Greenpeace department heads are paid about 5,500 Euros in monthly salary, a Wau Holland spokesman said.

Among the many revelations from the Journal report are several indications that donations to WikiLeaks have dropped off significantly in the second half of the year.

By August, WikiLeaks had raised about 765,000 Euro, which means it has only raised about 235,000 Euro since then, the Journal reports.

Last summer, WikiLeaks said it operated on about 150,000 Euro a year. Now, however, the foundation says it has paid about 380,000 Euro in WikiLeaks expenses, with some invoices for the year still unprocessed. Some of that total is for hardware, Internet access and travel, a Wau Holland spokesman said. But a big factor in the leap is a recent decision to begin paying salaries to staff.

WikiLeaks had also allegedly promised to contribute half of the estimated $100,000 it will cost for the legal defense of Bradley Manning. Recently, however, a WikiLeaks spokesman said it would only donate around $20,000.

As of the writing of this report, it had still not contributed the funds. The Wau Holland Foundation is awaiting advice from its lawyers on whether the donation would be legal under German law, a spokesman told the Journal.

There is more detail at the Joe Moneybags Newsletter:

On the fundraising front, Mr. Assange in August said WikiLeaks had raised about $1 million (€763,000) since the beginning of 2010. He said the group got about half of its money from modest donations via its website, and the rest from “personal contacts,” including wealthy donors who give tens of thousands of dollars.

Much of this money was donated to the WikiLeaks account at the Wau Holland Foundation, Mr. Fulda said.

That last sentence is the part that triggers my bullshit detector. That’s a huge loophole in this story.

This isn’t WikiLeaks opening it’s books. This is an organization that collects SOME of the donations to WikiLeaks and supposedly pays all their bills. Mr. Fulda may be 100% honest, but where did he get his information? How does he know how much money was donated via other avenues?

A couple other things bother me. WikiLeaks profile has skyrocketed since August, but their receipts have gone down? How much money has been contributed to Assange’s legal defense fund? Who controls it?

Who is paying Assange’s living expenses? He doesn’t seem to pay for anything, he gets his fan club to support him. According to the Guardian he was staying rent free at Woman #1’s apartment and he got Woman #2 to pay for movie and train tickets. He’s staying in a mansion on a 300 acre estate right now.

I remain skeptical.

One last note – just because I don’t trust WikiLeaks doesn’t mean I trust the government. It’s not either/or.

Progressives say that right-wingers are paranoid. I don’t think progressives are paranoid enough.



Wrong Emphasis


Sarah Palin Uses Info Gleaned From ‘Treasonous’ WikiLeaks To Pen Op-Ed On Dangers Of Iran

Sarah Palin sought to build her foreign policy credentials on Tuesday, with a new op-ed arguing that the Obama administration needs to “toughen up” on Iran based on information from leaked diplomatic cables that she had earlier denounced.

Their point:

Sarah Palin hypocritically uses WikiLeaks information to gin up war with Iran.

The important point:

Sarah Palin hypocritically uses WikiLeaks information to gin up war with Iran.

When are progressives gonna figure this shit out?


What's the matter? Don't you like clowns?


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